The book of Exodus, as we have already seen, recounts the history of the bondage and deliverance of the children of Israel, together with their being brought into relationship with God as a redeemed people. There are several distinct contrasts with the book of Genesis, suggested in the number and position of the book.
Genesis deals with origins and individual life; Exodus deals with salvation and national, corporate life. This will appear at large as we make a survey of the book. It is divided into two main parts:
Division 1. God as Jehovah, fulfilling His promises in power and grace (Ex. 1 — 18).
Division 2. A people redeemed by blood and by power, brought to God and put into covenant relation with Himself (Ex. 19 — 40).
Each of these divisions contains a number of different subjects which bring out the characteristic thought of each portion. We will look at these consecutively.
Sub-division 1 (Ex. 1 — 4:17).
The condition of the people and the call of a deliverer. The narrative is linked with the closing part of Genesis by the repetition of the names of Jacob's family who came down into Egypt. Next, we have the multiplication of the people from a family into a race. As long as Joseph and his brethren live under the beneficent favor of Pharaoh, who had experienced the blessing of God through Joseph, the people prosper. After that generation has passed away, however, another king tyrannizes over Israel, and we see the smoking furnace which God promised would come in the vision which he gave to Abraham (Gen. 15). There is an evident twofold tyranny over the people. Lest they should be exalted into the place of primacy in the land on the one side, or, on the other, escape entirely and so the Egyptians lose their service, the edict went forth that all their males were to be slain. Thus the nation would be kept in servitude, unable to escape, and yet furnish slaves to do the work of the Egyptians. Their oppression and misery cause them to cry aloud under the distress,while the faith of individuals that lays hold of God and refuses to obey the king's commandment shows how God works through His people who count upon Him.
The bondage in Egypt is not only national, furnishing the background upon which the entire subsequent history of the children of Israel is projected, but typically shows the bondage of sin under which the whole human race is. Egypt is in a special way a type of the world, in contrast with Canaan the heavenly place. It is an exceedingly fruitful country which is apparently independent of the rain of heaven. It receives its nutrition through the river Nile, which comes to it from the unseen sources far back in equatorial Africa, and which at stated times overflows its banks, spreading fertility and life wherever it reaches. Its river was its god.
So with the world today. Its very prosperity and progress seem, in the eyes of those who are citizens of earth, to be independent of God. "Natural causes" explain all the wondrous progress and prosperity and growth of the human family, so that the world is quite content, in both its business and pleasures, to ignore the God who is so far off that He need not be considered as worthy of regard.
All this strikingly suggests the character of the world and the king who is in it. The principle which controls is clearly seen; a rebellion and alienation from God which refuses to know Him, bringing into bondage the sons of men. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." There is also an active agency, a living person who presides over the whole course of this world. It is Satan, "the prince of the power of the air;" but we do not see him prominently in Exodus. He is rather connected with the power of evil in the land of Canaan; while in Egypt the main theme is the principle of sin which brings men into bondage, and their responsibility as yielding themselves to serve it, together with the grace of God which meets that responsibility and delivers from that bondage.
Satan is, to be sure, the prince of this world, and for that reason we cannot ignore his participation in all that goes on here; but, as we have said, he does not seem to be personally prominent in the types of Exodus.
The elect people of God are in bondage in the world. By their very birth and place in it, they are servants to sin. This servitude, however, while coming from a nature inherited, is also a responsible, because a willing service. The end of all such bondage is death; even the pleasures of sin are but "for a season," and the solemn sentence, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," and "The wages of sin is death," remind us of the edict of Pharaoh that all the male children should be cast into the river — an edict which suggests in its cruelty the hardness of the servitude of sin; while back of that is the necessary judgment of God.
A more pitiable condition could not be imagined than the condition of Israel. Their very numbers aroused the fear of Pharaoh; their very abilities only served to tighten their chains more completely. The very development and growth of Egypt under their toiling hands was the pledge of the hopelessness of any escape. So it is as we look at the world today. The increase of population so much boasted in, the development of arts and sciences, the multiplication of inventions, the building of great cities and establishing of vast organizations in the commercial and financial world, all these are so many arguments against the thought of God's intervention for the deliverance of man from the bondage to sin in which he is. The world as constituted cannot afford to release the toiling sons of earth from their bondage. Each must contribute his quota to the building up of that vast system which disowns God and refuses the knowledge of Himself; and yet in the midst of bondage like this, as of old the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters, God still has His chosen people through whom He works. Faith is not altogether wanting, and the very misery brought by the tyranny of sin causes souls to cry aloud, a cry which has reached the ear of God.
In the midst of this scene of wretchedness, we see the sovereign election of God in calling out a deliverer. He is one of the people, who is yet separated from them early in life and eventually returns to them to lead them out of their bondage. The birth, youth and subsequent history of Moses seem to furnish us with a twofold type of God's ways of grace with the individual soul, but more particularly of Him who is the true Deliverer of the people of God. Evidently, in the birth of Moses and the care which surrounded him, we have illustrations of the sovereign grace of God, and a suggestion of that same providential care which presided over the birth of the Babe at Bethlehem.
For the time, Moses has a home in the very palace of the king,but when of age, refuses all this and identifies himself with his people. His first presentation of himself to them meets with ignominious failure. Evidently, while the desire for their deliverance was working in him, he was undertaking it in his own strength. All of this is personal history, and yet Stephen evidently makes use of it as a type of Christ, who, when He presented Himself to His own people as their Deliverer, was rejected. Indeed, the flight of Moses into the land of Midian is a marked type of the present position of our Lord with reference to Israel and the world. Rejected by His own, He has withdrawn; and during this present period when Israel knoweth Him not, He has, as Moses, found a bride amongst the Gentiles; and those Jews who now come under the grace of God lose their national status; for in Christ Jesus "there is neither Jew nor Greek." But, like Moses, our Lord will return for the deliverance of His earthly people as Moses returned from the land of Midian and led out Israel.
In the personal side of this portion of the history, we see how God prepared His servant Moses and called him for his especial work. In this, of course, there is no typical application to our Lord. Having proved his own unpreparedness, as well as the people's, for deliverance, Moses has to learn in the school of God, during those forty years of isolation, his own insufficiency and the power of God. He is brought face to face with Him and learns that God is mindful of His covenant, knows the sorrows of His people, and will send him back as His chosen instrument to set them free and bring them out into the place promised to Abraham.
Moses' previous precipitancy now gives place to a timidity which would shrink from the responsibility laid upon him; but, at last reassured, he returns to his brethren according to the flesh. God thus manifests Himself in His sovereign grace, as One who is mindful of His promise and can never forget the oath which He made to the fathers.
Sub-division 2. (Ex. 4:18 — 11 ).
The covenant recognized which separates the people of God from the world under judgment.
In the first part of this portion, we again have the covenant recalled and its recognition by the people in a feeble way, together with the tracing of the lineage of Moses and Aaron, the deliverers. Thus all is seen to be in connection with the covenant promises of God made to the fathers. It is very significant that the genealogy of the tribes is given only until Moses and Aaron are reached (Ex. 6:26); so Christ is the one object before God, the only Deliverer of His elect.
In the signs given to Moses to show to the people, one of which he also gave to Pharaoh, we have, suggestively, an illustration of the twofold deliverance of the gospel which, if rejected, will be followed by necessary judgment. The rod turned to a serpent and brought back again to a rod, shows that all departure from God results in the dominion of Satan. Sin is thus Satan's vicegerent; while God can set aside this dominion when He takes His own power again.
Moses' hand becoming leprous when put next his heart, shows the sinfulness of the heart of man which communicates its defilement to his works. Divine power alone can cleanse the source and thereby render the fruits pure.
In the turning of water into blood, we see that if the deliverance from the power and defilement of sin is not sought, nothing but judgment remains.
This last sign is the first of those ten plagues which fall upon Pharaoh. Each of these is a type of the judgment which awaits the refusal to bow to God. The details of these ten plagues cannot be entered into here, though of the greatest profit and importance. It will be seen in general that the plagues increase in severity until the culmination is reached in the death of the firstborn. They thus suggest the inevitable character of the judgment which awaits the sinner, while the cessation of each stroke intimates God's willingness to withdraw His hand from judgment, and shows it to be His strange work. Pharaoh hardens his heart not merely by refusing to bow under the plagues, but persisting in his course when in answer to his cry the plague was remitted. Thus, neither the severity of God in inflicting the plague, nor His goodness in remitting it, have any effect upon one whose heart is fully set in him to do evil.
We have, no doubt, in these plagues a foreshadow of those which we find in the book of Revelation, also symbolic, and which point to the time of the end when God's people, Israel, shall be delivered from the bondage of the rules of this world by the sorest judgments poured upon the ungodly. The plagues, like many of the judgments of God, are not only inflicted strokes, but show the retributive character of indulgence in sin, which brings its own penalty. "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord" (Jer. 2:19). These judgments indicate the course and end of the world, and to those who bow under them, show the utter emptiness of the world to afford any sustenance or shelter. All that is in it is exposed to the judgment of God, and indeed corruption is bred in its most fertile spots.
All nature thus comes under the ban. The river is turned to blood; the means of life and refreshment becomes a witness of judgment (Ex. 7:14, etc.), Out of the river come unclean frogs; the source of refreshment spreads defilement (Ex. 8:1, etc.). The very dust, the soil yielding fertile crops, produces lice, the loathsome corruptions which flourish in connection with the world's prosperity (Ex. 8:16, etc.). The plague of flies is similar (Ex. 8:20), and shows how all that the world values, if separated from God, will eventually turn into plagues.
Next, the plague falls upon those animals needed for the service of man (Ex. 9:1, etc.), while the boils breaking out from the dust of the furnace show that God will leave man to his own corruption if he persists in his rebellion (Ex. 9:8, etc.). If the earth away from God is thus turned into a scene of corruption and desolation, heaven also will frown upon it, and in the plague of hail we see the result of this despising of God. Hail is rain chilled into ice. The very mercies of heaven despised are changed into pitiless judgment (Ex. 9:13, etc.).
The hail had destroyed the cattle which were not sheltered from it. The next plague of locusts devours the growth of the fields (Ex. 10:1, etc.). The last plague, before the final stroke, points to the withdrawal of God and leaving man to himself (Ex. 10:21, etc,). God is light; and where the heart refuses the light, it is left to its own darkness, a premonition of that outer darkness which shall mark the eternal banishment of man from the source of light and blessing.
All this detail of judgment doubtless establishes the people in their separation from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Indeed, their exemption from what falls upon their oppressors is a foretaste of that complete deliverance which they are soon to enjoy. On the other hand, in Pharaoh we see the gradually increasing hardness of heart which turns the very mercies, as well as the judgments of God, into fresh occasions for despising Him. The apparent relentings in which he cries for mercy are followed by a fresh insult, while his proposals to grant Israel a partial emancipation are in reality followed by renewed determination not to do so. The demand of Moses was for emancipation. God's message was, "Let My people go that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness." Three days' journey was to separate them, all of which was typical of the breaking of the links between themselves and Egypt of the full deliverance which was to be effected. Pharaoh evidently saw that if such a breach was made, it would be followed by the complete emancipation of the people from his sway.
From time to time Pharaoh seems to consider this question. First of all, the people will be permitted to serve the Lord in the land (Ex. 8:25, etc.). Moses refuses this. All true worship of God means separation from the world. The sacrifice of Christ, the atonement which is the basis of all worship, is an abomination in the sight of the world.
Next (Ex. 8:28), Pharaoh relents further. They can go a little way, but not very far. How often does the world seem thus to countenance a worship of God, provided it is not too distinctly and completely separated from itself.
Next (Ex. 10:10), Pharaoh would profess to let the people go, while retaining their little ones. A more cunning and preposterous suggestion could not be made. What more effectual way of bringing the people back to Egypt than by holding fast their families in bondage? Alas, how many a testimony and complete separation has been marred by the allowance of the dominion of the world in the home!
Lastly (Ex. 10:24), Pharaoh would keep his hand upon the flocks and herds. One's business, his secular calling, can still be exempt from the claims of redemption. Wherever this is the case, we may be sure emancipation is only in name.
All now points to the hour of deliverance which is drawing near. As things grow dark for Egypt, they become brighter for the people; but the last plague must fall; and the people, hitherto exempt from most of them, must learn that such exemption is in no way due to themselves, but is part of salvation's deliverance which is being wrought for them. Bound up with the death of the firstborn, we find the great truth of redemption brought out.
Sub-division 3. (Ex. 12 — 15:21).
Full salvation by blood and by power. As has been said, the shelter of the blood of the passover lamb was necessary if the people were to escape the judgment which was to fall upon all Egypt. It is the blood that makes the difference between the world and God's people — of "the Lamb without blemish and without spot." From this time forward how completely does the blood of the passover lamb furnish the basis upon which all God's ways of grace and mercy, and even of government, rest. It is indeed "the beginning of months," the spiritual birthday of every soul who passes out from under the judgment of the world into the place of safety, to be led on in the ways of God.
In the deliverance of the Red Sea, we have a different aspect of the death of Christ. It is no longer that which merely shelters from judgment, but which delivers from the power of the oppressor. This also is effected by our Lord, who through His death and resurrection has opened the way for His people to pass out of servitude into the blessed liberty wherewith He makes free.
The deliverance described in the seventh chapter of Romans is here typified, where the bondage of sin, with all its claims upon the soul, is broken by the blessed fact of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the passover, Christ died for us. In the Red Sea, we died with Christ and are risen with Him; thus, under the guidance of the Spirit, passing on from the place where we were sheltered from judgment, through the barren wilderness, to the inheritance that remains. All through this journey, the Spirit of God, under the type of the pillar of cloud and of fire, leads the way.
As has been frequently remarked, the song of triumph (Exodus 15) does not begin until the deliverance out of Egypt. Mere shelter from judgment, with the sense of the enemy's power still upon us, will not set the soul free to worship and to praise.
Sub-division 4. (Ex. 15:22 — 18).
Mercy by the way. It is beautiful to see in this portion of the book how the same grace, manifested in the blood of the passover lamb and deliverance out of Egypt, provides for every need of the people. The trials of the wilderness follow, as they ever do, the delivering grace of God; but here also we prove His all-sufficiency. "Tribulation worketh patience." Marah's bitter waters are sweetened by the tree, while in the wells of Elim we have suggested the abounding, upspringing refreshment of the Spirit of God throughout the wilderness.
Bread from heaven is given (Ex. 16) manna, a type of Christ humbled unto death, who becomes the food of His people in their wilderness journey. Water also is given, flowing from the smitten rock, another type of the death of Christ. How constantly we are thus reminded that our every blessing flows from the cross! Victory over the lusts of the flesh is also assured through our ascended High Priest, as typified by Moses and Aaron on the top of the mountain, while through His intercession we are "more than conquerors" (Ex. 17).
In the visit of Jethro (Ex. 18) we have suggested the millennial nations who shall be brought to behold the wondrous work of God in the deliverance of His people. This closes the first portion of the book, in which the grace of God unlimited and untrammeled, has its way. What a marvellous change from the beginning has been effected! A groaning race of slaves assured of the care and love of God for them, witnesses of His mighty power in judgment, a judgment which they have escaped — not a feeble one in all their tribes — and brought to be worshipers and pilgrims passing on in victory, their every need supplied by Him who had made them His own.
Division 2. (Ex. 19 — 40).
A people redeemed by blood and by power, brought to God, and put into covenant relation with Himself.
Sub-division 1. (Chaps. 19 — 31).
The giving of the law and provision for the tabernacle. In this portion of the book, we have two apparently contradictory thoughts, which in reality are not so. This raises the whole question of the law, its object and effect, as dwelt upon in chaps. 19-24. Unquestionably, in the history of the nation of Israel, we shall find the law having a place different from what it occupies under grace. Law and grace, as principles, are contrary each to the other. First of all, let it be said that the law, which was 430 years after the promises made to Abraham, could not set aside that grace which God had declared, and according to which He had been acting during the whole history of Israel up to Sinai. Whatever the occasion for giving it, it could not set aside those gifts and calling of God which are without repentance. The nation as a whole, however, had to be put under a probation which would manifest the absolute necessity of the grace of whose perfection they were still ignorant.
Thus the law was given to them as a covenant, into which they voluntarily entered, but the effect of which was to prove throughout their subsequent history their utter incapacity for obedience. This widens out to embrace in its results the entire human family. God would show, in a people under specially favorable circumstances, that man as a whole is incapable of obedience through the law. Thus, while directly addressed to those who were put under it, the effect of the law is that every mouth is stopped and the whole world becomes guilty before God. Therefore it has a place not merely dispensational, but essential in the development of the ways of God, and is a justification of the necessity for the sacrificial and emancipating work of our Lord, which brings out into the place where the believer is not under law, but under grace.
The law can only work wrath and bring a sense of bondage. All this is enlarged upon in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. When this great truth is seen, that man, in order to bring forth fruit unto God must not be under law, but under grace, it will be found that the law itself, even the ten commandments issued from Mount Sinai, with their enlargement in the immediately succeeding chapters, is a type of the grace of which those commandments show the necessity. They also suggest the fruits of that grace, to be manifested in the obedience of a people who have been delivered from its bondage. Thus, a most delightful and profitable study of the ten commandments in detail would bring out, not only the fact of man's condemnation, but the perfections of Christ as illustrated in them and, further, the fruits of grace producing in obedient lives that righteousness "which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh." To one who follows intelligently, in the current of the Spirit of God, these parallel streams of truth will be seen as not contradictory and this must suffice for the present to justify us in saying that this second division of the book of Exodus not only gives us the law in its pure requirements, which could only condemn a man, but suggests the relationship of grace which effects an obedience through which the people will enjoy communion with God.
This is beautifully suggested in the prescriptions for the erection of the tabernacle which follow the details of the law (Ex. 25 — 31). In the provision for the tabernacle, all starts from the ark, the Holy of holies as we might say. It begins in the presence of God and goes on outward until the entire structure is described and the priests are seen ministering.
The fact that this forms a part of the sub-division of the law suggests what has already been intimated, that pure law found its only perfect expression in the person of Christ, which as we shall find a little later on, is typified in the entire tabernacle. There is no contradiction in the close association of the person of the Son of God with the perfections of a law which condemns all the sons of Adam. He could say, "Thy law is within My heart," and therefore the first description of the tabernacle gives us the ark, a type of Christ, containing the law within itself. When, however, the tabernacle is to be erected, as we shall find in a subsequent sub-division, the order is changed and the ark comes in later. All this is most instructive. We will, however, proceed with the sub-divisions of the book, in order that we may be able more clearly to grasp the significance of what we have been looking at.
Sub-division 2. (Ex. 32 — 34).
The sin of the golden calf; the breaking of the tables of the law, and their restoration on a basis of mercy. With the thunders of mount Sinai echoing in their ears and the promise of implicit obedience to all the Lord had commanded scarcely cold upon their lips, the people, growing restive under the absence of Moses for forty days upon the Mount, demand a god whom they can see and the whole disgraceful apostasy of the golden calf is enacted under the leadership of Aaron.
The gold had been brought from Egypt, and evidently, so far as the people were concerned, had not as yet the stamp of redemption upon it, for it is used in the manufacture of one of those golden calves, the sacred animals of Egypt which had been the objects of idolatrous worship. In vain does Aaron seek to link the holy name of Jehovah with this idolatrous feast. This enhances the insult done to God, as all compromises do, by linking His holy name with the corruptions which He condemns. Thus Israel broke the first three commandments before ever the law written on the tables of stone was brought into their midst. Therefore, under pure law, the people were absolutely condemned. So far as the relationship which it established was concerned, based upon the promise of the people to obey, all was lost.
The intercession of Moses comes in beautifully here as a type of the prevailing intercession of our blessed Lord, and it will be noticed that Moses puts before God the promises which antedate the law, the covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On the basis of this intercession and in recognition of His unchanging purpose, God spares the people, but inflicts sore chastening upon them. Those tables of the law, of unyielding stone, which by their very texture suggest the pure and perfect requirements of a holy, inflexible law, cannot go into an idolatrous and godless camp without bringing absolute judgment upon the people. Moses therefore casts them out of his hand and they are broken, even as the people had already broken them by their sin.
Now comes, however, the chastening of God which falls upon the people; the direct idolators, the ringleaders, are slain. The tribe of Levi, already apparently somewhat conscious of their special place of nearness to God, which was subsequently to be brought out — a nearness intimated by the fact that Moses and Aaron were of this tribe — identify themselves with the Lord and execute judgment upon their brethren who have apostatized from Him. The golden calf also is burned and ground to powder, and the people are obliged to drink the result of their own wrong doing.
However, in the midst of all, God remembers mercy and reveals Himself to Moses as the leader of the people in a new way, not merely as the giver of a perfect law, nor yet even in the glorious perfections of Christ as seen standing all alone, but in a grace which, while He will not clear the guilty, is longsuffering and merciful, forgiving transgression and iniquity and sin. Surely, we know the meaning of this apparent contradiction. In the person of our blessed Lord Jesus, and through His work, we see all the glory of God, not merely His back parts as Moses under the law, but fully revealed in the cross and resurrection of our blessed Saviour. Here a glory shines which is eternal, not in connection with the ministration of death and of condemnation which the law still was until it had effected its holy purpose of bringing men to Christ, but the glory of a grace, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God," as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ. No need, thank God, for a veil here. Moses might put a veil upon his face to hide the reflected glory of the presence of God in connection with the law, for it was a glory that could only condemn and bring death to a people who were found guilty before God; but now, in the face of the risen Son of God the veil is removed and we can behold there, without terror, all the perfections of divine righteousness, for they are mingled with the lineaments of love which add a glory and blessedness to the holiness of God which the law could never give.
Sub-division 3. (Ex. 35 — 40).
The tabernacle erected; the glory of God manifested. How beautiful it is to see that the purposes of God are not thwarted by sin; that while the responsibility of man is in no way relieved, and judgment upon the impenitent necessarily must follow, yet the very evil which reached its climax in the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus furnished occasion not only for the display of the righteous judgment of God, but of a love which in that righteousness and judgment effects eternal redemption for the very sinners who had raised themselves in rebellion!
Thus after the awful episode of the golden calf, God resumes His ways with His people, and under the direction of Moses they carry out the construction of the tabernacle. Most suggestive, however, is the change of order already alluded to. Instead of beginning now with the ark and the Holy of holies, in which the perfections and glories of Christ from the side of divine sovereignty are displayed (that which is a type of the throne of God), the curtains which form the tabernacle and its other coverings are first described. These give us the person of Christ historically, as in the veil we have a type of His flesh. God thus shows how practically His tabernacle and the way of approach to Him have been secured. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally, tabernacled) amongst us" (John 1:14). This, therefore, is first. There could have been no true knowledge of the glory of God, no entrance into His presence, had not His beloved Son humbled Himself to the lowliness suggested in these curtains which show how God had come down to dwell amongst men. The delightful truths of the tabernacle can barely be glanced at.
The tabernacle is made from the people's freewill offerings of the materials used in its construction. All these refer to some aspect of Christ. Gold is the glory of divine righteousness; silver is redemption; brass speaks of the unwavering judgment of God; blue is the color of heaven; purple, of royalty; scarlet, of the glory of the world in subjection to Christ; fine linen, of His personal purity; goats' hair, the expression of Him who came to be the sin offering; rams' skins dyed red, the devotion of our Lord unto death in obedience to God; badger or sealskins, His separation from the world in which He walked as a stranger; shittim or acacia wood, His incorruptible human nature; oil, the Holy Spirit who illumines the whole truth as to Christ; spices, the sweet fragrance of Christ; onyx stones and other jewels for the breastplate, the lights and perfections of the glory of God as displayed in Christ.
These materials were brought by willing people. How sweet it is to remember that our practical enjoyment of communion with God is connected with our apprehension of the varied perfections of His beloved Son, and that in this sense we can bring to Him these offerings and thus enjoy fellowship with Himself!
The curtains, as has been already said, speak of our Lord's perfect humanity, His life of dependence. The number and dimensions of these curtains and the manner in which they were joined together, all have spiritual meaning. Each curtain was four cubits wide and twenty-eight long, and suggests the dependence of Him who had taken the place of weakness (4), in which, however, His perfection (7) is an essential factor and is fully displayed. There are ten of these curtains, divided into two of five each, suggesting the two tables of the law in which our Lord perfectly exemplified His loving obedience to God and love to man. In every relationship He was perfect. These curtains were not detached the one from the other, while clearly distinct; just as each command would meet with its perfect exemplification in the character of our Lord. All, however, is bound together by the loops of blue — our Lord's heavenly character — and the golden clasps, divine righteousness.
The materials which form the tabernacle, we have already spoken of. They are all woven together, so as to form a harmonious whole; while the cherubim into which they are fashioned suggest that full display of divine righteousness and judgment which can be entrusted to God's beloved Son.
Next, we have the covering of goats' hair over the curtains of the tabernacle. The number here is 11, united in two parts of five and six, suggesting the victory over evil in the meeting of sin by One who could responsibly do so. All of this is suggested in the goats' hair. We have, as well, in the hairy covering thus provided, an intimation of our Lord's prophetic testimony which He uttered throughout His holy life.
Next come the rams' skins dyed red, typifying His devotion unto death; and the final covering of sealskin, telling of His separation from the world in which He was, suggesting also by its sombre color the fact that He was without form or comeliness in the world.
Next come the boards resting upon the silver sockets. The materials of which they were made speak of the incorruptible humanity of our Lord overlaid with the gold of His divine nature, a reminder of His perfect humanity and Godhead. These boards, resting as they do, upon the silver sockets, are a type of our Lord's people who rest upon the redemption price which He has paid by the sacrifice of Himself, and thus have a perfect standing before God. (See Exodus 30.) Thus the tabernacle is built together into an abode: the bars passing through the rings and compacting all together, suggesting Christ as the bond of His people. This is further illustrated in the corner boards, where they are united together into one head. "Ye . . . are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone . . in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Next follow the articles of furniture within the tabernacle. The ark, as already suggested, speaks of the throne of God — a throne made possible for sinful men only through our Lord Jesus. He it is who had the law in His heart, and thus righteousness and judgment are the foundation of God's throne, as suggested in those golden cherubim which speak of His attributes, overshadowing the mercy-seat. This mercyseat, however, is the divine covering for that law which could only condemn sinful men. It was here that the witness of the sacrifice of Christ (the blood of the sin offering), was placed before God, and thus the requirements of His holy throne are shown to have been fully met; the very cherubim of glory which barred the way to the Garden of Eden here find their gaze riveted upon the atoning sacrifice, and are witnesses of the way of approach to God on the ground of the blood of atonement.
The table in its materials again presents to us Christ, but now as the One through whom food is provided for His people, and thus communion with God is established. It is the bread of God presented upon the table. Christ is this. God finds His food in Him; but, wondrous to say, He shares in this with His people. In the 12 loaves they too are seen as one in Christ before God; a similar thought is suggested in the one loaf of the Lord's supper — His people's unity in Him.
The golden candlestick with its seven branches speaks of the sevenfold perfection of the illumination of the Spirit who is come as the witness for our risen Lord. The form and pattern of the candlestick all speak of divine glory in resurrection, but the light itself is that of the Spirit, who glorifies Christ, taking of His things and manifesting them. Thus the light of the candlestick sheds its lustre upon the entire tabernacle.
As the last article of furniture inside, we have the altar of incense, where again Christ is seen as the Medium and Maintainer of worship. "By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually." This praise, however, is but the confession of the fragrance of His name; the ingredients of the incense all speaking of some special characteristic excellence and fragrance of Christ.
Coming to the outer court, we have the brazen altar, a type of the cross where our Lord made atonement. It was distinctively the place of sacrifice, and there could be no approach to God apart from that. Its dimensions, where five is prominent, suggest responsibility met, and the grate in the midst reminds us that Divine wrath against sin burned down to the very heart of our Lord.
In the laver, between the altar and the door of the tabernacle, we have that emblem of the word of God by which new birth is effected once for all, and then a daily cleansing by the application of the Word for those who would enjoy communion with God.
The hangings of the fine white linen of the court speak of that spotless purity of Christ which marks off the way of approach to God, a purity which His people should display according to the full standard of Christ. In the hangings at the entrance of the court and the tabernacle, as well as the veil of which we have already spoken, we are reminded of Christ who is the Door, the way of approach to God. Significantly, it was through the rending of the veil, the giving up of the life of Christ, that the way into the Holiest was made manifest.
The priestly garments (Ex. 39) bring out again the various aspects of the work of Christ their material, and color, suggest the truths that we have already dwelt upon. The ephod is the distinctive priestly garment, which is the badge of a service upon which our Lord has entered, never to lay it aside, to make good for us all the blessed results of His redeeming work. Thus the materials of the ephod are those of the curtains which form the tabernacle, with the addition of gold threads, while it is fashioned into a garment held fast upon the shoulders by the onyx stones which tell us of the glories of God, and bound about by a girdle which speaks of the unremitting service of our blessed High Priest.
Linked with this girdle and to the shoulder pieces of strength, is the breastplate with its twelve different jewels, upon each of which is engraved the name of one of the tribes of Israel. All this speaks of the glory and perfections of God as displayed in Christ, and His people eternally linked with that glory which has been secured by the work of Christ. All rests upon the bosom of our blessed High Priest, and declares a love which can never change, as the names upon the shoulder pieces speak of power which will hold us up forever.
"The robe of the ephod," worn beneath it, was all of blue, telling of the heavenly sphere in which our Lord exercises His priesthood. It is a seamless robe which cannot be rent, speaking of the full perfection which is in Him. About the skirt, the golden bells and pomegranates speak of the divine witness and fruits of the Spirit as manifested in our Lord's people as the result of His position on high. Thus, brethren dwelling together in unity display the fragrance of that ointment which runs down to the skirts of the high priest's robe (Ps. 133).
The coats of fine linen, of spotless white, speak of the personal character of our Lord as perfect Man. It was worn next to the person, and suggests the character which fits Him to be the Priest of His people.
The plate or holy crown with its inscription, "Holiness to the Lord," fastened by a lace of blue to the priest's mitre, tells of a divine dedication of Himself to an office in which we are presented to God in the eternal perfections of what our Lord is for us on high.
Thus nothing is wanting for the maintenance of a communion which is established in grace. The tabernacle is set up, and the glory of God fills the abode. The cloud of the divine Presence rests upon it, never to be removed throughout all the wilderness journeyings of the people. God abides in the company of His redeemed ones in the person of Christ and by the Holy Spirit,