The Construction of the Tabernacle.

Exodus 31.

Hitherto we have considered the Lord's communications to Moses upon the mount, where he was also shown the patterns according to which the tabernacle was to be constructed. Every detail was communicated, so that nothing was left for the children of Israel to plan or to arrange for themselves. If God manifests Himself, and dwells in the midst of His people, nothing could truthfully tell out this manifestation if it were not according to His own thoughts. He, too, must ordain the way of approach. The contrary is around us today. The idea is this, that if you are right about the foundation truth of salvation, it does not much matter how you build upon it. No Christians would like to have any other than God's foundation as the resting-place of their souls for salvation; but this foundation needs to be connected in the soul with the glory of God, in order that what is built up may accord with that glory. Otherwise all may be right as to security, but not right in the formation of the soul in Christ, and consequently in the truth of His assembly as the structure in which His purposes in Christ are carried out.

It is easy to see that if the people, in constructing the sanctuary, had departed from the patterns given to Moses, the building would not have answered to God's thoughts as to the display of Himself in Christ and His people; nor would there have been the witness of the blessing and relationship in which the people were set with the God who dwelt among them. We have from God in the word His thoughts as to everything, not only as to the foundation truths of salvation, but His purposes are made known to us as He has established them in Christ for His own glory by us, and the Spirit has been given that we might be in the intelligence of them, while with Israel the tabernacle was to them a witness.

So far then we have had the patterns communicated; we now come to God's provision for the making of the tabernacle. The actual construction was as important as the communication of the patterns, hence the Lord provides the suited servant for carrying out His directions, "I have called by name Bezaleel," not merely a man with natural capability and skill - it is possible that he had these - but for this purpose he was filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge. There is said to be this difference between a photograph and a portrait drawn by an artist. The photograph will produce the exact lineaments, so that it may be severely like, but an artist can put a life look into the picture by his own genius and spirit; hence we say "It is a speaking likeness." In order that the tabernacle and its vessels should be a living, "speaking" representation of the things in the heavens, and that the mind of God should be reflected in them, a man filled with the Spirit of God was needed to construct and fashion them with divine wisdom and knowledge. It was not mere accuracy of construction, according to human skill, that was needed, but the true reflection of the wisdom of God.

In Col. 1:28 the apostle speaks of the way in which he laboured, "teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." No doubt in full result that is future; but the labour and conflict of the apostle were to this end, that the saints might be in the present understanding and knowledge of the purposes of God as to them. The assembly is a structure in which, during the present period, the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10); and Paul prays (ch. 1:17) that the saints might have the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of God Himself, in order to their knowing the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. The Spirit of God alone understands the things of God; hence even in that day of shadows Bezaleel needed the Spirit, in order that he might work out these figurative manifestations of God's thoughts in Christ and His people.

We thus learn that a ministry by the Spirit can alone produce the living expression of Christ in the saints. Paul laboured to this end; it was by his ministry that the Spirit wrote Christ upon the hearts of the Corinthians. By the Spirit also they had been baptized into one body, and been made to drink into one Spirit. Thus there was living power to form the assembly, and also in it, that it might respond to the divine purpose in its formation. We are not speaking here of the failure in the saints to reach, or answer to, the divine intention. In the epistle to the Galatians we see that they were giving up the power of the Spirit to return to the law (ch. 3:3), and the Corinthians were using the gifts of the Spirit for self-exaltation; thus early was a slight put upon the presence and ministry of the Spirit; but the apostle seeks to recover the Corinthians to the divine intention by presenting the glory of the Lord to them, so that in beholding it they might be fashioned according to it, as by the Lord the Spirit.

Men having been called and endowed of God for this service of making the tabernacle, the Lord speaks to Moses again of the Sabbath. It was the sign between Him and the children of Israel, among whom He was about to dwell. The Lord frequently refers to it in the Old Testament, especially when He made any fresh covenant, or instituted any new arrangement in His relationship with Israel. Here He goes back to the first institution of the Sabbath; it was the rest of God, expressing the satisfaction which He had in His own work. We must not think that God did not find delight in His own creation, because sin has entered and spoiled His rest in it. He saw everything that He had made, and it was very good; and as to man, he is fearfully and wonderfully made, the marvellous handy-work of God, the being for whom God prepared His Sabbath. This rest of God was proposed to Israel under law. They had enjoyed it for a short moment in grace, when the manna was given; and now that He is about to pitch His tabernacle in their midst He gives to them afresh His own rest, as the sign between Him and them for ever. The millennium, though not a perfect condition of things, is a kind of ante-chamber to the eternal state, the full and final rest of God; and in it there will be the keeping of a Sabbath for the earth, the true feast of tabernacles, when Israel will have been delivered fully from captivity and bondage, the earth freed from the usurper, a habitation found for the Lord by the true David, in which He will rest in the midst of His people, and the knowledge of His glory fill the earth. The assembly is the habitation of the glory which will then overshadow the earth, and through it the knowledge of God will cover the earth (John 17:23), while the Lord's presence will be known in a temple yet to be established in His holy hill.

In the New Testament the Lord sets aside the Sabbath, this sign of the covenant with Israel; for, on the one hand, He was rejected (Matt. 12:1-8), and on the other He was quickening souls in view of a new creation of which they were subjects. (John 5.) The first day of the week is that which belongs to the Assembly, the resurrection day on which the Lord took His place in the midst of His own.

Finally, the testimony written with the finger of God is given to Moses for the people; but, as the history shows, it had already been broken by their making a golden calf. Still the testimony remained, though the tables on which it was written were broken at the foot of the mount. Its place was in the Ark in the mind of God, and there it was afterwards deposited, a figure of Him who magnified the law and made it honourable. It is blessed to know that God's holy claims upon man were fully maintained in Jesus. The case. seemed hopeless to Moses and he broke the tables, but such an act did not reach up to the thoughts of God. The Ark was His predetermined provision for their integrity and maintenance. In Christ, the Yea and Amen, all God's glory is secured; and, blessed be His name, the sin in man which the law discovered has been put away for the believer by His death, that the full purposes of God, for His own glory in man, may be accomplished. "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:21.) T. H. Reynolds.