When the Tabernacle Burst at the Seams (Exodus 26)

Rare is the soul who reads construction manuals for kicks. Chances are you don’t read the instructions for something you’re going to build; you just look at the pictures. Here are construction plans for something they built, and there are no pictures. You don’t even have the parts, and you couldn’t manufacture them to reconstruct this tent even if you wanted. The more pics of the tabernacle you look at, the better, for you soon realize they’re all different. We know neither the precise size nor appearance of the tabernacle and its furniture.

Don’t mourn that you can’t reconstruct the tabernacle exactly as it was. Don’t mourn that you have words instead of pictures. The majority of the Israelites never saw the tabernacle. It was mysterious. Access was restricted. The clearest insight Israel had of the tent was the text. The way they “saw” the tabernacle is the same way you see—through words. There are no photographs of the tabernacle, for the tabernacle itself is a picture, and one you are meant to see via words. In his commentary on Exodus, Phil Ryken writes,

The reason we study the tabernacle today is not so we can draw pictures of it or build an exact replica (although this can be helpful), but to learn what the tabernacle teaches us about knowing God. The question is what does the tabernacle mean? Why did God tell Moses to set up a tent, and why did he tell him to do it this way?

Don’t feel gypped because you don’t get to see the tabernacle; that’s like wishing you could reconstruct scaffolding once a building project is done. The tabernacle was scaffolding, and it’s no longer needed. We have a description of it, so that we can learn something about the structure that was once under it, but now, the scaffolding has fallen, or rather, that which lied under it, superseded and fulfilled it so that it burst at the seems and rose through it.

Jesus tented among us, the supreme revelation of God’s glory (John 1:14). Through the curtain of His rent flesh we all have access to the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19–22). In Jesus, we’re not just brought into the inner sanctum, we’re indwelt as temples both individually (1 Corinthians 6:19) and corporately (1 Corinthians 3:16–17, Ephesians 2:20–22).

So read these construction plans like a child reads the manual to their newest Lego toy, or the way a young family reads the plans to a home they’re building. Look under the scaffolding to what Christ is, and what in union with Him you are.

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