Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Tabernacle: Worship Matters

When growing up, we would spend dinner as a family watching "M.A.S.H." which stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.  Because Israel was wandering in the wilderness, God instructed them to build a Mobile Worship Center.  Exodus 25-31, 35-40 might read like a Real Estate Appraisal Report and could possibly be boring unless we understand how each part of the Tabernacle is a type and symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work.
Wilmington Guide To The Bible

Jesus Christ in John’s Gospel and Hebrews symbolized in Exodus:
1. The Door/Gate
2. The Sacrificial Lamb
3. The Water Of Life
4. The Bread Of Life
5. The Light Of The World
6. The Interceding High Priest
7. Our Access To God

 I. M. Haldeman writes:  “… no matter whether you take up the Framework, the Coverings, the Curtains, or the Hangings; whether you consider the Priesthood, the Priestly Robes, or the successive Offerings, you will find the Person, the Work and the Glory of Christ confronting you at every turn and the fullness of these facts inwrought, more or less, with every type of symbol.”  (The Tabernacle, Priesthood and Offerings, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1925, p.3)

The Tabernacle was in the center of the camp for Israel with 3 tribes positioned on each of the 4 sides of the 150' x 75' rectangle surrounded by a linen fence 7½’ high held up by 60 pillars of acacia wood covered with bronze.  The priests were hard at work performing sacrifices for around 500,000 families (population 2.5 - 3 million).

The Outer Court

1.  The Single Gate was 30' wide.  There was a single access point.  Christ is the sole access to God.  (Jn 14:6; Jn 10:1-2)

2.  The Altar For Burnt Offerings (Ex 27:1-8) was 7.5' x 7.5' and 4.5' high.  "Altar" means "high place" giving us a picture of Christ being "lifted up" on the cross (Jn 3:14) when the animal without blemish was lifted to the high place to be sacrificed, have its blood sprinkled and to be consumed by fire.

Leviticus 17:11  For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.  (cf. Heb 9:22)

3.  The Bronze Laver
(Ex 30:17-21) was a bronze basin with water where the priests would wash their hands and feet before the spiritual service.  The bronze, donated from the women's mirrors brought from Egypt, represented self-reflection.  The water brought cleansing.  Christ is the Living Water through whom we are washed from our sins.  The one time a year the High Priest would wash fully was on the Day of Atonement, otherwise the basin just washed hands and feet.

When Jesus washed the disciples' feet (Jn 13:1-10), Peter wanted a full bath.  Jesus stated that Peter is already cleaned (saved) and only needed his feet washed for service.  Christ cleansed us fully with our salvation.  We wash our hands and feet in being sanctified to serve Him.
The Holy Place

Worship in the Holy Place (30' x 15') was where the priests did the work before God on behalf of man (cf. Heb 10:19-22; 1 Pet 2:9).

1.  The Golden Lampstand (Ex 25:31-40; 37:17-24; 39:37) was the only source of light in the Tabernacle - Jesus is the only Light of hope for men (Jn 1:4-9; 8:12; 14:26).  Hammered out of solid gold, the lampstand symbolizes the Kingship of Christ (gold) and His suffering (beaten - Isa 53).

2. The Table Of Showbread (Ex 25:23-30; Lev 24:5-9) was made of acacia (hard, incorruptible wood grown in Sinai desert overlaid with gold (gold & wood picture the 2 natures of Christ). Six pounds of flour was used to make 12 loaves of unleavened bread, each representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The lack of leaven (yeast represented sin in Ex 12:8, 15-20; Mt 16:6) represented the sinlessness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 1:19). The bread is symbolic of Jesus being the Bread of Life (John 6)

C. The Altar Of Incense (Ex 30:1-10; 34-38) was 36” high, 18” square and made of acacia wood and covered with gold.  It was placed before the veil (Ex 30:6) where God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies.  The Priest took a censer filled with burning coals from brazen altar and prepared the sweet incense in the other hand by sprinkling it over the coals (Lev 16:12-13).  God loves the sweet savor of worship like I love the sweet aroma of barbecue.  We are to be a sweet savor of worship even through our witness (2 Cor 2;14-16).

Prayer was offered at the altar of incense by the purified priest (Heb 10:22) for the people.  Psalm 141:2 "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! "  The Altar of Incense is a picture of Christ as the ultimate intercessor (Heb 7:25 "he always lives to make intercession").

The Holy Of Holies

1.  The Veil (Ex 26:31-35; 36:35-38) literally means "separate" (Heb. paroketh).  It separated God from His creatures.  It was 30' (7.5' high) of fine-twined linen in blue, purple, scarlet (Ex 38:18).  During Christ's crucifixion, the curtain of the Temple was torn miraculously (Mt 27:51)

2. The Ark Of The Covenant (Ex 25:10-22; 37:1-9) was only seen by 2 people: Moses (Ex 25:22) who could approach God anytime, and the High Priest (Lev 16) who came once a year on Yom Kippor (Day of Atonement). The Ark contained 3 Items:
  • Manna (cf. Ex 16:33) – Christ is the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35ff) 
  •  Aaron’s staff that budded (Num 17:11) – Aaron’s priesthood was confirmed with this rod – Christ is the ultimate Priest.  The Rod blossomed with almonds picturing the resurrection of Christ.
  • Tablets of the Law (Dt 10:5) – Christ fulfills the Law (Mt 5:17)
3.  The Mercy Seat (Ex 25:17-22; 37:6-9) was constructed with gold cherubim angels on top.  During the annual Day of Atonement, the priest would give an offering and purify himself.  Then sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial goat before the mercy seat.  The word for "mercy seat" in Heb 9:5 is also used to describe "propitiation" which is the satisfaction God has when He accepts the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

Don't let reading through Exodus be as boring as reading an appraisal report or real estate portfolio.  It is exciting to see Christ and our salvation in the Tabernacle.  After all, Christ is the Tabernacle.

Revelation 21:3  "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."

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