And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle. Exodus xxvii. 9.
THE Court of the Tabernacle, in relation to the Church upon earth, represents the Church visible in the world. The Church before men, in harmony with the sacred things of the heavenly mind, seen only by the Lord, is described by the particulars of the Court erected in accordance with the pattern shown to Moses, and commanded in the language of the chapter before us.
The courts of the Lords house, when in heavenly order, are delightful to the true Christian. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts.–Ps. lxv. 4. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.–Ps.–lxxxiv. 2. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come unto his courts.–Ps. xcvi. 8. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name.–Ps. c. 4.
Let us, therefore, attend to the particulars of the divine directions for the Court of the Lord, and in that shadow of good things to come, learn the principles upon which our court of the Lords house may be constructed, in obedience to His holy will. The court was to be one hundred cubits long, by fifty broad (v. 9).
It was to be surrounded by white hangings of fine twined linen. It was to be supported on the north and south sides by twenty pillars of brass resting on sockets of brass; but joined at the top by hooks and fillets of silver (v. 10).
At the east and west ends there were to be ten pillars of brass also resting on sockets of brass, but joined at the top by hooks and fillets of silver (v. 12).
For the gate of the court, there was to be a hanging of twenty cubits: of blue, purple, and scarlet, made of fine twined linen, wrought with needle-work, and resting on four pillars (v. 16). All the vessels of the Tabernacle in the court, and all the pins of the Court were to be made of brass (v. 19).
The hangings of the Court in general were of fine twined linen, and as the hanging of the door has its colors particularly specified, the inference seems clear, that the hangings generally were colorless, white.
The first particular to which we would draw attention is, the order and gradation visible in the metals and arrangements of the Sanctuary and the Court. The objects within the Sanctuary were of gold. The planks of the Sanctuary were of shittim wood, covered with gold, but resting on bases of silver. The hooks and fillets of the pillars of the Court were of silver, but the pillars themselves, their bases, and the pins of the Court were of brass (copper). How beautiful is this order! The inner things of love to the Lord. represented by the gold, and resting upon, and flowing into that interior wisdom, which is heavenly silver. Then, in a lower, the inner wisdom represented by silver, flows down into and rests upon the yet lower things of heavenly goodness, represented by brass; the things of charity and outward deeds of use. So one principle gives rise to another in heavenly order, from the inmost to the outermost.
He who enters the Lords court comes first to the things of brass, or to those feelings and duties which his state will then bear. He cannot yet go into high things, but he can do what he is commanded. He can shun evil, do good, and love his brethren. These are represented by things of brass. When the new Christian has become initiated into these lower principles, and made them his own, he will then be brought to things of silver; that is, those pure interior truths which shine to the eye of the mind like bright silver. The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth.–Ps. xii. 6. When he has made the things of silver his own, he will be admitted to those of gold, that is, to the principles in which the highest treasures of heaven consist,–the principles of celestial love. When the Church is in its highest glory it is like Jerusalem when Solomons reign was in perfection. All things are of gold: none are of silver. How forcibly are we reminded here of that divine prophecy respecting the Lords coming, For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood, brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.
The second particular, to which we should do well to attend, is, that the hangings generally around the Court were of fine white linen which represents the letter of the Word understood in harmony with the divine truth, white. When errors darken the mind they intrude between the soul and the Word, and are like clouds that shade and obscure the sacred heritage of divine revelation, committed to us by the Lord.
But when these are removed the Word is like transparent clouds, which temper but do not obscure the brightness of the sun. The whole letter of the Word, from Genesis to Revelation, becomes clear, and it forms the outer defense and beauty of our spiritual home, the surrounding enclosure of the Church within.
The hanging for the gate of the Court was of more elaborate workmanship. it was of similar construction to the veil, except that it was without the inwrought golden cherubim. It was to be of blue, purple, and scarlet: of fine twined linen wrought with needle-work, and supported by four pillars of brass.
The three, means of entrance, the hanging for the gate of the Court, the hanging for the gate of the holy place, and the Veil or the hanging for the Holy of holies, were similar. They were all of line twined linen, in the colors of blue, purple, and scarlet, only the veil had in addition, the cherubim of golden thread, worked into its texture. The makers of these different objects are distinguished in the original, by different names. The word for the maker of the white cloth may be simply translated weaver; the maker of the more beautiful hangings is denominated color-weaver; while the one who formed the more splendid cloth, like that of the veil, is called an embroiderer.
When the Lord is describing what He has done for the Church He says, I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shed thee with badgers (deer) skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.–Ezek. xvi. 10.
When the intellect of man, stimulated by the spirit of the Lord, is engaged in forming its views from the genuine letter of the Word, it is doing the office of an intellectual weaver. If this be done faithfully and diligently, it forms a pure and firm mental white cloth of which its spiritual dress is made, and thus it obtains a white robe from Him, beautiful and good as He Himself counseled, when He said, I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed. Rev. iii. 18.
When we enter more interiorly we do a similar work, now not from science, but from faith, and in a higher region of the soul. When we advance still higher we still recognize the same great principles, but now everywhere filled with love. The golden cherubim are therein, the work of a loving embroiderer.
The hanging for the gate represented the general doctrine of the Church. This forms a gate that introduces to the more interior states and divine treasures of religion.
Doctrine is formed of many truths. It must be in harmony with the deep spirit of the Word, as well as be expressed in the letter. Doctrine must elevate the soul to expanded views of God and man. It must lead the soul of the believer to love the Lord above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves. Doctrine is a species of epitome of all divine things. Hence its representative was of fine twined linen woven, of blue, purple, and scarlet. Such doctrine is often represented by a gate in the Word. Thus in the Psalms, Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: this GATE of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.–Ps. cxviii. 19, 20. This gate of the Lord is the doctrine of the Lord. This doctrine filled with heavenly light shining into the soul, is the Lord Himself. Hence He says, I am the Door: by ME if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.–John x. 9.
The same gate of introductory doctrine was represented in vision to the prophet Ezekiel. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the outer gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.–xlvii. 2. The outer gate, or farthest gate, by the way that looketh eastward, is doctrine adapted to a soul in its earliest states of religious life. It has been in the spiritual north,–the region of mist and cold. It longs for a better life, but it fears. It wanders about and feels itself lost and self-condemned. To such a soul the doctrine of the Lord Jesus is as a rainbow that sheds the beauteous light of hope and comfort on the mind. It is the colored hanging of the Court, of blue, purple, and scarlet. God with us, is the hidden wisdom, which pervades heaven, the wonder of unutterable love, although it is the lesson the simplest mind learns readily. It is milk for babes, and yet a glorious subject which angels desire further to look into. It is the outer gate, but it looketh eastward. It is the hanging of the, outer Court, but it is blue. God, becoming man! How simple did this appear when the babe of Bethlehem was seen. Yet in that divine seed of the woman lay all the possibilities of the progress of the world. In that one fresh center placed in the vast sphere of humanity, the new and living way, by which the Godhead would redeem and restore mans nature, lay the germs of all churches, schools, and every institution of real Christianity by which the world is humanized, elevated, strengthened, consoled, and blessed.
Nor are we to look back only to see its vast import; we must look forward also through long ages perhaps, but through steady progress to the universal triumph of Divine Love and Wisdom; when all nations shall be the developed and beautified sections of the grand family of man, the vast nursery for the happy; the seminary of angels. In that day the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord and his name one. Zech. xiv. 9.
May we not well say that this doctrine is at once simple and sublime. It awakens the deepest love and gratitude to the Savior; it inspires the warmest affection for men. It breathes the spirit that inspired the hallowed lesson. One is your Father who is in heaven, and all ye are brethren. Such, then, is the signification of the hanging of the outer Court, and of its colors of blue, purple, and scarlet.
It was supported by four pillars of brass. The pillar suggests firmness, support, consistency, fixedness. Our Lord says of the man who has overcome his evils, Him that overcometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out. Rev. iii. 12.
The pillars being four, represent completeness and conjunction; their being of brass, or copper, is significative of their being derivatives of brotherly love.
When a man receives the doctrine of the Lord, and determines that from love to his brethren he will imitate his Lord, he has set up this hanging of the outer Court with its four supporting pillars, and he may say like the apostle John, By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.–1 John iii. 14.
The ten pillars of the east end, and a similar number at the west, the twenty at the north, and alike number at the south, with the hundred cubits in length, and the fifty in breadth of the court, being all compounds of ten, refer to the harmony of all things in the whole Church, and all things in the individual man who is a church, a sanctuary in its least form, with the divine ten commandments. The Church is represented in the Gospel by a woman who has ten pieces of silver, her temptations in relation to all truths is called having tribulation ten days (Rev. ii. 10). The fundamental truths of the divine commandments, which are the very laws of heaven itself, are those according to which the Church is measured. All things in the Church must be done in harmony with them. Where they are not, the Church is not.
The whole circuit of sixty (ten times six) pillars implies that the Church is militant. She must labor for the triumph of goodness and truth.
The six days of labor in spiritual as in natural things, ever precedes the Sabbath.
The external church perverted in doctrine and worship, and made subservient to political and selfish purposes, is referred to in those remarkable words to the angel in Rev. xi. 1, 2, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 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. When the visible church has lost its life, and become an arena where the lust of power parades itself and imitates the proud dignities of earthly courts, it is no longer of any value in the divine estimation: measure it not, it is given up to the Gentiles. The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
How thoroughly has this prophetic declaration been fulfilled! How long has the outer court been given to the Gentiles, and been trodden under feet of men. The sanctuary of the Church, founded by our Lord round the temple of His own glorious body, went on increasing for the first century or two, and its spiritual radiance cleared away the Jewish world, and, eventually, the Roman world. A new heaven and earth were formed. Society was reformed on Christian principles, yet not purely and thoroughly so. The Humanity of the Lord was not altogether seen to be divine. The Father was still regarded in some vague way separate from and above the Son, not in the Son so that He who sees the Son sees the Father. The center remaining divided, and the Humanity of the Lord regarded as something less than God, the Churchs power became comparatively feeble, there was room for the lust of power to come into play, and the insane notion to be accepted, that the power of the Lord Jesus had been transferred to the Pope. When the barbarous nations broke into the Roman Empire and found this feeble Christianity existing there, it assimilated somewhat to their own states, and proved acceptable to them on account of its easy admission of their superstitions, lust of power, and glitter of tawdry show. Hence, from this mixture, came the meretricious Christianity of Rome. Hence, the outer court was trampled under foot; and all the selfishness, the lordship, and the vanity of worldliness were transferred to the Church, and through many generations the degradation increased.
Again darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.
At the Reformation, matters were but little altered essentially. Many of the branches of the upas-tree of error were lopped off, but the root remained. Three divine persons still divided the Godhead, and one of these, the supreme one, was represented as acting in so arbitrary a manner, and was so little regardful of the real truthfulness of things that He could impute evils they had never committed to generations unborn; he could reward where there was no virtue, and punish where there was no sin. It was self-will still deified. The commandments of God were still not regarded. Indeed, they mere ostentatiously set aside, as not necessary and impossible. Evil and error still reigned in the outer court. For three years and a half, that is, until the old dispensation was full and ended, and the new had got some little strength, this state of things would continue; yet it would not last for ever.
A Church was to descend, and, happily, it has begun its career, though but a feeble one yet, whose court shall be formed in perfect harmony with the Holy Word, and with the divine commandments.
In this church there would be no divided Deity. The Father and the Son would be seen as absolutely one; not one condemning, and the other pardoning and ultimately persuading the first to set aside his wrath and forgive the very same person whom before He deemed it right to condemn. nut on the contrary, the one only wise God our Savior, seeking to embrace all His children in love and prepare them for heaven; but only admitting those who are prepared. His commandments surround His Church on every side. The mighty power of a true Church diffuses a sphere of life, love, and purity around, which will make the outer Court, as well as the inner sanctuary, pure.
No imputation can exist in this church of what is not a fact. Everything must be truthful, living, real. Instead of the Church being a center of wrong, it is a center of right, altogether pure and good; it tolerates no make-believes nor falsehoods; it serves one living Lord; it reveres His laws of order; it aims at unfolding His wisdom and doing His will. A new church makes ultimately a new world. What the Church is, that the world will become. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, because the Church has become the church of Him, who is Lord and Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.
The throne of him who is God and the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Oh, may this tabernacle of our God speedily descend with power among men, and spread, until all falsity and wrong, all harshness and despotism, all corruption and sin, all ignorance and superstition shall for ever fade away, and reverent hearts, enlightened minds, and happy homes everywhere shrill announce the universal reign of the Lord Jesus!
Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)