Exodus 27:1a & 6-7
“You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. … And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried.”
In a world where ziggurats and pyramids climb to the heavens, boasting the wealth and affluence of the nations erecting them, God constructs a wilderness embassy that doesn’t tower over the earth like the others—or at least not in the same manner. In fact, God’s embassy isn’t even built on a permanent foundation—not on massive stones, that is. It’ll stand against the legions of hell, but not against the earthquakes and tornadoes and sands of time. It’s a mobile home—a temporary shelter—fashioned in all its ornate, resplendent, one-of-a-kind beauty with the unmistakable marks of portability. Rings on the Table of the Presence, rings on the Altar, rings on the Ark of the Covenant, rings on the outer and inner veils, rings on everything! Why? Because God’s people are in flux. They’re ever moving toward the Promised Land. Ever stepping forward, one day at a time, through a foreign wilderness world, longing for their permanent resting place.
I wonder: did the mobility of this exquisite worship center ever strike the people of Israel with bewilderment? Did they see past the shimmering scarlet threads and the ornate cherubic portraitures and the gleaming golden objects to the symbol of their mutability? Did the tedium of lugging these treasures across the wilderness terrain cause them to yearn for a permanent tabernacle, a final altar, an immovable meeting place, an embassy that would rest on God’s shoulders rather than their own? A temple that wouldn’t resonate so much for its gold and sapphire and acacia but for the finality of redemption it represented?
Friend, remember that worship here on earth is just a foretaste of the fellowship of heaven’s joys. Baptisms and communions and Christmas Eve services and choir productions and Bible studies and weekend retreats and special concerts and Sunday afternoon potlucks are all effectively outlined with these same golden rings, looped around bronze poles, because we, like these Exodus pilgrims, are ever moving homeward.