We live in a world of distinct opposites: black/white, hot/cold, new/old, inside/outside. When we think about outside, we think about the other side of the door, the place where nature is, a place that is largely unbounded - a free-for-all. Inside, on the other hand, is secure. It is a place with walls and doors and this thing we call "welcome."
Because when you're inside, you've usually been invited there.
(Fun story: I was sitting in my living room one day many years ago when a woman walked in my front door with a hearty, "Hey!" and then looked around about 2/3 of the way through my living room and realized she had walked into the wrong house.)
But this is exactly what makes the design of God's Tabernacle so stunning.
The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple, of God has always been starkly divided. There was the "holy place," where the priest would make his sacrifices on behalf of the people and burn the incense and lay the bread on the table. There was the "most holy place," where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, the Mercy Seat sat, and the presence of God filled the place in smoke and fire. Then, there was the courtyard, where all of the non-priest persons of the people of God gathered for worship.
There was the inside, the really inside, and the outside. And to the casual observer, it can look like God certainly built His house to live in and then kept His people in the yard - outside.
When God gives Moses the design for the Tabernacle, and when the whole thing is finally set up, there are curtains surrounding even the courtyard. There are curtains dividing God's yard from the open field around it. There is a barrier that is part of the very design...that makes even the outside, inside.
Because when you come to God, there's no such thing as outside.
God has always been a God who welcomes us into His space and who comes to share ours with us. God is a God who has always been near to us, who has wanted to live and breathe and walk with us as much as He possibly can. God is a God who crossed the heavens to come to earth and who spent His ministry in living rooms (among other places) and going to the outside to welcome others in.
It's too easy for us to think that we are stuck in the yard. That we're stuck outside, just waiting on an invitation to come closer. That God burns with His holiness in the Most Holy Place and we are destined to forever be two steps removed from there, too far away to really understand what that smoke and fire really is. But...we're not. We're right there in the thick of it; we always have been.
With God, there is no outside. He wove a bunch of heavy curtains to make sure we understood this very thing. Even what looks like the outside is inside.
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