First, Exodus 26:1 outlines the materials to be used for making the curtains which will surround the interior area of the Tabernacle: "Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them..."
This inner part will be then covered with a lining made of goat hair with two more coverings made with "ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows," (26:14) which is, in effect, an outer tent. The inner sacred space is covered with leather, an earthly material, derived from flesh. We will visit this again in a bit.
Now, Exodus 26:31: "Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it..." This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.
On to Exodus 26:36: "For the entrance to the tent make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen..." This covers the entrance of the Tabernacle from the outer courtyard.
This all seems very orderly: The curtains are to carry the colors of the evening sky: blues and purples, with a fiery red, as from a sunset. You move from entering the Tabernacle with a curtain of just the heavenly colors, to curtains with cherubim worked into them. Interestingly enough, only the high priest will see the curtains with the cherubim worked into them. The people will only see the one curtain without the cherubim.
The cherubim in the curtains in the inner area show that this isn't just the beautiful heavenly sky overhead; these curtains enclose a sacred space representing Heaven, the court of the King of the Universe.
Now, Chapter 28 of Exodus explains the priestly garments Aaron and his sons will wear. The garments are to give them "dignity and honor" ( verse 2). The garments set these men apart to serve the Lord as priests. Think about it: Without the garments, they are indistinguishable from other men. Don the garments, and they are the priests of the most high God. What are the materials to be used to produce all of the parts of the priestly ensemble? "Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen." (verse 5)
Their clothing, however, does not have the cherubim worked into the cloth. They wear the sacred materials on the outside, but on the inside, they are still men of flesh. They are not angels serving as men; they are men who have been clothed with power from Heaven. Without the clothing, they are still men. Their dignity and honor are bestowed. Thus, they are the inverse of the Tabernacle: the outer garments show sanctity only because it is given. The Tabernacle encloses its sanctity and must be entered into only by men who are clothed properly.
The men serving in the Tabernacle are arrayed with the same sacred colors and linen as the inner sacred areas of the Tabernacle, not with the leather that covered the outside of the Tabernacle.
Consider: What did God cover Adam and Eve after they sinned? The skin of a slain animal. The Tabernacle will not just be another covering for a sinful nation using animal skins. God is moving His people into a deeper relationship with Him and He is going to use a different kind of covering: An animal will be slain, yes, but the covering will be blood. Not a covering made from dead flesh, but a covering that carries life in it. Leviticus 17:11 makes that clear: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." Jesus's blood carries life and we are recipients of His very own life when we are saved by it.
How does the Tabernacle then point to Jesus? John puts it well: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (1:14) The word for "dwelling" here is the word for "tent" and "tabernacle." So, Jesus was the Tabernacle in human form, covered with an earthly outer covering of flesh. Within Him was a sacred space occupied by the very Lord of the Universe. The Tabernacle becomes a representation of the One to come.
But there's more. Jesus also donned the "garment" of the priests--His miracles. His miracles set Him apart from other men. For example, at the marriage at Cana, He was just one more guest at a table. But, once He turned the water into wine, He was now a Man set apart for sacred service. John 10:37-8 underscores this: "But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me." John 14:11 says, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."
Jesus looked like a mere man, but He was "clothed" with power from on high when He was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him and He heard His Father's voice proclaiming Him. So, Jesus came to be our High Priest (the book of Hebrews beautifully unpacks that) but He also provided the offering itself: His own blood would not only cover the nation of Israel, but the whole world. Not just once a year, but for all time.
So, the Tabernacle and the priests were intimately connected: one did not exist without the other. The one was the place to meet the Lord by ones chosen to provide that interface between Heaven and Earth. They will chosen by God and despite the temporary providing of atonement, the priests point to the One to come.
Paul also writes, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:45-49)
The earthly Tabernacle that was moved from place to place, showing that God moves among His people wherever they go, was a representation of the One who would walk among us, preside over us and die for us...so that He may live in us!
This is so rich and we will continue as the Lord leads!
This is so rich and we will continue as the Lord leads!