God's task was to bring eternal spiritual realities into the lives of the Israelites so that those realities concretely shaped their lives. Heaven was to come down, heaven's business, heaven's concerns, heaven's commitments and plans, heaven's help: through the medium of the sanctuary heaven's ethos was to find root room on earth and in the hearts of the Hebrew people. And yet, the sacred tent was not without competitors and the competition came in the form of culturally packaged alternatives. We are by God's design cultural creatures. We were made to image that which is before us, to find in it our pattern and to form by it our foundational commitments. In an unfallen world this “before us” would be God in unbroken communion, in a fallen world our fellow man and the vagaries of a corrupted humanity. Culture, for good or for ill, is the power that shapes our lives.
And yet we are not left without an anchor to the unseen. In the desert tent (Exodus 25:8), in the tabernacled Saviour (John 1:14), and in the door left standing open in heaven (Revelation 4:1) we may yet set the Lord continually before us (Psalm 16:8), thereby resisting the allure of un-heavenly cultures. In the light of these things several questions seem important.
(1) Did the sanctuary and its services have only an Old Testament function in setting God ever before his people or does the essential matrix of sanctuary revelation have an important role in our lives today? In other words what is the nature of a study focused on the sanctuary theme? Is it of the nature of a museum tour, interesting, perhaps illustrative, but of no vital necessity? Or is it of vital necessity and if so in what way?
(2) If the original sanctuary was indeed to serve as an anchor to the divine realities in the midst of conflicting cultural currents, what serves as that anchor for us today?
(3) What role, if any, does the sanctuary theme play, in avoiding distortion and one sidedness in our theological outlook?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5592