This is an excerpt from week 4 of my weekly podcast. You can listen to the complete episode here: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story or click the picture below.
From Exodus 25 through the end of the book of Leviticus, why is it that God goes into so much detail regarding how to build the Tabernacle and how it is to function within the community? In Hebrews 7 Melchizedek, the priest of God and king of Salem who Abraham met and gave an offering of a tenth of the plunder he had just taken, shows up again.
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” (Hebrews 7:1–3 NIV)
That’s the backdrop for chapter 8, which begins,
“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, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Hebrews 8:1–2 NIV)
Jump to verse 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.’” (Hebrews 8:5 NIV)
So why is it that God gives Moses such detailed instructions on the construction of the Tabernacle? Because the tabernacle that Moses and the Hebrews built was an exact copy of another tabernacle, somewhere else. In Leviticus God tells Moses all about how the relationship between Him and the people will work.
Remember God’s covenant with Abraham. God promises Abraham land, descendants, to make Abraham’s name great, and one of his descendants will bless all the nations. And what was the requirement for Abraham and his descendants to receive these blessings? They had to be blameless. Of course they couldn’t be blameless, so the work of the priest, mediating with God on behalf of the people, was necessary. It was through the priests that the people had a relationship with God. Every day these priests have duties that they must perform because though they have a relationship with God, the work of the priest is never done because the penalty for the breaking of their covenant with God can never be satisfied with the blood of animals.
“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up…When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:1–14 NIV)
This is why Exodus 25 through Leviticus matter. They are a pattern and picture of something bigger, something outside of this reality that collides with this earth with the death of Jesus on the cross. Remember the covenant God made with Abraham? Hebrews 9 and 10 are telling us how it has been fulfilled.
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:11–14 NIV)
So what’s the difference between Jesus, our high priest, and Aaron and all his priestly descendants? Jesus has sat down, meaning the work is finished, the covenants have all been fulfilled.
If you appreciate this post please listen to the full podcast by clicking this link: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story. A new podcast will be posted each week through May, 2015.
Grace and peace.