When Adam and Eve took the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 3, they lost their fellowship with God. They broke the one rule, the one “thou shalt not” they had, and thus, they broke their relationship with their Creator. God cast them out of the Garden of Eden, blocking their entry back into the garden with the presence of a cherubim with a flaming sword. We do not know much about these creatures other than their possession of wings and their apparent ability to wield flaming swords. Outside of the text of Genesis 3 and the visions of Ezekiel, when Scripture references them, it speaks of “God enthroned above the cherubim.” From Genesis 3, we know God made cherubim to be some sort of dangerous creature, dangerous enough to be able to keep Adam and Eve from marching up to the tree of life. From the rest of the canon of Scripture, we know God rules over them. The picture provided in Exodus 25 symbolizes his authority over them. His presence over the models of cherubim signifies the heavenly reality.
Whatever might the cherubim possess, however fearful a human being might become in their presence, these same cherubim bow down in the presence of God. The God before whom cherubim bow now reveals how he desires his people to worship him. He desires his people to worship him. He desires his people. Though the tabernacle worship of Exodus seems so foreign to us, we should not miss the fact of God establishing the way for people to return to him. He said to the people, “You can worship me. You can know me.”
And to our extreme happiness, the story does not end with Exodus 25! He will do abundantly more than tell his people how to construct arks and implements to draw near to him. He would draw near to his people in Christ Jesus!
Most of the time, we would much rather read a shorter text with more information. No one verse of Exodus 25 contains the same sort of blessed revelation as Romans 8:1. However, we live in a blessed time: the time after the completion of the canon of Scripture. We possess the entire New Testament. Exodus, indeed chapter 25, does not stand on its own.
Actually, nothing in Exodus 25 stands at all. In God’s providence and plan, all of it ceased to be thousands of years ago. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, which cannot possibly ring true. (Everyone knows a government-run warehouse became its home during World War 2.) The tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, and the rebuilt temple all no longer exist (save for one remaining wall in Jerusalem). Instead, God’s Spirit resides in the bodies of his people.
Hebrews 8 tells us all of these things, these wonderfully-crafted implements fashioned at God’s own command, served only as shadows of the reality coming in Christ Jesus. We live not in the era of worship in the tabernacle. We have a superior covenant, one written in the blood of Jesus himself. Does the new covenant mean our consideration of Exodus bears no fruit? May it never be!
In our reflection and meditation, we see facets of Christ we might otherwise forget. Truly Christ is the Son of God, and truly Christ was a Nazarene peasant.
The God of the tabernacle became a man, Jesus, son of Mary, the Christ. The one who beckons the weary and the children to him commands terrifying cherubim to bow before him. The humble Galilean Jesus bears all the infinite worthiness and glory found in the tabernacle symbolism. He came that his people would certainly have life abundant and eternal.
Christian, you do not worship at shadows. You behold by faith the crucified and risen Jesus. As you read Exodus 25 and following, take time to reflect. Every bit of finery and majesty points to Christ Jesus himself. What sort of worthiness do we ascribe to Christ? A worthiness which makes all of these things shadows in the light of who he is.