The Tabernacle.

substance of lectures on Exodus - revised.

Exodus 24; Exodus 25:1-9.


We have seen in the former part of this book the actings of God on behalf of a people who were in bondage in what is to us the Egypt of this world. He acts from Himself, but, nevertheless, according to their wretched condition. "I have heard their groanings, and am come down to deliver them." In order to effect this deliverance in righteousness - for they were sinners equally with the Egyptians - He sheltered them by the blood of the Passover lamb from the judgment which fell upon the firstborn. The tenth plague differed from the others in that it was no longer by the rod of Moses that the Lord smote the Egyptians, but, as it were, God was Judge Himself. "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn." Having sheltered them as sinners by blood from His own righteous judgment, He can now be their Deliverer, and as such He opened a way through the Red Sea, thus delivering them from Egypt that He might bring them to Himself in the power that redeemed and delivered them. This was fully effected when they encamped at the mount of God, and we have seen that up to this point all had been grace in the actings of God on their behalf. The history is entirely a record of this grace. Their wants and murmurings only brought out what He was for them. The question of what they were, who were recipients of such favour, had not yet been raised.

Then we have considered the giving of the law, which not only raised this question, proving what they were, and that man had no righteousness for God; but also, could man have received it, there was contained in it the communication of the will of God for a people whom He had brought to Himself. There was thus an intimation of what was in the mind of God - to have a redeemed people for Himself to whom He could communicate by His word that which was of Himself. (Psalm 147:19-20.) Thus they would have been formed for Himself to show forth His praise, had there been in them such a heart that they would fear Him and keep His commandments. It will be so when the law is put into their inward parts, and written in their hearts.

Let us dwell a little on this intimation of the purpose of God for His people in communicating to them His revealed will; because we shall see that besides raising the question of responsibility, He wanted, in bringing them to Himself, to form them by His word according to His own will. Till the question of responsibility is settled, a sinful people never could enter upon this great privilege. In the cross it has been settled. Nor can the word of God as to the privileges of Israel fail. (Rom. 9:6.) When they turn to the Lord they will know how their unrighteousness has been met; and the law, magnified and made honourable by Christ, and presented to them in Him, will be written upon their hearts.

But in order for this thought of God in forming a people for Himself to be fully accomplished, so that they should be to the praise of His glory, Christ is formed in those who, now believing in Him, have the forgiveness of sins and acceptance in the Beloved. Christ is written on the fleshy table of the heart by the Spirit of God. It is by the word on the principle of love, "If ye love me keep my commandments." God is known in love that has been manifested in Christ, and not in the way of requirement. Hence it is said, "Whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected."

Chapter 24 brings us to the climax of the first part of Exodus. The representatives of the people who have been brought to God by redemption, and to whom His will has been communicated, go up into the mount of God. The covenant had been ratified by blood. Burnt-offerings and peace-offerings were offered, but no sin-offering. No provision had been made for transgression, for it is not contemplated. The people undertook to keep the law, not to break it. Wholehearted devotedness to the will of God, and consequent communion with Him, are figured in the sacrifices offered, whereupon Moses and the elders of Israel saw the God of Israel, and ate and drank in His presence. We see how this thought of being with God in communion, figured by eating and drinking before Him, completes the circle of truth connected with the actings of God to bring a redeemed people to Himself. I do not speak here of the breakdown, but of what was in the mind of God as intimated to us in these chapters.

All is so far complete, and we are prepared now for the details of the tabernacle. In it we shall find that a primary thought is the manifestation of God, not in Godhead glory which is unapproachable, but in such a way - really in Christ - that the creatures He had made might know Him in the manifestation. He takes His place, as it were, figuratively in His own creation, and the manifestation is in man. He was going to dwell in a tabernacle with men on earth. Hence we are no longer engaged with the work of God for His people, blessed as that is, but with that people called to enter into His interests; for the tabernacle was His house where every part and vessel spoke of what He is, the manifestation of Himself in man. There is nothing so great and wonderful as the only-begotten Son unfolding to us what is of God. "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us," therefore it is at once added, "We contemplated His glory." We are not here engaged with our deliverance, but with His glory. We must be redeemed to enter into what the apostles contemplated, and this redemption we have had before us in figure in the early chapters of Exodus.

The last verses of chapter 24 are important, as leading to the subject of the tabernacle. The cloud of the Lord's glory covered the mount. In the sight of Israel it was like devouring fire; for though redeemed out of Egypt, they stood on the ground of responsibility as to the flesh. Whatever was in the mind of God as to bringing a people into communion with Himself, His glory was as consuming fire. To us it now shines in the face of Him who in the fire of judgment has perfectly glorified God in respect of sin. Moses was not only called up into the mount, but he went into the midst of the cloud. He was called up to receive the tables of the law, but in the midst of the cloud he was shown the figurative representation of things in the heavens, and received instructions for the making of the tabernacle. The very place where he was instructed in the details of God's dwelling-place amongst men (comp. Luke 9:34-35) suggests to us the character of what is unfolded in the tabernacle - God displaying Himself in His own creation, and a place of nearness and intimacy, though as yet the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest. It was ever in His mind to be known by His creatures, and to have His glories and excellencies displayed to them, even to the most exalted intelligences. Into the inaccessible light where He dwells it is impossible for the creature to enter. If then Divine Persons were to be known, it must be by the manifestation of what is divine in the ranks of creation. God has been manifested in flesh. He who created all things came as the Firstborn into the ranks of creation. The Son of God has brought what was divine into manhood; He has also brought Sonship into manhood; but into this I do not enter here.

Bearing in mind what has been said, we learn, from Hebrews 3:4, that the tabernacle was a figure of the universe as builded by God, to be the sphere of the manifestation of Himself in Christ. All things in heaven and earth are to be headed up in Him, and He is the appointed Heir of all things. Thus we may further seek in it for figures of Him in whom the manifestation is made, and consequently of Israel and the church; the one being the earthly, and the other the heavenly people, through whom the glories of Christ will shine out. The congregation of Israel were in one sense God's house, as identified with the tabernacle where God dwelt. It was the place where they gathered together - the appointed tent of meeting. Now it is said (Hebrews 3:6) of Christians, "Whose house are we"; and again (Eph. 2:22), "In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." The bearing of this will become apparent as we examine the details of these chapters.

I have alluded to the making of the tabernacle as being engaged with the interests of the God who redeemed them, and it is a blessed thing. The people were to bring an offering to the Lord. "Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering." When the heart is set free with God, in the sense that His grace has provided for all my need, then it can go out willingly in regard to the details of His house as He makes them known. I do not think we could carefully read chapter 25 without being struck with the immense privilege of being the recipients of such communications, of knowing these unfoldings of Himself. The more so for us, because we belong to the inside place, where we can apprehend the fullest revelation of Himself as taught by His Spirit, and from whence we are able to survey as strengthened by the same Spirit the whole range of His purposed glory in Christ.

The business of Israel was now with the sanctuary. We too are sanctuary people - "a spiritual house, an holy priesthood." First, they are occupied with the construction of its parts and vessels; then, they either kept the charge of the Lord when the cloud rested on it (Numbers 9:19), or they carried it as the testimony of God through the wilderness. It was a happy moment for them when engaged with making a sanctuary for the Lord, a response given of the Lord to their song, sung at the moment of their deliverance, under the leading of the prophetic spirit in Moses, "He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation."

There is only one more remark which I make now, that all was to be according to the pattern showed to Moses. How otherwise could it have represented what was in the mind of God, who ever had Christ before Him? He was the great original in the mind of God. All that was given to Israel was but a shadow of the things to come, but the body (or substance) is of Christ. Any departure from the pattern showed to Moses would have falsified the representation of the ordered scene where God was pleased to dwell and manifest Himself. It would have been as building in wood, hay, and stubble, where only gold and precious stones should have a place. T. H. Reynolds.