God Enthroned in the Ecclesia
and in Our Lives
The Tabernacle was the center of the nation's life. This is what gave it purpose, futurity and hope. It stood in the center of the camp, but it stood majestically alone. The tents of Israel would be of black goat's hair. And in a large central area, separated from all these tents by an open space, the white walled Tabernacle stood in isolated splendour - a white center of purity in the midst of black humanity, with the overshadowing cloud of God's love and providence hovering above it.
Well could Balaam say as he looked down upon this sight from the heights of Moab, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy Tabernacles, O Israel" (Num. 24:5)-a beautiful God ordered array with God in the center. Apart from this, Israel would be just another dark, purposeless human mass, but this glorious object in their midst and their divinely instructed arrangement around it gave the whole assembly meaning and purpose and a divinely established dignity.
It lifted them from the common perishing horde and related them to eternity. Human life without God is a dark and meaningless tragedy of sorrow and of death - a purposeless existence of a few brief joys, ever increasing heartache, and eventual black oblivion.
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,"
but God in the midst changes everything from darkness to light. For God is a God of hope, and of life and futurity, of beauty and holiness and glory. The Tabernacle taught all these things. God enthroned in the midst of Israel, in the ecclesia, in our hearts and lives. How great is His beauty and how great is His goodness!
The pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night showed God's preservation and care and guidance and overshadowing love for His people. It visibly manifested His presence and favour to all Israel.
Only the High Priest entered the Most Holy and he but once a year, and only he saw the Shekinah Glory of God's manifestation between the Cherubim, and even then it had to be obscured by the cloud of the incense, lest he die. But even the humblest and the farthest removed could see the cloud over the Tabernacle. When the cloud moved, they moved; and when it stayed, they rested (Num. 9:23).
What a tremendous privilege to move with God, to go where He goes, to stay when He stays, to always be in step with God, borne along by His manifested presence - no other love or interests but to follow God. The wilderness pilgrimage was a glorious privilege or a bitter burden, according as Israel saw it with natural or with spiritual eyes.
Israel was closer to God then than at any time in their subsequent history. They had a far greater manifestation of His presence and power; but the most outstanding of the Tabernacle lessons, as Paul points out, was that it was a barrier. It signified that the way into the Holiest was not yet made manifest. But still, it bore a tremendous message of condescension for the present and promise for the future.
It taught them of God's unapproachable holiness, but it also showed them His love. It held them at a distance, and yet it foreshadowed perfect communion in the end. Christ came "not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it" (Matt. 5:17) - to fulfill all its glorious prophecies and promises.
In His love and wisdom, God always tempers outward restriction with inward promise -outward sorrow with inward joy. Even in our present wilderness journey every tribulation has its compensating greater blessing, and every loss has its compensating greater gain.
1 Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work shalt thou make them.
Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle
First of all, the plan or pattern of it was shown to him (doubtless in vision).
Its correct construction was not to be dependent on a description which Moses might misunderstand, or upon the memory of Moses, which might prove defective. As a divine structure, having divine significances in many details, it was needful that Moses should see with his own eyes the actual representation of what was required; having seen which, he was warned to be careful to follow it faithfully. More than once it was said to him, "Thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount" (Exod. 26:30; 25:40; Heb. 8:5).
Not only so; but the correct fabrication of the structure was safeguarded by the impartation of special capacity to the leading directors of the work. "See", said Moses, "the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri... and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship... and he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach... to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded" (Exod. 35:30; 36:1).
From all this, we do not deduce a doubtful lesson, when we say that our approaches to God must be in harmony with His own requirements. Men who hope to be accepted in their own way, will find, like Nadab and Abihu, that strange fire in the censer evokes wrath and not favour.
There is much self-invented service in our day, as there was in after times in Israel, and usually the invented service displaces that which has been required. God's question to Israel will rudely awaken many a Gentile expectant: "Who hath required this at your hands?"
Christ represents this class as saying to him, in the day of his return, "Have we not preached in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works?" to which his response is, "I know you not; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity".
The form of our service must be according to what has been shown. The pattern is in the Scriptures. We must look there for what is pleasing to God. The pattern has been lost in our day in the multitude of human opinions, glosses and traditions.
Law of Moses Ch 11
Fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet:
Deity manifest in the flesh.
Scarlet - Yahoshua was clothed with sin's flesh - Blue ...mentally and morally in perfect harmony with his heavenly father; purple - a bearer of the Adamic flesh nature; Scarlet- the impulses of sin's flesh
The Mosaic cherubim were symbolical of "God manifest in the flesh."
We wish now to ascertain upon what principles His incarnate manifestation was represented by the cherubim? First, then, in the solution of this interesting problem, I remark, that the Scriptures speak of God after the following manner.
"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5); again, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24); and thirdly, "our God is a consuming fire" (Deut. 4:24).
In these three texts, which are only a sample of many others, we perceive that God is represented by light, spirit, and fire; when, therefore, He is symbolized as manifest in flesh, it becomes necessary to select certain signs representative of light, spirit, and fire, derived from the animal kingdom.
Now, the ancients selected the lion, the ox, and the eagle, for this purpose, probably from tradition of the signification of these animals, or the faces of them, in the original cherubim. They are called God's faces because His omniscience, purity and jealousy, are expressed in them. But the omniscient, jealous, and incorruptible God, was to be manifested in a particular kind of flesh. Hence, it was necessary to add a fourth face to show in what nature He would show Himself.
For this reason, the human face was associated with the lion, the ox, and the eagle. These four faces united in one human shape formed out of beaten gold; and two such, not separate and distinct symbols, but standing one on each end of the mercy-seat, and the same in continuity and substance with it, taken as a whole, represented Jesus, the true blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, or propitiatory, "in whom dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Rom. 3:25; Col. 2:3-9).
All four faces were to look upon the mercy-seat, so as to behold the sprinkled blood of the yearly sacrifice. To accomplish this, two cherubs were necessary; so that the lion, and the ox, faces of the one, and the man, and the eagle, faces of the other, should all be "mercy-seat ward."
It will be seen from this view of things, how important a place the cherubim occupied in the worship of God connected with "the representation of the truth." They were not objects of adoration, but symbols representing to the mind of an intelligent believer, the Seed of the woman as God manifested in the likeness of sinful flesh.
This I take it was the significancy of the cherubim which the Lord God placed at the east of the garden, and which became the germ, as it were, of the shadowy observances of the patriarchal and Mosaic institutions, whose substance was of Christ.
Elpis Israel 1.5.
25 And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
Sockets of Silver
How shall brass (man) and gold (God) come into association?
It explained the means, and did so principally by forming the sockets of the boarded building. The silver for these sockets was not part of the free-will offering collected at the outset (Exod. 25). It was special silver, a levy.
"The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord when thou numberest them."
Every man had thus to confess that his life was forfeit and in need of redemption. To withhold that admission was to court death. The levy had to be made
"that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them".
Each census - each count of the living - was to serve as a fitting reminder of the just deserts of every sinner thus counted. All men alike were to regard themselves as absolute equals when it came to death: all alike were in precisely the same need of redemption from it. Therefore all over twenty had to make precisely the same contribution:
"the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls".
This special silver was to be appointed
"for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls"
(Exod. 30: 11-16).
The silver was to be a "memorial". A memorial of what? To ask is to answer. Obviously of their initial literal redemption by God from Egypt. Thus silver stood as a simple symbol of the very notion of redemption. When then it was next cast to make sockets for the Tabernacle boards (Exod. 38: 25-27), Israel was forcibly reminded that the very ground and basis of its national life was redemption.
It was also its stay and the secret of righteousness, for of the residue of the metal were made hooks, capitals and struts for the brazen pillars to support the linen screen and Gate-themselves so full of meaning (Exod. 38 : 28).
It was thus silver which made the juxtaposition of brass and gold a possibility: it was this which formed the sockets of the Vail also, distinguishing it from the hanging of the door of the Tabernacle (whose five pillars were fittingly set in brass sockets since the Holy Place was in all respects suggestive of mortal association with God - Exod. 26 : 36-37).
Law and Grace Ch 5
31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubim shall it be made:
The Vail was a barrier, excluding the Aaronic priesthood from access to the Presence of God. It thus served as a most eloquent parable of the impotence of the Law to transcend the limits of flesh-nature...
...Yet it also gave Israel an ideal. Like the ten curtains forming the first drapery over the boarded building its texture was inwrought with a cherubic pattern which spoke of an ultimate manifestation of God in man.
The division of the ten curtains into two separate sets of five recognized the breach between man and God; but in parable it spoke also of the closing of that breach, for blue loops and gold clasps made out of all ten curtains one tabernacle (Exod. 26 : 1-6).
Thus it was intimated that the purpose of Israel's calling was that there should be continuity between its present mortal fellowship with God and its ideal destiny allegorically set forth beyond the Vail.
Law and Grace Ch 5
36 And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.
In the tabernacle the door was of blue purple and scarlet and fine twined linen, the elements of God manifestation, showing that only through God manifestation shall we enter the Kingdom of God and the great Temple of the future Age.
These elements were perfectly exhibited in Christ, the Logos made flesh, although of the sin nature. He is the door (Jhn 10.1), and his sheep go through that door, not any other way except the way, the Truth, the Life that cometh from above, whose lives are hid with God (CoI.3;1), but will be revealed with tremendous power in the day of vengeance and redemption (Isa 63;1-4).
The tabernacle floor was earth. A constant reminder to Israel of their earthy nature (Gen.3;19, Nu.5), upon which a holy Temple stood.
The Apocalyptic Messenger