Read Exodus 25-26, and the first thing I think you will notice is the intricate detail. In fact, you might read it and say, “Wow, that was pretty boring.” Few people, except maybe architects, enjoy reading architectural specifications. But, since this is God’s Word, it is important to ask the question, “Why was God so interested in every specific detail of the tabernacle and its furnishings?” To understand why, you have to read Hebrews 9. The writer of Hebrews mentions many of these same exact details about the tabernacle in Hebrews 9:1-5, and then tells us plainly that the tabernacle was a copy of the place of God’s presence in Heaven, where Jesus now serves as the high priest of the new covenant. (Hebrews 9:23-28) This is why the details of the tabernacle are so important to God.
Think about the angels, the cherubim, that guard the mercy seat of God, the place where the high priest would go into the very presence of God (Exodus 25:17-22). Remember the last place we saw cherubim in the Bible? In Genesis 3:24, God places cherubim with flaming swords to guard the garden of Eden, the last place where man was able to dwell in the presence of God, after man’s rebellion made him (and, by extension, us) unable to remain in His presence. Everywhere else in Scripture where this particular class of angels is mentioned (cherubim), they are always in the presence of God.
In John 1:14, the word translated “dwelt” can be translated as “pitched his tent,” a reference to this tabernacle. It is saying that God became flesh and “tabernacled” among us, that we come into God’s very presence through Christ.
I said in a previous blog that when we come face-to-face with our inability to keep the laws of God, we immediately realize our need for two things – provision for sin and the presence of God. In the tabernacle, God is anticipating this need and foreshadowing the day when the blood of bulls and goats will no longer be necessary as a sacrifice for sin because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the redemption of all who trust in Him, which grants us access to His presence. (Hebrews 9:11-22)
Those who are opposed to God or do not trust in Him have no interest in worshipping Him, serving Him, or being anywhere near His presence. But those who have looked into God’s law, have realized their inadequacy to keep it, and have placed their trust in Christ’s redemption know that one day in God’s presence is better than thousands elsewhere. (Psalm 84)
The tabernacle would have looked similar to the picture above. It was literally a fancy tent that God’s people would pitch in the desert wherever they went, as a place to worship the Lord. Ultimately, it was replaced by the temple that Solomon built, which was replaced by the Immanuel (literally “God with us”) who came to “tabernacle” with us. When Christ was crucified, the veil that separated the holy of holies was ripped from top to bottom, indicating that access to God’s presence is no longer restricted. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit now dwells within those who call upon the name of Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) One day, God is going to restore Eden in the new heaven and the new earth and His people will enjoy the presence of the Lord forever. (Revelation 21:1-8)