Lecture 19.

The Court

(Exodus 38:9-20 )

The court was that enclosure, formed by the linen curtains which surrounded the tabernacle. Its length, running east and west, was 100 cubits, and its breadth 50 cubits. On the east side was an opening, or "gate," of 20 cubits, in the middle, leaving 15 cubits of linen curtains on either side.

These hangings, which formed the court, were of fine linen, 5 cubits high, and the total length 280 cubits, not counting the gate, which was of a special pattern. These hangings were suspended from silver "fillets" and hooks, as they are called in our version. The word for "fillets" is also rendered "connecting rods," which is probably correct; that is, each of these pillars had a "chapiter," or capital, of silver upon it and a rod passing from one to the other, uniting them steadfastly together.

As to the pillars, there is no distinct mention of their material, unless it be of copper. In the direction given in chapter 27:10, it says the pillars and their sockets were to be of brass.* This has been objected to, as rendering the pillars extremely heavy; and, from the fact also that 70 talents — the amount spoken of in chapter 38:29 for things of copper — would be insufficient to make such pillars. But we have not sufficient data to form a conclusion. There is significance, however, in the fact that no mention is made of the acacia wood, as is usual wherever it is unquestionably used. Therefore, whether the pillars were made of the wood which is unmentioned, or, of copper, hollow, as such pillars are made, the copper of their foundations, or sockets, alone is that which is before us: the pillars themselves are lost sight of, except as resting upon the sockets.

{*While our Authorized Version renders it thus, there is no verb in the original, and the modifying clause "of brass" might refer to the sockets alone. Keil takes it for granted that the pillars were of acacia wood.}

Mention also is made, without detailed description, of pins of copper, both for the tabernacle and the court; these were doubtless for bracing the pillars, as the "stakes" in a tent.

The spiritual significance of these things now claims our attention. We have, then, an enclosure, the "court," for the house of God: His dwelling-place is thus separated from the world around. I think we shall have no difficulty in seeing that this enclosure is formed by the Lord's people, who are practically the line of demarcation in this world between all which is of God and that which is not of Him. First, we will look at the material of the hangings, the fine linen. We have already had its significance in the description of the inner curtain of the tabernacle. Therefore, we need not go again into minute detail. It is sufficient to remember that the linen speaks to us of the spotless purity of the life, including the thoughts as well as the acts and words.

The length of these hangings was the same as that of the curtains in the inner covering of the tabernacle. There were 10 curtains, each of them 28 cubits in length, or 280 cubits in all. This would remind us that God's standard for practical holiness is always one. He has not two standards, as we oftentimes have: one for ourselves, perhaps, and another for others. God abhors divers weights and measures. When He measures human righteousness, He does so by one standard, absolute perfection, which we find expressed in the ten commandments, a number of frequent occurrence in the description of the court. Ten is the number of responsibility, both Godward and manward. Who has met such responsibility as this? We read in Rev. 19:8 that fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints — their righteous acts. The linen in this way speaks of a perfect, spotless, human righteousness. The time is coming, thank God, when His saints will be manifested absolutely and perfectly in spot less linen. Their actions, of faith and love, the fruit of divine grace,will be manifested in glory, and we shall be like Christ. But if we speak of ourselves, of our righteousness, even of saved men, is it such as that I have described, that fully measures up to the standard of divine requirement? Speaking for the nation at large, as well as for himself, Isaiah says: "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember Thee in Thy ways:" that is, God meets man if He can meet him in righteousness. "Behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned." That is how He finds man. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isa. 64:5-6). Here is a confession of what man is in himself, a confession that each one of us could join in absolutely if we look at what we are apart from Christ. The very best that we have is unfit for the presence of God.

But turning from self we find in our Lord the full measure of God's standard of righteousness. In 1 John 3:5 we read: "Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin." Very strikingly we have the two things thus put side by side. The passage we had from Isaiah bears witness to our sin: our best things being "as filthy rags" before God; or, we are like Joshua the high priest, clothed with filthy garments unfit for priestly service in the presence of God. But here is One who was manifested to take away our sins, "and in Him is no sin." That is the first great truth as to these hangings — the spotless, absolute holiness of our Lord. There is the fine linen, 280 cubits (7 x 40, perfection manifested by testing), the full measure of God's requirement, which forms the most effectual witness, and the perfect barrier between all the sin of the world and the sacred enclosure where God manifests Himself.

But we have something more than that. Righteousness is God's standard for His saints, and in this very epistle of John we pass from the spotless purity of Christ to what is imparted at new birth as well: "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). This is sometimes taken as our absolute acceptance in Christ as our Representative; but it is something more than that. John's epistle is not occupied largely with the work of Christ for us, but rather with the work of grace in us by new birth which produces moral likeness to Christ. Knowing His love, believing it, having received it, we have been born of God, and thus the very nature, the very holiness of Christ, is wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit: "As He is, so are we in this world."

In 1 John 3:2 we have the future, unquestionably: "When He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." We could not expect to see Him unless we were morally fit for such a vision, as we read in John's Gospel: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." There must be a moral likeness to God if we are to see Him; as we read in Hebrews 12: "Follow peace … and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God." That is what we are in this world, children of God. Now we are that, though it does not yet appear what we shall be, only when Christ in glory is manifested in all the spotless purity of His human nature, "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

Notice what directly connects with this, in the 3rd verse: "And every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure." We look at the spotless, linen curtains, and we say, "In Him is no sin." Then we say, "As He is, so are we in this world." We have a nature which is capable of holiness even here. We look further and see the time is coming when we who are now the children of God shall be like Him, "for we shall see Him as He is." Lastly, if we have this hope in Christ, it produces practical righteousness now; we seek to keep our garments unspotted from the world, in this present life.

In this same epistle (1 John 2:6), we have the measure of this present effect: "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." How often persons say: "I know we are to be holy, but you cannot expect us to be perfectly holy." For instance, when that verse is quoted: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," some one replies, "But that was Paul," as though we could not possibly expect to be like Paul. But this scripture goes even further. We are not only to be as Paul, but we are left here to be like Christ Himself; and if you look at this verse you will see there is no limitation short of that. The measure for our walk is what Christ was here. God abhors divers measures. He does not measure His blessed Son's walk by one standard and His people's walk by another. He has pity and compassion upon us; He has grace to pardon our sins, mercy to succor us in our weakness; but His holiness will not allow Him to abate one single iota of the full measure of the perfect standard of holiness which has been marked out for us in the walk of our blessed Lord Jesus.

Does this seem hard? Does it appall us? Do we shrink from it? Would you dare to wish any lower standard than this? — that God should make a standard for us to walk less holily, less devotedly than Christ? Would you like some measure of sin, of selfishness to be spar, d? If you came to an expression, as from God's word, saying, as unbelief often says in the heart, It snakes not so much difference if you are not perfectly holy, would there not be a shock in your bosom? Would you not say, This surely is the work of the enemy sowing some wretched poison in the midst of divine truth! We know there can be only one standard — Christ; and He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps, or as we have it here: "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." Thus the full measure of the curtains is measured for us by Christ; He is God's only standard.

We have been looking at the length of these curtains. Suppose God had given a shorter measure than 280 cubits, what would it have resulted in? A court without sufficient protection. There would have been gaps, and God's holy presence would not have been isolated from the outside world. So now; if there were not this full standard of perfect holiness, as seen in Christ, and to be manifested in His people, God would be thought of as less holy, less separate from sinful man. The same truth is brought out in the height of the curtains. They were five cubits high, the number of responsibility, particularly manward, as Christ measured up fully to God's requirement of man, and is the standard He has set for us.

Having seen, I trust to our full conviction, the fact that we must have in our walk that which corresponds to Christ's walk if we are to answer to God's thought, we will look at a few scriptures which bring out this holiness in the believer.

In Daniel 6 we see him in the midst of a hostile court, surrounded by persons who, envious of his position, desired to taint his character before the king, and thus bring him into disgrace. Here, we may say, is the spotless linen curtain, God's character expressed in Daniel, and against him a world at enmity with God. They desire to bring him into disgrace. How are they going to do it? Of dishonesty, of injustice, or neglect of duty, they can bring no charge against the man who stood out in his white, spotless character. He is the object of their enmity; yet, no doubt, with silent admiration of envy which can find no occasion of fault in him. So they turn to the law of his God, which militates against the king's will, as the only way they can find accusation against him. Oh that it were true of us as it was of Daniel, that it were impossible to put the finger upon a single inconsistency in our walk or lives; that the only points in which we come in collision with the world were in our loyalty and devotedness to Christ, which stirs enmity in the heart that is unreconciled to God.

In Daniel, then, we see God's measure hanging between the world outside and a blameless and spotless life or, as we have it in Phil. 2:14-16, a testimony before the world to which there can be no gainsaying. How good it is when the world can see nothing but the white linen as it looks upon the children of God — see the image of Christ reflected in their daily life!

We have an added thought to this in James 1:27. It is not just what the fine linen is in itself that we see there, but as guarding from defilement. We have our outward connections with the world; our various responsibilities and labor bring us into connection with it, and our garments are to be kept unspotted from it; as Jude says: "Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh," and as we are advised in Ecclesiastes: "Let thy garments be always white." The Lord's word to Sardis also, where lethargy in general prevailed, was: "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy."

White linen, then, is to be the character of our walk in our relation to the world. Sometimes people say: It is a good thing when men speak evil against you. The Lord Jesus said: "Blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you." Yes, He did, with the added word, "falsely, for My sake." If it is for Christ's sake and falsely, we can bless God for it; but let us see to it that it is not because the garment is spotted by the flesh — to our shame, and misrepresentation of our blessed Lord. How we should shrink from the very thought of misrepresenting Him in a world which already hates Him so much!

In the same line with this is 1 Peter 4:14: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified." How good it is when Christians can be so described! God spoken evil of by His enemies, but by His people, in their walk and conversation, glorified! The next verse shows how there is to be nothing of soil upon the garment. "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters." The perfect standard of holiness has been set for us by Christ in His life. Let us make no other standard. Not a day passes, surely, but that we need to go in confession to our God and wash at the laver; but let nothing lower the standard for us. Let us not make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. Our standard is Christ; let us walk in His steps.

We come next to a very precious line of truth suggested in the hooks and capitals, and "fillets," or connecting rods. The curtains were suspended from the silver hooks and connecting rods. The pillars themselves stood upon the solid copper foundation, but the top of the pillar was encircled with a silver crown. Silver points to redemption, the great truth of our having been purchased by the precious blood of Christ. Let us remember there can be no holy walk apart from redemption. The pillars with silver capitals point us to Christ crowned with the redemption which He has wrought for us; and the hooks with the connecting rods passing from one to another, holding all firm, speak of redemption, from which depends the holy walk which is to glorify God. To stand in our own strength and walk as Christ walked is as impossible for us as to create a world. Our walk must depend, not upon our strength or character, but upon the redemption of Christ, as absolutely as the curtains hung from the silver hooks and connecting rods. Those curtains were dependent from silver, and our walk is dependent on the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A few scriptures will bring this out very clearly. In 1 Peter 1:2 we read: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience" (there is the fine linen) "and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (here are the silver hooks from which the fine linen is suspended). Obedience is connected with the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ. It can flow from nothing else.

A familiar passage in Titus declares this clearly: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). The apostle, in exhorting servants to be obedient, to be respectful, not to use their liberty in the house to purloin or steal little trifles, makes it an occasion to speak of this salvation of God and its effects. It is a word to us all, for we are all servants to God, and are to walk here in a way that will glorify God, or, as He says: "Adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." For the grace of God that brings salvation also teaches. It cannot teach us what holiness means until it has taught us what salvation is; but when salvation is known, then that grace teaches us to live here soberly as to ourselves, righteously in our relations with others, and godly in our relations with God, and to be looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour. Then, in verse 14, he reminds us of this truth at which we are looking: "Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity" (there are the silver rods), and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." How beautifully the linen curtains thus are suspended from the hooks and rods of silver — from redemption.

The epistles to the Colossians and to the Ephesians markedly set this forth. First, they give the great basis of divine truth in connection with redemption, then dependent upon this the word as to our walk and testimony in the world.

One passage, in Romans 8:3-4, shows this strikingly also. It is especially significant because we are shown there how impossible it is to have these linen curtains without their silver hooks and rods: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh," etc. The law was powerless to produce a holy life in us; powerless to produce the walk which marked Christ down here. But "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin" (as a sacrifice for it, in which we see the silver-gleam of redemption) "condemned sin in the flesh" — has set it aside; that, in result, "the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Divine righteousness, which could not secure anything from us by the law, has been so perfectly met by the sacrifice of Christ, that not only are we forgiven and saved, but also given power for the righteousness of life which God desires from His people.

I will ask you for a moment to look at the pillars of the court. We have seen the material and the measurements of the hangings, which speak to us of the spotless purity of Christ as the standard for His people's walk and testimony in this world. The pillars rested upon the sockets of copper. The full emphasis is upon their foundation, on copper.

As we have seen before, the copper speaks to us of stability in the divine character and purpose. He is Jehovah; He changes not. His justice and truth, when applied to sinful man, means judgment; but in connection with our Lord; it meant that He perfectly manifested this in His whole walk and testimony down here. If I may use such an expression, our Lord took a firm stand for God on every side, like the pillars on the four sides of the court, which rested upon their copper bases. In His whole life, in every action, unswerving devotedness and divine righteousness was exhibited in our Lord, from whatever side we may look at Him.

The south, as the south wind which blows softly, speaks of what is attractive in nature, of prosperity in the world. The north, of the dark, cold and cheerless side, of adversity; as we have it in the Song of Solomon: "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." That is, we have the varied experiences, of comfort on one hand, of affliction on the other; but all is to cause the spices, the fragrance of Christ, to flow forth in our lives.

Look at our Lord Jesus on every side, in every circumstance of His life here; how absolutely firm and unyielding He stood for God! With us, alas, when prosperity comes in, or pleasure, or the smiles of this world, how the pillars of our testimony seem to be set upon the shifting sand! How often the people of God fail on the south side, on the prosperous side of life. On the other hand, if adversity comes in, tribulation, reproach for the truth, for Christ's sake, how often the saints of God faint when a faithful testimony should be maintained. Look at our Lord at the feast of Cana, or in the Pharisee's house, or in any other contact with men (He was no recluse, refusing to go where He was invited), what testimony for God was borne in every place! How absolutely unyielding in every particular! When the dark clouds (as from the north) of desertion, of persecution, yea, of the cross itself came over Him, how He ever maintained the same stand for God. When His sun was, as it were, declining in the west, when the time was nearing for Him to leave this world, not one iota does He yield, "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." And as He looked forward to the certainty of coming glory, as the sunrising, He maintained absolutely His testimony for divine truth and holiness. Thus, on every side, our Lord stood unswerving and firm as the pillars about the court. And this steadfastness is still maintained for us by Him, through His Word and Spirit; the dimensions of the court remain the same.

I have spoken of Christ in His unswerving faithfulness and steadfastness as represented by the pillars around the court, and also as maintaining His people here. I would now recall a quotation we have had already, how we are to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." The pillars are around the court, but where is the linen which is to adorn them? God has an absolutely perfect standard in Christ, but do we set forth what these linen curtains represent? Do we "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things?"

Let us look at a few scriptures that show how absolutely we must hang upon Him if we are to be sustained in this world, as the linen curtains for God's court.

"Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). That is true for all of us. We are not to think of ourselves as incapable of falling. Peter's history, and the history of thousands of God's people would show, alas, that when self-confidence comes in, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Let us beware of self-confidence. Let us rather, as I Peter 1:17 exhorts us, "Pass the time of our sojourning here in fear." Sooner than we dream Satan will use our very confidence to trip us to our fall. How many of us, yea, can any of us be sure to stand a single hour without falling? Where shall we find human steadfastness sufficient to maintain us from dishonor to our Lord? God alone is "able to make us stand." Oh, to realize more and more that we have not strength to hold ourselves up a single moment, any more than those linen curtains, apart from the pillars. We must hang in faith upon our blessed Lord to be holden up. Thank God, we shall be holden up, for He is able to make us stand.

Many of the passages we might look at in this connection have to do with our wilderness life rather than with our standing before God. Perhaps, as we have been dwelling upon the testimony in our life, some may feel the heart sinking, and say: "Who is sufficient for these things?" Let me ring out this precious assurance, then: "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5); kept for the incorruptible inheritance reserved for us in heaven; kept not by our own strength but by His power; kept from yielding to temptation through the power of the enemy; kept through faith; laying hold of the silver hook and rod of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; and we may be sure that He who has given us this word will perform it. May we be kept from dishonoring Him through unbelief.

Look at that faithful servant of Christ, Paul in Rome, upheld by the unyielding Pillar when all had forsaken him (2 Tim. 4:16-17). It is upon Christ we are to lean, not on an arm of flesh. If we lean upon our brethren, upon any human arm, no matter how strong it may seem, the time of testing will come. We must learn to stand leaning upon the Lord alone. We may counsel with one another, pray for one another, set an example to one another, but let us not depend upon man. It will surely prove a broken reed that will pierce the hand. The Lord stood with Paul, and He will stand with us; no matter what the circumstances, the pillar with its brazen socket (the sure word of God) will be there to uphold us. Those everlasting arms of redeeming love will maintain us in our walk and testimony in this world. If we look back with sorrow and shame to some season when we dishonored the Lord, when we did not maintain the spotless linen garment, was it when conscious of our weakness, when leaning on His arm? Or was it not when we thought of our sufficiency, or leaned upon some human prop? I am sure we never dishonor Him when we are trusting Him.

Let us now look at the enclosure as a whole. It represents the people of God as answering to the walk of Christ, forming a practical enclosure in the world, where the people of God can be in happy fellowship and testimony for Him. How are they separated from the world? They are not shut up in monasteries; no walls of stone are between them and the world, but like Enoch, their walk with God is their separation, while performing the duties of every-day life. Directions for every relationship of life are given in the Epistles, but never a single word as to withdrawal from the ordinary vocations and employments of life. So far from this, idleness or selfish isolation is condemned by the word of God. We are to live in the world, while not of it. The walk of believers, therefore, is what the linen curtains point to that which separates them from the world.

The apostle James brings this out in effect when he says: You talk of faith without works; you say you are resting upon the blood of Christ for salvation, and you stand before God in all the value of Christ's perfection. Then show it by your works, by your life. The world will justly say, Give me a proof of it. Indeed, the salvation of God has a two-fold seal. The Godward side is: "The Lord knoweth them that are His;" He may see faith where the world cannot. But there is something the world can see — the white linen curtains; so the other side of the seal is: "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." This is what the world can see. So James does not contradict Paul for a moment. Paul speaks of our entrance into the presence of God, and how God sees us complete in Christ; but James speaks of our walk and testimony in the world, and he says: "Show me thy faith without thy works" if you can; "I will show thee my faith by my works." We are justified before God by faith without works; before the world we are justified by works which manifest that faith. Our relation to the world is shown by our walk and testimony.

But this forms a complete barrier, so that the world cannot pass into the company of God's people. How is it then that false professors are in Christendom today? It is while men slept that the enemy came and sowed tares. It was while there was carelessness or indifference as to the honor of the Lord that Satan got false professors into the court. It is ever carelessness or indifference which allows mere professors to intrude amongst the people of God.

In Acts 5, the holiness which is to surround the house of God, as the white curtains around the tabernacle, is exemplified in the dealings with Ananias' and Sapphira's dreadful sin. The court of the Lord was purged of what had defiled it. The fine linen was cleansed, as it were, and the barrier which shut in the people of God from the outside world was made manifest. "Of the rest durst no man join himself to them." Great fear fell upon all. They realized that they dare not intrude in such a holy Presence for fear of divine judgment falling upon them. The reality of the testimony in the Church was unmistakable; it excluded evil.

What will maintain the purity of the Church of Christ? We are not to be surmising evil where it is not manifest; but if there is a godly life and testimony, the world will not dare join itself to such a company.

Lastly, we come to the gate. Thank God, there is only one gate. But it is not a company, amongst whom it may be difficult to enter. The materials of the gate are the same as those of the curtain — they speak of Christ. He is the Door; by Him "if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture."

This hanging, forming the gate or entrance, was also suspended upon silver hooks, showing us that it is the gospel of Christ which we are to hold up in our testimony as the way for people to come in from the world among the professed people of God. Enter in by Christ, and you are saved. No one dare to enter the court of the tabernacle in any other way than by the gate. "I am the Door," not a door, as if there were others; but "I am the Door;" "I am the Way," the only way. Conceive for a moment of one daring to lift up the curtain on the side and slip into the court. He would be a thief and a robber and dealt with as such, put outside of the court in judgment. No one can rightly enter amongst the company of God's people unless by Christ. One may say, "I am a child of Christian parents; have not I a right to be amongst God's people?" Well, the Pharisees said: "We have Abraham to our father" — as a title to being God's people; but the faith and works of their father were not in them; and their claims are refused. "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" says the Baptist to them, "and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father," etc. (Matt. 3:7-10).

The blessing of being a child of Christian parents is an inestimable one. The privilege of a Christian home is a precious one. The teaching and example of a godly parent to his child is a precious heritage, but it does not save. The parent can point the way of salvation, but the child must come in through the gateway, which is Christ. Have you entered by the Door? Have you come in by Christ? Are you amongst God's people, not by mere profession, but have you come as a poor sinner, with nothing of your own, and accepted Christ Jesus and entered by the wide open Way?

The gate was twenty cubits wide — wide open for every one who would come in. God's invitation to every one is to enter in now, by faith in the Lord Jesus, to be welcomed not only among the company of God's people, but to find salvation, eternal life now, and glory in a little while.

As we tarry at the gate, we would echo the invitation:

"Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).

Jesus Christ says:

"Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."