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The Purpose of the Wilderness Tabernacle

Updated on October 30, 2017

On Mount Sinai, Moses was given more than just the Ten Commandments. He was also granted a set of elaborate instructions for the building of a structure that would serve as a meeting place for God and His people. It was a temple of worship that involved specific protocols and procedures that were required for the express purpose of providing a possible means for God's people to dwell with Him per God's request.

Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

— Exodus 25:8

From the fall in Genesis up until the Tabernacle construction, the Bible records people occasionally walking and talking with God but not dwelling with Him. As we shall see, it is within the framework of this Old Testament sanctuary that God draws His people closer to Himself through an intricate sacrificial system. This arrangement can speak volumes to us today about the specifics of such a great salvation and indescribable gift.

...how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation...?

— Hebrews 2:3

Every detail that Christ accomplished in order to restore our relationship with God will be discovered in the particulars of the wilderness tabernacle.

It's About a Covenant Relationship

While reading the details of these instructions it is easy to gloss over them without awareness of a New Testament connection to a relationship with God through Christ.

I hesitate to use the word "relationship," because of its broad and adulterated use in the present culture that most often brings a lot of fickle "no strings attached" associations. As we shall see in this structure, and throughout the entirety of Scripture, a covenant relationship, by God's standards, is a life and death matter and worthy of our comprehension and loyal application.

This Biblical portion of temple details can seem a bit redundant and unnecessary if we view it as simply historical and Old Testament. But Paul informs us that there is a great reason to study these very things.

For whatever was written in the past (Old Testament) was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.

— Romans 15:4

These things (Old Testament) happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the age have come

— I Corinthians 10:11

"These things" are in reference to the experiences of the children of Israel in their wilderness journey to the promised land (a symbol of eternity with God) and their relationship with the God who delivered them.

Fifty chapters of the Bible are devoted to the wilderness tabernacle that was central to that relationship, which, I think we can safely assume, makes it a relatively important topic as far as God is concerned.

"These things" also contain the blueprint for faith. Resident within each material and measurement is a lesson in the necessities of being in fellowship with the God of all creation and Jesus is central to it all.

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

— Hebrews 8:1‭-‬5

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the Tabernacle is a shadow and type of heavenly things. There are heavenly spiritual lessons that pertain to our spiritual life in the here and now to be discovered within the parameters of this template.

Jesus Himself also made it clear to His followers that He was, in fact, the subject matter of "these things".

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

— Luke 24:27

John, too, makes the connection with Christ and the Tabernacle.

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

— John 1:14

Source

The Cross Is Key

From an introductory topical perspective, we can see how this structure connects us with Jesus beginning with the arrangement of the furnishings in the shape of a cross. This was true, as well, with the arrangement of tribes around the Tabernacle in their North, South, East, and West positions. All things in this meeting place will point to Jesus Christ and His crucifiction, that we might be restored to a relationship with God. Paul, author of a good portion of the New Testament, considered this His most valuable goal.

I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified

— I Corinthians 2:2

Source

The Pattern Is Everywhere Throughout Scripture

According to Glen Carpenter, in his book Connections, there are seven physical structures in the Bible built obviously and specifically for worship beginning with The Tabernacle of Moses.

  1. The Tabernacle of Moses
  2. The Tabernacle of David
  3. The Temple of Solomon
  4. Zerubbabel's Temple
  5. The Temple of Herod
  6. The Temple of Ezekiel's Vision
  7. The Temple which is the Body of Christ

Dinah Dye, author of The Temple Revealed in Creation, and an expert on this topic, teaches that the number seven in Scripture is strongly connected with the fulfillment of house-building. This revelation helps correlate the creation account with a less obvious macrocosm of a temple structure with an eye towards building a kingdom family.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them were finished. And on the seventh day, God ended His work which He had done, and He rested (took His seat upon the throne) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

— Genesis 2:1-2.

It is notable that similar language is applied to both creation and house- and tabernacle-building in the book of Proverbs.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. And by knowledge, rooms are filled with all riches, precious and pleasant.

— Proverbs 24:3‭-‬4 LEB

Yahweh in wisdom founded the earth; he established the heavens in understanding. With his knowledge, depths broke open, and clouds dropped dew.

— Proverbs 3:19‭-‬20 LEB

This phraseology is also applied to a prophecy of the coming Messiah.

And a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from its roots will bear fruit. And the spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him— a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.

— Isaiah 11:1‭-‬3 LEB

As it applies to the wilderness tabernacle, Bezalel, meaning "in the shadow of God," son of Uri, meaning "light," is assigned by God Himself the task of skillfully designing this structure. Aholiab also is included in this assignment. His name means "tent of my father"

And Bezaleel, and Aholiab, and every wise-hearted man, in whom Jehovah hath given wisdom and understanding to know to do every work of the service of the sanctuary, have done according to all that Jehovah commanded.

— Exodus 36:1 YLT98

The meanings of the names of those involved in its construction relate to the Tabernacle's purpose. It was to serve as a shadow of the Son of God, the Light of the world, who would connect us back to the tent (tabernacle) of the Father.

In rabbinical literature Bezalel possessed such great wisdom that he could combine those letters of the alphabet with which heaven and earth were created; this being the meaning of the statement (Exodus 31:3): "I have filled him . . . with wisdom and knowledge," which were the implements by means of which God created the world"

— Wikipedia on Bezalel

The Bible also ends with this very same purpose of God to create a space and place to dwell and be in a relationship with the man that He has created.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

— Revelation 21:3

Everything in between these bookends of the Genesis creation to the Holy City in Revelation is the very important mechanisms of that accomplishment.

Resources

"Connections" by Glen Carpenter

"The Temple Revealed in Creation" Dinah Dye

"The Tabernacle of Moses" Kevin J. Connor

© 2017 Tamarajo

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      Robert E Smith 8 hours ago from Rochester, New York

      I know it's been a while. For some reason, I have not been able to put two words together coherently for a long time now. I am just now trying to ease back in to commenting and editing my old articles so they can attract a few readers. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that the symbolism of the article here makes me have to take notes. Every bit of it is so interesting. I will absolutely never forget the illustration of the tribes' positions making the cross. If I close my eyes right now, I see it! I was so enamored of our Jewish roots at one time I was trying to learn Hebrew. But, like everything else I try, I run into my learning disabilities and realize just how long it would take to learn the basics, (many many many years) so I just put it down and move on. What a horrible attitude, huh? The only thing I have been able to learn a bit and keep working at it is playing music. I blame that on my instrument because it is so awesome. Anyway, I'm off to take notes on your second article.

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      Tamarajo 3 days ago

      Hi Bob, So good to hear from you. It's been awile. I am glad you enjoyed the first installment of what may be a very long series. As you have already observed in your comment there is so much more. Dinah Dye, who has studied these things for 3o or so years said "I used to know a little bit and now I know just a little bit more" The study of this structure is infinetely deep and filled with revelation as it concerns salvation. It seems like the deeper I dig the deeper the well gets.

      I sincerely hope when all is said in done in this teaching that it will be a useful tool for anyone who desires to understand more concretely God's plan of salvation and pattern of worship. All of which are exhibted in this structure and throughout all that He has made. So many elements to come.

      God bless, much love, and You have a Happy Thanksgiving too Bob!

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      Robert E Smith 3 days ago from Rochester, New York

      I have never enjoyed an article of yours more! I loved it! The Tabernacle has never been so crystal clear. It gives me chills when I see Jesus used all of the characteristics of, and objects in the Tabernacle to point to Himself. It becomes almost impossible to miss the significance of each thing as it's described. Any person of traditional Jewish heritage must be dismissing out of hand so many markers and symbols pointing to the Savior of Israel and of the world. Tam, I saved the article on Pinterest and will share it with my Ex-Jehovah's Witness Support Group on Facebook. I can't wait to read the second half. I thank God for using His people through the ages to call all of the sheep home. I thank God for each detail of the Tabernacle that would be another chance for someone blinded by Satan to the truth to be restored to full sight. The relation to the cross will be particularly meaningful to my Ex-JW support group who struggle with so many basic Christian symbols and foreshadowings. Have a happy happy Thanksgiving! Much love to you sister.

    • Tamarajo profile image
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      Tamarajo 3 weeks ago

      Hi Dora,

      I agree that true intimacy is God's ultimate goal. I hope this study of His purposeful design for a relationship with Him will strengthen and deepen our fellowship with both Him and others.

      Thank you, Dora, for your visit and input.

      God bless!

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      Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Tamarajo, I have even come to prefer "fellowship" to "relationship." Fellowship takes the relationship into intimacy where we actually communicate and share our feelings; some relationships are just nominal. Thanks for refreshing our minds on the real purpose of the tabernacle.

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      Tamarajo 3 weeks ago

      Hi Bill,

      What actually inspired this particular study is an up and coming event in our area that will host "The Tabernacle Experience" which is a life-size replica of the Tabernacle of Moses. It is a walk-through experience that will explain each path and piece and even includes some interactive features.

      In preparation for this event, I encountered a lot of curiosity as to why we would want to look at an Old Testament structure so deeply. It is my hope that this study will help to inspire the worthiness and value of understanding God's sacrificial system and how that applies to our present faith in what God has done for us in Christ. I need this as much as anyone and I am learning so much myself from studying it.

      I am glad to know that you have taught on this topic and welcome anything you have to add to the revelations and that includes corrections.

      I get what you are saying about the concept of religion versus relationship and agree that it is a relationship that God is after. I only struggle with the phrase as it concerns the modern disconnect with the covenant (a life and death transaction) that made that possible and God's expectation of reciprocal love and loyalty as our response to that indescribable gift.

      This disconnect may be why we see the fickleness of relationships across the board in both the world and in the church. I am hoping that this study might help us clear up some of those issues and see how relationships work through God's plan of a covenant. In concert with that, I hope that it will also help us to disconnect our worldly associations of the broader modern view of a relationship that looks more like a relatively flimsy contract designed for a "feel-good" benefit. Again, I address these same issues to my own ruts of misunderstanding that I am desiring to have transformed by the renewing of my mind.

      Thank you for stopping by, Bill. I always appreciate your input.

      God bless!

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      William Kovacic 3 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I taught on the construction of the tabernacle a few years ago, and I love the meaning and the purpose of it. Thanks for refreshing my memory on the topic.

      As far as "relationship," I kind of like the word. People ask what religion am I, and I tell them I don't have a religion. I have a relationship with the God of the Universe. Thanks for another one of your well written and enlightening pieces.