Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Identifying The Old Testament Tabernacle And Its Importance To The Christian

Image result for old testament tabernacle images

Exodus 25:1-8 "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. 3 This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, 4 blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, 5 rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, 6 oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 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."


Today's post aims to introduce the reader to the Old Testament tabernacle. Below I will walk the reader through a series of questions with answers, as well as some points of application as we aim to answer the main topic of today's post: Identifying The Old Testament Tabernacle And Its Importance To The Christian.

1. What was the tabernacle? Exodus 25:8-9

(Also compare Exodus 29:44-46 and Exodus 40:36-38)
The word “tabernacle” means “dwelling place”. It was the Jewish worship center during the time-frame between the days of Moses to King David (over 400 years), with the Ark of the Covenant being the main part of it. In Exodus 29:44-46, we find one of the chief purposes of the the tabernacle:

"I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. 45 I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. 46 They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God."

As the reader can see, the tabernacle had different names, one of which was "tent of meeting". As a matter of fact, the word "tabernacle" derives from a Latin word tabernaculum, which used in the Old Latin translation of the Vulgate (which would influence the first English translations, many of them simply carrying over the Latin term into our English language), translated in turn the underlying Hebrew word meaning "meeting place". 

2. Primary message God intended the Tabernacle to convey

As one studies the key Old Testament section of the revelation of the Tabernacle to Moses and the people of God (Exodus 25-40), the following themes emerge to reveal the overall message of the tabernacle:

a. It’s materials were designed to reveal certain characteristics of the Lord to His people (Exodus 25:8-9)

b. It reminded the people that the Lord was the one who rescued them from their enslavement in Egypt (Exodus 29:44-46)

c. It’s ministry reminds the people of their need for representation before a Holy God (Exodus 29:44)

d. It’s mobility indicated that God was their King who both led the people (Exodus 40:36-38)

In fact, at the end of the book of Exodus, we read these words in Exodus 25:36-38 - "Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; 37 but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. 38 For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel."

3. Why study the tabernacle? Heb. 9:9-11

The revelation of the Tabernacle chiefly occurs in Exodus 25-40. We also find reference to its various ceremonies and the Levitical priesthood that would serve in it in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. God is the Holy God. As one writer has noted, to have a Holy God dwelling in the midst of a sinful people was a dangerous business. For God to dwell in the midst of His people, He had to devise a system of mediation between Himself and the people. The Tabernacle's materials, furnishings, priesthood and sacrificial system have as their common agreement the idea of "mediation". 

Sometimes I'll encourage people to take two Bibles and open one up at Exodus 25 and the second Bible to Hebrews 9. Why these chapters? Because Hebrews aids us in understanding why the Old Testament Tabernacle helps us in illustrating the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Christian-life and the work of the local church. As one reads down through Hebrews 9, many Bibles today will have little cross references in the margins. It is almost certain that many of those references will take the reader back to places in Exodus 25-40. In summary at least, we can note the following reasons why anyone would want to study the Tabernacle:

a. It illustrates Christ  (Hebrews 9:11)

b. It illustrates the church (Hebrews 3:5-6a)

c. It illustrates the Christian (Hebrews 3:6b)

d. The Lord Himself says it is important. Hebrews 9:8 (Also compare Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 8:1-2)

Closing thoughts

Today's post aimed to introduce the reader to the Old Testament Tabernacle and its important to the Christian. We looked at what the tabernacle was: the meeting place for God and His people and the worship center of Old Testament Israel in the first 400 years of her journeys with God. We secondly noted the primary message God intended to convey through the Tabernacle. Among the points brought out about the Tabernacle's message, the key theme is that of mediation between God and His people. Then lastly, we looked at reasons why anyone would want to further study the tabernacle. By considering New Testament texts like Hebrews 9, we can use the truths of that chapter to help us understand and apply what we read in Exodus 25-40. 


  1. Dear Mahlon,
    Thank you for your faithful guide through God's Word. Your study has helped me reflect on how to clearly articulate the typology of the tabernacle for the believer in Christ as I preach.
    If I could point out one edit to be made. Under section 2 you reference Exodus 25:36-38, when the chapter is actually Ex 40.36-38. I don't mean to be critical!! Simply to help others who I hope will come across and benefit from your study!