The Introduction to J.V. Fesko's Christ and the Desert Tabernacle immediately resonated with me, as he described an all-too-familiar phenomenon: the attempt to read through the Bible in a year. More specifically, I resonated with how jarring it can be to transition from the narrative of Genesis and Exodus into the detailed, often tedious instructions for building the tabernacle. For many Christians, these chapters are alien and seemingly irrelevant to their faith and practice. Fesko's book is an attempt to help faithful readers see the significance of these chapters, not only for God's Old Testament people, but also for believers today. Though Fesko is a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary, California, he has written a very accessible book. As one blurb on the back cover states, "while the book is geared toward the average layperson, it is not simplistic, but profound." Having its origins in a sermon series on Exodus, the book conveys Fesko's pastoral concerns for Christians to understand and appreciate how the entire Bible works together to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The format of the book is pretty straight-forward: Fesko starts in Exodus 25 and works through the instructions given for the construction of the tabernacle. Each chapter focuses on a different section, such as the Building Materials, the Ark of the Covenant, the Table and Bread of the Presence, etc. For each section, Fesko begins by explaining the details given in the Exodus text, indicating the significance of particular items and possible symbolism (e.g., the requirement that a blue curtain be used to separate the most holy place from the rest of the tabernacle is meant to evoke the sky, and more specifically, the recurring motif of God's throne being in heaven). He then turns to the New Testament to interpret the tabernacle construction in light of the person and work of Christ (e.g., just as the Old Testament tabernacle represents God's presence among his people, John 1 uses that same word "tabernacle" to describe the incarnation of the Son of God, who took on flesh to dwell among his people). Finally, in each section, Fesko draws practical applications for Christian believers (e.g., the Israelites were to donate the building supplies for the tabernacle voluntarily, out of a generous heart -- their involvement in building the tabernacle was never described as repayment for God delivering them from Egypt. In the same way, Christians should respond to the grace we have received in Christ by giving generously to the building of his church, not out of obligation but from a desire to see the Gospel spread into all the world.) Having experience as both a professor and a pastor, Fesko is able to exegete the Old Testament text, interpret its theological significance in light of the New Testament, and then apply it to the Christian life in a very relevant and meaningful way.
The book is relatively short (133 pages), so it could be a quick read. But there's plenty to warrant pondering over. Each chapter strikes a good balance between content and application, and I could easily see it being used for small group Bible study, as well as devotional reading.
Overall, Christ and the Desert Tabernacle is recommended for anyone interested in learning not only about the Old Testament tabernacle, but also about how it fits into God's overall plan of redemption through Christ.