From “before the foundation of the world,” the redeeming work of Christ was known (1 Peter 1:18-20) 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
God had a plan from the beginning. From the time that sin entered the world the plan was put into effect. The curses on the serpent, Adam, and Eve all show the serious consequences of sin. Yet, God did not simply punish without leaving a glimmer of hope. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “No matter how tough things get, there is always hope.” Genesis 3:15 is that hinge passage that say the seed of the woman (Jesus and Eve) will crush the serpent’s head. God was making known His plan known from that very point. The first eleven chapters of Genesis show the downward spiral of sin to emphasize that we need God if we will ever be free from sin’s consequences. From Genesis 12, it is clear that God is narrowing the focus of the seed promise. Through Abraham’s seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The rest of the story is a demonstration of God’s plan being carried out.
The cross is pictured throughout Scripture even from the beginning. By “pictured,” I mean that there are various events in the Bible that foreshadow the cross. Not coincidental that the Tree of Knowledge was part of the sin of Adam and Eve. Where by one tree, humankind was deceived, by another tree, the tree of Calvary or cross of Christ, humankind is redeemed.
The near sacrifice of Isaac, the Son of Promise, by Abraham in Genesis 22 foreshadows the future sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son at Calvary. Not only was the sacrifice foreshadowed, but the image of Isaac going to the top of the hill, carrying the wood of the sacrifice upon his back is similar to the image of Jesus ascending the hill of Golgotha with His Cross upon Simon’s shoulders.
The Scriptures disclose, too, that it would be through the Cross and the Cross alone that deliverance would come to humankind. Moses told Joshua to battle the forces of Amalek while Moses stood on the top of a hill; and whenever Moses held up his hands (outstretched in the form of a cross), Israel prevailed. But whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed’ (Exodus 17:10-11).12 As Moses, a deliverer and shadow of Jesus, led God’s people to victory only in the shadow of the cross, so is the Cross of the eternal Jesus the one power of God for those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Another place we see the shadow of the cross is in the construction of the Tabernacle and in the way it is furnished. God went to great detail to communicate what was expected in the design of the tabernacle. Every kind of material was prescribed. Every kind of fabric was scripted. Every length, width and breadth was detailed. Every color was chosen by God. Why? Because there was great purpose in the set up and furnishings of the Tabernacle. The purpose wasn’t just so that they could have a pretty place to worship. The idea wasn’t simply that a Holy God required the very best. It wasn’t merely that the Tabernacle represented a retreat away from the things of the world or even that it housed the presence of God although one could argue a case for all of these. The point of the Tabernacle was to point the way to the cross. The way the tabernacle was set up and the twelve tribes were in compass points around it, if you stood on an elevation and looked down, you would see the shape of a cross. The seven pieces of furniture inside the Tabernacle were also arranged in the shape of a cross. You see, from the beginning of time, the cross stood and stands in the center of everything. For Jesus is “the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13:8 and he was slain on a cross to pay the price for the sin of humanity.
When God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in Exodus 25:8, he was creating a physical place where His people could connect with His presence. His presence was going to dwell in the tabernacle. That would be their connecting point with God. He also was creating a place where sin would be atoned for through costly animal sacrifices. It was tedious. It was messy. It was labor intensive and tiring, but that was the temporary plan. A priest would serve as a mediator. Again, all of this ritual and mediation was set up to point to the cross.
More could be said, but simply put the Tabernacle was a place for the Israelites to come to God and to become clean before Him. Remember that as we move through the rest of the message.
Did you notice that the lobby was kind of bare today? We have begun renovations on a large scale. Obviously we realize that the current condition of the lobby is temporary. It’s something we deal with because we know that something better is coming. Now, if I told you the lobby look would be temporary, but that the temporary look would last hundreds of years, it would get old quickly. So what was the point of such a long temporary tabernacle and all of its requirements?
If the cross was planned all along, why, after Genesis chapter three which depicted the sin of man and revealed the consequences and curse of sin didn’t Genesis four begin with “And she brought forth her first born Son?” Why wasn’t Jesus born immediately? Why did it take so long to get to the cross? Why did God establish all of the tabernacle furnishings and policies and procedures with their intense and bloody demands if they weren’t the permanent solution? Why introduce something temporary when you know that something permanent is the plan?
I can’t answer that question for sure, but I will say in my 40 years of life I’ve learned something about human nature. It often takes a long time for someone to recognize they need to change. People usually don’t just change because it is proposed that they should. They change because they experience the consequence of their fallen actions and they want something different.
Think about it in terms of parenting. We were spankers. Until our kids were about four, we didn’t hesitate to spank them. We believed it was only in suffering a consequence that they realized there was a better way and a better choice to be made. Consequences are positive because they shape us when we submit to them.
I’ll never forget trying to get out of the door with Joshua to take him to the church preschool in Cincinnati. He was almost three and he was only partially dressed. He was throwing a fit and refused to put his pants on because he was glued to those ridiculous little fluffy things known as Teletubbies. Who ever came up with that show? Can you imagine going to a network executive and saying, “I’ve got a great idea for a kids’ show. Fluffy, colorful half alien looking creatures will bounce around and talk like babies. It will be awesome.” Someone bought the idea and we all have to suffer those consequences! I digress. Anyway, he refused to put his pants on. Well, I have no time for arguing with children, so I scooped him up, and I told him he lost the privilege of wearing pants. I put him in the car and drove to the church. Josh’s tears dried up really quickly. The look on his face in my rearview mirror was priceless. I pulled into the church and got him out of his car seat. Still in his underwear, I carried him in. Two receptionists greeted us with a very strange look, and Joshua, with the sweetness of honey said, “Mom, I’d like to put my pants on now.” Imposing that consequence caused immediate submission. I never had another issue with him refusing to get his pants on.
I’m going to speculate and say that perhaps the cross was delayed because we had to learn to equate sacrifice with love. Follow along with me. We had to suffer consequences so that we could understand pain. Once we understood consequences and pain, we could learn about sacrifice. Once we understood consequences and pain and sacrifice, we could be then awed and amazed and drawn to a Love so great that it would willingly step in and save us from what we were supposed to suffer. But if we had never understood suffering or experienced the cost and stench and blood of sacrifice, we’d never be compelled to walk toward the Love that sacrificed for us.
You know, if a child doesn’t suffer consequences he or she never learns what salvation truly is. If you ground your child only to change the punishment a half hour later, if you impose an earlier bed time only to let them stay up anyway, if you say “no car keys” only to give them the car keys back because you don’t want the hassle of driving them to and from work, you are teaching them that consequence is negotiable, that suffering isn’t purposeful and that ultimate authority and love don’t exist. They’ll think authority is something to be manipulated and mocked rather than respected and reverenced. They’ll start to trust in their own abilities to get through life, because after all, they are used to getting their own way and seeing everything work out in the end.
But if you work with them patiently and let them suffer the consequences of their own actions and experience the pain of bad choices, one day when it is necessary to jump in to save them from terrible mess they’ve gotten themselves into they will have a template written on their hearts that accepts that sacrifice and understands what it cost you in order to bail them out. They’ll have a heart of gratitude, thanksgiving and humility because they will recognize what mercy is and that they didn’t get what was coming to them because a love so great took the heat for them. That’s why I think God structured the plan and timing of the cross to be delayed. He wasn’t interested in offering a bail out. He was interested in offering them a way out! Do you know what Exodus means? It means, the way out. The cross isn’t a way to cope. It’s a way out. But you see if people weren’t convinced they needed a way out, Jesus’ death on the cross would have been in vain.
And so the temporary Tabernacle pattern with the furnishings of the tabernacle in the shape of a cross helped point the way to the permanent solution, the cross which would become the place where God would meet with his children in an intensely passionate and personal way and the place where sin would forever be atoned for.
In our remaining time I want to look at the first three of seven pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle which all were shadows of Jesus and his mission on the cross.
The Brazen Altar points to Jesus, our Sacrifice-Exodus 27:1-8
This was the first stop in the tabernacle. Perhaps we have it somewhat backwards in our Protestant tradition. We call people to the altar at the end of our services. It has sort of become the climax of our worship event, but Scripture gives it a different priority. It was a place of preparation for the Israelites to get right with God (Lev. 8:15) so that they could move then closer. After the person who brought the sacrifice confessed their sins and killed it themselves, the priest would sprinkle the altar with the blood of the sacrifice and would put the animal carcass on the fire symbolizing that the sacrifice had to be total and complete. Day by day, animals were sacrificed and the blood sprinkled on the altar made atonement for the sins of the people. The death of the animal signified that the person offering the sacrifice deserved to die for his sin or her sin, but the animal became a substitute.
The altar itself was a shadow of the cross. It was made of wood. Of course Jesus was crucified on a cross of wood. While the sacrifices during the time of the Tabernacle were daily, Jesus became a once and for all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10). He was our substitute.
The truth is that Jesus was both victim and priest. No priest except Jesus, the High Priest, could have administered the sacrifice on the NT altar, the cross. No sacrifice, but Jesus, the perfect, sinless Lamb of God, could have died in order to pay for the sins of the world!
Now just for a minute, think about your home. What is the first thing someone sees? Maybe a pretty decoration, a picture of your family an antique piece of furniture? You try to make the entry way to your home a cheerful, upbeat and inviting place to be. Not so with the tabernacle furnishings. The first thing you saw was a blood-stained, conspicuous altar in the outer court.
You can’t get any more conspicuous than the cross. Jesus was high and lifted up for everyone to see. You know why? Because Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, and ascended is and always will be the main attraction! Oh that Jesus would always be the main event on display in this church and in the churches of our world today.
That altar was the first thing people saw because
At the altar, God wanted us to learn that every sin destroys. Though we cannot see the consequences of sin, due to his mercy, God did not want us to forget the destructive nature of sin. To forget is to become comfortable with sin.
At the altar God wanted us to see that spilled blood equals the wasting of life! We often waste our own life by irresponsible, sinful and selfish behavior. SIN IS A LIFE WASTER!
At the altar, God wanted us to see that SIN COSTS. Every time an individual sinned, they were to bring a lamb for sacrifice. LAMBS DIDN’T GROW ON TREES! Sin does cost. It cost God his Son! It still costs. For some, the price is their character, their marriage or their career. For others the price is their soul.
At the altar, God wanted us to see that sin destroys INNOCENT victims. The sinner would bring his lamb, meet the priest, and confess his sin. The sinner would look at that lamb, would raise the knife, would slay the animal and would hear the bleating cry of pain. The priest would assist in the catching of the blood, but that taking of the life would have been the action of the person bringing the sacrifice.
It was your sin and mine that nailed Christ to the cross. He willingly became our substitute, but we might as well have had the hammer in our hands. Can you see Christ, bound to Calvary, an innocent victim, in the Old Testament brazen altar? Just take a moment to thank Him for being your sacrifice. As you do, think of any area of your life the needs to be confessed. Christ’s blood still atones for sin. You only have to confess.
The Bronze Laver points to Jesus, our Sanctifier.
You can read in Exodus 30:19-21 about this next piece of furniture that you would encounter. It was an ornate washing station. There were mirrors in it so that as you washed your hands and feet you would be looking at yourself. The priests were required by God to keep their physical body and the priestly garments spotlessly clean. Washing was so important for the priests that if they didn’t do it, they could die.
You can see in the brazen laver or wash basin that there is an emphasis on the holiness of God. Not only do we have the pollution of sin washed off, but as we look into the mirror of our hearts, we have to make sure our hearts are pure if our worship will be acceptable to this holy God. If you could die simply for not washing your hands which are on the outside of your body, how much more severe would it be if your heart wasn’t cleansed. Priests were required to draw near to God not only with clean hands and feet, but with a pure heart. Psalm 24:3 says, “3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Jesus could only be our Sanctifier (which means “cleanser” or “purifier”) because He was without sin. II Cor. 5:21. His blood washes us because it is pure. It is clean. It wasn’t defiled by sin. I John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” I love the hymn that asks the question:
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
On this side of the cross, we rely on the Holy Spirit to do what the Bronze Laver did for those who worshiped in Moses’ tabernacle. It is strategic that the altar of sacrifice is first, followed by the bronze laver in the outer court. We come to the cross first where Jesus’ blood covers our sins. We then receive the Holy Spirit who does a cleansing work in us as He continues to reveal who we are on the inside and show us our need for change.
Look at Titus 3:5 “5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” We are reborn because of what Christ did on the cross, and we are renewed day by day and washed by the work of the Holy Spirit. For the OT priests, this washing routine was constant. So it should be for us as well.
We must wash our minds, our wills, our emotions, our habits and our attitudes. Ephesians 5:26 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” This is the Year of the Word at Teays Valley Church of God where we are
Why read the Bible daily? Because one of the main ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us it through God’s Word. That’s how we can stay clean. Most of you here this morning took more the one bath this week (I hope?). If you are only exposed to God’s Word on Sundays, it’s like taking one spiritual bath a week. It’s not enough. Jesus prayed for us in John 17:17 when he said, “Sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is truth.”
The Table of Shewbread points to Jesus, the Bread of Life
Moving from the outer court through a beautifully colored embroidered door, the first “apartment” of the sanctuary was called the holy place. Standing to the right hand or north side was the table of showbread. Two stacks of six loaves, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
There was bread on the table made of fine unleavened flour. The bread was renewed every Sabbath by fresh loaves. The loaves that were removed belonged to the priests and could be eaten by them only and could only be eaten in the holy place. The showbread, always being renewed and placed on the table was a constant memorial of God’s goodness in providing for the nourishment of His people.
You’ll recall that Christ called Himself, “The Bread of Life.” What implications can we draw from the table and Jesus, the Bread of Life?
It was the lowest piece of the furniture in the tabernacle. The bread on that table was never out of reach or over the head of anyone. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is also that accessible. Not only is Jesus accessible, but just like the showbread that was always on the table, Jesus is always available.
The bread that was on that table was costly. It was made from fine flour or crushed grain. This is the bread of the crushed and crucified Lord. You’ll remember, of communion or the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “Take, and eat. This is my body, broken for you.” Christ’s brokenness on the cross becomes that which gives us spiritual nourishment.
For me, it is a reminder that God desires fellowship with me. When you invite someone over for dinner it’s not that you want someone to eat with you because you don’t want to eat alone or you’re tired of only talking with your family, but you invite them over because you desire to fellowship with them. You want to host their presence. You want to have their company because as you spend time with them, your love deepens and you grow as a person. That’s what Jesus, the Bread of Life, wants with each of us, fellowship.
The altar of sacrifice, the washing station, and the showbread all point to the cross because like Joshua realized that morning of preschool, these three pieces of furniture help us realize that we have been caught in disobedience and we don’t have the appropriate clothes on.
Jesus, the Bread of Life, has become our sacrifice. He wants to cleanse us by His blood and feed and sustain us by drawing us closer to Himself. He wants to clothe us in His righteousness so that we will be presentable before God our Heavenly Father.
Remember, I said when God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle he was creating a physical place where His people could connect with His presence. His presence was going to dwell in the tabernacle. That would be their connecting point with God. He also was creating a place where sin would be atoned for through costly sacrifices. It was tedious. It was messy. It was labor intensive and tiring, but that was the temporary plan. A priest would serve as a mediator.
Because of the cross, there is a new connecting place for God’s people. It was a place where sin was atoned for through sacrifice. It was messy. Jesus, our High Priest, served as the mediator. But it wasn’t a temporary fix. The cross still stands as the once and for all place where anyone can come regardless of upbringing, education, race, temperament, financial status or hang up. The OT sacrifices were unsuspecting victims. They had no idea what was about to happen to them. Jesus wasn’t an unwilling, unsuspecting victim. When he laid down on that cross it wasn’t because soldiers were restraining Him. He went willingly, knowing exactly what He was doing. He went so He could save you. He went so He could wash you. He went so He could feed you.