If you are like me, you will discover the Old Testament to be exciting and to be quite frank, very boring. The first book of the Bible, Genesis is one of those exciting books. Genesis tells you about four great events (Creation, the Fall, Noah’s Ark, and the Tower of Babel) and the life of four men (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph). From there we pick up the story in Exodus with the life of baby Moses, and then we move on to his encounter with God and the burning bush, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai and so on. But get to about two-thirds of the book of Exodus and everything comes to a screeching halt. No more Red Sea drama or chariots of mad men chasing after a fleeing nation, no more stories of God in the mountain speaking to the people in His thunderous voice. Starting from chapter 25 to the end of Exodus, is, well, kind of boring. It is at about this point you may be tempted to put down your Bible and go watch t.v.
When you get to chapter 25 of Exodus, it begins with tedious building instructions for the furniture and the tabernacle structure itself. Why does God spend so much time and space telling us how many cubits wide and how many cubits long was the table of showbread or how many branches the lampstand had? Does it really matter that each of these boards rested in silver sockets? Why did God “waste” all that space in His Book giving such excruciating minute details about the measurements, layout, and construction of the that tent, not to mention instructions about the design and manufacturing of, and use for each piece of furniture in it?
There are a large number of people who say that these things have long since been done away with. Jesus didn’t: “And beginning at Moses [the tabernacle, law, offerings, etc] and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27). Christ said that He was in them (see Ps. 40:6; Heb.10:7). Bear in mind “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”(2 Tim.3:16). What scripture? the Old Testament scripture.
The earthly tabernacle was a copy and a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle where are Lord now ministers to His people (Heb. 8:1-5; 9:1). But if they are only shadows, why bother? Trace any shadow with the light before you and you will arrive at the substance. And that substance is Jesus Christ. The tabernacle may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not there before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.
Otherwords, the tabernacle is a giant portrait of Jesus Christ. Everywhere you look in the tabernacle you can see Him. This tabernacle testifies of Christ, who said of Moses
“ He wrote of Me” (John 5:39). Not only that, but many of the most important words and phrases employed in the New Testament have either arisen from or are illustrated by, the tabernacle and its rites, of which are a few examples: “Veil,” “Mercy Seat,” “Washed,” “Cleansed,” “Purged,” “Shed blood,” etc.
God gave only two chapters in the creation account in Genesis (Gen.1 and 2). He gave less than one chapter to the ten commandments in Exodus, but He gave thirteen chapters in Exodus to the tabernacle and its furnishings. Otherwords, about one-third of the book of Exodus is devoted to it. In fact, if you go from Genesis to Revelation, only ten chapters are spent on creation. Yet from the book of Exodus to the book of Hebrews, about fifty chapters are spent on the tabernacle, its furnishings, sacrifices and rites. The book of Revelation mentions a brazen altar, altar of incense, a throne, elders, priests, lamps, cherubim, all which parallel the main furnishings of the earthly tabernacle.
Scientist spend lifetimes studying and explaining the mysteries and wonders of this created universe. Think about that for a moment. With everything in life, the insect and animal kingdoms, the various plant life, human life, the planets and the stars etc., God gives only two chapters in the Genesis account. But to a small structure like the tabernacle, He dedicates thirteen chapters to it in Exodus. Surely God’s ways are different than man’s (Isa.55:8).
Have you ever noticed that the book of Genesis is divided into two parts? Chapter one to eleven make up one part of the book, and beginning with chapter 12 to 50 we find an altogether different section. The first section goes from creation to Abraham. The second section extends from Abraham to Joseph. The first section deals with major subjects such as: The Creation, the Fall, The Flood, the Tower of Babel. The second section has to do with mainly 4 men: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Let me put this in another way. Look at the time span from chapter 1 thru chapter 11 compared with that of chapter 12 to 50. The first 11 chapters cover a minimum time span of 2,000 years plus, but the second section of thirty-nine chapters covers only 350 years. In fact, beginning with Genesis twelve and running all the way through the Old Testament and the New Testament, a total time span of only two thousand years is covered. Therefore, as far as time is concerned, you are halfway through the Bible when you cover the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
The first section has to do with the universe and with creation, but the last part deals with man, with nations, and with the person of Jesus Christ. God was more interested in Abraham than He was in the entire created universe. And God is more interested in you and attaches more value to us than the whole universe.
Let’s take this a step further. Of the eighty-nine chapters in the four Gospel records, only four cover the first thirty years of the life of the Lord Jesus while eighty-five chapters cover the last three years of His life, and twenty-seven chapters cover the final eight days of His life. In fact in Genesis 1:16 the phrase “He made the stars also” there is no “He made,” it was added by the English translators and is not in the original Hebrew text. So in all actuality, God gives the stars only three words here in Genesis 1:16 “the stars also.” Even five words isn’t very much to comment about, let alone three words. My point is in all this is things that we put so much importance on, God just seems to gloss over and move on to what He sees as being more important. And the tabernacle is no different.
In fact, more is said about the tabernacle than Solomon’s temple. Nearly three hundred verses in Exodus are devoted to an account of the tabernacle, and its furnishings, while only one hundred and fifty verses are written in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles about Solomon’s temple and yet Solomon’s temple was twice as big, more majestic, more expensive and more beautiful than the tabernacle.
It is interesting to note that the word “tabernacle” is found ten times in the book of Hebrews, and the word “temple” does not appear at all.
It isn’t my purpose to completely tell you every detail there is to know on this subject. My purpose is to highlight some things about the tabernacle along with some pictures to help give you an idea of what it may have looked like.
As you study the tabernacle in the pages ahead, you will see some of the most “boring” scripture come to life. You will discover for yourself that Jesus is the One whom the Old Testament tabernacle is actually about.