The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV 2011)
The Word, the Eternal God who created all things and in whom is light and life, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Jesus is the eternal God who became flesh and lived with us. The Greek word for “dwelling” is skenoo which means a tent or tabernacle. If we were to translate with awkward English, we could say that the Word became flesh and pitched his tent with us, or tabernacled with us. The imagery is not merely that God lived with us, a point made back in verses 10 and 11. The point is that a new Sinai has occurred.
Exodus 33-34 is the primary reference point for this parallel. In Exodus 33-34 God gives the law from Mount Sinai a second time and reveals his character and glory to Moses. This is our first point of parallel. Just as the Law came from God which revealed the character and glory of God, now the Word has come from God which reveals the character and glory of God. Our second point of parallel is this: just as God “tabernacled” with his people in the wilderness, the Word tabernacled with his people. In the wilderness God was seen in his glory dwelling with his people as a pillar of cloud and fire above the tabernacle. More importantly, when the tabernacle was constructed, notice what occurred:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34–35 ESV)
The same thing happens when the temple is constructed.
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 7:1–3 ESV)
Please notice that the people of Israel understood the glory of the Lord filling the temple as God’s grace, steadfast love, and goodness. The glory of the Lord was dwelling with his people. But what happens later in Israel’s history is sad. The people are full of sin and violate the covenant with God. The prophet Ezekiel comes on the scene and sees in his visions the glory of the Lord leaving the temple (Ezekiel 10:4, 18, 11:22-23). But Ezekiel prophesies of a hopeful time when the glory of the Lord will return to his temple.
As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple. (Ezekiel 43:4–5 ESV)
Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple of the LORD. And I fell on my face. (Ezekiel 44:4 ESV)
Further, Haggai commanded the people by the word of the Lord to rebuild the temple with these encouraging words:
For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’” (Haggai 2:6–9 ESV)
But there is the curious thing about these prophecies looking forward to the day when the glory of the Lord would return to the temple. When the people returned from Babylonian exile and built the temple in the days of Zerubbabel, we do not read of the glory of the Lord filling this temple. The word “glory” does not appear in the books of Ezra or Nehemiah which chronicle the return from exile. Haggai had promised the return of God’s glory to the temple. However, the people built the temple and nothing happened. No return of God’s glory. No filling of the temple. Nothing. Now listen to the words of John: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the people in his prophecy with the glory of the Lord filling the temple. Haggai said that the latter glory of this house would be greater than the former. The former glory was immense because Solomon built a temple that was filled with gold and precious stones. Further, God filled that temple with his glory. Even so, Haggai declared that the future glory of the temple would be greater. Jesus, the Word, was that future glory. Jesus is where God and humanity meet. Jesus is the revealing of the glory of God. Jesus is the fuller glory of God “tabernacling” with his people.