Chapter 27:9-21 (ESV) - “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.
“You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.
Question to consider: What was the duty of the people?
If you go to a trusted search engine or look through some study Bibles, it should be fairly easy to find an illustration of the tabernacle based on the detailed instructions given in chapters 25-27. I’m not as smart as Moses or the ancient Israelites so it is easier for me to work off of an illustration than a description. It is also possible that the LORD gave Moses a vision of the tabernacle to go along with the instructions, but if that was the case, Moses did not mention it in the text. I still have to keep reminding myself that Moses was in his eighties when he received all of these instructions which seems like such a daunting task for someone that age.
Today’s passage deals with the outer court of the tabernacle. It was a rectangle of curtains that is listed as 100 cubits long (150 feet), 50 cubits wide (75 feet), and 15 cubits tall (about 22.5 feet). So someone from outside of the large court would not be able to see the work of the priests inside. The court contained the covered Holy Place which housed the bread of the Presence, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense. Within the covered Holy Place was a square-shaped place containing the Ark of the Covenant. When you think about all of the pillars of bronze banded in silver, the woven curtains with expensive yarn, the artwork and detail that went into the building of everything, it was truly a magnificent structure, and only a small portion of the people were able to enter through its gates.
The courtyard is where most of the priests did their sacrifices. Just a handful of priests were chosen to enter into the Holy Place to maintain the bread of the Presence and keep the Lampstand lit, and only Moses and the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, and the high priest was only allowed in once a year to come before the mercy seat on behalf of the people after making the sacrifice for his own sin on the Altar in front of the curtain.
The duty of the rest of the people of Israel was to keep the priests in adequate supply of pure olive oil to keep the Lampstand lit and to provide the priests with animals to sacrifice for the sins of the people. The image of the priests doing the work to trim the wicks and keep the Lampstand burning is like the pastor who continually prepares himself to deliver the word of God to his flock.
Spiritually, we are like the olives that have been hammered and pressed to produce the pure oil that burns with the light of the gospel to the glory of God. I think Paul had this image in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-8)
Dear heavenly father, surely one day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. Please use our times of suffering for Your glory to shine the light of the gospel. Help us to keep our own lamps supplied with the oil of faith through Your word that we may be ready to greet our Lord when He returns. Amen.