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(This has become my most visited blog…which is very interesting to me. I guess there is just so much interest out there in the OT tabernacle and temple that this gets a lot of hits. Let me encourage you, teach the tabernacle biblically-accurate, teach it in a way that puts your people right into it, and teach it in a way that leaves them with CHRIST! Here’s how I did it… I made 3 door ways out of 1″ pvc pipe and shower curtains, and put the three door ways right up in front of our stage. I taught in front of the first door way to explain the courtyard, then I went through the doorway to enter the tent. There I taught on the bronze altar and the sacrifices, then I went through the second doorway into the Holy Place. There I taught on the lampstand, altar of incense, and bread of presence, and then I went through the third doorway into the Most Holy Place. There I taught on the ark of the covanant and mercy seat. The students loved it. I had people come in before hand to make the tabernacle furniture…some were just boxes spray painted gold…but the students will never forget that night! Here’s the message I preached…)
When Saddam Hussein rose to power in Iraq, he purposed to build himself a palace that would symbolize his absolute power and rule. He idolized the ancient king Nebuchadnezzar and his rule. So he not only built a palace like his, but he also built it with the ruins of the ancient palace. Six hundred rooms, 60 million sand-colored bricks each inscribed with a tribute to his rule, overlooking the Euphrates river, architected like a ziggurat (ancient temple), as high as four stories, as long as five football fields, hundreds of thousands of feet of marble, and gold bathroom fixtures are just some of the intimidating tactics that Saddam wanted to play a part in his palace. The funny thing is, Saddam rarely even lived in it.
In Exodus 25 – 40, we see God instructing Moses how to build a house for His dwelling: a Tabernacle. Every single detail that God gave to Moses was to reflect His glory, His holiness, and His Son. Even though the tabernacle was to illustrate God’s transcendent holiness, man’s rebellious sinfulness, and Christ’s incarnational coming; it wasn’t to be used built as an intimidation factor. Rather, God’s house was to be build because He desired to dwell with them. The more we understand the Tabernacle, the more we understand God’s presence through Jesus!
God’s Tabernacle was to be in the center of Israel’s camp whenever they stopped. When looking at The Tent from all of the other Israelite tents, you would see a huge wood fence with cloth between the slats separating you from the holy presence of God. Israelites could go in the gate of the fence and enter into the Courtyard (27:9-19). The first item in the courtyard would be the Bronze Altar (27:1-8) where Israelites would bring animals for the priests to sacrifice as a substitute offering for their sin. This pictures Christ’s one and final sacrifice as a substitute for our sin in which we must believe (Heb 9:15). The next item in the courtyard would be the Bronze Basin (30:17-21) where priests would wash their hands and feet before sacrifices and before entering into the Tabernacle. In Scripture, water is usually a symbol of being washed and cleansed of sin through the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:26).
Within the courtyard is the Tent (Tabernacle) in which only Israelite priests could enter. They would pass through a curtain and enter into a magnificent room of beautifully woven fabric and gold plated furniture. To the left, the priest would see the Golden Lampstand (25:31-40) which was the only source of light within the Tabernacle. It was to symbolize God watching over His people, and remember that Jesus called Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12). To the right, the priest would see the Table of the Bread of Presence (25:23-30). It had twelve loaves on it to represent the twelve tribes of God’s people. It was to symbolize how God would continually provide for His people. Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life from which we must eat (John 6:35). Straight ahead in the back of this first room (the Holy Place), the priest would see the Altar of Incense (30:1-10) which would burn a fragrance within the Tabernacle. The smell was to remind the priest of God’s nearness, and to be a pleasing aroma to God since it was just on the other side of the veil behind the ark. The Apostle Paul says that we are the aroma of Christ to God (2 Cor 2:15).
Not just any priest, but only The High Priest (Exo 28-29) could pass from the Holy Pace into the next room: The Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies. Jesus Christ is our final High Priest (Heb 4:14). The rooms were separated with a very thick cloth often called the Veil in Scripture separating God’s specific presence. Within the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would see the Ark of the Covenant (25:10-22). The ark was a box that contained some very important artifacts which served to be reminders of God’s provision in the life of Israel. It had a lid that was decorated with two cherubim whose wings spread to make a throne: the Mercy Seat. This is where the glory of the Lord would descend from heaven and rest to specially dwell among His people. After the Tabernacle was built, the glory of God did just that! Jesus fulfills the Holy of Holies. He is the specific presence of God in our lives (John 1:14 – Jesus “tabernacled” among us). Jesus is the bright radiance of God’s glory (Heb 1:3). Jesus is the final One who entered the veil, tore it from top to bottom, and brought us in by His blood so that we too can draw near this holy God with confidence (Heb 9:11-28).
In 2003 when the U.S. army invaded Iraq, a group of soldiers approached one of Saddam’s dozen palaces. They inched more and more near as they expected an onslaught of attack as protection by the Iraqis. But the U.S. soldiers found that it was deserted. As a sign of victory, they ran in his palace, toured his rooms, sat on his furniture, and made it their homes. In a much different way, Jesus of Nazareth entered into the Tabernacle of God on our behalf. He didn’t have to storm or invade it. Rather, the God-man tore the now-unnecessary veil, and walked into the presence of the Godhead of which He was a part. And for those of us who are in Christ, the author of Hebrews explains that Christ has brought us in with Him. This is something incredibly special as it was completely off limits for the Israelites and the non-High Priests. What are we supposed to do since we are able to enter into the specific presence of God? The author of Hebrews gives us three important instructions (10:19-21)…
- Draw Near (10:22). We are to draw near unto God and realize His specific presence in our lives through the blood of Jesus. We are to pray to Him as those who are living in His Holy of Holies. We are to constantly practice nearness to Him.
- Hold Fast (10:23). We are firmly grasp and hang on to the truths of Christ that God has revealed to us. Not holding them lightly, but firmly within our grip for special care.
- Stir Up (10:24). We are to lovingly encourage and serve each other by participating as the church (the presence of God and body of Christ). By sharing what we own with each other, by giving each other our time and love, and by holding each other accountable to meet together for regular worship of God through Christ with each other – the local church.
Let me encourage you as your brother. Be a regular participant of your local church. If we see the importance of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament, and the body of Jesus Christ as the specific dwelling of God in the New Testament, then we must see that the gathering of our local church is equally important to the life and godliness of each and every Christian.