On my most-recent vacation, my mother and I went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for the Great Passion Play and other associated attractions, including a Bible museum and religious-art museum.
I especially appreciated both an essentially-private backstage tour of the play’s set and what is billed as a “full-scale replica” of the Tabernacle that God commanded Moses to build in the wilderness.
Like the “life-size” replica of Noah’s Ark that we saw four years ago in Kentucky, the replica of the Tabernacle in Arkansas brought to life this particular Biblical teaching in a way that no two-dimensional picture or diagram can bring it to life.
My mother said that the Tabernacle replica was bigger than she expected, but I said that it was smaller than I expected, and, despite the tour-guide’s claims, no one can really say for sure precisely how big the real Tabernacle was, since the modern equivalent of the Bible’s “cubit” that Moses would have used is debated (more or less than 18 inches).
The tour-guide tried to get us tourists to find Christ in the Tabernacle, such as in the Tabernacle’s golden lampstand’s arguably pointing to Christ’s being the Light of the World (for example, John 8:12; 9:5).
I might have emphasized more the Tabernacle’s — and later the Temple’s — being the place of God’s Old Testament presence with His people in order to bless them with forgiveness (for example, 1 Kings 8:30) and its ultimately being replaced by the human flesh of the man Jesus, which was the place of God’s New Testament presence with His people in order to bless them with forgiveness (for example, John 1:14, where the Greek word translated “dwelt” more-literally means “tabernacled”).
All of the sacrifices associated with the Tabernacle pointed forward to the sacrifice of the God-man Jesus on the cross and only saved those who made those sacrifices through their faith in that coming sacrifice, just as people today are saved by that sacrifice that now has come through their faith in that sacrifice.
Jesus is the Living Water (John 4:10-11) and the Bread of Life (John 6:35-59), to which the Tabernacle’s bronze basin and table of showbread arguably point, and you do not have to go to Arkansas or Kentucky to find Him in real life, for He is present to forgive you at places such as Pilgrim, where His Word is purely preached and His Sacraments are rightly administered.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.