Introduction - Outline Studies of the Tabernacle
H Rhodes, Leeds
Preliminary reading: Exodus 25. 1-9; 40. 34-38; Hebrews 9. 1-9; 10. 1-5.
The writer to the Hebrews calls the tabernacle a “shadow of heavenly things”, 8. 5; “a figure for the time then present”, 9. 9; and “the patterns of things in the heavens”, 9. 23. Hence the tabernacle was designed by God to teach by its presence, form and services, the very truths which form the centre of apostolic teaching. Constructed 1,500 years before Christ, all is aglow with sublime foreshadowings of our Lord in His varied glories as Redeemer, Priest and coming King. The appreciation of the perfect agreement between type and antitype, figure and fact, serves to strengthen the child of God in his faith.
In John 5. 39, the Saviour Himself said concerning the Old Testament Scriptures, “they are they which testify of me”. When He drew near to the disciples on the way to Emmaus, He opened up their understanding and unfolded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself, Luke 24. 27. In speaking to the Jews of His day, He said, “had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me”, John 5. 46. Hence the Lord showed that the first five books of the Old Testament are not only historical records but spiritual representations of Himself; see also 1 Pet. 1. 11. Since so many chapters in Exodus are devoted to the tabernacle and its service, we must perceive Christ in them. The profit in the study of these things is that we may learn of Him. Nothing lifts the hearts in praise so much as when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals the Lord Jesus Christ therein.
If God required the tabernacle to be erected for His glory, then He must prepare the people for it. First of all, He redeemed them and separated them from Egypt by the waters of the Red Sea. He then pledged to guide them, to provide for them in all their need, and to bring them safely into the land of promise. The people had experienced the power of God for them in redemption, but when God said “make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them”, He intended that they should know the presence of God with them. The experience of the presence of God is a distinct advance on the experience of the power of God. Today, the Christian is separated from this present evil world by the Lord Jesus who gave Himself, Gal. 1. 4, and as God fed Israel in the wilderness, so the Lord becomes the food and drink of His people.
In Exodus 15. 1-2 they sang a song - their enemies had been judged and before them lay the glory of the promised land. They said, “he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation”. This was the human root of the structure of the tabernacle - the people desired that the One who had redeemed them should be near to them and dwell among them.
But the initiative was God’s, and the people responded only when they became aware of this. Hence everything that was required was to be given by the people willingly - nothing was enforced from them; spontaneity of heart was necessary if He were to inhabit the praises of Israel, Ps. 22. 3. So the willing- hearted gave and the wise-hearted worked, and Moses had to stay their hand, Exod. 36.6. While desiring such offerings, God dictates that which is acceptable to Him. God made demands upon those who were formerly slaves, and who had been brought near to God in the wilderness, in order that He might have a suitable place in which He could come near to them. For ourselves, He has redeemed us from sin and brought us to Himself; He now makes demands upon us so that everything may be ordered according to the divine will.