Our story today is from the second half of Exodus.
While the Israelites were in the desert on the way to the promised land, God gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle, which is kind of like a church. God gave very very specific instructions on how to build it and what to put in it. He was also very specific in how the priests (people who served in the church) were to dress and how they were to worship Him.
The tabernacle was a tent and God’s cloud lived over the tabernacle and was a cloud by day and a fire by night. When God moved, the people moved. When God stayed over the tabernacle, the people stayed.
Later, a tabernacle would be built (in the promised land) and God also says there is a tabernacle in heaven where He lives. When Jesus came though, God no longer had to live in the tabernacle, He could live in each of our hearts.
(For very young kids, this might be a good place to stop).
The tabernacle had 7 important parts or pieces and they each showed a part of the Israelites’ journey and they each showed us something about Jesus.
The tabernacle was a big tent, with only one way in. Just like the Bible tells us that Jesus is the only way to God. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through Me.” (John 14:6) It was surrounded by a high fence which made a courtyard (or like a big fenced-in yard).
1. The Altar
Right inside the tabernacle courtyard was a place to make sacrifices. God said the people had to kill their best, perfect lamb as a sacrifice. If they did the way He said, then they could be forgiven for their sins. “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
This is like when the angel came and killed all the firstborn boys when they were in Egypt, unless they put the blood of the lambs on their doors.
It also makes us look forward to Jesus, because He would die once and for all for all our sins. No more animal sacrifices, because Jesus would be the perfect lamb.
Next, there was a basin of water. The priests were to wash their hands and feet before going in.
The water reminded them of God leading them through the red sea and providing for them in the desert.
The water represents to us being clean before God. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with blood] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
Next was the lamp stand. It was in the first room of the tabernacle. It was the only light in that room and God told the priests to keep it burning always.
This reminded the Israelites of the fire of God leading them always.
It also tells us about Jesus. He is the light of the world. There are dark, yucky things in the world (satan) who want to keep us from God, but Jesus is the light. He shows us the way to God. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) When we believe, the Bible says we are “children of the light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
Also in that first room was a table with bread. The priests would bake bread each week and it would stay out a week, then they would eat it in that room. This showed God wanting to be with His people and for them to enjoy good things in His presence.
This reminded the Israelites of the manna God provided for them.
It tells us of Jesus because
A. He loved to eat with others and be with them, getting to know them and love them
B. The Bible says that man can not live just by bread, but that we need the words of God, we need Jesus
C. Jesus, before he died, sat down with his disciples to eat bread and drink wine and He told them that His broken body on the cross would be like the bread and His blood would be like the wine and whenever we get together to eat or drink, we should remember Him and what He has done for us. (Matthew 26:26)
5. The Altar of Incense
This is the last object in the front room. The priests had to burn special spices each morning and evening and leave them burning as a sweet smell to God. It was a sign of the prayers going to God. God wants us to come to Him with our prayers.
This reminded the Israelites of Moses going up the mountain to speak with God on their behalf.
It tells us about Jesus because He is now the one who comes between us and God. He speaks on our behalf and He is certainly sweet to God. God wants to hear from us and Jesus says “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
6. The Holy of Holies
There was a big curtain between the first room and the second, most inside room of the tabernacle. The inside room was called the Holy of Holies. The most special of all places. Only one day each year, only one person (the high priest, the head priest) could go in to the room where God was in the Holy of Holies. The big curtain separated sinful man from the Holy, perfect God. There were very special things the high priest had to do to be in God’s presence, like an extra sacrifice and shielding his eyes.
The Israelites could not see God, were not allowed to see God. Even Moses when he asked to see God on the mountain was not allowed to look right at God. This reminded the Israelites that man used to live in paradise with God, in Eden, before we sinned. Now they were separated from God by their sin.
This place and curtain tell us of Jesus though! When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the tabernacle was torn in two….the barrier between God and man was broken! We now had access to the Holy God through Jesus. Just like Jesus’ body was broken, the curtain was broken. Jesus is the high priest who takes us before God and makes us right before Him. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
The Holy of Holies tells us of heaven too. “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:24-26)
7. The Ark of the Covenant
Inside the Holy of Holies was an ark (not like the boat), more like a box. God told Moses to put in manna, Aaron’s staff and the ten commandments. On top of the ark was a lid called the mercy seat. God lived here.
The bread reminded them of how God took care of them and provided for them in the desert, even when they complained. The staff reminded them of their disobedience to God (making the golden cow) and questioning God. The tablets were a reminder that God had picked the Israelites to be His people. He made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel. He chose to lead these the promised land. God CHOOSES to love us and forgive us. And even still, the people did not keep the commandments well or follow God much of the time.
The reminders of their sin, would also tell us about Jesus. The bread God gave them kept them alive, but “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.’” (John 6:32, 48-50)
Jesus obeyed God’s authority and was the perfect sacrifice for our sins, because He always obeyed God. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22)
God lived among the Israelites and they worshiped Him. He led them forward to the promised land as a cloud by day and a fire by night, in His temporary earthly home. Now we know Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, serving on our behalf as the high priest and we can come to God any time we wish because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
That’s all for today and for July! Join us next time when we start Leviticus-Ruth in August!
Love to you all!