Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cardboard Cut-Out Gospel

Miniature Tabernacle 002

Besides being super-busy (well, not that busy, but still) working on support-raising for my work in Peru (support God’s mission in Peru), as well as trying to stay on top of schoolwork, keeping up with my ever-growing number of friends, and getting a decent amount of sleep, oh and eating, and showering almost every day, and working on my Spanish…ok, in addition to all of that, I also am still engaged in ministry work in a church, specifically, middle school youth ministry.

So what’s that got to do with the weird picture? Well, I had a bunch of empty boxes lying around in my room cause I gave the contents of those boxes (lots of books) to a friend of mine this week, and I have a Bible study tomorrow to teach to the middle school group that I help lead, so I thought, “Why not build a to-scale, miniature version of the Old Testament Tabernacle of the Testimony?”

Obviously, I lost about half of y’all reading this when you realized just how nerdy I am, and I lost another half of y’all when I mentioned the Old Testament. So if you’re that 0.001% of my readers who are still reading this, this is why this cardboard construction currently set up in my dorm room is relevant to the Gospel, the Great Commission, this blog, life in general, and your life specifically:

Miniature Tabernacle 001This Tabernacle (which means dwelling place/place where someone lives [God, in this case {well, that was in the Old Testament, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves}]), described in Exodus 25-31 and Exodus 35-40, was the place where God’s people (the Israelites) literally met God/came into his presence/were with him. Kind of.

Anyway, around this cardboard Tabernacle was the courtyard wall. You get through the gate (symbolized by my green and blue bandannas kind of in the center of the above photo) to get to everything else, starting with the altar of burnt offering.

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Aerial view of altar of burnt offering
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That guy (standing at about 5 1/2 feet, not counting his priestly hat-thing) is a priest, standing next to the altar of burnt offering.
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Kind of blurry and hard to see–but that’s a poor, helpless cardboard goat in there being barbecued.

To avoid summarizing half the book of Leviticus, we’ll just say that the altar of burnt offering was where the priests would offer sacrifices…like cows, sheep, goats, rams, more cows…and by sacrifice, I mean that the priest would completely burn up some of the animal remains, but the rest (depending on the sacrifice) was left for eating! This was the Old Testament version of a BBQ pit. These sacrifices symbolized the future (well, past for us) sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But we’re not even to God’s actual dwelling place yet.

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The orange bandanna is the curtain the covers the entrance to the Tabernacle. The plastic looking thing is the washbasin.

So now we have the washbasin. Before a priest (yes, a priest, and only a priest can get to this point) can enter the Tabernacle, he would have to wash himself briefly at this washbasin. He had to purify himself before entering God’s presence. Long-story-short, it’s a symbol of baptism (a.k.a. God washing us clean from our sins by water through his Word).

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So now we’ve pulled up the curtain (orange bandanna) and we’re actually looking inside the Tabernacle. To our left, we have the menorah/candelabra/lamp-stand.

Miniature Tabernacle 011If this was the actual Tabernacle (cause the real one was a lot bigger and wasn’t made out of cardboard and my bandannas, if you hadn’t caught on by now), this lamp-stand would literally be the only source of light in here, because the four-layer tent curtains covering the Tabernacle would block out all light. What’s this all about? Just a second…

Miniature Tabernacle 013This blurry picture is not of my loft bed in my dorm room but of the table of show bread, directly across from the lamp-stand, AND (important point) super-close to where God was living. There were twelve loaves of unleavened (no yeast included) bread on this table at all times (they would weekly replace it, and the priests would get to eat the old loaves…nice job, eating food all the time…). Twelve. TWELVE. Like the twelve tribes of Israel (all the families of God’s people in the Old Testament). This symbolized how the people of Israel had communion with God, and was fully fulfilled by Jesus’ gift to us of the Lord’s Supper, where we physically have communion with God. The lamp-stand shining on it shows how God’s favor shines on his people.

Miniature Tabernacle 014Now, we have the altar of incense (yes, it’s blurry again–Google “altar of incense” if you actually want decent-looking portrayals–they’ll be a lot better than my cardboard version). This section where the lamp-stand, the table, and the altar of incense are in was called the “Holy Place”. Only priests could get in here.

Just behind the curtain (bandanna) in the background was the “Holy of Holies”, that is, the holiest place of all time. Only the High Priest could get in the Holy of Holies…but we’ll get to that in a second. This incense (stuff that you burn and it has a really nice smell [well, ok, that’s debatable]) was burning right outside the place where God lived. This incense symbolized/symbolizes our prayers. In other words, God not only hears our prayers–they also smell really good to him (in a sense). So just remember that next time that you’re praying during devotion time or before a meal or at church or with someone or something (and now you’ll probably be wondering, “OK, what exactly does my prayer smell like? If I pray for bacon, will the prayer smell like bacon? Cause bacon smells really good. Or is it like a Pumpkin Spice latte, cause I like StarBucks?”).

Miniature Tabernacle 015And when we lift up the curtain (my bandanna) we have the holiest place. That cardboard thing is my half-hearted attempt at making the Ark of the Covenant (yes, I know, Indiana Jones found a better one, but he almost got killed multiple times getting that one…this project only left me with a whole lot of super-glue stuck on my fingers and a bunch of cardboard scrapings). THIS is where God lived (to be exact, right above the Ark. Doesn’t make sense? Well, if you understood God, would he really be God?

Anyway, if you read Hebrews 9 (a chapter from the New Testament) it explains all of this quite clearly. You jump back to the altar of burnt offering…once a year ONLY the high priest got the privilege of washing himself, sacrificing a goat, and entering through the Holy Place and THEN (this is the once-a-year part) entering past the second curtain into the Holy of Holies/holiest place. TO reiterate that, only one person once a year could come into the full presence of God. The blood of the goat would be sprinkled here, providing for the forgiveness of all of the sins of the people of Israel.

When Jesus died on the cross, he was the fulfillment of that sacrificed goat. It is his blood that gives us forgiveness. His death brought us forgiveness. But more than that, when Jesus died, the inner curtain of the Holy of Holies (by that time in a bigger temple building) literally was torn in half by God (check out Matthew 27:50–51). In other words, God–through the sacrifice of Jesus–literally destroyed the power of sin over us, which was in the way of us entering into his presence, being with him, and having a relationship with him. Instead of having only person able to come close to God, we all can be with him.

So this gigantic cardboard construction that I made for the middle school youth group that I help lead (for a few more weeks before I graduate ):  ) is a gigantic metaphor that shows how God gave up everything–literally, his only Son–just to open the way so that we could be with him for forever. After all, that’s really the whole point of the Gospel, forgiveness, the Kingdom of God, Heaven, the Bible, Jesus’ coming to earth, etc.: God wants to be with us and be in a relationship with us. Like I mentioned earlier, that relationship can start with baptism (remember the washbasin?) and with the Word of his Gospel…and it continues as we commune with him in the Lord’s Supper and dive into his Word. And, like 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” While God in the Old Testament lived in the Tabernacle behind some curtains, now he literally lives in you if you have saving faith in him.

So what does all of this have to with this blog, the Great Commission, etc.? Well, wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew about this good news (that we can have a relationship with God)? Wouldn’t it be great if those who knew this Gospel message shared that news?