Note: This article is taken from a portion of a book by Roger Daniel, called ‘The Tabernacle Talks Today’. The author attempts to use some of this in his own words, draw on other thoughts and not directly copy from the original authorship.
ITS MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION
The tabernacle, like the assembly (or Church) today, was to be God’s dwelling place among His people (Ex 25:8). The materials all speak of Christ – His Person and His redemptive work on the cross. We are reminded in Hebrews 10:1, “For the law, having a shadow of the coming good things, not the image itself of the things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually yearly, perfect those who approach.” So here the tabernacle was just a shadow of the good thing to come, which is the assembly as we have today. We are also reminded that the tabernacle and other things in the Old Testament were ‘types’ – see 1 Cor 10:11. So then we have shadows and types in the Old Testament, like the tabernacle, pointing to the New Testament, like the assembly. The construction of the tabernacle speaks of our devoted service to our Lord. Everyone had a task in constructing the tabernacle. So today, everyone has a task in the assembly, the house of God.
The materials are so significant that each one speaks of Christ in different aspects. The pure gold speaks of His deity, as we have particularly portrayed in John’s gospel and his other writings. The gold speaks of Christ’s divine righteousness. There is pure gold, and there is gold, but both refer to the glory of Christ. The silver speaks of redemption, and reminds us of the wonderful redeeming work of Christ to ruined man on the cross. The copper speaks to us of God’s unchanging, unsparing, righteous and holy wrath manifested against sin. This was God’s judgment of sin in the three hours of darkness when the Lord was on the cross. Copper also brings the thought of the ability to endure testing in the fire. The acacia wood is a strong, indestructible tree which grows in the wilderness. It is a picture of the Lord’s perfect humanity and His flesh which saw no corruption (Psalm 16:10). Just a point to make, we just referred to Christ’s humanity, but we also see in the pure gold His deity. We are reminded that Christ is God and Man at the same time, though we cannot understand this, we must accept this blessed fact. the fine linen speaks of Christ’s spotless purity, holiness and righteousness. The fine linen is also referred to in Rev 19:8 as “the righteousnesses of the saints.” What a contrast between the fine linen and the attempted good works of the unbeliever, which is referred to as “filthy rags” – see Isa 64:6. Then we have some of the colors before us. The blue is the heavenly color. It speaks of Christ the Lord from heaven – see Jn 3:13; 1 Cor 15:47. John’s gospel also brings out this blessed fact. The purple is the imperial color. It speaks of Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords. In Daniel 5, king Belshazzar commanded to have Daniel clothed with purple. King Herod also put a purple robe on the Lord, but it was in mockery. The scarlet is a kingly color. It speaks of Christ as King of the Jews, which Matthew’s gospel portrays. We are also reminded that Rahab put a line of scarlet thread on her window so that she and those on her house were saved out of Jericho (see Josh 2 and 6). The goats’ hair is the clothing of the prophet, which speaks of Christ as prophet. A prophet is separated from the world, so we are also reminded that Christ was separate from sinners (Heb 7:26). The rams’ skins dyed red speaks of Christ’s intense devotedness to God even to the death of the cross (Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8). The badgers’ skins are durable and protective. It is not beautiful and appealing to the eyes. It also speaks of Christ as seen by the world: perfectly sinless (as Pilate and the centurion judged), able to resist every approach of evil (Matt 4; Heb 4:15), yet there was no beauty in Him (Isa 53:2). The oil speaks of the Holy Spirit. The spices speak of Christ’s fragrance before God. The jewels speak of the preciousness of the believers in Christ to God – we are precious in the sight of God through the redemptive work of Christ. The cherubim is the protection of God’s throne. Finally, the frankincense speaks of the sweet fragrance to God of Christ in all His purity and absolute consecration (devotion) to God. This is one of the gifts that the wise men (magi) brought to Christ when He was born (Matt 2:11). The wise men were occupied with Christ, and not the virgin Mary.
So we have seen that the materials of the tabernacle are of such importance because they speak of Christ – His Person and His work, and they are all in harmony with each other.
The construction of the tabernacle speaks of our devoted service to Christ in the assembly today. Everyone had a different task to do, just like we all have different tasks in the assembly. Before construction, a heave offering was brought. It is a contribution lifted up, thus separated from the world and given to God. It was an energetic act of the will. When animals were involved (Ex 29:27), the shoulder (strength and energy) was heaved. Then there was the wave offering (Ex 35:22). This speaks of movement of affection. God was pleased with the devotedness of the people. When an animal was involved, its breast (affection) was waved (Ex 29:26-27; Lev 7:30).
God had two men to lead the construction work. The number two speaks of testimony. And the law required that at the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter be established (Deut 19:15). The name of the first was Bezaleel. His name means “in the shadow of the Almighty”. He was from the tribe of Judah, and was the first among all the workmen. The second was Oholiab from the tribe of Dan, the ‘last’ tribe. This reminds us that the Spirit can choose whoever He wills – see 1 Cor 12:11. Bezaleel is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The people who helped were also gifted, and each one had a task to do (Ex 36:1) as directed by the Holy Spirit, just like the Levitical Service in the book of Numbers, each person had a task to carry out, and to do it faithfully. Everyone worked in harmony to complete the job, just like we, today, should work in harmony in our assembly. Today, the house of God is being built (1 Pet 2:5) and the body of Christ is to function. However gifted, the people were taught by Bezaleel, reminding us that the directions and teachings are from the Holy Spirit. We are taught by those whom God has gifted to be teachers of His Word for our building up and edification (Eph 4:11-12). All the materials came from Moses, a picture of Christ. We don’t make up our own materials for worship or service, but we receive them from Christ, in His Word. Moses was the final judge of the construction (Ex 39:32-43) and was to judge whether the people had done the tabernacle as He showed Moses on the mountain. Likewise, Christ will be the final judge of our works and motives in serving Him, hence the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10). The workers stopped and Moses set up the tabernacle for the first time. God, not man, is the Builder of His house.
May we all have energetic and affectionate hearts to serve the Lord, not out of complaint like Martha (Luke 10:40-42), but out of total devotedness for the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, taking the example of the willing hearts that helped in construction of the tabernacle, and finally, taking the perfect example of our Lord Jesus when He was on earth.