Lessons From the Old Testament: The Reason For the Tabernacle

The Erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred ...

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The LORD said to Moses,”Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:1,2,8,9)

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. (Exodus 40:24-38)

Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the Tent of Meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death. (Numbers 3:38)

“Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:29)

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. (Psalm 27:5,6)

The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.  Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:1-5)

The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 8-12)This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.   When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:8-12)

Immediately after Moses receives the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) and their application to particular cases (Exodus 21-23), God directs Moses to prepare for and put together a tent in which He will “dwell.”   God is not satisfied with merely having a people to command and represent Him among the nations.  He desires to live with His people.  Even as He commands them to love Him with all their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5), He loves them and desires fellowship with them.

This is God’s main stated purpose for the Tabernacle.  However, there are other aspects to the Tabernacle that teach us something about the character of God.  First of all, the Tabernacle is patterned after a heavenly sanctuary.  This means that the earthly sanctuary is a copy of the real sanctuary in which Jesus eventually presented himself as an eternal offering for our sins.  The blood sacrifices brought to the earthly Tabernacle did not really take away sin, but were temporary pictures of what was to come.

Secondly, the Tabernacle was a visible evidence of the power of God among His people.  The glory of God filled the Tabernacle and would go up from it when it was time for the people to move on and rest on it when it was time to stop.  God was encouraging His people with a manifestation of His presence that would bolster their faith.

Thirdly, only the priests were allowed to enter the Tabernacle.  There were strict regulations about handling it and approaching it.  Even though God wanted to dwell among His people, there were requirements about how to approach a holy God.  This taught His people that His love for them did not remove His need to apply justice and judgment for sin.

Finally, the Tabernacle became a symbol of spiritual sanctuary for any of the faithful who looked to God for help.  Though one may not be able to personally enter the Tabernacle physically, one could enter it spiritually and emotionally,  depending on God’s hospitality and protection as if he or she was a guest in God’s home (Psalm 23:5,6).

We can still experience the closeness of God dwelling with us individually and as a community of the faithful.  1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19,20 teach that the church corporately is indwelled by God’s Spirit just as the Tabernacle was, and that individually we are indwelled by the Spirit of God, our bodies becoming His Tabernacle through which He shows Himself ready to have relationship with any and all who long for Him.

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About thimblefulloftheology

Staff pastor of an evangelical church in Collierville TN just outside of Memphis. Married with four grown children, all married. Thrilled with life in Jesus Christ. View all posts by thimblefulloftheology

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