By Thomas Newberry
(Exodus, Chapter 25. 1-9).
It is not here Israel seeking to provide a dwelling-place for God, as in David's case (Ps. 132. 1-5), but God desiring a dwelling-place for Himself amongst them. Man naturally desires not the presence of God with him here on earth, but God in the riches of His grace seeks to dwell with men. We must remember when this request from God was made. In the twentieth chapter, we have the giving of the law, in the three following chapters further precepts, then in chapter 24, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders were called up unto mount Sinai. "And the glory of Jehovah abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and on the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire. And Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights." There, shut in with God, he receives directions concerning the Tabernacle. Thus the law includes within itself "a shadow of good things to come," and patterns of things in the heavens were given on mount Sinai.
It is in the heart of man God desires His dwelling-place, hence it was from those who offered "willingly with the heart" His offering was to be taken. Where there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath. The widow's two mites given out of her penury, were more acceptable to God than the offerings of the rich out of their abundance.
Verse 3. "And this is the offering (heave-offering) ye shall take of them."
There are two kinds of offerings frequently mentioned. The wave-offering which was made to pass and re-pass before the eye of Jehovah, and the heave-offering which was lifted up to God and presented to Him. In this case it is the "heave-offering" (see margin of The Englishman's Bible).
In the original there are two distinct terms employed for tent and tabernacle; in our Authorized Translation these terms are frequently confused, but the Spirit of God always uses them with precision. The tent (ohel) is the ordinary term for transitory habitations in the desert; hence "to dwell in tents" is characteristic of pilgrimage. The Tabernacle mishcahn, from shahcan, "to dwell," is more immediately connected with the presence of God. As God says in verse 8, "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." God's dwelling-place among men must be holy, for holiness becometh God's house for ever.
In the original Scriptures the term employed is "The Tent of the congregation." It is never written "Tabernacle of the congregation," although frequently so translated. The term "Tent of the congregation" is connected with the assemblage of God's people, at the door or entrance, where God promised to meet with them. The children of Israel were to encamp far off, round about the Tabernacle, thus leaving ample space in front and around, for the congregation to assemble. Those who brought a sacrifice entered the court, and killed and cut it into its pieces on the north side of the altar; the priests only were allowed to enter into the Sanctuary.
GOLD is the emblem of that which is divine, divinely excellent and precious, and reminds us of GOD THE FATHER.
SILVER is typical of atonement and atonement price. "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1.18,19). The children of Israel when numbered, were required to give a half shekel of silver as a ransom for the soul, unto Jehovah (Exodus 30. 11-16). This brings the SON OF GOD to our remembrance.
BRASS is the emblem of stability and enduring strength, as iron is the emblem of overcoming strength. "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy day thy strength shall be" (Deut. 33.25), reminding us of the divine, eternal SPIRIT. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts" (Zech. 4. 6). And "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3.16). The boards of the Tabernacle were overlaid with GOLD. The sockets of the Tabernacle were of SILVER. And the sockets for the Court were of BRASS. In Nebuchadnezzar's image there was the same order - gold, silver, brass. In light there are three primary colours - yellow, red, and blue. The gold corresponds with the yellow, as emblematic of God the Father; the silver with the red, as typical of the Son of God, His incarnation and atoning blood; the brass corresponds with the blue, as emblematic of the Holy Spirit, and His regenerating and resurrection power. First, divine sovereignty; second, redemption by Christ Jesus; third, sanctification by the Spirit.
Verse 4. "And blue, and purple, and scarlet."
BLUE, according to the root of its Hebrew name, signifies "perfection"; it is also the colour of the heavens above, typical of that which is spiritual, heavenly, and perfect.
SCARLET, Hebrew tôlahath shanee, or the splendour a worm, typical of earthly dignity and glory, as Jesus Christ was born King of the Jews, and heir of David's royal throne.
PURPLE is a combination of scarlet and blue, reminding us of the union of the earthly dignity and the heavenly perfectness in the Melchisedec priesthood of the Lord Jesus, who will sit as a priest upon His throne.
What is symbolized by the Tabernacle in the wilderness? The first explanation is given in John 1.14, "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us." We have seen that in the Hebrew, the terms "tent" and "tabernacle" are distinct, but in the Greek one word is used for both, so the Lord Jesus was at once the Tabernacle in which God dwelt, and the Tent in which He sojourned among men, during the thirty-seven years of His life on earth. (For we must not leave out of account the four years of His infancy, before A.D. commenced).
In a secondary sense, the Tabernacle in the wilderness is a type of the Church of the present dispensation from Pentecost to the return of the Lord Jesus. In Christ Jesus, Jew and Gentile are now builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2.22). The Temple of Solomon is the type not only of the Church, but of the whole of the redeemed in resurrection and heavenly glory.
"And fine linen, and goat's hair, and rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins and shittim wood." Exod. 25. 4, 5.
In these materials we have symbolically presented God's estimate of the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ as Son of Man.
First, fine linen, Hebrew, sheesh, signifying white, corresponding with the fine flour of the meat or gift-offering, nothing coarse or uneven. The pure, sinless humanity of the Lord Jesus, the Woman's seed, the Virgin's son, "that holy thing" begotten of the Holy Ghost, and called the Son of God. Though made in all points like unto His brethren, yet without sin; holy, harmless, undefiled. The finest texture woven in God's loom.
Second, the goat's hair. In the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. 32, the sheep represent the righteous, and the goats the wicked. In the sin-offering, it was generally the kid of the goats that was to be offered. Romans 8.3, beautifully explains this. "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." It was not in sinful flesh but "in the likeness of sinful flesh" that Jesus came. "He knew no sin." He was "found in fashion as a man ;" hence he experienced hunger and thirst, sat weary at the well, fell asleep in the storm after the labours of the day. God never suffered His Holy One to see corruption, neither by disease in life nor decay after death. God not only numbered Him with transgressors on the tree, and made His soul an offering for sin, but in the person of Him who was Made in the likeness of sinful flesh though Himself sinless, God condemned and executed judgment on sin in the flesh. Hence there is "no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," neither because of actual transgression, nor of duty omitted, nor for that inward depravity which they are conscious of. For the judgment of "sin in the flesh" has been borne in the sinless person of Immanuel on the Cross. On the great day of atonement, the sacrifice of the bullock, whose blood was brought into the Holiest, was for Aaron and his house, typical of Christ and the Church. (See Heb. 3.6). The goat was on behalf of Israel, and the scape-goat prefigured the putting away of Israel's sins nationally, on the ground of the new covenant. (See Jer. 1. 20).
Third, "Rams' skins dyed red." The bullock represents Christ in service, the lamb in His meekness and gentleness, and the ram in His public testimony. As the lamb He increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man; but as the ram, the world hated Him, because He testified of it that the works thereof were evil. It was to be "rams' skins dyed red," because He was not only the Faithful Witness in life, but sealed the testimony with His blood. The "coats of skin" with which God clothed our first parents in Eden, foreshadowed this. And Joseph's coat of many colours, which his brethren took and dipped in the blood of a kid of the goats and presented to their father, was likewise typical. The rider on the white horse in Revelation 19, is clothed with "a vesture dipped in blood," which probably has a twofold meaning; symbolical at once of His own atoning death, and of judgment which He executes on His foes.
Fourth, "And badgers' skins." The term badgers' skins occurs elsewhere only in Ezekiel 16. 10, "And shod thee with badgers' skins," hence used where strength and durability were required. It was the external covering of the Tabernacle. This suggests the outward appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph, who, whilst the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, had not where to lay His head; having no form nor comeliness, but despised and rejected of men. His outer garments were divided among the soldiers who nailed Him to the tree. He was a stranger and a pilgrim here.
Fifth, "And shittim wood." Wood from the wilderness of Shittim, typical of human nature; in the case of Christ, of sinless humanity. The children being partakers of flesh and blood, "He Himself likewise took part in the same" (Hebrews 2.14). "He was made in all points like unto His brethren, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4.15).
The Tabernacle and Tent may also be regarded as typical of the Church in its present wilderness condition. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Rom. 15.4).
First, the "fine linen," typical of the Church, looked at in the Spirit, regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and conformed to the example of Christ.
Second, the "goats' hair," emblematic of what we truly are in the flesh, whilst Christ was only made in the likeness of it. It is also similar to the two wave loaves baken with leaven (Lev. 23.17), representing the Church of the present dispensation, composed of Jew and Gentile, not sinless according to the flesh, but conscious of and confessing the law of sin which is in their members. (Romans 7.)
Third, "Rams' skins dyed red." As in Leviticus 23, the two wave loaves were accompanied by various sacrifices, so here the goats' hair curtains were covered over with the rams' skins dyed red. Thus while we confess our sinfulness, we realize that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin; that our iniquity is forgiven, our sin covered.
Fourth, the "badgers' skins." Whilst seeking a city yet to come, we confess that we are strangers and pilgrims here.
Fifth, "Shittim wood." Though now by divine grace children of God, yet having been born in sin, shapen in iniquity, and by nature children of wrath even as others, there was need of the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost, and of redemption through the blood of the Lamb. The Church is composed of sinners saved by grace.