The Tabernacle of Moses

How are the articles of the Tabernacle related to God’s plan for man or the lives of believers?  Thank you for your assistance.

Many Bible scholars place a lot of significance upon the symbolism of the tabernacle and the furniture in it. Basically, the tabernacle symbolizes the Messiah, but I think that we have to be careful about how much symbolism we apply to the articles in the temple. This is because the New Testament does not offer a lot of information to confirm some of the symbols that some see. (For example, some have claimed that the four pillars of the tabernacle symbolize the four gospels of the New Testament, but I think this is a stretch.) Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the Tabernacle was modeled on a heavenly pattern (Hebrews 8:5), and he used it to give meaning to the priesthood and the atoning work of Christ (Hebrews 9:9), but without excessive symbolism.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the particular furniture and materials used in construction of the tabernacle may have been chose, at least in part, by culture, necessity, and availability, and they had purpose and significance to the Jewish people even aside from their symbolic meanings. Still, I believe that the following symbolism is quite obvious:

The ark is the throne of God–the visible sign of His presence (1 Samuel 4:7). Jesus Christ, who “tabernacled” (John 1:14) among men to make God present and known.

The table of shewbread (“bread of the face of the Lord”) suggests the constant (fresh) dedication of the 12 tribes to divine service, indicating that they were always before the face of the Lord. I believe that this can also be applied to us as Christian believers today.

The lampstand was the only source of light for the holy place, indicating that God is the ultimate Source of Light. There was no provision in the holy place for natural light, just as there is no need for light in heaven other than the light of God (Revelation 21:23). This gives meaning to the claim of Jesus to be the Light of the World and to His challenge to believers to allow their light to shine (Matthew 5:16). This is further understood Revelation 1:12-20 where the seven churches of Asia are represented by seven lampstands, with Christ standing in their midst.

The altar of incense symbolizes the ascending prayers of men to God.

The bronze altar, with its many sacrifices, symbolizes atonement and reconciliation, and it points to the ultimate, all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The laver, used for washing, signifies the necessity of purity, cleansing, and confession (1 John 1:9) in our approach to God.

The desire of man to draw near to God and God’s willingness to be approached are clearly visible in the furniture of the Tabernacle.

I hope this helps.



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