Here is a summary of the Bible study on Sunday.

ICF-A: "The Tabernacle” (Exodus 25-31; Leviticus 16)

The lesson this Sunday concerned “the tabernacle." How does the tabernacle fit into "God's promise for the nations?"

God's Promise - Review & Status
In about 2090 BC, God promised Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation... and all families and nations on earth will be blessed through your offspring” (Genesis 12:2-3). Several hundred years later, Abraham’s descendants (Israel) found themselves enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. How could they become a "great nation" if they were slaves in another country?

However, God remained faithful to His promise. He sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. He led them out of Egypt into the wilderness and eventually to Mount Sinai. At Mount Sinai, God gave them "the Law." The Law would be Israel's "constitution" – a system of laws to govern God's "holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). Part of the Law included “the tabernacle."

What is the Tabernacle?
The word "tabernacle" means "dwelling place." In particular, it was God's dwelling place among His people Israel (Exodus 25:8-9; 29:43-46). God is “omnipresent” (present everywhere) so He is not confined to any particular location. However, God chooses to make His presence known in special ways at particular times and places.

In the original creation, there was harmony between God and mankind, but that harmony was broken by the first man’s rebellion against God. The "connection" between humans and God was broken. In the Law, God provided the tabernacle as a place to "connect" with Him. However, for sinful people to approach a holy God, particular conditions must be met.

What is "Atonement"?
To approach God, "atonement" must be made. What is "atonement?" We can express it in this way: At-one-ment. "Atonement" brings reconciliation (restored relationship) between God and sinful humans through the death of an "acceptable substitute." Atonement is needed to be "at one" with God.

Why must an "acceptable substitute" die? See the handout on the ICF website for an explanation. Briefly put, all people are sinners (Romans 3:23) and the necessary result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Either we must die or an "acceptable substitute" must die. That is why God instituted the “sacrificial system.”

What is the Sacrificial System?
In the sacrificial system that God instituted, particular animals could be sacrificed in order to make atonement. The continual sacrificing of animals helped remind the Israelites of the terrible consequences of their sins before a holy God.

However, these animal sacrifices qualified as "acceptable substitutes" ONLY partially and temporarily. For "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4, NIV). "The law [including the sacrificial system] is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves" (Hebrews 10:1, NIV).

Ultimate Purpose of the Sacrificial System
The ultimate purpose of the sacrifices in the Old Testament was to point to the Ultimate and Final Acceptable Substitute. Only the Ultimate Sacrifice would really take away sins. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29, NIV). The apostle John wrote, "Jesus Christ ... is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2, NIV).

Atonement & You
If you have not accepted God's provision for "atonement" in Jesus Christ, you are not "at one" with God. Do you need to trust in Christ so you can enter into a relationship with God?

The Tabernacle & You
The Old Testament tabernacle no longer exists. Neither does the temple (a more permanent structure patterned after the tabernacle). So where does God dwell today? Where can we meet or connect with Him?

John wrote, "The Word became flesh and 'made his dwelling' among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14, NIV). The "Word" is Jesus, the ultimate revelation of God. The phrase "made his dwelling" is more literally translated "pitched his tabernacle" or "tabernacled." So if we want to meet with God, we go to Jesus. Jesus is THE meeting place with God!

Furthermore, if we become united with Jesus Christ through faith, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God dwells in us! As the apostle Paul wrote, "Don't you know that you yourselves [as the church] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?" (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV).

And to individual Christians Paul wrote, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (6:19, NIV) If we are temples (or tabernacles), how should that affect what we do with our bodies? Brothers and sisters, let us always use our bodies to worship and honor God, for we are His temples!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Your Servant,

You may E-mail Jay & Michele Lester

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