So, until then, here's a little tidbit to tide you over: It's my returning devotional. For those who don't know, I wrote an email devotional for BCM two years ago. I started it up again this semester. The first few are going to be the remainder of the Bible study material I didn't get to use. Most of the material in this is derived from Richard Booker's The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread. Enjoy!
When Israel left Egypt and entered the wilderness, God was ready to re-establish the covenant he began with Abraham so long ago. In doing so, he gave the Israelites a new way to worship, guidelines for how they might approach their God.
The Tabernacle was central to this new Covenant, for it was where the worship would largely take place, and it was where God would dwell amongst his people.
The Hebrew had to approach God through the Tabernacle. There was no other way.
R.C. Sproul observed that the set-up of the Tabernacle had varying circles of holiness. As you entered further into the Tabernacle, things became more and more holy, until you were in the presence of God.
Where the Tabernacle was setup, the tribes of Israel set-up camp around it. God assigned each tribe a specific location. They formed a ring which encircled the tabernacle. The tribe of Levite camped between the other tribes and the tabernacle (Numbers 2).
The Tabernacle courtyard was accessible to anyone. It was 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and cordoned off by elaborate bronze and silver posts (Exodus 38:9-20). There is only one entrance into the courtyard.
The Brazen Altar
Also known as the Alter of Burnt Offering, this was inside the courtyard. It was here that the sacrifices brought in by the Israelites everyday were killed and burned. It consisted of an altar with four horns, as well as a collection of utensils and pans (Exodus 27:1-8).
The Brazen Laver
The other object of importance in the courtyard was the basin for washing. It was here that the priests had to cleanse themselves before they could enter the Tabernacle. It was four or five feet tall and made of polished brass, like a mirror (Exodus 30:17-21).
The Tabernacle, where God’s glory dwelt, was covered by two layers. The top layer was the hides of “sea cows,” possibly badgers. The bottom layer was made of ram skins dyed red. The glory veiled within was not visible from the outside. All of this was covered by a set of elaborate curtains (Exodus 26:1-14).
The Holy Place
Inside the Tabernacle were two rooms. This was the first, accessible from the outside, closed by the curtains covering the Tabernacle. There were three furnishings inside this room.
In the Holy Place was a golden lampstand with seven branches. It provided the only light in the Holy Place and was continuously lit (Exodus 25:31-40)
The Table of Shewbread
The Table of Shewbread was where the offerings of bread and wine were placed. It was a small table of wood overlaid with gold, with accompanying dishes and vessels for the drinks.
The Altar of Incense
This was a three foot tall, one and a half foot square box. Every morning and evening the Priest would put burning coals on the altar, and then sprinkle incense on these coals, which would fill the room with a fragrant white cloud of smoke. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest sprinkled blood on this altar (Exodus 37:25-28).
The Holy of Holies
Inside the Holy Place as another set of curtains. Behind it was the Holy of Holies, where God’s glory dwelled, only seen by the High Priest once a year.
The Ark of the Covenant
Also referred to as the Mercy Seat. This was the only object in the Holy of Holies. It was a small chest with a lid attached, which contained Aaron’s rod, a pot of manna, and the tablets on which God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. On the lid, replicas of cherubim sat (Exodus 25:10-22).
Aaron’s rod was a reminder of Israel’s rejection of God’s leadership (Numbers 16-17)
The pot of manna was a reminder of Israel’s rejection of God’s provisions (Numbers 11)
The Ten Commandments were broken by the people, a reminder that they fall short of his holiness (Exodus 32)
Finding the Messiah
The understandable thought after reading all of this is, “Okay, so where is Jesus in all of that?”
Jesus was never explicitly obvious under the Old Covenant. If it had, everyone would have known about the coming Messiah. But it is possible to see Christ foreshadowed in the trappings of the Tabernacle.
Just as Jesus said, “I am THE way,” so there was only one entrance to the courtyard, only one way of approaching God.
The Brazen Altar, where the sacrifices took place every day, is comparable to the cross on which Christ died, for Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins (Ephesians 5:2). Just as blood was poured at the base of the altar, so was the blood of Christ poured at the foot of the cross.
The Brazen Laver was filled with water. Water had many special meanings with Christ, but the clearest can be found in the waters of baptism. Just as one had to be cleansed before entering the tabernacle, one can not be a child of God without being born again. This spiritual birth is represented in the waters of baptism.
It is also significant to note that the priests only had to be fully cleansed at the laver once. After which they only had to clean their hands and their feet (which would become dirty from travel and performing the sacrifices) before entering the tabernacle. The same is true of the spiritual washing we receive from Christ. Only once do we need to be cleansed. Every thereafter is merely surface dirt. Jesus spoke of this in John 13.
The Covering of the Tabernacle represented the very body of the Messiah. The glory that dwelt within Christ (God in human form) was not visible to those who saw him. He looked very ordinary on the outside, just as badger skins would not look unusual to those that saw the Tabernacle. Underneath that layer was a layer of fine scarlet, and underneath the human trappings, the very blood of God flowed.
The Golden Lampstand was the sole source of light in the Tabernacle. Jesus declared that He was the light of the world (John 9:5), and later that all who follow him are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). The lampstand was seven branches. The central branch, when filled with oil, provided oil to the other six branches. Likewise, the church provides no light of its own. Instead, the source of the light must be from the one who truly is the “light of the world.”
At the Table of Shewbread, priests would consume the grain and drink offerings, bread made with oil and wine. This is a forerunner, along with the Passover meal, of the communion meal Jesus would institute. In John 6, Jesus speaks of his body and blood as being food and drink. They were not certain, at the time, what he meant by this. We now know that faith in Christ, “consuming” Him, is necessary to have life and fellowship with Him.
Regarding the Alter of Incense, incense is often used to symbolize prayer in scripture (Psalm 141:2, Revelations 5:8). Jesus is worthy to petition to the Father on our behalf because His own blood is on the Incense Alter. Through His blood, God receives our prayers offered in the name of Jesus.
And finally, we come to the Holy of Holies. This is where the glory of God dwelt. But no longer does God’s glory dwell in a single, physical location. The new presence of God is found inside of every believer in Christ. When the curtain into the Holy of Holies was torn at Christ’s death, the way was opened up for every believer to enter directly into the presence of God, because God would always be present with us. Jesus even tells the woman at the well that there will be a time when it doesn’t matter where God is worshipped; instead, those who worship God will do so in spirit and truth (John 4:19-24).
The Ark of the Covenant was the throne of God in the Tabernacle. However, no longer must the blood of bulls be placed on God’s throne. Instead, the slain and risen “Lamb of God” sits on the heavenly throne of God (Revelations 5:6). Christ’s blood, spilt for us, was poured out onto the true “Mercy Seat” once for all (Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:6-15).