This week our bible study leader went on vacation, and I had to work. We both missed bible study! I wasn’t happy about it, in fact I rued the day I picked my job! But I felt better later with a little TLC from a few very wonderful people, and the kid that got to deliver a message this week gave me the rundown of what he was going to talk about. This kid (man, dude, dude-man?) is something else, I’ll call him Sailor because he’s got something to do with the Coast Guard or something. I think. Sailor is one part opinionated hipster glasses, one part incredible teachings and one part snark, all wrapped up in a ginger. When he told me about what he’d be teaching on it got me thinking, and so I will give a briefing and my thoughts on the topic.
When Sailor said he was teaching on the tabernacle I looked like…..
And when he said he was using Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon to explain a bunch of things I looked like…..
But when he put it all together I got it! But I digress.
When the Israelites got out of Egypt they were so happy then so hungry then so thirsty then so content then made an idol then nearly got smote a few times. Somewhere in there God had them build him a tabernacle, a place for his essence to reside with his people. There was a whole system for it, and I admit I’m no scholar so if I get things wrong please correct me, from the outer courts and sacrifices to the inner court and preparation, then only the priest was allowed in to the holy of holies. There was a massive amount of tradition, ritual, and other crazy stuff involved, and if the priest had done something incorrectly or was holding back sin in his heart he got straight up smote! If I grew up with that I would have a pants-wetting problem all the time just remembering God was in that thing.
When Christ came, saw, and conquered death the Israelites were still using this same system. The inner courts and the holy of holies was divided by a veil or curtain, but when Christ died he broke the curse that condemned man to a life set apart from God, and the veil-curtain-thingy in the temple got ripped in half. We no longer need an intermediary in the form of a priest to have communion with God! Sick, I know.
If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 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.” 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. – Hebrews 8:4-6
Yay for good news! Now let’s back-track a little bit to where I mentioned Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These three books were written to convey certain things to the Israelites through different relationships, all of which we can find in the Lord.
Proverbs was written as a father teaching a son about life, and it represents the outer courts of the temple. It is what I would call superficial, a surface level book, in that it is about how we conduct our lives as proper people of God. It completely made sense to me that a father instructing his son on the way to live a Godly life would be tied to the outer courts, because that is where the people are, where the bringing in of sacrifices happened, most of the interacting with each other.
In my mind the outer courts and Proverbs are tied into crucifying our flesh with Christ.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24
When we are in Christ we are given a new spirit, HIS Spirit, and our actions toward others, the church, God, should reflect the new longing in our hearts to become more and more like our heavenly father. We find ourselves wanting to do things we know are sinful and turning from them because we have been taught what is right and we don’t want to disappoint the Lord with our actions.
Ecclesiastes, which represents the inner court of the tabernacle, is written as a teacher/pastor to a church. Ecclesiastes, if you haven’t read it, is full of pondering life and why it’s important and various other things I usually can’t stand, but it also has a lot to say about how life is fleeting and we should enjoy it. To me, this book feels like guidance of the heart and mind, reminding the Israelites to set their hearts in the right place and to keep their eyes on the ultimate goal as opposed to momentary gains. The inner courts were a place of preparation, a place where the priest would have to become completely humbled and repentant in his heart in order to move in to the holy of holies. So I see this book and this area of the tabernacle as being similar in that they are both meant to prepare our hearts for the importance to come, to get us focused and contrite and clean before moving into the intimate place. A reflection of this relationship is seen not only in Christ Jesus being a teacher and telling really cool parables, but in his gifting of the Holy Spirit.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. – John 14:26
We have a helper/counselor/teacher/reminder with us always that will gently remind or rebuke our hearts in whatever way it does, pointing us towards the ultimate truth of God’s glory being far more important than anything else.
Song of Solomon was written from the point of view of the Beloved. It is like reading a conversation between a honeymooning couple, full of sweet, sweet love and a whole ton of intimacy between the two. Tieing it to the holy of holies, that’s where priests had face time with God. Also, there’s an “of” between two words in each title.
Why would a book that sounds like a honeymoon be written to convey face time with God? That’s strange, right? Not really.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:25-32
It’s really stupid, but sometimes I feel bad for God because we sinned in the first place and can’t all get legitimate face time right now. I know he wants it, I know I want it. But I remember that his time isn’t like ours, and his wisdom makes our geniuses look handi-capable.
And while I’m done explaining all of this for the most part, I do want to mention why I spent more time on the outer two courts than the inner-most. I have found that sometimes I get to the holy of holies in prayer time or worship time and I don’t know how I got there. I understand that Christ completely nullified the need for any courts at all, but I have found that when I am actively trying to keep to the teachings of each court in my own life (Proverbs being my life with others, Ecclesiastes being my life to myself and where I focus my efforts, Song of Solomon being my spiritual life) I feel like I’m actually trying to be a better, new version of myself that Christ says I am. It doesn’t happen every day, and I would never say that works get you into heaven, but I would rather please my Father with my actions and enjoy life with a true understanding of why I’m here than ignore what has been passed down to me in the Word. At the same time, I have to be careful about thinking that anything can make me a little more worthy of the mercy I’ve recieved, and when I sin (which is often) I try to remember that only because of my sin can I experience grace that surpasses my understanding.
And for a cool tabernacle song, check out this tune.