The Tabernacle 2
Any study of the Tabernacle will, almost by default, involve an examination of much Scripture. After all, we are attempting to discover what different aspects of it referenced regarding the work of Christ and we do not want to do that with opinion. Of necessity, then, this short blog series will involve more scripture selections than I normally use in writing. I cannot bring myself to apologize for it and I am sure you would not desire me to do so.
Let us begin with the instructions Moses received regarding the exterior of the Tabernacle. I have chosen to call this the courtyard.
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.
13 And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.
14 The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
15 And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
16 And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.
17 All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.
18 The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.
I believe the entrance itself was designed by Jehovah to represent the salvation that is in Christ. Jesus would later assert, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10.9) The gate faced east so that those who entered for the morning sacrifice did so in the light. The gate was the only way of access; there was no other way in at all. Thus, the gate was designed for everybody – rich, poor, priest, Levite, Jew, proselyte – all had to come in the same way. Included in this “whosever” gate especially were those who were sinners. They did not have to clean up first. They came through that gate in order to be cleansed. And it only took one step to get inside. It was not a process; it was instantaneous.
Let us turn our attention now to the linen material that formed the fence around the courtyard. The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass. (Exodus 27.18) This purified white linen, marred by no imperfection or flaw or stain, represented the righteousness that is to be found in Christ. At His transfiguration we are told, And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. (Mark 9.3) That moment of glory pulled back the curtain of Jesus’ flesh and revealed to those around His essential moral purity, His absolute holiness. This is in direct contrast to the Biblical illustration of filthy garments as representative of sin. But we all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64.6) To the contrary, when the wind blew around the Tabernacle those billowing walls of pure white were securely anchored in place. Step inside the gate – salvation – and you immediately find yourself surrounded by the white linen of righteousness.
We find this illustration from one end of Scripture to the other, but especially in Revelation.
3.4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6.9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
7.13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
19.8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
19.14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Without a doubt, these linen walls represented righteousness, and the only way into that righteousness was via salvation. Once we come to Christ to solve our sin problem we will find ourselves completely enclosed in the perfect righteousness of that Saviour. What precious thoughts!
In addition to the gate and the linen fence we see a third metaphor of Christ in the courtyard, namely the purified silver metal that gleamed here and there in between the linen. Anchored to wooden supports, it supported those linen walls. I believe this silver represents the redemption from sin that Christ would bring.
24 And forty sockets of silver he made under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
25 And for the other side of the tabernacle, which is toward the north corner, he made twenty boards,
26 And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
I do not want to press this illustration too hard, but the context of what silver was used for in Moses’ day is interesting. A massive slave horde exited Egypt in a tremendous hurry on the day after Passover, and they had experienced precious little peace and quiet since. The pause at Mt. Sinai was not just for religious reasons; it was also for organizational reasons. A society, albeit a mobile one, needed to be standardized out of the chaos of the exodus. To that end, God instructed Moses to count and tax each adult male. This tax was to be paid at the Tabernacle and was called “atonement money”. Every adult male paid the exact same amount, a half shekel.
11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Much more would be said by Moses soon regarding this thing of atonement, but for the moment let us note that it was paid to the Tabernacle, and paid in silver. And it was these same silver half-shekels that were melted down and used to form the socket supports for the boards that held up the linen walls of the Tabernacle courtyard.
Exodus 38:25–27 (KJV 1900)
25 And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
26 A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
27 And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket.
This head tax, for lack of a better phrase, continued to be required on an on-going basis as the family’s oldest boy reached his maturity. Initially, Jehovah required the service of the eldest son in each family and when He later shifted that service requirement to the Levites as a class the oldest son in each family in Israel was required to pay this tax as a sign he was opted out of service. Later, we find it labeled “redemption money.”
46 And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;
47 Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:)
48 And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.
49 And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites:
50 Of the firstborn of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
51 And Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.
In such a context it is not hard to understand why I have labeled silver as a symbol of our purchased redemption. There was no exception to this price. This was the only price. Nothing different was accepted. Nothing beyond this was needed.
In summary, as you step into the Tabernacle courtyard you come through the gate, which represents the salvation that is only available in Christ. You are then enveloped in the beautifully white linen of righteousness, Christ’s righteousness not your own. This righteousness was based on or supported by the silver sockets of your redemption through Christ’s death, a death that atoned for your sin. Now if that is not a pretty picture of Jesus Christ and what He does for the transgressor I do not know what is.
What is our part? To receive it, and to urge people to enter into it. The psalmist said, For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84.10) As I understand it, the doorkeeper was not there primarily to keep the undeserving out. After all, every one who entered was undeserving. No, I believe the doorkeeper was there at the gate to urge people to come in, to welcome them to take that step, to cross the threshold of salvation and enter into the spotless righteousness obtained by redemption’s price. What a grand thing to be a doorkeeper!
…and this is just the fence that creates the courtyard around the structure.