What the Wilderness Tabernacle Reveals About Intimacy.
Rod Cooper, a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, describes intimacy as “INTO-ME-SEE!” I like that. It says much about what intimacy brings and calls for. Undoubtedly, within the context of marriage, the husband or wife who chooses to give their spouse genuine intimacy gives them much more than a marriage license. They give them themselves . . . unmasked, uncovered and unlimited.
Intimacy cannot be forced out, driven out or demanded. No remote control exists which, upon command, can summon the thoughts, concerns, feelings and longings of a spouse’s soul to suddenly appear. Intimacy is something that must be drawn out in a relationship. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”
Our word for intimacy, in fact, comes from the Latin intimus, meaning “inmost.”
The Old Testament paints a vivid picture of intimacy for us in the image of the tabernacle, the ancient Jews center for worship. When God gave Moses directions for building the tabernacle, it included three main areas: First, the “outer court”; secondly, “the inner court”; and, third, “the holiest of all” or the “holy of holies.” These areas represented stages through which a worshiper would pass as he drew closer to God.
The “outer court” was the courtyard. In this public place people mingled, talked and prepared to take deeper steps into the places of worship. This was the most familiar part of the tabernacle to most people.
The “inner court” was the place where the worshiper would meet a priest, confess their sins, and offer a suitable sacrifice for their sins. It was the point which connected the dwelling place of the people (“outer court”) with the dwelling place of God (“holiest of all”).
The “holiest of all” was the place where the glory of God dwelt. His presence was there. One could not get any closer to the heart of God than in this sacred room. And, yet, it was such a holy place, that an unauthorized individual who rushed into it would be struck dead. No, careful preparation had to be made by the High Priest to enter that holy place and even he could only enter it once a year.
These images help paint a picture of the couple desiring to grow closer to one another. Let’s say, in a relational sense, that the “holiest of all” represents the soul of your spouse, the fountain of their emotions, hopes, dreams, hurts and her faith. A husband or wife seeking to grow closer and more intimate with their spouse does well to focus on entering that sacred place. And yet, as with the tabernacle, the soul of a spouse is a privileged place and reserved for the right person who will approach it in an appropriate and sensitive manner.
God never intended for us to indiscriminately rush in and bear our souls to just anyone. Such a presumptuous person might be considered a “chronic confessor.” No, … intimacy is more sacred.
I think Dinah Craik catches something of the true sense of intimacy vividly well in her writing from over a century ago:
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with another person.
Having neither to weight thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out just as they are,
chaff and grain together –
Certain that a faithful hand
will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping
and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.
“Feeling safe with another person” – that says it so well. Such is the deepest of marital intimacy and moments. Such is the experience of worshipping God “in spirit” and coming into his presence. Not that serving God is always the “safest” path to take, but though “we walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, we fear no evil because of our intimacy with God, because “you are with me.”
Surely it was intimacy with God that David had in mind when he wrote, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings (Ps. 61:4).”
We all desperately need to know the depths of true intimacy. There are many “so called intimacies” that tempt us to settle for shallow places, but they leave us emptier still. Yet, the “holiest of all” beckons us. God has designed us to be knit soul to soul with other person in the deepest kind of sharing and intimacy. And, most of all, to know him in such a manner that we come to him often and that more and more we come to feel “safe.”