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Chapter 6: The Tent Of Meeting
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Chapter 6: The Tent Of Meeting

Chapter 6

The Tent Of Meeting


Dan L. Kelly, Elder Emeritus


We have been suggesting over the past several chapters that one of the reasons for the Sanctuary was that God wanted to dwell among His people. That is true, in every sense of the word. But, at this time, perhaps we should ask ourselves a deeper question. Why?

James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem, The Creation which begins,

“And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.”

The poem was set to music by someone and was performed by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. We did it in our High School Chorus, too. It’s a great piece!


But it probably falls short of what God’s complete intentions were in the creation of the world or, for that matter, the Universe and all things therein! The same would hold true for the Sanctuary. If we were to restrict God’s purpose in building the Sanctuary just to provide him a place to sort of vacation with His people from time to time we would be woefully selling Him and the idea of the Sanctuary grossly short.


This place called “The Sanctuary” or the “Tabernacle” was also called “The Tent of Meeting.” We need to restrict ourselves, somewhat, to this premise in this segment so we can understand God’s purpose for “meeting with His people” more fully.


In the Old Sanctuary (Earthly) services there were three phases of the ministry of salvation for the people of Israel: substitutionary sacrifice, priestly mediation and judgment. Before we are finished with this series, we shall see that the Bible teaches that all three of these ministries are inherent in the ministry of Jesus for all of us as well. While this may be a new thought for us, it nevertheless is true.


In Israel, the substitutionary sacrifice was, most generally of course, the lamb. When a person sinned he was to bring a lamb to the gate of the courtyard of the Sanctuary and in the presence of the priest, place his hands on the head of the lamb and confess the very thing of which he was guilty thus, transferring figuratively the sin and guilt to the lamb. The lamb, becoming his “substitute,” was then killed by his own hand and some of the blood was taken by the priest into the Sanctuary and ministered in the sinner’s behalf.


This second phase was the priestly mediation. As the priest took the blood from the sacrifice into the Holy Place, this represented the sacrificed life of the sinner. (The life of the creature is in the blood." Leviticus 17:11) The priest then sprinkled a little of the blood in front of the curtain (veil) separating the Holy from the Most Holy place and placed a small amount of incense on the Altar of Incense which stood just before the veil. The smoke of the incense would rise like a cloud symbolically carrying with it the blood of the sinner, whose guilt the sacrificial victim bore, up and over the veil and into the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was. On this Ark was a lid called “The Mercy Seat.” This was the representation of God’s throne on Earth. In fact, this is where He “met” with his people in a very real sense by means of the Holy Shekinah, the symbol of his presence. This is where His grace was meted out. This is how the people of Israel received forgiveness for their sins. It was through Grace and trust in the “substitute” which represented – well, Jesus, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.


The third phase of the ministry of Salvation was Judgment.


This phase will take a long time to explain adequately so we will simply give a quick overview subject to a full explanation in the near future.


I learned in High School physics class that matter is neither created nor destroyed. Assuming that axiom still holds true today, guilt is much the same. Once there is guilt, it is there. Someone becomes responsible for it. First the sinner, then the Substitute, then the Mediator, then the Ruling Authority, in this case God and, as a result of His position, His throne.


We have followed the sin of the old Israelites through these steps to the place where the sin and its guilt has left the sinner and traveled all the way to the forgiving party and His throne, the Mercy Seat. Now there was, annually, a judgment process for the purpose of removing the sin, and the guilt thereof, from the sanctuary and from the people of Israel in the process. This was a time when the sin turned around and traveled the opposite way – back out of the sanctuary. It was called “The Day of Atonement.” It was a time of Judgment.


There was a process by which the High Priest first cleansed himself, then ritually cleansed, justified and set right the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place and the Court Yard symbolically “collecting” all the sin and guilt and disposing of it forever. Before and during this procedure, all the people of Israel were required to examine themselves as well. They were to make sure that they had confessed all their sins before the High Priest began his work of cleansing. This way, when his work in the sanctuary was complete, not only was the Tent of Meeting clean and purified, but all the people of Israel were clean and purified and “Sanctified” as well.


In this way, in a very real sense, there was a judgment that took place while the people “afflicted themselves,” testing whether there was any guilt remaining that still needed to be dealt with. Leviticus 16:29 says, “…ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:” When this had been done, they were adjudicated clean and the priest could go into the Most Holy place to cleanse it – justify it – make atonement. That is to say, bring Israel and God back together as one: at-one-ment; in the tent of meeting.


That’s the overall view. Next time we will look at the Courtyard in more detail and just what goes on there, and how it may affect us today.