Introduction: The book of Exodus is about deliverance from bondage. God freed the Jews from their physical bondage in Egypt. He then tested them in the wilderness to show them where they remained in spiritual bondage. He then gave them the Ten Commandments to put them into a covenant relationship with Him. From Exodus Chapter 25 through the end of the book, He then explained the purpose for which He had delivered His people. He meant for His people to be in fellowship with Him through worship while they dwelled together. He reveals that He “brought [His people] out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them . . .” (Ex. 29:46(b)).
God gave Moses the instructions for the Tabernacle (the “Mishkan”) to show how He wanted to be worshiped. At least 50 chapters in the Bible, including all of the book of Leviticus, are dedicated to what happened inside the Tabernacle. Thus, proper worship is important to God. Exodus 25 is devoted to explaining all but one of the gold furnishings inside the Holy of Holies (the “Mikdash”) and the Tent of Meeting (the “Ohel Mo’ed”) that surrounded it. While studying the Tabernacle, the modern reader should read it on three levels. First, Christians should understand its historic function for the Jews. Second, Christians should understand the Tabernacle is a “type and shadow” of Christ (Heb. 8:5). Each part of the Tabernacle foreshadowed different things He did for us. The temporary Tabernacle structure represented His temporary time on Earth. The permanent structure of the Temple represented His throne room. Everything Moses wrote about was about Him: ‘“all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” (Lk. 24:44). Third, the Tabernacle should be looked upon as a symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside each believer (2 Cor. 6:16). Thus, the layout of the Tabernacle also reveals things about how we are to worship God today. Exodus Chapter 25 begins with the furnishings inside the Holy of Holies and the Tent of Meeting, the heart of worship. Later chapters move outwards from the heart of worship to the flesh and other matters. The study of the Tabernacle then concludes back in the Tent of Meeting (the heart) to reveal the importance of prayer. From the gold furnishings listed in Exodus 25, God reveals several important truths about worship.
First, true worship begins with gratitude for the cost of your salvation. God called for Moses to raise a contribution to build the Tabernacle. Although the Jews would later provide the things requested, all of the things they provided came from God. Moreover, everything symbolized something that ultimately only Christ could provide. Second, true worship has as a goal of intimate fellowship with God. God wanted the Jews to build a Tabernacle so that He could dwell with them. Through the Holy Spirit, God also seeks to dwell in the heart of every believer. Third, true worship celebrates what Christ did as the God who became flesh. The wood of the ark represented Christ’s humanity. The gold represented His divinity. Fourth, true worship celebrates that Christ is your only route to salvation. The mercy seat also symbolized Christ. It was where the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice to atone for the people’s sins. Fifth, true worship shows gratitude by providing for those in need. This was symbolized by the bread displayed for the priests to eat in the Tent of Meeting. Sixth, true worship shows gratitude by being a light to others. This was symbolized from the light from the golden lampstand. Finally, true worship includes integrity in your walk with God. All of these gold fixtures were hidden from view of the general public. By contrast, the external things of the Tabernacle were not pretty to look at. The external blood sacrifices would have looked and smelled gross. This symbolizes the fact that God cares more about what is inside the heart of your worship for Him than what others can see on the outside.
The offering for the Tabernacle. God began by revealing all the things that would be needed to build the Tabernacle: “1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 ‘Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. 3 This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, 4 blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, 5 rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, 6 oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.’” (Ex. 25:1-7). “Before God told Moses what the offering was for, He told Moses to take an offering. God wanted Israel to be motivated by a willing heart more than by a specific need. Our giving should not be primarily because of need. We should primarily give because our willing heart compels us.” (David Guzik on Exodus 25).1 The people later gave each of these things (Ex. 36:2-7). Yet, all but one of these things represented something that only God could provide.
Only God can provide the components of the Tabernacle. When God told Moses to “raise My ‘contribution’” (Ex. 25:2), He used the Hebrew word “terumah.” This word has no exact equivalent in English. It was a special voluntary offering that was lifted up and dedicated to the Temple. The nine things God called for represented the fruit of what only Christ could provide: (1) gold (His divinity); (2) silver (His redemption); (3) bronze (His judgment); (4) materials made of blue (His heavenly throne), purple (His royalty as King of Kings) and scarlet (His blood), fine linen (His righteousness); (5) materials made of goat’s hair – (His sin offering for us), rams’ skins dyed red – (His sin trespass or restitution offering), porpoise / badger skins (His protection); (6) acacia / shittim wood (His body); (7) oil (the Holy Spirit); (8) fragrant incense (Christ’s offering for us and our prayers in Him); and (9) the precious stones and breastpiece that covered the heart (His love for all God’s people). Christ also wants every believer to count the cost before deciding to follow Him (Lk. 14:28). Does your worship include dwelling upon the cost that Jesus paid for your salvation?
Gratefully give from the things God has given you. When the Jews fled Egypt, God gave them everything they would need to build the Tabernacle (Ex. 12:35-36). Every good and perfect thing in your life comes from above, even if someone in the world hands it to you (Ja. 1:17). God commands each believer to give back from the things that God has given. He in turn promises to bless you as a steward with more gifts (Mal. 3:8-10). Yet, He only wants you to give out of gratitude, not obligation (Ex. 36:2-7; 2 Cor. 9:6, 8-14). Satan will also seek to cause you sin by keeping God’s tithes. Satan later induced Aaron to raise a counterfeit offering for a golden calf from things that should have gone for the Tabernacle (Ex. 32:2-6). Are you giving to God from what He has given you out of joy? Or, has your coveting robbed God from His resources?
God’s instruction to build a place to dwell with His people. After explaining the offering, God explained the purpose of the Tabernacle. He wanted to dwell together with His people so that they could worship Him: “8 Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.” (Ex. 25:8-9). A “Mishken” or Tabernacle is the noun form of the Hebrew word “shachan”, which means to lodge or dwell. God wanted to dwell with His people the way a husband dwells with his wife. The Ten Commandments were the wedding contract. Although the wedding was interrupted by the building of the golden calf, it will be completed when Christ marries His bride (the Church) and dwells with it in heaven (Rev. 19:7). When Jesus became flesh, He “dwelt (shachan”) amongst us.” (Jo. 1:14). Ezekiel also prophesied of a future time when God would dwell again with His people in a sanctuary (Ez. 11:16). Thus, the Tabernacle was also a “type and shadow” of Christ’s Temple during the Millennial Reign (Heb. 8:4-5). Yet, the Temple will not exist in the New Jerusalem: “I saw no Temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple.” (Rev. 21:22). Does your worship include awe at what awaits you in heaven?
The ark of the covenant. The first part of the Tabernacle that God revealed to Moses was its heart, the ark of the covenant where God would dwell: “10 They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it. 12 You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. 16 You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.” (Ex. 25:10-16). The seven required components of the ark included: (1) acacia /shittim wood; (2) a pure gold overlay; (3) specific dimensions for the ark that reveal the story of salvation; (4) a gold molding; (5) four gold rings on the sides for carrying it; (6) acacia /shittim carrying poles; and (7) inside the Ten Commandments, the golden jar of manna, and the budding rod of Aaron (each representative of the Trinity). Each part of the ark points to Jesus.
(1) Acacia / Shittim wood. The ark, the carrying poles, the table of showbread, the framing for the Tabernacle, and the altar of burnt offering were all made with acacia / shittim / “shih-taw” wood (Ex. 25:11, 13, 23-30; 26:15-16; 27:1-8). This wood is mentioned 12 times in the Bible. Acacia is a strong desert tree with deep roots. It was resistant to both decay and the heat around it. Many believe that the “burning bush” was an acacia tree (Ex. 3:2). Acacia / shittim wood also has a special place in Bible prophecy. It is one of the few specific things mentioned that Christ will restore during the Millennial Reign (Is. 41:18-20). The wood was so valuable that, according to Aramaic tradition, a person who cut down a living tree without proper authorization would have his arm cut off. When the tree is pierced, the sap it produces is called “gummi arabicum” or “Gum Arabic''. The sap has large amounts of “tannins” that are used as a pharmaceutical. The Talmud even mentions a medicine made from Acacia. It has also been used as a preservative in many modern foods. Acadia wood can also have long sharp thorns. Each aspect of the acacia symbolized Christ. Like the wood, His body was not corrupted so that it could be sacrificed for us: “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Ps. 16:10(b); Acts 13:35). Like the sap, His blood also heals and gives life: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:5). Many also believe that Christ’s crown of thorns came from an acacia tree (John 19:2). Recognizing Christ’s humanity is important because of the suffering He took on for each person. Does your worship include giving thanks for His suffering for you?
(2) The gold overlay. The ark and the poles were overlaid with pure gold (Ex. 25:11, 13). While wood represents Christ’s humanity, the gold represents His divinity. Although He emptied Himself of His divinity to take on human form, He was still God: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6-8). Does your worship celebrate Christ as your Lord and Savior?
(3) The dimensions of the ark. Even the dimensions of the ark reveal the story of redemption. To understand this, you must sometimes read each half cubic as an individual unit of measure and then understand that each number represents a different aspect in the story of salvation. The breadth and width was 1 ½ cubits or three half cubits. The number three symbolizes the Trinity. The length was 2 ½ cubits. This totals five half cubits of measure. In the Bible, five is a number that corresponds with grace. Vertically, it was 4 by 1 ½ cubits. This totals six cubits. In the Bible, six is a number associated with mankind because God made mankind on the sixth day. Horizontally, it was 2 by 2 ½ plus 2 by 1 ½. This equals eight cubits. In the Bible, eight is a number associated with new beginnings. This was the day of the circumcision, the day of a priest’s ordination and the day Christ rose from the grave. Commentator Ervin Hershberger explains how these dimensions tell what God has done to give each person a new beginning: “the Trinity (3), by grace (5) offers man (6) a new beginning (8). ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are become new’. (2 Cor. 5:17). (Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle, Vision Publishers (2010) p. 18). Does your worship celebrate your new beginning in Christ by avoiding your old sins?
(4) The gold molding. The ark was surrounded by a gold molding around it (Ex. 25:11). This is the crown of “the King of Kings” (Rev. 19:16). Does your worship celebrate Christ as your King by submitting to His will in every aspect of your life?
(5) The four gold rings. The ark also had four gold rings on each side to lift it up and carry it (Ex. 25:12). Four in the Bible corresponds to the earth. The water of life from the Garden of Eden also turned into four rivers: “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.” (Gen. 2:10). Christ is the source of life for all on earth (Jo. 1:4; 11:25-26). Does your worship celebrate Christ as the one gives you life?
(6) The poles for carrying the ark. The ark had to be carried using two poles made of acacia / shittim wood. The poles were not to be removed (Ex. 25:14-15). The poles were meant to allow for the ark to be transported on the shoulders of men. If any person touched the ark, he would die because of his unholiness. Uzzah later touched the ark to keep it from falling off a cart. Even though his intentions were good, he died instantly (2 Sam. 6:6-7; 1 Chr. 13:9-14). The beginning of all knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). Does your worship of Christ include a reverent fear of His holiness and a hatred of evil? (Prov. 8:13).
(7) The Trinity inside the ark. As stated above, inside the ark were the Ten Commandments, the budding rod of Aaron, and the golden jar with manna. All three things provide the foundation to God’s throne above it. They also represented the Trinity.
“The Ten Commandments” -hide God’s Law in your heart. Moses was told to put inside the ark the “testimony which I shall give you.” (Ex. 25:16). The “testimony” was God’s First Covenant of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). The Ten Commandments also represented God the Father. If the Ark was built to house this and it is the foundation of God’s throne above it, this reveals that God the Father rules through righteousness: “The Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously . . .’” (2 Sam. 23:3). With righteousness as the foundation of His rule, He cannot ignore sin or allow it to fester in His presence. He is also a consuming fire when any sin is in His presence (Heb. 12:28-29; Dt. 4:24, 9:3; Ps. 97:3). Thus, sinners cannot be in His holy presence (Ex. 33:20; Jo. 1:18). The Ten Commandments remind us that we all have all sinned and fallen short of God’s righteousness (Ro. 3:9-12; 3:20). Jesus paid the penalty under the Law to allow us to be in the presence of God the Father (1 John 2:2; Col. 2:13-14). Yet, God still wants you to keep the Law in your heart: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). “Your Law is within my heart." (Ps. 40:8(b); 37:11). Because our hearts are wicked (Jer. 17:9), God has written His Law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). Moreover, instead of a heart of stone, He promises to give you a heart of flesh (Ez. 36:26). The Spirit convicts you of sin by causing you to remember the Law that you have stored inside you (Jo. 14:26; 15:26). Have you memorized God’s Ten Commandments so that the Spirit can convict you of your sins?
“The golden jar with manna” - live off the bread of life through Jesus. The New Testament reveals that the contents of the ark also included a golden jar with some of the manna that rained down from heaven for 40 years to sustain the Jews in the wilderness: “having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;” (Heb. 9:4; Ex. 16:32-34). Jesus was the bread of life that rained down on the Jews in the wilderness: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35). “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:48-51). Jesus is the Word who became flesh (John 1:1, 14). To consume the bread of life, you must read the Word. With the one exception of the Sabbath, manna also could not be stored more than one day (Ex. 16:19-20). Jesus therefore says that you should consume what He offers on a daily basis (Matt. 6:11). Are you eating the bread of life each day or only once a week?
“The blossoming rod of Aaron” - find life out of your dead body through the Holy Spirit: God later told Moses to put the budding rod of Aaron "before the testimony." (Nu. 17:10). The budding rod represents the new life of the Holy Spirit, which is only made possible through Christ’s death. “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (John 1:4). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,’” (John 11:25-26; 14:19). The flowers represent the Holy Spirit, and the wooden rod represents Christ. The Spirit has “set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1; Col. 2:13-14). Today, the Holy Spirit has made us alive by dwelling within us (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19). As a rod, the Spirit also has great power. Yet, a rod of power must be used for its force to be felt. Are you turning to the power of the Spirit to deliver you from the temptations of the flesh?
The mercy / atonement seat. After describing the ark, God described the cover for the ark, which most English Bibles call the “mercy seat”: “17 You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” (Ex. 25:17-22). The mercy seat consisted of: (1) a place of atonement; (2) pure gold; (3) horizontal dimensions that matched the ark; (4) undefined vertical dimensions; (5) two cherubim of gold facing the mercy seat, yet with their eyes covered; (6) the absence of a depiction of God; and (7) a place where He speaks to us. These things again all point to Christ.
(1) A place for atonement. Although the Hebrew word “kaporet” is frequently translated as the “mercy seat,” it technically means “to cover”. It was the lid that “covered” the Ten Commandments. The root of the word “kaporet” is kaphar, which “to atone” and “to cover.” (First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Exodus, Termumah, Vol. 2 (2013) p. 280). The same root word describes the “pitch” that Noah used to cover and seal the ark (Gen. 6:14). Through the sacrifices that God would spell out in Leviticus, the High Priest would “cover” the sins of the people. This happened on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat seven times (Lev. 16:15). The “mercy” seat symbolized Christ. We receive mercy because He was the “propitiation” for our sins (Ro. 3:25). While grace is receiving a gift you don’t deserve, mercy is not receiving the punishment that you do deserve. The seven drops of blood symbolizes completeness. When Jesus died on the cross, He likewise proclaimed that the process of blood being used for atonement was finished (Jo. 19:30). Moreover, while animal blood could only cover up sin, Christ’s blood “takes away” the sin of the world (John 1:29). Furthermore, because of Christ, God will remember your sins no more (Heb. 8:12; 10:17; 1 John 1:9; Ro. 8:1). Are you giving thanks that your sins are both forgiven and forgotten?
(2) The pure gold. While the ark was overlaid with gold, the mercy seat was made of pure gold, a symbol of divinity (Ex. 25:17). This tells us that only God can forgive sins.
(3) The horizontal dimensions of the mercy seat. The horizontal dimensions of the mercy seat matched the ark exactly (Ex. 25:17). The mercy that Christ gives from judgment matches the condemnation under the Law. Yet, it does not go beyond it. Outside of Christ’s protection, a person faces judgment under the Law (Rev. 14:10; Hershberger, Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle, Vision Publishers (2010) p. 23).
(4) The undefined vertical dimensions of the mercy seat. While the horizontal dimensions of the ark are described exactly, the vertical width is not mentioned at all. This symbolizes the fact that the mercy provided through Christ knows no limit (Hershberger, p. 23).
(5) The cherubim above the mercy seat. The cherubim represented the angels that surrounded God in the throne room (Ex. 25:22; Nu. 7:89). They look down out of reverence toward God. We also are to treat God with reverence: “Let the people tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved!” (Ps. 99:1). Is your worship reverent?
(6) The invisible space for God the Father. Unlike every other religion in the world at that time, God commanded that He be represented by nothing at all. He appeared as a cloud and ruled from the empty space above the mercy seat between cherubim (Ps. 99:1). God was so against physical images to depict Him that this was His Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Satan later enticed Aaron to build a golden calf as a corrupted way of worshiping God (Ex. 32:2-6). This was an abomination to God (Ex. 32:7-10). If your faith requires something that you can see or feel it is not faith at all (Heb. 11:1; 2 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 4:18). By contrast, if you believe what you cannot see, God will bless you (John 10:29). Does your faith exist even when you cannot see God answer your prayers?
(7) The place where God speaks to us. God says: “for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.” (Lev. 16:1-3). The cloud also symbolized the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within your heart (1 Cor. 3:16). He also speaks to you from there (John 14:26; 15:26). Are you seeking out His guidance through prayer and by reading the Word? (Jam. 1:5).
The table of the presence / “shewbread”. After describing the contents of the Holy of Holies, God described most of the contents of the Tent of Meeting. The first was a table that presented 12 holy loaves of bread, one for each tribe: “23 You shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long and one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a gold border around it. 25 You shall make for it a rim of a handbreadth around it; and you shall make a gold border for the rim around it. 26 You shall make four gold rings for it and put rings on the four corners which are on its four feet. 27 The rings shall be close to the rim as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that with them the table may be carried. 29 You shall make its dishes and its pans and its jars and its bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.” (Ex. 25:23-30). The table is called “lechem haPanim,” which literally translates as the “bread of face.” The King James Bible uses the word “shew bread” as a way of suggesting that the bread is continually presented before God. Some Messianic Jews consider the New American Standard Bible to better capture the meaning with the translation “table of the presence” (First Fruits of Zion p 280). Again, every detail of this table pointed to Christ.
Christ in the table. The purpose of the table was to show God’s desire for fellowship with His people by presenting holy bread for His people to symbolically dine with Him. Dining together was considered in Jewish culture to be an intimate act of friendship. Christ also offers to “dine” with any person who opens the door of their heart to Him (Rev. 3:20). The table pointed to Jesus as the means to fellowship with God. The acacia / shittim wood represents the fact that He died as a human to restore your fellowship with God. The gold represents His divinity as your Lord and Savior. Even the measurements of the table pointed to fellowship with Christ: “The Table was one cubit wide (unity), two cubits long (fellowship, union with Christ), one and one-half cubits high (suggestive of the Trinity). Tables naturally remind us of fellowship, especially of the Lord’s table (1 Cor. 10:21).” (Hershberger, p. 27). Are you seeking out fellowship with Christ?
Christ in the bread. The bread was to be present “at all times.” (Ex. 25:30). God required that the priests prepare 12 loaves of bread using fine flour set to exact specifications (Lev. 24:5-6). The 12 loaves symbolized God’s provision for all of His people. In the wilderness, He provided both manna and quail after the Jews grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8). He later again provided meat when the Jews grew tired of God’s manna (Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). He transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). He made water come out from a rock at Horeb (Ex. 17:6). He also caused the waters to gush out of a rock at Meribah (Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). He also guided the Jews by a visible pillar of light both by day and by night (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). He even protected the Jews’ feet from swelling (Dt. 8:4). He meant for His priests to eat this holy bread (1 Sam. 21:6; Mt. 12:3-4). Every Sabbath, the priests ate the loaves and replaced them with fresh bread. The bread symbolized Jesus as the bread of life (John 3:41; 6:34-35; Matt. 6:31). He was also the “Word” that “became flesh.” (John 1:1, 14). The flour also had to be “beaten” to create the fine flour. To be our bread of life, Jesus was also beaten and then crucified at the cross (Jo. 19:1, 16). As symbolized by the 12 loaves, He also promises to feed everyone who seeks after His righteousness (Matt. 6:25-34). As one of God’s priests, His bread was meant for you to eat through communion (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). Are you consuming the bread of life that Jesus has provided for you on a daily basis?
Provide for God’s people. Today, these instructions also symbolically apply to God’s believers as His nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If you are grateful to God for your salvation, you can make yourself a “living sacrifice” (Ro. 12:1). In the Old Testament, a thank offering to God for His forgiveness of sin was done through a bread offering (Lev. 3). Like the bread that God offered to all His tribes, He wants you to provide for those in need. Jesus’ “food” was doing God’s will: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.’” (Jo. 4:34). Serving God by helping others is also one part of the definition of “undefiled religion”. (Jam. 1:27). Does your worship include helping those in need? Or, are you only feeding yourself?
The golden lampstand / “Menorah”. After describing the table and food to be presented in the Tent of Meeting, God described the golden lampstand or “menorah” that would illuminate it: “31 Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side. 33 Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower—so for six branches going out from the lampstand; 34 and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers. 35 A bulb shall be under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. 36 Their bulbs and their branches shall be of one piece with it; all of it shall be one piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it. 38 Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made from a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. 40 See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.” (Ex. 25:31-40). The gold again symbolized divinity. Yet, unlike the other fixtures which were “gold plated,” the menorah was pure gold. It also had no exact measurements. This reminds us that God is infinite beyond time and space. Yet, based upon the size that the Jews created, the golden lampstand would have weighed more than 90 pounds. This would have exceeded more than one-half a million dollars in today’s prices (Hershberger, p. 29). Thus, this fixture was extremely valuable and important in God’s Tabernacle.
The symbolism of the golden lampstand. The lampstand was meant to look like a golden tree. It had three branches on each side and a trunk in the middle (Ex. 25:31-40; Nu. 8:1-4). God promises that believers will one day see this same golden lampstand in heaven (Zech. 4:1-6). Jesus is the trunk of the lampstand (John 15:1-4; cf. John 11:25-26). The six branches symbolize all of the believers in Christ (John 15:1-4). God created mankind on the sixth day (Gen. 1:26-27). Yet, mankind is incomplete without Him. With Christ in the middle, there were seven complete lights. The lampstand was also perfectly balanced with three branches on each side, a symbol of harmony. We have peace with God through Jesus (Ro. 5:1). Yet, any branch that does not abide in Jesus is cut off (John 15:6). The branches also contained three symbols which represent the stages of a believer’s walk with Christ. The branches included buds, flowers, and almonds. The buds symbolize a life of potential in Christ. The flowers symbolize the beauty of a life in Christ. The almonds symbolize the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Does your life show the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
The symbolism of the light. God instructed the priests to ensure that the golden lampstand remained continually burning to provide a beacon of light (Lev. 24:3-4). He gave the Law to the Jews and called them to be holy so that they would be a light to the nations: “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations,” (Is. 42:6). The golden lampstand symbolized their purpose as light to others (John 1:4-5, 9). The lampstand, however, had to be covered from the eyes of the laypersons until their sinful eyes could be atoned for (Nu. 4:9). Yet, Jesus explained that a lampstand was not meant to be hidden. It should instead give light to those around it (Matt. 5:15). Jesus is the true light of the world (Jo. 8:12). But the world did not want His light (Jo. 1:10). Indeed, people turned away from the light because they love darkness (Jo. 3:19-20). Today, the light of Jesus burns in us because the Tabernacle now lies within us (Matt. 5:14-16; 1 Cor. 3:16). Is your life a light to others to bring them to Christ?
The “beaten” olives of life and the Holy Spirit. God instructed the priests to only use “beaten olives” for the oil for the golden lampstand (Lev. 24:1-2). The burning olives created holy smoke for God to be in the presence of His people. The oil also symbolized the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13; Zech. 4:2-6). Like the Holy Spirit, the olive branch is a symbol of life. It was the first thing that God had the dove bring to Noah (Gen 8:11). The fact that the olives had to be “crushed” also has meaning. In order to have the Holy Spirit be fully manifest in your life, your own will needs to be crushed (2 Cor. 4:8). Are you emptying your own pride, vanity, and the desires of the flesh so that the Holy Spirit can lead you?
A Spirit-filled life bears witness to the seven manifestations of the Spirit. While looking at the throne of God in heaven, the Apostle John explained that the “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (Rev. 4:5, same Rev. 3:1 “seven Spirits of God”). He also explained that “[i]n the midst of the throne. . . stood a Lamb . . . having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev. 5:6). Zechariah also saw “. . .a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.” (Zech. 4:2). Zechariah also revealed that the seven lamps are both God’s Spirit (Zech. 4:2) and His eyes (Zech. 4:10). They are the seven characteristics of the one Holy Spirit. Isaiah 11:2 reveals these seven manifestations. These include: (1) the Spirit of the Lord (Salvation); (2) the Spirit of Wisdom; (3) the Spirit of Understanding; (4) the Spirit of Counsel; (5) the Spirit of Might; (6) the Spirit of Knowledge; and (7) the Spirit of Fear of the Lord (Sanctification). Are you praying to God to fill you with the fullness of His Spirit?
God cares more about what is on the inside than the outside. The fixtures listed in Exodus 25 were all either solid gold or gold-plated. At the end of the discussion of the chapters of the Tabernacle, God will return to reveal the last gold fixture in the Tent of Meeting, the golden altar of incense (“mizbach haketoros”) (Ex. 30:1-10). God begins and ends with the gold in the Tabernacle to draw a point. He cares more about what is inside you than your outside. Jesus had a heart of gold. He sacrificed His own life so that all could live, even those who persecuted Him (Jo. 3:16). He also forgave those who crucified Him (Lk. 23:34). He lived to heal the lame, to free those who were oppressed, and to give sight to the blind (Lk. 4:18). He also did nothing to develop an outward appearance that others might consider to be handsome or attractive. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Is. 53:2). He also did not seek to enrich Himself on earth. He did not even have a bed to lay His head on (Matt. 8:20; 9:58). Like the Tabernacle, Jesus was a model to us. The gold should be in your heart hidden from others. You should not worry about your outward appearance.
God will know if you are a “white washed” tomb, lacking in integrity. We can maintain a pretty exterior for others to see while allowing self-indulgence and sin to run rampant when no one is looking. This is the exact opposite of what the Tabernacle represented. God also knows if you are leading a double life that is filled with hypocrisy. Christ called the Pharisees who lived this way “white washed tombs”: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 25:25-28). Meditate on Jesus’ words. Is there any hypocrisy in your walk with God?