The Tabernacle, a Picture of Jesus Christ
After six months and a cost of millions, it was completed. The
importance of the building was certainly not demonstrated by its size; a
mere 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 15 feet high. Centuries before,
in Noah’s day, the ark had been three times the size of this building
which now stood at Mount Sinai’s base. Nevertheless, to Moses and
his people, this simple structure was as vital to their spiritual salvation
as that ship had once been to Noah’s physical salvation. The name of
the building was the tabernacle.
It served, in one sense of the word, as a divine halfway house,
whereby the sin of Israel, both nationally and individually, could be
dealt with through blood sacrifices until the advent of God’s perfect
and permanent Lamb—the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, in blinding light
was the Shekinah glory of God Himself.
For its size, the tabernacle was the most expensive building (it was
really a tent) ever built. Its total value was about 1 billion dollars-much
more than that in today’s dollars. The study of the tabernacle is
important for at least five reasons: (1) God Himself placed great
emphasis on it, (2) every aspect of the tabernacle portrays something
about Christ in a way not derived, designed, or thought out by man
(Heb.9:8); (3) portions of the New Testament are largely unintelligible
without it, especially Hebrews; (4) the tabernacle typically relates to
practically the whole range of New Testament truth; and (5) it is an
effective antidote for liberalism which is occupied with externalism—the
tabernacle looks beyond the externals to the realities.
Each piece of furniture in the tabernacle stressed an important aspect
of Christ’s ministry for us. (1) The brazen altar—Christ our sacrifice
and atonement for sin; (2) the laver—Christ our sanctification; (3) the
table of showbread—Christ our food and the center of fellowship; (4)
the golden lampstand—Christ our light and the light of the world; (5)
the golden altar of incense—Christ our intercessor; (6) the veil—Christ
our access into the presence of God; (7) the ark of the covenant—
Christ the enthronement of God in humanity; (8) the mercy seat—
Christ our propitiation (satisfaction).
All of the furniture of the outer court was bronze while all of the
furniture of the holy place and the holy of the holies was pure gold. All
the furniture of the tabernacle was for God first and for man second.
Christ’s death was for God first and for man second. All of the furniture
in a straight line (east to west) represented God’s provision for
approach to Him. The furniture on the sides represented the privileges
and responsibilities of God’s children.
Each piece of furniture had a particular purpose in God’s economy.
The brazen altar met the righteousness claims of God and sacrifice.
The laver, through washing and cleansing, portrayed judicial
righteousness and then personal righteousness. The table of
showbread portrayed sharing in Christ. The priests could only eat the
bread after they had come by the altar and the laver of cleansing. The
golden lampstand provided light before the Lord, on the table, on the
altar of incense and on itself. It manifested the grace of God worked in
the lives of His children.
The golden altar of incense portrayed intercessory prayers before
God. It was in front of the veil as Christ is at the right hand of the
Father for us. The veil portrayed the means of access into the
presence of God through the body of Christ. The Ark of the Covenant
was a golden chest which supported the mercy seat. The mercy seat
presented Christ as our satisfaction before God.
The blood sprinkled on the gold demonstrated Christ’s death as
satisfying all the demands of a righteous God. One piece of furniture
was notably absent from the tabernacle. There were no chairs. The
priests were not to sit down because their work was never finished.
What a contrast to our High Priest,
Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God because His work is
finished (Heb. 8:10:12; 1:2).
Overall, the tabernacle teaches us that we are saved and sanctified in
order that we might worship, serve, and enjoy God forever.
The Ordination of the Priests
1. They were washed with water (Ex. 29.4)
2. They were clothed with garments (Ex. 28:39-43; 29:5-6).
3. They were anointed with oil (Ex. 29:7)
4. They were sprinkled with blood (v. 20)
The Duties of the Priests
1. That of temple service (Num. 3:5-9)
2. That of legal service (Deut. 17:8-9)
3. That of Personal Service (Num. 6:23-27)
The offerings of the Tabernacle
1. The burnt offering (Lev. 1.)
2. The meal offering (Lev. 2)
3. The peace offering (Lev. 3)
4. The sin offering (Lev. 4)
5. The trespass offering (Lev. 5)
The first three offerings were used to maintain fellowship with God,
while the last two were to restore broken fellowship.
The feasts of the Tabernacle. There were nine special feasts and
rest-times in God’s calendar for His children.
The first three were to remind the believers of God’s creative work and
the last six of His redemptive work.
His creative work: (1) The weekly Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11; Lev. 23:1-3).
(2) The seven-year Sabbath feast (Ex. 23:10-11); Lev. 25:2-7).
(3) The fiftieth-year Sabbath feast (Lev. 25:8-16).
Note: These three speak of God’s Creation as they come in endless
cycles of seven, just as God rested on the seventh day.
His redemptive work: (1) The feast of the Passover (Lev. 23:4-8).
This speaks of Calvary (1 Cor. 5:7).
(2) The Feast of the Firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-24). This speaks of the
Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23).
(3) The Feat of Pentecost (Lev. 13:15-22). This speaks of the coming
of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
(4) The Feast of the Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25). This speaks of the
Rapture and Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
(5) The Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32). This speaks of the
Tribulation (Rev. 6-19). In the Hebrew this is Yom Kippur. The order of
service on this all important day is detailed for us in Leviticus 16.
The high priest would offer a bull sacrifice for himself. Preachers need
to be saved and cleansed too. Lots would then be cast over two goats
to determine which one would become scapegoat, and which would be
killed. The high priest would then sprinkle the blood of the slaughtered
bull and goat seven times on the mercy seat. He would finally place his
hands on the scapegoat, confess over it all the sins of his people, and
then appoint a man to lead the goat into the desert.
(6) The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-34). This speaks of the
Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6).
Scripture reading: Exodus 25-31; Lev. 1-9; 16; 23.
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