1 - 9 The Ark, the Mercy Seat and the Cherubim
1 Now Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; its length was two and a half cubits, and its width one and a half cubits, and its height one and a half cubits; 2 and he overlaid it with pure gold inside and out, and made a gold molding for it all around. 3 He cast four rings of gold for it on its four feet; even two rings on one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 4 He made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 5 He put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry it. 6 He made a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 7 He made two cherubim of gold; he made them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat; 8 one cherub at the one end and one cherub at the other end; he made the cherubim [of one piece] with the mercy seat at the two ends. 9 The cherubim had [their] wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces toward each other; the faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat.
After the house is made, the objects are made that will be placed in the house. First the ark is made, followed immediately by the mercy seat with the two cherubim. When the author of the letter to the Hebrews talks about the ark, he proposes its glory by mentioning that it was “covered on all sides with gold” (Heb 9:4a). In that verse he mentions even more glorious things in connection with the ark, namely “a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded” (Heb 9:4b; Exo 16:33; Num 17:8-10). He also speaks of the cherubim as “the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (Heb 9:5).
The ark and the mercy seat and the cherubim speak of the glory of Christ and His work. At His work we can think of His work on the cross for reconciliation, in which all God’s holy demands are met, and of His work now in heaven for His people. The mercy seat has become for us “the throne of grace”, to which we may approach with boldness, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
The ark, with the mercy seat upon it, is the only object in the holy of holies. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews calls the ark “the ark of the covenant” (Heb 9:4). With this he refers back to the ark as the meeting place between God and the people under the old covenant. His whole teaching in the letter is aimed at placing Christ at the center, the heart of the new covenant, opposite this center of the old covenant.
See also Exodus 25:10-22.
10 - 16 The Table and Its Utensils
10 Then he made the table of acacia wood, two cubits long and a cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. 11 He overlaid it with pure gold, and made a gold molding for it all around. 12 He made a rim for it of a handbreadth all around, and made a gold molding for its rim all around. 13 He cast four gold rings for it and put the rings on the four corners that were on its four feet. 14 Close by the rim were the rings, the holders for the poles to carry the table. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold, to carry the table. 16 He made the utensils which were on the table, its dishes and its pans and its bowls and its jars, with which to pour out drink offerings, of pure gold.
After the ark follows the making of the table for the sacred bread. The bread is not mentioned here. This puts the emphasis on what the table proposes. A table speaks of community. Through the work of the Lord Jesus, fellowship is possible with God and with each other.
The table is as high as the ark. This teaches us that our fellowship is at the level of the Person and the work of Christ. Our fellowship as believers of the church consists of Him. Through Him and His work we are connected to each other. He is the characteristic of our fellowship. For we are called by God “to the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor 1:9).
See also Exodus 25:23-30.
17 - 24 The Golden Lampstand and Its Utensils
17 Then he made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work, its base and its shaft; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers were [of one piece] with it. 18 There were six branches going out of its sides; three branches of the lampstand from the one side of it and three branches of the lampstand from the other side of it; 19 three cups shaped like almond [blossoms], a bulb and a flower in one branch, and three cups shaped like almond [blossoms], a bulb and a flower in the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 In the lampstand [there were] four cups shaped like almond [blossoms], its bulbs and its flowers; 21 and a bulb was under the [first] pair of branches [coming] out of it, and a bulb under the [second] pair of branches [coming] out of it, and a bulb under the [third] pair of branches [coming] out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. 22 Their bulbs and their branches were [of one piece] with it; the whole of it [was] a single hammered work of pure gold. 23 He made its seven lamps with its snuffers and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils from a talent of pure gold.
After the table that is made as the first object in the holy place, the lampstand is made. This indicates that our fellowship with God and Christ and with one another can only take place in the light: “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn 1:7). Just as cups are connected to the lampstand as fruit, so too is fruit connected to the walk in the light. Our walk in the light, “as children of Light” (Eph 5:8b), will produce the fruit of light: “For the fruit of Light [consists] in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:9).
See also Exodus 25:31-40.
25 - 28 The Golden Altar of Incense
25 Then he made the altar of incense of acacia wood: a cubit long and a cubit wide, square, and two cubits high; its horns were [of one piece] with it. 26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and he made a gold molding for it all around. 27 He made two golden rings for it under its molding, on its two sides—on opposite sides—as holders for poles with which to carry it. 28 He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold.
The third object in the holy place is the golden altar of incense. It is remarkable that God’s Spirit leads the author of the letter to the Hebrews to say that this altar stands in the holy of holies (Heb 9:3-4a). This indicates that the actual function of this altar belongs to the holy of holies.
The altar represents worship. Aaron can enter the sanctuary surrounded by the incense of this altar, because otherwise he will die: “He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on [the ark of] the testimony, otherwise he will die” (Lev 16:13). For us it means that in the fragrant scent that Christ is for God we can go into the inner sanctuary to worship the Father for Who He is and for Who His Son is.
See also Exodus 30:1-10.
29 The Anointing Oil and the Incense
29 And he made the holy anointing oil and the pure, fragrant incense of spices, the work of a perfumer.
To make the holy anointing oil and the pure, fragrant incense od spices, special qualities are necessary, as are only present in a perfumer. In the perfumer we can see a picture of the Holy Spirit, Who is only able to give what is necessary to perform our service in the house of God, so that that service rises to God as a purely fragrant incense of spices.
The Lord Jesus is “anointed … with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Throughout His life He has been led by the Holy Spirit and all the powerful deeds He has done have spread a pleasant fragrance. All this has been one glorious sacrifice for God.
See also Exodus 30:22-38.