Lecture 8.

The Gold upon the Wood

We pass now to the gold which completely covered these boards. Doubtless there is a divine lesson to be gathered here. The boards, the ark and all the furniture in the tabernacle were hidden from outside view. It was therefore only visible to the priests and to the eye of God. To the eye of man the divine glory of our Lord's. humanity was hidden, veiled, save as faith saw beneath the cover of humiliation. But to God this is reversed. The acacia wood is covered over with gold. He beholds His co-equal Son in the depths of His humiliation; even on the cross it is His "Fellow" who was smitten (Zech. 13:7). But let us see the scriptural basis for believing gold to be typical of divine glory.*

{*The word used for gold, zahab, in connection with the tabernacle, is the ordinary one, occurring some 350 times in the Old Testament. It is from a root said to mean "to be bright," "yellow;" and cognate words have the same meaning. Its use in Scripture, as also largely illustrated by archaeology, was not so much for money, for silver was the "current money with the merchant," but for purposes of ornament and idolatry. No doubt it was kept also as hoarded wealth (Joshua 7:21).

But its chief use seems to have been (apart from the all-prevailing idolatry, and with which it was connected for making adornments. Rebekah was adorned thus by Abraham's servant (Gen. 24:29 ). Joseph had a gold chain put upon him in token of his authority (Gen. 41:42). Jewels of gold were demanded (not "borrowed," as in A.V.) from the Egyptians (Ex 12:35). In the spoil taken from the Midianites were "jewels of gold, chains and bracelets, rings, earrings and tablets" (Num. 31:50-54). The Ishmaelites, whom Gideon spoiled, had earrings of gold (Judges 8:22-26) The Philistines made golden images of their plagues (1 Sam. 6:4, 8). Saul adorned the daughters of Israel with gold (2 Sam. 1:24). The clothing of the king's daughter was of wrought gold (Ps. 45:13), and probably in the same way as the ephod of the high priest (Ex. 39:2-3). Job's friends each brought him a present of an earring of gold (Job 42:11). Apostate Israel was to be cast off even by her lovers, though adorned with gold (Jer 4:30), which were the very adornments which, typically, God had put upon her (Ezek. 16:13, 17).

Its brightness and beauty, resistance to rust and tarnish, the ease with which it could be worked, and other properties, made it a standard of value. It is significant that these very properties are given to the divine realities in contrast to it. "Your gold and silver is cankered" (James 5:3). Silver and gold are "corruptible things," compared with "the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). "Gold that perisheth" (1 Peter 1:7). So the "adornment" of women was not to be with literal gold, but with that which is in the sight of God of great price, the incorruptible ornament of "a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:3-4). In its typical meaning, it is "gold tried in the fire" which the Lord values, and is obtained from Him alone — all dross purged from what He values. }

Gold stands for all that is valuable to man, In this way Scripture speaks of it in contrast with the precious things of God. Of God's judgments (His righteous ways and commandments as seen in His law), the psalmist says: "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold" (Ps. 19:10). Knowledge (of God) is to be received "rather than choice gold" (Prov. 8:10). Gold is that for which men labor, for which they will barter strength and health. For it they will give up ease and the happiness of home, and endanger life itself. Therefore Scripture speaks of covetousness (the lust of gold) as idolatry — this object of man's desire put in place of the Creator. We find therefore that images to be worshiped were often made of gold, representing what was most precious in human estimation. In the very book from which we learn how God was making use of gold to set forth His glory, we read of the golden calf, made and worshiped as a representation of Jehovah, linking God's holy name with the idolatrous worship. The golden calf is to the people not only an emblem of deity, but they worship it as their god (Ex. 32:3-4).

The same idolatry in another form is repeated by Gideon, one of the deliverers of Israel. Out of the golden earrings of the Midianites he had overcome, he makes an ephod, which becomes a centre of idolatrous worship, apparently linking God's holy name with it (Judges 8:24-27). At the division of the kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam, foreseeing the danger that his people might return to the house of David if allowed to go to worship at Jerusalem, set up golden calves for worship at Bethel and at Dan (1 Kings 12:26-33). Of gold too was the great image which Nebuchadnezzar set up to be worshiped (Dan. 3:1) — a type, no doubt, of that final apostasy when the "image of the Beast" is worshiped, and God is openly disowned in His world.

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands," says the psalmist (Ps. 115:4). "Their land also is full of silver and gold … their land also is full of idols," says the prophet (Isa. 2:7-8). That which man considers most precious, which his heart craves and which ministers to his glory, he deifies; that is the root of idolatry. God is displaced and man exalted, in the exaltation of his idol. An awful degradation is the result, as the first chapter of Romans tells us (Rom. 1:25).

But "the gold of that land is good" (Gen. 2:12). It is only when prostituted to evil uses that any of God's creatures become a source of evil; and gold, as the most precious thing man has, is fittingly an emblem of the divine prerogatives, which he falsely gives to his idol. Gold, then, is a figure of the glory of God, of His attributes of righteousness, holiness, wisdom, power, goodness and truth — everything that is suggested by the purity, brightness and value of the metal. That this is not guess-work is seen not merely in the negative way we have been looking at it, but from the fact that, under God's direction, gold was used where these great facts were to be brought out. Solomon's temple, as God's earthly abode, was overlaid with gold, even its floor (1 Kings 6:21-22, 30). And in the book of Revelation the heavenly city is described as "having the glory of God;" "and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass;" "and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass" (Rev. 21:11, 18, 21). Thus where God is fully manifest in all His glory the figure used to express that majesty, which none can fully know, is gold. We are thus justified in the thought that gold is a figure of the divine glory of the Son of God, just as the acacia wood tells us of His perfect humanity.

Let us then meditate upon His deity for a little, and gather from the word of God that which it declares so plainly: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3). Here is the gold shining forth. It is the Creator, for "all things were made by Him." It is Deity, for "the Word was God." We cannot escape that, and need not fear to use it in the fullest way. More than that, "the Word was with God." The Son is seen as distinct from the Father, but in blessed association with Him: "I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him" (Prov. 8:22-31). "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich (in divine glory), yet for your sakes He became poor" (2 Cor. 8:9). "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery (a thing to be grasped) to be equal with God" in the outward glory or display of His deity (Phil. 2:6). Divine honor is rendered to God by all His own but the same is to be rendered to His Son: "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him" (John 5:23) and it is at the name of the once humbled Jesus, now "highly exalted," that every knee, even of His foes, shall bow. The gold shines brightly here, though closely blended with the acacia wood.

As is well known, the word most frequently used in the Old Testament for "God" is a plural, "Elohim," but it always takes a verb in the singular number. This has been explained as "the plural of majesty." But in the light of passages quoted, and others to follow, do we not see in it a foreshadowing of the divine Persons in the Godhead? In the first chapter of Genesis the Spirit of God is spoken of as brooding upon the face of the waters. We know from John 11 and other scriptures that "the Word," the only begotten Son, was the Creator of all things. We already can see the three divine persons — one God — in connection with creation. And this also in the divine counsel together: "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). With whom could He take counsel as an equal, but with the One who — with the eternal Spirit — was ever with Him and His delight, and who, blessed be His name, had His delights with the sons of men?

The Old Testament was the time of infancy, so far as the revelation and knowledge of God were concerned; but all through, now that we have the full light of revelation in the New Testament, we can see the golden gleam of the divine Son. It was Christ, who by the Spirit, went and preached, through Noah, to the men before the flood, and whose spirits are now in prison — solemn thought! (1 Peter 3:18-19). Who can fail to see the suggestion of the infinite love of God in the gift of His only begotten Son, in those words to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest" (Gen. 22:2)? Doubtless it was on this very occasion that Abraham saw our Lord's day, and was glad. And when the Jews expressed their unbelief that the Man before them could have seen Abraham, our Lord declares His absolute deity, "Before Abraham was, I am" — the eternal, self-existing Jehovah (John 8:56-58).

It was the reproach of Christ which Moses esteemed as "greater riches than the treasures in Egypt" (Heb. 11:26). It was Christ who followed, as the Rock, His redeemed people in the wilderness, and whom they tempted by their unbelief (1 Cor. 10:4, 9). It was the holy Person whom we know as the Christ of God, who was there with them in Egypt and during all their wanderings. It was God, God the Son, who was there with them — not excluding the presence of the Father and Spirit, indeed, but giving prominence in this connection to the Eternal Son. And so throughout the Old Testament history we have not only types and prophecies of the coming One, but intimations of the Son in that divine Presence.

In the Psalms we have His deity clearly and distinctly taught. "The King of glory" in Ps. 24:7-10 is declared to be "Jehovah of hosts." But this King of glory is also "mighty in battle," and is identical with the Victor who is seen in Ps. 45 with sword girt upon His thigh, and He is none other than "the Word of God" (Rev. 19:11-16). In Ps. 45 He is addressed by the divine title: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" (ver. 6).

We have, then, direct testimony to the deity of the Son. But it will be noticed that it is the Messiah who is seen here — a Man as well as God. It is most wonderful to see how, as we might say, the gold takes the form of the acacia wood which it overlays. Truly the "form of a servant" was never in the Father's eyes a veil to the divine glory which was ever before Him. Perhaps this is more vividly seen in our next quotation than in almost any other portion of Scripture: "He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days" (Ps. 102:23-24). There is no question to whom these words, and indeed the entire psalm, refer. The first chapter of Hebrews quotes directly from the words following those already quoted. It is the "prayer of the afflicted, when He is overwhelmed" — the Lord pouring out His soul with strong crying and tears, as in Gethsemane. He is alone, suffering the reproach of His enemies, but above all anticipating the terror of divine wrath — all undeserved — for the sins of others, We may say the shadow of the cross is heavily thrown over the lonely Sufferer. His days are numbered, and for Him upon whom death had no claim how dark it was, as linked with penalty for sin not His own!

And was it not perfectly right that He should cling to life? Was it not a mark of His human perfection that He did so in looking at that side? So He addresses the Eternal, "O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days;" or, as in the Gospel narrative, though no doubt including more, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matt. 26:39). He waits for the answer, we may say, and we have it from God in the next verses. What reply can be given to such devotedness which, in the face of such a death can say, "Not My will, but Thine be done?" "Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end" (Ps. 102:25-27).

What more absolute statement could there be of the deity of this Holy One? He is the Eternal, the Unchanging, the Creator of all things, which shall pass away while He shall abide. This passage shows how the Spirit of God speaks of Christ iii places where we would little suspect it. But the quotation of this passage in the first chapter of Hebrews leaves no doubt that it is the Son who is here addressed (Heb. 1:10-12).

The same divine truth — the deity in connection with the humanity of our Lord — is seen in the Prophets: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel," "which being interpreted is, God with us" (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). Here again it is Jesus — the acacia wood, with which this divine title is connected.

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). "I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back" (Isa. 50:3, 5). The whole chapter is a wonderful presentation of Him who is God, who could lay His hands upon the heavens, and yet who as the obedient One yielded Himself up to God, and suffered shame and spitting and death.

"Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch … and this is His name whereby He shall be called, Jehovah our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:6). "And above the firmament that was over their (the cherubim's) heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a Man above it" (Ezek. 1:26). God alone can sit upon the throne of God; so in Daniel 7:9, He (Christ) is called "the Ancient of Days."

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). And in Zechariah 13:7, as we have already seen, He is called Jehovah's Fellow.

Thus there can be no question from the Old Testament that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, is in the fullest sense divine — God. How foolish then the attempt to separate the divine and human natures in the One holy Person! He is Man, but He is absolutely and always God. The mystery is there, but faith will bow to that, and own there are depths of light which the creature mind cannot fathom, and which rests happily in its dependence upon a love, a wisdom, a power and a mercy which passeth knowledge.

We quote a few passages further from the New Testament: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation. For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:15-17). This is a wonderful passage, in which our Lord, as Man, is presented before us as the image of the invisible God. In a way in which the first man was not, even in his innocency, Christ was the reflection of the moral character of God. He is also the Head of all creation — First-born, not in time, but in position, and by right. And then the reason for this is given: He is Creator of it all. If the Creator takes His place as Man, in infinite grace, in His own creation, He must be its Head from the very fact that He is its Creator. He may not display His full divine glories, but "He cannot deny Himself," He cannot cease to be God. In this is seen the blasphemy of "Kenosis" — the doctrine that our Lord laid aside His deity, or that it was, at His birth, practically reduced to nothing. What an evil thing is the mind of man when not subject to God, and when led on by Satan; and what an awful lie that "knowledge of good and evil" could make man as God! And disobedience thus becomes actual blasphemy by putting man in the place of God! But here is the infinite grace of God to ruined rebels, that He, God the Son, came down into the place of man, a real Man, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

But to return. It is in connection with His incarnation that we have this strong declaration of His deity. Not only is the material universe His creation, but the orders of spiritual beings, to the very highest, are inferior to Him by the immeasurable distance of infinity. "All things were created by Him" — He is the Author of their being; and "for Him" — they exist for His glory. The creature can never be for itself without absolute ruin. God alone is perfect love; and the Son is the Centre and Object of all things. Only thus can creation be brought into true blessing. Here then is the amazing work of redemption. Need we wonder then that God has woven together in divine life and oneness of Person the deity and the humanity of the all-glorious One who came to effect this stupendous work? We have redemption in Him who is God and Man; through His blood, who is God and Man. He has reconciled all things to Himself, for He is God and Man; through His death, who is God and Man. And you, once enemies, hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh, who is God and Man. He who is Head of His Church is God and Man. The link with His creation is His humanity, His incarnation; and with sinful man it is by His death. But His deity gives the value to this, without which, reverently may we say it, redemption could not have been effected.

Turn again to the epistle to the Hebrews, first chapter: "Who being the brightness of His glory" — there is the gold; and "the very impress of His substance" — there is the stamp of that which makes the coin; "and upholding all things by the Word of His power" — He is the God of providence: "By Him all things consist," as in Col. 1. All these are divine attributes; they could be ascribed to none but God. Could we conceive of an absolutely perfect man, we could ascribe no such attributes to him. It would be blasphemy to speak of such a one as "the brightness of God's glory, the express image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power."

The next clause brings us face to face with the mystery of His death: "When He had by Himself purged our sins." This was by the shedding of His blood. But whose blood? Is there a change of persons? Who and what is He but the eternal Son of God, who thus became Man that He might make purification for sins? His deity identified with a sinless and perfect humanity gave infinite value to that sacrifice. It was "by Himself." He, in the fulness of His divine being and spotless humanity, was the "altar that sanctifieth the gift" (Matt. 23:19). Of what value would any other sacrifice be?

All these passages show how this truth of the gold, the deity of the Son, permeates all Scripture. We have merely touched upon a few prominent passages which speak of "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). Even in speaking of His atoning death the apostle John says, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This is the Eternal Son of God with whom the apostle says our fellowship truly is. And the same apostle closes his first epistle after speaking of the Son of God who has come by saying: "This [One] is the true God and Eternal Life" (1 John 5:20).

No idolatry, then, in addressing Him as God. It is the remedy and preventative of idolatry to have the heart truly thus in subjection to Him; the only way "little children" can keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21). He is "over all, God blessed forever" (Rom. 9:5). He is "the First and the Last, the living One who became dead, and lives for evermore" (Rev. 1:17-18, R.V.).

It is not however upon "proof texts" alone, no matter how numerous or clear, that we rely for our knowledge of the deity of the Son; that truth is in the warp and woof of Scripture. The incidental references to it are beyond computation; it forms the basic tone of all the harmonies of that Word — from which all starts, to which all returns, without which there could be no divine harmony. We can better conceive of day without the sun, than of the word of God without the divine Son.

But we must leave this holy subject to be pursued by the humble believer, and notice one other thought suggested by the gold. We have seen that it is prominent in the symbolism of heaven, where He manifests Himself. Earth, where sin is, could not be the place for the display of divine glory, save in judgment. Therefore the Son of God veiled His glory when He came on His errand of love. After His resurrection He appeared to none but His own. The world will never see Him till the day of His appearing in power and glory as Judge of the living and the dead. But faith even now sees "Jesus crowned with glory and honor" (Heb. 2:9). Thus the place for the display of the gold is in the glory. So it fittingly adorns only the interior of the sanctuary. But faith enters with boldness and sees Him on the throne, and every one who is born of God believes "that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5). Such truly love "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, J. N. D. Version). The time will come when the veil will be forever removed, and the glory of the Son will shine in heaven, and on earth too, even to the uttermost bounds: "For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." Hallelujah!

Thus we have sought to indicate the meaning of the acacia wood and the overlaying gold — the incorruptible humanity and the absolute deity of the Son of God. May it be a theme of precious meditation and worship here, as it will be throughout eternity, where the glories of Christ are displayed in all that is perfectly human and all that is absolutely divine, in one Person. There we shall see and joy in the Man who lived, who loved, who suffered, who died; and oh, holy mystery! we gaze with veiled faces, owning Him as the Word, who is and was and ever shall be, God!

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:4-5). God is jealous of giving His glory to another, but that only emphasizes the fact that the Son is one with the Father. All images that man might make can but provoke to jealousy but here is "the image of the invisible God." He is jealous for His Son, "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father."
"Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow."