Summary: The tabernacle is a pattern not only for the Old Testament, but for our worship of God today. We have full access to God's holy place but so few enter in.
In 1922, Archeologist Howard Carter discovered an entrance to an Egyptian tomb. A sealed doorway. And on the doorway was the seal of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Most tombs have been plundered and robbed long ago but this one was nearly pristine. Behind that door were treasures beyond their wildest imagination. It was the discovery of the century.
This morning we are also going on a discovery with much more behind the gate than gold. Turn with me to the book of Exodus 25:1-9…
One third of the book of Exodus is devoted to one subject – the Tabernacle. That fact alone should cause us to take notice. It was a very important object. Why is that? Because it was the key to worship. It was to be the center of their lives. It was the place where every Israelite had access to God and had contact with God.
Think about what is at the center of YOUR life? I see during the past two weeks many fans around Mankato. I’m just guessing – but I wouldn’t be surprised that for many of them, the Vikings are at the center. But there are many things that can be at the center. It can be our job or our family or our own body. But God wants to be at the center.
Well, for Israel, the Tabernacle was at the center. And here as we read about it we discover that the Tabernacle was the key to approaching and worshiping God. Now imagine if you are an Israelite and you have broken God’s Law and seek forgiveness.
First of all you enter through the gate. There is only one way into the area of worship. No back door. No side door. There is one way to God and that is through the altar.
And you enter with an animal in your care. You could come with a sheep or a goat but you could also come with something smaller like a pigeon or something larger like a bull. But you come with your sacrifice because you can have no access to the Father without a sacrifice made for your sins. The altar is in the way! So you confess your sins and the animal is sacrificed in YOUR place. There MUST be a payment for sins.
Leviticus 17:14 says this amazing principle of God: “for as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.” Blood represents life – it has great value to God.
But when we sin what happens to our blood? It becomes polluted. Our whole life is filled with the pollution of sin and God will not and cannot receive us because he is holy.
Therefore what was the solution to this problem? Leviticus 17:11 says this “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Hebrews 9:22 states it plainly: “all things are cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
So when people from the Old Testament times wanted to cleanse their polluted body from sin, they would bring before God a substitute – an innocent animal whose blood was pure and that animal would die in the place of the person coming to worship. The blood of that animal would be shed and collected and sprinkled on the altar outside in the courtyard. And God would be satisfied.
THE LAVER - CLEANSING
A second part of this whole process of entering into the worship of the Tabernacle was the laver. It also stands in the way of access to the place of worship – if you were entering with the sacrifice, you are not yet at the tabernacle. These two elements stand in the way.
The laver was a bronze basin filled with water. It was absolutely crucial in this whole process of sacrifices because the priests needed to be clean in order to make sacrifices for the people. The Old Testament tells us that they were to wash their hands and their feet before any sacrifices were made and before any of them went into the Tabernacle. (Exo. 30:19-20) Cleansing was necessary before entering into God’s presence.
So once the sacrifice was made and the priests had followed the rules for cleansing, then you had access to the worship of God. In the Old Testament, you would not be allowed into the tabernacle itself (only priests were) but you would embraced by the Lord and he would receive your worship.
Why am I going into all this detail? Why is it so important to understand this? Because the tabernacle is the key for Old Testament worship AND for New Testament worship. No – don’t misunderstand me – I’m NOT saying that we should start sacrificing animals and set up a whole sacrificial system. But the tabernacle is a pattern for our worship of God.