Exodus 25

 
Instructions Concerning the Tabernacle
Exodus 25 – 31
 
The Dwelling of God. Genesis brings out the glories of God in creation, as well as the principles of government and calling. Exodus brings out the truths of salvation and redemption, pictured by the deliverance of Israel, followed by the habitation of God among His people on the basis of redemption. In Genesis God visits individuals. But in Exodus, with redemption accomplished, God dwells. Leviticus gives us the priesthood, offerings, and service of the tabernacle as the means of sustaining the people in their relationship. Numbers gives us the wilderness journey, and God’s presence with the people along the way. Deuteronomy is a recounting of things, and preparation of the people for the land. In Exodus 15 we find the people, with redemption from Egypt accomplished, singing in the joy of their salvation (Hos. 2:15). The people’s heart at that time was: “he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation” (Ex. 15:2). Now in a covenant relationship with Jehovah – although they could not keep it, but at this point had not broken it – the Lord says “let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). It was ever God’s desire to dwell with man (Gen. 3:8), and it is a purpose that He will indeed accomplish, and a state that redeemed man will enjoy for all eternity (Rev. 21:3). The tabernacle therefore gives to us (in type) the work that God has done to bring man into His presence for communion and worship on the basis of redemption!
 
The Tabernacle. The tabernacle is one of the great Old Testament types, along with the type set forth in the overall journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. In order to understand the typical meaning of the tabernacle, we need to read the book of Hebrews, which gives us teaching on the Old Testament. We find in Hebrews 8 and 9 that the tabernacle of Israel was “the example and shadow of heavenly things” (Heb. 8:2), “a figure for the time then present” (Heb. 9:9), and “the patterns of things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23). Further, we find that layout of the tabernacle sets forward a line of teaching concerning access into the presence of God (Heb. 9:8; 10:19). The great point is that the believer in Christianity is brought into the very presence of God, whereas in the Old Testament none but the high priest could enter, and only with blood once a year. There is an invitation to come in boldly for prayer (Heb. 4:16) and another to come in boldly for worship (Heb. 10:19). The tabernacle sets forward several things, all having to do with the dwelling or presence of God. First, the tabernacle represents Christ, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us” (John 1:14). Second, the tabernacle represents the Church, the habitation of God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Third, the tabernacle represents the heavens, the dwelling-place of God (Heb. 4:14). The objects in the tabernacle, its coverings, its furnishings, etc. give us positively the glories of Christ, but the access of the tabernacle is a contrast to what the Christian enjoys, and thereby shows us the negative of what Christ has opened up for us through His Person and work. The tabernacle therefore provides a shadow of good things to come, and yet there is a contrast between the shadow and the substance.
 
Exodus 25 – 31. In the chapters that follow we have the details of the tabernacle, divided across seven chapters. The order in which things are described is not what we might naturally expect. First, we have the materials of the tabernacle described, and the ark, the table of showbread, and the candlestick (ch.25). The golden altar of incense is left out for now. Then we have the construction of the tabernacle (ch.26), the brazen altar, and the courtyard (ch.27). But then the garments of the priests come in, followed by the consecration of the priests (ch.28-29). Then the descriptions of tabernacle resume with the golden altar, laver, and incense (ch.30). Why is the golden altar left until after the garments of the priests are explained? First notice that the parts described in ch.25-27 present Christ as God coming down to meet man. Then the priesthood presents Christ as bringing man to meet God. The altar of incense has to do with priesthood, and therefore it is omitted in the earlier section and included later. The same follows with the laver. This general order can be summarized by Hebrews 3:1; “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus”. As the Apostle Christ brings God down to man, and as the High Priest He brings us to God!
 
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The Materials and Furnishings of the Tabernacle
Exodus 25
 
Exodus 25. Before the construction of the tabernacle is given, the materials used in the construction are listed, and then the furnishings described.
 
 

Collection of the Materials (25:1-9)

CHAPTER 25
And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me a heave-offering: of every one whose heart prompteth him, ye shall take my heave-offering. vv.1-2 A Willing Offering. The materials for the tabernacle were to be given voluntarily, “of every one whose heart prompteth him”. So when it comes to God’s dwelling with man, it is not a matter of force or obligation. In order to have fellowship, there must be on our part a willing heart (Psa. 27:4).
 
3 And this is the heave-offering that ye shall take of them: gold, and silver, and copper, 4 and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and byssus, and goats’ hair5 and rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins; and acacia-wood; 6 oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil, and for the incense of fragrant drugs; 7 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. vv.3-7 The Materials. The earthly tabernacle in Israel was “made with hands”, and therefore it was constructed with physical materials. But these physical materials are “the patterns of things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23), and thus each one a symbol of some spiritual quality that we see in Christ. The materials may be broken into seven categories:
 
Metals. The three metals that were used in construction of the tabernacles and its vessels all speak of the divine character of God, but in various aspects.
  • Gold – divine righteousness as the quality of the Divine nature, seen in Christ. Pure gold is the deity of Christ.
  • Silver – divine righteousness in atonement, redemption, and ransom, accomplished through Christ (Ex. 30:12-16; Num. 18:16).
  • Copper (not brass) – divine righteousness in action, especially in judgment or purification (Gen. 4:22; 2 Sam. 3:34; Rev. 1:15).
Colored Textile. There are four colors, and the number four in scripture often communicates the idea of what is universally seen, just as there are four directions or points on the compass. The tabernacle had four sides so it could be seen by all. These four colors were often woven together. These colors represent the glories of Christ in various aspects.
  • Blue – the heavenly character of Christ, as presented in John’s gospel, the Son of God (John 3:31).
  • Purple – the glory of Christ in connection with all mankind, His universal royalty, as presented in Luke’s gospel, the Son of man (Rev. 19:16).
  • Scarlet – the glory of Christ in connection with Jewish royalty, as presented in Matthew’s gospel, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1).
  • Fine linen (white), or byssus – the spotless holy humanity of the Lord Jesus; e.g. “righteousnesses” (Rev. 19:7)
Coverings. The coverings represent aspects of Christ’s humanity. He was here as a perfect man for God: whatever God required of man, Christ was.
  • Goats’ hair – Christ as a true or faithful prophet, speaking the Word of God. Spun goats’ hair would have produced a rough cloth such as prophets were known to wear (Zech. 13:4; Matt. 3:4).
  • Rams’ skins dyed red – Christ’s consecration or full devotion to the will of God, all the way to the point of death (dyed red, as blood). There was a “ram of consecration” (Ex. 29:26).
  • Badgers’ skins – Christ’s perfect separation from sin and defilement. Badgers have a tough hide, immune to attack (although perhaps not attractive), making good shoes (Ezek. 16:10)
Wood. In scripture wood often represents humanity, and trees represent men.
  • Acacia-wood – a picture of the humanity of the Lord Jesus. Acacia was a tree found in Palestine at that time that doesn’t degrade when cut. In the tabernacle, this wood was often covered with precious metals such as gold, representing the incarnate Person of the Son, with the inscrutable union of humanity and deity.
Oil. In scripture oil is often a picture of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:1-6).
  • Oil for the light – the Holy Spirit as the power of testimony seen in the Lord Jesus. It was fuel for the candlestick, which gave light.
Spices. The spices are what gave fragrance, and thus thy generally represent the fragrance of Christ, like we have in the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Spices for the anointing oil – the fragrance of Christ displayed by the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 2:27)
  • Spices for the incense of fragrant drugs – the fragrance of Christ before God, brought out by fire (Ex. 30). Nadab and Abihu brought strange incense, and were slain.
Stones. The stones represent various qualities or beauties.
  • Onyx stones to be set in the ephod – the power of Christ, especially seen in the security of His people.
  • Stones to be set in the breastplate – the beauties of Christ reflected by light.
 
8 And they shall make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I shall shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the utensils thereof, even so shall ye make it. vv.8-9 A Sanctuary. God’s desire was to dwell among His redeemed people. The place where God dwells on earth is called “the house (or habitation) of God”. It was imperative that Moses would build the tabernacle according to the pattern that God would show Moses on the mountain. It would not be right for Israel to use their own ideas and wisdom in building the tabernacle. It was to be God’s dwelling-place, and therefore His instructions were to be closely followed.
 

The Pattern of the House. The rules and guidelines for God’s House are outlined in His Word. There was a pattern for the physical House of God in Moses’ day (Exodus 25:9), in David and Solomon’s day (1 Chron. 28:12), and there will be for the temple in a millennial day (Ezek. 43:10). What about today? Yes, there is a pattern for God's house today. We have this pattern in the epistles of 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. The first takes up the order of the local assembly, and the second deals with the behavior of believers in the house of God at large. The pattern of God's House is implemented through His administration. The leading feature of the house of God is holiness"This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house" (Ezek. 43:12). “Holiness becometh thine house O Lord forever” (Psa. 93:5). We do well to remember this as those who are in God's house today.

 

Golden Vessels of the Tabernacle (25:10-40)

The Golden Furnishings. Each of the pieces of furniture in the tabernacle represents Christ in some aspect, and each has a unique role. The first item described is the found alone in the innermost chamber of the tabernacle: the ark of the covenant. Man’s approach to God begins on the outside, with the gate of the courtyard, but here we have God’s objective given first. In the last half of Exodus 25 we have three of the golden vessels of the tabernacle. The other golden vessel, the golden altar, is saved for after the priests’ garments are described as it has to do with priestly function.

Ark and Mercy Seat (25:10-22)

The Ark. The first piece of furniture described is the ark. The ark represents the Person of Christ as the means of God coming down to meet man. The glory cloud would come down over the ark in the holy of holies, representing the immediate presence of God. The ark has a long and interesting history. It was moved from place to place with the tabernacle along the journey, placed in Shiloh after the conquest of Canaan, lost to the Philistines for years under Saul and Eli’s watch, recovered by David and brought to the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and finally placed in Solomon’s temple. It was in the temple until the Babylonian captivity, and then lost forever. The ark was the only one of its kind. The other vessels were re-made for the temple, and some with new dimensions and features. But the ark was the same vessel made back in Exodus. The Person of Christ never changes: He is the same (Heb. 13:6).
The Ark of the Testimony, Outside View
 
10 And they shall make an ark of acacia-wood; two cubits and a half the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold: inside and outside shalt thou overlay it; and shalt make upon it a border of gold round about. vv.10-11 The Construction of the Ark. The construction of the ark, like that of the table and golden altar, was of “acacia-wood” overlayed with “pure gold”. This combination represents the Person of our Lord in incarnation, with the inscrutable union of His holy humanity (acacia wood) and deity (pure gold). An ark keeps something safe inside. Noah’s ark preserved his family and the animals. This ark had a hollow in it, containing the tables of the testimony. It was covered with gold outside and inside; fully God as well as fully man. Some have suggested that the border of gold represents the unique glory of Christ as the Son of God; “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). But the border also may show that God guards the truth of the Person of His Son. How many attacks have been made against that truth? Man was prohibited from looking into the ark (1 Sam. 6:19), and in a parallel sense man cannot scrutinize the Person of Christ; “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). Perhaps the “half-cubits” in the dimensions of the ark remind us that we only know in part (1 Cor. 13:12) and that the half has not been told (1 Kings 10:7).
 
12 And cast four rings of gold for it, and put them at the four corners thereof, that two rings may be upon the one side thereof and two rings upon the other side thereof. 13 And make staves of acacia-wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And put the staves into the rings upon the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. 15 The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not come out from it. vv.12-15 Rings and Staves. The rings and staves were for the priests to carry the ark. They represent the fact that Christ is always with His people as they journey through the wilderness (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:6). The Lord will be with his people all the way home.
 
16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony that I shall give thee. v.16 The Law Within. Here we only have one out of three things that were placed within the ark. Hebrews 9 describes the three things, and each one speaks of the inward character of Christ; what He was a man before God. First, “the testimony” refers to the tables of the law, which speaks of inward determination of Christ to always do the will of God (Psa. 40:7-8). Second, the “the golden pot that had the manna” speaks of the moral perfection of Christ as a humble man here in this world, especially that which was only for the eye of God (“hidden manna”, Rev. 2:17). Third, the “the rod of Aaron that had sprouted” speaks of the priestly grace of Christ, whose heart is ever turned toward man for blessing, and which is the preserving power in our walk. These last two pertain especially to the wilderness, and are thus left out when the ark is placed in the temple (2 Chron. 5:10) 
 
17 And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18 And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold; of beaten work shalt thou make them, at the two ends of the mercy-seat. 19 And make one cherub at the end of the one side, and one cherub at the end of the other side; out of the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubim at the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings over it, covering over with their wings the mercy-seat, and their faces opposite to one another: toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be turned21 And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above on the ark, and shalt put in the ark the testimony that I shall give thee. 22 And there will I meet with thee, and will speak with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, everything that I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. vv.17-22 The Mercy Seat. On the top of the ark was the mercy-seat which represented the place where the claims of divine righteousness (gold) would be met by the blood of the sin offering. Once on the mercy-seat and seven times before it the blood of atonement would be sprinkled. The requirements of the divine nature must be met by pure gold; only what was divine could satisfy God. The two cherubim – the executers of God’s judgment. It speaks of God’s righteous judgment against sin, that must be satisfied by blood. Their wings were outstretched to guard the mercy-seat, and ready to judge, but their faces looking toward the mercy-seat, observing the transaction of the atoning-blood, no doubt speaking of the perfect acceptance of the Work of Christ before the throne of a holy God. The mercy seat speaks of Christ as the means of God coming forth to man in mercy and grace; “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in his blood, for the shewing forth of his righteousness, in respect of the passing by the sins that had taken place before, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:24-25). The word is translated propitiation sometimes, because that is what the mercy-seat speaks of. God’s holy nature satisfies and vindicated in the Person and work of Christ. It was precisely there, “from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony” that God said to Moses, “there will I meet with thee, and will speak with thee”. In Leviticus 16 we find that the high priest would approach the mercy seat in a cloud of incense – “that he die not” (Lev. 16:2) – produced from laying incense on hot coals; the perfections of Christ laid on the coals of His suffering and death. This cloud of incense would meet the glory cloud. This type is rich for our meditation and instruction.
 
The Ark of the Testimony, Cut Away View, Showing Contents: Aaron's Rod, Two Tables, and the Pot of Manna

Table of Showbread (25:23-30)

The Table of Showbread. This table speaks of God coming down to meet man’s need in Christ as a man. It speaks of spiritual food and fellowship with God. Is is the communion of which Christ is the source and center. The bread on the table was the food of the priests, and it speaks of Christ in glory as the theme of our fellowship, and as the food that sustains His people. We later find that the table of showbread was placed outside the inner veil, in the sanctuary. It represents what the believer has in Christ while in the wilderness pathway.
 
23 And thou shalt make a table of acacia-wood, two cubits the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. 24 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make upon it a border of gold round about. 25 And thou shalt make for it a margin of a handbreadth round about, and shalt make a border of gold for the margin thereof round about. 26 And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings at the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. 27 Close to the margin shall the rings be, as receptacles of the staves to carry the table. 28 And thou shalt make the staves of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold; and the table shall be carried upon them. vv.23-28 The Construction of the Table. The table of showbread was of similar construction to the ark, only the ark was a box, while the table was a platform with legs. The length and width are different from the ark – a half cubit smaller. The wood overlaid with pure gold represents the incarnate Son of God, fully human (sin apart) and fully Divine. The table represents Christ as the sustainer of His people, and as the center of their fellowship. There were two crowns or borders on the table. The first border around the table proper guards the deity of Christ. The margin around the table the width of a hand with its own border speaks of security; the security the believer has in Christ; “they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Again, the rings and staves show that the Christ as food and fellowship for His people abides with them forever.
 
29 And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and cups thereof, and goblets thereof, and bowls thereof, with which to pour out: of pure gold shalt thou make them. 30 And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me continually. vv.29-30 The Setting of the Table. The table would support the vessels of its service, along with the twelve loaves of bread that were to be “before me continually”. The loaves are described in detail in Lev. 24:5-9, and these speak of Christ in perfect humanity, but in resurrection. The loaves were baked, which speaks of the action of fire. It is food as a result of death. The loaves were made with fine flour, perfectly even and consistent humanity. They were sprinkled with frankincense; the devotion of Christ to the point of death. Notice that, contrary to many depictions, the bread was arranged in two rows of six. There were twelve loaves, which connects with the twelve tribes of Israel, and thus with the nation of Israel especially. Christ is the food for every believer. But the number twelve represents administrative perfection in man; e.g. in the Millennium, twelve apostles, twelve gates, twelve tribes, twelve portions, etc. As a type of Christ, the twelve loaves speak of Christ manifested as the object of the counsels of God. The bread would later become the priests’ food after being on the table seven days before the eye of God. However, the bread was to be “before me continually” – first and foremost for the eye of God!
 
The Table of Showbread

Gold Lampstand (25:31-40)

The Candlestick. The golden candlestick speaks of divine light in Christ, shining forth in seven-fold perfection, the fullness of the glory of God reflected in Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit (oil).
 
31 And thou shalt make a lamp-stand of pure gold; of beaten work shall the lamp-stand be made: its base and its shaft, its cups, its knobs, and its flowers shall be of the same. 32 And six branches shall come out of the sides thereof — three branches of the lamp-stand out of one side thereof, and three branches of the lamp-stand out of the other side thereof; 33 three cups shaped like almonds in the one branch, a knob and a flower: and three cups shaped like almonds in the other branch, a knob and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the lamp-stand. 34 And in the lamp-stand four cups shaped like almonds, its knobs and its flowers; 35 and a knob under two branches of it, and again a knob under two branches of it, and again a knob under two branches of it, for the six branches that proceed out of the lamp-stand. 36 Their knobs and their branches shall be of itself — all of one beaten work of pure gold. 37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof, and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may shine out before it; 38 and the snuffers thereof, and the snuff-trays thereof, of pure gold. 39 Of a talent of pure gold shall they make it, with all these utensils. vv.31-39 The Candlestick. The candlestick was to be made entirely of pure gold, representing something fully divine. The candlestick would give light in the holy place, and this light was maintained continually by burning pure olive oil (Ex. 27:20). The oil is a picture of the Spirit of God, and the candlestick is Christ as the vessel of testimony here in this world. All that God would reveal of Himself to man was seen perfectly in the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ here in this world, and this testimony was by the power of the Holy Spirit. The seven branches (six side plus the center shaft) speak of Divine perfection in testimony. The cups shaped like almonds might represent the fruitfulness of Christ here for God, the knobs His moral perfection (symmetry) in His walk and ways, and the flowers His moral beauties of Christ.
 
40 And see that thou make them according to their pattern, which hath been shewn to thee in the mountain. v.40 According to the Pattern. A further instruction is added that Moses would see to it that these three golden vessels would be made “according to their pattern”. Perhaps there was the danger that the craftsman might insert some of their own artistic ideas into the construction of these pieces, such as exactly what the border might look like, and so on. But Moses saw a pattern of things, and he was to instruct the craftsman to make the vessels exactly as he had seen them. There was no place for human wisdom, for human creativity, in the sanctuary where these vessels were. As we already remarked, in the House of God it is imperative that the pattern given be followed.