The Tabernacle—The Walls and Gate
Because the Tabernacle came from the mind of God, no detail was by chance.
The Tabernacle (literally, “tent”) served as the center of Jewish worship for centuries. With God as its architect, specific plans were given that included the materials to be used, the dimensions of its features, the design and function of furnishings as well as instructions of how it was to be erected or taken down for transport. The Tabernacle served as the center of worship for the one true and infinite God. It was a visible reminder of His presence among and interest in His people.
Because the Tabernacle came from the mind of God, no detail was by chance. Every aspect had meaning beyond serving as building material or decorations. Because of this, the Tabernacle was more than a place of worship, serving also as a means to proclaim truths about God and more particular, the coming Messiah. At the time God gave the plans, the people only had a vague foreshadowing of the depth of Tabernacle symbolism. But with the coming of Christ, we find the prophetic function of the Tabernacle amazingly clear. For this reason, it is wise to not only understand the Tabernacle as it functioned in the days of the Old Testament but how it remains an eternal proclamation of Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man.
The Courtyard Walls
The Tabernacle was housed in a rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 175 feet by 87½ feet. The fence that was 8½ feet high was hung on 60 pillars—20 each on the long sides and 10 each on the shorter sides. The pillars were spaced so that each section of the fence was a perfect square. The pillars were joined with silver connecting rods and one or more cords fastened to brass tent pegs. The pillars themselves were made of brass with a silver capital while the fence material was white flax. The area of the enclosure was the courtyard and in its wide space only three things were to be found: the Brazen Altar, the Laver and the Tabernacle.
The fence served several important functions.
- The height, taller than any person, would ensure that people could not peek in from the sides or be only spectators to the worship inside.
- The wall was a barrier to prevent unlawful approach.
- The wall served as protection. No wild animal could wander in.
- It served as a clear boundary between the world and the holy presence of God.
- The only way in was through the single gate. The wall directed people toward that opening.
These functions provided a sanctuary, screening the worshipper from the outside world by keeping the wrong things out and the right things in.
The white flax, fairly gleaming in the desert sun, sharply contrasted the surrounding tents with their customary black covering. The material was actually twisted flax, which was stronger, with thicker strands that allowed the material to breathe when the winds blew against it.
The material came from the flax plant. It was first beaten with clubs, then boiled and wrung out carefully. The process was not only time consuming, but made the material very expensive. Flax represents the humanity of Christ. Like Christ’s body, flax was a product of the earth and like Christ, had to endure severe strain to achieve its optimal usefulness. When Jesus took on human flesh, it was in order that He might suffer. The flax foreshadowed that.
This wall also reminds us of Christ the Mediator, who stands between God and us. We see God by first seeing Christ and approaching Him, even as a worshipper would see the wall as he approached, long before he saw the Tabernacle. The whiteness of the flax wall speaks of Christ’s sinless life in the flesh (Hebrews 4:15).
The pillars tell of strength and solidarity, reminding us that we have a mighty Savior. Silver was the primary mineral used for coins in the ancient world, so it represents the price to be paid. All Israelite men were required to pay a half shekel of silver as a ransom for their soul (Exodus 30:11-16). The silver capitals represent the atonement, the price Christ paid for our salvation. The bottoms of the pillars were made of brass. Brass symbolizes strength and judgment. This construction made the pillars themselves expressions of Christ as the Mediator of judgment at one end and redemption on the other.
The walls by their nature, directed worshippers to the east end of the courtyard where they found the next important feature: the gate.
There was the only way into the courtyard and the Tabernacle complex: the gate. The entrance was closed by a curtain—but not locked. Entry was open to any who desired to go in. It was a reminder that any could enter, but only by God’s way. The one entrance also declares Jesus as the only way to God. John 10:9 quotes Jesus when He said, “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” And even more explicit is John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”
While the entryway was readily accessible, the one who would enter must do so purposely. The Kingdom of God is not for the casual wanderer but for the one who knows his/her need of salvation. Whosoever may enter, but only by his/her own choice.
The entryway was stunning, resplendent in interwoven threads of blue, purple and scarlet. This served as a reminder that though there is only one way of salvation, it is beautifully attractive to the seeker of God. The colors carried their own message. Blue, because it is the color of the sky, represents Heaven. Purple enjoys an enduring link to royalty, reminding us of God as sovereign Ruler over all of creation. Scarlet speaks of the blood of Christ. By interweaving them, the message is that the sovereignty and righteousness of God, the hope of Heaven and the blood of Christ form an unbreakable bond in our salvation.
The gate was wide enough so that many might enter at the same time. The courtyard was expansive, allowing up to 6,000 worshippers in at any one time. This recalls that the way into the presence of God is accessible to all, that no matter how many might gather in the Kingdom of God, there is room for more. There is room for you. Come and see. The door is open.