Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How the Tabernacle points to God's way of approach

Exodus 25:8-9 8“Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. 9“According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

God's dwelling place in the Old Testament
In the two verses above we see the purpose and intent of the worship center being revealed by God to Moses.  That sanctuary, or dwelling place, is what the Bible calls the tabernacle (from the Latin term tabernaculum meaning "dwelling place").  From Exodus 25-31 we see a detailed description of all the various furnishings, the rituals, the design and the priesthood.  When we turn to chapters in the New Testament like Hebrews 8-9, we discover that this worship center in the Old Testament pictures for us the Act and Accomplishment of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.

What typically occured when you were "going to church" in the Old Testament
When you turn to Exodus 31, you find Moses laying out the summary of God's prescribed way of salvation and worship that He reveals in Exodus 25-30.  The various furnishings of the tabernacle work together to communicate the One Way through which God would approach the people, the the One Way by which they were to approach Him. 

What would you had done as a man or a woman living in the camp of Israel as you went to the center of the camp to "come to church" so to speak?  As you approached the Tabernacle, you would had brought with you a sacrificial animal, since apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  The tabernacle itself was surrounded by a courtyard composed of a white linen "fence" encircling all around.  A multi-colored "gate", some 30 feet wide, was the only means of entry.  According to Exodus 27:16, this "gate" was woven out of differing colors of linen, each corresponding to some characteristic of God Himself. 

A Priest would meet you at the entry way to ensure that whay you brough was fit to offer.  Once deemed acceptable (for the animal had to be without blemish), you would enter into the main courtyard.

The Brazen Altar - the picture of the cross
The priest would then instruct you to confess your sins over the sacrificial animal.  In laying your hands upon its head, you confessed your sin, effectively "transferring" your sins upon that innocent animal's head.  Before the sight of God, your faith in His Promise of salvation meant you received all that He prescribed to you, thus he would then "credit" or "impute" your sins onto the sacrifice.  The ultimate sacrifice to which it pointed, Christ, would in the future be the lamb of God given for you. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

The priest would then hand you a Bronze knife, at which point you would slit the lamb's throat in the prescribed fashion.  The Priest would then catch the animal's blood in a sacred vessel, and then take the blood to be poured out at the base of the altar in the courtyard.  After taking the animal, the priest would perform the ritualistic preparations and offer the lamb in your place.  The smoke of the sacrifice would ascend up into the Glory Cloud of God over the tabernacle.  If the smoke went straight up, that meant God had accepted the sacrifice and your sins were "covered" and His wrath against you was "satisfied". 

The Old and New Testament both emphasize the need of representation between God and Man.  Christ fulfills that role
This first furnishing gives us the basis of approach.  In the tabernacle system, the Brazen altar of sacrifice was the place where God met with the worshipper.  The Priest, the sacrifices and the tabernacle system itself all conveyed the idea of "representation".  Without a mediator, the saint of God in the Old Testament could not have relationship and fellowship with God.  Christ is the mediator between God and man. (1 Timothy 2:5).  Without the cross, there is no way of approach for either God to man nor man to God. 

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