The Tabernacle and the Altar.

We have seen that faith accepts simply and unquestioningly the position God in His infinite grace has given us. But it does more; looking alone to God, and occupied with Him, it searches into things in which man's mind cannot follow it, and enjoys them really whilst waiting for the day when knowledge will also be made perfect. Now we know only in part, but we believe things we do not yet see, and we can rejoice in them with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Peter 1:7-12.)

The same principle appears in the song of victory, sung by the Israelites at the Red Sea; we find used there for the first time two expressions which were full of deep meaning for the children of Israel, and of which they were afterwards called to understand something practically. The first of these expressions is in verge 13, "Thy holy habitation." It was the response of faith to the work of God already accomplished in the deliverance of His people, as we find in verse 2, "The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation."* The faith of Moses and of the children of Israel had laid hold of the great fact that redemption had brought them near to God, and that He would dwell in their midst. This word is found again, in connection with the future blessing of the nation, when Zion will be in very truth for Jehovah a "habitation of justice and mountain of holiness." (Jer. 31:23; Ps. 2:6, etc.)

*This translation may well be doubted. The thought of dwelling in the midst of His people came from Jehovah Himself. (See below.) - ED. by means of the details of its arrangement and order, what was implied in the fact of God dwelling in the midst of His people. It was made after the pattern of things in the heavens, so that the holy places, made with hands, were the figures or, more correctly, the copies of the true. (Heb. 8:5; 9:24.)

The second expression, used also for the first time in this song, is "the sanctuary" (v. 17), and it evidently alludes to the holy place which God purposed to have built for Himself - in the midst of His people and in the "mountain of His inheritance," in the land of promise. But God anticipated this blessing in the wilderness, and gave directions to His people to make Him a sanctuary, that He might dwell among them. This sanctuary was also called the "tabernacle," a word which properly means "a dwelling-place." God said to Moses, "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them; according to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it." (Ex. 25:8-9.) This earthly tabernacle, "the figure and shadow of heavenly things," served to make known,

The two expressions of which we have spoken are closely linked together; the first showing that, as a result of redemption, God will dwell in the midst of His people - a thing which had become impossible from the moment that the sin of our first parents had put an end to communion with God; the second giving us to understand that God intended that His dwelling-place should have a material form, so as to teach us in connection with it what was involved in His dwelling with His redeemed people.

The tabernacle constructed in the wilderness gave place after a time to the temple built by Solomon at Jerusalem. This in its turn passed away, but the heavenly things themselves, of which the, tabernacle was the "copy," remain for ever, and God enables us to grasp their meaning by means of the earthly figures. The rest of God, which His people are called to enjoy, is spoken of as "remaining," or being in reserve; but in the meanwhile the Holy Spirit introduces the redeemed into the knowledge of the heavenly things not seen as yet, so that we may enjoy them by faith, even more than the children of Israel could enjoy the presence of God among them whilst they were in the wilderness, previous to their entering into the rest prepared for them around God's holy mountain, in the land of Canaan. It is the property of faith, led by the Holy Spirit, to lay hold on unseen things, and to appropriate them whilst waiting in patience for their realization. (Rom. 8:24-25.)

We may remark that for the children of Israel the temple will be rebuilt on this earth, and that their relationship with God, ordained at the first in connection with the "tabernacle," and of which they are now deprived on account of their rejection of the Messiah, will then be re-established and confirmed to them under the Lord's glorious reign over all the earth. When He was here He spoke of Jerusalem as "the city of the great King" (Matt. 5:35); and by this name it will be known in the coming day of blessing. (Ps. 48:2.)

The point that we are now considering precludes our touching on the interesting subject of prophecy; neither can we enter upon the examination of the details of the structure and furniture of the tabernacle. All its details, which occupy the latter part of Exodus, are replete with spiritual instruction, and are in part opened up to us in the epistle to the Hebrews. Suffice it to say for the present that the great key to the understanding of all types is CHRIST; everything speaks of Him. It is in Christ that God revealed Himself; it is by Him alone that God makes Himself known as He is. (John 1:18.) In the sanctuary God teaches us His thoughts. That being the case, we can enter in some measure into the fervent prayer of the psalmist, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple." (Ps. 27:4.)

We must at present limit ourselves to the simple consideration of what was implied in the fact of God's dwelling in the midst of His people. When the Lord commanded Moses to make the tabernacle, He told him also to make an altar of brass, and to set it before the tabernacle, at a certain distance from the entrance, and in the court which surrounded it. At the same time He gave Him all the needed instructions for the consecration of Aaron and His sons, their establishment in the priesthood, and for the service of the altar and of the tabernacle. (See Exodus 29:35-46.)

Every morning and evening the blood of a spotless lamb was to be poured out at the foot of the altar, and all the pieces of it were to be offered up as a whole burnt-offering (see Lev. 1), and the sweet savour of the propitiatory sacrifice went up from the altar to God. There was a positive commandment never to let the fire of the altar go out; it was a perpetual ordinance for the children of Israel. However numerous the various sacrifices which might be offered on this altar, according to the detailed instructions in the book of Leviticus, the daily morning and evening burnt-offering was never to be omitted. "It is a continual burnt-offering which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord." For the Sabbath and for the other feasts special sacrifices were appointed; but these were never to replace or exclude "the continual burnt-offering." (Num. 28, 29.)

The priestly services went still further. According to Lev. 16, we see that one day in the year was set apart in an especial manner to make an atonement for the holy place, cleansing it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel, because of their transgressions in all their sins. (v. 16.) On that day the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice for sin into the most holy place; that is, into the inner part of the tabernacle, where stood the ark and mercy-seat of Jehovah. (Compare Heb. 4:16.) The spiritual meaning of the expiatory service of that day is unfolded in detail in Heb. 9, where the Holy Ghost gives it a prominent place as one of the most remarkable types of the work of Christ. The divine directions as to this particular sacrifice for all the succeeding generations of the children of Israel are summed up in the words, "The priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, the holy garments: and he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year." (Lev. 16:32-34.) "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb. 9:22.) God was making known by these types that it was only at such a cost that sins could be forgiven. (See particularly Lev. 4, 5.) Jehovah's command to His people was clear and explicit. He had given them the blood upon the altar to make atonement for their souls. "For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Lev. 17:11.) Was it not saying again in principle as before in Egypt, "When I see the blood I will pass over you"?

These, as we have already said, were only types; for in truth the blood of bulls and goats could not take away man's sins. (Heb. 10:4.) But these types very clearly and simply established the grand principle, and they shadowed forth the perfect sacrifice that has we know been offered once for all, even that of our Lord Jesus Christ. "When He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10:5, 7; Ps. 40:6-8.) He gave Himself for us. "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place" (that is to say, `into heaven itself'), "having obtained eternal redemption." (Heb. 9:11-12.) But we are not left to guess the meaning of the Old Testament types. The positive teaching of the New Testament makes God's thought and intention perfectly clear. He does not leave us in uncertainty. By virtue of redemption all believers now become the temple of the living God, so that He says, "I will dwell in the midst of them." On the one hand the holiness of God requires that sin should be completely taken away; and on the other He vouchsafes to us a good conscience, that we may be truly happy and at peace with Him, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 John 1:7.)

The close of the prophecy of Ezekiel states that in the last days the service of the house of God and of the altar will be set up again for the children of Israel. (Chap. 40:45-46; 44:15-16, &c) This memorial of the great sacrifice, which is the foundation of all divine blessing for sinners such as we are, will be needful for the people during Messiah's reign. Something else than the mere putting forth of Almighty power is needed. for taking away that which hinders our enjoyment of communion with Him in holiness. There must be righteous expiation of sin in order that His righteousness may be satisfied. This expiation has now been accomplished. The blood of the new covenant that God makes with Israel in view of their future day of blessing has been already shed. All that is written must yet be accomplished for this people who are now unbelieving, but, notwithstanding all, beloved of God for the fathers' sakes. (Rom. 11:28.) Still, while waiting the moment of Israel's blessing, and that of the whole earth through the intermediary of this chosen people, we Christians are called to enjoy a still more intimate communion with the God of all grace in accordance with the actual position of the Saviour at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He is head of the house of God, as Son, in the heavens, and we are His house, "if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." (Heb. 3:6.) The Holy Spirit makes present and real even now - by faith and to faith - the glorious things which we shall fully enjoy when we shall see the Lord as He is, and when He shall cause us to enter into the "rest that remains for the people of God." God already takes us as His people. He reveals Himself to us as Father, and calls us "His Sons and daughters;" for it is the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father who has made God known to us. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 11:16-18; 7:1.)

And let us not forget either that each Christian is regarded as individually a temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. It is written, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:19-20.) In this passage we see again how closely linked are the thoughts of redemption and of the habitation of God with His people.

Jesus Christ is the "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The full result of His expiatory work will be seen in the new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness will dwell. (2 Peter 3:13.) Then sin will exist no more. "The tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Rev. 21:3.) The Holy Spirit leads the believer even now into the spiritual enjoyment of these things; for the blood of Christ, which is the divine basis of all these blessings, has already been shed. Consequently we find the same expression made use of in speaking of the eternal state of blessing as of what is already true of the believer. "I make all things new." (Rev. 21:5; 2 Cor. 5:17.) We have that for our present spiritual portion in view of the coming glory, when all will be manifested according to God's purpose, and faith will give place to sight. In view of this the Spirit exhorts us: "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found in Him in peace, without spot, and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14.) W. J. Lowe.