I recently finished crocheting a throw that I had started some time before Christmas. There was a season of my life when crafting household decorations, sewing clothes for my young daughter, canning homemade vegetables and jellies made from my garden and orchard, and baking bread and cakes were my delight. The daily study of God’s Word and focused prayer would sometimes run over a couple of hours before my husband returned home from work to enjoy a cheerful house and a home-cooked meal. When I think about those days gone by, I miss the simplicity of that life and the joy of spontaneous creativity. So much meaning and purpose.
The text in Exodus describing God’s plan for the first tabernacle touches me in many ways that remind me of the deep love I felt when caring for the needs of my family so long ago. I read somewhere that the temple where sacrifice was made on the altar of burnt offering could be considered a ‘domestic’ setting, since the place of God’s presence in Israel was this tabernacle, meaning His house or palace. The tabernacle included domestic furnishings, such as a lamp and a table. In fact, God created a pattern for each item to be placed in His house, all highly decorated and elaborately designed – the Ark of the Testimony, the Table for the Showbread, the Gold Lampstand, the Altar of Burnt Offering, and the Tabernacle itself, both the outer and inner court. Having a pattern to follow allowed the craftsman to concentrate on perfectly molding the intricacies of each design on exact measurements of wood and metal structures. God also chose costly, beautiful, threads of blue, purple, and scarlet to weave color and design onto the fine linen and protective wool and animal skins that would hang over and within His tabernacle. The various woods used for pillars, for utensils, and for the altar were chosen with divine understanding and fashioned for functionality. Even God’s use of gold and silver fittings, overlays, and crowning surfaces hammered into loops, poles, clasps, lamps, and artistic representations of angelic beings begs one to look up to the King of Kings for the redemption of man. So much meaning and purpose.
Much has been written about the symbolism in the design of the Tabernacle. As a side note, I once heard a sermon in which the pastor described the differences in men and woman using the stereotype of the stay-at-home mom and the bread-winning husband (no gender denigration intended). He said that the woman concentrates on keeping the inside of the house in order, while the man takes care of the outside chores. How interesting to me (a woman) that God described in Exodus the inner view of His house before moving to the outer court. It is the innermost place, the Holy of Holies, where enclosed by ten beautiful curtains resided the Ark of the Testimony. The Ark represented the covenant between God and man, the Law, the mercy of God, and God’s indwelling Presence. Since the redemptive work of Christ Jesus, that testimony resides in the believer’s heart. I think about the inner me that communes with God’s Spirit who dwells with me, corrects me, forgives me, and reminds me of His faithfulness.
Then there was the table for the showbread that displayed the twelve loaves of bread representing the twelve tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people. These loaves were symbolically placed before the face of God so that He would look upon them continually and remember His chosen. Isn’t it good to know that we now have our Lord Jesus continually interceding for us? – Romans 8:34. We are always before His face. I love the prayer from Numbers 6:24-26 that says, “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” – New King James Bible.
The gold lampstand seems the loveliest of the ornaments in the tabernacle. The lampstand was crafted entirely out of one solid gold piece. The main lamp in the center was flanked by three branches on either side. The bowls, blossoms, branches, and knobs were highly decorated, and the flames were fed from the purest of oil. The lampstand was placed in the outer court so that it would be visible and inspirational to all the people. The symbolic interpretations of the seven lamps are virtually endless. The number seven means completion or perfection, as described in Genesis 1:31 when God rested on the seventh day after seeing all that He had made. God pronounced that it “indeed was very good.” In Revelation 4:5, the seven lamps of fire symbolize the seven Spirits of God. In Isaiah 11:2-3, the seven Spirits of God are attributed to Christ in who resides 1) the Spirit of the Lord, 2) the Spirit of wisdom, 3) the Spirit of understanding, 4) the Spirit of counsel, 5) the Spirit of might, 6) the Spirit of knowledge, and 7) the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. Also, the lamps in the gold lampstand were positioned so that the light would be shed principally in one direction, symbolizing the Christ to come. In John 8:12, Jesus declared, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.” How appropriate that the artistic perfection of the lampstand would represent the Light of the World, Christ Jesus who is absolute truth, knowledge, power, and wisdom.
The Altar of Burnt Offering might be aptly described as a cooking surface for the sacrificial animal. Sometimes the burnt offering would be cooked and eaten by the priests. During certain feasts, the priest and the one who offered the sacrifice would share in eating the sacrificed animal. At all times, certain parts of the sacrificed animal would be entirely burned until only smoke and ashes remained. “These sacrifices were called korbanot. The word korban means ‘something which draws close.’” The main purpose of sacrifice was to bring people closer to God. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/understanding-biblical-sacrifice-korbanot/ There are three purposes of the sacrifice: the giving up of something that belongs to the giver, the substitution of the offering for the person who deserves punishment (and therefore, receives mercy), and the means of coming closer to God. Animal life was offered to preserve human life. To that end, the final sacrifice was made when Jesus Christ offered Himself on our behalf by dying on the Cross. Christ fulfilled the requirement of blood atonement so that all can now live eternally with God.
Perhaps I am too familiar with my comparisons of the natural to the ritual and the spiritual. Yet, in my simple belief, I have found something beautiful and meaningful from this reading of God’s instruction to Moses. This house and all that God included inside appealed to my sense of home and family, of protection and sacrificial living, and of a desire to create objects of warmth and covering. Is it so odd, then, to think my taking up a crochet hook with colored yarn might lead me to reflect on the spiritual meaning and purpose of God’s design for His house where He kept His family close?