Our possessions are all “worldly things” and at the end of our lives they mean nothing because we cannot take them with us into the next world. Having said that, some things are particularly important to us, not necessary because of the price tag. Rather, we attach emotional and sentimental value to some of our possessions. Let me give you an example or two.
Jenny and I used to visit my dad’s sister who had her legs amputated because of sugar diabetes. Her life was restricted to her bed until she was sufficiently healed to use a wheelchair. She had an oval oak table with two corner chairs that were, at the time at least 80 years old. She previously offered this to her children who refused it because it was “old fashion”. Our eldest son would lie on this aunt’s bed as a baby and entertain her. One day she asked whether we would like to have the table and chairs. Our immediate response was “yes please”. Years later, her children wanted it, but it was far too late. This was 49 years ago. Being around 130 years old now, we decided to give it to our son. We passed it on. This is now the fourth generation.
The same is true with a hall stand we have, also made from oak. It was old in my gran’s house, now it’s mine and is for our daughter. Again, possibly four generations.
Stephen was speaking to Jews whose forefathers enjoyed having the tabernacle of the Testimony passed down to them, one generation at a time … one generation after the other.
Ac 7:44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.”
1) Architectural Plan of the Tabernacle of the Testimony. Up on the Mountain, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He explained to Moses exactly how it needed to be designed. Moses had it made exactly according to Gods instructions. Speaking of the temporary nature of this earthly Tabernacle and those who serve there, the writer to the Hebrews says:
Heb 8:5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
Moses built a “copy” or a “shadow” … or a replica of the Tabernacle in Heaven, which is better and superior, implied in:
Heb 8:6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
There are no words to describe the perfect beauty and glorious completeness of God’s abode in Heaven. This is why as His people we need to keep our eyes on that place which will help release us from the magnetism of this place!
2) The Tabernacle of the Testimony. The term “tabernacle” means “dwelling”. In a general way, the complete structure of the buildings (tents) and furnishings both within the tents as well as in the outer area was referred to as the Tabernacle. The buildings (tents) comprised of two rooms. The first was the Holy Place containing three things …
(i) The Showbread. On a table were 12 loaves of bread symbolizing the 12 tribes as always being in the presence of God.
(ii) The Altar of Incense. This symbolized continual prayers being offered for the 12 tribes.
(iii) The Seven-Branched Candlestick. This symbolizes the Light of God, present amongst the 12 tribes.
The second was the Holy of Holies. Within this tent was the Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Covenant Box or Box of Testimony. Inside this box were three things. The Law of the Covenant also named the Torah. This was the first five Book of the Bible that Moses wrote under inspiration. Naturally the whole Torah would not fit in the box due to the extensive size when written on parchments. The two tablets Moses brought down from God on the mountain symbolized the Torah. These tablets were also known as the Ten Saying or the Ten Words. That is, the Ten Commandments which in essence encapsulated the Covenant God made with His people.
Heb 9:3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.
We see another two items were in this box, namely Aaron’s rod that had budded and a jar of manna. The rod represented God’s concern and compassion for His sheep as it conveyed the message of authority, power, discipline and protection. The manna represented the fact that if God provided food to eat in the desert, He was able and willing to provide food in the Land of Promise. Spiritually it refers to Jesus who is the Bread of Life. The atonement cover on the Box (Ark) was also known as the Mercy Seat. Blood was sprinkled over it once a year to appease God’s anger on behalf of the high priest and his family and the people of the Covenant. In a specific way, God “tabernacled” with His people from within the Holy of Holies. The purpose of the Tabernacle has been fulfilled in Jesus at Calvary. He sinless Blood satisfies the wrath of God and earns pardon for the believing sinner as well as cleansing of all sin and guilt. God the Father now sees all believers as He sees His Son Jesus … fully righteous, perfectly sinless, totally holy and completely blameless. The merits Jesus achieved at Calvary are credited to the believer’s account.
3) The presence of God amongst His people today. To Isaiah God poses a few searching questions followed by an encouraging statement:
Isa 66:1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
God implies His dwelling place will be within those who honor and obey Him. How does He do this?
(a) By His Spirit.
Eph 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of his glory.
(b) In Heaven.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
Glorious God our Father, thank You that You tabernacle within us. You are resident in our hearts by Your Holy Spirit. Thank You that God the Holy Spirit has provided us with the Holy Bible laying out the conditions of the New Covenant for us. Help us Lord to live in faith and obedience for Jesus’ sake. Amen.