Bible Studies - Sanctuary

3. When Was The Earthly Sanctuary First Made?

By His High and Mighty hand God performed miracle after miracle to obtain the release of His people, the children of Israel, from Pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 5-13). Not only this but He parted the Red Sea so that they could pass on dry land, drowned the whole Egyptian arms and Pharaoh, used the water to wash much of their weapons upon the shore so that the Israelites could arm themselves, turned the water at Marah from bitter to sweet, brought forth water from a rock, fed them with manna from heaven, and delivered them from the hands of the Amalekites (Exodus 14:27-29; 15:24, 25; 17:6; 16:35; 17:8-16). Yet despite all these miraculous works that God had done for them they were still grumbling, complaining, and generally ungrateful by the time they reached Mount Sinai.

God still wanted to come close to His people so He told Moses to make bounds or a barrier around the mountain so that no one would touch or go up it, and prepare the people for three days (Exodus 19:10-12). Then God would come down and talk to His people. What excitement there must have been in the encampment with men building the bounds, women and children washing clothes, everyone hurrying so that all was done as it was supposed to be, just like God said.

Then on the third day Mount Sinai looked like it was on fire with the billows of smoke billowing from it. Then the whole mountain began to shake for God was there upon that mountain. The people heard a loud voice, very similar to a trumpet. This voice became louder, and louder and longer. Moses spake and God answer. With awful grandeur God declared His law of ten commandments to the children of Israel (Exodus 19:18-25; 20:1-17).

God thought to impress upon the children of Israel His awesome power, majesty, and greatness, but instead the thundering, lightnings, the noise of the trumpet, and the smoking mountain only terrified the children of Israel and they moved away from the mountain standing afar off. Not only this but when God had finished speaking they said to Moses that they did not want to speak directly with God again or they might die. They wanted Moses to talk to Him, and then let Moses relay the message (Exodus 20:18, 19).

How sad this must have made God. He had done so much for them and He wanted to talk to them telling them how to love and serve Him, but the children of Israel would not have this. So Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was and spoke with Him. God reinforced the fact that they were not to make idols of gold and silver, and what material they were to use when making an altar of sacrifice to worship Him at. God also told Moses many statues or rules by which He wanted the children of Israel to live.

God called Moses up into the mountain to speak with him, and to give him a written copy of His eternal moral law. While up on the mountain talking with God, Moses is told something very important, "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8.)

The statement "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" has three applications:-

  1. The children of Israel in the wilderness were to make a sanctuary for the Lord to dwell in from the free will gifts.
  2. The children of Israel were to supply the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, a living sanctuary that God (the Holy Spirit) could dwell in (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38; 4:1).
  3. That spiritual Israel, the people of today who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, will build Him a body temple that God (the Holy Spirit) can dwell in (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

From this whole scenario we firstly we see that God wanted to talk directly with His people, but they did not want this. Then He devised another plan to be near them. He asks them to make Him a sanctuary so that He can dwell among them. What God really wanted to do was dwell in their heart and purify them by helping them to keep His Law. But when this failed because of the lack of faith and constant complaining and murmuring, He at least wanted to be near them – what a loving, compassionate, merciful God!

Paul in the book of Hebrews commands us not to harden our heart and provoke God like the Israelites did by murmuring and complaining in the wildness (Hebrews 3:14-19). We are told that we are to "in every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18.) Why? Simply because, "... all things work together for good to them that love God..." (Romans 8:28.) In this way we can "... present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1.)

This does not mean that the Christian life will be one of ease for Christ told us, "… If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23. (See also Matthew 16:24; Mark 10:21.) Paul also told Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith..." (1 Timothy 6:12.) However, we can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

God gave to Moses explicit and detailed instructions as to how to build the tabernacle, as well as showed him what it should look like. There was a lot of work to do in making it, but they also had to find all the material. However, from a simple calculation we can find from Scripture that they commenced the building of the tabernacle soon after the giving of the Ten Commandments which occurred in the third month after the children of Israel has left Egypt (Exodus 19:1).

© S. D. Goeldner

© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated August, 2020.

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