It’s Christmas Eve and I’m thinking about a horde of slaves scrambling to get away from Egypt, and camped at the base of a mountain in the desert of Sinai. I’m thinking about how they’ve just watched God supernaturally set them free from the world’s most powerful empire; and how he’s promised them a wonderful land of their own, a land so rich it grows abundant crops seemingly all by itself.
That’s where they’re headed. That’s the goal. Egypt is broken behind them and the Promised Land beckons.
But God has stopped them here, in the desert, and they’ve been here for months already.
God wants them to build a special tent, a Tabernacle. It’s going to be God’s house. He’s going to live with them.
Which is a very big deal.
What they know for sure about God is that anyone who sees him dies. And now he wants to move in and live right among them, in a tent just like theirs – well, sort of.
Really the tent is pretty special. Chapters and chapters of the Story are given to its description, and months and months of work are spent building it and all its furnishings.
It takes a full year to get it ready.
They arrived at Sinai two months after leaving Egypt; two months after the night Egypt screamed while all its firstborn sons were killed by the angel of death; two months after the Egyptians open their doors and shooed out their slaves, panicked at what was happening; two months after Pharaoh changed his mind and gathered what was left of his army and went after them again, enraged at what they had cost him.
In two months they arrive at Sinai, with the Promised Land only days away.
But God stops them here for a full year to build the Tabernacle.
Like the Tabernacle matters more than getting to the Promised Land.
Like God is more interested in living with them, than in bringing them anywhere.
Like being with them is the main thing.
Almost as though He really, really, loves them.
Like if he could just put on skin and be with them that way, He would.
But I guess they’re not ready for that yet.