What Was Not in the Tabernacle

July 10, 2014 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

Portrait of Christ
The following is excerpted from our new book A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST: THE TABERNACLE, THE PRIESTHOOD, AND THE OFFERINGS. ISBN 978-1-58318-178-2. This book is an extensive study on the Old Testament tabernacle and its priestly system, which has been called “God’s masterpiece of typology.” Whereas the record of the creation of the universe takes up two chapters of the Bible and the fall of man takes up one chapter, the tabernacle, with its priesthood and offerings, takes up 50 chapters. It is obvious that God has many important lessons for us in this portion of His Word. Speaking personally, nothing has helped me better understand the Triune God and the salvation that He has purchased for man, and I believe that I can guarantee that the reader will be taken to new heights in his understanding of these things. Everything about the tabernacle points to Jesus Christ: the design, the materials, the colors, the court walls and pillars, the door into the court, the sacrificial altar, the laver, the tabernacle tent itself with its boards and curtains and silver sockets, the tabernacle gate, and veil before the holy of holies, the candlestick, the table of shewbread, the incense altar, the ark of the covenant, the high priest, and the offerings. All is Christ. The tabernacle system offers brilliant, unforgettable lessons on Christ’s person, offices and work: His eternal Sonship, His sinless manhood, His anointing, His atonement, His resurrection glory, His work as the life and sustainer and light of creation, His eternal high priesthood and intercession, and His kingdom. In addition to the studies on every aspect of the tabernacle, A Portrait of Christ features studies on the high priest, the Levitical priests, the five offerings of Leviticus, the day of atonement, the ransom money, the red heifer, the cherubims, strange fire, the golden calf, leprosy, the Nazarite vow, the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, and the transportation of the tabernacle through the wilderness. The tabernacle is very practical in its teaching, as it also depicts believer priests carrying Christ through this world (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Like the Israelites in the wilderness, believers today are on a pilgrimage through a foreign land on the way to our eternal home (1 Pet. 2:11).

It is instructive to think about what wasn’t in the tabernacle.

There was no chair.

This reminds us that the work of the Levitical priests was never finished. Those sacrifices could not bring salvation; they only pointed to the salvation that would come by Christ. Salvation wasn’t complete until Jesus cried from the cross, “It is finished” just before He surrendered His spirit in death (John 19:30).

Hebrews 10:11-12 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.

The fact that there was no chair in the tabernacle also reminds us that the believer priest should always be busy in the service of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Life is too short to be lazy or to retire from the Lord’s business. Slumber produces both physical and spiritual poverty.

Proverbs 24:33-34 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 Therefore let us not sleep, as
do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

The fact that there was no chair in the tabernacle also reminds us that the believer needs to be always ready for the Lord’s return.

The priests had to be ready at a moment’s notice to pack up the tabernacle and to take their journey at the trumpet sound.

The imminent return of Christ is a major teaching of the New Testament. True Christianity is to turn to Christ from idols (repentance and faith) to serve Christ in this present world, ever watching for His return.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

There was no floor.

The floor of the tabernacle was the dirt of the bare ground.

Numbers 5:17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:

The priests in the holy place were surrounded by symbols of the resurrection glory of Christ, but their feet were still in this world.

This is a picture of the Christian life. The believer is seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6), but he is still in this fallen world. The believer has put off the old man and put on the new man positionally (Col. 3:9-10), but the old man is still present and must be put off in practice each day (Eph. 4:22-24). The believer has been delivered from Satan’s power and translated into Christ’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), but he still lives in the world over which Satan is the prince (Eph. 2:2) and he must still put on the whole armor of God to stand against the devil (Eph. 6:11). The believer has eternal redemption, but he presently lives in a fallen world and groans to be delivered from corruption (Rom. 8:22-23). The believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but the flesh is still present and if we do not walk in the Spirit we fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-17). For the believer, the body is dead and the Spirit is life (Rom. 8:10), but the body is also still alive and is called “the body of this death” (Rom. 7:14). The believer has eternal rest (Heb. 4:10), but he is also in the most severe spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-18).

“The heavens have been opened over our head. We worship and hold converse with God in the highest glory. And yet our members are here upon this earth; and we walk in the midst of a groaning creation, in a world defaced by sin; marred by the presence and power of death; still lying under the curse, and traversed as to its whole length and breadth, by the serpent’s path. ... No wonder the Lord’s people have such strange and mingled experiences. In one sense, they are already raised with Christ: in another, they yet expect the resurrection. ... Such are the experiences of the people of God, during the present dispensation, whilst the tabernacle of glory is connected with the wilderness path” (Henry Soltau, The Tabernacle the Priesthood and the Offerings).

The fact that there was no floor in the tabernacle exposes the error of monasticism. God has not instructed His people to hide from the world or isolate themselves from the world. It is tempting to buy a farm somewhere and to avoid most contact with the world, but this is exactly the opposite of what Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

We are to follow Jesus’ example. He mingled with the sinners of this world in order to save them. He was called a friend of sinners, but He didn’t sin with sinners. Paul taught that we are not to go out of the world by breaking off all association with sinners.

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

In contrast to the tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple had a floor of gold (1 Ki. 6:30). This points to the eternal reign of Christ. Then His people will dwell in immortal bodies, with no indwelling sin and no possibility of contamination. There will be glory within and glory without! The very streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with gold (Rev. 21:21).

There was no window.

There was no natural light in the tabernacle. Once the priest entered the holy place to worship and to perform his service to the Lord, the curtain of the door fell back into place and he was dependent on the lampstand for light.

Likewise in the service of Christ the believer is dependent on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word and is not allowed to mingle therein the philosophy of this world. We are to delight in the law of the Lord and reject the counsel of the ungodly (Psa. 1:1-2). We are to beware of the philosophy and tradition of men (Col. 2:8).

Theological liberals and the evangelicals who are influenced by them, for example, commit a great error when they try to interpret Genesis 1-3 by the principles of Darwinian evolution, Genesis 6-8 by ancient Babylonian fables, the Mosaic worship system by ancient paganism, and the New Testament by Gnosticism.

Just as the priest was dependent on the oil in the lamps to produce light, the believer is dependent on the Holy Spirit for enlightenment. Only by the Spirit can we rightly interpret the Bible. We must cast ourselves upon Him for help. He has promised to help and has promised to lead us into truth if we have obedient hearts and continue in God’s Word.

John 7:17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

John 8:31-32 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word,
then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Knowing that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit, we must lean not to our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Rather, we must seek wisdom as men seek after silver and cry out for wisdom, which refers to a single-minded passion for truth. Then we will find wisdom.

Proverbs 2:1-9 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. 7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. 8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. 9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

There was no party band, no comedians, no leeks and melons.

The worship of the Lord as presented in Scripture is noted by simplicity and solemnity and holiness and complete separation from the world. There is nothing to please unregenerate man, nothing that appeals to the flesh, nothing patterned after the world.

How different this is from contemporary worship with its party atmosphere and its many elements borrowed directly from the filthy world of secular rock to make it “seeker friendly.”

I think of the National Pastors’ Conference in San Diego, California, I attended with media credentials in 2009. Sponsored by Zondervan and InterVarsity Press, two of the largest and most influential “evangelical” Christian publishers, and featuring some of the most popular evangelical leaders, it featured ear-splitting rock & roll “worship” complete with smoke and lights and stand-up comedy routines. (See the free eBook
The Emerging Church Is Coming for a report on this conference, available from www.wayoflife.org.)

The mixed multitude in contemporary churches, which are composed of true saints, “nominal” unregenerate Christians, and out-and-out unbelievers, despise God’s simple manna and long for the melons, leeks, and onions of Egypt after the fashion of the mixed multitude that followed ancient Israel out of Egypt (Nu. 11:5).

Many “fundamentalist” Bible-believing churches are only a step behind the out-and-out contemporary ones, having corrupted the Lord’s house with their gimmicks and promotions and joking and undue exaltation of big-name preachers and body-swaying soft rock which they have borrowed from the one-world church.

In the 1950s, Dr. M.R. DeHaan issued the following warning about what was happening in his day, at the dawn of the neo-evangelical contemporary movement:

“Remember also that the bread on the table with the frankincense was the only thing placed upon the table as the food of the priests. There were no sauces and spices and pickles and olives and fancy salads or pie à la mode; just bread. We have drifted far, far away from this simple formula today. Instead of believers coming together to fellowship around the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, without all the extraneous paraphernalia, and just to feed on His Word, we have too often turned our services into a carnival. ... And then we wonder at the worldliness and the shallowness of Christians today. We have added pickles, olives, radishes, and highly seasoned extras, and have relegated the Word of Life to a side dish, which few will touch” (DeHaan, The Tabernacle, 1955).


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