Lecture 2.

God's Dwelling-Place

(Exodus 25:1-9.)

We have here a list of the materials which were necessary for the construction of the

Tabernacle, God's dwelling-place. It was a wonderful building, which represented, for the time in which it was erected, and indeed for all time, the extreme of cost and value. No expense was spared, no magnificence was wanting, to make the dwelling-place of God as glorious and wonderful an abode as the eye of man had ever seen, and yet a fitting accompaniment to the wilderness.

Gold and silver and brass were the metals to be used. All the shittim wood in the Tabernacle was covered with gold — boards, ark, altar of incense, table of showbread; while the candlestick and mercy-seat were made entirely of this precious metal.

Silver formed the foundation of the building. Each board securely rested in two sockets of silver, having mortises into which the tenons of the boards entered. This gave solidity and firmness to the whole structure.

Brass was used in the court, forming sockets for the pillars at the entering of the Tabernacle, as also for the pillars of the entire court. Of this strong, unyielding material were also made the laver and the covering for the altar of burnt offering as well as its various utensils.

We have next the materials of which the curtains were formed — blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen. Then for the other coverings we have goats' hair, rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood for the boards. Each of these materials will come before us in detail as we take up the various parts of this wondrous structure.

Lastly we have mentioned the oil, spices and precious stones, each of which yields precious thoughts when we come to look into their spiritual meaning. Let us notice now three points in connection with the enumeration of these articles:

First, we are told that God invites a free-will offering of His people: "Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take My offering" (ver. 2).

Second, we see that God would have a dwelling among His people: "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them "(ver. 8).

Third, everything was to be made according to the pattern shown to Moses: "According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the Tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it" (ver. 9). This last point will occupy us in looking at the Tabernacle in detail; we will now consider the first two:

As to the first point: All the materials speak in some way of Christ, in His varied perfections and glories, and yet they were to be brought as a willing offering by the people. God has revealed Christ to us in all His fulness; but if He is to have a dwelling-place among us, if we are practically to enjoy His presence and have communion with Him, is it not to be somewhat on the basis of a free-will offering of our own? It is no material offering now; we are not called upon, in that way, to bring our quota of gold, silver, or precious stones; but our hearts must be stirred up, be made willing to enter into what Christ our Lord is, and thus bring it, as it were, to God, who by His Spirit will reveal and cause us to enjoy the blessed Lord fully.

We are thus thrown, we might say, upon our own responsibility. Everything is of perfect grace, but it flows through hearts made willing by that grace. Thus Christ must, in some measure, be to our hearts what the gold, silver, etc., speak of. This is no mere intellectual apprehension, but a laying hold of the very springs of our life, thus enabling us to lay them, as it were, be fore our gracious God for His use and acceptance. What a thought that is! May the Holy Spirit produce its fruit in us. We are not merely to get, but to give. As we dwell on one feature after another of this wondrous building, may they so enter into our hearts as to flow forth in worship and a Christ-like life. This is what glorifies God: His ear delights to hear of His blessed Son. He loves to have us tell Him of our need, but the one precious, sweetest name to Him is that of Jesus, in whom all the glory of the Only Begotten shines.

So let us be a willing-hearted people, with hearts for Christ, who bring to God Christ our Lord and Saviour as the enjoyment of our heart.

The next point to notice is the subject of God's dwelling-place with man: "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell* among them."

{*This word is the root of that translated "Tabernacle" throughout the book. We will look at it and its companion "Tent" later. }

1. When God began His work of creation He had in His mind to be in the midst of His creatures. This is beautifully brought out in the 8th chapter of Proverbs. There, One speaks who is called Wisdom — who was before the creation, before the earth with its hills and fountains were formed. He was ever with God, a member of the divine family — One in whom God delighted. But He adds, "My delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. 8:23-31). Notice thus that before creation existed, divine love, in the Son, was set upon His creatures, and His desire was to dwell with them.

The two thoughts of redemption and dwelling with man seem to be connected there. Just as surely as our blessed Lord was to be the Redeemer the Lamb "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), so surely did He long to dwell with His redeemed people.

But let us look at this a little in detail, taking up a few scriptures which give us foreshadows of the dwelling of God with man. We look back first to Eden, man's paradise, when our first parents in innocence dwelt there. We have a suggestion that God was on terms of holy intimacy, if we may use that expression, with them. For after the fall He is said to have walked in the garden in the cool of the day, and we may gather from the expression that this was no unusual visit on the part of the blessed God. While Eden, as the abode of unfallen man, was not the place of eternal righteousness, yet sin had not entered there, and God could, in some measure, have intercourse with His creatures. What a beautiful picture it is — the garden planted by His hand for the enjoyment and employment of man, and the Creator coming down into this place to enjoy such fellowship with him as was possible.

But, alas, sin soon marred all that. Satan, who himself could not endure the presence of a holy God, and could not endure the thought of creature subjection to Him, had already fallen from the estate in which he had been created. He had exalted himself against God, and therefore was the fallen, relentless, hopeless foe of all the holiness, goodness and mercy of God. He brings in the subtle doubt of that goodness and beguiles the woman. The man, with full knowledge, follows her. Thus sin enters the world, and so, when God comes down to have (may we not say?) His accustomed intercourse with His creatures, they flee from Him and hide among the trees of the garden.

Sin cannot endure the presence of God; from that day to this man has never been able to endure the thought of that holy Presence. What is the object of all the religions of heathenism? Not to give man the knowledge of God, but to enable him to get along without God. The grossest or the most refined rituals are alike in this, that in them man hides from God, self-deceived it may be, but quite willing to be so, and dreading nothing so much as the thought of a perfectly holy God. Conscience cries for something, and so man puts his religion between himself and God, but practically he is outside Eden. We know nothing of that original dwelling of God with His creatures, save as Scripture gives us the glimpse we have been speaking of. It is a thing of the past forever.

2. We pass next to another allusion in the book of Genesis to God's dwelling with, or rather visiting man. What more lovely picture have we in that book than the visit of the three strangers to Abraham (Gen. 18:1-8), as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day? The faithful patriarch sees these strangers draw near, and with alacrity offers them the hospitality of his home. One of these is the living God; the other two are His angels, whom He will shortly send on other service. The holy God accepts the hospitality offered, and becomes a guest in the tent of Abraham the pilgrim.

Here, in this first book of Scripture, we have a picture of the character of God's intimacy with His people. In the unleavened cakes and the calf presented for food we have typified "the Bread of God" — the sinless person of Christ — and His sacrificial work. This is the only basis upon which a righteous and holy God could at all have communion with a fallen creature; faith ever recognizes this, from Abel onward.

In solemn contrast, the two angels are sent on to Sodom where Lot has found his home. There is neither tent nor altar there. Lot has sacrificed both his pilgrim and priestly character for earthly gain, therefore God does not even personally draw near to him. His angels in mercy rescue him, but there is no intimacy.

3. The next picture of God's dwelling with man is what is to occupy us in the following pages. It is not a transient visit to an individual, but an abiding with His people through the wilderness and onward.

4. When the Tabernacle was brought into the land, it was set up at Shiloh. After Israel's disastrous history, as seen in the book of Judges — one apostasy after another — the ark is taken captive by the Philistines, and though God delivered it out of their hands, yet it was never restored to the Tabernacle at Shiloh (see Ps. 78:60-72). And this, among other things, shows us that the Tabernacle had but a typical value — as it spoke of Christ. 2 Chr. 1:3, 13, shows us the Tabernacle at Gibeon, but not, so far as we are told, for stated worship.

5. We pass next to that which is a type of God's permanent place of abode on earth — the temple. This, erected by Solomon, was the crowning splendor of his glorious reign. While the general plan of the Tabernacle is followed, all speaks of permanency: its stones speak of divine stability; its carvings and gold, of glory. But still it is only a figure. "Solomon built Him a house," declared Stephen, only to remind his hearers that "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:47-50). Significantly, Stephen closes his resume of Israel's history with the temple; it was the highest point of the nation's glory, and we have only to follow on in Solomon's history to see that all was yet a shadow. The prayer of dedication, we may say, still echoed about the hills of Jerusalem when Solomon fell into shameful, sin and idolatry. Everything was but a type, and still waited till the full glory of God should be entrusted to One who perfectly, absolutely and permanently — in heart, life and nature — was the exhibition of God.

6. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple, burning it to the ground and carrying away its golden vessels to Babylon, with the people. In mercy, after seventy years of captivity, a remnant of the people is restored to Jerusalem, and the temple is rebuilt. To be sure, all was greatly reduced, and we do not read of the Shekinah glory being seen. But there was the house of God, and the promise to the people that if they truly turned to God, He would make the glory of the latter house greater than that of the first (Hag. 2:9).

7. There are a few centuries of silence between Malachi and Matthew, when, suddenly, we see the Glory returning to Immanuel's land. God Himself is come! "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple" (Mal. 3:1). And how does He come? We see heaven opened, and His attendants ministering with delight in connection with the advent of their Creator upon earth. But when we look to earth to see where this Glory was to find a home: we find it not in the temple, nor yet at Jerusalem. We go out to Bethlehem, and as we look with the wondering shepherds, in a manger, we see the Temple of God, the Shrine where His glory has found its home and abiding-place. "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father." As we see the Man Christ Jesus, we are beholding the true dwelling-place of God. He could speak of His body in that way: "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up." At last God had found a suited habitation with man.

Here are two abodes, we might say: the one, the temple which had been without the Shekinah glory, but connected with all the form and ritual in which the Jews boasted; the other, in the Man Christ Jesus, the blessed Son of God, who was presenting Himself as the witness for God upon earth. These two abodes are in contrast to one another. One is a witness of Israel's past history of sin and the need of salvation; the other is the spotless, sinless, the holy One. Which will the leaders accept?

Our Lord comes to the temple and drives out of it the buyers and sellers, saying: "Make not My Father's house a house of merchandise" (John 2:13-17). He calls it later "a den of thieves" (Matt. 21:13) that which should have been a house of prayer. Which temple will they have — the mere house, "your house" (Matt. 23:38), as He calls it, or Him who would purge the house, and who was Himself the dwelling-place of God? We know the awful answer. Pilate puts before them a murderer and Christ, and they cry (ah, our wicked hearts once said the same! ) "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas" (Luke 23:18).

So the temple was destroyed, as far as human hands could do it. The blessed incorruptible temple of His body is laid away in the grave, and His spirit returns to the Father. That is man's answer regarding God's dwelling-place here. They will not have it. It brings God too near — His holiness rebukes sin, and man would prefer even a murderer to the holy Christ of God.

But God's purposes of grace are not to be thwarted by man's sin. This very crime, this enmity seen in the rejection and death of the Lord Jesus is the occasion for the fullest manifestation of the love of God:
"The very spear that pierced Thy side
Drew forth the blood to save."
His death provided the avenue for God's love to flow forth in abundant grace for the vilest and neediest of sinners.

We now pass on a little. God had had this wondrous dwelling-place on earth in His own beloved Son. But man could not endure and would not have this nearness of God dwelling with him, and cast out Jesus — Immanuel — by way of the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, and He has ascended on high. The "Temple" has gone within the veil, into the inner sanctuary.

8. But see the wonder of God's grace. The Spirit of God has been sent forth, from a glorified Christ and the Father, and now we have a habitation of God, formed by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Every believer in the Lord Jesus is a living stone in this spiritual house, which "groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." How wondrous is the grace of God! In the very world where His Well-Beloved was crucified, where men cried out, "Away with Him," a habitation is being formed from such material as that! Men who recognize their lost condition and accept the infinite grace and love of God, out of this quarry of nature are the great and costly stones dug for this temple of God. Thus, without great show, without the sound of a hammer (1 Kings 6:7), this eternal habitation of God is growing, until "He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it" (Zech. 4:7).

But even now does God by His Spirit dwell in the Church, His abode; and each believer is also individually a habitation of God. "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" (1 Cor. 6:19). The moment one has received Christ, he is "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise," and indwelt by Him who is "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1). What a holy thought that is — our bodies God's habitation by the Holy Spirit, who has taken up His abode there, on the ground of the finished redemption of Christ's atoning death.

9. We have been speaking of Israel having rejected Christ, and of the glory having forsaken their temple, the Lord saying, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate," not one stone to be left upon another; but in the book of Ezekiel we have a most beautiful picture connected with the destruction of the temple under Nebuchadnezzar, and its restoration at the beginning of the millennium.

The prophet sees the glory of God departing from between the cherubim and standing over the threshold of the temple door (Ezek. 10:4). It shows how reluctantly the holy and gracious God was leaving the place of His abode. It is as though He were pleading with the people and asking if they would not yet give His holiness a place amongst them. Alas, there is no response; and reluctantly He leaves the threshold and takes His place outside the temple (Ezek. 10:18-19). Still He lingers, and still there is no response, so that He leaves the temple hill and goes over to the Mount of Olives (Ezek. 11:22-23). At last He departs, leaving them alone. His people then are carried into captivity, and the temple lies in ruins.

But turn to the latter part of the prophecy, which shows the remnant of the people restored, in the prophet's vision, from their captivity (Ezek. 43). This is due alone to the faithfulness of their gracious God, who works in them self-abhorrence and true repentance. They are restored to their land, each tribe to its appointed inheritance, and again their centre is the temple of God, rebuilt in far greater glory than ever, and that glory which had departed from it is restored in much the same way as it had departed. God returns and takes up His abode in that future temple, and the glory shall be for a covering (Isa. 4:5). Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine, and the name of the city shall be called JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, "Jehovah is there" (Ezek. 48:35). There we have God's earthly dwelling-place during the millennium. And the eye has but to be lifted up to see the glories of the heavenly city in whose light the nations of the earth will walk during that happy period, when the "King shall reign in righteousness" (Isa. 32:1), when our Lord Jesus shall be owned as the rightful Ruler over the very world where He was rejected and crucified.

10. Lastly, we have the final abode of God. Our blessed Lord promised His people: "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). We know the way by which He went to the Father. He might have ascended at any time during His peerless and holy life to His home in heaven, but it would have been alone. In the language of the Hebrew servant who refused to go out free, He said, "I love my wife, and my children, I will not go out free" (Ex. 21:5). So He was, as it were, pierced to the door-post, in the devotedness of His love. In other words, He ascended to the Father by way of Calvary; it was through death that He would go — crucified, and "raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom. 6:4). Thus He laid the eternal and righteous foundation of that home where sin can never enter, and which judgment will never shake.

He has entered into heaven itself, and has taken possession of it as the abode of His redeemed people throughout eternity. In the close of the book of Revelation we see the heavenly city, "as a bride adorned for her husband," and we hear a voice saying, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Rev. 21:3).

God at last rests in His creation, dwelling in the midst of His people — a redeemed race; a people who no longer flee from His face as our guilty parents did in Eden. Nor is He, as we might say, paying them a visit as He did to Abraham, nor manifesting Himself dimly and conditionally as in the Tabernacle and the Temple; nor is He even manifesting Himself only in the spotless Son of His love in His humiliation as He walked this earth for a little season; it is not even the spiritual habitation by the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church upon earth; but there is the full and eternal display of Himself in Christ, and through Him in the Church, in Israel, in the saved nations, and in the whole universe. When this is accomplished, God can say, "The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them."

As we dwell upon the Tabernacle, we are anticipating, if we grasp its spiritual truths, that which God desired from the beginning, and for which He has been laboring, and which His adorable Son, our Lord, has made possible through His atoning death. "He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17).

The third point, that everything was to be made by Moses according to the pattern showed him in the Mount, will in its details occupy us throughout these pages. It will suffice here to remember that this left nothing to the natural mind of Moses. Real or fancied resemblances between the Tabernacle and Egyptian temples have no place here. Just as the religion of Egypt was a satanic perversion of the truth of God as made known to man, so the temples in which that religion was housed were a perversion of the truth of God's abode. The very points of resemblance were but counterfeits, leading into the vilest blasphemies. Blessed be God, He has left nothing to the mind of fallen man, but revealed all absolutely in His Word, no longer a "pattern," but Him who is His very image. The "pattern" will be full of Him in its minutest details. May it be our desire in all this pattern to behold the Lord; to say, "We would see Jesus."