By Titus Chu
The Tabernacle—The Best Old Testament Picture of Christ
God revealed many pictures of the church in the Old Testament. Through Adam, Eve, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God revealed many things about the reality of Christ, the church, and the growth and advancement of a typical Jesus-lover.
After all these, the Old Testament reveals how God gained Moses. All who had gone before him had experienced the Lord more or less individually, but Moses’ experience was different. While he had his personal dealings with God, he also gathered God’s children, and together they established the priestly kingdom of God and manifested the testimony of God.
Moses’ whole life was full of divine work and revelation. Through him God revealed the strongest and most important type and shadow of Christ and the church in the Old Testament: the Law (including the Sabbath and the festivals) and the tabernacle (including the priesthood and the offerings). In this revelation, there are the Ten Commandments, which are a picture of Christ, and the tabernacle, which is a picture of the church. The tabernacle describes God’s heart’s desire, the principle of God’s work, God’s supply, God’s work in operation, and the rescue and hope God has for fallen humanity.
This is why in the whole Old Testament, the tabernacle is the top picture, the best picture, and the richest picture for us to consider. Every Jesus lover must get to know the tabernacle, appreciate the tabernacle, understand the tabernacle, experience the tabernacle, enjoy the tabernacle, partake of the reality of the tabernacle, and grow properly according to the tabernacle.
As God unveiled to Moses how the Israelites should raise up the tent of meeting, He had a specific order: He began from the ark of testimony in the holy of holies and worked His way out, unveiling the shewbread table and the golden lampstand in the holy place, and finally the bronze altar in the outer court. There were four items in total.
But as Moses built the tabernacle with the wise craftsmen Bezalel and Oholiab, God added two more items: the bronze laver and the golden incense altar, thus making six items. These were added because the priests came in from the opposite direction, from the outside in, and would encounter a problem as they came into the outer court of the tabernacle to make their offering at the bronze alter. No matter how much they offered they were still not clean. They needed the laver to wash themselves.
After they entered the holy place to enjoy the shewbread and the lampstand, they would encounter a second problem: they smelled foul to God. They needed to burn the incense at the incense altar before they could reach the final goal and approach God at the ark of testimony in the holy of holies.
The picture of the Tabernacle shows us the goal God wants us to reach is the ark of testimony in the holy of holies. This ark represents God Himself. Yet very few of us set our aim on this goal. We seem to be very content with lesser things. The more spiritual among us aim at the experiences of the items in the outer court and holy place—the altar where they experience the cleansing blood, the laver where they experience the washing water, the shewbread where they experience the enjoyment of the bread of life, and the golden lampstand where they experience the enlightenment of God in the church life. Each of these is wonderful, spiritual, and of God, but each in themselves comes short of God’s goal of the ark of testimony.
Others aim for things totally outside the tabernacle, such as their advanced education, next promotion, or bigger house. Such things may be needed, but as New Testament priests we must be able to declare, “I desire to reach God’s goal and bear the Lord’s testimony in the principle of the ark of testimony! I aim for nothing less!” If God’s goal is our goal, everything else will serve this purpose too.
Bezalel and Oholiab
God appointed two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, to build all the things He had shown Moses concerning the tabernacle (Exo. 31:1–6). They were filled “with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship” (v. 3). Each of these men typify something of Christ, the true builder of the heavenly tabernacle (Rev. 15:5).
Bezael means “in the shadow and protection of God” (Strong, #H1212). Christ always hides in the shadow and protection of God, and we also hide in God, depending on His mercy to carry us through. We have no way to reach God’s goal apart from hiding in His shadow and protection. Oh, how we need Christ as our
Oholiab means “tent of his father” (Strong, #H171). If we live a life of the tabernacle, we should have the sense that we live a tent life. We are here today, but it is up to the Lord where we will be tomorrow. We are like Abraham who by faith “lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9-10). We know we won’t obtain a permanent habitation until eternity.
A Revelation of Christ
The tabernacle is a revelation of Christ Himself. Christ came as one who did not know any sin, and within Him was the reality of the ark of testimony. Although He came as the ark of testimony, He lived among sinful people as the shewbread table. He testified, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). As the bread of life, He operated to produce the golden lampstand, which is the body of Christ expressed through local churches (Rev. 1:20). Eventually, He testified to God as the sinless one, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me” (Heb. 10:5), and “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Heb. 10:9). He accomplished God’s will by offering His prepared body and shedding His blood on the cross for us. Thus He became the bronze altar, totally consecrating Himself to God to accomplish salvation.
The apostle John tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, He shed not only blood, but also water (John 19:34). Thus in accomplishing such a marvelous salvation, He also prepared the laver for those who are consecrated and who are ready to serve the Lord, to give their lives to Him, to live unto Christ, and to have the sole view and only goal of gaining Christ.
If we desire to be a New Testament priest today, it is not enough to be saved. We must fully consecrate ourselves to the Lord, even though we realize we have all kinds of weaknesses. Only those who love Jesus, have Jesus, and pursue Jesus are able to partake of the riches of the tabernacle through the bronze altar (their consecration) and the bronze laver (the realization of their own weaknesses and limitations). Only then are we ready to enter and enjoy all the riches of the tabernacle.
The New Testament priesthood goes beyond being called to salvation. There is a price the serving priests must pay, a living they must take, and an existence they must possess. Priests must not only declare that their sin is forgiven by the blood of Jesus, but they must also be ready and willing to be drawn ever deeper into the Lord. In other words, we need the church life. Without the church life, it’s very hard to be a serving one. May the Lord have mercy.