Moses received very specific instructions from God on how to construct this desert sanctuary. He was to follow a certain pattern which He revealed.
This tabernacle was a physical representation of God’s abode in heaven. The Holy of Holies, its most holy space, was separated off with an impenetrable curtain to demonstrate that sinful people could never approach a holy God.
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The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was an integral symbol of God’s presence during their Exodus escape from Egypt. Constructed over one year following God’s instructions, its construction took up approximately 45 feet long by 15 wide by 15 high; inside, priests offered animal sacrifices while an eternal flame burned from a lampstand on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Only high priests could enter its “Holy of Holies”, entering with special ceremonies on Yom Kippur itself.
God gave Moses exact instructions for creating a portable sanctuary to house His presence among His people. Moses was instructed to build an Ark made of gold with angels guarding its lid; inside this box were testimonies of law and mercy covered by covering, signifying God’s desire to speak directly with his people. Once completed, it was placed within a Tabernacle Holy of Holies area separated by curtains; only high priests could enter this part, symbolizing how holy God was and that human sinfulness wouldn’t allow humans into His presence without sacrifice first being cleansed – making Him pure once more!
The Tabernacle was meant to evoke Eden narrative, reflecting that God desired to dwell among his people as He did with Adam and Eve in heaven, using the Ark of the Covenant as His throne and speaking directly with them through it. All aspects of its design were designed to take us back there by flipping “God cannot dwell with sin,” instead showing that He wants His world inhabited with evildoers if only they followed His commands to become pure again.
The Table of Showbread
God ordered Moses to construct another piece of furniture: a table for showbread. It would stand in the Holy Place on the north side of the tabernacle and was made from acacia wood covered with gold leaf; its dimensions were three feet long by one and one-half feet wide and two and one-quarter feet high.
Bread on the table represented twelve cakes, each made of fine flour and with two-tenths of an ephah in them, baked each week by our Heavenly Father to provide sustenance for his people and provide life and truth. This table served as a daily reminder that our Heavenly Father cared deeply about His people and that He alone was the source of life and truth.
On top of the table were several golden utensils, including dishes and spoons, along with two crowns: one surrounding the outside edge of the table and one within. These crowns represented Jesus being crowned twice: first with thorns then glory (cf Matthew 27:29).
The tabernacle’s purpose was to transport ancient Israelites and later readers back to Eden narrative, recalling our eventual return to God in paradise where He will dwell with us forever. The tabernacle provided a solution to God dwelling among sinful humans while showing that He still desires relationship but requires sacrifice for our transgressions so as to accept us into His fold. Furthermore, it reminded people that they couldn’t approach a holy God on their own.
One of the most stunning pieces of furniture in the tabernacle was its lampstand, made of gold with seven lights and designed to illuminate God’s people so they could experience his love and truth. Like its other furnishings, this one also served to draw attention to Jesus and his ultimate work of salvation for humanity.
Andy and Brian explore how the tabernacle disproves a common belief among Christians that God’s holiness prevents Him from coming near us sinners, instead demonstrating how his purpose is to dwell among us throughout human history and draw closer to them each year – representing Eden coming back down earth in an imperfect, tangible form.
Priests were charged with maintaining both the lampstand and altar on a daily basis, much as they did with altar and bread of presence, though only an appointed high priest could enter the Holy of Holies where God dwelt with his Ark of Covenant. All these rituals served as preparations for God’s ultimate plan to restore everything with new heavens and new earths.
The menorah, as it was known in Hebrew, represented Christ’s light piercing through this dark world and provided us with a reminder that we too must shine it into this darkness. Additionally, it served as an indicator that church attendance must remain active lest darkness creep in through neglectful leaders or other sources – as scripture warns, God could remove its lampstand if churches failed to perform their first duties properly.
The Altar of Incense
God instructed Moses to build one last structure in the wilderness tabernacle: a golden altar of incense. This altar stood between the table of showbread and lampstand, so only priests could minister there. Conesers carried coals from the brazen altar in the courtyard over to this golden altar before being burned as incense for worship purposes on this golden altar of incense.
This altar was meant to represent Christ’s work in heaven by using incense as a visual metaphor and representing his intercession for us on Earth. Priests would offer prayers at this altar each morning and evening as well as once annually on Atonement Day.
Every detail of the tabernacle was designed to remind ancient Israelites of Eden, reminding them that they lived between earth and heaven simultaneously and reminding them that God would always be with them even during times of sin and suffering.
Why would God make such a fuss over the tabernacle? Different Christians may offer different answers as to its purpose, but most will agree it was meant as an omen of what was to come: Jesus and his heavenly temple. Those who believe in Christ recognize that His work on our behalf has brought about this tabernacle – along with the Bible as a whole! Past mistakes weren’t fixed up perfectly by now or ever so that’s why the tabernacle and church remain essential!
The Mercy Seat
One of the key aspects of the tabernacle was its Ark with Mercy Seat. Located alone in the Holy of Holies and serving as its focal point, all worship was directed toward this vessel whose lid was made from pure gold adorned with two golden Cherubim, each representing God in their unique form of winged angel-like figures symbolizing his holiness.
The Ark was enclosed by a dense veil and considered one of the holiest rooms within the Tabernacle. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter this sacred room on Yom Kippur to offer atonement for himself and for all the nation. When entering, he would sprinkle blood from sin offerings over its mercy seat in order to atone for past sins as part of an act of atonement for himself and all.
This was the only way that God could be present with a sinful people, and represented man’s only true way of approaching a holy God. The ark with its mercy seat also demonstrated how a stern yet righteous deity could punish those who broke His laws while at the same time offering forgiveness through sacrifice of an ideal lamb.
The tabernacle was an evident, yet mysterious reminder that God loved and desired to stay close with His people, symbolizing Jesus’s future rule over them in His heavenly kingdom. The tabernacle served as an intermediary between holy God and a sinful people; its purpose being only temporary until Jesus arrived to bring about a permanent order based on gospel teaching and His shed blood as our means for forgiveness and salvation.