While traveling through the wilderness, God expressed his goodness to the children of Israel in many ways – bread, meat, water, protection, provision, and direction with a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. But there is another we must examine. They carried this gift from Sinai to the Promise Land. It was also with them as they retraced their steps back through the desert. Back at Sinai, God gave Moses the direction for a Tabernacle, a place where God would dwell among his people. After joining in covenant relationship, he wanted to live among them, in the middle of their camp. Wherever they stopped in their journey, they now had a regular place of worship.
The Tabernacle was the first portable church, custom designed by God. If you’re a church planter, this makes for informative reading (See Numbers 4). We find detailed directions for the setup team. There’s lots of pipe and drape! The pattern for setup was clear, so no need to guess about the location of the furniture. He even called for a census to find out the number of available workers. Numbers 4:3 says, “Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting.” To protect the priests from burnout, God evenly distributed transport and set up duties between the families. This clan had to carry the pipe and drape, another the sacred furnishings. I feel sorry for the group stuck with the bronze altar! The Scriptures are so detailed, we even find directions on how to cover each item for shipping. Whatever your God-given assignment, it was an honor to be responsible for the care of God’s house.
That brings to mind the portable church of my childhood. As dad and mom followed God’s call to raise up a new congregation, we met in many different places – schools of every kind, community centers, hotels, and golf clubs. We all were on a journey, following the cloud. Most interesting of all was a large, blue tent.