The details as to the ark are given to us in verses 10-16. It was
the very centre of the whole typical system and yet in itself nothing
could have been simpler. It was a rectangular wooden box, but made of
the very durable "shittim," or "acacia" wood, and then overlaid both
without and within with pure gold. It is clear then that the wood gave
to the ark its form, and the gold imparted to it its character.
At once we can see how aptly this typifies the incarnate Saviour, in
whom both Humanity and Deity were perfectly found. The very durable
shittim wood, which gave form to the ark, indicated His humanity, for
He was in "the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men"
(Phil. 2: 7). But when the ark was completed only gold was visible,
though it was supported by the wood. His Deity gave character to all He
said and did.
In Paul's address to the Athenians he said
that, "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or
silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device" (Acts 17: 29). In
keeping with this, art and man's device were wholly excluded from the
ark. It was just pure gold without ornamentation, but with a "crown,"
or "border" round its top, and the gold was as much within it as
without. What our Lord was externally, where He could be observed, He
was internally, where no one could see. There was no discrepancy.
Further it was so constructed as to be adapted for journeying on their
way to the land. It had rings of gold into which were inserted staves
of wood overlaid with gold. Thus it was until a permanent resting place
was found for it in the temple which Solomon built, when the staves
were drawn out, as we learn in 1 Kings 8: 8. Lastly, Moses was
instructed to put in the ark the testimony that he was to receive from
God, engraved on the tables of stone. This too turns our thoughts to
Christ, for He alone could say "I delight to do Thy will, O My God:
yea, Thy law is within My heart " (Ps. 40: 8).
17-22, give us details of the mercy seat and the cherubims. The mercy
seat formed the lid of the ark, and it was of pure gold without wood.
When we reach Leviticus 16, we learn that once a year the blood of
atonement was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and thus propitiation was
brought to pass. Now while it is man who needs to be justified,
redeemed, reconciled, it is God who must be propitiated. The claims of
His righteousness and holiness must be met: hence, we believe, only
pure gold—typifying God in holiness and righteousness—was employed in
constructing the mercy seat.
The two cherubims were also of
gold, beaten into the required shape, and really all of a piece with
the mercy seat, one at either end of it. Genesis 3: 24, plainly
indicates that the cherubims are a special order of angelic beings,
that are concerned with. the execution of God's righteous judgments.
The next time they are mentioned in the Scripture is in our chapter,
where they are to be represented in gold. Beyond the mention of their
wings and their faces no attempt is made to describe their form.
The fact that they had faces indicates that they had perception —eyes
to behold. Their wings declared that they would be swift to act in
righteousness against sin. But their faces were to be, "toward the
mercy seat," and not looking outward toward the sinful people. They
were to be represented as gazing on the spot where the blood of
propitiation was to be. So in Genesis 3, we see them with the flaming
sword of judgment against sin. Here as in repose, because their eye is
on the blood. In Ezekiel we find the cherubims more fully described,
and there they are seen supporting, "the likeness of a throne," and on
that, "the likeness as the appearance of a man." Thus these
foreshadowings advance step by step, and we see them first, with the
sword of justice; then with the blood of sacrifice; lastly, upholding
the Saviour on His throne.
For the moment however the Lord
emphasized that the mercy seat was to be the place where He would meet
with Moses, and commune with him of all the things as to which He would
command the children of Israel.
Verses 23-30, give us
details as to the construction of the table, on which the shewbread was
to be placed. It was smaller than the ark and serving a different
purpose, but otherwise the details are very similar. This was to stand
outside the veil in the holy place where daily it was under the
observation of the priests. Again here we see a type of Christ, but as
supporting the shewbread, or "bread of the presence," which became food
for the priests. We do not get the details as to the shewbread until we
reach Leviticus 24. All the vessels connected with it were to be of
Verses 31-39, give us details as to the
candlestick, or lampstand of pure gold, and here we have very clearly a
type of the Spirit of God. There were to be three branches on either
side of the central stem; seven lamps in all, and these provided all
the light that was necessary in the holy place. The table with its
shewbread were only visible in the light that the lampstand shed. In
that light the priests went about their daily service. The branches
were so constructed that both flowers and fruit were to be seen, and
though there were six branches they were to be of one piece with the
central stem—"one beaten work of pure gold."
We can see
here an indication in type of the truth announced in 1 Corinthians 2:
10-16. The things of God are not to be apprehended by any powers which
are resident in ourselves, but only by the Spirit of God. No other
light than His illuminates God's holy place and things.
the seven lamps, which yet were but one lampstand, we see a
foreshadowing of that presentation of the Spirit of God which we find
later in the Bible, when we read of the Lamb having "the seven Spirits
of God." With this we may connect Isaiah 11: 2, where we read of the
Spirit of God—like the central stem—but connected in detail with the
three couplets, "of wisdom and understanding," "of counsel and might,"
"of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." In Revelation 1: 4, the
seven Spirits are "before His throne," as typically the lamps are found
in our chapter. In Revelation 5: 6, they are, "sent forth into all the
earth," as preparing for the work of judgment, about to be directed by
the Lamb. It is made abundantly clear in the New Testament that the
Spirit of God is one, yet in the fulness of His power there is a
The chapter closes with an
admonition to Moses that he was to follow with exactness the pattern of
all this, which he was to see while in the mount with God. He was not
to be tempted to alter anything or improvise anything. Moses saw the
pattern, but he did not see the mighty Realities which, in a shadowy
way, the patterns represented. Had he altered anything the good things
to come would have been misrepresented. God's patterns were perfect, as
far as they went, for perfection marks all the works of God. If man
alters he spoils. Let us take this to heart in regard to the far more
wonderful teachings of the New Testament.
Exodus 26 is
occupied with instructions as to the construction of the tabernacle.
But, before we consider these, let us raise the question as to why the
instructions of chapter 25 do not embrace the details as to the golden
altar of incense—which was the third article of furniture in the holy
place, standing just before the veil. We believe the answer to be that
the three that are mentioned — ark, table, lampstand — set before us
God's approach to man, in Christ and by His Spirit. The altar of
incense is connected typically with man's approach to God, conducted
through the high priest. Hence we find the details in chapter 30, after
details of the priestly garments and of the consecration of the priests
given us in chapters 28 and 29. What looks like disorder from a human
standpoint, we find to be God's order, when its spiritual import is
The first fourteen verses of Exodus 26 give
details of the curtains which composed the tent, which is called the
tabernacle. As in the previous chapter so here the instructions start
with the innermost curtain. God works from the within to the without,
from that which was only visible to the priests within to that which
met the eyes of the people without.
Before considering the
details given to us, we must ask this question—What is the typical
significance of the tabernacle as a whole? And we must attempt to
The Epistle to the Hebrews makes it plain that
it was "the patterns of things in the heavens" (9: 23); that Christ is,
"an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect
tabernacle, not made with hands" (9: 11); that there is, "the true
tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (8: 2). Consequently
we must regard it in the first place as a type of God's mighty
universe. The people were on the earth, and they had to stand without.
Between the door of the court and the door of the tabernacle stood the
altar of burnt offering, as we learn in the next chapter. This typified
the first heaven; and into the first heaven the Lord Jesus was "lifted
up" to die.
The holy place, where stood the table and the
lampstand, was a type of the second heaven. The holiest, where the ark,
the mercy seat and the cherubims were placed, typified the third
heaven, the immediate presence of God, where the only light was the
glory cloud. Aaron was the minister of the tabernacle: Christ is the
Minister, who will uphold God's universe of blessing for ever.
But, in the second place, we may discover in the tabernacle, and
particularly in the curtains, that which is typical of Christ Himself.
God dwelt in the tabernacle, and later in the temple that Solomon
built, and it was the Lord Himself who, "spake of the temple of His
body" (John 2: 21). Typically, God was in the tabernacle, when Moses
had made and pitched it. In a far more wonderful way, "God was in
Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 19).
Thirdly, we may see, in certain
details at all events, that which is typical of the saints as God's
present dwelling-place by His Spirit. This is referred to in Ephesians
Now let us consider the details of the curtains as
typical of Christ. They were in four layers. Only the bottom one would
be visible in the holy place and the holiest of all. It was of fine
twined linen, shot through with blue, purple, scarlet, embroidered with
cherubims. Fine twined linen itself was cloth of a beautiful texture.
Blue is the heavenly colour. Purple is the royal colour, while scarlet
is emblematic of earthly glory, and also of the blood of sacrifice.
Cherubims represent God, acting judicially in righteousness. All that
was represented by these things were found in perfection in Christ. His
holy Manhood was perfect in its texture, not one thread missing or out
of place. In Him was manifested every heavenly grace and all royal
power, whilst in the blood of His sacrifice every judicial claim of the
Divine nature was met and satisfied for ever.
covering was composed of ten curtains of the same length and width,
coupled together by loops of blue attached to taches or clasps of gold.
These things, which typified what was heavenly and Divine, brought the
ten curtains into one whole. The wonderful life of our Lord might be
divided into different parts—for instance, the days of His infancy, of
His childhood, of the early, hidden years of His manhood, of His
baptism, of His temptation in the wilderness, of His public ministry,
of His sufferings and death—but all was of a piece, coupled together by
the Divine and heavenly fulness that dwelt in Him.
beautiful curtains were laid curtains of goat's hair. They are called
the "covering," or "tent," of the tabernacle. So evidently the ten
inner curtains were considered the tabernacle proper. This tent was a
size larger, for each curtain was two cubits longer, and though of the
same width—four cubits—there were eleven of these, so that in the front
one could be doubled over. The goat's hair curtains therefore made a
Now curtains of goat's hair would be
rough and unattractive in appearance compared with those of fine twined
linen beneath. They would typify therefore that holy separateness from
the ways of sinful men, even when our Lord received sinners and ate
with them, and that brought Him into severe conflict with the Pharisees
and scribes. We are reminded that truth as well as grace came by Jesus
If the beautiful curtains of fine twined linen
formed the tabernacle, and the goats' hair curtains formed the tent, we
lastly have in verse 14 two coverings that were to be placed over all.
First, one of rams' skins dyed red. In Exodus 29 we find repeated
several times the words, "ram of consecration." Two rams were slain in
the consecration of the priests. Hence here we may see a type of Christ
filling up the full measure of His consecration to God in death itself.
His beautiful life, so fully maintained in holy separation to God, was
offered sacrificially to God, and this filled up the measure of His
Second, there was the rough outer covering of
badgers' skins. This protected all that lay beneath from any
defilement. There was in our Lord that which was wholly repellent of
all evil. But this stirred up the antagonism of the world, and it
explains why the prophet had to announce that, "When we shall see Him,
there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. 53: 2).
Verses 15-30, give us the details of the boards and bars which formed
the framework of the tabernacle, and on which all the curtains rested.
Here, we think, we have a type of the saints, who are "fitly framed
together," and who are "an habitation of God," as we see at the end of
Ephesians 2, though there it is the temple rather than the tabernacle
that is referred to.
Each board had two tenons, which
fitted into sockets of silver. Thus they were enabled to stand upright.
Silver, as we presently find, was the metal used in the redemption
money, and it is only on the ground of redemption that the saint can
stand upright in the presence of God. But even so, without the bars
there would only have been a collection of separate boards standing
upright in the wilderness.
It was the bars that braced
together the individual boards into one structure. There were five
bars, and the middle one was to stretch from end to end. That middle
bar it was that specially imparted a unity to the structure. Today
there are more things than one that bind the saints together, but the
one supreme bond is found in the indwelling Spirit of God.
Lastly, we notice, that all the boards and bars were covered with gold,
and the rings through which the bars were inserted were also of gold.
That which was to characterize the ark was also to characterize these.
The saints are by no means divine, but as God's workmanship, "created
in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2: 10), they bear Christ's character. There is a
fulfilment of the prayer of Moses, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God
be upon us" (Ps. 90: 17).
Let us never cease to praise God that this is so.