In the Old Testament, we learn about both the Tabernacle and the Temple. As the Hebrew people left Egypt, they set up the Tabernacle (tent) and after they settled in the Promised Land, Solomon built the Temple. Both had similar layouts. I confess that reading about them is not very … exciting. However, when you see God’s message in their layout, you can see that it’s a guide to your walk with Jesus!
Overview of the Layout
As depicted above, you walk in by going up the stairs on the right side. The path through the temple/tabernacle takes you through the following places in sequence:
- In the upper (or inner court) you pass the:Brasen Altar, Molten Sea, Court.
- As you walk in the Holy Place, you walk among the Tables of Shewbread and Candles before reaching the Altar of Incense.
- Finally, once going through the veil, you enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark and Mercy Seat are found.
In those days, only the High Priest, and only once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place was open only to Priests. All Hebrews were allowed in the Upper/Inner Court.
The Inner Court is a Starting Place!
When we think of “Christians” we think of people who are “saved”. Many churches also focus on helping “save” people. This is not a bad thing. However, as I will show you, it’s only the FIRST step of a new life. It’s not your last step. Get ready for a great adventure!
The Brasen Altar is also known as the “Altar of Sacrifice”. It was the first thing people saw upon entering. Today, I believe this is God’s way of showing us that our first step is to accept what Jesus did for the whole world (John 3:16), and to accept it for ourselves, personally. Remember that the cross was represented by Moses to his people in the form of the bronze snake. To be saved from the plague, people had to look upon that snake. (Modern medicine uses that symbol to represent our health system!)
The Molten Sea was a basin to wash in. A place to look at one’s dirt and let the basin remove it. I believe that God wants us to realize how weak and sinful we are. The better we see our own flaws, the more progress we make in the basin. (The flaws of others are their concern, they are between them and God, and none of our concern.) Also, without the basin (God’s love and guidance) we cannot wash ourselves clean. We cannot make ourselves better, nor is that the final goal God has for us. It’s only another step! Another way to look at this basin is that it represents our baptism!
The Court is where we are judged, but not as you think. We are NOT judged for our sins at this point, but merely how well we washed. We are “inspected” and those who are ready to only see flaws in themselves, and not in others move on. Those that still have trouble seeing their own, need to spend more time at the basin.
The Holy Place
Only those “cleansed and judged” can enter here. In Old Testament times, that was Priests. Here is the Shewbread, Candles, and the Altar of Incense.
The Shewbread represents nourishment given to the priests. While God does nourish those that don’t enter here, this nourishment is to help people continue the journey, it’s not just sustenance. Let’s face it, you and I are incapable of getting closer to God on our own. Like any relationship, both people must want to get closer to each other for it to happen. God is willing to get closer to you, and it’s up to you and me to want to get closer to God!
The Candles cast light in the Holy Place and represent God’s guidance in our journeys. I tell you that without God’s guidance, my journey, difficult as it has been, would have been impossible without His guidance and my surrender to it. God calls all people (even you and me!) to grow closer to Him and is very, very pleased when we take steps toward Him.
The Altar of Incense is a very special place. In both the New and Old Testaments we read how our prayers are a “pleasing aroma” to God. However, this is an altar, which means there’s another sacrifice here! Sacrifice? What do we sacrifice in prayer, at this stage of the journey?
Here are some possible answers that I see:
- Stop praying for only ourselves or those we love, pray for enemies. Enemies? Yes, your personal ones. People who irritate you!
- Stop praying prayers that someone else wrote, use your own words. Prayer is a conversation, not a ritual.
- Instead of focusing on what we want, we focus on what God wants.
- Realizing that prayer is not about “getting” something, but about “personal time with God”. (Don’t you love personal time with your signifcant other?)
- Prayer is about being honest with God about our struggles and flaws. It’s also about helping us be more like Him and less like who we were.
The Holy of Holies
A heavy veil, the ark, and the mercy seat. Only the High Priest could enter, so what does this have to do with you and me? Remember that Jesus said we are a “nation of High Priests”. Each one of us is invited to enter here, representing intimacy with God. Open and honest, no defenses, facing unconditional love. Seeking direction as to what to do for Him. Seeking what He wants.
Well, you can’t get in there because the veil is there, stopping you. Oh, wait. It was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross! For us, us High Priests, the veil is not there!
What about the ark? What does it represent to us today? It reflects God’s trustworthiness in the past, His protection of the Jewish people over the millennia. He takes care of “His people”. Also, it reminds us of God’s promises for the future. He is totally trustworthy, especially when we don’t understand what God is doing!
The Mercy Seat? It’s where we fully recognize that God’s love and mercy are what has gotten us to where we are. It was not our effort, not our choice, it’s nothing to brag about, or to have pride over. Finally, we are extremely humble about what He has done with us personally, and that He truly desires personal time with you!
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!