Session 16: The Tabernacle
The Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. …Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Exodus 25:1-2, 8
Exodus 25-40. Key verse: 25:1-9 (also the theme of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
Timeline, about 1250 BC . During the time of the early Israelites, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the Iron Age is at its beginning, the Trojan war was on, and ancient Babylon falls to the Assyrians.
Key personalities: Moses, Aaron, two million Israelites
There are five main themes in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. First, The Exodus itself, the great mass departure as God redeems His people. Second, the giving of the Law to know and worship God and lead a healthy life. Third, the Tabernacle, how God dwells amongst us and we are to know God is in this place, we can know God and worship Him. Forth, the Priesthood, how we can know God through mediation. Finally, Sacrifice, how we can be redeemed.
Why all of this? Because, He is with us! God wants to be known and gives us the remarkable manner to make it so. That all this points to the coming work of Christ Who saves, Who dwells in us, Who mediates and He sacrifices Himself. He is unique and True, Holy, Pure, Sacred, that He will never leave us and He will always be with us. This is demonstrated, as God sets the Israelites free, and they set off to the new Promise Land.
Key Happenings: We are to Worship our LORD God!
· The Ark . Ark of the Covenant is basically a chest that carries something sacred, similar to the ones the Egyptians used for their holy doings. This one was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold; the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a jar of manna were kept in it. The A rk represents the throne and presence of God, His faithfulness, and atonement in keeping the covenant He made with His people even when they disobeyed Him. The lid or cover is called the "mercy seat," also called the atonement cover, that had two facing sculpted cherubim with extended wings. This represented God's heavenly couriers facing each other and pointing to God's holiness. It cannot be touched or approached, and was carried by privileged priests using two long poles. The Ark is the main Jewish icon, and was placed behind the sanctuary curtain in the inner sanctum where the presence of God dwelt. It is meant to display God's dwelling and power and our reverence of Him. This is all meant to demonstrate God in an understandable and approachable manner, as God "condescends" to us. This means that God "descends" to our level to make Himself known; He lowers Himself--makes Himself accessible--and gives us insight according to our level of understanding so we can perceive Him from our aptitude to recognize what is otherwise incomprehensible. For the Christian, it is Christ who paid for our sin, and with whom we have our covenant (Ex. 16:33-34; 25:10-22; Lev. 26:1-15; Num. 17:8-10; Duet 10:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-10; Matt. 27:51; Rom. 4:1-25; Heb. 6:13-20; 9:23; 10:19-20; Rev. 3: 10-13; 4:6-8).
· The Table . The table is the main "altar" and Holy Place for worship. It was made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold and was set at the north side of the Holy Place. The table was placed in front of the inner sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. This is when the high priest took the incense from the altar/table, along with the blood of the sin offering, into the Most Holy Place. This was where the offerings were made--the grain, wine, and oil, as well as the sacrifices of animals (Ex. 40:5, 22; Lev 16:12-14; 1 Kings 6:22).
· Consecrated bread/showbread . This is the bread--twelve loaves--set in two rows of six that were offered before God for His honor, common in all ancient places of worship, both pagan and traditional. Many liturgical churches, such as Catholic, still do this today as an offering and in remembrance of Christ. This means we place before God the best of ourselves and our things (Lev. 24:5-6; Matt. 12:4; Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4)
· The Lampstand . This refers to one of the main furnishings in the tent/ Temple, similar to the menorah in Jewish tradition today and made of hammered, pure gold. Along with this, there were seven oil lamps that were kept burning every night. It was placed at the south side of the inner sanctum, the Holy Place. This also refers to the OT account of how God's Glory descended into the Tabernacle. Now, our purpose is to point to His glory, that Christ is the Light of the world now and, as His Church, we are to reflect Him to others. (Gen. 1:3; Ex. 25:31-40; 40:24; 1 Kings 7:49; Zech. 4:2; Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
· Tabernacle , The God Who Dwells, "God is among us and the theme of "Immanuel!" Literally means He pitches His Tent amongst His people, and did so not just figuratively; He did this rather literally and effectually and eternally. This 3,600 square foot pavilion was set up in the middle of the camp and all the people pitched their tents around it, facing it. This is a "type" to Immanuel, God is among us. God dwells in the Temple and now with the Holy Spirit within us. This was prior to the Temple being built and was about God dwelling amongst the people, being with them. This was to show the Promised Land was not just about the possession of the land; rather, it was about God possessing our hearts and minds. The Temple was man's idea so to place God in a permanent location--a God of limitless boundaries. On the contrary, we can't posses God; it is He who desires to posses us. It is about being humble so we are dependent upon Him and His dwelling amongst us, as we are full in Him (2 Chron. 7:1-18; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:19-23; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 1:8)!
· His people . God seeks us; He wants to be with us, He is our refuge; He is the One to whom we look for leadership (Psalm 23; 80:1; 121:5-6; Isa. 4:5-6; 49:10; Micah 7:14; John 10:11-18; Heb. 3:1; 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 4:6-7).
· As a throne, this refers to the inner sanctum of God's most holy of holies where the Ark, with the two tablets of the Testimony Moses brought from Mount Sinai dwelt. This represented God's home on earth as a "copy" of God's Throne Room, made for His presence in the inner chamber of Jewish Temples and the Tabernacle, a tent used before the Temple was built by Solomon (Ex. 24:9-11; 25:8-9, 40; 29:45; 32:15; 37: 24-28; 43:7-10; Lev. 26:11-12; Deut 10:5; 1 Kings 6:12-13; 22:19; Is. 8:8-10; 51:16; Ezek. 37: 24-28; Zech. 2:11; Dan. 7:9-10; Matt. 1:22-23; 13:38; John 8:42-45; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:1-6; 9:1-14; Rev. 3:12; 4:1; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15-17; 15:5-16:1, 16:17; 21:22).
· The prime purpose is Worship--giving honor to God. A comparison between what God expects in the Old Testament, and how we were not able to meet His standards, but Christ does so in our place (Psalm 100).
· Tent . The first temple was a tent because the Jews, as their other name indicates, were nomadic for forty years. Its e ntrance is from the east. The tent had to be able to be picked up, packed, moved, and set up again without disrespecting God's Holy of Holies or His dignity. This system was kept up until David made provision for a permanent Temple that his son Solomon would build.
· Most Holy Place , refers to the inner sanctuary where the incense was burned and refers to God's preeminence and supremacy. For the Jews, this meant the God who is behind the veil, who utters His decrees. It is the inner sanctum of God's most holy of holies that contained the Ark with the two tablets of the Testimony Moses brought from Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:9-11; 25; 25:40; 32:15; 38:21; 40:26; Lev. 16:2-13; Deut 10:5; 1 Kings 5-7; 22:19; 2 Chron. 2-4; Is. 6; Ezek. 1; 10:1; Dan. 7:9-10; Matt. 13:38; John 8:42-45; Heb. 8:1-6; 9:1-14; Rev. 3:12; 4:1; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15-17; 15:5-16:1, 16:17; 21:22; Rev. 11:15-19; 15:1-8; 21:1-8).
· Curtain /veil . The hanging, thick tapestry separating the main room from the inner sanctum represented God's untouchable holiness. This is where God revealed His presence once a year to the high priest and pointed to a day when He would be revealed to all. Priests went into the second room daily for prayers, lighting the candles, and replacing the offertory bread just as Catholic priests do today. To those in Christ, the veil is torn because of His blood, so Christ is now revealed to all who accept Him as Lord and Savior (Matt. 27:5; Heb. 10:20).
· Incense was to appease God and cover the stench of the slaughter of the animals. In the most holy place, this burning of incense also clouded the vision of the priest so he could not gaze on the ark and shield his sin from God's powerful and overcoming holiness and purity (Ex. Lev. 16:12-13).
· Gold-covered . Gold refers to the costliness of God's bending to seek humanity and communicating the wonders and preciousness of His holiness. Items were made of acacia wood, which was the only wood available in the Sinai Desert; the Temple was made of cedar from Lebanon (Ex. 30:6; 1 Kings 6:22).
· Aaron's staff . This is the staff that Aaron used in the Exodus to walk and to lead. God used it to show His power and affirm Aaron's priestly privilege when he was challenged. The point here is that true, priestly leadership only comes from God's choosing and anointing (Num. 17:10).
Bigotry and the Bible. In Numbers 12, we get a glimpse what God thinks of races and prejudice and bigotry. In His view, all people are created in the image and love of God! (Gen 1:26-27) Thus, we are to treat others as so, as our brother and sister in Christ! We are to bring out each other's dignity and respect regardless of social position, abilities, or race. Jesus demonstrated the evils of prejudice, by befriending the most despised people of His time, a Samaritan and a woman to boot (John 4:4-28). Moses did so, too, by marrying a black woman, and when his sister Miriam objected, what did God do? He turned her leprous white (Num. 12:1-15, she was of olive sin). So, if we claim to be a follower of the risen Lord, then we must follow the example and character of our Lord, and refuse the sin of racism!
God dwells with His people! He is the God Who is now, Who has come and Who is to come. This is also about His perfection, holiness, and purity. God is the One who restores, converts, and brings salvation and hope. His righteousness, rightfulness, and renewal are on our doorstep. Christ has come into the heart of the Christian and, one day, will be coming and all will consummate His will and purpose. Justice and His Kingdom will be fulfilled, and every knee will bow (Num. 12:1-16; Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 21:1-22:5)!
Key Takeaway: Now we have the God who is here with us, Immanuel. The image that God is Light refers to the Church as the body of believers and whose duty it is to be a light as a witness for Christ. His character is the Light we follow and proclaim. Now, our purpose is to point to His glory, as the Church is the light of the world. Christ is the destiny and pattern we follow and emulate. Proclaiming the Church as a Lampstand is saying the Church is significant as the true place of reverence to God, and Christianity is the true practice of Judaism (Matt. 5:14-16; 18:20; 28:20; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 14:18; Acts 26:13; Eph. 1:10; 5:8-13; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 1:4-5).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Jesus is Emmanuel. He is the fulfillment of the Tabernacle, and He is the Light of the Lampstands. This points us to "Calvary" where our sins were placed on the mercy seat of Christ, on His account, on His righteousness; God transferred Christ's funds into our account.
Questions to Ponder
1. Why do you think God is so into the details of how His Tabernacle is to be constructed? What is the deal with all the g old and rare stones and cloths?
2. Why do you suppose God created a central sanctuary with varying degrees of access?
3. Why would God have His sanctuary be designed to be packed up and moved in a hurry?
4. How is Jesus the fulfillment of the Ark, Table, Tabernacle and the Lampstands?
5. The image that God is Light refers to the Church, so h ow does your church display the Holiness and presence of God? How should it?
6. What does this section of Scripture show about God's perfection, holiness, and purity? Why is this important?
7. Read Psalm 68:34-35. How is God your sanctuary? What does that mean? How can it mean more for you?
8. The Tabernacle is God's dwelling presence amidst His people. So how does He do this now?
9. What does Numbers 12 show us what God thinks of races and prejudice and bigotry? Why do so many Christians have gotten this wrong over the centuries?
10. What have you learned about God possessing our hearts and minds? What does this mean? How can you apply this more?
11. How is Faith is connected to hope? Consider that hope in the realization that there is no reason we should not trust in His sovereignty and plan
12. What do these passages teach us about being humble so we are dependent upon Him?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org