In the structure of the tabernacle, we see that central to God’s holiness is the fact that He is set apart. We see that the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies (where God’s presence dwells) is separated from the rest of the camp.
Why does God’s holiness require separation from the rest of the camp?
First, anyone who came into contact with God in the OT simply knew that God needed to be set apart from them. We simply can’t handle God in full force.
Exodus 20:18-19 18 All the people perceived the [f]thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak [g]to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak [h]to us, or we will die.”
But let’s dive deeper and consider three reasons in the Bible for why God’s holy presence in the tabernacle is set apart from the rest of the camp.
1.) Avoid defilement of His pure presence
Numbers 19:13 Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from Israel.
2.) Protect people from His dangerous wrath
Number 8:19 19 I have given the Levites as [k]a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the sons of Israel, to perform the service of the sons of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement on behalf of the sons of Israel, so that there will be no plague among the sons of Israel by [l]their coming near to the sanctuary.”
Numbers 18:22 22 The sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, or they will bear sin and die.
3.) Recognize the proper separation due to His status as creator
Numbers 18:7 7 But you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform service. I am giving you the priesthood as a [f]bestowed service, but the [g]outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
Question: But how does this separation fit with the idea that God is present with His people?
Answer: God is set apart and unapproachable in His holiness, but HE makes a way for us to come near to Him.
We’ll look at this more in our next episode.