(Exodus 26:31-33, 36-37)
“Curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”. (Pa. 139:15-16).
The Word translated “curiously wrought” in Psalm 139 is the very same word that is translated “needlework” and “embroiderer” in Exodus 35:35; 38:23, etc. “Needlework” is literally “the work of an embroiderer.” The beautiful curtains of the tabernacle with their “blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen” are all typical of the body and lowly humanity of our Lord. This is true of the lovely curtain of the gate of the court; it is true of the hanging for the door of the tent; it is beautifully true of the vail hiding the most holy place; it was also true of the curtains overhead in the holy place, the inner covering of the tabernacle. The “fine twined linen” was the work of the “weaver” (Exod. 35:35); the “needlework” was the work of the “embroiderer” (Exod. 38:23); the “cunning work” was the work of the “cunning workman” (Exod. 35:35). Bezaleel was all three, and so was Aholiab. Both these men are typical of the Holy Spirit of God,
It is quite striking that when the Spirit of God would speak of the preparation of the body of our Lord in Psalm 139 He should use the very word exclusively selected to express the making of these beautifully woven and embroidered curtains of the tabernacle! It is very suggestive. It is a coincidental witness to the unity of the Scriptures. It confirms that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). It illustrates this revelation “the Word was made flesh, and [‘tabernacled’] among us” (John 1:14).
We have already spoken of the curtains of the gate, and also of the covering curtains of the tabernacle, so now we consider the hanging of the door of the tent and the vail.
Comparisons And Differences
“The vail” and “the hanging for the tabernacle door” are mentioned consecutively (Exod. 36:35-38). They are associated undoubtedly because of the similar teaching of them both. The vail is distinctly said to be “His flesh” (Heb. 10:20). When the actual flesh of Christ was rent upon the cross, the typical vail was rent in the temple (Matt. 27:51). The priest in Israel once a year entered the most holy place around the vail, now the people of God enter the most holy place “through the vail” (Heb. 10:20).
There are many similarities between the vail and the curtains of the tabernacle door. Both hung on pillars and both were made of blue purple and scarlet and fine twined linen. There were however these and other differences: the door curtains hung on five pillars with brass sockets; while the vail hung on four pillars with silver sockets. The vail was wrought with cherubim; but in the curtain of the door the cherubim were omitted.
In contrasting the curtains of the door with the curtains of the gate, it could be stated that the curtains of the gate on their four pillars typify Christ as He is presented as a Saviour in the Gospels; while the curtains of the door to the holy place present Christ to us in the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude. The curtains of the gate present Christ as the way to the altar, and to the laver; but the curtains of the door present Christ to us as the way to the place of testimony, of fellowship, and of prayer.
Contrasting the vail with these other curtains there is this outstanding difference; the other curtains invited Aaron and his sons to draw near, but the vail separated the most holy place and forbade entrance ( Exod. 26:33). The lovely curtains drew attention to what was beyond them, but the vail covered what was beyond it (35:12).
Like the colors of the curtains of the door and gate, when our Lord was here in the days of His flesh; His lovely ways, His gracious words, and His mighty works, attracted sinners to Him as a Saviour. His gracious hand was laid upon the little children, upon the bier of the dead, upon the fever victim, and upon the filthy leper. His sympathetic eyes wept at the grave of His friend, and over the city of His enemies. His “lips were most sweet,” for “never man spake like this man.” All that was lovely about Him drew the needy to Him as a Saviour. This was the antitype of the curtains attracting the attention to the altar and to the holy place.
The vail covered the glory of the most holy place. How true this was of the flesh of our Lord! When He became a man He did not leave His glory, though many of our hymns seem to say He did; neither did He lay His glory by, but He covered His glory. His flesh was a “vail of the covering” (Exod. 35:12).
The mention of the cherubim in the vail suggests something that is very lovely. Those cherubim are called in one place, “cherubims of glory” (Heb. 9:5). They were glorious beings and glory seems to be their dwelling place. Thus the vail that covered the glory revealed the glory in another way. The cherubim of glory beyond the vail could not be seen, but the lovely forms of cherubim in the vail could be seen.
When our Lord was here the outshining glory of Hebrews 1:1-3 was hidden from men, but the glory of grace and truth was seen (John 1:14). The glory above the brightness of the sun was covered, but the glory of the “rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” was seen. Our Lord covered His essential glory but revealed His moral glory.
While the vail was intact the way into the holiest was not made manifest (Heb. 9:8). It was the death of Christ that rent the vail of the temple (Matt. 27:51). It was the cross and the blood shedding of Christ that opened the way for us to God. How great the sin of the priests to sew that vail up again! This is what Judaism and every system of works does; it sews again the vail that the hand of God has rent. To put Christians under law makes the cross of Christ of none effect (Gal. 2:21).
The Pillars Of The Vail
The number of these pillars was four. Christ in Matthew, in Mark, in Luke, and in John, is the One these pillars represent. Like all the wood of the tabernacle this wood of the pillars is shittim wood. It was the strong incorruptible wood of the wilderness. It represented the incorruptible humanity of our Lord. The gold that covered the pillars is His Deity.
There is no mention of “chapiters” above these pillars of the vail. This is peculiar to these pillars. They seem to be unfinished above. The foundation of silver (redemption) is complete beneath; for the work of redemption was finished when our Lord died (John 19:30). What is the significance of these pillars, cut off and unfinished at the top? Daniel 9:26 may shed some light on this question. The marginal reading and that preferred by the Revisers is: “Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing.” As far as the kingdom was concerned, our Lord when He died had nothing. Israel was not gathered (Isa. 49:5).
The enemies of our Lord rejoiced for they thought that His death meant the complete failure of all He came to do. What a triumph His resurrection was! Those uncrowned pillars that held up the veil seem to suggest that there was something incomplete about all the institutions of the tabernacle. When Christ died and the vail was rent; when He rose again and ascended to glory; then those provisional institutions passed away. The uncapped pillars of the vail seemed to say, There is something more coming, there is a higher ministry to be finished above, that cannot be perfectly represented here.
Now that we have the substance, we thank God for the shadows. Now that that which is perfect has come, we learn by the pictures the preciousness of the realities we are privileged to handle.
When at last the vail was rent and it hung there in two pieces torn from the top to the bottom, then perhaps the uncrowned pillars that supported it told their story more perceptibly. Those pillars pointed upward to an unfinished work in Heaven when the rent vail attested to a finished work on earth (Heb. 7:25).
The sockets of the pillars of the door were of brass. This indicates strength to bear the judgment of God. The sockets of the vail were of silver as said before to intimate redemption for us. When the vail was rent and the worshiper passed through the vail, he passed over the foundation of silver (Heb. 10:20).
These pictures are inexhaustible in their varied teaching. Like a diamond in the light you may turn them round and round and no matter how you look at them, new beauties will appear. It is possible to reach the end of all the works of men, but it is not possible to reach the end of any of the works of God. “And still new beauties may we see; and still increasing light.”
A Testimony to Christ
“Jesus Christ is the most sacred, the most glorious, the most certain of all facts; arrayed in a beauty and majesty which throws the ‘starry heavens above us and the moral law within us’ into obscurity, and fills us truly with ever growing reverence and awe. He shines forth with the self-evidencing light of the noonday sun. He is too great, too pure, too perfect, to have been invented by sinful and erring men. His character and claims are confirmed by the sublimest doctrine, the purest ethics, the mightiest miracles, the grandest spiritual kingdom, and are daily and hourly exhibited in the virtues and graces of all who yield to the regenerating and sanctifying power of His spirit and example. The historical Christ meets and satisfies all moral and religious aspirations. The soul, if left to its noblest impulses and aspirations, instinctively turns to Him as the needle to the magnet, as the flower to the sun, as the panting heart to the fresh mountain. We are made for Him, and ‘our heart is without rest until it rests in Him.’ He commands our assent, He wins our affections and adoration. We cannot look upon Him without spiritual benefit. We cannot think of Him without being elevated above all that is low and mean, and encouraged toward all that is good and noble. The very hem of His garment is healing to the touch. One hour spent in His communion outweighs all the pleasures of sin. He is the most precious gift of God to a perishing world. In Him are the treasures of wisdom, in Him the fountain of pardon and peace, in Him the only hope and comfort in this world and that which is to come. Christ is the glory of the past, the life of the present, the hope of the future. He alone can solve the mystery of our being, and fulfill our intellectual desires after truth, our moral aspirations after holiness, and the longings of our feelings after happiness and peace.”
Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me.
There’s love and life and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.