The Tabernacle, Godís Salvation Message To Man - Lesson 7
In our lesson previous to our field trip we briefly described some of the details of the tabernacle and its furnishings.
The last one of the furnishings is that all important piece called the Ark of the Covenant of God.
Ark of the Testimony
Holy Ark of God
Ark of Thy Strength
Ark of the Lord
It is the only piece that is located in the space called the Most Holy Place, that place in which God showed his presence to the children of Israel.
To see this magnificent Ark we must go through the veil that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place and this leads us to Way of Communion with God that is pictured in the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.
This ark or box was most beautiful for it was overlaid with pure gold and topped by a golden cover over which kneeled two golden angels who faced each other, looking downward toward the mercy seat or atonement cover.
The Most Holy Place is a magnificently beautiful place where most of what is seen is gold.
The walls are gold, the furnishings are gold and all is aglow by the glorious presence of God.
During the field trip our Pastor reminded me that this marvelous beauty is marred by drops of blood that have been sprinkled on the mercy seat on the yearly Day of Atonement by the High Priest.
I imagine after the many centuries this mercy seat was sprinkled, the build up of blood well covered the mercy seat which presented to the Priest a picture of Christ whose visage was so marred more than any man.
Isaiah foretold this in Isaiah 52:13,14, Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
The three items within the box, a golden pot of manna reminded the children of Israel of Godís provision, Aaronís staff or rod that had budded reminded the children of Godís authority, and the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written reminded the children of Godís requirement to obey His law.
These three articles, preserved in the ark throughout Israelís history as a symbol of manís sins and shortcomings, serve as a reminder of how they rejected Godís provision, authority and right standard of living.
They pointed to man as a helpless sinner, undone, and without hope in anything that man could do.
But when God looked down from His presence above the ark, He did not see the reminders of sin.
They were covered by a necessary object ó the atonement cover or mercy seat which was activated by the sprinkled blood.
It was a picture that was shown in the Passover which the Israelites had experienced in Egypt.
When I see the blood I will pass over you.
We know from the revelation of the New Testament that Jesus Christ has become our permanent atonement cover.
Through Jesusí blood, our sins have been covered over.
Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
When God looks at those of us who have been born into his family, He does not see our sin, but He sees His provision, He sees His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Godís mercy seat if you will.
Jesus laid down His life for us as an innocent sacrifice so that God would look on us but only see His Sonís perfection.
Above the atonement cover was Godís dwelling place in the tabernacle, for God said to Moses in,
Exodus 25:22, And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
So above the ark and above the atonement cover, God appeared in His glory light unto which no man except the man Jesus Christ could approach.
This light is sometimes referred to as the Shekinah glory which means tabernacle glory and refers to the presence of the Lord.
The tabernacle is clearly a display of Godís Plan of Salvation.
It is not the only display for Godís Plan was established before He laid the foundations of the world.
It was displayed at the beginning when Abel offered his excellent sacrifice which showed the necessity of the shedding of blood.
It was displayed when Abraham took Isaac to the mount for a sacrifice to God.
And to us it has been finally displayed in the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ who yielded to His Fatherís will as the lamb of all lambs as he substituted himself so that we would not have to pay the ultimate price for our sin.
God choose a special people to reveal his principles and plan of salvation to his creation.
What we have today came to us because of His special relationship to the Jewish people.
Since Christianity has its roots in this relationship it is all the more important that we understand the connection between Judaism with its animal sacrifices and Christianity with the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The laws and history given in the Pentateuch are the platform on which the rest of the Bible stands.
The differences between worshipping God at the tabernacle under the Old Testament Covenant and worshipping Him under the New Covenant are great but the principles are identical.
The books of Romans and Hebrews clearly tell us that Godís plan of salvation of the Old Testament is similar in many ways to that of the New Testament.
The only difference is under the Old Testament economy, those who were "saved," looked toward or forward to a Promised Redeemer and His ultimate end Ė the CROSS, the place of sacrifice.
The Cross to the Old Testament saint was just as real and important as it is to us today.
To be saved in Old Testament times one still had to depend on Godís substitutionary sacrifice for the atonement of their sins.
The huge difference between them and us today is that the Redeemer has now come and we are looking BACK to the same place the Old Testament Saints were looking forward Ė the CROSS.
Only how the plan of redemption has been revealed has changed.
We see this clearly in Hebrews 9:10-15 in speaking of the Old Covenant economy of God for salvation,
Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle,
(this shows us that the tabernacle in the wilderness was simply a revelation of Christ)
not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they that are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
So the Mosaic economy under the Old Covenant served only to picture the reality of Godís RECONCILIATION through Jesus Christ to His people.
It served as a observable way in which they could express their faith in the coming sacrifice God would provide.
They still had to walk in faith in that sacrifice as we do today and to have a right relationship with a Holy and All Powerful God.
We are gifted to be on this side of things for we can easily grasp this powerful message of redemption that is displayed in the construction of this "meeting" place for God.
Godís meeting place began during the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel but God provided a meeting place to this people from the time of the wanderings to the time of Christ, a period of 1700 years.
The tabernacle we are studying was not only used before entering the promised land but used well after that, parts of it surviving to the reign of Solomon.
When the tabernacle was no longer in use, Israel came to JERUSALEM to worship God at Solomonís temple, which continued with the same system in approaching God as was introduced in the TABERNACLE of the wilderness.
The book of Exodus is where we find the introduction of the Mosaic Covenant.
Chapters 1-19 is historical in nature, dealing with the bondage and deliverance of the Jewish nation by God using Moses and Aaron who brought them to Mt. Sinai in the wilderness.
Chapters 20-40 is the Legislative section of this book dealing
primarily with the laws that were to govern the life of a nation.
These laws included the Moral Law, basically involving the ten commandments,
the Civil Law, involving person to person relationships,
and the Ceremonial Law which ordered the religious life of the nation shown in the giving of the Tabernacle, the Priesthood and Offerings.
All of this is called the Mosaic Covenant which is a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai.
At the time of the covenant, God reminded the people of their obligation to be obedient to His law and the people agreed to the covenant when they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!"
Little did they know of the impossibility of doing that.
The Mosaic covenant would serve to set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations as Godís chosen people and was as equally binding as the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham because it is also a blood covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant differs significantly from the Abrahamic Covenant and later biblical covenants because it is conditional in that the blessings that God promises are directly related to Israelís obedience to the Mosaic Law.
If Israel is obedient, then God will bless them, but if they disobey, then God will punish them.
The blessings and curses that are associated with this conditional covenant are found in detail in Deuteronomy 28.
The other covenants found in the Bible are unilateral covenants of promise, in which God binds Himself to do what He promised, regardless of what the recipients of the promises might do.
On the other hand the Mosaic Covenant is a bilateral agreement, which
specifies the obligations of both parties to the covenant.
Israel was to be Godís light to the dark world around them.
They were to be a separate and called-out nation so that everyone around them would know that they worshiped Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God.
It is significant because it is here that Israel received the Mosaic Law that was to be a schoolmaster pointing the way towards the coming of Christ.
The Mosaic Law would reveal to people their sinfulness and their need for a Savior, and it is the Mosaic Law that Christ Himself said that He did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
The sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant did not really take away sins, it simply foreshadowed the bearing of sin by Christ, the perfect high priest who was also the perfect sacrifice.
Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant itself, with all its detailed laws, could not save people.
It is not that there was any problem with the Law itself, for the Law is perfect and was given by a Holy God, but the Law had no power to give people new life, and the people were not able to obey the Law perfectly.
The Mosaic Covenant was simply a prelude to The New Covenant in Christ which brings the fulfillment of the promises made in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
The gospel preached to Israel through the tabernacle, through its priesthood, its rituals, offerings and furniture, was based upon principles found in the New Covenant.
God only has one gospel and that gospel, that good news is all wrapped up in one savior His Son, Jesus Christ who came to reveal that which was previously presented only in shadow form in the tabernacle.
There was nothing in the tabernacle itself that provided for the salvation of the Israelites for the keeping of the law never was meant to justify them.
As we are today they too were justified by faith, but they in a coming sacrifice versus we being justified in a past sacrifice.
The only thing lacking in the Gospel preached through the tabernacle was that Christ had not yet died as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
And the blood of bulls and goats could never "ATONE FOR SIN" or deliver one soul!
The tabernacle was designed to show to man his sinful condition and that sinful condition prevented him from standing before God.
It showed clearly the justice of God, what God required of those who were to stand before Him.
But it was simply knowledge that was being given so that man would yield himself to a Holy God admitting that He was without hope in himself and if salvation were to come it must come by the hand of that Holy God.
In witnessing the substitutionary sacrifice day after day the Israelite was to see himself in a hopeless condition and only by God providing a perfect lamb whose blood would cover his sins would there be any hope of salvation.
It was the same message that was communicated to Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
That message that was communicated to the Israelites was communicated by ritual but when the true lamb came it was not just another ritual.
It was a coming with the power to let us stand before God and have a not guilty judgment declared on our behalf and to take away the power of sin that had put us in bondage since the fall of our father Adam.
We are saved today because of the Lambís sacrifice.
We are born again because of the Lamb being slain.
We are free to walk through the gates of heaven knowing that the acceptable lamb has been sacrificed on the altar on our behalf and his sweet smelling savor has satisfied the justice of God.
We will not claim that we are there based on anything we have done for our ability to stand in Godís presence is only because of Christís willingness to humble himself and shedding his blood on our behalf.
John, as reported in the book of Revelation witnessed the lamb that was slain and he wept before the Lord wondering why no man could open heavenís book of redemption.
But there was found one lamb, a slain lamb who was worthy.
The blood of bulls and goats foretold that lamb but they were not worthy for they only pointed to the one that was worthy.
Rev. 5:11,12, And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
And that is the gospel message of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.