The heart of the Good News is that Messiah Yeshua died for our sins. This sounds strange to many people today, including my Jewish people. You see, two thousand years ago the Temple (which replaced the original Mishkan – the Tabernacle) was destroyed and the sacrifices ceased. Over those long centuries we lost the understanding of their significance and great importance. The New Testament would have much greater impact if more people understood Temple worship, the sacrifices and the priests who offered them!
Immediately after Israel was saved from slavery in Egypt, God instructed the Jewish people to build the Mishkan. “Mishkan” comes from the Hebrew root “shachan”, which means “to dwell” or “to abide”. We get other Hebrew words from this same root, like “neighbor” and “neighborhood”. In spite of the Fall of Man, and our resulting alienation from the Holy God, He still wanted to dwell among us! He wanted to be a close and good neighbor! So the Holy God instructed the Holy People to build a Holy Place where He could continue to manifest His glorious Dwelling Presence on Earth. The Mishkan was a Tent with two rooms. The inner room was the Most Holy Place, where the Sh’chee-nah – the glorious Dwelling Presence of God (Sh’chee-nah comes from the same root – shachan – to dwell) was manifested in a cloud that hovered over the Ark.
On top of the Ark was the Ark Cover, adorned with two Cherubim, their wings touching each other. From above the Ark Covering the Creator would most fully manifest His Dwelling Presence on Earth. Inside the Ark were the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments, along with Aaron’s Rod that budded, and the Golden Jar with Manna. The Two Tablets tell us that the God of Israel is a God of law and justice. His laws are of central importance to Him. If we are going to have any kind of genuine relationship with the Judge of the whole Earth, it will only happen on the basis of His laws. We must come to Him on His terms – not ours. His demands must be met – not bypassed. If you violate God’s laws, ignore them, or attempt to circumvent them, you will not dwell near God. It’s that simple. The Golden Jar with Manna reminds us that God would supernaturally provide for His people – even in a desert wilderness. Aaron’s Rod that budded tells us that we need a God-appointed, God-ordained mediator to approach God for us. Man in his fallen state cannot come before the Dwelling Presence of God directly. Sin has damaged us too deeply. We may not approach Him directly, and we may not simply appoint anyone we please.
Outside the Most Holy Place was the Holy Place. In it was a Table for the Bread of God’s Presence. The Table and Bread speak of God’s fellowship and provision. God will provide for the spiritual and physical needs of His people. Eating around a table has always represented sharing and friendship. The God of Israel wants to be intimate with us, sharing in our lives, as with the closest of friends!
Also in the Holy Place was the seven-branched Menorah, which gave light for the priests to serve the Lord. It tells us that God is the fullness of truth, wisdom, purity, victory and salvation.
The Golden Altar of Incense was also in the Holy Place. Every morning and evening fragrant spices were burned on it, ascending upward to Heaven, symbolizing God welcoming the prayers and praises of His people.
Outside the Holy Place was the Court, in which was the Bronze Altar. Israel drew near to God through the various kinds of sacrifices that were offered on the Altar.
The Bronze Washbasin was also in the Court. It was used to wash the priests, so that they would be clean as they served God and His people.
Limited Access To God’s Presence
The Mishkan was designed to enable God to manifest His Dwelling Presence on Earth. However, there were various levels of access to God for various groups of people. Israelis could enter the Court, but only the priests could enter the Holy Place. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place (and only on Yom Kippur). The lesson is that mankind, in our fallen, sinful state, may not approach the Dwelling Presence of God directly. We may only draw near to Him through the work of God-appointed, God-ordained mediators.
The Holy God wanted a Holy People. They lived in a Holy Land, which had a Holy City. Within that Holy City was a Holy House, in which was a Holy Place and a Most Holy Place. Serving in the Holy House were Holy Priests, mediators who brought the Holy God closer to unholy men and women, and who brought unholy men and women closer to the Holy God. A Holy Priesthood needed to be covered with Holy Garments – special, beautiful clothing.
The clothing of the High Priest included a Breastplate, which was a square piece of beautiful material, with twelve precious stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Breastplate was placed on the front of the Ephod, which was a short, close-fitting jacket. The Ephod also had two onyx stones, which were placed on its shoulder pieces. The names of six tribes were carved on each onyx stone. When the High Priest wore the Ephod and Breastplate near his heart, the Lord saw the stones, and remembered His love, His promises and His covenants with Israel. In the Breastplate were the Ureem and Tumeem, the “Lights and Perfections”. They were used to receive guidance from the Lord. We are not exactly sure what they were – whether they were the same as the Breastplate with the twelve precious stones, or something distinct from them.
Under the Ephod, the High Priest wore a beautiful Blue Robe. The Robe had a hem of golden bells interspersed with woven pomegranates of blue, scarlet and purple material. When the High Priest served in the Holy Place, the bells made their sounds; nothing secret or strange would take place, and the Lord would not kill the High Priest. As the bells made their delightful sounds, the Lord heard what the High Priest was doing, and was pleased with his service.
The High Priest wore a turban with a gold plate on it. The gold plate was inscribed with the words, “Kodesh l’Adonai – Holy to the Lord.” The meaning is that the head of the priest and, by implication, the whole priest – was set apart to accomplish God’s purposes. Since the High Priest was holy to the Lord, God would accept him; and since the High Priest represented the nation, the Lord therefore accepted all Israel as well. Ordinary priests were clothed with tunics, sashes, caps, and linen undergarments.
Under the New Covenant, Messiah Yeshua is our High Priest. He is a perfect priest in every way. He was and is perfectly holy to the Lord. He always received perfect guidance from His Father. He is clothed with the garments of salvation, and the robes of righteousness. He is our ultimate Representative and Mediator. He carries us on His heart into the presence of God. If we are joined to Messiah, the Father sees the Son, and love and accepts Him; and because we are joined to Messiah, and are bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh, God sees us and accepts us and remembers us with love and mercy!
Under the New Covenant, every Messianic Believer is a priest. We are mediators who bring human beings closer to God, and bring God closer to human beings. A priest needs to be prepared for this great task. He needs to wear the right clothing. Are you clothed with the beautiful garments of salvation, and the robes of righteousness? Is the way you conduct yourself worthy of that high calling? Does it reflect something of the glory of the Messiah, something of the beauty of God?
Priests needed to be made holy before they began their life of service, and there were several ways to make them holy. They had to be washed with water, clothed with their beautiful clothes, their heads anointed with oil (a symbol of the presence of God), so that they were serving with God’s blessing and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the oil, the blood of a ram was put on the priests’ right earlobes, so that their ears would be dedicated to the Lord, so they could hear God and obey. Are your ears dedicated to God? Can you hear Him communicating to you? The blood was put on their right thumbs, so that their hands might be dedicated to serving God. Are you serving Him? Are you doing something, anything, for Him? The blood was put on the big toes of their right feet, that they might walk with God, and live according to His ways. Are you walking with God, living according to His ways? Blood and anointing oil was also sprinkled on the priests, because blood and oil cleansed, sanctified, and enabled them to fulfill God’s purposes. Are you sprinkled with the blood of Messiah? Have you experienced the atonement He provided? Are you indwelt by the Holy Spirit, empowered to serve the Living God? Have you been washed by the waters of baptism? Do you continue to be washed by the cleansing that comes from exposure to the Word of God?
The Mishkan Fulfilled In The Messiah
The Mishkan (and the Temple which replaced it), no longer exists. Everything that was once in it is missing or destroyed. The priests are no longer serving there. But both the Mishkan and its various items were designed to point to and be fulfilled in a greater way through the Messiah. The Son of God is the Substance to which these Shadows pointed, and He remains! Messiah is our Temple, where God most fully manifests His Dwelling Presence among human beings. He enables us to become part of the Temple of God! Messiah is our Ark, the place where God and man meet. Aaron’s Rod that budded points to Yeshua, the one and only God-appointed Mediator between God and man. The Two Tablets point to Yeshua, who kept the Law, and enables us to fulfill it. The Jar of Manna tells us that Messiah can miraculously provide for all the needs of His followers. The Veil represents Messiah’s body. When Yeshua died, the Veil was torn in two from top to bottom, making the way into God’s presence accessible for all mankind. The Son of God is like the Table: He will meet all of our needs, and have fellowship and intimate friendship with us. He is our Golden Altar, enabling our prayers to rise up and ascend into the presence of God, and be accepted by Him. He is our Golden Menorah, who gives us blazing light, total victory, the fullness of salvation, and the knowledge of God! He is our Bronze Altar, where the Ultimate Sacrifice – He Himself, was offered, drawing us close to God. Like the Bronze Washbasin, Messiah cleanses us so that we may serve God with purity. He is our High Priest, who makes us into a kingdom of priests, giving each one of us skills and abilities that bring God closer to men and women, and bring men and women closer to God!