By F.B. Meyer
"According to the pattern showed to you in the mount." (HEBREWS 8.5).
THERE were three stages by which Moses, the man of God, ascended into the Mount. To the first, he went in company with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy elders of the children of Israel, the chosen representatives of the people. "And they saw the God of Israel, and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness. They saw God, and did eat and drink" (Exodus 24.10, 11).
This eating and drinking was evidently a symbol of friendship and peace, based upon the shedding of the blood, which is recorded in the previous verses. We, too, may see God, and eat of the flesh and drink of the blood of the Son of Man, on the basis of that precious blood by which we have been made nigh.
When this feast was over, the voice of God called Moses up to a higher range, a further steep. He first bade the elders tarry where they were, and then, accompanied only by Joshua, he rose up, and went into the mount of God, on which the cloud brooded, steeped and bathed in the glory of the Lord, like the long bars of cloud in the brilliance of a setting sun.
But on the seventh day, even Joshua was left behind. God called to Moses out of the cloud. And Moses went up further into the mount, deeper and yet deeper into the heart of the burning glory. All his senses were keenly awake to the scenes around him, and entranced, each the channel for tides of rapturous enjoyment, without pain, without self-consciousness, without the paralysis of fear, as if one were borne ever onward by a tide of glory and music, each movement of which was rapture. "And Moses was in the Mount forty days and forty nights."
During that time minute instructions were given Moses concerning the Tabernacle, which was to be erected on the plains below. Those instructions are given in Exodus 25; 26; 27, and are exceedingly minute. But nothing was left to human fancy. Beginning with the ark and its mercy-seat as the throne of God, the instructions pass through the table of shittim wood, the candlestick with its seven branches, the boards and curtains and hangings, until they end at the great brazen altar in the court of the Tabernacle, where God and the sinner met.
Is not this also the path trodden by the Lord Himself, the substance of all these types, Who came from the bosom of the Father to the cross of Calvary, the brazen altar where He put away the sins of men?
But, in addition to the minute description thus given, there appears to have been presented to the mind of Moses some representation of the things which he was bidden to construct. It was as if the eternal realities which had dwelt forever in the mind of God took some visible shape before his vision. The unseen became visible. The eternal took form. A pattern was shown him. He trod the aisles of the true Tabernacle. He beheld the heavenly things themselves. And it was after this pattern that he was repeatedly urged and commanded to build. "According to all that I show you, after the pattern of the Tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it" (Exodus 25.9, 40; 26.30; 27.8).
THE JEWISH RITUAL DESERVES DEVOUT STUDY. It is always interesting to study methods of religious worship, even though the rites have become obsolete, the altars deserted, and the dust of priest and votary has long since mingled in the sand of the desert or the verdure of the glade.
Who can look unmoved at the gigantic monuments which rear themselves in the dense forests of Central Mexico, the remnants of an age of giants who have passed away, giving no clue to the symbols or hieroglyphs which they have carved? Who can walk unmoved through the stone circles of Stonehenge, Keswick, or Penmaenmawr, and not fall into pensive musings?
For this reason, if for no other, the Levitical ritual would ever be possessed of intrinsic interest. When we think of the noble spirits who have bequeathed us our most precious religious records, who sang in the Psalms, and wept in the Lamentations, and flashed with the ecstasy of Messianic prediction and prophecy; and all of whom were trained in the system of which the Tabernacle was the focus and heart, we cannot fail to examine it with holy and reverent curiosity, as if one should visit the nursery or schoolhouse where loved and honoured teachers spent their earliest years.
But there is a yet deeper interest here. For we are told that these things were made after the pattern of things in the heavens. Every knob, and tache, and curtain, and vessel, and piece of furniture, had some analogue, some spiritual counterpart of which it was the rude and material expression. Through these examples and shadows there is no doubt that the ancient saints caught glimpses of the eternal realities.
We infer this, because there is such a similarity between their religious life, as expressed in their writings, and our own. But if they, who had nothing but the type to guide them, were able to discern so many deep and holy lessons through its medium, how much more evidently should we be able to see the grand principles of redemption in the ancient ritual, when before us have passed the scenes of Bethlehem, Calvary, the Garden of Arimathea, and the Ascension Mount!
Sometimes in a shadow we may see details of workmanship which otherwise in the substance we might have missed. One of the most wonderful achievements of the present day is sun-photography, by which photographs are obtained of the sun-disk under certain conditions. And it is obviously much easier to investigate the nature of the sun from such photographs than to study it amid the unbearable glory of its presence. The eye may quietly pursue its investigations undazzled and unabashed.
So we may better understand some of the details of Christ's work, as we study Leviticus, than when we stand with the apostles amid the marvels of the cross, or with the Seer amid the supernal blaze of Apocalyptic vision.
Turn not lightly then from the Book of Leviticus, which shadows forth the Gospel, and, indeed, gives much of the terminology, the phrases and symbols, to be afterward employed. Beneath the teaching of the same Holy Spirit as taught Moses of old we explore the sacred meanings which underlie ark and propitiatory; fine twined linen and blue, candlestick and table, altar of incense and altar of burnt-offering, basin and vessel and snuffer. Each is like a hook in the divine household, to which God has attached a sacred meaning, and which will yield up its secret to those who reverently ask and seek and knock.
Adapting some memorable words, we may say: "The invisible things of God, from the construction of the Tabernacle, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that were made, even His eternal purpose of redemption."
THE TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL ARE ETERNAL REALITIES. We must not think that they are ever destined to pass away, as the Jewish types did. They cannot. They are the heavenly things themselves. They are the true, the ideal, the divine. They have always been what they are. They always will be what they are.
We may yet have to see much deeper into them, we may need to be taught them in yet higher methods of divine communication. We may have to be lifted on to a loftier region of experience in order to comprehend them. But they are essentially and forever settled, the granite of eternal fact. Any structure built on them shall last forever. The Jews had only the example, we have the reality; they the picture, we the person; they the shadow, we the substance.
It is interesting to feel that Moses saw no other truth in God's revelation than what Paul saw; though to Moses it shaped itself in the Tabernacle with its layers of skins, whilst to Paul it took shape in glowing trains of splendid argument and rhetoric. But ever in the mind and thought of God there has been the same distinction between holiness and sin, ever the need of sacrifice, even unto death, ever the demand for shed life, as the only means through which the sinner may approach His holy Majesty; ever the requirements of the incense of praise, the bread of obedience, the light of an illuminated character; ever the priest to make intercession, and ever the aisles and courts and spaces dedicated to worship and intercourse, lofty as the fellowship between the Father and the Son.
Calvary is no novelty, nor the Priesthood, nor the work of Jesus. They represent the shining forth of eternal facts in the deepest nature of God. To ignore them is to miss union with God on the most fundamental laws and processes of His being. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, and He appears in heaven still bearing the marks of His death, "a Lamb as it had been slain."
OUR PLACE OF WORSHIP. We must needs assemble ourselves in places of assembly with fellow Christians, but in point of fact not one of them is essential to true worship. The type has passed, and we know that the Jewish Tabernacle is no more. But what do we see? Men are trying to reproduce it, or to invent a substitute for it.
Ah, how greatly they misconceive our true position! We certainly neither need the Jewish Tabernacle nor any substitute; because we are constituted priests of the heavenly tabernacle, which no human hand ever reared, and which is the meeting place between God and all true hearts, yea, of all who love God. "Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father."
When we meet a company of our fellow Christians, we are not to think of them as the whole of those with whom we worship. The true worshipper is one of a great festal throng, which is filling the spiritual temple. We are but part of a congregation consisting of all the sainted dead, and the believing living, in all communions, and throughout the universe of God. The prisoner, the traveller, the invalid, the mother, the nurse - a11 meet there in unison, and worship God together. All are priests, and yonder is the High-Priest, who has passed through the heavens and ever lives to make intercession.
"A minister of the true tabernacle." How ridiculous do those appear to such an assembly who arrogate to themselves priestly pretensions, and who would make us believe that they are repeating the sacrifice of Christ! In this temple at least they are not wanted, for Christ is here to offer the sacrifice Himself.
THE TRUE PATTERN OF OUR LIFE IS SUGGESTED HERE. We have many plans and schemes and patterns, but how often abortive and disappointing! Would that we could spend long periods with God in the mount, getting His pattern of our life and work! There is nothing higher for us than to build up some resemblance to God's eternal thought. All structures built on that scheme will stand forever. And God will ever find material, more than enough, for those who dare to be singular, because they are true to the pattern which He shows on the mount.
And if it be asked what that pattern is which God will show us in the mount of communion, we may reply: it is the life and character and work of Jesus Christ our Lord, the model and exemplar and pattern of all that is true and just and pure and lovely and of good report. See that you make your life on this pattern, which God waits to show you in the mount. God calls you to it, and He will enable you to perform.