Print Friendly, PDF & Email
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14
Thank you so much for being here, in this week, for this post. If you’ve returned to continue our journey through Logistics of Lent, we’re so happy to welcome you back for Part 7. If, on the other hand, you’re here for the first time, we’re thrilled to have you hike alongside us and invite you to look through the previous posts for this series if you’d like. They’re all right here on the blog site.
The material we cover this week and next is going to be exciting, perhaps even jaw-dropping at times, because it serves as an example of Scripture weaving both testaments – Old and New – together into one beautifully-planned, undeniable tapestry (God’s personal redemption of mankind) with the beautifully-placed, undeniable Thread that holds the tapestry together. This one Thread, of course, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity. The thing is, though, that this Thread is composed of more fibers than the human mind can imagine; so many, in fact, that this Thread is all-sufficient for all things. Jesus, in other words, is the focus, the axis of the entire Bible. The Apostle John, in his Gospel affirms that as the Word, Christ leaves His fingerprints on every page of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation (see John 1:1-3).
And while a number of examples exist that support this fact, one example is especially fitting for the season of Lent.
So as we continue our reflections on the Passion of Christ and what His earthly life, death and resurrection mean to each of us on an individual level, I’d like to spend some time considering what this Passion signifies to New Testament believers in light of what the tabernacle– the tent of meeting – signified to Old Testament Israel.
Okay, I sensed some deep sighs and rolling eyes as you read that last sentence. Many of you may be wondering from the outset why any history recorded in the Old Testament matters to us today. The bottom line, after all, is that Jesus died and rose for our salvation and those of us who believe He did are all set, right? Amen, pass the ham and hide the eggs.
Seriously, the connection and relevance between the testaments – especially in light of Christ’s Passion – presents a fair question that seems to take more and more prominence in a culture that feeds off of instant gratification. One of the two ideas required for a well-rounded answer to the question is, in fact, pretty simple itself: in order for one to fully partake in the Christian life – for the day-to-day kingdom living and service of the believer – an understanding of the continuity of Scripture as being complete and whole is where the rubber hits the road, where things get real. We’ll get a bird’s eye view of that idea in action next week.
The second idea – the one we’ll look into this week – isn’t quite as easily or as quickly explained. But – please hear me as I say this – the treasure buried within that study makes both Christ’s Passion and what it means to your life and mine worth every bit of the investment we make in it.
That’s why I’m asking you to join me for a figurative field trip that involves time travel over this and next week’s posts. Grab the reference map at the top of this post and shuttle with me if you will during this time between OT Israel’s camping days (after its divine deliverance from Egypt but before its entry into Canaan) and and the weeklong events surrounding the death and resurrection of our Savior.
God commanded that Moses build the tabernacle – OT Israel’s tent of meeting and predecessor to Jerusalem’s temple – according to some incredibly specific instructions. These details unfold in all of their intricacies within the chapters of Exodus 25-31 and 35-40, which I encourage you to take time to read at some point this week. For the purposes of our post here, however, I have re-printed certain parts of Scripture for your convenience because they hold significance to our subject matter.
This word, tabernacle, is found more than 325 times throughout the King James version of the Bible, with an impressive 50 chapters of Scripture being dedicated to the tabernacle itself. Obviously, the idea of the tabernacle is one that God desired we grasp firmly; indeed, every part of this portable tent that traveled with the Israelites has spiritual significance to New Testament believers concerning the Person and work of Christ.
A really quick history lesson to get us started toward our goal: the tabernacle was a place where God might dwell among His people (Exodus 25:8). The wooden structure – roughly 45 by 15 feet – was used as a place of worship stood in Israel’s camp and divided into an outer and inner court with the interior divided into two parts: a holy place and a most holy place. Embroidered linen tapestry covered the interior walls with blankets of animal skin covering the exterior. Within the holy place stood the table of showbread, a golden candlestick, and the altar of incense. The most holy place, or Holy of Holies, held only three articles as appointed by God: the ark of covenant, a small box-like structure of wood covered with gold in which there were the tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budding rod (see Exodus 25:16-22; Hebrews 9:3-4). Originally constructed at Sinai the beginning of the second year after leaving Egypt, it traveled with Israel as the nation moved along its journey, always preceding the Israelites when they were on the march (Exodus 40:2-17; Numbers 10:33-36, Joshua 4:19; Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 21:1). David moved it to Jerusalem, where it was superseded by the building of the temple. The old tabernacle was but a shadow of the true ideal (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1).
The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Jesus is the perfect tabernacle who served as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:11). Let’s dig deeper into Scripture now and try to determine the implications of the author’s claim.
A number of commentators agree that the Apostle John draws a strong parallel between Christ and the tabernacle in the first chapter of his gospel, namely through the phrase that Jesus dwelt among us in verse 14. Believer’s Bible Commentary, for instance, suggests that “[t]he word ‘dwelt’ means [that Christ] ‘tabernacled’ or ‘pitched His tent.’ His body was the tent in which He lived among men for thirty-three years.” Essentially, then, Jesus came to earth, pitched His tent and tabernacled among us. He lived as a human being upon this earth, suffered (1 Peter 4:1) and He died for us (John 3:16). In other words, He gave up His rightful place among the Godhead to become human and dwell with sinful man.
Shuttle back with me for a moment back to the camp of OT Israel and let’s walk toward the gate or entrance of the tabernacle, a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen … [with its] four pillars and four sockets (Exodus 27:16 ).
The Tabernacle stood in a court 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. The gate was situated on the east side of the court and served as its only entrance.
For NT believers, Jesus is the Gate. He is our entrance both to the Father and to eternal life. He is our Savior and Redeemer: the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him] (John 14:6 ).
Once inside the gate of the tabernacle court, we would walk toward the bronze or brazen altar of burnt offering:

You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square; and its height shall be three cubits. You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. Also you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar. And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it. You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall they make it (Exodus 27:1-8).

The bronze altar – 7.5 feet square and 4.5 feet high – was the great altar for the sacrifice of animals signifying the shedding of blood which is required for atonement. The logistics of this practice is a basic element to man’s approach to God. It symbolizes the death of Christ, as our burnt offering, who offered Himself without spot to God. Consider that the Apostle Paul said that Jesus was sacrificed for us: [t]herefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). Blood must be shed for the remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was sacrificed to bear the sins of all mankind: so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Hebrews 9:28).
Our next stop in the tabernacle would leave us standing at the bronze laver:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them; to him and his descendants throughout their generations” (Exodus 30:17-21).

This bronze laver was made of bronze mirrors made of jewels that were donated by the women of the camp (Exodus 38:8). It was a basin in which the priests would wash their hands and feet before they entered the Tabernacle. The priests went barefoot during their ministrations of their duties.
This laver symbolizes that we are to be spiritually and morally clean before entering any service to God (Hebrews 10:22). Christ is our cleansing and sanctification in that He … sanctif[ies] and cleanse[s the Church] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish by His Word, [which] is truth (Ephesians 5:25-27; John 17:17 ).
Turning from the bronze laver, we now find ourselves ready to move from the court into the tabernacle proper, which stands at the west end of the court and is divided into two distinct portions by as previously described. It’s top holds four coverings: a fine woven linen with artistic designs of cherubim, a second covering of goats’ hair, a third of ram’s skins and a fourth of badgers’ skins. God instructed Moses to make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen (Exodus 26:36). White was chosen as a symbol of purity, blue as a symbol of heaven, purple as a symbol of royalty and scarlet of blood.
And get this: together, these symbols represent the various aspects of the personal work of Christ.
It is also difficult to miss the fact that, just as Israel was required to pass through this door to gain access to God, NT believers – you and I – have a to pass through a door to access the Father as well:

[Jesus said,] “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the Door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:2-9).

Think of it! Jesus is our Shepherd and the Door to the sheep. Once we go through the door it is His job to care for and protect us as His sheep. Our job is to know the Shepherd’s voice by studying His Word and growing intimately in relationship with Him. Through John, Christ tells us further that I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).
As we continue our tour of the tabernacle and enter the Holy Place, please notice on your left the candlestick, also known as the golden lampstand. Like every other furnishing here, God gave particular instructions for its make-up:

You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower; and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower. And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold. You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold. It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils (Exodus 25:31-39).

After reading those words, let the next words sink into the very pit of your soul. The natural light was shut out of the tabernacle and the lampstand provided the only light within the tent…just as Jesus is the all-sufficient, sole source of Light described by John in his vision of heaven (Revelation 21:23).
But this beautiful lampstand holds symbolism for you and me in the here and now, even as we wait expectantly for that perfect day to come. The world as we now know it is so like the darkness inside the tabernacle. In such an environment, we need – oh praise Him, we have  Jesus Christ serving as the Lampstand Who gives us light in the darkness through His Holy Spirit. Jesus – our Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light of our lives (John 8:12)!
Rejoicing in that knowledge, turn to your right and allow your eyes to fall upon the Table for the Showbread, also known as the Bread of the Presence. These were God’s directives concerning its production:

You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around. You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around. And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs. The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table. And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them. You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold (Exodus 25:23-29).

Roughly three feet long, 18 inches wide and 15 inches tall, this table held bread made with the finest of wheat flour and baked into 12 loaves weekly to be eaten only by the priests. You may have already guessed that this Bread represented the future identity of Jesus Christ as the Bread of life. As He told His disciples:

“… the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:33-35).

In the tabernacle, the Altar of Incense sits directly on the west side of the Holy Place. It was here that priests made sweet-smelling offerings of incense to God as a means of interceding for OT Israel, again according to specifications drawn by the Master:

You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width; it shall be square; and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you. Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations (Exodus 30:1-8).

Confusion often arises with NT believers concerning an exact reason for such a piece of furniture to be placed within the tabernacle, but like everything else within its walls, the altar fit a purpose.  Here’s how the process worked: incense was to be burned on the altar every morning and every evening. The incense signifies prayer which Scripture likens a sweet smelling odor that ascends to heaven:

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:3-5).

It isn’t far-fetched in the least – some scholars have actually suggested, in fact – that the altar of incense casts Christ as Intercessor for the NT believer. Through His grace and mercy, in other words, our prayers and praises are lifted to God the Father. In the words of the Apostle Paul, it is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
Having examined each item that sits in the Holy Place of the tabernacle, let’s now turn our attention to the veil that separated OT Israel from the most sacred Holy of Holies. This heavy curtain, woven of blue, purple and scarlet thread and fine woven linen, features an artistic design of cherubim” (Exodus 26:31).
Now let’s time-hop for a moment to the hill of Golgotha where Jesus hangs, mocked, scorned, beaten, bloody, naked, unjustly dying on the cross. On second thought, let’s camp here for a moment while we take in the sight. I encourage you – wherever you are right now – to avoid that overwhelming desire to avert your eyes from the scene. Take a long look at the parched lips, the blood drawn from His head by the crown of thorns, the blood draining from hands and feet from the nails that pierced His flesh. Listen to those final attempts of our Lord as He struggles for the last of those ragged breaths. Look at the inconsolable mother. Look at the hecklers laughing. Drink in the scene, knowing that this body beaten beyond recognition hangs there for no other reason than the salvation of my sorry, sin-filled life.
And yours.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:45-52 ).

Did you catch that? The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, not bottom to top as would have been natural.  This is the very curtain that divided the Holy Place from the holiest of all in the tabernacle, symbolizing the sheer unapproachability of God the Father up to the point of Christ’s death.
With the supernatural ripping of that veil, Christ claimed His rightful place as our permanent and perfect High Priest. He

came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once, for all, having obtained eternal redemption [so that we},having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 10:19-22).

Jesus made it possible, then, for us to go directly and with confidence to God without going through a “middle man” or a “priesthood”. Since the veil was torn God is now “approachable” by mankind and we can pray directly to God the Father though the holy Name of Christ.
So with Christ having demolished the veil, we can now return to our tour of the tabernacle and see a part of it that OT Israel never saw. Allow me, through Him, to present to you in wide-eyed wonder and reverence the most holy place of our tour, the Holy of Holies. This room sits on the west side of the Tabernacle, all 15 feet of its area shaped into a perfect cube. This is it: God’s dwelling place during the travels of OT Israel. Containing no other furnishing besides was the Ark of the Covenant, it is accessed by only one person – the High Priest – on only one day of the year – the Day of Atonement.

And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it” (Exodus 25:10-15).

To OT Israel and within the tabernacle, the ark was understood to be the throne (or the footstool to the throne) of God. Two cherubim with outstretched wings were placed above it, and God was envisioned as sitting enthroned upon what was called the mercy seat between the wings of the Cherubim (see 2 Kings 19:15).
One scholar explains the relationship between Christ and the mercy seat like so:

The Mercy-Seat was the top of the Ark, a lid of solid gold. A Cherub at each end, of one piece with the lid, facing each other, their wings spread out, looking down toward the Mercy-Seat. The Mercy-Seat being just above the Two Tables of the Ten Commandments, represented the meeting place of Law and Mercy: thus, a “shadow” of Christ.”

Revelation 11:15-19, in fact, describes the events surrounding the blowing of the seventh trumpet as the point at which Christ will return for the judgment of both the living and the dead. Paul also makes reference to this judgment in a letter to Timothy: I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1).

The Mercy Seat, then, represents Christ’s judgment seat which He will take at His second coming, which we will deal with in next week’s post. You’ve worked hard to bring yourself to the end of Part 7 in our Logistics of Lent series. Admittedly, this post gives us an oversized serving of information to consider; I pray you’ll take Holy Week 2018 (this week) to digest it, then meet me back here next week as we wrap things up by exploring what – exactly – this all means for you and me.
– Copyright 2018 Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.