The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

by Keith Cook

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The Mercy Seat
"And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark... And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel" (Exodus 25:17,21-22).

IN Eureka vol. 1, pp. 309-316, Brother Thomas has some excellent comments upon the Mercy Seat. It derived its name from the sprinkling upon it of the blood of the Atonement sacrifice, on each Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14). The sprinkled blood was the basis for the taking away of the sins of the people, as well as those of the High Priest and his house; for he was their mediator (v.6).

It formed the cover or lid of the Ark of the Covenant (v.21). It was made of one piece of pure gold (v.17 see above), being approximately 3 feet 9 inches (1142 mm) long by 2 feet 3 inches (685 mm) wide. The two figures of the Cherubim were formed of the same piece of gold, and therefore were one with the Mercy Seat (vv. 18-20).

This was Yahweh's meeting-place with His people through Moses, His representative (v.22). Bro. Roberts in The Law of Moses (pp. 120-122) writes graphically of the significance and importance of this "meeting place". There Moses went to receive Yahweh's commands and instructions for His people (v.22); and there Aaron went on the Day of Atonement as their mediator and representative. Thus both Yahweh and the children of Israel were identified with the Mercy Seat. It was linked inseparably with the blood of the Atonement that was sprinkled upon it each annual celebration of the day by the High Priest. By this means, covering for sins were effected for the people whom he represented.

Yahweh's Dwelling Place
It was Yahweh's throne and footstool in Israel: from thence He ruled Israel; there He met them as His covenant people upon the basis of shed blood. The Psalmist declared:

"Yahweh reigneth; let the people tremble: He sitteth between the cherubim; let the earth be moved" (Psa. 99:1).

"Exalt ye Yahweh our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy" (v.5).

"Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth" (Psa. 80:1).

It was there that He manifested Himself to Israel. He was in their midst, at the very heart of the nation. There was no need to seek Him elsewhere, either in nature, or images, or any science of investigation. He is always at hand for any who seek Him in truth (Jer. 29:13). While He is hidden from sinful man, "dwelling in light unapproachable", yet He can he approached on the basis of His own revelation.

The Antitype
Christ is the antitypical Mercy Seat or Propitiation (Rom. 3:24-25). In Christ, Yahweh is revealed, and through Christ, believers can be reconciled with Him whose mercy and loving-kindness is always available for forgiveness after repentance.

Yahweh met Israel in Christ (John 6:63; 7:16) He is the Prophet promised Moses (Deut. l8:l8), and through him came the revelation from God (John l7:~). He was his Father's Word made flesh, and in him the divine glory was beheld in the midst of Israel (John 1:1,14). Through him, invitation was extended to Israel to be reconciled with God (read Eureka vol. 1, pp. 102,103).

The Lord's doctrine was from the Father (John t2:49), of Whom he was the manifestation (John 14:9). Listening to him, his disciples listened to God, for he was the Mercy Seat from whom Yahweh communed with the people, as He had previously when His voice was heard emanating from above the Mercy Seat between the Cherubim.

As the Mercy Seat was a covering for the Ark, so the Lord is our covering (Rom. 4:7). Our sins have been atoned for by the sprinkled blood of the covenant sacrifice; and those so forgiven arc described as being ~~in" him (Gal. 3:26), and enjoying that blessedness described by David:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man whom Yahweh imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile" (Psa. 32:1-2).

The character of the Lord was perfected by trial and thus shone forth as gold (1 Pet. 1:7). Following his sacrificial death, he was raised to divine nature (pure gold), and taken into the Most Holy state (Heb. 9:11-12). Now he is assisting to bring many more sons to that glory.

In measure, we are called to develop and reflect that glory now by Christ dwelling in our hearts (Eph. 3:17). But perfection awaits us in the Kingdom when divine nature will be bestowed upon all those that are accepted. So we are "in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2, Phil. 3:21;2 Pet. 1:3-4).

The Most Holy Place, therefore, relates to the future, perfect state. We anticipate that time of blessing, but presently walk in the Holy. Even the Mercy Seat foreshadows that time; for it will not be seen in its completeness until the Cherubim are there, and the Divine glory is apocalypsed for all to see. In the Kingdom, Yahweh, through the one body of His choice, the multitudinous, immortalized Christ, will manifest Himself to the rest of His creatures.

The future righteousness of the King-priests, and their salvation in that glorious state, is the theme of Psa. 132:8-9:

"Arise, oh Yahweh, into Thy rest; Thou, and the ark of Thy strength. Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let Thy saints shout for joy".

The future work of the multitudinous, immortalized Christ, as Yahweh's throne and mercy scat, in bringing the world into conformity to Yahweh's truth is described in Psa. ~49: 4-9:

"For Yahweh taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand (like the Cherubim, in Eden - Gen. 3:24); to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all His saints. Halleluyah!"

The Cherubim
"And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the Mercy Seat" (Exodus 25:18-22,' 37:7-9).

THE two figures of the Cherubim were so constructed that they were one with, and developed out of, the two ends of the Mercy Seat. They were made or "beaten" out of the one piece of pure gold with faces that looked down toward the Mercy Seat, and yet toward each other. Their wings stretched above and over the Mercy Seat.

Scant indeed are the details provided in Exodus, but the symbolism of the Cherubim extends throughout Scripture, and from it can be derived their significance.

While the words Cherub (singular, as in Psa. 18:10) or Cherubim (plural, as in Gen. 3:24), are applied to living people, such as in Ezek. 2~: 14 where it refers to the king of Tyre, they more often relate to the symbolic figures in the Tabernacle and the Temple (2 Chron. 3:10-13).

Bro. Thomas, in Phanerosis, derives the meaning of the word from a root rachav signifying "to ride, whether on an animal or in a vehicle". He, therefore, relates the word cherub, or "that which is ridden" with the word chariot. This convertibility of the verb rachav into the noun d~erub is illustrated in Psalm 18:10: "He rode upon a cherub". Bro. Thomas' suggestion is supported by the R.V. of 1 Chron. 28:18 which refers to the "chariot of the cherubim", or "the chariot, even the cherubim". Another derivation comes from chay and rab which means "like majesty".

The concept of the Cherubim being placed in a Tabernacle is not new. In Genesis 3:24 we read that Yahweh "placed (Heb. Shakan, meaning to dwell, or tabernacle) Cherubim". An alternative rendering of this verse is: "He caused to dwell in a tabernacle, the Cherubim". The verb Shakan is the root of the expression, Shekinah glory, that is, "the glory that dwells inside"

The children of Israel would be aware of the location of the Ark and the Cherubim within the Most Holy Place; also of its features. There was also a regular reminder, through their High Priest, of its functions. The thoughtful and faithful Israelite would well realize the significance of them being placed in the Most Holy.

They were aware of the four wings and realised that they symbolised their own encampment surrounding the four sides of the Sanctuary. The wings were "stretched forth on high", covering the Mercy Seat. "Stretched out" (Heb. Sakak) means to entwine as a screen, to fence in; to cover over, to protect. The people would be compelled to consider the significance. Could they, as we now are able, relate this to the function of the cherubim at the entrance to Eden (Gen. 3:24) as there it guarded, or kept, the way to the Tree of Life? Could they discern the symbol of their own nation in relation to that function?

The Exodus account does not give details of the faces but this deficiency seems to be supplied by Ezekiel Chapters 1,10. The prophet describes the faces as those of a MAN, a LION, an OX, and an EAGLE. Ezekiel, furthermore, locates them in relation to each other. From the southward position that he occupied as he relates the details of the vision, he looked northwards (ep. Ezek. 1:4) and saw first the face of the MAN - that is on the SOUTH side facing Ezekiel. On the right hand, or FAST side, he saw the face of the LION. On the left hand or WEST side, that of the OX; finally, the face ~ the EAGLE which must have been located on the NORTH side. From the position he occupied, Ezekiel could not actually see the face of the Eagle in his vision.

We have already seen how the Spirit has used the Mercy Seat as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a figure that was extended to Incorporate the two cherubim, just as the meeting place between Yahweh and His people is available to both Jew and Gentile alike. The Body of Christ includes both and, in the age to come, they will function as one with Christ.

Although Israel knew that the Cherubim were in the Most Holy Place they were hidden from their view; their High Priest and their Leader alone being able to enter and see them.

The four faces of the Cherubim pointed forward to four aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ, as depicted in the four Gospel records:

  1. Luke wrote of him as a MAN; the Son of Man. He recorded his genealogy as from Adam.
  2. Matthew revealed him as a LION; the Lion of the tribe of Judah. His genealogy was written as from David Matthew 1:1.
  3. Mark showed him as an OX; the servant. His record commenced upon that note.
  4. John depicted him as an EAGLE; as the eye of Yahweh viewing all things and people from the heavenly viewpoint. He was "Emmanuel", the Word made flesh.

These characteristics of the Lord, displayed during his life and ministry, all united to draw attention to his function as the Mercy Seat. So much of Yahweh's plans and designs, and His implementation of them, point towards, and lead to, the place and means whereby His creatures may be reconciled to Himself.

It was in his capacity and function as our Mercy Seat that the Lord was the bearer of the Royal Majesty of his Father. Our reconciliation with his Father has resulted in the display, through Jewish and Gentile members of the Ecclesia (made one in Christ; Gal. 3:27-29), of the Majesty and Character of Yahweh, though subject as we are to human limitations for the present time.

The Cherubim prophecy was not confined to the Lord Jesus Christ, however. Of necessity, it included all those who are, and have been, an extension of himself - those whose faith, as tried gold, has been the subject of much "beating" and affliction to ensure that they conform to the "pattern" given to Moses. Our own development and transformation as described in Romans 12:2 involves the conflict between flesh and spirit as described in Romans 7:23.

Saints must also display in today's wilderness, the same attitude and characteristics as shown by their "Mercy Seat". They must: -

Thus our "faces" look toward the "Mercy Seat", the Lord Jesus Christ, and also toward each other in a sharing of these Divine attributes. This should be the attitude of faithful members of the Ecclesial" Cherubic Body, towards each other, being "knit together in love" (Col. 2:2) and being "labourers together" (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1). They have been called together, in Christ, for the purpose of mutual co-operation (2 Thess. 2:1; 1 Cor. 1:10; 12:24; Eph. 2:5,6).

When assembled around the Memorial Table, saints are found in this attitude, looking upon the "Mercy Seat", with its symbolic sprinkled blood. What do they see? The antitype of that which was, year by year, sprinkled in sacrificial offering before the faces of the Cherubim. They recall, when the attitude of the Cherubim is cultivated, the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Moreover, their faces must also be towards one another. When conflict of division occurs there is distraction from true remembrance; and a turning of the eyes of faith away from the Mercy Seat.

Where "eyes" and "wings" are united in the manner depicted in the Tabernacle "pattern", there will be found a true and effective keeping of the way of life. But all need to be fully extended in this application. The wings represent the four sides or extremities of Israel. They were the sides of the encampment, in symbol, brought into the Most Holy Place for the purpose of being used by Yahweh to keep the way that He provided. Wings outstretched, as in Exodus 25:20, depicted an inviting and protective posture towards all "sides" of the Ecclesial encampment. All need to become involved in this task of "keeping" the Way.

The time will come, according to Ezekiel's prophecy (Ezek. 1:23), when the wings will be lowered from the posture of invitation. Then they will cover the body of the cherubim, signifying that it will be no longer possible to obtain an entrance into that body.

Revelation 21:1-3, 9-11, 23 refers to that future time when Christ and the saints will then become the dwelling place (the Most Holy Place) of the Divine presence upon earth (1 Cor. 15:28). They will constitute the glorified immortal hosts that will fill Yahweh's dwelling place - the whole earth. To that glorious future habitation all true Israelites have been called, and are being prepared.

This is the proper context of the Cherubim in the Most Holy Place, as we have described. It is for this reason that the details supplied by Ezekiel in his first and tenth chapters become so important. His prophecy and visions represented those of whom they were a shadow as he portrays them in their "most holy" condition. The Cherubim foreshadowed the features, qualities, characteristics, and work of those saints who will be associated together, as the One Body of the Kingdom age, in the establishment of Divine rule and in the manifestation of Yahweh's glory in all the earth.

Manifesting the Glory
"And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony" (Exod. 25.22).

ABOVE the Mercy Seat and between the two Cherubim (Exod. 25:22), sounded forth the Voice that spoke with Moses. When the Tabernacle was erected and dedicated (Exod. 40:34-35), the glory of Yahweh filled it within, a cloud without screened it from mortal view, and His Voice gave instructions to Moses.

Later, David referred to Yahweh as "Thou that dwellest between the cherubim" (Psa. 8(): 1). Rotherham renders this as "Thou that art enthroned in the cherubim" (ep. also Psa. 104:1-2). Yahweh's presence was tokened by the indwelling, or Shekinah glory above the Mercy Seat, the only illumination in an otherwise completely dark Most Holy.

It typified the Lord Jesus Christ as "the Light that shineth in darkness" (John 1:5), and the "true Light which lighteneth every man" (v.9). In him was beheld glory, "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (v.14). As the "true light", he was related to the "true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. 8:2).

Manifestations Of The Light
Paul described him as "the brightness of (Yahweh's) glory and the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3). This can be rendered "the effulgence of glory". "Effulgence" is a word that describes rays coming out of their original, or parent source of light, and themselves forming a similar light body to the original. By such an extension of Himself, Yahweh's glory, in truth and character, dwelt briefly in the midst of lsrael. But the nation comprehended it not, preferring to dwell in darkness. Subsequently, as in times past, "the glory" ascended to where it originated (cp. Acts 1:9 with Ezek. 9:3; 10:4).

Christ's followers are expected to reflect his light. "Ye are the light of the world," he told them, and exhorted: "Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16).

One of those "lights", the Apostle Paul, in exhorting his brethren, wrote:

"God, who commanded the light to shine Out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).

"Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8).

"Be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15-16).

The Word of God is the mirror-glass into which we intently gaze to learn "what manner of persons we ought to be" (2 Cor. 3:18). As polished glass it will catch the rays of Divine light so that we are illuminated thereby, and are "changed into the same image (i.e. of the Lord) from glory to glory, even as of the Lord the spirit" (mg).

But no matter how brightly that light shines, we reflect it but dimly. This is due to the weaknesses of the flesh that impose their own limits to the manifestation of Divine glory in our characters and lives.

Hope of Glory
Nevertheless the day will come when such limitations will be removed, and the fullness of Divine strength and glory will be manifested through the glorified saints: the cherubim of the future age.

Meanwhile, we "live in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2); a hope that will be fulfilled when he "shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:21), "according as His Divine power" will work in us for His "glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3). Just as the Lord Jesus was the light of the glory of Yahweh shining in a dark place (John. 1:5), so we, his saints, are called upon to be likewise (Phil. 2:15-16). This is in preparation for the bestowal of the fullness of glory in the age to come, constituting us the Cherubic messengers of Yahweh in His Temple-Kingdom upon the earth.

The parable of the Tabernacle and its encampment taught that lesson, setting before Israelites the ideal to which they could, and we can, attain in the mercy of Yahweh.

The March of the Cherubim
Numbers 10
The order of Israel's march from Sinai, through the wilderness, to the promised inheritance, was a parabolic prophecy of the development of spiritual Israel, the true Ecclesia.

THE parable was set out first in the divine pattern by which the tribes encamped around the Tabernacle, and then in the manner they moved from point to point. The four-sided encampment did not lose its inter-tribal relationship as it moved; rather it appeared to "unwind" itself as it took on the formation of a nation on the march. But it did so in accordance with the divine instructions as described in Numbers 10.

The order of march was governed by the priests sounding two trumpets made from a single piece of silver. A single trumpet note called the princes to assemble (v.4); a double sounding called the whole nation together (vv. 2-4).

In addition, the trumpets could sound an "alarm". When one "alarm" only was sounded, the eastern camps prepared to move (vv. 14-16), followed by the Tabernacle (the Mishkan v.17). At the sound of two "alarms", the southern camps followed behind the sons of Gershon and Merari (vv. 18-2(J). Then came the Kohathites, carrying the "Sanctuary" or the Most Holy things. Afterwards, the western camps moved forward (vv. 22-24); and the northern tribes brought up the rear (vv. 25-28).

This order foreshadowed the Ecclesial development.

  1. The sound of the silver trumpets suggests the teaching by the priests of redemption through the atonement (sec Acts 15:14). As there was one note, so there is one Gospel (Eph. 4:3-6).
  2. The Ecclesia, under the ensign of the Lion of the tribe of Judah commenced the march to the promised inheritance; so it does under Christ.
  3. After a pause in Ecclesial development, the time came for the manifestation of the Tabernacle: Yahweh's dwelling place in the midst of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4; John 1:14).
  4. As the princes gathered to Moses at the sound of the trumpet, so Christ gathered to himself twelve Apostles, representatives of the tribes of Israel, the future princes of the Kingdom (Matt. 12:28). Through their work the Ecclesia has been established, whilst its "Ark" has gone before to seek out for it a "resting place" (Num. 10:33).
  5. All now await the final blowing of the trumpet that shall sound throughout the whole encampment and call it together (1 Cor. 15:52; 2 Thess. 2:1; 4:16); then for the sound of the "alarm", and the march with the "Ark" in the midst to the promised inheritance (Deut. 33: 2-3). The Ecclesia of the future will move forward as the Cherubim of Yahweh entering into its inheritance. Then will be manifested all the antitypical vessels for the service and glory of Yahweh, in the midst of the multitudinous body of Christ (see 2 Tim. 2:21).

Brother Thomas explained this period as the "epoch of the sounding of the seventh trumpet". This will embrace the seven thunders, and the warfare of the saints in establishing the Kingdom. The scene is depicted in Rev. 7 as the four-sided Ecclesial encampment, comprising the symbolic 144,000 (vv. 4-8; Rev. 14:1).

Zechariah 9:14 associates the trumpet-blowing with Yahweh's manifestation in the "whirlwinds from the south", that is, from Sinai, Teman, and Paran (see also Hab. 3:3-5). Isaiah describes the act as "The Name of Yahweh coming from far, burning with His anger" (Isaiah 30:27).

So the Name, the Glory, and the Power of Yahweh, displayed in His Son and in His immortalized Ecclesia, will make its entrance into the promised inheritance. The "House of Prayer for all nations," the great antitype of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, will be constructed for the millennial praise and worship by the whole world. The glorious consummation of the Kingdom age is depicted in Rev. 21:1-3. The Ecclesial Kingdom described symbolically in vv. 9-26 will be the perpetual habitation of the Deity.


THE Cherubim, or Tabernacle, of the future age is now being prepared. Its members, having been called to become subject to the influence of Yahweh's Word, are being developed through the stages of improvement illustrated by the Outer Court and the Holy Place of the Mosaic Tabernacle.

The way towards perfection and complete identification with our Mercy Seat, can be traced clearly by its symbols:

  1. Baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ: the "Door".
  2. Life and service subject to the cleansing effects of the "water of the Word".
  3. Life offered as a living sacrifice.
  4. During these stages the "brassy" fleshness that characterizes our human nature is purified, and the tried and proved gold of faith is revealed. So:The Light (Lampstand) of Yahweh's Word illuminates the life.
  5. Fellowship (Bread on the table) with Yahweh and His servants is enjoyed.
  6. The prayer-communication (Altar of Incense) with Yahweh ascends as a sweet-smelling fragrance, as we draw closer to Him in our life of sanctified dedication in the Ecclesia.
  7. Now we stand at the veil, awaiting its removal, so that we may enter into the "joy set before us", even the perfection of the Kingdom age. With the removal of the veil of our flesh, we shall be manifest as the Cherubic bearers of the Glory.

Finally, the prayer and praise uttered by Moses (see Num. 10:35,36) will reach its ultimate fulfillment:

"When the ark set forward, Moses said, 'Rise up, Yahweh, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee'. And when it rested, he said, 'Return, 0 Yahweh, unto the ten thousand thousands (marg), of Israel".

May the lessons and principles illustrated by the Tabernacle, be positive guides to us in our life in the Truth, leading us unto the day of our salvation, and of Yahweh's glory and power in all the earth.
"And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, 0 Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest" (Rev. 15:3-4).