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The Daily Devotional Walk Through The Hebrew Sanctuary

MsDora, a former teacher and Christian counselor, presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.

The reference is to the Old Testament sanctuary, but nothing could be more appropriate for a modern-day Christian devotional than the application of its symbolisms. The purpose for this devotional is the same as was the Israelites’ purpose for the sanctuary – to experience the presence of God.

Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.

— Exodus 25: 8, NLT

We know that God is always present, but sometimes in the hustle of bustle of everyday living, we become distracted and disconnected. One sure way to reconnect and tighten our bond is engaging in personal devotions.

The Hebrew sanctuary or tabernacle consisted of three parts—the Courtyard, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place and we symbolically journey through each one.

The Sanctuary (Tabernacle) Layout

The Courtyard

For the entrance to the courtyard, make a curtain . . . from finely woven linen, and decorate it with beautiful embroidery in blue, purple, and scarlet thread. (Exodus 27:16)

Anyone could enter the courtyard. Near the entrance was a Bronze Altar on which the people offered their animal sacrifices in atonement for their sins. Today, we offer up our sinful selves and whatever hinders our communion with God, whatever distracts our focus. Our worries, our anxieties about employment and paychecks, our idols of fame and status are all hindrances which we must give up at this altar. Our dependence on ourselves or anyone human must be abandoned here. We want to be free for a spiritually intimate encounter with God.

Between the altar and the door to the Holy Place stood a Brass Laver where the temple priests washed their hands and feet in preparation for their entrance. This is where we seek cleansing of our thoughts, intentions and desires. “No one needs to be told about the things in his own mind of which he would like to be purified, because each person knows his own inner being better than does anyone else.”

The Table of Showbread


The Holy Place

Aaron [the priest] will carry the names of the tribes of Israel on the sacred chestpiece over his heart when he goes into the Holy Place. (Exodus 28:29)

The Holy Place was accessible only to the priests back then, but the rituals became obsolete with the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, who inducted all believers into the priesthood. Thanks to Him, we can all enter.

On the north side, there was a wooden table—the Table of Showbread on which lay twelve loaves of unleavened bread divided into two piles. The bread symbolized God’s presence, His sufficiency and His grace. Its symbolism became actual in Jesus, the Bread of Life. Here we meditate on God’s Omnipresence and His ever present source of supply for all our needs. Not only for food, but also for healing, wisdom, forgiveness, progress, and all that God wants us to have. We realize that our lack is not supplied by begging, but by receiving from God's abundance.

The Golden Candelabra (candlestick or lampstand) stood on the opposite side, across from the table of showbread. It had seven lamps and was the only source of light in the Holy Place. Seven, a symbol of completeness reminds us that in Christ, who is our light, dwells the completeness of the Godhead; and Christ dwelling in us shares the fullness of His illuminating wisdom, power and strength. The oil which continually fueled the light symbolizes the influence of God's Holy Spirit through whom we maintain our spiritual connection. Now we realize that we have the complete force of the Godhead empowering us for whatever God assigns us to do and for whatever struggles we will encounter. With minds illumined by divine grace, we move forward without fear, and watch the darkness around us disappear.

The Golden Altar of Incense

The Golden Altar stood near the entrance to the Most Holy Place, and on it incense burned continually. We have sacrificed and been purified in the outer court. We contemplated the goodness and indwelling power of God in the Holy Place. Here at the golden altar, we allow our praise and worship to rise like incense. We make no requests. We do not take back the burdens we left in the courtyard. We surrender ourselves in lavish praise and thanksgiving. We are grateful for the privilege of close communion with God, and we worship Him with all our heart.

The Ark of the Covenant

The Most Holy Place

Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26:34)

This was the most sacred spot in the sanctuary and the priests entered there only once a year. In this space was the Ark of the Covenant, a chest including the ten commandments, the description of a godly character. If we have performed our “rites” with sincerity, we realize God’s presence. We rest and we listen. He assures us of His love. We hear Him tell us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light; that He will keep His promise to be our provision and protection; that we need not fear, since He will fight our battles. It is here that we receive understanding about what we read in His Word. It is here that our convictions are deepened. In the Most Holy Place with God, He impresses our hearts with whatever truths we need to increase our faith for the journey. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength, and we are blessed.

No matter what the circumstances are, or how urgently they need our attention, our priority is fellowship with God. A daily visit with Him in the Most Holy Place is one sure way to nurture our relationship with Him.

Commentaries on the Sanctuary

"Because in the wilderness they dwelt in tents, this royal palace was ordered to be a tabernacle, that it might move with them." —Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

"All the time that the history of the Jews was going on, the mercy-seat and the cherubim that covered it were still witnessing to the children of Israel that God was in the midst of them. So the words, "There I will meet with thee," stood from generation to generation." —Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

"When God comes to dwell among us, which can only be by dwelling in us individually, sin goes from us, in its guilt and its predominating power." —A. Raleigh

For further reading on the Hebrew Sanctuary system, see Exodus 25-30.

© 2012 Dora Weithers

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