Summary notes from Week 4 of A Woman’s Heart ~ God’s Dwelling Place
This is my favorite week yet of this Bible study! I am amazed and humbled at the realization that not only is every aspect of the Altar of Sacrifice in the tabernacle significant, but every element represented Jesus Christ. To realize that this knowledge is right there on the pages of Exodus fills me with joy that God is endlessly revealing His mysteries to us in His word.
We now find the Israelites beginning to construct the tabernacle but they are still moving through the wilderness at God’s prompting, following His pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. The tabernacle was a mobile structure. The walls of the tabernacle were pure white linen, the linens of the gate were embroidered with the colors blue, purple, and scarlet. There was only one gate through which to enter the tabernacle and it faced the east, reflecting the gate to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24).
God specifically located the tribes of Israel at different locations around the tabernacle. The group to the west of the tabernacle was the smallest (~108,000), the groups to the north and south of the tabernacle were slightly larger and approximately the same size (~150,000), and the group to the east of the tabernacle was the largest (186,400). The people remained in these locations and, when the camp picked up and moved, the tribe of Judah, located at the east in front of the gate, moved first. Can you picture this? The tribes formed a cross moving through the wilderness!
What was the Altar of Sacrifice? Positioned between the gate and the door of the tabernacle, it was the first structure one would have encountered upon entering. The altar was made of acacia wood, known for its ability to resist decay. This type of wood was also known for bearing large, sharp thorns. Like the acacia wood of the Altar of Sacrifice, the body of Christ never saw decay (Acts 2:27) and He bore a crown of thorns as He was made the sacrifice for our sins (Matthew 27:29).
God instructed that the altar should be hollow but the inside should be filled with earth (Exodus 27:8; 20:24). Recall that the word “Adam” in Hebrew means “groundling” or “of the ground.” The symbolism here shows us that, before Christ accomplished His work on the cross, the blood that poured from the sacrifices on the altar soaked into the ground to atone for man’s sin. We know that there could never have been enough blood to accomplish this task — until Christ shed His blood for all mankind.
A horn was placed at each corner of the altar, to both tie down the sacrifices and serve as a place where those seeking the protection of God could flee (I Kings 1:50-53). Jesus, the “horn” of our salvation (Luke 1:69) would provide us with eternal refuge in His salvation.
Do not forget that every aspect of the tabernacle, including the Altar of Sacrifice, was a copy of a heavenly reality. God chose to give the prophet Isaiah a glimpse of this reality in a vision in Isaiah 6. In this vision, Isaiah sees the Lord on His throne with His robe filling the temple. Around Him fly seraphim (“burning” or “fiery” ones in Hebrew), beings who continually praise and worship God Almighty. When Isaiah begins to despair at being “a man of unclean lips,” a seraph flies to him and touches him on the lips with a burning coal taken from the altar saying, “…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7)
We can be sure that this burning coal was taken from the Altar of Sacrifice. Why? Because there was no atoning power in the coal, or even the altar from which it was taken. The only thing that could atone for sin was the blood that was on the coal — the blood of Christ, shed on the altar of the cross. How awesome to see Christ revealed on the pages of Isaiah!
Viewer Guide answers (pages 90 & 91 of your study book):
- relief; cover, reconciliation, sacrifice