The Blueprint of salvation:
The Tabernacle pt 1
In the book of Exodus God is doing some miraculous things. We’ve all heard the stories of God sending plagues of frogs, lice, flies, darkness, etc. on the Egyptians so that they would let God’s people go. They have made famous songs about these stories. God showed up to Moses in a bush that was burning but wasn’t consumed. He led Israel through a giant sea of water that he split open and dried the seafloor with a wind. He went before them as a pillar of fire or a cloud depending on whether it was night or day. He sent bread from Heaven when there was nothing to eat. He even made polluted waters taste good.
Most of what God did with the children of Israel, they didn’t understand because they had lost God’s love, his law, and his ways. They had regressed in their knowledge of God because of their generations as slaves in Egypt. God wanted to do some pretty incredible things through them, but they often got in their own way, like a toddler that thinks they know everything. One of the incredible things that God wanted to do was demonstrate an eternal truth. The almighty, all-powerful God wanted to dwell with His people.
This is a dangerous proposition because God is a consuming fire that consumes sinners. It is like putting gas cans around a giant burning fire. So, God always remained veiled through smoke, a cloud, or a curtain. In order to dwell with Israel, God said to Moses, “Have them build me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them,” and He added, “Make it after the pattern of what I
will show you.” (Exodus 25:8, 9) Basically, God had them build Him a tent that looked like His throne room in Heaven. Little did they know that the place where God dwelt would be the central location where the process of salvation would unfold. The Tabernacle or Sanctuary and all the laws, rites, and rituals that went with it would be the blueprint for salvation. It would all point to Jesus’ actions to save humanity. It would demonstrate God’s desire to clasp hands with humans and raise them
up to righteousness.
The Tabernacle has a lot of lessons to teach us. It would take quite a few Bible studies to unfold all the lessons in the Old Testament Tabernacle. We are going to focus on four major New Testament realities that the Old Testament Tabernacle unfolds.
This one Old Testament Tabernacle illustrated at least four New Testament Tabernacles. This seems a bit odd at first until you realize that it was used to cleanse people and places. That means that there are at least four things that needed cleansing: The Heavens and those dwelling there, individuals on earth, and the church body. Jesus Himself is the fourth tabernacle, and in Him, sin was destroyed. Through Him, everything that will be cleansed is cleansed.
Let's begin with the blueprint.
The Tabernacle was made out of shades of purple, red, and blue. It was also covered in animal skins. The tent was actually two tents in one. There was the sanctuary tent inside of the tent of meeting. Before the sanctuary had been built, God would meet Moses in a tent called “The Tent of Meeting”. While Moses and the congregation still couldn’t look on the image and glory of God, they could meet with Him through this tent. This was like the tents of old where kings and generals would gather to discuss battle plans. This was the king’s tent. The sanctuary tent inside of the tent of meeting was the priest’s tent. This was where the sins of the people would be removed and, hence, the people, cleansed. This sanctuary tent was divided into two compartments:
The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.
Holy and Most Holy
The Most Holy place was a perfect cube. Inside the Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant. This has been called the “Mercy Seat,” and right above it is where the Shekinah Glory (another name for God) dwelt in the middle of two carved angels covering Him and themselves with wings. This is where God met with His people, that is, through the work of the High Priest who alone could enter there, and then only in a special ritual.
It was called the Ark of the Covenant because inside the Ark, basically a golden box, were three important things: a jar of bread (Manna) from Heaven that God provided to save them, the rod of the High Priest that had budded to show his priesthood, and the Ten Commandments, which were written on stone by God’s finger.
Between the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place a veil separated the people, sinful people, from a sinless God. In the middle of the veil was a golden table where they would put specially prepared incense. This table was called the” Table of Incense.” A censor with a burning coal would be brought in, and the incense would be thrown on the coals, which would fill the sanctuary with smoke that would veil the presence of God.
In the Holy Place were two other pieces of furniture. The first was a table called “The Table of Showbread,” with bread piled on it. It was also known as “the Bread of the Presence.” The second item was the seven-pronged candlestick; it was called “The Menorah.”
Outside the only door to the tent was a water laver. This is where priests would wash before entering the tent. Past the laver was a giant bronze altar called “The Bronze Altar” or “The Altar of Sacrifice,” where sacrifices were offered. It was filled with coals and the fire was started by God. This whole area was surrounded by a rectangular cloth wall. The area outside of the Sanctuary was called “The Courtyard.”
Surrounding the Sanctuary campus were camped the 12 tribes of Israel. They were divided by their tribes and sectioned into regions of three, with banners flying over their region. One region of three had a lion, one a calf, one an eagle, and one a man. Outside the entire camp was another alter where they burned the inedible parts of the sacrifices.
Multiple different types of sacrifices were offered in the courtyard. The main ideas are that a person could receive forgiveness by bringing a clean animal into the courtyard and laying their hand upon the sacrifice and confessing their sin. They would slit the animal’s throat and the priest would catch the blood and then cook the animal. Everyday a sacrifice was made in the morning and the evening for the entire camp of Israel.
The priests were to sprinkle the blood of these sacrifices throughout the tent all year long, in a sense “piling up” the sins from the people in the Sanctuary.
One day a year was “The Day of Atonement,” when all of Israel stood outside of their tents. It was also known as a Day of Judgment, when the sin was removed from the Sanctuary and the Sanctuary itself was cleansed from all the sin. On this day the High Priest would do all the sacrifices and services. All of the rituals that happened throughout the year would happen on the Day of Atonement as usual; however, on this day, the High Priest would also cleanse the Sanctuary.
On this day, the High Priest would confess the sins of Israel on a bull and a goat and sacrifice them. He would sprinkle their blood into the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place, then the Altar of Burnt Offering. When he finished, Israel had been cleansed of their sins. But there was one more goat, called "The Goat for Azazel". The High Priest now confessed all the sins of Israel upon this goat. This goat was then bound by a strong man and carried out into the wilderness to be sent out of the camp of Israel.
The priests were to eat the animals. Their tribe – the Levites – didn’t have any land in Israel. They didn’t have any source of food or support, other than the sacrifices and the offerings of the people
The last part of the Sanctuary noted now is the Feasts of the Sanctuary, which were “sabbaths.” These feasts, celebrated at different times, were integrated with their agricultural seasons. There were seven feasts. Four were in the spring: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. In the fall there were three: Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles.
Passover celebrated the Angel of Death passing over the houses of Israel in Egypt because the people had put the blood of a lamb on their doorpost. The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the leaven of sin being gone. The First Fruits celebrated the beginning of the harvest and giving the first and best to God. Pentecost celebrated the rains coming down to prepare the crops. Trumpets prepared people for the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was a day of judgment that cleansed Israel from their sins. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration where all of Israel ate together with the Lord.