After the Lord gives the law on Mt. Sinai, He says to Moses, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:8-9)
The Ark of the Covenant was to contain the tablets of law within it and the mercy seat flanked by two cherubim on the outside of it. The mercy seat was the place God said, “I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony.” (Exodus 25:22) So the mercy seat stood between the presence of God (pillar of cloud) and the unattainable law of God. The mercy seat bridged the gap that sin makes between us and God. The Hebrew meaning of the word for mercy seat means “to cover”. In one sense the mercy seat covered the Law, as a lid. But in a deeper sense, the mercy seat was to cover or atone for the people’s sins. The mercy seat is also where the High Priest, entering the Holy of Holies just once a year on the Day of Atonement, would sprinkle the blood of a young bull as a sin offering for himself, a ram as a burnt offering and a goat chosen by lot as a sin offering “to cover” the sins of the people of Israel. (Leviticus 16:3-16) The mercy seat symbolized to Israel their need to have their sins covered and was fulfilled in Christ. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) But Jesus, “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)
The table for the showbread is where twelve unleavened cakes of bread were placed each Sabbath as a memorial offering to the Lord. The purpose of the showbread was to remind the Israelites that it is God who completely provides and cares for them. Remember the bread from heaven that the Lord so graciously provided for Israel while they wandered in the desert? Six days they would gather bread, but twice as much on the day before the Sabbath, so that they could rest in obedience to the Lord on the Sabbath. Jesus affirmed this in His model prayer when He asked His Father to, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And Jesus also fulfills this symbol in the tabernacle when He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
The gold lampstand stood opposite the table of showbread in the tabernacle and the seven lamps were to be arranged “so that they give light in front of it”. (Exodus 25:37) And the Israelites were commanded to bring pure olive oil for the light so that the lamp would burn continually (Leviticus 24:2). The golden lampstand points us to Christ who is the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world”. (John 1:9) Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
The altar of burnt offering is where the burnt offerings were consumed. The Israelites were commanded to bring an unblemished male offering from their herds to offer of their own free will at the door of the tabernacle before the Lord. Each man would put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, symbolically transferring his sin to that of the sacrifice, before the offering was accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Each man would then kill the bull (or sheep or goat or bird) before the Lord (acknowledging his own guilt) and then the priests would take the offering and prepare it by skinning it and cutting it into pieces, sprinkling the blood around on the altar by the door and then finally burning the offering “a sweet aroma to the Lord.” (Leviticus 1) Christ replaces the need to offer burnt offerings since He “has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smellling aroma.” (Ephesians 5:2) “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.’” (Hebrews 10:5-6) But, by the will of God, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
And finally, there was the veil that served as a divider between the holy place and the Most Holy, or Holy of Holies. (Exodus 26:33) So the veil separated the area where the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense was from the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant resided. Remember that only the High priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The veil served as a reminder for Israel that their sin kept them apart from God. They could no longer enjoy the intimacy with God that Adam and Eve had once known in the garden. The veil separated the people from their God, and only the High priest could serve as an intermediary between themselves and God. When Jesus was crucified, immediately after He died, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying that Jesus having served as our sacrifice once for all, is truly our High Priest and He alone serves as intermediary between God and His people. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.