There is an old song that still rings true today. We sing it often during communion with the kids here at Riverlawn Christian Church. It is a song of the tabernacle and when we sing of the tabernacle, we sing of Jesus.
Take me past the outer courts
Into the holy place
Past the brazen alter
Lord, I want to see Your face
Take me past the crowds of people
The priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
It’s only found one place
Take me into the Holy of Holies
Take me in by the blood of the Lamb
Take me into the Holy of Holies
Take the coal, cleanse my lips
Here I am
This song is about the tabernacle and it is about us, the followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The outer courts, the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies are all very significant to Christians today, just as they were to the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness some 3,500 years ago. So, first, let’s look closely at the tabernacle of Moses’ time.
To begin, let’s discuss how important the Tabernacle was to the Israelites. It is referred to nearly 130 times in the Old Testament. As a precursor to the temple in Jerusalem, the tabernacle was a “movable place of worship” for the God’s chosen people, Israel. It was where “God met with Moses and the people to reveal his will.” When the Israelites camped, the tabernacle was always in the most important place – in the middle of the camp, surrounded by the 12 tribes of Israel.
Again, why is the tabernacle important? The tabernacle itself, as well as each element in the tabernacle compound, are spiritually symbolic and carry important significance for both Jews and Christians today. We could spend page after page, hour after hour, discussing each article in the tabernacle, but we will simplify for now so that you can get the gist of its importance in the worship of God..
- The Gate of the Court was the only way into the tabernacle.
- The Brazen Altar was where sacrifices were offered to God; a temporary solution to the problem of sin.
- The Laver of Bronze was where the priests were cleansed before entering the tabernacle.
- The Holy Place was a secluded chamber in the desert tabernacle, separated from the frightening presence of God only by a cloth veil. It is where the priests ministered daily on behalf of the people.
- The Golden Lampstand was beaten out of a single piece of gold (not pieced together) and shed light on the otherwise very dark room.
- The Table of Showbread was a reminder of the everlasting promise God made with the people of Israel. It held 12 loaves of bread representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
- The Altar of Incense was where a special incense was burned constantly in accordance with God’s command. It was sweet and made with a mixture of spices like no other, and was the only incense that could be burned in the tabernacle.
- The Veil separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. This was a heavy woven curtain about a foot thick with no separation in the middle.
- The Holy of Holies was the place where Aaron would enter through the thick veil once a year to sprinkle blood from sacrificed animals to atone for sin.
- The Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat was where God spoke to the High Priest. It was in the Holy of Holies and the two together represented the presence of God. Because the Mercy Seat was made of pure gold and covered the Ten Commandments, manna and Aaron’s Rod in the Ark, it was given the highest level of importance by the Jewish people.
Now, let’s look at how the tabernacle affects Christians today. Simply put, everything about the tabernacle pointed to Jesus – sacrifice, sin, atonement, cleansing, holiness, and, perhaps most telling, God’s presence.
The tabernacle was where “God met with Moses.” Today, we know that we are God’s temple (I Corinthians 3:16), and that Jesus is called Emanuel – “God with us” (Matthew 1). Furthermore, Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of this age” (Matthew 28). The tabernacle was definitely a precursor to the temple, but also to Christians, who are the Lord’s temple. God is with us and will always be with us.
As far as the furnishings of the tabernacle, Jesus has fulfilled all their needs. The Brazen Alter was about sacrifice, but Jesus is the perfect sacrifice; we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus and do not need the Laver of Brass; Jesus is the light of the world and the Lampstand cannot match His light; Jesus is the bread of life which is far greater than Showbread on the table; we can now pray directly to God and do not need the alter of incense; the Ark and the Mercy Seat were about bringing sinful man to a loving God (religion) – Christianity, however, is not a religion attempting to reach up to God, but a relationship where God is reaching down to us (John 6:44).
And this brings us full circle to the Holy of Holies and the veil that separated it from the Holy Place. Only the High Priest could enter this sacred place set apart for God. But Matthew 27:51 says that when Jesus let out His last breath, the “curtain in the temple was torn in two, top to bottom.” Now remember, the veil was one solid, foot-thick piece of fabric with no split in the middle. Jesus didn’t separate the curtain, He tore the veil. Wide open.
By doing this, Jesus opened the door to a direct relationship with God. There is no longer a need for the holy place, the high priest or the holy of holies. Jesus is our high priest, we are the temple, God is our God, our Father, our Abba. Our relationship is no longer based on anything but Christ and Him crucified.
We are cleansed by Jesus, forgiven by Jesus, filled with Jesus and living for Jesus. That is what the tabernacle pointed to. That is what we live for.