Exodus 25:10 - 26:30
The details as to the ark are given to us in verses 10-16. It was the very centre of the whole typical system and yet in itself nothing could have been simpler. It was a rectangular wooden box, but made of the very durable "shittim," or "acacia" wood, and then overlaid both without and within with pure gold. It is clear then that the wood gave to the ark its form, and the gold imparted to it its character.
At once we can see how aptly this typifies the incarnate Saviour, in whom both Humanity and Deity were perfectly found. The very durable shittim wood, which gave form to the ark, indicated His humanity, for He was in "the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2: 7). But when the ark was completed only gold was visible, though it was supported by the wood. His Deity gave character to all He said and did.
In Paul's address to the Athenians he said that, "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device" (Acts 17: 29). In keeping with this, art and man's device were wholly excluded from the ark. It was just pure gold without ornamentation, but with a "crown," or "border" round its top, and the gold was as much within it as without. What our Lord was externally, where He could be observed, He was internally, where no one could see. There was no discrepancy.
Further it was so constructed as to be adapted for journeying on their way to the land. It had rings of gold into which were inserted staves of wood overlaid with gold. Thus it was until a permanent resting place was found for it in the temple which Solomon built, when the staves were drawn out, as we learn in 1 Kings 8: 8. Lastly, Moses was instructed to put in the ark the testimony that he was to receive from God, engraved on the tables of stone. This too turns our thoughts to Christ, for He alone could say "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart " (Ps. 40: 8).
Verses 17-22, give us details of the mercy seat and the cherubims. The mercy seat formed the lid of the ark, and it was of pure gold without wood. When we reach Leviticus 16, we learn that once a year the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and thus propitiation was brought to pass. Now while it is man who needs to be justified, redeemed, reconciled, it is God who must be propitiated. The claims of His righteousness and holiness must be met: hence, we believe, only pure gold—typifying God in holiness and righteousness—was employed in constructing the mercy seat.
The two cherubims were also of gold, beaten into the required shape, and really all of a piece with the mercy seat, one at either end of it. Genesis 3: 24, plainly indicates that the cherubims are a special order of angelic beings, that are concerned with. the execution of God's righteous judgments. The next time they are mentioned in the Scripture is in our chapter, where they are to be represented in gold. Beyond the mention of their wings and their faces no attempt is made to describe their form.
The fact that they had faces indicates that they had perception —eyes to behold. Their wings declared that they would be swift to act in righteousness against sin. But their faces were to be, "toward the mercy seat," and not looking outward toward the sinful people. They were to be represented as gazing on the spot where the blood of propitiation was to be. So in Genesis 3, we see them with the flaming sword of judgment against sin. Here as in repose, because their eye is on the blood. In Ezekiel we find the cherubims more fully described, and there they are seen supporting, "the likeness of a throne," and on that, "the likeness as the appearance of a man." Thus these foreshadowings advance step by step, and we see them first, with the sword of justice; then with the blood of sacrifice; lastly, upholding the Saviour on His throne.
For the moment however the Lord emphasized that the mercy seat was to be the place where He would meet with Moses, and commune with him of all the things as to which He would command the children of Israel.
Verses 23-30, give us details as to the construction of the table, on which the shewbread was to be placed. It was smaller than the ark and serving a different purpose, but otherwise the details are very similar. This was to stand outside the veil in the holy place where daily it was under the observation of the priests. Again here we see a type of Christ, but as supporting the shewbread, or "bread of the presence," which became food for the priests. We do not get the details as to the shewbread until we reach Leviticus 24. All the vessels connected with it were to be of pure gold.
Verses 31-39, give us details as to the candlestick, or lampstand of pure gold, and here we have very clearly a type of the Spirit of God. There were to be three branches on either side of the central stem; seven lamps in all, and these provided all the light that was necessary in the holy place. The table with its shewbread were only visible in the light that the lampstand shed. In that light the priests went about their daily service. The branches were so constructed that both flowers and fruit were to be seen, and though there were six branches they were to be of one piece with the central stem—"one beaten work of pure gold."
We can see here an indication in type of the truth announced in 1 Corinthians 2: 10-16. The things of God are not to be apprehended by any powers which are resident in ourselves, but only by the Spirit of God. No other light than His illuminates God's holy place and things.
In the seven lamps, which yet were but one lampstand, we see a foreshadowing of that presentation of the Spirit of God which we find later in the Bible, when we read of the Lamb having "the seven Spirits of God." With this we may connect Isaiah 11: 2, where we read of the Spirit of God—like the central stem—but connected in detail with the three couplets, "of wisdom and understanding," "of counsel and might," "of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." In Revelation 1: 4, the seven Spirits are "before His throne," as typically the lamps are found in our chapter. In Revelation 5: 6, they are, "sent forth into all the earth," as preparing for the work of judgment, about to be directed by the Lamb. It is made abundantly clear in the New Testament that the Spirit of God is one, yet in the fulness of His power there is a sevenfold completeness.
The chapter closes with an admonition to Moses that he was to follow with exactness the pattern of all this, which he was to see while in the mount with God. He was not to be tempted to alter anything or improvise anything. Moses saw the pattern, but he did not see the mighty Realities which, in a shadowy way, the patterns represented. Had he altered anything the good things to come would have been misrepresented. God's patterns were perfect, as far as they went, for perfection marks all the works of God. If man alters he spoils. Let us take this to heart in regard to the far more wonderful teachings of the New Testament.
Exodus 26 is occupied with instructions as to the construction of the tabernacle. But, before we consider these, let us raise the question as to why the instructions of chapter 25 do not embrace the details as to the golden altar of incense—which was the third article of furniture in the holy place, standing just before the veil. We believe the answer to be that the three that are mentioned — ark, table, lampstand — set before us God's approach to man, in Christ and by His Spirit. The altar of incense is connected typically with man's approach to God, conducted through the high priest. Hence we find the details in chapter 30, after details of the priestly garments and of the consecration of the priests given us in chapters 28 and 29. What looks like disorder from a human standpoint, we find to be God's order, when its spiritual import is understood.
The first fourteen verses of Exodus 26 give details of the curtains which composed the tent, which is called the tabernacle. As in the previous chapter so here the instructions start with the innermost curtain. God works from the within to the without, from that which was only visible to the priests within to that which met the eyes of the people without.
Before considering the details given to us, we must ask this question—What is the typical significance of the tabernacle as a whole? And we must attempt to answer it.
The Epistle to the Hebrews makes it plain that it was "the patterns of things in the heavens" (9: 23); that Christ is, "an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands" (9: 11); that there is, "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (8: 2). Consequently we must regard it in the first place as a type of God's mighty universe. The people were on the earth, and they had to stand without. Between the door of the court and the door of the tabernacle stood the altar of burnt offering, as we learn in the next chapter. This typified the first heaven; and into the first heaven the Lord Jesus was "lifted up" to die.
The holy place, where stood the table and the lampstand, was a type of the second heaven. The holiest, where the ark, the mercy seat and the cherubims were placed, typified the third heaven, the immediate presence of God, where the only light was the glory cloud. Aaron was the minister of the tabernacle: Christ is the Minister, who will uphold God's universe of blessing for ever.
But, in the second place, we may discover in the tabernacle, and particularly in the curtains, that which is typical of Christ Himself. God dwelt in the tabernacle, and later in the temple that Solomon built, and it was the Lord Himself who, "spake of the temple of His body" (John 2: 21). Typically, God was in the tabernacle, when Moses had made and pitched it. In a far more wonderful way, "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 19).
Thirdly, we may see, in certain details at all events, that which is typical of the saints as God's present dwelling-place by His Spirit. This is referred to in Ephesians 2: 22.
Now let us consider the details of the curtains as typical of Christ. They were in four layers. Only the bottom one would be visible in the holy place and the holiest of all. It was of fine twined linen, shot through with blue, purple, scarlet, embroidered with cherubims. Fine twined linen itself was cloth of a beautiful texture. Blue is the heavenly colour. Purple is the royal colour, while scarlet is emblematic of earthly glory, and also of the blood of sacrifice. Cherubims represent God, acting judicially in righteousness. All that was represented by these things were found in perfection in Christ. His holy Manhood was perfect in its texture, not one thread missing or out of place. In Him was manifested every heavenly grace and all royal power, whilst in the blood of His sacrifice every judicial claim of the Divine nature was met and satisfied for ever.
This inner covering was composed of ten curtains of the same length and width, coupled together by loops of blue attached to taches or clasps of gold. These things, which typified what was heavenly and Divine, brought the ten curtains into one whole. The wonderful life of our Lord might be divided into different parts—for instance, the days of His infancy, of His childhood, of the early, hidden years of His manhood, of His baptism, of His temptation in the wilderness, of His public ministry, of His sufferings and death—but all was of a piece, coupled together by the Divine and heavenly fulness that dwelt in Him.
On these beautiful curtains were laid curtains of goat's hair. They are called the "covering," or "tent," of the tabernacle. So evidently the ten inner curtains were considered the tabernacle proper. This tent was a size larger, for each curtain was two cubits longer, and though of the same width—four cubits—there were eleven of these, so that in the front one could be doubled over. The goat's hair curtains therefore made a complete covering.
Now curtains of goat's hair would be rough and unattractive in appearance compared with those of fine twined linen beneath. They would typify therefore that holy separateness from the ways of sinful men, even when our Lord received sinners and ate with them, and that brought Him into severe conflict with the Pharisees and scribes. We are reminded that truth as well as grace came by Jesus Christ.
If the beautiful curtains of fine twined linen formed the tabernacle, and the goats' hair curtains formed the tent, we lastly have in verse 14 two coverings that were to be placed over all. First, one of rams' skins dyed red. In Exodus 29 we find repeated several times the words, "ram of consecration." Two rams were slain in the consecration of the priests. Hence here we may see a type of Christ filling up the full measure of His consecration to God in death itself. His beautiful life, so fully maintained in holy separation to God, was offered sacrificially to God, and this filled up the measure of His devotion.
Second, there was the rough outer covering of badgers' skins. This protected all that lay beneath from any defilement. There was in our Lord that which was wholly repellent of all evil. But this stirred up the antagonism of the world, and it explains why the prophet had to announce that, "When we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. 53: 2).
Verses 15-30, give us the details of the boards and bars which formed the framework of the tabernacle, and on which all the curtains rested. Here, we think, we have a type of the saints, who are "fitly framed together," and who are "an habitation of God," as we see at the end of Ephesians 2, though there it is the temple rather than the tabernacle that is referred to.
Each board had two tenons, which fitted into sockets of silver. Thus they were enabled to stand upright. Silver, as we presently find, was the metal used in the redemption money, and it is only on the ground of redemption that the saint can stand upright in the presence of God. But even so, without the bars there would only have been a collection of separate boards standing upright in the wilderness.
It was the bars that braced together the individual boards into one structure. There were five bars, and the middle one was to stretch from end to end. That middle bar it was that specially imparted a unity to the structure. Today there are more things than one that bind the saints together, but the one supreme bond is found in the indwelling Spirit of God.
Lastly, we notice, that all the boards and bars were covered with gold, and the rings through which the bars were inserted were also of gold. That which was to characterize the ark was also to characterize these. The saints are by no means divine, but as God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2: 10), they bear Christ's character. There is a fulfilment of the prayer of Moses, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (Ps. 90: 17).
Let us never cease to praise God that this is so.
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