The Glory of The Messiah Foreshadowed

Excitement mingles with nervousness when preparing for a new adventure. It may be simply going to a new holiday destination or on a fact-finding trip or taking on entirely new responsibilities. Anticipation sharpens expectation and uncertainty counterbalances with the sense of dread.

That was probably how a son of Aaron felt when he took on the role of priest for the first time. Having undertaken the sacrificial role and washing, he was now equipped to enter the holy place of the tabernacle. As he approached the only entrance to this tent-like structure, he would have been confronted by beautifully embroidered curtains. These curtains were similar to the one at the entrance to the courtyard. However, one addition was noticed. This one included cherubim. It was as though they implied the warning associated with the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. The cherubim were protectors stationed "to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24) No one was allowed to draw near to God without the covering of death and resurrection life. This could only be provided by a substitute. The priest in effect must hide behind that which had been offered in his stead.

It is almost impossible to imagine the feeling of the priest as he entered this unseen realm for the first time. Sure, he had heard about it from others. He would have been well versed in the setting of the golden furniture and rehearsed in his role, but nothing prepares a person for that first-time experience within the sanctuary of grace.

As he enters, he does so reeking of the smoke and stench of sacrifice. It has permeated his very being. He comes from the arena of noise and death, activity and turmoil, to enter the quietness of God's presence. Perhaps it is in this context that the verse from Psalm 46:10 is most beautifully realized, " Be still, and know that I am God."

How overawed the priest must have felt. Dazzled by the light from the seven branched candlestick as it reflected from the golden objects; bemused by the light as it played with the smoke from the incense altar; awed by the structure and colours, he would be humbled by the wonder of the privilege he was experiencing. He was now in the realm which expressed glory. He had participated in the realm of judgement, which was visible to anyone who looked. Here, he was privileged to see what few others would ever know. He was tasting fragments of God's glory expressed in the Scriptures concerning the Messiah.

What would the priest gaze upon? There was the candlestick with its seven branches. Intuitively you realize that it declares that God's Messiah will light up the way into the Eternal's presence. The anointed One would be the Light of the World. He would be a light piercing the darkness with righteousness, truth, and grace. That magnificent Scripture in Isaiah 9 seems to enlarge on this Messianic hope. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those living in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has dawned... For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward, even for ever." (9: 2, 6, 7)

Isaiah further promotes this concept of Messianic Light, in chapter 60 when he refers to Zion being enveloped in darkness which had covered the whole world. However, " Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you and his glory will be seen upon you." (60: 1, 2)

The light of the Messiah will reveal the wonder of salvation, through substitutionary sacrifice. He will reveal the corrupt nature of the human heart and God's remedy. He will reveal the holiness of the Almighty and he will live it out in time and space. Then, when a person claims Him as Saviour, the Messiah enlightens his heart and mind with the wonder of God's presence. As Psalm 36:9 states: "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." '

The next piece of furniture is the table of showbread. On it are twelve loaves separated by incense. Twelve represents the number of the tribes of Israel, and not one tribe will be unaffected by the coming Messiah. As the Bread of life, He satisfies each and every person from any of the tribes. The Bread was known as the Bread of the Presence. How glorious that sounds. The Messiah expresses the Presence of the Eternal Lord who satisfies the spiritually hungry soul. In the culture of the day, to sit down to a meal provided by another was to be under the other's protection. To be partaking of the Bread of the Presence implied the same. The person was under the protection of the Lord. Peace reigned!

In Deuteronomy 8:3 Moses stressed to the Israelite nation that their nourishment individually and nationally was from the words God had spoken to them. His Words are bread. The Messiah would be the Word of God in human form. On Him, by a commitment of trust, people would be spiritually and eternally nourished. He is the Bread of the Presence.

The remaining piece of furniture is that of the altar of incense. Here the sweet fragrance ushered forth to fill the whole room. It was impossible for the priest not to be permeated by it. This is very important. He would have entered the sanctuary smelling of the death and decay of the world. His own body, also, perspiring from the effort would have exuded an odour. None of this is acceptable in God's presence. There must be harmony between the worshipper and the One worshipped. The one serving and the One served. There can be no offensive odour that causes the holiness and grace of God to be offended.

Here again, the mercy of God is displayed. That which could not be worked up, is graciously given. The Messiah's lived-out righteousness is imparted. A person does not earn it; it is freely given. It is His life, and His life alone, that is a sweet smelling fragrance in the nostrils of God. The priest as he spent time in the holy place was saturated by the fragrance, which overcame the stench with which he had entered. Returning to the everyday scene, he probably would not realize how he had been changed, others would notice, the fragrance coming from him would be the proof of his experiences.

Has the hidden glory of the holy place stepped on to the world stage? Is there one who would dare say or accept recognition as the Messiah portrayed in the holy place? Is there any testimony to a person so living out the conditions of Scripture surrounding the promised One that would cause us to say, "He is the fulfilment of the promises and the metaphors of the tabernacle!"

There are those who beheld such a man in history and called Him, the Messiah. He embraced not only one or two aspects of what was longed for; He expressed them all. He fulfilled the sacrificial and substitutionary requirements. He fulfils the requirements of the Glory. He said of Himself, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil" ' (Matthew 5:17) Others said of Him, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God ." (Matthew 16:16). We call Him Yeshua.