(Altar Series | part 2)
Egypt, Second Millennia BC
After more than 400 years, the ability of the Hebrews to control their lives was so limited. Maybe they could choose what their lunch would consist of – be it fish, melons or cucumbers (Num. 11:5), but from sunrise to sunset there were guards whipping them, telling them where to go and what to do. After centuries of enduring this routine – they were slaves not just circumstantially, but mentally as well.
One miraculous day God answers their cries, and leads them to a promised land. These broken hearts, with a limited ability to make decisions, initiate, make any kind of change, turn within a short span of time to a nation, children of God, priests and warriors. How did this transformation transpire?
The answer is the Tabernacle. God commanded them to erect a structure in their midst, and then set each of its instruments in its destined place. As chaos made room for order, an amazing thing we all long for happened – God filled that structure with His glory.
Here and Now, These End of Days
In some ways we too are enslaved, longing to put an end to our wanderings. Our menu may include more than fish, melons and cucumbers, and on more sane days we can even choose which restaurant to go to. But there are still these vicious guards within us, who keep a watchful eye, decide how we act and what we do and have an amazingly loud voice within us.
Oh, how we yearn that whoever looks our way will not see our shortfalls and sins, but only the glory of God filling us. Not shame and guilt, but a thick cloud of glory.
For God’s glory to tabernacle in us we have to get to the Holy of Holies. Which means we need to do what the priests did in the Old Testament. They did it externally, on behalf of the nation. We are called to do it internally, as we are all priests unto Him. How do we do that?
“The Pattern Which I Show You”
“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I show you” (Ex. 25:9).
On mount Sinai God provided Moses an explicitly detailed list of materials, shapes, measurements and colors. He also showed him an actual Tabernacle, a large and perfect one that was not created by man, and that exists still today (see Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:11).
The English uses various alternatives when it translates the verb “to tabernacle”. Sometimes it is translated into dwell, make a home, abide. But in Hebrew it is almost always about Tabernacling. For exmple:
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will tabernacle among you,” declares the Lord.“Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will tabernacle among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you” (Zec. 2:10-11).
The pattern God used back then is still valid. We first need to present before God the materials we have in our personal wilderness. For the Israelites these were mostly the bent, lean and thorny acacia woods. These are most likely a carpenter’s nightmare, but that was the only building material available where they were. For God that was certainly sufficient. After all, the goal is His glory to be seen, not our abilities.
He does not expect us to produce cedar trees we do not have, or import them from elsewhere. That’s what David did in order to erect a magnificent temple, but this was not God’s original format for worship.
So How Do We Do that?
Communion sums it up well. It did not start when Yeshua commanded His disciples to remember Him. It started millenniums earlier, when God turned these slaves into priests and warriors.
Moses sprinkled blood on everything, even on the priests’ ears and thumbs; So it always starts with blood (even the 10 plagues, interestingly, started with blood). And it ends with a torn flesh, that made a way for His Glory to be seen.
So when we take the Wine and the Bread, we should sprinkle blood on a certain piece of flesh inside us that needs to be torn. That will make a way for the King of Glory to enter in and tabernacle within us.
Let me connect this post to my previous one and say at this point: Communion runs between both altars – the Bronze and the Golden one.
The Brazen Altar of Blood
Moses’ words are echoed in what Yeshua said to His disciples shortly before Passover (Matt. 26:28):
“Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you” (Ex. 24:8).
Moses said it after taking blood from that Brazen altar, which atoned for those who regretted their sins. That was then. How do we do it today?
Here is a very short explanation of what needs to take place within us as we apply each instrument found in the Tabernacle.
We build an Altar of bronze within us when instead of accusing and isolating ourselves in face of insult and pain, we take responsibility of our reactions to what other people’s actions stir within us. Simply put, we sprinkle His blood on our wounds by choosing to respond with repentance and forgiveness.
When we take communion, we remind ourselves the price Yeshua paid so that we do not have to repeatedly slaughter and sprinkle blood by the altar; that His blood is readily available.
All we have to do is remember and internalize. All of the Jewish calendar and the various Biblical ceremonies are an appointed opportunity to remember what has already been achieved, or what will be done. Communion is no exception.
This is where the Word should wash our understanding (Eph. 5:25-27b), until gradually our thoughts align with His.
When we regularly sprinkle Yeshua’s blood over our thorns (by repentance and forgiveness), and wash in the Laver (through study of Scripture), at some point the screen inside us between the court and the Holy Place is pushed aside. This is when we enter into a more intimate place with God.
Every day, at dusk, the priest would light the Menorah, and every morning he replaced burned wicks and cleaned the candlesticks (Ex. 30:7-8). We too must face it regularly and allow the Holy Spirit to shed His light on our hearts. That is when we start recognizing lies and wrong perceptions that make us tick (lies such as: God loves everyone, but not me; He is faithful… but not to His promises to me).
The Table of Showbread
12 loaves of bread were put on the table and replaced once a week (Lev. 24:5-9). The Table also represents the Word, but in the form of bread. At this point we need to replace what was exposed by the Menorah with God’s truth.
However, it is not enough only to recognize what Truth stands in contrast to these lies. We must also consume that Truth, take it in to deep places within us, that are hidden from sight.
“You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Ps. 51:6).
Yes, God wants His truth to reside in the innermost parts. In another psalm David phrases it even better:
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my intestines” (Ps. 40:8).
The Hebrew does not speak here of the heart, but of David’s digestive system. When God’s truth is chewed and swallowed, it becomes an inherent part of us, it changes us from within. Our struggles and pain are the way our loving Father rebukes His children to bring them to repentance (Rev. 3:19). He uses hardships to remind us how hungry our intestines are to the true Bread that comes from heaven.
When I build a Tabernacle within me (as I deal with one problematic issue or another), I literally set a table at this stage: I prepare a stack of cards with verses that declare the exact opposite of the lie that was exposed by the Menorah.
I love the way Jeremiah phrased it:
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (15:16).
The Golden Altar of Sweet Aroma
This is the peak of the process. Here the priests burned incense that ascended as a sweet aroma. Today it happens when we give thanks and intercede, but only if it stems out of a place that was once hidden and sealed, and is now full of Truth. At this point I usually thank God for the way He used some of my thorny areas to expose rotten roots that lied in my innermost being, and for the Truth I found at the Table.
As I chew this Truth, it gradually becomes a part of me. Thus, in a very practical way, a part of God’s Word, the Word that had put on flesh and came to this world to tabernacle among us (Jn. 1:14a), becomes a part of me.
An unusual thing happened when Yeshua’s flesh was torn on the cross. The veil in the Temple was torn as well (Mt. 27:51). There was no more use for it, as the path to our destination, to the Holy of Holies, was opened wide at that very moment. From then on, whoever enters the Narrow Gate, can continue the process with full confidence all the way to the Holy of Holies.
The rituals and the process of worship that took place in the Tabernacle found their culmination on the cross. There – everything happened all at once. The Entrance Gate was provided, blood was shed, flesh was torn, and all the in between became available to us.
Which is why we can now enter boldly the Holiest in a new and living way which Yeshua consecrated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. Yes, we can draw near with a true heart and in full assurance of faith because by our faith in Him our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience at the Brazen Altar and our bodies washed with pure water at the Laver (see Heb. 10:19-20, 22). Hallehu Yah!
Father of glory, give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know You (Eph. 1:17). What a privilege it is to know that Your glory can fill the very places in our lives that cause us so much shame.
We want to live our lives between the two Altars, with the assurance that Your blood purifies us and Your Word washes our understanding. That your torn body, when it tabernacles within us, gradually fills us with Your Glory, grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).
Blessed are You, our God, King of the universe, for satisfying the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:16), for bringing forth the true Bread of life from the earth, and the true Vine; for setting a banquet Table within us every time we invite You into our innermost being.
“From altar to throne”
By SigneSandelin, DevianArt
Lift up your heads, all these locked gates within us, so that the King of Glory will come in.