Divine Dwelling, Inherited Land, and Another Detour

Texts: Exodus 40:34-38; Joshua 11:23; 1 Samuel 8:4-9

Days 17-19 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

God led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness to Sinai where God dwelt upon the earth. The purpose of the Exodus was not only liberation from slavery but encounter with God at Sinai whey they would become the covenant people of God.

At Sinai, God moved to dwell in the midst of Israel by filling the newly completed tabernacle with God’s glory and presence. Dwelling with Israel, God moved the place of God’s own rest from Sinai to the tabernacle and thus moved with Israel through the wilderness and into the promised land. Carrying God’s presence with them in the symbol of the ark of the covenant, Israel entered the land as their inheritance.

Their inheritance entailed the renewal of humanity. A new humanity—liberated from imperial oppression—now dwelt in a new Eden where God would rest in the land and give rest to the land.

This new Eden was a theocracy, and covenant people of God were designed to fill the land with peace, justice, righteousness, and joy. It was a place where Israel, representing all humanity as a priestly royal nation, would be a light to the nations and invite them to hear the word of the Lord so that they, too, might flourish like a tree by running water. Like Eden, this was a land where God ruled and in which God rested, and God tasked Israel, like humanity in the beginning, to fill the land with God’s imagers and God’s glory. Israel became a co-ruler with God and a priest among the nations.

Sadly, as in Eden with Adam and Eve, Israel became dissatisfied with God’s theocratic arrangement. Israel embraced a detour as they decided to choose their own king like the nations rather than calling the nations into the light and life of God’s way.

This detour empowered oppressive and self-interested structures. Rather than living before God in communities led by people whom God raised up as needed, they decided to give power to a system of hereditary monarchs. Though God would ultimately redeem the monarchy through reestablishing a divine theocracy through the work of King Jesus, the history Israel’s monarchy became another degenerative spiral into idolatry, just like the spiral described in Genesis 3-11.

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