Monday, January 30, 2012

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

   In the Book of Exodus we have a vivid description of the Tabernacle built in the wilderness. The description is wordy and long. It takes a good imagination to visualize what it may have looked like. My stake president has such an imagination and desire to learn. Almost fourteen years ago he spent a year finding materials so that he could build a replica to scale.

   He found goldsmith to craft the ark of the covenant, a weaver to make the goatskin coverings, a seamstress to sew the high priest's clothing, myrtle wood, which is as hard as shittim wood, to make the frame. He claims that this long hands on project enabled him to connect with these passages of scripture. It has done the same for me. Every four years, while teaching the Old Testament, I either borrow the model or visit him to have my students handle and observe this replica.

    The Israelites recognized this mobile structure as being the house of Jehovah. They offered sacrifice on the alter in the outer courtyard. The priests cleansed themselves in the laver before entering the tabernacle.

   Very few priests entered into the holy place. Here the menorah was kept alight, a table of shrewbread held symbols of the 12 tribes, and the alter of incense smoldered with coals from the alter of sacrifice to provide a sweet savor of smoke to symbolize the prayers to Jehovah.
  Once a year, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer a prayer of atonement.

There at the mercy seat, directly in the center of the room, the Lord would meet with Moses, or Aaron. The arms of mercy would enfold the priest and if he was clean, through washing and sacrifice, his sins and the sins of Israel would be forgiven. Often, as in Exodus 9:23, the people would see the glory of the Lord upon the tabernacle.
   For me the big insight I received from working with this model was the that the High Priest represented the work of the Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who could go to the mercy seat. When the atonement and crucifixion took place Christ rent the veil of the temple and made it possible for all worthy mortals to worship in the temple. He literally opened the doors of the temple to mankind.
  The accounts in the Old Testament of the tabernacle and temple have sweeter meaning because of this model. I so appreciate the work that my stake president went to, so any years ago.

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