Reading: Exodus 27: 9-19
The tabernacle consists of the inner tent and the surrounding court. The inner tent has two parts, the most holy place and the holy place. The first contains the ark with the mercy seat where God dwells. Only the High Priest has access to it, and only once per year. The priests have access to the second. Around them is the court of the tabernacle measuring 50 by 100 cubits (23 by 46 meters). The gate is a symbol of God’s mercy indicating the Israelites may enter the tabernacle, but not into the inner tent. God is willing to dwell among His people but, because of their sins, they cannot be in His immediate presence. God’s chosen people are permitted to approach God for worship, but under certain conditions. The law declared the people sinful, unclean and unholy. Their relationship with holy God can only be through mediators, the priests. In the court and holy place the priests make daily sacrifices for the people, offering the people’s animals and other produce.
Before entering the people must be ceremonially clean, repentant of their sins and determined obey God’s law. Furthermore they have to enter with humility, aware of their sins and the need for forgiveness. They had to take in their animals for sacrifice, and other goods as offerings. In this way the condition of people is revealed: they were forbidden to enter the holy and most holy places, that is, no direct access to God. At the same time they are graciously received by God, if they seek His mercy, and with due humility, mindful of their own unworthiness.
The overall message of the tabernacle is one of great joy and peace, as king David expresses in Psalm 84:10 “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand (elsewhere). I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Key text: Ex 27:16 “For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four pillars and four sockets.”
Question: This passage tells us under which conditions the Israelites could enter the tabernacle. What do you learn from this for today?