This morning’s Scripture lesson is from Hebrews 9:1-10.
Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
On first reading this passage seems totally impractical for 21st century Christians. I have to admit that I almost skipped these ten verses. However, the more I reflected on these 10 verses the more I realized just how practical they were, for the Tabernacle gives us a “sneak preview” of the glories of God’s holiness, the New Jerusalem and of Christ’s Redemptive Work.
Everyone loves a sneak preview of a movie, book, T.V. show or game they avidly follow. As most of you know I am a huge Lord of the Rings fans. When I read this week that Amazon has won the rights for a five-year T.V. series based on Tolkien’s works I was elated! Amazon’s goal is to create the next “Game of Thrones.” Expected production cost is estimated at one billion dollars! When the first sneak previews hit the internet, you can count of me being at my computer the moment they are released!
It is this type of anticipation that motivated God to have Moses build the Tabernacle and the Old Covenant priesthood and sacrificial system. As excited as we are for our favorite movie or T.V. show, the realities of God and His redemptive plan are even more exciting because they are about reality not fiction! They meet our deepest needs and longings.
The first sneak preview that the Tabernacle gives us is...
A Sneak Preview of God’s Glorious Holiness
A Sneak Preview of God’s Glorious Holiness
As I read our Scripture lesson I am sure you notice how frequently the word “Holy” appeared. This is not accident. The Tabernacle was designed to reveal God’s holiness. The book of Leviticus is the Old Testament book concerned with the Tabernacle and the ministry that took place there. The central message of the book of Leviticus is that God is holy, and he requires His people to be holy. The key verse is Lev 11:45:
For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
Now this does not sound practical and certainly it doesn’t sound exciting to most people, but this is because most people have a narrow view of God’s holiness. Typically, when we speak of holiness we are thinking of moral perfection. God is of course holy in this sense, but holiness means so much more.
The root meaning of holiness is to be set apart. We see this in another verse in Leviticus.
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
Israel was “holy,” not because they were more righteous that other nations, but because they were set a part for God’s special purpose. They were to strive for moral purity not, so they could become “holy,” but because they WERE holy! The same is true for us.
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
So, when we speak of God being holy we must think first and foremost of what makes God so special and worthy of our worship and delight. This is Good News! A God who is not holy is a god who is not worthy of our love and delight.
God is holy first and foremost because He is Creator. This sets Him apart from everything and everyone else. He alone is self-existent. He is not a “needy god” like the gods of this world. Paul astonished the Athenians when he said...
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
God’s holiness is what makes Him so beautiful. He is what your heart longs for and desires. When Isaiah saw God in all His glorious holiness He was overcome by wonder.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
This wonderful place that Isaiah was at when he saw God was the Heavenly Jerusalem. In the book of Revelation John calls this city the New Jerusalem because when creation is renewed it will come down from heaven to earth to be a New Jerusalem.
The Tabernacle provides us with...
A Sneak Preview of the New Jerusalem
A Sneak Preview of the New Jerusalem
The author of Hebrews reminds us that the second section of the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies or The Most Holy Place. This room was a perfect cube: 15 feet high X 15 feet long X 15 feet wide. It was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was. Notice that the Ark is called the “Mercy Seat” in our text. This is because on the top of the Ark was a seat or more correctly a throne. On either side of this throne were two golden cherubim overshadowing the Mercy Seat. When Moses or the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, God would appear to them in the Glory Cloud above the Mercy Seat.
Why was this room a perfect cube? Because the Heavenly Jerusalem is a perfect cube!
The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.
What an amazing revelation this is! Earlier we learned that the Tabernacle was a revelation of God’s holiness. As we learned God’s holiness is what sets Him apart from Creation. God’s holiness applies to all His attributes. God’s Righteousness is holy. God’s Justice is a Holy Justice. God’s Love is a Holy Love!
You heard right. God’s love is HOLY! The presence of the Holy of Holies in the midst of Israel is revelation of His love for His elect people. God is a God who desires a relationship with His people! God desires a relationship with you! But there is a problem—God is holy, but we are unholy. Isaiah discovered this that day he saw God in His Heavenly Holy of Holies.
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The rules and regulations of the Tabernacle were not there because God wanted to keep His distance from His people, they were there to protect His people and to point them to Christ. The greatest and most exciting sneak preview the Tabernacle gives us is...
A Sneak Preview of Christ’s Redemptive Work
A Sneak Preview of Christ’s Redemptive Work
When an Israelite walked into the courtyard of the Tabernacle to offer his sacrifice he had to walk through a curtained gate. There was only one way into the courtyard and that was through the gate. Anyone who tried to climb over the walls would be treated like a “thief and robber.” Jesus had this in mind when He said...
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.
Then He adds...
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
When an Israelite man entered the gate into the Courtyard of the Tabernacle he saw three things before him: The Altar, The Basin, The Curtain leading into the Holy Place. All three of these point to the redemptive work of Christ.
The need for the first two are found in Isaiah 6:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Notice that Isaiah needed two things to remain in the presence of God: His guilt had to be washed away and his sin had to be atoned for.
At the Altar of the Tabernacle sacrifices were made that atoned for sin. At the Basin, ritual washings took place that removed the “uncleanliness” of sin.
When Jesus was on the cross, we read this...
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
It is Jesus’ death on the cross that washes away and atones for our sin!
And now the curtain. We have already heard Jesus say He is the gate. But listen to this:
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There are many rooms in heaven, but there is only one room where Jesus and the Father are—The True Heavenly Holy of Holies! Jesus is the Gate that takes us into the courtyard, through the Holy Place and finally into the Holy of Holies!
At the close of our text the author of Hebrews says something very interesting:
By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
When a person trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, He brings them into the first section—the Holy Place. There we enjoy the light of Christ through the preaching of the Word, corresponding to the Golden Lampstand. There we enjoy Communion with Christ through the Lord’s Supper, corresponding to the Table of the Bread of the Presence. There our prayers and worship are like the incense that came from the Altar of Incense and drifted into the Holy of Holies.
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
But the best is yet to come.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I can’t wait for that Day! But aren’t you glad that in the Tabernacle God has given us a Sneak Preview!
Let us pray.