THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: TWO
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Two” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries)
Table of Contents
Materials Used in the Tabernacle
Symbolism of materials
The people offered willingly
Bezaleel and Aholiab
Ark of the Covenant
Mercy Seat (Atonement Cover)
Table of Showbread
General Plan of the Tabernacle of the Congregation
Let’s look now at the physical description of the parts and workings of the Tabernacle of the Congregation as they existed in the material world.
Chapters 25-40 of Exodus tell us much of what we know about the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the dwelling place of the Lord. It was an oblong wooden building, covered with gold, and roofed with cloth covered by animal skins. The building was about forty-five feet long by fifteen feet wide by fifteen feet tall.
The gold-covered boards from which the building was constructed stood upright, having two tenons (projections) on the bottom which were inserted in silver sockets placed on the ground.
Four layers of material were thrown over these upright boards, forming the ceiling and roof. The outside layer of material was badgers’ skins (actually dolphins’ or porpoises’ skins), so the appearance of the sides and back (west end) of the Tabernacle was rough and plain.
There was a beautiful Veil made from blue, purple, scarlet and fine twisted linen with cherubim skillfully worked into the material. The Veil hung inside the building on four gold-covered wooden posts standing on bases of silver.
The Veil was placed two-thirds of the way toward the far end of the building, partitioning off a room cubical in proportion, fifteen feet on a side. This was the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies).
The remainder of the building was called the Holy. In English we add the word place, referring to it as the Holy Place.
The Tabernacle building or Tent of Meeting, stood within an area referred to as the Court, or Courtyard, of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Court was surrounded by a linen fence hung on posts, or pillars, standing on sockets of bronze. The fence of linen was about one hundred fifty feet long by seventy-five feet across by seven and one-half feet high.
The reason we say about is that the Scriptures give the dimensions in cubits and there is some uncertainty about the exact length of the cubit of the Old Testament. We have estimated the cubit at eighteen inches, which reflects current thinking and probably is close enough for our purposes.
In any case, the linen fence was twice as long as it was wide. So if you think of seventy-five by one hundred fifty by seven and one-half feet high for the linen fence you will have a good idea of its dimensions.
The Tabernacle building was three times as long as it was wide, and it was as tall as it was wide. If you think of fifteen feet wide, fifteen feet high, and forty-five feet long you will be close enough for the Tabernacle building itself. Remember, fifteen by fifteen by forty-five feet for the building, and seventy-five by seven and one-half by one hundred fifty feet for the linen fence.
Measure one of the rooms in your house and you will get a picture in your mind of the size of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. It was quite large.
If you stood back at a distance you would gain the impression of a large fenced area, the fence being sparkling-white linen. The building was twice as high as the fence and its appearance was plain and rough on the two sides and rear. The inside of the building was very ornate and beautiful, as we will be noticing.
Isn’t that just like the Christian life? The world sees only the rough exterior. It cannot see the Glory of God on the inside.
Sometimes the Glory of God can be seen on the “outside” of a Christian during periods of anointed ministry or during the course of a completely dedicated life. So it was with the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The Glory of God Himself could be seen as He came down on the Tabernacle.
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 the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34,35)
For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:38)
The gate to the Court of the Tabernacle was on the eastern end. It was a curtain that hung from four pillars. The curtain that formed the gate of the Court was about thirty feet wide and seven and one-half feet tall—the same height as the rest of the fence.
The gate was part of the fence that surrounded the Courtyard. The colors of the gate leading into the Courtyard of the Tabernacle were blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen (white). These colors appear in the same order in several places in the Tabernacle.
The door to the Tabernacle building within the Courtyard also was of blue, purple, scarlet and fine twisted linen. This hanging of material was upheld by five posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and topped with gold capitals.
The beautiful gate to the Courtyard and the higher door to the Tabernacle building gave the Israelite who came with his offering some idea of the magnificence of the gold-covered interior of the wooden Tabernacle building—the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.
From the outside only two of the seven pieces of furniture could be seen. These were the great bronze Altar of Burnt Offering on which the lambs, goats, bullocks, rams, and birds were sacrificed; and the bronze Laver that stood between the Altar of Burnt Offering and the door of the Tabernacle building.
The long sides of the Tabernacle building and of the linen fence ran west to east, with the entrances (door and gate) on the eastern end.
There were five pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle building. When the priest stepped inside the door of the Tabernacle, on his right, that is, on the north side, was the Table of Showbread. It was constructed of wood and overlaid with gold. On his left, the south side, was the solid-gold Lampstand.
Straight in front of him, just this side of the Veil that partitioned off the Most Holy Place on the western end of the building, was the gold-covered Altar of Incense.
On the annual Day of Atonement, when the high priest was allowed to go past the Veil, he carried a censer, an incense burner, into the Most Holy Place (some scholars differ on the exact procedure here). Straight before him in the center of the Most Holy Place, a cubical room about fifteen feet on a side, was the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant.
Serving as a lid on the top of the Ark of the Covenant was the solid-gold Mercy Seat (literally, Atonement Cover) with the two covering cherubim hammered into shape from the same solid piece of gold from which the Mercy Seat itself was beaten into shape by Bezaleel (Exodus 37:6-9).
The Israelites pitched their tents outside the linen fence.
The tribe of Levi had charge of putting up and taking down, watching over, and carrying the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The tribe of Levi was divided into three families: the sons of Gershom; the sons of Kohath; and the sons of Merari.
The sons of Merari camped on the north side of the Tabernacle and had charge of the posts and other hardware of the Tabernacle.
The sons of Gershom camped on the west side of the Tabernacle and had charge of the curtains, coverings and hangings.
The sons of Kohath camped on the south side and took care of the holy furnishings and implements.
The remainder of the Israelites camped around the Tabernacle in the following order: on the east side, the side of the entrances, were camped Moses, and Aaron and his sons. Outside of them, on the eastern side, were the tribes of Zebulun, Judah and Issachar—186,400 soldiers under the flag of Judah.
On the south side were camped Simeon, Reuben and Gad—151,450 soldiers under the standard of Reuben.
To the rear, outside the western end of the linen fence, were camped Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh—108,100 soldiers under the flag of Ephraim.
On the north side of the linen fence were camped Asher, Dan and Naphtali—157,600 soldiers under the flag of Dan.
There were a total of 22,300 Levites and 603,500 foot soldiers.
When Israel set forward on the march these tribes moved out in a specific order, completely protecting the Levites who were carrying the Tabernacle. The entire arrangement shows us plainly that God intended for the Tabernacle of the Congregation, His dwelling place among mankind, to be central in the life and culture of Israel.
The Ark of the Covenant was carried in the center of the line of march. The Ark was of special importance because within the Ark were the two tables of stone, the Testimony, the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were the covenant of God with Israel; therefore the Ark was termed the Ark of the Covenant, that is, the Ark containing the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments were the testimony that God gave concerning His requirements for the conduct of the people of Israel and, in fact, for the conduct of all mankind. Those requirements were in the form of judgment against sin.
The Ten Commandments are prohibitions concerning human behavior. They warn us concerning our conduct until we can make the transition into a life in which we are able, through the Holy Spirit, to put to death the deeds of our bodies—a life in which the fruit of the Spirit is governing the manner in which we act, speak, and think.
We have seen, then, that the Tabernacle of the Congregation was a rather large structure consisting of a gold-covered wooden building, or tent, within a fenced area, set up by the Hebrews in the Sinai wilderness during their journey from Egypt to the land of promise. The pattern of the Tabernacle was shown to Moses by the Lord (Hebrews 8:5). It was the dwelling place of God in a human neighborhood (Exodus 25:8; 29:45).
The Tabernacle was an earthly figure of the Temple of God in Heaven (Hebrews 9:23,24).
The Tabernacle was divided into three main parts. The outer area, the Courtyard, was surrounded by the linen fence (Exodus 27:9). The courtyard was not covered. It was an outside area lighted by the sun.
The second and third areas were inside the wooden structure, which was covered by the linen curtain, the goats’ hair curtain, the rams’ skins dyed red, and the badgers’ skins—four layers of material. The interior of the wooden structure was never seen by the Israelites except those persons set apart for the priestly work associated with the Tabernacle.
The wooden building was divided into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place). The separating partition was the ornate Veil. The Veil was ripped open from top to bottom by unseen hands when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, signifying that Christians, through the blood of Jesus, now have access to the very Presence of the Father in Heaven (Hebrews 6:7-12; 10:19,20).
In the Holy Place, the larger room of the wooden building (about fifteen feet wide, fifteen feet high, and thirty feet long), were placed the table that held the consecrated loaves of Showbread; the golden Lampstand, which is an important symbol of Judaism to this day; and the Altar of Incense. The Holy Place was lighted at night by the Lampstand.
The Holy of Holies, the western end of the wooden building, was cubical in proportion—about fifteen by fifteen feet. Inside the Holy of Holies were the gold-covered wooden chest, the Ark of the Covenant, in which were placed the Ten Commandments; the memorial jar of manna; and Aaron’s rod that budded. The lid of the Ark of the Covenant was the solid gold Mercy Seat, with a cherub on each end overshadowing the Mercy Seat with its wings. The Holy of Holies was lighted by the Glory of God Himself.
Out in the Courtyard, directly in line with and just before the door of the Tabernacle building, were placed the Altar of Burnt Offering and the bronze Laver.
Hopefully this brief overview of the Tabernacle of the Congregation will aid you in understanding what we are talking about as we go into more detail concerning the materials, furnishings, and parts.
Materials Used in the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle of the Congregation is introduced in the Book of Exodus.
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. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:2-8)
We will not be discussing the last two materials, the onyx stones and the precious gems to be set in the ephod, because these were for the garments of the high priest. The high (anointed) priest, who is a type of Christ, and the vestments of the high priest, although directly related to the study of the Tabernacle, are important enough to be a separate study by themselves.
Gold—The first material named was gold. This is the same metal we have today. The term pure gold is stressed, no doubt because the gold was refined until the impurities had been removed.
Silver—This is the same metal we have today.
Brass—Scholars seem to be in agreement that this metal was either copper, or the brown alloy of copper and tin we know today as bronze. Both the refining of copper and the making of bronze were techniques known to the Israelites in 1500 B.C.
Blue, and purple, and scarlet material probably were linen dyed these colors.
Fine Linen—An excellent quality of the white cloth material made from flax that we still use today in our clothes.
Goats’ hair—A fine, soft wool like cashmere, perhaps black in color. Eastern goats are black.
Rams’ skins dyed red—Leather made from the skin of male sheep, dyed red.
Badgers’ skins—It is not certain what animal this was. The goat has been suggested; also, a fish of some large species. Dolphin or porpoise seems to be favored currently. The animal probably was not the one we know as the badger. In any case, the “badgers’ skins” was some kind of tough, weatherproof, durable animal hide that was chosen for its ability to protect the Tabernacle against the elements of the wilderness. It probably was rough and plain in appearance.
Acacia (shittim) wood—From a thorny tree having knots and twists, able to grow in a dry climate. The wood is hard, durable, close-grained, and suitable for cabinet work. It takes a polish. The tree grows to twenty-five feet in height. It does not rot easily.
Oil for the light—Oil from beaten olives, to burn in the golden Lampstand.
Holy anointing oil—Olive oil mixed with myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia—four spices. It was used to anoint the Tabernacle and its furnishings, and also the high priest.
Incense—Compounded from stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense, seasoned with salt (King James—tempered together).
Symbolism of Materials
Gold—This metal, used so much in the Tabernacle building, represents the Substance and Nature of God.
Silver—Silver typifies redemption: the buying back of what has been sold, stolen, or captured. All that has been lost from the possession of its original and rightful owner is a candidate for redemption. Christ redeems us from the authority and power of sin.
Brass (bronze)—God’s judgment on sin.
Blue—That which is from Heaven.
Purple—Purple, being a mixture of blue and red, shows Christ as Son of God (blue) and Son of Man (red). Purple also denotes royalty and stresses the lordship of Christ.
Scarlet—The atoning blood of Christ; also, the humanity of Christ.
Fine twisted (white) linen—The righteousness of the Law imputed to us through accepting Christ; also, the righteous conduct of the saints (Revelation 19:8).
Goats’ hair—It is believed that this particular species was black, representing sin. In addition we have Christ’s statements about dividing the nations into the sheep and the goats.
Rams’ skins dyed red—The blood of Christ, particularly as a covering.
Badgers’ skins—Probably dolphin, or porpoise skin. The tough covering God creates around His saints so they can endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ.
Acacia (shittim) wood—The wood used in the Tabernacle is symbolic of human beings.
Oil for the Lampstand—The Holy Spirit in ministry to the Body of Christ, and as the testimony to the world of the Person, Word, will, and eternal purpose of God.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. (Leviticus 24:1,2)
Holy anointing oil—The Holy Spirit in Presence and blessing, setting aside us and our works as holy unto the Lord God.
And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, (Exodus 30:25,26)
And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. (Exodus 30:30)
Incense—The life of Christ which, through the Holy Spirit, is to be mixed with the prayers of all saints.
And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. (Exodus 30:35,36)
“Tempered together, pure and holy: and you shall beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony” signifies that the Holy Spirit has worked in us through the experiences of our discipleship until the life of Christ has been pounded into every part of our personality.
The mixing process is exceedingly thorough so no matter where we turn, God receives from us a sweet savor of Christ. This mixture was an incense. When thrown on the coals placed in the Altar of Incense, or held in the censer, it gave off the Lord’s special perfume.
The People Offered Willingly
One of the outstanding characteristics of the Tabernacle of the Congregation was that the materials were offered willingly by all the people, as each person was prompted by his or her own heart. The Israelites contributed freely, under no coercion, bringing what they were able to give. When the Tabernacle was completed, many individuals had the satisfaction of knowing that something of themselves was in the place where the Glory of God dwelled.
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. (Exodus 35:29)
So happy were the people to give, the blessing of the Lord being on them, that they soon brought much more than was needed for the Tabernacle.
And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. (Exodus 36:5,6)
Bezaleel and Aholiab
God called out two men by name from the millions of Israelites. These two were the precise people God wanted and had prepared to perform and supervise the many measurements and designs of the vessels of the Tabernacle and all of its parts.
The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of the Lord God. It was made of costly materials and specified to the smallest detail. There was no part of it left to human ingenuity. The Lord designated Bezaleel and Aholiab in order that His building plan might be followed precisely as He gave it.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; (Exodus 31:1-6)
When we examine the many instances in which God called people by name to be leaders of the tribes, for the work of the Tabernacle, for every aspect of the service and life of the nation of Israel, we understand that the Holy Spirit assigns tasks to every member of the Body of Christ according to the will of the Spirit.
The Apostles of the early Christian Church were called by name, just as were Bezaleel and Aholiab. And not just the Apostles, but every Christian, every member of the Body of Christ, has a specific task to perform in the work of perfecting the Body of Christ.
We must, according to Romans 12:1,2, present our body as a whole burnt offering that we may prove what is the perfect will of God for our lives. This is our reasonable service of worship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us turn our attention now to the seven main pieces of furniture, presenting them in the order in which they are first listed in the Book of Exodus.
Exodus 25:10—the Ark of the Covenant, made from acacia (shittim) wood covered with gold. Acacia wood and gold were two of the most important building materials of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Exodus 25:17—the Mercy Seat (Atonement Cover) beaten out of pure gold.
Exodus 25:23—the Table of Showbread (Bread of Faces, or Bread of the Presence). The Table of Presence Bread was made from acacia wood covered with gold.
Exodus 25:31—the Lampstand. This object had a central branch and six side-branches. At the top of each branch was a golden lamp that burned olive oil. The Lampstand and its accessories were beaten into shape from pure gold.
Exodus 27:1—the bronze Altar of burnt Offering. It is referred to in the Scriptures as the “brazen,” that is, brass, altar. But scholars are of the opinion that copper or bronze was the metal used.
Exodus 30:1—Altar of Incense. The Altar of Incense stood within the Holy Place before the Veil, in direct line with the Ark of the Covenant. The Altar of Incense was constructed from acacia wood covered with gold.
Exodus 30:18—the bronze Laver. The Laver was a wash basin placed out in the Court of the Tabernacle between the Altar of Burnt Offering and the door of the Tabernacle.
Now we will take a closer look at each of the seven pieces of furniture.
Ark of the Covenant
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. (Exodus 25:10-16)
The Ark of the Covenant was located in the Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. It was a chest made of acacia wood. Using our equivalent of eighteen inches per cubit the Ark was three feet nine inches wide, two feet three inches deep, and two feet three inches high. It was covered inside and outside with refined gold.
The “crown of gold round about” appears to have been a border or rim that ran around the top, perhaps to keep the Mercy Seat, which was the lid of the chest, from slipping off while Israel was on the march.
There were four receptacles of gold attached to the four corners of the Ark, two receptacles on each side. Two carrying poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold were placed in these receptacles so the Levites would not have to touch the Ark itself when it was being lifted, carried, and set down in place.
The carrying poles were kept in the receptacles of the Ark of the Covenant at all times, unlike the other furnishings from which the poles were removed each time the Tabernacle was set up at a camping site. The Ark of the Covenant was carried on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites when the Israelites broke camp and followed the cloud and the fire to the new location.
Inside the Ark of the Covenant was placed the “testimony,” the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments. Also, in the Ark were placed a memorial jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. By the side of the Ark was placed a copy of the writings of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:26).
When the Israelites took up their journey, the Ark of the Covenant (with its lid, the golden Mercy Seat, in place) was covered with the Veil used to partition off the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Over the Veil was placed a protective covering of badger (porpoise) skin; and then, finally, a blue cloth.
The Ark and the Mercy Seat were wrapped around with the Veil, with a protective covering of animal skins, and with an outer wrapping of blue cloth. If you stood watching the columns of Israelites marching through the wilderness, all that you would see of the Ark and the Mercy Seat would be the “cloth wholly of blue” and the gold finish of the carrying poles (see Numbers 4:5,6).
It is important to note that the carrying poles always remained in the receptacles on the sides of the Ark. When the Ark was placed in Solomon’s Temple (II Chronicles 5:9) it seems the poles were partially drawn out so the little Ark of the Covenant could be noticed in the midst of the elaborate cherubim that Solomon had made.
Then, as the anointed priest went into the Most Holy Place of Solomon’s Temple on the Day of Atonement, the extended poles would guide him to the Mercy Seat. It was dark in the Holy of Holies except when God chose to brighten it with His Glory.
The poles remained in the Ark. The Ark is always ready to move on. The Glory of God is always pressing on, pressing on toward the fullness of God’s Glory in Christ.
The Ark of the Covenant was the most important element in the national culture of Israel (except for the Person of God Himself) because it contained the testimony—the covenant, the Ten Commandments. The Ark was lost at the time of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.) and will never be seen again until the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15-19).
Mercy Seat (Atonement Cover)
Although we are treating the Mercy Seat as a separate furnishing, and it was made separately, it was placed as a lid on the Ark of the Covenant and was regarded as a part of the Ark so the whole made one unit—the Mercy Seat resting as a cover on the sacred chest, the Ark of the Covenant.
And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 25:17-22)
The cherubim made a shelter with their wings over the Mercy Seat, the Propitiatory (Hebrew kap-PO-reth), the lid of appeasement or atonement.
The Mercy Seat was the place of appeasement and reconciliation, the place of atonement, of mercy, of pardon, of covering. It fit exactly the top of the Ark, being three feet nine inches by two feet three inches in dimension.
The winged creatures, the cherubim, were beaten out of the one piece of gold along with the Mercy Seat itself. The Hebrews were acquainted with the art of casting metals, and parts of the furnishings were cast. They could have cast the Mercy Seat into its form much more easily and quickly than was possible by the technique of beating it into shape with a hammer.
Sometimes God has good reasons for accomplishing His purposes in a difficult, painful manner. Have you found this to be true?
The cherubim looked toward each other, toward the Mercy Seat, and covered the Mercy Seat with their wings. God spoke directly to His servant, Moses, from above the Mercy Seat, from between the two cherubim.
There was no wood in the Mercy Seat or in the covering cherubim. The unit was solid gold. This particular furnishing of the Tabernacle had no symbol of humanity in it; the solid gold speaks of what has been fashioned wholly of and from God.
The refined gold of the Tabernacle represents Divinity. The Divine Substance within us has to be beaten into shape. Have you ever wondered why the Spirit of God hammers, hammers, hammers away at you? Christ in you not only has to grow in you but also must be beaten into shape through the multitude of pressures on you each day.
The word seat, in the term Mercy Seat, is somewhat misleading. The Hebrew word kap-PO-reth has nothing to do with a seat. Kap-PO-reth is derived from the word translated make atonement. It means, lid of atonement.
The kap-PO-reth was a cover on the Ark, a lid rather than a seat. God communed with Moses “from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim.” There are some who believe God rested on the wings of the cherubim.
In any case, the solid-gold Mercy Seat together with the Ark of the Covenant formed the place of God’s Presence. The Mercy Seat stood for the fact that God desires to reconcile to Himself the race of mankind, which has been brought into the bondage of sin through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
Once each year, during the Day of Atonement, the blood of a young bull and of a goat was sprinkled on the front of the Mercy Seat, and evidently on the ground where the high priest approached the Mercy Seat (upon and before the Mercy Seat).
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: (Leviticus 16:15)
So real was the Presence of God that it would not be out of line to state that the Glory of God Himself formed part of the Mercy Seat in that His Presence actually came down and dwelled between the cherubim, over the Ark of the Covenant.
The golden Mercy Seat was only a material object, a symbol of the invisible God. It was never to be worshiped. It was a physical point of reference that God designed to represent His Presence with the children of Israel; a geographical location that God set apart as being the place where His Glory would dwell; and a prophetic symbol of spiritual facts pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ. It was patterned after the Mercy Seat in Heaven.
The Presence and Glory of God Himself was with Israel as long as Israel was walking in strict obedience to God’s laws. The loss of the Ark symbolized the loss of the Presence and Glory of God (I Samuel 4:22).
The Mercy Seat with the covering Cherubim of Glory, and the Lampstand, had one extraordinary fact in common—they both were formed from refined gold beaten into shape. The Mercy Seat and cherubim were beaten from one piece of gold, and the Lampstand of the Holy Place was beaten out of one piece of gold.
In this respect, the Mercy Seat, the cherubim, and the Lampstand must be considered as being expressions of the Substance of the Godhead—of the Substance of the Divinity beaten into shape.
The Mercy Seat and the Lampstand represent the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is of pure Divine Substance. He was “beaten into shape” in that He was made perfect through the things He suffered on earth (Hebrews 5:8,9).
The Bride, the Wife of the Lamb, the Body of Christ, is of one Substance with Him, being born of Him and partaking of Him continually (Hebrews 2:11). The Body of Christ is of the Divine Substance and is beaten into shape through many sufferings, beatings, denials, frustrations, persecutions, until the Divine Substance that is in us through Christ appears in the shape God desires. We are being fashioned in His image.
There is a part of us, in the holy of holies of our being, the deepest part of our personality, that has been born of God. It is “solid gold.” There is nothing of humanity in it. This is true of every person who has been born again.
The Divinity in each believer must be subjected to the fashioning processes of the Holy Spirit until the mercy seat, to speak symbolically, is created at the core of the being of the Christian. Human nature (wood) cannot be “hammered” into shape. Divine Nature (gold) can be “hammered” into shape.
Table of Showbread
Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway. (Exodus 25:23-30)
The Table of Showbread was placed in the Holy Place, on the north side—to the right as the priest entered the Tabernacle. It was constructed from the hard, close-grained acacia wood used for many purposes in the Tabernacle. The wood was then covered with refined gold. The table was three feet long; one and one-half feet broad; two feet three inches high.
There was a crown, a rim of gold, around the center area of the table so the twelve loaves of the showbread would remain securely in place; for the loaves were kept on the table continually, even on the march.
The surface of the table was enlarged by the “border (frame) of a hand breadth round about.” The border was a shelf extending out on all four sides from the table top and having its own rim of gold around its outside edge.
The center area of the table top was the table proper. It was separated from the shelf area by a “crown” (rim) of gold. Within this center area were placed the twelve loaves of showbread (literally, bread of faces; or, Presence bread).
The shelf area, a “hand breadth” wide, that increased the area of the table top but may have been somewhat lower than the table top surface on which the twelve loaves were placed, evidently was for the four kinds of golden utensils used by the priest in the service of the Table of Showbread.
The four kinds of utensils were as follows: the dishes that held the showbread when carried to the table, and also when eaten by the priests; the little cups in which the holy incense was kept; and the larger cups and the bowls that held the wine for the drink offering and from which the wine was poured on the Tabernacle floor, apparently near the Table of Showbread, on the occasions when sacrifices were made for the whole nation of Israel.
The rim of gold around the showbread kept the twelve loaves separate from the golden utensils—the dishes, little cups, bowls and large cups. The rim of gold around the outside of the extended area kept the dishes, cups, and bowls from falling off onto the floor (ground).
We see, then, that the vessels of ministry were kept near the Presence bread, being placed on the frame of the table adjacent to the Presence bread but separated from the Presence bread by the “crown” (rim) of gold that surrounded the Presence bread, and perhaps also by being a little lower than the table top surface. In this manner the Presence bread was always kept separate from the dishes, bowls and cups placed on the surrounding ledge.
The Word of God is preached by frail humans; but the Word itself is always perfect. The Word of God, for a season, remains separate from those who preach and teach it while they are still in the process of being made perfect by the Word they themselves preach and teach.
The members of the Body of Christ are imperfect and may fail; but the Word of God, Christ Himself, is perfect and never fails.
The Table of Showbread had its four receptacles of gold so the carrying poles could be inserted in order for the Kohathite Levites to carry the table on the march. When the Table of Showbread was set in place in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, after the march was over, the carrying poles were taken out—unlike the Ark of the Covenant in which the carrying poles remained even when the Tabernacle was set up at one of Israel’s stopping places in the wilderness.
And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 24:5-7)
The term “memorial” brings to mind the words of the Lord Jesus, “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute. (Leviticus 24:8,9)
Each cake, or loaf, had about four quarts of fine flour in it. Every Sabbath day hot loaves were placed on the table in two rows of six each, and the past week’s bread was eaten by the priests in a place set aside as holy.
When a drink-offering was poured out by the priest on behalf of all Israel, such as on the Levitical convocations, new moons, and the morning and evening offering of the daily lamb, the wine was poured out in the Holy Place, evidently on the floor of the Tabernacle, close to the Table of Showbread. Here we have the bread and the wine, a portrayal of the Communion service—the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
As the lamb was being burned on the Altar of Burnt Offering at the opening and closing of each day, the wine was being poured out in the Holy Place by the priest. Can you see Calvary in this ceremony?
When Israel went on the march the Table of Showbread had to be prepared in a specific manner:
And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof. (Numbers 4:7,8)
The cloth of scarlet represents the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The showbread, or Presence bread, indicates the body of the Lord; and the wine poured out as a drink offering near the table reveals His blood. We have our sharing together in the body and blood of Christ at the Table of Showbread, to speak symbolically. It is a picture of the Communion service.
The “continual bread” remained on the table even when the children of Israel were on the march.
The term “continual bread” reminds us that the body and blood of Christ are always available to whoever will come and receive. No one has ever come to Christ for the bread of life and been turned away hungry.
Whether one starts from the Mercy Seat, or from the Altar of Burnt Offering, the golden Lampstand is number four in order. The Lampstand represents Pentecost, the fourth Levitical feast (Leviticus 23:15-21). The Lampstand speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Christ and in the Body of Christ, bearing the Divine witness.
And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers. And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold. And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold. Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount. (Exodus 25:31-40)
When the priest entered the door of the Tabernacle, the Table of Showbread was on the north, that is, on his right. On the south side, his left, was the gold Lampstand. The Lampstand was beaten from one piece of gold and, to a greater extent than the other pieces of furniture, was very ornamental. The Lampstand and its lamps, tongs and censers were all beaten from a talent of pure gold (approximately seventy-five pounds).
The ornamentation suggests to us that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is attractive whereas the cross of Christ is a reproach.
The Lampstand proper, not counting the six side-branches, consisted of a shaft proceeding up from a base. On top of the shaft was a gold lamp containing olive oil and a wick. It seems from the description of the ornaments that the shaft was higher than the branches on either side.
There were three kinds of ornamental details worked in the central shaft, and also in the six side-branches that stood out, three on a side, from the central shaft. The three ornaments were as follows: first, the bowls, or cups. It appears from the language of the text that the cups were designed from the calyx of a flower. The calyx of a flower is the outer part that holds the petals. The calyx is in the form of a cup. There were four of these cups, or calyxes, in the central shaft, and three in each of the six side-branches.
The second ornament was the knop, or knob. Apparently the knob was in the form of a round fruit, that is, in the shape of a ball. There were four of these knobs in the central shaft and one knob in each of the six side-branches. Also there was a knob in the central shaft under each pair of side-branches, at the point where the side-branches came out from the central shaft.
The third ornament was the flower. There were four flowers in the central shaft and one flower in each of the six side-branches. Because there was so much more ornamentation in the central shaft, we believe the shaft was taller than the side-branches and represents Him who is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.
The design we have presented seems to be what is set forth in the Scripture, but there may be discrepancies from what actually was the case in the days of Moses. Unfortunately, we do not have the original Lampstand to study.
On top of the central shaft and each of the side-branches was a lamp holding pure beaten olive oil and a wick. Thus there were seven lights coming from the entire lampstand. Unlike the Ark and the Table of Showbread, we do not have the measurements of the Lampstand. We can only surmise how large it actually was. Its size was limited, of course, in that it was beaten from a fixed quantity of gold.
Of the seven pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, only the Mercy Seat with its two cherubim, and the Lampstand, were beaten from solid gold. This suggests to us that the Lampstand is related to the Mercy Seat. The Lampstand represents the Presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit abiding in and upon Christ, Head and Body.
The purpose of the golden tongs that accompanied the Lampstand seems to have been that of pulling up the wicks when the lamps were dressed in order to increase the light; and perhaps also to trim off any charred parts of the wick.
The censers may have served to remove the charred wick, but especially for placing coals in the Altar of Incense and for carrying coals from the Altar of Incense into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.
In the King James translation the tongs are sometimes referred to as snuffers, and the censers as snuff dishes, which is somewhat confusing.
During the Day of Atonement the high priest took a censer full of coals in one hand, and a cup of incense in the other, and poured incense on the hot coals so the holy perfume would cover the Mercy Seat. The golden censer no doubt came from the Lampstand, the cup of incense from the Table of Showbread, and the coals from the Altar of Incense. In this way all the parts of the Holy Place would be entering the ministry to the Lord who dwelled between the winged Cherubim of Glory.
The Holy Place was dark, being shut out from the sunlight by the door of the Tabernacle, and from the Glory of God by the Veil. The Lampstand was the source of light for the Holy Place at night, and it made the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense, and the Lampstand itself visible to the high priest and to the other priests who were ministering. It appears that during the day the Door was turned back enough to permit the priests to move about in the course of their ministry.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually. (Leviticus 24:1-4)
“He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually.” One would suppose from this that the lamps burned twenty-four hours a day. But the expression “shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning” gives us the interpretation. The seven oil cups were lighted in the evening, and the wicks were trimmed and the cups filled with oil in the morning.
And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; (I Samuel 3:3)
Apparently the lamps burned through the night, and then ran out of oil. How the priest could see to trim the wicks in the morning we do not know, unless the light from the coals of the Altar of Incense gave sufficient illumination. Or, the solution could have been to partially tie back the door to let in the daylight. If this were the case, it must have been true that the interior remained hidden so no one from the outside could see the holy vessels. No one but the priest was permitted to see the furnishings of the Holy Place—not even the Levites.
There was a close relationship between the Altar of Incense and the Lampstand, as seen in the following passage. The incense Altar and the Lampstand were especially in the charge of the high priest, although other priests helped in the service of the Lord.
And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:7,8)
We see that the seven lamps were tended twice each day by the high priest—at sunrise and in the evening. At sunrise the wicks were trimmed and the lamps filled with oil. In the evening the lamps were lighted and burned through the night.
The Lampstand was to be kept lighted throughout the night, just as the Presence bread was to be kept on the table continually. Also, the fire was to be kept burning on the Altar of Burnt Offering that stood outside the door of the Tabernacle.
As we notice the manner in which the Lampstand was prepared for the march, we can see that in addition to the golden tongs and firepans there were jars for holding and pouring the olive oil that accompanied the Lampstand.
And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels [jars] thereof, wherewith they minister unto it: And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it upon a bar. (Numbers 4:9,10)
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Two”, 3457-1)