Based on Genesis Exodus 24-40
After God spoke the Ten Commandments, Moses climbed Mount Sinai to talk with Him. There, God wrote His Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone and gave them to Moses. While Moses was gone, what did the Israelites do? Exodus 32:1-4.
The children of Israel had promised to obey the Ten Commandments, and they really thought they could and would obey God. But only a few weeks after making that promise, they worshiped a golden idol and made sacrifices to it. They even said that the idol was what had saved them from slavery in Egypt. Exodus 32:8.
People naturally want to do wrong things. And no matter how many promises we make, rules cannot change us! Only God can help us obey. Aren’t you thankful that He wants to help us and change us completely?
God had a wonderful plan to help people understand how much He loves them, how He would forgive them, and how He would help them keep His Ten Commandments. That is what He and Moses had been talking about when Moses had been on Mount Sinai the first time.
Again, Moses climbed Mount Sinai to talk with God. What excitement there must have been in the camp when Moses finally returned and told the people what God had shown him!
While the children of Israel were traveling in the wilderness, they lived in tents. That was so they could move from place to place. What kind of special house would they make for God? Exodus 25:8.
God’s tenthouse was called the sanctuary, or tabernacle. It was a tiny model of God’s magnificent palace in heaven. Hebrews 8:1, 2, 5. In the desert, how would they get the many things they needed for building it? Exodus 35:4-9. Would the people have enough to give? They had been very poor as slaves; but just before they left Egypt, the Egyptians had given them gold, silver, and clothes. Did the people willingly give from those things to build the sanctuary? Exodus 35:21, 29.
The Israelites showed how grateful they were to God by giving things to make the sanctuary. In fact, they gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop giving. Exodus 36:4-7.
God was pleased as He watched what was happening. What joy Moses must have felt! And how angry Satan must have been! He had been so sure that he had ruined God’s plan for His people.
The sanctuary model was not very large. It was only about 54 feet long and 18 feet wide. But it would keep reminding them of God’s plan to save them. No wonder everything had to be exactly right! Did the workers carefully follow God’s pattern exactly? Exodus 39:42, 43. When the sanctuary, was finished, everyone eagerly watched the cloud from which God had always led them. What did the cloud do? Exodus 40:34-38.
Let’s pretend that we are visiting the sanctuary. We will begin our visit early in the morning, just as the sun is coming up. One of the priests, dressed in his white robe, will be our guide.
First, he shows us the white fence that’s around the sanctuary. Because the fence is 7 1/2 feet tall, and the sanctuary is about twice that tall, people can see the top of the sanctuary from their tents. But no one can see through the fence, which is made of pure white cloth hung on rods between beautiful silver-covered posts.
“Why is the cloth fence white?” we ask the priest, “and why are your clothes white?” He tells us that the white curtains remind us that Jesus is perfect. He forgives our sins and covers us with His pure life. The priest’s white clothes remind him to be like our pattern, Jesus.
As we walk to the gate, the priest asks, “Do you notice that this entrance is facing east? Many people worship the sun as it rises; but when God’s people worship, they turn their backs to the rising sun and face the sanctuary.”
At the gate is a beautiful curtain woven with blue, purple, and deep red (scarlet) colors. As we step through the curtain, we remember that it is only through Jesus that we can come to God the Father. John 14:6.
Now we are in the court around the sanctuary. The first thing we see is a large altar about eight feet square. It is covered with shining bronze, like the color of a new penny.
The priest tells us that each morning and evening an innocent lamb is killed, placed with wood on the altar, and burned. Many other sacrifices are also made on this altar. While this is happening, we see people in the court praying. They remember that some day Jesus will die for their sins, like the innocent lamb on the altar.
We look up and watch the smoke rising from the sacrifice. The people in their tents can see this smoke, too. As they watch each morning and evening, they remember what the sacrifice means. They also pray for their sins to be forgiven, and they thank God for His wonderful love.
When God forgives our sins, we say He justifies us. That means that when we choose to love and obey Him, He gives us His pure, clean character in place of our sinful characters. Then, God sees Jesus’ perfect life and character instead of ours. Then, we are as if we had never sinned. How happy that makes Him! And it makes us happy, too.
We notice that between the altar and the entrance to the sanctuary, there is a large basin made of metal that shines like the altar. It is full of water. Our guide says that the basin is called the laver.
The priests are to be clean when they help with any of the services in the sanctuary. They always take off their shoes and wash their hands and feet at the laver before burning an offering on the altar, or before going into the sanctuary.
The laver is made from the mirrors that many of the women gave to help build the sanctuary. Their unselfish gifts are helping to make God’s services beautiful.
Just as there is only one door through the white fence, there is only one door into the sanctuary. Again, there is a curtain with the same colors as the one going into the court: blue, purple, and red. The one door and the curtain both remind us that trusting in Jesus’ life and death is the only way we can be forgiven and be back with our loving, heavenly Father again. John 10:9.
Inside the sanctuary are many beautiful treasures. Only the priests may go inside. So we stay outside in the court while our guide tells us about it.
There are two rooms. The first room is called the Holy Place. The second room is the Most Holy Place. They are separated by a gorgeous curtain that is even more beautiful than the other curtains we have seen.
Inside, the first room shimmers and shines. And it smells wonderful. Light is reflected from the walls and from each piece of furniture. Why? Because the walls and the furniture are all covered with shining gold.
The curtain doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling, and light glows from the other room. Our guide tells us it comes from the actual presence of God. Sometimes it is so bright that the priests have to leave the room.
There are no windows in the sanctuary. The light that is making everything sparkle comes from a beautiful gold candlestick on the left (south) side of the room.
The candlestick has seven branches. Each branch has a little bowl of oil at the top with a wick in it. When the priests trim the wicks and clean and fill the bowls with oil, they never put the candles all out at the same time. So there are candles burning all the time, day and night.
The candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. God never sleeps, and He watches over us all the time. The oil is like the Holy Spirit Who helps us make right choices and obey the wonderful Ten Commandments. When we do that, we are also shining for Jesus, like the candlestick.
On the right (north) side of the room, is a golden table. On top are two neat stacks of special, holy bread. There are six in each stack, one for each of the tribes of Israel. Sweet-smelling incense has been sprinkled on top of the bread.
Our guide tells us that freshly-baked bread is placed there every Sabbath. The bread that is taken away is given to the priests. As we think of the bread, we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. We eat His bread when we learn about Him in His Word, the Bible. Also, He gives us the food to eat every day. And we need them both every day.
Next, our guide tells us about the beautiful golden altar of incense that stands in front of the curtain that is between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. He says that God Himself lit the first fire on that altar, and it is to be kept burning.
Every morning and evening, at the same time the sacrifice is being offered outside in the court, and while people are praying and confessing their sins, a priest inside puts incense on the burning coals on the altar of incense. While he does that, he looks toward the most holy place, where God’s presence shines as a bright light.
As the sweet odor of the incense fills the air, people outside in the court can smell it. And, because of their faith in Jesus, they know that God sees Jesus’ perfect life instead of their sinful lives. He is hearing their prayers.
Our guide tells us that he himself has never seen inside the Most Holy Place. It is the most sacred and important place of all. Only the high priest ever goes in there. And he goes there only once a year, on the special Day of Atonement.
There is only one piece of furniture in the Most Holy Place. It is the sacred, golden ark. Inside the ark are two tablets of stone. On those two tablets, God wrote with His own finger His Ten Commandments that He had spoken from the top of Mount Sinai.
Our guide says that the ark is like a beautiful box made of wood and covered with gold, both inside and outside. The top cover is solid gold. It is called the mercy seat. At each end of the mercy seat stands a beautifully-carved, golden angel. They are looking reverently down on the ark. Between the angels is the bright glow of light that shows God’s presence.
The mercy seat reminds us of that God’s great love and mercy. If it weren’t for the amazing plan that God made to save us, could any of us hope to live forever with Jesus? No. Not even one of us. We have all disobeyed God’s law. But because of God’s plan, each person can choose either Satan and death, or Jesus and life.
Before we leave the sanctuary, our guide tells us that the ceiling is made of linen cloth. It’s not plain white like the fence. It looks like a cloud of angels. They have been carefully woven into the linen. They represent the real angels who never stop praising God for His love.
“What is the roof made of on the other side of the cloth ceiling?” we ask. Our guide explains that four different layers make the roof of the sanctuary. On top of the linen cloth is a blanket made of goats’ hair. Next, is a covering made of rams’ skins. On top of them all is a layer of sealskins. That protects the tabernacle from rain.
We ask our guide one more question: “Is the high priest’s dress different from yours?” He tells us it is, and that it is very beautiful. On top of the white robe, he wears a blue one. Hanging from his shoulders is what is called a breastplate. It has twelve beautiful gems on it, one for each of the twelve tribes.
Our guide says the breastplate reminds us that we are in God’s heart and mind every moment, and that we are very precious to Him. What a beautiful way to remind us!
It took six months to make the beautiful sanctuary and all its furniture. When it was finished and set up, Moses was pleased that everything had been done exactly as God had told him.
And when God’s glory filled the sanctuary, and the pillar of cloud rested over it, the people knew that He was pleased, too. Exodus 40:34-38.
Everything about God’s sanctuary represented a story about Jesus and His plan to save us from death. Everything that happened there showed that we are all sinners, that we all deserve to die and never live again, but that Jesus made a way to forgive our sins and save us from eternal death.
The way Jesus does that was shown at the sanctuary when a sinner laid his hands on the head of a lamb, confessed his sins, and then killed the lamb. That represented our confessing our sins and laying them on Jesus, the Lamb of God, who died for us. Then He came back to life; and now, He is in the sanctuary in heaven representing us there. Hebrews 9:24.
God had spoken the Ten Commandments, and now He wanted the Israelites to build a special sanctuary where He could be with them. And God planned everything in the sanctuary to show something special about His plan to save us from Satan.
The white fence and the white clothes that the priests wore were to show that Jesus can forgive our sins and keep us clean from sin. Psalm 51:7; 1 John 1:9. The court had only one entrance. Whom did that represent? John 10:9. The one and only way we can be saved is by believing and trusting Jesus.
What was the first thing you saw as we went through the entrance to the court? Twice a day, a lamb was sacrificed on that altar. What did it mean? John 1:29. Sin always causes death. Romans 6:23. But the lamb sacrifices never saved anyone. They only helped people remember that someday Jesus would come to die for their sins.
What was the name of the first room inside the sanctuary? Can you name the pieces of furniture that were in that room? Can you tell the meaning of each?
What was the name of the second room? What one special piece of furniture was in it? What was in that golden ark?
The book of Hebrews helps us understand how everything in the sanctuary tells us about Jesus. Whom did the high priest represent? Hebrews 4:14-16. Whom did the sacrifices represent? Hebrews 9:28.
Everything in the sanctuary tells us something about Jesus and His wonderful plan to save us from Satan. Would you like to keep studying your Bible and learn more about Jesus and His wonderful love for us?