The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
WeekXXI: The Tabernacle Court
Day 141: Redemption Begins with God
And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
The tabernacle in the wilderness had three main sections: the outer court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. As you went from the outer parts to the inner places, the materials used became more and more valuable. Silver and brass were used in the outer court, but within the sanctuary everything was overlaid with gold, or was crafted of pure gold. In the holy of holies the main feature was the mercy seat with its protective cherubim, made of solid gold. Gold represents deity, and the glory of God hovered over the mercy seat. As you got closer and closer to the very presence of the Lord the silver and brass gave way to more and more gold furnishings.
We naturally think of entering the outer courts and progressing inward, as I’ve just described, and as we study the tabernacle, that’s how we’re going to approach it: from the outside in, describing what we see, and explaining its significance. But this is not how the Lord gave it to Moses—He described the tabernacle from the inside-out!
One obvious reason is that God’s glory is in the innermost sanctuary, and that’s how He sees things, from the inside outward. We are on the outside, by contrast, seeking to get ever closer to the Lord, and so we see things from that perspective.
A little more thought, and some revelation, might lead us into a deeper truth though. The tabernacle is a type, or earthly picture of God’s plan of redemption and salvation for mankind, as we will see illustrated again and again in the next few weeks. Where did that plan begin? Who started it? Who came up with the idea of saving mankind? God did, of course, not us! Our salvation is initiated by God—if it wasn’t, there’d be no plan of salvation.
All of the other religions of this world are man’s efforts to reach out for God, to search for Him. No doubt many of those searchers are as sincere as can be, but they’re groping in the darkness, bound and misled by all sorts of wrong conceptions about who and what God is. The gospel of Jesus Christ—and the gospel according to Moses—is the story of God reaching out to man, God searching for men and women who will come to Him on His terms and receive salvation. That is the difference. That’s what makes us right and all others to miss the mark by greater or lesser degrees; our religion originates with God, not with man—God knows, man is just searching and guessing at truth.
That’s why the tabernacle description begins in the holy of holies, with the ark of the covenant and the golden mercy seat; because that’s where God is, and everything about our salvation starts with Him!
Day 142: Twisted Linen, Fine and White
And you shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long on one side.
Yesterday we saw that the description of the tabernacle in the book of Exodus begins with the innermost sanctuary, where the glory of God resided. We’re going to approach it from the outside, however, just as we would if we were Israelites privileged to enter into the sacred courts of God in the Sinai wilderness.
As you drew near to the tabernacle, the first thing you’d see would be the linen barrier or fence around the whole courtyard. It was about seven and a half feet high, and rectangular in shape—fifty yards long by twenty-five wide. Linen was a very valuable commodity in those days, and was used sparingly; it was soft and dazzlingly white. This much linen indicated the extreme importance, value, and nobility of what was inside.
Whenever the clothing of angels or heavenly beings is mentioned in the Scripture, they are dressed in fine white linen. The bright linen represents the unapproachable purity and holiness of God and His heaven. The high priest was dressed in fine white linen, too—linen coat, linen pants, linen belt, and a linen turban; "these are holy garments," it says in Leviticus 16:4. He represented God on earth and His dealings with sinful men and women.
The linen is also a type of the righteousness available to us through Christ. Revelation 19:8 interprets the symbolic meaning of white linen very plainly for us: "And to her [the bride or church of Christ] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen; for the linen is the righteousness of the saints," (KJV). The white linen represents our righteousness and purity before the Father as a result of Jesus’ death on the cross. He took our sins on Him so we could be righteous, white and pure.
It’s also very significant that linen was what was used for burial clothes in Jewish society. John 19:40: "And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews." It was through the death of Christ that we are made white and pure, so it’s quite appropriate, and prophetic, for the dead to be wrapped in linen.
The Law also forbid the mixing of linen with wool or other, earthier materials (Deut 22:11). Our purity in Christ is not to be compromised with worldliness. Further, the priests were dressed in linen so they wouldn’t sweat in the presence of God, as they would in a heavier material (Ezek 44:18). It’s not by works that we are saved—human sweat cannot please God; we must instead rest in His finished work in Christ Jesus.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? You can see the gospel, the plan of salvation, in the barrier around the tabernacle before you even go inside. It’s all there for the one with eyes to see; it’s there in the Gospel according to Moses.
Day 143: The Courtyard Posts
On the south side the curtains shall stretch for 150 feet, and be held up by twenty posts, fitting into twenty bronze post holders. The curtains will be held up with silver hooks attached to silver rods, attached to the posts.
Exodus 27:9b,10 (TLB)
A great portion of the Law of Moses, given to him on Mt. Sinai, consisted of specific instructions on how to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, the place where God’s glory would dwell among His people, and the priests would offer all the various sacrifices prescribed in other parts of the Law. As you approached the completed tabernacle the first thing you’d see was a seven and a half foot high linen curtain surrounding the entire area, which was fifty by twenty-five yards.
At seven and a half foot intervals along the curtain you’d see the supporting posts. They were wooden posts, with bronze (or brass) bases and silver capitals, with silver hooks at the top, through which ran a silver pole that the curtain was suspended from. We saw yesterday that the linen curtains were very symbolic of the gospel message proclaimed in the New Testament. Today we’ll see that the very posts were a type of our salvation, too.
Wood represents that which rots and spoils, that which can be burned, that which is temporary rather than eternal. In the tabernacle, and in the New Testament (eg. "wood, hay, and stubble," 1 Cor 3:12-14), it represents man and his fleshly works. Brass represents judgment throughout the Bible, going through the fire of God. Silver was always representative of buying and selling in the ancient world—the most common valuable coins were made of silver. In the tabernacle, silver represents redemption, God "buying back" (for "redeem" means "buy back") fallen mankind from the curse of sin. Linen, as we saw yesterday, represents the righteousness of God (and the saints).
Let’s put it together and see what the outer court walls are saying to us. The linen curtains—righteousness of the saints—hangs on the silver rods and hooks—the redemption provided by God; there is no righteousness before God except on the basis of His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. The wooden posts stand in a brass base—man and his works are under the judgment of God, and to buy us back Jesus had to take upon Himself that cursed humanity and be judged at the cross.
There you have it—the plan of redemption, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we haven’t even entered into the tabernacle grounds yet. Incidentally, this interpretation isn’t the product of someone’s fertile imagination. The Bible itself gives us the basis of tabernacle interpretation in the book of Hebrews. The symbolism of the various materials is used throughout the prophetic writings in both Old and New Testaments. The details of the tabernacle comprise one of the most powerful proofs of the divine authorship of the Bible that we have—to the discerning Bible student they establish that the gospel of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ are one and the same, confirmed and established again and again over hundreds of years... and kept intact to be handed down to you and I today.
Day 144: The Gate to the Courtyard
And for the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets.
There was only one entrance into the tabernacle court. The curtains were secured tightly between the posts all around the rest of the enclosure, but the gate hangings were relatively free, to allow access. You’d have to climb up and over the tent wall like a thief to get in any other way.
The parallel between the gate and our salvation is obvious, isn’t it? Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me," (John 14:6). In the parable of the Good Shepherd, He said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved..." (John 10:9). There is only one door into heaven, just as there was only one door into the tabernacle in the wilderness.
I was sharing the gospel one time with an Indian man in New Delhi, and after patiently listening to me for awhile he condescendingly informed me, "There are many roads to Lal Qila." Lal Qila is the Red Fort in Old Delhi, the historic palace of the old moguls. All the major roads of North India no doubt lead to one of the old city gates and to the palace. Hindus create the illusion of being very tolerant of other religions, and will happily acknowledge that your faith is as good as theirs... "we’ll all get to heaven, even though we follow different roads."
The message of the Gospel flies in the face of such pretended tolerance. We are instructed to bend every effort to persuade people to accept our door to heaven—because it’s the only door... "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it," (Matt 7:13-14). Jesus is the only way to the presence of the Father, and heaven, and life eternal—all the other ways are in fact the same broad path that leads away from heaven, to destruction.
Even the hangings in the tabernacle gate speak of Jesus. They are made of blue material, which speaks of the heavenly origin of the Son of Man; of purple, which is symbolic of His royalty, for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; of red, which is a type of the blood shed for us so we could enter in; and of white linen, a symbol of His impeccable righteousness and sinlessness.
There is no other way for men to be saved, no other name under heaven, except Jesus Christ. It’s the message of the New Testament, and it’s discernable in types and shadows even in the tabernacle in the wilderness.
Day 145: The Brazen Altar
And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits.
If you had fulfilled all the ceremonial conditions, and entered through the gate into the outer court of the tabernacle, the first thing you’d see inside would be the brazen altar, and you would bring your sacrifice quickly to it. The altar was seven and a half feet square, and four and a half feet high (the measurements were given to Moses in cubits, which were about eighteen inches).
It was made of wooden boards overlaid with brass. There were four brass horns, one at each corner, as well as various brass grates, pails, and utensils that were used in connection with the burning of the sacrifices. For that’s what an altar is—it’s a place where animal sacrifices of offered up to the Lord.
Actually, the outer court would prove to be a very difficult place for squeamish modern Americans with weak stomachs. Priests were butchering animals all around, shedding their blood according to the various rituals, and then bringing up the various kinds of offerings to be burned on the brazen altar. Animals were bleating and kicking. Perhaps some momentarily got away and were recaptured, to undergo their inescapable fate; the sacrificed animals did not get out of the tabernacle court alive. For them it was a terrifying place of death.
It was not a pretty place, but then again, sin is not a pretty thing, and that’s what the brazen altar was all about. You had to bring offerings to be sacrificed on the altar because you were a sinner, because without the shedding of blood and the sacrifice of a life you could not draw close to God. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and "the wages of sin is death." The animals died in place of the humans that had sinned, the innocent for the guilty, brought up to lay their lives down on the altar of God’s judgment (remember brass is the prophetic symbol of judgment in the Bible).
Of course, the animals never could truly atone for the sins of humans, as Paul points out in the book of Hebrews. They were but a type, a foreshadowing in symbolic form, of the great Lamb of God that was to come and lay His innocent life down in sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus was that lamb and He did just that, thereby opening up the way of salvation to all who will repent of their sins and make Him their personal sacrifice, their personal Savior. Jesus came and made the way for us, just as was prophesied hundreds of years earlier in the tabernacle rituals, in the Law of God, in the gospel according to Moses.
Day 146: The Brazen Laver
Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
Between the brazen altar where the sacrifices were offered and the entrance to the tabernacle itself was a wash basin known as the brazen laver. It was round, and in two parts: the basin on top with water in it; and the base below, which possibly had water in it, too, for the washing of the priests’ feet.
Typically and symbolically, the larger brazen altar represented the offering of Christ, the lamb of God, for our sins. He died once for all, and there is no further offering for sin. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior you don’t need to be saved again and again—it is finished by faith right now.
However, you’re not perfect, even though Christ has died for your sins, and you have eternal life. This is where the brazen laver comes in. It symbolizes the daily washing of sins through confession, and the sanctifying work of the Word and the Spirit. Brass, you may recall is always representative of judging or dealing with sin. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet at the last supper? When Peter refused to have his feet washed, Jesus said, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Peter said then, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head." But the Lord said that was unnecessary: "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean..." (see John 13:8-10). The point is, Peter was already saved by faith in Christ—he was clean. But walking in the world, and stumbling at times, had dirtied him again—and he needed to wash the dust off his feet. This is what the laver represented, the washing from sin we need even after we’re saved.
The agent of the washing is the Word of God: "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you," (John 15:3). It’s interesting that the laver was made from the metal of the ladies’ hand-mirrors. When it was finished it had the same reflective quality as the brass mirrors that had gone into it. It was a mirror itself. Plus there was water in it, and water also reflects your image back to you. The laver was a big round mirror. James compared the Word of God to a mirror... "If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror...[but] has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was," (James 1:23,24). God’s word is a mirror that we look into, see our faults and shortcomings, and then change accordingly—or get washed.
Paul used a similar illustration in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "We all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." We get convicted by the Word of God, and we get transformed by His Spirit as we look into the heavenly brazen laver and submit to Him. And we are then prepared to enter into the sanctuary and fellowship with Him.
Day 147 The Tabernacle Itself
On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
The tabernacle itself was a tent forty-five feet long, fifteen wide and fifteen high. The walls were made of boards of acacia wood, each about twenty-seven inches wide, and the ceiling was of various fabrics and materials, several layers thick.
The wooden boards were overlaid with gold, so when you looked at the tent of meeting it actually looked golden instead of wooden. The wood, as we’ve already seen was representative of humanity, not very lasting (a mere seventy years or so) and easily burned up by fire. Wood overlaid with gold, however, is quite another thing—it lasts indefinitely, for the gold seals it against the water and air—and fire—that cause rottenness and destruction. Gold is the most valuable of ores, and is symbolic of the eternal, of deity, of God.
Wood overlaid with gold would then be a type of Christ, both human and divine. It is also a type of the body of Christ, His church. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (KJV). The tabernacle is the archetype of the temple of Solomon, so if Paul compares the church to the temple, surely the same illustration applies to the tabernacle: we, the church, are the tabernacle of God. We are of wood, short-lived and easily combustible—actually destined for the fires of hell, if the truth be told. But through faith in Jesus Christ, we become overlaid with the eternal, with gold, and now shall live forever.
Moreover, we are the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence among men in the world today, just as the tabernacle was God’s presence among the Israelites in the days of Moses. If people don’t see God in us, the church, then they won’t see God at all—for we are the temple of the Holy Spirit; we are the body of Christ, we are His witnesses to the world.
The curtains that formed the tent-ceiling of the tabernacle were also significant. There were four layers of material. The innermost was of fine linen interwoven with blue, purple and scarlet, representing, as it did with the gate hangings, the righteousness of Christ, His heavenly origin, His deity, and His shed blood. The next layer was of goats’ hair, representing our sinfulness; but overlaying that was rams’ skin died red—Jesus’ sacrifice covering our sinfulness. Covering all of the other layers was a water-proof covering made of porpoise or sea-cow skins.
Again, it’s all there. The gospel is preached in the materials of the tabernacle. It wasn’t easy to interpret from the Israelites’ point of view in the days of Moses, but after Christ came a mind like the Apostle Paul’s was able to put it all together and write books like Romans and Hebrews, and come up with statements like, "you are the temple of the Holy Spirit." As we continue our study of the tabernacle we, too, will learn more about the faith of Jesus Christ that we have embraced.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.