Several words are used in Hebrews 8 and 9 to describe the relationship between the earthly sanctuary and the heavenly, and they are as follows:
The example of heavenly things.
Hebrews 8:5 “The example…of heavenly things”.
Hebrews 9:23 “The patterns of things in the heavens”.
Example and pattern translate the same word. The priests served in an earthly sanctuary, but they did so in relation to the sanctuary in heaven. The earthly tabernacle was a sample of what was in heaven, but the heavenly things were the reality behind them, “the heavenly things themselves”, Hebrews 9:23.
The evidence of heavenly things.
Hebrews 8:5 “The shadow of heavenly things”.
The heavenly things were the substance, something that can cast a shadow, whereas the tabernacle was the shadow. They provided evidence that there was a heavenly reality.
The expression of heavenly things.
Hebrews 8:5 “The pattern showed to thee in the mount”.
The heavenly sanctuary was the pattern, (tupos), see 9:24 below. “Tupos” is a metal-worker’s word, coming from the word to strike, and means the original pattern, which when impressed onto softer metal leaves its corresponding mark, the anti-type.
Hebrews 9:24 “The holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true”.
The word figure, (anti-tupos) is the reverse of the word used in Hebrews 8:5. The heavenly sanctuary is the type, whereas the tabernacle on earth is the antitype, contrary to what is usually thought.
The explanation of heavenly things.
Hebrews 9:8 “The Holy Spirit this signifying”.
The tabernacle set-up was a sign the Holy Spirit used in Old Testament times to point the way to spiritual truths.
Hebrews 9:9 “Which was a figure for the time then present”.
Just as the Lord Jesus in His parables used objects to represent truths, and just as He performed miracles that were called signs, so it is with the figure, (parabole) and sign of the tabernacle. The Holy Spirit used the tabernacle and its arrangement to convey spiritual truth in Old Testament times.
It is interesting to note that the materials for the making of the tabernacle are called a heave offering in Exodus 25:2, for they represented a recognition of the God of heaven, the words heave and heaven being connected.
This was a part-fulfilment of God’s promise that in Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed. It was a great blessing to have the worship of the one true God in evidence in the earth.
The Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believer not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things”, John 3:12
It is especially in John’s gospel that these heavenly things are made known. It is no surprise then to find that John uses tabernacle imagery throughout his gospel. His first reference is in 1:18- “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth”. The word dwelt can very well be translated “tabernacled”, and the mention of glory reminds us that the word for dwell in Exodus 25:8 is “shaken”, which the Jews used for the Shekinah glory above the mercy-seat in the Holiest of All. There are two things combined together here in Christ; the tabernacle and the glory. He is the brightness of the glory of God, Hebrews 1:3, and He tabernacled amongst men not so that the glory might be hidden away as in the tabernacle in the wilderness, but rather might be manifest in a way that those who desired to, might see. That way is described for us by John. “We beheld His glory…full of grace and truth”. The apostles were privileged to see the outworking of a perfect Father/Son relationship; they saw the grace of it and the truth of it.
Moses gave the law to Israel, but he did not see the glory of God when the tables were intact. It was only when the law had been broken that he appealed for a sight of the glory on the basis of the grace of God- it was not found in the law. Note the references to grace in Exodus 33:12,13, 16, 17, 34:9. Whereas the Law was given through Moses on cold, unyielding tables of stone that were external to the mediator, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, expressed in a living person, the Word become flesh. Instead of grace and truth being abstract ideas, they are now fully expressed in a person. This had not happened before, and the law certainly could not have brought it about. Since grace and truth are expressed in Jesus Christ, they remain in all their glory.
With this we may compare the experience of Moses when he requested a sight of the glory of God- he was put in the cleft of the rock, covered with God’s hand, and only saw the back parts or afterglow of God’s glory. There were no views of Christ’s glory barred to the apostles, however, for the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6, and that face is not veiled.
It is important to remember that, strictly speaking, the tabernacle was the ten curtains that were joined together to make “one tabernacle”, Exodus 25:6, and supported by the boards, and protected by the other coverings put on top.
The goats’ hair curtains were a “covering upon the tabernacle”, Exodus 26:7. These goats hair curtains are the covering, or tent. Where we read of the “tabernacle of the congregation” it means this tent of goats’ hair. There was a “covering for the tent” of rams’ skins, Exodus 26:14, and then in the same verse a covering of badgers skins was put above the whole thing to completely protect it.
That the tabernacle is the first set of curtains is clearly seen in Numbers 3:25, where the tabernacle and the tent are distinguished, and also in verse 36, where the boards are carried by a different family of Levites. The boards are the boards of (belonging to) the tabernacle, not the boards that make the tabernacle. Their function was to support and give structure and form to the tabernacle, meaning the innermost set of curtains.
Exodus 25:1, 2 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering.
We might ask how a company of former slaves is going to produce the gold, silver, brass, etc. that God asks from them here. God promised to Abraham that even though his seed would be strangers in a strange land and be afflicted, nonetheless they would be brought out from that situation “with great substance”, Genesis 15:14. And so it came to pass, “And the children of Israel…borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment…and they spoiled the Egyptians”, Exodus 12:35,36. And all this on the anniversary of the day God promised to Abraham that it would happen, verse 40, 41, “even the selfsame day it came to pass”.
God saw to it that their decades of hard slavery were paid for. But in the previous chapter the covenant of the law had been ratified, and the people had said “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient”, Exodus 24:7. Here is the first test of that obedience. The people had also sung on the banks of the Red Sea, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation. He is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation”, Exodus 15:2. They are now being tested in this. Believers sing many wonderful things in hymns of consecration, but the real question is whether they carry them out.
Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
We have already noticed that the word for dwell is “shaken”, which gives the word Shekinah. If God is going to dwell amongst men it must be on His terms, and in the environment of His choosing.
Exodus 35:4-10 And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, and oil for the light, and spices for anointing oil, and for the sweet incense, and onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate. And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded;
The word used for offering here is “heave-offering”, and is the first occurrence of this expression. The heaving or lifting up of the gifts in the presence of God is in view. The word heave and heaven are connected, so their gifts, even though made on earth, are taken note of in heaven.
35:20 And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.
So the instruction to give came to all the congregation, and it remains to be seen how they will respond.
35:21 And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.
The congregation is now divided into two companies. Those willing, and those not willing to offer. The latter might argue that they were entitled to keep what the Egyptians had loaded upon them, since it was they who had done the slave-work. In any case, it was God who had seen to it that the riches were theirs. Did He not mean them to keep them, to supply their needs in the desert? Some went so far as to devote their gold earrings to the making a golden calf, but they had been cut off from Israel for doing this.
The great redemption that God has wrought for us ought to make us more than willing to sacrifice to Him in any way He requires. In Bible times women were very vulnerable, so when Mary gave her alabaster box of ointment she was risking her very survival in old age.
35:22 And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord.
We now come those who were willing-hearted. Both men and women now give that which they might have used to draw attention to themselves, jewels for the face and earrings to make themselves more attractive. They turn from that idea, and give to make something that will be attractive to the Lord. The tabernacle is called a worldly sanctuary in Hebrews 9:1, where the word is “cosmikos”, that which is orderly and beautiful. These willing offerers are contributing to that which God finds attractive.
Significantly this part of the heave offering is called a wave offering. Whereas the heave offering was lifted vertically before the Lord, the wave offering was waved before men. Instead of advertising themselves, they now advertise before others what will glorify their God.
35:23 And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers’ skins, brought them.
These materials would be used to make the tabernacle itself, the coverings for it, the cords to strengthen it, and also the garments of the high priest and his sons. Again, they are sacrificing what would have made them presentable before men, the dyes and the fine linen, and also that which would have protected them and kept them warm during the cold desert nights. They give up their own interests and comforts for the sake of God’s sanctuary. To them, it is more important for Him to have a shelter than for them. This is great devotion to God.
35:24 Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the Lord’s offering: and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it.
The silver and brass are linked together here, for both these metals formed the foundation of different parts of the building. The silver for the sockets of the boards and the pillars of the vail, the brass for the sockets of the pillars of the court and also the door of the tabernacle.
If they had kept this silver and brass, it would have made the foundation for a successful business once they reached Canaan. They forfeited this in faith, however, and gave for the foundation of God’s house, not their own. No doubt the words of the Lord Jesus apply here, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”.
Likewise, shittim wood would have made them a comfortable house in Canaan- they gave this up in favour of God’s house.
35:25 And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen.
35:26 And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.
We now have a further company; women whose men-folk had brought the fine linen and goats’ hair, verse 23, but now, (no doubt after having it approved by Moses), have taken some of it away to spin it into yarn at home. These are said to be wise-hearted, for they are working on their own, using their personal and special skills. They were guided no doubt by Aholiab, who would later weave what they spun, but nonetheless served God at home in this way.
Perhaps it is more tedious or unpleasant to spin goats hair, for those who spun fine linen are simply said to be wise-hearted, whereas those who spun goats’ hair had their hearts stirred up, as if it took more effort to work in this way.
35:27 And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate;
35:28 And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.
35:29 The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.
These men, as might be expected, brought a more sophisticated offering, that which had to do with the functioning of the priesthood. The jewels on Aaron’s breastplate and shoulders; the spices and oil which made up the holy anointing oil at his inauguration; the spices which made the sweet incense he offered on the altar of incense, and oil for the light, so that he could see to function in the Holy Place. These all came from the hand of the princes. They had an intelligent grasp of what the worship of God involved in practice. They realised that the tabernacle was not just an object, but the sphere where the God was going to be worshipped.
35:30 And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;
35:31 And He hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship;
35:32 And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,
35:33 And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
35:34 And He hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.
35:35 Them hath He filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.
These two men we entrusted with the overseeing of the manufacture of the entire project. They worked themselves, yet taught others in wisdom also. As such they needed the Spirit of God, so that the result would be to God’s glory. The Spirit always seeks that; He does not glorify Himself, but Christ, as He takes of Christ’s things and reveals them, John 16;13-15.
Suggested application of the above:
Every part of the tabernacle structure has something to tell us about Christ. It is the great privilege of God’s people to contribute, every time they come together, to the promotion of Christ. The truths brought before us by the gold, His Deity; the silver, the price He paid to redeem us; the brass, His ability to stand the test of the fire of Divine holiness; the fine linen, His holy humanity; the coloured dyes, His varied offices of prophet, priest, and king as set out in Matthew Mark and Luke; the spices and oil for anointing, His features as the Christ or Messiah; the spices for incense, the dependant and prayerful nature of His life; the jewels, the varied and glorious features He displayed as He passed through trying circumstances, (just a jewels are produced under stress in different environments, the suffering leading to glory). All these may be brought by brother and sister alike. This will be costly, for they involve time and effort in preparation at home. When brought, however, they cheer the heart of God as His Son is set forth.
Bezaleel and Aholiab represent those who not only work themselves, but teach others also. They set out the truth of Christ before the saints, so that wise and willing effort may be engaged in. So it is that the Father is reminded of the way His Son pleased Him when He tabernacled among men.
“But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel”, Psalm 22:3.