The chapters of Exodus 25-31 record God’s instructions for building a space where He would dwell with His people. Called the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, God laid out a detailed blueprint for what would become a portable sanctuary for the next 400 years. (40 years in the desert and likely 350 years until the first temple was built.) In later chapters 35-39, we will read these instructions again as the construction is carried out. How can these repeated ancient construction details speak to us today?
As you seek to hear from God through PRAY Scripture, you may want to consider some of these thoughts:
The purpose of the Tabernacle:
- “So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve Me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” Ex. 29:46
The symbolism of the layout and furnishings:
- The Israelites could only come to God on His terms. The outer courtyard was surrounded by a high fence made of curtains (veils) with only one entrance. A person could only enter through that one entrance which was always located to the east (so that people were facing west when they entered the tabernacle — in direct opposition to the pagan sun worshippers of the day who always faced east.)
- The Altar of Burnt Offering would be the first thing the Israelites saw as they entered the courtyard. This altar was used by the priests to make all the sacrifices and as a reminder that the people could only come to God by means of a sacrifice.
- The Basin for Washing (Water Laver) was located next. The priests were to wash their hands and feet before entering the Holy Place. The Laver stood as a reminder that people need cleansing before approaching God.
- After washing, the priests could enter inside the first room of the tent, called the Holy Place. There were three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place:
- The Table of Showbread (shewbread) with 12 loaves of bread signifying the 12 tribes of Israel. Showbread was also called “bread of the presence” because it was to be always in the Lord’s presence. The table and bread were symbolic of sharing a meal together, showing that God was willing for man to enter into His presence to fellowship and have communion with Him, and this invitation is always open.
- The Golden Lampstand (Menorah or candlestick). The priests were instructed to keep the 7 oil lamps burning continuously. The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Holy Place, enabling the priests to fellowship with God and intercede on behalf of God’s people.
- The Golden Altar of Incense sat in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place room from the Holy of Holies. The priests were to burn incense on this altar every morning and evening, the same time that the daily burnt offerings were made out in the courtyard. The incense was to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance.
- Within the Holy of Holies was just one piece of furniture comprised of two parts: the Ark of The Covenant and the atonement cover (Mercy Seat) on top of it. The ark was a chest with three items in it: a golden pot of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. The atonement cover was the lid for the ark, adorned with two cherubim (angels) which were symbols of God’s divine presence and power. The atonement cover was God’s dwelling place of glory in the tabernacle, also referred to as His throne.
The definitions above are just the tip of the iceberg as even deeper meanings can be found in the details. As a whole, and in the details, the Tabernacle projects profound symbolism and foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. You may want to spend time considering just one of the items and how it relates to Jesus being our way to God.
You may want to visualize the Tabernacle and take a few moments to enter and walk around the courtyard. Use your senses to imagine what you might see, hear, and smell. Imagine you are a priest and go into the Holy Place and even into the Holy of Holies.