Many people avoid reading the Old Testament and yet it provides some absolutely fascinating reading. The true accounts, which are verified in many ancient writings in addition to the Bible itself, show us the intimate involvement of our Creator with the human race, His prized creation.
In Part 2 of this study on the Blood of Jesus, we began tracing the red thread of “blood” through the Bible from the Book of Genesis to the conclusion of the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. We briefly looked at the Passover, instituted when the Israelites were led out of Egypt by the prophet Moses. We will now take a quick look at how the thread of blood carries on through the law and sacrificial system that were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Everything about the law, the ten commandments, and the sacrificial system was based upon the blood. In fact, God spoke of the system He set up as “the blood of the covenant.” Here is what we find in Exodus 24: 3-8
So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.” And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” (NKJV)
Whenever we read the instructions given to the people through Moses, it becomes obvious that everything about God’s covenant with man is backed by blood. The people themselves had to be covered and sprinkled with the blood. Throughout the Word of God, there was much said about the sprinkling of blood. Everything about the sacrificial system which the people were taught to observe in the temporary Tabernacle in the wilderness and then later in the Jewish Temples had the common theme of blood. The act of sprinkling of the blood was an act of symbolically applying the blood to cover over sins.
Right after this “sprinkling” of the blood, God told Moses it was time to build a Tabernacle within which God would live with His people. “…let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8, NKJV). The wilderness Tabernacle and the later Temples built by Solomon and, several centuries later, by Zerubbabel after Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, were identical in their layout and pattern of design. Zerubbabel’s Temple was greatly expanded by King Herod of the Roman Empire.
The instructions that the Jewish priesthood was to follow were very detailed and were to be followed down to the very last detail. Many who read the details given in the Old Testament find them tedious and so do not bother paying much attention. Yet, when one really takes the time to read the details and do some studying in order to find the significance of each instruction, it becomes quite clear that absolutely everything pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah Himself! Let’s take a look at the Tabernacle and how the same thread of blood is carried through in every detail.
The Tabernacle was laid out in three main sections. There was the outer court which was surrounded by a tall fence about seven feet in height. Inside the actual tabernacle itself, there were two main areas. There was the holy place and then behind the veil was the holy of holies. I find it interesting how God made clear distinctions in how the Israelites were to approach Him, especially in contrast to how pagans worshipped.
The tabernacle illustrated to the Israelites that they could only come to God in the way He instructed them to. There was no other way. This of course was looking ahead to the time when the ultimate sacrifice would be the only way. How many times do we hear today that there are many ways to God? Here Almighty GOD made it clear that there was only one way. Jesus Christ confirmed this in the New Testament when He told the disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” Many protest saying that this is narrow-minded. Yet, since there is not a man, prophet, or great teacher who has ever been able to present a cure for man’s fallen sin nature, we must humble ourselves and accept the one solution available, going through the one gate, leading to the only sacrifice potent enough for us all, the Blood of Jesus Christ!
The high fence that surrounded the entire complex had only one entrance. A person could not simply come from any direction into the tabernacle as he pleased–he had to enter through the one gate, which was always located to the east (so that people were facing west when they entered the tabernacle–a direct opposition to the pagan sun worshippers of the day who always faced east). Upon entering the gate, he encountered the brazen altar, where he presented his animal offering. The priest then took over the process and made atonement and intercession for him in the tent.
The brazen altar was where many thousands of sacrifices were made each year. Sacrifices were burned on this altar during the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice. Next inside this courtyard there was the laver. Before the priests could proceed any deeper into the complex, they had to wash in the laver. The laver was made in the shape of a great bowl. The entire inside was covered with small mirrors. As the priests looked into the laver, they could see any blemish, and they would ceremonially wash their hands and feet. The laver had great significance. The priests were never to approach God’s presence without first washing. God must be approached by the blood (the bronze altar) and then by water (the laver), reminding us that our hands which serve God must continually be washed by the water of the Word of God. Our feet represent our walk before the Lord and before people. We are told to be “holy” just as God is holy. This can only happen with His help.
The bronze altar points to the death of Jesus while the laver points to the life of Jesus. Blood speaks of a life taken and water speaks of life given. The water in the laver speaks of Jesus, the living Word of God that gives us eternal life. Jesus said that we are clean because of His Word and that the knowledge of God that comes through His Word is eternal life. Ezekiel 36:25-27 says it this way:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (NKJV)
As one walked into the the Holy Place, there was no outside light available. The only source of light came from the Golden Lampstand. This was an extraordinary piece of golden beauty and is known by most as the menorah. It was to be crafted of one piece of gold, beaten into the described design. It weighed over 100 pounds or 43 kilograms. It consisted of a base, center shaft, and branches. There were three branches on each side of the center shaft. All six branches as well as the top of the center shaft were fashioned into cups shaped like almond blossoms. An oil lamp was put into each of the seven petals and were filled with olive oil for burning. It was the job of the priesthood not to ever let the lamps go out. The Golden Lampstand was to shine light over the Table of Shewbread (which we will discuss next). The Golden Lampstand was a constant reminder that God was with His people. The Bible says that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. When the Apostle John said,
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,” (John 1:4-5, NKJV)
he was referring to Jesus coming into the world. Jesus made the world and created life and came to bring God’s life to fallen man but since man is in darkness apart from Jesus they could not comprehend the light that comes with the life of God. The golden lampstand illuminated the shewbread and so God illuminates His people. The Spirit of God illuminates the dark mind of man to the knowledge of God and to spiritual life. John went on to say,
“That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13, NKJV)
Man is blind apart from Jesus. Man cannot know God apart from Jesus. Even if God were to come Himself to His very home, unregenerate man is incapable of perceiving any spiritual light because the darkness has made him blind. The golden lampstand speaks of Jesus as the light of the world.
The Table of Shewbread was a small table made of acacia wood and then overlaid with pure gold. It measured 3 feet by 1-1/2 feet and was 2 feet 3 inches high. It stood on the right side of the Holy Place across from the Lampstand and held 12 loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. This bread never left the Holy Place and after having been on the table in the Lord’s presence for one week, was eaten inside the Holy Place by the priests. This bread was also called the “bread of the presence” because it was to be always in the Lord’s presence. The table and the bread were a picture of God’s willingness to fellowship and commune with man. It was like an invitation to share a meal. God was willing for man to enter into His presence to fellowship with Him, and this invitation was always open.
Jesus exemplified this very thing by eating with tax collectors, prostitutes, and any other outcast in Jewish society. Jesus often used the hated Samaritans in His parables, causing much anger within the ranks of the Pharisees. Jesus came to call all sinners to Himself. This is why He said in John 6:35, 49-50
“…I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.”
In the Holy of Holies, there was one more important item of furniture. It was called the Golden Altar of Incense. This altar sat directly in front of the veil or curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The Golden Altar of Incense was a small table that was only 1-1/2 feet square and 3 feet high. It was also made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. Four horns protruded from the four corners of the altar. God commanded the priests to burn incense on the golden altar every morning and evening, the same time that the daily burnt offerings were made. The incense was to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. We serve a God who wants to be very personal with His people! What blessing we miss by not taking advantage of this right that His people have.
The Golden Altar is also a representation of Jesus Christ, who is our intercessor before the Father. While Jesus was on earth, He prayed for His followers. He was like the high priest of the Tabernacle, who bore the names of each of the Israelite tribes on his breastplate before God. Just before He was betrayed and sentenced to death, Jesus interceded for His disciples and all believers, asking the Father to guard them from evil and and sanctify them by His Word, and that they might see God’s glory and be a witness to the world. Today, Jesus is still our high priest at the Father’s side, interceding for God’s people: “Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
So, since we have been forgiven of our sins through the Blood of Christ, we also come boldly in prayer in Jesus’ name. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying based on the work He has done and not on our own merit. It is in His powerful name that we are saved and baptized, and in His name we live, speak and act.
Directly behind the Golden Altar of Incense and behind the veil in the Holy of Holies were the last two items. The Ark of the Covenant and the Atonement Cover, or Mercy Seat. This is actually one piece of furniture with two parts. Because they were located behind the veil and in the Holy of Holies, they were protected from the view of the common man. The high priest was the only one who ever went into the Holy of Holies, and that only happened one time each year when he went in to offer the blood of the sacrifice and incense on Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement.
The ark was a chest made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold inside and out. It was 3 feet 9 inches long and 2 feet 3 inches wide and high. The Atonement cover or Mercy Seat was the lid for the ark. On top of it stood two cherubim (a very powerful type of angel) at the two ends, facing each other. The cherubim, symbols of God’s divine presence and power, were facing downward toward the ark with outstretched wings that covered the atonement cover. The whole structure was beaten out of one piece of pure gold. The atonement cover was God’s dwelling place within the tabernacle. It was His throne, flanked by cherubim.
Above the Ark and the Mercy Seat, God appeared in His glory in “unapproachable light”. This light is sometimes referred to as the Shekinah glory. The word Shekinah, although it does not appear in our English Bibles, has the same roots as the word for tabernacle in Hebrew and refers to the presence of the Lord. Throughout the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of His presence and power with them wherever it went. Many miracles were recorded having to do with the Ark.
Some comments from an unknown author, dealing with the significance of the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat as they have to do with Jesus Christ, are worth sharing here:
“The Ark of the Covenant was a picture of Jesus Christ. The Acacia wood speaks of the indestructible humanity of Jesus. He was 100% man. God Himself became flesh and suffered the agonies of the human experience. He was tempted, He was weary, He thirsted, He had to learn the Scriptures and learn obedience and to hear God’s voice and be led by the Spirit as a man. Not only does the Acacia wood tell us that He was 100% man but the pure gold that overlaid the wood teaches us that He was 100% God. Jesus said, “unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins.” He used the same words that were used in Hebrew when the Lord spoke to Moses at the burning bush. The Jewish Messiah was none other than Jehovah Himself visiting His people and becoming their savior by dying for the sins of the world and that is the etymology of the name Jesus (Hebrew Y’shua ‘Yaweh has become salvation’). Jesus condemned the religious leaders for not recognizing “the day of their visitation.”
The crown of gold around the top of the ark speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus overcame the onslaught of opposition that was set against Him. His whole life by the religious leaders, the wealthy Jewish aristocracy, Rome itself, and even all the power of the enemy. He overcame even death itself and rose triumphantly and was given a crown, and glory, and honor, because He is the King. According to John it was Jesus whom Isaiah saw seated on the throne of glory with the angels crying ‘holy, holy, holy’.”
“The Mercy Seat protected man from the judgment of God represented by the judgment angels, the Cherubim. Because of the blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat, man’s sin and guilt were washed away and the curse of the law has no effect. The mercy seat foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our mercy seat. He forever stands between a holy God and sinful man. Just as the sins of the whole nation were atoned for by the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat, so also Christ, by the shedding of his own blood atoned for the sins of the entire world.”
Below are several Scriptures showing how the Mercy Seat in the Old Testament is a type of Jesus Christ Himself.
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:28)
The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! (Psalms 99:1)
I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; his garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame,its wheels a burning fire; A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. a thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10)
Only one time a year, the high priest would go into that room by himself to bring the blood, and to worship God. The highest act of that worship was the sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat of the golden ark, covered by the wings of the cherubim. No one else ever went into the Holy of Holies. This gives great significance to the fact that at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross at Golgotha, not only was there a great earthquake and a deep darkness for three hours, but that very veil in the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. This veil was sixty feet tall, thirty feet wide, and at least four inches thick. The veil was not torn by man. It was torn by the sovereign Almighty God, letting all mankind know that direct access had just been paid for through the Blood of the perfect Lamb of God. The Messiah had now taken the place of the Old Testament high priest!
By dying on the cross and shedding His own blood, Jesus was the substance of all that the Old Testament prefigured, all that the Temple and its furnishings represented. All of the old dispensation ended in one instant on Calvary.
In Part 4 of our series, we will discuss the Blood of Jesus in the New Testament.
To Be Continued