Read His Words Before Ours!
The Old Testament laws and details of the Tabernacle have sometimes felt cold and distant to me. I have wondered at the seemingly stark difference in the way God related to His people in the Old Testament and in the New. I’ve even disregarded the Old Testament covenants and laws entirely, with the excuse that I am under a new covenant. The fault in this perspective is that it fails to look at these ancient ways through the lens of Jesus.
Over the last few years God has shown me that everything in Scripture, everything in God’s story with mankind, is strategically there to point us to Jesus. When we choose eyes to see it this way, these seemingly dry, dusty concepts come alive with incredible insight, hope, and glory. Let’s consider the Old Testament Tabernacle that God instructed His people to construct as a means to worship Him. (and since this will stretch our imaginations, here is a Super Helpful Visual!)
The Court of the Tabernacle
The Bronze Altar was the first thing an Israelite encountered after entering the Tabernacle tent. God told the people to bring their animal sacrifices here. The priests stood by to assist in the slaughtering, burning, and catching of the blood. It’s a horrific thing to imagine, especially for our modern minds. Yet, then and now, it was meant to demonstrate the horrifying nature of our sin. The animal represented the sinner, and its blood was shed to atone for the individual’s sin, according to God’s instruction in Leviticus 17:11. These were not once and done sacrifices, but were offered repeatedly for sin.
Praise be to God that He sent an even better, eternal and perfect sacrifice in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. How incredible to know that because of this we were “ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ, like that without blemish or spot.” (I Peter 1:18-19)
The Bronze Basin was set up immediately after the Altar and right outside the entrance to the Holy Place. Here, God required priests to wash their hands and feet before entering, so that they would not die (Exodus 30:20). Being pure in the presence of God was of paramount importance.
In reality, no amount of water can truly wash away our sin-stained hearts. Christ made a way for us to be cleansed forever. Hebrews 1:3b tells us that “After making purification for sins, he [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”.
The Holy Place
After entering the Holy Place, you would find the Golden Lampstand made entirely of gold. God gave instructions for the stand to be shaped as an almond tree. Each branch had a golden flower that held an oil lamp. These lamps were kept continually lit by priests.
Jesus came and declared Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12), telling us that if we follow Him, we will actually live in the light of His life.
The Table of Showbread was made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. It held the Bread of the Presence, which was a special bread prepared weekly for the Sabbath as a memorial food offering. As priests, Aaron and his sons were the only ones allowed to eat this special bread.
Jesus fulfilled this requirement by being the very Bread of Life (John 6:35). We know that He is the only one who truly satisfies our hunger and gives eternal sustenance. We are promised that when we seek the Lord with our heart’s hunger, we will lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10).
The Altar of Incense was the last structure housed in the Holy Place. It was stationed just in front of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, God’s very dwelling. The Lord gave Aaron the job of continually burning incense in the morning and evening as an offering to the Lord.
The placement of the altar of incense, (just before the curtain to the holy of holies), gives us the image of Christ as our intercessory incense (Hebrews 7:25). He fulfilled this requirement when He gave Himself up as an aroma to God on the cross. Just as His flesh was torn, so was the curtain, allowing us into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-20).
The Holy of Holies
The Ark itself was a box made out of Acacia wood, and overlaid with gold. The cover on the box is referred to as the Mercy Seat and was also overlaid with gold. God instructed that two gold-hammered angels be set on top of the Mercy Seat. The entire Ark of the Covenant was the exact place God chose to dwell with His people. He told Moses He would meet with him, and speak to him here. (Exodus 25:21-22)
When Christ gave His life as a redemptive sacrifice, He paid our sin debt in full, giving us not only complete access to God, but also making our heart a place where God’s Spirit chooses to dwell. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
HE IS WORTHY
Seeing that Christ came and fulfilled every requirement of the law proves He is truly worthy of our worship! Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” And in 4:11 the angels sing, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
God no longer requires the worship of animal sacrifices on an altar, because Christ completely atoned for our sin. However, as a follower of Christ, true worship does require our lives. In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.
This looks like daily taking up our cross by dying to our own desires, control and little kingdoms, and living a life that points entirely to Jesus and His kingdom.
One Old Testament Tabernacle, with all of its ornate and intricate details pointed to One Glorious King, who would come to rescue us from sin and redeem us that God might forever dwell with man.
Not in a box, but in our hearts!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!