FIRST POSTED ON 15 APRIL 2019.
Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!
In our previous session, we saw how God gave Israel the Law as part of His plan for the nation to become His lesser light pointing to Jesus. God did not expect Israel to do this by keeping the Law; in fact, it was precisely by not being able to do so that Israel would point to our need for Jesus, who alone can meet all the requirements of the Law.
Because Israel was never meant to be able to uphold the Law, God also gave the nation the Tabernacle - a special place whereby they and all mankind could come before God - as well as a system of Priesthood and Sacrifices. These were to provide a way for Israel to be forgiven and cleansed so that it could serve as God’s priest drawing all nations to worship the One True God. Israel was to be God’s lesser light not by its own righteousness (in being able to keep the Law), but by reflecting God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness to the world.
Now, if the Law was meant to expose our sinfulness and inability to come into God’s presence by our good works, then the Tabernacle revealed how God nonetheless wanted to dwell among us by providing a way to remove this barrier of sin. If the Law spoke of how we were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … [and to] love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-40), then the Tabernacle spoke of how it was God who first loved us. For God, love was not just mere words or something demanded of us by command. Instead, the Tabernacle revealed how God Himself actively took steps to restore our broken relationship with Him.
Ultimately, the Tabernacle pointed to “God with us” - literally, physically - in the person of Jesus or Emmanuel.
We are told in the book of Hebrews that the earthly Tabernacle was patterned after the “true tabernacle” in heaven (Heb 8:1-5, 9:11,24). In other words, besides its earthly function, the Tabernacle - every section and article in it - was meant to reflect a deeper spiritual reality.
This reality can be summed up by Jesus’ words in John 14:6 - “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Let us look at this further by examining some of the articles in the Tabernacle:
First, Jesus is the (only) Way to God - we see this reflected in the single doorway into the Tabernacle. And not only that - in order for the priests to enter the covered tent proper, they had to offer burnt sacrifices on the Altar and wash themselves at the Bronze Laver or basin. These are symbolic of how we cannot enter into God’s presence without accepting Jesus’ death on the cross for us and letting our sins be cleansed and washed away by His blood.
Next, Jesus is the Truth that reveals God to us - once inside what is known as the Holy Place, the only source of light in the room comes from the Golden Lampstand - symbolic of Jesus, our True Light. Jesus is also reflected in the Table of Showbread, also known as the Bread of the Presence (or that which causes God to “show up”). In Jesus, God literally “showed up” among us - He is God's Word made flesh, the Bread of Life, the Truth that sets us free.
Finally, Jesus is Life itself - Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place [where the Ark of the Covenant and the Glory of God resided] … by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain [or veil], that is, His body.” For when Jesus died, we are told that the curtain in the Temple that separated us from the very life-giving presence of God was torn in two. In Jesus, we can now boldly come before God to receive eternal life.
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