By Thomas Newberry
CURTAINS OF THE TABERNACLE
(Exodus 26. 1-6).
Verse 1 " Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work shalt thou make THEM."
HAVING considered the principal vessels of the sanctuary, we now come to the consideration of the Tabernacle itself. In this Tabernacle of Witness, there are two sets of CURTAINS and two COVERINGS. The ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, purple, and scarlet, with cherubim, form the TABERNACLE; and the eleven curtains of goats' hair, form what is called the TENT over the Tabernacle.
Then the COVERING of the TENT was of rams' skins dyed red, and the COVERING above that was of badgers' skins (Ex. 36. 8, 13. 14, 18, 19).
It is of importance to keep the Tabernacle and Tent distinct in our minds, for although the translators often confound the terms "Tabernacle" and "Tent" ("Mishcahn" and "Ohel"), the Holy Ghost employs the most exact and beautiful precision; and it is by attention to it that we may hope, through Divine grace, to ascertain the mind of God.
The TABERNACLE, as the Hebrew word "Mishcahn" signifies (which is from "shahcan" to dwell) is God's DWELLINGPLACE, according to Ex. 25. 8, "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them," and is more immediately connected with God's abiding presence.
The TENT ("Ohel") is connected with the congregation, because in the open space before the door or entrance of the tent the congregation of Israel assembled therefore the Holy Ghost never uses the expression "tabernacle of the congregation ;" but in the Authorized Version the terms are frequently confounded. In the "Englishman's Bible" the distinction is invariably shown. "THOU SHALT MAKE THE TABERNACLE." A dwelling-place for God with men. Oh, marvellous, condescending grace! "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee" (2 Chr. 6. 18).
Christ Himself, whilst He was on the earth, was God's tabernacle, and as such He abode alone (John 1. 14, and 12. 24). "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt (or tabernacled) among us." He was God manifest in flesh: the Godhead and the glory dwelt in Him. But Christ having died, and being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, and sent down the Comforter: by that One Spirit all believers are now baptized into one body, in union with their glorified Head. The Church on earth forms the tabernacle or dwelling-place of God, as we read in Eph. 2. 22, "In whom (Christ) YE also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
In this sense the Tabernacle represents the whole Church of God, looked at in the Spirit, not in the flesh, composed of all true believers in Jesus throughout the world. I speak not of any manifest oneness, but of that which exists in the Spirit, notwithstanding all the outward failure and division. It was for this spiritual unity the Lord Jesus prayed in John 17., and this unity we are exhorted "to keep," that is, to recognize and manifest (see Eph. 4. 3-6).
As to the MATERIALS of which these curtains are composed. "OF FINE TWINED LINEN." Let it be borne in mind, that here the Church is not looked at only as the purchase of the blood of the Lamb - the ram's skins, dyed red, will give us that thought in due time - but as the workmanship of the Eternal Spirit. "The new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3. 10). "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2. 10). "The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4. 24).
"The fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19. 8), is expressive of conformity, through the Spirit, to the image of Christ as the Holy One. For he that is begotten of God sinneth not (1 John 3. 9). "The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8. 4).
When the Tabernacle is regarded as a type of the Lord Jesus during His earthly sojourn, the fine linen represents His pure, sinless humanity.
"AND BLUE." Blue is the colour of the heavens, and the root of the Hebrew word rendered "blue" signifies PERFECTION. Therefore BLUE is the emblem of heavenly perfectness. And how beautifully these two thoughts of righteousness and heavenly perfectness are expressed by the Lord Jesus in His sublime prayer in John 17! "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth" (v17). Here is the FINE LINEN. And, again: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (v16). Here is the BLUE. "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself" (set Myself apart from the world to God), "that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (v19). Here is the fine linen and the blue combined. For by the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, uniting the believer with a glorified Christ at God's right hand, just so far as his soul enters by faith into the truth, is he in heart separated from the world, and brought into fellowship with God. And thus the holiness and the heavenliness of Jesus are wrought by the Holy Ghost into the saint's spiritual being.
When on earth, Christ was the heavenly Man, as He Himself said, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven" (John 3.13).
"AND PURPLE." The emblem of earthly and heavenly glory combined. For through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the believer is identified with the Lord Jesus, in whom the earthly glories of the SON OF DAVID, and the divine and heavenly glories of the SON OF GOD, meet and centre.
"AND SCARLET." The emblem of earthly glory. Jesus as the offspring of David was born King of the Jews, and as King of the Jews He was crucified, witness the title written over Him on the cross. At present Jesus is rejected as King both by Jew and Gentile, and believers share with Him in that rejection. But "it is a faithful saying, that if we suffer with Him we shall be also glorified together." PURPLE is the combination of scarlet and blue, and Christ in His Melchizedek character unites the earthly glories of the kingdom with the heavenly glory of His eternal priesthood. And "till He comes" believers, like John, share in "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1. 9).
"WITH CHERUBIM OF CUNNING WORK SHALT THOU MAKE THEM." The Cherubim inwrought with these various materials beautifully express the gifts of the Spirit for service to God, for the building up and knitting together of the Church as the body of Christ in the Spirit. While Jesus was on earth, these various gifts of the Spirit were manifested in His personal ministry.
"TEN CURTAINS." We have hitherto looked at the Church in the Spirit, in its unity; we now contemplate it as composed of various parts or assemblies. Thus, in the apostles' time, there were the churches of Galatia, the church in Corinth, Ephesus, etc. And so now believers, though one in the Spirit, are dispersed in various localities. True, in the times of the apostles, there was an outward expression of local oneness which no longer exists. Yet, nevertheless, in Spirit and in truth, all believers in a given place are one as God sees them.
Verse 2. "The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits; and every one of the curtains shall have one measure."
The length and breadth of every curtain was fixed by God. God's measure of the Church, in Spirit, in any one place, takes in every real believer in that place; but no more. It is inclusive of every quickened soul, but exclusive of every unconverted person. The Church of God, in Spirit, as here represented, in any given place, is composed of every real believer in that place - of every converted sinner, of every true-born child of God. Wherever the Spirit of God has come as a quickening Spirit, there He remains as an indwelling Spirit. And every one in whom He dwells, is, by Him, baptized into the one body, of which Christ is the risen and glorified Head. And God's principles are the same everywhere. He has not one measure for one place and another for another. "Every one of the curtains shall have one measure."
Verse 3. "The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another."
When the different local assemblies of believers were outwardly, as well as spiritually one, as in the Church at Ephesus, or at Philippi, composed of all believers in Christ in those cities, how real and sweet the fellowship of churches! How close and intimate the fellowship between Colosse and Laodicea! Hence, writes the Apostle Paul, "When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea" (Col. 4.16). And so writes the Apostle Peter, to the elect strangers "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you" (1 Peter 5.13).
But even now, while the outward oneness is gone, the fellowship of God's churches, in the Spirit, remains,- hindered, hampered, and feeble though it be. And where two or three are gathered together unto the Name of Jesus in different localities, a little of the sweet fellowship of the early churches may still be enjoyed. Then, again, the vital interests of believers, though sundered by distance of place, are inseparably connected. One member cannot suffer without all the members with it, little as they may healthfully sympathize the one with another. The membership of the body, in Spirit, is the all-important point. Denominational membership, is a thought entirely unknown to Scripture.
Five of these curtains together covered the outer Sanctuary, the other five the Holiest of all. The saints above, and those below, But one communion make; All join in Christ, their living Head, And of His grace partake.
They are worshippers in one holy Temple, the rent veil alone being between them, whether they serve here in the shadow, or there in the light Divine.
Verse 4-6. "And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain from the selvedge in the coup-ling; and likewise shalt thou make in the uttermost edge of another curtain, in the coupling of the second. Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make in the edge of the curtain that is in the coupling of the second; that the loops may take hold one of another. And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle."
The marvellous prayer of the Lord Jesus, recorded in John 17., gives us, I believe, in the Lord's own words, the precious truth set forth by the loops of blue and taches of gold, uniting the whole into one tabernacle, the dwelling-place of God.
This prayer of Jesus is occupied with the Church of God; it takes in neither Israel nor the world (v. 9), neither the Old Testament, nor the millennial saints; but those who were then the disciples of Christ, and those who should believe in Him through their word - the Church, as built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Having first reminded His heavenly Father of His earthly obedience, and asked to be glorified, as the obedient God-man, with the glory which, as the Eternal Son, He had with the Father before the world was, He then prays for His disciples. He had given to them eternal life, for they had known both Him and the Father, and now, taking His place in spirit, as no longer in the world, but as ascended to His Father - He at the right hand of God, above, and they still on the earth - He prays that they may be ONE, as the Father and the Son are one, through the one Eternal Spirit who unites the Father and the Son in a divine and eternal Oneness. And this prayer was accomplished when, being by the right hand of God exalted, having received the. promise of the Father, He sent down the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, who baptized into one body all believers in Jesus, in union with their glorified Head.
Then setting Himself apart to the Father from the world which crucified and rejected Him, thus sanctifying Himself for their sakes, He prays for them, that they, being one with Him risen, and thus no more of the world, than He is of the world, through the knowledge and apprehension of this truth in the power of the Holy Ghost, that they might be practically sanctified, and separated, through the Spirit, from the world to God.
He next proceeds to include all those who should believe on Him, during the present dispensation, through faith in the inspired Word previous to His return to receive the Church' that they ALL, through the Holy Ghost, might be ONE in this divine, perfect, eternal oneness. And so they are. And this oneness is the proof to the world of the mission and Messiah-ship of Jesus.
He is not here contemplating their outward manifested oneness, but their inward oneness in the Spirit. (v 20, 21). Then, making them the sharers of His given glory, He asks that they might be ONE as the Father and Himself are one, in that glory.
Marvellous grace! Glorious and blissful prospect! And when associated with Him in that resurrection glory, their bodies fashioned into the likeness of His own, they shall be MADE PERFECT IN ONE, and the perfection of the oneness will be manifest. (v. 22, 23).
And when Christ, who is their life, shall appear, and every eye shall see Him, and they also appear with Him in glory, then will the world know that Jesus is the sent One of the Father, and that they also are loved with the same love as that with which the Father loves the Son. (v. 23).
Then, as not having yet exhausted the desires of His loving heart, He asks that they may not only be associated with Him in His manifested glory to the world, but that they also may be with Him and near Him in His own eternal dwelling-place with the Father, there to gaze on His divine glories, and share His everlasting love (v. 24).
This divine, heavenly, perfect oneness of the Church is beautifully typified by these "taches of gold" and "loops of blue." Gold is the emblem of that which is DIVINE; BLUE of that which is. HEAVENLY, PERFECT. Their oneness is of God. It is even as the Father and the Son are one, effected by the indwelling of the divine Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.
This oneness is PERFECT, although the glorious perfection of it will only fully appear when the one Church, having no spot, wrinkle, nor any such thing, shall descend out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, and shining with a light clear as crystal (Rev. 21. 10, 11).
And this DIVINE, HEAVENLY, and PERFECT ONENESS still exists, and nothing can touch it. The loops of blue and taches of gold, never let go their holdfast. The prayer of Christ secures it. A prayer heard and answered.
Verse 7."And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering [tent] upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make them."
The TEN curtains of fine twined linen formed the TABERNACLE; these ELEVEN curtains of goats' hair composed the TENT. Looking on the tent as typical of the Lord Jesus while on earth, it presents Him as taking upon Him the form of a servant, and made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2.7). Yea, more; Oh marvellous stoop of condescending love, as made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8.3). For the goat in Scripture was especially selected for the sin-offering, as typical of Christ; though it was only on the Cross that He was 'made sin for us.' And the parable in Matt. 25. 31 to the end, shews the marked distinction in the figure between the sheep and the goat. We know that He personally "knew no sin ;" yet, in outward form and appearance, He was found in fashion as a man. At the same time, like the tent enclosing the tabernacle, He was the habitation of God, the glory of the Godhead dwelt within. In the second place, looking at the tent as typical of the Church of God on earth, it presents the Church as composed of individuals living in the world; not as the Church inwardly in Spirit, but the Church outwardly in the flesh; not as to standing, for in that sense we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8. 9), but being as yet in the body.
It is called "the Tent of the CONGREGATION," as representing those who are associated, or gathered together, to the confession of the Name of Jesus - the assembly, or assemblies, of the saints. And the "Tent of WITNESS," as representing them as the witnessing company for Christ in the earth.
"I am black, but comely,' said the bride (Song of Sol 1. 5), "as the tents of Kedar,' such is the Church's outward appearance in the flesh; "as the curtains of Solomon,' such she is within, as the workmanship of the Divine and Eternal Spirit.
THE DIMENSIONS OF THE CURTAINS.
Verse 8. "The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.'
The length of the curtains of the TABERNACLE was twenty-eight cubits, the curtains of the tent were thirty cubits long, two cubits extra, and there was one curtain more to the tent, thus entirely covering the tabernacle. "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." This is true of all who compose the Tabernacle, or Church of God in Spirit. And, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." This is the precept which is imperative on all who form part of the Tent of the congregation - the witness to the Name and truth of Christ on the earth.
THE COUPLING TOGETHER OF THE CURTAINS.
Verse 9. "And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle [tent]."
How beautifully and expressively this sets forth the happy fellowship of assemblies, where holiness, and truth, and subjection to Jesus has been maintained! And God would have this fellowship experimentally and practically realised. And does not this also express the communion together which God would have enjoyed by assemblies of believers in any particular district, more or less extended?- such as between the Churches of Galatia, or the seven Churches of Asia; while provision is made, as we shall see presently, that ALL may be one.
THE LOOPS AND BRAZEN TACHES.
Verses 10, 11. "And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second. And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches [hooks] into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one."
The Spirit of God baptizes into one body all believers in Jesus, as the tabernacle or dwelling-place of God; and the apostles and their fellow-labourers, under the direct guidance and control of the Spirit, carried out the Divine thought in the original formation of the outward Church; for it was one, in a manifest and unbroken outward unity, - one tent.
And God had made full provision for the continuance of this oneness, in the one doctrine of His Word, the one teaching of His Spirit, and the supreme Lord ship of His Son. But human traditions having been permitted to mingle with, and to supersede the pure doctrines of the Word; and the teachings of the so called Church to interfere with the teaching of the Spirit; and the authority of man to set aside the SOLE Lordship of Christ in His Church, the outward oneness which once existed, exists no longer. This was wonderfully foreshadowed in the outward garments of the crucified Redeemer, divided among the four Roman soldiers that crucified Him, while the inner coat, woven from the top throughout, remained intact.
But God's principles are unchangeably the same. The Word of God continues to be the depository and criterion of revealed truth; the Comforter remains, and the Lord Jesus retains His supremacy. And the blessing, the privilege, and the profit, are to be realized and enjoyed still, whenever two or three are found to carry into practice God's original instructions, by meeting on God's principles. The testimony of the Lord Jesus to the Church in Philadelphia is the witness of this (see Rev. 3. 7-13).
And the five disciples seen at the last, gathered around the Cross of the expiring Redeemer, furnish the standing type of this special and sacred fellowship.
THE TENT COVERING THE TABERNACLE.
Verses 12, 13. "And the remnant that remaineth, of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle. And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it."
By this arrangement, the beautifully wrought curtains forming the tabernacle were entirely enclosed and hidden by the curtains of the tent; the tabernacle, as we have shewn, representing the Church inwardly in Spirit, and the tent the Church in outward manifestation.
THE RAMS' SKIN COVERING.
Verse 14. "And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins died red. And a covering above of badgers' skins."
It is not called a covering for the TABERNACLE, though, in one sense, that is true, but a covering for the TENT; for it is not the Church in Spirit, but the Church in testimony, that especially needs this covering. The curtains of goats' hair formed a tent upon the Tabernacle. These rams' skins dyed red form a covering for the Tent.
The LAMB was the type of the Lord Jesus in the meekness, gentleness, and lowliness of His character; the RAM the type of Him in the strength, firmness, and decision of His testimony.
The rams' skins being dyed RED add another thought; that of the atoning death and precious blood of Him who was "The faithful and true Witness." The tent under the covering of the rams' skins dyed red shews the Church as accepted in the Person, and under the cover and shelter of the blood of the Lamb.
When the first intimation of gospel grace was given by God Himself to our first parents in the garden of Eden, in those words, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head," Adam, on the part of himself and of his wife, made his confession of faith, by calling his wife's name Eve, the mother of all LIVING, though the sentence of death had just been pronounced an himself and his posterity on account of sin. Yet he calls her not the mother of all dying, but of all living, for faith laid hold on the promise, and associated in life and victory with the Virgin's Seed who was to come, all who should believe in Him. Thereupon God made, as a substitute for the aprons of fig leaves, which unbelief had sewn together, COATS OF SKIN, and clothed them. Thus Adam and Eve no longer appeared in their nakedness and shame, but clothed and covered by God Himself in the skin of that victim which probably was the first sacrifice, foreshadowing the bruising of the heel, and the atoning death of the woman's promised seed.
In like manner the tent, covered with this covering of rams' skins dyed red, shews the Church in its testimony as seen in Christ, "in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." And, as THUS SEEN, notwithstanding all the failure in testimony of those composing it, and their unworthiness in themselves, what was said of Israel may be applied to them, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel" (Num. 23. 21). While, at the same time, we know that there was no iniquity nor perverseness that God did not discover and deal with, as walking in their midst.
It is important to remember this, that the Church's completeness in Christ above, does not exempt her from God's fatherly discipline, and the judgment of the Lord Jesus down here. Totally the reverse. We are called to "walk worthy of God unto all well pleasing," and to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." And we are dealt with on the ground of this high responsibility. "You only have I known," said God to Israel, "of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3. 2). The more God's presence is manifested in the assembly, the more will be felt that He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look on sin.
THE BADGERS' SKIN COVERING.
This covering typifies the Church in its outward appearance, as seen by man. "As the tents of Kedar"
I Cor. 6:12 tells us that we are not to "be brought under the power" or to be controlled by anything. The only exception is the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18) (Song of Solomon, 1. 5). "I clothed thee also with broidered work, and SHOD THEE WITH BADGERS' SKIN" (Ezekiel 16. 10). It is the PILGRIM ASPECT of the church, which is thus presented, in which it is conformed to the lowly appearance of Jesus of Nazareth when on earth. Therefore, whilst walking in conformity with the pattern thus set us by our Lord, "the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not" (1 John 3.1).
SOLOMON's TEMPLE was "exceeding magnifical," for it was the type of all the redeemed in glory.
The TABERNACLE, though all glorious within, was covered with a covering of badgers' skins: for it is the figure of the Christ in the wilderness.
SUMMARY OF THE CURTAINS.
Looking on the Lord Jesus while on earth as typified by the tabernacle (John 1. 14), the inner wrought curtains of Fine Linen, answer to Him as the SON OF God in His spiritual excellency and beauty. "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness" (Rom. 1. 4).
The Goats' Hair Curtains, as the SON OF MARY (Luke 1. 35), made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8. 3), yet personally "that holy thing" born of the Virgin.
The Rams' Skins dyed red present Him as the SON of Man in testimony, both in life and in death.
And the Badgers' Skin covering, as Jesus of Nazareth, the supposed SON OF JOSEPH, the stranger here, to whom the world was a wilderness, and life a pilgrimage from the manger to the Cross.
But regarding the Tabernacle and Tent, with its coverings, as typical of the Church of God, the curtains of Fine Linen represent the Church in Spirit as the workmanship of the Holy Ghost.
The Goats' Hair curtains, the Church in outward responsibility.
The Rams' Skins dyed red, the Church in testimony, as seen of God in Christ, under the shelter of His atoning blood.
And the Badgers' Skin, the Church as seen by the world in her pilgrimage character, and her outward condition here.
In RESURRECTION GLORY, however, the internal workmanship of the Holy Spirit, as typified by the curtains of the tabernacle, will appear in all its Divine perfection and beauty.
The FLESH, with all its imperfections, will be done away for ever, these vile bodies fashioned like Christ's glorious body, this mortal will have put on immortality, and this corruptible, incorruption. The goats' hair tent will be exchanged for the "building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5. 1).
But the Church will ever appear as accepted in God's Beloved Son, with robes washed and made white in the BLOOD OF THE LAMB.
While the PILGRIM garb will be exchanged for the becoming robes of royalty and triumph, the priestly garments of glory and beauty. No longer the badgers' skin covering externally visible, but "having the glory of God" (Rev. 21. 11).