Intimacy in the Tabernacle

I want to have greater intimacy with God. Perhaps one way is learning to enter into His presence through the pattern within the Tabernacle.

One Word –

Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. Exodus 25:9

Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 25, 26; Matthew 19; Mark 10

Big Idea –

Moses and the seventy elders had enjoyed a covenant meal with the LORD; their intimacy with God was greater than those who remained in the valley. Moses then drew near to the LORD going up the mountain for forty days; Moses intimacy surpassed that of the elders.

Within that place of intimacy God gave Moses specific instructions for the Tabernacle – a pattern to be followed exactly. The big idea for us to consider is that through the Tabernacle we can discern a pattern of greater intimacy with the LORD for us today.

As an aside, I believe one reason the pattern or instructions had to be followed exactly is because it was a copy of the Sanctuary or dwelling place of God in heaven. This is where Jesus ministers on our behalf;  through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places (Heb. 9:11-12). This “perfect tent” is the Tabernacle in heaven (skēnē in the Greek, translated tent is also used for tabernacle).

So how can we find a pattern of intimacy with God? The Tabernacle constructed by Moses in the wilderness has long been destroyed. Likewise, the Temple in Jerusalem patterned after the Tabernacle but bigger and even more elaborate has also been destroyed. So where is the Tabernacle of God today? You and I as followers of Jesus are the LORD’S dwelling place or Tabernacle. This is true corporately, “you are God’s temple. . .  God’s Spirit dwells in you” [you is plural], and individually “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

I think this is another reason why Moses had to follow the pattern exactly. The Tabernacle in some way pictures us as God’s dwelling place. Thus when we look at the Tabernacle we discover how we can give ourselves more fully to the LORD in greater intimacy, both individually and corporately. So let’s consider for a moment the pattern of the Tabernacle and how in some way it pictures us as the Temple or dwelling place of the LORD. (Note: a blueprint of the Tabernacle with it’s key elements is pictured below.)

When the Tabernacle was set up it was covered with goatskins. Unlike the Temple, the Tabernacle looked ordinary from the outside. As God’s Tabernacle we are covered with flesh and each of us looks ordinary. From the outside nothing sets us apart as God’s dwelling place; we are still just like other people. However, the Tabernacle was always set up to face east toward the sunrise and a new day. I think this is a picture of repentance being made a new creation in Christ. What makes us different and an acceptable place for God to dwell is that we choose to face the LORD turning away from the things of this world.

The Tabernacle had seven key elements. The first was three veils or curtains. We often only think of one veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place, but actually this was the third and most inner veil of the Tabernacle. The outermost veil/curtain was the gate brining you into the outer courtyard; the next was the door or entrance into the Holy Place. I think these veils are a picture of our flesh with its many layers. Thus each layer or veil brings greater separation from the world, so our greatest intimacy is found when we pass through all three veils into the Holy of Holies. Why three veils? Within we have been separated from the world and dedicated to God, passing through each veil, or surrendering more of ourselves to God brings greater intimacy. As John said, “All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 Jn.2:16).

The first thing you come to within the outer courtyard is the Bronze Altar or altar of burnt offerings. It is upon this altar that sacrifices would be burned; these offering were of all types, but one thing they had in common was the confession of the worshiper. I think the altar represents our mouth. Jesus said that from the overflow of our hearts (the inner most part) our mouth would speak (see Lk. 6:45). By our mouth we confess our sins and declare Jesus as our LORD – the overflow of a heart believing God raised Him from the dead – by this we are saved (see Rom. 10:9). While our confession touches upon our most inner part, it is the outermost part of our tabernacle and only the beginning of intimacy with God.

The next thing within the outer courtyard is the Bronze Basin or laver. This was filled with water and used for washing. I think this represents our hands and feet, or more specifically the things we do. We have made our confession and are saved, but we still walk within this world and as we do our hands and feet get dirty. The priest could not enter the Holy Place without first washing. Our intimacy with God grows as we choose to wash our hands and feet through daily repentance. Just because we are a follower of Jesus does not make us exempt from falling into sin. In fact, if we claim we are free from sin we are a liar void of truth, but when we confess our sin He cleanses us of all unrighteousness (see 1 Jn. 1:8-9).

The Holy Place is not immediately visible; within it are three furnishings all covered with gold. The value of these things are greater because they bring us greater intimacy with the LORD.

First is the Golden Menorah or lampstand providing light to see within the Holy Place. I think of this as our eyes and ears. These are the ‘gates’ or entry points that illuminate our understanding. Our world is full of stimulating sights and sounds, all seeking to gain our attention. But what will we choose to allow past these two gates shaping who we are as an individual? To each of the seven churches Jesus said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Insight and intimacy with God comes not just by seeing but by hearing as well. May we be blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear (see Lk. 13:14-16).

Also within the Holy Place is the Table of Shewbread. Can you smell the fresh aroma of the bread? You see, I think this represents the nose, or face. What does this have to do with intimacy? If I’m inclined toward the LORD then my nose or face will be pointed in His direction. But there’s more; in Hebrew nose is the word ‘aph. More than anything else this word is also translated as anger or wrath. Thus I think the Table of Shewbread ultimately represents the hidden part within me called my emotions. Yet my emotions can change my countenance pointing my nose or face in different directions sometimes in only a moment. Perhaps this is why some idioms or sayings about the nose allude to our emotions; for instance:

  • Don’t get your nose out of joint.
  • She has her nose stuck up in the air.
  • He’s always sticking his nose in other people’s business.
  • Be careful not to cut off your nose despite your face.
  • I’m going to rub your nose in it.

If we desire intimacy with God, Jesus tells us to watch our noses. Our fasting and prayer should not be with gloomy disfigured faces; instead we ought to wash our face anointing our heads with oil so our fasting is in secret. Guarding our emotions and the countenance of our face is how we receive the Father’s reward (see Mat. 6:16-28).

The last thing in the Holy Place, placed before the veil at the Holy of Holies, is the Altar of Incense. The fragrance from this altar supersedes the smell of fresh bread, so what rules over our emotions? I think the Altar of Incense represents our will. Am I going to only follow my emotions, or will I choose instead to follow my faith? Our prayers are described as rising before God in heaven mixed with incense (see Rev. 8:3-4). The incense was to burn continually upon the altar; perhaps this is why Paul said it is God’s will for us to  pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk. 3:25). Intimacy with God grows deeper when my will chooses to do those things that please the LORD according to His will. Such a choice supersedes even my emotions; it is an act of faith.

Behind the final veil within the Holy of Holies is the Ark of the Covenant. The only light here is the shekinah glory of the LORD seated upon the Ark. This is the deepest part of me where the Spirit dwells, my heart (or the soul/mind – it’s hard to dissect  the innermost parts of our bing, the real you). It is my mind that must be continually renewed, and heart that can only be cleansed by the LORD (see: Ps. 51:10; Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:16). And it is here that we can hear the voice of the Spirit speak to us as “deep calls to deep” (Ps. 42:7). It is our within our hearts that we find the deepest intimacy with God.

Now come full circle with me back to the big idea. I think the pattern of the Tabernacle can show us how to enjoy greater intimacy with God. But I wonder, how often do we look directly to the heart, to the Holy of Holies within us where God’s Spirit dwells? Yet if we are to enter this most sacred place to enjoy intimacy with God, shouldn’t we begin at the outer court, to first approach the LORD through the sacrifice of our lips washing our hands and feet so we might be clean? As we draw near in this way we can then enter the Holy Place.

Let’s not try to rush into the Holy of Holies. Let’s follow the pattern and draw near to God as I think He desires.

Exemplify –

I need to allow the Holy Spirit to teach and help me take the steps into God’s presence to enjoy greater intimacy with the LORD.

Yes to Yield –

LORD Jesus, I want to be closer to You, to know You more fully. Thank You for putting this desire within my heart. Holy Spirit teach me to slow down not trying to rush into the Most Holy Place without first taking the appropriate steps to enter as the LORD requires.


The Tabernacle

tabernacle


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

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