Summary: How the Old Testament tabernacle points ahead to Jesus.
This morning I’m going to preach about a shadow. We’re all familiar with shadows, right? We know that a shadow has no independent substance or existence in itself. And although you can see a shadow, you can’t feel it or hear it or smell it or taste it. So in a sense I suppose a shadow is really nothing and you could say this sermon is a lot like the old Seinfeld show that was often described as a “show about nothing”. I know some of you are probably thinking “what’s new?” right now. But hopefully by the time we’re finished this morning I’m going to be able to demonstrate to you why this particular shadow is so important to all of us.
Although the message this morning is part of our journey through the Old Testament this year, I’m actually going to set the stage by starting with a passage from the New Testament. So if you have your Bible handy go ahead and turn to Hebrews chapter 8. The book of Hebrews is right near the end of the Bible, right before you get to the book of James and the smaller books of 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude.
[Read Hebrews 8:1-7]
In this passage, the writer of Hebrews refers twice to a tent. First, in verse 2 he writes about the “true tent” that God set up. Then in verse 5, he refers to the tent that Moses erected as he was instructed by God. We learn several things about that tent here in this passage:
• Most importantly, it was only a copy and shadow of the “true tent” in heaven. This is the shadow that we’re going to look at this morning.
• As part of the first covenant, this shadow tent was inadequate in and of itself, so there was a need for a second covenant.
• Jesus, as the mediator of this New Covenant, is far superior to the covenant that included this tent Moses erected.
So the obvious question that arises is why we should even take time to study this tent at all if it has been replaced by something and someone far superior? Let me give you a couple of reasons why I’m convinced that it’s a good use of our time to do that:
• As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” I certainly believe that and I’m pretty sure that most of you believe that too or you wouldn’t be here today. Did you realize that there are 50 chapters of Scripture that are devoted solely to this tent? That is 25 times more than the 2 chapters devoted to creation, so it seems that it must be pretty important to God and therefore ought to be important to us.
Once again, you don’t need to worry that I’m going to read all 50 chapters this morning. Heck, I didn’t even read all of them myself in preparing for this message this week. We’re just going to hit some highlights.
• Even if this tent didn’t have such a huge portion of the Bible devoted to it, the implication of the passage that we just read in Hebrews 8 is that as a copy and shadow of the true tent, it paints a picture of Jesus that can allow us to develop a deeper understanding of who He is and what He has done for us.
Before we proceed this morning, there seem to be a couple extremes when it comes to the study of this tent, which is more commonly known as the tabernacle, that we want to avoid. I’ve already addressed the one extreme, which would be to just ignore the tabernacle altogether and assume that since it’s obsolete, there is really nothing for us to learn from it. At the other extreme are those who would take each and every detail of the tabernacle, down to the clasps on the curtain and assign some kind of spiritual meaning to each one. While I don’t doubt that every detail does indeed have some spiritual significance, the problem we have trying to take things to that level of detail is that we just don’t have enough information in the Bible to do that with any sense of confidence. So this morning, we’ll limit our study to areas where we have some good Scriptural backing for our conclusions.
Keeping that in mind, go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Exodus chapter 25. I’m only going to read a couple of verses in this chapter and then I’m going to take you on a tour of the tabernacle. Because we have so much ground to cover this morning, I’m not going to pause at each stop on our tour to give you a bunch of Scripture references to support everything I’m sharing even though I could easily do that because they exist. So I suggest that you apply the old Ronald Reagan policy of “trust but verify” by doing your own research to confirm that what I’m telling you is true.