In a previous post about Church, I was mulling over my thoughts of what the Church should be. There are many ways to describe the Church, and many things the Church should be, but the thought that kept coming to me is that we, who are the Church, are called to be ‘kings and priests’ (Rev. 1:6, 5:10).
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be ‘kings and priests’, and what our job as kings and priests entails in the Church today. Then one night, the thought just came to me that one way of viewing the Church is through the pattern that God gave us in the Tabernacle of Moses (in Exodus). I’ve just completed a course on Hebrews and the Tabernacles of Moses in my theological studies, so this is also quite fresh in my mind. I’m excited to share my thoughts here!
I’m explaining it in a simplified way (who likes to read a long thesis on a blog post right?), but feel free to read up on the subject yourself! Or read the books that are used as my references (see end of post).
What the Church should be as Gleaned from the Tabernacle of Moses
This is a drawing of the Tabernacle of Moses. There are 3 sections: The Outer Court, The Holy Place and The Holy of Holies. Each part of the tabernacle and each piece of furniture represents something that I feel is important for the Church to have, and I will point out 7.
1) We preach Christ as the only way by which man can be saved.
There is only one entrance into the Tabernacle, that is through the door on the east side. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We must emphasize in church that Jesus is the only way to salvation. This also reminds me that it is not how nice the church building is, or how high-end the lights and sound system are that will bring people to Christ. It is not how talented the worship or service teams are – what a relief! It is Jesus alone who saves. Let us not forget to preach Christ and His salvation!
2) We come to the altar to find forgiveness and transformation.
Once you enter the tabernacle, there is an Altar of Burnt Offerings where the priests slaughter animal sacrifices. In the Old Covenant, animals were sacrificed and their blood shed sanctified the Israelites. In the New Covenant, the blood that sanctifies us is that of Christ, Who is the spotless and blameless Lamb of God. Christ died for us so that our sins can be forgiven. But more than that, it is to free us from the power and lure of sin. We can be transformed and no longer be slaves to sin.
3) We want to be washed by the Word (Eph. 5:26) and changed.
The next thing you will encounter in the tabernacle is the bronze laver. This is where the Israelites washed themselves. The bronze laver is made up of broken pieces of mirrors donated by the Israelites. This represents the Word of God and how it is a mirror that shows us our flaws (James 1:21-25). As we hear the Word preached in church, it should shine a light into our lives (Ps. 119:105) and bring conviction and change.
4) We should be students of the Bible.
As we enter the Holy Place, we will see 3 pieces of furniture. The first is a Table of Shewbread. Bread represents the Word of God. As the priests imbibe the bread from the tabernacle, we should also be good students of the Bible and study and meditate on the Word of God. It should not just be the pastor who studies the Word. Bible studies and discipleship groups are good opportunities to study the Word of God together in the church. We imbibe the Word of God so that we can, in turn, be like bread that is broken to feed others. Wouldn’t it be great if we are able to encourage one another at any moment from the words of God?
5) We should be filled with the Holy Spirit and edifying one another through the gifts of the Spirit.
Another piece of furniture in the Holy Place is the Menorah, or the Candlestick. The Candlestick represents the 7 Spirits of God in Isaiah 11:2. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and ask Him for the gifts of the Spirit so that we can edify one another in the church (1 Cor. 12:4-11). I personally have been so blessed by the prophecies and prayers I’ve received over the years in church. I’ve also had visions and dreams for different people and have been able to bless them by sharing with them what God has shown me and praying with them. (So many stories to share about this that encourages me to keep praying for people!) And we should be praying and believing for healing in the church, because He is still Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our Healer.
6) We should be a house of prayer and worship.
The last piece of furniture in the Holy Place is the Golden Altar of Incense. This represents our prayer and worship. Aaron was told to burn incense on this altar day and night (Ex. 30:7-8). Similarly, we are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Personally, it is in my prayer and worship time that I feel the presence of the Lord most strongly, and I believe it is the same for others. It is as we focus our attention on God and commune with Him that we are in His presence. We are to be a house of prayer (Is. 56:7) and worship unto the Lord (John 4:23).
7) We should seek to dwell in His presence forever.
In the Tabernacle of Moses, the tangible presence of God resided in the Holy of Holies, on the Mercy Seat that is over the Ark of the Covenant. I think above everything else that we want in church, we should desire His presence. When Christ was crucified, the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies tore into two. This shows us that Christ has made the way for us to come into God’s presence. We are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Our prayer should be as King David prayed in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”
Bailey, Brian J. Hebrews: Within the Veil. Waverly: Zion Christian Publishers, 1995.
Bailey, Brian J. The Tabernacle of Moses. Waverly: Zion Christian Publishers, 2005.