Lecture 4.

The Linen Curtains their Dimensions, etc.

(Exodus 36:8-13)

Having looked at the colors and materials of the curtains, we will now seek to gather something of the meaning of their dimensions and arrangement.

Ten curtains composed the inner covering, each 4 cubits wide and 28 cubits long. These ten were united into two sets of five each, and these again linked together to form one complete covering. No specific mention, apparently, is made of the manner in which the five curtains were united to each other (it has been conjectured that it was by needle-work), but the directions for uniting the two sets are very clear. Fifty loops of blue were made in the edge of each curtain, and fifty taches or clasps of gold were used to unite all into one tabernacle.

This first covering of ten curtains was the tabernacle proper, or "dwelling-place," as the word literally means (Ex. 36:14, and frequently). The other coverings seem to have been for special use in connection with the primary one, as protection (see Ex. 36:14, where the goats' hair covering is called "the tent over the tabernacle; and Ex. 36:19, where the two others are designated simply as coverings). There is doubtless significance in this use of words. The "tabernacle," with its varied colors, cherubic figures and embroidery, was far more elaborate than any of the others, and as we have partly seen, spoke try a very complete way of our Lord. This first covering, the tabernacle proper, represented Him in a way to which the other coverings were subsidiary. This will appear as we take them up.

The word for "curtains" is Yerioth, from a root meaning to tremble or wave as suspended curtains do. A similar root with a similar primary meaning is the word for "fear." How suggestively do these thoughts describe the Lord Jesus as He was here. He was the dependent One, not relying upon His own inherent strength, but cleaving ever to His Father. He was perfectly obedient because perfectly dependent upon the will of God. Thus the true "fear" of the Lord characterized Him. He was ever moved by the slightest breath of the Spirit. There was thus, in the eye of man, entire weakness, for He had no will apart from perfect subjection to God; therefore the whole character of God with reference to sin, the world and Satan was manifested. So also He gave fullest expression to God's thoughts and ways of mercy or of judgment with, reference to man.

The word "curtain" is a feminine, and in speaking of their being joined "one to another," it is "a woman to her sister." This too is in keeping with the lowly place of dependence and subjection taken and kept by our Lord.

Returning now to the various dimensions of the inner covering, let us glean their meaning. In all structures, if there is to be symmetry, there must be accuracy of measurement, and for this there must be a standard. In Scripture this standard was the cubit, or Ammah, from a word meaning "mother." It was the length of the "mother-arm," the fore-arm, as the chief and prominent part of the arm, from the elbow to the tip of the finger; that which is used in all work. It was thus a standard taken from man, not above him. God's requirements are absolutely reasonable and righteous, not going beyond human capacity. And yet how true it is that not one of the fallen sons of Adam could measure up to that perfect human standard: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." But God delights in man, and even the measurement of the heavenly city is by the human standard. It is the measure of a man (Rev. 21:17). If God is to be in any measure apprehended by His creatures, it must be, not in that unutterable glory and infinity which no one knoweth but the Son, but rather in the One who humbled Himself and was found in fashion as a man. How amazing! God is manifested in he flesh, and we are invited to apply the standard of measurement (which is in our hands and by which we have been condemned as having fallen short of God's glory) to Him, and to see how perfectly He has measured up to the fullest requirements of God.

Thus in the very unit of measurement to be applied to the curtains, we are reminded of our Lord's incarnation. He was and is God, but He is that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us, so that John could say, "Which we have seen with our eyes and our hands have handled" (1 John 1:1).

All thorough measurement takes in every dimension. Thus the curtains were measured both in length and breadth.

"Length" is the extension, and may well stand for the whole course of life. It is used in this way in Scripture — "Length of days" is a familiar expression.

"Breadth" is from the root meaning "spacious," "roomy." It is used constantly in speaking of the dimensions of the tabernacle and temple, both in Solomon's day and the yet future structure described in Ezekiel. It has, however, a metaphorical use with which we are familiar. Thus Solomon had great largeness (breadth) of heart (1 Kings 4:29): "I will walk at liberty (or broadness)" — Ps. 119; 45; Isa. 60:5 Ps. 81:10; Ps. 119:32.

In an evil sense it is used for pride — "A high look and a proud (broad) heart" (Ps. 101:5; Prov. 21:4; Prov. 28:25).

"Breadth" thus suggests the character of the life and its attendant circumstances. In speaking then of our Lord's life, "length" would suggest its whole course, and "breadth" its character and the circumstances in which this was displayed.

What then were the dimensions of these. curtains? They were four cubits wide and twenty-eight long. Four is the number of the earth. Scripture speaks of the "four corners of the earth" (Isa. 11:12). The fourth book of the Bible, Numbers, speaks of the wilderness journey and trial of the Lord's people. We have been seeing how the four Gospels present our Lord in His perfect human character, tested in every way. This is gone into at large in other places,* and it will suffice us here to say that four is the number which speaks of the earth, of the creature, of trial and of weakness. The creature when tested manifests weakness and, too often, failure. Let us now apply the significance of this number to our Lord, and see wherein it corresponds to His life, and wherein it does not.

{*See Numerical Bible, Vol. I, Introduction, and The Numerical Structure of Scripture, by F. W. Grant, for a full examination of this important subject.}

First of all, it is the number of the earth, of the creature. It suggests, as we have already seen, our Lord's human nature and not His deity. It speaks of Him as He walked the earth — that is the breadth of the curtain.

But four also speaks of weakness; and how our Lord illustrated weakness here! Who would have thought of the Son of God coming to earth as a Man in the way He did? Look for the Son of the Highest whom the angels are celebrating, and what do you find? — a "babe," the weakest of beings, wrapped in swaddling clothes," badge of helplessness, for One who had clothed Himself with light as with a garment, "lying in a manger," in company with the beasts! O Lord of glory, let all the universe worship before Thee, who didst thus humble Thyself!

Trace our Lord throughout His life, and we find the characteristics of this weakness — this earth number. "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Matt. 8:20). We never read of His performing a miracle to help Himself — freely and lavishly as He spent Himself and used His power in behalf of others, He was the dependent One. He feeds 5000 men with a few loaves, but will not turn one stone into bread for Himself.

Four also speaks of temptation, of trial and testing. The earth is the place where man is cried; what weakness and failure it brings out! No one was ever so fully tested as our blessed Lord, not only in the forty days, and the special temptations of Satan which closed it, but throughout His entire life He endured the "contradiction of sinners against Himself" (Heb. 12:3). Thus this measure of four cubits broad speaks of man, weak, tempted, tried — of Him, surely, who can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and "who was in all points tempted as we are, apart from sin" (Heb. 4:15).

The length of these curtains was twenty-eight cubits. Resolving this number into two factors, we have 4x7. The four, as we have just been seeing, is the number of the earth and of weakness. Seven is the familiar number (perhaps the most familiar of all) which speaks of completeness and perfection. Seven days make a complete week; the seven fat and lean kine of Pharaoh's dream (Gen. 41:1-8), and the various series of seven in the book of Revelation, are illustrations of this. Seven times four would suggest then that testing, trial and weakness in our Lord which were only the occasion of manifesting His perfection.

Notice that the seven is not added to the four, as though something distinct from it, but multiplies the four; weakness and dependence perfectly exhibited what He was. He was not perfect in spite of temptation merely, but perfect in it. See how Satan tries to move Him from the place of dependence by urging Him to make bread from stones. It might have been adding 7 to 4 to have wrought a miracle under such circumstances; it would at least have shown His power. But instead, we see perfection in weakness and dependence. So also to have cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple might have shown supernatural agency, but the perfection of obedience is seen in His refusal to tempt the Lord His God. When He refused to bow to Satan, though offered all the kingdoms of this world and their glory, we can conceive Him as compelling that enemy of God and man to own Him as Creator and Lord, for such He was; but we see the perfection still in the way of lowliness — He Himself will worship, and thus lead the homage of all creation: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10).

And wherever we consider our Lord in His life upon earth we rind this same characteristic manifested. Wearied with His journey and resting Himself at the well of Sychar, He asks drink of the woman who came thither to draw (John 4). Here is the number four, weakness and dependence; but in the heart-searching conversation He shows her all her sin and Himself as the Christ; we see the seven (the perfection) in connection with the lowly place He had taken. It is striking that throughout John's Gospel our Lord dwells constantly upon His subjection to His Father, and nowhere do we see His perfection more clearly.

Again, see Him sleeping in the stern of the boat, as they are crossing the lake (Matt. 8:24-26); but, awakened by His affrighted disciples, He rises and quiets their fears, and for their sakes hushes the storm; for Himself He could rest in His Father's care, and sleep while the storm raged. All through the Gospels He is thus seen, dependent, obedient, tempted, but perfect in it all.

The constant habit of prayer illustrates this same truth. What could be more beautiful than to see our Lord at every stage pouring out His heart to the Father? The very agony of Gethsemane — may we tread softly as we speak of it — shows a perfection which is perfectly human, yet possessed by no one else. "Crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4) — what perfection in each part of that awful suffering! Truly the curtain is twenty-eight cubits long: the whole "length" of His life manifested absolute perfection in entire dependence.

These curtains were united into two sets of five each, making ten in all. Five is the number of human capacity, as the four fingers and thumb upon the hand; the two hands making ten in all. The ten reminds us of the ten commandments, the measure of man's full responsibility. The ten commandments were upon two tables, showing responsibility, Godward and manward.* The two sets of curtains would suggest this two-fold responsibility met by our Lord. Look at His relation to God; what was there lacking in every moment of His life? We have the witness of our Lord as to this: "I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29); of the Father who spoke from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17), and of the Holy Spirit who anointed and abode upon Him.

{*We may see how frequently the number ten and its factor five is found in the description of the tabernacle. There were ten inner curtains (Ex. 26:1) the boards were ten cubits high (Ex. 26:16) the pillars and sockets on the west and east sides of the court were ten (Ex. 27:12). The dimensions of the court were 100 x 50. In all likelihood the holy of holies was a perfect cube of ten cubits There were one hundred sockets of silver, 10 x 10 (Ex. 38:27) and these were composed of the redemption money, ten gerahs for each man (Ex. 30:13). The loops and Caches were 50=10 x 5 (Ex. 26:5). The pillars at the door were five (Ex. 26:37). There were five bars on each of the three sides of the tabernacle (Ex. 26:26). The altar of burnt offering was five cubits square, and the hangings of the court were five cubits high (Ex. 27:18).}

We may apply each of the first four commandments to Him, and even with our imperfect apprehension, cannot fail to see the four and the twenty-eight cubits. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Well did every act of the lowly Man show this. God's thought in that command was exhibited in Him, God was in all His thoughts. So there never was the slightest approach to that idolatry forbidden in the second commandment, which in some form has been practised by all men. Covetousness is idolatry. Here was One who could say in all the energy of His holy soul, "The lines are fallen unto Me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." It was in this connection that He said: "Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god; their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into My lips (Ps. 16:4-6). How opposite was all this to Israel, who had been commanded: "Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth" (Ex. 23:13). Who for a moment would think of connecting the name of our Lord Jesus with the slightest act of disloyalty to His God and Father?

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Alas, from the heart of man, among other evils, comes profanity. The Father's name was ever on our Lord's lips, but never in a light way. He taught and practised in absolute perfection that petition, "Hallowed be Thy name." So also in the performance of vows: none had ever fulfilled their obligations and promises to God. Therefore our Lord warned them against taking oaths which they could not keep (Matt. 5:33-37). But He could say, "Thy vows are upon Me, O God" (Ps. 56:12); "I will pay My vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people" (Ps. 116:14). What vows they were! — to glorify God about sin; to seek and to save the lost; to lay deep, firm and broad the eternal foundations of redemption; to bring many to glory. As we contemplate the cost of performing these vows, may we adore Him who never made a rash vow, nor broke a single engagement entered into with His God and Father.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." The Pharisees were constantly accusing Him of breaking the Sabbath because He healed the sick on that day. He not only convicted them of hypocrisy, for they would lift an ox out of a pit on the Sabbath, but showed what the true rest of God is — to deliver men from the consequences of sin. These so-called violations of the Sabbath were, morally, the most beautiful and perfect keeping of the obligation.

Let us take up each of these commands of the first table, and as we go fully into detail we will only see more clearly His absolute perfection as Man. Glorifying God in every relation, His heart ever breathed, "I delight to do Thy will, O God." Here indeed was a fitting abode for the glory of God — the holy of holies of the heart and life of Christ.

We are told that the veil was to be hung up under the taches that united the two sets of the covering (Ex. 26:33), so that one set of five covered the holy of holies (probably hanging over the back of the tabernacle) and the other the holy place. is not fanciful to suggest that the part which covered the holy of holies typifies our Lord's perfection in all responsibilities Godward, and the part which covered the holy place refers to the responsibilities manward. Let us look at this last also for a moment.

The foundation of all right human relationships is obedience to the first command of the second able: "Honor thy father and thy mother." So our Lord perfectly manifested that subjection: "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51). How much is involved in those simple words, and how perfect was He in this primary responsibility. It is little wonder that as He grew in stature, He "increased in favor with God and man." That is, all His growth was good, no disappointing characteristics appeared, for none were there: all was well-pleasing both to God and man.

It was therefore perfectly fitting that He should rebuke the hypocrisy of those who under the plea of dedicating a thing to God, neglected their parents (Matt. 15:3-9). None was devoted to God as was He, yet none showed such honor and obedience to those who were over Him in earthly relationships. It is beautiful to see in the extremity of death that He forgot nothing of this: "Behold thy mother" (John 19:26-27) shows that in going to His Father in heaven, He did not ignore the lowly earthly tie which in perfect grace He had assumed.

And so, as we look at each of these commands of the second table, we find the righteousness required most perfectly fulfilled, and more, in the life of our Lord. Man lustfully desires what is not his own, and gets it even if it be by theft; He could say, "Then I restored that which I took not away" (Ps. 69:4). Himself spotless and pure, He speaks peace and pardon to poor children of sin and shame. Men bore false witness, but He declared the solemn truth no matter how dreadful it was, and bore faithful testimony to the love and mercy of God. Maker and possessor of all things, He had not where to lay His head, yet never murmured.

Indeed, we might well shrink from applying these prohibitions to Him, as if He needed to be checked. What in man must be kept under, did not exist in Him. The law was in His heart; the law, therefore, so far as it went, was a copy of His perfect character, not in its external requirements merely, but in its inner and most spiritual application.

But He more than fulfilled the law's second table. It said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," but He loved His enemies, even to laying down His life for them. He was indeed the neighbor to all the world of need — a "Friend of sinners." Every responsibility toward God and man thus fully met in Him showed His perfection. When we remember that this same law, which was adorned and beautified by Him, is the instrument of convicting of sin the best of mankind, His sinless perfection is only the more apparent. That which is "the strength of sin" (1 Cor. 15:56) in us, was the proof of righteousness in Him. Let us be reminded again that all this perfection was human; it was a multiple of four. Weakness, dependence, subjection, were the background upon which all the beauties of His peerless character were displayed.

The ten curtains had one "measure;" the word means to extend, to stretch, and thus to apply the standard. This is a striking picture of the Lord's life; every part of it was according to an unvarying standard. Nothing was out of proportion. In each act and in connection with every person there was the exhibition of the same perfection in weakness.

Looking at each of the ten commandments we cannot say that one was more fully kept than another. It is this unevenness of character which shows the unfitness of man for God, and his need for new birth. Though one might seem to obey one or another of the commandments — though coming short of God's glory in all — "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). So we must turn from self completely, either for salvation or sanctification. Christ is the only resource. Here was the one measure for each act. God's glory was the test, and that was manifested in perfection everywhere. He was not more perfect in rebuking sin and hypocrisy than in pardoning and healing the sin-sick soul. Grace did not eclipse righteousness, nor righteousness grace. Patience was ever coupled with promptness; firmness with gentleness.
"Thy name encircles every grace
That God as Man could show
There only could He fully trace
A life divine below."

This brings us lastly to look at the way in which these two sets of curtains were connected. The word for coupling together is a suggestive one; it is from the same root as "Hebron," which means friendship, companionship. This, too, shows absolute unity of character in our Lord. The aspiration of the psalmist, "Unite my heart to fear Thy name" (Ps. 86:11), found perfect realization in Him. The "curtains," as we have seen, are closely allied with the word "to fear," and thus illustrate the unity in the fear of God exemplified in our Lord.

It is also well to note that the curtains were joined side by side, and not end to end. Thus they were parallel to each other, and co extensive. There were no successive periods when His life entered into new or hitherto unknown claims of the will of God. The path opened up before Him, new experiences of the wilderness world were entered into, but the full responsibility of perfect love to God and man was with Him from the beginning to the end. If we may use the language, He walked according to the whole ten commandments throughout His life.

As to the manner of uniting each of the curtains to the others, while they may have been united by needlework or some other way, Scripture is silent; yet there seems to be an evident purpose of the Spirit to draw our attention especially to the union of the two sets of five each. Doubtless the lesson which they emphasize will be found in good measure in all the others.

May we not find one reason in the fact that man so easily separates between his responsibilities Godward and manward? In all natural religion this is the case. God is excluded from the realm of daily life; duties to one's neighbor, the responsibilities of the home and business, are things which we must care for ourselves; neither God's will nor His help are to be greatly considered, beyond the general claims of honesty, morality and unselfishness.

Our Lord's reply to the lawyer (Luke 10:25, etc.) brings out this thought in man's heart.

Rightly the lawyer had answered that the law demanded perfect love to God and to one's neighbor. Alas that with this knowledge, he should think he could inherit eternal life by doing what he never had done and never could do, for "by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20) — but not the power to keep the law. Instead of owning his sin and casting himself upon the mercy of God, he, "willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?" Notice that he omits entirely all reference to God the claims of the first table. God is so far away, unseen and unknown, may it not be taken for granted that he loves and serves Him? Now, if he can reduce his neighbors to a few congenial friends, may he not hope by doing his duty to them to deserve the reward of life eternal? Thus in the lawyer's mind there was apparently but little connection between the two sets of curtains.

And this is but the common thought of men. If a man loves his fellow-men he loves God; it is accepted as true gospel, and the "golden rule" readily taken for granted as quite practicable; thus is God robbed of His claim upon His creatures. But Scripture says, "This commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also" (1 John 4:21). This reverses man's thought, and gives God His rightful place of supremacy and control, or, rather, recognizes these as His,

But with our Lord there was no such sundering of responsibilities, nor ignoring for one moment the fact that He had "come down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). This we shall see illustrated in the manner in which the two sets of curtains were joined together.

"Looloth" (loops) is from a root meaning to roll. There can be no question as to the meaning and object of these. Possibly the word may suggest the idea of roundness answering to the "eye" through which the hook passed without entering into the material of the curtains themselves. These were entire, and each was perfect. The "loop" which was put upon them was an addition in the sense that the vehicle for uniting the one set to the other did not interfere with the pattern of the curtain.

How our Lord illustrated this! His love for man was as complete as though that were the whole of His life. So that even unbelief has been constrained to acknowledge the beauty of His human character. There it was, and He is the ideal Man in relation to men — but how much more! In like manner, His love to God was as absolute as though there was not a man in existence. He stands out as the Second Man, for whom God was all. But in the "outermost edge" of each set were put the loops of blue as reminding us that God would show there is a divinely-formed link between responsibilities to Him and to His creature, man. We cannot conceive of our Lord as thinking of man and leaving out God, nor the reverse. He was neither a recluse nor a mere philanthropist.

The loops were blue, we have seen — the color of heaven. Thus the fact that He was from heaven, lived in heaven, and was to return to heaven characterized His whole life of obedience. The mark of heaven was upon it all. Upon that which spoke of His perfect love and obedience to God were the loops of blue, to show that such love and obedience were to be united to a life upon earth in which its responsibilities were to be made one with His service to God. So the blue loops upon the second set of curtains show that all was of one with His devotedness to God.

No life ever was so perfectly given up to God as was His: heart, soul, mind and strength were all and always for God. Yet this devotedness did not make of Him a recluse. There is not the slightest thought of that selfish monasticism with which human self-righteousness has linked the name of Christianity. He loved His Father perfectly, but that was the pledge of His perfect love to man. No hands or heart, on the other hand, were ever so filled with love and lab r for men; but there was nothing of the sentimental nor merely philanthropic in this. The loops of blue were upon all, linking all with His Father's will. He wrought many miracles: blind received their sight, lepers were cleansed, the lame walked, the dead were raised; but we cannot think of these works of love and power toward men as ending there. He was manifesting the works which the Father gave Him to do: "I must work the works of Him that sent Me"; "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works" (John 9:4; John 14:10).

Here is the true Neighbor," whose love to man was ever in obedience to His love to God. This thought is further enhanced by the number of loops and the taches of gold which united them each to each. There were fifty, which is 5 x 5 x 2, or full responsibility — intensified responsibility, may we not say? in the multiplication of the two fives — and this doubled, as though suggesting again the two sides, the human and divine; and thus a perfect witness to His fulfilment of every requirement. Or should we say 10 x 5, we have really the same thought, for the factors are the same. In His devotedness to God there breathed the love to man which ever marked Him whose "delights were with the sons of men." Thus no command obeyed stood alone, but was linked with all the others. It was a seamless robe.

And is not this the only obedience which can be acceptable with God? "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). To have any true righteousness it must be complete; all else is partial and but "filthy rags," even though it be to bestow all one's goods to feed the poor, or to give one's body to be burned. Here, as everywhere, all calls aloud for Christ, the only One who could undertake such an obedience and glorify God.

This last thought is illustrated by the fifty golden taches or hooks which united the loops together.* Gold, as we shall see later on, typifies divine glory. It was this which was ever before our Lord: "Father, glorify Thy name" (John 12:28) was His one desire. "I honor My Father" (John 8:49). "I have glorified Thee on the earth" (John 17:4). What perfect absence of self-seeking or self-consciousness does all this tell! But are we not further reminded that such obedience while human needed more than human power to render it? No mere creature alone could render it — certainly no fallen creature. The golden taches remind us that the perfect character at which we have been looking is not only human but divine. A divine person, yet truly a Man, united in Himself all obedience, all love to God and man; and upon this fact hangs — may we not say? — that mystery shown in the veil, of "God manifest in the flesh."

{*The word for taches, karsim, is from a verb meaning to stoop or bend, which is so rendered in Isaiah 46:1-2. There it is the degradation of the false gods of Babylon which are carried away.

Here the bending or hook is to form a link to hold fast what is due to God and man. May it not suggest the grace of Him who stooped to exhibit God's thought as to man? It may well speak to us of His humbling Himself to lay hold, as it were, upon the creation to bring it into eternal harmony with its Maker.}

So to deny the deity of Christ is to break the bond that made His life a perfect unity, and to leave but a fragment behind, itself stained and marred by false claims, were He not really the Son of God. Men who talk about the loveliness of Jesus, His kindness, His beneficence, His blameless life, and yet who deny that He is the eternal Son of God, are but self-deceived and deceiving others. These clasps of gold were essential for uniting the coverings into one perfect whole; were they omitted all would be marred. Where there is a deliberate, intentional rejection of His deity, it is defiling the temple of God; and such are truly His enemies. But even where this is not the case, the people of God may lose the true proportion of truth as to our Lord's blessed person, if they fail to keep prominently before them the great and glorious fact, "The Word was God." May the Holy Spirit keep His blessed, peerless person not only before our minds, but enshrined in our hearts, the Object of our worship, love and willing obedience.