Part Five: The Tabernacle and the Sacrificial System
Exodus 25:1-Leviticus 27:34
Previously we saw that the Law was temporary in nature. It was to be in effect only for the period of time which began with Moses and ended with the coming of Jesus. This applied to ALL the Law, including the moral Law which is found in the Ten Commandments. The area of the Law where we see this applied most dramatically is the area of the tabernacle/Temple and the sacrifices. No longer does the church tend to the sacrifice of lambs, goats, etc., sacrifice is no longer even a part of the Jewish worship. Some Jews do wish to reinstate the sacrificial system; however, it must be noted that even if they do reinstate it, the sacrificial system has not been operating for the past 1935 years. The reason for the cessation of the sacrifices will be noted later.
Before looking at the tabernacle and the sacrificial system, we just want to speak briefly about the laws regarding food. Of all the different parts of the Law, the observance of the food laws is still one of the areas that many conservative Jews adhere to. They would almost rather die than to drink milk while eating beef for fear that the milk might have come from the mother of the cow which provided the beef. Conservative Jews are NOT going to eat pork. It's just not going to happen. The Jews believed that the dietary laws were almost essential for salvation. With one brief statement though, Jesus put the dietary laws in their proper place (Mark 7:1-23; see especially verses 17-19). Jesus claimed that what came out of the man was more than important than what went in.
Just a side note here. Jesus' teachings on this subject are in keeping with the teachings of the latter prophets who emphasized the spiritual aspect of a person's relationship to God as opposed to the physical aspect. For example, Ezekiel and Jeremiah claim that the spiritual circumcision of the heart is more important than physical circumcision. Whereas keeping these dietary laws are not necessary for salvation or for a right relationship with God, keeping them will make you healthier. One person put it this way: "Breaking the dietary laws of the OT will not keep you from heaven; in fact breaking them might even get you there faster!")
Just another side note here. We so much want to keep the Law in our lives. First, it is easier to live a life of rules and regulations than it is to live a life of faith in Jesus. If you live a life of rules and regulations, at the end of the day you can check off the things you did on your list. The only problem is this: the list we check off is normally the one we've come up on our own. We leave things off the list we have problems with and put on the list the things we do well with. Then we turn right around and blast the people who can't check off the things on OUR list, while they in turn blast us for not keeping the things on THEIR list. The only list that matters is God's list AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO CHECK OFF THAT LIST! (Remember that when it comes to God's list, you are going to have to keep all the items on the list and not just the ones you like.)
Second, don't fool yourself into thinking that people keep the Law out of respect for the Law. They keep it out of fear, fear of being punished. The Law is not what makes people do good; fear of being punished is what keeps them from doing bad.
Third, don't claim that there are a lot of people actually keeping the Law. No, they're not. They are not breaking the grosser and greater laws like murder; however, (1) they do not put God first in their lives (first commandment); (2) they have designed gods in their own image (2nd commandment); (3) they take God's name in vain (3rd commandment, etc.); (4) they break the Sabbath (even church leadership breaks this one); (5) they are angry at their parents; (6) they are angry with their brothers; (7) they lust after women who are not their wives; (8) they steal from the government and engage in petty theft whenever possible; (9) they destroy their brothers' reputations; and (10) they desire what others have.
We are afraid that if we don't live by law, then everything will go down the drain. Well, everything has been going down the drain--EVEN WITH PEOPLE LIVING BY THE LAW. It is time to give Jesus a chance like Paul instructs us to. If we are people of integrity and follow Jesus, you are not going to have to worry about people living righteous lives. They will live lives of love IN ADDITION TO LIVING RIGHTEOUS LIVES. ("Oh, but then we won't obey the laws of the land." Yes, you will because Jesus leads us to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. When you follow Jesus, He will guide you to pay your taxes and obey the speed limits.)
THE EXODUS ACCOUNT
The Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:10-21)
While Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, God instructs him to copy down plans for a tent where God will dwell or tabernacle with His people. Although God fills the universe, God would make His presence known in a special way at this one site, the tabernacle. God would descend upon the tabernacle in cloud by day or fiery pillar at night, and there commune with His prophet Moses.
The tabernacle was a large tent made of cloth, wood, and precious metal; it was divided into 2 rooms, a larger room where all the priests could enter and a smaller room where the high priest could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The larger room was called "The Holy Place," while the smaller, inner room was called "The Holy of Holies" (Ex. 25:9-21).
What furnishings were in the Holy Place (Hebrews 9:2; see also Ex. 25:23-40, 26:1-30; and Lev. 24:5)?
What furnishings were in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 9:3, 4)?
The lampstand represented Jesus as the Light of the world, the One who not only gives knowledge about the truth but who also leads people into lives of goodness (John 8:12). The table of the showbread represents Jesus as the bread of life. Only by feeding on Christ as the true Bread of Life can we have eternal life (John 6:32-35). The altar of incense represents the prayers of Christ's people. The ark of the covenant (like the replica in Raiders of the Lost Ark) had two angels looking down upon the top of the ark. What went into the ark of the covenant itself (Heb. 9:4)?
The first element contained within the ark of the covenant represented the fact that the Jews had rejected God's moral Law; the second element represented the fact that they had rejected His daily provision; while the third element represented the fact that they had rejected His leadership. Whatever else the ark of the covenant represented, it represented Israel's (and OUR) rebellion against the Lord.
Covering the ark of the covenant was a top or lid called "the mercy seat." Once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest would bring the blood of a lamb and pour it on top of the mercy seat. Before the high priest poured the blood on top of the mercy seat, God saw only the Law we had broken, His rod of leadership which we had rejected, and His provision which we had refused; after the high priest poured the blood on top of the mercy seat, God saw only the blood of the lamb. This was a symbolical way of saying that blood covers our sins.
The Sacrificial System
Numerous sacrifices were performed outside the tabernacle and later outside the Temple. There were sacrifices of thanksgiving, thanking God for His bounteous provision. There were sacrifices of burnt offering in which the worshiper dedicated himself totally to the Lord. There were sacrifices for purification; for example, the poor would offer 2 doves to be sacrificed in order to purify the woman who had just given birth. There were sacrifices for sin in which the worshiper would offer a lamb to be sacrificed on his behalf. To understand the magnitude of the sacrificial system, read 1 Kings 8:63 and write down the number of sacrifices Solomon made on one day alone.
The Priesthood of Aaron
When you read the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you see them offering up their own sacrifices to God. With the coming of the Law though not just anybody could offer sacrifices. From now on only the priests can offer up sacrifices. What was the qualification to be a priest (Ex. 28:1)?
Although numerous priests offered up the daily and seasonal sacrifices, the high priest performed one unique function. Each year on the Day of Atonement only one person could take blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood where upon the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant(Leviticus 16:32).
What happened after Moses built and dedicated the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35)?
The cloud represents the presence of God, the glory of God. Notice that the cloud descended upon the tabernacle ONLY AFTER the sacrifices had been given. Before God will make His presence known, He expects sacrifice.
For this reason we saw that we see God more clearly at the cross of Christ than at any other point or time in history. The cross shows us that God is just. God is such a just and righteous God that He hates sin to such an extent that He demands death as the punishment for sin. On the other hand, the cross shows us that God is love. He not only hates sin, He loves us so much that He crucifies Himself on the cross so that we might not die.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE APOSTLES
In 70 AD the Romans came and savagely squelched the Jewish rebellion which had started in 67 AD. One of the most devastating results of this rebellion was that the Romans destroyed the temple. Since the temple was the only site the Jews believed a person could offer sacrifice, the destruction of the temple also meant the destruction of the sacrificial system. For 1935 years the Jews have not offered sacrifices to God. Although that might seem tragic, the bottom line is this: the ministry of Jesus has done away with the need for this sacrificial system and for the temple itself. The sacrificial system/temple/priesthood, etc., were not done away with simply because they were inadequate; neither was it just a coincidence that the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed after the death of Jesus. They were done away with because something far better has taken their place.
The Sacrificial System
According to Heb. 10:1-4 what was true about the sacrifical system?
The priests offered these sacrifices year after year after year after year. Did all this repetition show that the sacrifices were effective or ineffective (10:1-4)?
Moreover, did the sacrifice of GOATS AND BULLS prove effective or ineffective? If so, why; if not, why not?
On the other hand, what was true of the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary (Heb.10:14)?
What made Jesus' sacrifice different from the sacrifice of goats and bulls? In other words, why did His sacrifice work but the others did not (9:12-14)?
This totally flies in the face of Roman Catholic doctrine. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters believe that every time the priest administers the mass, Jesus is again sacrificed. This is called "perpetual sacrifice." Hebrews though categorically claims that Jesus was sacrificed ONCE and for all.
It is interesting to note that Paul calls Jesus our propitiation in Romans 3:25. This is interesting because the same word translated for "mercy seat" is the word translated "propitiation." The mercy seat was a covering which went over the box containing the 10 Commandments, the manna, and Aaron's rod. Whenever God looked down upon this box, He saw nothing more than the symbols of Israel's rebellion. When the high priest poured the blood of the lamb on top of the mercy seat, God now saw only blood, not rebellion. In the same way Jesus is our mercy seat. When God first sees us, He sees our rebellion. When we apply the blood of Jesus to ourselves though, God no longer sees our rebellion; He sees only the blood of Jesus.
The Law had as one of its purposes the purpose to teach and to prepare the Jews for the coming of Christ. After 1200+ years of being trained by the Law, you would have thought that the people would have been prepared for Jesus' coming. The sad truth is that all these years of preparation were basically wasted upon the Jewish people because when Christ did appear and die as God's sacrifice for us, they rejected Him.
The Aaronic Priesthood
Just like the sacrificial system in the OT was inadequate to meet man's deepest needs, so the priesthood of Aaron proved inadequate. What happened which showed that Aaron's priesthood was inadequate (Heb. 7:11-12)?
The priesthood of Jesus on the other hand has proved effective and more than adequate. Jesus' sacrifice was so effective because He had to offer it only ONCE.
With the priesthood of Jesus a new twist was added to sacrifices. In the priesthood of Aaron, Aaron or his descendants would offer up a lamb as a sacrifice. In the priesthood of Jesus, Jesus offers up Himself. In Jesus' priesthood the Priest offers up the Priest as a sacrifice.
Jesus' priesthood (as did Aaron's) involves more than just offering up sacrifice. Prayer forms an important part of the role of the priest. What does Jesus do for His people right now (Rom. 8:34)? (This is His primary role right now on behalf of His people.)
What has happened which shows that Jesus' priesthood is effective and more than adequate (Heb. 7:25)?
The Tabernacle of God
The tabernacle has come and gone. The once mighty Temple in Jerusalem has come and gone. Was this just an accident of history (John 4:21 and Matthew 24:1-2)? Why or why not?
A new Tabernacle has emerged. Who is that tabernacle (John 1:14--the word "dwelt" literally means "tabernacled")?
Because He is that tabernacle, we have beheld "His ___________, ___________ as of the only begotten from the Father" (John 1:14). Just as the glory of the Lord descended upon that first tabernacle and that first Temple, so now God's glory rests upon this Person.
This truth is what separates Christianity from other religions. Christianity is not saying that Buddha was a bad person or that Confuscius was heretical. It is not blasting Mohammed. It is saying that God's glory dwells upon Jesus. He is the truth Tabernacle/Temple of God. Just like the Jews met God at the first Tabernacle/Temple, so now God's people meet God in the person of Jesus. Jesus is where you meet God. Nowhere else, just Jesus.
According to 1 Cor. 6:19 who else has become the tabernacle/temple of God?
The result of all this is that no longer should we worry about offering a sacrifice in order to make us right with God. Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice has accomplished this. Why do we then sacrifice ourselves completely to God (Rom. 12:1)? Because it is the only appropriate response to His sacrifice for us. Since He gave Himself to us completely, we in turn should give ourselves to Him completely.
Next, we need to remember that the blood which covers our sins is nothing less than the blood of Jesus. Many feel like they will never be forgiven because their sins are so great. Their sins indeed may be great; however, no sin is so great that it cannot be covered by the blood of God Himself. The blood of dumb animals does not cover our sins; the blood of God Himself covers ALL our sins, even the sins we committed as Christians.