There is a beautiful exchange between Moses and God in Exodus 33 as Moses intercedes for Israel. He knows where God wants him to go, and what he is called to do, but that is not good enough: “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here (v15).” How refreshingly humble, and so contrary to our tendency to say, “No worries, I’ve got this!” Moses knew it was not his leadership that distinguished the people of God, but the very presence of God.
In the Old Testament, God’s presence was most clearly evidenced by various physical things: a cloud by day, fire by night, and such typological symbols as the tabernacle and temple. Besides conveying the presence of God to sinful people, these symbols also served as signs toward a future fulfillment to be found in Jesus Christ, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19).” The Most Holy Place centred God’s presence in the middle of their camp. Only the high priest, once per year, could enter the holiest chamber of the tabernacle and temple. This priest served as a mediator for God’s people, able to enter his presence on their behalf. As Jesus yielded his last breath on the cross, the veil separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn in two (Mt 27:50-51; Mk 15:37-38), dramatically announcing a new reality: Jesus as the new temple (John 2:19), and both the final mediating sacrifice and the priest offering the sacrifice (see Hebrews chs 4-10). As Christians, through Jesus, we may now come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain God’s grace and mercy (Heb. 4:16).
Moreover, Jesus promised to dwell with us following his death by the indwelling of God’s Spirit (John 14:17); and Paul speaks of the church and its individual members as temples (1 Cor. 3:9; 6:12-20). Collectively, for both Jew and Gentile, Christ becomes the cornerstone of a new “household of God” growing “into a holy temple in the Lord … built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:11-22)”.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)