The Biblical Illustrator
The curtains of the Tabernacle
I. That the glory of God is hidden to all who stand outside Jesus Christ. Man cannot surprise God and penetrate His secrets.
II. That in Christ the glory of God is most brightly revealed.
1. There is such a thing as regarding Christ from the outside; and then, as the Jews, we see no beauty in Him.
2. There is such a thing as knowing Christ as a great Teacher, a great Example; “the goats’ hair curtains hooked with brass.”
3. But it is only when we believe in Christ as the Son of God, and rest in Him as such, that we behold the fulness of His glory. The colours are the symbols of the different names of God; blue signifies the special revelation of God, being the colour of heaven and ether; red denotes the highest dignity, majesty, and royal power; crimson is that which fire and blood have in common, and symbolizes, therefore, life in its full extent. In Christ, the love, the life, the beauty, the majesty of God are most brightly expressed.
III. That in Christ is everlasting security and blessedness. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The curtains and the coverings
I. Let us look at the beautiful curtains that formed the Tabernacle.
1. If we view the Tabernacle as an emblem of Christ in His incarnation, the beautiful curtains of cunning work were emblematical of the attributes and perfections of Jehovah, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Here every perfection meets and shines.
2. These beautifully-wrought curtains were emblems of the perfect graces which adorned the human nature of Jesus.
3. May we not see in this beautiful piece of tapestry the various characters of Christ? Here by faith we behold the Priest and His sacrifice, the King and His golden crown, the Prophet and His teaching, the Mediator and His fulness. Here by faith we behold the Shepherd and His watchful care, the Husband and His everlasting love, the Friend and His faithful counsel. Here in a mystery of grace we may discover the Root and the tree, the Vine and the branches, the Head and the members.
4. The curtains were the same in the holiest as in the holy place. The Church triumphant and the Church militant have the same Christ.
5. These curtains were fastened together by blue loops and taches of gold so as to form one Tabernacle. The loops and taches were exactly over the vail (Exodus 26:33). This may teach us the connection between Christ’s work in heaven and His work on earth.
6. These curtains were full of cherubim. May not these cherubim be emblems of believers who are Christ’s mystical body? Christ and His members are one.
7. These curtains are emblems of the Churches of Christ adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit.
8. The loops and golden clasps which united the curtains together show us the place for little deeds of kindness and little deeds of love. Kind words fitly spoken are golden clasps. There is far more power in kind words than some people think. Kind words are very uniting.
9. The Tabernacle was divided into two parts, but it was only one Tabernacle. The saints in heaven and the saints on earth make but one Church.
II. We may now look at the tent of goats’ hair, which formed a covering for the Tabernacle. The curtains of goats’ hair were emblematical of the righteousness of Christ, which is the justification of the Church. These curtains were joined together by clasps of brass. “And he made fifty taches of brass to couple the tent together, that it might be one.” Brass is an emblem of strength. “In the Lord shall one say, have I righteousness and strength.” “In the Lord Jehovah “--Jehovah Tsidkenu--“is everlasting strength.” May we not have an emblem in these two large goats’ hair curtains, of righteousness in its twofold aspect? Christ’s righteousness imputed is our justification. Christ’s righteousness imparted is our sanctification. We cannot have one without the other; they must be in our experience “coupled together.” Jesus Christ is our Righteousness and our Sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ for us is our perfect righteousness. Christ in us is our perfect sanctification.
III. Over the tent was a covering of rams’ skins dyed red. Beautiful emblem of the protecting blood of Christ.
IV. Above the covering of rams’ skins dyed red was a covering of badgers’ skins. These skins were probably dyed blue. Perhaps a part were dyed purple. If so there would be seen on the outside, as well as the inside, “the blue, purple, and scarlet.” This outside covering teaches us that the Church is under the protection of heaven. The blue skins were over the red skins. Heaven only protects the blood marked. “Kept by the power of God.” (R. E. Sears.)
The beauty of holiness within
1. As the outside of the Tabernacle was coarse and rough, the beauty all lying within, so those in whom God dwells must labour to be better than they seem to be. Hypocrites put the best side outward, like whited sepulchres, but “the king’s daughter is all glorious within” (Psalms 45:13); in the eye of the world black as the tents of Kedar, but in the eye of God comely as the curtains of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:5). Let our adorning be that of the hidden man of the heart which God values (1 Peter 3:4).
2. Where God places His glory, He will create a defence; even on the habitations of the righteous there shall be a covert (Isaiah 6:5-6). The protection of Providence shall always be upon the beauty of holiness (Psalms 27:5). (A. Nevin, D. D.)
The materials used in the manufacture of this fabric were precisely the same as those which formed the vail; a different arrangement, however, is adopted as to the “fine linen.” In the vail, the blue first meets the eye; and the fine linen is last in the series. In these curtains, the fine linen stands, first, succeeded by the blue and the other colours. The vail, we know from Hebrews 10:20, was a type of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, and was rent when He yielded up the ghost. The curtains, fastened together by golden taches, seem to foreshadow Christ in resurrection. The same glorious display of God and man, wondrously united, meets the eye of faith, whether the blessed Lord be contemplated when sojourning on this earth or raised to the right hand of the Majesty on high. Resurrection added to Him no new perfections; for He was, while on earth, the Resurrection and the Life. He was ever perfect. (H. W. Soltau.)
The beautiful and costly cherub-curtained habitation bears some analogy to the believer, to the Church, to Christ, and to heaven.
I. To the believer. God, who dwelt within these curtains, condescends to dwell graciously in the heart of every true Israelite--“saints are an habitation of God through the Spirit.” As the Tabernacle was more beautiful within than without, so are God’s children. They are clothed with the spotless robe of Emmanuel’s righteousness, and adorned with humility, love, holiness, and heavenly-mindedness.
II. To the church. Believers, of whom the Church is composed, although scattered among many sects of professing Christians, are yet all one in Christ Jesus. As the curtains though woven separately were afterwards sewed together and formed two great curtains, which, when hung, were united into one by means of loops of blue and clasps of gold, so God’s children are knit together by the silver ties of affection and bound together by the golden clasps of love.
III. To christ. He was the true Tabernacle, which “the Lord pitched and not man.”
IV. To heaven. There angels and saints behold God-shining, not by a mere as symbol He did within the cherub-curtains, but in the “face of Jesus Christ!” There are those glorious beings who are mighty in strength (and whose perfections probably were shadowed forth in the cherubs that stood upon the mercy-seat and adorned roof and walls), even thousands and tens of thousands of holy angels, guardians of the saints while on earth, and their companions and fellow-worshippers for ever in the heavenly temple. (W. Brown.)
The golden and brazen taches
Fifty taches, or clasps of gold, linked together the innermost or beautiful curtains of the tabernacle. Fifty taches of brass coupled the goats’-hair curtains. By the former one tabernacle--by the latter one tent was made. The vail, which divided the interior into two unequal portions, was hung up under the taches. As long as that vail remained entire, there might be said to be two tabernacles. At the same time, there was an intimation that the whole interior was but one holy place, in the fact of the curtains that covered, being connected by the taches, and forming one tabernacle, and one tent above it. All priestly service is now conducted in the holiest. Heaven itself is the place where Christ appears in the presence of God for us. The fifty taches of gold may be so many distinct presentations of the glories of Christ, expressed in His various names and titles, as seen crowned with glory and honour upon the throne of God. The taches of brass may exhibit the same names and titles as appertaining to Him when He was on earth, the Second Man, the Lord from heaven; as it will be found that the brass is used as a type of the Lord on earth in suffering and trial; while the gold has a resurrection aspect of the same glorious One. He has, as risen from the dead, retaken His own glorious titles; having, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. The brazen taches seem appropriately to knit together the curtains of goats’ hair, which proclaim to us His sorrows and sufferings on the tree; while the golden taches, as appropriately coupled together the beautiful curtains, which manifest Him as received up in glory, because of the perfection of His labour and service in suffering on earth. (H. W. Soltau.)
The coverings of the Tabernacle
The coverings of the Tabernacle were four in number, viz., badgers’skins, rams’skins dyed red, goats’hair, and the embroidered covering. Much difficulty has been felt, and is still felt, as to the animal which in our translation is called a badger. Some think it was a seal, and that the entire Tabernacle, excepting the east end where the door was placed, was covered with seals’skin. Others think that this covering was made of the skins of a species of stag goat; but be this as it may, it is clear that the outer covering was made of some hard and durable substance; so hard was it that shoes were sometimes made of the same material (Ezekiel 16:10). In this covering there was nothing beautiful or attractive. I can suppose a man to have stood at the top of some high hill, and to have looked down on the long, dark, coffin-like structure, and to have said, “Well, I have heard much about the Tabernacle as being a very costly building, but I see no beauty at all in this long, dark tent”; but the priests who had been within could tell of gold, and silver, and the richest embroidery to be seen there. It was all glorious within, but rough and unsightly without. This badger skin covering sets forth the humility of Christ when on earth among men, who, judging of Him according to the outward appearance, said, “He hath no form nor comeliness; there is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him”; so they despised and rejected Him (Isaiah 53:2-3). But we know there was much in Christ which did not meet the eye of men generally; and those who, taught of the Father, knew Him as the Christ the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-17) were attracted to Him, for He was to them the “chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16). The rough badger skin outside was as needful as was the beautiful covering underneath; and the humility of Christ was as needful for us, and for the glory of God, as was His exaltation. This covering of badgers’ skins was thick enough and hard enough to be an effectual protection from the rain, dew, and fine sand of the desert, and nothing could get through it to stain the fine linen or to dim the gold within. This shadows forth to us the holy determination of Christ to stand as a faithful and true witness for God on earth: the truth was in Him, and He kept it to the end. (G. Rodgers.)
The rams’skins dyed red
This red covering was probably made of the skins of rams which had been devoted to God, and had suffered death as burnt-offerings--not as sin-offerings. The skin of the sin-offering was burnt to ashes outside the camp (Leviticus 4:11-12), but the skin of the burnt-offering belonged to the priest who offered it to God (Leviticus 7:8). If the badger-skin covering sets forth the humility of Christ, this covering dyed red sets forth the depth of His humility. This blood-red skin reminds me of Him who when pressed, crushed, and distressed in the garden of Gethsemane, did “sweat as it were great drops of blood.” (G. Rodgers.)
The goats’-hair covering
This was the only covering that was permitted to hang over any part of the east end of the Tabernacle. The eleventh breadth, hanging over the door, would meet the eye of the worshipper the moment he came within the gate of the court. The spiritual teaching of this I think to be of the greatest importance, as we shall see when we understand what particular aspect of our blessed Jesus this covering was designed to teach. Observe, first of all, that the sin-offering whose blood was carried into the holy of holies, and sprinkled on the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat, to make an atonement for the people of Israel, was a goat (Leviticus 16:15-16). This was “the blood of sprinkling,” of which we read so much in the Bible. With this blood in his hand, the high priest entered once a year, and stood in the presence of God. This was the blood which he offered for the errors of the people, and which made atonement for them. This was the blood at which God looked, and with which He was satisfied; it had a voice, and spoke better things than the blood of Abel. When it was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, which covered up the tables of the law, it seemed to speak to God of punishment which had been borne and of a life which had been given up. Observe again, the animal that bore away the sins of the people into the wilderness, where they were found no more, was a goat. I refer to the scapegoat, of which we read in Leviticus 16:1-34. This goat going away with the people’s sins would show those outside of the Tabernacle what the blood of the slain goat had done within the vail, viz., that it had put away sin and had set them free; and as they gazed on the folded part of goats’-hair cloth, as it hung over the east end of the Tabernacle, it would seem to preach the gospel to them by reminding them how their sin was put away on the tenth day of the seventh month. It would speak of abounding grace, telling them that they had received double for all their sins. The first covering told us of the humility of Christ; the next told us of the depth of His humility; this tells us of the blessed results of His suffering and death, viz., that the sins of the Lord’s people are put away, for ever put away. (G. Rodgers.)
We now come to examine the structure of the tabernacle for which the most essential furniture has been prepared.
Some confusion of thought exists, even among educated laymen, with regard to the arrangements of the temple; and this has led to similar confusion (to a less extent) concerning the corresponding parts of the tabernacle. "The temple" in which the Child Jesus was found, and into which Peter and John went up to pray, ought not to be confounded with that inner shrine, "the temple," in which it was the lot of the priest Zacharias to burn incense, and into which Judas, forgetful of all its sacredness in his anguish, hurled his money to the priests (Luke 2:46; Acts 3:3; Luke 1:9; Matthew 27:5). Now, the former of these corresponded to "the court of the tabernacle," an enclosure open to the skies, and containing two important articles, the altar of burnt sacrifices and the laver. This was accessible to the nation, so that the sinner could lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and the priests could purify themselves before entering their own sacred place, the tabernacle proper, the shrine. But when we come to the structure itself, some attention is still necessary, in order to derive any clear notion from the description; nor can this easily be done by an English reader without substituting the Revised Version for the Authorised. He will then discover that we have a description, first of the "curtains of the tabernacle" (Exodus 26:1-6), and then of other curtains which are not considered to belong to the tabernacle proper, but to "the tent over the tabernacle" (Exodus 26:7-13), being no part of the rich ornamental interior, but only a protection spread above it; and over this again were two further screens from the weather (Exodus 26:14), and finally, inside all, are "the boards of the tabernacle"--of which boards the two actual apartments were constructed (Exodus 26:15-30)--and the veil which divided the Holy from the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:31-33).
"The curtains of the tabernacle" were ten, made of linen, of which every thread consisted of fine strands twisted together, "and blue and purple and scarlet," with cherubim not embroidered but woven into the fabric (Exodus 26:1).
These curtains were sewn together, five and five, so as to make two great curtains, each slightly larger than forty-two feet by thirty, being twenty-eight cubits long by five times four cubits broad (Exodus 26:2-3). Finally these two were linked together, each having fifty loops for that purpose at corresponding places at the edge, which loops were bound together by fifty golden clasps (Exodus 26:4-6). Thus, when the nation was about to march, they could easily be divided in the middle and then folded in the seams.
This costly fabric was regarded as part of the true tabernacle: why, then, do we find the outer curtains mentioned before the rest of the tabernacle proper is described?
Certainly because these rich curtains lie immediately underneath the coarser ones, and are to be considered along with "the tent" which covered all (Exodus 26:7). This consisted of curtains of goats' hair, of the same size, and arranged in all respects like the others, except that their clasps were only bronze, and that the curtains were eleven in number, instead of ten, so that half a curtain was available to hang down over the back, and half was to be doubled back upon itself at the front of "the tabernacle," that is to say, the richer curtains underneath. The object of this is obvious: it was to bring the centre of the goatskin curtains over the edge of the linen ones, as tiles overlap each other, to shut out the rain at the joints. But this implies, what has been said already, that the curtains of the tabernacle should lie close to the curtains of the tent.
Over these again was an outer covering of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering of sealskins above all (Exodus 26:14). This last, it is generally agreed, ran only along the top, like a ridge tile, to protect the vulnerable part of the roof. And now it has to be remembered that we are speaking of a real tent with sloping sides, not a flat cover laid upon the flat inner structure of boards, and certain to admit the rain. By calling attention to this fact, Mr. Fergusson succeeded in solving all the problems connected with the measurements of the tabernacle, and bringing order into what was little more than chaos before (Smith's Bible Dict., "Temple").
The inner tabernacle was of acacia wood, which was the only timber of the sanctuary. Each board stood ten cubits high, and was fitted by tenons into two silver sockets, which probably formed a continuous base. Each of these contained a talent of silver, and was therefore more than eighty pounds weight; and they were probably to some extent sunk into the ground for a foundation (Exodus 38:27). There were twenty boards on each side; and as they were a cubit and a half broad, the length of the tabernacle was about forty-five feet (Exodus 26:16-18). At the west end there were six boards (Exodus 26:22), which, with the breadth of the two posts or boards for the corners (Exodus 26:23-24) just gives ten cubits, or fifteen feet, for the width of it. Thus the length of the tabernacle was three times its breadth; and we know that in the Temple (where all the proportions were the same, the figures being doubled throughout) the subdividing veil was so hung as to make the inner shrine a perfect square, leaving the holy place twice as long as it was broad.
The posts were held in their places by wooden bars, which were overlaid with gold (as the boards also were, Exodus 26:29) and fitted into golden rings. Four such bars, or bolts, ran along a portion of each side, and there was a fifth great bar which stretched along the whole forty-five feet from end to end. Thus the edifice was firmly held together; and the wealth of the material makes it likely that they were fixed on the inside, and formed a part of the ornament of the edifice (Exodus 26:26-29).
When the two curtains were fastened together with clasps, they gave a length of sixty feet. But we have seen that the length of the boards when jointed together was only forty-five feet. This gives a projection of seven feet and a half (five cubits) for the front and rear of the tent beyond the tabernacle of boards; and when the great curtains were drawn tight, sloping from the ridge-pole fourteen cubits on each side, it has been shown (assuming a right-angle at the top) that they reached within five cubits of the ground, and extended five cubits beyond the sides, the same distance as at the front and rear. The next instructions concern the veil which divided the two chambers of the sanctuary. This was in all respects like "the curtain of the tabernacle," and similarly woven with cherubim. It was hung upon four pillars; and the even number seems to prove that there was no higher one in the centre, reaching to the roof--which seems to imply that there was a triangular opening above the veil, between the Holy and the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:31-32).
But here a difficult question arises. There is no specific measurement of the point at which this subdividing veil was to stretch across the tent. The analogy of the Temple inclines us to believe that the Most Holy Place was a perfect cube, and the Holy Place twice as long as it was broad and high. There is evident allusion to this final shape of the Most Holy Place in the description of the New Jerusalem, of which the length and breadth and height were equal. And yet there is strong reason to suspect that this arrangement was not the primitive one. For Moses was ordered to stretch the veil underneath the golden clasps which bound together the two great curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:33). But these were certainly in the middle. How, then, could the veil make an unequal division below? Possibly fifteen feet square would have been too mean a space for the dimensions of the Most Holy Place, although the perfect cube became desirable, when the size was doubled.
A screen of the same rich material, but apparently not embroidered with cherubim, was to stretch across the door of the tent; but this was supported on five pillars instead of four, clearly that the central one might support the ridge-bar of the roof. And their sockets were of brass (Exodus 26:36-37).
The tabernacle, like the Temple, had its entrance on the east (Exodus 26:22); and in the case of the Temple this was the more remarkable, because the city lay at the other side, and the worshippers had to pass round the shrine before they reached the front of it. The object was apparently to catch the warmth of the sun. For a somewhat similar reason, every pagan temple in the ancient world, with a few well-defined exceptions which are easily explained, also faced the east; and the worshippers, with their backs to the dawn, saw the first beams of the sun kindling their idol's face. The orientation of Christian churches is due to the custom which made the neophyte, standing at first in his familiar position westward, renounce the devil and all his works, and then, turning his back upon his idols, recite the creed with his face eastward.
What ideas would be suggested by this edifice to the worshipper will better be examined when we have examined also the external court.
Boards for the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle boards and bars
I. That invincible strength underlies the apparent weakness of the gospel.
II. That the gospel, despite all its natural and human aspects, has a Divine character and basis. Our faith rests in the power of God.
III. That out of the strength of Christ spring the highest glory and joy (Exodus 26:29). Let the Church seek to realize its full privilege in Christ. In character, we are often satisfied with the bare boards of mere honesty and uprightness; in experience, we are content with the boards and bars, a mere sense of safety; in hope, we rest content with the bare expectation of pulling through in the judgment. The gilded boards of the Tabernacle are eloquent illustrations of the New Testament doctrine that in Christ we must rise to beauty, to brightness, to bliss.
IV. That Christ is an everlasting dwelling-place to His people. Tabernacle built of boards of acacia, a wood so durable it does not rot even in water. The strength of Christ is everlasting. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The boards and bars
Each board of shittim wood, overlaid with gold, seems to pourtray the Lord Jesus Himself, the Son of God, the Son of Man. The shittim wood, incorruptible wood, being a shadow of that great truth, that He “partook of flesh and blood”; “the seed of the woman”; “the Second Man”; “from heaven”; yet “the Son of David”; “of the fruit of His loins”; and at the same time “the Son of the Highest”; born of the Virgin, “the Man Christ Jesus”; made “in the likeness of sinful flesh”; though, unlike any other man that ever lived on earth, incorrupt and incorruptible; having a body prepared for Him by God, in order that He might die; but without taint of mortality or death in Him. The gold also presents the other great truth, that He is “the mighty God”; “the brightness of God’s glory”; “the only begotten of the Father”; “the Son” from everlasting, and to everlasting. The boards are like the ribs of truth, the massive framework, without which no dwelling-place of God could be created; no meeting-place between God and man provided. If the wood could corrupt, or if the fine gold could become dim, if the taint of mortality, or mouldering flesh, be connected, by human theory or speculation, with the glorious Emmanuel, the Tabernacle of God must tremble and totter; the great truths of salvation are shaken, and a mis-shapen mass of ruin takes the place of the divinely ordered palace of the Most High. The massive framework of the golden boards and bars formed a compact structure, over which the curtains and coverings were suspended. They were to the curtains what the poles are to a tent. They upheld and sustained the glorious display of the blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen cherubim, as also the goats’-hair curtains. Thus what the Lord Jesus Himself was and is, viz., Son of God, Son of Man--that He has made manifest in His life, and above all, in His death; and His blessed work there derives all its unspeakable value and eternal efficacy from Himself. It is faith in Him that is salvation. (H. W. Soltau.)
The boards of the Tabernacle
The Church of Christ is here seen in type as the dwelling-place of God. It was set upon the earth and God dwelt in it. The Church of Christ is composed of many persons separated from the world, and built upon the sure foundation, which is Christ. And as those boards were covered with gold, so the people of God are made partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); as they had been separated, cut off from the place in which nature had placed them, so the members of the true Church of Christ have been cut off from the place in which they stood by nature, which was one of guilt and condemnation, and they have been joined by living faith to the living Jesus. Nature provided no foundation on which to build the Tabernacle, and nature has provided no foundation on which the sinner can build his hope; but as God provided a foundation for the Tabernacle in the redemption-money of the people, so now He has provided a foundation for His people in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. And as no board could be a part of the Tabernacle without being built upon the silver foundation, so no person can be any part of the true Church of God if he be not built by faith upon Christ. (G. Rodgers.)
Believers typified by the boards
Were they golden boards? Every believer is a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). They are born from above, and they are heavenly minded. Their affection is set on things above. God’s people are a holy people. “The beauty of holiness” is the gold with which God will beautify and adorn His people. The knots and grains of the wood were all hidden from view beneath plates of pure gold. God hides all our imperfections from view beneath the gold of His perfect righteousness. (R. E. Sears.)
Sockets of silver.
It is perhaps worthy of notice here that the whole of the redemption money, amounting to 100 talents and 1775 shekels, was identified with the supporting or bearing up of different parts of the Tabernacle. The 100 talents formed the foundations and supported the walls of gilded boards which were the stay of the two sets of curtains and the two-fold skin roof; and the 1775 shekels (little more than half a talent) were used up in making silver hooks for the court pillars, and in overlaying the capitals of these pillars and their connecting rods (fillets) which rested on them, and from which the court hangings were suspended. These odd shekels bore up the linen court walls, and the 100 talents bore up the sanctuary. The hundred ransom silver sockets being worth f40,000 sterling, constituted a very costly basis, from which, whether it had a typical import or not, our thoughts not unnaturally rise to an infinitely more valuable one, even to Him “who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Prophets and apostles alike testify that He is that sure foundation on which the spiritual edifice rests. Had the sockets not been made of the atonement money as commanded (Exodus 30:16; Exodus 38:27), but of some other material, God certainly would not have acknowledged the Tabernacle which rested on them as His palace-temple. He never would have enthroned Himself invisible symbol on the mercy-seat. In like manner, those who substitute their own good works, or anything else in the room of the Redeemer, on which to build their hope of salvation, are building on the sand, and cannot form a part of that building which is an “habitation of God through the Spirit,” for “other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” (W. Brown.)
Although thousands and tens of thousands are resting on the Rock laid in Zion, it is able to bear the weight of countless millions more, and can never by any possibility be overburdened. Those, however, who would build on it, must do so in the way pointed out in the Scripture, or it will not avail them. It was by means of the tenons (Hebrew “hands”) that the boards took hold of, and rested on the silver bases. Faith is the hand by means of which sinners lay hold of and rest on the Redeemer. Remember that the boards required to be not merely on, but in their respective sockets, or they would not have been upheld. In like manner sinners, in order to be saved, must not only be on, but in the spiritual foundation. Unless they are by faith rooted in Christ Jesus, as the boards by their tenons were rooted in the ransom money, they cannot stand. (W. Brown.)
The bars were all overlaid with gold. One of the bars passed through the centre of the boards from end to end; holes being made, no doubt for that purpose. Thus the boards became one solid wall. But that they might be more firmly united, each board had four gold rings fastened to it, and through these rings the other four bars were passed.
1. There was a sevenfold bond of union. The five bars, the silver sockets, and the corner boards. Paul gives us the gospel meaning of this in his Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:4-6).
2. The centre bar which passed through the boards from one end to the other, was a lively type of the indwelling of the Godhead in all believers. All the Three Persons of the Trinity are spoken of as dwelling in the renewed heart. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” “Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.” What a glorious bond of union is this! Christians of all denominations are one here; for without the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and power of the Holy Ghost, no man can be a Christian.
3. These bars remind us of the encircling arms of love and mercy. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever.” All Christians are one in the Divine protection. “All His saints are in thy hand.”
4. All Christians are one in love to God.
5. Another bond of union is reverence for the Word of God. Christians may differ in their interpretations of the Word. All may not have the same measure of wisdom to understand its mysteries; but all Christians are one in their esteem and love for the grand old Book! Is it not the one revelation of the Divine will? (R. E. Sears.)
And thou shalt make a vail.
The Tabernacle vails
I. These vails signify that the highest vision and fellowship of God are as yet denied to man. God’s presence is fenced about from sinful man.
II. Whilst these vails remove God from the approach of man, they give the promise of a fuller revelation. The God of mercy, and love, and life, shines through the obscuration.
III. That these vails are taken away in Christ (Mark 15:38). In Christ we stand “within the vail.” In Him we realize the presence and joy of God. (W. L. Watkinson.)
The vail of the holiest
1. It was glorious, of embroidered work: this faith guild signified the body of Christ, filled with the fulness of God, or beautified with all the most excellent graces of the Spirit.
2. It was replenished and wrought full of cherubim, noting thereby that serviceable and ready attendance of the angels on Christ’s natural and mystical body.
3. It was borne up by costly pillars, to show that the humanity of Christ, especially in His sufferings, should be borne up by His Deity.
4. By the vail only, there was entry into the holiest place of all: so by the vail, i.e., the flesh of Christ, which was rent, as it were, upon the cross, a new and living way is made for us to the Father. (B. Keach.)
The cherubims on the vail
The Tabernacle in the wilderness was divided into two compartments--the holy place and the holy of holies--by a vail. That vail was stretched upon four pillars of wood overlaid with gold. It consisted of one huge screen of fine-twined linen, reaching from the roof to the floor, and from one side to the other. On the ground-work of linen were spread, in various ornamental patterns, the simple colours known to the ancients--blue, purple, and scarlet. The holy of holies was shut in by this vail from every human eye. No worship was carried on there. When first seen on earth, the cherubims were placed at the gate of the Garden of Eden, to keep the way of the tree of life. The flaming sword with which they were associated, which turned in every direction, was the symbol of God’s judgment, the witness of the terrible majesty of God’s holiness which had been insulted by man’s sin, telling our fallen first parents that so long as the sin continued, the flaming sword would shut up every avenue against their return to their original happy state. The cherubims, on the contrary, were placed there as an image of mercy and hope, to signify that for the creation that had become alienated from God was destined a happy reconciliation. The same great truth was signified by the golden cherubims that covered the mercy-seat with their wings, and between which God met and communed with the high priest. Now, what I want to draw particular attention to is the fact that, secluded as was the holy of holies of the Tabernacle, and guarded by the most solemn prohibitions, its mystery was not left altogether unknown. The most conspicuous feature of the vail--that which at once arrested every eye--was the cherubims embroidered over its whole surface, in such a way that it seemed to have been fashioned of nothing else. Thus on the vail that concealed the awful shrine of Jehovah from mortal eye was revealed one of the most characteristic and significant objects of that shrine. In this way the priests, who were not permitted to enter the holy of holies, could have some conception of what was within it. The cherubims pourtrayed on the vail and on the curtains were no doubt faint and inadequate pictures of the originals on the mercy-seat. They could not have been otherwise. They were a flat representation of objects that stood out in the sacred shrine in the clearest and fullest relief. They were an embroidery in perishing materials, at comparatively slight cost of labour, of a work of the highest art, beaten out in the purest gold, with the most unwearied industry and the most consummate skill. But with all these necessary imperfections, the needlework of the vail and of the curtains gave a fair idea of the cherubims which stood in the most holy place, in their invisible and unapproachable glory. The Jewish priests and worshippers were not left in complete ignorance. There were witnesses to picture to them that which they could not see. They had shadows of the realities behind the vail. Their faith had elements of sight to support it. I wish to make use of this most interesting fact as a graphic illustration of the great truth, which is true throughout the universe, that things concealed from us have their shadows manifested in the things we see. The universe is a great tabernacle divided by a vail and curtains into an outer and inner compartment, as it were. From the inner we are shut out, and we cannot see with our bodily eyes the things that are contained in it. And yet we have representations of these hidden mysteries before our eyes every day, which give us a more or less satisfactory idea of them. Here we see in part, and prophecy in part. The horizon, for instance, is a vail that comes down to conceal from us what is beyond. Many of us will never be able to visit foreign countries, and ascertain with our own eyes what the nature of these countries and the mode of life in them may be; and yet, within the horizon in which we spend our life we have shadowy intimations of the most distant regions of the earth. Ships come to us with their produce; our houses are full of objects brought from them; books describe them to us; and letters from friends make us partakers of their larger experience. Even the scenery around our homes is not so dissimilar to that of foreign lands as we might suppose. Between us and the lofty summits of a great mountain range there is a vail often woven of cloud and mist. Elevated far above the busy common-place haunts of man, these sublime peaks seem to dwell apart, to retire into a more awful solitude than exists on the surface of the earth. And yet the lofty summit of the mountain sends down into the valley by the streams that channel its flanks waifs of brilliant Alpine flowers, which take root and grow among the common lowland plants: and thus the dweller at the foot of the mountain knows what kind of vegetation abounds in the upper regions as truly as if he had actually scaled the heights. Many who live far inland have a vail of mountain ranges between them and the great ocean. They may never be able to stand on its shore, gaze on its foaming billows, or listen to the beating of its mighty pulse. And yet, up the reaches of the quiet inland river, into the heart of the mountains, into the midst of shady woods, the ocean sends its tidal waters, its fresh invigorating breezes, and its white-winged sea-birds, so that the inland inhabitants may have some idea of the vast world of waters that extends far beyond their horizon. The vail of daylight hides from us the other worlds in space; and the darkness of night which brings out the stars only increases their mystery. But the vail which conceals also reveals. Spectrum analysis has made known to us the chemistry of the sun and stars, the physical constitution of the most distant worlds. This wonderful science shows to us that the substances of the stars are identical with those of our own earth. Not a single new or unknown element has been discovered in the remotest stellar ray subjected to its scrutiny. Upon the very vails that separate us from the inmost and remotest sanctuaries of nature we see impressed the images of the objects which they hide from our view. But it is not only natural things that thus reveal themselves by that which conceals them; the realities of the spiritual world are also manifested to us on the vail of earthly things. We have numberless analogies in nature which make plain to our understandings the mysteries of grace. Our Lord revealed to His disciples and to the multitude what the Kingdom of Heaven was like by showing to them its shadows on the vail of common objects and common processes, in His parables. The Kingdom of Heaven is like everything we see and deal with. The youngest person can see the meaning of the great truths of salvation in some degree and measure by the help of the figure of them which his own experience presents to him. The doctrine of the atonement is in remarkable keeping with the sympathetic nature which God has imparted to children, by which they feel for others, and can therefore understand how one person may carry his loving-kindness to such an extent as to give up his life for his friend. The forgiveness of God has a shadow of it in the sorrow which all truly sensitive minds feel when they have offended one dear to them, and in the joy which the sense of being reconciled and accepted by the one from whom their faults had estranged them imparts. There is thus not a mystery of the holy of holies of Divine truth but may be seen in dim yet true shape, embroidered, as it were, upon the vail of natural objects around us, and of our own common instincts and experiences. But I go on further to show that the realities of the eternal world are manifested to us by the things of time. The vail of death, which no human hand can lift, hides the scenes beyond from our view. The Bible speaks to us of the existence of that happy land, and discloses its glory in forms which far transcend our earthly imagination. It calls our future home a new heaven and a new earth. The ascension of our Lord to heaven, with all the attributes of perfect man, the resurrection of man in a body strictly identical with his present body, prove beyond doubt that the scene of our translation, with all its circumstances, must be accommodated to the nature of man. From the very constitution of our nature, we form our anticipations of the future from our past experiences. The objects and experiences of earth are preparations for those which await us above. On the vail that hides our future home from us, we see pictured the cherubims of glory. Yes; the cherubims of heaven are seen on the vail of earth. Heaven is filled with objects long endeared to us, and with pleasure which we have already enjoyed in part, and learned from the foretaste to long for the full fruition. We have now the earnest of the purchased possession--the first-fruits of the great harvest. Now, what is the practical outcome of thoughts like these? Does it not teach us that we have no excuse for sinful ignorance, seeing that God has brought within the range of our touch and vision in earthly images His perfect heavenly things, and placed us so that we can understand the things that belong to our Spiritual life by the things that belong to our daily life? Do not these glimpses and foreshadowings of unseen and eternal things also inspire us with a deeper interest in them? And more than all, does not the fact of the cherubims upon the vail being the same as those in the shrine show to us that our life is continuous here and hereafter--that it is one history and one development? If you are to behold and enjoy the glorious cherubims of the heavenly world, you must have them represented, as it were, upon the vail of your earthly tabernacle. Your hearts must be turned now to the heavenly harmonies. When certain conditions of light are present, if you look through a window at a particular angle into the street, you see a flame apparently outside, flickering strangely in the air. It is only the reflection of the fire in the room on the window-pane. Is not the heaven you see beyond the window of this life, the projected reflection of your present experience? What you are now determines your future; and the heaven of each man is just what he himself makes it, according as the fire of love and holiness burns more or less brightly on the hearth of his heart. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Significance of the cherubim in Exodus
Many have supposed that the Church is symbolized by the cherubim in Exodus. But the fact of their forming the vail seems to preclude this interpretation. As the vail shadows forth Christ in the flesh, we cannot suppose that any type would be given representing the union of the Church with Him then; as, before death, the corn of wheat abode alone: it must die, in order to bring forth fruit. The union of the believer with Christ is in life, quickened together with Him: seated in heavenly places in Him. He was the Substitute in death; but He is the last Adam, the head of the new family, and source of its existence in resurrection. The lion (one of the four faces of the cherubim) is classed with the king, against whom there is no rising up., in Proverbs 30:30-31; and is also described as going well, and being comely in going; and as strongest among beasts, turning not away from any. Majesty, strength, and courage are therefore here typified. The ox, in addition to its well-known character for patient enduring labour, is also recognized in Scripture as knowing its owner; herein it may prefigure the persevering resolution of Him who unflinchingly set His shoulder to the arduous work committed to Him by His Father, and who always recognized His Father’s will, and delighted to do it. The way of an eagle in the air is alluded to in Proverbs 30:19, as too wonderful to be known: referring probably to the astonishing extent and accuracy of its vision as to things of earth, when poised aloft, and to its swiftness of flight when the object of its search is discovered. Fit emblem this of Him, whose eyes search the depths of the heart, and who is as rapid in discovering where the lawful prey is, as in delivering it from the power of the destroyer. These three faces, combined with the human face and form, completed the cherubim: for all this power, labour, activity, and quickness of perception, were put forth under the control and guidance of perfect wisdom and sympathy. Wings were also spread abroad over the surface of the vail, proceeding from the cherubim; denoting the heavenly origin and unearthly ways of the Son of Man, who was “from above,” and who could say, even while here, “The Son of Man, who is in heaven.” (H. W. Soltau.)
The pillars of the vail
The pillars of the vail were four in number. Unlike those on which hung the curtain for the Tabernacle door, they had no capitals; thus they lacked the ordinary completeness of a pillar. May not our thoughts be directed by this, to the contemplation of those Scriptures, which speak of the Lord as cut off? (see Isaiah 53:8; Psalms 102:23-24). And yet the very fact of this seemingly abrupt termination of the life of the Lord Jesus, in the days of His flesh, has made Him to be unto us “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption”; a fourfold perfection, meeting our fourfold need; to which possibly the number of vail-pillars may allude. (H. W. Soltau.)
The door of the tent.
The door of the Tabernacle
1. This was the only door of the Tabernacle; it must therefore have been an emblem of Jesus Christ (John 10:9). There was only one entrance into the court, only one door into the holy place, and only one way into the holy of holies. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Him. The curtain at the door of the Tabernacle was made of blue, and purple, and scarlet. Here we have an emblem of the Saviour’s threefold Name. Lord--Jesus--Christ. He is Lord of all power, majesty, dominion, and glory. May not the “blue, and the purple, and the scarlet,” be figurative of Jesus in His threefold office, as Priest, King, and Prophet? The scarlet shows His priestly sacrifice. The purple His kingly dignity. The blue His heavenly teaching as the prophet. It is only as we see Jesus in His threefold office, that He is the Door. As the Priest, He is the sacrificial Way. As the Prophet, He is the Truth. As the King, He reigns to give Life. As Jesus, He is our saving Priest; as Christ, He is our anointed, instructing Prophet; and as Lord, He is our ruling King. In Him these offices are united. We may distinguish between them, but we must not separate them.
2. May not the five pillars which held up the curtains at the Door, be emblems of gospel ministers, whose work it is to hold up Christ before the people?
3. These pillars had sockets of brass. Brass being in Scripture an emblem of strength, we may here see the servants of God strengthened for their work. May we not see Jesus Himself in the sockets of brass? “His feet are like fine brass.” Jesus upholds His servants with His own strength. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He who holds the stars in His right hand, upholds His servants as pillars in the house of God. Were the pillars beautiful So are ministers abounding in their work (Isaiah 53:7). (R. E. Sears.)
The door of the Tabernacle
The hanging, which formed the door, was made of the same materials as the vail; the only difference being that in the former the colours were skilfully intermixed, whereas in the latter a pattern of cherubim was cunningly or ingeniously embroidered. The priests, who entered within the door of the Tabernacle, alone beheld the cherubim of glory worked into the vail and roof, whilst the worshippers in the court saw the same colours intermingled in the door-curtain. May not this be intended to teach us, that every worshipper of God recognizes the beauty and perfection of Christ, God manifest in the flesh, as his eye rests upon the door-curtain. But the nearer we approach to God as His priests, the more intimate our fellowship with Him in heavenly places, the more shall we discern the glories of Jesus, and realize His power, majesty, and strength. He will be the one object that fills our soul, and under the shadow of His wings shall we abide. (H. W. Soltau.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 26". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24