[God said,] “You shall make the court of the tabernacle.”
The tabernacle covered over 11,000 square feet at the center of Israel’s nomadic camp and was the fulcrum of ancient Jewish society. The writers of scripture occasionally referred to it as the “tent of meeting,” revealing its role as the seat of early Israeli culture, politics, and jurisprudence.
“Tent of dwelling” is the more common term to describe the tabernacle, and gets at the transcendent purpose it served for Israel. Everything in the tabernacle is designed to bring man into communion with God.
Instruction for the tabernacle’s design is fastidious and consumes one-third of the chapters in the book of Exodus. Every object is meticulously detailed, all the way down to pegs for the sacrificial tools and fasteners on the priestly garments.
One object is conspicuously absent: a seat for the priest.
Sacrificing animals that weigh hundreds of pounds would have been exhausting. Serving all day in the heat of the Near East would have made it more difficult. Yet the ancient priest never sat down because the work of atonement was never complete.
The author of the book of Hebrews describes Christ as “our great high priest.” Jesus, Hebrews says, “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
The New Testament’s vision for God’s presence in daily life is no less central than that of the tabernacle. It is however, no longer contingent on humanity’s sacrifices, mediated by earthly priests, or centered on a building.
The reason for this, Hebrews reveals, is stunning; “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
The sacrificial system isn’t gone because humankind evolved to more civil forms of worship. We no longer sacrifice because the final sacrifice has been made on our behalf. The great high priest sits because the work is complete.
God, thank you for ending the sacrificial system by paying a price we were unable to pay. Thank you that the work of faith is no longer about restoring our relationship with you. Strengthen us to respond in joy, cultivating what you have given us through grace so that others see, experience, and respond to your never-ending love for us.
Ancient Symbols, Modern Faith
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org