The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

by Keith Cook

Back to the Table of Contents

The Sanctuary
"Ye are the Temple of God".

AN Israelitish member of the encampment (i.e, a member of the typical people of the faces), in approaching this dwelling place of Yahweh would be conscious of the fact that he was nearing the place set apart ("afar off") for that special purpose. It was so distinct from, and so different from, the surrounding encampment.

He would first see surrounding the whole separated area, a curtained wall of white (Exodus 27:9-15), in stark contrast to the sun-darkened tents of the Israelites.

The curtains were supported by 60 brass pillars each capped with a silver chapiter, standing upon a brass socket, and having silver hooks attached. Each pillar was supported by "cords and pins" (Num. 4:32) and was connected to its neighboring pillars by a "fillet" of silver. Strong interprets the original Hebrew as to join; attached as a fence rail. Gesenius has it as, "to join together; poles or rods which were used to join together the tops of the columns of the Court of the Tabernacle from which curtains and hangings were suspended" (Exod. 27:~0,11; 38:10-17)

The enclosure formed by the curtain walls was 100 cubits long by 50 cubits wide, which, on the basis of 18 inches to the cubit, would be 15O feet by 75 feet. The wall stood 5 cubits or 7 feet 6 inches high.

The white curtains represented righteousness upheld and exhibited. It was Yahweh's righteousness (John 17:25; Psa. 119:137; 145:17); a righteousness exhibited to perfection in His own son (Matt. 3:15; Rom. 3:24-26). An example of its extension to Yahweh's saints in Christ is referred to in Rev. 19:8: "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints".

As Brother Thomas renders this, and as the Greek has it, "righteousness" should appear as righteous actions of saints, emphasizing that deeds, and not merely words, are required of those who would be among the redeemed.

That righteousness, to be seen, must be upheld and displayed by human nature (Brass pillars) which is of the "earth, earthly" (Brass bases) because of its relationship and contact with the world.

The Lord Jesus Christ was Son of Righteousness because he was Son of God. While in "the flesh" (Heb. 2:14) he displayed His Father's righteousness despite the weakness and propensities of the nature he bore.

In him, Yahweh displayed His righteousness that mankind may be attracted thereto, and desire to become His habitation through the Spirit-Word. By that means, those who respond will also manifest His righteousness. This is a necessary development if we would share His glory (Rom. 5:2), at the coming of the Son.

Each pillar was supported by cords and pins (Numbers 3:37) attached thereto by silver hooks. It is believed that the cords were located both inside and outside of the curtained wall. They could thus represent the Law and the Prophets, coming to us through human (brass) means.

When, in the days of his earthly ministry, the Lord upheld his Father's righteousness, he was helped to do so by the two "witnesses" of the "law and the prophets" (Rom. 3:21). They supported him in the work he did.

The principle applies to all other saints in all ages. For in the Law and the Prophets are found expressed those Divine precepts and principles that affect each one both inwardly in mind and conscience; and outwardly in life and service. Thus, strengthening support and stability is provided for mortal frames that are upholding Divine righteousness.

In distinct contrast to the brazen pillars and bases, silver was employed in the "fillets", or the connecting rods that linked each pillar with its neighbor; and from which the "chapiter" atop each pillar was also made (Exod. 38:27,28).

Silver represented the price of redemption or atonement (Exod. 30:12-15). It pointed forward, in symbol, to redemption in Christ Jesus by which the pillars in Yahweh's Ecclesia, like the apostles of his own day, are joined together with the Lord and each other (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19).

The atonement effected by the Lord's sacrifice covers the brazen characteristics of our earthly nature. To teach the lesson, the pillars were topped by silver chapiters, representing the redemption in Christ as helmets of salvation (Eph. 6:17).

The purpose of our call, therefore, is to uphold and display the principles of Divine righteousness. We must build into our characters, the qualities of holiness and beauty as exhibited by the Lord Jesus Christ. He was "God manifest in the flesh", and we, too, must likewise bring God into our lives, if we would live forever.

The Court Entrance
"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."

EXODUS 27:16 explains that it was possible to enter this separate place by one way only - via an entrance of 20 cubits, 3O feet wide made of curtains supported by four pillars.

The curtains were of white fine-twisted linen entwined with blue, scarlet and purple colors.

The offerer, approaching with his sacrifice, here made contact with the Sanctuary through the priest who was to be identified with him and his offering (Lev. 1:3).

As explained previously white linen represented righteousness, whether Yahweh displayed it in His son, or manifested it in his disciples (Rev. 19:8).

Scarlet represented the nature of sin's flesh (Isa. 1:18), the state of mortality that resulted from sin.

Blue stands for heavenliness, or God manifested and remembered (Num. 15:38-40).

Purple represented

  1. Royalty (Mark 15:17; Dan. 5:7 margin).
  2. Mediatorship (blue and scarlet brought together).
  3. God Manifested in flesh (blue and scarlet).

Christ As The Door
The Lord Jesus Christ manifested all these characteristics. They qualified him to be the entrance into the Ecclesial "fold" or Holy Place, for all those whom Yahweh called out of the Gentiles for His Name (Acts 15:14).

The qualities of character and life symbolized by these colors were revealed by him.

The Four Pillars

As the entrance represented Christ as the door, and its curtains were supported by four pillars, it is surely significant that his life comes to us as recorded by four writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, whose gospels are for all to see.

The purpose of Yahweh in causing these writers to record the living manifestation of Himself was that others might be drawn to him, and so become living witnesses to His righteousness. Though the weakness of our mortal frame is consciously ever-present, we can, and must, seek to overcome. If we display Divine characteristics in this probationary life, and manifest Yahweh in this present evil world, our natures will be changed "like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:21), from mortal to immortal (1 Cor. 15:51-54), "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven" (2 Cor. 5:2).

Moreover, as in this present life, we uphold and display the character and virtues of Yahweh, we can become the means whereby others are drawn to Him, so that they also become the habitations of the Father through His Spirit-Word abiding in them. By so doing, we act the part of shepherds, leading sheep to the door of the fold, even to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:1-3,7).

The Outer Court
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation " - 2 Cor. 5:18.

THE Sanctuary was divided into three sections: The Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place.

Outside the sanctuary were the tens of thousands of Israel, representing the countless thousands to whom Divine fellowship and worship (symbolized by the Tabernacle) has been offered.

Inside in the Outer Court, the Priests and Levites performed their service on behalf of, and representing, those who approached with their offerings.

Into the Holy Place entered still fewer - only the priests who there carried out their representative service (cp. Heb. 9:6).

In the Most Holy Place only two entered - (1)One day each year, the High Priest bearing the blood of the Atonement for his sins and those of his people whom he therein represented (cp. Heb. 9:7). (2)Moses, Yahweh's representative in the midst of His people (see later reference).

This was a "figure for the time then present" (Heb. 9:9) and the significance of it is profound indeed.

For, the further we proceed into the Tabernacle, the fewer people we find. This is analogous to the call of the Gospel. The way of salvation is open to all, as the call to worship was made to all Israel in their tents of blackness. However, comparatively few embrace the truth, and this was illustrated by the limitation of the outer court to the priests and levites who laboured there. The numbers lessened in the Holy Place, teaching the lesson that of those who accept the Truth as a doctrine, only a proportion carry out its moral requirements. The Most Holy, of course, anticipated that state of glorious immortality. The High Priest entered therein on his own, once a year, pointing forward to the complete work of redemption in Christ, Only the Lord, and those truly "in him", the veil of whose flesh will be changed to the glory of Divine nature, will attain unto the glorious consummation. On the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest entered the Most Holy he represented the people as well as himself.

God Manifestation Taught in Type
The three sections of the Tabernacle taught the three stages of God manifestation: Preparation, Application, and Glorification.

The Outer Court represented a mental approach to God Manifestation. The design of the Truth is first to change our minds, so that our thinking conforms to the "mind of Christ". This is in preparation for further advance in the things of the Truth. We come to understand, believe, and accept the Divine arrangement of things. This is the first step towards reconciliation between the creature and the Creator.

In the Outer Court was taken the first step in separation to Divine education, service and life.

The Lord illustrated this stage in his own experiences. Consider his mental attitude towards temptation as displayed in the wilderness (Matt. 4; Luke 4). Having identified himself with his Father's will (Matt. 3:15), he resorted to his Father's Word in resisting the temptations presented to him. In quoting from Deut. 6:13-16 and 8;3, he identified himself with Israel in the Wilderness, showing himself as the "Israel" (Isa. 44:1); the true Son of Yahweh in the Wilderness.

The Holy Place represented a moral application in the lives and characters of those who have developed beyond the "outer court" stage. Here is to be seen the present life and service of the saints in the Ecclesia. Here characters are changed. Here is to be seen reformation and dedication to the Truth's responsibilities and functions. Again, the Lord after the trial of his temptation, continued to display a character that was Divine. The Word and Will of Yahweh was manifested by him, marking him as Yahweh's dwelling place in Israel.

The Most Holy Place pointed to ultimate glorification: physical perfection in changed bodies; to the immortal state of the Kingdom of God.

This also was the experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was raised from the grave and given his Father's nature; elevated to his Father's right hand in glory and power; and became the surety for others who follow him.

These basic guide-lines should be kept in mind as a more detailed examination of the features of this Divine Pattern is made and their many lessons learned.

Inside The Outer Court
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" - 2 Cor. 5:18.

THE one entering the outer court would note, in addition to the inside of the white curtained wall that separated the Sanctuary from the outside world, that there were the Tabernacle structure, the Brazen Altar for the burnt sacrifices, and the Brazen Laver for the washing of the priests.

Three materials were to be seen and each was significant.

First there was Brass (or Bronze). This was used for the posts that supported the outer wall and for the sockets upon which the posts rested. It also covered the shittim wood of the Altar (Exod. 27:1-8; 38:1-7). The Brazen Laver was made of this metal (Exod. 38:8).

Next the shittim wood used for the boards of the Altar (Exod. 27:1,6;38:l,6).

Thirdly, silver was used as chapiters upon the tops of the brazen posts; as hooks for the fillets and cords; and as fillets which, like fence rails, connected the upright posts and carried the curtains.

A closer look at each will make obvious the significance of their use:

Brass represents human nature, or flesh that is "of the earth, earthy". It was taken out of the earth (the "world") and subjected to the cleansing affliction of the heat of the "fiery trial" for the removal of its dross (the elements of the earth).

Shittim wood was obtained from the Shittah tree which belonged to the acacia species. The tree has a pleasant green foliage, gold-like yellow flowers, and a delightful aroma. Hidden beneath, however, is black bark and thorns. Its wood is orange or clay-colored and though found in barren places, is very durable. What a natural illustration of human nature!

Though this wood was especially chosen for use in the Divine plans, all outward display had to be removed. Leaves and branches were removed and the trees cut down so that the selected wood could be cut to the size and pattern that was shown to Moses in the mount. Then it was completely covered. In the case of the altar of burnt offering, brass formed the covering plates. Thus we have an illustration of human nature, or flesh, changed from its inherent natural characteristics to that which would carry out acceptable service in Yahweh's purpose: a change which necessitates affliction and trial.

Silver was the metal of atonement (See Exod. 38:25-27; ch. 30:12-15). It was used in conjunction with the atonement of males in Israel. It was also the metal used for the redemption of Joseph when he was saved from the pit (Gen. 37:28). It even was associated with the redemption that Christ has wrought for us (Matt. 26:14-15).

The lesson of the outer court taught the need of those called to the Truth, to develop in maturity in the things of God. They must progress beyond a mere mental acceptance of the Truth, to a correct display of its principles in their lives, so building into their characters the Divine attributes. The Altar and Laver of the Court, together with the forms of worship associated therewith, taught what this development required.
A People For The Name
The most wonderful thing in human history is the fact that Yahweh took hold of a nation to be for Him, as He says (Jer. 13:11), "for a people and for a name and for a praise and for a glory." He brought the people out of Egypt, established a Covenant with them, and by means of the form of worship He established, sought to draw them unto Him. Unfortunately, it is said of them, "but they would not hearken". We stand in Israel's place today; let us heed the lesson taught.