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The tabernacle was for Israel the sign of God's intent to dwell with her, the place of God's continuing Presence in her midst. The story of the tabernacle and of the worship and the sacrifices associated with it, might seem to be the ancient history of some remote tribe, except for one thing: The story consists largely of directions for the people's use of the tabernacle, that is, their approach to the Presence, their worship, and their living in its light. And when we study the directions, we find ourselves in the Presence, hearing God's Word to us about our approach to the Lord, our doubts and confusions as we try to bring our lives toward God's light to worship.

I began my study of this part of the Bible with hesitation. But what I found was a direct and sensitive response to my inner need as the words of the Bible became God's Word to me. And I learned that I was not alone in my confusions. Others, from ancient Israel on, had suffered them before me, and had found their way to God's continuing and supporting Presence notwithstanding. My first assumption in this writing is, then, that God's Word is present in the Bible, and speaks to us in the most practical ways of the issues of our inner lives. If we need help in our approach to finding God, these chapters of the Bible are for us.

My second assumption is that the images in the Bible are words of power. "The LORD is my shepherd" needs no defence or explanation. The image itself speaks, with new power each time we hear it, if we let ourselves respond to it at all. The images relating to God in the end of the Book of Isaiah have an equal immediate power. God is the Ruler coming with strength who

. . . will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.


God relates to Israel as a mother who cannot

forget her sucking child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb.


God is the hero of the creation warfare who pierced the chaos dragon of the universe to make a cosmos (51:9). God, the Maker of Israel, is the husband who will have compassion on his briefly forsaken wife (54:5). God is warrior putting on righteousness as a breastplate (59:17), glory rising as light upon his people (60:2). God will rejoice over Israel "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride" (62:5). God is "our Father," "our potter" for us the clay (64:.1). And "as one whom his mother comforts," so Israel will be comforted by God like a child held in her lap (66:12-13). This end of the Book of Isaiah proclaims once and for all the one God of all history and all creation, but the language is not our labored writing of sentences about God's omnipotence and omniscience. The language of the Bible is that of concrete, vivid images to which we must respond, with feeling and living as well as thought, in order to know their meaning and their power.

Every reader of the Bible has recognized this power of image in the psalms and in the prophets. What I have found in these chapters describing the worship associated with the tabernacle, is the same power of image. This, I believe, is the language of the Bible as a whole, its history and religious practices, as well as its poetry and prophecy. Israel had a political life in this world, and her history as recorded in the Bible, may be studied and checked for literal accuracy in the light of the history and culture of other ancient peoples. But the history of Israel recorded in the Bible is also, I believe, the history of the inner life and growth of every human being. My intention in this work is to look at the biblical directions for the tabernacle and the worship associated with it, as true history to be studied with all the help of the critical understanding of its original cultural setting that I can find, and at the same time as true image to which I must respond to hear God's Word to me.

This approach is not new. It is based on an earlier study of the tabernacle, The Jewish Sacrifices, by the Rev. John Worcester, a Swedenborgian minister who based his work on the findings of the 18th century scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Worcester's work, published in Boston in 1902, was part of a significant influence of Swedenborg in the thinking of the time. William James was doing his pioneer work in psychology and religion. Elwood Worcester and others were active in the Emanuel Movement to bring the insights of religion, psychology, and medicine together to enhance the lives of people. Swedenborgians, with their commitment to the Bible as God's Word, their equally strong sense of the power of symbol, and their acceptance of science as a natural ally of religion, were well suited to such endeavors. In 1909 the visit of Freud and Jung to this country eclipsed these Swedenborgian efforts, but, of course, contributed enormously to popular awareness of spiritual-psychological reality and to serious, continued interest in the relationship of religion, psychology, and spiritual growth.

The present work is the result of my engagement in John Worcester's original study of the tabernacle and its sacrifices, to make it available in new and modern form. It is offered with appreciation of Worcester's and Swedenborg's insights, and with thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for suggesting the project.

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