Hebrews 8:1-7 1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
Hebrews 10:1 1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
Last week, I talked about how the Tabernacle and its furnishings were shadows of what Christ would come to do through His life and by His death on the cross. We talked about three of the seven furnishings that were in the Tabernacle which were the altar of sacrifice where people who came to confess their sins would actually slit the throat of the animal sacrifice they had brought with them. This foreshadowed the willing sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We talked about the laver that was an elaborate washing station that had mirrors on it which reminded us that Jesus blood makes possible the cleansing of our sin and that we need to approach Him with a clean conscience and sincere heart, not living and acting as if Christ’s sacrifice was for nothing. We spoke of the Table of Shewbread, the place of fellowship and instruction as we feed on Jesus, the Bread of Life, the fellowship with God made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. Now we see Jesus pictured as The LIGHT OF THE WORLD Through The Golden Lampstand.
The Golden Lampstand was made of pure gold, depicting the full and perfect deity of Christ. While dimensions were specified for the other furnishings in the tabernacle, there were no dimensions given for the Golden Lampstand because deity knows no boundary. Think of the most costly piece of furniture in your home. I’ll bet it doesn’t contain ninety pounds of gold. The Lampstand did.
In Revelation 1:12-20, John saw Jesus standing in the midst of seven candlesticks with seven stars in His right hand. The seven candlesticks were the seven churches. The Lampstand is a shadow of Christ and its branches are a shadow of the church.
There were seven lamps but only six branches. The lamp in the middle sat on the stem of the Lampstand. It vividly shadows Jesus’ Word, “I am the vine and you are the branches” in John 15.
There were no windows, no skylights no natural light in the Tabernacle. The Lampstand was the only light. Similarly, Jesus is the true light John 1:9. The very thought just thrills me to the core. Revelation 21:23 says about heaven, “23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” In John 9:5 Jesus says, “5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Who is it that was to be the light of the world when Jesus left? Matthew 5:14 says we, the church are to be the light of the world. Do you see how both Jesus and the church are pictured in the Lampstand?
The oil used to light the lampstand was olive oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit is with every believer, so the symbol of the Holy Spirit was with the symbols of Christ and His church. Just as the little bowls on the top of each branch received the oil or symbol of the Holy Spirit, so too, do we. Jesus said in John 14 that He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to His people. The bowls that have oil and that are lit are in the shape of almonds, a fruit. If the oil is the Spirit and the lamps are receivers of the Spirit and the receptacles are pieces of fruit, filled with oil and set aflame, do you see what Christ’s design is for His church? As we are connected to Him, we will be receptacles for the Holy Spirit, be set aflame and bear much fruit for the Kingdom. Fruit and Fire, that’s what the church is supposed to be about. Some of you thought I said “Fruit and Fiber,” didn’t you? You just have breakfast on your mind. Fruit and fire because of our connection with Jesus through the Holy Spirit!
We also see Jesus as OUR INTERCESSOR Pictured in the Golden Altar of Incense.
In the center, at the west end of the holy place, and just before the door-hanging of the holy of holies, stood the altar of incense. It was front and center in front of the mercy seat which depicts Christ interceding at God’s right hand or throne of mercy today. It was put just before the veil near the throne. Sweet smelling incense was offered on this altar, every morning and evening.
Horns symbolized power. The horns on the altar of sacrifice symbolized the power of the Blood of Christ. The horns on the golden altar symbolized the power of prayer. I will never minimize the power of the blood of Jesus, but let me say that Jesus’ intercessory prayer ministry makes Him the ultimate fulfillment of all that the Levitical priesthood stood for.
Of course we can’t bypass Calvary. We have to come to that altar of sacrifice, the cross. We can’t skip over the Laver where we are washed by the water of the Word. We can’t minimize the Living Bread at the Table of Fellowship or Shewbread as it was called. Each one of those is vital part of the process. But listen, if it wasn’t for the intercessory ministry of Christ, we’d still be lost. Only once He died on Calvary, but ever since He continues day and night as our Advocate. Hebrews 7:25 says, “25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
There is nobody more for you than Jesus. There is nobody putting in more effort to help you succeed than Jesus. If you’ve read the book, “The Shack,” you’re acquainted with the character who portrays Jesus. One of His most common phrases when speaking about someone is, “I’m especially fond of him.” He says it about everyone mentioned in the book, and it’s true. Jesus is especially fond of you and He lives to love you through the ministry of prayer.
There have been times when people have told me that they remembered me in prayer or that they regularly remember me in prayer. It means so much, especially when the comment comes from someone that I believe to be a “giant in the faith.” How much more thrilled then I am to know that Jesus is interceding for me day and night! Oh, He sat down after Calvary, but He didn’t sit in a recliner, my friend. He didn’t prop His feet up and say, “I’m off duty. I’ve done my job.” No, He is concerned about every anxious thought, every relational conflict, every moment of self doubt, every feeling of despair, loneliness, or depression, every addiction, every secret habit, every wrong choice, and every consequence you suffer. He is praying for you to succeed! How many of you know that it’s a good thing to have Jesus, the Overseer of the universe praying for you?
This past week, I heard Coach White, the head men’s basketball coach from the University of Charleston, speak. He sat at my table and when he found out that I was a pastor, he said, “Do you pray well?” I said, “What do you mean?” He laughed and said, “Well, if you prayed well, I was going to fire my chaplain and bring you on because we didn’t win as many games this year as we did the year before.” We had a good laugh, but I was thankful that the coach utilized a chaplain and believed that asking for God’s help and blessing was important.
Listen, I welcome the prayers of all of you, but I know you’re busy. I know you’ll forget my request. I know your mind is given to a hundred things at once and that you can’t always be thinking of me, but my Omniscient and Omnipotent Jesus knows what concerns me every minute of every day and He lives to intercede for me!
The Golden altar was intended for sweet incense. Psalm 141:2 says, “2 May my prayer be set before you like incense.” The Golden Altar reminds us that relationship with God is a two-way street. Not only is Jesus praying for us, but we are to communicate with God through praying ourselves.
On Thursday, I was in the car with Joshua and tears came to his eyes as he told me his stomach was hurting. You know me, being the sympathetic and compassionate one in our family, I’m thinking, “I told you to eat your broccoli.” Anyway, I told him we’d get him some medicine and a few minutes later he said, “Mom, my tummy is better.” He said, “You know what I did? It starts with a “p” and ends with an “ray.” I got tickled and said, “I’m glad you prayed. Now that you’re a Christian, God is teaching you that you can talk with Him and pray to Him about anything and He will hear and answer your prayers.” To which Joshua replied, “I didn’t get that from God, Mom.” “You didn’t,” I responded? “No, Mom,” he said, I got it from Miss Carolyn Wright in Sunday School.” However he knew to pray, I was grateful that Joshua knew that He was talking to a God who listens.
Our prayers should be sweet as they ascend to the Father. To pray with sin in our hearts is to lift up incense that isn’t sweet smelling. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” says Psalm 66:18. How do we get rid of that iniquity, that sin that bad attitude, that grudge, before we pray? We make sure we have stopped at Calvary at the Altar of sacrifice. We make sure we have been cleansed at the laver. Then, when we kneel at the Golden Altar, we know that what we are talking to God about flows from a pure heart.
The next piece of furniture point to Jesus, the COVENANT MAKER – The ark of the covenant.
To get to the Ark of the Covenant which totally typifies Jesus, you had to go through a veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The cross is shadowed again because when Jesus died on the cross, something happened in the temple to the veil that hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Scripture says it was ripped in two. The place housing the presence of God was no longer veiled. You can’t get to God without going through the Cross which ripped the separating veil between God and us in two. Hallelujah.
The room housing the Ark was the most spectacular room in the Tabernacle. Purple, blue, scarlet and bright shining cherubim, made this a room fit for a King. The Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred of all objects in the Tabernacle. It was the first thing God told Moses to construct.
It was a wooden box or chest and was completely overlaid with gold within and without reminds us that Jesus retained his full deity in union with His humanity. Throughout the whole tabernacle, wood typifies His humanity and gold His deity. In order to redeem us from sin, Christ had to be fully representative of God and fully representative of man. He wasn’t half and half. He was fully both, at the same time.
Inside the Ark were three things. The first was the Tablets of Stone, the Ten Commandments engraved in stone. God’s law was “kept” inside or preserved inside this Ark. Like those stones were KEPT in the Ark, so God’s Law was fully KEPT (observed or preserved) by Christ. You and I have broken God’s Law. Only Christ, shadowed by the Ark, was perfect.
Its very name, “The Ark of the Covenant” shouts “Jesus.” He came as a fulfillment of the covenant God made with His people. He came to show that God keeps His promises. He not only came to fulfill what had been promised, but He came to offer a New Covenant. Our main text in Hebrews 8 says, “6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” In Luke 22:20, Jesus introduced what the New Covenant would look like when He said to his disciples in that Last Supper, “20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” The New Covenant isn’t a new set of rules or laws, but it is the promise of a new heart. Through a new birth, people would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and relate to God in an intimate way, a way in which you could live a life pleasing to God not because it was the law but because you were in love with God, and you wouldn’t want to do anything to harm that relationship.
The second thing in the Ark was the Golden Pot of Manna, again point to Christ as the Bread of Life.
Finally, Aaron’s Rod that budded was in the Ark. It depicts Resurrection where life came out of death. Jesus could truly say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:25, 26) because He was the Resurrected One.
It was serious business to violate the holiness of the Ark. If you did, you could die. Just as dishonoring or dismissing the holiness of the Ark could cause death, ignoring Jesus, dismissing Jesus, ignoring or trivializing His sacrifice could also be eternally fatal.
For a moment of trivia, let’s move away from the Tabernacle for just a minute. (I’ve always secretly wanted to be a game show host.) There were two other Arks mentioned in the Old Testament that were shadows of Jesus and the Cross. One is pretty easy to remember. Does one of our Bible quizzers know what the other two Arks were?
Most of us are familiar with the Ark of Noah. Not one person died inside that Ark when the great flood waters rose. It didn’t matter how much rain fell, how heavy it beat against it, how bad the wind or waves were, or how deep things got. The ark rose above it all. It’s the same with Jesus. He provides absolute safety for all who hide themselves in Him. He causes us to rise above it all!
The second was the Ark of Bulrushes that baby Moses hid in when the Pharaoh was trying to wipe out little Hebrew boys. In Exodus 1:22, the order was given, “22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” That little Ark triumphantly carried baby Moses upon the very waters in which he had been sentenced to die and Moses became a son in the house of him who had pronounced the sentence! Hallelujah, God has sent me here today to tell you that the same is true for us. The cross that Satan hoped would be Christ’s ultimate destruction and defeat became the absolute way to victory. And God the Father who pronounced the sentence of sin declaring it punishable by death, through the cross has adopted us as His children and through our Ark of Safety, Jesus Christ, we are delivered into His eternal palace of paradise!
The final piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, though a part of the Ark is completely separate. It is the covering or lid of the Ark. Here we see Jesus, the COVERING OF OUR SINS – The Mercy Seat.
This was the place where God showed Himself merciful in forgiving sin. That’s how it got its name. It was, however, because blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, that God forgave the sins of the people. Of course, the sprinkling of this blood points to Jesus’ blood sacrifice, the means through which God forgives sin today.
Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary!
The altar of sacrifice, the laver of water and mirrors, the table of Shewbread, the candle sticks, the altar of incense, the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat that’s the furniture of the temporary tabernacle. The furniture in your house might have been chosen in order to help people feel comfortable or safe or relaxed. The furniture in God’s tabernacle served to remind you that you’d never be comfortable until a sacrifice and cleansing had taken place. Those seven pieces of furniture served the purpose of pointing people to Christ, the permanent solution to our need to be in God’s presence. He is the sacrifice. He is the cleanser. He is the Sustainer at the table through fellowship with Him and His Word. He is the candlestick of ultimate light. He is the altar of incense making us smell sweet to the Father. He is the Ark of the Covenant in whom we hide. He is our mercy seat who allows us to be seated with Him in the heavenlies even now though we don’t deserve such a seat of power and authority.
The New Testament tells us that that Tabernacle of God is with men. God literally tabernacles inside of us and makes His dwelling in the hearts of men and women.
London businessman Lindsay Clegg told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash around the interior. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage. “Forget about the repairs,” the buyer said. “When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want this building; I want the site.”
God didn’t send Jesus to repair you. He didn’t send Jesus to dress you up, to recarpet your life or add new windows of understanding to life experience. He sent Him to inhabit you, so that He could do an entirely new thing in you. Is your relationship with God just window dressing or does He own the site? The temporary Tabernacle was to point to the new thing that God wants to do in your life. Have you allowed Him to become the owner of your life?