The Tabernacle 1
First of all, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle in order to help me to better understand the stories that take place in the Old Testament. As the Temple would be later, the Tabernacle was what everything else revolved around for the devout Jew of the day. It was of primary importance in the biblical stories that take place between Exodus and Deuteronomy and figures prominently in many books of the Bible after that. If I want to learn from those Old Testament stories I must understand them, and if I am to understand them well I must grasp the day and time in which they lived. It is easier to enter into their lives, to view them as real people if I have immersed myself in their world. If I do that, it is easier to understand their choices, good or bad, and it is easier to understand what those choices represented. It is easier to understand just how and why exactly God responded to those choices the way He did. In short, paying attention to the Tabernacle will help me to learn more from those Exodus era stories.
Second, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle so that I may better understand salvation, not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament.
The writer of Hebrews tells me that the Tabernacle was a picture, a living three-dimensional image, of the Temple in Heaven, and that its worship was an earthly representation of heavenly truth.
1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
The New Testament is birthed out of the Old Testament. As Christians, birthed in the New Testament, we must realize that we have Old Testament DNA in our genetic code. Specifically, the Tabernacle is referenced more than 300 times in the Bible, and in the New Testament is used again and again to illustrate some aspect of salvation. If you do not have a decently studied understanding of the Tabernacle most of these illustrations and understandings and their corresponding appreciation will be lost on you. As has been long said, in the Old Testament the New lies hid, and in the New Testament the Old lies open.
Third, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle because there is truth there. Paul tells us that all Scripture is… profitable. (II Timothy 3.16) Surely, that includes the many chapters that discuss the Tabernacle in exquisite detail. More to the point, he pointedly told the Church age that they needed to pay attention to the Old Testament and what it contained. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15.4)
The Bible is the revelation of God to man. In other words, every part of the Word of God tells me something about God and about God’s expectations of me. For me to skip major parts of it because I think it is old, or I think it no longer applies in our day is shortsighted and unscriptural. No, I do not build my doctrinal concept of the Church out of the Old Testament because the Church is a New Testament institution. But I do take the Old Testament to be just as much the inspired, preserved Word of God as I do the New Testament. And even the finer points of that Old Testament revelation are worthy of examination for they reveal God to me.
Last, and most importantly, I should pay attention to the Tabernacle because I love Jesus, and I want to know everything about Him that I can.
In the nineteenth century the British navy civilized the globe. In Arthur Herman’s 1975 work, “To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World”, he discusses at some length the technology that went into making that Royal Navy function. Who knew that they seasoned pine trees underwater in Scotland for years before turning them into masts? In the process of discussing this he discussed rope. The Royal Navy used miles and miles of it, an almost endless amount being necessary to properly rig everything from a schooner to a three-decked ship of the line during the era of sail power. Rope was also necessary for England’s vast merchant marine, and furthermore, was relatively easy to steal. How to tell if the rope sitting on some barque sailing to the Azores with tea had been lifted from the Royal Navy’s dockyard? Cut it. Anywhere. Why? Because the navy’s rope had a scarlet thread bound through it, every inch on every ship, for precisely that purpose. A rope with a scarlet thread in it belonged to the Royal Navy, period.
In the Scripture there is a scarlet thread of redemption woven from one end to the other. Open the Bible anywhere, cut into it at any place, yea even the Old Testament, and you will almost immediately see Jesus. In Genesis, He is the seed of the woman. In Exodus, He is the Passover lamb. In Leviticus, He is the high priest. In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Deuteronomy, He is the prophet like unto Moses. In Joshua, He is the captain of our salvation. In Ruth, he is the kinsman redeemer. In Job, He is the daysman. In Psalms, He is our shepherd. In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is our wisdom. In Isaiah, He is the prince of peace. In Jeremiah, He is the righteous branch. In Daniel, He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace. In Hosea, He is the faithful husband. In Malachi, He is the sun of righteousness risen with healing on his wings. And I could go on and on and on.
It is my settled belief, and one I hope you share with me by the time this short blog series is done, that one of the primary reasons for the Tabernacle and the reason it was structured with such explicit direction was to point Israel to her Messiah, Jesus. We will see Jesus all through the Tabernacle. We will see Him in its structure, in its furniture, and in its materials. We will see how each of these represent some wonderful aspect of what Israel’s then coming Redeemer would be and do.
Boiled down to its simplicity, we pay attention to the Tabernacle in order to know Jesus better. And He is beautiful. Which makes the Tabernacle beautiful. So join me for the next few weeks, and together let us take a stroll through that ancient, dusty tent erected for the first time in the middle of the wastes of the Sinai wilderness. It is a beautiful thing.