This year, the kids and I have been attempting to study the Pentateuch for our Bible class. We’re taking it pretty slow, but it’s been good. We just finished Exodus and God’s plan for the Tabernacle this week and I learned some interesting symbolism which has been very meaningful to me.
Each piece of furniture in the Tabernacle was symbolic of some aspect of the believer’s relationship with Christ. Although not technically a piece of furniture, there was only one entrance to the Tabernacle, just like Jesus Christ who said “I am the way and the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The first piece of furniture as one enters the Tabernacle is the bronze altar where the sacrifices for atonement (among others) were made. Similarly, one cannot come to the Father without being immediately confronted by Christ sacrificing Himself to atone for our sins.
The next piece was a bronze wash basin. The New Testament imagry this brings to mind is of Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. When Peter asked him to wash not only his feet, but his whole body, Jesus replied “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (John 13:10) It was only the dust of the ground which needed to be washed. Similarly, even though I have found forgiveness at the foot of the cross, I find myself “dusty” with daily sins which need to be confessed, repented, and forgiven.
Behind the wash basin was a veiled room which partitioned off the Tent of Meeting, consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Behind this veil in the Holy Place sat the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, and the Altar of Incense. The Lampstand is interesting to me. I never realized before (although it makes perfect sense) that the Lamp was the sole source of light in the Tent because all natural forms of light were blocked out by the series of curtains and it was sufficient. It reminds me that Christ, The Word, is my source of Light and wisdom for every situation and that He is always sufficient. The Showbread reminds us of how Christ strengthens and sustains us, and the Altar of Incense is a picture of prayer and worship.
Within the Tent of Meeting, there was a second veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter and that only once per year at the appointed time. Here we find our final piece of furniture, The Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is ripe with symbolism. It’s cover was called The Mercy Seat and it is here where the fullness of God’s presence rested. Inside the Ark was a jar of manna, representing God’s provision; the second set of tablets enumerating the Ten Commandments, representing God’s righteousness; and Aaron’s staff, representing God’s miraculous power. Even its very name, the Ark of the Covenant stands as a powerful reminder that God always keeps his promises. It was this veil which was torn asunder when Jesus was crucified, making all of this now accessible to the believer.
The second day I was considering the Tabernacle and all its symbolism, it occurred to me how the progression of the different pieces of furniture is a picture of the walk of a believer. When one first comes to faith in Christ, his sins are forgiven and his name written in the Book of Life. Later as he grows in faith, the believer sees the need for daily repentance and finds the Bible sufficient wisdom for any and every situation. And so it goes, finding refreshment in God’s presence, becoming a person of prayer, and finally finding oneself at the Mercy Seat, encountering God’s presence, experiencing his provision and miraculous power. God in His wisdom does not drop us off in the Holy of Holies; He has much to do in our lives.
And so I woke up this morning, facing the day’s challenges. They started earlier than usual today. :o) God placed the thought in my mind to use this imagry to focus my prayer time today, stopping at each “station” of the Tabernacle, using it as an opportunity to thank God for how He has manifested Himself in my life, to worship Him, or bring my requests before Him. It is one of the best prayer times I have had in a long time.
I am under no delusion that I dwell in the Holy of Holies, but as I think on it, there have been times when the Father has bid me to enter and fellowship with Him there. They have been times which seem difficult to me here on earth, where I have had to rely on his provision or his power. These times of fellowship, although outwardly difficult have been very sweet and I miss the sweetness of it when the trial is over. More often though, I find myself a wanderer, travelling to and from the different stations of the Tabernacle as each situation has need. Perhaps of late, I have become somewhat of a tour guide, mentoring my children and any others as God gives me opportunity, in their walk with the Lord.