“Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die.”
After Israel had spent over 400 years in Egypt, God’s biggest task was not so much to get the people out of Egypt but to get Egypt out of the people. They needed to worship God and learn a different view of the world so that they could share God’s blessings with the world. And God used water to get them started.
God’s instructions for setting up the tabernacle as a place of worship are in Exodus 25-31. The three main parts of the tabernacle reminded the people of the three basic levels of the cosmos (as understood in that day). The outer courtyard represented the earth—its dry land and sea. There people would wash in the basin, or “sea” (see 1 Kings 7:23-28), and be reminded that God had rescued them through the Red Sea. The Holy Place, a room inside the tent, represented the heavens. Another room, further inside, was the Most Holy Place, representing God’s throne room in the highest heaven. In essence, heaven and earth came together in the tabernacle. And this served as a model of the renewed world where God will come to live with his people again (Revelation 21-22).
God wants humans to work with him in renewing the world, so he gave priests to Israel as a sort of renewed humanity, symbolically cleansed of sin and anointed for God’s work. The role of the priest, purified by water and wearing royal robes, reminded God’s people that they were created in his image.
Lord, guide us to serve you and to share your goodness and love with everyone. Amen.
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