The Ark of the covenant
Scripture: Exodus 25:10-22
In the tabernacle the ark of the covenant resided in the holy of holies. This piece of Tabernacle furniture is associated with the immediate presence of God. The ark is a wonderful picture of Christ as the mediator between God and men. It is in Him that God dwells among sinful men. It is in Him that God communicates to men, Exodus 25:22. Though the ark was concealed behind the veil — not to be looked on by any save the High Priest once a year and even on the move the ark was wrapped in the vail — the ark was known by the people through the Scriptures to be of special importance in the Tabernacle. What we may never see with the natural eye may be known to us by the Scriptures and seen with the eye of faith! The OT people of God looked forward to a day when the veil would be removed and when God’s Lamb would die for sin full access to the immediate presence of God would be enjoyed. The ark as the symbol of God’s presence among them was the focal point of all the ritual of the Levitical age.
As NT saints we have the vantage point of looking on the ark through the rent veil and with the light of full gospel revelation. Looking on the ark in that light we may see Christ clearly where the OT believer only saw Him dimly and concealed in shadowy type.
Scripture: Exodus 26:31-33
The vail brings before us a subject that is one of the great underlying themes of the Tabernacle — access to the presence of God. There were three doors or entrances in various parts of the Tabernacle structure. The first was the gate in the linen fence that suurounded the Tabernacle court; the second was the door of the Tabernacle proper; the third was the vail that hung before the holiest of all. Each of these doors emphasizes the gospel truth that there is one way to God — through Jesus Christ alone, John 14:6. The first door opened to the brazen altar; the second, to fellowship with God here on earth; and the third opened into the immediate presence of God. At each point Christ is the only way to the Father.
The golden altar
Scripture: Exodus 30:1-10
There were two altars in the Tabernacle — the brazen altar at the gate and the golden altar in the holy place. One was visible to all and the other only to the priests. Both are necessary to a full revelation of the ministry ofChrist as the priestly mediator for His people. In His humiliation He offered Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and in His exaltation He offers intercession and praise on the behalf of His people. Both views of Christ are necessary to communion with God. Cp Psalm 84:3.
The Shewbread Table
Scripture: Exodus 25:23-30
The great theme of the Tabernacle was the terms on which God and man could meet together and commune together. It was a place of fellowship with God. Cp Exodus 25:22. Various aspects of that great subject are expressed in the component parts of the Tabernacle structure. We have seen the necessity of Christ in the matter, the need for atonement, cleansing, redemption etc. The thought presented to us in the Table is obviously of a meal — eating and drinking with God, guests at His table, enjoying communion with Him. The idea of communion with God under the imagery of a meal is still before us in the church of Christ — the Lord’s supper, 1 Corinthians 10:16
The golden candlestick
The Tabernacle building consisting of the Holy place and the Holiest of all was the place of fellowship and communion with God. It was the preserve of those who were priests. Since in the NT age all believers are priests, 1 Peter 2:9, the sanctuary represents the fellowship all saints are to have with God. Each has the duty and the privilege of entering the sanctuary and enjoying communion with Him. In some sense this sanctuary represented Heaven. The golden glory, the cherubim overhead — but it was heaven upon earth. It was an experience of glory that was enjoyed while standing on the sands of the desert! This is what the place of worship is to be for the believer. Whether or not you are ready for Heaven is indicated by your experience in the place of worship here on earth.
In the holy place there were 3 items of furniture — each representing Christ in some aspect of His ministry for His people. First we will consider the golden lampstand.
The boards and bars
In considering these component parts of the Tabernacle we come to consider that which gave structure and form to the dwelling place of God among men. The Tabernacle – ‘dwelling place’ of God – was nothing without these boards and bars. They are a powerful illustration of the person of Christ as God incarnate. The curtains speak of His work as the suffering, substitute sin offering sent from Heaven but His work is necessarily linked with His Person. The two cannot be separated without a collapse of any meeting place with God. To trust Christ’s work is to trust Him, to trust Him is to trust His work. As in the other constituent parts of the Tabernacle, Christ is to the fore here.
Scripture: Exodus 26:1-14
There are 4 coverings to consider. Strictly speaking the word Tabernacle, Exodus 26:1 is used only of the 10 curtains of fine twined linen which were embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet. There is a distinction made between the tabernacle, the tent formed by the curtains of goats’ hair; and the other coverings which were placed over these two sets of curtains. Three Hebrew words are used:
1. mishkan — ‘a dwelling place’, Exodus 26:1. This used only of the inner curtains, Exodus26:1, 7. The emphasis is on the place where God resides continually.
2. ohel — a tent, Exodus 26:7 (covering = ‘tent’), Exodus 26:11-14. This describes the curtains of goats’ hair. The emphasis in this word is upon a meeting place with God, Exodus 27:21.
3. micseh — covering, Exodus 26:14. These concealed the other layers of curtains from view.
Scripture: Exodus 30:17-21
The message of the outer court was a call to be clean in order to meet God. First there was the brazen altar and its symbolism of redemption. Then there was the brazen laver. The great theme set forth by the brazen laver was cleansing in order to communion with and service of God. Its significance relates to the redeemed sinner. Those who are saved must be clean if they are to enjoy the fellowship with God that shed blood has purchased for them. This truth is demonstrated by its position. The laver stood between the brazen altar and ‘the tent of meeting’ where intimate fellowship with God was the experience of the priests. The laver represents the cleansing work of Christ in the sanctification of His people.
The brazen altar
Scripture: Exodus 27:1-8, 38:1-7
The court that signified the separated place where God was to be met with by fallen men contained two pieces of furniture, the altar and the laver. The Tabernacle was given as a revelation of Christ’s person and ministry. As the approaching worshipper came to the Tabernacle he entered into a progressive revelation of Christ and His work. At first he saw that which was a representation of Christ as the door to God’s presence and favour. Then he was confronted with the altar which elaborated on how Christ was the door to fellowship with God. Here he learned lessons on how it could be that he had access within the pure white fence, how he could be justified before God and enjoy fellowship with the Holy One. The closer we get to God the more we will learn of Christ. In Revelation 5:5-10 those saints in Heaven are represented as learning of Christ in adoring wonder.
The brazen altar was the place where sin was judged and its guilt dealt with. It was a place of death, fire, blood shedding and substitute suffering to make atonement and produce peace with God. The brazen altar brings us to the work of Christ at Calvary as He suffered for the sins of His people.
The court hanging and gate
Scripture: Exodus 27:9-19, Exodus 38:9-20
The Tabernacle was the place where God and man met together — its name was ‘the tent of meeting’, Ex 27:21. The tent itself was where God dwelt personally among His people. However, the immediate presence of God was not to be approached directly. Around the Tabernacle was a courtyard 100 cubits x 50 cubits which was surrounded by curtains.
PREPARATION TO BUILD—THE PROVISION OF LABOURERS.
Scripture: Exodus 31:1-11, Exodus 35:30-36:4
The work of God requires more than offerings of construction materials. In order to raise a witness to Christ as the means of reaching common ground and fellowship with God work is required. Those who give with the proper spirit will also be ready to labour.
It pleased God in the fulfilling of His purpose to meet with Israel to use human labourers in the work of constructing the tabernacle. The provision and presentation of a place of common ground between God and men always requires commitment on the part of the people of God — in the form of sacrificial giving and labour. God called Moses to head up this work and devolved much of the duty and responsibility to Bezaleel. Yet there was a wider workforce than this. Each aspect of the work, each facet of the calling of God has its own significance and importance. Cp Paul’s illustration of the body, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21.
PREPARATION TO BUILD
Scripture: Exodus 25:1-9, Exodus 35:1-10, Exodus 35:20-36:7
Besides providing a place of worship the great purpose of God in the Tabernacle was to illustrate to Israel the principles of approach to and communion with a holy God — an OT gospel revelation of Christ and His saving work. The two must always go together!
The plan and purpose of God had been revealed to Moses from Heaven by the Lord, Exodus 25:9. Now that plan must be put into action and the Divine purpose realised. It has often pleased God to incorporate in His purpose some element of human activity. He does not NEED men to accomplish His desires but when working among men is most often pleased to use human activity to carry through His plans.
It is very striking to observe that it is only now that the plans for the Tabernacle revealed during Moses’ first trip to Sinai, are being acted upon. The episode of idolatry with the golden calf delayed the implementation of these plans by at least a further 80 days!
The Tabernacle – an exhibition of Christ the mediator
Scripture: Exodus 25:8-9
From the time of Moses to the time of David, the Tabernacle that was built at Sinai at the command of God was a dominant feature of the spiritual scene in Israel. At first moving with the people as they travelled in the wilderness and in the early days of the wars of Canaan then set up permanently at Shiloh during the time of the Judges; at Nob, not far from Jerusalem 1 Samuel 21:1; moved to Gibeon, 2 Chronicles 1:3, 6; the tabernacle was the focal point of the worship of God for over 400 years.
As an integral part of the early Levitical age the tabernacle is a structure that is worthy of our careful attention. The details of its construction and structure are filled with spiritual pictures, many of which are revelations of the coming Saviour.