God conveyed the mysterious and detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle and its contents, every item had precise measurements and details from the bowls used for sacrifice to the Ark of the Covenant that would hold the Ten Commandments. All these details would have seemed completely different and somewhat strange from the Israelites experiences in Egypt. But think of the provision God supplied: the Israelites learned to weave, make perfume and incense; they became skilled carpenters, metal workers and gold smiths while they were slaves in Egypt. Now they will use those skills to worship the LORD according to His plans, they will approach the Mercy Seat in the prescribed way or risk certain death.
The Tabernacle would be the worship center for the Israelites for 500 years, from Moses to David. The Temple was not built until David’s son Solomon was King. The Tabernacle will be a witness of God’s presence in Israel, his dwelling and ruling of the Israelites; His ever present leading in everyday life and in the great battles to come.
Next God gives Moses the plans for the courtyard tent that surrounded the Tabernacle and contained the altar for burnt offerings and the basin for washing. The altar was 7”6” square with horn on all four corners, it was 4’6” high; it was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze all made according God’s plans. The horns of the altar were indispensable, fugitives could cling to them for safety, blood of the sacrifice was put on them and the priests would grab the horns when making intercessory prayer. The bronze altar was placed in front of the entrance to the Tabernacle; indicating that the only way to approach the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place, was through confession of sins and the sacrifice. It was around the altar that the Israelites gathered to make their sacrifices for forgiveness and atonement. The person bringing the sacrifice would place their hands on the animal’s head and confess their sins, their sins transferred to the animal, the animal was killed and its blood place on the horn and around the base of the altar. “For the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.” The sin question must be dealt with in the courtyard, where sinners stand. There must be a substitute, a sacrifice, before one can enter into the Holy Place. As every Israelite had to come by way of the bronze altar, so today the cross is the only way to heaven. (JOY notes)
We see how perfectly Jesus fulfills this sacrifice for us, once for all. He presented himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He took upon himself all of our sins, transferring our sins to the Lamb of God; he died for us, erasing our sins so that we can stand with confidence before the throne of God knowing we have been cleansed from all our unrighteousness by His sacrificial death.
The Tabernacle with the Bronze altar is surrounded by fencing made of twisted linen 150’ long, 75’ wide and 7’6” high. The entrance to the courtyard always faced east towards the sunrise, an elaborate curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn twisted with linen and decorated with embroidered art marked the entrance to the courtyard of the LORD. The application is easy; there was only one way in and only one way to make yourself right with the LORD, through the sacrifice on the altar. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The instructions for the last two items are given, an altar for burning incense and the bronze basin for washing. The altar of incense will go in the holy place, the waiting room of God and will burn continually with a sweet smell. The basin is place outside the tabernacle for the cleansing of the hands and feet before entering into the tabernacle. Recipes were given for perfumed oil and incense; these were set apart as holy, never used for common practices only for the Tabernacle and the anointing of priests.
Aaron and his four sons are appointed by God to be the priests for the Israelites, they would maintain the Tabernacle and its furnishings, they would perform the sacrificial rituals and they would remind the people of Israel of their covenant obligations. God gave Moses specific instructions for Aaron and his sons’ clothing; all were holy garments, for glory and beauty. The High Priest wore a blue robe over a fitted tunic with a turban on his head; the bottom of the robe was decorated with pomegranates and gold bells. Hanging on his chest was the Ephod, a cloth vest that hung from his shoulder by straps. The Ephod had a pouch in front that contained two stones called the Urim and Thummin; they were used for decision making. On the shoulder straps were onyx stones set in gold with the names of the twelve tribes engraved on the stones; on the front of the Ephod – the Breastpiece were four rows of three precious stones across engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. These are the Stones of Remembrance; the High Priest would carry the names of the sons of Israel over his heart as he did his duties in the Tabernacle and the people would listen for the bells on his robe that indicated his progress. Finally, on the High Priests head was a plate of gold engrave with a seal saying “Holiness to the LORD”; Aaron carried the heavy responsibility to do everything exactly as God instructed, he was set apart for that holy purpose.
Moses dedicated Aaron and sons for their ministry, but before they could do this they needed to cleanse themselves from their sins. They offered a young bull, two rams and bread made with fine wheat flour for sacrifice; first they wash with water at the entrance to the tent of meeting, then Moses dressed them and anointed them with oil. They confess their sins on the head of the animals, the bull’s blood is sprinkled on the horns and base of the altar, its internal organs are burned on the altar and the remaining is burned outside of the camp. The first ram is killed, blood sprinkled and is completely burned on the altar; this is also called a whole offering because everything is burned. The second ram is treated differently, it is killed and the blood is sprinkled on Aaron and sons’ right ear, right thumb and right big toe and on their garments and on the altar; portions of this animal is saved for cooking the remaining is burned on the altar. The meat from the ram and bread from the wave offering become a communion sacrifice, a shared meal with God indicating that they are at peace with God. This consecration ceremony was repeated for seven days, everything was purified by sacrifice and confession; the priests, their clothing and all the items made for worship.
Finally, Moses is instructed to take a census, He was to count the Israelites and each man is to pay a ransom for his life to the LORD. Each man twenty years old and older is to pay a half shekel; this became the sanctuary offering for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. Lastly recorded forever are the names of the artisans that God filled with the Spirit of God in skill, in understanding, in knowledge and in all kinds of craftsmanship to make everything needed for the Tabernacle. Here is a lasting lesson: God makes clear His requirements but He also fills us with the abilities and Spirit to accomplish what He requires. No task is too menial and none too great but that God will supply what it takes to execute it to His glory. (JOY notes)