” a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. A time is coming and now has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth.” John 4.21-24, paraphrased.
Exodus 25 takes us back to the year 1450 BC, approximately. It has been about a year since God delivered his enslaved people form Egyptian bondage. Moses is in the presence of God on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, and during this time, God gives him instructions for the building of a tabernacle, which will be come to be called the tabernacle of Moses. Verses 8 and 9 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”
Prior to this, it had been Moses alone who had personally been in the presence of the Lord. And you may recall that when he descended from Mt. Sinai, his face was so radiant that he had to place a veil on it!
But now all of Israel was to have a visible structure, a representation of the Lord. A place for the presence of God. How interesting that from that time forward, many have tried to put God in a box. To confine Him to a specific area. But there were reasons for this. One reason, I believe, was for the people to see that Moses was not just coming up with ideas or “leadings” or “thus says the Lord” based on “super-heated” imagination. Now, with the pillar of fire and the cloud always present, the Israelites would have no excuses.
What I want to present in this blog is that the Tabernacle of Moses is a pattern for New Testament corporate worship. Each area, and each fixture have symbolic meaning, and if we can see the truth behind it, we too can be the kind of worshippers the Father seeks, and experience a deeper level of worship.
There are 3 distinct areas of this tabernacle. First there is the Outer court, which measures 150′ x 75′. Entry to the court is through a curtain which measures 30′ wide. I might point out that this area has natural light, the sun by day and the moon by night. Then there is the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.
Inside the Outer Court we find the Bronze or Brazen Altar. Here is where I present my spotless, perfect lamb to the Priest for inspection, and if accepted, it is roasted there. As it burns, I lay my hand on its head to signify that I identify with this sacrifice, that it is a substitution for me and my sins, and I do this once a year.
Beyond the Altar is the Laver, or Basin of Washing. Obviously, after killing the lamb, the Priest will have blood on his hands. So before he can go into the Holy Place, he must wash. he must be clean. He must be pure. He must be holy.
The Holy Place measures 30′ x 15′. Many can gather in the Outer Court, but only the Priest can enter here. Inside we find 3 fixtures. First we have the Lampstand. While the Outer Court had natural light, here the only light is generated by burning oil. Twice a day, the Priest places fresh oil in the lamps (a Menorah) and trims the wicks.
We also have the Altar of Incense. The Priest also has to keep the incense fresh daily.
And thirdly we have the Table of Showbread, also known as the Table of the Presence, made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. While the Outer Court fixtures were all made of bronze, inside all are of gold. The Priest would place 12 freshly baked cakes or round loaves of bread, stacked like pancakes in 2 piles of 6 each. he did this every Sabbath, and on that day the priests would eat the week-old bread. These cakes were also sprinkled with frankincense.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest would take blood from the Brazen Altar and wash the Table of Showbread.
Certainly the most important part of the Tabernacle of Moses was the Holy of Holies. Smaller yet, it measured 15′ x 15′. Inside lies the Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Ark of the Testimony. The top of the Ark had 2 golden cherubim, and between them lay the lid, called the Mercy Seat. Some people consider this to be a separate item, but it was part of the Ark.
Inside the Ark was the stone tablets Moses had brought from Mt. Sinai on which were written the Ten Commandments. Later the priests added the Rod of Aaron and a jar of manna.
Unlike the Outer Court, exposed to the sun and moon, and the Holy Place which had burning oil for light, there is no source of light here. Except – except — for the very Presence of God Himself.
It was here that the High Priest dared to go once a year on the Day of Atonement and present himself before God Almighty on behalf of every Israelite, and make atonement for their sins. Later, when Solomon’s temple was built, the other priests would tie a rope around the High Priest, just in case the anger of God flashed and killed or disabled the Priest, and they could pull him out through the veil.
So there, briefly, is a description of the Tabernacle. Let us review by reading Hebrews chapter 9.
“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table, and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna. Aaron’s staff that had budded. and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things now. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
Glory to God.
But there is more.
It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Jesus said, “I am the Gate” “I am the Way” “I am the Bread of Life” “I am the Light of the World” and He IS forever our High Priest. And now we can confidently approach Him, believing that He IS and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and that He Himself seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Corporate worship, in my view, is a journey through this pattern we see in the Tabernacle of Moses. It begins with a personal journey, starting with the Outer Court.
I enter His gates with thanksgiving and with praise. I enter with joy. I enter with gratitude. I enter, celebrating His goodness, grace and mercy to me. I come to the Brazen Altar, with my brothers and sisters in the Outer Court, knowing that my High Priest and already sacrificed His own life for me. I lay my hand – I acknowledge this marvelous fact, knowing that if I confess my sins, He is faithful and just to forgive me, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9)
This blood is still fresh, and it will never lose its power. It reaches to the highest mountain. There is no “mountain” in my life that it cannot move. It reaches to the lowest valley. There is no despair, nor heartache, that it cannot soothe. The blood that gives me strength from day to day – it will never lose its power.
And this is something to brag about! And I shout and sing and dance before my King here in the Outer Court.
I come to the Altar of Washing and here the Word Himself washes me clean. I can go no further until I am clean before my Lord. I cannot enter His Holy Place without holiness. But here I am reminded that if I indeed have confessed my sins, then I can believe that I am loved. I am accepted. That I am a child of God.
And so I can enter the Holy Place confidently. I realize that apart from His amazing grace I would have darkness and eternity separated from Him. But knowing this grace and the power of His blood enables me to look up, even though I am humbled before Him.
And my pronouns change.
I would not look at my wife, Gayle , and say “I love her.” I would say “I love you.”
It is always right and appropriate and meaningful to declare the praise of God. To sing about Him. But it is another thing to sing TO HIM. And here in the Holy Place, I do just that. We are intimate. In the presence of the Living Bread of Life I tell Him I love Him. You are magnificent. You are holy. You are my Savior. You re my King. I love You more than any other.
Because my Jesus is my High Priest, and because we too are priests because He says we are, we enter the Holy of Holies and without fear, we worship Him in spirit and in truth.
I am convinced that there is a unique and divinely ordained purpose for corporate worship. God never meant for us to remain in the Outer Court. Every time we gather, He means for us to come into the Holy of Holies.
When I enter our physical place of worship, our building, I bring my personal “stream” of the life of Jesus, living in me. And so do each of us. And as we join our hearts and voices together, our streams become a mighty river. Together we live “OUR VOICE.” And this “river” should run with power and purpose because Jesus INHABITS the praises of His people. Praise is HIS ADDRESS!
When we enter the Holy of Holies, we enter the very Shekinah – the manifestation of His glory. And as we minister to Him, and pour our love on Him, He in return ministers to us. In the Holy of Holies there is no place for the devil. He must flee. Chains are broken. Captives are released. The gifts of His Spirit flow. Miracles occur. The prophetic Word is alive. My life is changed as I am in His Presence.
Never am I more fully alive than I am when I stand in the Holy of Holies with my Savior and my God.
We too can experience the radiance of God like Moses did.
So brethren, each time we come together for corporate worship, let’s make our way past the outer court and into His Divine Presence. Let us rediscover the “heart of worship,” looking full in His wonderful face, and WAIT on Him. Wait in Him. And linger there.