Right around New Year’s, it’s common to hear people make a resolution that they want to read the Bible more. It’s a noble and good ambition, but what often happens? Spurred on by the familiarity of the stories and the resolve to build a new habit, getting through Genesis is pretty smooth. Through the first half of Exodus, momentum is building and things are looking good. But then… About a month or two in, the second half of Exodus feels like a wall, and many people become discouraged. The narrative stories take a step back while tabernacle information and priesthood instructions and law codes take center stage. You look ahead– surely the challenging passages won’t go on forever– only to find that Leviticus is mostly more of the same. With that, dreams of a new habit often subside until the dawn of the new year, when the cycle repeats.
To be honest, I wish things weren’t this way. One of my greatest joys in life is seeing people grow in their love of Scripture. I love seeing people light up as they learn something new and make a cool connection and, most importantly, encounter the living God in a fresh way. By no means do I think that the detailed instructions for building the tabernacle are as riveting a read as the flood narrative or the biographies of the patriarchs, but at the same time I don’t think these sections of Scripture should be ignored. On the contrary, all Scripture is a gift from God to us and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16); each section of Scripture is valuable for us.
As this series has repeatedly emphasized, all of Scripture points to Jesus, inspiring us to meet with and worship our Holy God. But what about this stuff in Scripture? What about the stuff that most people, if they’re honest, skip over as they’re reading?
This is a subject I absolutely love. We don’t have the space today to cover anywhere near all of the amazing ways Jesus is revealed to us in these pages, so it is my hope that this post will be a launch pad from which you can jump, approaching this section of Scripture with fresh eyes. To do so, I’d like to focus specifically on the tabernacle.
The tabernacle– what would later become the temple– was the house of God in Israel. God instructed his people to build him a dwelling place, one that would be the centerpiece of worship because it contained God’s holy throne room. The tabernacle was the place where the presence of God was most manifest on earth. Consider it the place where heaven and earth collided, the place where God’s space and our space was to come back together after the tragic separation due to sin (look back to Genesis 1-3).
What gets me so pumped up about the tabernacle is how clearly it points us to Christ. John 1:14 helps us. We’re told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” which may not inspire much of a lightbulb moment until we consider the implications of the Greek. The word “dwelt among us” really means that he tabernacled among us. Jesus tabernacled among us! If that old tent from the wilderness represented God’s presence on earth, how much more is Jesus the true tabernacle, the presence of God walking around on earth in the man of Christ in whom the fullness of deity dwelled (Colossians 2:9)?
If you’ve ever wondered about the significance of the temple curtain being torn at the moment of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:50-51), it is wholly tied to the significance of the architecture and symbolism of the tabernacle. The innermost part of the tabernacle, God’s throne room, was separated by a curtain, one that no one but the High Priest could go behind– and even then, only once per year and under very specific regulations. God was present, but sin blocked us from his presence. It wasn’t until Jesus’ sacrificial death that the presence of God became openly accessible again as individuals are fully cleansed from their sins.
With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can read these chapters in Exodus with fresh insight as to their significance.
Consider even the tabernacle furnishings– the bronze altar, the golden lampstand, the ark of the covenant, etc.– each of these things find their ultimate meaning and fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. Take the bronze altar for example. This altar, described in Exodus 27:1-8, was the first thing you’d encounter after entering the courtyard of the tabernacle. This altar would be the altar of sacrifice, symbolizing the unholiness of humans and their need for a sacrifice to come into the presence of God. This sacrifice, as we’ve seen in our recent study of the Passover lamb, finds its ultimate fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He is not only the tabernacle, the presence of God manifest on earth, but he is also the sacrifice by which we can be restored to this presence. What a wonderful truth!
What about the golden lampstand? Described in Exodus 25:31-40, this lampstand is what brought light into the tabernacle. It was the only source of light in the Holy Place. It is the light by which the priest ministered in the tabernacle. This lampstand prepares us to see Christ, the one true light of the world (John 1:9). By Christ’s light, we are able to see the glory of the Father.
I encourage you to read through Exodus 25-30 and study this for yourself. Ask yourself how each thing in these chapters finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Christ.
As you study, praise God that he has so beautifully foreshadowed Christ through the whole Old Testament. What a blessing it is that God has so intentionally planned how history would point to the coming of His Son. May we be edified and he be glorified as we grow in the Scriptures, coming humbly to the feet of our Savior to meet him there.