We’re all familiar with the kind of mobile homes that you find in trailer parks, but are you aware that God Himself favors the concept?
According to the Bible, the first house built for the One True God was the transportable temple, called the Tabernacle, which the children of Israel carried with them as they wandered for forty years in the Sinai desert. The details of its construction and furnishing as dictated by God are spelled out in the book of Exodus (chapters 25-31, 35-40). It was essentially a tent-like structure inside an enclosure that could all be knocked-down and carted around when the tribes were on the move. At the center of the Tabernacle was a curtained-off area known as the “Holy of Holies” which housed the Ark of the Covenant. As we are told in Exodus 25:22, God’s presence spoke from above the Ark. So this transportable structure was literally the house in which God was present for His people – His personal ‘mobile home.’
Even after the Israelites settled in the promised land of Canaan, and for another three centuries afterwards, the Tabernacle, now permanently located in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1), remained the center of worship for the Jewish people and was where the priests offered sacrifices to God. When the kingdom of Israel was united under King David, he brought the Ark to Jerusalem, which was the capital city of his kingdom. David, who had built palaces for himself, felt embarrassed that God’s home remained a tent and wanted to replace it with a more suitable structure. But God told David that the mobile home was no big deal to Him, and in any case it shouldn’t be a warrior like David who should replace it (1 Chronicles 17 & 28). Thus it fell to David’s son Solomon to build a fine temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, which replicated much of the plan of the Tabernacle but on a more grandiose scale. This first temple stood for 400 years until Israel was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC; the cream of Jewish society was hauled off into bondage as punishment for the nation’s lapse into faithlessness and Solomon’s beautiful temple was reduced to rubble.
After 70 years, a group of Israelites was allowed to return and the temple was rebuilt under the leadership of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, with the chastened people resolved to now be strictly faithful to God.
About 500 years later, when Israel was now under Roman occupation, the first King Herod (the same guy who ordered the murder of the babies in Bethlehem) commissioned a massive reconstruction and expansion of the temple complex. Begun in 20 BC, this project was largely completed by the time of Jesus’ birth and was a spectacular edifice, even by modern standards! But it didn’t last long: about 35 years after Jesus’ death the Romans brutally suppressed a Jewish insurrection and utterly demolished the magnificent building. It has never been rebuilt – a mosque now sits atop Mount Zion on the former site of the temple.
So the permanent temples of God didn’t fare too well in the long haul — not one of them exists today. But God’s mobile units are a different story: they’ve been multiplying like crazy for the last 2000 years!
We are God’s temples. When Jesus, the Sinless Lamb of God, was sacrificed on the cross to redeem the sins of humanity for all time, the need for sacrifices ended and there was no longer a need for temples and priests. But though lacking an earthly edifice to be His fixed dwelling, God didn’t depart from His people. No indeed! Instead He fulfilled His promise to live in intimacy with His children (e.g., Jeremiah 31:33-34) by taking up His dwelling in the hearts of those redeemed in the blood of His Son. So, rather than one stationary temple in Jerusalem, there are now many millions of mobile ones spread around the globe (over 2 billion of us identify as followers of Jesus!)
But God’s ‘mobile homes’ of the New Covenant are not intended to be parked. Rather, we are to be the ‘mobile temples’ that carry Christ into the world so that all may know Him and share in God’s plan of salvation:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)