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Exodus 26:1-37 - Homiletics

The symbolism of the tabernacle structure.

I. That the HOLY OF HOLIES typified heaven itself is declared in the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Hebrews 9:7-12 ). In it were the forms of cherubim, representing the angelic choir, and between them was the manifestation of the presence of God himself. It was cut off from the rest of the sanctuary by the veil, which none was to lift save the High Priest once a year: "the Holy Ghost thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all"— i.e; into heaven—"was not made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" ( Hebrews 9:8 ).

II. THE VEIL thus typified and represented the separation between man and God—the awful barrier which shuts out from the Divine presence all, even the holiest, unless they have with them the blood of expiation, "that speaketh better things than that of Abel." The veil was covered with cherubic forms, reminding men of those watchers at the gate of Eden, who with "a flaming sword that turned every way, kept the way of the tree of life" ( Genesis 3:24 ). Men saw in the thick curtain that hid the holiest from view, that heaven was shut to them, unless a "new and living way" could be found, whereby they might enter. They had impressed upon them the awful holiness and inaccessibility of the Supreme Being, and their own unworthiness to approach him. They learnt that God had hidden himself from them, until some "better time," When the veil would be rent, and in and through their true High Priest, and through faith in his blood, they might "have boldness to enter into the holiest."

III. The tabernacle outside the veil— THE HOLY PLACE , as it was called—represented the church militant. Here was perpetual worship offered to the God behind the veil. Hither were all who had received the holy anointing, and so been made "priests to God" ( Revelation 1:6 ) privileged to enter. Here was a perpetual thank-offering presented to God in the shew-bread that lay always upon the table. Here was illumination from the sevenfold lamp which typified the Holy Spirit (see above on "the symbolism of the candlestick "). The place was "all glorious within" ( Psalms 45:13 )—on the wails "clothing of wrought gold,"—above, a canopy of fine twined linen, and blue and purple and scarlet, with cherubim of cunning work" interwoven into it—at either end a curtain of nearly similar materials. Those who looked on the tabernacle from without saw the goats' hair, and the rams' skins, and seals' skins, and perceived in it no beauty that they should desire it. The beauty was revealed to those only who were within. So now, the Church is despised and vilified by those without, valued as it deserves only by those who dwell in it. Again, the structure seems weak, as does the structure of the Church to worldlings. A few boards, an awning, a curtain or two—what more frail and perishable! But, when all is "fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth" ( Ephesians 4:16 ), when by a machinery of rings and bars, and tenons and solid sockets, and pillars and hooks, the whole is welded into one, under Divine direction and contrivance, the fragility disappears. "God's strength is made perfect in weakness." A structure is produced which continues, which withstands decay, which defies assaults from without, which outlasts others seemingly far stronger, and bids fair to remain when all else is shattered and destroyed. "Behold! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." The tabernacle, frail as it was, lasted from the exodus until the time when Solomon expanded it into the temple. Our tabernacle, the Church, will endure until it shall please God to merge it in a new and wonderful creation—"the new Jerusalem" ( Revelation 21:2 , Revelation 21:10-27 ; Revelation 22:1-5 ).

IV. THE CURTAIN AT THE ENTRANCE symbolises the fact, that there is a division between the Church and the world. The curtain may be lifted at times; but the world has only glimpses of the real inner life of the Church, does not fully see it, does not comprehend it. The life consists in worship—in contemplation, prayer, and praise. The world "cares for none of these things." It may glance curiously at the external fabric, and scoff a little at the contrast between the homely goats' hair that shows itself in one part, and the "blue and purple and scarlet, and fine twined linen wrought with needlework" that is seen in another; it may be angered at the sight of "pillars overlaid with gold," and ask scornfully, "Wherefore this waste?" But it does not care to consider seriously the fitness of these things, or to weigh the reasons for them. The only interest which it feels is one arising from cupidity: the Church, it thinks, would be worth plundering; and it looks forward hopefully to the time when it will "divide the spoil."

V. The support of the entire fabric upon TENONS and SOCKETS indicates that the Church is detached from earth, has here no resting-place, no continuing abode, awaits removal to heaven. What is of the earth, is earthy. If the Church were of the earth, if it were a human institution, if it rested on human wisdom, or power, or affection, it would be swayed by human emotions; it would seek those things which are the main objects of human desire; it would cease to witness for God; it would be powerless to raise man above himself and fit him for the life which is to come. But the Church is not of man's building. Christ built it. It is his. He is its "chief corner-stone;" and there—fore, "while it touches earth, it belongs altogether to heaven."

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