I will make my home among them; I will be their God and they shall be my people.
Following close on the image of the earthen ware jars, is the image of the tent, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul was both a tentmaker and a man on the move. Change was not something foreign to Paul. Paul’s went to the cities, to the very streets where his converts lived. He posted himself outside his dwelling, on the street, so that people could come and converse with him about the gospel. It seems almost prophetic that the Champion of the Jewish Jesus would be a tentmaker.
The story of the Hebrew people is the story of prophecy and praise, promise and fulfillment. It is also the story of Yahweh. Yahweh, the gypsy-god who journeyed with the Israelites, pitching his tent with them as he led them through the wilderness. It is the story of the transformation of a nation; it is the story of the transformation of their God. It is the story of the God of Israel, as both author and protagonist, revealing himself through his Spirit until one day his Word would become flesh and pitch his tent among us.
When David arrived outside the city proper of Jerusalem, Yahweh said to him Jerusalem will be the city where my name lives. Jerusalem means Yahweh-is-there. Yahwehsham.
Before David enters Jerusalem, he has the arc of the covenant brought back from where it was variously neglected and then stored for safekeeping while the people ready themselves to enter the promised land. David has built himself a house of cedar there and is about to do the same for the arc. But Yahweh sends Nathan to David saying:
You are not the man to build me a house to dwell in. I have never dwelled in a house from the day I brought Israel out until today, but went from tent to tent, from one shelter to another.
It will be Solomon who will build him a house, not David. He assures David he will keep his promise to Israel. So until the Temple is built the arc, the place where Yahweh’s name lives, is in a tent. I love the voice of Yahweh here. You can almost hear laughter in his voice, with a sense of irony and a sense of could you get it right for once! Apparently, God is wanting a real home, a home that will last, along with his people.
2 Corinthians 1-5 is a mangle of metaphors. He goes from the image of the earthbound, transitory tent we live in today giving way to our permanent home in heaven; the home building by a hands-on God which is waiting for us. Then Paul says that in anticipation of Christ’s coming, which he and Jesus’ first followers would be soon, we don’t want to be found without clothes. Then he reverts back to the image of the tent over which we should (I believe this is what he is eluding to) put on Christ, the new garment of faith.
My take away from this passage as it resonates with the images of the tent throughout the scriptures is that in this transitory life, God journeys with us, pitching his tent with us as we go. Our transformation into the God-life which becomes available to us today readies us for the new way of being, a new way of being that has begun now. Begun now in the Word who became flesh who became Yeshua of Nazareth, who, like his Father, pitches his tent among us.
Perhaps we too need to take the message of the Good News in Christ Jesus, like Paul, to the streets.