As the Israelites traveled toward the Promised Land, Moses would set up a tent away from where the people were camping. He called it the meeting tent. When anyone wanted to hear the words of the Lord they would go there.
Each family would gather at the entrance of their own tent and watch as Moses went inside. While he was there, they would stand silently and watch, waiting eagerly for him to exit. Joshua, Moses’ young assistant, would go with him, learning from Moses about God’s plans.
A thick cloud would descend on the tent when the Lord spoke with Moses. All the people were in such awe, they would bow down, worshiping God. In the tent, God spoke face to face with Moses, just like anyone might talk to a friend.
After Moses had left the tent and returned to camp, Joshua would continue to linger by the tent, enjoying God’s presence like he was wrapped up in a dream.
One day while they were still by Mount Sinai, the Lord spoke to Moses in the tent.
“I want you to cut two flat stones like the first ones I made,” God told him. “I’m going to write the same commandments on them that were on the two you broke. First thing tomorrow, come up the mountain. I will meet you there at the top.”
Even though the Israelites had broken the first two commandments right away, God did not just decide to forget about them. Instead, He chose to give them a second chance and write the Ten Commandments again, because God is merciful and gracious.
While speaking with the Lord face to face at the top of Mount Sinai, Moses’ face began to shine from God’s presence. After Moses received the two new stone tablets with God’s writing, he began the long walk down the mountain again. When he reached the bottom, there were all the Israelites, eagerly waiting for him. The looks on their faces told him something had happened. Turning to his brother Aaron, he too looked at Moses with a shocked expression. At first the people were afraid to come near Moses because his face glowed so brightly.
This time, the Israelites listened to all the commandments God had given them. They praised God for His guidance.
Moses gave them his blessing at the door of the sacred tent. Suddenly, a thick cloud came down on the tent like before. But this time, it was so thick Moses could not even enter the meeting tent. God’s glory was all around them and filled the place.
God gave instructions for the artists among the Israelites to create a beautiful tent, called the tabernacle, that would travel with the Israelites, like a mobile temple. Inside of it would be a special box, called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside of it Moses put the Ten Commandments, some of the Manna and Aaron’s walking stick, which God had made to bloom with . God would meet His people here and guide them along their way.
Over the centuries, God’s Holy Presence, His Spirit, would continue to come down, first to the traveling tent; then to a beautiful temple built by one of Israel’s greatest kings; and last of all, to the hearts of His people, as He finally declared that each of His follower’s bodies would be a holy temple for Him to live in.