Studies in the Tabernacle, Pt7

The coverings

Scripture: Exodus 26:1-14

There are 4 coverings to consider. Strictly speaking the word Tabernacle, Exodus 26:1 is used only of the 10 curtains of fine twined linen which were embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet. There is a distinction made between the tabernacle, the tent formed by the curtains of goats’ hair; and the other coverings which were placed over these two sets of curtains. Three Hebrew words are used:

1. mishkan — ‘a dwelling place’, Exodus 26:1. This used only of the inner curtains, Exodus26:1, 7. The emphasis is on the place where God resides continually.

2. ohel — a tent, Exodus 26:7 (covering = ‘tent’), Exodus 26:11-14. This describes the curtains of goats’ hair. The emphasis in this word is upon a meeting place with God, Exodus 27:21.

3. micseh — covering, Exodus 26:14. These concealed the other layers of curtains from view.

The glory of Christ lies hidden to the natural mind beneath a series doctrines/historical truths that act as coverings. As these are believed and cease to be obstacles we get closer and closer to His glorious person as the One in Whom God dwells among men. The casual observer will see nothing of this. It is only by careful investigation and patient search that the glories and wonders of Christ’s person is seen. Cp 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, John 1:14. It is only by coming into the tabernacle and meeting God that the glories of Christ can be seen. Much of His glory was hidden in the OT — seen only by the priests. Now that glory is revealed.

1. The covering of badgers’ skins, Exodus 26:14.

This was the covering that met the eye of the onlooker. It was perhaps a startling sight to see — in that it was so plain and unattractive to the natural eye. Cp Ezekiel 16:10, the only other ref to badger’s skin — a shoe, made to be walked on! The path that the worshipper followed through the gate, to the altar was to prepare him to meet with God. That God was pleased to dwell in a place that outwardly seemed so unattractive and inglorious hardly seems possible to the natural mind. This is the view of Christ that the unbelieving world has. He appears to men as described in Isaiah 53:2. This covering entirely covered the Tabernacle. There was not the slightest hint of the glory that the plain exterior concealed. This covering speaks of Christ in His state of humiliation, Philippians 2:7, Mark 6:3. It is interesting that no dimensions are recorded for this covering — the extent of Christ’s humiliation is beyond the grasp of human minds.

 

2. The ram’s skins dyed red, Exodus 26:14.

That there was something more to this structure than its plain exterior may have been difficult for the onlooker to judge. He must rely heavily on the revelation that God gave in His commandment to Moses; and on the personal testimony of the priests. There are two specific facts about this second covering:—

(i) It was made of rams’ skins.

a) Christ is seen as the head of His sheep. The word ram = ‘mighty one, leader’.

b) The ram was associated with devotion and consecration. Cp Exodus 29:22, 26. This covering presents Christ as the One Who devoted Himself to the will of God.

(ii) It was dyed red.

Dyed red = ‘Adam’. He was made in the likeness of men. Christ’s devotion to His Father’s will as the second Adam was unto death and blood-shedding, Philippians 2:8. His devotion even unto the death of the cross covered His glory from view. To the natural mind the glory of Christ is obscured by this covering.

 

3. The curtains of goats’ hair, Exodus 26:7-13.

Eleven curtains of goats’ hair were made. They acted as a tent, Exodus 26:7 over the ‘tabernacle’ — the place where God dwelt, and formed a place where God may be met and fellowshipped with. The goat was pre-eminently the animal used in the sin offering. In connection with Israel’s feasts and when the people were collectively represented before God it was the only animal to be used in the sin offering. It is striking that in eleven cases the goat was specifically prescribed by God as the sin offering. The curtains of goats’ hair point to Christ as the great sin offering for His people. It is His offering for sin and guilt that forms the meeting place between God and the sinner. Only those who shelter under that covering may meet God and come to see the Divine glory. There is a special emphasis on this as the means of entrance to God’s presence, v9 — a doubling of part of the surplus material over the door.

These curtains were a dark fabric and therefore somewhat unattractive to the natural mind. This fabric was what the tents of the desert dweller was made of. Again the humiliation of Christ is seen. To be a sin offering He must become man and dwell among them. It is also interesting to observe the specific reference to the role of the women in the production of these curtains, Exodus 35:26. Christ came as the seed of the woman to be a sin offering for His people and to redeem them from the curse that was brought upon mankind in part by the woman’s sin.

These curtains were joined together by loops and brazen clasps, Exodus 26:10-11. Brass symbolizes the judgement of God. As a sin offering this is what Christ suffered so that His people may meet with God.

 

4. The curtains of fine twined linen, Exodus 26:1-6.

Here is the ‘dwelling place’ of God among men. Here we come to Christ as God incarnate, providing a dwelling place for God on earth. Cp Colossians 2:9. This is His glory! — a glory concealed under the humiliation of His being a man devoted to His Father’s will even unto death, acting as a sin offering for His people. The beauty of this tabernacle was only seen from the inside, and then only above the head — the curtains formed the ceiling of the holy places. None but those who have entered into Christ by faith and come to God by Him will see His glory, and they will primarily see it as they gaze upward.

The colours in the curtains.

White —These curtains prominently represent the righteousness of Christ. His sinless perfection even in His humanity means He is the place where God dwells.

Blue — the colour of Heaven (Exodus 24:10). A reminder of the heavenly origin of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:47, John 3:13. The loops that made the two parts of this tabernacle one were also blue.

Purple — the colour of royalty. Christ came as the King, Matthew 2:2, Matthew 3:2, Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 27:37. The sinner saw this as something to be mocked. The believer sees and rejoices in His royalty.

Scarlet — the colour of blood. His suffering is again seen.

Gold — 50 golden clasps linked the loops of blue and made one tabernacle. The gold in the Tabernacle represents the splendour and glory of deity. The gold was only visible in the holy place, the dwelling place of God Himself. A Heavenly work in Divine power brought all the aspects of Christ’s nature and life together into one dwelling place. There is a perfect combination in Christ of two natures, a perfect regulation of His two duties under the Law — to God and man.

 

The Cherubims

Heavenly glory is represented and portrayed. The believer in Christ has Heaven opened to them! A spiritual world, invisible to the natural eye is opened up. They see into Heaven — past that which causes others to stumble. To the one inside it is as if the other coverings do not exist! They see no plainness in Christ, nothing that is off-putting, all is glory. Cp 1 Peter 1:8-9. Though standing on the sand of earth there is a view of Heaven as we come into Christ. By trusting His saving work we have been brought into fellowship with God, to the place where heaven comes to earth!

The place of worship is a place of angelic activity. Cp 1 Corinthians 4:9, Ephesians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

The holy place was a place of service. In looking up there was an example of the industry with which God is to be served, Psalm 103:20-21.

 

5. The door, Exodus 26:36-37.

The Holy Place was the place of private fellowship with God. It was open only to those who were priests. The entrance to this place of special communion with God mirrored the gate by which the court was entered. Cp Exodus 27:16. There were differences: there were gold covered pillars and brazen sockets used here which spoke of Christ as the God-man providing access to God’s presence on the basis of His work of atonement represented at the brazen altar. No matter how far we progress into the presence of God, the means of advance is always the same as the means of initial entrance—by Christ the mediator. The fabric of the door also echoed the fabric of the Tabernacle inside with the subtraction of the embroidered cherubim. The angelic guardians of the Divine presence do not stand on guard—as they did in Genesis 3:24—to block access to the presence of God for any who approach Him through Christ.

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