1“You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. 6And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made. 9You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 11And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 12And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. 14The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. 17All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze. 20You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
The furnishings of God's house were important and served to draw the focus of the people onto God Himself. Today, we do the same thing only with different implements. As you sit in the sanctuary in which you worship, look around at the various items that probably remain in place at all times. In the sanctuary I call my worship home I find an altar that is decorated with meaningful paraments and candles, 2 candelabras that hold 7 candles each, a cross, and an eternal light. It is a pleasure to go into that sanctuary (especially when it is just me and God and it’s quiet) to look upon those furnishings and think about what He has done for me. Inside of the Tabernacle the people construct items that God Himself ordains that beautify His home and make it a suitable worship space for His people.
The first piece of furniture the Jewish worshiper encountered was the Bronze Altar. It seems slightly crass, but think “giant barbecue.” This was where the people brought their sacrificial animals to the Lord and they were literally cooked upon that altar and the people consumed the food. When someone invites you into their home, they probably serve you a meal and God is no different. Even though the animals were a sacrifice unto Him, He shares the meat with His guests. The horns on the altar had a special meaning. The Scriptures refer to the Lord as a rock, a shield, and a horn of salvation (Psalm 18:2). As Hannah, the mother of Samuel, rejoiced in the Lord, she sang, “In the Lord my horn is lifted high” (1 Samuel 2:1). As Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, praised the Lord, he declared, “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69). Just as the horn was used by certain animals as a weapon of defense against an enemy, so the horn was a symbol of the Lord’s protecting care. One who accidentally killed another person could flee to the horns of the altar, cling to them, and find there a place of protection against the custom of revenge.
Following the description of the Bronze Altar are details about the courtyard itself. This area was where the people gathered to actually worship. It was all about community. The actual Tabernacle was reserved for the priests to execute their worship duties on behalf of the people. The Holy of Holies was entered only once a year by the high priest. But the courtyard was for all. I’ve included a quote that is fairly interesting that draws some conclusions about the courtyard.
The following is a free translation of a German work. It is interesting because it draws a comparison between three great eras as pictured in the tabernacle and its courtyard.
The tabernacle was the Lord’s dwelling in the midst of his people. The Israelites were preferred before all other nations in that they, as the covenant people, had access to the courtyard of the tabernacle and were thereby especially close to God. Yet even not all Israelites could enter the tabernacle itself. Only through the mediation of priests was a closer access to the Lord permitted.
Although the priests could enter the Holy Place, only once a year could their high priest pass beyond the curtain into the Most Holy Place. When he sprinkled the blood on the atonement cover, he typified the reconciliation with God that was to be perfectly accomplished in the New Testament through the atoning blood of Christ.
Thus we see the tabernacle picturing a threefold division, with three steps, or ranks, of progression. First, there is the courtyard, representing the Old Testament congregation, which still needed a priesthood to mediate between itself and the Lord’s blessings. The Holy Place represents the New Testament church, where because of Christ’s finished work all Christians are priests and can approach the Lord directly. Finally, the Most Holy Place pictures the heavenly congregation, which has reached its complete fulfillment in perfect fellowship with the Lord forever.
This is certainly an interesting comparison. As we worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness and are reassured through Word and sacrament of his abiding presence with us, we recall the words of the writer of the book of Revelation in the Bible’s closing verses: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:20, 21).
Wendland, E. H. ©2000. Exodus (2nd ed., pp. 174–176). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.
We (and maybe I should be more accurate and say “I”) may tend to skip over these chapters of Exodus, but we risk a loss when we do that. There is always so much for us to think about even in the most mundane readings of Scripture. We are always pointed in the direction of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ and in that moment we are blessed.