What is the ‘Tabernacle of David’?

I was asked to unpack the biblical basis for night and day prayer and the restoration of the tabernacle of David as part of our YWAM Cambridge staff training retreat. I started with a quick run-through of my seven reasons for 24:7 prayer, and then looked at the ‘tabernacle of David’.

– It’s a phrase that has been particularly foundational in the development of IHOP Kansas City’s ministry of non-stop worship and intercession: they received a word from the Lord that He would establish ‘prayer in the spirit of the tabernacle of David’.

– It’s mentioned in Acts 15, specifically in verse 16, in the context of the discussion of Gentiles becoming believers. James confirms the will of God has always been to reach the Gentiles by quoting the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12:

‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name
Says the Lord who does all these things.’

– But what exactly is this ‘tabernacle of David’? 1 Chronicles 16 picks up the story (found in 2 Samuel 6) of David bringing the ark of the covenant into the city of Jerusalem. And it specifically states that the ark of the covenant was set “in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it”, before going on to talk about those who were appointed to lead worship on their musical instruments: “stringed instruments and harps,… cymbals,… trumpets”.

– It’s particularly important to notice a little detail that is easily missed if you let Biblical place-names blur into each other (as we are too often guilty of doing!). In 1 Chronicles 16:39-40, it specifies that the old tabernacle (of Moses) was still at Gibeon, and was still maintaining the rituals of morning and evening sacrifice. But this means that the tabernacle of David was not the same as the tabernacle of Moses!

– So then we need to remember what the tabernacle of Moses was like. It’s described in the latter half of Exodus, and in Leviticus. There was a courtyard, where only Israelites were allowed, with an altar for sacrifices and a wash-basin. There was the tabernacle itself, in which only Levite priests were allowed, in which was the altar of incence, the menorah and the show-bread. Then there was the Holy of Holies, into which only the High Priest could go and only once a year, after he had been sprinkled with the blood.

– In contrast, the tabernacle of David had no animal sacrifices, and there is no evidence that it had any hierarchical separation either.

– When we note that David brought it into Jerusalem at the start of his 33-year reign, where it continued until it was replaced by Solomon’s temple immediately after David’s death, then suddenly we’re struck by the vivid prophetic picture the tabernacle of David is of Jesus Christ, the descendent of David, whose 33-year life made possible free access for all into God’s presence.

– And we continue to ask God for revelation as to what it means for the tabernacle of David to be fully ‘restored’.

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