The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
WeekXXII: Tabernacle Furniture
Day 148: The Table of Showbread & Golden Lampstand
On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting... And you shall bring in the table and arrange what belongs on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and mount its lamps.
The tabernacle was divided into two separate rooms by a heavy multi-layered veil. The outer room, or the first one you’d enter as you came in, was twenty cubits long and ten wide, or about thirty feet by fifteen. In it were three pieces of furniture, each symbolic of Jesus Christ.
On the right was the table of showbread. It was made of acacia wood (humanity) overlaid with gold(deity), representing the humanity and the deity of Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. It was 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches high. On it were twelve loaves of bread, baked together in two rows of six each. The bread also typified Christ, the bread of life (John 6:35). It likely also represents the body of Christ, His church. "Since there is one bread," Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:17, "we who are many are one body." You may break off one piece or loaf, but it is still part of the whole—we are one bread yet separate—that’s what the Lord’s Supper represents, too.
On the left, or south side of the sanctuary stood the golden lampstand. You have no doubt seen pictures of this, or even little models of it, for it has come to be a symbol of the Jewish people. It had one stand that divided into seven candle-holders: a middle column with three others on each side. It stood for Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12).
The lampstand was also a type of the Holy Spirit that anointed our Lord Jesus: "Then a shoot shall spring from the stem of Jesse...And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord," (Isa 11:1,2). Notice that the Spirit that anoints the prophesied Messiah and Son of David (Jesse was David’s father) was seven-fold: one middle stem—the Spirit of the Lord, with six others—wisdom, counsel, knowledge, etc. Revelation 4:5 also mentions the "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." This is highly symbolic, like the rest of Revelation—there is only one Holy Spirit, not seven. The number seven represents perfection and completion in Hebrew numerology, and the seven-fold Spirit means the full and perfect anointing of the Spirit of God on Jesus ("for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." John 3:34)
It was olive oil that was burned in that lamp, by the way, which is also symbolic in the Scriptures of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. The Lord has provided us with many witnesses and confirmations in the tabernacle, because it’s important that we understand it—it’s the gospel itself.
Day 149: The Altar of Incense
Moreover, you shall set the gold altar of incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the veil for the doorway to the tabernacle.
For the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about the tabernacle in the wilderness. Moses went up on Mt. Sinai and God gave him the pattern for a worship center for Israel, insisting that Moses "build it according to the pattern." No substitution of materials, no variations, everything strictly according to the blueprint. I’m sure the reason for this has become obvious as we’ve studied the tabernacle; each article in it, every detail of its construction is a prophetic type or symbol of some aspect of our redemption in Jesus Christ. The gold symbolizes deity, the silver, redemption; the brass is judgment of sin; the linen is the righteousness of God, etc. These symbols are used throughout the prophetic sections of the Scripture, by the way—they’re not arbitrary interpretations. The concept of the tabernacle being a symbol of Christ’s work, by the way, is introduced by the Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews.
If you entered the outer sanctuary; you’d see the golden lampstand on the left, and the table of showbread on the right. Straight ahead, just in front of the veil separating the sanctuary and the holy of holies, is the golden altar of incense. It’s eighteen inches square, and thirty-six inches high, and like the table of showbread it’s made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. A specially formulated incense is burning on it.
If you’ve been following along with us, you already know that the wood and gold construction is symbolic of Jesus Himself. Wood, which is highly perishable, signifies humanity; and gold stands for deity—Jesus is the Son of Man and the Son of God. All three of the articles of furniture in the sanctuary, or holy place, are pictures of Jesus Christ. The lamp signifies the "light of the world," and "the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world," (John 8:12, 1:8). The table represents Jesus as the "bread of life," and very likely also portrays the church, His body.
Back to the altar of incense... The incense represents prayer, as it does in several other places in the Bible (e.g. Rev 8:4, "And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God..."). In the context of the tabernacle, the one offering the incense is the Son of God Himself, functioning in His role as High Priest. Look at Hebrews 8:1,2: "We have such a high priest...a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." Our high priest Jesus is "able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them," (Heb.7:25).
Yes, we have a high priest. Our Lord prays for us, as He prayed for Peter and His other original disciples. He feels our hurts and trials along with us, and is able to take our case before the Father, so we can find grace to help in time of need. You’re not on your own, child of God, and you’re not dependant on the help of other humans, either, though both help. Your Savior is also making intercession daily for you. That’s what the altar of incense represents.
Day 150: The Veil
And you shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.
You’ll remember, if you’ve been following along with us, that the tabernacle of Moses had two rooms inside. The outer and larger one was called the sanctuary or the holy place. In it were the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. The inner sanctuary was called the holy of holies, and it contained the ark of the covenant: the very glory of God dwelt there. Between the two was a veil hung on four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold.
The veil was made of "blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen," and had designs of cherubim woven into it. You should be getting pretty good at interpreting these materials by now... the gold and wooden pillars represent, like the other articles of furniture, the deity and the humanity of Christ. The separating veil is similarly a picture of Him: the blue signified His heavenly origin (the sky or heaven being blue); the purple, His royalty as the Son of the Most High (back then only royalty were allowed to wear purple, by law); the scarlet represented the blood by which He would save us from our sins; and the fine white linen His immaculate righteousness.
The veil not only separated the two parts of the tabernacle, it separated man and God. Look at the Apostle’s explanation of it in Hebrews 9:6-12...
...the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle, performing divine worship, but into the second only the high priest enters, once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the [holy of holies] has not yet been disclosed...But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered...the [holy of holies] once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
The veil represented man’s separation from God because of sin. God was inside the veil and the Old Testament offerings of bulls, goats and lambs could never truly bring men and women into the presence of God, into the holy of holies. Only the high priest, once a year, was allowed to enter. But when Christ died, offering His own blood, not an animal’s, the way became open. Matthew records that when Jesus died, "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," (Mt 27:51 KJV). The way was made open—believers could now walk right into the presence of God. "We have confidence," Hebrews 10:19-20 says, "to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh."
God tore the veil Himself—notice that it was rent from top to bottom by invisible hands, not from bottom to top, as though by human agency. God sent His Son; "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him," (Isa 53:10) so the sins of many would be wiped out, and they might pass through the veil into fellowship with the Father and possess eternal life.
Day 151: Cleansed and Ready for Fellowship
Take from among you a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze.
We’ve been studying the tabernacle in the wilderness, the sanctuary of God among the children of Israel. God called Moses up into Mt. Sinai and gave him explicit instructions for the building of this tent structure—the materials and design had to be just right. because everything in it was a prophetic picture of some aspect of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, who would not come to earth for another 1500 years or more.
The metals used were particularly symbolic, as we’ve already seen. Gold is the most precious of ores, and speaks of the presence of God, of the deity of Christ, especially as contrasted with frail and earthy humanity, usually represented by wood in the tabernacle. Silver has always been the prime medium of exchange in the marketplace and business world—in the prophetic writings of the Bible it represents redemption, God buying back His wayward sons and daughters from the enemy. And brass (or bronze, as it’s rendered in some translations) is symbolic of sin and God’s judgment of it. The altar where sin was atoned for was made of brass; in other prophetic writings brass is also indicative of God judging His people.
There is a lot of brass in the tabernacle. In fact, you’ll notice the predominance of brass in the outer court, and of gold in the sanctuary itself. That’s because the outer court has to do with God judging our sin. You have the brazen altar, where animals were slain all day long, various animals for various occasions, sometimes dependant on the individual’s income—but always the shedding of blood taking place, and an innocent life being taken to atone for the guilty person. Also in the outer court was the brazen laver, or wash-basin, where the priests washed up before actually entering the tabernacle—their bloody hands (representing sin again) had to be washed of every stain before they could enter the presence of God. The barrier of the outer court also featured brass, as did the outer layers of the tabernacle coverings, which were hung by brass clasps.
Inside the tabernacle gold becomes predominant. When we come inside we’re in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. Our sins have been judged by the offering of Jesus, and we have left them outside—they are not a part of our present life with Him. We walk and talk with our Lord in complete confidence. We are His servants, yes, even His friends, like Abraham and Moses.
Some, however, still try to bring bloody hands into the tent of fellowship. They insist their sins are forgiven because of the offering of Jesus Christ, but they will not walk in daily righteousness and cleansing, as represented by the laver. Therefore, their fellowship is strained, they feel guilty and frustrated in their Christian life, without joy and fulfillment. If this fits you, you can change it today. Just confess your sins, and ask His help to really leave them behind. If you really repent, He has the power to set you free with scarcely a struggle—if you can’t bring yourself to repentance, the same frustration will go on. The choice is yours, but the rewards are so great inside the tent that there’s only one intelligent decision to make.
Day 152: The Holy of Holies
On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall place the ark of the testimony there, and you shall screen the ark with the veil.
The major feature of the tabernacle was the ark of the testimony, or the ark of the covenant, located within the last veil in the holy of holies. As we mentioned earlier, God always begins His description of the tabernacle from that holy place, for it’s the center of the whole structure, it’s where His glory dwells. Yet though it was the center of attraction in the tabernacle compound, no one except the high priest was allowed to see it! The holy things of God are not to be paraded around in an everyday manner. You don’t drag Him out into the world, you come to Him on His terms, within the veil, after proper cleansing, and only through Jesus Christ.
The holy of holies itself was a perfect cube—ten cubits by ten cubits by ten cubits, or fifteen feet high, wide, and deep. There was only one thing in it, and that was the ark. It was 45 inches long, 27 wide, and 27 high (about the dimensions of a old-fashioned trunk or cedar chest). It was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, inside and out—which of course, is again representative of the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ (remember that everything in the tabernacle area is a picture of Jesus—that’s what the structure is all about).
There was a cover or lid that sat on the ark which was called the mercy seat. It was made of solid gold, and had the figure of a cherub on each side, their wings pointed inward as though covering the mercy seat and the contents of the ark.
The golden mercy seat represents pure divinity, the presence of God; and the glory of God hovered above the mercy seat in a visible cloud that the Israelites came to call the Shekinah. The message was clear—this is where God lives! Of course, God is everywhere, but the holy of holies, with the ark of the covenant, was the presence of God right in the midst of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, and later in the land of Israel. In fact, we’re told in the book of Hebrews, the holy of holies was modeled after the true tabernacle in Heaven itself. There God sits in all His glory, not just the Shekinah reflection of it; and there He is surrounded by myriads of heavenly beings, not mere representations of them.
The cherubim aren’t described in detail, perhaps because the Lord didn’t want succeeding generations to idolize them. We do get a picture of them from the prophetic writings (e.g. Ezekiel, Revelation) but the cherubim on the ark seem to differ somewhat from those descriptions, having just two wings, etc. The important point about them is not what they look like, but what they do—they guard the holiness of God. Isaiah seems to describe a second order of beings—seraphim—who have a similar function, surrounding the throne of God, crying out, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts!"
We’re talking about a truly awesome phenomena here, something which I’m afraid we moderns know little about—a healthy fear and respect for the holiness of God. But we’re going to learn more, because we’re going to talk more about it tomorrow...
Day 153: The Holy One
And you shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the holy of holies.
The ark and the golden mercy seat that sat upon it were placed in the holy of holies, the holiest place in the holy place. That is, the whole tabernacle was holy unto the Lord, but there was a place that was holiest even when compared to other holy things. Everything in the tabernacle was holy—holy anointing oil, holy garments for the priests, holy altars—holy, holy, holy...
What does holy mean? To many Christians it means you don’t smoke or drink, and you dress appropriately—but what does it mean in the Bible? and especially what does it mean when applied to the tabernacle?
Holiness means separateness, in both the Old and New Testament definitions of the word. It means being sacred and apart from the rest of the world. The tabernacle was sacred and separate from the rest of the world—off bounds if you will—because it was the home of God among the Israelites, and God is sacred and separate from the world.
There’s a theological truth here, for many of the world’s religions (Hinduism, for example) believe that there’s a little bit of God wrapped up in every part of creation, and that in fact, God is not complete without His creation; He has poured so much of Himself into it that He and it are one. Thus, you are god, and I am god, and that lizard over there is god, and one day we’ll all be swallowed up into His aatma (eternal spirit) and we’ll be complete and God will be complete, too.
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that God’s creation is separate from Himself; it’s something He made and maintains because of His loving nature. He is holy, independent of it. In fact, His creation on earth has been corrupted by sin and rebellion and can’t even approach Him because of that contamination. He is too pure to be touched by men and women—His holiness is a white-hot fire that burns up everything that is not as pure as Himself; it’s impossible that impurities could be a part of Him, that sinful men and lizards and cattle could be one with Him.
The tabernacle and all of its services underline this again and again—everything is holy in it, and only through very strict circumstances, through a very narrow gate—the shedding of the sacrificed Lamb’s blood, can people come near God. The good news is that the blood now has been shed, and sprinkled on the mercy seat in the holy of holies, and we can enter in and fellowship with the Holy One Himself. As we, as blood-washed believers, enjoy that privilege let’s never forget what a tremendous privilege it really is; let’s remember God hasn’t been dragged down to our mundane level to fellowship with us, but we’ve been lifted up to His holy and unapproachable level by the offering of Jesus Christ—and let’s act and walk accordingly.
Day 154: Inside the Ark
This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
Inside the holy of holies was the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat as its lid, and inside the ark of the covenant were the tables of the Law, and later, a golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. Each of these had significance, just as everything else in the tabernacle did.
The tables of the Law were called "the testimony" between God and His people, and that’s why the ark was sometimes called "the ark of the testimony;" it was the ark or box that contained the testimony of God as given to Moses. Its presence in the ark under the mercy seat was important symbolically, too. First, you must remember that God’s people never have kept the Law: "there is none righteous, not even one," and "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:10,23). According to the Bible, the glory of God would hover above the mercy seat in the holy of holies. That means He would be looking down at that broken Law within, and all the people who had failed to come up to His glory. But He saw them and the Law through the eyes of mercy—the golden mercy seat—because the blood of the Lamb was sprinkled between Him and the broken Law on the seat. Furthermore, the ark is Christ, being made of gold and wood (divinity and humanity), and Christ kept the Law for us, and God sees us as being "in Christ."
The manna inside the ark of the covenant was a testimony of God’s providence for His people in the wilderness—He never failed them in forty years; He fed one and a half million people every day; He is faithful and will care for us, too. Remember that manna generally spoiled the very next day, but miraculously God kept this golden pot of manna from spoiling in the ark—how can anything spoil in the presence of God?
Aaron’s rod that budded was a type of the resurrection of Christ—life out of death, a dead stick coming alive again—and it was a wooden rod, meaning that Christ is risen in the flesh, giving hope to humanity, not just another existence after death as spirits or ghosts, but as resurrected humans with glorified bodies.
And it’s all right here in the tabernacle: the mercy of God extended to sinners who have broken the Law, His daily providence for them in every way, and the hope of resurrection—all of it right in the ark of the covenant, all of it in Christ.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.