Talks on the Tabernacle
Editor of The Scripture Standard.
WITH A PREFACE BY
JAMES HOLMES (Goole).
Printed by Walter Barker 1951
Retyped 1996 by R M Payne
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Reading, RG30 3DL, England
Prepared for use on the internet by Arches church of Christ, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
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NO words of mine could adequately express the deep gratitude that many must feel, that Walter Crosthwaite, the writer of these articles on 'The Tabernacle,' became known to them.
For about fifty years the writer of this brief appreciation has enjoyed the warm friendship and fellowship of this servant of God, and of Churches of Christ.
How many share with me in this valued association it is impossible to tell. Neither is it possible to record the valued help and guidance so spontaneously and so graciously given through the years to so many. May God richly reward him!
For more than half a century, with both voice and pen, Walter Crosthwaite has made loyalty to God and the Scriptures of Truth, and faithfulness to the original pleas of Churches of Christ for an unqualified return to the unadulterated Christianity of the New Testament, his constant aim. Turning neither to right nor left, he has kept steadily on his course, with a strength of will and purpose worthy of the cause.
One feels that he has given of his best in these expositions of the Tabernacle, and has placed his readers under a deep debt of gratitude. The late esteemed William Hurte, in his blackboard lectures on 'The Tabernacle,' many years ago, rendered great help, but only the older generation would have the advantage of sitting under his teaching. This makes these late contributions the more valuable, and this booklet is sent out in the sincere hope that God's blessing may be upon it, that it may prove strengthening to those in 'the faith once [for all] delivered to the saints,' and to the salvation of souls.
Walter Crosthwaite was born October
30th, 1873. Was baptised and joined
the Church of Christ, at Ulverston,
March 1st, 1891.
'Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service,
and a worldly sanctuary' (Heb. 9:1).
THAT statement makes clear that the tabernacle and its services belonged to the covenant God made with His ancient people, Israel.
It would be a considerable help to the better understanding of the Scriptures if we continually kept in mind that all God's promises to the Jews were conditioned on their obedience to His Word. When they were brought out of Egypt, God said: 'Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation ... And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do' (Ex. 19:5-7). But they broke that covenant, and continued not in it, and God made a new and different covenant, making the first one old, obsolete (Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:8-13). "The law [old covenant] was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (John 1:17).
As Christians, we are under a new and better covenant. We are under law, not to Moses, but to Jesus only, and the Apostles he chose and inspired, to whose testimony and teaching we are indebted for all we know of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE OLD COVENANT WAS A PRIMARY STAGE.
Paul shows clearly, in his epistle to the Galatians, that those under the old covenant were in a state of childhood and bondage. 'The law was our schoolmaster [tutor-slave] to bring us unto Christ.' As children at school begin in a primary department and are led on to higher standards, so God in that primitive age, by types and shadows, sought to prepare His people to receive spiritual realities. The Epistle to the Hebrews is an inspired commentary on the old covenant worship and service. A real grip of the teaching of that epistle would supply a key to unlock most Scripture problems.
THE TABERNACLE WAS BUILT BY DIVINE COMMAND.
God chose Israel, revealed Himself and His word to them, intending that, through them, blessings would flow to all nations. He gave instructions to Moses concerning materials to be gathered for the tabernacle: and 'the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ... Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them' (Ex. 25:1-8).
IT WAS BUILT FOR A DIVINE PURPOSE.
God was revealing Himself for closer fellowship. Previously their thought of God was of One everywhere present, from whose presence there was no possibility of escape. Now, specially, He is going to dwell among His chosen people. In the tabernacle, God was limiting Himself that they might see and know Him better. The incarnation was limitation. 'The word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled, margin] among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the Father) full of grace and truth' (John 1:14). Under the new and better covenant it is no longer I will 'dwell among them,' but 'I will dwell in them, and walk in them.' The perfect future fellowship is thus described: 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away' (Rev. 21:3-4).
IT WAS BUILT ACCORDING TO A DIVINE PATTERN
Time and again, Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, 'See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the Pattern showed to thee in the mount' (Heb. 8:5). Under that covenant they were not allowed to 'add unto' neither 'diminish ought' from the word and commandments of the Lord. The Old Testament Scriptures tell how swiftly and severely daring innovators were dealt with. These are beacon warnings for us. 'If they escaped not ... much more shall not we escape,' if we tamper with the word of the Son of God. As there was a Divine pattern for the type (the tabernacle), so there is a Divine pattern for the anti-type, the Church of the living God. The Church is not a human but a Divine institution. It was the Lord Jesus who said, 'I will build my church.' The New Testament Church, built by the Divine Architect, and His inspired master-builders, the Apostles, is seen perfected and complete in the New Testament Scriptures.
If the New Testament Church is not the pattern for all time, then we have no pattern, and we are fools for pleading for a return to it. The Church of the apostolic age was the best and most powerful Church the world has ever seen. Back to the Jerusalem model must be our rallying cry. On the ground on which the first Church stood, and on that ground alone, can the unity for which our Lord prayed be attained and maintained.
We hope, D.V., in the following articles to write of the building of the Tabernacle: the Way into the Holy Place: A Look Inside: the Priesthood: and the Holiest of All.
THE BUILDERS AND THE BUILDING
IN our introductory article, we noted that the tabernacle was built by Divine command, for a Divine purpose, and according to a Divine pattern. A full detailed account of the materials, furnishing and building is given in Exodus, chapters 25 to 40.
IT WAS BUILT OF COSTLY MATERIALS.
These are named in Ex. 25:3-7: 'Gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twisted linen, and goat's hair: and rams' skins dyed red, and sealskins, and acacia wood' (R.V.).
The cost of the completed building must have been very great; but, however much, it was insignificant when compared with the cost of the anti-type Church. 'The Church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood' (Acts 20:28). 'Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it' (Eph. 5:25).
'Who can tell the priceless treasure
God possessed in Christ His Son?
Yet He gave with love's full measure
Him for us, His only One.'
THE PEOPLE WERE WILLING GIVERS.
'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.' In response to that appeal, 'they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments: And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord' (Ex. 35:21-22). That was a real offering to the Lord, and a pouring of 'contempt on all their pride.'
The people had to be stopped giving. The builders said, 'The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing' (Ex. 36:5-6).
Is it possible that the type and shadow could beget a liberality of which the anti-type and substance is incapable? The new covenant appeal is: 'Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver' (2 Cor. 9:7).
The Lord desires, demands, and deserves the best we can give.
'How can I, Lord, withhold
Life's brightest hour
From Thee, or gathered gold,
Or any power?
Why should I keep one precious thing from Thee,
When Thou has given Thine own dear self for me?
THEY WERE WILLING WORKERS.
'And Moses called ... every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it' (Ex. 36:2). They came not to think and talk about it, not to criticise the work, but to do it.
There are lots of willing Church members. In many Churches two or three are willing to do the work, and the others are willing to let them.
'Whatsoever ye do,' wrote the inspired Paul, 'do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men: knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ' (Col. 3:23, 24).
There are plenty of discontented critics and grumblers, and many who do not inspire or encourage us in the work; but let us ever remember that we are not working for them, but the Lord Jesus who bought us with His blood.
'Work! 'tis the Lord commandeth,
Work with a loving will;
Jesus for thee hath suffered,
How then can'st thou be still?'
THE BUILDING AND ITS DIVISION.
Some who speak and write about the tabernacle profess to know the meaning of the boards, cords and colours. We freely admit out inability to do any such thing.
They call it spiritualising, but it generally results in materialising. It is best to let Scripture explain Scripture, and to be silent where the Scriptures are silent.
Around the tabernacle was the outer court formed of linen curtains, with pillars of brass, and silver rods and hooks. Fine linen is typical of righteousness (Rev. 19:8), and seems to suggest that the place of God's house is sanctified, set apart. The outer court measured one hundred cubits by fifty. The cubit was the length of a man's forearm. Estimates of this vary, but we will take the generally accepted average, eighteen inches. So the outer court was a hundred and fifty feet by seventy-five feet. In these talks we cannot speak particularly of every part, but must take a broad general view.
The tabernacle itself was made of boards of acacia wood overlaid with gold, joined with staves of wood overlaid with gold. The top was covered with four sets of curtains of fine twined linen, goat's hair, rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins.
The building was divided into two apartments; the first, the Holy Place, measuring thirty feet by fifteen feet; and the second, the Holiest of All, or the Most Holy Place, measuring fifteen feet by fifteen. They were separated by a beautiful curtain or veil.
The Holy Place seems to be a type of the Church, 'the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man' (Heb. 8:2). 'The house of God, which is the church of the living God': a 'spiritual house,' with 'a holy priesthood' (1 Tim. 3:15, 1 Pet. 2:5).
The Holiest of All is a type of Heaven. 'Christ is not entered into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true: but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us' (Heb. 9:24, R.V.). Of these we hope to speak more particularly later.
The tabernacle was made up of many parts, but formed one building. 'So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another' (Rom. 12:5).
The Church is 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit' (Eph. 2:20-22).
THE WAY INTO THE HOLY PLACE
IN our last talk we noted that the first apartment of the tabernacle was the Holy Place, typical of 'the sanctuary and the true tabernacle,' the Church of the living God.
THERE WAS ONE WAY IN.
The worshipper desiring to enter must pass through the gate in the east end of the outer court. The Lord Jesus said: 'I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.' 'I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me' (John 10:9, 14:6). That flings a barrier across every other way. No road, but by Me. Not through earthly priests, whether of Roman, Greek, or Anglican order. Not by works of our own righteousness. 'Jesus is the true, the only living way.' 'Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, wherein we must be saved' (Acts 4:12).
Passing through the gate of the court, the worshipper was challenged by the brazen altar: the appointed place where sacrifices, according to Divine instruction, must be offered. This testified to the fact of sin, and the need of atonement. That has been learned by the whole human family. Behind the crudest and most cruel sacrifice offered by the lowest savage tribe is the consciousness of the fact of sin, and that only life, or blood which is the life, can atone for sin.
The sacrifices of the old covenant, continually repeated, testified to the end for, and pointed to, a greater and better sacrifice than these. That brazen altar pointed to Calvary. The contrast is vividly set forth in Hebrews 10:11-12, 'Every priest [under the old covenant] standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins, but this man [Jesus, our High Priest], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.' The priests of the old dispensation stood, because they had continual work to do; but Jesus sat down, having by His one sacrifice made an adequate atonement for sin, and 'obtained eternal redemption for us.'
'But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our guilt away,
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.'
'The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Thou shalt make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.' Many writers on the tabernacle either ignore the laver, or claim that there was no special significance about it. Yet God said, 'Aaron and his sons ... when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not' (Ex. 30:17-21).
So there was a death penalty for disobedience in that matter. The laver was between the altar and the door of the tabernacle. The antitype, baptism, is placed by the Lord between the Cross and the door of His Church.
All in New Testament times who believed that Jesus, the Christ of God, died for their sins on Calvary were immersed in water into His name, and into His body, the Church (see Acts 2:37-41; 16:30-34; 18:8, etc.).
In that inspired commentary, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer says: 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh: and having an high priest over the house of God: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water' (Heb. 10:19-22). Commenting on this passage, Dean Alford, an eminent Church of England clergyman and scholar, wrote: 'There can be no reasonable doubt that this clause refers directly to Christian baptism. The bath of water (Eph. 5:26) and the bath of regeneration (Titus 3:5) are analogous expressions and the express mention of bodies here as distinguished from hearts before stamps this interpretation with certainty.' The margin of Revised Version gives 'laver' in passages named above.
Writing of Titus 3:5, Professor J. A. Beet (the eminent Methodist) said: 'These words I do not know how to interpret except as a reference to baptism.'
If there is any other way into the true holy place, the Church, where does the New Testament show it? But daring innovators, despite all God's warnings, have dared to tamper with this Divine order. Some have removed the laver, and taken it past the altar, the Cross, outside the court. They take a babe who knows nothing of Jesus or Calvary, and taking a few drops out of the laver sprinkle them on its face, and declare that its sins are remitted, that it is regenerated, and is made a member of Christ, and is grafted into the body of Christ. These are the folks who tell us, who plead for believer's immersion into Christ for the remission of sins, that we make too much of baptism. Those who believe that a few drops, or an ocean of water, can make any difference to an unconscious babe in the sight of God hold that there is more in water than any of us ever imagined in the wildest dream we ever had. Baptism, unless preceded by sincere faith and genuine repentance, is of no value whatever. Others have pushed the laver through the door into the holy place. They affirm that a person is saved, pardoned, and born again, before baptism; and then strangely refuse these saved, regenerated people a place at the table in their assembly until they have been immersed.
When we depart from the Divine order we create confusion. That order, as given by the Lord Jesus, is: 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned' (Mark 16:15-16, R.V.). After the giving of that commission that order was never violated during the apostolic age. Some try to make it read 'He that believeth is saved, and he can be baptised afterwards, if he so desire.' Others act as if it read: 'He that is baptised is saved, and he can later be taught to believe on the Lord Jesus.' When we keep to the Divine order, we are on solid ground, and 'all other ground is sinking sand.'
Standing by the gate of the court, we hear Jesus say: 'I am the door,' 'I am the way.' We come not to the altar, but to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we have heard, not merely the history of the Cross, but have gripped the mystery of it, that he loved us and gave Himself for us: then, because He commanded it, we are baptised into Christ, into His death, and we have His own assurance of pardon and acceptance; and pass into the Holy Place, the Church, to worship and serve as He has appointed.
NOW these things having been thus prepared, the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services' (Heb. 9:6, R.V.).
Previous to the setting up of the tabernacle, under the patriarchal dispensation, the father, as head of the family, officiated at the altar. Now, men are chosen and set apart for this service. Under the Mosaic dispensation the priesthood was in the hands of Aaron, and the tribe of Levi. They were 'appointed for men in things pertaining to God,' to 'offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins' (Heb. 5:11). The prophet spoke from God to man: the priest spoke from man to God.
Only those physically perfect, without blemish or deformity, could be appointed priests.
A sin-offering and a burnt-offering were provided. The sin-offering spoke eloquently of the need of atonement for sin; the burnt-offering, consumed on the altar, spoke of a life wholly devoted, consumed in God's service.
Those to be appointed priests were washed in water, and clothed in linen garments. A 'ram of consecration' was slain, and its blood applied to 'the right ear ... upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot' (Ex. 29:20). This suggests consecrated ears to hear God's word; consecrated hands to serve Him: and consecrated feet to walk in His ways.
THE NEW COVENANT PRIESTHOOD.
Under the new and better covenant all believers are priests. Strictly speaking, Christianity has not a priesthood; it is a priesthood. It has no class of priests, and needs none, neither of the Roman, Greek, nor Anglican order.
Bishop Lightfoot (Church of England) said: 'The only priests in the New Testament, designated as such, are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood.' Writing to believers scattered abroad, passing through a fiery trial of persecution, Peter said: 'Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ... Ye are an elect-race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into the marvellous light' (1 Pet. 5:9). John wrote: 'Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood, and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father.' 'Thou was slain, and didst purchase unto God, with thy blood, men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests, and they reign upon the earth' (Rev. 1:5; 5:9-10; R.V.).
NEW COVENANT CONSECRATION.
We too, have a sin-offering and burnt-offering, of which those offered under the old covenant were types and shadows. Paul wrote: 'Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour' (Eph. 5:2).
The life of our Lord Jesus Christ was wholly devoted to God. He was a true burnt-offering, consumed in God's service, and in all things well-pleasing to God. He was 'holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,' 'in him was no sin'; yet God 'made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him' (2 Cor. 5:21). The prophetic word was fulfilled, 'He was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors' (Isa. 53:12).
NEW TESTAMENT PRIESTS ARE WASHED AND CLOTHED.
As the altar typified the Cross, so baptism is the anti-type of the laver. The Lord's plan has not been cancelled nor altered by Him. It still stands as the only way of salvation, and of becoming priests unto God. The Lord Jesus said: 'All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world' (Matt. 28:18-20, R.V.).
How faithfully that commission was carried out is seen in the Acts of the Apostles. There were no exceptions or exemptions then; there should be none now.
There is a clear and close connection between the blood of Jesus and the water of baptism. Jesus said: 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins' (Matt. 26:28, R.V.). To those anxious enquirers on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said: 'Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' Acts 2:38). Here repentance and baptism are stated to be for the same purpose as that for which the Lord's blood was shed: i.e., remission of sins. A passage already referred to, reads in Authorised Version: 'Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood' (Rev. 1:5). But to the penitent persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, a heaven-sent messenger said: 'And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16). In the one passage sins are said to be washed away in His blood, and in the other by baptism. Do these passages contradict each other? By no means.
Paul wrote: 'Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptised into his death' (Rom. 6:3). When was that precious, soul-cleansing blood shed? When Jesus died on Calvary; and baptism is the Lord's appointed means of bringing a believer into contact with His death. 'Into Jesus Christ ... into his death.'
Surely all agree that there is no remission of sins, no salvation apart from the Lord and His death. Some say they cannot see this. Yet they talk and sing of garments being washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Alexander Campbell explained the matter thus:
'God has transferred, in some way, the whitening efficacy or cleansing power of water to blood, and the absolving or pardoning power of blood to water' (Christian System, p. 228). In that well-known hymn, 'Rock of Ages,' Toplady states the simple truth:
'Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.'
It is not a matter for sight, but for faith in the Lord, His word and promises.
'Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His Promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord."'
As the Jewish priests, after being washed, were clothed in white linen garments, typical of righteousness, so the new covenant priests are clothed in robes of righteousness. It is written: 'As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ' (Gal. 3:27). Having no righteousness of our own, we accept from the Lord Jesus the wedding garment of His righteousness, and we are clothed, covered, accepted in Him. We put on Christ, and He is our righteousness.
SACRIFICES DEMANDED FROM US.
1. 'Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service' (Rom. 12:1-3).
2. 'Through him, then, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name' (Heb. 13:15).
3. 'But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased' (Heb. 13:16).
Nothing is worthy of being called a sacrifice unless it costs, hurts, pains. It has been well said: "There's a red stain in the word sacrifice.'
In short, God demands our all. Under the old covenant, the sacrifices were presented dead; under the new covenant, a living body, with all its faculties and powers, must be given up to the Lord to be used, consumed in His service.
The true new covenant priest says, and shows by deeds, that he means it:
'Take my life, and let it be,
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee,
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.'
THE HOLY PLACE
THERE was a tabernacle prepared, the first, wherein were the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread: which is called the holy place' (Heb. 9:2, R.V.).
In former talks, we have seen that the holy place, where consecrated priests served the Lord, was a type of 'the sanctuary and true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man' (Heb. 8:2); 'the house of God which is the church of the living God' (1 Tim. 3:15). We will now look into the holy place, and note its furniture.
THE CANDLESTICK OR LAMPSTAND.
This was made of pure gold, and had seven branches of beautiful beaten work. Oil was prepared 'for the light, to cause the lamp to burn alway.' When the tabernacle was set up with its sides of board, and the four sets of curtains drawn across the top, it would be dark inside: the only light came from the golden candlestick. By its light, worship and service were offered to God. There was no light in the candlestick; it was a light-bearer.
In the book of Revelation (1:20), the Church is said to be a golden candlestick. The Church's business is to hold up Him who is 'the light of the world,' the 'sun of righteousness'; and 'his word which is a lamp and a light' (Ps. 119:105). Of prophecy, Peter said, 'Ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts' (2 Pet. 1:19). Paul said that the old covenant came with glory: but it has now no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth ['surpasseth,' R.V.] (2 Cor. 3:7-11). The moonlight has faded away before the glorious sunlight. As members of the Church of Christ, 'In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,' we are to be 'seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life' (Phil. 2:15).
That Word can dispel all the darkness and gloom in the world. But it is only in so far as Christ and His Word dwell in us, that we can shine for Him. We have no light in ourselves apart from Him. We can all, by Christlike character and conduct, reflect the life, teaching and glory of the Lord. We must hold up, in these dark days, the Lord Jesus Christ and His powerful saving gospel. As the golden candlestick supplied the only light in the holy place, so the Word of God, 'the Scriptures of Truth,' are the light by which all worship and service in the Church must be rendered. It is a lesson of supreme importance to 'learn not to go beyond the things which are written' (1 Cor. 4:6, R.V.).
Apart from the written Word none, whatever his scholarship attainments, and position, knows what is acceptable to the Lord. If we are at liberty to go beyond the Word, and introduce into worship things not found there, where is the stopping place? The whole Papal system is the result of speaking where the Bible is silent. It is according to the mind of man, not the mind of God.
On the table of the tabernacle were placed twelve loaves, called shewbread, or presence-bread, which were 'for a memorial.' Aaron and his sons, the priests, were commanded to eat it in the holy place (Lev. 24:9). The highest authority, the Lord Jesus, said it was not lawful for even David to eat it, 'but only for the priests' (Matt. 12:4).
That table was a type of the Lord's table, which is inside the Lord's Church. On that table, every Lord's Day, bread for a memorial is placed. 'This do,' said the Lord Jesus, 'in remembrance of me.' He did not give liberty to do something else which might better please human eyes and ears. This bread speaks of Him who is the Bread of Life sent down from heaven, and which was sacrificed for us. By faith, not in any material, corporeal, sense, we feed on Him.
'On Thee we feast, Thou living bread,
And here would feed upon Thee still;
Here drink of Thee, Thou fountain-head,
Whose streams each thirsting soul can fill.'
The Lord's Table, inside the Lord's Church, is for the Lord's priests, which, under the better covenant, are all those who have entered by the door, and have not climbed in some other way. The Lord Himself has set up the only door of entrance: 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'
All societies have their initiatory rites and conditions of membership. We do not say, 'I can be a member of that society and ignore its rites and conditions.' It is only concerning the Divine Society, the Church of the living God, that men claim the right to membership without complying with Divine terms of admission. When infant baptism was first introduced, it was seen that baptism made them members of the Church, and as such, they were entitled to the privileges of the Church. They tried to give them the Lord's Supper, they gave them the fruit of the vine, but they were too young to take the bread. One false move leads to another. So confirmation by onlaying of a bishop's hands, when they came to riper years, was made the passport to the Lord's Table. Article XXV of the Church of England names Confirmation, among other things, and says: these 'are not to be counted for Sacraments of the gospel ... for they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.' So they belong to those things of which the Lord Jesus said: 'In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.'
It is written: 'Upon the first day of the week ... the disciples came together to break bread' (Acts 20:7). Paul and his colleagues had been in Troas some days, but they did not, as some now do, feel at liberty to attend to the Lord's Supper on any other than the Lord's Day; they waited for that day. Then, it was disciples who came together to attend to that feast. The Lord planned how disciples were to be made (Matt. 28:18-20). Remove the line of demarcation from where the Lord has placed it, and there is no legitimate stopping place.
THE ALTAR OF INCENSE.
This was placed 'before the veil' that separated 'the holy place' from the 'holiest of all'; 'and Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning ... and at even ... a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations' (Ex. 30:1-10). David pleaded: 'Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice' (Ps. 141:2). We read in the book of Revelation of 'golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints' (5:8). That altar of incense was a type of the golden altar of prayer. Aaron offering incense was a type of our great High Priest, the 'one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus'; who intercedes in the presence of God for us. It is our priceless privilege to approach God through Him, and make our requests known.
'Boldly our heart and voice we raise,
His name, His blood our pleas,
Assured our prayers and songs of praise
Ascend through Him to Thee.'
Note the Divine Order: the altar of sacrifice pointing to the Cross of Christ; the laver, typical of believers' baptism; the holy place, now the Church of God; the candlestick, holding forth the Lord and His Word; the Table, a type of the Lord's Table in His Church; and the altar of incense, telling of acceptable prayer through Jesus Christ. All this is summed up in Acts 2:41-42: 'Then they that gladly received his word were baptised ... and they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.'
THE HIGH PRIEST
CONSIDER the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus' (Heb. 3:1, R.V.). There are points of similarity, and of contrast, between the high priest of Israel and ours.
BOTH WERE DIVINELY APPOINTED.
'No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that was called of God, as was Aaron' (Heb. 5:4). God, who said of Jesus, 'Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee'; also said, 'Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec' (Heb. 5:5-6).
BOTH WERE ONE WITH THE PEOPLE.
The high priest of Israel was 'taken from among men.' Our High Priest became one with men. He came in 'the likeness of sinful flesh.' 'It behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God' (Heb. 2:17).
Because He lived our life, faced the temptations we have to face; and proved strong where all others have proved weak, He is able to succour (come to the aid of) all who are tempted and tried. He 'can have compassion on the ignorant and erring,' and is well fitted to appear before the face of God for us.
ISRAEL'S HIGH PRIESTS WERE SINNERS, OURS IS SINLESS.
The high priest of Israel had 'to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's.' Our High Priest 'is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.' 'In him is no sin.' 'Which of you convicteth me of sin?' was His challenge to His critics and enemies. That challenge has never been taken up. Christians are condemned for their failings and inconsistencies, but the standard by which we are tested is the perfect life of Him we profess to follow.
THEY OFFERED ANIMAL SACRIFICES, HE OFFERED HIMSELF.
They continually offered 'gifts and sacrifices' which could 'never take away sins.' Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins. But this man [Jesus] after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God' (Heb. 10:11-12). They stood because they had continual work to do; Jesus sat down, His sacrificial work completed.
Contrasting the sacrifices, the inspired writer asks, 'For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?' (Heb. 9:13-14). 'How much more?' Who can measure and answer that?
'But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our guilt away,
A sacrifice of nobler name, and richer blood than they.'
ISRAEL HAD MANY HIGH PRIESTS, WE HAVE ONE.
'And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; but this man because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them' (Heb. 7:23-25).
Under the old covenant an Israelite might go up to Jerusalem, get an interview with the high priest, and unburden his heart. The high priest is sympathetic and promises to do his best; but on going up to a later feast he finds that high priest has been removed by death, and one of a different temperament with no sympathy with his particular case, stands in his stead. That can never happen under the new and better covenant, for our High Priest 'ever liveth.' He is 'unchangeable,' 'the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.' So He is able to save to the uttermost ['completely,' R.V. margin], to carry us through from start to finish for 'He ever liveth to make intercession for us.'
THE HIGH PRIEST'S CLOTHING.
In addition to the linen garments worn by the ordinary priest, the high priest had robes for glory and beauty. Of these we can only speak briefly here. There was the robe of the ephod, all of blue, with a golden bell and a pomegranate alternately upon the hem. These seem to suggest golden words and fruitful deeds. Our High Priest had golden speech, 'Never man spake like this man,' was the testimony of even His enemies. As to fruitful deeds, Peter summed these up in five short words, 'who went about doing good.' Aaron wore a breastplate, with twelve precious stones, bearing the names of the tribes of Israel. 'And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breast plate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually" (Ex. 28:29). Jesus has the names of His people upon His heart. 'The Lord knoweth them that are his'; and we are exhorted to cast 'all our care upon him, for he careth for us.' Those precious stones remind us of the Lord's words, through the prophet Malachi, 'They shall be thine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels ['special treasure,' margin], and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.' Meanwhile, our High Priest, who has offered an all-sufficient sacrifice, is our one Mediator, and through Him we have access to the Father, and we are encouraged to approach and make our requests known.
'Boldly our heart and voice we raise,
His name, His blood, our plea;
Assured our prayers and songs of praise
Ascend by Him to Thee.'
THE MOST HOLY PLACE
THE Most Holy Place, Holiest of All, was a cube, measuring fifteen feet each way. Of the heavenly city it is written 'the city lieth four-square, and the length is as large as the breadth ... the length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal' (Rev. 21:16). Unlike the Jewish high priest, our High Priest 'entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us' (Heb. 9:26). The Shekinah, the glory of God, was the only light in the most holy place. Of the heavenly city, it is written: 'the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof' (Rev. 21:23).
The most holy place was separated from the holy place by a beautiful veil, or curtain, through which the high priest entered once every year. When Jesus died on the Cross, 'the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.' Rent by Divine hands from the top. This signified that the way to approach God was no longer through the old covenant priests and sacrifices, but 'by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh (Heb. 10:19-20). Under the old covenant, the way into the Holiest was only open for one. Now it is open for all. 'Whosoever will may come.'
A LOOK INSIDE.
'After the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all: which had the golden censer [altar of incense, R.V. margin], and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant: and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat of which we cannot now speak particularly' (Heb. 9:3-5). We can well appropriate that last clause.
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT.
This was an oblong chest overlaid with gold. When, because of Israel's sins, that sacred ark was captured by the Philistines, Ichabod ('the glory has departed') was written large over the nation. David, desiring to revive and restore the true worship of Jehovah, attempted to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. Because he consulted men instead of the Divine law book, his first attempt was a tragic failure. But when 'the children of the Levites bare the ark upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord,' the ark was safely lodged in Jerusalem (1 Chron. 13:15).
The golden pot that had manna. This told of the heaven-sent bread by which their lives were sustained during that long wilderness march. It was a type of Jesus, the living Bread, on whom we feed now, but a richer, fuller feast is theirs who pass beyond the veil. 'To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.' Then, 'they shall hunger no more ... for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them' (Rev. 3:17; 7:16-17).
'Aaron's rod that budded.' There were jealous and ambitious folks in those days, as now, who could not bear to see others occupying positions of prominence. They said to Moses and Aaron, 'Ye take too much upon you.' Soon the earth opened and swallowed these complainers. Then the Lord told Moses to take twelve rods and write every man's name upon his rod, 'and lay them up in the tabernacle, and it shall come to pass, that the man's rod whom I shall choose shall blossom.' On the morrow the rod of Aaron, from the House of Levi, was budded, 'and brought forth buds ... blossoms ... and almonds.' This was 'to be kept for a token against the rebels' (Num. 17).
The claims of our High Priest were challenged; religious leaders called Him a blasphemer, and crucified Him as such. Like a dead dry crucified rod, His body was laid in the sepulchre; but on the appointed day, He rose in glorious life and fruitfulness. He was 'declared to be Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.'
'The tables of the covenant.' God's standard of righteousness, tested by which all come short, all are brought in guilty before God. The law given through Moses taught man his sinfulness, and helplessness.
'Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil the law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone.'
'The mercy-seat.' Between a holy and just God and an accusing law, was the lid of the ark, the mercy-seat, or propitiation. John wrote: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation [covering] for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world' (1 John 2:1-2). 'What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh ['it acted through frail humanity,' Weymouth], God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness [requirement] of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit' (Rom. 8:3-4). We are covered, accepted in Him. Believers are 'baptised into Jesus Christ, into his death.' 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 6:3; 8:1).
The cherubims of glory, shadowing the mercy-seat, seemed to look with wonder and adoration at God's wondrous scheme to deal with man's sin. In heaven, angelic hosts proclaim, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing' (Rev. 5:11-12).
' "Worthy the Lamb that died," they cry
"To be exalted thus";
"Worthy the Lamb," our lips reply,
"For He was slain for us." '
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
IN that inspired commentary on the old covenant and its services, the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read: 'But into the second [the most holy place] went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people' (Heb. 9:7). Thus he made 'an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year' (Lev. 16:34). On that great day, the high priest laid aside his robes for 'glory and beauty,' and wore only the linen garments of the ordinary priests. Our High Priest being originally 'in the form of God,' emptied Himself (stripped, divested Himself) of His Divine glory, 'and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men' (Phil. 2:6-7).
ATONEMENT AND REMISSION.
On the day of atonement, two goats were selected, one for a sin offering, the other was the scape-goat. One goat was slain, and its blood taken into the most holy place by the high priest, and sprinkled upon and before the mercy-seat. This act seemed to say: We ought to have died, our sins deserved death; but Thou hast appointed 'blood to be an atonement for the soul': do Thou be pleased to accept the blood of this innocent victim as our substitute, in our stead. According to His promise God appeared in shekinah glory, manifesting His presence and approval. 'There will I meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.'
When the high priest came out of the most holy place he laid his hands upon the head of the live goat, confessed 'all the iniquities of the children of Israel,' and the goat was sent by the hand of a fit (chosen) man into the wilderness. 'And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited, and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness' (Lev. 16:21-22). This was typical of the remission of sins, a sending away, letting go, into a land of forgetfulness, to be remembered no more. Our High Priest, not 'by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.' 'For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us' (Heb. 9:12-24). After the Lord's ascension, He was seen in heaven as 'a lamb as it had been slain.'
The Lord commissioned His ambassadors to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name, 'beginning at Jerusalem.' At the first proclamation, on the day of Pentecost, anxious enquiriers, cried, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' They were given heaven's terms of pardon: 'Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' Then, without any waiting, three thousand surrendered to King Jesus and received his free and gracious pardon' (Acts 2).
OUR HIGH PRIEST IS IN HEAVEN NOW.
Stephen, the martyr, said, 'I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.' Saul saw and heard Him when on the Damascus road. John, from the lonely isle of Patmos, to which he was banished for his loyalty to the Lord and His Word, saw the risen glorified Christ, and our souls are thrilled by his description, telling of the head, once crowned with thorns, now crowned with glory and honour.
HE IS THE FORERUNNER.
The Christian hope is 'as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered: even Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec' (Heb. 6:19-20). That means others are to follow Him, otherwise He would not be a forerunner. His presence in heaven is the pledge and earnest that He will bring many to share His glory. He prayed for His own disciples, 'Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world' (John 17:14). 'We shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.' He said: 'I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also' (John 14:3).
WE MUST PREPARE FOR THAT NOW.
That is the subject of discipleship. The plan of King Jesus, stated in His great commission, is: 'All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world' (Matt. 28:18-20, R.V.).
The Lord was evidently thinking of the Church as the school where His disciples (scholars) were to be trained, prepared for fellowship with Him in the most holy place, heaven. If, as scholars in His school, we learn to observe what he has commanded; if, as the Israelites waited for the high priest coming out of the Holiest of All, we wait, as those looking for our Lord, with loins girt and lamps burning, we shall be received into the eternal tabernacle, the everlasting habitation.
'Soon present shadows shall have fled,
And Jesus we shall see:
And in the Holiest of All,
With Him shall ever be.'
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