If you wanted to come to God in the Old Testament, then you met him where He said you could meet him, and that was at the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a type of Christian journey. A journey which took a believer from outside of God's presence, into God's presence.
From age to age, the prophets, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke the word of God. The prophets were given special counsel or revelation from God. Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets."
Their message, however, was fragmentary. Each had a part, but not the whole. Now God speaks to us through his only begotten Son. For now Jesus Christ alone brings to us the full revelation of God and he alone enables us to enter into the very presence of God. In Jesus Christ we see the fulness of God's revelation and truth. In him we see not some part of God but all of him. The prophets spoke of God. Jesus reveals God in himself, not only in what he said and did, but in who he is. The prophets were the friends of God; Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. The prophets grasped part of the mind of God; Jesus is the very mind of God. He is the Word of God made flesh.
Hebrews 1:1-2 "God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, and through whom he has made all things."
Before Jesus Christ came into this world the only place to meet God was at the tabernacle. Here and here alone, in that tabernacle, hidden behind the outer fringe of a white linen fence which was seven and a half feet high, was where God was. And that's the only place you could meet him. And the drama of what God was communicating made clear that every man starts outside this tabernacle, away from God and separated from His presence. Man has always started out on the periphery, but the closer man gets to God, the greater his awareness is of wanting to know God better. So man eventually realizes that even though he is alienated and separated from God, he still instinctively feels the tremendous importance of God. And this is why man's search for God is a search that never ends.
When you came to the tabernacle the first thing you were confronted with is this white linen fence, the symbol of God's holiness. The fence was supported by posts and oblong blocks of brass. And there was a brass chain from each post running to a brass peg in the ground outside. From youth on, every child of Israel was taught that brass symbolized judgement. Everybody starts outside, and the brass pegs and the brass blocks taught a simple truth. Remain outside, and punishment and judgement were your lot.
The top of each post was crowned with silver, and from post top to post top, all the way around this fence, no matter which direction you went, ran a silver chain. Now, all the silver in the tabernacle was made from the silver half shekel, given as redemption money by the males in the Nation of Israel every year. In contrast to brass, which always symbolized judgement, silver symbolized redemption. The price being paid in silver symbolized the redemption of a lost inheritance. The restoration of freedom. The restoring of life.
The Tabernacle was designed by God, and man constructed the Tabernacle following God's explicit directions. So every single item down to the slightest detail was given from God to Moses.
Hebrews 8:5 "Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Exodus 25:8-9 "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it."
Numbers 8:4 "Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shaft to its flowers it was hammered work. According to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand."
The Tabernacle was inside the fence and was made up of 4 different items.
1) In the courtyard, out in the open was the Burnt Offering Altar which is where the priests sacrificed the various Offerings to God.
2) Also in the courtyard and also out in the open was the Laver, which was a large bronze basin containing water and which was used for washing.
3) Then were two adjoining rooms made out of tents. The first room was called the Holy Place. The priests would enter this room via a curtain. This room contained:
the Showbread Table
the Golden Incense Altar
4) The second room was called the Holy of Holies, and this is where only one man (the High Priest), only once each year was permitted entry. The curtain allowing entrance into this room symbolized entrance to God the Father himself because this was where God's presence and glory resided over the Ark of the Covenant. (Many people wonder just where the Ark of the Covenant is. The Bible tells us that it is safely in heaven. Revelation 11:19 "Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.")
Outside in the courtyard was the Burnt Offering altar where the death for sins occurred. At this altar two kinds of sacrifices were offered: the trespass, and the sin.
A trespass sacrifice dealt with a wrong that you did, and while you were doing it you knew it was wrong. Examples would be, I robbed, I stoled, I killed, I hated, I desired what was not mine. These sins were considered trespasses by God. The trespass offering was for the actual sin deed.
The sin offering on the other hand dealt with the sin of ignorance. Even in the Old Testament, they had a sacrifice for the sins they didn't know about, or couldn't remember. Sins that just seemed to come naturally. Sins that they committed but were not aware of. The sin offering was for the condition of the sinful heart.
But the message was the same in both cases. You were to bring a sacrifice, and place it in front of that alter. The sacrifice might be an animal or bread, or some type of crop or grain. If it was an animal, then the animal had to be pure, unblemished, and free from all defects. Then you would lay your hands on it, because God decreed that when you did that, all of your sins and all of your trespasses would be transferred over to the animal. And in so doing, you were first recognizing your sins, and secondly you were requesting the forgiveness of those sins.
You recognized that it was your sins that were going to go onto the animal, and the animal was to be treated just as you deserved to be treated. For sin comes death. Blood contained the life, so immediately after the transfer of sins by the laying on of the hands, the knife was drawn, the animal was slain, and the substitutionary sacrifice of the sin and trespass, was offered up to God.
At that instant the believer stood justified. God looked at him as though he was just like the dead animal with the life blood poured on the ground. Payment by proxy or vicarious substitute had been made for his sins.
God redeemed the man with the life of the animal. The man placed his hands on the animal, the man's sins were all transferred over to the animal, the animal was sacrificed, and the man had forgiveness and redemption. You walked out redeemed, justified, declared not guilty.
But after Christ came into the world, it's no longer the blood of animals, it's the blood of Christ that is sacrificed. Jesus is the propitiation. Jesus Christ is the substitutionary sacrifice. He is the one who paid the price by becoming the sacrifice. So in the New Testament, we don't lay hands on the head of the sacrifice. The words for forgiveness and redemption are already in your mouth. Speak it forth, for with the heart man believeth, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
So before the birth of Christ, people in the old Biblical days constantly made sacrifices to God. They would take their best animals, or the best portions of their crops, or fresh baked loaves of bread, or containers of oil, or just about anything of value, and surrender it totally and completely up to God. Surrendering the best they had, showed that they themselves were surrendering to God. After the Messiah Jesus Christ came into this world, we no longer have to sacrifice animals and other things up to God. Now our sacrifices to God consists of the surrendering of our minds, our bodies, and our souls up to the Son of God. After Jesus was born our sacrifices were to become faith, trust, and obedience.
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Hebrews 10:1-14 says a great deal about the precious shed blood of Jesus Christ and the ability for that blood to wash away our sins.
The first 6 verses of Hebrews chapter 10 describe how animal sacrifices were not sufficient to cleanse the believers from their sins, and that it was only a temporary means of allowing the believer to remain within a state of righteousness and communion with God.
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and is not the real image of the things to come and can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
2 The people under the law offer the same sacrifices every year, but these sacrifices can never make perfect those who come near to worship God.
3 But these sacrifices remind them of their sins every year.
4 For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 You do not ask for burnt offerings and offerings to take away sins.
The last 8 verses of chapter 10 tells of the only way in which our sins can be truly and fully washed away.
7 Then I said, Behold, I have come, To do Your will, O God.
8 Previously saying, Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them which are offered according to the law,
9 Then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.
10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
You have to reach out your hand and take that wonderful gift of salvation from The Son of God. You have to make the effort. That is the meaning behind so verses like the following one.
Romans 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
It is no longer left up to the blood of sacrificial animals. Now it is up to each and every one of us and whether or not we accept, understand, and live in Jesus Christ. So as God decreed a plan involving the laying on of hands upon the sacrificial animal in the Old Testament, all you have to do in the New Testament is believe that God laid upon Jesus all the iniquity and all the sins of all mankind.
Then he adds in Hebrews 10:17-18 "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer any offering required for sin".
Upon this belief you're inside! Inside the fence. You are inside the Tabernacle and you are covered with the righteousness of Christ. The penalty is paid. You have been washed clean by the sacrificial blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The substitute paid the price for you!
John 1:29 "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
You now stand clean; justified. You are now a priest of Holy God. Sacrifices are no longer needed. Now you can spend your time loving God and being loved by him. This is explained to us in Mark 12:33 "And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices".
But service is involved, and the priest stays in the tabernacle area. There is a Laver of cleansing there, which is the other item found in the outer court. And, what is the Laver? The Laver is Christ, the revelation of God's will. It is a golden fount of flowing water in that outer court. You're already cleansed, but as you serve God, dust gets on your hands and feet and you are expected to bring yourself to this Laver and to look at yourself in the mirror and check out all those little smudges and all those dirty little spots.
The mirror that you look into was made from the melted down mirrors and the jewelry of the ladies in the camp, and it was burnished and polished and shaped in such a way that it would magnify your image when you stood in front of it. It was the duty of all those in the outer court, to come to this Laver repeatedly and constantly, to examine themselves and to wash and cleanse themselves in its water. Notice that it was strictly their responsibility to come to the Laver to check themselves. There was no one assigned to put the Laver in a wheelbarrow and bring it around to any one who he thought might need to be cleansed! Why? Because Jesus Christ wants each believer to come to the Laver and deal with his own spots. His own sins.
There is water in the Laver. A fount of flowing water. Well, who does the actual cleansing? You do, by dipping your hands in the water. What's the water? The water is the Holy Spirit. How do you get the Holy Spirit in you to do the washing? Faith! Faith is what puts the Holy Spirit in you and therefore puts you in Christ! It's as simple as that!
Click here for pictures and a descriptive look at the Tabernacle