Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
57. The Appointed Artificers
The 31st of Exodus is an important chapter, both in its typical teachings and its practical lessons. There are three things in it: first, we are shown the Divine provision which was made for the carrying out of Jehovah’s instructions concerning the building of the tabernacle and the making of its furniture; second, the Divinely-appointed Sabbath in its special relation to Israel is here defined; third, the actual giving to Moses of the two tables of the testimony, on which were written, by the finger of God, the ten commandments, is here recorded.
Full instructions concerning all the details of the tabernacle had now been given; the provision for the execution of them is next made known. Nothing is left to chance, no place allowed for human scheming. All is of God. Though skilled in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, Moses was not left to draw the plans for Jehovah’s dwelling-place; instead, he was bidden to make all things after the pattern shown him in the mount. Now that the "pattern" had been completely set before him, the Lord makes known who are to be the principal workmen. The choice of them was His, not Moses’; and their equipment for the work was Divine and not human.
The appointed artificers were Bezaleel and Aholiab, one from the tribe of Judah, the other from the tribe of Daniel ‘We do not have here the actual making of the tabernacle, that is seen in chapters 36 to 39; rather is it the Divine calling and making competent of those who were to engage in that work. That Christ is the One here foreshadowed is evident, for "in the volume of the book it is written of Me" is His own express declaration. None but He was capable of building a House for God, and every detail of our present type clearly establishes that fact. May the Spirit of God grant us eyes to see.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning (skillful) works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber; to work in all manner of workmanship" (vv. 1-5).
In the above verses we have three things: the workman appointed, the workman equipped, the workman’s task. Here, as ever in Holy Writ, the proper nouns are pregnant with spiritual significance. The first of the two principal artificers here mentioned is Bezaleel, which means "In the shadow of God" or "the protection of God." He was the son of Uri, which means "light"; the grandson of Hur, which means "free"; from the tribe of Judah, which means "praise." The suitability of these tames for one who foreshadowed the person of our Savior is at once evident.
The similarity of thought between "shadow" and "protection may be seen by a reference to a number of scriptures in which the former is found. "Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings" (Ps. 17:8); "In the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge" (Ps. 57:1); "In the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice" (Ps. 63:7). The "shadow of Thy wings" speaks of the place of intimacy, of protection, of fellowship. This is the place which the Lord Jesus has ever occupied in His relationship to the Father: "The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:18).
Bezaleel was the son of Uri, "light," viz., "the light of Jehovah." The "Urim" of the high priests’ breastplate is the same word, in the plural number. Now, as the name "Bezaleel" suggests the place occupied by the perfect Workman, the Builder of the "true tabernacle," so the "son of Uri" defines His person, telling us who He is. The "Son of Light" at once announces that He is the Son of God, for "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Yes, He is "the Brightness of His glory, and the very impress of His substance’ (Heb. 1:3). While here on earth, He was "The Light of the world" (John 9:5). When He returns to it, it will be as "the Sun of Righteousness."
Bezaleel was the son of Uri, the son of "Hur," which means "free," or "at liberty." This is very blessed. As the first name speaks of Christ’s relation to the Father, and the second tells who He is, so this third one makes known the manner in which He entered upon His Divinely-appointed work. That which was here foreshadowed is told out in plain terms in Hebrews 10:9, "Then said He, I come to do Thy will, O God." The Lord Jesus voluntarily entered upon the great work which He undertook. True it is that the Father "sent" Him (John 9:4, etc.); yet, equally true is it that He "came." Perfectly does this come out in our type: Bezaleel was "called" by God to his work (v. 2), yet was he a son of "liberty."
"Of the tribe of Judah." Beautiful line in the picture is this. Judah was, of course, the royal tribe, as also the one who took the lead when Israel journeyed. But it is the meaning of his name which it is so blessed to note: Judah signifies "praise." Does not this tell us the spirit in which the Redeemer entered into His work, that work which involved such humiliation, such suffering, such a death! Listen to His own words in Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do Thy will, O God." Behold Him at the very time He was being despised and rejected of men: "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent" (Luke 10:21). Let it be added that while there are not a few of the Psalms which breathe out the sorrows and sufferings of Christ, there are also many of them which express thanksgiving and praise.
Next we have the equipment or qualification of the typical artificer for his work: "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." This at once makes us think of Isaiah 11:1-4, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears. But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth."
"To work in gold." As it has been pointed out so frequently in previous articles, "gold" speaks of Divine glory, the Divine glory manifested. Ah, only one filled with "the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding and in knowledge" was competent to "work in gold." Now, it is in the Gospel of John that the antitype of this is most plainly seen. There, at the close of His public ministry, we find the Son saying to the Father, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." Details of that "work" are given in the verses that follow: "I have manifested Thy name" (v. 6), "I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me" (v. 8), "I have kept them in Thy name" (v. 12), etc.
"And in silver." This symbol has also been before us again and again. It speaks of redemption. And who was qualified to "work in silver?" None but He who came from the Father’s bosom as the Son of Light. The work of redemption was a more stupendous and wondrous one than the work of creation. It was a work far beyond the power of those who were to be redeemed: "None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him: for the redemption of their soul is precious" (Ps. 49:7, 8). Yes, the redemption of their soul is "precious," so precious that naught but the "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19) could avail. The blessed outcome of His "work in silver" is seen in Revelation 5:9, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
"And in brass." This is ever the symbol of Divine judgment. Here, too, a Divinely-qualified workman was called for, for no mere creature as such was capable of enduring the entire weight of God’s judgment upon the sins of His guilty people. Therefore, did God lay help upon One that is "Mighty" (Ps. 89:19). Unspeakably solemn is this aspect of our type. It tells of our blessed Redeemer being "made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21), which signifies that He became sacrificially what we were personally. It tells of Him being "made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13), suffering the infexible penalty of God’s righteous law on our behalf, receiving the wages of sin in our stead. It tells of Him being "lifted up" as Moses lifted up the serpent of brass (John 3:14). The "work in brass" was completed when He cried "It is finished," bowed His head, and breathed forth His spirit (John 19:30).
"And in cutting of stones." The local reference is to the jewels which were to adorn the shoulders and breastplate of Israel’s high priest, as he appeared before God on their behalf, jewels on which were engraved the names of all their twelve tribes. Thus, those gems spoke of the people of God, presented before Him in all the merits and excellency of that blessed One whom Aaron foreshadowed. The antitype of this is found in 1 Peter 2:5, "Ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house." The next words of Exodus 31, "and in carving of timber" look forward, we believe, to the Lord’s future dealings with Israel. "To work in all manner of workmanship," which is repeated from 5:3, at once reminds us of that word in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." How blessedly significant to observe that the work of this artificer is given (vv. 4, 5)—in five details—all is of Divine grace!
"And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee" (v. 6). Many human characters were needed to foreshadow the varied and manifold perfections of the God-man. Creation demonstrates the Creator. Some things in creation manifest His mighty power, some His consummate wisdom, others His abiding faithfulness, still others His abundant mercy. Each and all are required to exhibit the different attributes of their Maker. In like manner, Abel, Noah, Moses, Aaron, David, are all types of Christ, each one pointing to some distinctive aspect of His person, offices, or work. Thus it is in our present type: Aholiab supplements Bezaleel.
"And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan." The meanings of these names are also significant. Aholiab signifies "The Tent of the Father." In the light of John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt (Greek, tented) among us, and we beheld His glory," the force of this name is clear. Just as of old Jehovah took up His abode in the tabernacle in the wilderness, so did He again find a Dwelling-place on this earth when the Son became incarnate: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). The Lord Jesus walking among men was "God manifest in flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). So perfect and complete was that manifestation He could say, "he that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).
Aholiab was the son of Ahisamach, and the latter name signifies "Brother of Support." As another has said, "Probably this name primarily refers to the fact that Aholiab was a fellow-helper to Bezaleel in the work of the tabernacle. But is it not worthy of remark that while we have in Aholiab the name Father, we have in the name Ahisamach, the word Brother; and may there not be in this a little prophetic hint of that truth contained in Hebrews 2:9-11, in which we find the Lord Jesus raised from the suffering of death to a place of exaltation, where everything is put under His feet, and in which also it is declared that ‘he (the Lord Jesus) who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.’ He is the Dwelling-place of God, and He is the Brother of support to His brethren" (H. W. Soltau).
Aholiab was of the tribe of Daniel As Judah took the lead when Israel was on the march, so Dan brought up the rear. Thus, the spiritual principle here exemplified was that, in the two men appointed to be the chief artificers, all Israel were represented. So the Lord Jesus, in the glorious work which He accomplished, represented all God’s people, the feeblest as well as the strongest. The name Dan signifies "Judge." "The tabernacle of God is a place for worship and praise, because therein is revealed God’s great act of judgment upon sin in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God" (H.W.S.).
"That they may make all that I have commanded thee" (v. 6), words repeated in v. 11. Significant line in the typical picture is this. Every detail of their work was Divinely appointed beforehand. No room was there for the exercise of self-will; all was to be the working out of that which God had willed. Most blessed is it to behold the fulfillment of this in the Antitype. Very explicit are His words: "For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38); "Therefore, doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from My Father" (John 10:17, 18).
There is no need for us to comment separately on each of the details mentioned in vv. 7-11 as they have all been before us in previous articles. It should be noted, though, that fourteen things are specified: (1) "The tabernacle of the congregation (the tent of meeting); (2) And the ark of the testimony; (3) and the mercy-seat that is thereupon; (4) and all the furniture of the tabernacle (the pillars, sockets. pins, etc.); (5) and the table, and his furniture," etc. In vv. 4, 5 a fivefold work was mentioned; in vv. 7 to 11 the making of fourteen articles is referred to. This tells us that the work of Christ was founded upon Divine grace, and that in the execution of it He displayed a perfect witness to the perfections of God.
Turning now to the practical teaching of our passage, it is at once evident that here we have most important instruction upon the subject of Divine service: note how the "See!" (v. 2) and "Behold!" (v. 6) direct attention to the weightiness of what follows. The first thing is God’s selection of His servants. Bezaleel and Aholiab did not presume to intrude into this holy office of themselves, nor were they appointed by Moses, or by a committee made up of the leading Levites; instead, they were "called" by God (v. 2). "This principle runs through all dispensations. The apostle adduces it when speaking of the priesthood of Christ. He says, ‘So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Heb. 5:5, 6). In like manner he speaks of himself as an ‘apostle by the will of God’ (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1, etc.)" (Mr. Dennett).
This lies at the foundation of all true service. Those who run without being sent, those who undertake work (though in the name of the Lord) without being called to it by God, are rebels, not "servants." Yet how many there are in these days—days which are characterized by self-will and lawlessness—occupying prominent positions in Christendom, yet who have never been called of God. Many, attracted by the prestige and honor of the position, others because it is an easy way of making a living, have thrust themselves into an holy office. Many, influenced by men with more zeal than knowledge, or advised by admiring friends or doting mothers, have been pressed into service for which they had no call from Heaven. Fearful presumption and sin is it for any man to profess to speak in the name of Christ if he has received no call from Him.
The second principle of service which receives both illustration and exemplification in our present passage is God’s equipment of His servants. It is by this that God’s people may identify His sent servants, and in this way that an exercised heart may ascertain whether or no a call to service has been received from the Lord. God never calls a man to any work without fitting him for it. If God calls one to be an evangelist, He will fill his heart with compassion for the lost, and so burden him with a sense of the doom awaiting the wicked, that he will cry "Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel." If God calls a man to be a pastor, He will bestow upon him the necessary gifts; if to be a missionary, He will endow him with a special aptitude for learning a foreign language; and so on.
What is still more to the point, and so essential for us to note is that, when God calls a man to be His servant, He fills him with "the Spirit of God, in wisdom. and in understanding, and in knowledge" (v. 3). For other examples of this, see 1 Kings 7:13, 14; Luke 1:5; Acts 10:38; 5:4; 6:3. Vastly different is this from the expedients and substitutes of men. Colleges, universities, theological seminaries, Bible-training schools do not and cannot impart these spiritual gifts. God alone can bestow them. And where He has done so, then all the schools of men are needless. The servant who has been endowed with power and wisdom from on High is entirely independent of men. Human wisdom is of no avail in the service of God. This is all very humbling to the flesh, but it is God’s way, for He is a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another.
The third important principle in connection with service to be noted in our passage is God’s appointment of the servant’s work: "that they may make all that I have commanded them" (vv. 6, 11). The very essence of all real service lies in obedience, obedience to the will of our master. So it is in connection with Divine service. Listen again to the words of the perfect Servant. "I came down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). Bezaleel and Ahoilab were not left free to pick and choose what they should do or not do; all was ordered for them. Thus it is with the Lord’s servants today: the Word sets forth his marching-orders—what he should preach, what he should do, how he should do it.
A very simple but searching principle is this. As another has said, "The Word is both the guide of the servant and the test of his service—the proof of its being done with divine wisdom and according to the divine mind." God’s work must be done in God’s way, or we cannot count upon His blessing thereon. He has promised, "them that honor Me, I will honor," and the only way to honor God is to keep His precepts diligently, to preach nothing but His Word, to employ no methods save those expressly sanctioned by Holy Writ. Anything other than this is self-will, and that is sin. O what need is there for pondering the basic principles of service as made known in Exodus 31!
Finally, we may observe here the Divine sovereignty exercised in the selection of the servants called. One was from the tribe of Judah, the other from the tribe of Dan. This is the more striking in the light of the history of those tribes. The former was the one from which Christ, according to the flesh, came; the other is the tribe from which, most probably, the Antichrist shall arise (Gen. 49:17). At any rate, Dan was the tribe that took the lead in apostasy. "Such a selection speaks of divine sovereignty. God has taken pains to show by many examples that He acts for Himself, and that He does not find His motive in the character, conduct, or genealogy of those whom He blesses. It is a comfort to see that a man from Dan comes in as well as from Judah. It shows the principle on which all really comes in; that is, as ‘vessels of mercy’" (C. A. Coates).
Dan was the very last tribe from which the natural understanding would expect to find a man selected to be one of the principal artificers of the tabernacle. Yes, and fishermen and publicans are the last classes among whom one would look for the apostles of the Lamb! Ah, God’s thoughts and ways are ever different from man’s. The one chosen to deliver Egypt from an unparalleled famine-crisis, was called from the dungeon. He who was to lead Israel’s hosts across the desert was called from the back-side of the wilderness. The man after God’s own heart who was to sit on Israel’s throne, was taken from the sheepcote.
It is not without reason that Christians are enjoined to "condescend of men of low estate," for that is God’s way. It is still His way. "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). And, conversely, those who are rated lowest by the world are often the ones through whom God performs His greatest wonders. "For God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are" (1 Cor. 1:27, 28). Why? "That no flesh should glory in His presence." May the Lord bless His own truth to His poor and needy people.