This is part two of a three part Bible study series we began in our home where we meet every Sabbath evening with friends. Last week we continued the study of the Tabernacle of Moses and how it relates to Messiah.

The Laver

The Laver, or basin, was a large bowl filled with water located halfway between the brazen altar and the Holy Place. Although God did not give specific measurements for the Laver, it was to be made entirely of bronze. The priests were to wash their hands and their feet in it before entering the Holy Place.

The Laver was located in a convenient place for washing and stood as a reminder that people needed cleansing before approaching God. The priests atoned for their sins through a sacrifice at the brazen altar, but they cleansed themselves at the Laver before serving in the Holy Place, so that they would be pure and not die before a holy God.

The application for believers today is that we are forgiven and washed clean through Messiah’s work on the cross, but we need to be washed daily in His Word in order to cleanse ourselves, so that we too, can serve and minister before a holy God.

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [with blood] to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

The Menorah

After washing their hands and feet at the Laver, the priests could enter the Holy Place, which was the first room in the tent of the tabernacle. There were three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place: the Menorah, the Table of Showbread and the Golden Altar of Incense.

The Menorah stood at the left side of the Holy Place. It was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. Like the Laver, there were no specific instructions about the size of the Menorah, but because it was fashioned out of one piece of pure gold many believe that it would have limited its size.

The Menorah had a central branch from which three branches extended from each side, forming a total of seven branches. Seven lamps holding olive oil and wicks stood on top of the branches. Each branch looked like that of an almond tree, containing buds, blossoms and flowers. The priests were instructed to keep the lamps burning continuously.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the Curtain of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually.’” (Leviticus 24:1-3)

The Menorah was the only source of light in the Holy Place, so without it, the priests would have been stumbling around in the dark. The light would shine upon the Table of Showbread and the Altar of Incense, thus enabling the priests to fellowship with God and intercede on behalf of God’s people. Just as the Menorah was placed in God’s Holy Place so that the priests could approach God, Jesus, the “true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9) came into the world so that we too, could approach God and not live in spiritual darkness anymore. Jesus said:  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Jesus is represented by the main branch of the Lampstand, and we, as believers, are represented by the six branches that extend from original branch. Having believed, we are now living as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8) who draw our source of light from Jesus, the true light. Jesus calls us “light of the world” and commands us to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5: 14, 16) The branches also serve as a picture of Jesus’ description of our relationship with him: “I am the vine, you are the branches … apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Two other significant symbols that can be seen is the fact that the Menorah was made of pure gold (not gold plated) and had seven branches. Pure gold is a representation of power, strength, and perfection. Seven is the number of completeness in the Bible. So the believer is made complete by the power, strength, and perfection of Messiah.

The Table of Showbread

The Table of Showbread was a small table made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It measured 3 feet by 1.5 feet and was 2 feet, 3 inches high. It stood on the right side of the Holy Place across from the Menorah and held 12 loaves of bread, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The priests baked the bread with fine flour and it remained on the table before the Lord for a week; every Sabbath day the priests would remove it and eat it in the Holy Place, then put fresh bread on the table. Only priests could eat the bread, and it could only be eaten in the Holy Place, because it was holy.

The Showbread, also was called “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 have communion (literally speaking, sharing something in common) with mankind. It was like an invitation to share a meal, an extension of friendship. Eating together often is an act of fellowship. God was willing for man to enter into His presence to fellowship with Him, and this invitation was always open.

Jesus exemplified this when He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and the sinners of Jewish society. But this was more than just a gesture of friendship on earth. Jesus came to call sinners to Him, make them right with God, so that they could enjoy everlasting fellowship with God. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. … Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.” (John 6:35, 49-50)

It’s interesting that at Jesus’ last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus described himself as bread again: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26) Jesus’ broken body is our only access to fellowship with God. Today, we remember this important truth when we celebrate Passover. And today, just as in the day of Moses’ tabernacle, God still desires to have fellowship and sit down for a feast with His people. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelations 3:20)

The Golden Altar of Incense

The Golden Altar of Incense, which is not to be confused with the brazen altar, sat in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. This altar was smaller than the brazen altar. It was a square with each side measuring 1.5 feet and was 3 feet high. It was 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. It was made of an equal part of four precious spices — stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense. These four spices were made up of resin and sap from certain trees and was considered holy. God commanded the Israelites not to use the same formula outside the tabernacle to make perfume for their own consumption; otherwise, they were to be cut off from their people. (Exodus 30:34-38)

The incense was a symbol of the prayers and intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. God wanted His dwelling to be a place where people could approach Him and pray to Him.
“…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7) The picture of prayers rising up to heaven like incense is captured in David’s psalm and also in John’s vision in Revelations:
“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2)

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelations 8:3-4)

The golden altar, furthermore, is a representation of Messiah, who is our intercessor before God the Father. During his days on earth, Jesus prayed for the believers. 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 God to guard them from evil and sanctify them by His Word, and that they may see God’s glory and be a witness to the world. (John 17:1-26) 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)

Since we have been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Jesus, we can now come boldly to the throne of God in prayer in Jesus’ name. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying based on the work that he has done and in his authority, not on our own merit. It is in the authority of his powerful name that we are saved and baptized. And it is because of him that we live and breathe and have our being.

The horns of the golden altar were sprinkled with blood from the animal sacrifices to cleanse and purify it from the sins of the Israelites. (Leviticus 4:7, 16:18) Just as the horns on the brazen altar represents the power of Jesus’s blood to forgive sins, the horns on Golden Altar of Incense represents the power of prayer as we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:15-16)

The Significance of the Tabernacle Sacrifices

Although the blood of the sacrifices covered over the sins of the Israelites, they had to perform the sacrifices year after year, for they were not freed permanently of a guilty conscience. However, Jesus, our Messiah, came as the Lamb of God and final sacrifice for mankind when God offered up his life for ours. As Isaiah 53 prophesied, the Messiah would be like a lamb that is led to slaughter and pierced for our transgressions.

In the book of Zechariah, chapter 12, the Bible said that there would be a time when people in Jerusalem would lament over the one who was “pierced,” as one mourns for the loss of a first-born son. (First-born sons were often viewed as the main inheritors of a family’s legacy) Interestingly, the Talmud makes a very Christian-like assessment of the prophecy found in the book of Zechariah: “What is the cause of the mourning (Zechariah 12:10)? It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah, the son of Joseph, as it is written, ‘And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.'” -Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a –

The New Testament writers also references The Old Testament sacrifices when they write: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24)

“For you know that … you were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14)

“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. …By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. …And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (Hebrews 10:10, 14, 18)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Horns were a symbol power and strength in biblical times. When the sacrifice was made, blood was dabbed on the horns of the altar, signifying the power of the blood to atone for sins. In the same way, there is mighty power in the blood of Messiah and Jesus is the “horn of our salvation”. (Psalm 18:2, Luke 1:69) The animal sacrifices bore reference to the Passover lambs, which the Israelites slaughtered in like manner to save their firstborns from the last plague of God’s judgment on Egypt. (Exodus 12:1-13) Just as the Passover lambs were eaten after they were slaughtered, some of the sacrificial lambs in the Tabernacle were also eaten. And Jesus’ body was sacrificed and symbolically eaten.

It was no coincidence that on the night before the Passover when Jesus was crucified, He “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’” (Matthew 26:26) Earlier Jesus had taught His disciples: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56) Jesus Himself is the Lamb of God as well as the Passover Lamb for those who believe in Him.

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