All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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God’s Sanctuary and Royal Palace
Based on Exodus 25–27, 30, 36–38, and 40

When God gives Israel His covenant at Mount Sinai, He functions as both their God and their King. So when He requests them to build a portable sanctuary, He wants it located in the middle of their encampment. It will be His dwelling place, and will allow Him to move with His people.

Royal Palace

The ancient Hebrews think in a concrete and literal manner, so God uses visual cues to help them understand His sovereignty and His mercy.

The sanctuary is in one sense a royal palace, with two rooms and an outer court. The throne room contains the golden ark, covered with winged cherubim at either end. In the ancients’ way of thinking, these are throne guardians. The ark represents the lower part of God’s throne or His footstool, since God says, “Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool.” Its lid is the mercy seat, where in ancient times, one received mercy by bowing at the king’s feet.

The adjacent room is the king’s living quarters with three pieces of furniture. On the north side is the table of showbread with twelve loaves of bread and a pitcher with a bowl to pour wine into. This indicates that food and drink are provided for the king. On the south side stands the seven-branched golden lampstand that gives light to the room, and on the west side, next to the curtain of the throne room, is the golden altar of incense. It provides perfume for both rooms, since the curtain did not reach to the ceiling.

God’s Temple

The sanctuary is also God’s temple with its golden furniture. It has a court and two rooms—the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place. In the Most Holy Place, the ark symbolizes the footstool of His throne, demonstrating that He is God of both Heaven and earth.

On the north side of the Holy Place is the table with showbread, also known as the bread of His presence. The twelve loaves of bread represent the twelve tribes of Israel who are always in His presence. They also serve as Israel’s continual thank offering to God. On the south side stands the seven-branched lampstand, fueled by pure olive oil. It symbolizes the light of God’s presence.

Finally, next to the curtain that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, is the altar of incense. The sweet smell from it permeates the room and rises over the curtain to perfume the Most Holy Place. This incense symbolizes the prayers of the righteous that ascend to God.

How God Deals With Sin

The layout of the sanctuary demonstrates how God deals with sin. The entrance to the court is on the east, where the worshiper approaches God. The sinner seeks forgiveness by bringing a lamb as a sin offering, and the priest offers it on the altar of whole burnt offering. He then cleanses himself at the laver and enters the Holy Place with the blood, thereby transferring the sin to the sanctuary.

In the Holy Place, the smoke of the altar of incense rises over the curtain into the Most Holy Place as the high priest intercedes for the sinner before God. On the yearly Day of Atonement, the sanctuary is cleansed of all sin.

In His wisdom, God uses the sanctuary to communicate His covenant in a show-and-tell manner. His sanctuary is both a divine dwelling place and a royal palace—each with their distinctive functions and multiple meanings.

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