Like a good Christmas dinner, God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God is a biblical feast. Daniel Hyde, pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church in Carlsbad, California, has served up a well-proportioned meal full of theological meat and nourishing application. In banqueting table terms, let me share why you should sit down and read this book.
Setting the Table
Hyde begins with a lengthy introduction where he places the tabernacle in its redemptive-historical context, discusses his “hermeneutical principles,” and traces the development of God’s dwelling place from the Garden in Eden to the Garden-City in Revelation 21–22. Indeed, following the hermeneutics of Meredith Kline and Greg Beale, Hyde shows how the tabernacle in Exodus 25–40 forms an important part of the biblical storyline.
Moreover, as he will demonstrate in each chapter, Hyde concludes his introduction by inviting readers to respond to the God who has drawn near. Pastorally, Hyde seeks to engage the reader’s heart as well as his mind; the book aims to not only explain the tabernacle but also how believers can experience the presence of God in their lives today. In this way, Hyde provides a full introduction to set the table for the rest of the book.
Like a good three-course meal, each chapter of Hyde’s book provides faithful exegesis, Christ-centered typology, and practical application. Each chapter is formatted like a sermon, complete with an opening illustration and closing exhortation. This doesn’t take away from the book; it helpfully shows how strong theology coheres with winsome preaching.
Dividing the book into 17 digestible chapters, Hyde begins with the contributions collected from Israel in Exodus 25:1–7. He then moves section by section until he reaches Yahweh’s spiritual gift to Israel—the Spirit-filled construction workers Bezalel and Oholiab (Ex. 31:1–11)—who will fashion the tabernacle after the heavenly prototype (25:40). While fastidious in his exegesis of chapters 25-31, Hyde also incorporates the corollary texts found later in Exodus 35:4–39:43.
‘Can I Look at the Menu?’
While each chapter is well-balanced, God in Our Midst lacks a menu to help the reader know what’s coming next. In other words, a full explanation of how Exodus 25–40 fits together as a literary unit would have been helpful. Hyde mentions in passing the three sections of Exodus 25–40 (25:1–31:11; 31:12–35:3; 35:4–40:38), but the reader unfamiliar with these 16 chapters will be left wondering why he doesn’t address chapters 32–39—or why chapters 32–34, the literary center of Exodus 25–40, is unaddressed.
Similarly, by excising the golden calf narrative—something that could have been included (223, n. 7)—the reader is left to guess how and why this incident relates to the tabernacle. This omission misses a wonderful opportunity to explain how the law (chs. 19–24), the tabernacle (chs. 25–31, 35–40), and man’s sin, God’s grace, and Moses’s mediation contribute to the biblical-theological understanding of the dwelling place of God (cf. John 1:14–18).
What does this passage teach me about God, about my sins, about redemption, and about how I am to live? Ultimately, Hyde says, it is good to read the tabernacle narratives because they are part of our family history. We need to read and meditate on that history because we have the same God, the God who said, I will dwell in your midst, and who tells us that we are the true tabernacle, the dwelling place of God (Eph. 2:22).
That said, Hyde’s book provides excellent material on the typological pieces of the puzzling tabernacle. Each chapter draws helpful connections between the ancient tent of God to the Spirit-filled, New Testament believer. While more could be said about Exodus 25–40—and more can always be said—the reader will gain an incredible appreciation and understanding of the tabernacle by reading God in Our Midst.
‘More Please’ and ‘No, Thank You’
Devotionally, there’s little to criticize in this meaty volume. The reader is left is saying, “More please,” as each chapter heaps up a plate of worship-inspiring truth. It’s heavy on grace, even as it plumbs the depths of the law. In that way, God in Our Midst richly rewards those studying the tabernacle.
Theologically, however, there are a few things hungry readers should know. First, Hyde is unashamedly Reformed. Since the word Reformed has many variations today, it’s important to understand that his Reformed theology goes beyond soteriology. In tradition, denomination, and ecclesiology, he is fully Reformed.
As a Baptist, I am not deterred from reading his book or commending it, but it does mean I read it with greater sensitivity to where Reformed ecclesiology informs Hyde’s application of the Old Testament type to the New Testament church. I’m not necessarily issuing a complaint, though. Rather, with Richard Lints (The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology [Eerdmans, 1993], 321), I would like to see fewer generically evangelical theologians and more robustly Reformed, Presbyterian, or Baptist theologians. Hyde’s book wonderfully expresses a warmhearted, biblically informed Reformed theology. At points Baptists will disagree, but what’s new?
As a Baptist, I appreciate Hyde’s incorporation of historic creeds and confessions. Throughout God in Our Midst, he seasons his exposition with quotations from the Westminster Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and other Reformed statements of faith. These add depth to his book and give the reader a greater appreciation for historical theology.
Therefore, with that “Baptist” caveat in place, I heartily commend Hyde’s book. If you’re a Baptist, reading God in Our Midst will be like eating a holiday meal at the home of another family. You’ll find mountains of rich food to enjoy, and a few plates to which you’ll say, “No thanks.” At the same time, for those in the Reformed tradition, God in Our Midst provides rich fare, harvested from the Scriptures and presented in accord with the historic Reformed expression of faith.
Take Up and Eat
In the end, Hyde has produced a readable, devotional work that invites people to come and feast on the bread of God’s presence. But God in our Midst does more. For the preacher, it provides a sermonic commentary that balances historical exegesis and Christ-centered application. In this way, it exemplifies theologically informed preaching. For the Bible student, it models a text-driven approach to interpretation that refrains from allegory, and commends reading the Bible in light of the whole canon (i.e., a redemptive-historical hermeneutic). And for the layperson looking for a helpful book on those baffling chapters about curtains, poles, and hooks, look no further. God in Our Midst is a sure guide.
Therefore, let me you encourage you this Christmas to consider what it means that the Word of God came to “tabernacle” with us (John 1:14). Then, to spur on your meditation of the Incarnation, pick up God in Our Midst, read a chapter each day, and enjoy the feast.