The Tabernacle of David

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the Biblical typology of the tabernacle of Moses. We defined the word tabernacle as a dwelling, and showed how other translations used the word tent in its place. We determined that the tabernacle was God’s plan to dwell with His people, Israel, at that point in history.  Today’s post is going to continue looking at the tabernacle, but will focus on the tent erected on Mount Zion during the reign of King David.

Historical Background

Before we can look at the New Testament significance of the Tabernacle of David, we have to look at the historical background of why David had the tabernacle raised in Jerusalem in the first place. The tabernacle of Moses was still standing and in use in Gibeon, but as we’ll see, the Ark was not there.

In 1 Samuel 4, we read that about a hundred years before David came into power, the Israelites were at war with the Philistines. They weren’t faring well in battle, so they took it upon themselves to bring the Ark of the Covenant (which, as we mentioned yesterday, symbolized the presence of God) out of the Tabernacle of Moses and into battle with them. They figured that it would bring them victory, but in the end, the Ark was captured by the Philistines and taken back to their city of Ashdod. The people of Ashdod ended up being judged by God (they were afflicted with tumors – my lesson said these were probably hemorrhoids…eghh…), so they had the Ark sent to Gath, who in turn had it sent to Ekron. Each city having the same fate (hemorrhoids), they finally decided to have the Ark sent back to Israel. Once in Israel, the Ark made it’s way to Kiriath Jearim, where it stayed until the time of David.

After David had come into power, he decided to bring the Ark back into it’s rightful place – the center of Israel’s worship. He set up an Ark-moving party, and they started transporting the Ark on a cart back to Jerusalem. The only problem was, this was not the prescribed method of moving the Ark – God had commanded that it be moved on poles so that it would not have to be touched by the priests who carried it. Instead, as they moved the cart along, one of the priests put his hand on the Ark to steady it, and God immediately strikes him dead. This angers and confuses David, who probably thought he was doing the right thing by having the Ark transported back to it’s proper place. Instead, David has the Ark placed in the home of the nearest resident and goes back to Jerusalem empty-handed.

Three months later, David hears that the household where he had left the Ark was experiencing great blessing, so he is stirred to try moving the Ark again to the center of Israel’s worship. This time he is careful to move the Ark in the way prescribed in the Law, on the shoulders of Levites, and he offers the right sacrifices to the Lord as the Ark enters Jerusalem. And as we mentioned before, instead of taking the Ark to the existing tabernacle in Gibeon, David has a new tent pitched on Mount Zion especially for the Ark.

Moses’ Tabernacle vs. David’s Tabernacle

As we talked about yesterday, Moses’ tabernacle had 3 compartments – the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place.  As you can see from this diagram from my lesson, David’s tabernacle had only one compartment, and this compartment corresponded to the Most Holy Place in Moses’ tabernacle:

In this new tent, the Ark was the only fixture inside, and David set up a new order of worship here. The tabernacle in of Moses, in Gibeon, was still in use. In 1 Chronicles 16, where it talks about David’s tabernacle, it mentions the old tabernacle by saying “David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon to present burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the LORD, which he had given Israel.” (v. 39-40). At the new tabernacle, David set up many priests to serve before the Ark of the Lord. Their jobs included sacrifice, singing and music, thanksgiving, and guarding the door of the tent. Most amazingly, there was no veil! As my lesson put it, “people had daily access into the presences of God…there was a constant flow of people into the Tabernacle of David, bringing praise and worship before the Ark of the Lord.”

New Testament Fulfillment

David’s tabernacle serves many great illustrations with New Testament significance.

  • Open access into the presence of God. When Christ died, the veil in the Temple blocking the Most Holy Place from the people, ripped in two from top to bottom (see Matthew 27:51). Because of this, we have the authority to “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).  This open access is illustrated in David’s tabernacle, where the people could enter God’s presence and worship Him freely.
  • Unity. One of the hallmarks of the reign of David was the unity of the nation of Israel. Throughout the times before David and much of the time after, the nation was split in different ways, but during his reign the nation was one. The tabernacle in Jerusalem served as the center of worship for this unified nation. This illustrates the unity that believers have in Christ, which Jesus prayed about in John 17: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (v. 22-23)
  • Our Life in Christ. One of the themes that can easily be seen in David’s returning the Ark to the center of Israel’s worship is joy. David and the people experience great joy in their rejuvenated worship before the Lord, with singing, dancing, and music. At the same time, the Christian life is described throughout the New Testament as a life of joy. This joy comes from doing what we were created to do, just as the Israelites were joyful in returning to what they were called to do – worship.

As a Biblical type, the tabernacle of David is only mentioned once in the New Testament. In Acts 15, James (the brother of Jesus) quotes the prophet Amos as saying “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages” (v. 16-17).  The context of this statement by James is a conversation between the leaders of the Church over whether Gentiles should be allowed to convert to Christianity. Therefore, what James is doing is referring to the great spiritual revival that happened in David’s time (represented by the new tabernacle) and comparing it to the spiritual revival that was occurring at that time with the great influx of gentiles into the Church. And with this new revival came all the things that we saw come with the return of the Ark to Jerusalem – open access to God, unity, and a joyful, purposeful life.

See the NEXT post in this series –>


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