Chapter 1: Introduction

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by David McAllister, Ireland




The purpose of this introductory chapter is essentially threefold: to show
that there is a Scriptural basis for studying the Tabernacle; to outline some
ways in which we benefit by doing so; and to consider the historical background
to the Tabernacle.


For many Christians the Tabernacle is a most delightful subject, and there is
no need to seek to justify studying it. Yet not all are sympathetic to such an
endeavour, and the reasons for this need to be faced.

Some are of the view that we should concentrate, if not exclusively, then
very largely on the New Testament, and not take time to consider Old Testament
subjects in detail. However, when Paul wrote that “all scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly
furnished unto all good works” 2Tim.3.16,17, he was referring to what we now
call the Old Testament. Also, with regard to the Old Testament he wrote, “For
whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” Rom.15.4. Note
that he wrote “all scripture”, or “every scripture” J.N.D., and “whatsoever
things”. So there is nothing anywhere in the Old Testament that is not

While this is true of the whole of the Old Testament, we can move from the
general to the particular, and focus on our topic: the Tabernacle. There are
those who are interested in much of the Old Testament, but this interest does
not extend to the Tabernacle. However, this is difficult to justify when we see
the prominent position God has given to it. It has often been commented that the
creation of the universe is covered in two chapters (Genesis chapters 1 and 2),
whereas about fifty chapters of the Pentateuch deal with the Tabernacle. Clearly
it is important to God; hence it should interest us.

The Tabernacle is a prime example of the reality that understanding the Old
Testament is crucial to understanding the New. If we are to benefit from the
Epistle to the Hebrews, we need a grounding in the Tabernacle, for in that Book
its structure, vessels and ritual are all referred to and used to teach much
concerning the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the resultant
standing of believers today.

Also in Hebrews, the Tabernacle in the wilderness is contrasted with “the
true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” 8.2, and the writer refers
to the Tabernacle and its vessels as “the patterns [‘similitudes’ or ‘copies’
Newberry] of things in the heavens” 9.21,23. Additionally, the names of some
items in the Book of Revelation are the same as those in the Tabernacle. Thus,
the Tabernacle bears a relationship to the unseen world: things in heaven, and
events yet future. We ought to be interested in these, and if studying the
Tabernacle gives us an insight into them, it is worth the effort.

When we consider John’s Gospel, our enjoyment of that presentation of the
Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ will be greatly enhanced if we have a
background in the Tabernacle, for we will be able to see and appreciate the
Tabernacle allusions found in that Book.

Now we come to the crux of the matter: the reason some are unsympathetic to
Tabernacle study is because of that aspect of ‘Tabernacle’ teaching’ in which
the Tabernacle as a whole, and every individual part of its structure,
furnishings and vessels, and its associated rituals are presented as types of
the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. To some, this is the most precious and
profitable part of ‘Tabernacle study’, while to others it is what causes them
most annoyance. We will now seek to show the validity of seeing Christ depicted
in the Tabernacle.

When He spoke to the two on the road to Emmaus, “beginning at Moses
and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things
concerning Himself” Lk.24.27. Later that day He said, “all things must be
fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the
prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me” Lk.24.44. Earlier He had told the
Jews, “Moses … wrote of Me” Jn.5.46. So, we have it from the Lord
Himself that we will find Him, if we spend time, in the Books of Moses. While
these references are not to the Tabernacle in particular, we would be wise not
to ignore that subject, which occupies such a substantial proportion of Moses’

The principle of seeing “types” in the Old Testament is well established in
the New Testament. For example, the Lord Jesus showed that the serpent on the
pole, Numbers chapter 21, is a picture of Him being “lifted up” on the cross,
Jn.3.14,15. In Galatians chapter 4, the sons of two women (Hagar and Sarah) are
shown to typify those still under the bondage of the Sinai covenant and those
free from it, respectively. The New Testament uses types from the Tabernacle as
well. We read an example in Heb.10,19,20: “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”. “The
holiest” and “the veil” in the Tabernacle are seen here as pictures pointing to
the Lord Jesus, His work, His present ministry, and our privileges as His people
today. So we certainly have Scripture for the study of types in the Tabernacle.

Some go so far as to liken those who appreciate types to the professing
converts from Judaism who (in heart, if not in actuality) went back to the Law
and the Temple, or Gentiles who had confessed Christ, but who embraced Judaistic
teaching that brought them into bondage. Others invoke passages like
Col.2.16,17, and accuse us of neglecting the ‘substance’ and clinging to the
‘shadows’. That is not so. On the contrary, we study the ‘shadow’ in order to
see how it presents the One Who is the ‘substance’, that our appreciation of Him
might increase. That is totally different to what Paul and others warned
against, where people were turning away from Christ, and replacing Him by Old
Testament rules and rituals, which were now obsolete. To suggest that using a
type to point to Christ is in any sense comparable to forsaking Christ and
embracing the type is a huge misrepresentation.
There are those who are happy enough to go along with a type when the New
Testament verifies it, but they consider it too speculative if it does not. Now,
it is true that the more explicit is the attestation of a type in Scripture, the
more confidence we can have, but we would be missing so much if we were only to
enjoy a type if we have it stated in ‘black and white’. The Bible is not a
dictionary, or an encyclopaedia, or a ‘systematic theology’ with indexes which
we can look up and have all the ‘cross-referencing’ done for us. It is
altogether richer than that! So, there are types that are stated to be so, and
explained, but there are others where we have to go searching for ourselves, and
when we do so and compare Scripture with Scripture, we get further insights. For
example, we are not explicitly told what “fine linen” in the Tabernacle
typifies, but we read in Rev.19.8 that “the fine linen is the righteousness of
saints”. Therefore, in studying the Tabernacle, it is not stretching things too
far to make a connection between the fine linen and righteousness.

At the beginning of Hebrews chapter 9, the writer briefly lists the items in
the two parts of the Tabernacle proper: “the sanctuary” v.2, and “the Holiest of
all” vv.3-5. Then he writes concerning these items: “of which we cannot now
speak particularly” v.5. He goes on to distinguish between what took place in
the two sections, and the typical significance of this, and says no more about
the vessels. The clear implication of the phrase “of which we cannot now speak
particularly” is that the vessels have typical significance too, about which
words could be spoken. Surely it is in order to investigate their typical

The objection made by some is to this effect: ‘Those so keen on the typical
teaching seem to forget that these things had a purpose for which they were used
there, at that time.’ Admittedly, we could be so taken up with the typical
teaching that we neglect the primary purpose of the Tabernacle (or, even more
dangerously, confuse the two). However, we do not have to choose between the
original purpose of the Tabernacle and its typical significance. Both are worthy
of study; and even if some emphasise the typical aspects to the neglect of the
original, that does not delegitimise the typical! That these various items had a
function at that time is undeniable. If we consider the first piece of furniture
encountered after one entered the court (the brazen altar), it is evident that
it was used for offering sacrifices. However, one would have to be an ardent
opponent of types not to acknowledge that in the altar, and the offerings that
took place on it, we have pictures of the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice. Then, if
we move to the innermost piece of furniture (the ark and mercy seat), which had
an indispensable role at that time, it would be difficult to argue that it has
nothing to do with the subject of propitiation in the Person and work of the
Lord Jesus. Thus, if these two items of furniture at opposite ends of the
structure have typical significance, surely it is in order to seek out the
typical significance of the others between them. If we limit our study to the
purpose and use of the Tabernacle at that time, we will deprive ourselves of
much that is precious.

Another, but related, objection is that ‘those who were associated with the
Tabernacle at that time did not know all the types that people claim go with
it’. However, their [perceived] incomplete knowledge does not bar us from
considering it. In the New Testament it is evident that there are things that we
can see more clearly, in the light of further revelation, than even those who
were writing about them did (for example, 1Pet.1.10-12). To say that our
enjoyment of these things must be limited to the appreciation of those who were
there at the time, is to deny ourselves the benefit of the completeness of the

It is also argued by some that, since not everyone who goes deeply into the
typical teaching agrees on every detail, this shows that such teaching is
unreliable. However, lack of universal agreement on every point is not an
argument against typical interpretation in itself. We acknowledge that when
Scripture is silent we are not entitled to be dogmatic, and points of typical
interpretation should be made as a matter of suggestion, which is how it is done
in this book. On any such proposed interpretation, the reader is free to make
his own judgement; he is not obligated to go along with it! Equally, however, he
should not despise the one who makes the suggestion or seek to deny to another
his acceptance and enjoyment of it!
We humans can tend to extremes: on one hand, to push typical interpretation too
far and be dogmatic on matters where there is no “thus saith the Lord”; and, on
the other, to react so strongly against this that we shut ourselves off from the
benefit of the rich typical truth that is to be found in the Tabernacle. As we
proceed, we will gain maximum benefit by avoiding both these opposite poles.


The discussion above should not leave the reader with the idea that studying
the Tabernacle is to be done only because it is ‘a good thing to do’ (although
it is!). Bible study is not to be mere duty, but a delight, and it is for our
profit. Here are several areas in which we can personally benefit from
considering the Tabernacle. They are stated only briefly here, as they will be
developed more fully through the book:

Our Appetite for the Word of God

Our study should cause us to marvel and rejoice in the greatness of God’s
Word. We will see how things presented in the Old Testament, while necessary and
functional for the people then, had a deeper, fuller meaning which could not be
fully appreciated by them, but awaited the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
which we in this age are privileged to see. Thus the beauty of Scripture, the
harmony between its different parts, and its unity are demonstrated. We will
also see how rich a book the Bible is, for many of these truths are not just
sitting there ‘on the surface’, but are to be found by ‘digging’, and thus
finding its wealth for ourselves. Thus we should see not only an increase in our
love for the Word, but a deeper hunger for it and a greater delight in studying

Our Apprehension of the Person of God

As we consider this subject, we see that He is a holy, righteous God, and at
the same time, a merciful, gracious God Who deigns to identify Himself with His
people. If we were to lay hold upon these truths, it would be to His glory and
to our blessing. “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among
the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? God is greatly to be feared
in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are
about Him” Ps.89.6,7.

Our Adoration of the Son of God

Many truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ are brought before us, wherever
we look in the Tabernacle, including His Deity, His humanity, His sacrifice, His
present ministry and His future appearing. As we see these precious things
illustrated and expounded in the Tabernacle, it ought to increase our devotion
to Him Who “appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself … now …
appear[s] in the presence of God for us … and … shall … appear the second time
without sin unto salvation” Heb.9.24-28.

Our Adherence to the Counsel of God

We will see that God issued many instructions in connection with the
Tabernacle. We will also observe that the people responded obediently, but for
the few who did not, there were serious consequences. This ought to instil in us
a greater desire to take seriously all the principles and commands in the
Scriptures, and gladly to follow them. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I have
not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto
yourselves, and to all the flock …” Acts 20.27,28.

Our Attitude to the House of God

The Tabernacle was God’s dwelling-place as the Israelites journeyed through
the wilderness. As we journey through the scene of which Darby wrote, “This
world is a wilderness wide”, God has His dwelling-place: the local assembly. The
Tabernacle provides us with picture lessons that should enhance our esteem and
affection for the assembly of the saints. This thought will be developed further
in the final section of this introductory chapter.

Our Ardour in the Service of God

The diligence with which the people sacrificed and laboured in connection
with the Tabernacle is an example to us to be zealous in whatever sphere of
service the Lord has for us. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast,
unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that
your labour is not in vain in the Lord” 1Cor.15.58.

Our Appreciation of the Salvation of God

While many believers love the subject of the Tabernacle, they would not wish
to have lived at that time and to have been involved in what went on there! One
major result of studying it should be to give us a greater appreciation of the
“better” things we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. How we delight in the
differences between what Israel had then and what we have now! Then, “every
priest [stood] daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices,
which can never take away sins”. What a contrast comes next: “but this man,
after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand
of God” Heb.10.11,12! If meditating on the Tabernacle increases our gratitude to
God for His Son, and for the great salvation we have in Him, then it will be
highly worthwhile.


Setting our subject in its historical context is important not only for a
proper understanding of it, but it also enables us to draw lessons relevant to
us today, in particular, regarding assemblies of believers. If we want to learn
assembly truth, we will find it in the New Testament, not in the Old, for it is
not there, either in the Tabernacle or anywhere else. However, throughout the
Old Testament God’s character is demonstrated, and Divine principles are seen
which are pertinent to every age. These things can be used, by way of
application, to impress on us matters that are helpful as we seek to be obedient
in our day.

Similarly, while we cannot teach assembly truth from the Tabernacle, if there
are features that the New Testament teaches of an assembly, and those are also
seen in the Tabernacle, then we can use the Tabernacle to illustrate those
truths. Provided what is being taught is firmly based on New Testament teaching,
we can legitimately point out pictures of it in the Tabernacle. What is not in
order is to take aspects of the Tabernacle and try to use them to establish
assembly principles, without New Testament grounds for doing so.
Keeping this in mind, we will look at the background to our study of the
Tabernacle under four areas: the people associated with it; its purposes; its
pattern; and its preparation.

The People

Only a few months before the story of the Tabernacle, the Israelites were in
Egypt, having been in bondage all their lives to a cruel master. But God sent a
deliverer. By the shedding of the blood of a lamb without blemish they were
redeemed, and God brought them out mightily. In the wilderness, set apart unto
God, He gave them the Law and the instructions for the building of the

The parallel between them and us is evident, and doubtless Peter had this in
mind when he wrote, “ye were … redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, as
of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.18,19. There is a most
important lesson here: there was no Tabernacle in Egypt; nor could there be.
Only a redeemed and separated people could know God’s presence in their midst,
and appreciate the blessings associated with being His. Today, only those
redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, delivered from this
present evil world and sanctified unto Himself, can appreciate Divine things and
know the presence of God among them. This has many applications, one of which is
that a true child of God who finds himself in the systems of Christendom should
come out from the religious world, and seek to be with the redeemed, where the
Lord Jesus Christ said, “where two or three are gathered together in My name,
there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20.

The Purposes


The Tabernacle was not built because the people thought it a good idea, or
for their convenience and enjoyment, but was initiated by God, Who told Moses,
“And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” Ex.25.8. It is
amazing that the God of heaven would desire to dwell with mortal men, but it is
so, and the primary purpose of the Tabernacle was to be the place of God’s
dwelling among His people. Thus, as soon as “Moses finished the work … a cloud
covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the
tabernacle” Ex.40.33,34. All could see, by day and night, Ex.40.38, that the
Lord was dwelling in the midst of His own.

Today there is no physical Tabernacle, with the ‘Shekinah’ cloud upon it, but
God still desires to dwell among His people. It is true that He indwells every
individual believer: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost
which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” 1Cor.6.19. It
is also true that the Church, composed of every true believer in this age, is a
sanctuary in which God dwells: “In whom all the building fitly framed together
groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord” Eph.2.21.

Yet there is also that which is visibly, tangibly, present on earth today, to
which God calls His people to gather corporately unto Him, and wherein He dwells
in their midst. This is not in “temples made with hands” Acts 7.48, but in
assemblies of believers gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as
the Tabernacle was not of man’s devising, neither is the New Testament assembly;
and just as the Tabernacle was primarily for God, and not for man, so too is the
assembly. This ought to give us a very high view of the assembly: “the house of
God, which is the church of the living God” 1Tim.3.15.

This has strong practical implications for us. Writing concerning the assembly
in Corinth, Paul said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the
Spirit of God dwelleth in you? … the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”
1Cor.3.16,17. As the cloud and fire showed the presence of God in the
Tabernacle, how important it is that the presence of God would be evident in our
midst! Paul desired that it would be so in Corinth, so that one who came and
observed what was taking place would “worship God, and report that God is in you
of a truth” 1Cor.14.25.


While the Tabernacle was first and foremost for God, it also fulfilled vital
purposes for His people. The same is true for an assembly of believers. We will
briefly mention some important purposes of the Tabernacle, in which we can see
an illustration of the features of the assembly for God’s people today.

The Tabernacle was the focal point for the entire nation. We cannot fail to see
its centrality, both literally and in their lives. The whole company was camped
around it, not haphazardly, but in the positions to which they had been
appointed, Num.1.52,53. It was to the Tabernacle that they looked for the Divine
signal to move, Ex.40.26,37, and they moved in order, in association with it,
Num.2.34. In short, whether they were static or on the move, it was the centre
of their lives, and all they did was to be ordered in relation to it.

Let each apply this to oneself. Is the assembly central to my life, as the
Tabernacle was to God’s people then? Is every aspect of my life set in its
proper perspective in relation to God’s dwelling place? Wherever I am found, are
all my activities governed by the responsibilities associated with being in
assembly fellowship? Do assembly activities provide order to my week, and do I
arrange my other responsibilities so that assembly life is not adversely
affected? Order is not only to be observed when we are attending assembly
meetings, but our lives are to be characterised by godly order, and our
relationship to the assembly ought to order our lives.

Not only was the Tabernacle a place of visual guidance (the cloud), it was also
a place of verbal guidance, from where the instructions for their collective and
individual lives sounded out. Leviticus opens with these words: “And the Lord
called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation,
saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them …’” Lev.1.1,2.
Often after that we read, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying …”, followed by
commands for His people. At the Tabernacle God spoke, and His commands were
heard and were faithfully passed on, to be obeyed.

God does not speak audibly today, but Paul calls the assembly “the pillar and
ground of the truth” 1Tim.3.15: the truth of God is there upheld and displayed,
by being proclaimed, taught and obeyed. Paul commended the assembly in
Thessalonica, telling them, “from you sounded out the word of the Lord”
1Thess.1.8. This probably refers primarily to their gospel testimony, but we can
be sure that it was true of them concerning Divine revelation in its entirety.
At the end of his life Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things that thou hast
heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who
shall be able to teach others also” 2Tim.2.2.

Over the years, assemblies gathered to the Lord’s name have been acknowledged,
even by many not sympathetic to them, as places where God’s Word is read, held,
taught, and told out. Is this still so today; or are other things being
substituted for the Scriptures of truth? Do we still want to hear God’s Word,
and, no less importantly, do we listen to it and obey it when it is told forth?

Another major purpose of the Tabernacle as far as the people were concerned was
that it was a place of worship, of offerings and sacrifices, and where other
God-given rituals were carried out. The variety in what took place there was
great, ranging from annual events to others that were daily. However, at all
times the activities taking place were of a spiritual nature. It was all about
the worship of God, offering sacrifices, carrying out His Word, and seeking to
please Him in everything. It was not a place of entertainment, or of frivolity,
or for the display of the flesh, but for the service of God and unto His glory.

If in that “worldly sanctuary” Heb.9.1 (not “worldly” in the moral sense, but
being in the world, and composed of materials taken from the world), there was a
deep consciousness of the gravity of all that was taking place, and a sense of
reverence for God, should it be any less so in an assembly of God’s people
today? May we never lose sight of our responsibility to maintain appropriate
attitudes and activities, heeding Paul’s words, “… that thou mayest know how one
ought to conduct oneself in God’s house, which is [the] assembly of [the] living
God” 1Tim.3.15, J.N.D. Our conduct in association with the assembly is one area
where the last words of Hebrews chapter 12 are pertinent: “let us have grace,
whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: ‘for our God
is a consuming fire’” Heb.12.28,29.

The Pattern

In Ex.25.9,40, the Lord told Moses concerning the sanctuary, “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 … And look that thou make them
after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount”; words echoed in
Ex.26.30; 27.8, and quoted in Heb.8.5. Concerning this, we pause to note two
simple but important facts. The first is that the design of the Tabernacle was
given by God. It was not Moses’ idea; he was the recipient of it. The second is
that Moses did not have any latitude as far as putting the plan into action was
concerned: he was unequivocally told: “And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle
according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount” Ex.26.30.
His responsibility was to carry out the instructions from above, exactly as he
had received them.

We need to grasp the same two things today with regard to the New Testament
assembly pattern. We are given detailed and unmistakeable instructions in books
such as 1Corinthians and 1Timothy, which are “the commandments of the Lord”
1Cor.14.37. Just as Moses was not the source of the Tabernacle details, but the
faithful recipient and transmitter of them, so too assembly truth does not
consist of ‘the personal opinions and ideas of Paul’, as some would have it.
Since God was so careful and exact in the details He gave for that physical
structure, and emphasised that it was to be done as He had decreed, how mistaken
we are if we think that He cares less regarding His spiritual house today! We
are not free to disregard or distort the precious truths that have come to us
from above!

The Preparation

In any substantial building project, it is vital to have a plan and detailed
instructions on the various components of the structure and its contents, but if
the edifice is to be built, two further things are essential: the materials must
be obtainable and available, and there must be capable people who are willing to
do the work. Just as the Tabernacle did not lack for a pattern and directions,
it did not want for materials and labourers either.
The Tabernacle was God’s work, but He condescended to use human beings to
provide the materials and do the building of His house. It was an honour and
privilege to be allowed to have a part in this Divine work. Are we conscious of
what an honour it is, that God would use us in His work, in building up the
assembly, His spiritual house? Paul was, for he told the assembly in Corinth
that it was “God’s building”, and that he and others were “labourers together
with God” in its construction, 1Cor.3.9.

Beginning in Exodus chapter 25, God detailed the materials and the methods. It
was important not only with what they were to build, but also
they were to
do it. In the passage just referred to Paul makes it clear that the principles
are the same as far as the assembly is concerned: “But let every man take heed
how he buildeth thereupon … Now if any man build upon this foundation gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made
manifest …” 1Cor.3.10-13. Those involved in the building of the Tabernacle knew
that a day of reckoning was coming, and if they were to have the “well done”
when the work was finished, not only from Moses, but from the Lord, they would
have to make sure that the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ were in line with God’s words to
them. May we never forget that everything we do in connection with God’s
assembly, and how we do it, will “be made manifest” when the work is all done,
and may we be diligent to be well-pleasing to Him, 2Cor.5.9-11.

As we read the account of the Tabernacle construction, the word heart
prominent. Those who provided the materials are frequently described as
willing-hearted; those who worked as wise-hearted. We will consider both groups:

The Givers: Willing-hearted – Ex.25.2; 35.5,21,22,29

From the beginning, the Lord stated that the materials were to be supplied by
those with willing hearts: “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” Ex.25.2, and Moses relayed this message to the people: “…
whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord”
Ex.35.5. They responded as God desired: “And 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 they
came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought … unto
the Lord … The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord,
every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of
work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses”
Ex.35.21,22,29. Such was their readiness and generosity that they had to be
“restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the
work to make it, and too much” Ex.36.5-7.

It is uplifting to observe this liberality on the part of the people, who gave
from the heart, and not out of any sense of duty, or with a grudging attitude.
Doubtless the reason was that they appreciated the redemption they had received,
and out of a heart of gratitude to the Lord Who had redeemed them, they gave
willingly for His house and His work.

Today, God still desires that the resources for His house would be provided by
His own people, from willing hearts. “Every man according as he purposeth in his
heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a
cheerful giver” 2Cor.9.7. Appeals, fund-raising efforts, and all the other
methods used in the world, including the religious world, should have no place
whatsoever among us. As with the children of Israel, an appreciation of our
redemption should be our motivation, as it was for the Corinthians, to whom Paul
wrote at the close of the section on giving: “Thanks be unto God for His
unspeakable gift” 2Cor.9.15.

When we speak of the ‘resources’ that are needed for the house of God, we are
not speaking only of financial resources, but of everything God has given to us,
including our time and abilities. The brother qualified in a trade who freely
gives his services for the upkeep of the gospel hall; the married couple using
their home to show hospitality to the Lord’s people; the businessman who makes
his property available for gospel meetings; and the sister who sacrifices hours
to visit and assist needy and housebound saints, are willing-hearted givers to
the Lord and to His house; as are those who give of their substance.

How did the children of Israel, pilgrims travelling through the wilderness, have
the highly valuable materials for the Tabernacle construction? We are told in
Ex.11.2; 12.35,36, that when they left Egypt they were given “jewels of silver,
and jewels of gold, and raiment” by the Egyptians. The words “borrowed” and
“lent” in Exodus chapter 12 do not demand the thought of paying back. These two
words are different forms of the same word in the original and are translated in
the Revised Version as “asked” and “let them have what they asked” respectively.
The reason was that “the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the
Egyptians” Ex.11.3; 12.36, and they were receiving no more than their
entitlement for their years of hard labour. That which they rightfully received
from the world was put to use in Divine service, and it is so today when the
Lord’s people use their honestly-obtained resources to further Divine purposes.

The first item in the list of materials to be offered for the Tabernacle was
“gold” Ex.25.3. When Moses repeated the Lord’s instructions to the people, he
also started with “gold” Ex.35.5. How sad it is that in the short time between
these two statements, some of the people would use gold to make an idol, the
golden calf. Moses “took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire,
and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of
Israel drink of it” Ex.32.20. These details enable us to say categorically that
no atom of gold that went into making that calf was used in making the
Tabernacle. Gold used for the idol
was lost forever. Sad that was for those who gave it; and there is a
solemn lesson for us: if we put our time, our energy, our abilities, our goods
into anything that takes the place of God, it will be lost. As C.T. Studd wrote:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

The Labourers: Wise-hearted – Ex.28.3; 31.6; 35.10,25,26,35; 36.1,2,8

These verses, and many others, show that the work of constructing the Tabernacle
involved much skill, and those involved needed wisdom if the work was to be done
in accordance with the Divine plan. This was not mere natural ability or human
wisdom, but God-given: “whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom” Ex.28.3;
also Ex.31.6; 35.31,35; 36.1,2. It is so as far as the house of God today is
concerned, as the following passages from the New Testament illustrate:

In the preaching of the gospel, which is necessary for an assembly to be
established, it is “not with wisdom of words … not with enticing words of man’s
wisdom … not the wisdom of this world”, but “the wisdom of God … Christ the
power of God, and the wisdom of God” 1Cor.1.17,24; 2.4,6,7;
Regarding the establishing of the assembly, Paul says, “as a wise masterbuilder,
I have laid the foundation” 1Cor.3.10;
Wisdom is needed in instructing the saints: “Christ in you, the hope of glory:
whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we
may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” Col.1.27,28;
Wisdom is needed for orderly administering of assembly matters: “look ye out
among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we
may appoint over this business” Acts 6.3;
Wisdom is necessary for living a godly manner of life that will be a good
testimony to all: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let
him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” Jms.3.13.

Many are the parallels between the work of building the Tabernacle and work in
connection with the assembly today. For example, there was a great variety of
work: “all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of
the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of
the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning
work” Ex.35.35. For this, a diversity of workers was required. There were those
with a prominent role, especially Bezaleel and Aholiab, Ex.31.1-6; 35.30-35;
36.1,2. Their backgrounds contrasted: Bezaleel was from the exalted tribe of
Judah, Aholiab from the humble tribe of Dan, Ex.35.30,34; Num.10.14,25, showing
that God calls, equips and uses people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds.
Others had a less prominent position, but were also essential to the work, and
Divinely enabled for it: “Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise
hearted man
, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding … And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and
every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had
put wisdom” Ex.36.1,2. These verses refer to males, but women had their part to
play too (in a less prominent role, but vital nonetheless): “And all the women
that were wise hearted
did spin with their hands, and brought that which they
had spun … And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’
hair” Ex.35.25,26.

What a beautiful illustration all this is of work in association with an
assembly today: a great variety of work to be done, by believers from many
backgrounds, some with more prominent roles than others, but everyone essential
to the work; men and women, all in their own spheres in accordance with the
Scriptures, unitedly working for the progress of the testimony, with Divine
enablement. Happy any assembly where it is so!
When we read about the conclusion of the work, it is evident that the people did
the work, and did it as they had been commanded: “Thus was all the work of the
tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel
did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they … According to
all that the Lord commanded

Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all
the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had
commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them” Ex.39.32,42,43.
Thus we see that God’s work, done in God’s way is what brings blessing.

Without doubt the people viewed the completed structure with admiration and were
interested to know more about what would be taking place in association with it.
Having looked at the preliminaries to our study, we too, with the help of the
writers of the subsequent chapters of this book, can now begin to admire the
Tabernacle and consider something of the lessons from its structure, and from
the activities that took place. Unlike the Israelites, we cannot stand and view
the actual building, but we are at a great advantage compared with them, for
with the whole of the Scriptures in our hands, we can see beauties and glories
in it that were unknown to them. As we proceed, may the result be that our love
will be deepened for that blessed One Who, on the road to Emmaus, “beginning at
Moses … expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself”