The court hanging and gate
Scripture: Exodus 27:9-19, Exodus 38:9-20
The Tabernacle was the place where God and man met together — its name was ‘the tent of meeting’, Ex 27:21. The tent itself was where God dwelt personally among His people. However, the immediate presence of God was not to be approached directly. Around the Tabernacle was a courtyard 100 cubits x 50 cubits which was surrounded by curtains.
I THE COURT HANGINGS
The Tabernacle was completely enclosed. The place of communion with God was completely separated from the rest of the camp. The hangings that enclosed the Tabernacle had two parts:
- The curtains of fine twined linen, Exodus 27:9. Enclosed the north, south, west, and a little more than half of the east side. This pure white hanging is a striking picture of the righteousness and holiness of God Himself, as well as a reminder of the righteousness—a mirror of His own—that He requires in those who would come to fellowship with Him.
- The gate. On the east side of the Tabernacle court there was a door into the Tabernacle court, giving access to the altar etc and the presence of God. The structure of the gate is described in Exodus 27:16-17, Exodus 38:18. It took up almost half of the east side (20/50 cubits).
The court hangings serve to teach:
1. When God reveals His purpose to have fellowship and communion with sinners He first reminds men of their separation from Him. At 5 cubits high (Exodus 27:18) this court hanging was a very effective barrier to even a sight of the activity inside. The righteousness of God prevents harmony between God and the guilty sinner. God’s requirement of a pure and perfect righteousness in all who would commune with Him is an impossible obstacle to sinners.
2. If there is to be rest and peace between God and the sinner then a way of access to God must be provided that is fully consistent with the righteousness of God. Such access is provided at a single gate — a picture of Christ as the door to salvation and the presence of God, John 10:9. It is to be observed that the white of the hangings is continued through the gate, Exodus 38:18. This text also specially emphasizes that the gate was answerable to [i.e. consistent with] the hangings of the court. In providing salvation for sinners through Christ, the righteousness of God is maintained while at the same time providing access to God. Cp Romans 3:25-26. Through Christ’s work of redemption God is able to justify the wicked and yet remain just Himself. The other colours here serve to illustrate other aspects of Christ’s character and work as Redeemer — His Heavenly person, His royalty, His humanity and blood atonement. It is striking that there are no cherubim! No threatening guardians of God’s holiness here! See Genesis 3:24. In fact there is the suggestion of God’s hands beckoning sinners to Himself: this hand and that hand, Exodus 38:15.
On entering the gate the worshipper obviously stood in a new relation to this hanging. That which had been a barrier to him approaching God, now having entered the gate surrounded, enclosed and protected him. The righteousness of God covers those who come to God through Christ. By faith in His atoning work they are justified and are made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness of God that demands the sinner’s condemnation equally insists upon the acceptance of all who trust Christ!
3. There is a clear distinction between the place where fellowship with God may be enjoyed and the world. Very clear lines of demarcation separated between the Tabernacle court and the camp. Fellowship with God takes place within distinct guidelines and parameters — consistent (Exodus 27:18) straight lines drawn by His righteous nature. A very deliberate act, therefore, was required for the offending Israelite to meet God. He must rise and, turning his back on everything of the camp, go through the gate to meet God on separated ground. To be saved and go on to enjoy fellowship with God separation is necessary — believing repentance for the sinner; a sanctified, separated stand on the Lord’s side for the believer, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18. We cannot be saved or have fellowship with God and stay in the world. Once inside the gate, the world was closed off from the view of the worshipper by a contemplation of a Holy God!
II HOW THE HANGINGS WERE DISPLAYED.
The hangings were supported by the pillars of the courtyard. These pillars were most likely made from shittim wood. The fact that the pillars of the tabernacle entrance were of shittim wood, Exodus 26:37, infers that all the pillars were the same. They were placed into a brazen socket in the earth, had a silver chapiter and were connected one to another by silver rods, fillets. They were further supported by cords and brazen pins driven into the earth. The white hangings and the hangings of the gate were then hung on silver hooks from the pillars.
How is the righteousness of God exhibited? Further, how is Christ the only access to God to be displayed before sinners? The manner in which these courtyard hangings were supported teaches us how men may see and understand the righteousness of God, and come to see Christ as their Saviour, the way to the Father, the door to life and salvation.
The righteousness of God and His mercy in Christ is displayed in two ways:—
1. Through the work of Christ Himself.
a) Foundational to the display of the curtains were the brazen sockets. The brass of the Tabernacle speaks of the judgement of God and particularly of Christ enduring that judgement. In the punishing of Christ the righteousness of God is displayed.
b) The silver ornamentation on the pillars was also vital. Silver in the Tabernacle speaks of redemption. Every silver article was made from the redemption money, Exodus 30:12, Exodus 38:25-28 — the price paid to be counted among God’s people and avoid the plague of His wrath. Here is a wonderful picture of the redemption purchased by Christ for His people! Christ’s redeeming work displays the strict, inflexible nature of Divine righteousness in that there was no escape for the only begotten Son once identified as the sinner’s substitute. Particularly, the mercy of God is revealed in the Saviour’s redeeming work.
2. Through the people of God. As the righteousness of God is exhibited in a godly life, the importance and necessity of Christ’s work will become apparent to sinners. As we resemble these pillars we will fulfill the role of exhibiting God’s holiness and mercy to men. Cp Galatians 2:9, Revelation 3:12. To be a pillar we must have certain characteristics.
a) A new nature. The pillars were of shaped and prepared shittim wood—not at all like the hard, twisted and thorny acacia wood they were produced from. They had been transformed into an upright pillar by the labours of Holy Spirit filled craftsmen. The work of the Spirit of God directly and indirectly through the servants of God is necessary to fashion a sinner into a pillar in the church. Though still in the flesh, the Christian is not as he was by nature, he is a new creature. As such he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ and becomes an exhibitor of the righteousness of God. Cp Ephesians 4:24.
b) An upright stance:
(i) A firm foundation. The pillars stood upright and displayed the hangings because they were set into a brass socket. The pillars were not simply stuck into the shifting sands of the desert. They stood securely and uprightly on this special foundation. This brazen socket pictures Christ’s suffering the judgement of God in our place. We can only stand in Him, upon Him as the foundation of our faith and believing practice. Here is the anchor sure and steadfast of Hebrews 6:19.
(ii) The stability of the pillars was further enhanced by cords attached to brazen pins. Stability in an upright position was thus secured by the pillars being bound to the pin. In Isaiah 22:23 the Messiah is identified as the pin who supports the weight of His people. Having been planted in the earth His strength supports His people.
c) Redeemed. The pillars were ornamented with silver.
(i) Chapiters. The crowning glory of each pillar was a silver chapiter on its head.
(ii) Filleted. The pillars were all joined together. They were connected one to another by a silver rod. The people of God are linked together by a common redemption. They best exhibit God’s holiness and grace as they take hold one of the other, taking a united stand, one helping the other to hold up Christ.
(iii) Hooks of silver were the means of supporting the hangings of the court. Righteousness hangs on the hook of redemption! None but the redeemed wear and exhibit the righteousness of God.
As the people of God conform to the Divine plan, standing uprightly in line with the Divine measure there is a full and proper demonstration of God’s purity and gospel grace in Christ. There is also a clear line drawn between that which is holy and what is profane.