Notes from Dec 5, 91

Exodus 26.

The law is given on the stone tables, and are placed in the Ark. Instructions for the table of shew-bread and the candlestick were given. Now the Lord moves on to give great detail for the outward tabernacle which houses all the previous mentioned pieces. He goes into great detail as to how the outward covering for all the furnishings is to be fashioned. He instructs concerning the material which is to be used, the color of that material, how much and how it is to be fastened together, and how it is to set on the ground. There is nothing left to the imagination.

To us today, the details of the type of things covered here in this chapter appears very frivolous, if not downright wasted effort. But the Lord preserved these details for a reason, and men died to bring them to us; surely we can find time to examine them for our well-being.

According to Paul's instruction to Timothy, it is not just to fill up space. Because we are unable to make much connection between these things given here in detail and the day in which we live, does not mean it is not connected. Quite the contrary; it is! Our responsibility is to find out how it is connected and how they apply to our daily life under God.

A description of the tabernacle

The framework of the tent was formed by a construction of wooden boards or beams which were covered with gold. The wood used in the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings was acacia or shittim wood, which was very light and unusually durable. Over the wooden frame hung a four fold covering of curtains, the first of which was made of fine linen, embroidered with pictures of cherubs. The entrance to the tent was turned toward the east, and hung with a costly covering made of fine linen. The tent was 30 cubits long and 10 cubits wide, and it was divided into two rooms. The front, the Holy Place, was 20 cubits long, and the back room, the Most Holy Place, was 10 cubits long (10X10). The two rooms were divided by curtain woven with pictures of cherubim, and was called, "the separation."

The tabernacle was surrounded on all sides by a court, 100 cubits long and 50 wide, which was formed by pillars and curtains, and instead of a door, it had a curtain 20 cubits broad.

In the court, and thus in the open air, stood the altar for burnt-offerings (described in chapter 27). This alter was made of wood overlaid with copper. The command in Ex 20:24f, required the alter be made of earth or unhewn stones, so we must assume that the alter of Ex 27, is no more than a frame without a top which surrounded the true alter (Deut 27:5f). Each of the four corners of the altar frame had a high place called horns. On these horns was smeared part of the blood of the sin-offerings. These horns were also laid hold of by those who sought a refuge at the altar. The altar was 3 cubits high, and was surrounded half-way by a grating which probably allowed the priest to go round the altar on it.

Between the altar and the sanctuary was a copper washing-basin in which the priests washed their hands and feet before going to the duties of their office.

In the sanctuary itself, toward the north, stood the table with the twelve loaves of shewbread prepared from fine flower without leaven, and placed there new every Sabbath. Opposite the table stood the golden candlestick with its seven lamps. In the middle between the table and candlestick and before the curtain leading to the most holy place, was the altar of incense, overlaid with gold plate.

Then in the Most Holy Place stood the ark of the covenant, also called the ark of the testimony, the most sacred vessel of the sanctuary. It was a wooden chest overlaid with pure gold, and contained the tables of the law. The chest was covered with a golden plate (not a lid as we think of a lid), called the mercy seat where the blood of atonement was sprinkled once a year. Above the mercy seat stood the two golden cherubim, with outstretched wings and facing each other. Between the cherubim, the shekhina of Jehovah was to dwell. The poles for carrying the ark were always to remain in the rings which were on the side of the chest, because it was not to be touched by the hand of man. Nor was it to be see by man; therefore, it was carried it had to be covered with the curtain. Inside the Most Holy Place was also kept the vessel of manna, Aaron's rod that budded and a copy of the book of the law which Moses wrote.

The tabernacle cannot be compared with a common nomadic tent. A common tent would have the largest room for the chief; the tabernacle has the smallest room for the Lord. Into the first division, the outer court, only the covenant people could go; into the second division, only the priesthood could go; into the third division, only the high priest could go, and then only once a year. The first division was under the open sky; the second veiled, but lit; the third was veiled and totally dark.

There has been a great amount written about concerning supposed spiritual significance of every minute detail of the tabernacle. We will not argue that every minute detail is significant, but I believe we should be more concerned with the general teaching of the tabernacle.

Observe these points in the opening of our study of the tabernacle itself.

First, the account of the making of the tabernacle occupies far more space than the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. The creation was the result of the Divine word of God; the tabernacle was a result of the command upon man by God. What can one say about "God spoke, and it was done?"

Second, note the attention by the Lord to every detail, and every detail was necessary to fully understand the meaning of the tabernacle. Thus the word of God: it all must be taken into consideration, Old and New Testament, or none of it will make any since.

Third, consider also the temporary character of the tabernacle.

A) Its temporary character could not excuse sloppy work or shortcuts. Do we look at the temporary character of something and excuse sloppy work and shortcuts? What is our attention for detail like?

B) The Lord developed every part of even a flower to its fullest perfection though it is cast into the furnace tomorrow. God always builds for eternity. Man is as the grass of the field --- here today and gone tomorrow, yet God made and is making him for eternity. God cares for and instructs in every detail in man's life. Can we do any less with our lives and those we are responsible for?

C) The tabernacle prepictured the living Christian Church, which is more marvelous than the tabernacle in the wilderness. Thus, we must look past the immediate --- all things must be considered in light of their eternal purpose.

Yes, our life here on this earth is but a vapor, but it must be viewed as having everlasting results.

Yes, our works here will last but a short time and may seem small and insignificant, but they have everlasting results, 1 Cor 3:12.

Fourth, the Lord works from the inside or the center out. His instructions started with the tables of stone containing His law, then everything revolves around that law. The Lord is a God of law; His rule over His people (& all His creation) is centered in and from the law.

Thus far it will be noticed, that the arrangement is always from within outwards-- from the Most Holy Place to the court of the worshippers, symbolizing once more that all proceeds from Him Who is the God of grace, Who.. gives what He commands, and that the highest of all service, to which everything else is subservient, or rather to which it stands related as the means towards the end, is that of fellowship in prayer--the worshipful beholding of God. (Edersheim)

A) The NT equivalent is the law written on the heart rather than on the tables of stone. His rule continues to go forth from His law.

Vv. 1-6, A tent!

There are a great many ideas presented by the Lord ordaining that a tent be His dwelling place for the next 480 years until Solomon built the Temple. (The God of all creation dwelling in a tent!) Some of these points are:

1) there were a great many battles to be fought, so the Lord dwells among His people to equip them for battle, to identify with them in battle and to lead them into battle. This is why David could not build the Temple; he was a man of war. The tent represented war; the Temple represented peace.

A) The Lord knows where His people are, and there He meets with them, leads them and equips them with His grace for whatever battle they must face. (Isa 43:2)

B) The sanctuary of the Lord is a tent; the Lord dwells here in a tent as does His people in the wilderness. The Lord, even in the Old Testament, places Himself in similar circumstances with His people. The Lord dwells in the heavens as the King of all creation; the Lord dwells among His people in His condescending grace, and because of that "condescending grace," He promises never to leave us or forsake us.

2) The OT Tabernacle, sanctuary, was the tent of the meeting of God and the people. Here the people came to Jehovah in His dwelling-place which He established in the midst of His people. (Their only approach to Him was through many rites and rituals. See my study on the covenant.)

The idea of the meeting of God and His people is carried over to Solomon's Temple 480 years latter; it is carried on to the synagogues of Christ's day. The early church gathering places was known as the Christian Synagogues. Thus, although the assembly place for the church is a place of encouragement one of another, it is primarily a place where God meets which His people --- it is the place of revelation from God through His word, to His people.

Oehler gives this statement:

The Mosaic sanctuary was a tent... -that is, not, as many modern critics falsely interpret it, tent of the gathering of the people, but tent of the meeting of God with the people, as unequivocally appears from the definite explanations, Ex xxix. 42 f.. The other name for the sanctuary, -that is, tent or dwelling of the testimony-denotes the sanctuary as the place of revelation. (Oehler)

The author of Hebrews indeed tells us that the assembly of God's people is a time of exhorting one another, and this exhortation is even more important as the end days progress, 10:25. The word exhort includes far more than encouraging one another; it includes dogmatic instruction from the law-word of God (cf. 2 Co x.1; 1 Th ii.11, &c.). Thus if we follow the OT tabernacle topology into the New Testament Church, we find the NT Church, as was the OT Tabernacle and Temple, is the place "of the meeting of God with the people," and "denotes the sanctuary as the place of revelation" of God to His people through His word.

Therefore, we must exercise great caution in the way we view the public assembly. If we are not careful, its primary purpose will be seen as fellowship and strengthening one another. Certainly this view is well within Scriptural authority, but it overlooks the principal purpose of "going to church." That purpose is to receive "revelation from God," to receive instruction from God's law-word. We are to assemble for the primary purpose of expecting God to reveal Himself to us through His preached/taught word.

The will of God is revealed through the preaching of God's law-word to the people of God, who then take that revealed will/word and apply it in their lives, families and society, Eph 4:12. If this purpose is departed from, the resulting "church" will be little more than a social club.

Note for me: The pastor is the means whereby the Lord reveals Himself to His people through His word. I am afraid that pastors see the ministry of teaching God's word as a means of revealing themselves to the people rather than the means of revealing God's law-word to the people.

A) Eph 4:12 (For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:)

The primary calling of a pastor is to teach the people of God the proper application of God's law.

B) Col 2:6-9 (8, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.)

The responsibility of a pastor-teacher is to ground the people of God in God's law-word, not ground them in tradition. I am amazed at the amount of material on the market upholding tradition. If the authors would spend as much time developing the implications of the ten commandments as they do over developing tradition, we would see some godly results.

Furthermore, there is more disagreement over tradition which keeps believers divided than there is disagreement over the ten commandments. The basis of unity must be a common love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the commandments which He delivered to Moses on the mount.

Sometimes when I go to Baptist meetings, there will be a speaker there who is not a Baptist. There is then grumbling over the speaker not being a Baptist even though he had a common love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the word of God.

Something is very wrong with that kind of attitude. It is totally unscriptural.

C) On the other hand, not all tradition is wrong.

2 Thes 2:15; 3:6. This, of course, is tradition which is based in the word of God; this tradition emphasizes the commandments of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and in the believer.

3) The tent of the sanctuary embodied the idea of God's dwelling among His people Israel. This OT tabernacle which is pitched in the midst of God's people:

Pictures the physical body which Christ assumed here on this earth.
Pictures the church in the midst of the world, which is not our home.
Pictures the mobility of the church and the gospel which it represents into all the world. The church is not in any one location, but is present to the farthest ends of the earth.
Pictures the "danger" of the departure of the grace or presence of God, Rev. 2:5. The "dove" is indeed a good representation of the Spirit in the fact that the Spirit is easily grieved. He does not depart from His people, but He will quit working through them and they can be separated from Him and His power by their sin.

4) The curtains of the tabernacle had to correspond to the divine pattern.

A) the embroidered cherubim in the curtains pictured the angles of God encamped round about the church, Ps 34:7 (see Rev 5:11).

B) several curtains fastened together with golden clasps made up the one tabernacle. The churches of Christ and the saints, though they are many, are yet one, being fitly joined together in holy love, and by the unity of the Spirit, Eph 2:21, 22; 4:16.

C) the OT tabernacle was very strait and narrow; but, at the preaching of the gospel, the church is bidden to enlarge the place of her tent, Isa 54:2.

Vs. 7-14, the curtains..

The inner curtains were very beautiful, but the outer curtains were quite course. The inner curtains were for beauty, the outer for protection of the inner beauty.

1) Note that the hypocrite puts his best side out (whited sepulchers); whereas, the child of the King is beauty within. Our adorning is to be the hidden man of the heart, 1 Pet 3:4.

The inner beauty of the tabernacle was only present by the command of the Lord. Man would have reversed the order; the beauty for all to see, and the coarse on the inside.

2) The church certainly appears to the surrounding world very rough and coarse, but the Lord sees the beauty within.

3) God provided protection for the beauty within with rough and coarse covering. Notice that not all of God's creation, even though it is by His command, is beautiful, but it is all by His command. Obedience in making the rough and coarse was as important as obedience in making the beautiful. The church needs rough and coarse men for its own protection. The rough and coarse must not criticize the smooth and beautiful, nor must the smooth and beautiful criticize the rough and coarse. They must both operate at the King's command; neither can exalt self against the other; both are necessary for the kingdom of God on earth; God determine which would be which, and both are equally important for the kingdom's sake.

A) The gold fasteners (taches) compared with the brass. They both did the same job, connected the curtains: the gold the inner curtains, the brass the outer curtains. Primarily we see that God gives people different personalities for different jobs within His temple, and He alone knows what is needed.

4) One of the more obvious points here is that very seldom are things as they appear on the outside.

5) Only the Lord saw the inner beauty, and the people accepted the inner beauty of the tabernacle by faith. Note that only the Lord knows and sees the heart (and what He has placed there).

6) It was from the heart of the tabernacle that life emanated. From out of the heart are the issues of life.

Vv. 15-30

This passage places the emphasis upon the framework of the tabernacle.

1) It would have done little good to make beautiful and strong curtains without a strong framework to place them upon. So too the church. Every wind of false doctrine will blow the believer if he has not the firm strong foundation and framework upon which to build, Eph 4:14.

2) The coarse rough curtain gave no indication of what strength and beauty lie within the tabernacle; and so it is with the child of God. It is when the winds and storms come that the true strength and beauty of the Spirit within is revealed.

3) The framework was just common wood that anyone could gather in the wilderness, but the gold covering at the command of the Lord made the wooden framework the peak of beauty. Thus the Christian: the Lord takes a common piece of wood and, at His command, it is turned into a thing of strength and beauty.

4) With no silver or gold, the builders of the gospel church made a building far more beautiful than the tabernacle, Acts 3:6; 2 Cor 3:10, 11.

James 5:3, condemns those who seek gold and silver at the expense of obedience to the Lord God.

Vv. 31-37.

The two veils: both veils were made of the same material, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen of cunning work. The first veil mentioned is to have cherubim embroidered in it; the second veil had them not.

1) the first veil was to divide the Most Holy Place, which contained the ark, commandments and the mercy seat, from the Holy place. As we mentioned above from Rev. 5:11, the throne of God, represented by the mercy seat over the commandments, is surrounded by angels and saints. I think here also is a reminder to the Lord upon His throne, of the weakness of man: the cherubim were standing men.

2) The veil between the Holy and Most Holy place is clearly defined by the writer of Hebrews. See chapter 9, and my notes on the conscience in the Covenant. Christ removed the veil which separated His people from the Most Holy Place. As we read Heb and the references to the Most Holy Place, we must keep in mind what the Most Holy Place contained in the tabernacle. It contained the commandments and the mercy seat.

Thus, Christ opened the way into the holiest of all, Heb. 9:9. Paul makes an important statement in 2 Tim 1:10: Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel... The gospel of Christ brings His people face to face with the holiest of all: the place where the law is revealed to them. It is a place of life and immortality.

3) the outer veil through which only the priest could enter was a veil like unto the one over the Most Holy Place. Note that a veil was all that covered the vast amount of wealth which was present in the tabernacle. It would have required little or no effort for someone to go in and steal it all, yet it remained safe. Thus we see God's care of His church on earth. It appears weak, defenseless and exposed to the desires of evil men, but God protects it just as though it had the strongest of men's defenses.

[As a side note: Heb 9:8, the way into the holiest of all could not be made manifest while the first tabernacle was standing. Thus, if God were to bless any rebuilding of the tabernacle or temple in any way, He would be saying that the way into the holist of all, purchased by the blood of Christ, is no longer open. Any such teaching is heresy.]

4) the sanctuary represented the Lord of heaven and earth in His condescending grace dwelling among His people. But His people could not come into His presence. The people are limited to the court around the tabernacle.

Even though the priests were permitted to enter into the tabernacle, and thus onto the presence of the Lord, they could not do so without the blood of the sacrifice and ceremonial cleansing.

5) the detail concerning the appearance of the tabernacle gives to us a law concerning the outward appearance of the visible church, which today replaces the tabernacle and temple of the OT.

A) the Lord is extremely concerned about the outward appearance of anything which represents Him and His kingdom on earth. Whether that is a building or a person, appearances are important or He would not have gone into this kind of detail and preserved it for us.

Many times we hear the words, "Well, the Lord looks on the heart." This is true because every thought and intent of the heart will be judged. And besides, out of the heart are the issues of life. By the Lord placing such great emphasis upon even the detail of the outside of the tabernacle, we are clearly shown that the Lord is just as concerned about ones outward appearance as He is about their inward appearance.

B) as previously mentioned, the Lord leaves nothing to the vain imagination of fallen man. If He did, man would soon corrupt it. The Lord gives details for His people to operate by. The reason we cannot find those details is because of our sinful nature. Regardless of our sinfulness, we are responsible to study God's word to develop its details and implications.

6) Vs. 31-37, the Lord gives the arrangement of the furniture. As we look at this, we see that it forms a cross, with the Ark at the head. Thus, everything spoke of the coming work of Christ.

Consider Keil in closing this chapter:

The four colours, and the figures upon the drapery and curtains of the temple, were equally significant. Whilst the four colours, like the same number of coverings, showed their general purpose as connected with the building of the kingdom of God, the brilliant white of the byssus stands prominently out among the rest of the colours as the ground of the woven fabrics, and the colour which is invariably mentioned first. The splendid white byssus represented the holiness of the building; the hyacinth, a dark blue approaching black rather than bright blue, but the true colour of the sky in southern countries, its heavenly origin and character; the purple, a dark rich red, its royal glory; whilst the crimson, a light brilliant red, the colour of blood and vigorous life, set forth the strength of imperishable life in the abode and kingdom of the holy and glorious God-King. Lastly, through the figures of cherubim woven into these fabrics the dwelling became a symbolical representation of the kingdom of glory, in which the heavenly spirits surround the throne of God, the heavenly Jerusalem with its myriads of angles, the city of the living God, to which the people of God will come when their heavenly calling is fulfilled (Heb xii.22, 23).