The Law and The Tabernacle


The Ten Commandments

God’s pattern for holy living

During the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites had a form of law imposed on them by Pharaoh. They were slaves in bondage with no freedom because they had to obey the orders of the Egyptian slave masters.

But when they had crossed the Red Sea and witnessed the death of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, they found themselves free from Egyptian slavery and oppression. Soon they would be camped at the foot of Mount Sinai and receive a new law through Moses.

They would have a new standard to live by and a new form of regulation and authority to submit to. This Law would become central to the nation of Israel through the remainder of the Old Testament and during the time of Christ.

Exodus 19 v 1-23, sets the scene for the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. It was truly spectacular!

12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. 20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. 

The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20 v 1-17

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Commandment 1

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Commandment 2

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Commandment 3

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Commandment 4

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.

11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Commandment 5

12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Commandment 6

13 “You shall not murder.

Commandment 7

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Commandment 8

15 “You shall not steal.

Commandment 9

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

Commandment 10

17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour."

The response of the people

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.

They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

Moses and the burning bush

Moses Burning Bush

Exodus 3 v 1-6

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

In view of the seriousness of the above Scriptures, I would like to share the comments of D. A. Carson from his devotional commentary – For the Love of God (IVP); Vol One - March 9

‘The Ten Commandments were once learned by every child at school in the Western world. They established deeply ingrained principles of right and wrong that contributed to the shaping of Western civilization.'

'They were not viewed as ten recommendations, optional niceties for polite people. Even many of those who did not believe that they were given by God himself; (“God spoke all these words.” 20 v 1) nevertheless viewed them as the highest brief summary of the kind of private and public morality needed for the good of society.'

'Their importance is now fast dissipating in the West. Even many church members cannot recite more than three or four of them. It is unthinkable that a thoughtful Christian would not memorize them.'

How do we measure up to the above statement today?

Note on Commandment 4

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.

11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Regarding whether or not the heavens and the earth were created in six literal days; if ever God had an opportunity to put the record straight, this was it. God was face to face with Moses; Exodus 20 v 1 states “And God spoke all these words to Moses.”

This was God’s chance to say to Moses; "Oh, by the way, when I tell you about creation and I state that I made everything in six days, I don’t really mean six literal days, what I mean is....." But God didn’t say that, he clearly states that he made the heavens and the earth in six days.

Moses was alone with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights - twice! It was at this time that the following words were written. Moses was 'in the zone' so to speak.

Genesis 1 v 1

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Exodus 20 v 11

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day."

If ever there was an opportunity for God to suggest that the six days of the creation week were anything other than literal - this was it. It didn't happen; God spoke to Moses face to face, plainly and without riddles and we need to believe what he said!

See - Creation page - Days 1-5 for a detailed outline on this subject.

Fear God

Psalm 36 v 1

An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.

No One Is Righteous

Romans 3 v 9-18

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11  there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

12  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16  ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Anarchy Empowerment

 In 2017, in the UK, it is evident that for much of the population, the fear of God is a thing of the past. The Ten Commandments are broken recklessly every day across the nation.

We have made a multitude of gods of material possessions, people take the Lord’s name in vain to such an extent that the precious name of Jesus has become a common curse word.

It is a breath of fresh air when we see or hear children honouring their parents, murder is often reduced to manslaughter on a technicality, we have become comfortable with all kinds of sexual promiscuity, theft is rampant, lies and slander abound, and covetousness is dressed up to look inoffensive at every opportunity.

The Ten Commandments have become widely unknown and where our civil laws represent the original commands of God, they are blatantly despised and broken. There is no fear of God before their eyes!

The Tabernacle

Tabernacle And 12 Tribes

God dwells in the midst of his people

As we get older, we tend to get into a routine and rhythm of life and few of us like change.

Not only would the Israelites have a new temporary home in the desert and a new form of authority in the law, they would also be introduced to a new form of worship and acceptance with God through the Tabernacle.

When the Tabernacle was completed and set up in the middle of the Israelite camp in the desert, they would appreciate that there was an astounding difference in who they were as a nation; God was dwelling in their midst!

God had proved beyond any doubt that he was with the Israelites; he demonstrated his almighty power in the ten plagues, he finally sent his destroying angel at the dreadful Passover, he parted the Red Sea and provided an escape route on a dry sea-bed and then drowned the entire Egyptian army including Pharaoh himself.

As if that were not enough, God then provided fresh water for over two million people at Marah and Elim, he provided manna on a daily basis and even provided quail when the people complained that they wanted meat to eat.

The ultimate proof of God’s presence was seen by all in the pillar of cloud and fire that settled above the Tabernacle and which led the tribes on their journeys through the desert. Make no mistake about it; this was the Israel of God and it was plain for all to see.

The Tabernacle is a graphic illustration of how God would deal with sin. This can be outlined as follows:

1.       There was a distinctive entrance to the courtyard; This signified – there is only one way into God’s presence

2.       Next was the Bronze Altar of Burnt Offering (blood – atonement & redemption); Sacrifice and atonement for sin was a daily necessity

3.       Then there was the Bronze Laver for washing (water - sanctification); The Priests and Levites needed to wash thoroughly and regularly

4.       Next was the entrance to the Tabernacle – The Holy Place; Access was denied – except for Aaron and the Priests and Levites

5.       Inside the Holy Place was the Golden Lamp-stand, the Golden Table for the Shewbread and the Golden Altar of Incense offerings; Again, access was denied – except for those who were selected and anointed

6.       Also inside the Holy Place was another curtain entrance to the Most Holy Place; Inside the Most Holy Place was the Golden Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and that was only once a year, and not without blood!

God’s presence was manifested in the Most Holy Place represented by the ‘Shakina Glory’

Did you know?

The journey from Goshen in Egypt to Canaan could have been done in less than 40 days, so why did Israel spend 40 years in the desert? 

Deuteronomy 1 v 2

It takes eleven days to go from Horeb (Sinai) to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.

Twelve spies explore Canaan

12 Spies Canaan

Numbers chapters 13 & 14

This passage gives the account where Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan to navigate and explore the land.

Exploring Canaan

Numbers 13 v 1-33

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.

4 These are their names:

   from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;

5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;

6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;

7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;

8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; (Joshua)

9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;

10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;

11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;

12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;

13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;

14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;

15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.) 17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country.

18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified?

20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

Report on the Exploration

26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.

27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.

28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Numbers 14 v 34

For forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land – you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.

Chapter 14 tells us how ten of the spies put fear into the hearts of the people and how the people rebelled against Moses.

Out of the twelve spies, only Caleb and Joshua survived, the other ten spies were struck down by a plague sent from God. Such was the severity of their stubborn unbelief. Numbers 14 v 37.

This is why Israel spent 40 years in the desert; because of their lack of faith and their stubborn rebellion against God’s commands.

Their lack of faith was exacerbated due to the recent events where God used Moses to lead his people out of Egypt as a result of the ten plagues, followed by the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

Moses was also used by God to provide water and manna in the desert. Finally, it was none other than this Moses whom God used to give the Law and the Tabernacle to his people Israel.

Deuteronomy 29 v 5

During the 40 years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God.

None of these events were natural, they were all supernatural. This was only possible and can only be believed because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was in the midst of his people Israel.

The Second Census

Numbers 26 v 1-4 & 63-65

1 After the plague the Lord said to Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, 2 “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by families—all those twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army of Israel.”

3 So on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them and said, 4 “Take a census of the men twenty years old or more, as the Lord commanded Moses.” 63 These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.

64 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Forty years had passed in the desert; none of those who were twenty years old or more at the first census would cross the Jordan, except for Joshua and Caleb.

All the others had died in the desert because of their unbelief and rebellion against God. And now another new chapter in Israel’s history is about to begin as they prepare to enter the Promised Land.

Numbers chapter 33 outlines the list of camp sites during the 40 years in the desert. If you include Succoth as the first camp, then there are 40 camp sites listed for the 40 years in the desert.

Footnote on the first and second census:

On the first day of the second month after Israel left Egypt, the first census is recorded in Numbers chapter 1. The total number of fighting men from 20 years old and over was 603,550. Numbers 1 v 46.

Almost forty years later, the second census is recorded in Numbers chapter 26. The total number of fighting men from 20 years and over was 601,730. Numbers 26 v 51.

The overall number of fighting men was reduced during the forty years in the desert. We might deduce from this that blessing from God is stilted when we live in disobedience.

The Levites, by contrast, grew in number during this time from 22,000 to 23,000. Compare Numbers 3 v 39 with 26 v 62.

Just imagine; forty years in the desert and no progress. Sound familiar? We might do well and pause here for a few moments and ask the question; What progress have I made in my walk with God in the last 2, 10, 20 years?

Conscious unbelief or disobedience will stifle your growth and development.

Pillar Of Cloud

The pillar of cloud and fire

The presence of God was manifested in the camp by the pillar of cloud during the day and the addition of fire in the cloud at night.

When the pillar of cloud lifted from the tabernacle, it was time to move. The Israelites were always in a state of readiness, never knowing when the cloud would lift.

Although one camp site is listed for each of the forty years, they did not spend a year at each site. The duration at some camp sites was shorter than a year and some were longer.

Numbers 9 v 15-23

15 On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.

16 That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.

18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.

19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out.

21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.

22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.

23 At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

Living in expectancy

Jesus said; Matthew 24 v 42-44

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Every morning, first thing, the people would look out of their tents to see if the pillar was still above the tabernacle or if it was time to go. This would have been the first priority of the day.

What about me? Am I looking for His return?

The Ark brought to the Temple

Ark At Temple

Did you know?

The Tabernacle including all the coverings and furnishings would still be intact for over 400 years until the time when King Solomon built the new Temple in Jerusalem.

Only Aaron’s rod that had budded and the pot of manna were missing; these had fallen into the hands of the Philistines in the period just before the appointment of King Saul. 1 Samuel chapters 4-6.

1 Kings 8 v 1-11

1 Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David.

2 All the Israelites came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month.

3 When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, 4 and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it.

The priests and Levites carried them up, 5 and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.

6 The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles.

8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. 

9 There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. 

10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

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