Lessons from the Tabernacle
God dwelling among His people! What a wonderful thought! There is no true blessing, no true joy, no permanent happiness apart from God. The creature's blessing is wrapped up in the Creator. In Him is all blessing, its start and its finish, its fulness and its finality. Apart from this blessedness there is absolutely nothing.
It cannot be gainsaid that Christians generally are content to walk on a very low level. If they are sure of their own salvation, they very often do not trouble about anything else, either the salvation of others, or the devoted answer in heart to the God who has redeemed them. They have little acquaintance with their Bibles, little knowledge of prayer, very often no family prayer.
Thank God, if they are saved, but alas! their religion on the whole is purely selfish, beginning and ending with the desire to be assured of heaven when they die.
But God does not want us to defer heaven till we get there. We shall dwell with God then, but He desires to dwell among His people now. God desires your society now. Do you desire His?
I remember hearing a servant of the Lord narrate how be gave an address to a number of Christians. He dwelt on the forgiveness of sins, and he was rewarded by seeing beaming faces, and hearing murmurs of approval and enjoyment. He then went on to speak of God's thoughts for His people, the truth about the church, the assembly, God's dwelling-place, and there was languid attention, and no murmurs of approval. Why was this? Alas! that it should be so.
Now it is just this thought of God dwelling among His people that is presented to us in a very striking way in the design of the tabernacle, actually and typically. Actually , for God really dwelt among His people in the wilderness; typically , for the tabernacle itself was typical in all its details of heavenly things, as the Epistle to the Hebrews so clearly states.
That God should have acted thus, so far back in the history of the world, is deeply affecting, and should lead every Christian to deep and earnest inquiry as to how far each one is entering into these deep and precious thoughts of God.
It was of the tabernacle that God said:—
“There I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. . . . And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God” (Ex. 29:43-46).
Let your eye rest on those defenceless, erstwhile slaves in the wilderness, God dwelling in their midst, their glory and their Defence, the cloudy pillar guiding them, the daily manna, angels' food, their sustenance, the water from the smitten rock refreshing them, and then look upon the heathen nations around them sunk in voluptuous sins, enslaved by a sensual idolatry that led captive their minds and ruined their bodies; and tell me if this great thought of God dwelling among His people is not wonderful. Can you not we that it is so, even with Israel in the limited way in which it was then?
And if this were shadow, what must the substance be? Though in another connection we can apply the words:—
“If that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious” (2 Cor. 3:11).
The thought of God dwelling among His people is carried on in connection with the land:—
“And I will set My tabernacle among you; and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people” (Lev. 26:11-12).
And we are left in no doubt as to the present application of the type, for we have the gist of these very passages quoted in the New Testament.
“Ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Cor. 6:16).
No man has a right to alter the text of Scripture in quoting it. That would be tampering with the Word of God. But when the Holy Ghost alters a quotation, the form in which He presents it becomes itself Scripture, and as authoritative as the scripture quoted from.
It is interesting to see the word “among” used in Exodus 29 and Leviticus 26 altered to “in” in 2 Corinthians 6, marking the great truth of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in God's people, the great distinguishing mark of the believer in this dispensation. And further, the word “temple” is used, giving the idea of permanence, which the word “tabernacle” would not, as long as we were down here.
The Epistle to the Hebrews brings out the connection there is between type and antitype. The writer contrasts the house Moses, the servant , built, that is the tabernacle, with the house built now, over which Christ, as Son , presides. So we read:—
“Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:5-6).
But that of which the tabernacle spoke will one day find its consununation. In the figure, the staves were drawn out, when it reached the land, emblem of rest. So we read in the one beautiful description given us in the Bible of the eternal state, when everything will be for ever according to God in all the ineffable blessedness of His Being:—
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
Here again, amazing fact, we have Leviticus 26 quoted. How delightful it is to trace God's thoughts through His Word. He never gives them up, and He will win His people for Himself and for His own heart for ever. How blessed!
One last thought. The instructions as to the tabernacle were given to Moses on the same occasion as the giving of the law. The awful majesty of God was shows by the thunderings and lightnings and Mount Sinai smoking.
“And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. 24:17).
The ceremonial law, that is the instructions as to the rearing of the tabernacle, the institution of the priesthood and the ordering of the sacrifices, followed hard on the heels of the moral law, that is the ten commandments and legal instructions as to conduct. Why was this?
For the simple reason man would have been utterly destroyed if the moral law alone had applied to him. For instance, the first commandment of all is:—
“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).
And what happened? Before ever Moses had time to carry the ten commandments into the camp, the people had broken the very first and chiefest commandment, and that under the leadership of the one who, next to Moses, had the greatest opportunity of knowing the right. Such is man. And what would have happened if the naked law had been carried into the camp? Death and desolation. How, wonderful it is to see the ceremonial law, speaking in figure of God's righteous demands, and God Himself finding a way to meet those claims and thus blessing the sinner in righteousness, having for its antitype Christ, His divine person, His finished work, His resurrection—in short, it typified the only ground on which God could bless man and dwell in His midst.
May God exercise us deeply as to these things.
The Collection (Ex. 15:1-9)
The first action towards the making of the tabernacle was the collection of materials needed for its manufacture.
Collections are a prominent and nauseating feature of Christendom at the present time. Every sort of unworthy expedient is resorted to to raise money for religious causes.
If only the way in which this first great collection was taken was studied, and copied, things would be all the better.
First of all we read:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it WILLINGLY with his HEART ye shall take my offering” (vv. 1-2).
“Every man according as he purposeth in his HEART, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a CHEERFUL GIVER” (2 Cor. 9:7).
God wants no pressed men. He wants willing, heart-felt service, to perform which is counted a joy and a privilege.
A story is told of a somewhat parsimonious brother who intended giving sixpence, but discovered, to his dismay, that he had slipped half a sovereign into the collection box instead.
He explained his mistake to those who had charge of the collection, and requested the return of nine shillings and sixpence. This they were unable to accede to, whereupon he retired, saying, “Well, at any rate, God will give me credit for giving ten shillings.”
“Oh! No,” replied the deacons. “You will only be rewarded for what you intended to give, viz. sixpence.”
The heart is everything in this connection. How moving and touching the words of Scripture, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”
It is remarkable what response was given by the Children of Israel. But yesterday they were slaves, crying under the lash of the Egyptian taskmasters; today they are God's freemen, redeemed and blessed.
It is supposed that this body of weak, defenceless, unorganized men and women collected a sum equivalent to £270,000. What a contrast to shaking the collection box and abject begging for pennies, in the name of the Lord, as is so common in these Laodicean days.
How delightful is the spirit of Exodus 35, where we get such expressions as—“A willing heart” (v. 5).
“Every one, whose heart stirred him up” (v. 21).
“Every one, whose spirit made him willing” (v. 21).
“As many as were willing hearted” (v. 21).
“All the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom” (v. 26).
“A willing offering” (v. 29).
“Pitied with wisdom of heart” (v. 30).
Nay, more, the tide of happy, wholehearted giving was to such a height that Moses had to cause a proclamation to be made in the camp, saying:
“Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much” (Ex. 36:6-7).
What a beautiful picture this affords of the grace of God working in the heart of erstwhile slaves in a desert of no creature resources.
May all this speak loudly to each one of us, and may the Lord find more true and hearty response to His exceeding grace in our lives.
Typical Meaning of the Materials Used
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them: gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to beset in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so ye shall make it” (Ex. 25:1 -9).
We must begin by making a frank assertion. We can and must be dogmatic as to the revealed essentials of the Christian faith. The being of the Godhead, His creatorial work, the incarnation of the Son of God, the atoning character of His death, the glorious meaning of His resurrection and ascension, the place and portion of the believer in Christ, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of the saints thereat, the full inspiration of Holy Scripture, the resurrection of the wicked dead, and their eternal judgment—all these we must affirm with emphasis and resolve.
But the teaching of the types does not lend itself to dogmatic assertion, but is one that must appeal by its fitness to the spiritual mind. So much is clear to the writer's own mind, and it will be his deep pleasure to present his thoughts, in prayerful dependence, to the readers of Scripture Truth, believing that they will be acceptable. Where the typical meaning is not clear to the writer he will refrain from speculation or guesswork, and when he does seek to indicate the typical meaning he will adduce the reasons that have guided him in his judgment.
It is obvious, too, that his presentation of these teachings will be substantially the same as that of other writers, to whom we are all indebted for help in these matters.
Let us now address ourselves to the materials.
Of the materials used in the construction of the actual tabernacle it will be noticed there are four materials employed:
These all speak to the loyal heart of Christ. In Him are all our blessings and hopes. He has made God known, to know whom is the only pure blessedness the creature can experience.
The Lord Jesus has endeared Himself to His own by a thousand tender ties. We have seen Him in His manger-cradle at Bethlehem with delight. We have traced His wondrous life. We have gazed at Him, the holy Sufferer on the cross, till the sight endeared Him to our hearts beyond all words. We have seen Him rise from the dead, and ascend up to heaven. We know Him in the power of the Holy Spirit as our Redeemer, our Shepherd, our Friend, our Lord, our High Priest, our Advocate, our Rock, our Shield, our All-in-All. Surely these types, if they speak of Him, must be of absorbing interest. In this spirit let us examine them.
It will be like the spectrum, which breaks up pure light into its component parts. We get the full truth of Christ's person presented in the Gospels and Epistles, and the types help to break up the truth into its component parts, so that we may learn this aspect and that aspect of His person and work, and then reverently putting all these aspects together, we get a fuller idea of His glories and perfection. Thus patiently does the Spirit of God seek to teach us, line upon line, precept upon precept.
Gold and Shittim Wood
It will be noticed that of the materials used in the making of the actual tabernacle the first mentioned is gold, and the last mentioned is shittim wood. Seeing that the ark, the table of showbread, the boards and bars, and the golden altar of incense were made of shittim wood overlaid with gold, we are justified in considering them together. God's Spirit puts them together typically, and we may well inquire the reason.
Gold is the heaviest and most valuable (in relation to the quantities found) of all the metals.
Shittim wood, that of the acacia of the desert, is a dry, imperishable wood.
What, then, is the meaning of the conjunction of the two so largely used in the construction of the tabernacle?
It will be clearly seen, as we proceed, that the ark, the showbread table, and the golden altar of incense all speak of Christ Himself. That being so, there immediately comes to the mind the thought that in order to bring sinners nigh to God, and constitute them saints, in whose midst God can find a sanctuary—a dwelling-place—it could only be possible through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. That again brings us face to face with the great mystery of the adorable person of our blessed Lord—God and man in one blessed Person, for He who was God from all eternity, became a man in order to die upon the cross for us.
Gold, then, in this connection typifies the deity of the Lord Jesus.
Shittim wood typifies His holy, spotless humanity.
Here we are brought into touch with a vital fundamental truth of God's Word. The supreme test of everything, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed: for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
We must take our stand firmly on the truth of the full unalloyed deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is none before Him in point of time. There is none above Him in pre-eminence. He is the untreated God, who created all things; the unsustained, sustaining all things. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). Magnificent language, simple yet profound, easily understood, yet unfathomable in its infinite depths of meaning.
And yet this glorious Being, to whom everybody and everything owe their existence and sustainment, came to this little planet, circling round our sun, and our sun only one of millions, and became a man. “The Word was made flesh.” Can we understand the mystery of this? Impossible. His own words are, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father” (Matt. 11:27).
This pregnant statement is the “thus far and no farther” of the revelation made of the Lord Jesus Christ. Untold trouble has disturbed the church, frightful heresies have rent it in twain again and again, and practically all of them have been produced by man allowing his mind to work on this holy subject, and trespassing upon the “thus far and no farther” of the Lord.
We can and must believe the great facts of the twofold nature of our adorable Lord and Master. They are stated clearly in God's Word. He is very God, He is very man, yet one Person. No wonder the Apostle Paul could burst forth, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
We know Him surely. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). But we know not the mystery, the inscrutability of His holy Person.
We can take the language of the quondam infidel on our lips,
“‘Tis darkness to my intellect,
But sunshine to my heart.”
Gold, then, in types connected with Christ, typifies the divine nature, but we shall have to show, when it is used in connection with the believer, that it symbolizes divine righteousness, in which the believer stands before God; but of that we shall say more later on.
One or two thoughts connected with this metal will prove that it signifies redemption .
Reading Exodus 30:11-17 you will find it constituted the atonement money, and that it was to be used in the service of the sanctuary. Each Israelite was to furnish half a shekel when the people were numbered. There could be no recognition of them by God save as on the ground of redemption. Half a shekel was the amount specified for each to give. However rich, none could give more; however poor, none must offer less; thus teaching that all are on a level before God, and that there is only one way of approach to Him. The sum was equivalent to about 1s. 3d. in English money. Small as this sum was it affords a contrast to the gospel of the grace of God, which is free—“without money and without price,” but which rich and poor must alike avail themselves of, if salvation is to be theirs.
Then the use of the silver, as we shall see in more detail later, signified redemption. The boards of the tabernacle were set up in sockets of silver; thus illustrating how the believer stands before God on the ground of a finished redemption.
Brass does not come in in connection with the construction of the actual tabernacle. Gold was used in connection with that. But brass was used outside the tabernacle in connection with articles typifying man's approach to God. We shall look at it in greater detail later on.
Let it suffice for present purposes to say that it was used in the brazen altar, which stood just inside the outer court of the tabernacle, and again in the brazen layer.
The brazen altar was connected with sacrifice, and cleansing, and approach by blood.
The brazen layer was connected with the purification of the priest, who went into the holy place—purification by water.
Now brass is a very strong metal, resisting the action of fire to a marked degree.
It seems to be clear, from the connection in which it is found, that it typifies righteousness as meeting the need of man in sacrifice, and in purification.
In the brazen altar it symbolizes the demand of righteousness in connection with God's holiness as to the question of sin.
In the brazen laver it is the demand of righteousness in connection with God's holiness in relation to worship. Holiness is founded on righteousness. No worshipper could be called to holiness, unless first as a sinner he had been called to righteousness.
Further study will confirm this when we come to details in connection with our examination of the typical meaning of these articles.
The dyes come first in order, and are three in number:—
The textile materials are two, viz.:—
(1) Fine linen;
(2) Goats' hair.
To these must be added skins, viz.:
(1) Rams' skins;
(2) Badgers' skins.
The azure vault of heaven is the great blue colouring in creation. When no earth-born clouds intercept, nothing is more beautiful, or more impressive in nature, than the colour of the atmosphere, caused by its depth and purity. Blue, then, speaks of that which is heavenly . The contrast between the blue heavens and the brown earth, or dune sand of the wilderness in which the tabernacle was erected, was not so great as the difference between the heavenly of the new creation and the unrelieved blackness of that into which poor fallen man has plunged himself.
And there is nothing which should be so emphasized as the heavenly character of the manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the gold in the tabernacle teaches in a figurative way the deity of the Son of God, blue typifies that even in His manhood He is essentially the heavenly one. He could speak of Himself when on earth as “the Son of Man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:47 we read, “The first man [Adam] is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven ,” and then, evidently viewing Christ as the glorious Head of a new race, we read, “And as is the Heavenly (Christ], such are they also that are heavenly” (v. 48).
There is nothing more important at this present time than a deep reverent acknowledgment of the character of the Son of God and the maintenance of the fact that, like Him, His own are a heavenly people.
How Christendom has degraded these things, until with many the Son of God is little more than a superior member of Adam's fallen race, while the truth is that as to His life here in the world He stood entirely alone, and in resurrection He is the Head of a new race.
This is everywhere recognized as the imperial colour. “The Imperial Purple” is a common phrase. The Lord Jesus was attired in a purple robe, in derision of His claims to kinship; and the Apostle John in his vision saw “a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet colour” (Rev. 17:4)—figure of the Mystical Babylon the Great. As we shall see in detail later, purple is typical of the wide glory of the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man, for it is as Son of Man that in a future day He shall take up the government of the world, and shall reign as King of kings and Lord of lords—the true Emperor.
This typifies the kingship of the Lord Jesus. Scarlet is the kingly colour, as purple is the imperial. He will yet reign over His ancient people as their Messiah and King. What a day will it be for that race, scattered among the nations, downtrodden and despised, with no country, and no king, when they come into their own possessions, and have as their ruler Him, who is the Creator of all things, the most wonderful King ever set upon a throne. Words fail to express the glory of that hour, which will lift that little country to be the head of the nations and not the tail. And events today are undoubtedly working towards the consummation of this.
It may be asked why the dyes should come first in order, followed by the textiles. The reason is very apparent. The Lord Jesus was born a heavenly Man (blue); born Son of Man, with rights to universal reign and homage (purple); born King of the Jews (scarlet).
Textiles, on the other band, are fabrics formed by weaving. So the textiles used in the materials of the tabernacle typify what was the outcome of the blessed life of the Lord Jesus—woven by Him, as it were, in daily grace and patience, during His life. They were two in number.
One verse signifies the meaning of fine linen ; “To her [the Lamb's wife, the Church in union] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:8) Fine linen , then, in the tabernacle typifies practical righteousness, and as it refers in the type to the Lord Jesus, it brings before us in a striking way the perfect righteousness that marked the Lord Jesus in His life down here. What rest of heart it is to view the only perfect One in His life of perfect devotedness to the will of God. This will be presented in fuller detail later on.
This is typical of the thorough separation the Lord maintained from the world and its spirit and ways. None were so accessible as He, none so ready to help and bless, and yet none so thoroughly separate from the world in every particular. It will be remembered in proof that the prophet Elijah wore a hairy garment, that John the Baptist wore a garment of camel's hair, and both were characterized by thorough separation. Zechariah 1:4 speaks of “a rough garment” (Heb. a garment of hair , margin) as a symbolic dress of a prophet.
Lastly we come to the skins employed.
(1) Rams' skins;
(2) Badgers' skins.
These were employed as coverings for the tabernacle, and when we come to the happy task of taking up the typical meaning of the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle we shall endeavour to explain in detail their typical meaning.
The ram was the animal used in the consecration of the priests, and therefore typifies the full complete consecration of the Lord Jesus. Everything in Him was always and altogether set for the glory of God. Be the cost of the path He trod ever so exacting, even to the length of the cross, He trod the road unswervingly to the very end, even death itself and that of the cross.
“Rams' skins dyed red ” typifies that His consecration took Him all the way to the cross and the shedding of His precious blood.
These formed the outermost covering of the tabernacle, as the fine linen did the inner. The badgers' skins were what met the gaze of the outside beholder, and seem, in their rugged uncouthness, to typify what the prophet Isaiah put into words, “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2).
How affecting it is that the one Object of the Father's deepest joy and delight should be the despised of men. How happy that our rejoicing eyes have been opened to we beauty in thin, who is the altogether lovely.
We complete now the list of the materials enumerated in Exodus 25:3-7. Hitherto the materials have all distinctly referred to Christ, and were used in the actual construction of the tabernacle. The materials under consideration now differ in this respect, that they were used in the service and not in the construction of the tabernacle.
Oil is clearly a type of the Holy Spirit. It was called the anointing oil. The Spirit as given to the believers is called “the anointing.” “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:7).
Three classes were anointed in the Old Testament—prophets, priests, and kings. Oil was poured on their heads. In the case of David the connection between the outward symbol of anointing and the inward reality of the Holy Ghost are clearly brought out. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13).
Then in the scripture already quoted (1 John 2:27) the connection between the anointing and the intelligence of the anointed is very marked, “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.” Man, as man, cannot teach his fellow of the things of God. Man, as a vessel of the Holy Ghost, can be used as a gracious channel , but the source of the teaching is always and ever the Holy Ghost.
In the tabernacle oil was for the light and for anointing oil. Thus we are taught that there is no true light, no divine illumination, no spiritual teaching, but by the Holy Ghost. There was no light of sun by day or moon by night in the heavenly curtained tabernacle. The only light that made things visible was that which came from the seven-branched lamp fed by the oil.
And no man saw the light but the anointed priests who served in the tabernacle, showing that the believer must have the Holy Spirit in order to be able to receive the light and teaching the Spirit gives.
But here we must carefully safeguard ourselves. The Holy Spirit alone uses the Scriptures for the purpose of teaching, light and illumination. They give us the whole revelation of God, and there is no revelation outside of them. The man of God may only be “thoroughly furnished” (2 Tim. 3:17) by them.
Just this morning have I got a letter, stating that a certain truth (?) must be received by “an inbreathed conviction.” Now this is most unsatisfactory and highly dangerous, and opens the way for the vagaries of every unbalanced mind to advance views outside of Scripture revelation. This must be stoutly resisted.
The Scriptures are by divine inspiration, are complete, and outside of them the Holy Spirit never goes. Truth taught by Him will ever be found in “the Scripture of truth.”
And, moreover, it is only as the believer is under the power of the anointing that he can receive truth in a divine way. We must seek that spirit of prayerful dependence, and refuse both the slowness and brilliance of mere intellect. The slowness of intellect leads Christians into the most foolish notions; its brilliance into as foolish, and infinitely more dangerous because the possessor of a brilliant intellect is liable to influence others. The Holy Spirit is able to quicken a dull mind, as He is able to restrain a brilliant one. May He have His way with each one of us.
Spices for the Anointing Oil
We come now to the spices for the anointing oil and for sweet incense. They typify all the blessed graces of the Lord Jesus, as shown forth in His life down here.
If the believer receives the Holy Spirit, it is His joy to reproduce the graces in him which characterized the Lord Jesus. Indeed in Romans 8:9 the indwelling Holy Spirit is spoken of as “the Spirit of Christ.” It is the mark of the indwelt believer that he is Christlike. “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”—all graces fully exhibited by our blessed Lord—are the fruit of the Spirit and illustrate the spices for the anointing oil.
Then further, they were to be used for sweet incense. Sweet incense was used in the approach to God in worship, and spoke only of Christ. Nothing of ourselves can we present to God. But the believer is privileged to present Christ to God. Here the spices speak not of the production of Christ in the believer as is symbolized when they are used in connection with the anointing oil, but of the personal graces and beauties of Christ as He is the theme of worship before God. How little we know, alas! of all this.
The Precious Stones
Only one of these is designated by name, viz, the onyx. Job, speaking of wisdom, bursts out in admiration, “It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire” (Job 38:16).
What the exact significance of onyx is we know not. It was the gem used exclusively in the construction of the two shoulder pieces of the High Priest, on which the names of the twelve tribes were inscribed, and was one of the precious gems used in the breastplate.
Gems, in the connection in which they are used, show forth the preciousness of God's people to Him, and of the place they have in the affections of Christ in connection with His ceaseless ministry of representing them before God as their great High Priest. But more of this when we come to the consideration in detail of the garments of the High Priest. The simple thought, however, of how dear the believer is to Christ, known to Him, loved by Him, cared for by Him in all His power and wisdom; ministered to by Him in all the depressing vicissitudes of the wilderness journey, may be used of God to cheer many a saint of His in these trying times.
The Divine Pattern
And let them make theta sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Ex. 25:8-9)
After the instructions are given as to the materials to be furnished for the making of the tabernacle, and prior to details being given as to the different parts of the tabernacle and its furniture, we get these two significant verses.
No two verses could emphasize points of more vital import to the Christian.
(1) A sanctuary, a dwelling place, was to be made for God.
(2) It was to be made strictly to divine pattern.
(1) A sanctuary, a dwelling place, was to be made for God.
Could anything be more wonderful—God desiring to dwell among His redeemed people? But if this be so, it must be a sanctuary—a holy dwelling place, suited to His own nature. It must be agreeable to Him.
If the hand of the Creator were withdrawn for one instant from His material creation, what utter chaos and destruction would be the result. Sun, moon and stars—the whole universe—would be utterly destroyed. Similarly if God's moral creation gets estranged from Him; what moral chaos, darkness and destruction supervenes.
And this is just what has happened in regard to the latter, But God cares for His creature, and has now to assume another relationship beside that of Creator, that of Redeemer, if man is to be blest. There can be no true happiness for the creature apart from the Creator.
A Saviour-God, how astonishing! And yet not content with that, wonderful as it is, He desires to dwell among His People, to find a place of rest in their midst.
How one's mind overleaps all the ages of time with its tale of failure and feasts on that vision of the eternal state, that the Revelation gives us. We can in faith bear the great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). There shall be seen the fulfilment of God's desires.
But even now He desires to dwell among His people, and this scene in Exodus 25 foreshadowed this.
The great truth stamped on this wondrous thought of God dwelling among His people is holiness . “Holiness becometh Thine house” (Ps. 93:5), is ever true. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2) May we ever remember this.
(2) The sanctuary was to be made strictly according to divine pattern.
Nothing was left to the imagination or will of man. Everything—big and little—was to be the outcome of divine direction, whether it was the ark itself, most sacred of all symbols, or the smallest vessel used in the service of the sanctuary. All was to be according to the divine pattern.
Is there not here a wonderful lesson to be learned by each Christian? Is it not often said that once saved, the Christian can decide where and how he shall worship, according to his personal tastes? Can anything be further from the truth?
I remember the feeling of utter amazement that possessed me when I saw a doctor in America praying with his hands in his trouser pockets, and thanking God, in a free and easy way, that in America Christians could worship God as they liked.
It should therefore become a matter of lively exercise with each one of us how far we are governed in thought and practice in such matters by divine pattern.
How different would be the state of Christendom if all Christians had been so governed. There are two dangers to be avoided. First, that of believing that one is right in choosing what is suitable to oneself, and allowing others the liberty of doing the same, and adding to the word of God one's own ideas, it may be of distinctive doctrine, or of human organization.
The second danger lies in the saying that it is no longer possible to walk in the truth of God's assembly; that henceforth all that remains for us is to live our lives as unattached units regardless of the communion of the body of Christ.
The way to meet both dangers is to keep the eye on Christ. Could one who finds all-sufficiency in Christ admit human organization, expediency or makeshift. Seeing that everything in Christianity takes its character from Christ, Christ becomes the touchstone for everything. Does a Christian look to Christ as Head in practical reality? Then the first danger is avoided, that is, of making a fellowship founded on human ideas, organization and expediency.
Does a Christian look to Christ as Head? then the second danger is avoided, for He is the Head, in this connection, not of an individual member only, but of the body, and from the Head the one who desires to walk in the truth will receive grace and help to do so. He makes provision for meeting even two or three who gather in His name. And if He thinks it worth while to meet two, we may well think it worth our while to be one of the two, who form this divine quorum.
Amid all the confusion of Christendom, there must be, and is a path for faith. But for this there must needs be, to take it up intelligently, a knowledge of divine principles—of the divine pattern laid down in His word.
In short there is no ground for independency or expediency—“after the pattern of the tabernacle” precludes this; nor, on the other hand, is there any ground for ceasing to walk in the truth as though it were all hopeless and lost, for to do so is to admit that the great Head in heaven is not equal to directing even two of His members.
Oh! to have better faith in Him than this. May there be in these very closing days a revival of fidelity to Him—a holding of the Head, which will bring its happy result in increased fellowship among His people and that according to divine pattern.
The Ark illustrating the Deity and Humanity of the Lord Jesus (Ex. 25:10-16)
It is a matter of deepest significance that the first article to be made in connection with the tabernacle was the ark. The ark is clearly a type of Christ. This brings out the fact that nothing can be right unless we begin aright with Christ.
A lady wrote to me some time ago for advice as to replying to a Christadelphian. I advised her to refuse to touch any further matter till her correspondent admitted the deity of the Lord Jesus, for if he refused that, which he did, even outward orthodoxy as to minor details must be barren and useless.
So in this typical teaching we get this lesson emphasized as to the central truth of the Person of Christ.
This ark—a box 2½ cubits x 1½ x 1½—was to be made of shittim wood—shittim wood being the hard imperishable acacia of the desert. This illustrates clearly the humanity of the Lord Jesus. Now most professing Christian bodies teach the humanity of the Lord Jesus. The Christian Scientists alone nowadays, so far as I know, deny the humanity of Christ, for they deny the existence of flesh and blood as material, and believe there is no such thing as matter. The Unitarians, Christadelphians, Millennial Dawnists, New Theologians, etc., admit the humanity of the Lord Jesus, but in refusing the truth of His deity, His humanity is rendered perfectly useless. He claimed again and again to be equal with God. Equality with God must perforce be Godhead, and there can be only one God. Could He be a good man then, and make such claims, which, if false, must brand Him as the most audacious of impostors? Impossible! And yet by common consent He was the best of men, even those who deny His deity clamouring loudest of all for this. How inconsistent and illogical.
But we find the shittim wood was to be covered with pure gold. “Thou shalt overlay it [the ark] with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it” (v. 11). In the shittim wood and gold we get the mystery of the person of Christ typified—shittim wood typifying His humanity; pure gold, His deity. Thus we get the twofold nature of the Lord Jesus presented in type—very God and very man, yet one Person.
Wondrous mystery! Inscrutable enigma! In Matthew 11:27 we get the decisive statement, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father.” As to the knowledge of the Father, we find that this is shared by the Son with those to whom He reveals this knowledge. But the Father alone knows the Son. This is the “thus far and no further” for us—the ne plus ultra of our knowledge.
The great heresies that have rent the church of God from the days of Pentecost to this present time have almost invariably been occasioned by the transgression of this notable statement made by the Lord Jesus Christ of Himself. Who could speak thus but He!
Yet how sweet it is to hear Him say immediately, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:38-30). We may not know the inscrutability of His person. But we know Him. He gives rest, and His yoke is easy and His burden light. We bow to what transcends the creature's grasp. The great facts are presented in Scripture—His absolute deity, His true manhood, the unity of His person. We can well sing in adoring worship—
“The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature's grasp transcend;
The Father only Thy Most name
Of Son can comprehend.”
The gold had to overlay the ark within and without. What was out of sight corresponded to what was seen. How often we act for show, and then throw off all reserve when in privacy. Not so with the Lord. He is always and ever the same, whether publicly preaching, or privately with His disciples, or still more when in seclusion alone with God. Perfect manhood never acted in the slightest disparagement of what was essentially divine. The shittim wood was entirely covered by the gold.
Next, a crown of gold ran round the ark, illustrating the truth that God would carefully guard the great truth of the person of Christ. We may well give heed to this in these lays of ever-increasing subtleties of error. Christ is the great test of everything.
As that monument of grace—John Newton—wrote:—
“What think ye of Christ? is the test
To try both your state and your scheme,
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him.”
The Apostle John sharply divides the Spirit of God and the spirit of antichrist. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:2-3).
Words cannot adequately enforce the solemn necessity of right thoughts as to the Son of God. All true blessing now and for ever comes from Him.
Finally rings of gold, and staves of shittim wood covered with gold, were to be made, so that the ark might be borne by them. In this we are reminded in type that Christ was here as a stranger, passing on until His work was done: and the church of God, still in the wilderness, partakes of His character. We are strangers and pilgrims—travellers not yet home. The ark was to be the guide for the people. When it moved, they moved: when it rested, they rested. So with the believer today Christ is to govern Him in relation to what is connected with His people. It is not here the question of individual direction, but that which affected the whole camp.
So when the Christian wants direction as to his relation to all believers, he will find it by being in right relation to Christ. For this the Word must be studied, and the rich unfolding of Christ as Head of the church His body, the truth of the assembly, directions for a day of ruin, etc., will have their own blessed place in the heart of the subject believer.
Thank God, we shall not always be in the wilderness. The time came when the ark found its resting-place, its objective, and the staves were drawn out, symbol that the wanderings were over.
So we wait for that summoning shout which shall lift our feet off the weary, burning sands of the desert, and in one moment we shall be in His blissful presence, like and with Him for ever, at rest, at borne.
And that may be PERHAPS TODAY.
The Mercy Seat and the Cherubims (Ex. 25:17-22, Lev. 16:11-19)
It cannot be too often repeated and emphasized that the Lord Jesus became man in order to die. “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6). Here we have pointed out the way in which Christ came into this world; it was in view of His death in order to effect atonement. The blood is here emphasized in a remarkable way. Apart from this there could be no blessing for man.
All this is happily typified for us in the mercy seat. In our last article we spoke of the ark, made of shittim wood (type of the humanity of Christ), covered with gold (type of the deity of Christ), and saw that it typified that most wonderful intervention by God in the affairs of this world when the Lord Jesus—God and man, one Person—was found in fashion as a man. But now we go on to a further thought.
The mercy seat consisted of a slab of pure gold, two and a half cubits long by one and a half cubits broad, which rested upon the ark. It had a distinct significance and designation of its own. It was not part of the ark, though always in conjunction with it. The holy of holies is called “the place of the mercy seat” (see Lev. 16:2 and 1 Chr. 28:11). The Hebrew word for mercy seat is Kapporeth = to cover up, to reconcile, to atone.
But look at the combination of ideas. The very name, mercy seat, brings before us God's attitude to the sinner. Mercy is what the sinner needs. But this mercy seat was made of pure gold, illustrating, in this connection, the inexorable claims of divine righteousness. Righteousness, God's righteousness, must be met and settled. How then can mercy flow to the sinner? If the claims of righteousness clash with the desires of mercy, the claims must stand.
The magnificent verse springs to one's mind, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other is (Ps. 85:10). What a meeting! Can righteousness, stern, inexorable, unyielding, kiss gentle peace? Not while one tittle of his demands are unmet.
What then is the solution to the problem? It lies in the meaning of the blood sprinkled by the high priest on the great day of atonement once on the mercy seat and seven times before it. We read, “Into the second (that is, the holy of holies ) went the high priest alone every year, NOT WITHOUT BLOOD, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb. 9:7). “Not without blood” rings a note of insistence throughout the ceremony on the great day of atonement.
We get the Antitype of the mercy seat in Romans 3:24-25, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat, NT.] through faith in His blood.”
This then is the meeting-place between God and men, between mercy and truth, between righteousness and peace. Mercy is not at the expense of righteousness, but on the basis of it. The atoning death of the Lord Jesus solves the enigma. If the ark typifies the Lord Jesus in His twofold nature as God and man, the mercy seat, likewise, typifies the same glorious Person, but in connection with His atoning.
The high priest in Israel, however, as well as offering a sacrifice for the people, had to offer one for himself, because he was a poor frail sinner.
The Lord Jesus, in contrast, had no need to offer a sacrifice for Himself. If this necessity had existed He could not have been the Saviour of others. He was no sinner, but the perfect spotless, absolutely sinless San of God, and when He died it was only and altogether for others.
Overshadowing the mercy seat were two cherubims of gold, standing with outstretched wings, covering therewith the mercy seat, their faces looking inwards and downwards—towards each other and the mercy seat.
There is very little said about cherubims in Scripture, but from what little is said we gather they were God's messengers of judgment.
Here they stand not with folded but outstretched wings, ready for immediate movement. Thus they stand gazing on the bloodstained mercy seat. is this not a striking figure of how God can in perfect righteousness and holiness at in the stoning work of Christ the settlement of every claim in respect of sin, and how He is enabled to look with joy and complacency on the vilest sinner who puts his confidence in Christ and His atoning work? For the high priest represented all Israel in his approach to the mercy seat just as the Lord Jesus represented in His death every believing sinner.
Next we are told that Moses was instructed to put the testimony that God was to give him into the ark. Doubtless this referred to the two tables of stone. All the details as to relation between God and man were only an elaboration of those ten wonderful commandments, which could be summed up in one word, “Thou shalt love”—God and thy neighbour. The testimony in the ark typifies the fact that the Lord Jesus magnified the law in His life. He could say, as it were, “Thy law is within My heart” (Ps. 40:8).
And here let me guard against a common fallacy. Many people think that Christ's keeping the law is put to the believer's account, and he is thereby accounted righteous before God. But it was the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat that spoke of righteousness being met. True, if the Lord had not kept the law perfectly He could never have been the Saviour, but let it be ever insisted upon that it was by His death alone that righteousness was effected for the believing sinner: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
Finally we read that at the mercy seat God would meet with Moses to give him full instructions as to “all things which I will give thee [said the Lord] in commandment unto the children of Israel.” The meeting-place between God and man becomes the communing place as to what suits Him, who designed to dwell among His people. How wonderfully these types bespeak the glories of the person and work of Christ. May we drink in these precious thoughts in a fuller and deeper way than ever before.
The Table of Showbread (Ex. 25:23-30; Lev. 24:5-9; Num. 4:7-8)
The first mention of a word in Scripture is always deeply significant. In Exodus 25:23 we get the first mention of a table in Scripture. It is plainly used for placing thereon food for the priests. Its great idea is food, sustainment, support.
It becomes a deeply interesting inquiry as to how food, sustainment, support are ministered to God's people. Who is sufficient for this?
We get an answer typically in the construction of the table of showbread. Like the ark, it was to be made of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold, and, like the ark, it is typical of the Lord Jesus Chest. The glory of His person is ever guarded. If shittim wood typifies holy humanity, gold typifies His essential deity.
A crown of pure gold had tube placed round about the table; a border of an hand-breadth round it, and that with a golden crown encircling it. Thus we see how carefully and jealously the Holy Spirit would guard the truth of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is for us not to question, but to bow; not to analyse and dissect, but to worship and adore; not to pry into these mysteries with a curious mind, but to feed upon the revelation of Christ by faith and in the Spirit's power.
Upon the table were laid twelve loaves. They were made of fine flour, type of the pure, spotless humanity of the Lord Jesus, “The bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:33). True it is that John 6 presents Christ in a universal aspect, but just as He came, presenting Himself as the bread of life to the world, so is He likewise food for His people and the Sustainer of the life which He imparts.
Then again there were twelve loaves, indicating that Jehovah took in the whole twelve tribes of Israel, and that sustainment of soul was available for every individual in the nation. The priests alone eat it but the truth is that now, in this dispensation, every believer is a priest.
Now there is but one loaf, not twelve—the one loaf indicating the truth of the one body, spiritually all distinction between Jew and Gentile gone.
Upon the twelve loaves frankincense was put, type of the fragrance of the life of the blessed Lord. It says, “Thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” So we learn that fire played its part in this memorial. The fine flour had to be subjected to the action of fire, changed by it in its appearance and consistency, and made available as food. So there can be no feeding on Christ apart from His death. He were alone if He had not died. But now every, question of sin met, and all that the believer is as his former fallen nature set aside in the cross of Christ, the renewed nature is free to feed upon Christ and share the delight of God as to Him.
It is not that the flesh is not present with the believer, and will be to the end of his pilgrim story, but this is not what characterizes him. The new nature does, and it is the believer in relation to it who finds his delight in feeding upon Christ.
Finally, when the camp moved, the table of showbread was covered by a cloth of blue, above that a cloth of scarlet, and above all a covering of badgers' thus emphasizing the holiness becoming to divine things and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in His person. May we ever be characterized by reverence in the things of God.
The Golden Candlestick (Ex. 25:31-40, 26:35; 37:17-24)
The Golden Candlestick presents us with a deeply interesting and instructive picture of the Holy Spirit of God, and His office in the church of God upon earth.
It has ever been the aim of Satan to get the church into the place of Christ, thus dethroning Him, who alone should be supreme. This opens the door to leaders taking a position utterly foreign to the Scriptures, and to clericalism, and spiritual assumption, in truth flesh in its worst form. We see this in its grossest development in the Roman Catholic religion, and in its subtlest form among the most enlightened of Christians. If we think that we are not in danger of these insidious attempts to dethrone Christ and enthrone man (seen finally in the place the Man of Sin will get), that is just the moment when we are in danger. It was while “men slept” (Matt. 13:25) that the enemy came along and did his deadly work. May we be watchful.
We shall see how the typical teaching we are considering in this paper exalts Christ, and puts man in his own proper place.
Let it be first noticed that the candlestick was of pure gold . This, as we have seen in previous papers, is symbolical of Deity. Seeing that no shittim wood—type of humanity—enters into the construction of the candlestick, it is not typical of the Son of God, who, alone of the persons of the Deity, became man. We have no difficulty in seeing that it typifies God the Holy Ghost, as the following reflections will prove.
The candlestick was composed of a central shaft, with six branches, three springing out from each side, seven lamp-holders in all. Further, three bowls were allotted to each branch, and four bowls graced the central shaft, the number 7 again being prominent.
Seven is distinctly symbolical of perfection, and there is nothing perfect outside of what is divine. We read of the “seven Spirits which are before His throne” (Rev. 1:4), not meaning that there are seven Holy Spirits, but rather a sevenfold perfect activity of the one Holy Spirit. In the same way there were seven lamps, but only one candlestick, that is viewing it as a whole. So Revelation 3:3, 4:5, 5:6, speak of “the seven Spirits of God.”
To go one step further, each lamp depended upon oil for its light.
Oil stands as a type of the Holy Spirit in His alone ability to shed spiritual light. The connection between oil and the Holy Spirit in this way is clearly seen in the use of the word anointing. Prophets, priests and kings were anointed by oil in Old Testament times. When the kingly anointing was taken from Saul and given to David, we read, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him (David) in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. . . But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:13-14). The connection between the oil of anointing and the Spirit is thus plainly seen.
The very word “anointing” is used in the New Testament in reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The anointing which we have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
Let it be remembered that no natural light entered the tabernacle. A window was appointed for the roof of Noah's Ark, but no window was provided for the tabernacle. There were four curtains thrown over the tabernacle as a covering, two being made of skins, so that it can be plainly seen that the priests were totally dependent on the candlestick for light.
Does this not teach us a much needed lesson, viz.: that the church of God is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit for spiritual light? A verse, just quoted (1 John 2:27), says, “Ye need not that any man teach you.” And again, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20).
That is to say, if anyone comes to a Christian and tells him that be is dependent on any man to teach him, or that be is unable to grasp divine truth without such aid as that of an accredited board of teaching, or any ecclesiastical authority, he lies.
On the other hand, Scripture amply provides for the help and teaching of believers through gifts from an ascended Lord. To despise such and their help is to despise the wisdom of God in giving them. But when such are truly servants of Christ in real touch with their Lord, they will be thankful if all they teach is brought to the touchstone of God's Word, just as the Apostle Paul praised the Bereans in that they searched the Scriptures daily to find therein confirmation, even of apostolic teaching, before they would receive it.
And after all, what the teacher gives out must be of the Spirit of God, and not of himself. If the latter, it must be always and ever erroneous and mischievous, however plausible.
Should not the typical teaching of the Golden Candlestick have the effect of turning us from all that may be merely the fruit of the exercise of the human mind and of casting us wholly upon God, that He might by His Spirit teach and bless us. The more brilliant the mind naturally the more dependence is needed by the possessor of that mind, and the more dangerous be becomes, if not kept true to the truth by the Spirit of God.
Then we learn from Leviticus 24:1-4 that Aaron ordered the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually—type of Christ Himself, who is the Head of His assembly. We are told by the Lord that when the Spirit of truth should come He should not speak of Himself (see John 16:13), that is to say, He should not speak from Himself, or of His own initiative, “but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak.” Thus the Holy Spirit exalts Christ.
It is not that the Holy Spirit does not speak concerning Himself, for He does, or else how should we know about His being, His presence, His power, His offices? But though not less than God, He never presents Himself as the object of worship. He is the power for worship. Prayer is never addressed to Him. He is the power for prayer.
Lastly the lamps were to burn continually —from evening to morning; that is not merely what we call night, but the whole twenty-four hours, and as soon as one twenty-four completed, another began, and so continually were the lamps kept fed and burning.
Does this not cheer us to think that the Lord can and will keep by His high priestly grace and direction the spiritual light burning, so that we may never be without its help and blessing? Can we not thank God for such full and perfect provision for His people?
The Curtains and Coverings (Ex. 26:1-14)
There were two sets of curtains and two coverings placed over the tabernacle. They were:—
(1) Ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue and purple and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work. Size 28 cubits x 4 cubits.
(2) Eleven curtains of goats' hair. Size 30 cubits x 4 cubits.
(3) Rams' skins dyed red, called “a covering.”
(4) Badgers' skins, called “a covering.”
In different ways the typical meaning of these curtains set forth the moral glories of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The order in which they are presented is significant. The innermost curtain is given first, then in order to the outermost covering. God ever begins with that which is most precious. Leviticus begins with the burnt offering, not, as in urw experience, with the sin offering. Ephesians 1:3-7 begins the exclamation of worship at the highest note, “Blessed. . . with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” ending up with where we begin, “the forgiveness of sins.”
How delightful it is thus to trace the very heart of God in all this. His delight is in His well-beloved Son.
The Linen Curtains
As we have, in a previous issue, dwelt upon the typical meanings of the materials of the curtains, we will content ourselves with a recapitulation. In type. . .
Fine twined linen = the spotless purity that marked our blessed Lord when on earth, “Who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21); “Who did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22); “In Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
Blue = heavenly in character—“The Son of Man which is in heaven” (John 3:13)
Purple = imperial glory, that is as indicating the Lord's title to universal dominion as Son of Man. “Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands” (Ps. 8:6).
Scarlet = kingly glory, setting forth the Lord's title to Messianic glory as King of Israel. “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
Cberubims = judicial authority. “The Father . . hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).
What a wonderful presentation of the glories of the blessed Lord.
The number and size of the curtains are not without significance.
The number of the curtains was ten, divided into two sets of five, whilst fifty loops of blue in each set, joined together by fifty taches of gold, made the curtains into “one tabernacle” (v. 6).
Ten is the number that speaks of responsibility Godward, whilst five speak of responsibility manward. There were ten commandments, five commandments regulating our conduct to our fellow-man. To love God and our neighbour is the summing up of man's responsibility. The numbers ten and five are likewise stamped by a wise Creator upon the human frame. Man has ten fingers and ten toes divided into sets of five, and five senses—all speaking of human responsibility to God and man.
Then the size of the curtains was 28 cubits long by 4 cubits wide—28 = 7 x 4. We see then the numbers, seven and four, are stamped upon the tabernacle—seven = perfection, four = that which is universal, as the four winds of heaven, the four Gospels, the four elements (land, water, air, fire), etc. Does this not signify perfection and completeness in every form, and is this not seen, and seen alone, in Christ? None is perfect, none is complete, but He.
Character is described as that which is prominent in a person. It has been reverently said that Christ alone in that sense had no character. Where nothing was prominent, because everything was perfect and mature, there could be no character in that sense . Blessed Master!
Finally the fifty loops of blue in each set of curtains and fifty taches of gold set forth the heavenly and divine nature of the Son of Man, exemplified in the perfection and completeness of every step of His journey down here, whether seen in the blessed Babe in Bethlehem's manger at the beginning of His pathway, or on the cross itself at the end of His journey, whilst all between was perfect.
The Goats'-hair Curtains
The material used typifies the rigid separation the Lord maintained in holiness from evil of every kind and form when on earth. The hairy garment was the mark of a prophet (see Zech. 13:4). John the Baptist had a garment of camels' hair. The number of these curtains was eleven, formed into two sets of six and five. Their dimensions were 30 cubits x 4 cubits. One thing is plain from the instructions given, viz. that the extra curtain and extra length in the curtains was designed that the whole might cover and overlap the linen curtains.
Thus we see that Christ's public life tallied with His inner life. There was no discrepancy in any way. His public life amply and fully covered His inner life. “He could say, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true” (John 8:14). When the Jews asked the Lord who He was, He could say, “Altogether that which I also say to you” (John 8:25 N.Tr.).
Fifty loops were to be placed in each set of curtains, but it does not specify that they were to be of blue , whilst the fifty coupling taches were to be of brass . Brass sets forth the test of man in responsibility, but not as in gold setting forth divine righteousness. Thus in these details we learn how the blessed Lord stood every test that was placed upon Him as man (though always “God over all, blessed for ever”).
The Covering of Rams' Skin Dyed Red
It is no longer a woven texture that we have to do with, but skins used as a covering. The choice of the rams' skin brings before us at once the great thought of the rain in connection with the offerings, viz. consecration “The rain of the consecration” (Ex. 29:27) it is called in connection with the consecration of the priests. “Dyed red” seems to set forth that the blessed Lord was consecrated to the will of God even to death. “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7), were His own words. How perfectly He carried out that will even to death. He was was the consecrated One, perfect in all His ways.
The Covering of Badgers' Skins
Apart from its use in connection with the tabernacle, the word badgers' skins is only once employed in Scripture. Jehovah, addressing Jerusalem, says, “I clothed thee with embroidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin , and I girded thee about with fine linen” (Ezek. 16:10). Evidently from this passage “badgers' skin” symbolizes protection in walk, and tells us of that holy care and vigilance the Lord manifested in all His ways down here.
Notice nothing is said as to size or number of either rams' skins or badgers' skins. One verse suffices to give instructions as to them. Each covering sets forth one idea—consecration and vigilance, both seen so perfectly in Him, who alone was perfect.
It might be pointed out that the priests inside saw the fine linen, not “the common people” outside; whilst the outsider saw the badgers' skins, and not the fine linen. What beauties does the believer see in His adorable Lord, beauties that ravish the heart as more and more the Spirit of God would lead on the enquiring soul by a deeper acquaintance and apprehension of them. As to what man sees outwardly in Christ we have the lament of Isaiah, “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (chap. 53:3). Christ's separation from evil and holy vigilance of walk formed no attraction to the unregenerated mind.
One final thought. The linen curtains as a whole form “one tabernacle ” (v. 6). The goats' hair curtains are spoken of as “the curtains of the tent ” (vv. 12-13). The rams' skins dyed red, and the badgers' skins are simply designated in each case as “a covering” (v. 14).
The tabernacle sets forth the wondrous thoughts of God's dwelling-place. How true this was of Christ personally! “He spoke of the temple of His body” (John 2:21). “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34). And even now, as risen and glorified, we read, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” [i.e. in a body] (Col. 2:9). How wonderful, too, that God dwells now in the midst of His people by the Holy Spirit.
The tent speaks of the stranger and pilgrim character of the Lord Himself when down here, as of His people now. We learn our position here, and our portion there, by contemplating Christ. The believer must take his character from Him.
The covering tells us that though He was in a froward scene, where all was contrary to Him, yet there was power to throw off all that was of this scene, and was not of Himself in all His heavenly perfection and beauty. “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me” (John 14:30). And is this provision not made for His own? “We know that whatsoever is born of God sinneth not; but be that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).
What a Christ we have! What depths of beauty, what heights of glory are found in Him! May we come to such a study of such a Person with reverence and worship!
The Boards and their Sockets (Ex. 26:15-30; 30:11-16)
Whilst much that we hare considered in the furniture of the tabernacle has referred typically to Christ and Him alone, we come now to the framework , which typifies largely the believer in his relation to fellow-believers and to Christ .
It may be noticed as illustrating the marvellous exactitude of Scripture that when shittim wood and gold are put together in close juxtaposition they typify respectively, as we have seen again and again, the humanity and deity of the Lord Jesus. But when we have the shittim wood and gold not in close juxtaposition the gold denotes divine righteousness and is applicable in type to the believer.
Note in the present cases we have instruction as to the boards, their tenons, their sockets of silver, their rings, their arrangement, their binding bars, before the covering gold is mentioned. That is to say, the divine record eminences in verse 15 and runs on to verse 29 before ever this covering gold is mentioned thus bringing out the typical meaning of gold in this connection as that of the righteousness in which the believer stands before God what he is in Christ before God.
We read in verse 15 of the boards being made of shittim wood for the tabernacle adding the two significant words, “ standing up ”.
The power to stand up seems to lie in the tenons that bound one board to another and in the sockets of silver that were arranged in relation thereto. Notice how the tenons and the sockets are put together in verse 19.
The boards were to be bound together by these tenon; thus making one structure. It is not the believer viewed as an individual that is here typified. But the believers in their collective character, as forming a dwelling-place for God by His Spirit The individual believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit; but collectively believers are brought into relation out with another so as to form the assembly, in which God can dwell.
Changing the simile from boards to stones the same line of truth is brought out by Peter when he speaks of believers as living stones built up a spiritual house to offer up spiritual sacrifices (see 1 Pet. 2:5).
The sockets of silver illustrate the believer's standing in redemption . Exodus 30:11-16 brings out the typical meaning of silver. When Israel was numbered, each one accounted for in the census had to bring a half shekel of silver as an offering to the Lord, and this money was called atonement money . The rich had not to give more than the half shekel, the poor had not to give less, thus illustrating that believers, all alike, stand before God in the ground of atonement. The half shekel was but a small sum, worth no more than a few pence. It was a mere acknowledgment on the offerer's part of God's claims, but when we come to the antitype we find the believer is not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish. That is to say, the believer stands before God in the full value of His acceptance of the atoning work of Christ, and that without payment in money, or effort of any kind, but in the principle of faith . Thus does Christianity exceed the types and shadows
There are two sockets of silver under each board, illustrating for us the perfect stability of the believer's standing in redemption. They seem naturally to typify the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus—the death, furnishing full and free atonement; the resurrection affording a clear emphatic testimony on the part of God to His acceptance of that work. The resurrection of Christ is indeed a vital fundamental truth of Christianity, and lifts into translucent clearness the blessed testimony of God to the way in which His name and holiness have been vindicated to the full in connection with that wondrous atonement. This testimony is seen in resurrection.
As to measurements and numbers something may be gleaned. The boards were to be ten cubits long Ten is the number of man's responsibility Godwards, as witness the ten commandments. How sweet a thought it is that responsibility! towards God in which man has so lamentably failed has been met, as it only could be, by the grand foundation fact of redemption, for this ten-cubit-long board stood up on these two sockets of silver. The meaning of the breadth of the board is not apparent, so we will refrain from guessing.
It may be noticed that there were forty-eight boards in all, thus accounting for ninety-six sockets, but as the veil of the tabernacle was supported by four pillars of shittim wood resting upon four sockets of silver we have the grand total of one hundred sockets of silver employed in the construction of the tabernacle.
Now one hundred is ten times ten, that is the square of ten (ten being the measure of man's responsibility Godward), thus emphasizing in a very full and complete fashion how that the satisfaction of all God's claims in righteousness is found in redemption.
There is nothing like the death of Christ. As another has said, “It is the centre of the moral history of the universe.”
We cannot in a short article go into details, but enough has been said to afford ample scope for meditation, which will lead to adoring worship that God desires to dwell among His people and receive their praises. The way God has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence is truly wonderful.
The Veil (Ex. 26:31-35)
Hitherto we have had no indication that there were to be two compartments in the tabernacle, respectively named the holy place and the most holy. The hanging of the veil divided the one from the other. The materials out of which it was to be made were identical with those used in the construction of the inner curtains of the tabernacle, thus bringing out the same truth, that the veil, as the curtains, was typical of Christ Himself in His varied glories.
But there is one difference to be observed, viz. in the order in which the materials are named. In the curtains the fine-twined linen is named first and the blue second; in the veil the blue comes first and the fine-twined linen fourth. Whence this difference?
The curtains typified Christ as seen in His life in this world, hence the fine-twined linen comes first as illustrating the practical righteousness in every detail of His life in which He walked to the glory of God.
The veil typifies Christ, as the fruit of His death in resurrection, as the way of approach to God, hence blue, illustrating His heavenly character, is prominent. How wonderfully accurate is Scripture, and how it teaches us how full the mind of the Spirit of God is of the glories of Christ.
In verse 32 we observe the veil was to be suspended on four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold, by means of hooks of gold—the pillars standing upon four sockets of silver.
Notice the close juxtaposition of the gold and shittim wood, again typifying the deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus, whilst they were to be pillars , and not boards. Doubtless the merely materially-minded would see in this provision but an architectural necessity, whilst the spiritually-minded would see the distinction between the boards as illustrating believers and the pillars as typical of Christ Himself.
The veil was to be hung on golden hooks, thus bringing out that man's approach to God is rendered suitable to the display of God's righteousness . The pillars stood on sockets of silver, thus showing that Christ could not have taken this place as the way of entrance except on the ground of His death. It was His death that secured redemption for the sinner, and the display of righteousness for God.
There is this vital difference between Christ and His people. The latter need redemption as sinners, hence the boards “standing up” on sockets of silver, whereas Christ must die for His people, if He is to be the way of entrance for the believer into the presence of God. He did not the as a necessity in relation to His own condition. Far be the thought. Death had no claim over Him. He was sinless absolutely.
But He must die, if believers were to have access into God's presence, hence the four pillars stood upon four sockets of silver.
Then follow instructions as to the placing of the furniture of the tabernacle. In the holiest of all was alone the mercy-seat upon the ark of the testimony, as we have seen in a previous article typical of Christ Himself, God and man—One Person—who wrought atonement by His blood, bringing the believer near to God, giving him entrance into God's presence.
In the holy place were the table of showbread and the golden candlestick—both typical, the former of Christ's supporting and sustaining His people, the latter, of the Holy Spirit, Who alone is the source of light and truth.
Be it observed up to now the golden altar of incense is not mentioned. We must wait till Aaron and his son are consecrated as priests before we get that article mentioned in chapter 30:1-10. The reason for this is very interesting and significant.
The articles already brought before us, that is the ark and mercy-seat combined, the table of showbread and the golden candlestick are all connected typically with the thought of God coming out in blessing to man; whereas the golden altar, as we shall hope to see in detail in a future article, is connected with man's approach to God. In short the three first-named articles have to do with Christ as the Apostle of our profession (confession, N.Tr.); whilst the last-named with Christ as the High Priest—the Apostle bringing God to men; the Priest bringing men to God.
As another has said, the Epistle to the Hebrews brings before us Christ as our Apostle and High Priest—the Apostle to bring out the calling of God at its height; the High Priest to maintain the believer at the height of his calling.
But one last remark must be made, and that of a most important nature. If the veil speaks of Christ as the way of approach to God, it must be pointed out that only Aaron, as High Priest, could go in, and that only once a year and then not “without blood.” We are told distinctly, “the Holy Ghost thus signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing” (Heb. 9:8).
However wonderfully the shadows could point forward to the glories of the Person and work of the coming Christ, they could never foreshadow these in all their fullness.
When we leave the Old Testament and come to the New we find consequent on the finished work of redemption the veil was rent by God from top to bottom, from His side to ours, and that now God is in the light, He has came forth, been declared in all His nature, and all believers can have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.
“The veil is rent, our souls draw near
Unto a throne of grace.”
Whilst further, the Old Testament adumbrated the wondrous truth of the believer's access to God , the New Testament brings out the wondrous further truth that the believer finds himself in the presence of the Father —enjoys the position of a son, in association with Christ in resurrection life, before the Father's face.
In truth, we cannot now separate between God and the Father, and worship may thus flow out in unhindered fullness to Him who is the Spring and Source of all blessedness—our God and Father, known through grace in relationship through the Spirit's power. Wondrous truth!
The Hanging of the Door of the Tent (Ex. 26:36-37)
Following on the hanging of the veil, which divided the tent of the tabernacle into two parts, the holy place being the outer and larger portion, the holiest of all being the inner and smaller portion, we have the instructions for the placing of the furniture.
The holiest of all contained the ark, and upon it the mercy-seat, bringing before us that which can never be too much emphasized, that which is the basis of everything in Christianity, viz. the person of Christ. God and man, one person, mystery profound—and His blessed atoning death, meeting God in all His righteous claims and glorifying Him so that His seat becomes a mercy-seat.
Two pieces of furniture had to be placed in the outer or holy place, viz. the table of showbread and the candlestick; again most affecting symbolisms, telling us of the risen Lord's support of His people and the office of the Holy Spirit in giving light and intelligence.
Be it noted that the golden altar of incense is not mentioned up to now, for everything is a question so far of God's approach to man in the ground of the death of the Lord Jesus; whereas the golden altar is connected with man's approach to God in worship, and it is necessary to have the priest to make use of the altar, and that comes out later in its own place. How marvellously accurate and deeply instructive is Scripture How it fills one's heart with praise and worship thus to see at once God in all His majesty and glory declaring Himself in all His own blessedness in the wonderful person of His Son, and at the same time putting His fingerprints, as it were, on every page of Scripture, declaring His authorship of it all.
Now we come to the hanging of the door of the tent. It was to be made of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine-twined linen, wrought with needlework, suspended on five pillars of shittim wood, overlaid with gold, and set up on five sockets of brass, and hanging from hooks of gold.
Bearing in mind what we have put forth in previous issues of Scripture Truth on these subjects, few words will suffice.
This door formed the entrance into the tent. In one word, symbolically it is the presentation of Christ. He alone is the entrance into blessing of any kind. In another connection He could say, “I am the Door,” and again, “I am the Way.” How touching is this presentation of Christ—blue, His heavenly character; purple, His glory as Son of Man, He comes to bless universally; scarlet, His glory as the Messiah of Israel; and fine-twined linen wrought with needlework, typifying that wondrous life which in all its details, down to the very smallest, was ever and altogether for the glory of God.
This curtain was upheld by five pillars, the number five representing man's dependence upon God, and suspended by hooks of gold, representing divine righteousness.
The pillars were of shittim wood covered with gold, again presenting to us in figure that astounding mystery of God and man, one Person, our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
But the person of Christ, glorious and wonderful, surpassing words as His glory is, is not sufficient to give entrance to men who are beset with infirmities, as the priests were, and as the believers today are. For infirmities proclaim the fact of sin, for it is the product of sin, and sin must be met.
How restful to the troubled heart to see that these beautiful pillars were set up on five sockets of brass—brass, a figure of the death of Christ as having met the judgment of God on the sinner's behalf.
And note how this blessed truth is further emphasized by the absence of cherubims on the curtain. Cherubims were wrought in the veil (see verse 31), but no cherubims appear on the outer curtain. Cherubims were God's messengers of judgment. A cherub with the flaming sword kept the way to the tree of life.
The absence of cherubims on this outer curtain is intended to convey the thought of righteous grace, judgment having all been met. Thus in the person of Christ we get this thought fully brought out. He is the way of approach for the worshipper. The absence then of the cherubims is significant. The teaching involved in this is consoling and encouraging. It gives boldness.
Thus at every point of the tabernacle God would encourage the one who desires to approach Him.
May we be truly affected by this wonderful presentation of Christ.
The Brazen Altar (Ex. 27:1-8)
It is interesting to note that God begins at the centre and works out to the circumference—He begins at the highest point and works down to the lowest. We, because of our absolute need, naturally begin at the circumference and work towards the centre. Thank God, from the centre to the circumference it is all Christ.
At the lowest point where the empty hand of need is extended to receive relief it is Christ and Christ alone that can meet our need. At the highest point where God can tell out the fullest purpose of His heart, and outline for us the wonderful fulfilment of that purpose, it is Christ and Christ alone that fills the scene of glory.
This is illustrated by our Lessons from the Tabernacle. We have seen how God begins with the ark, proceeds to the table of showbread and the candlestick, then comes on to the curtains and boards, dividing the tabernacle into two parts, then arranges for the furniture to be put into its ordered place. This is all given us in Exodus 25 and 26.
Now in Exodus 27 for the first time we are outside the tabernacle proper, and the first thing that is taken up is the brazen altar.
It is remarkable that just as inside the tabernacle the golden altar of incense is not spoken of till the priests are consecrated, so the brazen layer outside the tabernacle proper is not mentioned till that point is reached. The reason for this is very evident. Both had to do with man's approach to God in worship, and this cannot take place without the priest.
The brazen altar figures forth how God can approach man, which up to now has been the line of teaching. Inside gold was the predominant precious metal used. Outside we find it to be brass.
Gold is the symbol of God's righteousness in the presence of God's holiness; brass is the symbol of God's righteousness in the presence of man's need.
Passing the gate of the court of the tabernacle the first thing that would meet the eye would be the brazen altar. It was made of shittim wood overlaid with brass—type of the Lord Jesus, who met in His death all the claims of God's righteousness in respect of sin and man's need.
It was five cubits long and five cubits broad— five being the number of man's need and God's grace towards him. This was all met in the death of Christ. The type speaks of grace reaching us through righteousness, a most important matter.
Horns of shittim wood overlaid with brass symbolize Christ being actually held in judgment—affecting thought, whilst the brazen pans to receive the ashes, the brazen shovels, the brazen basons, the brazen flesh-hooks, and the brazen firepans—all spoke of the reality of Christ's death in meeting God's righteous claims in regard to man's need.
A grate of network of brass was arranged for in the midst of the altar. How touchingly this teaches us that there was no escape for Christ when He took the sinner's death, either wholly or in part, from the judgment of God. He must exhaust the wrath of God against sin. To the full He met God's claims, blessed be His name.
Finally staves were provided for the altar—reminding us of the wilderness and its journeyings.
Blest as we are in Christ, we are still down here, strangers and pilgrims journeying home.
As the children of Israel journeyed to the promised land they were accompanied by these sacred symbols, and were thus reminded on what footing they stood with God.
So it is with us in this dispensation, only that instead of the dim light of the types foreshadowing the Christ that was to come, now we have the glorious light of Christ, His Person, His humanity, His atoning work, and all flowing therefrom, lighting up for us the wonderful types that were furnished by the Spirit of God on the Old Testament page.
Bow glorious is that light. It cannot shine with more refulgent splendour than it does. God is told out in all His wondrous blessedness by Christ. How happy that we know something of this.
The Court and the Tabernacle (Ex. 27:9-19)
The Court of the Tabernacle consisted of an oblong quadrangle made of fine twined linen, suspended by hooks of silver, and upheld by pillars socketed in brass. It was 100 cubits long and 50 cubits broad.
On the east side the curtains were to extend 15 cubits from each corner, that is 30 cubits in all, leaving 20 cubits for the gate of the court.
It will be noticed then that the total length of the curtains was 280 cubits, exactly the same length as the ten curtains of fine twined linen which formed the innermost covering of the tabernacle itself.
In both cases the fine twined linen speak of Christ in His perfect purity of life. The ten curtains of fine twined linen were only seen by the priests; the curtains of the court were seen by the people generally. In both cases they measured 280 cubits, telling the tale that the blessed Lord was not one thing before men and another thing in the eyes of His own. True there is a different manifestation to His own to what is seen by the world, but in both cases there is nothing but absolute purity. When the question was asked of the Lord, “Who art Thou?” He could reply, “Altogether that which I also say unto you” (John 8:25 N.T.). Who among Adam's fallen children could say that? Do we not represent ourselves to be better than we really are? How blessed to let out eye fall on perfection and rest with joy and satisfaction there.
And yet there is another side to this that is affecting to our hearts, and that is that “Christ has left us an example that we should follow in His steps” (see 1 Pet. 2:21).
But the reader may say that we shall never attain to perfection. There is no greater mistake than to profess to attain to “sinless perfection.” Those who fall into that error know neither themselves nor the subtility of sin. One verse of Scripture condemns them, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Yet though this be so, perfection is the only fitting place for our eyes to rest upon and the only object for us to have before us.
As Christ is our Object so we shall be transformed into moral likeness to Him.
Two hundred and eighty cubits is the multiple of 7 by 40—40 the number speaking of testing, 7 of perfection, thus bringing before us the full and complete test the Lord passed through, yet came out of the ordeal triumphantly. It is as if a swimmer dressed in linen were obliged to swim through a turbulent sea of pitch, and came out without a spot or stain. Forty is clearly the number speaking of testing, as witness the forty years testing of Israel in the wilderness, and the forty days testing of the blessed Lord in the wilderness.
The pillars supporting the fine twined linen were socketed in brass, and filleted in silver, and hooks provided for the keeping secure the fine twined linen.
The boards of the tabernacle were socketed in silver, here the pillars of the court are socketed in brass. Why this difference? The boards speak of the believer, and his standing (silver) in the full grace and power of redemption before God. The pillars socketed in brass reveal to us a very touching thought, viz: that the Lord Jesus could not have presented His blessed holy life of purity to men save on the ground of His atoning death. When God's chains were presented at Sinai, judgment alone was the result of the breaking of the law and the failing to respond to God's claims. But the presentation of God in grace through Christ, could only be on the ground of His death. No gracious words could have fallen from His lips, no leper could have been cleansed by His touch, no blind could have received their sight, no deaf their hearing, no dead their life, had He not come to die. One gracious word from Him necessitated in righteousness His death.
So we have the sockets of brass—brass the presentation of His death as meeting man's need in responsibility, and not as presenting redemption from God's side, which is seen in silver, the ransom money.
But if the pillars were thus socketed in brass at the base they were filleted and hooked in silver at the top . God has His blessed appreciation of the atoning death of Christ, and it was in virtue of this in the eye of God (before the work was actually accomplished) that the pleasure of God in presenting in grace to men the perfection of manhood as seen in the person of Jesus could have been seen. He could say, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17)
Next, we learn that the gate of the court was to be made of blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen with needlework. No cherubim, as in the inner rail were to be seen on it but it was to be exactly of the same materials and workmanship as the door of the tent. This shows that God's approach to man in Christ is in grace, as man responds and draws near he finds nothing but righteous grace. We have before spoken of blue as being a symbol of the heavenly character of the perfect manhood of our blessed Lord; of purple as symbolizing His universal glories as the Son of Man; of scarlet, His kingly glory as the Messiah in connection with Israel; the fine twined linen as bringing before us His blessed holy life, the needlework symbolizing all the minutiae of that life. Many a Christian will face a crisis by the help of God right manfully and yet fail in the small details of life, politeness, tact, consideration, etc.—qualities which may be natural but in Christians should have their spring in that new nature which is of God.
In connection with the pillars and sockets connected with the gate their number was four—a number speaking of that which is universal, thus bringing out the fact that God's grace is apt presented to one nation, but to all nations, not presented to one class, but to every class. It reminds us of “God so loved t he world ” (John 3:16). “Four” speaks of what is universal, the four corners of the earth, the four winds of heaven, etc.
Finally, all the vessels of the tabernacle service, and the pins to steady the boards of the tabernacle and the pillars of the court were all of brass , emphasizing how everything is ordered in its relation to Christ's death meeting man's responsibility before God, enabling God to come out as a Saviour God.
Thus the whole of the tabernacle speaks of the glories of Christ, the mystery of His person, the wonders of His work, the assembling of His people as God's dwelling-place on earth. Wondrous truths indeed, far beyond man's thoughts yet such as the Holy Spirit gladly leads us into.