Summary: The Old Testament Tabernacle taught God's People a pattern of worship. The ceremonies and furnishings in the tabernacle point to the atonement of Jesus as our High Priest.
The Tabernacle: “Approaching Holy God” Exodus 25:1-9
We are looking at the Old Testament Unfolding of the Drama of the Gospel. It is interesting that God first redeemed Israel and then He gave them the Law. When God saw the people He had chosen were struggling in Egypt, He did not give them the Law first and say, “If you do everything I demand, then I will save you.” NO! He redeemed them and then gave the Law in order to help them to live as they should in the presence of the God who had saved them.
We spent several weeks looking at the first four commandments in which God teaches us about our relationship with Himself and how those commandments involved worshiping the One True God. The “Gospel Drama” continues in Exodus 25:1-9 with God’s command to build the tabernacle. The setting for this begins in Exodus 24:15-18: “Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. 16 Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
We can only imagine Moses’ personal experience in the very presence of God’s Glory which was “like a consuming fire.” Yet, in all of Moses’ writings, he never describes God’s person or presence but only God’s communication concerning man’s duty to this awesome and fearsome God.
Earlier in Exodus 24:9-10, God came down and communed with the Israelite leadership. Those verses say this: Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.” It is thought that these men were only afforded a view of the place where God stood. Now Moses ascends into the “midst of the cloud”, and stayed with God and His Holy angels for forty days and forty nights.
“Build me a Sanctuary”
Look at Exodus 25:1-9: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. 3 And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats' hair; 5 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 6 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”
We are going to be looking at God’s command in verse 8: “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” I want to take a few minutes to understand the words of verse 8. The word for “sanctuary” (Miqdash) means sacred place, or holy place. It comes from the word, “Qadash”, meaning “to sanctify, to be hallowed, or to be holy”. The word for “sanctuary” is often used to refer to any place of God’s visible self-revelation or theophany, however, the two rooms of the Tabernacle, the portable dwelling of the Lord, would be called “The Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”, referred also to the Holy of Holies.
The word to “dwell among” (Shakan) means “to settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle, reside.” So verse 8 could also read: And let them make Me a “sacred place, a holy place”, that I may “tabernacle or live” among them.”
In verse 9, the word, “tabernacle” (Mishkan) means “dwelling place”; it is the noun form of the word “to dwell among” (“shakan”) in verse 8, but in the Bible it is rarely used to describe human dwellings, but almost always signifies the place where God dwells among His people.
The Tabernacle was a portable dwelling place for God, being easily packed up and movable as Israelites made their way to the promised land; it was to be 45 feet long by 15 feet wide and 15 feet high (A little wider and higher than a single wide manufactured home). It was surrounded by an enclosed Outer Court which was 150 feet long and 75 feet wide and it contained one entrance. The Tabernacle was always set up on the west side of the Outer Court with the entrance facing east.