The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

by Keith Cook

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The Boards of The Tabernacle
Exodus 26:15-25,29
"Pillars in the Ecclesia" (Gal. 2:9).

UPON drawing aside the entrance curtain, and entering the Tabernacle one would see that the curtain, the Mishkan and Ohel coverings, were all supported by the gold-covered Shittim wood boards, described earlier, that formed the North, South and West walls of the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle as such pointed forward, as a figure for the time then present" (Heb. 9:9) to the "greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands" (v.11).

Isaiah (ch. 53:2) declared of the Lord Jesus Christ that he "grew up - - as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground" - a description of the spiritual condition of Israel when the "tender plant" grew up in its midst. He declared of himself when 12 years of age, that he "must be in his Father's house" (Luke 2:49 R.V).

Isaiah proceeds to describe the Lord's preparation as Yahweh's dwelling place in Israel. He describes how he was cut down, having been specially selected and prepared human nature (Isa. 53:3-8). His willing submission to the Divine Hand that guided his testing trials (e.g. Matt. 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13) saw the removal of all outward display of, or tendency towards, fleshly-mindedness. Instead there was manifested the faith that had been subjected to the heat of affliction and, being tried, was a display of the character of Yahweh dwelling in the Son (John 1:14). The testing of the Lord was the equivalent of the Tabernacle "pillars" being measured - a Scriptural term for the measuring out of Divine punishment or correction, whichever should be appropriate (cp. Rev. 11:1,2).

Such has been the lot of Yahweh's chosen children in all ages, as He has shaped them to the Divine pattern, seen so gloriously in His own submissive and responsive son.

A Figure Foreshadowing Sons
But Yahweh's habitation on earth has not been restricted to His son. In that son He has called many sons to Himself, choosing such as respond to His call (Acts 15:14). In each generation He has separated to Himself human beings, men and women of Adam's race, who are willing to submit themselves to the correction of His Word so that they may be shaped after the pattern of His son (Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:3-8). To accomplish this, the Word understood, believed and practiced removes from each part those natural inclinations towards the fleshly mindedness that is inherent in human nature. In their place there is developed a covering of faith that has been tried (Jas. 1:2-4). Thus we are developed into a position of closer dedication (Heb. 12:14) of which the Holy Place is a symbol.

The Apostle Paul referred to Peter, James and John in Gal. 2:9, as "pillars" in the Ecclesia. The members of the Ecclesia since that time, have faithfully followed the apostolic pattern and are today also "pillars" in Yahweh's dwelling place. Each one is to be seen in the position into which they have been called or placed. There are not to be any absent when the Ecclesial "sanctuary" is assembled (ct. Heb. 10:25). It is at those times and occasions that the fullest possible reflection of Divine Glory becomes manifest, as will be better demonstrated a little later in this book.

Not only are we assembled together at such times as many parts of the one body (1 Cor. 12:12-14), but we are associated together for a common purpose in mutual co-operation. There ought to be no need for legislation to effect these necessary features of the Ecclesia; indeed the observance of the pattern given to Moses in the mount, is quite adequate for the purpose before us all - that of becoming Yahweh's habitation.

John, in Rev. 3:12 records the promise that certain would become "pillars" in the Kingdom. Notice how the Spirit words the matter:

Those who "overcome" - The "wood" of this fleshly nature is overcome, or cut off, by a circumcision of the Spirit-Word. It is then to be covered by the gold of a faith that has been well tried; of Divine Character displayed; of Divine Nature to be shared.

"Will be made pillars" - i.e. A pillar in the Ecclesia is one who supports or holds up and displays the Truth in doctrine and practice, manifesting Divine characteristics thereby.

"In the temple of my God" - The temple of living stones will be revealed in its glory in the Kingdom. Hence in this anti-typical manner the activities of the saints in the Age to come are foretold.

The Silver Sockets
But a very essential basis for this development must not be overlooked. It is described in Exod. 26:19,21,25, where details are given of the 2 silver sockets that were provided for each board, which had two tenons or hands which fitted into apertures in the silver bases. Exod. 38:27 informs us that each base weighed one talent, so that the hundred bases weighed a total of an hundred talents. 96 bases were utilized in the North, South and Western Walls and 4 bases for the pillars supporting the Veil. Exod. 30; 12-15 advises that the silver was the redemption price for every male in Israel who was aged twenty years and older. Because of this provision, silver has become recognized as the symbol for atonement or redemption.

The foundation in Christ upon which Yahweh developed the manifestation of His righteous character, was that of His son's sacrificial life and death. His death was for the manifestation of Yahweh's salvation both for himself and his people (Heb. 9:12; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 13:20).

The same foundation is the basis of our membership of the Ecclesial Sanctuary and of our manifestation of Divine righteousness. The silver stands for our Heavenly Father's purchase of the many parts of His Ecclesia (Acts 20:28) because we are His "purchased possession" (Eph. 1:14). His atonement forms the common basis of our association together in the Ecclesia; of our sharing together of Divine manifestation. As the tenons took hold of the sockets, we are to take hold of the principles of the Atonement.

The two sockets for each Pillar could represent the two aspects of the Gospel (Acts 8:12): the things "Concerning the Kingdom of God" and the things "concerning the Name of Jesus Christ".

The Golden Bars
Exodus 26:26-28
"Joined together and compacted" (Eph. 4:16).

THE North, South and West walls of the Sanctuary were provided with five shittim wood, gold covered bars which traversed the entire length of each wall. Four of the bars were apparently visible being fastened to the pillars forming each wall by golden rings (v.34). The middle bar (v.33) was invisible, being made to transversely "shoot through" the boards forming each wall. Exod. 40:18 describes the assembly of the walls when these bars were "put in".

This assembly arrangement ensured that each wall was securely held together so that the whole structure was strong and stood firmly erect. The bars held each member of the wall in place and prevented any from being in the wrong position or even absent. The center bar particularly kept each in its true alignment with the remainder of the assembly.

Thus the pattern shown to Moses in the mount provides a very clear illustration of our part in the Ecclesia. We are bound together by uniting principles.

Paul reminded the brethren of Colosse that the Truth was designed to unite all members together, linking them with "the Head" from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. 2:19). He brought home the lesson of the Tabernacle by teaching that members of an ecclesia are "knit together" by "joints" and "bands" as the Tabernacle was with its golden bars. Also Eph. 4:16.

"Joints" (Gk Haphtie) denotes a ligament for fastening and holding together; while "bands" (Gk Sundesmos) represents a joint tie and, figuratively, an impediment (that is, to individual freedom of actions or inclinations). What a very practical illustration of the effect that the Truth and our association together has upon us as members of the body of Christ! The inclinations and dispositions towards the desires and pleasures of thc natural man are restrained by the principles of righteousness and faith.

There is a close compaction of members of the true Body one with the other. There are none missing from the assembly such as those who concerned Paul when he wrote Heb. 10:25 because they had "forsaken the assembling of themselves together". Rather all are so closely united that he calls them "knit" together (Col. 2:19). The spiritual, unseen, power of the Word of God that was seen in His son, runs through each member, and thus in each assembly, like the hidden bar. Its effect can be seen, however, in the union of member with member and in the strong stability in truth and faith, of each assembly. There are those who, like the Shittim-wood gold-covered bars, help to hold the assembly together in a close, co-operative association, with each member responding to his responsibilities and functions in upholding the character and work of thc covering, the Lord Jesus Christ; and, at the same time, showing the true faith that has been tested under trial and affliction.

One of the effects of such oneness and closeness of association is that outside light is unable to penetrate into the Ecclesial Holy Place. The light necessary in the Ecclesia is that of the Knowledge of Yahweh's Word. Knowledge of the world is in no way necessary or even helpful as far as Ecclesial functioning and illumination is concerned.

A "Pillar" Prophecy
In Rev. 3:12 the Saints who overcome are referred to as "pillars in the temple of God". The future temple or dwelling place of God upon the earth, will be the Holy Place/Sanctuary of the Kingdom. Its membership will comprise saints who, in the days of their human nature were called and chosen and, being covered with faith that responded to Divine standards, will uphold Divine righteousness and character throughout the coming Age. Then completeness of assembly and perfection of function and nature will be finally and permanently accomplished.

The Holy Place
Exodus 26:1-30
"And all the wise men, wrought all the work of the sanctuary" (Exod. 36:4).

THE only entrance into the rectangular (3O feet x l5 feet x l5 feet high) Holy Place was obtained through the curtained doorway which has already been described, These curtains (Exod. 26:36,37) were suspended by rings of gold upon 5 pillars of gold-covered shittim wood, each of which stood upon sockets of brass (Exod. 26:37). This was the last occasion upon which brass was visible on the inside of the structure. Two other metals now predominated: gold and silver. The boards that formed the north and south walls together with the furniture were covered with gold; the sockets that formed the bases of the walls were of silver. The only other material visible to the eyes were the beautiful colorful curtains at the eastern and western ends of the Holy Place, and its overhead covering of curtains.

The priests entered the Holy Place to show their daily dedication to Yahweh before Whom they presented themselves for service, praise and fellowship. Here they were separated (or sanctified) from the rest of the encampment and the outside world, and so were free of distractions that would otherwise cause digressions from the things that belonged to Yahweh.

The Antitype
When the Lord Jesus Christ was upon the earth, he was Yahweh's dwelling place, or Tabernacle. He declared: "For their sakes I sanctify myself" (John 17:19). Now, possessing Divine nature, it is said of him: "In whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). We see this in the following particulars:

This part of the Tabernacle is the most important for this present time for the children of God. It certainly is the most significant because of the many lessons it contains for us. An examination of the Holy Place will substantiate this, in the following ways:

Whereas the outer, or Altar Court was dominated by that symbol of human nature, brass; the Holy Place was an area of gold. This represents an important stage in our development towards the future "Most Holy Place" state. Having entered into Yahweh's purpose in Christ, we progress through the "outer court" state of mental changes; of separation to Yahweh; of reconciliation with Him; of preparation for the experience of and development in, this "Holy Place" state which points to the moral application of the Truth understood and believed (seen in our changed characters); of our entire dedication to the service of the Truth and the Ecclesia; of our reformation from the things of "brass" to those of the "gold" faith.

Saints must now conform their life and actions to the light of the knowledge of the Word of God; only in this state can we acceptably please Him.

Just as the Tabernacle was "measured", so are those whom it represents: the saints in all ages. They have been measured with the rod of affliction (Rev. 11:1) but, in the Age to come (the revealed heavenly or exalted places in the Kingdom - Rev. 4:1), they will be counted (or measured) as the perfected Temple or dwelling place of Yahweh.

As the walls of the Holy Place were covered with pure gold, they reflected the shining of the light from the Lampstand. That, also, is the responsibility of each member of the Ecclesia.

Gold represents faith, which having been tried in the fire of trial and affliction (Rev. 3:18), will find all the dross of fleshly lusts which would tarnish the character removed, and thus is enabled to reflect the character of God and the light of His Truth.

Faith is essential for all those who will find an abiding place in the one body of Christ, the Temple of God (Heb. 11:6). Just how essential is seen in the vision recorded in Rev. 21:3-18 of the Holy City into which those who lacked faith (described in v.8 as "fearful and unbelieving") will not enter.

The Holy Place represented our present period of life as saints (sanctified ones) in the "Holy" state: separated to Yahweh with the outer court state of "the flesh" left behind.

In this "Holy Place" state there is no directly-manifested glory of Yahweh. That is veiled off by the veil of the flesh, or our human nature. The only light here is the knowledge of the glory of God, coming from the Lampstand of the Word of God which, being seven branched (or seven-fold), is perfect for the purpose for which it was Divinely designed in preparing us for the future. The knowledge (light) of the outside world is not only not necessary but is excluded from the Divine arrangement.

There is a correspondence between the Holy Place and the Ecclesia. In Eph. 1:3: 2:6,22, the Ecclesia is described as "the heavenly places". The Holy Place is the "pattern of things in the heavens" (i.e. in Christ - Heb. 9:23). In Christ is to be found the only Divinely-appointed and acceptable "dwelling place" for us. Only thus can Yahweh, through His Truth and our sanctification, "dwell" in us. Consider Paul's descriptive use of the Holy Place concept: "The house of God which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

That is the state at which we arrive in the development described in Romans 5:1-2.

The surety of the fulfillment of this hope is found in the one who is now in the actual "heavenly places" at his Father's "right hand" (Eph. 1:20).

The Holy Place is also suggestive, and indeed descriptive, of those occasions when the saints, as a community of faithful priests, assemble on the first day of the week (or at any other time). So meeting together, they are manifested as the "heavenly" (Holy Place) "Tabernacle of the Testimony, showing forth the praises (or virtues) of Him who bath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). Thus also, in a combined sense, we are Yahweh's Temple or dwelling place (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Cor. 3:16,17). On such occasions we display the four-sided characteristics of the first-century apostolic Ecclesia described in Acts 2:42; when its members met and continued in the following ways:
  1. doctrine (The Lampstand with its light of knowledge);
  2. breaking of bread (Literally so, but in symbol, partaking of Christ and his word);
  3. prayers (the incense Altar of prayer and praise caused to ascend to the Throne of Grace);
  4. fellowship (priests sharing together in the fellowship of each other and of Yahweh)

Read also Eureka Vol. 2, p.355 par. 2.

It is our present duty to maintain the holiness or separateness, of the "Temple" Ecclesia (1 Cor. 3:17; Rev. 15:5-8).

Thus the Ecclesia, through its members, is able to reflect the "truth which is in Christ Jesus", through the light of Divine Knowledge shining upon and through the tried faith of every part of the Ecclesia.