Moses was instructed, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain” (Exodus 25:40). The Bible records this phrase, or variations of it, nine times in reference to the house of God. To be mentioned nine times, the pattern must be very important to God. He is very interested in how things are done in His house.
Exodus 26:30 “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.
Exodus 27:8 “You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.”
Exodus 25:9 “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”
Exodus 31:11 “and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”
Exodus 39:32, 42-43 “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did … According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.”
Numbers 8:4 “And this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was hammered work; according to the pattern that the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.”
Disharmony had marred creation in the first place due to man’s independence and rebellion. Therefore, God required His people to set aside their independence and faithfully follow His lead. It was absolutely necessary. Any generation that refused to follow God’s pattern ended in death and destruction. (See Joshua 22:28; 2 Kings 16:10; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 18-19; Ezekiel 43:10). Israel obeyed the Lord’s instruction and built ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN.
The New Testament deacon, Stephen, was martyred shortly after he testified before the synagogue council. He had referred to the Old Testament story of Moses and the tabernacle pattern.
Acts 7:44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.”
Stephen points out that God had directed the construction and daily operation of the house of the Lord by revelation. It was God’s house, and He wanted it built according to His design. In addition, Stephen referred to the Israelites who had lived around the tabernacle for forth years as the symbolic “church in the wilderness.”
Acts 7:38 “This is the one who was in the congregation (church) in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.”
He reminded his listeners that their forefathers’ constant rebellion had forced them to wander in the wilderness until a whole generation died — even though they travelled in the presence of the tabernacle. Today the Church wanders in a wilderness of conflicting opinions, traditions, habits, and man-made patterns searching for the presence of the Lord “though He in not far from … us” (Acts 17:27).
God was explicit with Moses about the pattern for the tabernacle because it was a shadow of the true tabernacle (the Church), which the Lord would build later.
Hebrews 8:5 “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’”
Hebrews 8:2 “A minister in the holy places, in the true tent (tabernacle) that the Lord set up, not man.”
The True Tabernacle
The true tabernacle – the true house of the Lord, the Church — is the Church Jesus is building.
Hebrews 3:2-6 “Who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Matthew 16:18b “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
If the tabernacle in the wilderness had to be built according to God’s specific pattern, how much more must the true tabernacle, the Church, be built according to the New Testament pattern. Today hundreds if not thousands of books about church planting, church growth, and church multiplication crowd the shelves of Christian bookstores. They tell how to target areas according to demographics, how to promote and market churches, how to conduct services, and how to do whatever it takes to see a church grow in numbers. In other words, they attempt to show leaders how to build the church. Few of these books say, “Let’s go back to the New Testament and build according to the pattern.”
The apostle Paul followed a spiritual blueprint or pattern. First, he laid a foundation, and then he built upon it. He wrote:
1 Corinthians 3:9-10a “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.”
1 Corinthians 3:10b-11 “Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Christian believers are God’s building. We are the Church. However, we are also the Lord’s fellow builders. From the foundation up, builders must build the right way, according to the pattern. Paul warned every builder to “take heed how he builds.” Paul himself worked to keep God’s order in the Church. He said,
1 Corinthians 14:40 KJV “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Colossians 2:5 KJV “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Titus 1:5 KJV “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed you.”