“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell-among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”-Exodus xxv, 8,9.
THE Tabernacle of the testimony was the centre of Jewish worship. It was the sun and moon of the camp. All the tribes had their position in relation to it. When it was borne forward by the priests the people followed; when it was fixed the people stayed. It must have been a glorious object, not only because it was made of the costliest offerings of the nation, but because of that wondrous pillar of cloud which visibly covered it by day, and the pillar of fire which was seen over it by night. It was the palladium of the people, the visible sign of the presence and protection of the Almighty. It was the symbol of heaven, of the church, and of the human soul. Hence, the reason of the divine injunction respecting not only the making, but the manner of it. “And look that thou make them after their pattern which was shewed thee in the mount.”-v. 40.
This Tabernacle was a glorious thing for its costliness as an offering of the new-born nation. For so poor a people to bring the costly offerings, not of their spare riches, but of their personal adornments in the Wilderness, indicates a sense of gratitude delightful to contemplate. The Tabernacle was also a beautiful object. Glittering with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet, with its curtains covered with cherubim, it must have appeared to the newly freed slaves of Israel, and compared with their own plain black tents, the perfection of beauty. Its highest interest, however, is its spiritual one. It was a pattern of the Lord’s Humanity, of the heavens, of the church; a pattern given by the Lord Himself. The reference it has to the person of our Saviour we will consider on a future occasion. Let me ask your best attention while we consider the lessons unfolded to our minds by the contemplation of its various parts in their relation to heaven, the church, and man.
The resemblance to heaven was, first, in the general outline of the Tabernacle. There are three heavens as the apostle Paul intimates (2 Cor. XII. 2), and the Tabernacle was divided into three,-the holy of holies, the holy place, and the court: in this respect exhibiting the general order that reigns in all things. Nature is ever threefold. We have suns, planets, and satellites. In relation to our world we have the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. So in the heavenly world, as testified by this pattern of heavenly things, there is the highest heaven, the middle, and the lowest. The holy of holies in the eternal world is the abode of the celestial angels, the holy place is the abode of the spiritual angels, and the court of heaven is the abode of those who may be called angels of obedience, the lowest inhabitants of the kingdom of God.
The same general divisions of the realms of the blest are indicated all over the Scriptures, and follow from the very states of the regenerate life. Solomon said in his prayer, “The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee,” implying the three heavens at least. In the Book of Revelation there are the living ones in the midst of the throne (the throne representing heaven, as here the Tabernacle, the midst representing the inmost of heaven); the four-and-twenty elders having harps of gold; and thirdly, the ten thousand times ten thousand standing round about the throne, all having been redeemed by the Lamb, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. The same general division is intimated in the results of the heavenly sowing as taught by our Lord, where He says of those who hear the Word, understand it, and bring forth fruit, there are some who bring forth a hundred fold, some sixty and some thirty (Matt. XIII. 23). There are angels of love, those ministers of the King of saints who are said to be a flaming fire (Ps. CIV). There are angels of truth, white-robed ones who rejoice more especially in the light; and there are angels of lower uses, who fill the lower mansions of the blest; for in our Father’s house there are many mansions (John XIV. 2). This general truth is clearly indicated by the Tabernacle being threefold.
But heaven is the Lord’s church above; the church is the Lord’s heaven on earth. Hence, that which is the pattern of the one is also the pattern of the other. The measure of a man, is the measure of an angel (Rev. XXI. 17).
The church on earth is the Lord’s sanctuary where He dwells among His people, though they have not all the privileges of the church in heaven. And the church is likened justly by the apostle Paul to the body of the Lord. “Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.”-l Cor. XII. 27. And in the human form we have a threefold division,-the head, the trunk, and the lower members. So in the church, there are Christians of higher and lower talents, experience, and attainments. “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”— 1 Cor. XII. 21. But, undoubtedly, such distinctions exist, both on earth, and in heaven. Each person is arranged by the Lord to render services to His great kingdom, where he can best conduce to the well-being of the whole vast body. The Apostle describes this in another place, when he says, “Now: therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are 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 an habitation of God through the Spirit.”-Eph. II. 19-22.
If we notice the different general degrees of the regenerate life, we shall find they illustrate the truth we are now endeavouring to explain. For when we begin the work of religion how low are our conceptions of Christian duty. We know generally the requirements of the letter of the commandments, and of the letter of the Word, and we aim at keeping them. It however, from any enlightened view of them, but from a spirit of obedience. “Thus, saith the Lord, is our law, and so it ought to be. But our view is very confined, and our experience very shallow. The Lord accepts our offering though it is coarse. We are men of the outer court. And if we die in this state, the outer courts of the heavens will be our eternal home. We shall have no idea probably of any higher happiness than that which we have attained, but in reality we are but in the threshold of eternal bliss. Men of obedience only, are men of the outer court. They who had only a right to the outer court, never saw the brightness of the lights of the golden lamps in the holy place, much less the splendours of the. Divine Light in the Most Holy. But, still they were Israelites, and accepted, and blessed, according to their measure.
In the outer court were two things; the laver of brass, containing water to wash, and the altar of brass for sacrifice; and Christians of the outer court must wash and must sacrifice. Without these duties being performed by him no man is a Christian at all. “If I wash thee not,” said the Lord to Peter, “thou hast no part with me,”-John XIII, 8. ” Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well.”-Isa. I. 16, 17. We
must sacrifice also; “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.”–Ps. LI. 17. These things are essential to all Christians; all enter first the outer court. We must faithfully do the work of purification in daily life, washing our feet, and aiding in the washing of one another’s feet, or we can never be elevated by the Lord to the higher states of the regenerate life. We are first people, then priests. First we tread the outer courts of religion, and wash, and sacrifice, and when we have done this thoroughly, the Lord makes us priests and we may enter into the holy place.
It must be confessed that Christians in general have a very low and indistinct idea of the duties and requirements of the outer court. They have been so used to hear that no one can keep the commandments, and that salvation comes by revivalist feelings, that the religious state of a large number of professing Christians falls far short of washing and sacrificing. Yet it remains an eternal truth that we cannot enter heaven without a thorough change of motives, thoughts and life. “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit” (or of truth and love) “he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”-John III. 5. He must become a new man. Through the love of God our Saviour, he is accepted at first from pure mercy, and saved” by the WASHING of REGENERATION, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”-Tit. III. 5. But he must be washed. “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved; how long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee.”–Jer. IV. 14. We must wash often in this outer department of our lives. The work of purification even of the outer life is not one single effort, but a daily and constantly reiterated exertion. We must say like the Psalmist, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”- Ps. LI. 2. Our obedience will be very imperfect, our walk tottering. Our garments will many a time be spotted by our contact with the world, and the taints of our hereditary defilement, but we must wash again and again in the fountain of Divine Wisdom, the blood of the Lamb, and the time will come when the gracious words of our Lord will be heard, Ye have not defiled your garments, ye shall walk with me in white (Rev. III. 4). This washing was prefigured by the washing of the Jew in the outer court.
There was also the sacrifice and the offering which had to be performed in the outer court: the taking of the animal’s life, and then the offering by fire. A corresponding work is required of every sincere penitent. The tone, the spirit, the life of his mind must be changed. There is a life that must be lost. “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake,” the Lord said, ” the same shall save it.”-Luke IX. 24. The inner life of the unregenerate man is largely selfish. Self rules in the natural mind. However it may masquerade in different disguises, vile self is there. He may appear generous, devoted, courteous, kind friend, a good citizen, an excellent neighbour, an active patriot, a man distinguished in science or in letters, and a profound philosopher, yet divine light will disguise to him, when he desires to see himself In the rays of divine truth, an interior pride, a vanity, a selfishness of heart which will make him humble and loathe himself in the presence of Divine Purity, This life must be sacrificed. This serpent must have its head bruised that we may become Israelites indeed. These are the works of the outer court. They must be done there faithfully, humbly, truly, or we cannot realize the blessings even of that comparatively external condition of the religious life, and be Christians of the outer court of the Sanctuary.
There is a remarkable declaration in the Book of Revelation concerning these times. “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (three years and a half).-Rev. XI. 2. Since religion has been doctrinally and practically separated from life, and been made to consist only in faith and feelings, the outer court has indeed been trodden under foot of the nations. Politics, business, marriage have been governed by motives altogether springing from self. The rulers of nations have not sought for righteousness, but for power, dominion, distinction and glory in the world. Self, self, self, has been then impelling aim. And what gigantic ruin and wide-spread misery has this trampling under foot of the outer court produced! Desolated nations cry aloud, Oh, when will righteousness resume her sway, and red ambition sink and die, before that spirit of the Gospel which says, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”-Matt. VII. 12.
In social life, as a general rule, what has religion had to do with marriage except to perform the ceremony. How little has conscience sought a partner whose qualifications have been those calculated to shed religion on the home, to shine in the noble graces of the heart and mind, to become a fellow angel. Sordid calculations of gain, the demands of ostentation, vanity, luxury, ambition, and even still more degrading motives, have defiled, and do defile, that holiest of all bonds among men; the outer court has been trodden under foot of the Gentiles. And what has been the result, universal heart-burning, incalculable misery. Happily, the forty and two months, the three years and a half, or in other words, the ending of one dispensation and the beginning of a better is now rapidly being realised. The religion of life is being unfolded anew. The outer court is being reclaimed. Men are coming once more to the washing and the sacrificing of the lowest department of the kingdom of God, and ere long we shall have a better world,—a God-governed society. Thus will be fulfilled the divine prophecy, ” In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof: and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”—Amos IX. 11.
We have dealt strenuously upon the restoration of the duties of the outer court, because the great crying want of the age is the restoration of religion in common life: the acknowledgment that every part of this world is God’s world, and should be governed by God’s laws. There is nothing merely secular. Everything has its religious side, and religious bearing upon our everlasting condition. Let this be felt, and lived, and loved, and religion will have a force in human life, a beauty and a blessedness of which it has too long been shorn. The good time coming will be realized, and justice, and judgment be the habitation of the Lord’s throne on earth, as it is in heaven.
But we have only been describing the first great degree in the Christian life; the degree of OBEDIENCE.
There is a second which is opened by the Lord when the first has been duly realized, it is the spiritual degree, and is meant by the holy place. This was a beautiful portion of the sanctuary. Here was the golden candlestick with its seven golden lamps. Here was the altar of incense, and table of shewbread. The priests went into the holy place, but not the common people.
The inner portion of the sanctuary, where the light of the golden lamps was burning, represents the inner state? The mind where the light of heaven shines, It is the Lord’s will that the soul should dwell in light. He teaches us to pray, ” O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill and to thy tabernacles.” “Lighten thou mine eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death.” “Arise, shine,” is His language, ” for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” But this advance into light, is an advance into the spirit of the Holy Word.
When the Christian is only in the outer courts his great aim is obedience. This is his motto. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” But when he has so far succeeded in his heavenly course that the yoke is easy, and the burden light, he is prepared for the higher, inner spiritual state, and he yearns after understanding. “Open thou mine eyes” is his prayer, ” that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” The Word then is not only a rule of life, it is a treasury of thought. The inner truths then opened to the soul ardently desiring them, are” pearls of great price.” The language of the soul, is ” The entrance (opening) of thy Word giveth light ; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” ” Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” In this higher state, the struggles of the soul are not between obedience and disobedience, but between truth and falsity. It discerns truth to be man’s heaven-sent friend, falsity to be a treacherous whirlpool where souls are involved and wrecked. It is tender for truth, courageous and firm against falsehood. To such a soul, falsehood is a pestilential miasma which suffocates thousands, he longs for the free air and healthful breezes of the atmosphere of heaven. He prays to be a child of the light, an inhabitant of the” city of God,” where” the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” In this holy place, this state of the holy love of truth, he who enters finds not only light but bread, the table of shew-bread is there, twelve loaves before the presence of the Lord. For, in this state, the Word feeds the soul with bread, ” the bread of life.” All the principles of goodness and truth are fed and strengthened from this table of the heavenly feast, and the Christian is ‘able to say again and again, ” When I found thy words I did eat them, and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” The altar of incense is there also. From the altar of a warm affection for the Lord the Saviour, and the Truth, ascends continually the incense of prayer and praise. While the glory of truth floods the soul with light, from the altar of love ascends the grateful incense, ” O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Those who have realized this state, are in the holy place. They are spiritual Christians. And when they pass into the eternal world they become spiritual angels.
There is still a higher state meant by the holy of holies. The inmost sanctuary contained the ark, having the ten commandments on the two tables of stone within, and the mercy seat above it. It was lighted only by the presence of the Lord. The ark was of gold within and without, the mercy seat was of gold; the cherubims were of gold.
The state of the highest Christians is here represented. They “dwell in love.” Love is heavenly gold. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” John IV. 16. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.”-v. 18. The law is written in the hearts of these (Jer. XXXI. 33). The new covenant is completed in them. Love reigns in them. They are in all things gentle, humble, sweet, tender. The little child of inmost innocence leads them. Their life, their joy, their exceeding great reward is “to do good.” They form the seraphs of the heavenly kingdom, and dwell in the highest, the third heaven. Their state is the holy of holies. There the Lord meets with them dwells with them and gives them peace. They are in harmony with the light. but they rejoice more in the warmth than in the brilliancy of divine things. They see at a glance, or rather they feel and perceive, what is right, Their communication is, yea, yea, and nay, nay. They are the holiest of the blessed and rejoice for ever in the beatitudes of celestial love. They, after death, enter the celestial heaven. Such are the lessons taught us in the contemplation of the Sanctuary, the pattern of things in the heavens. They teach us that religion is progressive. We must do the work of one state, and then we rise to a higher. We must not walk the plain only at the foot of the mount of God but” ascend into the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place.”-Ps. XXIV. 3. And when we have done our work there and been victorious in our spiritual conflicts, we must go still higher, to the very mountain top of celestial affection, to be for ever in the splendour of the glory of the Lord.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)