Last week’s post dealt with encountering God and the reason he encamped with his people. Seeing a replica of the tabernacle in person gave me a whole new insight into how God planned out this Holy Place. It also fascinated me that God inserted so much symbolism in the Old Testament tabernacle to show us Jesus.
I’ve always been a fan of mystery books. My passion began with Nancy Drew books and grew into Agatha Christie as an adult. I loved those “aha!” moments when the clues started coming together.
When I began studying the Bible, it was fascinating to me how this book contained such an unbelievable amount of “aha!” moments in the same way.
God made it very clear that Jesus was the one who would repair our broken relationship. Jesus is revealed in the Tabernacle in many ways!
Here are just a few symbolic “clues” concealed within the tabernacle:
What did the Tabernacle Look Like?
The Tabernacle was built in the wilderness and a “portable” place of worship for the Hebrews in their period of wandering. It was the Holy Place where God “tabernacled” (took up temporary residence) with His people.
The instructions God gave for the building of the Tabernacle includes exact dimensions and detailed provisions that give us an up close and personal look of the Old Testament Tabernacle.
The Courtyard of the Tabernacle
There was only one entrance to the Tabernacle. (Exodus 27:16)
- We see the symbolism of Jesus revealed in the tabernacle immediately with the one entrance into the courtyard. No alternative ways to get inside existed.
- There is one way to God, and that is through Jesus.
“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5-6
Altar of Burnt Offering
- Upon entering the courtyard, you would see the large Altar of Burnt Offering. It was here that the people brought their perfect animal sacrifices as sin offerings. They would place their hands on the animal, symbolically transferring their sin to the animal. Its death atoned for their sin.
- These Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus and the sacrifice of his life to atone for our sin. Jesus was our perfect lamb.
“Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
- Between the altar of burnt offering and the opening to the tabernacle was a basin called the Bronze Laver. The priests used it for their ceremonial washings. It was a requirement to wash their hands and feet before making sacrifices and before they entered the Holy Place. It was a continuous cleansing each time they went before their Holy God.
- Jesus cleansed us once and for all with his death on the cross.
Jesus “provided purification for sins” Hebrews 1:3.
The High Priest
- The High Priest’s role was to “act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” (Heb 5:10) It was a ritual repeated over and over to atone for sin.
- The sacrifice Jesus made was for everyone, for all time, and was accepted by God as an atonement for our sin. Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant.
“When Christ came as high priest, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made… He did not enter by means of the blood of the goats and calves, but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood.” Hebrews 9:11-12.
The Holy Place
The Holy Place was the outer room of the tabernacle where priests conducted rituals to honor God. It contained the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense.
- Table of Showbread
Held the 12 loaves of bread which were offerings given in thanksgiving for God’s provision for his people: God had sent Manna (bread) from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert.
Jesus himself said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51) God sent “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32) to provide for us.
- The Golden Lampstand
The only light in the Holy Place held lamps filled with olive oil; attended day and night by the priests.
The lights symbolize Jesus, who John tells us is “the one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone” John 1:9. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” John 8:12
- The Altar of Incense
It was the nearest piece of furniture to the Glory of God. Only the High Priest attended it; the burning incense symbolized the continual prayers of intercession spiraling heavenward.
Jesus, our High Priest, is our mediator with God. His intercession for our lives makes our prayers accepted before our Father. No holy incense needed!
“He is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25
This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (or “The Most Holy Place.”)
- It separated our Holy God from our sinfulness. Nothing unclean can be in the presence of God. He is pure holiness and perfection. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. It was only one day a year; on the Day of Atonement.
When Jesus died, that curtain tore in two, symbolizing that by his sacrifice, he opened a way for our reconciliation with God. God no longer sees our sin. He sees what Jesus did for us. We can now boldly approach the throne of God!
“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..” Hebrews 10:19
The Holy of Holies
The Ark of the Covenant
- The glory of God filled this space and settled on top of the Ark between the wings of the cherubim. It was God’s “throne” on earth. The top was the “Mercy Seat”. The High Priest sprinkled the blood from the sacrifice here once per year on the Day of Atonement. God’s mercy forgave the sins of the nation.
The blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat represented the atoning blood of Jesus to come. It represented our sins being placed upon Jesus. His death would once and for all forgive our sin.
Jesus in the Tabernacle
It is a blessing to have all the “clues” and see this “mystery” come together! I’m in awe of how God carefully detailed the foreshadowing of Jesus in all the furnishings of the tabernacle in the Bible.
Jesus, God’s perfect lamb, shed his blood, once and for all, for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. And not just for the Jews; not over and over.
Jesus tore the veil separating us from God, removing it forever. He is our bread of life, our sustenance.
He is the light of the world; we never have to live in darkness.
Jesus is our great High Priest and mediator and the one and only way to encounter God!
Jesus is our true tabernacle: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14. God encountered us in a new tabernacle- through Jesus. He truly is God with us- forever!