Symbolism in the Tabernacle

The fire on the altar must be kept burning, it shall never go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning.
-Leviticus 6:12

My Virginia Tech bible study is currently doing the Beth Moore Tabernacle study and I cannot help but share the insane things I am learning. Every single session and homework assignment have blown me away, but three in particular have spoken to me, especially in light of the circumstances I am going through.

Through the book we have been learning to “draw” the Tabernacle as described in scripture. In one homework assignment we went through how the Lord has separated out the tribes around the sides of the Tabernacle. Our God separated out the 12 tribes of Israel according to his own perfect will. The Tabernacle overall was 100 by 50 cubits (1 cubit is between 18-20 inches) in size. The first amazing symbolic thing we learn is that the gate of the Tabernacle opens to the East. Exactly the placement of the gate in the Garden of Eden. Exactly the direction yielding the eastern star, which led the wise men to Christ. And in alliance with the rising of the sun each day from the East. The Lord clearly reminds us that the only way to His presence is by the East Gate. “His perfect light interrupts the darkness every morning from the east. At the break of a new day, light shone on the gate to the tabernacle, beckoning the people to find refuge in God.”-Beth

After this amazing web of symbolism appears, God spreads it even wider. Numbers chapter 2 gives the commands to where each tribe of Israel should camp around the Tabernacle. On the east the main tribe was Judah, in total 186,400 people (Number 2:1-9) On the west the tribe of Ephraim in total 603,550 (Numbers 2:18-24) On the North the tribe of Dan in total 157,600 (Numbers 2:25-31) and the south the tribe of Reuben in total 151,450 (Numbers 2:10-16)

I know from reading these words you may not be able to envision it, but after going through this and reading the scripture Beth asked, “So what? Why are some on some sides, why different amounts?” Beth then began spinning the web together to show us that from God’s perspective, in heaven, these tribes, in their perfect arrangement, configure the cross. So every single time God looked down at the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness he saw the picture of a glowing cross. Goosebumps just ran over my whole body! Can you even imagine this? God had designed the Israelites in way that showed them they could NOT get through to the Holy of Holies unless they first went through 1. The tribe of Judah 2. The cross. And of course we know from scripture that Jesus was a descendent of the tribe of Judah! And not only that, but the Levites were told to camp around the tabernacle, completely covering the linen walls (Numbers 1:53) The Levites, being the priest, represented the Holiness of God and Christ surrounding the cross, but also the bridge that Jesus gaped between the Holy of Holies and us (the Israelites). What a beautiful and breathtaking glimpse of the heart and character of our God.

There are so many times in our selfishness and narrow-mindedness we doubt that God is there, or we convince ourselves that we can’t see or feel his presence. But all along the way the Lord is leaving behind trails of symbolism as to who he is, and will remain throughout our wilderness experiences. Just as he did for the Israelites. What a sweet reminder of our God pursing us.

The second lesson or revelation that has pressed on my heart has been broad topic of “Priesthood.” Reading through the Old Testament I accredited the priests as simply being chosen by God to do their job. I have never before seen such symbolism in who the priests were called to be, and what they were called to do.

The scripture is Exodus 30:17-21. Take a minute and pray now and ask that God would allow you to see this web of his design and to draw the importance out of these words. The priests (Aaron and his descendants) were commanded to wash their hands and fee, otherwise they would die. More symbolism emerges when we see in Exodus 38:8 that the bronze basin (for washing) was made from pieces of treasured mirrors left over from the Egyptians. So as the priests approached the basin to wash the first thing they saw was a reflection of themselves. Further Beth draws the difference out of Ex 29:4 and Ex 30:19. The first is the command to wash themselves with water, implying washing their entire body while the second implies washing only their hands and feet. So what’s the symbolism? Why did God have them do this? “This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests” Exodus 29:1 God’s purpose was so that we might be able to serve. Verse 4 implies that God was consecrating the priests for service in a one-time experience in which they were sanctified and deemed acceptable (much like salvation J ) However verse 19 describes an ongoing process of cleansing which the priests performed each time before they entered the holy place. The first act was initiated for them. The second act was initiated by them. Oh how I pray you are seeing this symbolism. The purpose is so clear: we must examine ourselves (in the mirror) and sanctify our hearts (prayer) before we come before the presence of God each day. And of course Beth goes on to draw more from the New Testament about how we are called as Jesus to wash other’s in a figurative way; by how we live and how we love.

Later on in the study we began studying The Holy Place. Again I hope you see how all of this is intertwined. This lesson absolutely blew my mind! In the New Testament time and time again believers are called Priests, and said to be part of a Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:5-6) I have read these, and heart them, but the Holy Spirit has never drawn this deep link before. Because of Christ we are priests. We can come before him once we have been sanctified (washed once and for all) and examine our hearts (wash our hands) and he will instill in us a pure heart. More than just that, we like the priests are called to come to the consuming fire (God) each day and “burn wood on the alter.” (Lev 6:12) Our daily relationship with Christ has been clearly modeled before us by the priests of the Old Testament and how God instructed them. It is exactly the same in the Spirit. And most beautiful of all is that the outcome of their obedience, like ours, is the glory of God appearing in and through our lives. Amen!

The last lesson that has really taken roots in my heart concerns the Golden lampstand and actual filling of the lamps. Exodus 25:31-40 teaches us many things about the lampstand. It was made of pure gold and was marked by almond blossoms surrounding the stand. As the Israelites lifted the linen wall to enter the tabernacle the lampstand was the only source of illumination. Their eyes were drawn first and foremost to this focal point. The actual dimensions of the lampstand were never given except by revelation to Bezalel, Beth points out that this reminds us that God’s illumination can never be measured. There is so much symbolism within this one part of the tabernacle. The seven lamps on the stand represent the seven spirits of God or the sevenfold spirit of God. Like Jesus teaching in John 15 we learn that this lampstand was covered in almond blossoms and vines representing the pruning and blossoming of a life that surrounds Christ, the center. It all ties into the fruits of the spirit and how our lives as believers reflect Christ through blossoms when we are abiding in him. What I found most profound was in the actual filling of the lamps. First in realizing that this was a lamp, not a candle, which burned by consuming a continuous supply of oil from another source. How often do we live like candlesticks, allowing ourselves to be consumed by the world? We forget there is a source. Leviticus 24: 2-4 shows us that the people of Israel were to bring oil for the lamps. And it was to be pure oil from beaten olives, in order for the lampstand to burn regularly. The olive tree in Romans 11:24 represents the body of Christ. In Matthew 5:14-16 Christ speaks of lampstand that thrives on oil rather than a candle that consumes its own wax, calling it the light of the world.

Christ became our oil. Christ was beaten and bruised to make pure, clear olive oil so that we could and can continue to burn as the light of the world. And perhaps most beautiful of all is the reminder of the almond blossom, and how it symbolizes our need for not only Christ to be the oil, but for the work of the Holy Spirit to fill us with fruit so we can shine. And even with the stress of family, school, friendships, sin, etc, we can give light to the whole house when we are trusting in Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us (Matthew 5:14-16).

These are three glorious, humbling lessons that I pray I will never forget. I pray too that these teach you and humble you so that God can complete his perfect work in us.

Popular Posts