WHAT TO LOOK FOR
In our reading this week, God tells Moses, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8). This is of course referring to the tabernacle which the people of Israel were to build during their wandering in the wilderness.
Lest we be tempted to overlook the tabernacle’s significance, here are a few New Testament passages which underscore its importance in the story of Scripture:
- The Apostle John opens His gospel by telling us that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Greek word translated as “dwelt” (eskēnōsen) comes from the word for “tent” or “tabernacle” (skēnē). John is intentionally drawing his readers’ attention to the history of God’s dwelling among His people; he essentially says that the Word of God, Jesus, tabernacled among us!
- The book of Hebrews, especially chapter 9, speaks extensively of the tabernacle and its implements as illustrating what Christ has done for us as our High Priest.
- At the end of Revelation, the Apostle John hears a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4).
There are many things about the tabernacle’s construction which can teach us about God and our relationship with Him. Here are just a few:
- The tabernacle as a whole represents God’s desire and willingness to have fellowship with His sinful people.
- The design of the tabernacle illustrates a journey from exile back into the garden of Eden through sacrifice, cleansing, and prayer.
- The separation of the holy place and the holiest place from the outside by curtains and veils represents God’s holiness and our separation from Him because of Adam’s sin.
- The altar and its sacrifices teach the necessity of the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins.
- The laver outside the tent teaches of our need for cleansing before coming into God’s presence.
- The table with bread inside the tent represents God’s sustaining of His people day by day, as well as their fellowship with one another as they devote themselves to the breaking of bread.
- The lampstand stands as a symbol of the tree of life. It was to always be kept lit, reminding us of eternal life, and of the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, especially through His Word.
- The altar of incense represents the prayers we offer up to God, which He promises to hear if we approach Him according to His word.
- The cherubim on the veil covering the holy of holies remind of the cherubim guarding the entrance to the garden of Eden, where Adam had unbroken fellowship with God.
- Many aspects of the tabernacle reflect heavenly realities and thus represent the presence of heaven on earth for the people of God.
- The portability of the tabernacle reflects the fact that God’s people are pilgrims on this earth in search of a lasting dwelling place where they get to be with God.
- All of the gold inside the tabernacle represents God’s worth and purity, as well as the surpassing value of fellowship with Him.
- The priesthood represents the mediatorial work necessary for a right relationship with God. We need someone to be our advocate and argue our case before the Lord.
- The tabernacle was plain and earthy on the outside, but glorious on the inside. This reflects how God’s presence is often manifested in the world. God’s people are earthen vessels who possess very little outward glory here and now, but who contain divine glory within themselves.
All of these realities find their fullest meaning and expression in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go back through the list above and think about how He perfectly fulfills or represents each aspect of the tabernacle.
The tabernacle testified to the souls of believing Israelites that a holy God would one day come and dwell in the midst of sinners to remove their sins. It testified that the world of sinners needs the help only the Lord can give. It testified that God had to come to earth from heaven, that we who are on the earth might be brought to heaven. In short, the tabernacle testified of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the tabernacle.
(Daniel R. Hyde, God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God [Reformation Trust, 2012], 54)
VERSE TO MEDITATE ON
I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.
HOW TO PRAY
- Adoration – Praise the Lord who came to earth to meet us in our sin and make a way for us to have fellowship with Him.
- Confession – Confess your unworthiness to come into God’s presence.
- Thanksgiving – Thank God for revealing heavenly realities to us through earthly means we can understand.
- Supplication – Ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as you read the Old Testament law.