by John M. Riddle, England
The title of this chapter is sanctioned in the prologue of the Gospel of John: “And the Word was made flesh [‘became flesh’ R.V./J.N.D.], and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn.1.14.
W.E. Vine1 points out that the word translated “dwelt” (skēnoō) means ‘to pitch a tent (skēnē), to tabernacle’, something confirmed in the Revised Version margin. In the words of A.W. Pink, the Lord Jesus “pitched His tent on earth for thirty-three years. There is here a latent reference to the tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness. That tabernacle had a typical significance: it foreshadowed God the Son incarnate. Almost everything about the tabernacle adumbrated the Word made flesh. Many and varied are the correspondences between the type and the Anti-type.”2
- 1. Vine, W.E. “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. Oliphants Ltd., Tenth Impression, 1959.
- 2. Pink, A.W. “Exposition of the Gospel of John”. Zondervan Publishing House, Sixteenth Printing, 1981.
Having established the legitimacy of the title, we must now endeavour to trace the way in which, through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit weaves the subject into the text of the fourth Gospel.
However, first of all, a word of warning: if we dutifully read through John’s Gospel looking for further ‘Tabernacle verses’ (that is, verses, akin to Jn.1.14, which specifically refer to the Tabernacle), we will ‘draw a blank’! Not so when it comes to ‘The Tabernacle in Hebrews’ or even ‘The Tabernacle in Revelation’: ‘Tabernacle verses’ are more readily available in both cases! But this approach does not appear to work in the Gospel of John. Readers will be well aware, for example, that the rending of the veil, recorded in each of the three Synoptic Gospels, is not even mentioned in the Gospel of John, and that, in any case, Matthew, Mark and Luke specifically say (of course) that “the veil of the temple was rent in twain” (or “in the midst”).
All this calls for a change of approach, and your contributor has gladly adopted the suggestion of a gentle ‘tour’ of the Tabernacle, interspersed with ‘pauses’ as we proceed, to notice what John tells us
about the significance of its construction and furniture. We begin by noting:
It was, of course, on earth! It was ‘on earth’ in more ways than one. It was ‘on earth’ in the obvious sense of being erected on ‘planet Earth’; but it was also ‘on earth’ in another sense: we look in vain for any reference to the floor of the Tabernacle in the instructions given to Moses! The feet of the priests were firmly planted on earth as they ministered in the Tabernacle, but as they looked around them and above them, they saw “scenes in which earth has no place”3, all of which reminds us that, although they are on earth, the Lord’s people are, at the same time, enjoying the “heavenlies in Christ Jesus” Eph.2.6, J.N.D.
- 3. From the hymn “While golden moments swiftly glide” by Mrs. Strong (Hymns of Light and Love, No. 112).
However, it is of supreme importance to remember, as already noted, that in Incarnation the Lord Jesus “became flesh” and ‘pitched His tent among us’, leading us to sing:
- We saw Thee not when Thou didst come
- To this poor world of sin and death,
- Nor e’er beheld Thy cottage home
- In that despisèd Nazareth;
- But we believe Thy footsteps trod
- Its streets and plains, Thou Son of God.
- (John H. Gurney)
Having noted that the Tabernacle was on earth, we must add two further observations: firstly, that the Tabernacle was not remote; and secondly, that it was marked by the glory of God:
The Tabernacle was not remote.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel … And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them …’” Ex.25.1,2,8. Alas, some believers have confounded separation with isolation. Through Moses, the Lord said to His people, “I will set My tabernacle among you: and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people” Lev.26.11,12. Readers will recall that the Tabernacle as we know it was preceded by a tent of meeting which, because of Israel’s idolatry, was “pitched … without the camp, afar off from the camp …” Ex.33.7. Not so the Tabernacle which is the subject of this volume.
Having read that “the Word was made flesh [‘became flesh’ J.N.D.], and dwelt [‘pitched his tent’] among us” it is not long before we read that John the Baptist, “looking upon Jesus as He walked”, said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Jn.1.36.
These oft-quoted and immensely significant words remind us that in responding to David’s desire to build Him “an house … to dwell in” the Lord said, “I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word … saying, ‘Why build ye not Me an house of cedar?’” 2Sam.7.5-7.
John tells us that the Lord Jesus “walked in Galilee” 7.1, and that He “walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch” 10.23. He also tells us that “Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with His disciples” 11.54. It has been said that “‘walk’ is the normal metaphorical language in Scripture for the whole business of living”. The Lord’s ‘walk’ took Him to “a marriage in Cana of Galilee” 2.1; to “a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar” 4.5; to “a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda” where “lay a great multitude of impotent folk …” 5.2,3; “over the sea toward Capernaum” 6.17; to a tomb outside Bethany, 11.38; to a family meal at Bethany, “where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead” 12.1.
Need we say more? In the Old Testament, as noted above, 2Sam.7.5-7, the Tabernacle was found in a wide variety of places (including “the house of Obed-edom the Gittite” 2Sam.6.10,11), and in a wide variety of circumstances. Similarly, in John’s Gospel the Lord
Jesus (Who ‘pitched His tent among us’) was also found in a wide variety of places (including the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus), and in a wide variety of circumstances. Needless to say, both households mentioned above were richly blessed, and the two passages are ‘ripe for development’!
In summary, the Lord Jesus “dwelt among us”. He did not appear in ‘solitary grandeur’; and in every place He was seen to be “full of grace and truth” Jn.1.14. We should also note that:
The Tabernacle was marked by the glory of God.
It was so at its completion.
“And he [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” Ex.40.33-35.
It was so in connection with the blessing of God’s people.
“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people” Lev.9.22,23.
It was so in connection with the anger of God towards His people.
“But all the congregation bade stone them [Joshua and Caleb] with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel” Num.14.10. See also Num.16.19; 20.6.
John tells us that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn.1.14. We read of His glory in Jn.2.11: “This beginning of miracles [turning water into wine] did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory …” We also read of His glory in Jn.11.40, where He reassured Martha at her brother’s tomb: “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” In both cases, men saw “His glory” exhibited in His power.
Yet the Lord’s glory was exhibited in another way. A.W. Pink defines the glory of God as “the revelation of His excellencies, the visible display of His invisible perfections”.4 It is noteworthy that when Moses said to the Lord, “I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory” Ex.33.18, his request was quickly answered when “the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty …’” Ex.34.6,7. We might well conclude from this that the glory of God is, amongst other things, the perfect harmony of His attributes.
- 4. Pink, A.W., ibid.
The Lord Jesus displayed every Divine attribute in harmonious perfection. Hence, having said “we beheld His glory”, John continues, “full of grace and truth”. This is beautifully illustrated in the conversation between the Lord Jesus and the woman of Samaria. Having referred to her marital status, Jn.4.16-18 – what truth! – He did not hesitate to pursue the subject of worship with her, Jn.4.20-24 – what grace! We should also notice the closing words of the Saviour to the “woman taken in adultery” Jn.8.3,11: “Neither do I condemn thee” – what grace! – and “go, and sin no more” – what truth!
We will return to John chapter 1 shortly, but having noticed, albeit briefly, some very ‘broad-brush’ characteristics of the Tabernacle as we approach its precincts, we must now consider:
The Tabernacle was surrounded by white curtains, Ex.27.9-19, and the enclosure could only be entered by one gate, Ex.27.16. Every Israelite knew that God dwelt there by the fact that “the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and the fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” Ex.40.38. They would draw two conclusions: that the dwelling place of God was holy and that God could only be approached by one way:
The dwelling place of God was holy.
The white curtains made this clear. Those curtains said, in New Testament language, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth” Rev.21.27. It is not without significance that John is writing here about “the holy city, new Jerusalem”, of which a “great voice out of heaven” said, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them …” Rev.21.2,3.
God could be approached by one way only.
The one gate made this clear. Humanly speaking, it would have been much more convenient to have gates on each side of the Tabernacle. But centuries later the Lord Jesus explained the meaning of the gate in saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” Jn.14.6. The Tabernacle occupied only a small area. It was 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. It stood in the middle of a camp with 603,550 men “from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel” Num.1.45,46, and that number excluded the Levites, Num.1.47-49. If we assume that all the potential warriors were married, and had two children apiece, we reach a total camp of about two and a half million people, all surrounding a portable building 150 feet by 75 feet in size! It could, therefore, be argued, speaking ‘after the manner of men’, that four gates, one on each side, would make the Tabernacle far more accessible to the people; but the fact remains that there was one gate only, and anyone, from any part of the camp, who wished to enter the court, must do so by the one gate, and “the altar that is by the door” Lev.1.5, which was closely connected with the gate. H.F.G. Cole comments, “Separate entrances on the north, south, and west sides might have been more convenient: but significance was much more important than convenience.” Cole continues, “Persons of princely or priestly descent had no private entrance; all who would enter at all must enter by the one gate, which was common to all.”5
- 5. Cole, H.F.G. “Tabernacle Treasures”.
The width of the gate is impressive: “twenty cubits was the length, and the height in the breadth [‘the height like the breadth’ J.N.D.] was five cubits, answerable to the hangings of the court” Ex.38.18. The gate was 30 feet wide. It was, therefore, two-fifths of the total width of the court. There was no difficulty in locating the gate, and it was spacious enough to allow unimpeded access. In addition, it was most distinctive: its colours stood out against the white curtains of the perimeter wall. The message of salvation is equally clear and distinct: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” Acts 16.31. He is beautifully presented in the colours, “blue, and purple, and scarlet”, which have been ably discussed in chapter 7 of this volume.
It is most interesting to notice that when blue and scarlet in their liquid form are mixed, the result is purple. While this is not the ‘standard explanation’ of “purple”, it may explain why it is the central of the three colours. Purple, with its combination of blue and scarlet, reminds us, in the language of John’s Gospel, Jn.1.1,14, that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [represented in the “blue”] … And the Word was made flesh [‘became flesh’ J.N.D.], and dwelt among us [represented in the “scarlet”, from the Hebrew meaning ‘worm scarlet’]”, but without resigning His eternal Deity. The “purple” therefore reminds us of His Incarnation, of which it has been nicely said, “The Son of God became the Son of man, that the sons of men might become sons of God.”
While we tend to think of the one gate particularly in terms of the “way of salvation”, which is, of course, wonderfully true, in Jn.14.6 the Lord Jesus was evidently referring to every occasion on which we come “unto the Father”. We may summarise as follows:
It is true initially.
That is, it is true in salvation. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” 1Pet.3.18.
It is true continually.
That is, it is true on every occasion when we approach God. “For through Him [the Lord Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father” Eph.2.18. How wonderful, and yet how awesome, that the Godhead is involved in our prayer and worship! Amongst other things, it adds importance and dignity to the assembly prayer meeting!
It is true ultimately.
That is, it will be wonderfully true at the Rapture. The Lord Jesus will personally conduct us to the Father’s house. Hence He says, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” Jn.14.3.
Since we are considering entry, perhaps we will be permitted to deviate from our ‘orderly approach’ in order to consider:
The Lord’s precious words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” refer not only to the gate of the Tabernacle, but also to the “hanging for the door of the tent” Ex.26.36, and to “the vail … between the holy place and the most holy” Ex.26.31-33. All three words (“the way”, “the truth” and “the life”) evidently allude particularly to entry into the “most holy place” in the Old Testament:
The writer to the Hebrews refers to our entrance “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” Heb.10.19,20. The writer has already said in Hebrews chapter 9 that the high priest’s entrance into the “Holiest of all” (he entered “alone once very year”) indicated “that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing” Heb.9.3,7-9. In the Old Testament there was no “way” by which the redeemed could enter the “Holiest of all”. But there is now! We may enter that sacred place, the very abode of God. The Lord Jesus is “the way”.
Not “the truth” as opposed to ‘the false’, but “the truth” as opposed to the sign and shadow. In the Lord Jesus every Old Testament picture is fulfilled. The Lord Jesus is “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” Heb.8.2; “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself” Heb.9.24.
It would be instant death for even the high priest if he entered the presence of God without proper preparation: “he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not” Lev.16.13; “And it [the robe, with its pomegranates and bells] shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not” Ex.28.35. How then shall we enter the “Holiest of all”? The Lord Jesus is “the life”. We are accepted in Him.
We should notice that the Lord Jesus did not say, ‘no man cometh unto the Father’s house but by Me’ but “no man cometh unto the Father but by Me”. The Lord’s people will enjoy this holy intimacy for ever!
We must now retrace our steps, re-enter the outer court and look up, which brings us to:
The Tabernacle was seemingly unattractive to the uninitiated observer who saw only the outer covering and nothing of the beauties and glories conveyed by the three coverings underneath.
The significance of the four coverings of the Tabernacle has already been ably dealt with in chapter 6 of this book, and it has been noted that the outer covering was made of “badgers’ skins” Ex.26.14. The precise meaning of the Hebrew word (Strong’s number 8476) rendered “badger” in our Bibles has long been debated. Gesenius6 calls it “an obscure word” and after lengthy consideration concludes that either badger skin or seal skin could be meant. According to an authority quoted by Gesenius, seals were of frequent occurrence at the shores of the Sinai Peninsula. The Revised Version has “sealskins”, with a marginal note “or, porpoise-skins”. More recent translations follow suit.
- 6. Gesenius, H.F.W. “Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon”. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Fourth Printing, 1981.
Staying with “badgers’ skins” (although your contributor favours “sealskins”), outer coverings of the same material were used in connection with other holy vessels when Israel was on the march (as has already been noted in chapter 13 of this book, regarding the coverings for the ark of the covenant). See for example Numbers 4.6,8,10,11. H.F.G. Cole comments as follows: “To those who saw only the sombre badgers’ skin covering, the Sanctuary may well have seemed to be lacking in splendour, to be lacking in beauty of form and colour, and altogether to be singularly unattractive in appearance. Here we may see Christ pictured as the One of Whom it is written, ‘He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him’ Isa.53.2.”7 In fact we could write ‘badgers’ skins’ over Isa.53.1-3.
- 7. Cole, H.F.G., ibid.
We now return to John chapter 1, where the apostle tells us that the Lord Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” vv.10,11. They saw ‘badgers’ skins’. But to those whose eyes were opened it was so different. As we have already noted, John continues, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten on the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn.1.14.
The Pharisees saw only ‘badgers’ skins’: “Then answered them [the “officers” sent to apprehend the Lord Jesus] the Pharisees, ‘Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed’” Jn.7.47-49. Listen to their contempt for the Lord Jesus: “We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not whence He is” Jn.9.29.
However, it was not only the Pharisees who saw only ‘badgers’ skins’. Having heard the Lord’s teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, “many … of His disciples … said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can hear it?’” Yet that was only the beginning. Having heard Him say further that “there are some of you that believe not …Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father”, we read that “from that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” Jn.6.60-66. In contrast, in response to the Saviour’s question to His disciples, “Will ye also go away?”, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life …” Jn.6.67,68. Peter saw far more than ‘badgers’ skins’!
We must add that once there was “no beauty that we should desire Him”, but now we are in total agreement with David: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the
Lord …” Ps.27.4. To us, He is “the chiefest among ten thousand” and “altogether lovely” S of S.5.10,16.
Yet that is not all. We have to ask: in practical terms, what exactly was the function of the outer covering of “badgers’ skins”?; and it is at this point that ‘sealskins’ or, if you will, ‘porpoise-skins’, come into their own. We suggest that the outer covering had protective properties. It was impermeable, something which immediately reminds us that the Lord Jesus was impermeable to sin and temptation. In His own words to the Jews, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Jn.8.46. He knew that there was nothing within Him that could possibly justify the accusations of His detractors. In John’s words elsewhere, “in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5. Again, in His own words, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” Jn.14.30. As A.W. Pink observes, “As the sinless One there was nothing within to which the Devil could appeal …There was no weak point in Him … Satan could find something in Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, but Christ was the Lamb ‘without blemish’.”8
- Thy stainless life, Thy lovely walk,
- In every aspect true,
- From the defilement all around
- No taint of evil drew.
- Morning by morning Thou didst wake
- Amidst this poisoned air;
- Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
- No sin disturbed Thy prayer.
- (Macleod Wylie)
- 8. Pink, A.W., ibid.
Before we re-enter the holy place, we must take note of the altar of burnt offering and the laver:
“And he made the altar of burnt offering …” Ex.38.1; “He put the altar of burnt offering by the door …” Ex.40.29. The name of the altar is most significant. Three major offerings were burnt on the altar: the burnt, meal and peace offerings, but certain parts of the sin and trespass offerings were also burnt on the altar, for example, Lev.4.8-10,26,31,35; 7.1-5. The Hebrew word rendered “burn” in these cases means ‘to burn as incense’. The remaining part of the sin offering was burnt “without the camp” Lev.4.12, etc. The word rendered “burn” used in that case is quite different. So, the altar in the court of the Tabernacle was used for “sweet savour” offerings; see, for example, Lev.2.12; 4.31. These were offerings which emphasised devotion to God, rather than atonement for sin. The emphasis is on worship.
We must remember that God found infinite pleasure in the death of the Lord Jesus, not of course in His actual suffering, but in His willingness to suffer. In fact, the New Testament tells us that He has “given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” Eph.5.2. The Lord Jesus Himself taught this: “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again” Jn.10.17. It is, of course, equally true that He bore the wrath of God, but this altar stresses that we can approach God, not only because He bore our sins, but because His death has brought such honour and glory to God.
While not all parts of the Tabernacle are easily identified in John’s Gospel (and we must beware of what has been called ‘sanctified imagination’), there should nevertheless be no difficulty when it comes to the laver, Ex.30.17-21. Jn.13.1-17 will come readily to mind, and nothing further need be said.
Re-entering the “holy place”, we must notice the “table of shewbread” Ex.25.23-30, the “candlestick of pure gold” Ex.25.31-40, and the altar of incense, Ex.30.1-10,34-38. The relationship between the three pieces of furniture in the “holy place” is important. We learn that fellowship with God (the lesson from “the table”) can only exist in the light (“the candlestick”), and leads to worship (“the altar of gold for the incense” Ex.40.5).
Aaron and his sons fed on the twelve loaves of shewbread, but our spiritual food is Christ Himself. We rejoice that as “the living bread which came down from heaven” Jn.6.51, He united the “blue” of heavenly glory with the “scarlet” of earthly humanity, and has ascended “up where He was before” Jn.6.62. It has to be said, however, that when the Lord Jesus described Himself as “the true bread from heaven” Jn.6.32, He was alluding, not to the shewbread, but to the manna.
In similar vein, we have to say that when the Lord Jesus said “I am the light of the world” Jn.8.12, He was not referring to the lampstand in the Tabernacle. The “candlestick of pure gold” gave light, not to the world, but to the priests in the course of their movements and ministry before the Lord. There was no other source of light in that compartment of the Tabernacle. Holy things could not be handled properly without the illumination it provided.
In this connection we should note that, unlike the table of shewbread and the altar of incense, no shittim wood was used in the construction of the lampstand. Without for one moment questioning the delightful things which preachers and commentators tell us about “our Lord’s Godhead glory”9 here, we should give consideration to the way in which the lampstand also conveys the glory of the Holy Spirit. This is, of course, clear from the oil which fed the lampstand, but we should also notice that Aaron was told, “When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick” Num.8.2. “Evidently the lamps were so arranged as to light up the beautiful golden candlestick, and its ornamentations of buds, blossoms, and almonds …”9 Pollock continues: “So we read, ‘When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me’ Jn.15.26.” This verse, together with 16.13,14, enables us to say that the “candlestick of pure gold” is found in the Gospel of John.
- 9. Pollock, A.J. “The Tabernacle’s Typical Teaching”. Scripture Truth Publications, 2009 Edition.
How delightful to remember that the mainstream of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to engage the hearts and minds of God’s people with the Lord Jesus.
The altar of incense was the highest operating surface in the Tabernacle. “A cubit [18 inches] shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits [3 feet] shall be the height
thereof” Ex.30.2. So it was higher than the table of shewbread, higher than the ark of the covenant, and higher than the grate in the altar of burnt sacrifice (each of which was one and a half cubits, that is, 2 feet, 3 inches, in height).
As we have noticed in previous chapters, the “shittim wood” reminds us of the humanity of the Lord Jesus, and the gold reminds us of His heavenly glory. He is “Jesus the Son of God” Heb.4.14. He is “the man Christ Jesus” 1Tim.2.5. He is “God … manifest in the flesh” 1Tim.3.16. The golden altar of incense therefore tells us that the Lord Jesus brings pleasure to God as “the Word” Who “became flesh, and dwelt [‘tabernacled’] among us” Jn.1.14. This altar, with its shittim wood overlaid with pure gold, tells us about the fragrance to God of His life and character as the perfect Man. He was the true golden altar of incense in saying, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him” Jn.8.29. He was the true golden altar of incense in Isa.42.1: “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in Whom My soul delighteth”. He is God’s “beloved Son”, in Whom He is well pleased, and so He will be forever. Finally, we come to:
The reader should refer to chapter 11 of this book, and then to the words of the New Testament writer, “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; which had … the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold … of which we cannot now speak particularly” Heb.9.3-5.
While, through constraints of time and space, not to mention lack of ability, we too “cannot now speak particularly” of these things, we do know that to Moses was given the immense privilege of communion with the Lord “from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony …” Ex.25.22. We also know that the Lord Jesus, of Whom the ark with its mercy seat speaks so beautifully, said, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory” Jn.17.24.
- And is it so? We shall be like thy Son,
- Is this the grace which He has for us has won?
- Father of glory! (thought beyond all thought)
- In glory to His own blest likeness brought.
- O Jesus, Lord, who loved us like to Thee?
- Fruit of thy work, with Thee, too, there to see
- Thy glory, Lord, while endless ages roll;
- Thy saints the prize and travail of Thy soul.
- Not we alone, Thy loved ones all, complete,
- In glory round thee there with joy shall meet,
- All like Thee, for Thy glory like Thee, Lord,
- Object supreme of all, by all adored.
- (John Nelson Darby)