Notice how God gave the pattern for the tabernacle from the inside out. The tabernacle was from God's perspective looking out, not from man's perspective looking in. So, let's continue to go out from the Holy of Holies.
This altar was located inside the entrance to the tabernacle (40:29). It was about 7 1/2 feet square and 4 1/2 feet high. It is also called the altar of burnt offering in the NIV and in Leviticus 4:7, 10, and 18 in the NASB. It was made of acacia wood covered with bronze. There were horns at each corner that were covered with blood at the consecration of the priests (29:1) and on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:18). The horns were also the means by which the sacrifice was tied down. This is interesting because where have you heard about an animal caught by its horns that served as a sacrifice before? See Genesis 22!
There was a bronze grating within the altar that went about halfway up where the sacrifice would lie. We will learn about the different offerings (burnt, grain, peace, sin, guilt) when we start reading Leviticus.
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
This altar illustrates that one can approach God only through sacrifice. Sin must be atoned for by it. Sacrifices for sins were continually being made, and the fire was kept burning on the altar continually. According to Hebrews 10:10-12:
We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He (Jesus), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD.
The Outer Court of the Tabernacle
This courtyard was 75' x 150'. It was made of linen curtains supported by or hung on posts with bronze bases and silver hooks set in bands. It was half the height of the tabernacle curtains. Like the curtains for the tabernacle, they were made of blue, purple, and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. The entrance on the east side was in the center and 30' wide.
In the conclusion of the chapter, the sons of Israel were charged to supply olive oil (this burned with little or no smoke) so the priests could keep the lamps burning continuously as a perpetual statute.
My first exposure to the tabernacle was many years ago when I read a little book called Meditation: The Bible Tells You How by Jim Downing. I loved his chapter about experiencing communion with God by going on a "reverent journey mentally through the tabernacle" because it was a practical way to apply this Old Testament information with a scarlet thread reality.
Here is a summary of that mental journey that you might enjoy:
1) The Gate (Thanksgiving)
Downing points out:
Jesus suffered 'outside the gate' (Hebrews 13:12). . . our suggestion is to pause in our mental journey outside the gate and thank our heavenly Father that He sent Jesus Christ to die for us outside the gates of Jerusalem. . . It is only because Jesus Christ died for us that we have the right to come into God's presence. (p. 61-62)2) The Brazen Altar (Acknowledgement)
"We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). Downing's suggests:
Tell God that as we approach Him, it is not on the basis of what we have done or haven't done . . . but we acknowledge that we can approach Him only on the basis and on the merits of what Jesus Christ has done. As the priest in the Old Testament placed the communicant's sacrifice on the brazen altar, so we mentally present Jesus Christ as our sacrifice and offering, which has opened the way for us to come into God's presence. (p. 62)3) The Bronze Laver (Confession)
The next item in the court was the laver filled with water. The priest was to cleanse himself from the defilement he may have experienced in offering the sacrifice. Downing suggests that:
We approach God confessing our sins and forsaking in our hearts and intents any sins which have defiled us since we last came into His presence, so that they may be placed under the blood of Jesus. (p. 62-63)4) The Lampstand (Thanks for Light)
As you entered the holy place, the only light was from the lampstand on the left. Downing suggests that we "thank God audibly that all the light and wisdom we need on the problems for today and the future are available from Him, and we thank Him for it" (p.63). We can also thank God that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12)!
5) The Table of Showbread (Thanks for Strength)
On the right side of the holy place is a table of showbread. Downing suggests that we "thank God for His provision of all the strength that we are going to need for today" (p. 64). We can also thank God that Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35)!
6) The Altar of Incense (Prayers)
Aaron was to burn fragrant incense on the altar in front of the veil that was in front of the ark of the testimony perpetually (Exodus 30:6-8). Downing says:
John tells us that the prayers of the saints are like incense to God (Revelation 8:4). What a privilege it is for a redeemed sinner to be able to delight the heart of God through prayer. . . tell God that we thank Him for the privilege of delighting His heart with our prayers and presence as we come to Him. (p. 65)
Now we go past the Veil and into the Holy of Holies for . . .
7) Worship and Adoration,
8) Expressions of Love, and
9) Pure Praise
In the Old Testament, only the high priest could go behind the veil to the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, but at Jesus' crucifixion, the veil of the temple (that was built by Solomon after the pattern of the tabernacle) was torn in two (Matthew 27:51) giving us free access into the most holy place and into the presence of God! Downing suggests:
At this point in our mental journey we want our hearts to be occupied with the greatness of the person of God, and the greatness of all His works . . . express our love ('I love You Lord because ______') . . . give pure praise, thinking about the things He has done in the past, and then spend much time in thanksgiving to Him for that which He has already done. (p. 65-72)10) The Very Presence of God
Downing does not mention this, but this is the Shekinah glory that we will talk about in Exodus 40:34-35. This is the center of sweet communion with God where time stands still just enjoying and basking in His presence! We often do not take time to just sit and soak in His presence, but "In His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11).
Following this, we can "draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so that we can receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
So, we enter into:
Often, we do this first in prayer, but they are sweetened after coming into the light of His presence.
Then, we leave our time by:
As we conclude our time alone with God, the final step is to select the most refreshing part of our time of communion and fix it so firmly in our minds and affections that we will remember it throughout the day. It will serve as a reminder of our time with God. As the person who has been to the flower garden shows evidence that he has been there by the flower he has picked and taken with him, so our time in communion with the living God should remain fragrant to us and to all those whom we shall meet throughout the day. (p.76)I hope you enjoyed that, I sure enjoyed reviewing it after all these years.
Have a blessed day!
Here is the above meditation in a two page document download: A Prayer Journey through the Tabernacle
Lord, everything in this world grows so strangely dim in the light of Your Shekinah glory today. Thank You for this blessed time of communion even writing this post! Lord, I pray that BBC readers will take the time to enter into Your presence in communion with You NOW! Lord, we know it is not just about reading Your Word and gaining knowledge about You but knowing You and experiencing communion with You. I pray this for each reader today (and always!). We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.