Christ and the Tabernacle

25:1 to 27:21; 30:1 to 31:18; 35:1 to 38:31

    We began our study of the TaNaKh in Genesis. We saw that Adam, the ark, Melchizedek and Isaac were types of Christ. In the book of Exodus we have seen that the Passover, manna, the Rock and the Tabernacle (Matthew 26:61), have all been types of Christ. They are types because the New Covenant says they are types. But while each type is complete, some have more details than others. The detail of the Tabernacle is extremely specific, and as a result, for our benefit. Except for Christ, more verses are devoted to the Tabernacle than any other in the Bible. For example, there are only two chapters on the whole creation story in Genesis, while there are thirteen chapters dedicated to the Tabernacle and its priesthood in Exodus.

    The Tabernacle has no fewer than three meanings. First, the Tabernacle is a type, or a visible illustration of that heavenly place in which God has His dwelling. Second, it is a type of Jesus who is the meeting place between ADONAI and man. And third, the Tabernacle is a type of Christ in the community of believers, the communion of Jesus with all believers.473

    There are five different names for the Tabernacle used in the Torah. Each one sheds some interesting light on either its nature or its function. The first one used is the Hebrew word miqdas. This word comes from the Hebrew word qadas, meaning that which is holy or separate. It is translated sanctuary (25:8), to denote a place that is sacred. The second term is a very common Hebrew word ohel, translated tent (26:36). This is the word that is commonly used for a temporary dwelling, emphasizing its use in the wilderness. The third expression used is the Hebrew word ohel moed. The term moed comes from the Hebrew verb yaad, meaning to meet at an appointed place, and is therefore translated tent of meeting (29:42). The fourth expression is the Hebrew miskan haedut, translated tabernacle of testimony (38:21). A variation of the same name appears in Numbers 17:23 as ohel haedut or tent of testimony. The fifth and last word occurs in 25:9 and is the Hebrew word miskan, translated Tabernacle. This masculine noun is derived from the Hebrew verb sakan, meaning to settle down, abide or dwell, emphasizing God, in the visible form of the Shekinah glory, dwelling in a permanent way among His people.474

    However, because multiple names can be confusing (for example there is another Tent of Meeting outside the camp of Israel in 33:7-11), I will consistently be using the names Sanctuary to describe the structure housing the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, and the Tabernacle to describe the entire structure, including the court yard.

    As we approach the study of the Tabernacle, it is my belief that the detail provided by the Holy Spirit is intentional, and for our benefit. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). It is my belief that every detail in the Tabernacle points to Jesus Christ. In its whole, and in each part, the Tabernacle foreshadowed the person and work of our Lord Yeshua. Each detail in it typified some aspect of His ministry or His person. As a result, that will be the direction of the study. Proof of this is furnished in John 1:14a where we read: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling, literally tabernacled, among us. Like the twelve tribes of Israel, there are twelve different examples of His dwelling.475

    1. The Tabernacle was a temporary appointment. In this, it differed from the temple of Solomon, which was a permanent structure. The Tabernacle was simply a tent, a temporary convenience, something that was to be moved from place to place during the journeys of the children of Israel. So it was when Christ tabernacled here among men. His stay was but a brief one – a little less than thirty-five years; and like the type, He didn’t stay long in any one place, but was constantly on the move, tirelessly in the labor of His love.

    2. The Tabernacle was for use in the wilderness. After Israel settled in Canaan, the Temple replaced the Tabernacle. But during the time of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Tabernacle was ADONAI’s appointed place of worship for them. The wilderness strikingly foreshadowed the manger and the trade of a common carpenter. Even though He was a King and had a Kingdom, He had nowhere to rest. Jesus Himself said: Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). Even after His death, He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Just as the Tabernacle was to be used in the wilderness, Christ’s First Coming was an experience in the wilderness. He experienced humility, meekness, sorrow, poverty, and He identified with every weakness that we go through. His life on the earth was a spiritual wilderness compared to the heaven that He left.

    3. The Tabernacle was humble and unattractive in outward appearance. Unlike the costly and magnificent temple of Solomon, there was nothing outwardly appealing about the Tabernacle. Nothing but plain boards, sheets and skins. So it was with Christ’s First Coming. His Divine nature was hidden beneath a veil of flesh. An army of angels did not attend to Him. To the unbelieving gaze of Israel He had no beauty or majesty to attract them to Him, nothing in His appearance that they should desire Him (Isaiah 53:2b). It says in the Gospels several times that when His enemies tried to kill Him, He would disappear into a crowd. His appearance was so common that He could just blend in with the crowd and not be found. The Tabernacle looked like all the other tents on the outside (see Ex – The Courtyard and Gate of the Tabernacle). But there was definitely something very special on the inside (see Fk – The Linen Curtains of the Sanctuary). Inside was the ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place (see Fr – The ark of the Covenant). The Tabernacle was situated in such a way that when everyone would rise in the morning, they would see it first. All the tents were pointed toward the Tabernacle. Inside the Tabernacle was the Shechinah glory, and inside Jesus we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father (John 1:14a).

    4. The Tabernacle was God’s dwelling place. The Tabernacle was where God chose to reveal Himself to Israel. There, between the Cherubim, upon the mercy seat is where He made His throne. He displayed His glory by means of the Shechinah glory in the Most Holy Place. And during the thirty-three years that the Word tabernacled among mankind, Jesus had His dwelling place in Palestine. The Most Holy Place foreshadowed the Most Holy One of God. Just as the Shechinah glory dwelt upon the mercy seat, we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

    5. The Tabernacle was, therefore, the place where God met man. One of the names of the Tabernacle was the tent of meeting. If an Israelite wanted to draw near to ADONAI, he had to enter through the entrance of the Tabernacle. When giving instruction to Moses concerning the making of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, ADONAI said: Place the mercy seat on top of the ark of the covenant . . . there, above the mercy seat between the two cherubim . . . I will meet with you (25:21-22). Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a goat on the mercy seat, the Shechinah glory, the very presence of God would fill the Most Holy Place (see Go – The Day of Atonement). This is a perfect type of Christ, because Christ is the meeting place between ADONAI and man. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). For there is one God and one mediator between God and men – the man Jesus Christ (First Timothy 2:5). He is the One who spans the gulf between Deity and humanity, because He is both God and man.

    6. The Tabernacle was the place where the Torah was preserved. The first two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments were destroyed (32:19). But the second set were kept in the ark of the Covenant for safe keeping (Deuteronomy 10:2-5). It was only there, within the Most Holy Place, that the two stone tablets containing the Torah were preserved intact. How this speaks to us of the Messiah. It is He who said: I desire to do Your will, O My God; Your Torah is written within My heart (Psalm 40:8). Throughout His perfect life He preserved, honored and magnified God’s holy Torah. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

    7. The Tabernacle was the place where sacrifice was made. In its outer court stood the bronze altar, to which the animals were brought, and on which they were sacrificed. The shed blood of the animals made atonement for sin. So it was with the Lord Jesus Christ. As with every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, the bronze altar foreshadowed Christ. The body in which He tabernacled on the earth was nailed to the cross, where His precious blood was shed and where complete atonement was made for sin.

    8. The Tabernacle was the place where the priestly family was fed. After the grain offering, Aaron and his sons shall eat the rest, but it is to be eaten without yeast in a holy place; they are to eat it in the courtyard of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 6:16-26). How perfect the type. It speaks to us of how Christ feeds believers today. He is the bread of life (John 6:35). He is the One upon whom our souls delight to feed.

    9. The Tabernacle was the place of true worship. To the Tabernacle the faithful Israelite brought his offerings. To it he turned when he wanted to worship the Lord. Within its courts the priests ministered their sacred services. So it was with the Messiah. It is through Him that we are to offer to God a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). It was in Him, and by Him alone, that we can worship the Father. It is through Him that we have access to the throne of grace.

    10. The Tabernacle had but one gate, or entrance. Think of such a large structure with only a single entrance. The outer court with its solid walls of white curtains had only one entrance; telling us that there is only one way into the presence of a holy God. How this reminds us of the words He spoke: I am the way, and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). Access can be obtained only through Him who declared: I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved (John 10:9).

    11. The Tabernacle could only be approached through the tribe of Judah. When the twelve tribes gathered around the Tabernacle, the tribe of Judah was to camp on the east side. Now 27:12-17 makes it clear that the gate, or entrance, was also on the east end of the Tabernacle. Therefore, entrance to the Tabernacle could only be obtained through Judah. The significance of this is easily seen. It was through Judah that the true Tabernacle came into this world, He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

    12. The Tabernacle was ministered to by the women. Their part was to provide the beautiful curtains and hangings: And all the women who were willing, brought to ADONAI freewill offerings for all the work ADONAI, through Moses, had commanded them to do (35:26). How beautifully this foreshadowed the loving devotion of those women mentioned in the Gospels who ministered to Christ. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and pored perfume on them (Luke 7:37; see Luke 8and :2-3, 23:55-56; John 12:3).

    But before the Tabernacle could be fashioned and furnished, the covenant embodied in it had to be given a sign (31:12-18 and 35:1-3), the materials for its construction had to be gathered (25:3-7, 35:4-19, 22-29, 38:21, 24-31 and 36:3b-7), and the craftsmen to build it had to be appointed (31:1-11, 35:10-19, 30 to 36:3a and 38:22-23).476

 

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