The Tabernacle Part 2

The Tabernacle and its courtyard contained various furnishings that Moses was commanded to make according to the designs the Lord gave him.   We discussed the structure of the Tabernacle and Courtyard in the last post.  This time, we shall look at the furniture.

Just as Jesus was the gate of the sheep pen, He’s also the gate of the courtyard through which everyone must come in order to have eternal life. 

People who came to the Tabernacle should have had one goal in mind — to worship the Lord.  Before that could take place, sin against God and trespasses against others had to be atoned, forgiveness received, and restitution made according to God’s commandments.  This always required an offering at the altar of sacrifice.

The Sacrificial Altar was 7 ½ feet long, 7 ½ feet wide, and 4 ½ feet high [5 cubits L X 5 cubits W X 3 cubits H].  It was made of planks, was hollow inside, and had a horn on each of the 4 corners.  This altar was overlaid with bronze instead of gold.  It had a grate of bronze netting with a bronze ring on each corner (4 in all) – placed under rim of altar, half way up the altar.  Pots for the ashes, shovels, basins, meat hooks, and fire pans for the altar were made of bronze.  Poles for the altar were overlaid with bronze, placed into the rings — one pole on each side to carry it.

The Sacrificial Altar was necessary in order to properly lift up offerings to the Lord.  The sin and guilt sacrifices provided atonement and forgiveness for sin and trespasses.  Whole burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings, and peace offerings were primarily offered after these to draw near to the Lord and worship Him.  The symbolism of the offerings was manifested in the work of Christ when He died for us but it was also a picture of what will happen to the righteous and the wicked when the Day of Judgment comes.

A Bronze Laver was also in the courtyard.  It was set on a bronze base between the altar and the Tabernacle of Meeting.  It was made from the bronze mirrors of the women who served at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting.   The laver was filled with water with which Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and feet whenever they came near the altar or went into the Tabernacle of Meeting.

I believe the water contained in the bronze laver can be compared to Jesus who is the source of Living Water.  Zechariah 13:1 explains water is necessary to cleanse His people from sin and impurity. 

Christians usually see their position in Christ as secure because of Jesus’ sacrifice and often forget the need to regularly cleanse their hands and feet at the laver to restore fellowship with God that is occasionally broken due to sins and trespasses. 

James 1:23-25 compares the Word of God to a mirror in which we, as believers need to examine ourselves regularly.  When we fail to obey God’s word, we have sinned.  Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus gave His life so that we could be sanctified and cleansed with “the washing of the water of the word.”  When we look into the mirror of God’s word, we are often convicted of sins or trespasses.  First John 1:9 encourages us to acknowledge our sins so that God will forgive them and purify us from all unrighteousness.  This is what washing oneself at the laver which was made from bronze mirrors is all about.

Once our fellowship with the Lord and others is restored, we are free to move into the Tent of Meeting where previously only the priests could go because we are members of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God.  The first section of the Tabernacle is the Holy Place where we encounter the menorah.  It was made from a single piece of pure hammered gold.  It had a central shaft with six branches (3 on each side).  Each branch had 3 cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a ring of outer leaves and petals.  The central shaft had 4 cups shaped like almond blossoms each with a ring of outer leaves and petals.  There was also a ring of outer leaves where each branch joined the central shaft.  Seven lamps were mounted on the menorah that burned pure olive oil.  The accompanying tongs and trays used to service the menorah were made of pure gold too.

Revelation 4:5 shows us that seven Spirits of God were burning before the throne.  This matches the imagery and location of the menorah.

Most of the time, people say the menorah represents Christ who was the light of the world.  They may even associate it with the Holy Spirit because it was fueled by olive oil.

Let’s see if we can glean any other meaning from the menorah. 

Note the description of the menorah and its almond blossoms.  Usually   almond blossoms have 5 petals.  The number 5 represents grace.  The number 3 represents the resurrection or new life of/in Christ.  The number 6 represents man.  Therefore, man can receive new life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Together with the Spirit of God, mankind is made complete which is represented by the number 7.

Remember, Aaron had to tend the menorah daily.  The lamps needed to be cleaned, the wicks needed to be changed, and the supply of oil had to be re-filled.  The same can be said of our lives.  Think about and do what needs to be done in your spiritual life each day so you can walk by the power of the Holy Spirit and let your light shine before men.

Isaiah 11:1-2 unveils the menorah in this way, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”  NKJV

It is evident from this passage that the Spirit of the Lord (YHWH) is the central shaft with the branches being the other characteristics of the Spirit.  If the menorah were placed on its side, it would be easy to see that the opposite/paired branches correspond to each other like a chiastic structure that points to the central shaft of the Spirit of the Lord.  All of these rested upon Jesus, the Son of David.  Ask God to allow them to rest on you as well.

In addition to the menorah was a table for the Bread of the Presence (Showbread).  The table was 3 feet long, 18 inches wide, and 18 inches high [2 cubits L X 1 cubit W X 1.5 cubit H].  This table was made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  It had a rim around it that was a handbreadth wide with a molding of gold around it.  Four gold rings for the poles were attached to corners near the legs and rim of the table.  Poles of acacia wood covered with gold were placed through these rings and used to carry the table in a manner similar to that of the Ark of the Covenant.  Dishes, pans, bowls, and pitchers of pure gold were made for use with this table.  This implies that there was also a drink offering such as wine to accompany the twelve loaves of bread and frankincense that were placed on the table each Sabbath (Lev. 24:5-9).

Many have tried to understand the purpose of the Table of Showbread.  In Hebrew, showbread is called lechem happaniym which can be translated as the “Bread of the Faces” or “Bread of the Presence.”  The Greek Septuagint uses artous tees protheseoos which is translated as “bread loaves of the place setting.”  Taken together, these translations can give us some understanding of the purpose of this bread. 

First of all, it was a holy offering given to the Lord.  The people from the 12 tribes of Israel gave flour to the priests who used it to bake 12 loaves of bread to place in the presence of the Lord.  They were arranged on the table in two rows with 6 loaves and frankincense in each row.  Even though the bread was put on the place setting of the Lord, He didn’t eat this bread.  The High priest and his sons ate it in a holy place because it was an offering made by fire (Ex. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9).    

Nonbelievers might say that the bread didn’t magically disappear during the week because God doesn’t exist; therefore the priests ate it for Him.  That’s not what is going on here.  Consider this.  Many people desire to come into God’s presence but can’t due to sin against God, trespasses against others, and the physical limitations between heaven and earth.  The priests were commanded to set this table before the Lord and they obeyed.  Whether they realized it or not, their actions were saying, “Lord, this bread is a holy offering for You.  Come be with us and eat with us.”  Eventually, God overcame man’s limitations and did better than what they pleaded for by sending Jesus, the Bread of Life to physically be in the presence of His people.  During that time, the Son of Man ate and drank with His friends face to face.  Even after Jesus died as an offering for sin and rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and asked them, “Have you any food here?”  They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb and He took it and ate in their presence.   This showed that Jesus still intended to fellowship with His people even though He would soon return to heaven (Revelation 3:20-21).  Although Jesus is now in heaven, He accomplished the goal of making it possible for us to come boldly through the veil into the Most Holy Place and one day see Him face to face (Heb. 10:19-23).  Certainly, we’ll eat together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at the appointed time.

The last thing in the Holy Place was the Altar of Incense which stood before the veil and the Ark of the Covenant which was on the opposite side of the veil in the Most Holy Place.  The Altar of Incense was sometimes referred to as the Golden Altar because it was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  It measured 7 ½ feet long, 7 ½ feet wide, and 4 ½ feet tall [1 cubit L X 1 cubit W X 2 cubits H].  It had a molding of gold all around it with horns on each of its 4 corners.  There were 2 gold rings, under the molding on both sides (total of 4) through which 2 poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold were positioned.  

Aaron, the High Priest was to burn incense on this altar every morning and at dusk as he tended the lamps of the menorah.  The incense that was burned on this altar was of a particular recipe—equal parts of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, made according to the art of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy for the Lord.  No other incense was to be used on this altar.  Anyone who made any like it to smell it was to be cut off from his people.  This altar was not for other kinds of offerings.  Once a year the High Priest made atonement for it with the blood of the bull and the goat on the Day of Atonement to purify it and set it apart from the uncleanness of the people of Israel.

There’s not much the Bible says about the Altar of Incense except that the incense is the prayers of the saints who live throughout the four corners of the earth (Revelation 5:8).  Of all the prayers that have ever been offered, surely Jesus’ prayers were most holy – especially the prayers He offered the night He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal.   Surely this is thematically connected to the Day of Atonement.  Like the incense, Jesus was unique because He was sinless.  After appearing to His disciples over 40 days, Jesus returned to heaven in the clouds in a manner similar to the rising smoke of incense as it was burned many years ago.

On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest could enter past the Altar of Incense and the veil into the Most Holy Place to stand before the Ark of the Covenant.  The ark was 3 ¾ feet long, 2 ¼ feet wide, and 2 ¼ feet high [2.5 cubits L X 1.5 cubits W X 1.5 cubits H].  It was made of acacia wood which the Greek Septuagint calls incorruptible wood.  The ark was overlaid inside and outside with gold and had a molding of gold around the top of it.  Four gold rings were attached to its 4 feet, 2 rings on each side.  Poles of acacia wood were overlaid with gold and passed through the rings so the ark could be carried without touching the ark itself.  These poles were not to be removed.

The cover for the Ark of Covenant was known as the Mercy Seat.  It was 3 ¾ feet long, 2 ¼ feet high [2.5 cubits L X 1.5 cubits H] and made of pure gold.  It had 2 cherubim on it (one cherub at each end) which were one with the cover.  The cherubim faced each other with their wings spread out toward each other and covered the top of the cover.  The Mercy Seat was God’s throne where God met with Moses and His High Priests, from between the two cherubim which were on it.

The Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant are often thought of as God’s portable throne and footstool.  As such they can be compared to heaven and earth (Is. 66:1).  As a single unit, it was both a throne of judgment and grace.  In some ways it was comparable to Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot (Ezek. 1:4-28). Finally, it was a copy of what was in heaven (Rev. 11:19).

Most importantly, the Ark of the Covenant portrayed Israel’s salvation and relationship with God.   It contained the Testimony which established the marriage covenant between God and His people.  The ark was made of incorruptible wood which signified Jesus who was sinless.  The molding of gold around the top of the ark could represent Jesus’ kingly crown or kingdom.  The Ark held a jar of manna in the wilderness which depicted Jesus as the source of life. The Ark also contained the rod of Aaron which had been used to perform awesome wonders in Egypt.  This same scepter had budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds signifying God’s choice concerning Aaron and the house of Levi during rebellious times.  This staff demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles including resurrection and the authority to rule God’s kingdom.

Now that we’ve looked at the furniture of the Tabernacle, we should regularly:

  • Remember to approach God with praise and thanksgiving for His grace and mercy.
  • Confess our sins and trespasses and make any necessary restitution to others so we can be cleansed. 
  • Offer our entire lives to Him in worship. 
  • Walk in the Spirit and not give in to the desires of the flesh. 
  • Eat the Lord’s Supper, remembering His death for us and our marriage covenant with Him until He returns. 
  • Offer our petitions to the Lord including intercession for others. 
  • Remember that one day we will stand before His throne face to face. 


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