“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6).
Where God And Men Begin
Entering the Tabernacle from the outside, the very last object to be reached would be the ark which was located in the most holy place. This piece of furniture was the first that God describes and commands to be made; it was evidently the most important. But before any of the holy articles of the inside were seen, the Israelite approaching the tabernacle would be confronted with the linen curtains of the court that completely surrounded the Tent except for the door at the east end. This was first with man, but the ark was first with God. God begins with that which was His perfect provision for man’s deepest need. It is not my purpose here to give what seems to me to be the teaching of the ark and its construction in detail, but merely to point out its place in the commandment of God to Moses when the instructions for the building of the tabernacle were given. The ark has the first and the foremost place. That ark has been called “a life-sized portrait of Christ.” The whole building and every part was typical of Christ in some way or other, but the ark speaks so plainly of our Saviour and Advocate that its message cannot be mistaken. The Cloud of God’s presence that covered the whole camp by night and by day, like a spreading umbrella had its central resting place on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holiest of all. Between the cherubims the cloud rested. On the mercy seat where the blood was sprinkled, it had its abiding place. Thus the ark was the center and the blood stained mercy seat that covered it was the foundation of Israel’s hope and salvation. Later, we hope to show in what marvelous ways the details of this ark and its ministries foreshadow our Lord and His work;
The Curtains Of The Court
In considering the Tabernacle, I want to begin where every man has to begin who would see the Kingdom of God; with the curtains of the court and with what they represent. That white linen fence completely hid the view of the dwelling place of God from man on the outside. It was five cubits or eight and a half feet high. This was too high for a man to see over. There was only one place where a view or an entrance could be obtained and that was at the door at the east end. The linen curtain every place else seemed to drive the enquirer to the door. There only had God provided an opening to enter and to see the glory of the interior.
The pure linen curtain hiding the building from the eyes of all seemed to speak the same language that our Lord used to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”; or the striking message of the Shepherd and the sheep, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 3:3; 10:9).
The curtains of the court of the Tabernacle were made of “fine twined linen.” White usually represents holiness or righteousness (Rev. 19:8). Linen in the garments of the High Priest had the same significance (Lev. 16:4). The type thus would picture the fact that righteousness prohibited the sinner, who was too short, to see the glorious dwelling place of God unless he came to the door where God had provided a way.
No Man Able To Keep The Law
This is the teaching of the Word of God everywhere. A man by taking thought could not add one cubit to his stature physically, neither by thoughts nor deeds could he add one cubit to its spiritual nature. No man is tall enough to see over; “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). That fence, too high for men and women, is like the law itself whose demands were beyond the obedience of any of the sons of Adam. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).
The Numbers Used
Let me call attention to the numbers used in the measuring and numbering of the curtains, pillars, door, and spaces of the court. They are all multiples of five. The numbers are five, ten, fifteen, twenty, fifty, sixty and a hundred. Numbers everywhere in the Tabernacle have their meaning. In the Numerical Bible Mr. Grant gives the meaning of the numeral five, as “The creature in relation to the almighty Creator”; or, “Five stands thus as the number of man, exercised and responsible under the government of God.”
Five is stamped everywhere on the body of man. We have five senses; we have five fingers on each hand, and five toes on each foot. By these five senses we have what the scientists call our “correspondence with environment.” All the experience of joy or sorrow of our entire lives is through those avenues to the soul. Our hands are the emblems of our work and activities, while our feet speak of our ways and wanderings. Thus the number five is stamped on all that makes up our lives in this world.
The court was five cubits high; it was too high for man to see over, for every man is ruined in every one of his senses; he has sinned and come short of the glory of God. Both hands and feet have been swift to shed blood (Rom. 3:15). Man has spoken with his feet and taught with his fingers (Prov. 6:13). God gave the true verdict when He said, “All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:12); and “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). So the five cubits high curtain fence surrounded God in His dwelling place, shutting out the entrance to, and even the seeing of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was a respected Pharisee, a moral, religious, educated ruler of the Jews; but the Lord Jesus said even to him, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Without that new birth, Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God. Morally, he was like King Saul, head and shoulders above the rest of the people, but he was not tall enough to see over the pure linen curtain; he, too, had sinned and came short of the kingdom of God.
But for the entrance on the east end, there would have been no hope. Most idolators like those of Jerusalem (Ezek. 8:16) worshiped toward the east. He who would enter the door and pass the altar into the presence of God must turn his back upon the sun. God’s way of worship was ever opposed to man’s way. The door of the Tabernacle was on the east end, where a man must turn his face in the opposite direction if he would enter where God could be known. This is a lesson difficult to learn, but absolutely necessary if you would know God. Is not my way as good as yours? we are often asked. Probably it is, but God’s way is never the way of man; twice in one book we read, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
The Way Was A Lovely Way
There was something beautiful about the entrance to the court of the Tabernacle. “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” (Exod. 27:16). The rest of the court was pure white unadorned linen, but the entrance was hung with curtains that were lovely to behold and marvelous in their working. The white linen all around spoke of God’s righteousness, His holy prohibition, but the curtains at the gate, and the gate itself, spoke of Christ. The width of the entrance was over thirty feet. What an ample door that was! Thus you could say the door was altogether lovely and altogether sufficient. Is that not true of Christ? It is true of none other but Him. He was lovely in His person and lovely in His ways; He is able to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by Him (Song of Songs 5:16; Heb. 7:25). A door, without steps, and through beautiful hanging curtains, seemed to say, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” or “I am the door,, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (Matt. 11:28; John 10:9). Had this door been narrow there might have been a thought of exclusion of some, but when it was so very wide it seemed to say, “Whosoever will, may come”.
In the description of the gate, its curtains and its pillars, the number four is apparent. There are four colors in the curtains, four pillars to support them and four sockets beneath the pillars. The gate or door representing our Lord, the number four is suggestive. There are four Gospels in the opening of the New Testament, giving us four perfect yet distinct views of God’s Christ. Matthew’s is the Royal Gospel, presenting Christ as King; the purple of the gate would suit this presentation. Mark is the Gospel of the obedient servant; the scarlet extracted from a worm suits this second evangelistic record of Christ. Luke writes the story of Christ as the perfect Man; this is the Gospel of the fine twined linen that was “curiously wrought” (Ps. 139:15). The fourth Gospel was written by John, who presents our Lord as the Son of God from Heaven; the Word made flesh. The heavenly blue suits the record of Christ in the Gospel of John.
There were four living creatures around the throne of God when John had his vision in Patmos (Rev. 4:6). These cherubim were always near the presence of the Lord when prophets of old saw “visions of God” (Ezek. 1:1). They seem to me to represent the way our God has manifested Himself always and only through Christ. It took four colors in the curtains of the gate to give the thought of varied loveliness and blended beauty, in the Way into God’s presence. The linen of the wall that kept men out, was white only, speaking of perfect righteousness; but the curtains that provided a way of access, were white, wrought with the colors that were the most strikingly beautiful. God’s salvation through the Lord Jesus is not mercy at the expense of righteousness, nor grace without justice; it is justice as pure as that of the law, together with mercy and love, that are as beautiful as the brightness of the colors of the gate. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe … Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24). The grace and the righteousness are the fine linen of the gate of the Tabernacle. In Christ, and in salvation, “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). This is suggested in God’s lovely way in the beauty of color and of working in the curtains of the gate. Through a spacious entrance, under the most lovely drapery, the poorest priest that ever was consecrated by precious blood, entered Jehovah’s dwelling place.
The pillars that supported the curtain of the court and the pillars that supported the curtains of the gate, all stood upon sockets of brass (Exod. 27:17). Beneath these strong pillars, was not the silver of redemption, as in the case of the boards of the building, which boards seem to represent believers, but the fire resisting brass, that speaks so often of the judgment of God (Ezek. 1:7; Daniel 10:6). The pillars of the gate on. sockets of brass, or bright copper, speak of Christ who went through the judgment for us, and who rose again, only brightened by the action of the fire. John, seeing Christ in resurrection, describes his feet as “like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15). Here is a most enduring foundation for all our hope in Him. It establishes a covenant of peace that can never be removed. In the fine linen was holiness manifested; in the brass of the pillars and sockets was intimated, judgment endured; while in the beauties of the lovely curtains, we see grace manifested and declared. This is God’s way into His tabernacle; Christ alone could possibly answer to it all. Man’s sinful shortness hinders him seeing in any other way; God’s declared righteousness, like the circling fence of linen, hinders any from entering, but by the door.
Man’s religion, whether it names the name of Christ, or hates it, is a vain attempt to climb up some other way. It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His mercy that He saves us. Christ is not one Saviour among others, neither is His work one of the items of our salvation; Christ is the only Saviour, and He saves by Himself alone (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 4:12).
The Silver Of The Pillars
It is said of all the pillars of the court that they were filleted with silver (Exod. 38:17). The same verse says that the chapiters of the pillars were overlaid with silver. If the pillars were inside the curtain, as is probable, then all that could have been seen of those pillars would be the ornamental chapiters above. This part of the pillars was overlaid with silver. The silver speaks of redemption. Above the prohibiting linen fence appeared the artistic crown of the pillars of sparkling silver. This seemed to say, “There is redemption.” That line of silver-capped pillars pointed the way all around the court to the door. This again is the Gospel in picture, giving no place to the thief who would climb up some other way, but leading the way to the door where there was room for any man to enter. The hooks of the pillars also were of silver. Any part of the pillars or fastenings that might be seen from the outside were of silver. This was God’s invitation to the outsider to seek the way redemption had provided for those who would find God.
At Evening Time it Shall be Light
In a home near Goderich forty years ago, an old man lay dying. He lived alone with his wife, and had been taken suddenly ill. An only daughter was teaching school, a number of miles distant.
A saved man and his daughter, a girl about twelve years had come to see him. The sick man’s daughter was the little girl’s Sunday school teacher. She was saved and on her way to glory, but her father had been engrossed with the world and indifferent to his soul’s need.
This dav when he was so low, lying with his face to the wall and his eyes closed, little Sadie was in the room with his wife. Although she had professed to have been saved at some meetings not long previous, the girl knew little of God’s way of salvation.
As the old man laid there with the appearance of quickly nearing eternity, his wife said to the child, “You stay here, dear, while I run and telegraph for our daughter.” The girl was afraid but what could she do? She thought, “What ever would I do if he should die and I alone here with him!” The wife had no sooner gone than he turned his head in the bed and looked at the child with wild staring eyes, “Sadie, my child,” said he, “Come here.” She dare not move. Again he requested, “Come here, my child.” Then she drew a little closer. He fastened his eyes so intently upon her and said in a tone of deep concern, “My child, I have been a very wicked man, more wicked than you could ever imagine, no one knows how wicked I have been. Do you think God could forgive me and save my soul?”
The poor girl was totally perplexed, and did not know what to say. She thought, “If he really is as wicked as he says he is, God surely will not forgive him,” but she was afraid to tell him so. He repeated his all absorbing question, “Do you really think God could forgive a wicked sinner like me?” She said, “I will run and get my father, he will tell you.” “No my child,” he said, “I do not want any man, do not bring any man here; you tell me child; would God save and pardon a great transgressor like me?” Having caught sight of the Bible on the table, she said, “I will read a chapter for you from the Bible.” “Very well,” said he.
Taking the Book, it fell open at the tenth of John. Slowly and distinctly she commenced to read, that he might take it in. When she came to verse seven, he was all attention: “Verily, verily I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” When she came to verse nine, his question was answered, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” The scalding tears coursed down his cheeks, “That is enough my child,” said he. God Himself had answered his question and given him “joy and peace in believing.” He just lived a few hours after and died in perfect peace, resting on the value of the precious blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin.