Summary: What does the Tabernacle represent? Was its design important? What does the lampstand signify?
A better sanctuary
Last time we took a quick overview of the Tabernacle and what it represented. We saw that it was exquisitely and lovingly made using lots of gold and silver. The main purpose, however, was not to create a thing of physical beauty, but to illustrate God’s relationship with His people and to make it clear that we can only approach Him on His own terms. Around the tabernacle there was a fence with only one entrance. The way to the holy of holies, into God’s presence, involved sacrifice, cleansing, illumination, fellowship and worship. This study was to provide some background for our next studies in chapters 8 and 9.
Chapter 8 begins the main focus of Hebrews. We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. Hebrews 8 and 9, explain this reference to the true tabernacle.
The author of Hebrews called the Tabernacle the earthly sanctuary v1 to distinguish it from what it illustrated – the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man 8:2. Wonderful as it was, it was only a copy and shadow of the heavenly things 8:5. Christ drew aside the curtains of heaven so that we could get a glimpse of the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation– 9v11. In other words the OT Tabernacle illustrated heaven itself – 9v24 and the basis for mankind to have a relationship with God.
Seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens 8v1
In this heavenly realm everything is dominated by the person of our Great High Priest, sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in the Heavens. He is truly God, yet truly man, understanding our weaknesses and failings and able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him – Heb 7:25 He helps and encourages us when we are in difficulties and pleads our cause before His Father’s throne. It is this divine reality, existing behind and above the physical things that we see or touch, which God wants us to see with the eye of faith. It is this reality to which we must cling in faith, when our world seems to be shaking and crumbling around us.
According to the pattern
The tabernacle was made in this world by gifted people, out of perishable materials that were joyfully contributed by the people, or given by the terrified Egyptians before the Israelites finally left Egypt after the plagues. The tabernacle was a tent, which could be taken down and set up again. Eventually its components wore out or were stolen or lost. What was important was its design and what it represented. It was built, under Moses supervision, in accordance with detailed instructions from God. This is why there is such an emphasis on phrases like according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain Ex 25.40 and repeated in Heb 8:5. Right down to the last tent peg, the divine design had to be followed. It had to be like that if God were to dwell there and illustrate the important realities which were known only to Him.
Moses had been educated in the University of Egypt, but that was of no value in the design of the Tabernacle. God didn’t want an Egyptian temple to live in! Moses had to make everything things exactly as God told him. We can furnish and decorate our own homes according to our taste or, at least, to our wives taste! If we want Jesus to live in our hearts and churches though, we must follow His instructions exactly. If you think that you know better and modify His design then don’t expect His blessing. God doesn’t adapt His character and plans to suit our fads or preferences.
Yet that is exactly what people, even Church people, have been doing for generations. They think that they can pick and choose which bits of the Bible to follow. If they don’t like something they conclude that it was ‘cultural’ or just for then and feel free to ignore it. You can’t treat the Bible like a buffet, where you take just those bits that you fancy, leaving those you don’t like behind! It is all or nothing.
Some of us are a bit more sophisticated. We believe the whole Bible, but don’t actually put its commands into practice! That would have been like Moses writing down God’s wonderful design and discussing it with the Tabernacle Committee for 40 years, but not actually building anything.
46 Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? 47"Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 "But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great." Luke 6.