So we are embarking on the Tabernacle series!
These chapters of Exodus are extremely important in establishing the truths about this holy sanctuary which God wants the Israelites to make exactly (Exodus 25:9). The details are uncanny, and undoubtedly they contribute much to knowing more about Jesus unsurprisingly.
William Brown’s book titled “The Tabernacle: Its Priests and Its Services” has definitely given me much help in understanding the architectural and spiritual meaning behind the Tabernacle: I highly recommend it as basic literature. Though I feel he can go further with the spiritual significances because he seems to shy away from the spiritual, and focus somewhat more on the architectural. Neither should be compromised. Many of the images are taken from his book… I remain ignorant whether there are copyright laws against me posting them here. Feel free to prosecute.
Another note is that there are many references to ‘cubits’ and lengths, breadths, widths… not to under-estimate their significance, but I will be focusing mostly on the significance of the architecture, rather than reproduce the architecture itself unless there is something which I think needs particular noting. That is why I have the images to aid me. Remember though: they may not necessarily aid you if they are inaccurate portrayals (e.g. the cherubim on the ark may not have looked like that, given that not all cherubim looked human, or looked like human babies.)
1. The items used (Exodus 25:1-9)
2. The Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-22)
3. The Table for Bread (Exodus 25:23-30)
4. The Golden Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40)
5. The Tabernacle structure (Exodus 26)
6. The Bronze Altar (Exodus 27:1-8 )
7. The Court of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:9-19)
8. Oil for the Lamp (Exodus 27:20-21)
NB: This is one of the rare times where I can comfortably use the sub-titles offered in the ESV! More than often they detract from what Scripture actually says – so praise God for these specific sub-titles for once!
1. The items used (Exodus 25:1-9)
There is much spiritual significance behind every time used – indeed, God’s plan to use the picture of trees, rivers, water, seeds, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. have been extremely helpful in aiding our exegetical method. If the truth of God is in the details, the very details which He provides for us, then we should spend time scrutinising them for greater worship.
First and foremost, the contributions come from “every man whose heart moves him” (v.2) – there is a sense of voluntariness for the contributions, but also implies that this is no legalistic venture. This is a venture where the heart-circumcised may participate:
(a) Gold, silver, bronze (v.3)
(b) Blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins (v.5)
(c) Acacia wood (v.5)
(d) Oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense (v.6-7)
(e) Onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece (v.7)
The above 5 groups of items are used for the making of the holy sanctuary. Their significance is not apparent yet, and will only come to light when we see how these items are being used – nonetheless, remind yourself that God is in the details, the item used, the way in which the items were contributed (by a moving-heart) and the way in which the items will be implemented.
2. The Ark of the Covenant – the Father (Exodus 25:10-22)
v.10 – made of acacia wood
v.11 – it is overlaid with pure gold, inside and out
v.12 – 4 rings of gold, on four feet
v.13 – poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold
v.14-15 – poles to be inserted into the rings on the side, and to remain there
v.16 – the almighty testimony (the 10 words/commandments) placed into the ark!
v.17 – mercy seat of pure gold again
v. 18-20 – two cherubim of gold, of hammered work, wings above and overshadowing the mercy seat
v.21 -22 – it is here that the LORD will meet with the High Priest, giving commandments for the people of Israel
Note that the ark of the covenant is basically a wooden box made of acacia wood covered in gold. The Mercy Seat is its special lid, and inside the ark are three items: the stone tablets of the 10 words; a jar of manna; and Aaron’s budding branch (the latter two placed there later: the 10 words being of greatest importance seeing that it was mentioned both in v.16 and v.21-22).
The Ark of the Covenant was to be placed inside the Holy of Holies – the Most Holy Place. We will go to the details of the Most Holy Place when we come to consider the tabernacle structure. Note for now the interesting detail: why is the Ark of the Covenant, the Table for Bread and the Golden Lampstand mentioned BEFORE the Tabernacle structure in Exodus 26? Surely any architect would start with the structure, before going into the furniture of the structure?
The “Mercy Seat”, the gold used for the entire structure (made of wood) should also be considered as a throne – in 1 Samuel 4:4 the language used is that the ark of the covenant is enthroned between the cherubim. No doubt, this ark also symbolised the throne of the Father in heaven – c.f. Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 4:1-3. The former book speaks of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was flaming with fire, and wheels were all ablaze. The latter letter speaks of the throne in heaven where a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Although the throne was spoken of in two different manners, the lake of fire coming out from the throne is akin to the lake of fire referred to in Revelation 20:15. However, the throne of the Father in heaven, if speaking of the covenant rainbow established after the global diluvian punishment, then the message spoken of is that of peace and eternity, rather than contention and eternal hell.
Then there is Isaiah 37:16 who speaks of the LORD who dwells between the cherubim; and Ezekiel 1:4-5, 26-28 speaks of four living creatures and the throne of God:
4As I looked, behold,(J) a stormy wind came(K) out of the north, and a great cloud, with(L) brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire,(M) as it were gleaming metal.[b] 5And from the midst of it came the likeness of(N) four living creatures…
26And above the expanse over their heads there was(BA) the likeness of a throne,(BB) in appearance(BC) like sapphire;[f] and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27And(BD) upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were(BE) gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and(BF) there was brightness around him.[g] 28Like the appearance of(BG) the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
So these four living creatures had something of the likeness of a throne above them, and seated above the throne is no mere human (though he had a human appearance) – but this man was wearing gleaming metal, with the appearance of fire enclosed all around, and brightness around him; like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud (the rainbow), so was the appearance of the brightness. If you are still confused about this man who was sitting on the throne:
It is therefore quite clear that we should consider the meaning of the ark of the covenant, on which is the Mercy Seat lid, to be considered as a throne imitating the throne in heaven. But weren’t we speaking of two cherubim? Indeed: but we need not go into the detail now when the other two angels were added, and the significant parallels between the four angels surrounding the throne of God in Ezekiel (and Revelation) – check out 1 Chronicles 28 to make meaning of the chariot angels and the cherubim.
Then the next question comes: why make the ark out of wood, covered in gold? Firstly, the significance of gold is that of royalty and divinity (Matthew 2:1; Revelation 1:12-13; 21:18-21). But this ark isn’t made of real gold – it is only painted with gold. I think the significance is great here: it is basically saying that the ark, in itself, is just a temporary structure. The gold is just on the surface: it is only symbolic. What is the make-up of the ark though? WOOD – the wood which speaks of the cross. Thus, the meaning of gold-covering the wood is simple: it is that of the royalty, painted over the heart of the item which is made of the wood prophesying the cross of Christ. So also, the cross is at the centre of our lives: and on the outside, we are painted with the golden colours of royalty when we are clothed with righteousness. I’ve heard other interpretations of the acacia wood as that of Christ’s humanity; and the gold paint as that of Christ’s divinity. The acacia wood = earthly life (grown from the soil on earth); the golden paint = prophetic visions of Christ as Eternal and Divine Son. I personally favour the interpretation of the wood speaking of the cross of Christ, which undergirds not only the ark, but much of the entire tabernacle.
The function of the Mercy Seat above all speaks of its significance; in Exodus 25:22, when God says that he will meet with humanity above the cover, between the two cherubim: that place of meeting and atonement, the lid of the Ark is therefore rightly labeled as the mercy seat. The Mercy Seat “symbolically ‘absorbed’ the judgment of God so that there could be a meeting with humanity” (Tom Parsons). This is because the ark of the covenant is a living paradox: on one hand, the Mercy Seat was placed inside the Holy of Holies. If someone wanted to go into the Most Holy Place it also meant death, because of the separation presented by the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. That is why, in later laws given, that once a year the Mercy Seat was sprinkled with blood to bring peace and atonement, explaining Parsons conclusion of the Mercy Seat being rightly named as such. And only by the blood sacrifice on the Mercy Seat can one present the apparent paradox of God accepting sinners into the throne room of the Father! Romans 3:25 displays Paul’s use of this Mercy Seat imagery to explain how the Mercy Seat absorbs God’s wrath.
3. The Table for Bread – the Son (Exodus 25:23-30)
The table of the Presence was a wooden table overlaid with gold, having a special carrying pole and on the table were placed 12 loaves of bread (possibly representing the necessity of the 12 loaves of bread for the 12 tribes of Israel). It, like the ark, is made of acacia wood (v.23), and also has four rings of gold with holders for the poles. Most importantly let’s look at the word “Presence” used in Scripture. In Exodus 33:14-15:
and again in Deuteronomy 4:36-37:
36(A) Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and(B) you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37And because(C) he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them[a] and brought you out of Egypt(D) with his own presence, by his great power…
What we should understand is that there is a real difference between the LORD, and His “presence”. Moses is in Exodus 33:15 is not saying that he wants the LORD to be really with him, physically – especially not after the whole explanation of the Holy of Holies and the significance of us not being able to be with the LORD Father directly because of the untorn curtain which only the LORD Son can pass through. Unsure about that? Look at Judges 2:1-4
1Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to(A) Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said,(B) ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2(C) and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;(D) you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3So now I say,(E) I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become(F) thorns in your sides,[a] and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.
Note that it is the angel of the LORD who says that he brought the Israelites up out of Egypt. Note: NOT THE LORD Father, but the ANGEL of the LORD. In conjunction with Deuteronomy 4, this ANGEL is the PRESENCE of God the Unseen Father!
As if it isn’t already made obvious enough that this bread of presence refers to the bread of the Angel of the LORD, the New Testament hammers the point down your throat when Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Heaven in John 6, the manna which pointed towards Christ – “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (read John 6:48-51).
4. The Golden Lampstand – the Holy Spirit (Exodus 25:31-40)
This golden lampstand, a beautiful item, was fuelled by olive oil to each of its seven branches. Immediately the number should connote some significance. This lampstand is made to look like a golden plant of some sort, with branches. Unsurprisingly it is also of pure gold, and the golden plant with branches have three cups on either side made to look like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower (v.33), thus six branches in total. The detail is wonderfully painted out – but note: this is the only item which is completely gold inside out.
Oil has no small significance throughout scripture. Paul Blackham states that there are three classes of persons anointed with oil: priests (Exodus 29:7); prophets (1 Kings 19:16); and kings (1 Samuel 10:1, 6, 10).
The oil showed that these three classes of persons needed the Spirit to equip them for their work. Note that this isn’t about conversion – this is simply speaking of equipping prior to God’s work! In 1 Samuel 16:13, King David was anointed by Samuel in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power“. Do remember to differentiate between the Spirit coming upon people in power and the Spirit coming to dwell within people. Thus, the lampstand fuelled with olive oil represents something of the Spirit of God. This significance needs not further implication, for Zechariah 4:1-6 speaks quite in depth about it:
1And(A) the angel who talked with me came again(B) and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold,(C) a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and(D) seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3And there are(E) two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4And I said to(F) the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me,(G) “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to(H) Zerubbabel:(I) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
Read especially Psalm 23 and 133, for they speak of deeper significances of the Holy Spirit as symbolised by the oil. And in Revelation 4, the seven lamps before the throne of God represented the seven-fold Spirit, ruah, of God – and the lampstands spoken of in Revelation 1-2 speaks of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the churches; and the power of the Spirit is taken away when the church refuses to obey Christ.
5. The Tabernacle structure (Exodus 26)
The structure of the tabernacle is clearly very important – besides being described here, it will be described again in Exodus 35-40 when it is actually being built. Why record the detail again when Scripture has already recorded it when the LORD is giving Moses the instructions?
Remember that Moses had now gone up into the thick darkness on top of the mountain (Exodus 24:15-18 ) as if he were shown the reality of heaven and earth in the presence of the Unseen Father. The common refrain in the instructions concerning the tabernacle is: “Make this according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”. This refrain did not only refer to the structure, but also at the end of the instructions for the furniture as well (Exodus 25:40).
There are particular divisions which the LORD has made concerning the structure. We have gone through the materials, and the furniture already. Here is the overview of the instructions though:
The Divisions of Instructions
Materials for making the Tabernacle
“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”
The Furniture: Ark of Covenant, Table of Shewbread, Golden Lampstand
“See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”
The Tabernacle Structure
“Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain”
Dividing curtain and the altar of burnt offering
“It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain”
The priestly work of the Tabernacle
“They are to make them just as I commanded you”
So having gone through the first two divisions, we now reach the Tabernacle Structure instructions. The significance of the furniture (and some of the materials) we have already considered at length; but the structure may provide further insights as to why the furniture were instructed to be made PRIOR to the structure of the tabernacle; and then we come to realise the significance of the locations of the furniture in relation to this structure which is made after the furniture.
Single Undivided Room
Firstly, let’s take a look at the measurement of ‘cubits’ – in the ancient standard of measurement, it is roughly 18inches/45cm. If you read from verses 15 to 25, you would come to the conclusion that the tabernacle was a covered wooden structure measuring 45 feet long, 15 feet wide and 15 feet high (13.5 m by 4.5 m by 4.5 m). From verses 1-29, the tabernacle is described as a single, undivided room.
If the entire tabernacle is made “according to the pattern shown on the mountain” (aka according to the pattern of heaven which Moses is now seeing in the thick darkness, as shown on the mountain), then the implication is that the entire tabernacle represents heaven and earth. This is why –
At the beginning of Genesis, the heavens and earth were created, and I have already stated in the earlier posts in Genesis that the Garden of Eden has also been called the Garden of God, and that the garden is on a hill (hence the terminology ‘who can ascend the “holy hill”‘ alludes very much to the Garden of Eden on a hill). The very term Garden of God implies that the Garden is readily accessible to God, and that originally there was true harmony between heaven and earth (note: this is not the same as saying that earth and heaven are the same thing; they are different, but they are also in harmony, lest I be charged with Islamic views of the garden of Eden being in heaven!).
Therefore, the implication of the first instructions of the tabernacle is that the LORD’s intention is for heaven and earth to be united together in one. That was what happened at the Garden, and that is what the world is re-created towards at this very moment. The New Heaven and Earth will be united into one tabernacle room without division. This first set of instructions is rightly divided from the second set of instructions by v.30: “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain”.
The two rooms divided by a curtain
In v.31-37, we get the second set of instructions: two new things are added – the dividing curtain, and the altar of burnt offering.
Because of this ‘curtain’, the inner room is now 15 feet by 15 feet by 15 feet (effectively a cube of 4.5 metres cubed). This is an important detail. In Zechariah 5, the flying scroll is 30 feet long and 15 feet wide/high – this is exactly the same size as the second room, NOT including the Most Holy Place. It is exactly the same size as the HOLY place. If we follow the spiritual significance of the Most Holy Place as equivalent to heaven, then this flying scroll represents our earth. The Angel of the LORD then explains (Zechariah 5:3-4):
3Then he said to me, “This is(DY) the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who(DZ) steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who(EA) swears falsely[j] shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. 4I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of(EB) him who swears falsely by my name. And(EC) it shall remain in his house and(ED) consume it, both timber and stones.”
It is a judgment on the land; thus it concerns not the heaven, the most holy place – but only the holy place. The funny thing is, if the allusion is accurate, that the Most Holy Place is heaven, and the Holy Place is earth, then what is the court of the tabernacle? This requires some explaining, and of course defining what ‘heaven’ literally means, what ‘earth’ means (i.e. not the physical earth as WE know it) and what the ‘court of the Tabernacle’ represents.
Secondly, the cube structure is spoken of in Revelation 21:15-16:
15And the one who spoke with me(A) had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.[a] Its length and width and height are equal.
Indeed, this is the same cube spoken of in the instructions – and perhaps Moses was already peering into the heavenly realities of the heavenly city spoken of to Apostle John!
This is perhaps why the thick curtain should garner some attention. Exodus 26:31-35
31(AO) “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and(AP) fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33And you shall hang(AQ) the veil from the clasps, and bring(AR) the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34(AS) You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35And(AT) you shall set the table outside the veil, and the(AU) lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.
So we see that it is a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen (v.31), with cherubim worked into it. Understanding the analogy of the Most Holy Place being heaven, and Holy place as earth, then similarly the cherubim should represent the very same cherubim who guarded man from the tree of life in Genesis 3:24 – the cherubim placed on the east of the Garden and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
We know that what is being shown in the instructions of the tabernacle is just a shadow of heavenly realities: the writer of Hebrews explains just as much in chapter 8:1-5:
1Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest,(A) one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2a minister in the holy places, in(B) the true tent[a] that the Lord(C) set up, not man. 3For(D) every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus(E) it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5They serve(F) a copy and(G) shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying,(H) “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Come to the Court of the Tabernacle in Exodus 27:9-19, then we can fully understand on a macro-scale the significance of these divisions. Before moving onto the Bronze Altar, let’s consider the significance of the materials used for the Tabernacle thus far.
Materials used for the Tabernacle
I’ve listed all the materials used for the Tabernacle in general, but now we can consider the way they are used and the significance:
(1) Curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns (v.1 and 31) with cherubim skillfully worked into them. The only curtain/veil not given cherubim to be skillfully worked into it is the entrance of the tent (v.36).
(2) Goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle (v.7)
(3) Rams’ skins (v.14) a covering for the tent under the goatskins on the top (this is therefore a two-fold skin roof)
(4) Forty bases of silver used to build the foundation (Chapter 27v.9-19)
For (1), the details are not only on the veil, but also on the curtains. Brown notes that what was used was undyed and dyed linen yarn – some of which was the finest pure white linen yarn (Hebrew: “shesh”), and the same white material dyed blue, purple and scarlet. The colours are most important: the combination of purple and scarlet most often refers to Babylon, the nation of prostitutes. This is explained in Revelation 18:16, and Revelation 17:4-6 (the woman with the blood of the saints). The order of the instruction goes from blue to purple and scarlet to white (undyed) linen. Esther 8:15 describes it quite well: the royal colours of blue and white. What this essentially means is that blue is a royal colour; purple and scarlet is a picture of punishment on the Woman of Babylon; and white is a return to that combination with royalty, and undoubtedly a colour of purity and of sins cleansed, immediately proceeding from scarlet, the colour of blood shed by Christ and his martyrs.
For (2), the goat-hair as a tent is used to fill the deficiencies of the curtains which may not have filled up the walls and the ceilings of the tabernacle.
For (3), rams’ skins are definitely red, and goatskins are known as tough skins of a sea animal. There is much significance in this goatskin especially, given that the Tabernacle is effectively water-proof because of this goatskin. Knowing that the rain, the rainbow and the flood all pointed towards the global punishment, the effective message is that the Tabernacle and what is inside of it (i.e. NOT including the uncovered courtyard) is protected from the global judgment to come. If we were to assume therefore that the Holy Place is just earth in a generic sense, then we would be doing injustice to the symbolism of the goatskin. The rams’ skin, undoubtedly, another picture of red meaning punishment for sins.
For (4), the forty bases of silver were taken from the Israelites (Exodus 38:28 ) who contributed ever so minimally, but ever so greatly to the very foundation of the tabernacle! So also, by God’s grace, the Israelites give so little, yet in comparison God has given them so much more. But we are honoured to play a role in the foundation of the Tabernacle, just as God has called us to play such a role when we give our life to Jesus.
6. The Bronze Altar (Exodus 27:1-8 )
The altar is given horns on its four corners – and it is of course an altar of offering. What else has four corners of horns? Revelation 9:13-20:
13Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from(V) the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release(W) the four angels who are bound at(X) the great river Euphrates.” 15So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released(Y) to kill a third of mankind. 16The number of(Z) mounted troops was(AA) twice ten thousand times ten thousand;(AB) I heard their number. 17And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire[c] and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were(AC) like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
20The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues,(AD) did not repent of(AE) the works of their hands nor give up worshiping(AF) demons(AG) and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21nor did they repent of their murders or their(AH) sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
The four horns seem to relate directly to the four angels. How fitting it is then that the bronze altar has these details:
3You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and(BB) forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze.
Fire, ashes… these are marks of one of the few plagues in Revelation, and seems to speak a lot about punishment. Indeed, this is an altar of offering, and the similar punishment is re-enacted on the sacrificial offering; but it helps to understand the detail of such a sacrificial offering, how it comes around and how God puts into practice these judgments by His four angels – and that these sacrificial offerings, which don’t SAVE us, but point to the Christ who is the full meaning of the true Sacrificial Offering once and for all.
How fitting it is that the Brazen Altar is in the Courtyard, rather than in the Tabernacle? The significance of the Courtyard we now consider in the next part…
7. The Court of the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:9-19)
Thus, the fenced area of the tabernacle is quite important. Note that similar curtains are used for the court as it is used for the entrance of the tabernacle without the cherubim worked into them. After understanding Hebrews 8:1-5, and the significance of the Most Holy Place, and the Holy Place, the Court can imply one thing: the entire creation.
This is actually contributed by the understanding of the cherubim who are in communion with God on some level.
The Most Holy Place: where the ark of the covenant lies (Exodus 26:34) is where the UNSEEN Father resides, only seen by the Great High Priest Christ. This Most Holy Place isn’t merely heaven (aka skies), but the third heaven where God resides (2 Corinthians 12).
The Holy Place: The Table of Shewbread and the Golden Lampstand therefore both stand in the Holy Place (Exodus 26:35). The Holy Place is not earth in the sense of the entire creation as we see it. Rather, we have contact with the Table of Shewbread and the Golden Lampstand because we are in the church of Christ. Because, as the bride of Christ, as the Christian, we live by faith in CHRIST alone, saved and sanctified by the power of the SPIRIT alone. Yet, despite direct contact with Christ and Spirit, Christ is still our mediator with the Father as is the Spirit (Romans 8 ) who aids us in our prayer to Him (and we only have the Spirit because of Christ’s work on the cross coupled with his death, resurrection and ascension!).
The Courtyard: This is the rest of creation. The reason why the entrance to the Tabernacle, the Holy Place, has no cherubim is because the cherubim is not needed to guard us from anything – to enter the Tabernacle, to enter the church of Christ, Christ himself is knocking on our door, and we enter into communion with Him. There is no angel BLOCKING our way to the church of Christ. Yet, with the rest of creation, there are no ‘angels’, no ‘cherubim’ protecting the entire creation. If anything, this is reinforced by the understanding of the two-fold skin cover of the Tabernacle: if rain falls, the waters of judgment will fall on the sinners who stand outside the tabernacle. Yet, if you are in the tabernacle, you are shielded spiritually from Satan’s attacks by the cherubim who are our ministers (Hebrews 1), the cherubim who are inlaid throughout the entire Tabernacle (but not the courtyard) – and also from within, the power of Christ and the Spirit taking us through to the Most Holy Place.
Thus, this courtyard is the entire creation as we see it, prone to judgment; then a smaller remnant of that courtyard, of this entire creation of people, are the saved. Those already in the tabernacle will look forward to the tearing of the veil, which is symbolically destroyed by Christ: but the true veil still exists, for heaven and earth are still separate. Thus, we look forward enthusiastically to the day when the true veil will be destroyed, and we will commune with God and have a Wedding Feast with him in New Jerusalem where Heaven AND Earth meet!
8. Oil for the Lamp (Exodus 27:20-21)
The Priests, the Levites will do such from generations to generations:
Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel (v.21). It shall be a statute forever – but look at the Jews now! They have lost both their temple, their tabernacle and their ‘pride’ – did the LORD lie when he meant that statute is meant to last forever? No – for even the Levitical priesthood pointed towards Christ, the true High Priest; and through Christ the High Priest, the oil shall be tended to the lamp from evening to morning before the LORD. In Christ alone, the SPIRIT will be alive, from evening (meaning trials), to morning (meaning victories in Christ) before the LORD. This perpetual burning of the Spirit is the fight of faith, of Christ Jesus the perfecter and founder of our faith borne by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2). Will you be one of the bride, ready for the bridegroom’s return with oil in her lamp, or will you need to ask someone else for the oil because you have not been in Christ, who is the one who gives us the Spirit which the oil points towards?
To end on Hebrews 9:6-12:
6These preparations having thus been made,(A) the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7but into the second only(B) the high priest goes, and he but(C) once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that(D) the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9(which is symbolic for the present age).[a] According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered(E) that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10but deal only with(F) food and drink and(G) various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
11But when Christ appeared as a high priest(H) of the good things that have come,[b] then through(I) the greater and more perfect tent ((J) not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he(K) entered(L) once for all into the holy places, not by means of(M) the blood of goats and calves but(N) by means of his own blood,(O) thus securing an eternal redemption.