Based on narration of the Tabernacle Exhibit by Tom Cantor.
All images from the Creation & Earth History Museum, Santee, CA.
At the Creation and Earth History Museum you see the biblical account of creation, and you find that God had created man with a wonderful friendship with God. This friendship was dependent on man’s obedience to God. Tragically, man shattered that friendship when he rebelled against God. But God still loved man. So what did God do? He immediately set Himself on a course to reconcile with man, to redeem man, to save man, and to bring back the lost friendship with God. Though, this reconciliation has to be on God’s terms. The big question is, how would God communicate His terms to man? Through the tabernacle! That’s what the tabernacle is; God’s symbols for a clear explanation of His terms for reconciliation. It is God’s object lesson to show man how He is going to redeem man and how man must come to God on God’s terms.
The tabernacle was how God taught and prepared His people for over a thousand years, getting them ready for the ultimate coming sacrifice for the sins of the world; the Lord Jesus Christ. When Moses was on Mount Sinai, over 3,000 years ago, God showed him the real tabernacle in Heaven, and Moses was instructed to build the tabernacle on earth exactly how he saw it. The tabernacle is God’s teaching on redemption. Just exactly how important is this teaching of redemption? No less than 50 chapters in the Bible are devoted to the tabernacle!
The goal of the tabernacle is clearly stated in Exodus 25:8, where God said: “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
Every part of the tabernacle showed some aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of Himself to man.
The Bible begins its description of the tabernacle where God is and then leads outward. This is so important for us to understand because when you start from the outside where man is, and come to where God is, you’re really describing man trying to reach God. And man trying to reach God is the definition of man’s religions. But the Bible’s message is God reaching out to man, so our exhibit starts where the Bible starts in the description of the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies.
THE HOLY OF HOLIES
This innermost room is The Holy of Holies. It is called The Holy of Holies because the one word that describes the essential character of God is HOLY. Holiness is where we get our word for cleanliness. It means God is absent from sin. God is pure, God is sinless, God is Holy.
Inside the Holy of Holies there is one piece of furniture called the ark. The ark was a chest covered with very strong Shittim or Acacia wood, overlaid within and without in pure gold. This strong wood speaks of the endurance of the Lord Jesus. Hebrews 12:2-3. He “endured the cross, despising the shame”, He, “endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.” The gold on the ark speaks of the deity of Christ; it speaks of the fact that He is God the Son. We find gold throughout the tabernacle and as we look at the various aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s the constant reminder to us, this is God.
Over the ark is a cover, also covered with gold, called the “ark cover” or “the lid”. Over the ark on either end are two cherubim guardian angels with their faces pointed toward each other and their wings spread in each direction over the ark cover. Underneath these protecting wings, was the special place where God chose to meet with man. Some call this the mercy seat. And from this ark cover the voice of God was heard as He spoke to the high priest. These type of cherubim angels guard God’s special interests in this particular place, teaching us that man meeting with God is very important to God.
When the ark was first constructed, inside the ark there were only the 10 commandments on two tables of stone. They were the law of God. They not only express the character of God, but from our point of view as sinners, they condemn us. And the law demands our judgment, the law speaks and it says this sinner must die because he violated this law.
Once a year on the day of atonement, Yom Kippur, the day of covering, the high priest went into the Holy of Holies with the blood of a slain animal in a bowl, and the first thing he did when he went in was he applied the blood, first for his own sins, and then he applied the blood to the four corners, for the sins of the people. It was a dramatic time of anticipation for the people. Would their sins be forgiven? Would the sacrifice be accepted?
The high priest would take off his sandals and enter the Holy of Holies barefoot through this thick veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place. The hem of his garment was lined with bells so that as he walked, the people could hear the bells on the outside. There was a burning fear that the high priest and his offering might not be accepted either for himself or for his people and that he would be struck dead right there. Tradition tells us that they tied a rope around his ankle so that if he died, the people would have a way to get his body out of the Holy of Holies by pulling him out by the rope.
With all the millions of animals being sacrificed, you could imagine that it begged the question, “when will this ever end?” The continual offering of sacrifices indicated that there was not yet a once-for-all sacrifice to give complete forgiveness for all sins. But that came through Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 10:10 it says, “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” When He came and made the sacrifice once for all, the whole teaching of the tabernacle was consummated. Now we study the tabernacle to learn more about what He did when He came and offered Himself. Whereas the Jewish people, in Moses day, studied the tabernacle to learn who He would be and what He would do to make that ultimate sacrifice.
There are 3 more items inside of the ark; the pot of manna, a miraculous, small, round bread that tasted like coriander seed and fresh oil. It fell from heaven every single day out in the desert, to sustain the Jewish people for over 40 years. What a miracle! This teaches us that just as the Jewish people had to go out of every morning and gather from God the manna for that day, every day we need to come to God to receive from his spiritual manna, the word of God, food that will sustain us for the day.
Also in the ark was Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded with almonds, blossoms, and with almonds themselves. It recalled back to a dark time in Israel’s history when the people questioned the authority of Moses, so he had the leaders from all 12 tribes, carve their name on their walking rods, and place them inside the tabernacle overnight. One rod grew almonds, and almond blossoms, it was Aaron’s rod. And so that rod was put inside the ark. What did that rod speak of? Authority! The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Later another item was placed in the ark; a portion of the first 5 books of Moses, the covenant. Covenants are so important; those are the promises of God. It was important for Israel to be reminded of God’s covenants. The most important covenant is the new promise, the New Testament. The Lord Jesus in Matthew 26:28, held up a glass of wine and said, “…This is my blood of the New Testament, (He could’ve said “promise”) which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” What is that promise? “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That’s the new promise; He as the perfect Lamb of God is enough to pay for all of our sins and all we have to do is call on God and say, “Lord please be my lamb. I throw open my hearts door and want Jesus to be the Lamb of God which takes away my sins.” And God promises if you do that, your name is written down in the Lambs book of life, you are saved forever, heaven is yours. That’s Gods promise.
The Holy of Holies was totally covered so that without any other kind of light it would be completely dark inside. But there was light in the Holy of Holies! A supernatural light, the light from God called the Shekinah glory of God gave light to the Holy of Holies!
Separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was a beautiful veil made up of many layers of Egyptian linen. It was so strong that teams of oxen tied together with the veil in between could not rip it. The veil represented separation between God and man and shows us how severely our sins separated us from God. When the Christ died on the cross, He cried out that last word in Hebrew “Asa” meaning “done” or “accomplished”. At that moment, that veil was torn as God would tear it from the top to the bottom, and with that tear God was satisfied with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ as a payment for our sins. Isaiah 53:11 says, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:” It says in Hebrews 10:19-20, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”
THE HOLY PLACE
As we emerge from the Holy of Holies into the Holy Place, we’re immediately struck by 3 pieces of furniture: the golden lampstand (Menorah), the table of shewbread, and the golden altar of incense.
The golden lampstand was a solid piece of gold which stood upright, having a central shaft and 3 arms on each side. It was decorated with golden almond blossoms, pomegranates, and lilies. The most important part of this lampstand was the central shaft and we are like the branches that come off of that shaft in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 15:5 “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Next was the table of shewbread, completely overlaid with gold. Upon it there were 12 loaves of bread representing the 12 tribes of Israel, that were changed every Sabbath. This golden table of shewbread speaks of Christ as the satisfier of our souls. He spoke of Himself as the true bread. John 6:33 & 35 “Bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
The other piece of furniture here is the altar of incense overlaid with pure gold. On top of this altar there was a fire, every morning the high priest would come with sweet incense and place it on this fire. The ascending smoke along with the sacrificial blood that was sprinkled on the altar, speak to us of the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because it says in Isaiah 53:12 “…he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Hebrews 7:25 “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them”.
THE HIGH PRIEST
Then we come to the high priest himself. The garments of the high priest were described by two characteristics in Exodus 28:2; garments of “glory” and “beauty”. These garments magnified the glory and the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. First there was the fine-twined, white, innermost garment against his body. This garment spoke again of the purity of Jesus, as in Hebrews 7:26 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;”
On that Yom Kippur day of atonement, the high priest went out to the laver, stripped down to just that white inner most garment and there he was speaking of the purity of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth He came as a common man, described in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Over that white linen garment the high priest wore a blue robe of the ephod. The blue speaks of heaven and reminds us of the deity of Christ. Over this robe was an ephod garment with an attached breast plate and two shoulder pieces. On the breast plate were 12 stones with the 12 names of the tribes of Israel. Engraved on each of the two onyx shoulder stones were 6 of the names of the tribes. The breast is the place of the heart; this shows us that the Jesus bears us upon his heart, the place of His affection. And the shoulders are the place where He carries. He carries us on His shoulders as a Shepherd carries a sheep. It says in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” The Shepherd puts us on his shoulders to carry us back. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as God, is the one that went out and found the lost sheep on the hillside that had wandered away, as spoken of in Ezekiel, and He brought back the sheep.
Then on the high priest’s head there was the golden mitre with the words “HOLINESS TO THE LORD”. When the high priest would face you, the sign would flash, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD”. Seeing this was a constant reminder, that above all, God is Holy.
THE OUTER COURT
In the last part of the tabernacle, the outer court, there was no roof. It was surrounded by curtains of fine twined linen, embroidered with cherubim. The one key piece that you saw as you entered in the gate was the massive brazen altar. It was made of acacia wood and sealed with brass or copper. No matter how hot it got it didn’t burn up because it was hermetically sealed, no oxygen could get inside of it.
There were 5 items associated with this altar. First there were the basins that held the collected blood to be carried inside and sprinkled on the other pieces. Then there were pans for carrying the ashes from the altar to the outside of the camp. Then there were shovels for scooping up the ashes for feeding the fire. And there were fire pans to carry the embers from the altar into the altar of incense. Lastly, there were flesh hooks to hold the animals in place or the pieces of the animal to be positioned on the grate.
A follower of God would bring his animal to the high priest as the sin offering and then confess his sins over the head of the animal. The animal would then be slaughtered, its blood would be collected and the dead animal would be placed on the grate and burned. By doing that, the person was saying I understand, I know that my sin was so serious that the wages for my sin is death.
The four horns on the altar and the flesh hooks, spoke of the self determination of the Lord Jesus Christ. It wasn’t the nails that kept him on the cross, the flesh hooks that kept the Lord Jesus Christ on that cross were his own determination. That determination even conquered his own will when He said to The Father in the garden of Gethsemane, in Luke 22:42, “…Not my will but thine, be done.”
Blood was smeared on those four horns of the altar, this spoke of the Lord Jesus and how He gave up Himself for our sins. He said in John 10:17-18, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
Then the shovels, pans, handles and ashes, speak of the completeness of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. As He cried out His last words from the cross in John 19:30, “It is finished.”
In any of the three parts of the tabernacle there were no seats. The final work was not complete, so it was not allowed for the priests to sit down. In the tabernacle there was always the cry for more; more animals, more sacrifices, and more blood offerings. This is spoken of in Hebrews 10:3-4, “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” But the redemptive “once for all” sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ was so complete that afterward, He sat down. Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And in Hebrews 10:12, “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”
The last piece in the outer court was the laver; a pool of water on a stand with highly polished metal mirrors set into the bottom. The priests would wash their whole bodies, or their hands and feet at the laver every day. Before they could touch the altar they had to go to the laver, before they would do the daily sacrifices.
Every morning, believers in the Lord Jesus, come to Him. He is our laver, the one who makes us clean. He promises in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The laver was covered with mirrors, so that as you cleaned yourself, you saw yourself. It’s so important when we come to God to be honest and transparent. We have to say, “Oh God, I know I am a sinner. Here are my sins God…” confess them to Him, “… I’m looking honestly at myself and I’m asking for your forgiveness and your cleansing”. And God promises that He will.
There was only one gate to enter the tabernacle. There’s only one way to God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” That’s the meaning of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God wants you to have what the tabernacle was teaching; friendship with God. And it all starts at that altar, at that laver, everything begins there. If you want that friendship with God, come to that laver, and say, “Oh God, I see myself, I’m a sinner. I know I’m a sinner. I hate my sin.”As you look at that laver say, “LORD, I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is my cleansing.” And as you look at that altar say, “LORD, I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is my sacrifice. I throw open my heart’s door today, and I receive Him as my lamb, my sacrifice who died for my sins. I receive Him now as my God and my Savior.”
God bless you and thank you for joining us for this study of the tabernacle.
To see the Tabernacle Exhibit at the Creation and Earth History Museum; the museum is located at 10946 Woodside Ave. North, Santee, CA 92071 and is currently open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Call (619) 599-1104 or visit http://www.creationsd.org/admission.html for admission prices.