The Tabernacle

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The tabernacle, as described in the next five entries, was the sacred house where God met with his people. It was a place of dwelling for God, a place for meeting, a place for revelation, and a place for sacrifice and atonement. The tabernacle is a symbol of God's dwelling with the people of the covenant and is the basis for the New Testament understanding of the incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the church.

The Tabernacle of Moses

The central theme of the Mosaic tabernacle is the dwelling of God in the midst of Israel. The actualization of God's dwelling is expressed in every aspect of the tabernacle, including its structure, materials, courts, sanctuaries, and furnishings including the altars, the lampstand, and the ark of the covenant.

The Work of the Priest In the Tabernacle

The legislation in the Pentateuch assigned numerous duties to the Hebrew priests and Levites. Chief among them were maintaining and transporting the tabernacle (Num. 34) and performing the rituals and liturgies associated with Israelite worship in the sanctuary (Exod. 2829). It is likely that some of these duties were determined by lot and discharged on a rotating basis (cf. 1 Chron. 2324).

The Role of the Worshiper In Old Testament Sacrificial Ritual

The procedural order of sacrificial worship outlined in the following paragraphs is a reconstruction based on the prescriptions for the offerings and sacrifices set forth in Leviticus 15. Details may vary given the specific type of sacrifice being presented, whether offerings of expiation, offerings of consecration, or offerings of fellowship.

The Tabernacle of David

During the Davidic era the tabernacle of Moses and its worship were moved to Gibeon. In addition, David set up a worship center in Zion-a tent of meeting, also known as David's tabernacle-and instituted a nonsacrificial worship of praise and thanksgiving.

Features of Davidic Worship

During the period of the tabernacle of David, regular psalmic worship was offered at the tent on Zion that housed the ark of the covenant. (The Mosaic sanctuary with its sacrifices remained at Gibeon. ) There are no biblical rubrics for this worship, as there are for the sacrificial cult. The structure of the Zion festivals and the worshiper's acts must be inferred from the relevant Psalms and historical accounts, such as 1 Chronicles 16. These materials reflect a festival celebrating the Lord's ascension as King and the renewal of the covenant.