My Fellow Travelers,
When the Children of Israel escaped bondage from Egypt, Moses was instructed by The LORD to build The Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the dwelling place for God and a place for worship and sacrifice. At the direction of the LORD this vagabond nation transported the Tabernacle as they wandered for forty years in the Sinai Desert. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were instructed by the LORD to give the Tabernacle of the Wilderness a more permanent home in Shiloh.
In 1996 I was given the privilege to tour Israel and as one would expect my first and only trip to The Holy Land was quite impressionable. Among the many historical and spiritually significant sights the LORD revealed himself in a forsaken, rock-laden field where the town of Shiloh once thrived.
During the tour our group settled in at Shiloh. On that particularly warm autumn day, this barren field became our place of worship. We gathered about our Pastor, Chuck Smith, jr., as he began sharing the familiar story of the young boy Samuel. Samuel's mother, Hannah, promised the LORD that if he gave her the desire of her heart, a son, in return she would offer her son to the service of the LORD at the Tabernacle. Therefore the young boy lived in Shiloh and served at the Tabernacle under the direction of the Priest, Eli. Our pastor began reading the Scripture,
“Now in those days messages from the LORD were very rare...while Samuel was sleeping the LORD called to Samuel, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ he thought it was Eli who called his name and replied, ‘Here I am’. The LORD called Samuel again and Samuel, still thinking it was Eli replied, ‘Here I am.’ When the LORD called to Samuel the third time, at Eli's instruction, he replied, ‘Here I am LORD your servant is listening.”
At that very moment our Pastors voice faded and the cry of my own heart resounded in my ears. With head in hands, I cried aloud to the Lord. ‘Give me ears like Samuel. I desire to hear from YOU!’ Immediately deep within my being I heard, ‘Jeanne’. Lifting my head I looked about wondering if someone from our group had called my name.
Once again, I heard ‘Jeanne’. Could this the LORD speaking to my heart? For certain I knew this was a 'voice' that was not my own so ever so faintly and reluctantly I whispered, 'Here I am LORD'.
I leaned forward and tilted my head as if to ensure better reception.
I waited...Was that it? The message was simply my name? Yet like Samuel, my 'sleep' had been disturbed. The LORD had awakened my soul & spirit just at the call of my name. I restrained from skipping back to our tour bus, yet found it quite impossible to hide the schoolgirl grin. He called my name! Now what? I knew for certain a comma followed ‘Jeanne.’ But when would I hear the completed sentence? What would the message be? In regard to Shiloh, my quiet times with the Lord remained just that; Quiet. Two years passed before he broke His silence.
While attending our women’s Bible Study my co-leader inquired about our upcoming women’s retreat. Facetiously she mentioned that I should take every one of them to Israel knowing the trip had made a profound impression on me. While pondering this impossible task, I ‘heard’ a whisper from within, ‘Bring Israel to them, build my Tabernacle”. This time my response did not echo Samuel’s reply to the LORD nor did it echo my ultimate reply to the LORD 2 years earlier in that field at Shiloh. I drew in a deep breath and with all due respect I whispered, ‘Excuse me?’ Once again I distinctly 'heard,’ Build my Tabernacle.’ I jumped to my feet. This was it! This was the completed sentence that began in Shiloh years before. With a heart filled with joy and expectation I responded, ‘Here I am LORD your servant is listening!’
His Tabernacle? I really wasn’t quite sure what I had just agreed to. I looked around our immense sanctuary wondering if the Tabernacle was bigger than this? Or smaller than a breadbox? I began the game of multiple questions, yet He had just one answer, ‘Build my Tabernacle.’ I rushed straightway to my husband’s office, flung open his door and announced ‘We’re going to build the Tabernacle for the women’s retreat.’ ‘What?‘, He replied,‘It’s only four weeks away!’ His smile and the slow shake of his head from side to side gave me the answer I was looking for, ’You can count on me’.
I spent precious sleepless nights traveling through the Scriptures with our High Priest, Jesus. He led me within the walls of the Courtyard, ushered me into the Holy Place and solemnly beckoned me beyond the Curtain to worship Him in the Holy of Holies. At every turn He revealed Himself in the mystery of His Tabernacle. Faithful friends embraced the project. I received the blessing and the endorsement from my pastor and together we wrote the details of each aspect of the Tabernacle. I handed over my scribbled drawings and measurements of the Tabernacle furnishings to my husband, Craig and to our dear friend Dan. Within weeks the tabernacle of the Wilderness stood in all its glory within the confines of a deserted run down tennis court.
Something spiritually significant happened when we set aside these meager elements and designated them ‘Holy unto the Lord’. Sheets of plywood, pieces of cardboard, blankets marked for clearance, cans and cans of gold spray paint, a simple rented tent, all these items transcended their earthly functions and became Holy for His intention.
As you embark on this unforgettable journey, reach out to Him. Place your hand in the hand of the Master Architect and allow Him to give you the grand tour of His home. You will find that He is quite the host and He is extremely fond of your company.
The journey is powerful, so hold on tight!
Jeanne Whittaker: Founder and Guardian of ‘The Tabernacle Experience’