We might ask, where did the Israelites get this material from? Well, remember when they left Egypt, God ensured that they didn’t leave empty-handed, they plundered Egypt, Exodus 12:35-36 / Psalm 105:37.
The gold, silver and brass that were offered here came from their plunder of the Egyptians, as well as their conquest over the Amalekites, Exodus 35:4-19.
The yarn and fine linen were spun from flax, Exodus 9:31 / Joshua 2:6, and the goat’s hair was spun and used for making tents. The durable leather would probably have been made from some sea animal. Acacia wood is sometimes called shittim wood. This would be easily obtainable throughout the region of Sinai.
The pure oil was beaten from olives that were picked just before ripening, Exodus 27:20. The oil lamps were to be burning every night, which burning probably symbolized that God’s presence would never leave Israel, Exodus 30:8 / 1 Samuel 3:3.
No one really knows what onyx stones were. Onyx is the middle gemstone in the fourth and last row of the High Priest’s breastplate, Exodus 28:20, and the fifth foundational stone in New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:20.
The tabernacle was to be a symbol of God’s presence among His people. Why did God want the tabernacle built?
1. It would be a rallying place where God’s Word would be proclaimed.
2. It would serve as a physical reminder of God’s presence among the people.
3. It was the place where God recorded His name, the place where He would meet with them and bless them, Exodus 20:24.
4. It was a singularly impressive ‘figure’ of the ultimate spiritual realities to be achieved in ‘the kingdom of God,’ the church of Jesus, and therefore a witness at one and the same time to both Israels, the Old, and the New.
The tabernacle had to be built specifically according to the pattern that God will give them, Hebrews 8:5. In other places, it is referred to as the tent of meeting, Exodus 27:21, the tabernacle of the Lord, Numbers 16:9, and the tabernacle of testimony, Exodus 38:21.
The Ark of the Covenant is the best-known item in the Tabernacle, renowned for its mysterious powers against the enemies of Israel, 1 Samuel 5-6. The Ark of the Covenant resided in the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the Tabernacle.
Access was only permitted once per year, on the Day of Atonement. Access was restricted to one person only, the high priest. He had to come into the Holy of Holies with the blood of a goat, on behalf of his own and the people of Israel’s sins.
The Ark itself was a small box made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold. It measured 1.15 metres long, 0.7 metres wide and 0.7 metres high. It was carried by two long bars, also made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The Ark was God’s throne in His dwelling place in the Tabernacle.
Most people associate the Ark of the Covenant with judgement and wrath, rightly so. The day is soon coming when God will judge the secrets of people’s hearts, Romans 2:16 and God’s wrath will be revealed, Romans 1:18 / Psalm 94:9.
There was a cover on the Ark, known as the Mercy Seat, or Propitiation Cover. It was here that the blood of a goat was sprinkled by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, to appease God’s righteous anger, ‘propitiate’ for the sins of the people of Israel, Exodus 37:1-9.
Romans 3:24-25 tells us that there is redemption in Christ Jesus because God has set Him forth as propitiation, through faith in His blood. Christ has died, the price is paid. To those who believe in Jesus Christ’s death for their sins, there is now mercy, not wrath, Romans 5:8-9.
Attached to the Ark’s covering lid were two Cherubim. God’s presence did not dwell inside the box, but remained over the Ark, in between the two Cherubim. Here God dwelt ‘in unapproachable light’, 1 Timothy 6:16 / Psalm 104:2.
The high priest had to shield his eyes, because ‘no man shall see Me and live’, Exodus 33:20. This was where God met with Moses, Exodus 25:21-22 / Leviticus 16:14-15.
The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle on the day it was reared up and anointed, Exodus 40:9 / Exodus 40:18 / Exodus 40:34-35, exactly fourteen days short of one year since the Exodus from Egypt, Exodus 40:2 / Exodus 12:6 / Exodus 12:31. The two Cherubim on the Mercy Seat represented God’s glory, Hebrews 9:5.
We are not told in great detail exactly what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. Some models, show the Cherubim kneeling. Other models show the Cherubim standing.
What we do know is that the wings of the Cherubim were stretched out, to cover the Mercy Seat, the wings of the two Cherubim possibly touched one another to form a complete covering. The uncertainty should not unduly trouble us, 1 Corinthians 13:12.
1. The two stone tablets of the Law.
2. Aaron’s rod that budded.
3. The golden pot of ‘hidden’ manna.
Together these three items form the Testimony, Exodus 25:21 ‘Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.’ hence the Ark is called the Ark of the Testimony.
The Ten Commandments on the two stone tablets are the basis for God’s covenant with the children of Israel, Exodus 19:5-7. They stipulate what the righteous requirements of the law are, but there is no supply to help the children of Israel to obey the commandments.
Because the children of Israel did not continue in their side of the covenant, it was impossible, Romans 8:3, God promised to make a new covenant, Jeremiah 31:32-34. This is the New Covenant which Jesus has ratified by His blood, Luke 22:20.
Psalm 40:8 is a prophecy of the Messiah, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of me: ‘I delight to do Your will, O my God and Your law is within my heart’.
In fulfilment, ‘when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law’. Galatians 4:4. Jesus Christ has kept the law of God, loving the Lord His God with all His heart, and His neighbour as Himself. This is obvious from reading the four Gospels.
Delighting to do God’s will John 4:34 and John 5:30 and John 6:38, Jesus had the law of God, the Ten ‘Words’ of God, in His heart, just as the Ark of the Covenant kept the stone tablets of the Testimony.
The Word of God had become flesh and tabernacled among us, full of grace and truth, ‘reality’, John 1:14. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, as a perfect offering, we are forgiven for our offences under the law and redeemed from slavery to it.
God undertakes to write His laws into our hearts and inscribe them on our minds, by sending forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, Galatians 4:6 / Hebrews 8:10-12.
Thereafter, an inner working of life takes place, ‘Christ who is our life’, Colossians 3:4, ‘Christ being formed in you’, Galatians 4:19, that will result in at least the same testimony of God as the Ten Commandments.
The children of Israel broke the old covenant, and we still do, because of trying to keep it by self-effort in our flesh. In the New Covenant, God undertakes to write His laws into our minds by His Spirit, providing we walk by the Spirit, Ezekiel 36:25-28 / Romans 8:4.
John is very economical in his writing, using one or two words to describe vast realities. But his focus is not on understanding so much as truly knowing, experiencing, for example, the Bread of Life, John 6:35. John refers to Jesus as, The ‘Word’ in his Gospel John 1:1. The ‘Word of Life’ in his first epistle, 1 John 1:1. The ‘Word of God’ in Revelation 19:6. In each case, John’s underlying thought seems to be the Ark of the Testimony.
A little history is required, to begin with, the account is in Numbers 16. A short while after the Tabernacle had been functioning; one of the priests, ‘Korah’ and some others mounted a challenge to the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
Couched in language that was very spiritual, Korah reasoned ‘aren’t all the Lord’s people holy? Isn’t He among all of them? Why are Moses and Aaron the only leaders? It’s too much for them to cope with’.
Korah’s partners were not priests. Their line of reasoning was totally anti-God’s word, ‘Moses, you’ve brought us away from a land flowing with milk and honey (Egypt) into this desert. Where is this land flowing with milk and honey that you promised us? Do you think we’re all blind?’
This was an outright lie, Egypt had meant toil and miserable hardship, bitter tears and hopelessness, but after a few months of building a beautiful Tabernacle, the memory of that slavery was fading, hence the challenge.
Moses instructed everyone to appear before the Lord the next day. They were to fill bronze incense burners and place them before the Lord. God was furious and judged Korah and his cronies.
Their censors became used in the covering for the Burnt Offering Altar, as a reminder of God’s wrath from heaven against the ones who had spoken so vehemently against Him and those He had chosen, Numbers 16:29.
But the incident did not finish there. The whole congregation then started to murmur against Moses and Aaron because they had ‘killed the Lord’s people’.
Again, God reacted furiously and a plague broke out, quenched only when Aaron obeyed Moses and placed his incense burner before the Lord in the Tabernacle. The plague had exacted a devastating toll on the people and God had proved negatively that Moses and Aaron were indeed his choices.
However, God wanted to prove positively that Aaron was his choice for the priesthood Numbers 17:5. A rod from the head of each of the twelve tribes was marked with the name of the tribe and placed before the Lord, at Ark of the Testimony, Numbers 17:4.
When Moses returned the next day, Aaron’s rod had budded with sprouts, yielding blossoms and ripe almonds. God instructed Moses to place Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, ‘to be kept as a sign against the rebels’ to prevent further murmurings and death, Numbers 17:10.
That is the history and the application comes in John 11. Jesus’ friend Lazarus is quite seriously ill. Jesus loved the family, Lazarus, Martha and Mary. But Jesus did not go to see them straight away, He waited two days. This caused a lot of murmuring and reasoning.
The first bunch of murmurers and reasoners were the disciples, especially when Jesus (without being told) announces that Lazarus has fallen asleep, John 11:11 / John 11:14.
The next bunch of murmurers and reasoners were Martha and Mary and the mourners. Martha can’t wait to tell Jesus what she thinks, meeting Him on the road. Mary was less vociferous but still made the same observation as Martha, John 11:21-32.
It looks really bad, Jesus has let everybody down, just what the ‘press’ wanted to ‘publish’. It is in this very environment of death, despair and hopelessness that Jesus announces ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’ John 11:25.
Jesus asks Martha if she believes. She gives a reply that is doctrinally superb, ‘she believes Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God who is come into the world.’ John 11:27.
She avoids answering Jesus’ actual question because her theology is already ‘at the back of her mind’ due to her grief. Some of the others begin to question even whether He is the Messiah. After all, if Jesus can make the blind see, a strong proof He is the Messiah, Isaiah 42:1 / Isaiah 42:7, why couldn’t He have prevented Lazarus from dying?
Jesus had no intention of preventing Lazarus from dying. He appears to have had every intention of waiting until he had died, so that people would see the glory of God appear in the Tabernacle, Jesus Christ, and that many would believe in(to) Him, ‘into’ is the literal Greek, John 11:40 / John 11:15 / John 11:45.
Lazarus was not just a piece of wood, lopped from an almond tree somewhere like Aaron’s rod had been. Lazarus was a full-scale human being, a dear friend, now, after being dead for four days in Israel, undoubtedly decomposing rapidly, damaged beyond hope.
‘Take away the stone’. ‘Father I thank You that You have heard Me’ (He had already been at the Golden Incense Altar praying) ‘Lazarus, come forth’. ‘Loose him! Let him go!’
What a sign of the Messiah! Who could doubt now that Jesus is who He says He is, the Resurrection and the Life? Only those who were masterminding the plan to kill Him, John 11:47-54, but even they were under God’s sovereign masterful arrangement.
So much of the Tabernacle’s history and the Temple’s history is upsetting and disappointing. But today, thousands of years later, people are still very eager to learn about the Tabernacle and the Temple. This has much to do with the Ark of the Covenant, which, for at least part of its history, contained the budding rod that is fulfilled in Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life!
Aaron’s rod that budded was a sign of God’s continued choice of Aaron as a priest, Numbers 17:5, but Aaron’s priesthood was interrupted by his death.
The Lord Jesus Christ, though, has a priesthood that is constituted with an indestructible life, Hebrews 7:16. He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, Hebrews 7:25.
Manna was the food that came down from God to feed the children of Israel daily in the wilderness for the forty years of their journey to Canaan. It was given to the children of Israel in such a way that it required them to develop self-discipline.
Manna only came in the early morning with the dew, Exodus 16:13-14. By the time the sun was up, it would have evaporated, Exodus 16:21. It had to be gathered every day, any residue would breed worms and smell, Exodus 16:20, and they had to gather a double portion on the sixth day because none would fall on the Sabbath Exodus 16:22-27.
It was called ‘Manna’ because that is Hebrew for ‘what is it’. It looked like white coriander seed and tasted like wafer biscuits made with honey Exodus 16:31. The Lord commanded Moses to fill an omer vessel with Manna and keep it for a memorial to future generations of how God fed them in the wilderness, Exodus 16:32-33. This is the Golden Pot of Hidden Manna in the Tabernacle.
Now, it is obvious that if Manna was kept for longer than a day, or two days, if it was a Sabbath, then the Manna would breed worms and smell. Why then try to keep it as a memorial to future generations? The key is the Golden Pot.
The Golden Pot would last forever. It is round, indicating eternal, it is gold, indicating ‘of God, divine’. The Golden Pot indicates eternal life. Our life needs to be ‘hidden with Christ in God’ Colossians 3:3 and we need to know ‘Christ our life’, eternal life Colossians 3:4.
The Hidden Manna was a memorial of how the Lord had sustained His people in an impossible situation. Christ is real and applicable to every person of every age in every circumstance.
The Showbread Table was placed on the right-hand side of the Holy Place, the north side, a little way from the gold-covered Boards. It was not very big: approximately 1 metre long, half a metre wide, three-quarters of a metre high.
It was made from acacia wood overlaid with gold, similar to the Boards, speaking of the two-fold nature of Jesus Christ. He was born of Mary as a genuine human being yet conceived by the Holy Spirit and called the Son of God, Luke 1:35, truly man overlaid with God.
The Showbread Table had a crown made of gold, unlike the Burnt Offering Altar. Back there in the Outer Court, all was about washing, judgement and death at the bronze-coated Laver and Burnt Offering Altar. Here in the Holy Place, all is about life, food, light and fragrant incense.
Therefore ‘we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death’ in the Outer Court, but at the Showbread Table, and the Golden Incense Altar, in the Holy Place we see Jesus ‘crowned with glory and honour’. Hebrews 2:9.
On the Showbread Table were placed twelve loaves of unleavened bread, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The loaves were replaced every week freshly on the Sabbath: fresh food in the house of God for the priests, Aaron and his sons, Leviticus 24:5-9.
Peter tells us that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:8, who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, 1 Peter 2:3 are not only a spiritual house, but also a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:5 / 1 Peter 2:9.
As priests, we are ministering to the Lord through faith in Jesus’ blood and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Our food, in addition to some of the offerings, is the fresh bread on the golden Showbread Table. Jesus as the Bread of God ‘who came down from heaven to give LIFE to the world’. John 6:33, crowned with glory and honour.
The twelve loaves represent the whole people of God, in God’s house, the church, 1 Timothy 3:15, in fellowship with one another, 1 John 1:7.
The loaves of unleavened bread remind us of the Lord Jesus saying, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger’, John 6:35. This unlimited supply of heavenly food, fresh every week, is to be the portion of the priests in the light from the Lampstand, Colossians 1:12.
Every day we need to come to Him, John 6:37, see the Son and believe in Him, John 6:40. He is the Living Bread, that came down from heaven to give us His life, life IN us, John 6:51 / John 6:53.
This life is brought to us first as the Spirit who gives life, John 6:63 and secondly, as the words of eternal life, John 6:68. Today, Jesus Christ can only give His life to us through His word and by His Spirit. The black-and-white word of the scriptures alone is not enough for life, John 5:39-40. We must come to Him in the word AND in the Spirit.
The Showbread is also called the Bread of the Presence. To eat Christ as the Bread of Life, we, the priests, must be in the presence of God, who is Spirit, John 4:24. The Showbread is for all the priests, in fellowship with one another in God’s presence, Luke 11:5-8.
Based on the parable in Luke 11:5-8, we need the Bread of Life not just for ourselves, as in the daily bread in Luke 11:3, but also for our needy friends, who come to us on their journey. Jesus makes it clear, that people in the world are hungry, but the flesh profits nothing, John 6:35 / John 6:62.
Jesus came that He might give life to the world, so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life, John 6:33 / John 6:47. Therefore, we should ask, seek and knock in prayer, Luke 11:9, until He gives us as much Bread of life as we need for ourselves and our friends, Luke 11:8. Our heavenly Father delights to do this! Luke 11:13.
The Lampstand was made of solid, pure gold, beaten out of a single piece. It was placed on the left side of the Holy Place, the south side. Exodus does not give us either the dimensions or the pattern of the Lampstand, but we do know it had branches and that the bowls were to be formed like almonds in blossom.
The lampstand was therefore like a tree of gold, John 1:4. The Lampstand was lit permanently, to give light inside the Holy Place, John 1:9. The priests in the Tabernacle were responsible, evening and morning, for topping up the seven lamps with oil and trimming their wicks.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life’. John 8:12. Therefore, the lampstand points us to Jesus Christ Himself, the light of the whole world.
We need the Lord’s light, in His light we see light, Psalm 36:9. It was when God commanded His light to shine in our hearts that we began to see how excellent it is to know Jesus Christ, compared to all other things, 2 Corinthians 4:6.
We also began to see how greatly blinded and deceived we had become by the god of this world and by our own lusts, 2 Corinthians 4:4 / Titus 3:3.
We not only need to see His light, but we also need to walk in His light, 1 John 1:5-7 / Ephesians 1:18 / Ephesians 5:5-8. This will involve the Lord shining on many things that do not reflect Him. We should confess anything shined on in our conscience to our Advocate in heaven, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who gave Himself for our sins, 1 John 1:9 / 1 John 2:1-2.
This kind of inner working is the functioning of the light of life, the priests trimmed the wicks of the lamps in the lampstand and re-filled the bowls with oil and the light burned brightly again, Revelation 1:12-13.
Once our conscience is clear and we are walking in the light, we are then the light of the world, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16. We can shine for the Lord amid this dark and dirty generation, Philippians 2:15.
This is the experience of the Light in an individual way, but the lampstand has seven lamps, seven is the number of completion. Therefore, the lampstand is composed of multiple lamps, people, having similar experiences, the local church, Revelation 2:1-7.
The lampstand was formed by beating a solid lump of gold. First, the central stem was beaten out. Then from the central stem, the branches were beaten out. This shows us Christ and His members in His body, 1 Corinthians 12:12.
When Jesus came He was the unique Light of the World. Then, Peter, James and John were ‘beaten out’, established in Christ, 2 Corinthians 1:21.
We know that the three lamps on either side were lit from the lamp in the central stem when the lampstand was set up. This indicates that Christ ‘lit’ Peter, James, John and the other early disciples and they began to follow Him, the Light of the World.
Then after His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus came to them and breathed the Holy Spirit into them, John 20:22 and poured out the Holy Spirit upon them, Acts 2:33. Peter was on fire.
Stephen caught the flame, then Philip, they came together with many others to be the church in Jerusalem, Acts 8:1, the lampstand there, beaten out of one source, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The lampstand is all gold, it is God’s work, Philippians 2:12-13. By the time of the apostle John, in the Book of Revelation, there are seven churches in Asia, Revelation 1-3, that are still the objects of Christ’s care and attention.
There is one church in each of the seven cities, Revelation 1:20 and it is still God’s work, the Son of Man, Jesus, is walking in the midst of the seven churches, which are seven golden lampstands. They are not plastic, they are gold. They are answerable not to men, but Jesus, the Son of Man in His priestly role.
Christ speaks to each church in turn. At the start of the letter to each church, one or more of the characteristics of Christ in John’s vision, in Revelation 1 is/are applied directly to the situation of that church.
Whatever the Lord Jesus Christ is, it is for His churches, His lampstands, to experience. At the end of the letter to each church, the Spirit is there, applying what has been said to those who have an ear to hear, Revelation 2-3.
The aged apostle John is not there as organisational head, he is in exile because of the word of God and because of the testimony of Jesus, Revelation 1:9. Christ is the Director, the Boss. He is tending the lampstands, Revelation 1:13.
John is a brother and companion in tribulation with those he writes to, Revelation 1:9. Eventually, at the end of the Book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem will be one enormous golden lampstand, not requiring any more trimming.
There will be no darkness to combat anymore, just the flowing ‘of the river of water of life, with the tree of life, from the throne of God and the Lamb’, Revelation 22:1-2.
This will be the consummate Tabernacle of God with men, having the glory of God, He will dwell with us forever and we will be His people and He will be our God, Revelation 21:3. How we look forward to that day! Revelation 22:21.