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The Tabernacle — God’s Salvation
“And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them; That the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered: And they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service. And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites…And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.”
Moses made the tabernacle in the wilderness exactly according to the pattern (Christ crucified) God showed him in the Mt. Sinai. Here, we are told, “Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them.” This tabernacle had three compartments.
1. The Outer Court was approximately 75’ x 150’. It contained the brazen altar and the laver.
2. The Holy Place was approximately 15’ x 45’. It contained the table of showbread, the golden candlestick and the altar of incense.
3. The Holy of Holies, the most holy place, was separated from the holy place by a thick veil. In the most holy place stood the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat.
The tabernacle was a simple tent of earthly material on the outside; but on the inside it was glorious. Everything inside the tabernacle was overlaid with pure gold. The whole thing was designed to portray our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the meek and lowly man who is our great and glorious God, the Godman (the man who is God) and his salvation. The whole purpose of the tabernacle was to give God’s saints of old a visible, prophetic type and picture of the glory of God in the salvation of his elect by the doing and dying of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s go to the tabernacle and see God’s salvation and the revelation of his glory in Christ Jesus.
A Sacrificing Priest
As we approach the tabernacle, the first thing we see, standing by the gate and the brazen altar, is a sacrificing high priest. This sacrificing priest represents Christ, our great High Priest (Hebrews 5:1-5), who was taken from among men (Leviticus 21:17-21), a man without blemish, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Our Redeemer, our Savior, the Godman, who is both our sacrificing High Priest and our sacrifice is one who had no sin, knew no sin, and did no sin! As such, he is a merciful and compassionate priest, chosen and ordained of God
All the garments of the priest spoke of Christ. His mitre with its golden plate, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” (Exodus 28:36; 39:30), spoke of the holiness and perfection of Christ’s nature. His white linen garments represented Christ’s righteousness, the garments of salvation. His girdle pictured Christ our Strength. His breastplate, with the names of twelve tribes of Israel engraved upon it, showed Christ as our Representative before God with our names engraved upon his heart. His ephod (the apron that held the breastplate), with the twelve stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, pictured Christ bearing all God’s elect upon his shoulders in all his priestly functions. The work of our redemption is his work alone.
But a priest without a sacrifice is as useless as a bucket without a bottom. Every priest ordained of God was a sacrificing priest. Without a blood sacrifice, no man can come to God. And all the sacrifices offered in the tabernacle by God’s priests were typical of Christ our Sacrifice. These sacrifices were strong beasts, males of the first year. But they were tame beasts. They were led, not forced, to the slaughter. They were all beasts without blemish, representing our Redeemer’s complete innocence and perfect righteousness.
Christ is the Offering we bring to God. He is our Sacrifice. Christ is our Atonement, our Silver of Ransom and our Gold, our God of infinite worth, our Mercy and our Truth. He is our Incense of Acceptance, well-pleasing to God. Christ is our true Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1; Ephesians 4:32-5:2). The Lord Jesus Christ is our true Meat Offering, our Offering of Firstfruits (Leviticus 2; 1 Corinthians 15:19-23). Our Savior is our true Peace Offering (Leviticus 3; Romans 4:25-5:11). He is our one and only Sin Offering (Leviticus 4; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Galatians 3:13-14). The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself, is our only and our true Trespass Offering (Leviticus 5; Isaiah 53:1-12). Christ is our Altar of earth (Exodus 20:24-25), the Altar of God’s making, by which we come to God.
Christ is our Sacrifice, in whom alone sinners have access to and acceptance with the holy Lord God. If we would come to God, we must come to God by him. Blessed be his name, we can and do come to God by him.
The next thing we see, as we approach the tabernacle, is the brazen altar (Exodus 27:1-8). This altar and the burnt sacrifices offered upon it represent Christ our Altar (Hebrews 13:10). Dying upon the cross, our Lord Jesus was a burnt offering to God. The fire of God’s wrath fell upon him there. As all the excrement and filthy inward parts of the slain beasts were burned upon the altar, so all our sins, being laid upon Christ when he was made sin for us, were purged away, being consumed by the fire of God’s wrath (Hebrews 1:3).
Laver of Brass
Standing between the brazen altar and the holy place was the laver of brass (Exodus 30:18-25). Every priest, before entering the holy place to do any service for the Lord in the sanctuary, had to wash his hands and feet. This represents our sanctification (our regeneration) by God the Holy Spirit, making us new creatures in Christ, creating in us that holiness without which no one shall ever see the Lord (Titus 3:5; Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 1:5).
Before you can serve God, you must personally wash and bathe yourself in the laver of Christ’s blood. Yes, God the Holy Ghost opens the fountain Christ Jesus to us and bathes us in him (Zechariah 13:1). Yes, it is God the Holy Ghost who gives us faith and works faith in us. But we must wash and bathe ourselves in the blessed fountain.
“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains!”
This washing involves personal faith in Christ. You must personally appropriate to yourself the merits of Christ’s finished work. — All who wash in this laver are holy before God!
As the priests washed in this laver daily, so you and I must bathe daily in the Word of God, applying the blood of Christ to ourselves, asking the Savior to wash us again, that we may be cleansed from the defilements of sin (John 13:2-10).
The Holy Place
Next, we go with God’s priest into the Holy Place. In Moses’ day none but the priests could go into that sanctuary. We, you and I who trust Christ, are God’s priests (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10). So let’s lift up the outer veil and go in. What do you see in the holy place? On the south side, on your left, you see the golden candlestick with its seven lamps burning (Exodus 25:31). This golden candlestick represents Christ, the Light of the world. There were seven lamps in the candlestick. Seven being the number of perfection shows that Christ is the perfect revelation of God. The only light in the holy place was the candlestick. The only light any man has into the things of God is the light Christ gives by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
These seven golden candlesticks also represent the churches of Christ, holding forth the light of life in this dark world (Revelation 1:20).
On the north side of the sanctuary, on your right, is the table of showbread (Exodus 25:23-30). This is Christ, the Bread of Life. There were twelve loaves on the table, bread provided for all the tribes of Israel. As God’s manna was given to Israel alone, so his grace in Christ is given only to his elect. As the bread of God was always on the table, so Christ the true Bread of God is always present for our needy souls.
Sitting in the back, against the veil, is the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10). This speaks of Christ our Intercessor (John 17; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). Our prayers, sacrifices, and services come to God and find acceptance with him, through the sweet incense of Christ our Intercessor and Mediator (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 8:3-4). The incense burned perpetually upon this altar because Christ’s intercession for us, as our Mediator in heaven, is perpetual.
Standing between the holy place and the most holy place is the veil (Exodus 26:31). This heavy, thick veil was typical of Christ’s humanity (Hebrews 10:20). This veil was the only way of access to God. Before man could enter into and have access to God and be accepted of him, this veil had to come down. — Christ had to die. When Christ died, the veil was rent in two, from top to bottom. The rent veil means that justice is satisfied, righteousness is established, sin is gone. There is no cause for separation between God and me. The law is fulfilled, reconciliation is made, the way to God is open. — Sinners are welcome at the mercy seat, even me (Hebrews 4:16)
Come to God. The way is open. Coming to God by faith in Christ, you may come with full assurance of acceptance. If you come to God trusting Christ alone, you come to him in “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:18-22).
Entering into the holy of holies, we see one glorious, magnificent piece of furniture — The Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22; Hebrews 9:1-5). The Ark of the Covenant was also a beautiful type of Christ. It was made of shittim wood, overlaid with gold, representing both the humanity and the deity of our Savior. The ark was the symbol of God’s holiness, power, and glory. It was carried about from place to place upon the shoulders of the priests by staves. Even so, Christ is carried through the world upon the shoulders of chosen men by the preaching of the gospel.
Inside the ark, under the mercy seat, was the golden pot that had manna. This represented God’s provision for sinners in Christ with life and grace (Exodus 16:33-34). It was a golden pot of great value. It was a big pot, holding an omer of manna. And it had manna, the bread of heaven.
Also, beneath the mercy seat, inside the ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. This rod represents God’s power, the gospel of Christ. Our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus, was smitten by Moses’ rod, smitten by God’s holy law. The water of life flows out to sinners by Aaron’s rod by the gospel. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). Just as Dagon fell before the ark, so the gates of hell fall before God’s church by the gospel (Matthew 16:18).
The next thing inside the ark were the two tables of the law, representing God’s purpose. The law was written upon tables of stone, representing both the hardness of our hearts and the inflexibility of God’s justice. The law represents our curse and condemnation by reason of sin. The law was always kept in the ark, under the mercy seat, under the blood (Exodus 25:16, 21). That represented perfect redemption by Christ. And that is the purpose of God (Romans 8:28-31).
Sitting on top of the ark, completely covering it, is the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17, 21-22). Mercy seat means “propitiatory covering.” That is what Christ is to us (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:24-26). The mercy seat represented God’s sovereignty, Christ’s substitutionary redemption, and satisfaction by his blood (Hebrews 9:12). This is what Isaiah saw (Isaiah 6:1-8). This is what the publican saw (Luke 18:13). Salvation, God’s mercy, comes to sinners by God’s omnipotent hand of grace, through the propitiatory blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The mercy seat was the symbol of God’s presence. With the blood upon the mercy seat, covering the tables of the broken law, we see the glory of God in the pardon of sin by the sacrifice of Christ (Leviticus 9:23-24). In Christ crucified we see the glory of God in redemption (Psalm 85:9-11). The glory of God shines brightly in the face of the crucified Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). — God meets sinners only upon the mercy seat (Exodus 25:22) — Only in Christ.
We have taken a very brief tour of the tabernacle. But I want more for you than simply for you to understand the typical meaning of those Mosaic ordinances. I want all who read these pages to come to Christ. Christ is the Priest we must have. Christ is the Altar upon which we must do business with God. Christ is the Sacrifice by which we must come to God. Christ is the Laver in which we must wash. Christ is the Light in which we must walk. Christ is the Bread we must eat. Christ is the Mercy Seat of Propitiation upon which God will meet you. Christ is the Mercy Seat of Propitiation upon which God will meet me.