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"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
The word "inhabit" in Spanish means simply living or dwelling in one place. So when we read in our versions of the Bible that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, we can assume that all that John is saying here is that the Word changed his residence. Before he was in heaven, but for about 33 years he decided to live on earth. And although that is an overwhelming idea in itself, that the God of glory has condescended to dwell in this world as one of us, what this text says in reality is immensely more overwhelming.
The word that John uses in our text is not the one that was usually used in the Greek language to refer to the place where a person lived, but rather a very peculiar word that means "to mount the tent"; what this text literally says is that the Word made His tabernacle among us (the Greek word for "dwell" is very similar to the Hebrew word used in the OT to refer to the Tabernacle of meeting in which God descended to have communion with His people before the construction of the temple). So the apostle John is trying to make us understand the true meaning of the incarnation of the Word of God, relating that event to what was happening in the Tabernacle of the OT meeting.
In chapter 25 of the book of Exodus, verses 8 and 9, God commanded the Israelites in the wilderness: "And they shall make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell in their midst. According to all that I show you, the design of the tabernacle, and the design of all your utensils, you will do so. " From that moment, and almost until the end of chapter 40, what we find in the book of Exodus is a detailed description of the design and construction of that sanctuary for God. It was a kind of cuadrilongo tent that, including the atrium, was about 45 meters long by almost 23 meters wide. To have an approximate idea of its size, a professional soccer field must measure a minimum of 90 meters long by 45 wide. So the size of the Tabernacle was almost exactly half of a soccer field in length and width.
The Tabernacle was surrounded by an outer court, a kind of courtyard, where the priest purified himself with water and offered the sacrifices required by the law of Moses for the forgiveness of sins. Once inside the store, the first space was the Holy Place where there was the seven-branched golden candlestick or Menorah, the table of the showbread and the altar where the incense was burned. And divided by a thick veil of solid leather, was the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant contained the tables of the law, the rod of Aaron and the manna. Only the High Priest could enter there merienda a year, on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, when the sins of the people were expiated or temporarily removed. So the Tabernacle was the place where the people of Israel met with God, where God revealed himself to the people and where the sins of the people were atoned for.
A few chapters later, in Ex. 29: 42-46, God tells the people that He would meet them in the Tabernacle "to speak to you there. There I will meet the children of Israel; and the place will be sanctified with my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of meeting and the altar; I will also sanctify Aaron and his sons, so that they may be my priests. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and I will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst. I Jehovah your God. "
So the Tabernacle was a meeting place, a place of revelation and a place of propitiation; that was the place where God's justice was temporarily fulfilled through the sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses for the sins of the people. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the center of all this was the dwelling place of God in their midst. Notice again verses 45-46: "And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and I will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst. I Jehovah your God. "
This was the place where the Israelites could have communion with God. Later, in Ex. 33: 7-11 we are told that God brought His special presence in the form of a pillar of cloud, when Moses entered the Tabernacle. And all the people were attentive to that important moment, when God came to meet them, and "everyone stood at the door of his tent and worshiped," he says in vv. 10. "And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as anyone speaks to his companion."
But now notice one more detail, in Ex. 40 at the end of the chapter. When the construction of the Tabernacle was completed, the glory of God came down and covered it completely: "Then a cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud was over him, and the glory of the Lord filled it. And when the cloud was rising from the tabernacle, the children of Israel moved in all their journeys; but if the cloud did not rise, they did not move until the day she rose. For the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and the fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, in all their journeys "(Exodus 40: 34-38).
The Tabernacle was the visible representation of God's longing to have fellowship with His people. He is a holy God, perfectly righteous, and we are sinners. But He made provision to be in the midst of His people without overlooking His justice. There the special presence of God dwelt for more than 400 years, until the Tabernacle was replaced by the temple of Solomon.
And what happened when the construction of the temple was finished and the priests placed there the ark of the covenant? It says in 1R. 8: 10-11 that "when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the house of the Lord. And the priests could not remain to minister because of the cloud; because the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of Jehovah. " The same thing that happened at the conclusion of the construction of the Tabernacle, happened again in the Temple. The glory of the Lord filled the house. And there God continued to manifest His special presence in the midst of His people for hundreds of years, until God delivered the people of Israel into the hands of the Babylonians because of their sins, around 600 BC.
In chapter 36 of 2 Chronicles we find the story of this historical event; but the prophet Ezekiel gives us a theological explanation of what really happened during the Babylonian captivity. In chapter 8 God shows Ezekiel in a vision the horrible sins that were being committed in the same temple of Solomon. The Israelites had the audacity to introduce their odioso idols into the house of Jehovah. And then in chapter 10 Ezekiel is shown in another vision the glory of the Lord leaving the temple.
The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, together with the temple; and for another 600 years the people of Israel never again had the blessing of enjoying the glory of God dwelling in their midst … until that first Christmas when the Word became flesh and put His tabernacle among us.
In that helpless baby, lying in a foul-smelling manger surrounded by animals, was the final tabernacle in which God would meet His people. Paul says in Col. 2: 9 that in Christ "all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily." That child was Emmanuel, as it says in Mt. 1:23, "that translated is: God with us."
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. "And we saw His glory," says John, just as it happened in the tabernacle and in the temple in the OT. That is the true meaning of Christmas. The God of glory was present in the person of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not an additional manifestation of the glory of God; He is the radiance of that glory, as He says in He. 1: 3 He is the meeting place where men now meet God; He is the altar where our sins are expiated so that we can enjoy full communion with the three times holy God.
He is the fullest revelation of God, as John continues in our text (verses 17-18): "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" – this is the first time in the passage that John explicitly identifies the Word with Jesus. "God never saw anyone; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. "
Nobody can truly know God except through Jesus Christ. He is the complete and definitive revelation of God and the only intermediary by means of which we can approach Him. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" – says the Lord in Jn. 14: 6; "No one comes to the Father, but by me."
Surely it was fascinating for the Jews in the OT to see the glory of God appear in the Tabernacle and in the Temple; but there is no comparison with the glory of God manifested in Jesus. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, says John, the incomparable Son, the Only One in his class.
He is, nothing more and nothing less, than the God incarnate, the Creator and sustainer of the Universe, who for love of us became Man to replace us on the cross of Calvary. No, it is not the same to contemplate a pillar of cloud and fire than to contemplate Jesus. That cloud can not reveal to us, as He reveals to us, the character of God, His love, His kindness, His compassion, His mercy, His sublime and blessed grace. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, as Paul says in Col. 1:15. That's why in Jn. 14: 9 The Lord said to Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." It is in Jesus, and only in Jesus, where we can know the only living and true God and have communion with Him.
Author: Sugel Michelén
He studied for the ministry in 1979. Later he was sent by the Biblical Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (IBSJ), in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to the city of Puerto Plata, to begin a work there. But at the end of 1983 he was called to be part of the IBSJ pastor corps, where he serves the Lord since then, regularly exposing the Word on Sundays. He is also the author of the blog All Thought Captive.
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