Gleanings In Exodus
34. The Tabernacle (Continued)
The neglect of typology and the ignorance which prevails today concerning the spiritual significance of the Tabernacle is one of the many solemn signs of the times. The pyramids of Egypt and the catacombs of Rome are never-failing objects of interest. The ancient abbeys of England and the temples of heathendom attract thousands every year from the ends of the earth, to admire their architectural designs and to study their historical features. But the Tabernacle of Jehovah, which possesses a charm and a claim unknown to any other building is, like its antitype, despised and rejected of men. True, it is no longer to be seen on earth in concrete form, yet a Divinely-inspired and detailed account of it has been given to us in the Holy Scriptures. But so widely is the study of typology neglected, comparatively few among the great masses of professing Christians know anything of the Divine wonders and spiritual beauties in which the closing chapters of Exodus abound.
In our day even students of theology leave those fruitful fields to glean elsewhere. Many of them are wasting their time reading through almost countless volumes treating of the authorship of the Pentateuch, instead of poring over the sacred pages themselves. They prefer to wade through the polluted streams which the higher critics have digged, rather than drink from the pure river of the Water of Life. Even where the Divine inspiration of the books of Moses is accepted, comparatively few are occupied with their deeper teachings and blessed foreshadowings. Alas that it is so.
"The typical portions of Scripture are supremely important and as a study vastly interesting. Types are shadows. Shadows imply substance. A type has its lessons. It was the design of Jehovah to express His great thought of redemption to His people Israel in a typical or symbolic manner. By laws, ceremonies, institutions, persons and incidents, He sought to keep alive in Israel’s hearts the hope of a coming Redeemer. Christ is therefore the key to Moses’ gospel. This then is our advantage, that we can minutely compare type and antitype, and learn thereby the lessons of grace which bringeth salvation" ("Shadow and Substance," by G. Needham).
In our last article we dwelt upon the typical purport of the Tabernacle; here we shall say a few words concerning its doctrinal lessons. One of the chief values which the closing sections of Exodus possesses to the true people of God is that there we have set before us Divine illustrations, concrete representations, vivid pictures of the fundamental verities connected with our "great salvation." God, in His infinite condescension, graciously adapted His instructions to the spiritual intelligence of His children. An abstract statement of truth is much harder to apprehend than a visible representation of it to the eye. Just as in natural things a child is able to grasp the meaning of pictures before it learns to spell and to read, so God has first given us a full description of the Tabernacle and all its contents, setting before the eye that which is found in the N.T. Epistles in the form of doctrinal expositions. Thus by means of material symbols we are assisted to understand the better the riches of God’s grace in Christ our Savior.
The Tabernacle—the materials of which it was composed; the seven pieces of furniture, the priesthood who ministered therein, the offerings and sacrifices—is to be regarded as one great object-lesson, setting forth spiritual truth. For this reason, among others, was it designated "the Tent of the Testimony" (Num. 9:15). There, witness was borne of "good things to come" (Heb. 10:1). There, was proclaimed the holiness and majesty of the great Jehovah. There, were set forth the terms of communion with Him. There, was revealed the way of approach by blood-shedding. There, was exhibited the imperative need of a Divinely-appointed Mediator. There, was shown the efficacy of atonement by the sacrifice of an innocent victim in the room of the guilty. There, was established the Mercy-seat, from which God communed with the representative of His people.
Our great difficulty in seeking to interpret the portions of Scripture which now lie before us is the multitude of the revelations contained therein. By means of the Tabernacle Jehovah revealed His character and made known His purpose of redemption. There, devouring holiness and righteous indignation against sin declared the fact that God was Just even while He Justified. The Tabernacle was the place of sacrifice; its most vivid spectacle was the flowing and sprinkling of blood, pointing forward to the sufferings and death of Christ. It was also the place of cleansing; there was the blood for atonement and also the water for washing away the stains of defilement. So Christ "loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the Word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). The Tabernacle had inner chambers, setting forth the fullness of those blessings which the believer has in Christ. In them was light, bread, and the altar of prayer—all finding their anti-typical fulfillment in our blessed Redeemer.
Probably the outstanding lesson taught us through the Tabernacle was the way in which a sinner might approach God. First of all, he was most forcibly reminded that sin had separated him from God. The Tabernacle was God’s dwelling-place, and it was enclosed, being encircled by walls of pure white curtains. This at once taught Israel the holiness of the One who had come to dwell in their midst; they were shut out and He was shut in. Their sinfulness unfitted them to enter His holy presence. O my reader, have you ever pondered the Ineffable holiness of God, and realized that your sins have placed you at a guilty distance from Him?
But though the sanctuary of Jehovah was enclosed, there was a door through which the Israelite might enter the outer court, though further he might not advance. There, within the outer court, stood the Tabernacle proper, with its two compartments, surrounded by walls of wooden boards, and only the priests were allowed therein, and they but in the first chamber—the holy place. Beyond, lay the holy of holies, where the Shekinah glory, the visible representation of God’s presence, resided between the cherubim on the mercy-seat. Into this compartment none ever entered save Moses the mediator, and Aaron the high priest one day in the year.
Marvelous is the progressive order of teaching in connection with the various objects in the Tabernacle. At the brazen altar sin was judged, and by blood-shedding put away. At the laver purification was effected. In the holy place provision was made for prayer, food and illumination; while in the holy of holies the glory of the enthroned King was displayed. The same principle of progress is also to be seen in the increasing value of the sacred vessels. Those in the outer court were of wood and brass; whereas those in the inner compartments were of wood and gold. So too the various curtains grew richer in design and embellishment, the inner veil being the costliest and most elaborate. Again, the outer court, being open, was illumined by natural light; the holy place was lit up by the light from the golden candlestick; but the holy of holies was radiated by the Shekinah glory of Jehovah. Thus the journey from the outer court into the holy of holies was from sin to purification, and from grace to glory. How blessedly did this illustrate the truth that "the path of the Just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18).
The order in which the Tabernacle and its contents are described is most significant. The first thing mentioned is the ark (25:10) and its covering—the mercy-seat (25:17), which was Jehovah’s throne in Israel’s midst. Then comes the table (25:23) and the candlestick (25:31), the curtains (26:1), and boards (26:15) of the Tabernacle proper, with the separating veil (26:31). Last comes the brazen altar (27:1) and the hangings of the court (27:9). Thus it will be seen that the order is from the interior to the exterior. It is the order of sovereign grace, God coming from His throne right to the outer door where the sinner was! How this reminds us of the Incarnation; the sinner in his sins could not go from earth to heaven, so God in the person of His Son came from heaven to earth, and died the Just for the unjust "that He might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). Blessedly was this emphasized by Christ in His teaching—the Shepherd going after the lost sheep (Luke 15:4), the good Samaritan journeying to where the wounded traveler lay (Luke 10:33), etc.
"In describing the things that pertain to worship, He commences with the most precious type of all—the breast-plate the high priest wore on his heart (28:4) and ends with the laver of brass in which Aaron’s sons were to wash their hands and feet daily (30:18). It is thus too in the book that takes up the sacrifices—Leviticus. It commences not with the offerings for sins, but the highest form of all—the burnt offering (Lev. 2:1). God’s glory must be the first object to be established by the work of Christ, and then our need met (Lev. 4). But that which we first apprehend is surely that which meets our need in the sin-offering. And the vast difference in the ancient and it is often years before we understand that it is a "sweet savor" sacrifice that met the need of God’s heart and established His glory" (Mr. C. H. Bright in "Pictures of Salvation").
It is very striking to note that in the second description of the Tabernacle, where we have the record of its manufacture and erection, there is a notable variation—instead of beginning with the contents of the holy of holies where Jehovah dwelt, we have described the Tabernacle and curtains of the outer court, which the common people saw. Here the order is from without to within—the experimental order, the order in which Divine truth is apprehended by the soul. This same twofold order may be seen in the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians. In the former, the Holy Spirit begins with man’s sinfulness, guiltiness, and ruin; goes on to speak of God’s provision in Christ, and then closes the doctrinal section by showing us the redeemed sinner in the presence of God, from whom there is no separation. In Ephesians the Spirit begins with God’s eternal counsels, choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and then treats of redemption and regeneration and the consequent privileges and responsibilities flowing therefrom. In Romans it is the sinner going in to God; in Ephesians, God coming out the sinner. Such is the double teaching in the twofold order of the description of the Tabernacle.
Before Jehovah gave instructions to Moses concerning the various articles in the Tabernacle, He first ordered him to require of Israel as an offering, the different materials out of which they were to be made. "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" (Ex. 25:1-2). Very beautiful is this. The materials out of which the Tabernacle was to be made were to be provided by the voluntary offerings of devoted hearts. The great Jehovah who inhabiteth the praises of eternity condescended to take up His abode in a boarded and curtained Tent, erected by those who desired His presence in their midst (see 15:2).
Historically, we may admire the fruit of God’s grace working in the hearts of His redeemed so that they willingly offered the required materials. Their offering was so spontaneous and full (see 35:21-29) that we are told, "And they spake unto Moses, saying, the people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout 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" (36:5-7). But behind the historical we are to look for the spiritual, and behold here a lovely type of the voluntariness and joy of the Lord Jesus, who freely and gladly became flesh, thus providing God with a perfect Sanctuary as He tabernacled among men!
"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, 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 be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate" (v. 3-7). Each of these articles tells forth one of the manifold perfections of Christ. The gold, His Divine glory. The silver, the redemption which He wrought and bought for us. The brass, His capacity to endure the wrath of God against our sins. The blue, His heavenly origin. The purple, His royal majesty. The scarlet, His earthly glory in a coming day. The fine linen, His holiness made manifest by His righteous walk and ways. The goats’ hair, His atonement. The rams’ skins, His devotedness to God. The badgers’ skins, His ability to protect His people. The shittim wood, His incorruptible humanity. The oil for the light, His Divine wisdom. The spices, His fragrance unto God. The precious stones, His priestly perfections. We do not now offer proofs for these definitions nor enlarge upon their blessedness, as, God willing, each one will come before us for fuller consideration in the articles to follow.
With the above verses should be compared Exodus 38:24-31, where the Holy Spirit has given us the respective weights of the gold, silver and brass. Careful students have estimated there would be fully a ton and a quarter of gold, which at modern value would be worth upwards of one hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds, or eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars, but allowing for present-day purchasing values, worth much more. Of silver there would be fully four tons and a quarter, and worth forty thousand pounds or two hundred thousand dollars. Of brass (more likely, copper) there was also over four tons. In addition, there were the textile fabrics, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen, besides goats’ hair, rams’ and badgers’ skins, and large quantities of shittim wood, the amounts of which are not recorded. Last, but not least, were the precious stones for the breastplate of the high priest. All of this indicates the great costliness of the Tabernacle. At modern values its materials would be worth at least a million pounds or five million dollars. How this, in type, told of God’s estimate of Christ; how it shows us the Father saying, This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!
It is noteworthy that there were fifteen separate articles specified in the above verses, the factors of which are three and five—almost every numeral connected with the Tabernacle was a division or multiple of one of these. Now three is the number of manifestation and therefore of God—in the three Persons of the Trinity. Five is the number of grace. Putting these together, fifteen signifies, in the language of spiritual arithmetic, God’s grace manifested. How eminently suited were these numerals as the predominating ones in that dwelling-place of God which pointed forward to His incarnate Son! It was in Christ, come to earth, that the grace of God was fully made known. How this shows us, again, that there is a deep meaning to the minutest detail of Holy Writ!
"And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (v. 8). Here is the leading feature to bear in mind concerning the Tabernacle: it was to be Jehovah’s "sanctuary," God’s dwelling-place. It is important to observe that it was not until He had redeemed a people unto Himself that God dwelt amid them on the earth. He visited Adam in Eden, He appeared to and communed with the patriarchs, He gave communications to Moses even in Egypt, but not until He had redeemed His people out of the house of bondage, not until they had been separated from their enemies at the Red Sea, not until His government over them had been established at Sinai, did He propose the making of a sanctuary, in which He might dwell among His saints.
The Tabernacle then was the pledge and proof that God had graciously brought His redeemed people into relationship with Himself, yea, into a place of nearness to Himself. So we, who once were (because of sin) far off from Him, have been made nigh by the precious blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). The awful distance which once separated is now gone; we have been brought "to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). O the wondrous riches of Divine mercy! First bought by Christ, then sought by the Spirit, and in consequence, brought to the Father; and that not as guilty criminals, but as happy children. Blessedly is this illustrated at the close of that wondrous parable In Luke 15. There we are shown that the one who had wasted his substance in the far country, then convicted of his deep need and brought to repentance, finally welcomed by the Father, fitted for His presence and given a seat at His table.
But as at the marriage-feast in Cana of Galilee, the best wine is reserved for the last. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sin. And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a 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. 21:1-3). "Then the counsels of God’s heart will be displayed in their consummated perfection, and, inasmuch as the former things, with all the sorrows connected with them through man’s sin, will have passed away, there will be nothing to hinder the full, perfect, and blessed enjoyment arising out of the unhindered flow of God’s heart to His people, and their hearts to Him, and from His perfect manifestation and their perfect worship and service" (Mr. Ed. Dennett).
"According to all that I show thee. after the pattern of the Tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof even so shall you make it" (v. 9). It is to be noted that Moses not only received implicit instructions as to what materials the tabernacle was to be made from, and (as we shall see later) complete details as to the dimensions, plan, and furnishings thereof; but that a pattern or model was set before him, after which it was to be constructed. That this is a point of importance for us to weigh is evident from the number of times it is repeated in the Scriptures. No less than seven times are we informed that Moses was commanded to make the Sanctuary after the pattern of it which was shown him in the Mount—see Exodus 25:9; 25:40; 26:30; 27:8; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5. Nothing was left to man’s wisdom, still less to "chance"; everything was to be in exact accordance with the Divine model. Does not this teach us that everything concerning Christ and His people has been wrought out according to the eternal purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will! May Divine grace enable us to rest there in perfect peace and Joyous worship.