If you haven’t read “The Tabernacle Prayer Plan: Part 1” yet, we encourage you to read that before continuing below.
THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD
The brazen laver marked the separation of the outer court from the holy place, which was the inner tent within the tabernacle walls. The first item in the holy place was the table of shewbread–a ceremonial stand with twelve loaves of bread representing the needs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The priests ate the bread as a sign to the Lord that He was their source who would meet all of their needs.
The shewbread represents our physical needs, the Word as our food (Matthew 4:4, John 4:34) and Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35). When we enter God’s presence, we should be hungry for revelation and eager to feed on His Word.
Remember the travelers on the road to Emmaus? “Now it came to pass, as [Jesus] sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31). When we open our Bibles and feed on God’s Word, we should expect to see Jesus, to sense His presence in every passage and teaching. His presence sustains us. The writer of Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (v. 3 NIV, emphasis added).
None of us would dream of going days without food. God is telling us that we need to regularly feed on His Word. This is what will sustain us through each season of our lives.
THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK
Next to the table of shewbread was the golden candlestick with one long branch in the middle and three offshoots on each side. Unlike our candlesticks today, the golden candlestick didn’t hold wax candles, but oil, much like a lamp.
The priests kept the golden candlestick lit to provide light for both the holy place and the holy of holies, so they could see and obey the Lord in their service. Remember, light, flame, and oil all represent the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, which should constantly be burning in us.
The golden candlestick reminds us to never let the flame of the Holy Spirit grow dim in our lives so we can see what God is doing and constantly burn bright, lighting up our lives for the glory of God. Paul encouraged Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you . . . “ (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV). Likewise, we should seek out the Spirit of God in our lives and watch for His presence in all that we do. When we are in touch with His presence, we shine brightly in the world. We become the golden candlestick that illuminates situations and brings understanding to others.
One day, we will see the seven golden candlesticks blazing before the throne of God Almighty. Our daily prayer should be to keep the Spirit of God alive in our lives so that we can clearly see His path and His direction in serving others.
THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
The last piece of furniture in the holy place was the altar of incense. The incense was continuously burning, filling both the holy place and the holy of holies with a sweet aroma that attracted God’s presence. For the people of Israel, this incense, made from a very special combination of spices and oils, was a symbol of intercession.
At the altar of incense, the priest would intercede for the people. The altar was lit with coals from the brazen altar, reminding us that our prayer must come humbly before God with an understanding of both our sin and the sacrifice that Jesus made.
There were several times when “strange fire” (this was any fire that didn’t come from the brazen altar) was used to light the altar of incense. Each time, God severely judged those who didn’t follow His instructions.
Prayer Plan: The altar of incense represents how our High Priest, Jesus, is always interceding before God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). When we pray, we should put the needs and requests of others before our own. When you pray for other people, your words to God on their behalf can have a powerful impact on their lives. Letting others know you are praying for them is a great encouragement when they are going through a dark time. These prayers of the saints are like incense, having a sweet aroma to God that pleases Him (Revelation 5:8).
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
After going through the outer court and the holy place, the priest would enter the holy of holies–the place where only the high priest could go before the Lord, and then, only with an offering of blood. Here was where you would find the ark of the covenant, which had two pieces. The bottom piece was a container where the Ten Commandments, the golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s budding rod were kept. The golden pot of manna symbolized God’s supernatural provision for His people, the budding rod demonstrated His delegated authority through human leadership, and the Ten Commandments represented His truth.
Prayer Plan: When you come before the Lord in prayer, ask for His provision. That’s what Jesus did. His model prayer included the simple request for daily food. Relying on the Lord for our daily needs is a way of expressing our humility, showing that we rely on Him for all things.
Praying for people in authority is a practice encouraged by the apostle Paul, a man whose native country was occupied by a foreign army. When we are in the holy presence of God, we can find the spiritual strength to pray for our enemies and those who may be abusing their power over us. Wise leaders also need our prayer support because they are constantly under attack from the enemy.
Finally, the truth of God’s commands is the way to freedom. Therefore, pray in spirit and truth, seeking the truth about yourself and your situations, and asking for truth to be revealed.
THE MERCY SEAT
The second, or top, piece of the ark was called the mercy seat. It was made of pure gold and fashioned with two cherubim guarding the throne. The presence of God, in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, hovered over the mercy seat between the two cherubim.
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for the remission of sin. Here God would speak to the high priest and give him instruction and guidance for all of the people. The message of the holy of holies? God relates to you in mercy and truth. We need mercy from God to overcome problems, difficulties, and enemies. But we also have attitudes, character flaws, and areas we need to change, so we need truth.
Prayer Plan: When you come before God in His presence, He’s not going to play around and ignore the issues He has asked you to change. But when He knows you are listening and that you’ll embrace truth, then you will not only experience His mercy, but enjoy it as well.
One of the most important stories in the Bible is the “Exodus”–the story of how God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and brought them into a new, promised land.
The Exodus is a pattern that represents how Jesus rescued us from the slavery of sin and gave us a new life of freedom.
After God used Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and away from Pharaoh’s armies, He met with Moses on Mount Sinai. It was here that Moses received the Ten Commandments. But many fail to realize that God also gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle–the resting place for the presence of God.
The details and pattern of the tabernacle are a symbol of Jesus’s death on the cross, His atoning blood that was shed for the world, and His role as the only mediator between God and man. The tabernacle pointed to the day when God would send His Holy Spirit to live no just in the holy of holies, but in the heart of every man, woman, and child who receives Him. That day has come!
Sometimes, if God seems far off, if you don’t feel like your prayers are being heard, or if you don’t know where to go when you’re stuck in the “wilderness,” it is difficult to know how to pray. That’s why the tabernacle is so important! It gives us a pattern, a way to approach God with confidence.
In this blog, we will walk through the patterns of the tabernacle, and at each step along the way, we believe God is going to speak to you and show you how the tabernacle point you to a life filled with God’s presence!
THE BRAZEN ALTAR
When entering the tabernacle’s outer court, the first thing you would have seen was the brazen altar. Early altars in Israel’s history were made out of rocks, stone, or mounds of dirt, but the brazen altar of the tabernacle was built of brass-covered wood.
Before they could go any closer into God’s presence, the priests had to offer a sacrifice both for their own sin and the sin of the people. The beginning of their relationship with God started with recognizing their own humanity and wrongdoing before a holy God who loved them perfectly.
The brazen altar points all of humanity to the perfect sacrifice that ended the practice–when Jesus, our High Priest, offered Himself. Hebrews 7:26-27 says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”
Prayer Plan: Thanks to Jesus’s perfect sacrifice for sin, no longer is there the need for the shedding of blood. Instead, God asks us to become living sacrifices, to begin our days humbling ourselves before God and asking for His help to do His will, and not our own. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). He took up his cross every day, and in doing so, he found freedom from the slavery of his former life.
THE BRAZEN LAVER
Blood sacrifices are, by their nature, shocking. Imagine the area surrounding the brazen altar where the animals were slaughtered. Blood would be pooled everywhere, splattered on clothing, and filling the air with its heavy metallic smell. Who could enter the presence of a holy God in such a condition? So, after the brazen altar, there was a brazen laver–a ceremonial washing bowl made of brass. Here, the priest washed clean the blood spilled on him from the sacrifice.
In the same way, even though our sacrifice has been made, we still need cleansing because we’re imperfect. Our lives get messy, and we need to wash off anything that’s unclean as we serve a holy God. The brazen laver was God’s way of making the priests pause and purify themselves before entering His presence. Sacrifice and humility before God are important, but what He longs for is a pure heart. A heart prepared to listen and obey.
David, a man after God’s own heart, pleaded for God to create in him a clean heart:
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10)
Prayer Plan: No one can read these verses and not be touched by his sincerity. When we pray with a pure, cleansed heart–washed in the blood of the lamb–and come before our Father, our prayers are powerful!