Introduction: Exodus 27 is the conclusion to a three-chapter description of the general layout to the Tabernacle. In Exodus 25, God used the gold fixtures inside the Tabernacle to symbolically depict what should be in the heart of every believer. In Exodus 26, God used His descriptions of the exterior coverings for the Tent of Meeting to reveal truths about the outward signs or actions of a believer transformed by Jesus. In Exodus 27, through the description of the outer courtyard, God reveals seven truths about His rules for our reconciliation and our protection.
First, through the description of the bronze altar, God reveals that only a proper blood sacrifice can reconcile a sinner to Him. This process foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice. Second, for the atonement process to work, the sinner had to have faith that his or her sins were cast onto the sacrifice. The same is true with Christ. Without faith in Jesus, you cannot be reconciled to God. Third, through the descriptions of the 100-cubit north and south walls to the outer courtyard, God reveals His protection and blessings when you live within His Covenant. Fourth, through the descriptions of the 50-cubit west and east walls to the outer courtyard, God reveals the complete freedom within His Covenant. Fifth, through the description of the doors to the outer courtyard and the Tent of Meeting, God reveals that His doors are open to all. But the path narrows the closer you get to Him. Sixth, through the description of the oil used to light the Menorah at the end of this chapter, God reveals that He shares His truths with you so that you may be a light to others. Finally, from the layout of the Tabernacle, God reveals hidden truths about your walk with Him. Today, your body is the modern Tabernacle where the Holy Spirit dwells (2 Cor. 6:16). Each stage of the Tabernacle corresponds to a stage in your walk with God, justification (the outer courtyard), sanctification (the Tent of Meeting), and glorification (the Holy of Holies). God further reveals that increasing joy exists at each stage in your walk as you get closer to Him.
The bronze altar. God’s description of the outer court yard begins by describing the most important piece within it, the bronze altar of sacrifice: “1 And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2 You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 You shall make its pails for removing its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its fire pans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall make for it a grating of network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 You shall put it beneath, under the ledge of the altar, so that the net will reach halfway up the altar. 6 You shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 Its poles shall be inserted into the rings, so that the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 You shall make it hollow with planks; as it was shown to you in the mountain, so they shall make it.” (Ex. 27:1-8). The altar had several components, including: (1) acacia / shittim wood; (2) a bronze overlay; (3) horns on all four corners; (4) a length and width that were exactly five cubits on all sides; (5) a height of three cubits; (6) bronze fire pans and other utensils for removing the ash; and (7) poles for carrying the altar. These things all pointed to Jesus.
The Altar of Burnt Offering1
(1) The wood for the mizbeach altar – Jesus who became human and was sacrificed for us. The priests performed animal sacrifices in the courtyard of the Tabernacle at an altar called the “mizbeach” or the “Mizbeach Ha'ola,” the altar of the burnt-offering (Ex. 27:1-8). This altar and its carrying poles were made of acacia / shittim / “shih-taw” wood (Ex. 38:2, 6). Likewise, the ark, the ark’s carrying poles, the table of presence, and the boards that supported the Tabernacle were all made with this wood (Ex. 25:11, 13, 23-30; 26:15-29). Acacia is both strong and resistant to decay. When pierced, its sap can be used as both a pharmaceutical and as a preservative. This symbolized Christ. He emptied Himself of His divine form to take on a human body (Jo. 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:7). His body also was not corrupted so that it could be our sacrifice (Ps. 16:10(b); Acts 13:35). His blood also heals and gives life (1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:5). His body was also the sacrificial food at the altar. Eating the peace or “shalom” offering prepared at the altar was a prerequisite to fellowship with God (Lev. 3:11, 16; Matt. 26:26). Thus, He is both altar of sacrifice and the sacrificial food that brings you into communion: “We have an altar from which those who serve the Tabernacle have no right to eat.” (Heb. 13:10; 1 Cor. 9:13; 10:18). Jesus also offers you peace by offering to dine with you open your heart to Him: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’” (Rev. 3:20-22). Are you accepting His invitation?
(2) The bronze covering the mizbeach altar - Jesus bore our judgment when He was sacrificed. While the interior acacia boards were covered in gold (Ex. 25:11, 13, 23-30; 26:15-16), the mizbeach altar was covered in bronze (Ex. 27:2-5). In the Bible, bronze symbolizes God’s judgment of sin. Jesus is described as having “bronze” feet (Rev. 1:15). His bronze feet will bring judgment to Satan by crushing him (Rom. 16:20). The bronze also protected the altar from the fire inside it. The fire further symbolized God’s judgment: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24, 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). “For years, the sides of this altar were smooth and shiny bronze. But Numbers 16 describes the rebellion of Korah, who challenged the leadership of Moses: You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy . . . Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? (Numbers 16:3). In confirming the leadership of Moses, God judged Korah and his followers, and caused the ground to split and swallow up all the rebels of Korah. The LORD then commanded the priests to take the bronze incense-censers held by Korah and his followers, to hammer them flat, and to cover the altar of burnt offering with them, to be a memorial to the children of Israel (Numbers 16:40).” From then on, every time someone came to the altar of burnt offering, they noticed the rough, hammered finish of the bronze – and were reminded of Korah’s rebellion and God’s judgment against him and those who followed him.” (David Guzok on Exodus 25).2 No person can treat sin lightly (Rom. 6:26). “For the wages of sin is death, . .” (Rom. 6:23). For those who do not repent, God warns: “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, . . .” (Ez. 21:31(a)). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:29). “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:4(b)). Unless you accept that God will judge sin, you will feel no pressure to repent. Staying silent about God’s judgment of sin also doesn’t help others. Are you helping others turn to Christ to spare them from judgment? (Matt. 28:16-20).
(3) Horns on all four corners – Christ’s blood is powerful enough to cover all the earth. The altar had four horns (Ex. 27:2). Some of the blood from the sacrifice was put on the horns before the rest was poured out at the base (Ex. 29:12; Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:9; 16:18). In the Bible, horns symbolize power and refuge (Ps. 18:2, 89:17; Lk. 1:6; Lam. 2:3; 1 Kgs. 2:28). “Now Adonijah was afraid of Solomon; so he arose, and went and took hold of the horns of the altar”. (1 Kgs. 1:50). If the horns symbolized power or refuge, the pouring of the blood on the horns means that it had great power. In fact, the power of Christ’s blood is so strong that anyone who believes in it has “no condemnation” for any prior sins: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1). The horns also “reached out” in all directions. (Ex. 27:2). Christ’s sacrifice also provided atonement for the entire world for anyone who might believe in faith (Jo. 3:16). There is no sin in your past that is too awful or evil to be beyond the power in His blood. When you need refuge from the temptations and sins of the world, are you taking refuge in Him?
(4) An altar with a length and width of five cubits – Christ’s blood brings mercy and grace. The length and width of the altar were exactly five cubits in each direction (Ex. 27:1). In the Bible, five symbolizes God’s grace. This signified that the altar brings mercy and grace.
(5) An altar with a height of three cubits - Only God can forgive your sins and bring fellowship. The altar was exactly three cubits high (Ex. 27:1). The number three corresponds with the Trinity. This signified that the only through God can your sins be forgiven God also reveals that the “ledge of the altar” and the “net” for the ash was “halfway up the altar.” (Ex. 27:5). The midpoint at the altar where the fire met the sacrifice at the bronze net spoke to the anguish that Christ suffered for every person (Matt. 27:46). If the altar was three cubits tall, the bronze net for the sacrifice was exactly one and one-half cubits off the ground. Both the mercy seat to the ark and the table of presence were also exactly “one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high.” (Ex. 25:10; 23). Thus, the bronze net (where the fire met the sacrifice), the mercy seat and the table of presence were all the exact same height. This means that God’s mercy and His fellowship are only possible through Christ’s sacrifice for everyone at the cross (Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle, Vision Publishers (2010) p. 56).
(6) Bronze fire pans and other utensils for removing the ash – Christ will carry your sins away. The altar turned the sin into ash. That sin had to be disposed of because sin cannot be in God’s presence. To do this, God ordered the Jews to prepare bronze utensils to remove and dispose of the ash (Ex. 27:3). This again foreshadowed Christ. His blood will not just cover your sins. His blood will take away your sins: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (Jo. 1:29). Are you leaving your sins behind you? Or, are you trying to pull them out of the ash?
(7) Poles for carrying the altar – Christ will find you where you are when you repent. The altar was designed to be portable. The Levites carried it using acacia / shittim poles (Ex. 27:6-7). This signifies that Christ will bring His sacrificed blood to any place where a sinner may repent. He only needs your help to encourage others to accept what He offers.
The importance of faith in the blood used in the atonement process. With continual sacrifices every day, the altar would be blood soaked, the air would smell, and black smoke would have been everywhere. It would not be a pretty sight. If an architect were retained today to design God’s courtyard, it would most likely have fountains, flowers, and manicured hedges. Why would God instead select this bloody and unsightly process as His symbol of atonement? There are at least three reasons. First, you are not likely to have much faith in Christ’s sacrifice if you don’t appreciate the cost of your sins. The blood lets you know how gross your sins are before God. He wants people to see the consequences of their sins before they can approach Him. Thus, Jesus first preached repentance (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mk. 1:15). Even saved believers will know the cost of their sins at the “Bema” seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Thus, an altar call should never be given without first giving an invitation to repent. Second, blood is the perfect symbol for what Christ does to the sin in a believer’s life. Blood is an agent of life for all the organs in the body. It brings life-giving oxygen. It further acts as a cleansing agent. It also carries impurities from the body to the kidneys where they are filtered and removed from the body. Thus, “the life of every creature is its blood.” (Lev. 17:14; Gen. 9:4). When you repent, Christ will cleanse you of your sins (1 John 1:9). Third, the shedding of the blood symbolizes the exchange of Jesus’ life for your own: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Lev. 17:11). The rule requiring that the blood of one be used to pay the price of another still applies: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus’ blood fulfilled God’s Law by being spilled in exchange for your own (Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21). The power of Christ’s blood is limited only by your faith. If you still feel condemned after repenting of your sins, the enemy is deceiving you and exploiting a weakness in your faith in Christ.
The transfer of sins from the blood of the sinner to the sacrificial animal. During the atonement process, a person put his or her hands on the animal that he or she was sacrificing. By faith, God threw the person’s sins onto the animal (Lev. 1:4, Ex. 29:10, 15, 19). This, however, again required the sinner to have faith. If they did not believe that their sins were being transferred to the blood of the animal, the process was meaningless to God: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). The transfer of sins from the sinner to the blood of the sacrifice also foreshadowed what Christ did for us: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). ‘“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ [Christ] said to them.” (Mk. 14:24; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Is. 53:4-5, 10, 12). If you don’t believe that your sins today were transferred more than 2,000 years ago onto Christ at the time of His death, does His death have any real meaning to you?
The problem with the daily animal sacrifices. For individuals ready to come forward to atone for sins and find salvation, the priests were commanded to be ready to make the sacrifice: “Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it.” (Ex. 29:36). On behalf of the nation, the Jews also had to sacrifice each day two one-year old male lambs as a burnt offering (Nu. 28:3; 7:15). Any lambs or bulls also had to be without defects (Nu. 28:3; Lev. 1:3; Ex. 12:5). Yet, while these sacrifices complied with God’s law, they could not by themselves take away sins. They could only cover the sins of the people: “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. . . ” (Heb. 10:11). “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Heb. 10:1). Thus, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were imperfect. Also, when the Romans destroyed the second temple 30 years after Christ’s death, they left the Jews without a way to comply with God’s sacrificial law. The Jews needed a long-term solution.
The one-time blood sacrifice of Christ. Christ offered a solution to the need for a one-time sacrifice for all: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev. 1:5). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Maybe you accept that your sins are forgiven. But will you accept that a murder or a terrorist can be forgiven? If not, how much faith are you showing in Christ’s blood?
The north and south exterior walls to the Tabernacle. After describing the altar of sacrifice, God explained the requirements for the outer walls that would surround the Tabernacle: “9 You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side; 10 and its pillars shall be twenty, with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver. 11 Likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, and its twenty pillars with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver.” (Ex. 27:9-11). The south and north sides were identical. Each side had fine twisted linens that were exactly 100 cubits long. To hold up the linens, God required exactly 20 acacia / shittim poles, 20 bronze sockets and silver hooks. Again, each of these things pointed to Christ or things that are only made possible through Him.
The fine twisted linen on each side – Let Christ’s righteousness make you a light to others. The pure linens symbolized the “righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev. 19:8; 3:5). Without Christ, even our best works are but “filthy rags” before God (Is. 64:6). The linen was white and clean. They would have also reflected light. They would have also served as a beacon to others in the wilderness as they approached the Tabernacle. In a similar way, believers in Christ are the light of the world, a beacon for others (Matt. 5:14). “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Prov. 4:18). Is your light drawing others to Christ or repelling them away?
The 100-cubit long walls – Find complete protection and blessings within God’s Covenant The east and west walls were exactly 100 cubits long (Ex. 27:9, 11). The number 100 is a multiple of 10 times 10. The number ten “signifies the perfection of Divine order.” (E. W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture, Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, Kregel Publications (1967) p. 243). There were exactly “ten” Commandments inside the ark (Ex. 20:1-17; Dt. 5:6-21; Ex. 25:16; Heb. 9:4). The boards that held up the Tent of Meeting were exactly ten cubits tall (Ex. 26:16; 36:8, 21). There were also ten pillars with ten sockets on the longer sides (Ex. 27:12; 38:12). This all signifies that God’s rule is based upon divine order and righteousness (2 Sam. 23:3). The number 100 represents the complete fullness of divine order. For a believer in Christ, the Ten Commandments are not a test for salvation (Gal. 3:13). Yet, Jesus said that if you love Him you will keep His Commandments (Jo. 14:15). The Ten Commandments still exist as God’s “standard” for right and wrong (Ro. 7:7). The Ten Commandments also provide protection from your own sinful hearts by guiding your choices. When you voluntarily live within the protections of the Ten Commandments, God can pour out His promised earthly blessings - - -blessings which are again unrelated to salvation (Lev. 26:1-13; Dt. 28:1-14). While God wrote the original Ten Commandments on stone (Ex. 31:18), the Holy Spirit then wrote them on your heart to guide you (2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10). Stepping outside the protection of His Commandments puts you outside of His protection. Are you living inside of God’s protections from the enemy?
The 20 pillars –Christ will support and hold you together when you live within His Covenant The acacia / shittim pillars again represent Christ. As stated above, they symbolize His flesh. He holds the Church (the fine linens) together. He is also the chief cornerstone that later held the Temple together (Eph. 2:20-22). “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:7). “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Heb. 1:3). The number 20 is also a multiple of 10. It is the number of divine order (10) times divine confirmation (2). When you live within the Covenant, Christ will confirm His support for you. By contrast, a life of covetousness will place you in misery outside of God’s protection.
The 20 bronze sockets – Christ bore each person’s judgment to allow them to stand tall. To hold the walls up, God ordered the Jews to use 20 bronze sockets on each side. As stated above, bronze symbolizes judgment. Because Christ bore every person’s judgment for breaking the Law, each person in Christ can stand tall. On your own, you would fall over.
The silver hooks – Christ redeems and refines the Church. Silver hooks held together the linen walls (Ex. 27:11). Silver is a symbol of redemption. It was the ransom price that was paid for Christ’s life (Matt. 26:14-16). It is also a symbol of refinement: “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Ps. 66:10). “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined . . .” (Zec. 13:9(a); Mal. 3:3). Jesus builds up the Church through refinement, testing and trial. You should welcome his trials with joy because it produces “endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3). Are you welcoming God testing and trials as He exposes your sins and refines your walk with Him?
The west and east walls of the Tabernacle. While the southern and northern walls were 100 cubits on each side, the eastern and western walls were 50 cubits on each side: “12 For the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits with their ten pillars and their ten sockets. 13 The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. 15 And for the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets.” (Ex. 27:12-15). Each detail of the western and eastern walls again held special meaning. The details symbolize things made possible only through Christ.
The building of the Tabernacle3
The fifty-cubit linens on the west side – Find freedom through Christ. The west side had linens that were 50 cubits long (Ex. 27:12-13). In the Bible, the number 50 symbolizes three things. First, it symbolizes the fullness of God’s revelation. Exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, He revealed His will for their lives through the Ten Commandments. Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, God revealed His will for our lives by pouring out the Holy Spirit unto His believers (“Pentecost”). Second, the number 50 symbolizes freedom. Every fifty years the Jews celebrate the Jubilee year (“yovel”) (Lev. 25:8-12). During the 50th year, the Jews were to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” (Lev. 25:8). As the fulfillment of this, Christ came and proclaimed “liberty” and freedom to those who were once under the bondage of sin (Lk. 4:18-19; Is. 61:1-2; Jo. 8:36). Third, if we multiply five (the number of grace) times ten (the number of the Ten Commandments) the total of 50 represents “grace completed.” (Hershberger p. 34). Thus, the 50-cubit walls reveal the freedom from bondage that exists within God’s Covenant.
The ten pillars and 10 sockets on the west – Live within His Covenant and find support. On the west side, exactly 10 pillars and sockets supported the wall (Ex. 27:12). The ten pillars and the 10 sockets again symbolize Christ and His Covenant of the Ten Commandments. When you live within the protections of His Covenant, He will hold you up and support you.
The 15 cubit-long linens and the three sockets on the east. On the east side, part of the wall opened up as a gate. The linen curtains around the gate were 15 cubits long and supported by three sockets (Ex. 27:15). The number three signifies the Trinity, and the number five signifies grace. Because this number appears on the side where the entrance door existed, it signifies that only grace can bring you into and keep you within His Covenant.
The eastern gate to the Tabernacle. After explaining the walls that surrounded the outer courtyard, God explained the door that would lead into the Tabernacle: “16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be furnished with silver bands with their hooks of silver and their sockets of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle used in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.” (Ex. 27:16-19). The door also pointed to Christ.
The colored linen of the gate – Through Christ, the door to reconciliation is open to all. The gate had three colors. Each color carried a special meaning. Purple symbolizes Christ’s royalty as the “King of Kings” (Rev. 19:16). Blue symbolizes His throne in heaven. Scarlet red symbolizes Christ’s cleansing blood: “ . . . they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:14(b); Heb. 9:14; 1 Jo. 1:7). “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; . . .” (Is. 1:18(b)). In the context of the gate, the message is that the King of Kings in heaven has opened His door to heaven to all persons (the linen) through His sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus is the door, the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus was the doors or veil to the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, and the Holy of Holies. At each stage, you must pass through Him to approach God: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (Jo. 10:9). “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (Jo. 14:6). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, . . .” (Rev. 3:20(a)). Will you keep the door to Jesus fully open in your life?
The door is open to the east waiting for Christ’s return. The gate opened from the east. The opening was to the east because the Messiah will come from the east (Is. 41:2). This also meant that believers faced westward toward the Holy of Holies to pray to God. Praying away from the sun reversed the practice of the pagans who prayed toward the rising sun. This has two meanings today. First, your worship of God should not mix the belief systems of the world. Second, you should worship the things or idols of the world.
The path to God narrows the closer you get to Him. The gate to the Tabernacle was 20 cubits long (Ex. 27:16). By contrast, the door leading to the Tent of Meeting was only 10 cubits long (Ex. 26:16). This means that the path to God narrows the closer that you wish to draw toward Him: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14). Yet, the gate grows taller the closer you draw toward God. The outer gate was only five cubits tall (Ex. 27:18). By contrast, the inner gate stood 10 cubits tall (Ex. 26:15-16). The total surface areas of both doors were therefore the same. The numbers of 10 and 5 symbolized that His door is based upon divine order, but kept open through grace. Yet, to enter the Tent of Meeting, a person needed to be on a narrower path with their eyes looking up toward heaven. Are you walking the narrow path and looking to God?
The oil for the Menorah. After explaining many of the details for the outer courtyard, God explained His requirements for the oil for the Menorah that lit the Tent of Meeting. The purpose of this was to remind the Jews that they were given the right to know God so that they could be a light to others: “20 You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.” (Ex. 27:20-21). Again, every detail holds meaning.
The oil for the Menorah foreshadowed the Holy Spirit4
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 (Ex. 27:20; Lev. 24:1-2). 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 for us to receive the Holy Spirit, Christ had to be beaten (Jo. 19:1). Likewise, in order to have the Holy Spirit be fully manifest in your life, your own will needs to be removed: “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing” (2 Cor. 4:8). In order to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), God also wants to make sure that your light is pure. Are you emptying out the desires of the flesh so that the Holy Spirit can lead you?
Three stages of a believer’s walk as shown in the three parts of the Tabernacle. The three stages of your walk with God are also shown in the layout of the Tabernacle. The outer court yard is where you were “justified” by the blood of Christ. The Tent of Meeting is where the priests went there to light both the Menorah and the altar of incense and to prepare the bread at the table of presence (Ex. 25:23-40). This is where you are “sanctified” or set apart by the Holy Spirit for God’s use. Finally, the Holy of Holies where the ark existed is where God ruled (Ex. 25:10-22). This place represents the final stage of your walk when you will one day dwell with God and be “glorified” in His presence.
You cannot approach God without the altar of sacrifice. The altar stood between the doorway to the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting at the Holy of Holies. This symbolized the fact that the justification must always precede scarification. In other words, God does not leave any other way to cross the barrier of sin between man and Himself without the shedding of Christ’s blood. If you say that you are sorry to God for your sins but fail to offer a blood sacrifice to atone for your sins (as Jews do today), this does not comply with God’s law. Some might be tempted to protest that there must be a better way to pay for our sins. But what do you have to offer God to pay for your sins? God will not accept money, silver, or gold to pay for your sins (1 Pet. 1:17-19). God created the universe. You have nothing that He needs. Moreover, your money is worthless in heaven. Indeed, gold is so common in heaven that it is used to pave the streets (Rev. 21:21).
If joy exists in God’s courtyard, unreliable joy awaits the closer you get to Him. The outer courtyard was only accessible to God’s people, just as heaven will be to us. Yet, a believer felt unbelievable joy to be there. As a non-priest, David could not enter the Tent of Meeting. Yet, the joy of just standing in God’s courtyard caused him to write seven songs of praise: “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. . . For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Ps. 84:2, 10). “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.” (Ps. 65:4). “Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” (Ps. 92:13). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.” (Ps. 96:8; Ps. 100:4; Ps. 116:17-19; Ps. 135:1-2). For a believer set apart for God [symbolized by the Tent of Meeting], you also have the “joy” of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21). This was something David did not have. Moreover, when believers get to heaven [the Holy of Holies], a joy beyond comprehension awaits: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9; Is. 64:4). Does your hope lie in the world to come?
Beauty lies within. The outer courtyard did not contain any gold. As stated above, the constant animal sacrifices and the bloody altar of sacrifice would have been hard to look at. The gold was only visible to the priests who could enter the Tent of Meeting. Your body is today the Tabernacle where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Like God’s Tabernacle, He wants the gold to be in your heart where only He can see it. He does not want you to spend your time trying to make your outward appearance beautiful. These are the vain things in life that will fade with time like the grass (1 Pet. 1:24; Ps. 103:15; Is. 51:12; Jam. 1:10). If you only have an outward appearance of beauty, you are what Jesus calls a “white washed tomb” (Matt. 25:25-28). No believer should ever want to be called this. By contrast, the beauty of a strong character rooted in Christ will last forever.