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Types of the Tabernacle - The Propitiatory and the Cherubim

By Thomas Newberry

      (Exodus 25. 17-22).
      Verse 17. 'And thou shalt make a mercy-seat [propitiatory] of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.'

      THE spiritual import of this is clear from Rom. 3. 24, 25, where there is a manifest allusion to it by the Holy Ghost. "Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [a propitiatory, or mercy-seat] through faith in His blood'- the word rendered "propitiation," in Rom. 3. 25, being the same word that is used in Heb. 9. 5, and there translated "mercy-seat." This is the import of the publican's prayer in Luke 18. 13 -"God be merciful [propitious on the ground of reconciliation made] to me a sinner." The Hebrew word rendered "mercy-seat" signifies "to cover over;" to make atonement; to appease, or pacify.

      The material is of "pure gold," the emblem of that which is divine, or divinely pure and excellent. No shittim wood is in the propitiatory, therefore nothing human or angelic is symbolized, neither Church nor angels. This is a consideration too often overlooked. The propitiatory formed the lid of the ark in which were deposited the unbroken tables of the testimony; for the exercise of divine mercy towards guilty sinners, can only be on the ground of atonement made, and righteousness established. On this propitiatory the blood was sprinkled on the great day of atonement (Lev. 16.)

      The propitiatory was of the same dimensions and extent as the ark of the covenant. The exercise of divine mercy and grace is founded on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and is coextensive therewith. It has for its basis and foundation the incarnation, obedience, life, and death of Him who was eternally God, and is now the risen and glorified Christ, at God's right-hand above.

      Verses 18-20. "And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make THEM, in [from] the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on [from] the one end, and the other cherub on [from] the other end: even of [from] the mercy-seat [propitiatory] shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercyseat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be."

      Cherubim is the plural of cherub, as we say ox, oxen; the "s" at the end is incorrect. The forms of these cherubim appear to be simpler than those described in Ezekiel 1. 10., which have four faces fronting four different directions; whereas here, the expression "toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be," implies but one face to each. These cherubim of glory represent the fulness of the Spirit, received by the ascended Christ, on the completion of His atoning work. As we read in Psalm 68. 18, "Thou hast on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: hast received gifts for men [Heb. in the man]; for the rebellious also." Acts 2. 33, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." And in Eph. 4. 10, 11, "He that descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." The ascended Son of Man has received the Holy Ghost in His own person, He has given gifts to the Church, and He has also received the Spirit for the rebellious children of Israel, to be communicated in due time, when Jehovah will again dwell among them.

      The propitiatory and cherubim were of one solid piece, of wrought or beaten gold. The cherubim formed the extension of the propitiatory from. either end, and represent the provision made by God, through the Spirit, for the extension of divine mercy and grace, founded on the finished work of Christ.

      The wings of the cherubim, from the propitiatory on either side, meeting in the centre form a complete circle, and overshadow the mercy-seat. According to Ps. 103. 17, "The mercy [loving kindness] of Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting." The three Persons in the Godhead, in the counsels of eternity, laid the plan of redeeming love; the eternal Spirit from the beginning, in promise, type, and prophecy, foretold and foreshadowed it; the incarnate Son of God, by His atoning death, accomplished the work; and the Holy Spirit is now making it known, and will continue to manifest it, long as eternal ages roll.

      Verses 21-22. "And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give THEE in commandment unto the children of Israel."

      The throne of divine grace is founded on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus; and all God's purposes, promises, and covenant blessings centre in Him. He is the true ark of the covenant, and the ark of the testimony also. All the lines of divine truth centre in Him, and radiate from Him. This is the meeting-place and place of communion between God and those who, like Moses, receive the word from God's mouth, and give testimony from Him (Ezek. 3. 17); those who stand in the secret counsel of Jehovah, who perceive and hear His word, who mark His Word and hear it (Jer. 23. 18).

      The secret of ministry in the power of the Holy Ghost is communion with God, over His own Word, in spirit in the holiest, God occupying the mercy-seat, Jesus Himself our meeting-place; while from Him who has received the fulness of the Spirit for testimony, gift is not only received at first, but is replenished for constant exercise. the table or Shewbread. (Exodus 25. 23). "Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood." The table presents Christ as the centre and ground of communion to the Church of God.

      Ex.30.23 "Thou shalt make a table of shittim wood"

      The table presents Christ as the centre and ground of communion to the Church of God. "A table," not tables; for there is but one. Where believers are gathered together unto the Name of Jesus, it is God's will that His dying love should be commemorated among them.

      "Of shittim wood." The incarnation and humanity of the Lord Jesus lies at the foundation, and an incarnate Saviour - God manifest in the flesh - is the centre of our communion in church fellowship.


      "Two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the is the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof."

      God has fixed the dimensions of His own table, and man is not at liberty to extend or limit it. In length and breadth it extends to all believers, while walking worthily, yet excluding the unconverted, and the defiled. Its height also is of divine appointment.

      It is on a level with the propitiatory, for it is for those who through atonement have their iniquities forgiven, their sins covered. The length and breadth of the table is half a cubit less than the ark and propitiatory; for their are more saved by Christ, than actually and worthily sit at His table.


      Verse 24. "And thou shalt overlay IT with pure gold."

      Gold is the emblem of divine excellency, and pure gold of the purity and holiness of the divine nature, That is not the Lord's table, according to the mind of God, where the divinity of Christ, and His divine excellency and glory, is not held and maintained. The Christ in whose Name we meet is Immanuel - God with us.


      "And make thereto a crown of gold round about." He who was once made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man, is now crowned with glory and honour. While we commemorate therefore His dying and redeeming love, we do it also in the apprehension of His glory where He now is, at God's right-hand. And we do this "until He come," in the expectation of His return to receive us to Himself.


      Verse 25. "And thou shalt make unto it a border of a hand-breadth round about." The table which was extended and limited by divine grace and infinite wisdom, was also guarded. There as to be a border to the table of a handbreadth. here are four fingers to a handbreadth, and there are four things indispensable to real and right communion the Lord's table, according to God and His Word, there is to be real and full blessing. First, saving faith in Christ, which admits into the family of God, are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3. 26; John 1. 12). Secondly, the HOLINESS and consistency of walk which becomes the confession of the Name of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5.) Thirdly, soundness in holding and maintaining the Person of Christ (1 John 1. 10). Fourth SUBJECTION to the Lordship of Christ. For we meet at the Lord's table as believers, in brotherly love, and in the Name of Him that is holy, Him that is true, and of Him that hath the key of David, that openeth no man shutteth (Rev. 3. 7). It should be observed that the Lord Jesus, at the Passover, previous . to His instituting the Lord's Supper, having first washed His disciples feet (John 13. 1-11), then led His disciples into the closest self-examination (Matt. 26. 20-25; John 13. 12-30); the result of which was that Judas, having received the sop, went immediately out. Then, and not till then, could Jesus divide the bread among them, and also the cup, saying, "Drink ye all of it."

      In Luke's account, who states things in their moral order and connection, and not always in their historical order, it would appear otherwise; but a careful examination of all the passages will confirm the fact.


      "And thou shalt make a golden crown to the border there of round about."

      This is very striking! There is not only a divine glory connected with the Person of the Lord Jesus as the ground of communion, as shewn by the golden crown to the table, but also God has put divine honour on the jealousy which guards the communion of saints because it is connected with the glory of the Person of His Son. And as the border extends all round, so does the crown: for it is the jealousy that guards the Person of Jesus in every point, in the matter of communion, that has this divine honour put upon it by God Himself.


      Verse 26. "And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof." Thus adapting the table to the wilderness condition of God's people. And God also has provided for His people now, so that wherever two or three are gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus, there they might break the bread, and drink of the cup in remembrance of Him.
      Verse 27. "Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table." Thus especially connecting the rings and staves with the border. And are we not thus reminded that our exposed condition in such a wilderness as this, renders the border of great importance and necessary in every? The border was to extend all round the table, from the middle, dividing loaf from loaf.
      "And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay THEM with gold." the human tenderness and sympathy of the Lord Jesus, as shewn by the shittim wood; and His divine grace and all sufficiency, as shewn by the gold, adapt Him to the wilderness need of His people in church communion here.

      "That the table may be borne with them."
      Neither the ark nor the table were to be carried, after the example of the Philistines, on a new cart. that is, both testimony to the Person of Christ, and union together in His Name, are to be matters of dual responsibility to God.


      Verse 29. "And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover [pour out] withal: of pure gold shalt thou make THEM."
      All that is connected with the communion of saints, on the ground of the Person of the Lord Jesus, is to be of God, and done in the power of divine grace. Human will, human authority, human wisdom, have no place here. "If any man speak, let him speak as Oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 4.-11). Let all things be done, not only decently and in order, but also by the grace of God, and to God's glory. And however important these directions are in all manner of service, they are never more so than. in things connected with the table of the Lord.


      Verse 30. "And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread [Heb. bread of faces) before Me alway." Lev. 24. 5-9. "And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes [pierced cakes] thereof: two-tenth deals shall be in one cake."

      The fine flour is typical of the pure and sinless humanity of Jesus, for it was without leaven. The twelve pierced cakes, for so the Hebrew expresses, foreshadowed Christ as the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, for "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52. 14); and likewise His sufferings on the Cross. The Hebrew expression for shewbread is literally "bread of faces," for these twelve cakes were the representation and remembrance of the twelve tribes of Israel before God continually; and they also typify Christ as God's provision for all His people, the whole Israel of God (John vi.).

      Two-tenth deals, or two omers to each cake. A double portion; a portion for time, and for eternity. As the provision of manna made on the sixth day, which was for that day, and also for the Sabbath. (See Ex. 16. 22-26).

      Verse 6. "And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before Jehovah."
      Christ, the bread of life, set forth a full provision believers. But it must be on a PURE table. A pure and holy Christ the basis of communion; and the Le guarded from defilement. And "before Jehovah," :foe eye of a jealous and holy God is ever resting on the communion of saints.

      Verse 7. "And thou shalt put frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto Jehovah."
      The frankincense, which is white and fragrant, is emblematic of the purity and excellency of the Lord Jesus, both in His life and in His death, especially in estimate of God His Father, so that His language the contemplation of Him was, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." It was to be an offering made by fire." From this we learn that the shewbread was to be unleavened, for in Lev 2. 11, we read, "Ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of Jehovah made by fire."

      Verse 8. "Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before Jehovah continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant."
      Renewed weekly. So on the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread (Acts 20. 7). And on the day of Christ's resurrection, and the following Lord's Day, Jesus Himself allowed His disciples to handle, in His own precious body, the sacred memorials of His sufferings and death (John 20).

      To the Church, the weekly period is not the seventh day, the token of creation rest; but the eighth day, the emblem of resurrection rest, and the rest of completed redemption, being the first day of the week, on which day also the Comforter was given.


      This is repeated for it is important. The feast is not provided for the guests only, but in honour of the Father and of the Son. The table is not spread for the children alone; the Father takes His seat at the head. His language is, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry." For the full joy of communion is in the Father's presence. We are but partakers at the altar: the first and best portion belongs to God.

      Verse 9. "And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place." "Aaron's and his sons'." The High Priest and His house. That is, to us, "Christ as a Son over His own house, Whose house are we" (Heb. 3. 6). By virtue of the anointing as a holy priesthood, our fellowship is not only with the Father, but also with His Son Jesus Christ. "If any man hear My voice," says Jesus, "and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3. 20). At the Lord's table we have fellowship with Jesus, our High Priest above, in the remembrance of His sufferings and death.

      "For IT is most holy unto Him of the offerings of Jehovah made by fire."
      How God guards the holiness of this feast of love! The very atmosphere of the place where it is eaten must be holy, for that which is here set forth, and on which the believer feeds, is "most holy."

      "A perpetual statute."
      "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup," says the Apostle, "ye do shew the Lord's death till He come." It is of perpetual obligation till then. It is an ordinance peculiar to the present dispensation. After this, Jesus will drink the new wine with us in His Father's kingdom.

      In the millennial period, the divinely appointed and restored sacrifices, which till then will never have fully accomplished their original intention, will take the place of the present simpler but grand memorials of a Saviour's sufferings; and then "the mountain of Jehovah's house" will be the centre of communion to the whole earth.

      While in heaven the Lamb in the midst of the Throne - "a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes"- will be God's memorial for the Universe, and for eternity.

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