After delivering the Children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, one of the first things the Lord did was provide instructions for building the tabernacle. The tabernacle was an important structure to Israel during their journey through the wilderness. It was God’s sanctuary; a place for God to dwell among His people (Ex. 25:8). It also contained the articles and implements the Children of Israel used to worship God. As a result, it’s not surprising that it was important to God how the tabernacle was arranged and how it functioned. This is clear from the accounts we find in chapters 25-31 and 35-40 of the book of Exodus where significant portions of scripture are devoted to the instructions and construction of the structure. We’re told that Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountain while God revealed His design for the tabernacle and its related articles of worship. In these same passages we find the Lord reminding Moses over and over again:
“See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”
It was obviously important that God’s design be followed when it came to where He would place His name and how He would be approached in worship.
Even after Israel had settled in the promised land and David purposed to build the temple, it was the Holy Spirit that revealed the plans to him (I Chron. 28:11-12;19). It was God’s design. There was a prescribed way things were to be organized and arranged as well as how they were to be used. The Lord saw fit to remind Israel of these facts before bringing them back from the captivity resulting from their disobedience and idolatry. Beginning in Ezekiel 40, the Lord shows Ezekiel a vision of the temple being measured. This served as a reminder of what the Lord intended and expected from His people when it came to worship. Later in Ezekiel chapter 43 the Lord tells Ezekiel to:
“Describe the temple to the house of Israel that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.” (Ezekiel 43:10-11)
There was a need for Israel to be reminded of what God had defined and established for His people to allow Him to dwell in their presence and enable them worship Him appropriately. When properly understood, it should rightfully cause one to pause before attempting to worship otherwise; whether through other objects or by means of our own foolish and shameful creation.
It might appear odd at first to think that God spent so much time giving instruction on how the tabernacle and temple were to be configured, furnished, and used. It seems so precise for things that would eventually fade and become obsolete (Heb. 8:13). The physical tabernacle was eventually folded never to be used again. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The time came, as Christ said it would in John 4, when worship was no longer tied to a physical location. So why did it matter so much? When we read Hebrews 8:5, we see the significance. This verse tells us that the earthly tabernacle served as a copy and shadow of “the sanctuary and true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man” (Heb. 8:2). That is why Moses was divinely instructed to be careful to follow the pattern that was shown him. It pointed to the more perfect tabernacle (Heb. 9:11), the true and holy temple of God (Eph. 2:19-22) and the real house of God (II Tim. 3:15). These verses are referring to the church.
The church is the spiritual house of God where He dwells among His people today and where we approach Him to worship. It is built and designed by God. It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as both the chief cornerstone and the head. It was purchased with the blood of His Son and God is the only one who adds to it. It’s the Lord’s and He has arranged it precisely to function a certain way. We need to be careful to hold to the pattern as we’re reminded ourselves in II Tim. 1:13. There are many who attempt to redefine or rearrange the church and worship to suit their own desires. Just like with the Children of Israel in Ezekiel, this is shameful and not acceptable to God. We need to search God’s word to understand His design for the church and worship so that we can:
“grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16)
I pray that is always our goal as we seek to worship God in spirit and truth, edify the brethren, and bring glory to His name.
For all those who are interested, there are some great articles on this site regarding the Lord’s design for His church and how we should worship Him. Lord willing there will be more to come.