HomeVisionStatement Of FaithArticlesPhoto GalleryEditor's NoteLinksContact

The Two Tabernacles

There was a time in the history of Israel when two tabernacles co-existed. It was during the reign of David. The two Tabernacles are:

  • The Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon (1 Chr 21:29; 2 Chr 1:3,13)
  • The Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem (1 Chr 15:1)

The Tabernacle of Moses

To begin understanding the Tabernacle of David, we must first trace the footprints of the Tabernacle of Moses. It was a nomadic tent which the Israelites would set-up as they rested during their journey through the Wilderness and into the Promised Land.

The glory of the presence of God rested and resided in the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the Holy of Holies.

Upon entering the Promised Land, the Tabernacle of Moses was settled at Shiloh in Samaria. For about 400 years, during the period of the Judges, offerings and sacrifices were made there.

It was during the time of Eli, the second last judge of Israel that the Israelites decided to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the Philistines. They reasoned that the Ark would be their best good luck charm. If God would not allow the Philistines to capture the Ark, He would surely lead them to victory!

But the Lord was angry with the Israelites and did otherwise. He allowed the Philistines to defeat them and capture the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4). Israel then become "Ichabod" (meaning "no glory") for the glory of God had departed (1 Samuel 4:21-22). The Tabernacle of Moses in Shiloh was then without the Ark, without the glory of His presence.

The Ark is the glory of His presence! His presence can bring a blessing or a curse. After the Philistines captured the Ark, they carried it to their city of Ashdod and placed it in the temple of their god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5). The statute of Dagon fell face downwards on the ground bowing in front of the Ark. The Lord punished the people of Ashdod with plagues. They then sent the Ark to another Philistine city Gath. There again the Lord inflicted them.

After seven months in Philistia, the Ark was returned to Israel on an ox cart with symbolic gifts from the Philistines as payments of their sins against the Lord (1 Samuel 6).

The Ark finally arrived eight miles west of Jerusalem in a town called Kiriath Jearim. The people fetched it and took it to the house of a man named Abinadab where it stayed for about 70 years (20 years under Samuel's judgeship; 40 years under Saul's kingship; and almost 10 years into David's kingship).

During this 70 year period, there was no Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle of Moses located at Gibeon. The Holy of Holies was empty without the Ark. The priests continued to minister at the tabernacle, offering daily sacrifices, but they were just ritual motions without His glory and His presence.

The killing truth is that the Ark was located in a farmhouse situated only about five miles from Gibeon where the Tabernacle of Moses was. It would be an easy task to restore the Ark back to the Tabernacle of Moses. But no one cared enough to do so until one man swore and vowed to the Lord that he would not sleep in a bed until he could provide a proper "dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob" (Psalm 132:1-5).

The Tabernacle of David

Instead of returning the Ark to the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon, David pitched a tent in Jerusalem and placed the Ark inside.

The glory of the Lord returned. In His presence is great joy! God was enthroned in the praises of His people. David appointed priests to minister before the Lord continually night and day, 24 hours daily without ceasing (1 Chronicles 16:37). In praise and worship upon musical instruments. From the soft harp to the loud cymbals (Psalm 150).

Worship was both structured and spontaneous. The priests were skilled singers and instrumentalists. They sung and played according to prescribed musical scores, some of which were reflected in the superscription of the Psalms. But there were also new and spontaneous songs! The new song and the selah mentioned often in the Psalms, could refer to outbreaks of improvised spontaneous praise and worship.

Many of the Psalms could have been composed during the worship in the Tabernacle of David. Some of their lyrics reflected the importance of a righteous and holy life more than animal sacrifices and burnt offerings (Psalm 40:6; 51:16-17). But it does not mean that there were no burnt offerings and sacrifices in the Tabernacle of David.

During the ceremony of transporting the ark from the house of Obededom into the Tabernacle of David, David sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf every six paces (2 Samuel 6:13, NIV). The journey may be about 6 miles (31680 feet). If each step were approximately 2 feet, 6 paces would be 12 feet. David could have stopped 2,640 times during the journey to offer 2,640 oxen and 2,640 calves. The whole journey may run into days or weeks. But it could be done in one day as there were prior preparation, cooperation and division of labour. If 6 paces take 6 seconds and the sacrifice of the two animals takes another 24 seconds, the whole trip would be 30 seconds times 2,640, about 22 hours. Again, this is just my guesswork.

Upon arrival, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings in the Tabernacle before the Lord (2 Sam 6:17). There were therefore altars for burnt offerings and such articles in the Tabernacle of David. David was not presumptuous in doing his own ways but he knew the Word and the ways of the Lord. Until Jesus came two thousand years ago to die for the sins of the whole world, blood sacrifices were still needed for the redemption of sins in Israel.

There was great intimacy and transparency between the Lord and David. David actually dwelt in the Tabernacle (Psalm 23:6, 27:4). He knew what it meant to praise and pray without ceasing.

Praising and worshipping God without ceasing is possible if we know what God really requires of us. Living a life of righteousness and holiness is a sweet fragrant offering of praise and worship unto the Lord. It is not dependent on the songs and the music. When the singer becomes the song, his life provides the lyrics and his heart beats the music. More than a heart of worship, God requires a heart that is pure and undefiled, unspotted by the world.

How can we pray without ceasing (1 The 5:17)? Does that means many repeats and vain repetitions? God is not interested in that (Matthew 6:7). I personally believe praying without ceasing is a continual dialogue with the Lord. Walking and talking with Him. When we pray, He listens. When He speaks, we listen. In between is waiting on Him and fellowshipping with Him, bearing His presence everywhere we go.

This communication with God can take place with or without words or sounds. Waiting upon the Lord can be done even when we are sleeping. The psalmist waited on the Lord even on his bed (Psalm 63:6). The position of the heart is very important - waiting on the Lord as a servant (waiter) wanting to do whatever the Master (Lord) desires, and not as a master (ourselves) wanting the Lord (servant/waiter) to do this and do that!

In the awesome presence of the Lord, no words could fully express our hearts. Songs break forth into the unsung strains of silent stillness. And the stillness intensifies and swells until another new song breaks forth. A new song is a new life springing and flowing out in rivers of joy and gladness! Very often with tears of repentance and a heart of gratitude! And very often with prophetic utterances and insights!

The Tabernacle of David is everything about the glory of the presence of the Lord. Without His glory, there will be disgrace. Without His presence, there is no light and no life!

What is a Tabernacle without the glory of the presence of the Lord? What is a Church when the Lord's presence is not there? What is a Christian who does not bear the presence of the Lord in his life?

The presence of the Lord is dependent on our relationship with Him. The psalmist David, a man after God's own heart, pleaded with God, "Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).

And the presence of the Lord is not something we can play with or pretend to have. It can either bring a blessing or a curse. A blessing when we abide by His ways, and a curse when we go against His ways. There were many who are blessed in the presence of the Almighty. And there are also records of people who died in His presence (1 Cor 11:30)!