Friday, December 25, 2009

The Word Became Flesh and Tabernacled with Us

I'm much more interested in the incarnation of Christ than I am in the birth of Christ. John 1:14 is the primary verse discussing the incarnation in the N.T.

In most translations, John 1:14 says something like, "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." (ESV)

In speaking of Jesus being with us, most versions say that Christ either "dwelt," "pitched His tent," or "took up residence." All these translations miss something very important. In the Greek, John says that Jesus "tabernacled" with us. I've only been able to find one English translation that puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth." (Young's Literal Translation)

The word "tabernacled" gives a much fuller meaning of what Jesus did than does a word like "dwelt." The reason for this should be clear. When we hear "tabernacled," we ought to immediately think of the tabernacle of the O.T. That tabernacle was the place of God's presence with His people. Exodus 40:34-38 says, "Then the cloud covered the tent 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 settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys."

The tabernacle of the OT points ahead to God's presence with us, His people. This presence came in the person of Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:23 says, "'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."

Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, was the full manifestation of God with man. He was the full self-expression of God. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."

Jesus Christ is also the perfect display of the glory of God. Hebrews 1:3 instructs us, "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Jesus was with us in His first advent. Jesus is coming again in His second advent. When He does, the tabernacle of God will be with men. Revelation 21:1-3, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.'"

Let us ponder the wonder of Jesus Christ tabernacling with us. Praise be to God!

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