THE BOARDS FOR THE TABERNACLE
We come now to the boards for the tabernacle, and they are described in Exodus 26:15-30: “And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board. Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons. And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards: And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards. And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides. And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners. And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, 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 two sides westward. And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end. And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold. And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount”.
We should remember that the boards are for the tabernacle; they are not the tabernacle itself. It is the innermost curtain that is the tabernacle. This is clear from Numbers 3:25 and 36. The Gershonites carried the tabernacle, but the Merarites carried the boards. So the boards of the tabernacle are the boards belonging to, and serving the interests of, the innermost curtain, which was the dwelling-place of God. Over this tabernacle were the goats’ hair curtains, which made the tent or covering of the tabernacle., Exodus 26:7. Then there was a covering for the tent consisting of rams’ skins dyed red, Exodus 26:14. Finally, the “covering above”, Exodus 26:14, of badgers’ skins. (Notice in passing the position of the apostrophe in the words goats’, rams’, and badgers’, telling us many animals were involved. If it had been one animal in each case it would have been “goat’s”, ram’s, badger’s).
The boards served the same purpose as tent poles, to keep up the fabric of the tent, but because they were substantial boards, standing in a line, they also gave structure and shape to the tabernacle.
As the boards were “standing up”, we know they were vertical in use, even though their height is described as their length.
We have looked at the curtains and coverings, and at the outset saw that like clothing, cloth is a figure of character. Now we have that which under-girds character, which is nature. So the boards represent the person of Christ as to His nature. But the boards were made of two materials brought together, and so we will think of the way in which two natures are found in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The wood and the gold brought together. The shittim wood, which grew up on the earth, speaks of His manhood. The gold, which did not grow, but was placed in the earth by God, speaks of His God-hood. These are two very dissimilar materials, representing the coming together in one Person of two totally different natures. Shittim wood, as we shall see, was not particularly valuable, whereas gold is extremely valuable, and yet they are brought together for God’s glory in the tabernacle boards. Wood is easily seen and found, but gold has to be searched for and then found. So it is that men were familiar with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a carpenter, and the majority did not know otherwise. But there were those who found Him, and discovered that He is indeed God manifest in flesh. Andrew said to Simon, “We have found the Messias”, John 1:41. Then Philip found Nathaniel, and said, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”. As a result, Nathaniel was brought to exclaim, “Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel”, verse 49. These men had discovered the gold, despite the humble guise of the man of Nazareth.
The shittim wood. We could think of this in terms of what it was not: First, it was not the cedar of Lebanon from the heights, but the wood of the desert. The Lord Jesus took the low place in all ways, for He “made Himself of no reputation”, Philippians 2:7. It is interesting to notice that whereas Isaiah said, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God”, Isaiah 40:3, when Matthew, Mark and Luke record John the Baptist’s use of these words, he says “make His paths straight”. He will come as triumphant King one day, and then a highway shall be prepared for Him. When He came the first time, however, He trod a humble pathway.
Second, it was not the wood of the lush meadow, but of the desert. This tells of one who lived on earth in the harsh conditions that Adam’s world represented to Him, yet flourished. He was not stunted or dwarfed, but grew to full height, so to speak. Normally it is said that the shittim tree is little more than a bush, but the boards for the tabernacle were ten cubits long, over fifteen feet, and we do not read of them being spliced or joined. Here is strong growth in harsh conditions, that suggests something out of the ordinary. Indeed, the growing up of the Lord Jesus was out of the ordinary, but not in the sense that He was a prodigy, unnatural in His development. Rather, He was perfect in every stage, and in every way, physically, mentally, socially, spiritually. We read, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him”, Luke 2:40. And then in verse 52, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”. All was perfect for God. There was no retracing of steps, there were no false starts, no hesitation or reluctance, but all was steady growth for His Father’s pleasure. No wonder the apostle Paul sets before us the goal of likeness to Christ in the words, “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”, Ephesians 4:13. Isaiah had prophesied “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground”, Isaiah 53:2. We could think of the dry ground as being Israel religiously. How little there was for God, in general. Of course there were exceptions, a remnant who longed for better things, and who served God while they patiently waited for those better things to be brought in. Into such an environment the Lord Jesus came, and gave to His Father the utmost delight as He grew up before Him. We could also think of the dry ground as representing Judah regally. The tribe of Judah was destined to produce the King of God’s choice, but as the New Testament opens, it was not in a position to do so. Long before, David had lamented that his house were not fit to rule, “for he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be…as the tender grass springing out of the earth…although my house be not so with God…yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant…although He make it not to grow”, 2 Samuel 23:3-5. No wonder the angel addressed Joseph as son of David, to highlight this shortcoming, for he was but a carpenter in the workshop, not a king in his palace, Matthew 1:20. Then there was Nazareth, the place people despaired of producing any good thing, John 1:46, for this city of our Lord’s boyhood, was dry ground morally. Yet out of it came one who met with His Father’s approval. It is interesting to notice that John does not record the wilderness temptation of Christ. We might think he would wish to include the harsh conditions experienced by Christ during His time of temptation in the wilderness. Yet he completely omits it. But he does imply it, for he begins the historical part of his account of Christ’s public ministry by writing, “The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto Him, and saith, ‘Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world'”, John 1:29. He is coming back from His wilderness temptation, and then is addressed by John as the Lamb of God, who would take away sin. John implies that His wilderness experience has shown Him competent to deal with sins, being sinless even under extreme temptation. But the apostle is also implying that the greatest wilderness experience will be at Calvary, when, like the scapegoat bearing the sins of Israel, He will go into the “land not inhabited”. So just as John does not record the healing of Malchus’ ear, in Gethsemane; lest he detract from the impact of the raising of Lazarus, so he does not record the wilderness temptation, lest he detract from the final confrontation at Calvary, John 14:30.
Third, it was not the choice of the craftsman. Despite being “a man approved of God”, Acts 2:22, the Lord Jesus was not approved of by men. He quoted Psalm 118:22 to the chief priests and elders of the people, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”. In Israel, the builders were “those learned in the Torah”, that is, the law of Moses. The head of the corner was the first stone to be set when a building was begun, so there could be a reference point for the laying of all the other stones. This cornerstone was said to be “the king and the ruler” because of this. Clearly the learned ones do not consider Christ to be fit to be anywhere in their building, least of all the head of the corner. He will, however, be the head of the corner of a reborn nation of Israel in a day to come, and He will be “the king and ruler” in that day. That will be the day the Lord has made possible, and those who believe will rejoice and be glad in it. Now what the Lord Jesus was as a stone, He was also as symbolised by the wood. For shittim wood was not in any way favoured by the cabinet-maker. Yet this is the wood that is favoured by God, and is incorporated into His dwelling-place! This highlights the great gulf between God’s thoughts and man’s. As the Lord Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God”, Luke 16:15. And the reverse is the case, as we see in connection with the anointing of David. Said the Lord to Samuel, “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”, 1 Samuel 16:7.
It was what was at the heart of the shittim wood that made it God’s choice. For it was not liable to decay from within. Some trees look fine and healthy, and we wonder why they have had to be cut down. But when their stump is examined, it is found to be rotten within. Such is man. He has the sin-principle in his heart, and this affects him in every way. Christ is so different, for, being virgin-born, He has not that link with Adam which involves inheriting a sinful nature. He has a link with Adam, as Luke shows when he gives the genealogy of Christ through Mary, Luke 3:23-38, but not with Adam the sinner, but Adam “the son of God”. Adam, son of God by creation, is pure and sinless. Christ, son of Mary by incarnation, is likewise pure and sinless. So it is that John could confidently write, by the Spirit, “In Him is no sin”, 1 John 3:5. He does not say “was no sin”, although that was true, but would limit the time under consideration to the past. John, who delights to probe the essence of a thing, is saying that in His person, His nature, His heart, there is no trace of sin. It is not simply that there is no sin on His record, but that there no sin-principle in Him.
Another feature of shittim wood is that it is not susceptible to attack from without. Pests and diseases could not fasten themselves upon it. The resolve of the Lord Jesus to do the will of His Father was total. There was not a moment when He thought that, for Him, sinning was an option. He was “tempted in all points like as we are, without sin”, Hebrews 4:14. This does not simply mean that, in the event, no sin was the outcome of His temptation. Nor does it mean that to Him, temptation was of no account and could be brushed aside. The refusal of the Lord Jesus to succumb to temptation was meaningful and heartfelt, not robotic. The expression “without sin” is found again in Hebrews 9:28, which refers to the coming again of the Lord Jesus. He came the first time in connection with sin; when He comes the second time it will be without sin in the sense that He will not need to die for sin. The thought is that He is coming apart from the sin-question. So also in His temptation. He distanced Himself from the very idea of sinning, although He did feel the intense pressure of the temptation. So it is that He can say, “the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me”, John 14:30. There was no way in which Satan could get Him to give in, such was the intensity of His love for the Father and His interests.
The gold The gold represents the God-hood of Christ. When kings and rulers wish to emphasise their importance and glory, then they deck themselves in gold. It is universally recognised as the symbol of glory. But the tabernacle is built for the glory of God, and the glory of the Lord filled the place when it was first erected. Gold in the tabernacle, then, must represent the glory of God. And God’s Son is the expression of the essence of God in every way, so it must symbolise the glory of Christ, the Son of God.
Gold must be mined John begins his gospel with the Word in heaven, in eternity. But he soon tells us that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He was put here by God so that He could be discovered by earnest and sincere seekers. We have already referred to the way that both Andrew and Philip say “we have found Him”, and this has been true for so many down through the centuries. The point is, however, that when they found Him, they recognised Him to be the Son of God. They had found the gold.
The Hebrew word for gold implies it shines This reminds us that the Lord Jesus is the brightness of the glory of God, as Hebrews 1:3 tells us. He came to this world in such a way that that glory could be seen. Moses had to veil his face after he had come out from the presence of God, for the people were not able to endure the shining of his face, Exodus 34:33. The glory of God shone in his face, but they were not able to look upon it. Believers of this present age, however, see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6. He does not have to veil His face, even though it is His own Divine glory that shines forth, (with Moses it was God’s glory that was reflected in his face). He graciously makes that glory known in such a way as we are able to join with John and say, “We beheld His glory”, John 1:14.
Gold is precious Because of its rarity, and also because it is desired by men and women to use as adornment, gold is much sought after, and therefore is valuable. We read of one who found the Lord Jesus to be exceedingly precious. For Mary of Bethany lavished her alabaster box of ointment on Him. That which she might have kept to secure her financial position later in life, she willingly gave to Him. John assesses what she gave, and he says it was “very costly”, John 12:3. Such was the value she put upon Him. She did not need to come with the other women to anoint His body after His death; nor did she need to come to the tomb to see that He was risen. She was assured in her heart, (for she had sat at His feet and learnt of Him, Luke 10:39), that He would rise from the dead quickly. Had He not declared Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, and showed it by raising her brother from the dead four days after he had died? How could such an one as this remain any longer in the grave Himself, especially as He said He would rise after three days. The action of Judas in the same situation is in stark contrast. Mary gave everything to Christ; Judas went out from such a scene and said to the authorities, “What will ye give me?” Matthew 26:14. He, and they, valued God’s Elect Servant at the price of a wounded and therefore useless slave, see Exodus 21:32. Peter could write, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious”, 1 Peter 2:7. May we value Christ in our hearts, and show it by our deeds, as Mary did. Wherever the gospel is preached her name is associated with self-sacrifice and loyalty, Matthew 26:13, whereas the name of Judas is forever associated with greed and treachery.
Gold is the standard Gold is the standard by which everything is judged. Although the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to pass sentence on men, yet He did come so as to be the means by which everything is assessed. He said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”, John 3:19. And again, “For judgement I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see may be made blind”, John 9:39. So when men are said to “come short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23, they are condemned as having fallen far below the standard God requires; which standard was set by Christ in His sinless perfection.
Gold beautifies that which it is put upon The psalmist prayed, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us”, Psalm 90:17. He desired that the characteristics of God might enhance those making up the nation of Israel. That beauty is seen in all its perfection in Christ, and those who believe in Him are accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6, which means that all that the Father finds delightful about His Beloved Son is credited to them.
The wood overlaid with gold When we read that the wood of the boards was overlaid with gold, we are to understand that the wood could be discerned through the gold. The word for overlay means, literally, to watch, or to see. The gold was united with the wood in such a way that the wood could be seen through it. Two substances of totally dissimilar nature are brought together to illustrate the two natures of Christ in His one Person. We are reminded that the wood of His humanity was not overwhelmed by the gold of His Deity. Both were in display. The priests could not see the wood without seeing the gold, and they could not see the gold without seeing the wood.
John begins his “Tabernacle Gospel” by emphasising the Deity of Christ. He was writing towards the end of the apostolic era, and God in His wisdom had allowed error to rise amongst men, so that He could give His verdict on their evil theories about His Son. Thus John writes in his gospel to set out the truth of His Deity, whereas in His first epistle he emphasises the reality of His manhood.
The Deity of Christ in John 1:1-3.
“In the beginning was the Word” The eternal existence of the Word When the first thing that had a beginning began, then the Word already was. This is a clear indication of His eternal existence. That the Lord Jesus is meant is evident from verses 14 and 17, but John deliberately refrains from giving Him any personal name here so that we may concentrate on His attributes. A word is an expression of what is in the mind, so John is telling us that if God is going to be told out, it must be through Him who, because He is the Word, is able to perfectly express His mind. He is not a Word, one option among many, but the one and only discloser of the mind of God. The use of the word “beginning” shows there is clearly a link with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…”, but whereas Moses is starting at the beginning and going forward, John is starting at the beginning and going backwards into eternity, before time was. Thus John is telling us of One who is able to bring eternal realities within the reach of men.
“And the Word was with God” The distinct personality of the Word If the first phrase tells of the pre-existence of the Word before time began, and therefore indicates His eternal being, this phrase tells of His co-existence. To be with God means much more than that the Word was in the presence of God, although this is true. By using a preposition that indicates “motion towards”, John is informing us that the Word was actively towards God, concentrating, in eternal perfection, on Him. This gives us great confidence, for it indicates that there is perfect harmony between the Word and God- their interests are the same, and nothing disturbs their communion. This being the case, believing in His name is a safe thing to do, for it forges a link with God that cannot be broken. The fact that weight is given to both “Word” and “God”, is indicative of the distinct personality of the Word.
“And the Word was God” The substantial Godhood of the Word A clear statement as to the Deity of the Word. Note that although there are distinctions of Persons in the Godhead, for “the Word was with God”, yet there is identity of essence, for “the Word was God”. This expression assures us that the One who is pre-existent, and co-existent, is co-equal with God as well. This truth is emphasized not only in the teaching of the Lord Jesus, (see for instance John 5:17-29 and 10:30), but also in His miracles, which clearly demonstrated His Deity. For example, He who had made the vine on the third day, Genesis 1:12,13, now acts on another “third day”, John 2:1, as He accelerates the lengthy process by which rainwater is made into vintage wine, and thus manifests His power as Creator, “And His disciples believed on Him”, John 2:11.
“The same was in the beginning with God” The unchanging condition of the Word John makes it clear that the truths stated in verse one were all true together at the beginning- there was no development or progress. It was not that He was the Word, and then was with God, and then was God, but rather that He who was with God, and was God, was this eternally, for the nature of God cannot change. Deity does not develop, but is ever infinite. “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed”, Malachi 3:6- a great comfort to the remnant in Israel as they faced four hundred years of change until Christ came. Their preservation in those times is testimony to the unchangeableness of God. We who wait for the second coming of Christ may likewise take heart.
“All things were made by Him” The creatorial majesty of the Word Having stated fundamental truths as to the nature of the Word, John now indicates the way in which the Word showed Himself to be God, even by bringing all things into being, something only God can do. Literally rendered, the verse reads- “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being which has come into being”. John is writing about things coming to be that did not exist before- they are not revealed from their hiding-place. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear”, Hebrews 11:3. All things came into being by, or through, the Word when “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:9. It follows logically, then, that He is not part of creation. There are those who appeal to this word “by” to say that the Word was only a high angelic intelligence, who was used by God to make all things as His subordinate. But in Romans 11:36 it is said of God that all things are through Him, (and the apostle uses the same word as “by” here), so on this theory of subordination, God Himself must be acting for another! This, of course, is impossible. Perhaps as he penned these words the apostle John thought of the language of Isaiah 44:24, “I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself:”. Isaiah declared that the Lord, the God of heaven, had made all things by Himself, yet John, a sincere believer in the One True God, did not hesitate to say that the Word had made all things. Since John was inspired by the same Spirit as Isaiah was, then we are forced to the conclusion that the Word is God, not only by the plain statement of verse 1, but also by the fact that He is Creator.
“And without Him was not anything made that was made” The distinctive majesty of the Word There is no secret store of matter that derives its origin from some other power-source. Note how John puts things positively and negatively, (“all things were made by Him…without Him was nothing made…”), in order that the truth might be hedged about on every side. The first phrase “all things were made by Him”, might be thought by hostile minds to refer only to things, and not beings with life, leaving the way open to say that the Word was created first, and then brought things into existence. This second statement of the apostle instantly and conclusively disposes of such a blasphemous notion. Everything that has moved from non-being to being has done so through the Word, therefore the Word did not come into being, but ever is.
The manhood of Christ in John 1:14
The real and ideal manhood of the Word And the Word was made flesh- note the word “and”, which links back to verses 1-3, “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was made flesh”. Intervening verses have spoken of His pre-incarnation involvement with the world He had created, but now John speaks of the Word as He is made in the likeness of men. Eternity is meeting time; He who was with God is now with men. The change is radical and His manhood is vital- just as vital as His Godhood. He cannot be either Last Adam, Kinsman Redeemer, Mediator, or High Priest, unless He is truly man, for all these offices depend on His death, and unless He takes flesh and blood He cannot die, Hebrews 2:14. Whereas in verses 1-3 we have been told what the Word is, now we are told what He became, for this is the sense of the word “made” here. Several things are involved in this: First, He gained the attributes of man without losing the attributes of God. He who is in the form of God took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6,7. It is in John’s Gospel, that especially emphasizes the Deity of Christ, that He describes Himself as “A man that hath told you the truth”, John 8:40. His manhood is real, for He was born of Mary, but His manhood is ideal, for He was not begotten of Joseph. Second, He united manhood and Godhood for ever in His person. John insists in his epistle that one way of discerning an anti-christ is by asking whether he believes Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, 1 John 4:2,3. The sense of the participle he uses for “come” is, “having come in the flesh and continuing to be in the flesh”. The precision of the Greek language expresses the truth that the manhood Christ has taken, He will never discard. The Jesus of Nazareth who was here, is the Jesus of Nazareth who spoke to Saul of Tarsus from heaven, Acts 22:8; the same Jesus that is crowned with glory and honour in heaven, Hebrews 2:9; and the same Jesus that will come again to earth, Acts 1:11. Third, He did not merely come in man’s guise, as angels have done when visiting men, but became flesh. Not flesh in contrast to spirit, (as if He became a body, or clothed Himself with one), but flesh consisting of spirit and soul and body, the constituent parts of man, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Fourth, He now possesses both Deity and manhood, yet remains one Person. He never spoke of Himself as “Us”, as the Godhead does at times, Genesis 1:26;3:22;11:7. Who can begin to understand the great mystery of godliness, that “God was manifest in flesh”? 1 Timothy 3:16. We dare not pry or probe, for to lift the lid of the Ark is to invite Divine judgement, 1 Samuel 6:19. If the god Dagon was found fallen on his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord, 1 Samuel 5:3, how much more should we fall before Him of whom the ark speaks. Fifth, the attributes of both His Godhood and His manhood are properly ascribed to the one Person. This means, for example, that the one who stilled the storm in Mark 4:35-41 was a man, even though to still storms is Divine work, Psalm 107:23-30, and the one who slept in the boat was God, even though the God that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep, Psalm 121:4. We ought not to say that He slept as a man and stilled the storm as God. He both slept, and stilled the storm, as one blessed, undivided Person.
These things are difficult to take in, but this we should expect, for the Lord Jesus said, “For no man knoweth the Son but the Father”, Matthew 11:27. Whereas the Son makes known the Father, for He is simply and gloriously God, the Son cannot be fully explained, because He is God and man. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in flesh”, 1 Timothy 3:16.
The corner-boards. There were twenty boards on the south and north sides of the tabernacle, six on the west, and two in the corners. The Hebrew word for corner is derived from the verb “to flake off”, thus suggesting that where two walls meet there is a point of weakness that needs to be strengthened. In the tabernacle this strengthening was provided by the two corner boards. Now each of the forty-eight boards represents a distinct way in which the Lord Jesus manifest, by word or deed, that He is indeed God manifest in flesh. But at the beginning of John’s Gospel there is a testimony of the apostle himself from personal experience, and an announcement by John the Baptist with prophetic insight. These sum up the two major ways the Word has told out God, namely by His Person and by His work at Calvary. They are the two “boards” that give strength and meaning to the rest. The apostle’s testimony had to do with the person of Christ, for he describes Him as “the only-begotten of the Father”, 1:14. Here is the strengthening truth of His Person. Then John the Baptist’s words, which had to do with Calvary, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, verse 29. This too is a manifestation of Deity, for only one who is God can undertake such a task. So the Baptist gives us the strengthening truth of His work at Calvary.
But there were forty-six more boards, so we may relate all of them to statements in John’s Gospel as follows:
1. 1:14 “the Word was made flesh”. The Word is God, (verse 1), and man.
2. 1:14 “the only-begotten of the Father”. He, a man, shares the nature of God. A son is a sharer of the nature of his father.
3. 1:15 “John bare witness…’He was before me'”. John was born first, but Christ is eternal.
4. 1:18 “the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father”. Even as a man, He is in the Father’s bosom, and is privy to the secrets of His heart, can understand them, and disclose them.
5. 1:23 “Make straight the way of the Lord”. Isaiah, when he spoke these words, would understand “the Lord” to be God. He went on to say, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God”, Isaiah 40:3. The next time the apostle John uses the word Lord in the Gospel, he uses it of Christ, without explanation or qualification, John 4:1.
6. 1:27 “He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me”. Christ said of John, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist”, Matthew 11:11. Here is one superior to the greatest man.
7. 1:29 “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”. Part of God’s glory is that He forgives (bears or takes away) iniquity and transgression and sin, Exodus 34:7.
8. 1:33,34 “He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit…this is the Son of God”. John realises that one who baptises using a Divine person, (the Holy Spirit) must Himself be a Divine person.
9. 1:49 “Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel”. King of Israel is a Divine title, Isaiah 44:6, therefore Nathaniel links the title Son of God with it.
10. 1:51 “Hereafter thou shalt see heaven opened…Son of Man”. A reference to Daniel 7:13 and 22, where the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days are identical, for both are said to come. This is why the high priest rent his clothes and spoke of blasphemy, Matthew 26:54,55.
11. 2:9, 11 “Water made wine…Jesus manifested forth His glory”. Only one who is Creator can turn rainwater into good wine instantly.
12. 2:16 “Make not My Father’s house a den of merchandise”. He claims to be the Son of the God of the temple.
13. 2:24 “He knew all men…He knew what was in man”. “The heart is deceitful…who can know it? I the Lord search the heart”, Jeremiah 17:9,10.
14. 3:31 “He that cometh from above is above all”. “Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all”, 1 Chronicles 29:11.
15. 3:35 “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand”. Only one who is equal with God can administer all God’s affairs.
16. 4:25 “Christ…when He is come, He will tell us all things…I that speak unto thee am He”. Only one who is Truth itself can tell all things.
17. 4:50 “Go thy way; thy son liveth”. He does not need to be physically present to heal. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good”, Proverbs 15:3. “Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” Psalm 139:7.
18. 5:8 “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk”. Healing of the impotent man. “Behold your God will come…then shall the lame man leap as a hart”, Isaiah 35:4,5. Christ’s miracles were “the powers of the age to come”, Hebrews 6:5, and gave clear indication that He was able to bring in the coming age of the kingdom.
19. 5:9 “and on the same day was the sabbath”. As the one who gave the law of the sabbath, He can act above it.
20. 5:17 “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work'”. A claim to have worked in Old Testament times on equality with God, as the Jews realise.
21. 5:21 “The Son quickeneth whom He will”. He has the same right to raise the dead as the Father has.
22. 5:22 “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son”. God is the judge of all, Hebrews 12:23, so Christ must be God.
23. 5:23 “so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”. He who is “that eternal life, which was with the Father”, 1 John 1:2, has been given the task of giving that life to others.
24. 6:11 “And Jesus took the loaves…” Miracle of the feeding of the 5000. “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name”, John 20:31.
25. 6:19 “they see Jesus walking on the sea”. “O God…Thy way is in the sea”, Psalm 77:19. “With God nothing shall be impossible”, Luke 1:37.
26. 6:27 “Him hath God the Father sealed”. The Father acknowledges the Son’s relationship with Himself.
27. 6:33 “For the bread of God is He that came down from heaven”. He has satisfied the Father’s heart eternally.
28. 6:40 “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him”. To “see the Son” is to realise His Deity.
29. 6:48 “I am that bread of life”. He sustains the eternal life, ( i.e. life as God has it), He gives.
30. 6:62 “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” He claims to have been with God before He was born.
31. 7:28,29 “He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not. But I know Him: for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me”. Christ claims to know God through having been with Him, not, as with us, by faith.
32. 7:37 “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”. “saith the Lord…they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters”, Jeremiah 2:12,13.
33. 8::11 “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”, 2 Corinthians 5:19.
34. 8:12 “I am the light of the world”. “God is light”, 1 John 1:5.
35. 8:28 “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He”. “the centurion…said, “Truly this man was the Son of God”, Mark 15:39. “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”, Romans 1:4.
36. 8:58 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”. “And God said unto Moses, ‘I am that I am’: and He said, ‘Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you'”, Exodus 3:14.
37. 9:1 “a man which was blind from His birth”. “Behold you God…will come and save you…then the eyes of the blind shall be opened”, Isaiah 35:4,5.
38. 10:11 “I am the good shepherd”. “The Lord is My Shepherd”, Psalm 23:1. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…Thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth”, Psalm 80:1.
39. 10:30,33 “I and My Father are one…The Jews answered Him saying, For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyelf God”. The Jews, (fervent defenders of the honour of the one true God), clearly understand that “I and My Father are one” means “I and My Father are one in nature”, hence the charges of blasphemy, and claiming to be God.
40. 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life”. The raising of Lazarus demonstrates the truth of His claim.
41. 13:13 “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am”. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord”, Deuteronomy 6:4. If the Lord is the only Lord, then to call Jesus Lord is to acknowledge His Deity. See also Romans 10:9,13, where Paul makes no distinction between the Lord Jesus and the Lord as Joel spoke of Him in Joel 2:32. See also Nehemiah 9:6.
42. 14:1 “Ye believe in God believe also in Me”. Belief in God is on the same level as believing in Him.
43. 14:9 “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”. Only one who is God can display God, for He has incommunicable glories which only He can manifest.
44. 14:11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me”. He is in the Father in the sense that there is no point at which they diverge, whether it be in nature, attributes, character, will, or action. Conversely, there is no moment in which the Father does not fully express Himself in the Son.
45. 14:23 “We will come unto him, and make our abode with Him”. The reference is to the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who believe. Only Divine persons can say that the coming of one of them is the coming of the others. The Spirit comes, and this is the Father and the Son coming, for God is one, and always acts in unity.
46. 16:8, 9,10 “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they believe not on Me: of righteousness because I go to My Father…” The reproof of the unrighteousness of the world cannot be left entirely to fallible believers. A Divine Person (the Holy Spirit), can only adequately replace a Divine person, (the Lord Jesus), to do this work perfectly.
47. 17:5,24 “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was…Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world”. The foundation of the world in Genesis 1:1 marks the beginning of time, hence before the foundation of the world is eternity. If He is with the Father eternally, He cannot be a created being, for all things were made at the beginning spoken of in Genesis 1:1. See Nehemiah 9:6. If He is not a created being, He is equal with God.
48. 18:6 “As soon then as He had said unto them, ‘I am He’, they went backward, and fell to the ground”. A preview of the day when “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow”, Philippians 2:10. But God has said, “For I am God, and there is none else…unto Me every knee shall bow”, Isaiah 45:22,23. So if men bow to Jesus it must be because He is God.
The silver sockets The forty-eight boards for the tabernacle rested on ninety-six silver sockets, with each socket weighing one talent, or 3000 shekels. This silver, together with all the other materials to make up the tabernacle structure, represented the willing offering of the children of Israel. When they were about to be released from their long years of slavery in Egypt, God instructed them to “borrow of the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold”, Exodus 11:2. This they did, and the Egyptians, glad to be rid of the cause of the plagues that had come upon them, gave them all they asked. So it was that they “spoiled the Egyptians”, Exodus 12:36. Clearly, borrow in this context would be understood as asking. They had slaved for many years without wages, and now the time of recompence had come.
The silver as an expression of willing obedience From this spoil the Israelites gave willingly to God for the making of the tabernacle. In fact, so willing were they, that they had to be restrained from giving, such was their enthusiasm for God’s interests, Exodus 36:6,7. We might well pause and ask ourselves if we match their enthusiasm. So it was that the whole amount of the materials given constitutes a heave-offering, as the word for offering is in Exodus 25:2. The word being connected with the word heaven; so they gave in relation to the God of heaven, whose people they were.
The silver represents an appreciation of the value of life The silver used for the sockets, and also for the chapiters of the court pillars, was slightly different, for a comparison of Exodus 38:25-28 with Numbers 1:45,46 will show that the silver was the offering of the men of war. They were required, according to Exodus 30:11-16, to each pay a half a shekel to God to ransom or atone for their souls. Now this is not atonement for their general sins; for that there must be the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice, for “without the shedding of blood is no remission”, Hebrews 9:22. In any case, the forgiveness of sins cannot be gained by paying money. And only those who were twenty years old and upwards, and male, and not too old to go to war, were required to pay the atonement money. Yet all, of whatever age or gender need to have their sins forgiven. The point is that these men are going to war to kill others. That is what war is all about. The fact that it is God that will be sending them to war, and also that their enemies will be horribly wicked and depraved men, does not alter that fact. They will despatch unbelieving men into a hopeless eternity, and they will take the lives of men who, despite their wickedness, are made in the image and likeness of God. In such circumstances we can understand that they need to have impressed upon them the value of the souls of men, and this is done by requiring them to pay the atonement money. It covered them from the charge of murder. The requirement to pay the silver atonement money, therefore, impressed upon them the value of a soul to God. And as we think of that, we also think how valuable to God was the life of His Son, who “poured out…unto death”, Isaiah 53:12.
The silver represented an early obedience to God’s command Yet there is an interesting situation presented to us here, for the men of war were not numbered until Numbers chapter 1, in the second year from the Exodus. The tabernacle was built during the first year. So we conclude that these men of war, hearing from Moses that the atonement money was going to be required of them, gave beforehand. Their response to God was an early response- another example for us. So we may say that, although the silver was required by God’s commandment, it was given willingly and voluntarily. Are we not reminded of the way Christ came to make the ultimate payment; He did so according to commandment, John 10:11,18, but also willingly?
The silver represented the ransom for many The boards rested on a foundation of silver sockets, so the only link the shittim wood had with the earth was the silver. We are born into this world to live, but He was born to die, for He was “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”, Hebrews 2:9. The silver was atonement for the souls of six hundred thousand men, for each of the ninety-six talents, (plus the four talents beneath the pillars of the veil), was of three thousand shekels, and since each man gave a half-shekel, six hundred thousand men were represented there. We are reminded that “the Son of Man came…to give His life a ransom for many”, Mark 10:45. The boards had two tenons, which reached into the mortices in the silver sockets, and rested there. The word for tenon is literally “hand”, and we may see in this the way in which the Lord Jesus, with out-stretched hands, so to speak, embraced the will of God that He should give His life a ransom.
The rings of gold Keeping the tabernacle firm and steady were five bars. Four of these were external, and one was internal. The four outside bars, made of wood overlaid with gold like the boards, were inserted into rings entirely of gold. Now a ring represents a never-ending eternity. The Lord Jesus was aware of the Divine counsels of eternity, (the rings, being entirely of gold, point us to a situation before He came into manhood), and was constrained by them. We read of “Christ, who through the eternal spirit, offered Himself to God”, Hebrews 9:14. Instead of being governed by commandments given to men in the flesh, like Aaron was, He was constrained by His knowledge of the plan of God. The bars (of wood and gold), were inserted into the rings, and held fast. Speaking of His sufferings and death, the Lord Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished”, Luke 12:50. When Israel were brought out of Egypt, they were straitened by the mountains either side of them and the cavalry behind them.. They had no option but to move forward and be “baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the Sea”, 1 Corinthians 10:2. But it was not force of circumstances that moved Christ to Calvary, but His firm resolve to do His Father’s will. In fact, we could see in His own words when He came into the world, “Lo I come to do Thy will O God”, Hebrews 10:5,7, the insertion of the bars in the rings.
The four external bars We have seen how that the actual tabernacle, the inner curtain over the boards, symbolises the character of the Lord Jesus when down here. The boards represent His nature, and that He is God and man in one Person. Now we have four bars giving stability to the whole, but additional to it. Can we not say that these represent the attitude of the Lord Jesus to the demands His Father made upon Him? How will He react to the command to lay down His life? We know the answer to this question. He will be marked by readiness and enthusiasm. Now God required four things of man in connection with His commandments. The word is clear, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they strength, and with all thy mind”, Luke 10:27. As the only one who fully obeyed, these four requirements were met fully by God’s Son. Just as the bars gave strength, stability and straightness to the boards, so Christ’s attitude to God’s purpose for Him ensured that He was always in line with His Father’s will. His heart- Just before Calvary, the Lord said to His own, “That the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence”, John 14:31. “Many waters cannot quench love”, says Song of Solomon 8:7, and the waves and billows of God’s wrath at Calvary showed the strength of His unquenchable love. His soul- when certain Greeks asked to see Him, the mind of Christ was projected forward to the present age, when the Gentiles would have the opportunity of seeing Him by faith. But in between lay the horrors of Calvary, so it is no surprise to hear Him say, “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour:’ but for this cause came I unto this hour. ‘Father, glorify Thy name'”, John 12:27,28. He is concerned, not for His own soul-trouble, (for He does not ask to be delivered from it), but the Father’s glory. His mind- we read at the beginning of John’s account of the events in the upper room, that “Jesus knew that His hour was come”, John 13:1. He was intelligent as to God’s purpose, and was determined to fulfil it, and then “go to God”. Unlike Isaac, who had to ask questions about what would happen at Moriah, our Saviour was completely aware of all the implications of that which lay before Him. His strength- Matthew, Mark and Luke give to us the way the Saviour agonised in the Garden of Gethsemane, and made request that the cup of wrath might pass from Him. Adding quickly, of course, “Nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done”, Luke 22:42. We have none of this in John. He does not record the agony in the garden, with the request the cup might pass, but he does record the firm resolve to drink it. So it is that the Saviour rebukes Peter for trying to prevent His arrest, and asserts “the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11. At the Passover Meal there were four cups, and two of them were not drunk. There was the cup of the kingdom, which everyone wanted to drink, but the time had not come; then there was the cup of wrath which no-one wanted to drink. At last one steps forward with the strength of purpose to drink that cup of wrath to the bitter dregs.
The inner bar It is said of this particular bar that Bezaleel “made the middle bar to shoot through the boards from end to end”, Exodus 36:33. It travelled right to the end of the board walls, therefore, not stopping short until the end was reached. It was not only in the midst of the bars, (for it was called the middle bar), but it was in the midst of the boards as well, unseen, but vital in keeping the structure together. The will of man is the strongest part of his constitution, and if his will is not in harmony with God, he is perverted and twisted. In the case of God’s Son, His will was perfectly in harmony with His Father’s will, hence that which He manifest on earth was firm and steadfast. There are seven references to the will of God in John’s gospel, and it is instructive to notice how they are presented:
1. “Jesus said unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work'”, John 4:34. Just as when we eat food we are satisfied, so Christ was satisfied as He did His Father’s will. But more than this, just as when we eat meat it becomes part of us, so we may say there is an identity of will between the Father and the Son. Notice also His resolve to complete the Father’s work- there is no thought of giving up before the task is done, the bar of His determined will reached from end to end, so to speak.
2. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead; so the Son quickeneth whom He will”, John 5:21. Since the Father and the Son are equal in every way, the Son can safely say He quickens whom He will, for He knows the will of His Father is with Him wholeheartedly as He does so.
3. “I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgement is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me”, John 5:30. Even in the matter of judgement, the Son has not His own agenda. He seeks His Father’s will, not in the sense that He seeks to find out what it is, but rather, He seeks that it may be fully done- this is His goal. Just as He taught in accord with what He heard from His Father, so He will judge in that way too. Even at the end of time, at the great judgement day, the will of the Son and the Father will be one.
4. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”, John:6:37, 38. Here we are assured of the determination of the Son to do His Father’s will. They will in harmony. And this gives great comfort to those who come to Christ, since the Father’s will is that the Son does not cast anyone out that comes, and He is determined to fulfil that will. The seeking soul is sure of a welcome.
5. “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day”, John 6:40. This is a great comfort to those who have sought and found the Saviour. They are here assured that everlasting life is theirs now, and resurrection life will be theirs in a day to come.
6. “Father, I will, that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given me: for Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”, John 17:24. Confident that His prayer will be answered, and that His will and that of His Father is the same, He asserts His will. Compare His Gethsemane prayer, where it was “not My will”. There it was to do with God’s will regarding Calvary; here to do with God’s will regarding glory. Even as He says this, He is asking for the benefit of others. There is no element of independence in His person because He has become man. “They also, whom Thou hast given Me” refers to believers of this age. As well as the apostles who were given Him, verse 6, He now thinks of those who will believe through their word, verse 20. The apostles were given as those who already believed in God as godly Israelites. The rest of believers are given to the Son when they come in faith initially. His will is that they may behold His glory, for although He shares the glory of association with the Godhead with His people, verses 5, 22, He will always be distinctive and conspicuous in glory. He is confident that His request will be granted, for He bases it upon the fact that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world- this is the solid ground of the request, an appeal the Father cannot refuse, even if He wished to, which He does not. He is conscious of having enjoyed the eternal love of His Father, and now His people may be confident that, seeing He has ever enjoyed the love of His Father, this request will be granted.
7. “Jesus saith unto him, ‘If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me'”, John 21:22. Here the will of the Son extends even to the matter of the timing of the death of His people. All is in His hand, and nothing can interrupt or thwart His programme. At the precise moment of His choosing they shall be absent from the body and present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:8. So it shall be said of them that they “sleep in Jesus”, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, for He has given them rest from their labours.
Note on the possible position of the corner boards.
All 48 boards are of the same size, as are the sockets on which they stood, so the corner boards were not T-shaped or L-shaped as some suggest.
The following is a suggestion about the way the corners were arranged:
Exodus 26:18 And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward.
This is the first side, (because the other side is called the second side in verse 20), so Moses is writing as if he is coming through the gate on the east, and the first side is on his left.
26:20 And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards:
So we now know what Moses means when he writes about the sides.
26:22 And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards.
Now comes the difficult part! We may speak of the end of the tabernacle, by which we mean the 6+2 boards on the west, but the Scripture does not speak like this. I suggest that the expression “sides of the tabernacle westward” means “the sides of the tabernacle, (that is, the first and second sides of verses 18 and 20), at their westward ends”. The six boards are said to be “for” the sides of the tabernacle westward, so they serve the interests of the first and second sides by giving them stability, and also by keeping them at their correct distance apart. Remember there is nothing like this at the east end to stabilise the structure, so everything depends on the west end being stable.
26:23 And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
We learn at least two things here. First, that the two boards are for the corners. Second, that they are in the two sides. This would refer to the two sides, the first and the second, that form the south and north walls of the board structure. So the two boards are in the sides, not in the ends.
26:24 And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.
We may understand by this the following: “The head of it” refers to the westward-facing ends of the line of boards, which, because they are now forming in Moses’ mind as he writes, can be described as “it”, for the structure is becoming a reality. Both of these particular boards are placed in the same way, for “thus shall it be for them both”. They each, then, are coupled together to the head or end of their respective side. And this coupling is done “beneath”, and “above”, and “unto one ring”. By “one ring” we may understand “ring number one”. In other words, the first ring, in the first board in the line, through which the bars were inserted. So the corner board is coupled together with the board adjacent to it by the ring that was inserted in the boards to hold the bars. Then the first and lowest ring is lashed (presumably by fine linen cords, “all that serveth thereto”, Numbers 3:36), to the first and lowest ring on the six-board section that we often call the end. In this way the three boards forming the corner are doubly fastened, firstly by the rings that pair them together, and then by the ropes that keep the corners square and rigid. This is done beneath, and above, in others words, the fastening is done by means of the lowest ring and the topmost ring of the boards.