Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Tabernacle: Why it is Important to Us?

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"One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock" (Psalm 27:4-5).

When we speak about the book of Exodus, we are referring to God's amazing work of mercy. God could not stand seeing His people suffer and in bondage. So He came to rescue them. We see in visual pictures God's wrath on the unbeliever and His mercy covering His people.

We see many signs, plagues, and miracles. We also see God covering His people by a cloud by morning and a pillar of fire by night and how He did not leave them in the wilderness but led them until they reached the promise land.

Some will ask the question- why?

  • If God knows that we are going to sin and disappoint Him, why He went through all the trouble to create us?
  • Why give His precious son to die on our behalf?

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Despite what we see and know, God is the only one who can see the whole picture. It is wonderful to know that our God loves us so much and always desires to walk with us and have an intimate relationship with us. And it is also comforting to know that He wants to lead us to fruitful lives with Him. In return, He expects us to have obedience to His law and to glorify Him out of our gratitude by spending time with Him worshiping, praying and following His plan for our lives.

When sin caused a barrier between God and human beings, there was a need in order to approach God a way to cleanse sin. God's plan all along is to dwell in the center of His people permanently, which He promised His servant Abraham that through his descendent the Messiah will come and Salvation will be granted for all His people. He reminded them with that promise in the Passover feast(1 Corinthians 5:7).

God delivered the people of Israelite time after time until He led them to the dessert of Sinai, and through Moses, God gives them knowledge about Himself and His rules (10 commandments) to follow. In order for us to learn how to honor Him and how to treat each other, we see that the Israelites did agree willingly to God's plan for them.

God does not need a place on earth to live but He wants to show us His desire to be among His people. God has the power and the creativity to construct His own tabernacle among His people but

  • He wanted them to show their cooperation and willingness to give what they have for His glory
  • Allow His people to participate in building His house and take His blessing
  • By Building a simple tabernacle among them to
    • Teach them how to approach Him
    • Give them the chance to be close to Him
    • Teach them about the coming Messiah

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.'" (Exodus 25:1-2).

God has a plan and purpose in everything He does and in every one of us. He will call upon us to do His will and stir our hearts and desires and put us in trials, make us feel guilty, urge us to do something but He will never force us or violate our free will.

We see that clearly when God gave all the instructions and the details to Moses to follow on how to build the Tabernacle and to accomplish that He gave each one at least a talent or a gift according to His purpose so together they can work in the benefit of all and to the glory of God. As Christians and members of the church of God, it is our choice to put our gifts to use or discard them and waste our talents (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Some will ask the question-Why?

  • Why should we study about the tabernacle? It is all about tables, linens, alters, measurements and box full of things?
  • How this is related to us now and benefits us in reading the New Testament?

"For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you" (Deuteronomy 23:14).

The Tabernacle was a visual picture of how God wants us to commit ourselves to Him and take our worship seriously and of what sin does to our relationship with Him. The tabernacle represents:

  1. Heaven: It is an imitation of the tabernacle in heaven (the throne of God). Christ appeared before the throne of heaven as the Lamb of God (Revelation 5). We all are waiting for the day that we can unite with our Lord Jesus Christ, our majestic Father.

  2. Church: The tabernacle was made out of many parts but they all form one place of worship. It is the symbol of the body of the believer that purified and sanctified and is ready to be shared with God to dwell in it. As we all are different members with different functions of one body of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:5-6).

  3. Jesus Christ: To study the tabernacle is to see many prophecies about Jesus Christ in every corner and to realize that only God's grace is the one that allows us to be holy in the sight of Him. Also how sin can separate us from God yet He shows us the coming way for cleansing our sin.

    • The Ark of the Covenant: Was located in the center of the tabernacle in the holy of the holies room. Inside the Ark is
      • Ten commandments - What is God's principles
      • Aaron's rod - A virgin that God sprouts a new life in her womb
      • Golden pot filled with Manna - the bread that sustains our life
      • Two Cherubim on the top of the Ark with four heads (Ezekiel 10:21) that represent the different pictures of Jesus (lion, ox, human, eagle) and also the mercy seat in the center of the Cherubim where God will judge His people

    • The Showbread: represents the 12 tribes of Israel and the golden table is Jesus Christ preserving them. For He is our bread of life (Ephesians 3:16-17)

    • The Golden Lamp Stand: pure gold and the only source of light in the tabernacle representing Jesus Christ as being the light of the world and we are the branches that are supported by His Light (John 15:5)

    • The Altar of Incense: used only for prayers where the priest, as a mediator on our behalf of the believers, burn special incense that represent the prayers that desire an intimate relationship and glorify God's name and the soothing aroma that pleases Him (Psalm 141:2)

    • Covering Over the Tabernacle: made out of five different tapestry that joined together which represent God's grace (Ephesians 2:8)
      • Blue linen - represents heaven
      • Purple linen - represents royalty
      • Scarlet (red) linen - represents sacrifice
      • White linen - represents purity
      • Cherubim designs - are woven in the tapestry

    • The Bronze Altar: outside the gate to focus on our salvation by giving a sin offering; everyone according to what he can afford (an Innocent life being killed for the sake of us) for we can not approach God before dealing with our sins because our sin can blind us to see the beauty of God. Brunt offering that shows love and commitment for God (represents soothing aroma to the Lord). Jesus Christ is our sacrificial lamb (Hebrews 10:10).

    • The Laver of Bronze: used to wash the priest's hand and feet as a symbol of our walk in the world will make us dirty with sin. Jesus Christ is our full bath which is our Salvation (Luke 3:6)

    • The Ephod: a special vest that God designed for the high priest to wear with all the names of the tribes when he prays day and night on our behalf and when he goes once a year to the Holy of the Holies and makes autonomy for our sins. It is a beautiful picture of how God cares for all His people, each individually, and a reminder that Jesus Christ is our high priest (Hebrews 5:5-6).

    • The Fence: covered with four layers of tapestry to separate the believer from the nonbeliever. The curtain of linen on the fence made out of four different covers:
      • Fine linen - represents the holiness of God
      • Goat covering - represents sin
      • Ram covering - represents a substitute for our sins (Genesis 22:13)
      • Badger skin - represents no beauty that we should desire (Isaiah 53:2)

    That tells us although we see the ugly side of the cross by faith we should see the beauty that is behind the cross which is the salvation for all and the beautiful life that we all are waiting for in heaven.

  4. Personal relationship: Our responsibility as human beings is to gain God's forgiveness and to show commitment to God's word and His love for us. Understand that God is just, holy, and full of glory and His law is still the same for God never changes. And in order for Him to dwell in us, we must not allow sin to be part of our lives but we should be concerned about repenting and partaking of the communion in order to allow His spirit to fill us and guide us.

    "Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications! In your faithfulness answer me, and in your righteousness, do not enter into judgment with your servant, for in your sight no one living is righteous" (Psalm 143:1-2).

Finally, the message behind the tabernacle is God wants our lives to be about His kingdom and to be guided by Him. In order to do so, we must separate ourselves from the world and recognize that we are in need of repentance and salvation. And only then God will allow us to approach Him, provide a light for guidance, dwell in us, and sustain us with His bread.

Written by
Nagwa Abdou

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