Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Tabernacle

By Colleen Podmore

Exodus 26:1-37

Imagine for a moment that you have been transported back in time. It is about 1500BC, and you’re standing on a hill overlooking the Israelite camp in the desert.

What things do you notice? In the centre of the camp there is a fenced area with the Tabernacle, the Bronze Altar and the Laver inside.

What does the Tabernacle look like? It is like a big ugly rectangular box covered with animal skins, 30cubits long and 10 cubits wide. (A cubit is 18in, therefore 45ft long by 15ft wide – 15m x 5m)
[A tennis court is 78ft long and 39ft wide (24m x 8m)
This room is 5m wide, so the length would be three times a long. Does this surprise you? Did you think it was smaller, bigger?]

Imagine that you begin to walk closer to the fence. When you get up close you reach out and touch the material. What is it? What colour is it?
It is made of finely twisted linen and is probably white (Ex 27:9). White linen as we know represents righteousness. And it is appropriate that the Tabernacle is surrounded by a curtain representing righteousness.

Indeed one of God’s names is Jehovah Tsidkenu, which means ‘The LORD our Righteousness’ (Jer 23:6)

Righteousness means to be morally right or justifiable. In other words blameless, guiltless, holy, innocent, just, sinless. Are we righteous? No, but Jesus is our righteousness. Only through Him can we come near to a Holy God.

Romans 3:20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous” and
Romans 3:21, “But now a righteousness from God...has been made known..”
Romans 3:22, “this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”
Romans 5:19, “...through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous”

Can you see over the top of the fence? How high is the fence? (5cubits – 7.5ft – 3.5m)
You walk around the fence and see an opening on the east side. It has a curtain across the opening. What colour is the curtain? Are there any designs on it?
The opening is quite wide 20 cubits – 10m. The curtains hang on 4 pillars (probably of acacia wood), which were set on bronze bases.

There are three curtains that block all out except the priests, those anointed by God to minister before Him, to come near to Him. The curtain we have just entered through is the gate of the courtyard, the way into the Tabernacle is known as the door and the curtain before the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant is kept is the veil.

Jesus said: “I am the gate: whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9).
There was no other way to enter the Tabernacle except through the gate. There is no other way to enter heaven except through Jesus. We only can enter God’s presence one way. It would be no good trying to climb over the fence or under the fence. It would be no good just trying to be good, or going to church or being baptised. Our righteousness comes through faith and trust in Jesus and in this way we enter through the gate.

Jesus is the open door, what God has opened, no-one can shut (Rev3:7,8) and the veil was torn in two when Jesus died on the Cross, making a way for believers to go directly into God’s presence (Matt 27:51)

Imagine as you walk into the courtyard, what do you see in front of you? You see in front of you the Bronze Altar and the priests burning a sacrifice, a burnt offering. The smell is like a Sunday roast and the aroma is wafting heavenward toward God who finds it a pleasing aroma, because the person who has offered it wants to say thanks to God and to praise and worship Him.
Psalm 100:4 says: “Enter His courts with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His Name”

We also come into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise.

You notice that the priests have no shoes, maybe the ground is dirt, maybe sand. What do you think? You follow a priest towards the Tabernacle and see him stop at the bronze laver or basin, and wash his hands and his feet before going into the Tabernacle.
In the same way, we confess our sin and receive cleansing (sanctification), before coming into God’s presence.

You follow him, and you look up at the Tabernacle, the place where God dwells. It is huge, much bigger than you thought from a distance. You see 5 huge pillars standing 10 cubits high (15ft-5m), made of wood but covered with thin sheets of beaten gold, that are resting in silver bases, and behind the pillars is the second curtain, the door of the Tabernacle: beautiful blue, purple and crimson linen fabric. (Ex 26:37)

Do we dare to step into this Holy Place? How are we feeling? Fearful, excited, overwhelmed, tiny, small, inadequate?

We step through the curtains into the Holy Place and look down at our feet.

There is no mention of floor coverings in the Bible and we have no shoes on our feet. We are standing on holy ground, just as Moses was when told to take off his sandals as he moved towards the burning bush (Ex 3:5)
Psalm 84:10 says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

We look around and see the furnishings. On our left, the golden Lampstand has been lit as it is evening and Aaron and his sons will keep it burning all night, tending the wicks and adding more oil. (Ex 27:20-21; 30:8).

In front of the veil is the golden altar of incense and on our right is the golden table with the showbread on it. The sons of Levi, the Kohathites who were responsible for carrying these items were not allowed to look at them or they were killed (Numbers 7:9)

At the far end we see the veil shielding the Ark of the Covenant where God dwells enthroned between the cherubim and where once a year, the priest goes to sprinkle blood for the forgiveness of the sins of Israel on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Lev 16:1-34)
The veil is of pure white linen with its beautifully embroidered cherubim in blue, purple and crimson.

Imagine for a moment the size of this room we have stepped into? How long is it? How wide? 20cubits long and 10cubits wide 10cubits high. (30ft x 15ft x 15ft) 10m x 5m x 5m.

It’s a huge area and as you look up towards the ceiling high above you see the tabernacle or curtain that is the first covering. It is the same curtain as the veil in front of the ark, embroidered with Cherubim, winged creatures that protect and guard the glory of God. Perhaps they are flying, their wings outstretched in full flight and you are amazed at their beauty!
Psalm 61:4, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings”

Finally we notice the walls. Huge beams of acacia wood (common in the Sinai peninsula and a dark, hard wood), covered with gold, standing side by side on silver bases. The beams are 10 cubits long and a cubit and a half wide (15ft high and 2.25ft wide – 4.5mx1.8m) (Ex 26:16), and it is over this framework that the 4 coverings are draped.
First the tabernacle, then the tent of goat’s hair, then two coverings, first ram’s skin dyed red, then the skin of another animal (dugongs-sea cows native to Red Sea) over the top completely sealing and waterproofing the Tabernacle (Ex 26:14)
Absolutely dazzlingly beautiful!

To conclude; if you are still inside the tabernacle let’s walk over towards one of the walls. Each of the huge beams has two prongs at the base and is held upright in huge silver bases or sockets.

Where did the silver come from for the sockets? Let us read about the Atonement Money - Ex 30:11-16

When a census was taken, any male twenty years and over paid a ransom for protection from plagues and as a covering for sin. They paid half a shekel of silver (a fifth of an ounce), regardless of how rich or poor you were. It was the same amount for everyone. And it was used for the Tent of Meeting and the people would remember that their contribution had helped to build the place where God dwelled.

Now let’s turn to Exodus 38:25-27 and read.

This silver added up to 100 talents, about 3.75tons, from a total of 603 550 men.
100 bases were made and each base therefore contained 1 talent of silver.

Now for some maths - if each man gave half a shekel and there were roughly 600 000 men, then there must have been 300 000 shekels in the silver bases and as there were 100 bases that means there were 3 000 shekels per talent or socket.

Remember each man gave half a shekel, so in one socket was the contribution of 6 000 men. To hold up one of the beams took two sockets or the contribution of 12 000 men.

“Each man could affirm, that the very dwelling place of God rested on the ransom money which he had paid for his soul.” (Soltau 1972, pg 96)

In like manner, our ransom price has been paid but not with a half shekel of silver but with the precious blood of Jesus and because we are his church we are like Living Stones and are being built into a glorious Temple, as glorious as the Tabernacle in the desert, for the praise of His glory!

Think of all the people through the ages who have been faithful, that great crowd of witnesses who passed the truth down through the ages.
Let us be found faithful also. Amen.

Lord, we stand in awe of You, of your goodness majesty and Righteousness. There is no-one like You, You alone deserve all the glory, praise and adoration that we and countless hundreds of thousands, thousands upon thousands will bring you one day.

We are amazed that You should consider making Your dwelling amongst men, in the desert, that You should even come and live within us in these latter days, by Your Spirit, giving us a new heart, placing us in Your family, taking us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son You love.

Lord help us to be faithful to Your calling. Help us to remember that to those who have been given much, much will be expected. We want to be ready to stand on the day of testing and to be found worthy.

May we be found faithful as countless others who have gone before us.
Help us Lord, Jehovah Tsidkenu, God our Righteousness, Jehovah Jesus, in Your Name Jesus. Amen.


1. Holy Bible (NIV)
2. Soltau, Henry, W. 1972. ‘The Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the Offerings.
Kregel Publications, USA.

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