The Tabernacle

Biblical Tabernacle with altar and Jewish tent camp, Israel, 3d render.
The Holy Tabernacle in top view.
Ark of the Covenant

December 6, 2021

Last week we discussed the 10 commandments. This week we will discuss the tabernacle. I have used many sermons to help with this as it can be complicated.

After a short time in the desert, God wanted to make a place where the people of Israel could worship Him and he could be with them.

God wanted the people of Israel to participate. One way to do this was to give to the work of the tabernacle with an open heart. The Lord then asked Moses to have the people bring the Lord an offering from each of the Israelites whose heart prompts them. The offerings they were to give were: gold, silver, bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine line; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood, olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece (Exodus 25:3-7).

We first need to ask where the Israelites, who were slaves, got the items listed above. Exodus 12:35-36 says, “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.”

The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the Israelites and they gave them everything that they would need to build the tabernacle

Then God asked that the people to make a sanctuary for God and he would dwell among them.
Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8).

A sanctuary is a holy place. A tabernacle is a dwelling place. This was going to be the dwelling place of God. God was going to pitch a tent among His people (Rodney Fry).

In Exodus 25:9, God gave specific instructions on how to build the tabernacle, and the people were to supply to goods to build it. This was going to be portable because the Israelites moved around a lot. The picture that I posted is a replica of the tabernacle and its’s furnishings. Seven times the book of Exodus states the tabernacle is to be made just as God directed.          

All of the specific details about the tabernacle were given in Exodus 25-27. There were instructions on dimensions of the building, composition of the building, materials for the building, and directions about how to put it together. In chapters 35-39, there were further details about how those instructions were carried out (John Stevenson).  

Why do you think God wanted to be the Architect, the creator, of the tabernacle? Why was He so detailed about everything?

First, it was going to be God’s dwelling place among man.

Second, it was a place for others to worship and learn about God. It was to be the center of the Israelites’ life.

Third, it was a picture of the future Jesus Christ.

How was sacrificing at the tabernacle and our relationship with Christ similar? How was the tabernacle a picture of the future Jesus?

  1. Each piece of furniture was a representation of Christ.
  2. Going to the tabernacle, and the process of sacrifice is similar to the sacrifice Jesus made.

The Fence: When a person approached the tabernacle, there was a white linen fence. It was a barrier to God’s presence. It is a reminder that there is a barrier between all people in God because of sin. A consequence of sin is separation from God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

The Gate: When someone came to the tabernacle to be with God, there was only one way to enter and that was through a gate on the east side. This is similar to something Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). There is only one way to the Father, and that is through faith in Christ.

The Alter: The alter was very large, 7 feet, 6 inches and made of acacia wood and covered in bronze. There was always a fire going on the alter and this is where the priest would sacrifice the animals. You would enter the gate with an animal to sacrifice. You needed to have an animal without blemish to sacrifice because you would not have access to God without a sacrifice made for your sins (Leviticus 1:3). You would confess your sins, and then the animal was sacrificed in your place as a payment for sin.

This was the same with Jesus in the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:19 says that we were redeemed from, “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Christ, the perfect lamb, was sacrificed for our sins. Hebrews 9:14 says:14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!”

The Laver: After making the sacrifice, the priests had to go to the bronze “laver” in order to wash their hands and feet. Cleansing was required before entering into God’s presence, which is where the priest would go next. We also need to be cleansed prior to having a relationship with God. This is done through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, as stated in the previous paragraph.

The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies: The next area was a tent that was split into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Only the priests were allowed. From the outside the tent was drab. The inside was beautiful. This is similar to Christ. According to Isaiah 53:3, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” On the inside, Jesus was beautiful. “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.”

Holy Place: this is where the priests could come daily.

  • Lampstand: Inside the Holy Place was a lampstand made of solid gold. There were 7 oil lamps lit so the priests could see what they were doing. This is related to Christ as he said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • Table of Bread: a wooden table overlaid with bread. There were 12 loaves of bread representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Every Sabbath new loaves replaced the old ones. Christ said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we also eat the “bread” to remember Him.
  • Altar of Incense: this was a golden alter in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The priests were to burn incense in the morning and evening when there was a sacrifice as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The incense represented the sweet prayers being offered up by God’s people. The corners of the alter had golden horns that were sprinkled with blood from the sacrifices to cleans and purify. We enter God’s presence through the blood of Jesus.
  • The Veil: this separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where there was the presence of God. The veil separated the priests from God. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and this was only one time per year on the Day of Atonement. This relates to Christ when he died on the cross. Luke 23:45 says that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Because the veil was down, there was no longer a veil separating the priest, or anyone else from having access to God. Today we do not need to pray to anyone else but God, and we do not need a priest to access God. He is available to everyone 24/7.

Holy of Holies

  • Ark of the Covenant: This was inside the Holy of Holies and was the most holy part of the Tabernacle. It was made of Acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The atonement cover (mercy seat) was the lid, and it had 2 cherubim on each end facing each other, but looking down at the ark. God said to Moses that He would speak with him or the priests from above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22).
  • Three items in the Ark: these three items represented historical events in the lives of the Israelites.
    • Pot of Manna: reminded them of God’s miraculous provision of food in the wilderness, and their moaning and complaining when they were tired of eating the same thing every day.
    • Aarons staff: a symbol of God’s power. It was used to initiate the plagues in Egypt and to part the Red Sea. The staff was also the one that budded after God said he would choose the one to be high priest with the staff that budded.
    • The 10 commandants on the two tablets: These were reminders of the perfect law of God, and the Israelites inability to keep the law. They also symbolized that Jesus was the only man that could keep the law without breaking it.
  • The Atonement Cover: Every year the priest would go into the Holy of Holies. He would burn incense, and sprinkle blood from a bull onto the atonement cover for his and household’s sin, then from a goat for all the sins committed by Israel. God would atone man of his sins. God did not see the sin anymore. Jesus is now our perfect sacrifice for our sins. God does not see our sin anymore because of Christ’s atoning blood.

During the Old Testament times, priests had to keep sacrificing. It is different now. Hebrews 7:23-28 says, “23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely[a] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Hebrews 8:1-2 has a good summary, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.”

Jesus is our High Priest, and he sat down at the right hand of God. He does not have to keep sacrificing. His sacrifice of himself was enough.

The veil is down. You do not need a priest to go into the Holy of Holies, or God’s presence. We have access to God through his son Jesus Christ.

Have you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior so you have 24/7 access to God, and the saving grace from the blood of Jesus? If this is something you want, pray directly. Ask forgiveness for your sins, and say yes to Jesus being Lord of your life. If you have questions or want help through the process, please contact me and I can walk you through it.

Next week we will finish the book of Exodus by reading chapters 31-40.

References: Sermons from Matthew Sickling, Rodney Fry, John Stevenson, Skip Heitzig, Stephen Wright, Stephen Sheane, Tim Hinrichs

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