The Area 51 of Christendom (Exodus 25)

Concerning the tabernacle, Philo, the Jewish thinker of Alexandria, held that the seven lamps represented the seven then known planets, the four materials the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire, and the precious stones the signs of the Zodiac. Thus the tabernacle portrayed the cosmos. Silly ancient.

The tabernacle was a place of restricted access. Some Christians approach for this reason, others stay away. It’s like the Area 51 of Christendom. There are those who sneer and those who seek; neither approach is healthy. There are the conspiracy theorists who make every little detail of the tabernacle to be about something, and then there are those who stay away because they think all of this a tad weird.

So let me illustrate a healthier approach using a piece of furniture from the tabernacle. What does the gold lampstand mean? One could jump to John 12 where Jesus reveals Himself as the light of the world and trace that rich Biblical theme through the Scriptures, but when finished, he would have only shown that that theme was in the Bible without demonstrating that it was directly tied to the lampstand. In Zechariah 4 and Revelation 1 we see similar lampstands, but in each instance the lamps stand for something different. Further, in those passages we’re told what the lamps meant. Here we’re told nothing. Wisdom would dictate we say nothing. So what does the lamp mean? It means that with all those curtains, the tabernacle was dark and thus the priests needed light (Exodus 25:37).

Don’t miss the forrest for the trees. Don’t miss the word for the letters. We don’t read letters, we read words. Meaning is in words, not letters. The meaning of the tabernacle is in the big scope of things. When God begins to give instructions for the tabernacle, He starts with the core. Keep the core the core. Note what the New Testament makes a big deal out of, and make a big deal out of that. Read Hebrews 8 and 9 and don’t presume to be more insightful than its author. Or, as a friend of mine puts it, “Love Jesus. Don’t get weird.”

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