1 - 6 Curtains of Fine Linen
1 “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet [material]; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall have the same measurements. 3 Five curtains shall be joined to one another, and [the other] five curtains [shall be] joined to one another. 4 You shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the [first] set, and likewise you shall make [them] on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set. 5 You shall make fifty loops in the one curtain, and you shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite each other. 6 You shall make fifty clasps of gold, and join the curtains to one another with the clasps so that the tabernacle will be a unit.
God begins the description of the building itself with what covers the sanctuary. Of this covering, He first mentions what is most hidden from the eye of the person who looks at it from the outside. Only the priests can see the colored curtains in the light of the candlestick when they are in the sanctuary. The lower, most disguised curtain has four elements: “Fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet”.
1. The “fine twisted linen” speaks of a powerful serving in cleanliness and purity. We see this in the life of the Lord Jesus. The Gospel according to Mark represents Him as the true Servant.
2. The “blue” reminds us that He is Man from heaven. Thus we see Him in the Gospel according to John.
3. The “purple” shows Him in His glory as the Son of Man. On that way we meet Him in the Gospel according to Luke.
4. The “scarlet” shows Him in His earthly glory as Messiah. That is how the gospel according to Matthew describes him.
Cherubs must be made on the curtains. Cherubs are angelic figures who, as it were, ensure that the service in God’s sanctuary takes place in a way that suits God’s holiness. In reality, these angels ensure that God’s law is fulfilled and also carry out the judgment of God (cf. Gen 3:24).
There are ten curtains. They have to be made into two large coverings by attaching two times five curtains to each other. The number five indicates responsibility. We have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. The number ten indicates a double responsibility. We have a responsibility to God and we have a responsibility to those around us. The law consists of ten commandments, with commandments regulating the relationship to God and commandments regulating the relationship to men.
In everything the Lord Jesus has answered perfectly to the will of God. He has made his hands and feet completely available for doing God’s will. This should also be the hallmark of our lives as believers. For we read that after we are baptized, we are clothed with Jesus Christ (Gal 3:27), which must be visible (Rom 13:14).
The fact that five curtains are closely connected does not mean that there is no close connection between the two coverings of five curtains each. The whole of ten curtains remains. Both large coverings are namely provided with a row of fifty (= five times ten) blue purple loops These loops “shall be opposite each other”. The loops are connected with golden clasps, “so that the tabernacle will be a unit”.
Here we see that this beautiful covering is called “the tabernacle”. This is the very dwelling place of God. It is a beautiful illustration of Christ and the church that came into being through His work on the cross. What we find represented in the perfect composition of the curtains is a symbolic representation of what Paul says in Ephesians 2: “Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone], in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:20b-21).
The clasps and the loops that connect the curtains have sometimes been compared to the greetings that are made. Greetings that are send and given from one church to another or from one believer to another are a practical expression of the connection that exists between local churches and between believers. We find these greetings at the end of several letters in the New Testament.
7 - 13 Curtains of Goats’ Hair
7 “Then you shall make curtains of goats’ [hair] for a tent over the tabernacle; you shall make eleven curtains in all. 8 The length of each curtain [shall be] thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; the eleven curtains shall have the same measurements. 9 You shall join five curtains by themselves and the [other] six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the front of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the [first] set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain [that is outermost in] the second set. 11 “You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and you shall put the clasps into the loops and join the tent together so that it will be a unit. 12 The overlapping part that is left over in the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that is left over, shall lap over the back of the tabernacle. 13 The cubit on one side and the cubit on the other, of what is left over in the length of the curtains of the tent, shall lap over the sides of the tabernacle on one side and on the other, to cover it.
Over the ten colored curtains are eleven curtains of goats’ hair. The clothing of prophets is also of goats’ hair. Prophets speak to the people when they have deviated. They themselves do not participate in this deviation. They are separated for God.
A goat is also the animal par excellence that is used as a sin offering. In the sin offering everything is judged that does not belong to God.
The curtains of goats’ hair speak of the complete separation from sin. We see this perfectly in the life of the Lord Jesus and His service as a Prophet Who speaks to the people on behalf of God. Separation should also be the hallmark of the church. The church does not belong to the world and may not mix with it. It is precisely in the separation from the world that a prophetic message goes out to the people of the world to repent, to say goodbye to the world and to participate in the blessings of the church.
14 Coverings of Rams’ Skins and of Porpoise Skins
14 You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins above.
The third covering comes from rams. The ram is pre-eminently the sacrifice of the priest’s ordination. It speaks of commitment to God. This is also perfectly present in the life of the Lord Jesus. The church should also be fully committed to God.
The uppermost covering of porpoise skins is not nice to see, but it is weather and wind resistant. Nothing of the dirt of the wilderness penetrates through it.
For the world, the Lord Jesus has no stature or glory. Nothing is desirable to Him for unbelief: “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no [stately] form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa 53:2-3).
Nothing of the world, not a single temptation of satan has taken hold of Him. This should also be the case with the church. The church is not attractive to the eyes of the world. You first have to be part of it to see its beauty.
15 - 25 The Boards
15 “Then you shall make the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing upright. 16 Ten cubits [shall be] the length of each board and one and a half cubits the width of each board. 17 There [shall be] two tenons for each board, fitted to one another; thus you shall do for all the boards of the tabernacle. 18 You shall make the boards for the tabernacle: twenty boards for the south side. 19 You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards, two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons; 20 and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, twenty boards, 21 and their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board and two sockets under another board. 22 For the rear of the tabernacle, to the west, you shall make six boards. 23 You shall make two boards for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear. 24 They shall be double beneath, and together they shall be complete to its top to the first ring; thus it shall be with both of them: they shall form the two corners. 25 There shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board and two sockets under another board.
The boards are made of wood and are covered with gold. Each board represents a believer. He is a man (wood), but in Christ (gold) “made pleasant” (Eph 1:6) before God. All planks together form the tabernacle. All believers together form the church of the living God.
The boards stand upright, on two silver bases. Silver speaks of the price paid for reconciliation with God (1Pet 1:18-19). Believers are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. They know two things – the two sockets – that are the basis of their faith. The faith in it gives the believers the certainty of the keeping:
1. that God has ‘delivered over the Lord Jesus because of our transgressions’ and
2. that He hath ‘raised him from the dead because of our justification’ (Rom 4:25; 1Cor 15:3-4).
In that certainty they stand upright before God (Rom 5:1b-2a).
All boards have equal dimensions. As believers there is no distinction for God and every believer is made pleasant in the Beloved. In the functioning of the church on earth there are differences among the believers. Every believer has his own unique place. We see that in some boards that have a special place. The corner boards are used to hold the sides together. There are believers who have the special care that the believers stay together. They support the whole.
26 - 30 The Bars
26 “Then you shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle for the rear [side] to the west. 28 The middle bar in the center of the boards shall pass through from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the boards with gold and make their rings of gold [as] holders for the bars; and you shall overlay the bars with gold. 30 Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.
The four visible bars ensure that the whole remains well joined (Eph 2:22). This can be applied to the gifts given by the Lord Jesus for the edification of the church, namely “some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11).
The fifth bar runs through the boards and is therefore invisible. In this we can see the Lord Jesus Who, as the Head in heaven glorified and invisible to us, gives His church on earth the gifts just mentioned.
We see that all these boards are connected to each other. Believers are not separate from each other. They belong together, they form a unity. Being a believer on your own is not God’s thought. In the beginning the church is a unity. They are held together by four things, and they persevere in this: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
Unfortunately, the believers are no longer standing shoulder to shoulder, just like those boards. There has come division and separation among the believers. Yet it is still possible to experience the unity of the children of God in the meetings of the believers. The instructions for this can be found in God’s Word. We will then have to separate ourselves from the world (2Cor 6:17) and the worldly religion (Heb 13:13) in order to gather as a church alone around Christ. If He is the Center and has the guidance and authority through His Word and Spirit, we may know that, according to His promise, He is in the midst: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:20).
31 - 35 The Veil in the Tabernacle
31 “You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet [material] and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 32 You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks [also being of] gold, on four sockets of silver. 33 You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the holy of holies. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand opposite the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.
The veil forms the separation between the holy place and the holy of the holies. It has the same colors as the inner ten curtains and must be hung on four pillars. Just like on the covering curtains there are cherubs on it. Behind the veil is the ark, the throne of God. The cherubs guard the way to the throne. No one is allowed in, except Moses and the high priest once a year.
In Hebrews 10 we read that this veil is a picture of “the flesh” of the Lord Jesus (Heb 10:20), that is of His Person, as He walked on earth. When He dies, the veil tears apart and the way to God is free.
The four pillars on which the veil hangs can be applied to the four Gospels. In it we see the “days in the flesh” of the Lord Jesus painted (Heb 5:7), that is, His life on earth.
36 - 37 The Curtain for the Doorway
36 “You shall make a screen for the doorway of the tent of blue and purple and scarlet [material] and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver. 37 You shall make five pillars of acacia for the screen and overlay them with gold, their hooks [also being of] gold; and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them.
This curtain hangs before the holy place. There are no cherubs in this curtain. Through this curtain the priests enter the holy place. Before they enter, the curtain reminds them, as it were, of the glories of the Lord Jesus.
This curtain hangs on five pillars. The number five, as said, speaks of responsibility. It is about knowing how to behave as priests in the house of God, seen as a house in which we perform priestly service (1Pet 2:5). We can apply this to the five writers of the letters of the New Testament: Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude, who tell us that.