The First Tabernacle

Posted by on Oct 21, 2007

By Pastor Mike Withem

First Baptist Church of Ranson, WV

October 21, 2007

Sunday Morning

“The First Tabernacle”


Scripture Text: Hebrews 9:1-14



A.   Two weeks ago we asked the question, “Why is Christ’s ministry a “more excellent ministry” than that of the Levitical priest of ancient Israel?”

1. Hebrews 8:6 states emphatically, concerning our Lord Jesus, that He “hath obtained a more excellent ministry,” but the question is, “Why?”

2. Well, one of the reasons that Christ’s ministry is a “more excellent ministry” is because of the place where He performs His ministry.

3. Look back, if you will, to Heb. 8:1-2, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;…A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”

4. The Levitical priests, of course, performed their duties in an earthly tabernacle, the one that Moses instructed Israel to build after he came down off the Mount.

5. Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, performs His ministry in a heavenly tabernacle, “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”


B.   Now this raises a question.

1. If the heavenly tabernacle where Jesus performs His ministry is better than the earthly tabernacle that Moses instructed Israel to build, was it a waste of time and effort and materials to build the earthly tabernacle?

2. The answer, of course, is, “No!”

3. The earthly tabernacle, with all of its limitations, served a very useful purpose in its day.

4. For example, because there was a sense in which God inhabited the tabernacle, the tabernacle provided a place where the children of Israel could come and meet with God and worship Him.

5. Do you remember what happened soon after the construction of the tabernacle was completed?

6. Listen as I read Exo. 40:34-35, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle….And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

7. Twice it says that “…the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

8. And so, the tabernacle provided a place where Israel could come and meet with God and worship Him.


C.   The Old Testament tabernacle served another useful purpose, and that is it served as a picture (type) of Israel’s coming Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Look back at Heb. 8:5, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”

2. And so, the tabernacle, as well everything that was in it, everything that was in the Courtyard, everything that was in the Holy Place, everything that was in the Holy of Holies, was a “shadow” (picture) of Christ.


D.   Now with this in mind, what I would like for us to do this morning is to take a very quick look at “the first tabernacle” (that earthly tabernacle), and notice how it typifies (pictures) our Lord Jesus Christ.


E.   First of all, let’s examine…


I.       The Outer Courtyard.


A.   The tabernacle itself was located within a fenced in courtyard that was approximately 172 feet long and 86 feet wide.

1. There was only one gate, approximately 30 feet wide, through which you could enter the courtyard, and it was located in the east end.

2. The fact that there was only one gate should remind us that there is only one way for sinful man to approach a holy God, and that is through Jesus Christ and His shed blood.

3. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He would soon be going away to prepare a place in heaven for them.

4. In Vrs. 4, Jesus said, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

5. When Thomas heard this, he asked, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

6. Do you remember what Jesus told him?

7. He said, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

8. Popular religious thought today says that there are many ways to God, that…

-Christians have their way, and

-Jews have their way, and

-Muslims have their way, and

-Buddhists have their way, etc.

9. The Bible, however, tells us something very different.

10.   The Bible tells us that there is only one way, and that way is through Jesus Christ!


B.   In addition to the one gate on the east end of the courtyard, there was also two objects (items) that were located between the gate and the tabernacle itself.

1. First of all, there was a brazen altar.

2. The brazen altar was the first thing that you saw when you entered the courtyard.

3. It measured 7 ½ feet on all four sides, and was 4 ½ feet from top to bottom.

4. It was made of shittim wood that was overlaid with bronze.

5. Four bronze horns projected from the top of each of the four corners, and there was also a bronze grating inside to hold the animal that was being burned.

6. What was the purpose of this brazen altar?

7. It was the place where the carcasses of animals were burned as a part of being offered as a sacrifice to God.

8. This, of course, should remind us of another altar, a place called Calvary, where our Lord Jesus was sacrificed on the cross for our sins.

9. The Bible says in Eph. 5:1-2, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;…And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

10.    It’s interesting that, according to what I have read, the brazen altar was placed on a “raised up” mound of earth.

11.    Do you remember what Jesus said in John 12:32? He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

12.    And “lifted up” He was, on Golgotha’s hill, when gave His life on the cross for our sins.

13.    And so, the brazen altar was a picture of Calvary, where Jesus was offered as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.


C.   There was one other object that was located in the courtyard, between the brazen altar and the doorway of the tabernacle proper.

1. It was a laver, a very large basin (bowl) that was filled with water.

2. While God did not give specific measurements for this basin, it was made entirely of brass.

3. What was its purpose?

4. It provided a place where the priests who ministered in the tabernacle could wash their hands and feet.

5. While the priests, just like everyone else, atoned for their sins through a sacrifice on the brazen altar, they cleansed themselves at the laver before ministering in the tabernacle.

6. This, of course, should remind us of our need for a daily cleansing.

7. But someone says, “Wait a minute, I have already been cleansed by the blood of Christ, when I trusted Him as my Savior.”

8. That’s true, but all believers need a daily cleansing that comes by applying the Word of God to our lives.

9. Do you remember the question that the psalmist David asked in Psa. 119:9? He asked, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?”

10.   He then answered his own question in the latter part of this same verse when he said, “…by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

11.   Paul put it like this in Eph. 5:25-26, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;…That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

12.   And so, the laver was a picture of the daily cleansing that we, as believers, receive as we apply the Word of God to our lives.

13.   By the way, this cleansing is very important if we are going to involved in ministry today.


D.   Now that we have looked at the outer court, let’s go into the tabernacle itself and take a look at…


II.      The Outer Sanctuary.


A.   The outer sanctuary was the larger of two rooms that was in the tabernacle itself.

1. It was the first room that you entered when you came through the door, and measured approximately 15 feet wide and 30 feet long.

2. It has also been called “the holy place.”

3. Notice again Vrs. 1-2 of our text, “Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary….For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.”

4. According to the book of Exodus, there were three objects (articles of furniture) that were located in this outer sanctuary.

5. First of all, there was a table of shewbread, which was located to your right along the wall when you entered.

6. Upon the table of shewbread were kept twelve loaves of bread, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

7. Every Sabbath day the priests would eat the bread and then replace it with twelve fresh loaves.

8. The shewbread, of course, is a picture of Christ, and should remind us that Jesus is our “bread of life.”

9. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 6:35? He said, “ I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger.”

10.   Jesus reiterated this when He instituted the Lord’s supper.

11.   Listen to what He said to His disciples when He gave them the bread from off the Passover table, “Take, eat; this is my body…which is given for you.” (Mat. 26:26; Luke 22:19)

12.   And so, the shewbread was a picture of Christ.


B.   Also located in the outer sanctuary was a golden candlestick, which was located to your left along the wall when you entered.

1. It was constructed of pure gold, and had seven branches holding seven lamps holding olive oil and wicks.

2. Each branch looked like that of an almond tree, containing buds, blossoms and flowers.

3. The priests were instructed to keep the lamps burning constantly.

4. It should be pointed out that the golden lampstand was the only source of light in the Holy Place, so without it, the priests would have been groping around in the dark.

5. The lampstand, of course, is also a picture of Christ, and should remind us that Jesus is our only source of spiritual light.

6. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 8:12? He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

7. Jesus said it like this in John 12:46, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”

8. And so, the golden candlestick was a picture of Christ.


C.   There was one more object that, according to Exodus, was located immediately in front of the veil leading into the inner sanctuary, and it was called the altar of incense.

1. This is not to be confused with the brazen altar that was located in the courtyard of the temple.

2. This altar was much smaller, measuring only 1 ½ feet on each side and 3 feet in height.

3. This altar was not used for burning the carcasses of animals, but rather was used for burning incense.

4. The priests were commanded to burn incense every morning and evening, the same time that the daily burnt offerings were made, and was to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

5. This, of course, is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, and should remind us of the fact that continually day and night, Jesus is making intercession for us before the Father in heaven.

6. While Jesus was here on this earth, He prayed for believers. (John 17)


7. Even though He is no loner on this earth, He still intercedes on our behalf.

8. Listen to what the Bible says in Rom. 8:34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

9.     The writer of Hebrews put it like this in Heb. 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

10.   And so, the altar of incense is a picture of Christ.


D.   Now that we have examined the outer sanctuary, it is now time to move into…


III.    The Inner Sanctuary.


A.   The inner sanctuary was the innermost room in the tabernacle itself, and was separated from the outer room by a thick veil (curtain).

1. This inner sanctuary was approximately 15 feet by 15 feet.

2. It was called the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place.

3. The reason it was given this name is because it represented the very presence (dwelling place) of God.

4. There was only one man who could enter this Most Holy Place, the high priest of Israel, and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement when he came in and sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat.

5. Notice again Vrs. 6-7 of our text, “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God….But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.” (Heb. 9)


B.   Inside the Most Holy Place, there was only one object, the ark of the covenant.

1. The ark itself was a wooden box, overlaid with pure gold both inside and out.

2. It measured approximately 3 feet 9 inches long, and 2 feet 3 inches wide, as well as tall.

3. The lid that covered the ark was called the mercy seat.

4. The mercy seat was beaten out of pure gold, and had on top of it two cherubim (angels), one on each end, facing each other.

5. Notice again Vrs. 4-5 of our text, “Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;…And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.”

6. As these verses tell us, in the ark was kept three items.

7. First of all, there was a pot (jar) of manna.

8. The second item in the ark was Aaron’s rod that budded.

9. The third item that was in the ark was the Ten Commandments (two tablets of stone).


C.   Now the ark itself was also a picture of Christ, and should remind us that not only was Jesus a man, He was also God.

1. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

2. Later in that same chapter, in Vrs. 14, we read, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

3. Some believe that the wood out of which the ark was constructed represents the humanity of Christ, while the pure gold with which it was overlaid represents His deity.

4. And so, the ark of the covenant is a picture of Christ.



A.   Now before I end my message, this morning, I want to make something very clear.

1. While the first tabernacle served a very useful purpose in that it was a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, that’s all it was, a picture (or a shadow).

2. It was not the real thing.

3. The real thing came much later in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Notice again Vrs. 8-11 of our text, “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:…Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;…Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation….But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.”


B.   There’s something else that we must understand.

1. Not only was the first tabernacle not the real thing, the blood of those animals that were sacrificed there and then offered by the priests as an offering to God, that blood did not wash away (cleanse anyone of their) sins.

2. Only the blood of Jesus can do that!

3. Notice again Vrs. 12-14 of our text, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us….For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:…How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”


C.   Let me ask you a question, this morning.

1. Are you ready to die?

2. Are you confident, that if death should come to you today, that you would be ushered into the presence of Jesus in heaven?

3. The only way you can be confident is if you know that your sins have been cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Have you received Him as your Savior???