Saturday, August 17, 2013

How the tabernacle pictures Jesus' act of salvation

Hebrews 9:1  "Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary."  

Hebrews 9:11 "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation"

Yesterday we considered in general how the Old Testament Tabernacle, the first worship center of ancient Israel, points the way to understanding Jesus the actor, as well as act and accomplishment of salvation.  In today's post we will consider the first way in which the tabernacle of Moses' day pictures Jesus Christ our salvation: namely His activity in providing our redemption.  

The furnishings and general layout of the tabernacle gives us a remarkable prediction of Jesus' act of salvation. 
As you turn to Hebrews 9:1-11, you discover the writer listing out the floor plan and nearly every element associated with Israel's first place of worship - the tabernacle.  To remind the reader, the word "tabernacle" comes from a word which means "meeting place".  For the sake of today's post, we will also refer to some passages in Exodus that list the remaining details of the tabernacle's layout not mentioned in Hebrews.  I promise you that by the end this post, you will see how the tabernacle pictures the act of salvation to be performed by Jesus.

I will first give you a picture of the general layout of the tabernacle that we see from the combined passages of Exodus 27:9-19 and Hebrews 9:1-10, followed by a brief description of what the Bible teaches about that layout:

The tabernacle as a whole is divided into three general areas, consisting of seven main furnishings used by the priesthood.  

1. The Courtyard: the place of sacrifice and consecration
Exodus 27:9-19 mentions the first area -the courtyard, as being 75 feet wide and 150 feet long. The courtyard had one East entryway, wherein was brought the sacrifices to the priests.  After they sacrificed on behalf of the worshipper on the first furnishing - the bronze altar, the priests would proceed to the washing of their hands and feet at the second furnishing - the bronze laver.  

2. The holy place: the place of ministry
The second main area, located in the Western end of the courtyard, was what was called the "outer tabernacle" or tabernacle proper and is mentioned in Hebrews 9:2,6,8-9. The "outer tabernacle" contained two rooms: the "holy place" and the "most holy place".  The "holy place" is included in this second main area of the writer of Hebrew's description of the tabernacle.  It was in that "holy place" where the priests performed their daily ministries and included the furnishings of the golden lampstand, the table of bread and the golden altar of incense.  In order to access this first room of the outer tabernacle, you had to enter into through a veil.  

3. The Holy of Holies - the place of worship
The third area of the Tabernacle, which is located in the just mentioned "outer tabernacle" structure, is what the Bible calls "the holy of holies" (Hebrews 9:3) To access this inner room of the tabernacle proper, a second veil was set up directly behind the altar of incense in the holy place.  Only the High Priest of Israel entered that most sacred spot, once a year, to minister before the two last remaining furnishings which functioned together: the Ark of the Covenant and its lid, called "the mercy seat." 

Many scholars for years have noted how the layout of the seven furnishings correspond to a remarkable shape.  I'm sure as a child you played "connect the dots".  If you drew a line beginning with the ark of the covenant and its lid, the mercy seat, the altar of incense, the bronze laver and the bronze altar of sacrifice; and then drew a second line between the golden lampstand and the table of bread, here is what you would end up with:

God all along had the cross in mind! The precious act of redemption was not the shadowy activity of sacrificing bulls and goats, but rather the reality to which they pointed - Calvary's cross.  As we close, the writer of Hebrews draws this connection between the tabernacle and the act of salvation in Hebrews 9:11 "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation". 

More tomorrow....