THE GOSPEL IN EXODUS: The Tabernacle
THE TABERNACLE"Moreover you shall make the Tabernacle." Exodus 26:1
The worship of the living God was well known to Israel's sons. They had raised altars to His name. The slaughtered victim and the curling smoke had often declared acquaintance with the way of peace. In holy rites, at many a bloodstained stone, their faith had used the ordered means. But until they reached the base of Sinai, no stated house for stated service had been reared. Here first the gracious word went forth, "I want the people of Israel to build me a sacred residence where I can live among them." Exodus 25:8. Here mercy planted the earliest symbol of God's constant presence. Here earth received her eldest model of a consecrated sanctuary. Happy the day throughout the camp when this Tent showed its new-born head. What thrilling joy would beat in every heart? What anxious scrutiny would scan each part!
Reader! draw near in spirit. Take your stand amid the wondering crowd. Admire with them the progress of the work. First, a measure-line is drawn. The length extends to forty-five feet—the breadth to fifteen. Solid foundations then are placed. A belt of silver sockets is laid down. Into this base the sides are fixed. These much exceed in preciousness. They are composed of choicest wood, and clad in purest gold. Their height ascends to fifteen feet. Especial care joins the corners together. And bars of gold stretch out their binding arms, to make the walls secure. Five shining pillars guard the eastern entrance. Rich drapery thence hangs. Such is the outward frame.
Four pillars rise within, to separate an inner chamber. These pillars hold a veil of costly work, to screen the Holiest from all view. This room is fifteen feet in each extent. The breadth, the length, the height, are one in uniform dimension. The house thus shaped is covered by four curtains. The first is wrought with brilliant hues, and sparkles with cherubic forms. A starry canopy thus vaults the roof. Next, a stronger skin of red is spread. The outward garment is a coarse sheet of rough material. This last completes the structure. Such is the front which meets the eye.
But mark, God Himself gave this gracious blessing. He drew the plan. He gave the model. He inspired the skill. Each part, then, is His wisdom. Each has a Gospel-tongue. Each heard aright reveals that 'Christ is All.' This is not fancy's dream. It is the Spirit's clear-toned lesson. He cries to all the family of faith—Look to the Tabernacle, and behold your Lord. There is a pulpit from which no voice is heard but His. It is the Bible. Its pages teach, 'Here is the main point: Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honor in heaven, at God's right hand. There he ministers in the sacred tent, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.' Hebrews 8:1-2
This earthly Tabernacle, then, is but a sketch of that gorgeous frame of Christ, which God, the Holy Spirit, wrought and planted in this earth. Again, like testimony sounds: 'So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world.' Hebrews 9:11. The word is plain. The earthly Tabernacle points to a spiritual Tabernacle, which human hands produce not, which human skill erects not, which human imperfection taints not. What can this be but Christ in the flesh, but not of flesh? Surely all doubts take wing. Divine authority decides the fact. Christ is discerned, the end and excellence of the predictive house.
Reader! pursue the clue thus found—and steep your soul in depths of heaven-born truth. View through this glass the various parts.
Bright silver forms the base. Where does this wealth come from? By whom and with what purpose is it given? It is the ransom-price of souls. Each numbered child of Israel brought a redemption-sum. It was a silver coin. Wealth might not add, nor poverty subtract. This holy tax supplied the base. My soul, what lessons cluster here! We see how sin destroys, how grace redeems. Our liberty is gone, our life is lost. A tyrant claims us. Justice demands its dues. But Jesus is laid low. The earth drinks in His blood. His merits are our ransom-price. His death is ransom paid. The Father testifies content—'Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.' The sockets add the echo of their proof. The Gospel-structure rests on a ransom. Remove it, and redemption falls. Without a price, the Savior has no saved ones. But the foundation is most sure. The Tabernacle firmly stands. Our Gospel-sockets never can be moved.
Next mark what splendid boards are tightly fastened to these pure supports. Two substances are here combined. They show a double nature—and thus proclaim the Incarnate God. Yes! Christ is here in Deity's transcendent blaze, in manhood's spotless purity. O my soul, how great, how perfectly fit is your redeeming Lord! All power is His to rescue and to satisfy, for what can resist the boundless might of God? He is entirely fit to take your place. He bears your flesh. He wears your form. This is the fact which wins for Him salvation's throne. This is the truth on which faith lives and joys and dies and soars to glory. Hence, types prefigure it, and prophets sing it, and Gospel narrative records it.
Hence, at each step of Jesus' life, the Spirit points, Behold the man—Behold the God! A babe is cradled in a manger-bed, while wondering angels announce 'Christ the Lord.' A lowly abode scarcely shelters the young child; while a special STAR brings distant sages to His feet. He sleeps as weary man; He arises as the mighty God, and stills the raging storm. He sits a worn-out traveler by the well, but speaks eternal life to a dead sinner's soul. He weeps in human sympathy at the grave but utters the sovereign mandate, 'Lazarus, come forth.' He moves about as lowliest of our lowly race but at His word, mute sing, lame leap, blind see, deaf hear, the weeping smile, each malady departs, and homes of anguish brighten with delight!
As dying worm, He hangs upon the cross—as Lord of life and glory, He snatches a poor lost one from the jaws of hell. As a weak corpse, the tomb receives Him. As conqueror of the grave, He strides forth in the strength of God. As friend, He gives last counsels to His friends—as God He mounts to heaven's high throne. Thus Scripture labors to fix the deep truth, that a God-man redeems us! O my soul, grasp tight the glad tidings. In face of sin and guilt and death and hell and judgment, cry out and shout, Christ is my All, for He is God—Christ is my All, for He is God in my own form. His manhood qualifies. His Godhead gives Him power. He is a perfect Savior!
Look now upon the wood co-joined with gold, and see how the bright Tabernacle's wall reflects this Gospel of God's grace. All skill was used to tighten and to brace the work. The corners were most carefully made fast. Five binding bars cemented the whole frame. Thus it was compact in solidity. This shows our Jesus as redemption's Samson. What arms of might are needed for His task! Hell's gates are strong; they must be borne away. Heaven's portals move not at a slender touch—they must be opened wide. The blows of Satan have terrific force—they must be all sustained. The weight of one least sin would crush a million worlds—all must be carried far from the sight of God. The cares and needs of the redeemed are burdens of unmeasured mass. Beneath this load, Christ stands unshaken as these mystic walls. Reader! you may confide in Him. He cannot collapse. Omnipotence cements His skill.
The Tent was divided. There was a lower and a second room. Faith hence is taught that there are diverse grades in the knowledge of the Lord. They who see much may yet see more. They who dive deep may still go deeper. They who soar high find higher heights. My soul, let not your wings hang down. Let each moment be an onward flight. The veil will soon be passed, and heaven display full glories to your view.
The entrance-curtain hangs from five pillars. Only four hold the inner veil. The lessening number seems to teach that opening space expands to welcome the advancing saint. If any find the first gate to be strait, let them press on. Each progress leaves some hindrance behind. The end of holy conflict and unflinching faith is wide admission to the courts of heaven.
Lastly, the coverings have a voice to speak to us. Spirit of Truth, speak by them to our hearts. The first has no inviting look. Its color shines not. Its texture is CRUDE. Thus to the worldling, Jesus shows no charms. The eye which seeks some tinsel-glitter will turn away in scorn. But there is much folly and peril here. Offence at the meek Savior's lowly appearance may be a rapid downfall into hell's worst depths. But while faith gazes, the features change.
The second covering is RED. The sign is not ambiguous. It testifies of blood. He who would save must die. From wounded sides and pierced hands a crimson stream must flow. This cries for pardon. This atones for guilt. This pays all debts. True Gospel-hope is a rich treasure from a blood-stained field. Pure Gospel-light shines from behind a blood-red cloud.
Beneath the red a SNOW-WHITE pure sheet appears. This sign, also, is a Bible-leaf. We read the spotless purity which shone in Christ. He bears man's flesh without one stain of sin. We see, also, the cleansing power of His blood. All washed therein are whiter than the snow-clad hills.
But look again. The tent now sparkles in variety of hues. The dazzling forms of shining cherubim adorn it. My soul, look onward to the day when Christ your Lord shall come. All faithful eyes shall see Him, fair in salvation's beauty, bright in salvation's glory, crowned with salvation's crown, praised with salvation's hymns. Reader! in that day will you shout and sing?
We cannot leave the Tent, and not observe the absence of a floor. Solemn the warning! Nothing which pictures Christ may lie beneath heedless feet. No paschal blood was wasted on the threshold. No type of Christ is trodden down. Let the poor scoffer fear. The wages of their contempt are paid in hell.
Another lesson craves our hearing. No door is closed. All day, all night, the Tabernacle stands open. No bolts, no bars obstruct. It seems to invite approach. Such is the Savior with His outstretched arms, calling poor sinners to His very heart. The lips of ever-willing love are ever open. Why will you perish? Come to Me.
The Tent was a token of a present God. There He was pledged to commune with His sons—to show His face—to hear their cry—so in Christ Jesus heaven meets earth, and earth ascends to heaven. The Father comes and clasps the guilty to His arms. The guilty come and find a home in God. Eternal smiles chase fears away, and reconciliation claps her hands. The sinner asks, the Father gives. The Father gives, the sinner asks yet more. And more bestowed calls forth the louder praise. Here mercy sings, and grace exults, and happy concord reigns, and love waves high an olive-branch of peace.
Reader! Do not leave these humble lines until you find that Christ, the Tabernacle, makes you thus one with God forever!
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