Shadow and Substance
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Shadow and Substance.
An Exposition of the Tabernacle Types.
GEO. C. NEEDHAM.
Author of “The Spiritual Life,” “Conflict and Conquest,” “Plan of
the Ages,” etc.
AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY,
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Copyright 1896 by the
AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY.
|VI.||THE BRAZEN ALTAR|
|VII.||BRAZEN ALTAR AND VESSELS|
|IX.||HOLY AND MOST HOLY|
|X.||TABLE OF SHEWBREAD|
|XI.||THE GOLDEN LAMP-STAND|
|XII.||THE ALTAR OF INCENSE|
|XIII.||THE ARK OF THE COVENANT|
|XVI.||HISTORY OF THE ARK|
|XVIII.||THE FRIENDLY CLOUD|
IN former years much study was given to the typology of Scripture. The fear of extremes has led to its comparative disuse. In our day students of theology leave these fruitful fields to glean elsewhere. The gospel of Moses is little known; the teaching of Moses little understood. Yet, he who knows not Moses, can never fully know Christ. A fascinating but fatal rationalism has been subverting the foundation laws of true Bible study. Prophetic symbolism and prophetic teaching are accounted nothing worthy of inquiry, while airy sentimentalities and novel philosophies have been the chief pursuit of religious teachers. How little can we make of the Bible, and how much can we reduce it to a merely human composition, has been the irreverent motive impelling many in their damaging work of Scripture mutilation. Nevertheless there are still left some old-fashioned believers who cling to the Bible as the revealed will of God, divinely inspired in all its parts and particles. Where shall we look for infallibility if not to the word of God? The church has it not: her voice is fallible, her judgment imperfect. Reason has it not ; that poor, darkened, and deformed power, which we call understanding, beclouded by sin, is only rational when brought into subjection unto the obedience of Christ. God has given us a revelation of Himself which is super-human, infallible and conclusive. Therefore no part of it is non-essential, no part of it should be treated with negligence or indifference.
The typical portions of Scripture are supremely important, and as a study vastly interesting. Types are shadows. Shadows imply substance. A type has its lesson. It was the design of Jehovah to express His great thought of redemption to His people Israel in a typical, or symbolic manner. By laws, ceremonies, institutions, persons and incidents He sought to keep alive in their hearts the hope of a coming Redeemer. Christ is therefore the key to Moses’ gospel. This then is our advantage, that we can minutely compare type and antitype, and thereby learn the lesson of grace which bringeth salvation.
The design of redemption is fully disclosed in the Typical Tabernacle. The world-sanctuary, that which was earthly and temporary, foreshadowed Christ the real and True Tabernacle. Apart from its typical signification, viewed alone as the dwelling-place of Jehovah, where He dwelt and walked in the midst of a redeemed nation, the Typical Tabernacle ought surely to command our earnest and reverential study.
The vast creation, this house of our habitation, calls out the study of astronomers and geologists, yet but one chapter of Genesis is occupied with the details of creation, while fifteen chapters in Exodus are required to record the details of the sacred building and its solemn uses. Great and marvelous as is creation with its mysteries and its wonders, greater still is redemption with its sublime ideas, and its far-reaching results. Redemption invests the Tabernacle with peculiar interest; we should therefore study its design.
Pyramids and mausoleums possess historic and artistic interest, their grandeur and beauty call out the glowing admiration of delighted visitors. Idol-temples are objects of perpetual interest ; many have gone to the ends of the earth to behold them and wonder. But the Tabernacle of Jehovah, although a building of inferior proportions, gathers around itself a charm, and a claim unknown to any building ever erected by the hands of men.
The Tabernacle was the first palace of Divine Royalty within whose gilded walls dwelt the awful Shekinah, the manifested glory of the living God; the visible expression of His attributes of Holiness, Righteousness, Mercy and Truth.
The history of Abraham’s posterity comprising the nation of Israel, and the history of the Typical Tabernacle are closely interwoven. It was their place of worship: the meeting place between them and their covenant God. For this reason also, the subject is worthy of thoughtful study; nor is it a proof of scholarship, or saintship, to relegate it to the obscurity of the mythical and legendary.
The Tabernacle itself, as a material building, like all other types has passed away, but the realities prefigured by them continue. The person of Immanuel in His incarnation and redemptive work is the substance of every type. In the Tabernacle but faintly, while in Christ more fully do we behold the grace of God revealed and the glory of God reflected. The patient study which traces out the lines of truth radiating from the Tabernacle, and converging in Christ will lead to greater discoveries of Him who is indeed God manifest in flesh; whose glory we behold—glory as of the only begotten of the Father, in whom dwelleth, as Shekinah dwelt in the Tabernacle, the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
The following reasons are of sufficient value to every believer for giving prayerful study to the Tabernacle and its spiritual signification:
I. Its design.
It was appointed as Jehovah’s dwelling-place in the midst of His covenant-people. “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8.
II. God’ s mode of revealing Himself.
From the beginning God revealed Himself to man in divers ways, each successive revelation becoming a clearer manifestation of His nature and character. At sundry times to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to Moses He made His ways known. Now in the Tabernacle He condescended to unfold His purposes more specifically. “And they shall know That I am the Lord their God that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 29:46.)
III. That man may know God’s great plan of redemption.
There are specially three features of redemption foreshadowed in the Tabernacle ritual:
- Purification from sin. Hence the law of sacrifice and the use of water.
- Acceptance with God. This thought is connected with priestly garments and mitre.
- Worship. Priestly intercession with the offering of incense typified this aspect of truth. In the more amplified exposition later on these several points will receive due attention.
IV. Through the Tabernacle and its services we become acquainted with God’s method of teaching.
He taught through symbol. The truth was in the type mystically ; the truth was beyond the type spiritually. There were three elements of types:
- Natural objects, as the Rock. “For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them ; and the rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians10:4.
- Heavenly objects, as the Manna. “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die.” John 6:49-50. [Note, type and antitype are frequently in contrast.]
- Artificial objects, as the Brazen Serpent. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even· so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life.” John 3:14-15.
V. To know that God establishes communion between man and Himself.
Through sin communion between Creator and creature was interrupted. Through grace communion is again restored. “And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold. …And there I will meet with thee and commune with thee from above the mercy-seat.” Exodus 25:17-22.
This communion with Cod includes cooperation with Him in the prosecution of His great plans.
“See the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And Bezaleel and Oholiab shall work, and every wise-hearted man, in whom the Lord hath put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all the all that the Lord hath commanded.” Exodus 35:30; 36:1.
VI. Through the study of the Tabernacle we are led to a right understanding of New Testament doctrine.
No student of the sacred Scriptures can have a right understanding of New Testament doctrine until the light of the Old Testament shines thereupon. So also the New illumines the Old. In the Tabernacle and its ritual we meet with the very terms and germs of New Testament doctrine. As for instance: Access to God, Atonement, Holiness, Intercession, Propitiation, Priesthood, Remission, Reconciliation, Redemption, Righteousness, Worship.
VII. By the study of the Tabernacle in connection with Israel we get the prophetic outline of Israel’s future.
Israel in the past foreshadowed Israel to come. Their form of government was a pure theocracy, as it again shall be. They were then, as they shall be hereafter, a nation, separated, consecrated and honored with high distinctions, with the Glory of God in their midst.
VIII. The study of this subject will greatly enlarge and enrich our Christian experience.
What is Christian experience? Is it not putting truth to the test by its personal application to ourselves? We prove the reality of spiritual phenomena by experiment. We thereby grow in knowledge, and knowledge begets experience. For there is a knowledge which doth not puff up, but the rather buildeth up. Grace and peace come from the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.
IX. Attention to this subject will also restore the true method of Bible study itself.
The books of Moses are occupied with the services of the Tabernacle in relation to the people of Israel. Divers washings for purification, sacrifices offered for atonement, religious feasts for the promotion of worship, all of these pointed to Christ in relation to His church and to ages thereafter. Through these typical institutions Moses wrote of Jesus. They were therefore to be observed until He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
THE variety of names given to the Tabernacle indicates its importance.
I. A Sanctuary.
“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”Exodus 25:8.
This name calls attention to the character of the sacred building as a holy place. It was designed to be a palace for the great King, where His Glory through the Shekinah should become visible to man.
“According to all that I shew thee, the pattern of the Tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it.” Exodus 25:9.
This word from its Latin origin means simply “tent,” but from its Hebrew derivation means “dwelling-place.” The thought is: to settle down. From the day when sin entered into the world God had no dwelling-place amid mankind. He saw them in their misery. He heard the groans of His people in Egypt. He came down and visited them, but not until they became a separate nation, redeemed by blood, and by power, did He condescend to dwell with them. In a more real sense, and with greater manifestation of His presence, He tabernacled with men through The Word made flesh. John 1:1, 14.
The phrase “dwelt among us,” is literally tabernacled. This is a great mystery, how He the infinite God should limit Himself to a material structure, and afterwards dwell within a human body.
“On the first day of the first month shalt thou rear up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.” — Exodus 40:2.
From the use of the word tent, in its connections and associations, I conclude that the goat’s hair covering was thereby specified. I suggest this explanation: The Sanctuary comprised the boards of the building, and specially the inner room. The Tabernacle was the cherubic covering which formed the ceiling. It was beneath· this glorious canopy the Shekinah rested. The ram skins, dyed red, with the outermost protection, in our version called badger skins, formed the coverings over all. With this plan in mind read carefully in the revised version. Exodus 39:33-43.
IV. House of God.
“So they set them up Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” Judges 18:31.
I do not find this name given to the Tabernacle during its wilderness journeyings. Only when in the land is it so called. The idea is that of fixity, or constant habitation. It was indeed Jehovah’s dwelling-place, but in the land it had evidently undergone some alterations, and was not subject to constant movement. It lost, in a measure, its pilgrim character at this period.
V. Temple of the Lord.
“Samuel was laid down to sleep in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.” — 1 Samuel 3:3.
From this record we conclude the Tabernacle had been enlarged. Originally there was no provision for a sleeping chamber. As it was the fore-runner of the Temple, so the change in its construction may make it a more imposing building, and thus receive its new name. Also in contrast to the idol temples which abounded, this building was specified as Jehovah’s Temple, having within its precincts the ark of God.
VI. Tabernacle of the Congregation,
“And they shall be joined with thee, and keep the charge of the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent.” — Numbers 18:4.
The expression “Tent of Meeting,” is in the old version “Tabernacle of the Congregation.” The sacred building and its constant ritual was the point of meeting between God and His people. Thither they brought their offerings, while around its court the tribes assembled. Here their representative, the priest, made atonement and offered incense. Here also the tribes gathered for mutual worship and social fellowship.
VII. Tent of Testimony.
“And on the day that the Tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the Tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony.” — Numbers 9:15.
The ark was the chief article in the Tabernacle. The court, coverings and structure were made in relation to it. Within this sacred chest the law of testimony lay hidden, and from its seat of mercy issued commandments and directions to Moses Exodus 25:16. The whole arrangement was a testimony to divine holiness, to man’s sinfulness, and to the efficacy of atonement by sacrifice.
VIII. A World Sanctuary.
“Now even the first Tabernacle had ordinances of divine service and its sanctuary, a sanctuary of this world.” — Hebrews 9:1
Not “worldly” in the sense of being carnal, but a “world sanctuary” because material and temporary. The Tabernacle belonged to a dispensation of typical ceremonies, foreshadowing an age to follow when worship would be more spiritual and service for God less burdensome. The “yoke of bondage” would eventually give way to the law of Jesus whose “yoke is easy,” and whose “burden is light.”
The Tabernacle was specially a type of Christ in this three-fold manner:
1. A meeting place.
“But all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:18. Through sin man was alienated from God, through Christ he is again restored and reconciled. In Christ God and man meet together in precious fellowship.
2. A dwelling place.
“For in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9.
Within the holy temple of our Lord’s body dwelt the God of glory with the Spirit of power. This sacred building, the humanity of Jesus, erected on earth has been transferred to heaven, in whom the Godhead abides forever.
3. A revealing place.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18.) Through the Tabernacle Jehovah revealed His character and declared His purposes of love and redemption. There also devouring holiness and righteous indignation against sin declared the fact that God was just, even while He justified. But more glorious in His holiness, more inflexible in His justice and more ineffably gracious do we behold the ever blessed God in the face of Jesus Christ. “Just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26.)
THE mighty LORD who is holy could find no place of rest in Egypt, a land defiled with idols. Yet there He visited His people ; saw their afflictions, heard their groanings, knew their sorrows. According to promise He eventually came down to deliver them.
At Sinai, God who is righteous revealed Himself in flame and spoke in the mighty thunder. None dared approach that awful summit, save Moses their leader. (Exodus 24)
God in grace came down to dwell amid His people and was accessible to them, as their priestly representative approached the seat of Mercy. The relations of Jehovah to His covenant people are manifested through the position His dwelling place occupied. He is in their midst. Nearness of communion, readiness of access, closeness of fellowship and assured protection are the blessings flowing therefrom.
Spreading out in every direction, east, west, north and south, lay the thousands of Israel. The first line of tents belonged to the Levites. That tribe was chosen for the special services of the Tabernacle, and out from it arose the family of ministering Priests. The tents of Moses and of the Priests were pitched before the gate, at the east side, though at a considerable distance, from it. On the south side were the tents of the Kohathites, one branch of the Levite tribe. They had charge of all the furniture; the Ark, Altars, Table of Shew Bread, Golden Candlestick and Laver, with all their holy vessels. These they carried on their shoulders. Numbers 3:29-32. On the north side were pitched the tents of the Merarites, who had charge of the heavy framework, pillars, bars, sockets and pins. · To convey all this material, they employed four wagons, drawn by eight oxen. Numbers 3:36-38. On the west side were the tents of the Gershonites. Their charge included all the curtains, coverings, vails and hangings of the court. They made use of two wagons, drawn by four oxen, for transportation. Numbers 3:25, 26. The tribe of Levi furnished 8580 males above the age of thirty, who were the guardians of the Holy Tent and its belongings. They were ministers of the sanctuary, assisting the priests in their sacred duties Numbers 3:9; workers to take a part or erect the Tabernacle and transport it across the untrodden desert. Numbers 1:51.
Still further outside the Levitical line of tents, stretching into the distance on either side, were the tents of the twelve tribes. When Levi was chosen to be relatively near the Lord in priestly service, the tribe of Joseph was divided into two, called after the names of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus, as before, there were twelve tribes. These tribes were formed into four large companies, each company embracing three tribes, with their chiefs, captains and standards.
On the east was the camp of Judah, containing the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The camp of Reuben occupied the south, including the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. On the west lay the tents of Ephraim’s camp, which was composed of the three tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. The tribes Dan, Naphtali and Asher, formed the camp of Dan, and pitched their tents at the north side. There were, therefore, four great camps on each side of the Tabernacle, including in their population 603,550 adult males, who constituted the standing army of Israel. Numbers 2. See whole chap.
The cloud which assumed a pillar-like shape resting on the Tabernacle, spread over the heavens above it, and covered the whole encampment, thus shielding it from the scorching rays of the desert sun. “He spread a cloud for a covering.” At night it became brilliantly illuminated as a cloud of fire, to give light to the people. Psalms 105:39.
Surely in all this careful arrangement of detail there was something in the divine mind beyond temporary accommodation, or love of order. We need but glance at the following Scriptures to recall again to our minds the saying of Jesus: “Moses wrote of Me.”
I. The promise of Jesus:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I IN THE MIDST OF THEM.”
II. The literal fulfillment of the promise.
“On the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came AND STOOD IN THE MIDST.” “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, AND STOOD IN THIE MIDST.”
III. The revelation in Patmos.
“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks, and IN THE MIDST of the candlesticks one like unto the Son of man.” Revelation 1:12, 13.
IV. The heavenly vision.
“And I saw IN THE MIDST of the throne, and of the four living creatures, and of the elders, a Lamb, standing, as though it had been slain.” Revelation 5:6.
V. A prophecy regarding Israel in the future.
“Sing O daughter of Zion ; shout O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem * * * the King of Israel, even the Lord IS IN THE MIDST OF THEE. * * * The Lord thy God IS IN THE MIDST OF THEE, thou shalt not fear evil anymore.” Zephaniah 3:14-16.
Thus we see, that the attitude of Jesus is the same, whether towards the church on earth, the saints in heaven, or the restored Jewish nation during the millennial kingdom, it is always JESUS IN THE MIDST.
The Typical Tabernacle was the first earthly house which Jehovah consecrated to Himself by His indwelling presence. He was His own designer; His own architect. This structure was a display of His own unique taste. The description and charges given to Moses prove the Lord to be a God of order, a characteristic of the Creator which had been already fully expressed in every part of His great universe. Moreover He gave skill to every artisan to fashion each part so that when all parts were co-joined there was solidity and unity; the house of the Lord in the midst of His people.
THE materials for the construction of the Tabernacle were the gifts of a willing-hearted people. Great was their joy in hearing that their King would dwell among them, for whose honor they were to build a sanctuary. Correspondingly great was their self-denial.
There were three kinds of metal employed for the construction of the Tabernacle and the many vessels connected with it. These metals were gold, silver, and brass. There were three kinds of dyes employed in the curtains and vails and coverings; blue, purple, and scarlet. Two kinds of woven fabrics were used. These were spun from linen and goat’s hair. There were two kinds of skins for the outer coverings, viz.: rams’ skins dyed red, and those commonly called badgers’ skins. Besides the above, the people brought wood, oil, spices, and precious stones. As in Nehemiah’s day the walls were builded, for “the people had a mind to work,” so now the people were zealous for Jehovah.
The value of all the materials may be approximated from the weight given of the several metals in Exodus 38:24-31.
1. Gold, 29 talents and 730 shekels, or about 43,000 ounces. At $20 per ounce the gold would be equivalent to $860,000.
2. Silver, 100 talents and 1775 shekels, equal to 150,000 ounces, which at $1.33 per ounce would equal $199,500.
3. Brass or copper, 106,000 ounces, at 3 cents per ounce, would amount to $3180. According to this estimated value of the metals we have in them alone represented the sum of $1,062,680.
Having no estimate on which to base an exact calculation, I place, as the value of the wood, fabrics, skins, oil, dyes, and precious stones, the added sum of $437,320. The cost of the Tabernacle would, therefore, reach about one million and a half of dollars. Many scholars who have entered minutely into the matter place the relative value of the Tabernacle, from one million to a million and a half of our money.
Sufficient, however, is known in order to appreciate the liberality of the people. There was neither compulsion nor coercion used to induce any to give of his means to this work of the Lord. “The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying that they take for me an offering of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take my offering.” Exodus 25:1, 2. The response to this appeal was so prompt and so generous that we read: “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.” Exodus 36:6, 7. Thus we see that not only were the gifts of the people voluntary and given with the whole heart, a “heave offering” unto the Lord, but that, acting on this principle of giving, there was enough and to spare.
It is well to have Scriptural views of this form of ministry.
1. The act of Christian benevolence is the test of subjection to the Gospel of Christ. “Seeing that by the proving of you through this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the Gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them all.” 2 Corinthians 9:13.
2. It is a sacrifice well pleasing unto God. “But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:16.
3. It is connected with the profoundest doctrine of Scripture.
At the close of Paul’s great dissertation on the resurrection and personal second coming of the Lord Jesus, he exhorts the Christian believers to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” and then adds, “Now, concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye.” 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:1.
4. It is an expression of personal gratitude for grace bestowed, and a ministry which will secure its own reward. “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly ; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7.) “In all things I gave you an example, how that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.
The Tabernacle was a type of no other material building ; it was the forerunner of the Temple, but it foreshadowed spiritual realities. In this dispensation of the Holy Spirit our gifts must not, therefore, be wasted on elaborate works of art, or needless decorations, but be directed to send the Word of Life to the nations of the earth, and thus hasten the Kingdom of God. Hereby do we help to build up the spiritual house, which is the Church of God in Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to notice that every kingdom in nature supplied its share toward building and enriching the dwelling-place of Jehovah. The mineral kingdom gave forth its metals and its precious stones ; the vegetable kingdom gave its wood, linen, oil and spices, while the animal kingdom furnished important skins and goats’-hair cloth, in addition to the multitude of sacrifices constantly required.
Another item worthy of remark is that of the universality of donors. From the richest prince to the poorest peasant the offerings came. Those who could not give precious stones gave fragrant spices. Men and women alike contributed with gladness of heart and with unstinted generosity. How pleased was their King with this proof of love. How closely this act of worship united both. How condescending was their God to so arrange the scheme in order that all the people should be more closely brought into filial relations with Himself. Nor will He allow His people to lack who devise liberal things for His service.
Soon as the offerings had been received and the materials for the building were at hand, workmen were chosen upon whom the Spirit of God came to give them wisdom in the execution of the divine plan. And Moses said unto the children of Israel, “See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel, the son of Huri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and He hath filled him with the spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” “And Moses called Bezaleel and Oholiab, AND EVERY WISEHEARTED MAN, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it.” Exodus 35:30; 36:2. Thus we find that not only were gifts lavished, but workers volunteered to aid in the erection of the Tabernacle. Heart and hand were in unison. What a complete illustration of scriptural consecration. Nothing said about the lip, or the profession of the tongue; nothing recorded of the head or its wisdom. Brain and tongue, without heart and hand, are little worth in the work of the Lord. The thoughts of the worldly wise are lighter than vanity, while the wise in heart, those made wise by the Spirit of God, shall understand. They that be wise toward God shall hereafter shine as the brightness of the firmament.
Would that the wise heart and the liberal hand belonged to every believer. Money would then flow into the treasury, and neither be wasted nor misdirected. Work would also be accomplished when all of the redeemed came to the help of the Lord.
Before passing from this phase of the subject I would remind the reader of the Lord’s independent method in fulfilling His purposes. He takes from among a degraded and humble people crude artisans, and fills them with divine knowledge for the execution of the finest work. So in the building of the spiritual temple He makes choice of unlearned fishermen, unskilled in the arts of rhetoric and oratory, who, when taught of God, so speak that enemies are confounded, sinners are converted, while believers take courage to push the battle to the gates. Independent of human greatness, yet doth He condescend to use human weakness. Not many mighty, not many noble, are callers. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23, 24.)
Honorable mention is made in the sacred record of the devoted women who were not a whit behind in gift or service. “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought brooches and signet rings and armlets—all jewels of gold * * * * And all the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, the blue, and the purple, the scarlet and the fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun the goats’ hair.” Exodus 35:21-26. The Hebrew women had never been degraded to the place of inferiority occupied by those of heathen nations. The family was sacred ; the wife and mother honored and protected. Israel’s prosperity in the face of adversity ; their unity as a race in spite of dispersion, and their exaltation among the people of the world in the face of ostracism and confiscations, is largely due to the recognition of woman as man’s helpmate and companion. But this trait, which became a Hebrew characteristic, was their recognition of God’s law, and their obedience to divine precept. Therefore, when opportunity is given, even when the nation as at its lowest ebb, the pious women were prompt to strip themselves of needless jewels, and swift to spin the needed material. Again do we see the willing heart and the ready hand consecrated to Jehovah. It was a sight enough to move angels in witnessing these whole-hearted women rising above personal vanity, and love of ease, to give, and to labor, with becoming cheerfulness. And the Spirit of God inspired Moses to write the deeds of these earnest workers.
LOOKING down upon the Tabernacle surrounded by its well-defined Court, with the smoke from the Altar of sacrifice ascending, while the bright cloud descended; with its silver-topped pillars, Levitical tents, and farreaching encampment surrounding the sacred edifice, the stranger, not knowing of its existence, nor understanding its mystic meaning, must have been struck with wonder and held spell-bound with amazement. Such a view of the holy sanctuary was given to Balaam, the son of Beor, when he was constrained to utter his parable:
“For from the tops of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, it is a people that dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
“Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” —Numbers 23:9, 10.
But a nearer view is needed, if we would examine this typical building. We now approach the eastern side and at closer range inspect the sacred enclosure.
I. The Court. Exodus. 27:9-17.
The Court was fenced around by a linen wall suspended from pillars. It was in form a parallelogram or double square, one hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide. The cubit was originally the length of the arm from elbow-joint to finger-tip. It contained two spans or six palms. We are left in obscurity as to the exact length of the Hebrew cubit. The Egyptian cubit taken from the Nilometer in the Island of Rhoda is twenty-one and seven-eighteenth inches. Different nations using the cubit measure adopted different lengths. We can only approximate the Hebrew cubit to eighteen inches of our measurement. This limit is however chiefly adopted by scholars and critics for the sake of simplicity and convenience of calculation. According then to the eighteen inches theory the Court of the Tabernacle would measure from east to west one hundred and fifty feet; from north to south seventy-five feet. The width was half the length, containing about three-eighths of an English acre.
Sixty pillars standing upright in their sockets of brass formed the boundary of the Court. There were twenty on each side, north and south, and ten on each end east and west. The tops of the pillars were furnished with silver chapiters, or capitals, with their hooks also of silver, from which hung the linen curtains forming the wall or fence of the Court. There were also silver fillets, but these are not sufficiently explicit, so that we can only surmise at best that they were silver rods connecting the pillars together at their capitals. These rods would give additional support to the linen curtains, that there be neither sagging nor trailing.
I find no reason for adopting the theory generally accepted, that these linen curtains were of open net-work in order to give the worshipers opportunity of witnessing the ceremonies connected with Altar and Laver. I am inclined to think a more durable fabric was needed. The Gate of the Court was the proper point of observation for the pious Israelites, who served at the Tabernacle. Besides, the typical import excludes the idea of net-work. The linen wall was surely God’s expression of righteousness. “Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, forever.” Sacredness, solemnity and reverence characterized every feature of this typical building. Not even spiritually can the eye discern what transpires within until by faith we stand before the gate-way which is Christ.
The gateway was at the eastern end of the Court, twenty cubits wide, allowing fifteen cubits of linen wall on either side of the gate, which completed the measurement across from north to south pillars. The gate itself was made of fine-twined linen heavily embroidered, with the living colors of blue, purple and scarlet. It was a barrier shutting out the unclean; but an open way for all who sought reconciliation with God through the blood of sacrifice. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving (with a thank offering), and into His Courts with praise: Give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.” Psalms 100:4.
From Court and Gate come the figures “walls of salvation and gates of praise.” In Solomon’s Temple the gates of Zion were of brass; in the New Jerusalem there will be gates of pearl.
II. The Brazen Altar. Exodus 27:1-9.
As with unshod feet and uncovered head we enter through the gateway our eyes first fall upon the Brazen Altar. It stands on its firm base facing the gate of Court.
This piece of furniture was made of shittim, or acacia wood, covered with plates of brass. It was five cubits long, five cubits broad and three cubits high. There were horns on the four comers, and a net-work of brass within the hollow enclosure, forming a foundation for the fire on which the sacrifices were laid. This was the grate of the altar. There were rings placed on its sides, through which staves were passed. Animals were constantly burned on this altar for sacrifice, and its fire was never suffered to go out. When the Israelites journeyed, the fire was probably placed in a fire-pan or preserved in some other way. A purple cloth was then spread on the top of the altar, on which the bowls, basins, flesh-hooks, shovels, and other utensils accompanying it, were placed. Over all was thrown a covering of badger’s skins, and thus it was conveyed from place to place, the staves resting on the shoulders of men appointed for that purpose.
III. The Laver. Exodus 30:17-22.
The material of which this vessel was formed was the gift of the noble army of holy women who voluntarily offered their brazen mirrors to the work of the Tabernacle. It stood between the Brazen Altar and door of the Tabernacle. The use of the Laver was very suggestive. It was the receptacle which held clean water for the purification of the priests, and therefore a constant visible symbol of spiritual purity. The priests washed thereat before ministering at the altar. Hence the purpose of the Psalmist, “I will wash my hands in innocency, so will I compass thine altars, O Lord of Hosts.”
The reader will bear in mind we are now rapidly glancing at the Tabernacle and its accompaniments; hereafter we enter upon a more minute examination of their uses and typical import.
IV. The sacred building. Exodus 26:15-30; Exodus 36:20-24.
Further in the Court, beyond the Laver, stood the sacred edifice, occupying its western end. It was a building of wood ; its walls made of upright boards, with mortised ends falling into sockets of silver. These sockets were embedded in the desert sand and formed the foundation of the sacred house. Twenty boards formed the north wall, twenty boards formed the south wall and eight boards completed the western end. The east side was unwalled, leaving room for the door-way. All of the boards were overlaid with gold. They were held together by sets of bars running from end to end, thereby giving unity and compactness to the whole. Five pillars guarded the east end, standing erect on sockets of brass, from the top of which hung a beautiful curtain of fine linen, similar to the gate-curtain, richly embroidered with the strong colors of blue, purple and scarlet.
The length of the Tabernacle was thirty cubits, or forty-five feet. Its width is not easily ascertained, as we are not informed how the corner boards were adjusted. It is, however, generally admitted that the Tabernacle building was ten cubits, or fifteen feet wide.
The structure was divided within by a veil suspended from the tops of pillars, the first room being twice larger than the second. The outside room was the “Holy Place,” measuring twenty cubits by ten ; the inside room was the “Holiest of All,” or the “Most Holy Place,” and was ten cubits each way.
The first room contained the Golden Lamp-stand, the Table of Shew-bread and the Altar of Incense. The second room held the sacred Ark, with its Mercy-seat and Cherubim. Between these golden representations on the Mercy-seat, abode the Shekinah light, visible symbol of the very God for whose honor and majesty the Tabernacle was erected.
The ceiling and roof of the holy house were formed of curtains and coverings. Those within were rich and beautiful; those without strong and durable.
We have now seen within the Court. (1) The Brazen Altar of sacrifice, (2) The Brazen Laver of purification, (3) The Sacred Building with its walls of gilded boards, and its coverings of cloth and skins, resting firmly on its solid foundation of silver.
The Tabernacle suited a dispensation of suggestion and preparation. It was but a temporary building, and finally passed away with all that belonged to it. Even the more substantial and gorgeous Temple survived only as long as shadows and types were needed. A more enduring dispensation has arrived; one that is essentially spiritual. But, alas, all who profess spiritual relationship to Christ are not spiritually minded. So therefore Judaism is dragged from its grave, and many of its legal ordinances revived. Grace is not understood. Ritualism appeals to the senses, and sensuous worship fascinates the carnal mind. This is the dispensation of the Spirit, not of legal ceremonies. Yet in process of time this age must also pass away and make room for a greater, when He who came at its beginning in lowly guise as Redeemer will at its close appear again as Restorer. For the Scriptures declare that He will make all things new, and the Tabernacle of God will be with men.
THE BRAZEN ALTAR.
WE are now prepared after a general survey of the Tabernacle and its appointments to examine in greater detail the important vessels connected therewith, the first being THE BRAZEN ALTAR.
There were two Altars connected with the Tabernacle. Both were made of wood but covered with different metals. One was without the building in the Court, the other was within the building in the first room of entrance standing before the beautiful curtain, called The Veil. These Altars were closely connected, yet served different uses. Their characteristic names indicate their utility. The first was “The Altar of Sacrifice,” the second “The Altar of Incense.” The first was called THE Altar by way of pre-eminence; it was also called The Brazen Altar, for although made of wood, it was heavily covered with plates of copper called in our English translations “brass.” It was also designated The Altar of Burnt Offering, because on it the sacrifices were laid which were consumed by fire. The following particulars may now be considered.
I. Its Position.
On entering through the gate-way of the Court, the Great Altar faced the ministering priests. There it stood a massive strong article seven and a half feet square (five cubits), four and a half feet high (three cubits), with its sacred fire guarding the way into the holy building. The fire was ever burning there; victims were newly slain by its sides ; blood was everywhere upon it and around it. Devouring fire, and appeasing sacrifices were its constant exhibitions. If it guarded the way into the Holy Places where the Eternal Jehovah condescended to manifest Himself in splendid Shekinah, the Altar of Sacrifice also pointed out that way and entitled every obedient Israelite to worship God with due reverence, and with assured acceptance.
That Altar clearly typified the cross of Calvary ; those offerings foretold and foreshadowed the great and abiding atonement of Christ’s death, who offered Himself without spot, unto God, the unblemished Lamb who taketh away thereby the sin of the world. The imperishable fact typified at the Altar before the Gate is the great fact around which revolve the ages, viz: “Christ died for our sins.” By His blood the obedient believer is entitled to approach the dwelling-place of God. Fire symbolizes the holiness of God revealed from heaven in wrath, against sin. To this dread wrath the sinner is exposed. He has sinned, and “the wages of sin is death.” But lo! Christ becomes man’s substitute, and bears our sins upon His own body on the tree. He is “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” The holy fire falls upon Him. His life was taken from the earth. “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” His life was poured out, and His blood, the token, is seen by the eye of faith, as the only atonement for sin. There is therefore no other way of approach to God than by Jesus Christ. “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6.) “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12.)
When King Uzziah dared approach the Golden Altar to burn incense thereon, he was severely punished for his presumption. He took the place of a worshiper, but passed by the Brazen Altar, the scene of death and blood. He assumed the role of priest, despised the atoning sacrifice, insulted the divine Majesty with unbecoming haste and received in himself the due reward of his unholy deed. 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.
It is ever a solemn matter to despise God’s revealed order. Believers are the only appointed priests. They are entitled to approach by way of the Altar to worship the Father. Having the spirit of sonship they are qualified to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Uzziah represents the natural man, who, presuming to take the place of a priest unto God, brings upon himself a swift and terrible judgment. Even in the type, God guards with jealous care His holy throne, and testifies to His own estimation of THE BLOOD !
There were many sacrifices brought to the Altar, and minute directions are given concerning each of them. We cannot now examine in detail. Each, and all, however, foreshadowed Christ. His sacrifice was many-sided. He became “a sin-offering,” as well as “a sweet savour-offering.” He suffered under the heavy pressure of God’s wrath as the sin-bearer, and He gave infinite satisfaction to God as the whole burnt-offering. By Him the believer is justified from all things; in Him the believer is also presented acceptable in righteousness to God. These rich mines of precious Gospel teaching we shall explore more fully in the pursuit of our study.
II. Form of the Altar.
The altar was four square, its length and breadth being equal. It was parallel in all its sides with the arrangements of the tribes, which formed the encampment. Three of the tribes were encamped eastward, three encamped westward, three on the south side, and three on the north. One face of the altar would therefore look toward one quarter of the people, another face toward another quarter, and so on every side. I only remark that there is at least a very blessed truth suggested by the position of the altar in relation to all the people.
The Gospel of the Son of God in its proclamation, is not restricted to one class of sinners. The thrilling story of salvation through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins must be preached world-wide. Like the notes of the jubilee trumpet, its sound goes forth preaching deliverance to the captive, pardon to the criminal, and rest to the weary. A radiance of glory emanates from the cross, spreading all around, giving light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, guiding their feet into the way of peace. That all do not see that light is, alas! too true. And why? “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 4:4.
On the day of Pentecost the gospel of the altar was heard by the representatives of all nations. The great sin-offering was the subject and substance of the Apostles’ preaching. Christ was lifted up that all might see Him. His cross was lifted up that all might behold it. “Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians” heard in their own tongues “the wonderful works of God.” Thus, through the crucified and risen Jesus, salvation was proclaimed to all nations. Oh! that we too may both hear and receive this heaven-sent message. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)
The sacrifice of Christ, meeting to the fullest extent all the just claims of God’s holy law, is the foundation of man’s salvation from sin and death. The benefits and blessings resulting therefrom are possessed by him that believeth. Thus we read in Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in Romans 8:1:“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
III. Relation of Altar to the Mercy Seat.
The brazen altar was hollow, but on the inside, was a grating or net-work of brass upon which the fire was kindled, and on which the sacrifices were laid. It is very interesting to notice, that this grating was elevated to the exact height of the Mercy-seat, namely one cubit and a half, or three English feet. The Mercy-seat was placed within the vail, and upon it the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. Here also the bright light called the Shekinah rested, the outward symbol of the Divine Presence. From this Mercy-throne Jehovah communed with the High Priest, and ministered mercy to the people. Is this a coincidence merely? Or was it not Divinely planned to teach the lesson that Mercy is coordinate with sacrifice? That there can be no mercy ministered to us apart from sacrifice is taught throughout the Word of God. God’s mercy is boundless as the sea, blessed be His name. It is far reaching as is East from West; it is a height that knows no summit, a depth most profound. The sacrifice is infinite, and the vilest sinner approaching the Mercy-seat now shall obtain mercy. But what of those who scorn the “Blood Theology” and reject it as unpalatable to the refinement and philosophy of this age? What a terrible delusion has fallen upon them ! The teaching of the Altar they reject. Christ’s sacrifice for sin they deny. Arraigning the Word and Wisdom of God at the bar of intellectual pride, they condemn both, and evolve a plan of salvation out of the conceit of their own perverted reason. But the superstructure which they raise tumbles into ruins before one word of Scripture. The testimony of God is this: “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:24.) Oh, reader, whatever reproach may be laid at your door by the advocates of a humanitarian creed through your faithfulness in exalting the vicarious Atonement of Christ, bear it gladly, since, through that Atonement alone your own salvation is eternally secured. Let “the Blood” be still your plea; seek to realize more fully its sheltering, cleansing efficacy, and joyfully cling with greater tenacity to these fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
IV. The Altar an Instrument of Power.
The ministry of Christ’s sacrifice is further symbolized by the horns of the Altar. A horn in Scripture represents power, strength, dignity. There were four horns, one at each corner of the altar, and to these horns victims were bound when brought for sacrifice. Hence the allusion in Psalms 118:27: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the Altar.” Transgressors were wont to flee to the Altar, taking hold of its horns for protection. It did not always however protect those who fled to it for safety.
Adonijah fled there from the wrath of Solomon, and according to the understood law received its protection. “And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.” 1 Kings, 1:50.
This had the desired effect, and Adonijah received the King’s pardon. It was different however with Joab.
“And Joab fled unto the Tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told King Solomon that Joab was fled unto the Tabernacle of the Lord ; and behold he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada saying, Go, fall upon him So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him and slew him: and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.” 1 Kings 2:28-34.
The altar at this time afforded no protection, and we are led by contrast, to exult in the superior excellency and protecting power of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which as a refuge never fails. To that cross the sinner is invited to flee for safety. He lays hold upon it by faith. Its strength and power avail for him. There he is safe from the avenger of blood. There he beholds the sheathed sword, and reads his eternal pardon in the glittering types of Omnipotent love. He hears the voice from Mercy’s throne, “Thy sins and thine iniquities I will remember no more.”
V. The Altar Accessible.
The altar was placed on the ground. It had no prepared flooring. No steps were to be added, although it is probable that a sloping ascent was made which gave the priests an elevation needful to accomplish with ease the services which it embraced. It is very suggestive that there was no climbing of steps to reach the place of sacrifice. “Neither shalt thou go up by steps to mine altar that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” Exodus 20:26. Probably we have here set forth the fact that the sinner cannot attempt to reach the cross by human righteousness without exposing himself, in his natural vileness, to the righteous judgment of God. Moreover his climbing is of no avail. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5.
The dimensions of the altar show how much larger it was than any other vessel connected with the Tabernacle. It was the pivotal vessel upon which the whole ceremonial worship of Israel balanced. Pardon, cleansing, worship, ministry, and all other parts of priestly privilege and national blessing were closely connected with, and dependent upon it. To this vessel were brought the daily lambs. Each morning and evening they were offered for the sins of the entire people.
“Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning ; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even.” Exodus 29:38, 39.
These lambs comprised the continual burnt offering ever ascending for Israel’s acceptance. In like manner the perpetuity of Christ’s sacrifice in all its intrinsic value is remembered by God, and its eternal fragrance ascends to Him evermore on our behalf.
BRAZEN ALTAR AND VESSELS.
THE Gospel of the Brazen Altar is of paramount importance. It is related to the whole range of Christian truth, nor can the truth be known apart from the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ: His actual substitution of Himself for the sinner, to bear the penalty of sin in His own body on the cross, made sin for us, that we might become righteous in Him. There were UTENSILS connected with the great Altar for their special uses. “And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basins, and his flesh-hooks, and his fire-pans; all the vessels thereof shalt thou make of brass.” (Exodus 27:3.)
The necessary vessels were five in number.
I. THE PANS.
These were employed in receiving the ashes of the burnt-offering and in removing them to their appointed place. (Leviticus 6:10-11.) The ashes were a testimony to the thoroughness of the work done by the fire in having wholly consumed the offering. It also signified the acceptance of the offering on behalf of the offerer, and was to him the evidence, or token, of his pardon and acceptance before Jehovah. A very striking allusion is made to the reduction of the sacrifice to ashes by the inspired Psalmist. “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee. Send thee help from the Sanctuary and strengthen thee out of Zion. Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifices.” The word “accept” reads in the margin “turn to ashes.” The plea of the Psalmist therefore, is “The Lord turn to ashes thy burnt sacrifice.” In view of this ceremonial act, what a depth of meaning lies in the Redeemer’s triumphant shout, “It is finished.” The sacrifice was verily consumed till nothing but the ashes was left. Pathetically does quaint Charles Quarles exclaim:
“Oh, groundless deeps, oh ! love beyond degree, The Offended dies to set the Offender free.”
II. THE SHOVELS.
We have no special particulars given us regarding the use of the shovels. We assume however, they were employed about the fire, collecting the broken embers, filling the censers with burning coals from off the altar when the fire was needed for the Golden Altar of incense in the Holy Place. They were essential to the Brazen Altar, and suggest the thought that any minute particular connected with the atonement of our Lord cannot be dismissed as “non-essential.” When the Holy Spirit introduces new expressions in the Divine Word they should be carefully and prayerfully examined. For as every Scripture is God-breathed, so every vessel serves its purpose, having in addition its typical signification.
III. THE BASINS.
These utensils were used to receive the blood and to convey it to each place of sprinkling. “And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins.” Exodus 24:6. Almost all things ceremonial were purified with ceremonial blood, the basins would therefore be put into frequent requisition. We read “Moses took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people.” * * * “Moreover the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry he sprinkled in like manner with blood.” Hebrews 9:19-22.
The blood sprinkled in this profuse manner not only indicated that defilement was general through man’s defiling touch, but that full atonement had been made whereby all that was unclean should be purified. Keeping in mind the foundation meaning of atonement, namely, that of covering, we can readily perceive this use of the blood, with its attendant results. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Through the atoning blood of Christ our sins and iniquities are blotted out so that they shall not come into judgment any more.
IV. THE FLESH-HOOKS.
These were employed to arrange the pieces of sacrifice on the fire of the altar. The use of this instrument was grossly perverted by the wicked sons of old Eli. “And the priest’s custom with the people was, that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came while the flesh was in seething, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand, and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot ; all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took for himself.” 1 Samuel 2:13-14. The flesh-hook, divinely appointed for its special use in adjusting the sacrifice to the fire, till all was consumed, was used to minister to the fleshly appetites of the carnal priests. What a proof of the charge that they were “sons of Belial.” How daringly presumptuous for any professing minister of Christ to pervert the office into a means of gain for himself. The sin of “simony” is not confined to those who sell “livings,” and we fear there are many who make a gain of Godliness. Are there not those among us who claim priestly relationship with God and membership in the Church who use their religious standing for selfish purposes? Obtruding themselves into the so-called ministry of the Church, they turn the grace of God into channels for personal preferment. But judgment overtakes them in the end. Eli’s wicked sons did not escape.
V. THE FIRE-PANS.
These vessels were the “censers” connected both with the Altar of Sacrifice and the Altar of Incense. They thus formed a link between the two Altars, carrying the fire which had consumed the sacrifice from the Brazen Altar to set free the ingredients which composed the incense on the Golden Altar. They were also doubtless used to preserve the sacred fire when marching from one place of encampment to the other, for that fire was never suffered to go out. The holiness of God was symbolized by that fire, while the grace of God was exemplified in the sacrifice. Both fire and blood were essential throughout every dispensation where true worship was given to Jehovah, Patriarchal or Jewish. The Gospel in this age reveals the holiness of God with its righteous demands, as also the grace of God, with its abundant provisions. The Gospel proclaims the advent of Grace and Truth through Jesus Christ, while beneath the shadow of His cross “Mercy and Truth have met together, Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.” In Christ all the attributes of God sweetly harmonize, and in Him also the believer obtains “righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” Like the useful censers, He connects both Sacrifice and Incense, for He Himself is both an offering for sin, and a sweet savor unto God.
THE Laver had a peculiarity of its own. It was different from the other vessels in this respect that it had no specified form or measurement. This designed omission gives additional interest to the study. The spiritual teaching suggested by the omission will be considered later on.
1. Design of the laver.
Its purpose is clearly announced. “For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat” Exodus 30:19. Purity was an essential requirement demanded of Israel’s priests. Ceremonial defilement must be immediately removed. The ministering priests walked with unshod feet from altar to tabernacle. Their hands prepared the sacrifices. They slew and skinned and dissected. Before and after every offering they must wash. Hands and feet were therefore often immersed in the waters of the laver. Negligence of this ceremonial received merited punishment. Death was the penalty. Exodus 30:20.
2. Manufacture of the laver.
Pious women provided the material. “And he made the laver of brass and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women assembled at the door of the congregation.” Exodus 38:8. The mirrors brought from Egypt were of highly polished copper. Their power of reflection was great. They were needed, and employed not necessarily for self admiration. The mirror has its legitimate use. It was therefore an act of self-denial to part with it. These godly women were possessed of lofty motives. They responded to Moses’ appeal for material wherewith to build a house for Jehovah. They were an elect company. The Revised Version reads, “the serving women which served.” Certain ones assembled before the tent of Moses to minister. Their consecration reminds us of that other company of select ladies who attached themselves to Jesus and ministered to Him of their substance. A true test of piety is not giving much, but giving all. That impoverishment of self which enriches the Master is the true standard of giving. And He is our example in this respect also. 2 Corinthians 8:9.
The laver fashioned out of mirrors was an important vessel in the court. No priest would dare slight it. By the application of its waters he was made clean. This gift of devoted women suggests the fact that to Christian women is committed a sacred trust. Where Christ abides in woman’s heart, by her ministry of self-abnegation she can make her surroundings pure and sweet. She need not step beyond her divinely bounded province to serve her generation. The serving women could not reform the Canaanites, but they could succeed in making provision for priestly purity. And priestly purity secured the presence of God. No attempts at improving morals could compensate for loss of His power. An absent God meant a depraved people. Washing the shell does not arrest decay in the egg. The ministry of shallow reform has ever ended in folly. Nevertheless misguided women will waste their energies in the impossible task of washing the Ethiopian white. Results rise no higher than their source. Political contention does not minister to priestly consecration. If the forces of heart and brain misspent on a Canaanite world were yielded to God in spiritual work, what precious fruitage would have appeared. Of Mary’s lofty service to Jesus He approved and graciously commended. Mark 14:9. Her memorial will outlast the hills. In the day when individual work is tested that service which is rendered for the glory of the Master will abide and win rewards, while the rubbish heap of works prompted by temporary fame or world-mending policy will be reduced to ashes. Then will appear infinitesimally small the scornful flings of the progressive woman at the teaching and principles of God’s Word; that Word so madly opposed in these days of moral hysteria.
3. The laver’s symbolical meaning.
The laver stood between the court gate and tabernacle door. It was closely related to the altar of sacrifice. The altar was identified with blood, the laver with water. One was for expiation; the other for purification. Both were essential to a complete ceremonial ritual.
It had no recorded measurements. This characteristic, in addition to its use, indicates its typical meaning. It foreshadowed the I Holy Spirit of Christ in an important feature of His ministry. It was said by our Lord’s forerunner that the Father giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. John 3:35. But the words “unto Him” are not in the text. The Revised Version properly omits them. Here then is a great fact stated, namely, the Holy Spirit is God’s immeasurable gift. The infinite Spirit given to Christ is an unmeasured personality. Thus also is He given to believers. All other vessels of the tabernacle had form and size. They specially typified the Son of God in flesh. Jesus had human form ; was seen, heard, handled. Outlined in veritable body the great and gracious Lord stood before men. But that other Comforter, though as real in personal being, is without visible tangibility. He hath not flesh and blood though He dwelleth therein. For the believer’s body is His temple, and His presence is known by manifestations. John 3:8.
Again, the use of the laver would favor this application of the typical vessel. Its water was for purification. The laver held the water. It received it; possessed it; gave it; was therefore identified with it. Preparation for priestly worship resulted from the constant application of water to hands and feet. Several Scripture texts disclose the meaning of this symbolical water. “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” Ephesians 5:25, 26. “Now are ye clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.” John 15:3. The Christian believer who becomes a priest unto God from the moment he first reaches the altar, and by faith accepts Christ’s atoning death as the ground of his justification, is yet in a world of defilement. He needs therefore constant preparation of heart to qualify him for acceptable worship. In order to meet this need of his life the word of cleansing is given. The Holy Spirit ministering that Word in power to the inner man moulds the judgment, purifies thought, displaces lust, imparts motive. Holiness is promoted by the word. We are sanctified by it. It rebukes self-complaisance and exposes the folly of self-perfection. The Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart ; it is that light which makes manifest. To deny our need of cleansing is equivalent to shutting out the sun. The Word is that living stream which having entrance purifieth the soul. The Blood cleanseth, the Word cleanseth, the Spirit cleanseth, and these three agree in one.
Allusions are made to the laver of purification and preparation in the words, “Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord ? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.” Psalms 24:3, 4. And yet again, “I will wash my hands in innocency ; so will I compass thine altar, O Lord.” Psalms 26:6.
The laver in Solomon’s Temple was called a sea. 2 Chronicles 4:2. Its dimensions were ten cubits from brim to brim, upheld by oxen cast for its base. The victorious redeemed are seen in heaven standing on a sea of glass. Revelation 15:2. They no longer wash therein but are ever reminded of the source of their purity. They stand on the sea and sing of the Lamb. Altar and laver never forgotten. The altar bears witness, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” The laver testifies, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” In other words, the work of Christ is for justification, and the ministry of the Spirit for sanctification.
“The laver stands. If earth defiled,
Go, wash thy hands, thy feet;
And simply as a pardoned child,
Approach the mercy-seat;
Within the veil thy censer bring,
And burn sweet incense to the King.”
HOLY AND MOST HOLY.
THE first house built for the worship of Jehovah consisted of two rooms called respectively the Holy Place and the Most Holy. The building was not so beautiful in outward appearance as in interior furnishing. Within, the brilliancy of the gold, the brightness of the light, the beauty of the curtains, and the fragrance of the incense, must have excited admiration and reverence. So our Lord Christ exhibited no outward glory to those who had eyes only for the visible and material. The men of His day saw not The Wonderful, as yet, unrevealed to the world. Their lack of appreciation was no disappointment to Him, for He knew what had been written of Him whose visage was marred and whose form was uncomely. Not that Jesus was personally unlovely, but that in His great humiliation He became the Man of Sorrows. Yet, even then, there were those who had clearness of vision to whom He had become altogether lovely.
The inner walls of the Tabernacle made of wood were covered with gold, thereby foreshowing the incorruptible nature of His humanity in close relation to the splendors of His divinity. And herein is that saying true, “We beheld His glory—glory as of the Only-begotten.” John 1:14. Occasionally that glory shone out with brightness above the sun, as when the disciples saw Him on the holy mount and heard the divine ratification of His supernatural Sonship. There can be but two answers to the question, Whose Son is HE? The answer given still divides the world. In view of Judgment impending the question is most pertinent, What think you of Christ?
The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God. All who sought His face approached Him there through sacrifice. Herein again is Christ foreseen, in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” God is in Christ, and all who come to God must come through Him. Hear His own imperishable utterance, “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.” Those then who acknowledge the Fatherhood of God while yet repudiating Christ, the medium through whom alone Fatherhood can be known, are sadly ignorant of the teaching of Old Testament types and of the New Testament gospel. It is a serious matter to array oneself against the divine Teacher and assume responsibility in denying the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Jehovah dwelt within curtains in visible symbol. The reality of His presence and glory is in the person of His Son, “the true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man.”
In imagination let us now stand within the Holy Place. At the east and west sides are two beautiful curtains, the door and vail. Through the gate-curtain, when drawn aside, there was access to the court; through the door, into the first room; through the vail, into the innermost chamber. Each one of these represented Christ. John 10:9; Hebrews 10:20; John 14:6.
We now turn our eyes northward and southward. The golden boards form the background of Lamp-stand and Shew-bread table. The Altar of incense, westward, stands before the gorgeous vail. Beneath is the desert sand, the floor of the sacred building. Overhead stretches the woven ceiling of fine linen, resplendent in colors of blue, purple and scarlet, while figures of cherubim with outstretched wings impart additional sanctity and solemn beauty. The mellow light of the lamp-stand falling upon each vessel and curtain made the Holy Place a room of unearthly splendor calculated to incite a spirit of reverential worship.
Shall we now step inside the vail? Within this sacred place made peculiarly solemn by the symbolic Presence of the glorious Lord, no foot of man could tread save only on the day of Atonement. Alone the High priest entered there. Half the size of the first room, or ten cubits square, it was not an imposing chamber in dimensions, but no apartment of kingly palace or princely mansion ever erected by hands of man, could compare with this little four-square room for importance and historic interest. Connected with eternal things, it had its message and mission for all time. Gilded boards formed three of its sides with richly embroided vail its fourth. Above, the decorated ceiling; beneath, the solid earth. No light of sun or moon illumined this chamber, nor ray from golden lamp-stand penetrated through the vail, yet a light of unclouded brightness filled its sacred precincts. Within the walls of this terrestrial sanctuary there shone a celestial light. Heaven and earth were therein conjoined. For not the light of nature, genius, or art, made luminous the Most Holy. The dazzling Shekinah which flamed at Eden found there its temporary resting-place. Symbol and manifestation of the divine Presence, the light between the Cherubim proclaimed that God is Brightness and in Him is no darkness at all.
A peculiar sacredness attaches to the Most Holy because of its typical character. It represented the heaven of heavens, the blessed place where dwelleth the only true God. Hebrews 9:24. Into this more glorious sanctuary we enter now in spirit, even as we shall come there eventually when removed to that home upon which no shadows fall. Hebrews 10:19.
Observe, from the gate without to the inner chamber there is progress. Strikingly does this advancement represent the onward movement of the christian life, from the starting-point of pardon to the goal of completest saintship. At the altar of sacrifice sin is judged and put away; at the laver purification is effected ; the Holy Place provides food and light; while the Holiest of All reveals the glory of the enthroned King to whom the worshiper has freedom of access. This divine program is clearly marked in the supplication, “O send out thy light and thy truth, let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go to the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.” Psalms 43:3, 4. The light of the cloud led to the Tabernacle whose open gateway gave access to the altar. The altar upheld the sacrifice which gave right of approach to the Most Holy. Hence the order, “I will go unto the altar,” thereafter “unto God my exceeding joy.” This is the gospel of symbol fitting into the gospel of actuality. Those who know their sins forgiven are little children, but fathers know Him who is from the beginning. The christian comes out from the world into the assembly of the Firstborn. He knows his sin merits death, but he sees that deserved sentence executed upon an innocent victim. Guilt is thereby removed. He then advances in divine knowledge. Laver truth shows him the defilement of sin washed away. Further on he finds bread for his soul and light for his understanding. Bread strengthens him ; oils makes his face to shine and worship like the fragrant incense ascends from his heart. Still beyond he stands before his Father enveloped in the glory of the Son in whom He is made an object of divine favor. Thus the christian life has its stages. Its pathway becomes brighter. Every point reached has its peculiar enjoyment. An altar of wood, a laver of brass, a mercy seat of gold. The world’s progress is deterioration. Its kingdoms show the downgrade from gold to silver; silver to brass; brass to iron and clay. How immature in christian experience is he who reaches the laver, receives a second blessing and there abides, while a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, await him. Blessed indeed is he whose life is modeled after the Tabernacle and moulded by the doctrines into which we have been delivered. But the place of richest grace is the Mercy-throne. There are depths and heights and sublimities of experiences now, but the condition of sinlessness is unknown till we reach the heavenly sanctuary and enter upon the joys of that “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
TABLE OF SHEW BREAD.
IN the Holy Place were three vessels connected with the ritual of the sanctuary. Skilled workmen were chosen whom the Spirit of God made wise for the construction of every piece of sacred furniture. Bezaleel and Aholiab were masters of art, for the Holy Spirit taught them and their fellow-craftsmen how to execute. Exodus 31:1-6. Thus the Tabernacle was designed and superintended by Jehovah. He graciously called Israel into His fellowship. He received their offerings and qualified their artisans. And this divine-human fellowship is shown forth in symbol by the uses of the vessels under consideration.
I. THE SHEW-BREAD TABLE.
The directions given to Moses for the construction of the Table are found in Exodus 25:23-30. The altar of Incense was placed at the western end of the room adjacent to the vail which divided between the Holy and Most Holy, facing the east. At its right or southern side stood the golden lamp-stand facing the Table on the north side and pouring upon it the full mellow light from its seven bowls of oil.
The Shew-bread Table was made of acacia wood and covered with plates of gold. A crown or rim of gold was placed on its edge around its four sides, acting as a guard to protect the materials placed upon it. The border beneath the crown would give the Table compactness and durability, besides imparting to it a more imposing appearance. Rings were placed on the four legs through which staves passed; the staves projecting beyond each end of the Table. By the use of these staves the Levites carried the Table. Golden vessels were made for its service, including dishes, spoons, bowls, and covers. Each article had its distinctive use, containing frankincense, salt, and wine, which were connected with the twelve loaves of unleavened bread.
The Table, with all of its appliances, was called a pure table, not only because of its material of pure gold, but that also it was consecrated to a noble and holy purpose. It was two cubits in length, one cubit wide and a cubit and a half high.
A Table suggests supply. It is the symbol of food. It is the place of fellowship. Around the table gather the family, parents and children, in union and communion, giving opportunity for mutual intercourse.
II. A GLANCE AT OTHER TABLES.
God has provided many tables to meet the physical and spiritual need of His people.
1. His table of providence.
Having created life, the creator has made provision for its sustenance. Both to man and beast He hath appointed their portion. The herb of the field and fruit of the tree He ordained for meat. Genesis 1:29, 30. This providential care over His creatures has been recognized by the devout in all ages. The roaring lion and the humming bee, the great fishes and minute insects, are alike His beneficiaries. He openeth His hand “and satisfieth the desire of every living thing.” Psalms 145:16 16. So also His people are kept in continual remembrance. Jesus counseled His disciples to take no thought for meat or clothing. He who fed ravens and clothed lilies would not forget. Luke 12:22-31.
2. His table of salvation.
Provision made for the hungry soul is set forth in parable. Jesus described the marriage feast from which some turned away. But others, whose poverty was their plea, accepted the bounty. They were made partakers of the banquet. Matthew 22:1-16. In like manner the hungry sinner is fed. For the prodigal who starves by the swine-trough there is bread in the Father’s house. For such the fatted calf is prepared. Blessed are they that hunger, for they are invited to the feast.
3. His table for nourishing spiritual life.
The sinner who accepts Christ as Saviour and Lord is made a partaker of spiritual life. That life is not a principle nor a program. It is a nature; the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4. And as life it requires sustenance. The young Christian and the maturer Christian—the babe and the full grown man—have their portion appointed them. 1 Peter 2:1, 2; Hebrews 4:12. For the sheep the great Shepherd provideth a supply. He spreads a table in the wilderness in the presence of vanquished enemies. Psalms 23:5. They feast as conquerors.
4. His table of memorial.
This is a long table stretching from the Holy Spirit’s advent at Pentecost to the church’s rapture at the Parousia. It is broad as the globe. Believers in every land surround it. Bread and wine are the emblems of our Lord’s body and blood. At the Table He is the object of our worship, the subject of our thoughts, and the food of our souls. It is a table of fellowship. There the saints and their Lord commune and their fellow-believers embrace in fellowship. It is a table of thanksgiving where redeemed sinners give thanks to God for the gift of His Son. It is a table of testimony. There we bear witness to the sacrificial death of our Lord Christ through which sin is forever put away. It is a table of expectation. We commemorate and we anticipate. For He who died and rose again is coming to consummate the salvation of His people. The table had its beginning; it will also have its ending. And the ordinance loses its full significance if not connected with this blessed hope. “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death TILL HE COME.”
III. THE TWELVE LOAVES.
The shew-bread was made of “fine flour.” This meant possibly that it was made of the finest wheat. The best wood, the costliest minerals, the richest fabrics, were employed in the construction of the Tabernacle. Nor was there any physical blemish in the animals sacrificed. And thus was symbolized the spirituality of worship, which, in this dispensation, is independent of art. Heart worship is alone acceptable. They who worship God “must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24. God requires the best, and the best we can give, is the whole-hearted surrender of our entire being; our whole spirit and soul and body. 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
The loaves were twelve in number, corresponding to the twelve tribes, as the stones on the priest’s breastplate. This symbolic representation was interwoven with the religious life of the nation. When they had crossed the Jordan, Joshua bade twelve men to take twelve stones from the bed of Jordan and erect them at Gilgal, as a memorial of Israel coming over to the place of their possession on dry land. Twelve rough stones at Gilgal, twelve precious stones on the breastplate, twelve loaves of bread on the table, were memorials of experiences and relationships of Jehovah’s covenant people.
The shew-bread on the table might have been translated “presence-bread” or “face-bread.” It was also called the “continual bread.” Numbers 4:7. The use of the bread, for Jehovah, and for the priests, would warrant the name of communion bread. Leviticus 24:9. The marvelous fact that Jehovah condescended to receive into fellowship with Himself, the people of his choice, is mirrored in every feature of Tabernacle ritual. They were always before Him, on the priestly mitre, breastplate, and shoulder-stones, and on the shew-bread table. And surely this Old Testament symbolism finds its prophetic complement in New Testament fact, for by its revelation believers are said to be presented faultless in the presence of His glory, unreprovable, unrebukable, in His sight. Colossians 1:22.
The shew-bread pictures forth the equality of all believers in acceptance. Our reception in Christ, and our representation by Him, before the Father, admits of no degrees. The twelve loaves stood for all the tribes. On that Table, the tribe of Benjamin the lesser, was co-equal with Manasseh, and the tribe of Reuben, of ignoble parentage, stood in the same grace as Judah. In tribal standing the people were equally the same in covenant relations. They were the same in nearness to God as represented in the loaves. They were the same also in continual acceptance. The same salt for seasoning, the same wine for drink-offering, the same frankincense for sweet savor for all the loaves.
An undimmed vision of the Christian’s perfect righteousness in Christ is essential for power to walk worthy of this high calling. Gratitude for such highly exalted privileges will tend to profound humility through a deep and abiding sense of utter personal unworthiness. In self, ruined, condemned, abased: In Christ, restored, justified, exalted. Therefore Christ is All. 1 Corinthians 1:30.
The twelve loaves were to be a memorial, an offering and food. Leviticus 24:7-9. Doubtless they were also typical. Bread corn is bruised. Isaiah 28:28. It is also baked. The processes through which the grain passes, grinding in the mill, worked into dough, baked in hot ovens, suggest the experiences of our Lord in becoming for us the Bread of Life. His blood shelters; His flesh nourishes.
Again, the loaves were unleavened. Leaven, or yeast, is a corrupt and corrupting element. It symbolizes evil. Matthew 16:12; Mark 8:15; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. The nature of Jesus was essentially pure. He took that nature out of the domain of death uncontaminated. His holy flesh is our food.
None but priests must eat the shew-bread. Every Sabbath fresh loaves were placed upon the Table, while in the Holy Place, enveloped with sacred incense, and clothed with light, the priests ate the old loaves. The presence- bread was for God and for the priests. So Christ now, the continual Presence-Bread, satisfies His Father’s heart and nourishes our priestly life. But only in the place of retirement, of separation, and in moments of heavenly experiences, can we partake of this Bread. Not in the coarse places of the world, nor with carnal appetites, can we feed on Jesus. The Bread of God is for the godly.
THE GOLDEN LAMP-STAND.
THE most strikingly suggestive and multiform natural illustration of spiritual realities is that of Light. It is the peculiar physical emblem which most represents God in His nature and revelation. It is an emblem of each person of the Godhead in their essence and official ministry. It is the chosen emblem of the Scriptures enlightening the world; of the church in its witness-bearing; and of the individual believer in his life. It is the type of all spiritual phenomena of which God is centre and source. To trace out this beautiful emblem in our Bible and note its uses and application is a study worthy of our earnest pursuit. But we must here confine ourselves to the Golden Lamp-stand in its service and symbolism.
The Tabernacle declared one great fact, viz.: God is Light. Outside the sun gave light by day, and the pillar of fire by night; in the Holy Place the seven-branched lamp-stand was always burning, while in the Most Holy flamed the Shekinah, the outward symbol of the real Presence in their midst
I. MATERIAL AND WORKMANSHIP.
The description given of this most elaborate and costly vessel is found in Exodus 25:31-36. “And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. . . . And the tongs thereof, and the snuff dishes thereof shall be of pure gold. Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the Mount.”
All through God was very jealous of His own designs. “Make them after the pattern shewed thee,” was His constant reminder to Moses. Likewise He has a plan for His redeemed that they be conformed to the image of His Son. For He who is the image of the Invisible God is the pattern before Him from the beginning, and in working out the plan of the ages He has this momentous issue in view. In the resurrection we shall take on this celestial form. We shall be like Him, “for we shall see Him as He is.” Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2.
Within the Holy Place the Golden Lamp-stand stood on the south side facing the Shew-bread Table. Both it, and the vessels connected with it, were made out of a talent of pure gold. The skilled workmen wrought upon the ductile metal with their hammers, and with sublime genius shaped it into beautiful symmetrical form. The central shaft and its six curved branches were ornamented with fruits and flowers, each holding on its top the golden lamp filled with pure olive oil. What consummate skill showed itself in evolving from a solid talent of gold this richly ornamented vessel with base, shaft, and branches, in consistent proportions! Wherein lay the secret of this matchless handiwork? In the endowment of the Spirit of God. Exodus 31:6.
II. ITS DESIGNED MINISTRY.
Primarily to give light. Thus we read: “Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.” What an imposing article of furniture was this seven-branched lamp! Graceful in shape, elaborately ornamented, of pure gold, giving out its soft mellowed light and reflecting that light upon itself, upon the Table, and incense altar. It was a vessel for use and an object of splendor.
The serving priests supplied the golden bowls with pure oil continually. With golden snuffers they removed the charred wick, and with golden tray removed all refuse.
The people also participated in the rich ministry of the Lamp-stand. They gathered the olives, they pressed the fruit, they supplied the oil. This unity of participation between Jehovah, the priests, and the people, finds its expression in the service of this matchless Illuminator.
The value of the Golden Lamp-stand and its accompanying vessels, apart from the workmanship, would easily reach the sum of fifty thousand dollars. What a noble monument to a willing hearted people !
III. ITS TYPICAL FORESHADOWINGS.
There is a wealth of spiritual teaching radiating from the Lamp-stand, luminous as its own light, precious as its gold, clear as its pure oil.
1. It is a type of Christ.
As a light it testifies of Him. He is the true light in contradistinction to all natural and artificial light. Not true in contrast to false, but true as real and abiding, in contrast to that which is ceremonial and temporary. Christ is the “light of men,” John 1:4; “the light to lighten the Gentiles,” Luke 2:32; the light of Israel, Isaiah 60:1-3; “the light of the world,” John 8:12; and the glowing light of the predicted millennial age and of the New Jerusalem. “The Lamb is the light thereof.” Revelation 21:23.
2. A type of Christ and the Church.
First, in their essential unity. He, the central shaft; they, the branches beaten out of the shaft. It was one Lamp-stand. This organic unity of life between Christ and His people is set forth under the figure of the vine. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” John 15:5. Also, in oneness of light. All the lamps were made partakers of one oil. Even so Christ and the Church upon whom came one and the same Spirit. Therefore Christ is the light, and the Church is the light, for it is by and through the Church His light shineth. Other types and figures of this union are found in the Scriptures, viz: Adam and Eve; the human body; a temple; husband and wife.
3. A type of the Word.
For the Word is light. “The commandment is a lamp.” The Spirit upon the Word causeth the flame to ascend. Countless results have followed the shining of this clear light. In the days of Josiah the copy of the law found by Hilkiah in the temple produced repentance in monarch and subjects. So the reformation which changed Europe resulted from the discovery of the Book by Luther in the monastery of Erfurth. Satan’s persistent effort is to blind the minds of men “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 3:4. And were it not that the God of all grace in His sovereign electing love commands the light to shine into our hearts, giving “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” we would have continued in the darkness of unbelief forever. 2 Corinthians 4:6.
4. A type of the Churches.
In the first chapter of Revelation John describes a vision which he saw of the Son of Man in priestly attire walking in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. In 5:20, he is made to understand that the seven candlesticks are seven churches. One of these churches, that of Ephesus, to whom the light of the gospel was committed, left her first love. The light of holy zeal was quenched. There was much to commend in the church, but the light of flaming earnestness went out. Therefore the exhortation “Repent . . . or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:5.
A lamp-stand without light may be a pretty ornament, but it fails to serve the purpose of its creation. Even so, the assembly, or the individual, whose light is dim, who fails to hold forth the word of life, as light-bearers, who is covered by the bushel, symbol of commerce, or enwrapt with bedding, symbol of sloth, assuredly perverts the plan of their life and prostitutes their noble calling to ignoble ends. And because of this fatal tendency in christian life to grow cold in the service of God, the exhortation needs to be sounded with clarion ring, “Work out your own salvation . . . that ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as luminaries in the world, holding forth the word of life.” Philippians 2:12-16.
Of John the Baptist it was said, “he was a burning and a shining lamp.” John 5:35. Glowing eulogy divinely bestowed ! The gracious Master withholds not the commendation so richly merited.
The branches of the Lamp-stand were alike in form and ornamentation, suggestive, at least, of the equality of all who are sons of God and fellow-members of the body as light-bearers. The light was continual; the bread was continual; the incense was continual; the offerings were continual: indicating the fact that though connected with temporary ceremonies their antitypical realities were to abide. The varied use of light is worthy of our thought in this connection. Light reveals; it is pleasant; it is purifying; it is healing; it is needful for life and growth.
The priest trimmed the lamps to cause them to burn more brightly. Trimming is a delicate though needed work. The snuffers are, alas, too frequently needed. The smoky, ill-smelling substance must be removed in order to purify the flame. But there is more than a hint in the quality of snuffers and snuff-dish; both were of pure gold. “If a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.” Galatians 6:1.
In connection with the study of the Tabernacle Lamp-stand the fourth chapter of Zechariah should be carefully read and contrasts noted. While one had reference in its spiritual import to the Church in this age chiefly, the other has reference to a future age when the Spirit will be more gloriously manifested. There will be no need for daily filling of the bowls, for they will be under the abundant flow from the olive trees through the golden pipes. The scene is Jewish, but the light will radiate throughout the whole earth.
THE ALTAR OF INCENSE.
THE materials used in the construction of this piece of Tabernacle furniture were acacia wood and pure gold. It was made four-square, its length and breadth being a cubit in measure. Its height was two cubits. It upheld a golden censer on which burning coals were placed. The fire called out the fragrance of the incense laid thereon. It had horns like unto the brazen altar projecting from its four corners, and a heavy moulding of gold surrounded its four top edges, giving to it additional strength and beauty. There were two staves connected with it for transport, which passed through rings placed at opposite angles beneath the golden crown or border. This altar stood in front of the rail dividing between the two rooms. On either side, North and South, were the Golden Lamp-stand and Shew-bread Table. These were the essential furniture of the outer room into which the priests came daily in the fulfillment of their office.
1. The Incense.
As the brazen altar without was made for sacrifice, so the golden altar within was made for incense. Both altars were related. Blood from the altar of sacrifice was placed upon the altar of incense, and burning coals were transferred from the one to the other. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:12. Thus two great doctrines of redemption had their foreshadowing in ceremonies connected with both these altars; the doctrines of atonement and intercession. This order of truth is never reversed in the gospel. First, atonement by sacrifice, and next, intercession. Moreover, intercession is only efficacious when atonement is its basis. This also is the true mould of christian experience.
The ingredients which composed the sacred incense and its preparation are carefully specified. Exodus 30:34, 35. The incense must have been a very odoriferous compound. It was pure, it was sweet, it was holy. Elaborate expositions have been given by many writers of the exact nature of each particular ingredient. They are interesting, although measurably speculative, nor is it necessary to be assured of their respective origin in order to enter upon the typical meaning of their composite. Stacte is generally supposed to have been a resinous gum called, in after years, the balm of Jericho. Onycha is thought to have come from a species of shell-fish. Galbanum is said to have been the sap of a Syrian plant, while Frankincense was an exudation from an eastern tree. When the four elements were compounded after the art of the apothecary, salt was added, doubtless to check any tendency toward acridity or putrefaction. When fully prepared the incense was beaten small and placed on the burning coals of the golden censer, then immediately the sacred room was filled with a refreshing and agreeable odor.
The incense was to be kept sacredly for Tabernacle service, and he who manufactured from the receipt for personal or family use must pay the penalty of death for his act of presumption. And none but priests of the seed of Aaron were allowed to handle it. When King Uzziah attempted to usurp the priest’s office and daringly challenged the holy Lord God in presuming to burn incense, his impiety was severely punished. Even royalty must bow in abasement before Jehovah. Uzziah was rebellious and angry; his punishment was swift and terrible. 2 Chronicles 26:16-23.
2. Its typical import.
We may now inquire, What was the spiritual teaching foreshown by the use of incense?
First, and chiefly, it typified the precious excellencies of our Lord’s intercession, now in the presence of God for us. His holy personality, His obedience unto death, His love, His devotion to the Father, His essential holiness, His gracious words and deeds were the ingredients which now make His priestly mediation a sweet savor unto God. This is the incense which is pure and perpetual, which is sweet and sacred.
The subject of Christ’s intercession needs to be guarded in two essential particulars. Firstly, that it be not ignored as an unnecessary ministry ; and, secondly, that it be not overloaded with additions and conditions to which it is in nowise subject. Intercession is not for the completeness of the believer’s justification, for that view would militate with the absoluteness of the atonement. Through Christ’s death the believing sinner is perfected forever; “justified from all things.” Hebrews 9:12; 10:12-15; Acts 13:38, 39. By His resurrection the believer’s justification is established. Intercession does not complete it, but crowns it with glory and honor. In our Lord’s intercessory prayer, in which he anticipated the end of His earthly mission, He assumes the justification of His people. He therefore prays for all who believe that they may be kept, sanctified, united, glorified. John 17. chap. Those three parts of His work which are closely inter-related are yet distinct. He died for our sins; He rose for our justification; He ascended to the place of intercession. “It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34.
A superficial and unscriptural theory thoughtlessly advocated is, that Christ is now in heaven praying for sinners; therefore will they be justified. The opposite is taught in Hebrews 7:24, 25 (see R. V.).
Though the believer is justified, the precious incense of our Lord’s priestly intercession gives him a place of fullest acceptance as a sweet savor unto God. It is not without spiritual meaning that directions were not given for the construction of the golden altar until after the priestly office and priestly garments were instituted. From Exodus, twenty-fifth chapter to the twenty-ninth, the various vessels of the sanctuary, with priestly ministry, are introduced. In chapter thirty directions are given concerning the altar of incense. The priest ministering at the brazen altar making atonement for sin, typified the work of Christ on earth; the priest offering incense from the golden altar represented His work in heaven.
But again, incense is a recognized type of the believer’s worship; prayer, adoration and thanksgiving. David seemed to understand the relation between the type and its antitypical meaning. Thus he uttered such memorable words as these: “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalms 141:2. The time of offering incense naturally became the hour of prayer. Hence we read when Zacharias was priest, “According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without, at the time of incense.” Luke 1:9, 10.
Prayer symbolized by incense becomes efficacious in this particular, that it is presented in the name of, and through the merits of, our glorious Lord. The incense was laid on the censer full of burning coals which was upheld by the altar. And surely this is the spiritual teaching. “Through Him, then, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His Name.” Hebrews 13:15.
Service to our fellow-christian is also comparable to incense, if indeed it be the unselfish service of the heart, and of the hand, such as the Philippian converts rendered to their dear brother Paul. How charmingly he acknowledged their love; “I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” Philippians 4:18.
Prayer and service which are official, or formal, a purely imitative exercise adopted as worship, is a fleshly product; a counterfeit of the true which will bring upon itself just condem1nation. The presumption which would imitate spiritual worship is no less evil than that self-will which would dare Jehovah’s command and imitate the holy perfume.
Real prayer is the expression of desire, the outpouring of the soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells. For it is He who creates the desire, who shapes the petition, who gives fervency of utterance, and who makes it a spiritual offering. True worship is to “worship God in the Spirit;” true prayer is “praying in the Holy Ghost.”
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT.
WITHIN THE VAIL! Abundant revelations await us there; revelations of righteousness, of grace, of redemption! Within the vail! Immediately comes to our mind its solemn and sacrificial import; “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. . . Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus let us draw near.” Hebrews 13:12; 10:19-22. We have now reached in our progress from the brazen altar the very sanctum sanctorum. Elsewhere we have called attention to the increasing value of the sacred vessels along the line of advancement. It is likewise worthy of note that the various curtains grow richer in design and embellishment, the inner vail being the costliest and most elaborate. Again, there is an increase of light from that which is artificial in the first room to that which is celestial in the second. The journey takes us from sin to grace, and from grace to glory. Such is the program of christian doctrine, and such also should be our experimental knowledge of it. “The path of the just is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18. The figure employed here is that of the light of dawn which increases in volume until the splendor of meridian arrives.
Within the vail finds us in a room whose length, breadth, and height, are equal. It was ten cubits each way. The mathematical cube is the symbol of perfection. The walls and ceiling are awe-inspiring with figures of cherubim wrought into the curtains, while the reflection of pure gold makes the place flash with splendor. For the light which glows within is neither natural nor artificial. It is the light of THE GLORY OF GOD. We are now within the King’s throne-room. In the western end and facing eastward, sufficiently removed from the vail to give the high priest the fullest opportunity for the performance of his duties, stood THE THRONE OF GOD. And upon the throne, flaming out in awful brightness, rested that holy SHEKINAH which lighted the silent chamber, and was the manifested Presence of the holy, holy, holy, Lord God, in the midst of His people. There the divine attributes were displayed in perfect reconciliation; mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other. For into that secret place entered once a year Israel’s priestly representative sprinkling the blood of atonement, and enveloped in a cloud of fragrant incense, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. And according to Jehovah’s promise, “There will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from off the Mercyseat,” the covenant-keeping God took His seat on that throne of grace as Israel’s propitiated King. This piece of furniture of such distinguished notoriety, so exalted above every mechanical device ever framed, was composed of three distinct parts. Three and yet one: the Ark, the Mercy-seat, and the Cherubim.
In this brief examination and exposition we will consider the material, importance, and design, of the wonderful Ark. Exodus 25:10-16.
I. Its material.
It was a chest in form, made of acacia wood, two and a half cubits in length, one cubit and a half in breadth, and one cubit and a half in height. It was heavily plated with gold within and without. A golden crown or border was placed around its outward rim or edge. This addition enriched the sacred vessel, strengthened it, and held the golden cover in its place. On the sides rings were fastened, through which strong staves were thrust for carrying it onward. These staves were never to be removed while the Tabernacle lasted. Exodus 25:15. When, however, the Ark found a resting place in the Temple the staves were withdrawn. 1 Kings 8:8. This was in keeping with the typical character of the Temple foreshadowing a future age when God in very deed shall dwell with men once again by visible symbol.
2. Its importance.
When God gave directions to Moses concerning the building of the Tabernacle He spake first of the Ark. Exodus 25:10. It was first in order because first in importance. Before any description was given of the sanctuary or its court, minute directions were given regarding the Ark. Take the Ark away and the whole ritual of the Tabernacle would have been valueless and unmeaning. It was the object to which the brazen altar pointed; the sacrifice giving right of access to the worshiper, who came to the Ark representatively in the priest. It was pre-eminent above all the vessels, and the only one transferred from the Tabernacle to the Temple more than four hundred years after it was first made.
3. Its design.
During those wonderful forty days which Moses spent on the mountain with God he received from Him the Ten Words graven on tables of stone. “And Moses turned and went down from the mount, and the two tables of testimony were in his hand, . . and it came to pass as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” Exodus 32:16-20. The sin of the people was a flagrant violation of the first command of the decalogue. What hope, then, had Moses that they would keep a law which they were now deliberately breaking? In despair for them, and in anger toward their mad rebellion, Moses cast the tablets from him. Thus were they literally, as well as morally, broken. A second time Moses was ordered to the mountain and commanded to bring with him two tables of stone like unto the first. Then did Jehovah write again the Ten Words which Moses received, and he deposited them in the Ark. Deuteronomy 10:1-5. This was its original design. The Ark was made for the Law. Exodus 25:16. As “the ministration of death,” Law cannot impart life, nor show leniency to the transgressor. It clearly reveals man’s duty toward God, and to his neighbor, but it cannot assist him in the performance of that duty; and when man fails to fulfill its requirements it leaves him unpitied and unaided. The Law is holy, just, and good, but no transgressor can escape its penalty. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” The Law was not given to make men holy, but to show them their unholiness. The mirror reveals but does not reform. “The Law never saved a sinner; if it did it would be no longer a law. If it softened and yielded at any point it were absolutely annulled. If any sin, or any sinner is allowed to pass, where is the justice of punishing any sin or any sinner? To bend any Commandment for the accommodation of a defaulter is to blot out the Law. The Law, by its very nature, can have no partialities and no compunctions. It never saves those who transgress, and never weeps for those who perish.”*
4. Its typical meaning.
The Ark was very manifestly a type of Christ. In its incorruptible wood and pure gold it expressed His dual nature; in its guardianship of the Law it foreshadowed His holy life. By the hands of man the tables of stone were broken: within the Ark they received no damage. Thus is unfolded the sad fact that every man born of woman has broken God’s holy law; “there is none righteous, no, not one,” save the man Christ Jesus. Hear Him joyfully exclaim “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” Psalms 40:7, 8. Jesus kept the law in its entirety, having fulfilled all its requirements. He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, and He loved His neighbor as Himself. The precepts of the Law He obeyed perfectly. The Law of His God was in His heart. He was therefore justified through His own righteousness. And “He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” We are free from the Law of condemnation through the imputation of His righteousness. For righteousness “is unto all and upon all them that believe.” Romans 3:22. The obedience of the holy Jesus is reckoned as our obedience; His unsullied righteousness is imputed to us, and through His atoning death the full blessing of Justification is secured. “For as through the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19.
The golden pot of manna was placed in the Ark as a memorial of God’s care for His people during their desert journeyings. Exodus 16:33. This preservation of the manna was a standing miracle. Ordinarily if kept one day after it had fallen it would have decomposed. Reference is made to its preservation in the Ark in the reward promised to the church of Pergamos. “To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna.” Revelation 2:17.
Aaron’s priestly rod, which in budding proved his rightful claim to the priesthood, was also placed within the Ark. Life from the dead is the characteristic of God’s royal priesthood in Jesus Christ. He is the fulfiller of the law; the hidden manna; the budding and fruitful priest whose ministry has the divine sanction. Never has royal casket contained such jewels; though material in themselves, they were symbolic of eternal verities, and although they have passed away, the spiritual facts they foreshadowed abide for evermore. The names of the Ark having been divinely given are more than suggestive.
- The Ark of the Testimony. Exodus 25:22.
- The Ark of the Covenant. Numbers 10:33.
- The Ark of the Lord God. 1 Kings 2:26.
- The Ark of God. 1 Samuel 3:3.
- The holy Ark. 2 Chronicles 35:3.
- The Ark of thy Strength. Psalms 132:8.
- The Ark of Jehovah, the Lord of all the earth. Joshua 3:13.
DIRECTIONS for the construction of the Mercy-seat, its use, and its relation to the Ark, will be found in Exodus twenty fifth chapter, seventeenth to twenty-second verse. Although closely connected with the Ark, it was also regarded with peculiar sanctity by itself. It was a solid slab of pure gold, the same length and breadth as the Ark. It was made to fit the Ark as a covering, and adjusted according to exact measurements so “that its very points of contact were hidden by the golden crown encircling it.”
I. Name and design.
The Hebrew name for Mercy-seat is literally “Covering.” It was not only the material covering for the Ark, but it proclaimed in a figure how transgression is forgiven and sin is covered. On the ends of the Mercy-seat stood those mystic and mysterious forms called Cherubim. They were beaten out of the same piece of gold, and were therefore an integral part of the Mercy-seat. Between the Cherubim, on the golden lid of the Ark, abode the dazzling Shekinah. This was the one hallowed spot on earth which Jehovah had chosen as His dwelling-place. It was the alone point of meeting between God and the representative of His people. From there He heard their confessions; there He beheld the token of their admission that they deserved judgment unto death in the blood of their substituted sacrifices; and from there He commanded His blessings to fall upon them. The divine direction, and the divine design was this: “And thou shalt put the Mercy-seat above upon the Ark. . . And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the Mercy-seat, from between the two Cherubim, of all things which I will give thee in commandment to the children of Israel.” Doubtless His presence there was manifested in the highest form of symbol, and in that most consistent with His nature, for “God is Light.” David, when addressing the majesty of God, pleads, “Thou that dwellest between the Cherubim shine forth.” Psalms 80:1.
There was no seat in the Tabernacle for the priests. They performed their duties while standing. But Jehovah had His throne-seat to which the high priest drew near on the great day of Atonement, with the blood of the sin offering to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
The New Testament name for Mercy-seat is “Propitiation.” It was not therefore merely a mechanical arrangement to cover the Ark, but a designed type of our blessed Lord who is the Mercy-seat for our sins. 1 John 2:2. The Mercy-seat of pure gold was held perpetually in its place by the golden border of the Ark. So in the great scheme of redemption which the Tabernacle and all its appointments designedly typify, the propitiatory covering is a fixture. It was ordered in all things and made sure.
2. Its spiritual signification.
The typical import of the Mercy-seat introduces us to the very heart of the Gospel. The Law is against us because we are against the Law. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19, 20. We are not able of our own resources either to fulfill the demands of Law, or in our mad rebellion to set aside its authority. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Galatians 3:10-12.
The Holy Spirit has revealed in the Scriptures these two facts: that he who continueth not in all things specified in the Law is under its curse, and that no man is justified by law and able to stand before God as personally righteous. And the same blessed Spirit has further revealed by type, and by teaching, that the condemning voice of the Law is hushed, and the execution of the dread penalty is arrested. And wherefore? Because “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13. The same Spirit, through Paul, announces the full meaning of the Mercy-seat: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be A PROPITIATION (Mercy-seat) through faith by His blood . . . that He might be just, and the justifier of him that bath faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:25, 26.
Christ hath made atonement: He entered heaven with His own blood: it is sprinkled there. God is seated on His throne of grace. All who come to Him through Christ may realize the blessedness of “the man whose transgression is forgiven, WHOSE SIN IS COVERED.” Psalms 32:1.
A publican sued for mercy on the ground of sacrifice. Luke 18:10-15. The prayer, “God be merciful to me the sinner,” is literally “God be propitious (Mercy-seated) to me.” What a prayer was this! With a keen apprehension of the nature of atonement his prayer expressed his faith. This was its substance; smiting his breast, the seat of corruption, as much as to say, “Oh, God, do not look at me, the sinner, but look at the Mercyseat; the blood is there atoning for my sin.” There was confession, there was humiliation, there was repentance, there was faith, and “that man went down to his house justified.” He abased himself and magnified the atonement. He sought mercy through sacrifice.
The Pharisee, a student of Scripture, and an advocate of the ceremonial law, was blinded by a delusive self-righteousness, so that he saw not his naked shame. Otherwise he would not presume to present any self-merit before God as a reason why he should be justified. But even as he spurned the publican, God spurned him. His supreme egotism closed the door of memory: he had forgotten the ceremonies of the day of Atonement. Leviticus 16th chapter.
The Mercy-seat proclaims the remission of sins, but in their remission no violence shall be done to the justice of God. Grace must reign through righteousness, and redemption must stand the test of Law. “It is God that justifieth: who then shall condemn?” But in justifying the sinner through the blood and righteousness of Christ, He lessens not by a hair’s breadth the slightest particle of His moral government. He could be no partner in modifying the demands of the Law or in mitigating its dread punishment. And therefore it is that the Cross, where Christ made atonement for sin, doth shine out most illustriously. Wisdom hath devised the lofty plan of the sinner’s Justifcation ; Power hath executed it; Righteousness is its foundation; Justice hath not been dishonored; Truth is witness to the terms and execution of the transaction; Law demands no more, and Mercy, sweet Mercy, rich Mercy, boundless, overflowing, compassionate Mercy, ministers through precious Blood abundant pardon and completed justification to ALL WHO BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
THERE are many things which can be said concerning the Cherubim without in the least indulging in fanciful interpretations. Their early mention in Genesis, and the frequent references made to them in other books; their attitude in Eden after Adam’s transgression and expulsion from the garden, and their posture on the Mercy-seat; their close connection with the Shekinah, and their intimate relations with the manifestations of the Lord Jehovah, invest them with an absorbing interest. Nevertheless we cannot express sympathy with dogmatic views too frequently asserted. While reverent scholars cautiously express themselves, superficial students assume a superior wisdom, and voice their utterances with unbecoming assurance. No one has had private revelations on the meaning of the Cherubim, notwithstanding the impression some teachers make that they are so favored. Not a few good men have hindered their usefulness by this assumption; and because of their authoritative declarations regarding the unknown their opinions are of little worth on doctrines more clearly revealed. Pastor Frank White, who is a careful and conscientious student of the Tabernacle types, and is favorably known as a safe teacher, modestly declares: “Concerning the typical import of the golden Cherubim, I scarcely venture a remark.” With becoming humility he offers his opinion in his most worthy book on “CHRIST IN THE TABERNACLE.”
Rather than indulge in any speculations of my own regarding the mysterious figures which stood on either end of the Mercy-seat, I will quote the words of a distinguished scholar who has given considerable attention to the study of the subject. Dr. Baylee, in his course of Biblical and Theological instruction, explains the Cherubim as follows:
“When Moses was commanded to make the Cherubim, be was to make them ‘of the Mercy-seat.’ The words are remarkable, ‘from out of the Mercy-seat shall ye make the Cherubim.’ Exodus 25:19. They were therefore of the Mercy-seat. Christ is humanity glorified; therefore the Cherubim are humanity glorified.
“In this, then, we have the fundamental idea of the Cherubim, so far as regards their nature.
“In Ezek. 28:11-15, the king of Tyrus is symbolized as ‘the anointed cherub that covereth.’ Here the prophet employs the same word which Moses did to describe the covering wings of the Cherubim over the Mercy-seat.
“A cherub therefore symbolizes the regal dignity of glorified humanity. It is not humanity in its natural state as derived from Adam, but in its supernatural condition as derived from Jesus Christ: ‘We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.’ Ephesians 5:30.
“The Cherubim at the east of Eden were accompanied by ‘a flaming sword which turned every way.’ The exact words are ‘and the flame of the sword,’ i. e. (I think), a sword-like flame, equivalent to a devouring flame; for a sword is the symbol of devouring or destroying.
“‘Turning every way’ is Turning upon itself.’ It expresses that peculiar force of fire by which it exhibits a continual turning inwards.
“This was the divine Glory between the Cherubim, which afterward dwelt between the Mosaic Cherubim, and which was realized in faith by the believing Psalmist: ‘O Thou that dwellest between the Cherubim,’ or rather ‘inhabiting the Cherubim.’ The Church is to be ‘a habitation of God.’ Psalms 80:1; Ephesians 2:22.
“The Cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden were, then, the symbolic representations of glorified humanity as a habitation of God.
“They were permanently there, as is taught by the words ‘and He caused to dwell.’ The Rabbins formed the word Shekinah, or dwelling-place of God, from this verb.
This was that ‘presence of the Lord’ from which Cain went out. Genesis 4:16. It was thither that he and Abel had brought their offerings. It was from the fire between the Cherubim that Abel’s sacrifice was consumed, and Cain’s was not. The Lord had thus ‘respect unto Abel and to his offering.’
“‘ To keep the way of the tree of life,’ or rather ‘lives,’ means to keep or preserve the knowledge of the way, and to observe it so as to walk in it.
“Adam and Eve, clothed with the skins of their burnt offerings (Leviticus 7:8), making an offering at the east of the garden, and therefore looking westward, i. e., symbolically to the death of ‘ the Sun of Righteousness,’ yet having before them the symbols of glorified humanity, exhibit to us the whole gospel of Christ from grace to glory. They teach us also that we shall not obtain our full blessedness in the paradise of God until we attain to resurrection humanity.”
There are difficulties in connection with this interpretation, as with others. Because there are phases of doctrine, and aspects of truth, illustrated by this exposition, which are in keeping with the gospel of the grace of God, does not prove it conclusive. The Cherubim were formed of pure gold, and of one piece with the Mercy-seat, beaten out of it. So far we have an illustration of a fact afterward revealed, concerning the union of Christ and His people, who are “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones;” “partakers of the divine nature.” They also are one with each other by virtue of their union with Him. The Cherubim stood upon either end of the Mercy-seat, and looked down upon it. Likewise, even in heaven, the believer will turn his eyes toward the blood of sprinkling and sing the song of redemption.
This view, that the Cherubim refer to the church glorified, seems to me to come short in one special particular. Animal creation is left out, and yet the form of the Cherubim would surely imply that this part of God’s creation are to be made partakers of the glory yet to be revealed. The lion, the ox, and the eagle, must have some reference to the animal kingdom which they represent. Allowing that man, as symbolized by the human face, is preeminent, yet he is not exclusively the inheritor of future blessedness. Moreover, the human face of the Cherubim would have a more universal application than to the church distinctively. For we, of the church age, are too apt to regard ourselves as the only part of redeemed humanity who shall occupy nearness to the Throne. There has been rather much fantastical interpretation and foolish controversy concerning the church’s place here and hereafter.
Some worthy writers consider the Cherubim to symbolize the attributes and perfections of Deity. This is a lofty thought. But while elsewhere the reconciliation of the glorious attributes of the God-head is taught, I think we cannot form that line of teaching from the attitude of the Cherubim. Again not a few scholarly authors declare they are representatives of angels who are so depicted as constant attendants on the Almighty—the ministers of His throne. That they represent the ministers of the gospel who preach the message of reconciliation finds many supporters among writers of the last century, while yet others say they symbolize priestly ministry and reverential worship. The thought finds favor with many that they symbolize the glorious qualities and attributes of Christ as the Saviour of men. The early fathers applied the faces of the Cherubim to the different aspects of Christ as presented in the four gospels. Others say they represented the twelve tribes in their acceptance before God, and foreshadowed the great multitude of the redeemed, which no man can number.
To those interested we would suggest: Carefully compare the description of the Cherubim in Eden with that given of the Tabernacle Cherubim. With these portrayals in mind read Isaiah’s vision of the Seraphim (chapter 6.), Ezekiel’s vision (chapter 1.) and John’s vision (Revelation 4:5). In Revelation they are distinguished from angels, and from the elders who represented the redeemed company. “I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders.” Revelation 5:11-14.
May we not conclude that the Cherubim shadowed forth the ultimate design of redemption! Surely in ages to come, every form of creature life will share with redeemed man the exalted privilege of participating in the blessings of Jehovah-Jesus, and shall dwell in the light of His glory when it win enfold the world in its wide embrace. And “when we have gathered in one all the highest excellencies of the broad creation—of the field, the forest and the air; the wings, the strength, the speed, the keenness of vision, the intelligence, the patience, the endurance, the dominion—we have not God, but the creatures of God. From Him they came, by Him and for Him they live; above them in grandeur incomprehensible and glory inconceivable, veiled in clouds, and dwelling in light unapproachable, Jehovah plants His throne. He is over and above all, among all His works, His will sovereign, and all unite to reverence and glorify His name!”†
HISTORY OF THE ARK.
MIRACLES attended the movements of this triune vessel—Ark, Mercy-seat and Cherubim; miracles of mercy and of judgment. The mystic Shekinah moved onward in majestic sovereignty. While the people remained faithful to their God, and kept themselves from the defilement of the land, the Ark defended them and destroyed their foes. But alas for Israel! Their national deterioration caused the Shekinah to withdraw until “Ichabod” was written on their walls— “the glory is departed.” Graphic picture of the whole human race! God would fain dwell with man; He came unto His own world and His own people received Him not. The Ark of His power has come to us also, but we have only intermittent flashes therefrom, for we too have refused our Lord His rightful place among us. The world knows Him not; it is still the world,—an opposer of the church, a hater of Christ, in alliance with the devil, a seducer of the flesh, unreformable, ungodly, doomed.
1. The Ark and Jordan.
When the hosts of Israel reached the border of the promised land, a portion of the people found room for settlement on the wilderness side of the Jordan. Reuben, Simeon and half the tribe of Manasseh accepted an inheritance there, but their fighting men were called upon to join the remaining tribes, cross the Jordan, and co-operate with them in subduing their enemies. In the progress of their march the Israelites find themselves encamped by the Jordan. It was in the harvest season, when the river had overflown its banks. A wide expanse of water, with its bold current, swept onward, and beyond lay the goodly land flowing with milk and honey. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel . . . and thou shalt command the priests that bare the Ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.” Joshua 3:7, 8.
As the Red Sea parted before the host, so now Jordan must give way. “And as they that bare the Ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the Ark were dipped in the brim of the water, . . . that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon a heap . . and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the Ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan.” Joshua 3:15-18.
The reader should note the frequency with which “the Ark of the covenant” is mentioned throughout this chapter, for the Ark with its accompanying Mercy-seat was a type of Christ. Jordan is the river of “judgment” and of “death.” Into this cold swirling river Jesus entered and dried its bed. Very suggestive are the words “from the city Adam” (Joshua 3:16), for by them we are reminded that Christ opened the way from death to life for the human race, dating from Adam and including him. Canaan, with its unholy inhabitants, with its constant warrings, and with its historic backslidings of Israel, is surely no picture of the future abode of the redeemed. But it does foreshadow with accurate delineation the place of our present possession in heavenly experiences. Believers who have realized their co-crucifixion with Christ and their joint-resurrection with Him, have already crossed the river of judgment. “There is therefore now no judgment to them that are in Christ Jesus.” We now possess as much of Canaan-life as our faith apprehends. But warfare continues while foes remain unsubdued. The metaphor may be allowed that Jordan represents death, for that dread enemy has also been overcome. Christ in the grave despoiled the grim monster. The river is now dry for our feet. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for THOU art with me.”
2. The Ark and Jericho.
There is other work for the Ark to accomplish. The people are now encamped before Jericho. It is the first Canaanitish city which lies athwart their pathway. How shall it be conquered? And Joshua said: “Take up the Ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Ark of the Lord.” Joshua 6:6.
The blowing of rams’ horns on the seventh day was the signal for the concerted shout. Power was connected with the Ark. “So the Ark of the Lord compassed the city. . . . And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city every man straight before him and they took the city.” Joshua 6:11-20.
Again, we suggest that power was not in the trumpets, nor yet in the shouting, but in the fact that a blood-stained Mercy-seat preceded them, and therefore God bore witness to its efficacy, as we read: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” Hebrews 11:30. The faith of the people was in a present God, their God, who had accepted them through sacrifice. The idolatry of the inhabitants provoked Him against the people of the land.
3. The Ark and Defeat.
After a time of unsettledness pending the extirpation of the enemy, the Tabernacle was erected at Shiloh. The Ark was occasionally used, as when the blessings and cursings were pronounced at Ebal and Gerizim for obedience and disobedience, but when it was again tabernacled behind the curtains of the Holiest place it found rest at Shiloh for three hundred years.
Once, indeed, it proved a failure. The Philistines had prevailed in battle over the Israelites, and the latter, thinking of other days when their forefathers were victorious, fetched the Ark of God and brought it to Ebenezer. “And when the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp all Israel shouted so that the earth rang again.” 1 Samuel 4:5. Vain was that shout; “The Philistines fought and Israel was smitten. There fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.” Verse 10. And why this overwhelming defeat? Had they not the Ark in their midst! True, indeed, but bad men accompanied it. Hophni and Phinehas, degenerate sons of Eli, attended the Ark of the covenant. The priestly channel was defiled and God would not use it. The people may die in thousands, but while sin is in the camp God refuses partnership with His people. They have the Ark; the instrument is there, but, alas! it is only a tool, an inert vessel, an inanimate piece of furniture which is carted from the field as the Philistines’ trophy of victory. Yet they had shouted. What an unmeaning shout, empty, pretentious! Alas, alas! And yet we are slow to learn the lesson that ecclesiasticism, orthodox, correct, formerly connected with divine power, may become a travesty of religion, a cold, helpless tool, deadened through associations forced upon it by men of the baser sort. Oh, when will the church learn, when will each one of us learn, that PURITY precedes and accompanies POWER? A train of evils followed the departure of the Ark ; Eli’s death, and the wife of Phinehas also dying, after she called her babe “Ichabod.” 1 Samuel 4:18-21.
4. The Ark and Dagon.
After Israel’s shameful defeat, beginning with a shout of self confidence and ending in melancholy humiliation, the Philistines carried the Ark into their country. They lodged it the first night in their great temple, and set it by the side of Dagon, their national god. In the morning the priests found Dagon fallen on the ground before the Ark, but supposing the mishap merely accidental, they set the idol in his place again. Next day Dagon was found face downward, with his head and hands decapitated. In both instances it should be observed that Dagon was fallen on his face to the earth “before the Ark of the Lord.” Have we not here something more than a prophetic hint of that future day when all idols will be flung aside and Christ shall be recognized as the supreme object of universal worship? Do we invite Christ into our heart now, into the temple where His Spirit comes to abide? Then every Dagon must be cast down. Do we sincerely subscribe, Even so, Amen?
5. The Ark and Bethshemesh.
Noting the downfall of Dagon and the sudden visitation of a strange disease among the people, the Philistines decided to send the Ark away, fearing its presence would call down further judgments upon them. On its journey to Gath and to Ekron additional disasters befell the inhabitants, until finally, after seven months of perplexity, they placed it on a new cart, which was drawn by two cows. Without driver or guide the kine took the road to Bethshemesh. Once more the sacred vessel has come to its own people, who gave it a welcome, offering the kine as a burnt offering before the Lord upon the wood of the cart. Yet here also a strange occurrence took place. The men of Bethshemesh looked into the Ark. This they could not do without removing the Mercy-cover; that blood-stained Mercy-seat. What was the result ? Fifty thousand three score and ten men were slain. The astonished cry of those spared was “Who can stand before this HOLY Lord God?” Who, indeed? The uncovered law, that “ministration of death,” will surely condemn. Yet notwithstanding these examples there are in our day impious hands at work removing the Mercy-seat and refusing to believe that the Blood of Jesus Christ is the ground of reconciliation with God. The word of warning has been faithfully given. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries.” 1 Samuel 5, 6.; Hebrews 10:26, 27.
We cannot within the limits of this book follow the Ark in all of its wanderings. When Solomon finished the Temple this interesting relic of the Tabernacle found a place of rest beneath its folds. What happened it years afterward no man knoweth to this day. There are traditions concerning its removal and burial, but where Scripture is silent we must not presume. The most striking report of its loss we find in the Apocrypha, where it is said that Jeremiah hid it in a cave and sealed the door, and that it will abide there until Israel is nationally and spiritually restored. Who knoweth but that Ark shall yet be the centre of worship when in that Age to come, the Jewish people shall have received the full knowledge of its great antitype JESUS MESSIAH.
THE VAIL, AND THE VAIL RENT.
WHILE the Vail remained unrent there could be no freedom of access into the immediate presence of God. He occupied this holy room Himself, until the time of His purpose should be fulfilled, when every barrier would be removed, and the worshiper could draw nigh with liberty to the throne of grace.
The Most Holy place was a type of heaven. There God dwelleth. This does not mean that there is any local limitation to His infinite Majesty. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, yet His throne is there. There angels bow before Him, adoring Him unceasingly. Yet this glorious Lord God condescends to dwell with men. It was declared in past dispensations, “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself.” No more shall it be so said, for now the Vail is rent, and we have unhindered access by faith into the heavenly sanctuary, where He receives us graciously and bestows upon His worshiping people the blessings of pardon and of purity.
1. Material and type.
The Vail divided the Holy place from the Most Holy. The material which composed it was fine linen, with colors of blue, purple and scarlet interblended upon it. The anti type of the Vail is Christ Jesus. The Apostle speaks of the Vail as “His flesh.” Hebrews 10:19, 20. This is our warrant for the application. The “fine linen” denotes righteousness. Concerning the glorified church we read “To her as granted fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Revelation 19:8. This righteousness of saints is not of their own creation. Our righteousness, that of our own acquirement, is the opposite of “clean and white.” God estimates it as “filthy rags.” And yet the saints are seen clothed in spotlessness and purity. From whence is their clothing derived? We reply from God Himself, of whom Christ is made unto us, RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jesus is the perfection of humanity. The Vail typifies His flesh; that He is man: the fine linen declares Him a righteous man. Heaven bore testimony to His essential purity. The Father said of Him, “My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Earth’s witnesses agree in their verdict concerning Him. Pilate found “no fault in Him.” Pilate’s wife spoke of Him as “a just man.” Judas said His blood was “innocent.” Paul declared Him “undefiled.” Satan could find nothing in Him.
2. Colors and suggestion.
There were colors on the Vail, with Cherubim. Doubtless these colors, blue, purple and scarlet, have their spiritual signification. The blue, which is a heavenly color, would at least suggest the heavenly character of this pure and perfect man. The scarlet indicates His earthly origin. It is an earthly color, finding its sphere in nature which it arrays in brilliant gorgeousness and marked beauty. The purple is the royal color, and may possibly refer to the regal aspect of Christ and His relation to the throne of David. Though David’s Lord, He was David’s Son, and therefore in His human life of royal descent. In these particulars we would not dogmatize, but there may be in the theories suggested material for thought and devout contemplation of Him whose name is “WONDERFUL.” While Jesus lived, free access to God, for the sinner, was not established. He had right of entrance because of His inherent perfection. None else were found worthy. Weighed in the true balance of God’s holy demands, all others were found wanting. In fact, the life and purity of Christ declares the utter insignificance of all human attainments. The very display of His righteousness brings the greater condemnation upon every man. Are we all then forever shut out from God’s holy heaven? Nay! blessed be His name! He hath devised means whereby His banished creatures may draw near, in the full assurance of welcome. The Vail is rent and we are invited to come boldly unto the throne of Grace.
3. Rending of the Vail.
The Vail unrent concealed; the Vail rent revealed. The rending of the Vail was simultaneous with Christ’s death:—
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save Him. Jesus when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the Vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom: and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.” Matthew 27:45-52.
The moment Jesus said “It is finished,” the Vail was smitten by an unseen hand and rent “from the top to the bottom.” But it was the same hand which had fallen heavily upon the suffering substitute. Christ, the just One, without sin, was made sin for us. He, in our nature stood under our condemnation, and was “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” Did the Father love His only begotten Son the less in this awful moment of sin bearing? A thousand times no! His ocean of love lost not a particle of its fullness. But God’s love has in it the element of justice. And His justice is inviolable. Hence the dread element in the cup of judgment drank to the dregs by our blessed Lord. “It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.” God having transferred our sin to our surety, justice exacts from Him the uttermost farthing. “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus paid sin’s wages on our behalf. Justice is again displayed in its righteous character, for when all that needed to be accomplished had transpired, and atonement was fully made through the death of Christ, “the Vail of the temple was rent in twain.” Not one moment more is the sinner debarred, who through Christ’s blood would seek the Father’s face. Instantly was that blow given which indicated to all that the way into the holiest, closed for centuries, was made manifest. We have now the right to draw near and worship. Christ as a teacher, an example, a benefactor, gives no door of access to God. Again, I repeat it, His holy example, because of our signal failures and shortcomings, only drives us the further away. But by His death we are brought nigh. Not the act of death disconnected from His righteous life, but the completed act of that great work given Him to do, to which that life was consecrated.
4. Rent from the top.
No human hand engaged in that transaction. It was done rapidly, suddenly. How deliberate is God in His creative work! How earnestly He expedites redemption! When Isaiah confessed his uncleanness in the presence of the throne, God sent a heavenly messenger with a coal from the altar of sacrifice to purge away his uncleanness. The peculiarity of the action is delightfully suggestive. “Then FLEW one of the seraphims unto me.” The same thought occurs in connection with. the attitude of the father toward the returning prodigal. “His Father saw him, and had compassion, and RAN, and fell upon his neck and kissed him.” Luke 15:20. Truly God “willeth not the death of the sinner.” When the last drop of crimson blood from the body of Jesus fell upon the scale and turned it, God proclaimed this sign “It is enough,” when He rent the Vail “from the top to the bottom.”
5. Rent to the bottom.
In making atonement, nothing is left to man. The sinner is invited to enter the sanctuary, but only because every jot and tittle of atoning work is already accomplished. We here reach the most deeply essential feature of our salvation. The Scriptures never teach that Christ and the sinner are in partnership preparing the way of eternal life for man. Christ alone endured the cross; Christ alone bore the wrath; Christ alone suffered the penalty; Christ alone was smitten for us; Christ alone paid the debt; Christ alone made satisfaction for sin; Christ alone said “It is finished,” and God in justice to the great transaction rent the Vail from top to bottom. No part left unrent; not an inch untorn. In this tremendous undertaking there were two—Christ and God. The third party, the sinner, now receives the benefit. The Gospel for the sinner is: Cease your doing; renounce your merit; quit your works. For “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.” Romans 4:5.
6. Rent in the midst.
The exactness of Scripture proves its divine origin. In its minuteness we find perfection. Its details are masterpieces of wondrous skill. What is omitted by some of the writers is supplied by another, and in this system of omission and supply we trace the operations of the divine Spirit, author and finisher of all Scripture. “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the Vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice He said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, He gave up the ghost.” Luke 23:44-46.
There is much meaning in the fact that the Vail was rent “in the midst,” when we remember that the Mercy-seat in the Most Holy place was directly before the Vail. The rending of the Vail would therefore reveal the Mercy-seat, with its atoning blood, as well as give direct access to the place of communion with God. What a contrast between the sinner’s devices and God’s design of salvation? What rounds, journeys, and endless manoeuvres; what penances and punishments; what religious observances, fastings and prayers are practiced with a view of appeasing God and effecting an entrance into His presence! Oh! that vain man would consider how every such effort, with foolish notions about character or culture meriting salvation, ignores the rent Vail and denies the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s death. God’s way of salvation is easily comprehended. The superstition of man would shroud it with mystery, but the Word of revelation makes it divinely simple. Faith accepts the Gospel message and rests on the finished work of Calvary. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the Vail, that is to say His flesh; and having an High-priest over the house, of God, let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith.”
It is well to bear in mind that though the Vail of the Temple was the one rent, that Vail served a similar purpose to the Vail of the Tabernacle. 2 Chronicles 3:14. It was made of the same materials, yet of so durable a texture that, according to a Jewish writer, it would have required the strength of a yoke of oxen pulling in opposite directions to rend it apart. The rending therefore was not accidental. Nor did it take place by human interference. No; God smote it; His hand did it. “Salvation is of the Lord.” “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9.
7. The Rending a Protest.
The rending of the Vail was, no doubt, a rebuke to the carnal practices of Jewish priests and worshipers. The purpose of the ritual given them had been shamefully perverted in their hands. They had ceased to understand its spiritual meaning. There were pious individuals amongst them, but nationally they had sadly departed from the living God. Their backsliding displeased Him; their idolatries grieved His loving heart. Notwithstanding, they still kept up the appearance of religion, even increasing forms, adding ceremonies, and multiplying traditions of men. This conduct was condemned of God by the mouth of His prophets. Hear what He thinks of every attempt to serve Him in a like spirit.
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me ; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Isaiah 1:11-15.
To what purpose is religion without heart? It is always obnoxious to God. He looks not at the outward appearance. Drapery, embellishment, and mere sensuous practices, as a substitute for spiritual religion, His soul hateth. Will-worship and affected humility, when the heart is in rebellion against His grace, He utterly abhors. His presence had therefore departed from the Temple and its worship. The rending of the Vail discovered the absence of the Shekinah glory. He no longer dwelt there between the Cherubim. “THE TRUE TABERNACLE” enshrined that glory in His own sacred Person. To the eye of faith only, however, was it manifest. When the WORD BECAME FLESH, and tabernacled with men, believing worshipers “beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father.” The One greater than the Temple had come. All acceptable worship is now presented to the Father through Him. The act of rending the Vail was heaven’s grand verdict of disapproval passed on empty ceremonialism, even as the smiting of the body of Jesus on the cross was the end of ceremonialism itself. “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24.
It is deeply interesting to remember that when the Vail was rent the graves were opened. The atonement made by our Lord opened the way for the sinner from the deepest gulf into which sin had plunged us up to the highest heaven where grace hath placed us. Besides it embraces in its wide scope our final salvation in resurrection. The bodies of those saints which arose after the resurrection of Christ assure us of the bodily resurrection of all who sleep in Jesus. Then only will our salvation be consummated, when in the power of an endless life we are brought up from our graves, in the completeness of glorified humanity, to be “forever with the Lord.” The path from earth to heaven; from man to God; from sin to holiness; from death to life; from corruption to incorruption; from the grave to the glory, is by and through the blessed Saviour’s work of substitutionary death, symbolized in the wonderful phenomenon of the rent Vail.
THE FRIENDLY CLOUD.
THE first year of Israel’s national existence was fraught with new and strange experiences. Redemption, pilgrimage, discipline, miracles, deliverances, had come to them. The year ended with overwhelming proof of God’s great goodness to the people of His choice. The New Year opens with the erection of the Tabernacle and the presence of God in Glory coming to abide in their midst. How will they receive this Royal guest? How will they treat Him in the years to come? His presence was enwrapt in the Cloud and enfolded in the Shekinah. “So Moses finished the work. Then a Cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.” Exodus 40:33, 34.
1. The Cloud their Leader.
The Cloud of Glory was an indispensable companion of the people, serving them in various ways. It first became their Guide.
“And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not a way the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Exodus 13:20-22.
The Cloud like a shepherd went before them, directing their march. Encamped on the edge of the wilderness, all alike ignorant of the great sea and trackless desert lying on their way, they are of necessity shut up to the leadership of God their Redeemer. He promised to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt, and to bring them unto a land flowing with milk and honey. Exodus 3:17.
Ever ready to fulfil His word, He now appears “in the Cloud” to show them the way. Blind themselves, they gladly accept His leadership.
But previously another relationship was established between Jehovah and His people. He had sheltered them by the blood of the lamb from the judgment sword. He thus became their Saviour. This is the gospel order; redemption first, then guidance. Salvation to begin with, afterward those things which accompany salvation.
Concerning their redemption we read: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:12, 13.
This is only one phase of redemption, that which is negative. Its positive aspect is thus described: “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.” Exodus 12:41, 42.
The application of this truth to believers now is very precious. The blood of the antitypical Lamb has sheltered us from the wrath of God revealed from heaven against sin. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19. So much regarding our redemption is indeed blessed. This is not all, however. Christ died “that He might deliver us from this present evil world,” and “that He might bring us unto God.” Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18. As redeemed Israel sang their song of thanksgiving, so do we gladly unite in “giving thanks unto the Father . . . who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:12, 13. There are also other aspects of this truth, including “the redemption of the body,” which we cannot enter upon here.
Still keeping before us the history of the Israelites, let us not forget that their pilgrim life followed redemption. As pilgrims and strangers, marching onward through a desert not trodden by us before, we also need a guide. And Christ is our Guide. He guides with His eye, Psalms 32:8; by His Spirit, John 16:13; by His Word, Psalms 119:105. When brought face to face with difficulties we need but cry to Him, and from the guide-book of revelation we shall hear His voice in response, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” The Lord Jesus is a sufficient guide. We need no other. All others mislead. The heart is a deceitful guide; the man who trusts in it is a fool. A human leader is an unstable guide: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm.” Jeremiah 17:5. The world is a false guide, alluring our footsteps into forbidden places. The devil, as an angel of light, contrives to employ himself in the capacity of leader, but he “goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” Him we are to “resist, steadfast in the faith.” False teachers, themselves blind, become leaders of the blind; from such we are to turn away. Besides (alas, that it must be spoken), we who would be teachers, whose hearts are loyal to Christ, are so poorly instructed in the things of God, and so unevenly balanced in judgment, that we too (though undesignedly) lead many into by-paths of error.
Blest are we in our Shepherd-leader. Let us therefore keep our eye upon His guiding hand. He is our Pillar of Cloud, to show us the way. Shall we not follow His leadership? Israel watched their Cloud and prepared to follow it by night or day, thus recognizing God’s will supreme—God’s purpose sovereign. It becomes our duty, surrounded as we are by increasing dangers, to guard scrupulously against every element that would come between our souls and our heavenly leader. Cultivating intimacy with His word we shall soon readily distinguish His voice from the voice of strangers. The path of implicit obedience is the only path of safety; it is the path of God’s approval. May we therefore secure this commendation, as we seek to follow no man save “Jesus only.”
2. The Cloud their Shield.
It protected them against the power of Pharaoh. From the shore of the Red Sea, whither the Cloud had led them, they beheld the Egyptian army following in hot pursuit. Hemmed in by mountains, and arrested on their onward march by the waters of the sea, they cry to the Lord for help. Then does He appear in the cloud on their behalf. “And the Angel of God which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face and stood behind them; and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these so that the one came not near the other all the night.” Exodus 14:19, 20.
The promise that God made to Abraham—“Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield”— He fulfils to his children and His children’s children. The Lord God was their “sun and shield.” No Egyptian could smite them. Protected by the presence of their Leader, their fears are hushed, and their foes defeated.
Thus the sheltering power of our God surrounding His believing ones is illustrated by the Tabernacle Cloud. Paul counsels the Ephesian converts to “put on the whole armor of God,” and adds, “Above all taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Ephesians 6: 16.
The shield is not here represented as superior to other parts of the armor. “Above all,” is simply “over all,” as the great defensive covering which can be changed to any position, and so protect the whole body. God in Christ is the shield, whose protection faith alone can use. Blind reason can see no defence in Him, but faith places God between the soul and every foe, exulting in security. Thus is He the shield of faith. What triumph, fellow-believer, is ours! Our life hid in God! Oh, what rest of soul do we experience, when faith claims safety from the Lord. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10.
3. The Cloud their Shade.
The Glory cloud served the people in this new relation; “The cloud of the Lord was upon them by day.” Numbers 10:34. “Thy cloud standeth over them.” Numbers 14:14. “He spread a cloud for a covering.” Psalms 105:39. Descending on the Tabernacle over the Most Holy place, it assumed a pillar-like shape, while its body spread in every direction, completely sheltering the whole encampment from the oppressive heat of the sun. Thus did the Cloud overshadow them, refreshing them with its cooling shade like “a great rock in a weary land.” What blessed provision! What a kind and gracious Sovereign! It is sweet consolation to remember that Jesus, “having loved His own which are in the world, loves them unto the end.” He is our shade upon our right hand, never absent, never indifferent. Tempering every burning ray by the interposition of His presence, it falls mildly upon His beloved people. Abiding beneath His shadow, realizing His love, our souls are filled with great delight. Beneath His outstretched wings of tenderest care we are safe from every devouring element. His mercy covereth us and His goodness extendeth over all. “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.” Song of Songs 2:3.
4. The Cloud their Avenger.
The ways of Jehovah were exemplified in redemption and retribution. While we rightly magnify the goodness of the Lord we dare not minimize His severity. Romans 11:22. Accordingly we read: “And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels that they drove heavily . . and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in The midst of the sea.” Exodus 14:24-28. The battle was not Israel’s but God’s. They stood still and saw His salvation; they marched forward, and He wrought victory. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord and spake saying, I will sing unto the Lord for He hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.” Exodus 15:1.
Herein again do we rejoice, for is it not written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord”? Our day of triumph is at hand, and in anticipation we may celebrate the victory by holy song. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Romans 16:20. Already, He who hath redeemed us by His blood, has spoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly and triumphing over them in Himself. He will continue to push the battle to the gate, until death the last enemy shall be destroyed, and it will be said again of both His foes and ours, “there remained not so much as one of them.” Exodus 14:28.
5. The Cloud their Light.
The people were never in darkness during their wilderness sojournings. “The Lord went before them . . . by night in a pillar of fire to give them light . . He took not away the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” Exodus 13:20, 21. The light of the Cloud sufficed for the whole encampment, and as it moved it illumined their pathway. The night also became luminous about them. The Cloud was indeed a lamp to their feet and a light to their path. Psalms 119:105.
Christ is the light of the church: the church is the light of the world. The church, like the moon, shines by borrowed light. When she faces the sun light will flood her life, but when the world comes between the light is darkened. It is sadly marred testimony when the light of Christ is thus eclipsed.
“Truly the light is sweet and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun,” but there is a light whose rays illumine the darkness of the mind, and brings healing to the wounded soul. “God who, commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6. That light illumines the pilgrim’s pathway, chasing away the darkness and making plain the way in which he should walk. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Believers are introduced into the presence of God to have communion there with Him. “But if we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness we lie, and do not the truth.” 1 John 1:6. The Jews of old could only stumble in darkness when wilfully shutting their eyes to the light of the Cloud or when engaged in pursuits beyond the encampment. How sad that any now should bring darkness upon themselves while bright beams of Scripture radiate with undimmed power, filling the eye of faith with their precious light. Unbelief excludes that light, and brings darkness into the soul. Christ shining out in His Word is our bright Cloud of glory. His face is our Shekinah. What a heaven to look upon! What clear noonday light is ours!
6. It was their Holy Oracle.
It revealed God’s will to Israel and regulated all their movements during their long march.
“And when the cloud was taken from the Tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode there the children of Israel pitched their tents.” Numbers 9:17. How many were its precious relationships to the people! How deeply interesting its history! How important its typical features! The promise of God to His people was very precious: “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.” Exodus 29:43-46.
How glorious must have been the fulfillment of this promise! It was indeed fully realized.
“So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over he tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” Exodus 40:33-38.
When the Tabernacle gave place to a more permanent house, the presence of the Lord in the Cloud likewise consecrated the Temple. “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” 1 Kings 8:10, 11.
We have noticed the several relations of the Cloud to the people, and the various ways in which it served them. It was a guide, a defence, a shade, a light, an avenger, an oracle by which God communicated His most just and righteous will. We have also remarked bow sweetly illustrative it is of our Father’s loving care, and how He ordains what is right for His children. Happy the soul that can quietly wait on Him, fully conscious that His will is best, and His purposes only good.
Through the sin of Israel this beautiful friendly Cloud departed from the earth, and free intercourse was interrupted between man and God. At intervals only it visited our world in connection with the fulfillment o His promises or the ratification of His will. Finally it disappeared, until, after a lapse of ages, it was seen again, resting upon Christ, THE TRUE TABERNACLE, when on the holy Mount. Then heaven came down to earth; “and there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son; hear Him.” Luke 9:34. Its last appearance was at the ascension of Jesus, when “a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Acts 1:9. But in prophecy it is decreed: “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.” Isaiah 4:5. The Cloud shall become visible once more. When the earth is purified, and made meet for God’s dwelling-place, and Israel is restored to their own land; when Christ reigns over them as King in His holy hill of Zion; when righteousness and peace are established by His personal Presence, then shall He dwell in their midst and throughout the land the Shekinah token will be seen, when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Isaiah 40:5. Israel shall again rejoice in her King, when the days of her mourning and desolation shall be ended. To them also shall the promise be fulfilled, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light and thy God thy Glory.” Isaiah 60:19.
THE subject of Priesthood is so intimately connected with the whole scheme of salvation that it constitutes its very warp and woof. It is the substance of all gospel doctrine, the sum of all its symbolism, and the foundation of all christian faith and hope. It brings the person of the Son of God directly before us for our study; a study from which the devout believer will not be readily turned aside. Every blessing which comes to us from a loving Father’s hand is through Him who glorified not Him1self to be made a high priest, but was called of God to the office, as was Aaron. Hebrews 5:4.
That another must mediate with God on our behalf is the innate conviction of the human heart. The sinner universally recognizes that he cannot come to God of himself, and treat directly with Him. He has no assurance of fitness in himself. Hence, in the numerous religions of all ages we find the Priesthood the most essential feature. The only refuge for the soul trembling under the knowledge of God’s wrath against sin is in mediation. And it is significant, though there is no evidence that this idea of Priesthood reached certain nations through Scripture or tradition, that their crude worship centres in the priest. The very necessity of their fallen nature adopted a scheme which in its higher sphere is of divine origin.
1. Perversion of Priesthood.
In nearly all systems of religious worship Priesthood in some form constitutes an essential element. Even pagan nations, recognizing the facts of holiness and sin, notwithstanding their shocking practices, seek refuge in sacrifice. The great underlying principle of one for others is the only hope of salvation. The correct application of this principle is the essence of the Gospel. That this glorious plan of God for our salvation through the Priesthood of Christ has been grossly perverted, we need only revert to the groves of Baal, the inhuman rites of Moloch, and the frenzied votaries of Juggernaut. Besides, so-called christian systems have leavened the truth with their corruptions, and their priesthood is but a base imitation of the divine model. In this respect Rome has shamefully excelled. The iniquities of her confessional; her assumptions and pretensions; her mimicry of Judaistic ceremony and sacrifice, only prove what Christless deeds are done in Christ’s holy name. Other churches have copied Rome in thus subverting the truth. Instead of proclaiming Christ they point to their human priests; in place of the great sacrifice of Calvary, they present unbloody and repeated sacrifices: with them it is no longer Justification by faith, but Justification through the sensuous display and unmeaning symbol of a childish Ritualism. What mockery are such mummeries to an awakened conscience seeking relief from the guilt of sin, or to the helpless sinner struggling against its power! Likewise Rationalistic teachers, who glory in their creedless non-belief, with irreverent conceit assume the role of priests. “Priests of science,” forsooth, they claim to be. Their immodesty is as consistent as their ignorance, the very appellation appropriated by them being a contradiction in itself. The import of the title “Priest” is that of “sacrificer.” The essential idea is mediation. The office involves a service to be rendered to God, and a sacrifice to be presented, from which certain results must flow to the parties for whom this ministry is fulfilled. ‡ “For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and by reason thereof is bound as for the people so also for himself to offer for sins. And no man taketh the honor unto himself but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron.” Hebrews 5:1-5.
The Priesthood of Christ being the object of Satan’s deadly hatred, he therefore supplies through human agency, base imitations, counterfeits and substitutes. What a delusion is a sham priesthood! The divine plan from the beginning was that man should be saved by priestly mediation. So when the link snapped which had bound Creator and creature together in harmony, that plan was unfolded in the first promise. In the fulness of time the promise was made good and Jesus Christ came to weld again the broken chain, having effected reconciliation through death, and opened the way of access to God for the alienated sinner by the sacrifice of Himself. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the, blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the vail, that is to say, his flesh: and having a great Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith.” Hebrews 10:19-22.
2. Object of Priesthood.
In type, symbol, ceremony, and prophecy, the cause, results, and consummation of the Priesthood is the theme. From Eden to Sinai; from Sinai to Calvary; from Calvary to the Second Advent; throughout the days of the millennial Kingdom, and, in the Eternal State, the words, acts, triumphs, and glories, of our great High Priest form the basis of worship, the song of redemption, and the theme of eternal praise.
The grace of God brought Salvation to man. Like the light in its dawning, when bold peaks and lofty summits are first illuminated, the coats of skins, Abel’s lamb, Noah’s sacrifice, Abraham’s altar, and the wilderness Tabernacle caught the early beams of salvation and reflected the light of grace. In later days the prophets watched, as light and shadow alternated. For a time there was an eclipse, when the Antitypical Offerer presented to the sacred fire a sacrifice of divine and unspeakable value, even HIMSELF. But soon the darkness of that awful hour rolled away, and the great High Priest passed into the presence of God for us, having purged our sins by His own blood, and sprinkling it on the throne of Mercy in the presence of vindicated Justice, cried, “Behold the token of my death on behalf of my people; this blood is their ransom: Mercy, hasten forth and bind their wounds, heal their diseases, purify their hearts, and proclaim my Priestly work as their plea for eternal salvation.” And thus does Mercy fulfill her sweet mission in the glad announcement: “Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear, before the face of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often; as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:24-27. Blessed Priest! Blessed ministry of Mercy ! Blessed salvation! “Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.
Thus, then, this part of Christ’s priestly ministry is completed, in that He made atonement for sin, “for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” Hebrews 7:27. “And every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: but He, when He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:11, 12. A seated priest in heaven denotes a completed work. By His own blood He put sin away; therefore is forgiveness of sins preached in His name. And “where remission of these is there is no more offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:18.
3. Necessity of Priesthood.
Of what importance is the Priesthood of Christ to the believer beyond the forgiveness of his sins? We reply, of immense importance. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Romans 5:10. Because He lives we shall live; nay, more, thereby we live in full acceptableness before the Father of glory, to whom our worship ascends as sweet fragrance from the golden censer in the hands of our great High Priest. Likewise, daily defilement is washed away by His priestly ministrations on our behalf, and communion with God becomes not only possible but continuous. Through Him we have access by one Spirit, unto the Father. Ephesians 2:18. Priesthood can only be fully appreciated in its manifold relations, of which atonement is the foundation. It includes intercession, and is perpetual; atonement is finished: intercession is carried on in heaven; atonement was made at the cross: intercession is exercised within the vail; atonement was completed outside the camp in burning to ashes the sin-offering (the blood, token of sacrificed life, is ever presented in the heavenly sanctuary): intercession is for the saint; atonement is for the sinner (who on believing become the subject of priestly advocacy and intercession): atonement was made through death; intercession is ministered in life: atonement delivers from the curse of sin, but intercession entitles us to the possession of holiness. Nor is the measure of that holiness according to the vigor of our faith, or the intensity of our feeling, or the earnestness of our devotions, but according to God’s high estimate of the work, righteousness, and dignity of His beloved Son. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus.” Hebrews 3:1.
Physical purity and freedom from all bodily blemishes of priests under the law, their moral qualities, their ordination and consecration to the office, and their symbolic robes, represented the perfections, graces, and unsullied holiness of our Lord as Priest over His own house. “For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” Hebrews 7:26. Now, by faith, believers have access into heavenly regions enrobed in the untarnished lustrous righteousness of the perfect Man in whom we are graced. (See Gr. Colossians 1:6.)
The measure of Israel’s acceptance was the measure of their priests’ acceptance. How much more glorious our acceptance in our greater representative, “The Beloved.” It bodes no comfort to inquire what am I in my best estate; it brings no grief to know what I am in Christ.
“And this I do find,
We two are so joined,
He’ll not live in glory
And leave me behind.”
The tendency of our nature is towards introspection, an exercise fraught with the highest danger, leading to a presumptuous self-complacency, in painful contrast to a healthful soul which, renouncing self as utterly unworthy of trust, becomes satisfied WHOLLY AND ONLY WITH CHRIST.
THE duties of Israel’s High Priest were manifold. He offered sacrifice, and made atonement for sins, Leviticus 16; he burned incense, Leviticus 16:12, 13; he examined diseases, Leviticus 13:2; he declared the will of God to the people, Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; he decided controversies, and solved tribal and family difficulties, Deuteronomy 17:8-12; 19:17; 21:5; he presented to Jehovah the names of the tribes on the shoulder-stones and breast-plate, Exodus 28:9-29; and he blest the people in the name of the Lord, Numbers 6:23-27.
Called to the office of priesthood, holy harmless and undefiled in person and character, overflowing with compassion, tender, thoughtful, and just toward God and Man, the Son of God entered upon His mediatorial work endowed with all necessary qualifications. In the heavenly sanctuary He now represents His people, Hebrews 9:24; for them He intercedes, Hebrews 7:25; to them He declares the will of God by His word, Hebrews 1:1; He rebukes their evil, Revelation 2:; He judges their thoughts and ways, Hebrews 4:13, and He will appear a second time to bless them with an everlasting benediction. Hebrews 9:28.
We may now consider the high priestly garments, and their spiritual application. There were two sets of clothing, one of fine linen, comprising breeches, robe, and girdle, and the other including ephod, robe of ephod, curious girdle, mitre, and crown. The latter were called “garments of beauty and glory.” Exodus 28:2-4. Our great High Priest being clothed with purity and glory, needed no material raiment of costly fabric for personal adornment. In all things He has the pre-eminence. To the eye of faith He ever appears “altogether lovely.”
1. The inner garment.
A fine linen coat covered the priest’s body from neck to feet. It might be called his personal raiment, even as the beautiful garments were his official raiment.
Fine linen was recognized as the emblem of purity. Hence: “Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness.” Every high priest of Israel was personally a sinful man. Therefore was he washed with water, clothed with linen, and offered sacrifice for himself. His ceremonial purity set forth in figure the personal purity of Jesus, who was spotless, guileless, sinless. And now we as priests unto God are called a holy priesthood through His cleansing blood and sanctifying grace.
2. The Girdle.
This article of dress denoted preparedness for service. Doubtless this is its typical signification. There were two girdles, one of pure white linen, the other richly embroidered with the deep colors of blue, purple and scarlet. The priest was a servant. Likewise the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister. He took upon Himself the form of a servant. “RIGHTEOUSNESS is the girdle of His loins, and FAITHFULNESS the girdle of His reins.” Isaiah 11:5. He took a towel and girded Himself, then poured water into a basin and washed the disciples’ feet. John 12:4, 5. Anon He stands in the midst of His Church girt about the paps with a golden girdle, ready to serve His people, in searching out with His eyes of flame the hidden evil which brings to them spiritual damage. Thus in detecting sin, as the Investigating Priest, and in washing away sin, as the Atoning Priest, our blessed Lord stands girded, ever ready to serve us. Come, then, tempted, troubled, defiled, failing disciple, and permit the Master to serve you, heal you, and cleanse you. Come and receive the benefit, and worship at His feet. “Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by His own blood . . to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” Revelation 1:5, 6.
Believers are also ministering priests. It is their privilege to wear the badge of service, to gird up the loins of their mind, and occupy as men who wait for their Lord.
3. The Blue Robe.
Worn over the fine linen coat, this long loose garment was called “the robe of the ephod.” It was of woven work, and complete in one piece, with openings for the head and arms. One purpose of this article of dress was to support the pomegranates and bells on its border. The color of the robe was blue, and around its hem was an ornamental fringe from which depended “a golden bell and a pomegranate all around the hem of the robe.” The golden bell gave forth its sweet music, rich in melody, for the ear of the great king; the pomegranate was a fruit, and both told out that testimony and fruitfulness were results of priestly ministry. Jehovah’s ear heard the clear golden notes, and His eye saw the pattern of heavenly fruit which so strikingly illustrated the blessedness of Christ’s ministry, as worthy service to God. The sound of His activities on our behalf is heard within the vail, and the fruitfulness of His work is seen “in bringing many sons unto glory.” hat golden utterances ascend from his lips, as words of intercession and advocacy, and praise to the Righteous Father are heard on high. Figurately, we may say, that in uttering the great prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, He is arrayed in the blue robe, with golden bells and pomegranates. He is the corn of wheat not abiding alone, but yielding through death a great increase. By His precious blood an innumerable multitude will be redeemed unto God as the fruit of His toil.
Speech, seasoned with salt, and the rich fruit of the Spirit should characterize every one born of God. Sound and fruit: as much of one as of the other; preaching and practice in equal parts. What a life is this!
4. The Ephod.
The material which composed this costly garment was fine linen, interwoven with gold wire: blue, purple and scarlet colors were artistically interblended upon it, making it a robe of brilliancy and splendor. The garment consisted of two parts, one covering the front, the other the back, of the priest. Both parts were fastened at the shoulders by golden clasps which formed the setting for the onyx stones. The pieces were brought together beneath the arms by the girdle which bound them together to the person, thus making of two parts one, complete garment. The Ephod served to support the breastplate and shoulder stones, with which the twelve tribes were identified. Thus the High Priest became the burden-bearer of the whole nation. Their names were on his shoulders; they rested on him and were the objects of his intercession. It was his duty to care for them and seek their welfare. They dwelt safely on the place of power and security. Isaiah 9:6. What a matchless picture of the Church in her place of safety ! Our High Priest is omnipotent in power; His strength never fails; therefore are we ever safe. Hence it is not our strength, but His; not our perseverence, but His; not our victory, but His. He will safely bring us through. And herein is comfort for the weak and weary ; the Good Shepherd will care for the sheep, and bear them
“on a shoulder
Which upholds the government of worlds.”
The names of the twelve tribes were engraved upon those precious onyx stones, exalted in their glory, and enriched in their value. In like manner all the wealth, all the glory, all the blessedness of the believer, is derived from Christ, to whom belongs the preciousness of absolute Godhead and perfect Manhood—a unique Person of unsurpassed excellence.
This beautiful and costly article was intimately connected with the Ephod. It was made of the same material, woven two spans long and one broad, then doubled in order to give it strength and firmness, so that it could bear up the weight of the twelve precious stones. These stones were placed in settings of gold, arranged in rows. All were precious, though differing in value and brilliancy. On these stones were engraved the names of the tribes, each tribe on its own separate stone. The Breastplate was suspended from the shoulders by golden chains connected with the onyx stones, and from gold rings in the lower corners it was fastened to the girdle of the Ephod by a lace of blue. Thus it was kept firmly secured over the heart of Israel’s priest. The nation was then doubly represented—first upon his shoulders, the seat of strength; and next upon his heart, the seat of love. What a picture of Jesus in His present ministry exercising His power to uphold His people, and His deep, tender, unchangeable love embracing them, holding them always close to His heart, and presenting them before the Father in the glory and preciousness of the splendor with which He is invested.
The precious stones suggest much that is very rich in doctrine and experience.
The divine power of Christ’s priesthood in raising up His people to a place of safety may be illustrated by the onyx stones on the shoulders. He is a ransoming Priest, rescuing from death, and a life-giving priest, raising up and seating in such heavenly places the subjects of His care. Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:14; Ephesians 2:6.
The perfect knowledge of our Lord regarding each disciple is intimated in the individualizing of the tribes on the precious stones on the Breastplate. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” “He calleth His own sheep by name.” Such is the infinite knowledge of our great High Priest, to whom all our wants are known, and from whom no secrets are hid.
The durability of the precious stones surely symbolizes that salvation procured for sinners, which the Holy Spirit expressly declares as “eternal.” And the eternity of our salvation is dependent on the perpetuity of the priesthood. Both Christ’s continual priesthood and our continued salvation are linked together in the divine purpose.
The value of the precious stones would serve to remind us of the dearness of the christian to his Lord.
“So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me.”
When we can comprehend the unfathomable love of the Everlasting Father for the Eternal Son, then shall we fathom His love for His redeemed sons. But shall we ever fully know? The fact is for us now to believe, and the belief of the fact will transform us into holy, humble, devout worshipers. John 17:23.
The color and brilliancy of the jewels on the Breastplate, and the onyx stones on the shoulders, will bring to remembrance the thought of the glory awaiting the children of God. Our Priest will consummate His work in “bringing many sons unto glory,”—a sphere of such holiness, and splendor, and exaltation, with all necessary preparation, and adaptation, as befits Himself, and which He would not enjoy alone. “And the glory which thou hast given me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:22.
“Jesus, in thee our eyes behold
A thousand glories more,
Than the rich gems and polish’d gold
The Sons of Aaron wore.”
Both Urim and Thummim were connected with the Breastplate. The words mean “lights” and “perfections.” By these the priest discovered the mind of God, and so he became the people’s counselor in times of perplexity. Many fanciful speculations have been indulged in by various writers regarding the interpretation of Urim and Thummim. With this we are for the present satisfied, that while this temporary appendix of an earthly priesthood has passed away, there abideth for ever our holy, wise, instructing, and guiding Priest by whose Spirit we shall be led and instructed in the right way.
6. The Hallowed Mitre.
This article was a bonnet or covering for the head, made of fine white linen. A golden plate on its forefront was fastened with a blue ribbon. The important object of this remarkable head-dress is clearly specified. “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre shall it be. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” Exodus 28:36-39.
The fact emphasized and specially to be noted, is, that the golden plate with its hallowed inscription, must be always upon Aaron’s forehead, in order that the people whom he represented may be always in acceptance before the Lord. There were two conditions, either one of which must be true: the people were accepted or disowned. Now not only would their sins cause them to be rejected, but the iniquity of their holy things would bring them under condemnation. If therefore they can stand perpetually in acceptance it must be in their high priest, who is arrayed in fine linen and personally acceptable. The golden crown ever kept them in remembrance of Jehovah’s absolute holiness; this must never be out of mind. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord our God. Therefore in the burning rays of His holiness we would be consumed. There is no holiness inherent in us, none wrought out by us, that could abide the scrutiny of His searching light, but the holiness of our Priest covereth us even as His blood cleanseth us. Believers are in Christ, and Christ is for them. All that He has done is for them; all that He is doing is for their salvation; all that He has is given to them, and all that He is in royal splendor, clothed and crowned, He shares with them. “The glory that thou gavest me I have given them.” There is no other possible method whereby it can be said of any, “accepted before the Lord.”
Nor must I leave this radical doctrine without testifying to its potential influence on our daily life. It is by the constant knowledge of the fact of our vital spiritual union with Christ that we become conformed to the image of His holy personality. And it is the practical denial of this truth and indifference toward it which leads to legal striving after a sanctity of the natural man which can never purge away the iniquity of our holy things, or place us without condemnation in the august presence of the holy Lord God. And forever perish the shams and cant of any whose lives are full of shameful deeds and unholy associations, who still blasphemously assert their heavenly standing; who sin and repent, and sin again, when it accords with the uncertain moods of an evil heart and a corrupt mind. The assumptions of bold hypocrisy or a glib tongue does not pass current with men; how then dare we hope for approval in the courts above where insincerity is readily discovered and resolutely impeached!
TYPES foreshadow not only by similarity, but also by contrast. Accordingly we find Aaron and Jesus contrasted, and here, as in all things, our Lord has pre-eminence. He is greater than Aaron in His personal perfection; in the value of His sacrifice; in the scene of His ministry; in the regal aspect of His priesthood; in the more perfect presentation of the worshiper, and in the fuller benediction He is able to impart.
The office of priesthood includes several departments. It is a multifarious work, embracing the whole scheme of redemption, comprising mediation, advocacy, and intercession.
A mediator is one who interposes between parties at variance in order to effect a reconciliation. Job felt his need of such a one when he cried out for a Daysman who could lay His hands on both, and bring his discordant soul into harmony with an essentially righteous God. Who then can take this place? Who is sufficiently qualified as arbitrator? He must be at oneness with God, and unswervingly uphold His majesty. And he must be allied with man, understanding his needs and helplessness, in order to represent his side of the case without abatement, so as to win for him the fullness of reconciliation required. Surely none but “God our Saviour,” the “Man Christ Jesus” alone is duly qualified. So there is a mediator between God and man who has opened the way of access to the inner sanctuary; who has vindicated the righteous claims of unyielding justice and lifted the gates of holiness in order that mercy may flow unhindered from the heart of God to the sons of men. Blessed be our Daysman, this river of health is flowing unceasingly, its healing waters bringing life to the dead. Our great High Priest, as mediator, not only has effected reconciliation between God and man, but also reconciled the divine attributes, so that mercy and peace are in agreement with righteousness and truth. Love now reigns triumphantly, acting out its own nature in forgiveness and salvation. Love lavishes, but not at the expense of any attribute or perfection of Godhead. Love ! Not the sentiment of the humanitarian which winks at sin and calls evil good; not the charity of the agnostic, which, in the overthrow of laws and penalties, logically would annihilate human courts and give loose rein to every criminal. Its gospel is, “You do not mean to do wrong, your crime is purely accidental, your noble nature will come into play and lift you above your baser passions, and as God commiserates all and punishes none, there must be no jails, no condemnation, no punishment.” Let every murderer, every assassin, every thief, every drunkard, every evil-doer, believe and practice this gospel of license, and soon the fires of hell will rage on earth, and the ground reek with human blood. In temporal relations men are not such fools. However much divine law may be ignored, human laws, of justice, government, and protection, are based upon them. The Gospel of God sets none of His laws aside, but upholds them all with dignity and honor. Yet Love, His Love, possessing every element of justice, righteousness, and truth, comes with pardon, life, and hope, to every criminal who is led to accept reconciliation with God through the work of the Mediator. Our Lord Jesus, as Mediator, not only secured entrance for His believing people into the immediate presence of God, but keeps the way still open for all who would draw nigh. No man cometh to the Father but through Him, and whosoever believeth on Him is already on the way. All who believe on Him are said to be in Him, therefore are they in the way, for He is the Way, the Door, the Title, the Saviour.
Let it be remembered that intercession is on behalf of believers; those who have come to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By Him ail are remembered; none are forgotten. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, hence though Peter fell, he arose again; his faith failed not. Our Lord in His pleadings therefore remembereth the weaknesses of His people; His prayers arise for them: for their salvation from all enemies; for the bestowment of all blessings upon them; for their enjoyment of eternal glory; for their union and unity, their sanctification, their preservation from sin, their growth in grace and holiness, and all spiritual mercies with which are coupled those precious blessings relating to time and to the body.
The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, were ended, but the prayers of David’s greater Son in His priestly ministry continue. Nor will the Father deny such pleadings. We may therefore be assured in the strongest confidence that all the blessings our great High Priest desires for His people will be given them.
In this relation Christ is helper and comforter. He is ever near at the call of the helpless, ever prepared to minister consolation and impart hope. While He intercedes, He also meets the accusations of Satan, who accuses the saints before God. It is then Jesus presents His pierced body and demands, “who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Not only in heaven’s court of equity does He silence the adversary, but also in the court of conscience. There Satan would make havoc of our experiences if He were not nigh. But His Spirit is ever present with us, proclaiming to us full justification, and hushing to quiet the disturbances wrought by the enemy in ministering to us the assurance that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” Therefore is it written: “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ, the righteous.” The Holy Spirit as that other advocate helpeth our infirmities when He brings to our remembrance the value of Christ’s advocacy before the Father.
As we are overpowered at times with a sense of unworthiness as children, and unfitness as worshipers, it is indeed our privilege to rise into the knowledge of conscious acceptableness before our God through our ever interceding Priest. And when the fears of a defective and sadly marred experience check the flow of joy in our souls, it is our privilege again to remember that not on our personal character does the eye of God turn for a resting-place, but to Jesus, who, in His robes of beauty and glory, bears us on His shoulders, on His heart, on His head; His power, love, and wisdom exalting us in the holy Sanctuary above, and enveloping us in His Shekinah-cloud until we are hidden in His infinite perfections and manifold glories. Then does our God, viewing us in Christ, break forth in rapturous exclamation, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”
4. Associate Priests.
The sons of Aaron were associated with him and served under him. Their duties were many and important. They slew the victims (possibly assisted by the Levites), presented the sacrifice, sprinkled the blood, had charge of the brazen altar, attended to its fires, prepared the shew-bread, compounded the incense, and in other ministrations participated in the services of the Tabernacle.
All believers, chosen, redeemed, in-dwelt by the Spirit, are identified with Christ, the great High Priest. They have their special priestly duties. Peter declares of all Christians: “Ye are a chosen generation—A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD.” Again, “Ye are built up a spiritual house, AN HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.”
The way into the office of priesthood now, as of old, is by birth. None but sons of God in this age are priests unto God. No human power can confer this right; no ecclesiastical hierarchy can impart to any being privileges which come only through birth. Every believer is entitled to minister as a priest, but only those upon whom gifts are conferred by the Head of the Church are qualified for office in the Church. These are pastors, evangelists, teachers, helps, and governments. Ephesians 4:11, 12. The office of priest now does not imply the presentation of an atoning sacrifice. Our part is to offer the sacrifice of praise to God, and do good to men, “for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.” Hebrews 13:15, 16.
Atonement has been effectually rendered by the great High Priest, and Intercession is based upon its acceptance. To assume that any man, be he “Anglican” or “Roman,” because of his ecclesiastical standing, can offer a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, is to dishonor Christ’s atoning work and trample under foot His precious blood. The New Testament term “priest,” as applied to believers, does not designate any particular class of Christians. All are entitled to worship, although there may be various degrees of intelligence among the worshipers. But the qualifications for worship are the inheritance of all who love. our Lord Christ. They are regeneration by the Holy Spirit; redemption by the blood of Jesus; the in-dwelling of the Spirit in our hearts, and oneness with the royal High Priest in life and ministry.
And now we must bring our book to a close. We have journeyed together, both writer and reader, over this holy ground of Scripture. We have seen how skillfully Old Testament types and New Testament doctrines harmonize and are closely inter-related. We have surveyed that only which lieth on the surface; beneath lie hidden treasures. Dig deep and you shall find. Earnest study of the Word will secure great reward. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4.
Having become somewhat acquainted, may I not be bold enough to enquire of you, my reader, concerning your spiritual welfare? Have you been born again? Are you safe for eternity? These are deeply serious questions. How does your conscience reply, as in the presence of God? If not yet saved, think upon these things, I entreat you. And not only think, but DECIDE. Flee to Christ now. He is a present Saviour. Look to Him; believe He is your Saviour and your Priest. Confess your sins before Him and receive His absolution. And oh, fellow-christian, the time is short for service here; the end hasteneth ; the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. May we not only be instructed in divine things, but be consecrated for divine service. May the study of these Tabernacle Types lead us to grasp more firmly their HEAVENLY REALITIES, that we may proclaim Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, faithfully, persistently, continuously, witnessing to His atonement, His priesthood, and His personal return in Glory.
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* The late Dr. Arnot.
† The Tabernacle in Sinai, by Dr. Randall.
‡“The idea of priesthood belongs to the realm of grace. I would-as soon think of transferring the language of Geometry and Algebra to Botany and talk of the hypotheneuse of a flower, or the square root of a tree, or the differential co-efficient of a con volvolus, as to speak of the priesthood of nature, or of letters, or of science.”-Hugh Martin.