The Tabernacle and the Law – Part 1

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 6 – A Nation Emerges

The Tabernacle, shadow of something greater

[Bible references: Exodus 25-27; Numbers 2; Hebrews 8:5-6; 10:1-18]

During the time in the wilderness, the Israelites were instructed to build a tabernacle that would serve as the point of presence for Yahweh in the community. God would be seen both as an unapproachable and transcendent God[1] and as a personal, immanent God living among his people.[2] The tabernacle would serve to display the shadow of a deeper reality.

Art and artists

[Bible references: Exodus 20:4-6; 31:2-3; 35:4-9,32-35; 36:1-7]

The instructions are quite detailed. The materials used to build the tabernacle were gifts given to the Israelites as they left Egypt. Those materials were then freely shared to be used as materials used to construct the tabernacle. God dedicated the workmen for building the various parts of the tabernacle, filling them with his Spirit and then giving the skills and abilities they needed. God gave everything needed for the construction of the tabernacle. Between the detailed instructions, the materials provided by the Egyptians and the skills of the craftsmen, the tabernacle would be a beautiful work of art. Although the Israelites were told not to make graven images to worship as idols, that obviously did not mean that they couldn’t create works of art, in this case works that would be used to enable worship.

Law and Love

[Bible references: Exodus 20:1-17; Leviticus 1-7; 19:18, 34; Deuteronomy 4:27-31; 6:1-6; John 13:35; 1 Timothy 1:5]

The amount of killing carried out in the tabernacle to fulfill the necessary sacrifices would be a constant, grisly reminder of the cost of our sin. There were sacrifices to be made for many types of occasions: burnt (or ascension) offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings and others. There was much bloodletting from the many animals sacrificed on the altar, a constant reminder of the cost of our sins.

In addition to the rules of the tabernacle, God also gave other rules that covered other areas of life. Most of us are familiar with the moral code we know as the ten Commandments, but there were many other laws that covered other situations as well. Of the 613 rules (mitzvot) that can be found,[3] they can all be summarized in the commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether in the ten commandments or in the 613 mitzvot, all the rules are predicated on love, thankfulness and pleasing one another. All the instructions point to practical ways for us to love God and one another.[4]


[1] The Holy of Holies could only be accessed once a year and only by the high priest.

[2] The presence of God was indicated by the pillar of fire by night and smoke by day where the people could see it. Also, Moses was able to have face-to-face contact with God.

[3] Judaism 101, “List of the 613 Commandments” Judaism 101 http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm

[4] Isaacs, Ronald H. “Rabbinic Reasons for the Mitzvot;” Messianic Jewish Bible Society “Love and the Hebrew language” myjewishlearning.com http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/rabbinic-reasons-for-the-mitzvot/; Levinson, John D. “The Shema and the Commandment to Love God in its ancient context” The Torah http://www.thetorah.com/article/the-shema-and-the-commandment-to-love-god-in-its-ancient-contexts

Reflect

For the nation of Israel, the tabernacle and its rituals provided a visible reminder of that the presence of God was among them, but God was still not accessible except once a year by the high priest. Does God seem like that to you?

Observe

Read Hebrews 8:5-6; 10:1-18, 1 Peter 2:9. The Tabernacle was designed to represent a greater reality. Our relationships among people also represent a greater reality. What is it?

Reflect

Arts and crafts, as long as they enhance and don’t distract from the worship of God, are useful in the worship experience. What are some ways can you express the worship of God?

Observe

Read Exodus 20:4-6; 31:2-3; 35:4-9,32-35; 36:1-7. What kinds of arts and crafts went into the construction of the tabernacle?

Reflect

If you had to live through the experience of seeing many animals slaughtered as sacrifices for the sake your sins and others’ sins, how would that affect your thinking?

Observe

Read Matthew 22:37-40. The Great Commandment is about loving God and neighbor. Keeping that commandment, is just as difficult as following the 613 other commands that can be found in the Old Testament. What do you think your life would look like if you fully lived into the Great Commandment?

Confronting our freedom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Gen 3:1-7]

To be creatures designed in the image of the transcendent creative, loving God, we needed the kind of independence that could allow us to choose who or what to love – or not love – and to be free to imagine and create wildly new and different things as proper for God’s image-bearing creatures. We were free to do this in a place where everything was very good and designed so that we could flourish. However, that very freedom which gave image bearers the possibilities of independent thoughts, also gave those image-bearers the opportunity to also confront temptation.

While the image-bearers were given the opportunity to meet with God and to walk with him in a specially designed garden, they were also allowed the opportunity for questions. They could even question the motives of the God who made them: 

  • Was something good being withheld from them?
  • Were they being deprived of some power?
  • What would be available to them if they violated the restriction?
  • Would they actually die?
  • What special knowledge were they being deprived of – particularly this knowledge of good and evil?
  • Everything they had encountered had been good, why would their thinking about violating this one restriction not be good?
  • Was the Creator so good anyway?”

Reflect

It seems to be part of human nature, to be suspicious of those things or those people who are different than us. The question is, when does doubting someone else’s motives become an act of sin?

Observe

Read Genesis 3:1-7.

What did the woman choose to trust when she chose to eat the forbidden fruit?