The Tabernacle Reveals Our Relationship With God
In Exodus 33, God showed favor to Moses as He was pleased with his genuine heart for the Israelites, his loyalty to God, and his desire to know god even more. Even as his wish to see God in all His heavenly glory couldn’t be given, He promised to show His back. He actually did more than just that. He revealed His true nature and His relationship with us in Exodus 34:6-7, saying, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Although God is a loving, patient compassionate and gracious god, He is also a just god. God is so holy that Moses was not even allowed to see His face or he will die because of sin. Moses who has one of the strongest faith in God, offering himself as a sacrifice for God in exchange for God’s wrath on Israel, was not holy enough to see God’s face. Only Jesus was holy enough. You can imagine how perfectly holy God is.
Despite how “stiff-necked” and stubborn the Israelites were, God instructed Moses to make Him a dwelling place built according to God’s specifications. This was to be the place where He will dwell. It is to be put in the center and everybody is to be gathered around it. This is the tabernacle, and the Ark Of the Covenant is where God would be. Inside the Ark would be the tablets that God had inscribed on, which constitutes the covenant God made with the Israelites. They are kept inside the Ark, for if they are only kept elsewhere they are bound to be broken due to our sinful ways.
The tabernacle was more than just a dwelling place. All the components of the tabernacle were part of an intricate visual aid to illustrate God’s relationship with His people. One aspect of this relationship was God’s requirement for complete obedience. God told Moses to create the tabernacle exactly the way He commanded. It was not to stray from God’s blueprint.
This is how the portable tabernacle possible looked like. The area where god resided (area where the Ark is) was separated from the rest by a veil. adjacent to this was the holy room, containing Golden Incense altar, table of showbread and a lampstand. Again it is separated from the outside with another veil.
Outside the tented areas of holies and holiest of holies are the laver (a wash basin) and a bronze altar.
The laver was made of bronze, from the mirrors of the Israelite women who they freely offered to Moses. The laver served one great purpose, which is the washing and cleansing of the priest from all defilement, as required by God.
The bronze altar was a key element of the tabernacle in the wilderness, a place where the ancient Israelites sacrificed animals to atone for their sins.
If you look closely at the setup of the tabernacle that God told Moses to build, you will see that every detail has a significance and everything points to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice that provided the perfect atonement for all our sins and provided the much needed connection between God and us. Jesus is the bridge, and the missing link between man and God.
As you can see from the way the tabernacle is set up, you could see separation between God and man, and only the priests can enter the area of holies. But even then the priests are not allowed to enter the area where the Holy of holies is (the are where the Ark is). There is a veil that separates the priest from God. This is because priests are also humans. No matter how they try to keep themselves clean, they can never be pure. Hence there is a veil.
In the holy room where the priest is allowed to enter, there is a golden incense altar, a lampstand, and a table of showbread.
The golden incense altar is used for prayers, as we all know that incense is used when people pray, Incense is offered to God due to its fragrance.
The golden lampstand with seven lamps was hammered from one piece of gold. The New Testament book of Revelation refers to seven golden lampstands, representing the seven churches of Asia to which the revelation was sent (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea), with ‘one like a Son of Man’ in their midst, in the middle. I may be wrong in linking these two parts of the bible, but there is a great similarity, so it might be related.
In the tabernacle, the lampstand was to be placed in the first section, called the Holy Place (Hebrews 9:2). The lamp was to be tended by Aaron and his sons so that its light never went out. The lampstand was to give forth light day and night.
The table of showbread was a small table made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. “Showbread” also was called “bread of the presence” because it was to be always in the Lord’s presence. The table and the bread were a picture of God’s willingness to fellowship and communion (literally speaking, sharing something in common) with man.
Surrounding the whole area containing all these are walls.
So now that I have explained the tabernacle, let me explain its parallelism to Jesus, as if everything points to Jesus.
First, is the Bronze Altar. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice that was pleasing to God, for He is pure of heart and has no sin. He shed His blood for all of mankind. He is the Bronze Altar.
Secondly, the bronze laver, which was made to wash and cleanse of the priests from all defilement. When Jesus sacrificed himself, He cleansed us all and not just priests, from sin. Even the most sinful person is cleansed from sin.
Third, the first veil. It symbolizes a door, as this served as an entrance to the path to the Holy of Holies, which represents God. Once you enter through the veil (door) you will see the lampstand, and the showbread.
Jesus is the Light Of The World, as symbolized by the lampstand. He is the source of Light.
The showbread representing God’s desire to commune with us was made real through Jesus. This bread is also Jesus. He is the Bread of Life.
Next, the golden incense altar. It represents prayer. In Moses’ time, they needed priests like Aaron or Moses to intercede for the people’s prayers. With Jesus, everybody became priests. 1 Peter 2:9 states, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Christianity teaches us to be a holy nation. Therefore everyone is invited to pray to the Lord. He hears our prayers and answers us.
Last, but not the least, if we remember that there is a veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest, even from the Holy.
During the time of Jesus, this Jews were able to build a permanent temple for God, and in the inner court of the temple in Jerusalem, in the Holy of Holies, was the Ark of the Covenant. That was where the high priest would go once a year to offer atonement for the sins of the people. A veil, a very thick, woven curtain, separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple.
When Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, that heavy curtain was torn from top to bottom. It was not ripped from bottom to top, as though a man were ripping it. Instead, it was ripped from top to bottom, because God was ripping it.
God was saying, “You no longer are on the outside. You can come in. My Son has made a way for you.”
Matthew 27:51-53 says,”And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
Jesus made it possible to bring us closer to God compared to in the Old Testament, and this is not because of what we have done, but by the great love and grace of Jesus Christ and God The Father.
In the New Testament, John writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) This word “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle” in the Old Testament. In other words, God came in living flesh to dwell or to tabernacle among His people. As He walked upon the earth and lived among the Jews, Jesus Christ Himself fulfilled the picture of the Old Testament tabernacle. In that and many other ways, as we will see, the tabernacle really was a prophetic projection of the Lord’s redemptive plan for His people.