Verses 1-5 give a brief description of the earthly tabernacle which was erected during the years in which the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness.
The tabernacle provided an earthly illustration of heavenly realities. It demonstrated three very important divine truths:
1. First, God desired to be present in the midst of His people. He wanted them to be aware of His presence.
2. Secondly, God is illustrating that the earthly is temporary whereas the divine or heavenly is permanent. The tabernacle was a sacred form of a tent. But it was not permanent in nature. It simply served to illustrate that which is permanent. In itself it was temporary and impermanent, just as everything else in this world is.
In this structure, God is teaching His people to not look for permancy on this planet, and not to look for our meaning in life from an earthly frame of reference.
3. Thirdly, we see that all humanity is on the outside!
Even though the tabernacle was erected in the midst of the people, all Israel was on the outside.
A tragic divine truth is thus illustrated, for even though God desires to be present with His people....His people are separated from Him and are outside of, removed from His presence.
Most of us know what it feels like to be an outsider. Maybe we find ourselves on the outside of a social circle in which we would like to be included. You can be outside of the group, the clique, the team, the game, the community (Live in a small town for 10 years and they still consider you an outsider.)
By all of Israel being outside of the tabernacle, God is illustrating humanity's condition. All humanity is outside! Since the rebellious choice of Genesis 3, all humanity has been outside the garden, outside the gate, outside the wall, outside the court, outside of the presence of God.
Gen. 3:23-24 "So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."
What a sad day. All humanity was put outside the garden on that day. Put out! Banished! Driven from God's presence! We became outsiders!
Fact 1 - God desires to be with His people.
Fact 2 - The earthly is temporary, the divne or heavenly is eternal or permanent.
Fact 3 - All humanity is on the outside.
4. Fourthly, the tabernacle and its furnishings illustrated that man could only be brought back on the inside in God's way. There are divine terms and conditions that must be met if we are to no longer be outsiders.
This is God's doing. When we declare that humans cannot save themselves, and that religion cannot save us....we are not being exclusive....it is God who has said..."I want you to be my people, and this is the only way to come into my presence."
In this way the Old Covenant became a teacher. Through the Old Covenant people would learn about God and would learn what a holy God required of them. This was one of the great purposes for the old covenant. So, even though Hebrews 8 describes the old covenant as inferior, obsolete, and a shadow...no where do the scriptures teach that the old covenant was worthless or without value. God gave it and God gave it for a purpose.
THE EARTHLY TABERNACLE
We are going to briefly study the earthly tabernacle because it is God's great illustration of truth and because it is a picture of Jesus Christ.
A. The Courtyard: The courtyard of the tabernacle was 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. Its single gate, on the east side, was 30 feet wide and 7 and 1/2 feet high, allowing a large number of people to enter at the same time.
It is a graphic picture of Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the way" and "I am the door". Just as there was only one entrance to the tabernacle, there is only one way to God---the only Way and the only Door, Jesus Christ.
Christianity is exclusive, not because Christians make it so but because God made it so.
B. The Altar of Burnt Offering: The first article of furniture in the outer court was the bronze altar. It was made of acacia wood sheathed with bronze. It was 7 and 1/2 feet square, stood 4 and 1/2 feet off the ground, and was topped with a bronze grate.
The coals were placed underneath the grate and the sacrifice was placed on top. On the four corners of the altar were horns, to which the animal was bound when it was being sacrificed.
It is a picture of Jesus Christ who was made fast to the cross and there became a sacrifice for our sins. C. The Laver: The next piece of furniture in the court was the laver or basin, also made of bronze. In it the priests would wash their hands, and even sometimes their feet, as they went about performing the sacrifice.
This is a picture of Jesus Christ as the one who daily cleanses us of our sin restoring fellowship and joy.
D. The Tabernacle Structure: This structure is 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet high. Only priests could go into this structure.
E. The Holy Place: Verse 2 Inside the Holy Place are:
The golden lampstand - Jesus the light of the world. Jesus who lights our path. And the Spirit who illumines our minds to understand spiritual truth.
The table of shewbread - 12 loaves, one for each tribe. Jesus the Bread of Life for all the tribes of Israel and for us. It was also called "the bread of the presence speaking of God's promised presence with His people.
The altar of incense - This is a picture of prayers ascending to God. It is also a picture of Jesus who daily and forever lives to make intercession for us before the throne of God.
F. The Holiest of All, The Most Holy Place, or The Holy of Holies: Containing...
1) The Ark Of The Covenant with its mercy seat and overshadowing cherubim.
2) The "Mercy Seat" represents God's forgiving nature, but also symbolized that no one could enter His presence without His mercy.
The ark of the covenant contained three symbols of God's Holy order for a moral universe and for relations between Him and His people and among His people.
The golden jar of manna - represents God's sustaining presence in the wilderness where He provided for the basic necessities of life for His people and it is a reminder of His concern for the physical needs of His people.
Aaron's staff or rod which had budded - A dead stick which at the appropriate time, had miraculously budded with flowers. A reminder of God's liberating presence bringing them out of the darkness of Egypt into His promises for them. It symbolized that God is concerned with the spiritual needs of His people.
The tables of the covenant - written with the finger of God, these contained God's laws for His people. They smybolized God's concerns for the moral needs of His people. The people were denied access to all this because of their sins. They were on the outside. Only the priest could enter the sanctuary and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and that could only take place one day a year on the Day of Atonement.
All this was denied the people as a whole because of their sins. They were denied entrance into The Presence because of their sin. Sin made them outsiders!
The symbolic meaning of all this is that sin alienates us humans from God. A holy God cannot allow sin in His presence without destroying it. The walls, the curtains, and the veil symbolize the separation between God and His human creatures.
If only one person; and that being only the high priest, could enter the holiest of sanctuaries...and then only with a blood sacrifice, it is quite apparent that man and God are separated...and sin is the great separator!
You might ask: "Isn't that a bit hard on God's part? This sounds like cruel and unusual punishment upon poor defenseless sinners."
But let me ask this: "Is this the narrowness of God or is it simply the structure of reality...simply the way things are...the facts of life for sinners.?"
For example: If somebody steals from you, what happens to the relationship between you and that person? If your spouse committs adultery, what does that do to your marriage relationship? If someone falsely accuses you before others...lying and defaming your character and ruining your reputation, what happens to your relationship with that person?
If someone denies you the justice and liberty assured you in this land because of your race or ethnic background, what does that do to the relationship?
Aren't anger, alienation, and hostility the usual results? If you were on the receiving end of any of these injustices, would you share the emotions just mentioned?
Yes, because that's part of the structure of reality, isn't it?
God, in His Holy Inegrity, was making that very point in the design of the tabernacle. He was giving a visual illustration of the results of sin and the consequences of sin.
We are outsiders!
But of equal importance, God was also showing the way...the ONLY way with which the situation could be reconciled.
No access...temporary cleansing...limited cleansing.
No altering of the human conscience. A relief that sacrifice has been made, but no inner peace that says all is well between me and God.
Verse 11 - The old was of God's design but of man's making. The new is God's design and God's workmanship.
"Designed and Made In Heaven" Copyright held by God!
If you want the genuine...if you want that which is spiritual reality...make sure it has the label: "Made In Heaven" on it.
Verse 12 - Heaven's currency is pure bullion.
Our American currency used to be backed by gold. The gold standard gave us some assurance of the purchasing power and value of our dollars.
Now all we have is paper, which only has value because the government says it does. And we believe them! Well, we must because people live and die for this paper stuff that we call money.
The old covenant with its blood of goats and bulls was paper money, but God backs it with the gold standard of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Why would anyone want to deal in earthly currency when it comes to our spiritual welfare, when we can deal in heavenly currency?!
And don't miss the words: "once for all"
We not only have better currency, heavenly currency, and the gold standard of heaven, with the blood of Jesus, we have a debt that is totally paid in full.
In one act, in one moment of time, He made His one sacrifice...which is sufficient for all people, for all times, for all sins, for total and complete salvation.
You can't pay for your sins any longer with the old currency. Only pure bullion...only the gold standard of His blood is acceptable as the currency of heaven!
Verse 13-14 - If the old currency was good in its day, then the new will certainly meet the need that God intended it to meet. If the old served its purpose...then the new which is powerful and perfect will certainly serve its purpose. Its' purpose?
Verse 14: "to cleanse our consceiences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God."
Real sin is removed by a real Saviour!
This is not just erasing sin's records in heaven. This is the cleansing of our hearts, of our consciences. It is a reality that we can KNOW that our sins are gone.
I CAN KNOW THAT MY SINS ARE GONE! HALLELUJAH!!!
If Israel could rejoice and shout and celebrate on the Day of Atonement, how much more should our joy be full because our salvation is complete and eternal and our Saviour...our Great High Priest...Jesus the Holy One of Israel lives to make intercession for us!
The old Sunday School song said it best: "You ask me why I'm happy and I'll just tell you why. Because, my sins are gone. They're underneath the blood of the cross of Calvary, as far removed as darkness is from dawn. In the sea of God's forgetfulness, that's good enough for me. Praise God, my sins are gone!"
An evangelist was holding tent meetings in a certain city and day came when the meetings were over and the tent was coming down. As the work progressed a young man approached him and asked him: "What must I do to be saved?"
The evangelist answered: "Sorry, it's too late."
The young man replied: "You mean because I missed the meetings that it's too late?"
"No", the evangelist said, "I mean it's too late because everythings already been done. Everythging that could be done for your salvation is already done." He then explained Christ's finished work and led the young man to saving faith.
Everything necessary to deal with my sins and yours is done. Now a new life unfolds before us with a cleansed conscience and the newfound joy of living my life in His service.
Our church piano recently went through an overhaul. It was no longer a joy for our musicians to play the instrument. It was hard, finger aching work.
But now the piano has undergone an internal change. It's action has been cleaned, adjusted, and rebuilt and its services can now be offered to the Lord and His church with great joy. It is productive and a joy to use once again. "It's like a new piano."
God has made you NEW for a purpose. God has a work especially designed for you, and once He has cleansed your conscience by the blood of Christ and witnessed to you that the way is open to Him at all times of the day and night...then He desires to prepare you for your unique task in His kingdom.
You are cleansed to serve. You can now do what no earthly priest could ever do under the old covenant.
Once, you and I were outsiders. But now in Jesus we have been brought inside. Inside the fold, inside the family, inside the gates, inside the kingdom, inside the winning team of heaven, inside the holy place to the very presence of God.
Thank the Lord Jesus, we are insiders!
So, let there be joy in the camp! Let their be rejoicing in the tents of the righteous!
Other sermons by Pastor John.