The Israelites of the Old Testament were instructed to build a tabernacle which was in essence a mobile sanctuary, and the blueprint given was incredibly precise. If you’ve ever read through Exodus, you know what I’m talking about. Exact measurements are mandated, the materials to be used are specified, even the orientation and placement of every object is spelled out. The exactness is almost odd. Or so it may seem, until you read Hebrews.
Hebrews 8 is about the “true tabernacle” which is in heaven. Verse 5 is striking: it tells us that the sanctuary constructed by Moses was “a copy or shadow of what is in heaven.” That is why Moses was warned, “see to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” You see Moses wasn’t just being shown a yet-to-be constructed plan, he had a glimpse of the true tabernacle. Inexplicably, I lived thirty-seven years without even knowing there is a true tabernacle. I’m certainly guilty of glossing over passages like this one, but I also think the modern church is just deficient in delving into the connectedness of the Old and New Testaments.
Because for me, the connectedness — the amazing coherence — is what makes this passage from Hebrews so profound. After all, the purpose of the tabernacle in Exodus was to provide a place for the Israelites to commune with God. The Old Testament tabernacle, or tent of meeting, was the literal place where God dwelled among His people. The true tabernacle in heaven is the literal place where we will dwell with God eternally. So this begs the question, where do we have access to God in this life? Where can we dwell with Him? Must we go to church? Is there a specific, physical place we need to visit? The answer is no! The New Covenant is the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is very much about God dwelling with His people. God’s desire to commune with the created is consistent throughout — Jesus is just the culmination and perfect manifestation of God reaching out to us in the post-garden era. Yet how would so many different writers over hundreds and hundreds of years so perfectly portray the heart of God without divine inspiration? I would think that would be a really tough question for unbelievers. How in the world did the Bible end up with such a consistent message?
We miss out by failing to study the connectedness and coherence of the whole Bible. In fact, this is a glaring need in my own life. I can highly recommend Beth Moore’s A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. This study of the tabernacle draws heavily from both the Old and New Testaments. It is sure to leave you with a greater appreciation for the connectedness of God’s Word as a whole. Click here for videos or to read more. But this is probably the most systematic study I’ve ever done; I’d really like to do more and would welcome suggestions.
This time of year we see so many things for Passover. I was just in the grocery yesterday and saw all of the special foods that are used for the Seder. I am always encouraged when I learn about Passover both from the Bible and from Jewish custom, because it so clearly points to Jesus. Jesus is the perfect Passover lamb. He completes the story. And He completes our story too.
This week may we have eyes to see Jesus on every page of Scripture, and pray that God would help us to appreciate the consistency and coherence of His Word. And most of all, may we meet Him in our inner tabernacle!