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Exodus 25:89, 1722; 29:3846comment (0)

April 22, 2010

By Jeffrey S. Quiett

Related Scripture: Exodus 25:89, 1722; 29:3846

Explore the Bible
Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile

Exodus 25:8–9, 17–22; 29:38–46

Building the Tabernacle (25:8–9)

No other single aspect of Israel’s faith was given quite as much attention in the Old Testament as the tabernacle. Exodus devotes seven chapters (25–31) to a description of its specifications and then six more (35–40) that repeat almost word for word the instructions from Chapters 25–31. The tabernacle served as a visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people. The “sanctuary” (literally “holy place”) was made according to exact dimensions that God gave directly. These instructions were a reminder that God alone determines acceptable worship. The building of the tabernacle served as further evidence of the obedience of the Israelites.

Much is made concerning the construction and maintenance of worship buildings today. Churches have split concerning the color, arrangement and structure of new buildings. Yet God makes it clear that He alone is the object of praise and determines the manner of worship. Churches would do well to remember that buildings are built to serve God and not merely to serve His people.

Building the Ark of the Covenant (25:17–22)
The most important piece of furniture in the tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant. The ark represented the presence of God in a special way and was kept in “the most holy place” within the tabernacle. The high priest entered the most holy place once a year and sprinkled blood to atone for the sins of the people (Lev. 16). Jesus’ sacrifice, however, provided a once and for all atonement represented by the tearing of the temple veil after His death (Matt. 27:51). God’s people no longer needed a priest to gain access to Him but now have access through Christ (Heb. 4:14–16). 

“Mercy seat,” or “atonement cover,” comes from a word that means “to cover,” hence “to provide reconciliation, atonement.” The mercy seat, made of solid gold, was placed on top of the ark as a cover. The mercy seat also represented the “throne of God” and was sometimes referred to as His footstool (Ps. 99:5). “Cherub” (plural, cherubim) is from a word meaning “intercessor.” Although no one knows exactly what they looked like, the cherubim were in the shape of winged animals with human faces and served as guardians of a sacred spot (Gen. 3:24) and transporters of the deity (Ps. 18:10; Ezek. 1:15–28). They always were associated with the nearness of God in the Old Testament.

Movies and television specials have made much over “the lost ark.” People’s tendency to associate God with physical objects is not new. Although these objects may serve as reminders of God’s presence, they can never “contain” God or become the actual presence of God. Preoccupation with material objects in worship distracts us from God who is the true subject of worship.  

Sacrifice in the Presence of God (29:38–46)
These verses describe sacrifices that were to be presented at the entrance of the tabernacle morning and evening throughout all generations. God promised Moses that He would meet him at the tent of meeting to speak with him. He also would meet the Israelites there. The phrase “they will know that I am the Lord their God” is found 46 times in the book of Ezekiel alone. The phrase is found usually in the context of a warning that as a result of God’s coming judgment, Israel would know that He is the Lord.

This passage is filled with the expectation of God’s presence. Worship involves interaction with God and not merely going through ritualistic motions. The tabernacle, ark and sacrifices were to remind the Israelites of God’s presence, grace and provision and not to be ends in themselves.

The sacrificial system of the Israelites was complex. This points to the seriousness of sin and man’s propensity to rebel against God. Worship is not about us. God does not need our worship, but we need God to make us right with Him. The death of Jesus ultimately fulfills God’s requirement of sacrifice for sin.  

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