Jesus erecting and filling the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:1-38)

As we come to the last chapter of Exodus, the images and allusions to Jesus Christ have been many and varied.  We have explored the Exodus event, the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the priests and even some ritual laws.  But today, the final chapter of Exodus presents to us the erection of the tabernacle and the indwelling presence of God.

Everything has been made and over the last year and now the structure and its furnishes are ready to be placed into service.  The first thing I would like to draw the reader’s attention to is verse 17:

So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. (Exodus 40:17)

This sentence seems simple enough, it is a mere reporting of time, but it behooves us to note when the new life of the nation of Israel began.  Their life began at the Exodus when they were freed from Egypt and for the past year, they have been a new nation.  One year later on the anniversary of their redemption, the structures needed for faithful worship have been completed and are now being erected.

What a fitting point worth remembering – true life for the Christian begins at Easter when our freedom was ultimately secured.  This is why the Church has always celebrated the first day of her week as being Sunday.  It is a remembrance of redemption.  It is the day when true worship was established in the heavenlies and God’s people could enter into the presence of God.

The second thing to note is a general detail from the whole story.  Every item has a distinct place where it must be placed and how it is to be erected.  Why is this?  The earthly tabernacle is a copy of that in heaven, in order to show the discerning worshipper what true holiness and righteousness is.

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.”  (Hebrews 8:5)

Since it is a copy, a replica, the real things must be looked for beyond the symbols to which they point and Christ is the fulfillment of all that is demanded in the Tabernacle.  He is the eternal lampstand burning bright and strong.  He is the Bread of life that nourishes the soul of the believer.  He is the altar of incense offering up continuous, never-ending intercession for the faithful.  He is the sacrifice of fellowship, the guilt offering, and the first fruit from among the dead.  He is the high priest and we are his family of priests called and anointed to worship in God’s temple.  He is the curtain through which one must pass in order to approach God and he has torn himself in two in order to make a way for the believer to enter.  Over and over the exacting specifications of the tabernacle are met in Jesus.  He perfectly represents all that God demanded of perfection, holiness, righteousness, purity and love.  He is the fulfillment of it all and so he is the true tabernacle established upon the earth.  This is why Jesus can declare,

 “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19)

Jesus is the tabernacle, he is the temple and we are being built into his holy dwelling, which is why the presence of God must indwell each and every believer just as it came to fill the tabernacle and later the temple.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34)

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.  And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. (1Kings 8:10-11)

And since the Spirit of God travelled with the Israelites, the same Spirit resides in the believer wherever he or she goes.  We are called to walk in the spirit letting him lead and guide just as he led the Israelites in the desert.  Below are a sampling of Scriptures which teach this and remind us that our life, is to be a life very much like that of ancient Israel, ever dependent upon the leading and guidance of God.  When this is so, the believer will never cease to see the wonders of God during all their travels.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me…So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 2:20, 5:16)

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace…You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  (Romans 8:6, 9)


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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