Reading about the laborious details for instructions for the tabernacle often makes me wonder, “God, why is this all here and why is it important for me to know about the intricacies of the Tabernacle blueprint?”
Here’s a few thoughts as to why I think God has these instructions for us in our bibles:
1) They force us to slow down in our approach to God.
No one could approach God hastily. In fact hastily approaching God would get you killed. Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 says, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” One of the greatest sins we have is we treat God as though approaching him is merely a duty to be performed and then we will move on to the our “real” demands of life.
Reading the tabernacle and temple building instructions force us to slow ourselves down. We realize, as the Israelites did, coming before the Holy God requires serious, thoughtful reflection. The Tabernacle and the ceremonies were designed to cause a person to think and reflect on the seriousness of approaching God. Slitting an animal’s throat and spreading its blood over nearly everything in sight forced a man to consider – “everything that I might touch must be cleansed with blood?”
The tabernacle was constructed to be a series of pictures of what it means for God to dwell men and for sinful men to draw near to the Holy God. A man had to think and reflect on the meaning of things like the “bread of the Presence” or the “lampstand”, or the fact that the extravagant use of gold and precious metals and stones meant to communicate a glimpse of the worth, value and importance of the God whom they approached. This reflection takes time.
Reading about cubits and tent poles and hoops and basins forces us to slow our minds down off all the things that constantly distract us and occupy our attention. It’s God’s way of making us think of something different that ultimately relates to him.
2) Only one man, once a year, could enter into God’s presence
Reading through all the instructions and details helps to build a kind of crescendo in our minds and hearts about the place where God meets with man. As we are forced to reflect on the process that the priests had to go through in order just to enter into the courts of the tabernacle: washing themselves appropriately, then putting on the correct garments, which was followed with a labor of slaughtering goats, bulls, and lambs. And all this was just preparation for entering into the tabernacle courts. Though God was considered to be present within the tabernacle, one did not enter into the true presence of God until the entered the Most Holy Place. Here there were no longer brass and bronze instruments, not a multitude of priests smattering blood on literally everything in sight, but instead everything was laden with gold. One learned that they had entered into an entirely new arena.
This one man, who had walked through what was literally a blood bath in order to reach the veil separating everyone from the Most Holy Place, had to have been struck in his inmost part at what must be done in order for a human to enter into God’s presence. But even more significant, was that one, and only one man may enter into God’s presence. God distinguished between everyone else – no one may enter into God’s presence and live. In our current state, we would be slayed and our life must be emptied out if we were to attempt to come into God’s presence.
God teaches us that we may only enter his presence through one Man, Jesus Christ. God’s dwelling presence is reserved only for those who come by the blood of the one Man.
Our lives are busy and God forces us to slow down and teach us that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
We may live, and we may even live productive, full, and enjoyable lives, yet God wants to teach us that we are dead without him. We may amass the world and God shows us that we are but tombs. Our time is precious and teaches us that our life, our existence depends upon God, upon knowing him, and upon communing with him.