Category Archives: The Court and Gate

Thoughts on the hangings and gate that protected the tabernacle in the wilderness.

THE TABERNACLE COURT AND GATE

Exodus 27:9-19, 38:9-31.

The court marked the boundary between the camp and the tabernacle, and therefore between the people and God. It represents the way in which the Lord Jesus protected the interests of His Father when on the earth.

The curtains of the court represented a barrier, saying “No entry”.

The gate of the court represented the entrance, saying “Enter here”.

The righteous life of Christ sets an unattainable standard. All come short of the glory of God, and He is that glory.

Despite this, He is the Way, for the gate leads to the altar.

FINE LINEN: His display of righteousness. In Revelation 19:8 fine linen is the righteousness ( plural word, meaning righteous acts) of the saints.

Here the fine linen is Christ’s inherent righteousness expressing itself in righteous deeds, showing perfectly what God’s standards are, and exposing man’s inability to attain them.

The Spirit currently reproves the world in connection with righteousness, because the Son has gone to the Father, and He is not seen in His righteousness any longer on the earth, John 16:10. This implies that when living upon the earth He reproved the world in connection with righteousness.

The hangings were five cubits high, and therefore higher than man can attain. The expression in Exodus 38:18, “the height in the breadth” means that the breadth of the cloth when it was made became the height of the court when it was hung. We are not told the length of the hangings, except for the gate. The word is plural for the court but not for the gate, so presumably, for convenience sake, the south, west and north sides were not made of one continuous length of cloth. There were twenty pillars for the south and north sides, which were one hundred cubits long. Twenty pillars makes nineteen gaps, so the court was not in five cubit lengths.

They were of fine linen, for Christ is the most refined person that ever lived. He did not need to go through a process to refine Him, however. He never degenerated into rudeness when He met with hostility.

They were of twined linen, indicating the strength and resolve of His character. He did not “snap” under tension.

By contrast, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”, Isaiah 64:6.

SOCKETS: His stand for righteousness. Made of brass, which comes from a word meaning “strength”, or “lord”. He was the master of every situation, and was strong for God.

We are not told the weight or size of these sockets. His resolve to do God’s righteous will was infinite. He would allow nothing to limit His stand for God.

He was firmly embedded, and was not affected by the shifting sands of human opinion. “I have set the Lord always before Me: because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved”, Psalm 16:8.

PILLARS: His firm testimony to righteousness in every circumstance. A pillar in Scripture symbolises a testimony. He is called Jesus Christ the righteous by a man who knew Him in His public ministry, 1 John 2:1. He Himself said, “He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him”, John 7:18.

The court faced every point of the compass, and was stable whichever way the wind was blowing. The north wind of adversity did not move Him. Nor the south wind of compromise, (for the south wind blows softly, Acts 27:13).

We are not told the length or the shape of these pillars. They must have reached below the hanging to enter the sockets, and above the hanging to have hooks from which to suspend them. The whole world could not contain the books if all about Christ was written down, John 21:25. Who can measure the extent of the effect of His testimony? It will take all eternity to tell it.

Since the pillars are not included in the items made of brass, Exodus 38:29-31, we conclude they were made of shittim wood. We are told that the pillars of the door and of the veil were of shittim wood, Exodus 26:32,37.

The Greek equivalent to “shittim” is “incorruptible”. Shittim wood was not the preferred choice of the cabinet-maker, not being of beautiful appearance. “He shall grow up…as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men”, Isaiah 53:2,3.

For all that, He is a tender plant in God’s eyes, drawing His nourishment, not from earth, (for it is “dry ground”) but from God. “All My springs are in Thee”, Psalm 87:7. He is chosen of God, and precious, despite being rejected of men.

The Lord Jesus grew up in adversity, and showed Himself able to overcome the hostile conditions in Nazareth.

The great virtue of shittim wood was its hardness, and its ability to resist decay from within and attack from without. Christ’s nature is impervious to decay, and He was totally resistant to attack from without, as we see when He was tempted by the most intelligent fallen being in the universe.

The Israelites were tempted in the place called Shittim and miserably fell, Numbers 25:1-5, but Christ always triumphed.

CHAPITERS AND HOOKS: His campaign against unrighteousness. Chapiters were the capitals or heads of the pillars.

This is the only place where silver was visible in connection with the tabernacle.

The silver used in the tabernacle came from a specific source. It consisted of the atonement money that every man of war in Israel paid when he was numbered for war. Note the correspondence between the number of people contributing silver, and the sum total of the warriors in Israel, Exodus 38:25-27; Numbers 1:46. This was no doubt to atone beforehand for killing in battle. They ransomed their souls from responsibility in this matter.

We could envisage that the silver chapiters, as they projected above the linen hangings of the court, would be like the helmets of an army protecting the sanctuary of God. So the Lord Jesus was set for the defence of His Father’s interests, as we learn from His first recorded words, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business”? Luke 2:49. The life of Christ was also marked by a valiant stand against unrighteousness. “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: Lo, I have not refrained My lips, O Lord, Thou knowest. I have not hid Thy righteousness in My heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation”, Psalm 40:9,10.

He spoke against the rulers- those who sought to tower above the people: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Matthew 23:13,23,25,27,29. “Whited sepulchres” Matthew 23:27. “Draw near with their mouth, and their hearts are far from Me”, Matthew 15:7-9.

He spoke against the priests- “Ye have made (the temple) a den of thieves”, Matthew 21:13.

He spoke against Herod- “Go ye, and tell that fox”, Luke 13:32.

He was silent before the High Priest when he accused Him on the basis of the testimony of false witnesses, Matthew 26:62,63. He was silent before Pilate when this false testimony was brought before him, Matthew 27:12. He was silent again before Pilate to rebuke him for accepting false testimony, Matthew 27:14. He was silent before Herod to rebuke him for the killing of John, Luke 23:9. He was silent before Pilate when he asked whence He was, for He had scourged Him as if guilty, yet said repeatedly He was not guilty, John 19:9. All these silences are eloquent, and are not merely the passive acceptance of the situation, but a stern rebuke to the rulers. They “denied the Holy One and the Just”, even though Pilate was “determined to let Him go”, Acts 3:13,14.

There are those who believe that the fillets mentioned in Exodus 37:17 were silver connecting rods, which extended from one pillar to the other. But no means of joining these supposed rods is given us, and, crucially, when the items of the tabernacle are listed for transport, there is no mention of connecting rods, Numbers 4:31,32. We conclude, therefore, that the connecting was done by reinforcing the hooks on which the hanging was suspended, so that they were firmly connected to the silver chapiter. The hooks were strengthened to hold the hangings firmly and without accident. So Christ was resolved to uphold righteousness in the world of men, and would not let go in any circumstance.

THE PINS AND CORDS: His refusal to deviate from righteousness. The pins would be like brass tent pegs, to be firmly driven into the ground, and fastened to them would be the cords of fine twined linen keeping the pillars upright. Just like His forerunner, the Lord Jesus was not a “reed shaken by the wind”. The winds of doctrine blowing all around Him left Him unmoved. He never bowed in compromise in one direction or the other, but steadfastly stood for God. The winds of doctrine from lawyers, Herodians, Pharisees or Sadducees could not toss Him about.

GATE: The way to God If the court represents the unattainable standard, then the gate is an unmistakable opportunity, being clearly marked by blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen.

The gate is not merely a gap, but symbolic of God’s way to the altar through Christ. We do not reach God through some oversight by God, as if there is a gap in His ways, for that could never be.

If the court said “No entry”, because Divine righteousness could not be attained by man unaided, then the gate said “Way in”, because the features of Christ were seen in it. “I am the Way…no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” John 14:6.

The gate was the same height as the rest of the court, “and the height in the breadth was five cubits, answerable to the hangings of the court”, Exodus 38:18. God does not lower His standard to let us in. His standard is Christ, and nothing less will do. He is “just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus”, Romans 3:26. We should be grateful that every demand of God’s righteousness has been met by Christ, so that a way to God may be opened up. Otherwise, there might be some doubt about the believer’s security, but there is not.

Whereas the court was made entirely of fine twined linen, the gate was made of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen threads, embroidered. So the linen is now in equal proportion with the other three coloured threads.

The gate is beautiful, being embroidered, so it attracts the Israelite in, being radically different in colour to the court.

But those colours maintain God’s principles, and each point to the altar.

 BLUE: The heavenly way. This dye was said to be made from the Caerulean Mussel. Caerulus is connected with the Latin word for heaven. Blue is the colour of the paved work before God’s throne, Exodus 24:10. If we are to stand before God it must be through Christ and His sacrifice. It is through Christ alone that believers have “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand”, Romans 5:2. So something from the depths of the sea reminds of God’s presence. Romans 10:6,7 assure us that we have not to descend into the deep, nor ascend up to heaven, for Christ has already come down from heaven, and already risen from the dead.

Those who preach the gospel should emphasise the Deity of Christ.

PURPLE: The glorious way. Purple was the imperial colour, the “symbol of royalty and high office”. The demands of the King of Eternity have been met at the altar.

Christ upheld the honour of God’s throne in His death, and the purple indicates that.

The purple also indicates that He has authority. He has authority to lay down His life, and authority to take it again, John 10:18. This commandment He received from His Father. So His authority established that of His Father. He has authority to give eternal life, John 17:2. He also has authority to send forth evangelists to tell of these things, Matthew 28:18-20.

Those who preach the gospel should emphasise the authority of Christ.

 SCARLET: The blood-sprinkled way. This colour was produced from a red insect that clings motionless to a tree and lays eggs like grains of wheat, hence the Greek word for the colour means “grain of wheat”. As He neared the cross, the Lord likened Himself to a grain of wheat that would fall into the ground and die, John 12:24. But if He died, (lifted up on a tree), He would bring forth fruit, just as the scarlet beetle produced her eggs whilst on the tree. No wonder He immediately said, “Now is My soul troubled”, for Calvary was very near.

So the blood-red dye speaks of His precious blood shed in altar-sacrifice, and reminds us that “without shedding of blood is no remission”, Hebrews 9:22.

Scarlet was a very fast dye, not easily removed. Because it was like a grain of wheat, it was said to be “ingrained” in the cloth. Our sins were like this, only removable through the blood of Christ. The scarlet also reminds us of our sins, for they are like scarlet, but they  can be made as white as snow, (the colour of Christ’s raiment when He was transfigured, Mark 9:3), Isaiah 1:18. They are also like crimson, but can be as wool, like the blemish-free Lamb of God. It is not that the effect of the blood of Christ cannot be easily removed, it cannot be removed at all.

Those who preach the gospel should emphasise the need for the shedding of the blood of Christ, for only by this can we approach God. A woe is pronounced on the way of Cain, the blood-less way, Jude 11.

FINE TWINED LINEN: The righteous way. Not now the display of the righteousness of Christ in His life, but the way in which He dealt righteously with the matter of sin at Calvary, perfectly in proportion to the other matters symbolised by the blue, purple and scarlet.

God said “By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many”, Isaiah 53:11. Christ dealt with sins at Calvary according to His Divine knowledge of them, and also of God’s demands. So it is that where He is preached, and men believe, then righteousness is imputed to them, Romans 4:5. In this way He continues His servant ministry.

Those who preach the gospel should emphasise both the personal righteousness of Christ, and also the fact that through belief of the gospel men may have righteousness imputed to them.