How They Worshipped God in the Tabernacle
Ark of the Covenant Bible Story
Leviticus i: 1 to 13; viii: 1 to 13; Exodus xxvii: 20, 21
Now we will tell about some of the services that were held at the Tabernacle, the tent where God lived among his people.
Every morning at sunrise the priests came to the great altar that was before the Tabernacle, and raked the fire, and placed fresh wood upon it, so that it would burn brightly. This fire was never allowed to go out. God had kindled it himself; and the priests watched it closely, and kept wood at hand, so that it was always burning.
Even while the altar was being carried from one place to another, the embers and live coals of the fire were kept in a covered pan, and were taken to the new place for the altar without being allowed to die out; and from the embers of the old fire a new fire was made on the altar.
From this altar outside the Tabernacle the priest took every morning and every afternoon a fire-shovel full of burning coals, and placed them in a bowl hanging on chains, so that, with the fire in it, the bowl could be carried by hand. This bowl with the chains was called "a censer." Upon these burning coals the priest placed some fragrant gum called incense, which when laid on the live coals made a bright silvery cloud and sent forth a strong, pleasant odor. The incense in the censer the priest carried into the Holy Place, and there laid it on the golden altar of incense, which stood next to the vail. This was to teach the Israelites that, like the cloud of incense, their prayers should go up to God.
About nine o'clock in the morning the priest brought a young ox or lamb, and killed it, and caught its blood in a basin. Then he laid the ox or the lamb on the wood which was burning on the altar in front of the Tabernacle, and on the fire he poured also the blood of the slain beast; and then he stood by while the blood and the animal were burned to ashes.
This was the offering, or sacrifice, for all the people of Israel together, and it was offered every morning and every afternoon. It meant that as the lamb, or the ox, gave up his life, so all the people were to give themselves to God, to be his, and only his. And it meant also, that as they gave themselves to God, God would forgive and take away their sins.
There was another meaning in all this service. It was to point to the time when, just as the lamb died as an offering for the people, Jesus, the Son of God, should give his life on the cross, the Lamb of God, dying to take away the sins of the world. But this meaning, of course, the Israelites of that time could not understand, because they lived long before Christ came.
Sometimes a man came to the priest with a lamb or an ox as an offering for himself. It must always be a perfect animal, and the best, without any defects, for God will only take from man his best. The man who wished to worship God led his lamb to the entrance of the court, by the altar; and laid his hands upon its head, as if to say, "This animal stands in my place; and when I give it to God, I give myself." Then the priest killed it, and laid it on the burning wood on the altar, and poured the animal's blood upon it. And the man stood at the entrance of the court of the Tabernacle and watched it burn away, and offered with it his thanks to God and his prayer for the forgiveness of his sins. And God heard and answered the prayer of the man who worshipped him with the offering at his altar.
Every day the priest went into the Holy Place and filled the seven lamps on the Lampstand with fresh oil. These lamps were never allowed to go out; that is, some of them must always be kept burning. While the lamps on one side were put out, in order to be refilled, those on the other side were kept burning until these had been filled and lighted once more. So the lamps in the house of God never went out. Does not this make you think of One who long after this said, "I am the light of the world"?
On the gold-covered table in the Holy Place were always standing twelve loaves of unleavened bread; that is, bread made without any yeast. One loaf stood for each tribe of Israel. On every Sabbath morning the priests came in with twelve fresh loaves, which they sprinkled with incense, and laid on the table in place of the stale loaves. Then, standing around the table, they ate the twelve old loaves. Thus the bread on the table before the Lord was kept fresh at all times.
God chose Aaron and his sons to be the priests for all Israel; and their children, and the descendants who should come after them were to be priests as long as the worship of the Tabernacle, and of the Temple that followed it, should be continued. Aaron, as the high-priest, wore a splendid robe; and a breast-plate of precious stones was over his bosom; and a peculiar hat, called "a miter," was on his head. It may seem strange to us, that when Aaron and his sons were in the Tabernacle, they wore no shoes or stockings, but stood barefooted. This was because it was a holy place in those lands people take off their shoes, as we take off our hats, when they enter places sacred to God and his worship.
Aaron and his sons, as Moses also, belonged to the tribe of Levi, the one among the tribes which stood faithful to God, when the other tribes bowed down to the golden calf. This tribe was chosen to help the priests in the services of the Tabernacle; though only Aaron and his sons could enter the Holy Place; and only the high-priest could go into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was; and he could enter on but one day in each year.
Ark of the Covenant