Wednesday, December 30, 2015

God's House vs. Place of Meeting: There is a Difference, then and now.


The Tabernacle’s Curtains, Boards, Bars, Veil, and Screen
Picture courtesy of: "Tabernacle-view" by Epictatus at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tabernacle-view.jpg#/media/File:Tabernacle-view.jpg

Exodus 26:1-37: In chapter 26 of Exodus, God gives detailed instructions for each of the items listed in our heading. Rather than repeat the entire chapter here, the reader may want to study the fine detail from the Scriptures itself. We have been using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as it is excellent study version of the Word of God, but many of the other renditions are also helpful. Below we simply highlight some of the key features of the chapter for our study.
In verse 1 of the chapter we note that Moses was to use skillful workmen in the work that God wanted done to precision.  God wants the best in His service and He will see to it that we have the best because He equips His people to do the job He wants done. However, sometimes we rush things – using the wrong people, just to get the job done and God is not pleased. I am not suggesting that God can’t use untrained people, He can and He does.  But I can confidently say that I believe He does not use un-equipped people. Those of us in charge of ministry need to make sure the people we use are indeed equipped to do the job God wants them to do.  [By the way, God repeats this request in verse 31 when it comes to the making of the “veil” for the tabernacle.]
In verse 30, God again repeats the caution that He already has given Moses with respect to the furniture he was to have built. God says, “. . . erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” Follow the instructions.  That’s central. And get the instructions when you go to “the mountain”. We can’t get clear instructions from God when we hang around with the masses.  We have to go alone to the mountain. We have to turn off the din of the world – the television, the radio, the magazines, and yes, even the newspapers that we claim simply keep us abreast of things.
In verses 33 and 34 we are told that the Ark of the testimony (that first piece of furniture God ordered) complete with the “mercy seat” (its lid) was to go behind this veil they were making.  And the veil itself would divide the tabernacle into one section called “the holy place” and another one “the holy of holies”. God visits His people in the “holy of holies”.  He can visit us anywhere, but He prefers to visit us in the “holy of holies”. For the Israelites it was behind the “veil”.  For us today, it is through God’s “holy of holies” – His Son, Jesus Christ. It is there we get the clearest message from God as to how then we should live.
In verse 35 we are told that the table of the showbread and the lampstand go outside the “veil” in the holy place, but not in the holy of holies.  Here’s a picture courtesy of http://www.bibleforums.org. Also, the “boards” were stronger than the curtains that were around and over the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. The “boards” were around the whole structure.
Earlier on we saw that the tabernacle was to have numerous curtains that basically formed its walls making it a distinct structure in the midst of the Israelite camp. And in verse 36 we are told that they were to build a “screen” to serve as the doorway to the tent.  The colors of the screen are very significant (blue, purple and scarlet).
Chuck Smith goes into great details about the construction and relationship of the various curtains of the tabernacle.  The whole idea was that this was a well-constructed and yes, portable, tent. He also reminds us that while we may think our modern-day houses of worship should somehow reflect the tabernacle, we need to be very careful not to think of either as “God’s house”.  God cannot be contained in the heavens, let alone a man-made structure, even if it is made to His specifications. No, both the tabernacle and our own places of worship are “meeting houses” – places where God’s people may come together to meet with God collectively, and individually, if one chooses.
Of course, we can meet God (or more precisely, God can meet with us) anywhere – by the seaside, in our car, at our prayer room in our home, in the hospital, etc. But if we want to meet Him in the fellowship of others who want to meet Him too, we need a “meeting house”.
There was, however, a difference between our “meeting” God and the Israelites “meeting” God. We have Jesus Christ that allows us to meet with God; they didn’t.  So they couldn’t meet with Him directly.  They could only go to the place or tent of meeting in the overall tabernacle structure and had to remain in the courtyard.  There they would offer their sacrifice and ask the priest to approach God on their behalf.  Only the priests could go beyond into the holy place and the holy of holies.  According to Smith, this was the case until the time of King David. After that, Solomon, his son, built the temple and the tabernacle was done away with, although obviously there was still a veil in the temple thereafter as it was that veil that was torn from top to bottom when Christ was crucified.
Of course, God chose all His instructions purposefully. Goats’ skins were used and that signified sacrifice.  Brass was used and that symbolized judgment. Also remember that the tabernacle proper was most critically the holy place and the holy of holies. It is this section that had the curtains referred to in the beginning of the chapter for both walls and roof coverings. The whole tent or place of worship (also referred to as the tabernacle by some) added space around the holy place and the holy of holies, plus a courtyard and a main gate.
In closing let me state that as I studied the commentaries on this chapter, I found that they all had various versions of what was really being constructed and how.  There is confusion on what constitutes the “tabernacle” per se versus the “tent”.  There is some confusion about where exactly the “boards” went versus the “curtains”.  And so on.  What I have referenced above is some of the perspectives that made sense to me.  When we get to heaven you may well want to ask God for a peek at the original blueprints, although I neither believe it will matter at that time, nor do I really think He has a “hard copy”. What really matters is that we will be together in the heavenly and intended tabernacle, worship God rather than in one of its replicas here below. 

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

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