The Sanctuary

Chapter 20

While meeting with Moses in the mountain, God had said, "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." He gave Moses complete directions for building the tabernacle. The tabernacle, or sanctuary, was divided into two apartments, or holy places. These holy places were to be "figures of the true; but into heaven itself," Hebrews 9:24. They were to be a miniature representation of the heavenly temple where Christ, our great High Priest, was to minister in the sinner's behalf. God presented before Moses in the mount a view of the heavenly sanctuary and commanded him to make all things according to the pattern shown him. Carefully Moses recorded all of these directions and later gave them in detail to the builders.

Extensive preparations were required in preparation for building the sanctuary; it required a large amount of the most precious and costly material, yet the Lord accepted only freewill offerings. God gave chosen men special skill and wisdom for the work to be done.

The tabernacle was so designed that it could be taken apart and moved from place to place as the Israelites traveled. It was therefore small, being not more than fifty–five feet in length and eighteen in width and height. Though small, it was a magnificent structure. The walls consisted of upright boards, set in silver sockets and held firm by pillars and connecting bars; and all were overlaid with gold, giving to the building the appearance of solid gold. Four sets of curtains formed the roof. The innermost layer was of "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:"

The two apartments, or sections, were divided by a rich and beautiful curtain, or veil, suspended from gold–plated pillars; and a similar veil closed the entrance of the first apartment.

In the first apartment, or holy place, were the table of showbread, the candlestick, or lampstand, and the altar of incense. The table of showbread stood on the north side. The table, as well as its ornamental crown, was also overlaid with pure gold. On this table, the priests were each Sabbath to place twelve cakes, arranged in two piles and sprinkled with frankincense. On the south was the seven–branched candlestick with its seven lamps. Its branches were decorated with beautifully designed flowers that had the appearance of lilies. The entire stand was made from one solid piece of gold. There being no windows in the tabernacle, the lamps were never all extinguished at one time but shed their light by day and by night. Just before the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy stood the golden altar of incense. Here the priest burned incense every morning and evening; its horns were touched with the blood of the sin offering, and it was sprinkled with blood upon the great Day of Atonement. The fire upon this altar was lit by God Himself and was carefully protected. Day and night the holy incense diffused its fragrance throughout the sacred apartments and without, far around the tabernacle.

Beyond the inner veil was the holy of holies. In this apartment was the ark, a chest of acacia wood overlaid inside and out with gold. Inside were the tables of stone upon which God Himself had written the Ten Commandments. It was called the ark of God's testament, or the ark of the covenant, because the Ten Commandments were the basis of the covenant made between God and Israel.

The cover of the sacred chest was called the mercy seat. Above the mercy seat was the Shekinah, the manifestation of the divine Presence; and from between the cherubim, God made known His will. Divine messages were sometimes communicated to the high priest by a voice from the cloud. Sometimes a light fell upon the angel at the right, to signify approval or acceptance, or a shadow or cloud rested upon the one at the left, to reveal disapproval or rejection.

The building of the tabernacle took about six months. Once the work was completed, the multitudes of Israel crowded around, viewing with eager interest the sacred structure. While they were contemplating the scene with reverent satisfaction, the pillar of cloud floated over the sanctuary and, lowering, completely surrounded it. There was a revealing of the divine majesty; and for a time, even Moses could not enter.

In the furniture, in the person of the priests, and in the sacrifice, Christ was represented. The ceremonies, or temple services that constituted the worship services, were a representation of the work of Christ and of the gospel. The daily service was performed at the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle and in the holy place, while the yearly service was carried out in the most holy place.

The daily service consisted of the morning and evening burnt offering, the offering of sweet incense on the golden altar, as well as the special offerings for individual sins. In addition to these daily sacrifices, there were offerings for sabbaths, new moons, and special feasts.

While the Saviour's death brought to an end the law of types and shadows, it did not in the least detract from the obligation of the moral Law. On the contrary, the very fact that it was necessary for Christ to die in order to atone for the transgression of that Law proves it to be immutable.

Those who claim that Christ came to abolish the Law of God and to do away with the Old Testament speak of the Jewish age as one of darkness, but never have men seen a more open demonstration of God's power and glory than when He alone was acknowledged as Israel's ruler and gave the Law to His people.

Under the New Testament covenant, the same Law that was engraved upon the tables of stone is written by the Holy Spirit in the heart. Then, through the grace of Christ, we are able to live in obedience to the Law of God written upon our hearts. It can be said of us, as it was of Christ, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8

The apostle Paul clearly presents the relationship between faith and the Law under the new covenant. He says: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,"—it could not justify man, because in his sinful nature he could not keep the Law—"God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 5:1, 3:31, 8:3–4

God's work is the same in all time, although there are varying degrees of development and different manifestations of His power to meet the wants and needs of men in the different ages. Beginning with the first gospel promise and coming down through the Old Testament era to the present time, there has been a gradual unfolding of the purposes of God in the plan of redemption. The Saviour typified in the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law is the very same Jesus revealed in the gospel. He who spoke the Law from Sinai and gave Moses the ordinances of the ritual law is the same One who spoke the Sermon on the Mount. The great principles of love to God, which He set forth as the foundation of the Law and the prophets, are only a restatement of what He had spoken through Moses to the Hebrew people: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Deuteronomy 6:4–5. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Leviticus 19:18. The teacher is the same in both dispensations. God's claims are the same. The principles of His government are the same. For all have as their source in Him "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

This chapter is based on Exodus 25–30