As we have been studying the last few chapters, perhaps you have been wondering why the Lord was so careful to give Moses an exact picture of how everything was to be built and arranged in the Tabernacle. When a man has a fine house or church to build, he first gets an idea of it shaped out in his mind. Then he draws a picture of it, as he desires for it to look; and then he makes very careful plans and measurements of every part, for the direction of the workmen. Now the Lord always had a great plan in mind. This plan was Christ’s great work of redemption; and the Tabernacle, with its furniture, was to be the picture of this plan that was shown to mankind upon earth. The directions that were given so particularly to Moses about every detail were to guide the workmen as they built the Tabernacle and everything in it, so that the results of their labor would stand as accurate pictures of the Gospel-message that the Lord was intending to convey to His people.
The Tabernacle itself was situated towards the back end of what was called the court – an area around the sanctuary that was partitioned off with a kind of “fence.” In the front end of this court, there was an altar – upon which, the priests were to offer the people’s sacrifices to God. This altar was made of wood and overlaid with brass – measuring 7½’ (2.3 m) on each side, and standing 4½’ (1.4 m) high. In the center of the top of the altar, there was a grate. As the fire burned and consumed the sacrifices, this grate acted like a sieve, allowing the ashes to fall through into the hollow space inside the altar. In this altar, we have a picture of Christ dying to make atonement for our sins! The wood of the altar would have been consumed by the fire burning upon it, if it had not been preserved by the brass. And in the same way, the human nature of Christ could not have endured to suffer the wrath of a righteous God in our place, if it had not been supported by His Divine nature.
The first thing that would meet the eye as one entered the Tabernacle court would be the sight of blood all around the altar. The sinner would approach the altar, leading the animal for his sin-offering. Here he would stand before God and confess his sins, which were transferred or imputed to the unblemished animal that was about to suffer and die for sin that was not its own. Similarly, the innocent Lamb of God died for guilty sinners. On Him, our sins were laid; He bore them in His body on the cross. He was made a sin-offering for us; and by His wounds, we are healed. His blood was shed for the remission of sins, and now it cleanses us from all sin (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; Isa. 53:5-6; Matt. 26:28; 1 John 1:7; 2 Cor. 5:21). Christ is our Altar, our Sacrifice, and our High Priest – all in one! Every redeemed sinner has come to this place where he or she has seen Jesus as the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). We have seen Christ as the Redeemer; we stand with our hand of faith upon His head, and we know that He has suffered as our Sin-offering. Our life was forfeited because of our iniquities; but Christ loved us, gave Himself for us, and sacrificed His own life to save us from eternal death! (John 10:11, 15; Eph. 5:25)
The courtyard around the Tabernacle was rectangular in shape, about 150’ (45.7 m) long and 75’ (22.9 m) wide. It was enclosed by curtains hanging upon brass pillars that stood upright in brass sockets. On the east side of this courtyard, there was an opening about 30’ (9.1 m) wide; this was the entrance, or “gate,” of the courtyard. In this opening, four pillars stood; and from these pillars, there hung a special curtain that served as the “door.” It was within this enclosure that the priests and Levites offered the sacrifices, and it was into this court that the Hebrews were admitted to worship God. The walls of this courtyard represented the distinguishing mark between those who nominally call themselves a part of the Lord’s people, and those who actually enter into the true spiritual Church and enjoy fellowship and communion with God. And there is only one way to enter into this blessed relationship with Him – namely, through our Lord Jesus, Who referred to Himself as the “door” (John 10:7; 14:6).
This chapter concludes with a command to the Hebrews to continually bring pure olive oil to keep the lamps burning inside the Tabernacle. The oil represented the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which all believers receive from Christ, so that our light may shine before others. The Scriptures are a lamp to enlighten the Church, which is God’s Tabernacle upon earth. Blessed be His name! The Scripture-light and the Gospel-message it contains are not now confined to the Jews alone; for now they are a light to enlighten the Gentiles and to give salvation unto the ends of all the earth!
Lord Jesus! You are our Altar, our Sacrifice, and our High Priest. May the Holy Spirit, in all His sweet influences, be the enlightening and purifying oil that illuminates the darkness of our minds, and enables us to see You being foreshadowed in every one of these Old Testament pictures and symbols. O Holy Spirit! Lead us to flee for refuge to this Altar – even to the crucified body and atoning blood of Him Who suffered thereon. Enable us to offer the sacrifice of praise continually – that is, the fruit of our lips that give thanks to Your name! Amen.
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