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Jewish tabernacle February 10 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Exodus 25, 26, 27, 30, 31. Note: The Living Bible provides an easier version to understand for US standard measurements.

*The Tabernacle and Our Worship Center

Many people have seen or been involved in the construction of church buildings. They are not designed in half-hazard fashion, without thought. Everything begins with a purpose(s). Plans then follow. Designs and blueprints are made from the plans. Afterwards, finances and permits are obtained, materials are gathered, skilled workers and artisans are hired, and eventually the work begins. When the structure is complete, it is then furnished with the things desired for worship.

In 1444 B.C. the plans for the construction of the tabernacle or tent of worship begin within a few months after Israel is delivered from Egypt and immediately after the LORD gives the Israelites moral and social laws. What is a tabernacle? What is the reason for it? Who is the designer and builder? Why is it designed in this fashion? What can we learn from the building of the tabernacle?

Following the giving of the laws, the people make a covenant with the LORD to keep all of them. By doing so they enter into a relationship with him. Then Moses goes back up into Mt. Sinai to meet with God just before a cloud of fire descends (Exodus 24:15-18). This is the last sight of him which the people see. When he does not return for a long time, they wonder what has become of him—did he get burned up or is he coming back? The people are being tested (in the Bible a forty day time span often signifies testing), and it is difficult to wait. If God delays, could we believe the best about the LORD and wait for him?

Moses does not get burned up and neither does he desert them. God is on Mt. Sinai with Moses preparing to do something good for his people. Perhaps this is why some of us don't get answers to our prayers right away—God is preparing something better for us. While Moses is on the mountain, he receives a design for a tabernacle, its furnishings, and priestly garments for the ministers of worship.

What is the Tabernacle?

The tabernacle is a portable tent of worship. It is similar to a worship center or church, only it has completely different furnishings and functions.

What is the Purpose of the Tabernacle?

God says to Moses, “Have them [the Israelites] make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:1-2,8, NIV). Although God is Almighty, above and beyond all comprehension (transcendent), and able to be everywhere at the same time (omnipresent), God wants his presence to dwell with the Israelites. This physical manifestation of his presence is important to the Israelites—they are surrounded by nations with foreign gods. The LORD, the true God of heaven, wants the Israelites to worship only him and to do it in a proper manner.

Although most of us are not Israelites, the Lord wants to dwell within each of us so that we become a tabernacle of his presence and live to the praise of his glory (John 1:14; 2Corinthians 5:1-10; Ephesians 2:22). At the end of the age, God will again make his presence dwell with us as he did the Israelites (Revelation 21:3).

Who is the Designer and Builder?

God designs the tabernacle and the Israelites contribute to it, making it their own, and then he chooses certain artisans and laborers for the work of building it (Exodus 35:30-35; notice that God does not just give gifts to ministers; he also gives special talents to others to use for his glory). The tabernacle is going to be a simple structure but rich with precious metals and cloth—magnificent with beautiful intricate design.

The LORD says to Moses,

Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.

These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you (Exodus 25:1-7, 9, NIV).

Today, God wants all of us Christians active in the building up of our worship centers. He gives each of us gifts and abilities to contribute to his body, the church (1Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:1-16; Romans 12:6-8). We are chosen and designed for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-13).

The tabernacle is designed to be a portable structure because the Israelites will journey through the desert. Instead of brick and mortar, it is constructed with frames, bars, curtains, rings, and clasps. All the furnishings of the tabernacle have rings in which poles are inserted for carrying.

Furnishings of the Tabernacle

The furnishings are

  • the Ark of the Covenant. This is a small golden chest with a lid, where two golden angels sit with their wings facing each other and wingtips touching.
  • a beautifully designed golden lampstand of cups and almond blossoms (a Menorah)
  • a small golden table, on which a priest daily places twelve flat cakes of unleavened (yeastless) bread
  • a small golden altar for burning incense
  • a bronze basin for the priests to wash before handling the sacrifices
  • a large bronze altar for sacrificing burnt offerings from the worshippers
Each article has a purpose, is made according to a pattern, and is a symbol of things to come. These will be discussed in upcoming Bible studies.

The tabernacle is a forty-five foot by fifteen foot curtained tent located in the north end of a large one hundred fifty foot by seventy-five foot curtained courtyard. Close to the south entrance is a large altar for sacrifices, and somewhere in the middle of the courtyard is a large basin for priests to wash themselves.

The tabernacle is divided into two sections. In one section is the Holy Place and in the other is the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place accommodates the golden table of showbread, the golden lampstand, and the golden altar of incense. Separated by a thick, rich, and an ornately designed curtain of Cherubim angels is the Most Holy Place. Inside this fifteen by fifteen room is one article of furniture, the golden Ark of the Covenant with the Cherubim facing each other on the lid or Mercy Seat (see representative pictures of the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle). We will learn more about the tabernacle design and its purpose in coming days, but if you want more insight now, check out (Hebrews 8:5; 9:1–10:25).

Lessons to Live By

  • We may not see God at work. Perhaps the reason why some of us don't get answers to our prayers right away is that he is preparing something better for us.
  • The LORD wants to dwell within each of us so that we become a tabernacle of his presence. First, however, we must have a personal relationship with him. (more...)
  • God wants each of us to be involved in the building up of our worship centers through the use of our spiritual gifts.
  • We are chosen and designed for the praise of his glory.

Focus Verse

Exodus 25:8 (NIV) “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

*A representative picture of the Tabernacle is graciously provided by BiblePlaces.com

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A Look Ahead: Now that the tabernacle has been built, its time for the Dedication of the Priests for the Service of the tabernacle. Join us in our Next Lesson as we apply the principles of dedication for our church workers.

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