The coverings of rams’ skins dyed red
Exodus 26:14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red,
This is a covering for the tent. So the goats’ hair curtain was a covering or tent for the tabernacle, meaning the inner curtain, and now the rams’ skins covering is to protect the tent of goats’ hair. If the inner curtain tells of Christ’s exposition of God, and the goats’ hair His propitiation of sins and His substitution for sinners, we might well ask the question, is He willing to undertake the tasks indicated by the curtains. Does He have the resolve to carry the work to completion? The answer is found in the rams’ skins which tell of His consecration. This is the first of two coverings that are made of skins. In practical terms, the rams’ skins would protect the tabernacle and its tent from the rain. The linen curtains and the goats’ hair curtains would not be able to do this, but skins would. Just as the ram was preserved from the rain in its life, it now gives its skin to preserve the curtains. The fact that they are skins tells us only of death. With the goats’ hair there was the thought of the living and the dead, the scapegoat and the slain goat. Here only death is in view. And, given the size of this covering, (for it must have been no less than 1200 square cubits so as to cover the goats’ hair curtains), many animals must have been slain to provide it. A myriad deaths are needed to give a sense of the greatness of the consecration of Christ even unto death. Couple this with the fact that no measurement is given to us of the rams’ skin covering, and we are given the distinct impression of that which is measureless and vast. Such is the magnitude of what Christ wrought by His death, that only the Father can fully evaluate it and appreciate it fully.
We could look at this covering in relation to the meaning of three words. First the word “ram”, then the word “consecration”, then the word “red”. In the beginning, God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call each one. (This was not only to establish Adam’s dominion over creation, but also to impress upon Adam that there was no animal that could be his helper in the highest sense of being his wife. Many animals have helped man down through the centuries, but none are like the woman). “And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle…” Genesis 2:19,20. So we know that Adam gave the name “ayil” to the ram. The word means “to be first, chief, and strong. These are the characteristics Adam discerned in the ram. It is interesting to notice that John’s gospel gives to us, in the first chapter, a statement by John the Baptist about the Lord Jesus, and it is given three times. John the apostle never calls his namesake John the Baptist. To the apostle, John is a witness; his work of baptizing, although important, is secondary to his work of testifying. And his testimony was this. “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose”, John 1:26,27. This is his testimony to those who came from the Pharisees to question him. We could see in this the “chief” aspect of the person of Christ as prefigured by the ram of consecration. Remember that the Lord Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Among them that are born among women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist”, Matthew 11:11, but here this great one is deferring to a far greater one. He is not worthy to even undo His shoe. This is not all he said in this connection, however, for John repeats his testimony after announcing the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me”, verse 30. The son of a priest is telling us about the sacrifice. We could see in this as testimony to the “strong” side of Christ’s character, for He alone can take the heavy burden of sin upon His shoulders and bear it away to God’s satisfaction. Then again the apostle John, writing years afterwards, recalls what John had said in John 1:15. The apostle gives the testimony of John the Baptist as the last of the prophets of the law-age, and he bears witness that the glory of Christ is a full glory, whereas the glory of the law was of a lesser sort, as the apostle Paul will explain in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. And it is as the Word made flesh that He makes known the glory, the Word that was “in the beginning”. He is necessarily before John, and therefore has precedence over him, This gives to us the “first” aspect of the ram.
The ram is especially connected with the idea of consecration, as we see from the words of Exodus 29:19-25: “And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him. Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration: And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord: And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord”. The word consecration literally means “fillings”, and refers to the filling of the hands of Aaron with the parts of the peace offering and meal offering. He was to be fully occupied with Divine things. Nadab and Abihu rebelled against this by taking strange fire and incense into their hands. They had another agenda. With Christ it was not so, for He was fully committed to the work that Divine counsels had marked out for Him. But we should not miss the fact that this was true of his sons as well. So we might well ask ourselves whether we are committed fully to Divine things, or do we hold back from full devotion? Do we mean it when we sing “Take my life, and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee”? The hymn-writer said of Christ, “The vow was on Thee, Thou didst come to yield Thyself to death, and consecration marked Thy path and spoke in every breath”. We would do well to display the same sort of commitment.
The third word to consider is “red”. This is the colour of blood. The animal dies, and then the red dye is a constant reminder of the fact. It is a strange thing, but a true one, that even though death is totally excluded from heaven, nonetheless death will be the constant theme of the saints. For, like those on the mount of transfiguration, they shall constantly speak of “His decease”, the way in which the Lord Jesus, as the true Passover Lamb, made His exodus out of this world. As the apostle John tells us, (for he was given a preview of future events), “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne…stood a lamb as it had been slain”, Revelation 5:6. The skins tell of death, but the dye is a constant reminder of the fact. The blood will not be shed again, but it will be remembered for all eternity. Notice that the skins are not stained with actual blood, for that tells of judgement, Isaiah 63:1-6. They are dyed with that which tells of the work of Christ in grace at Calvary.
The Hebrew word for red is “adam”, reminding us He was devoted as a real man, for Luke is careful to tell us of the fact that He was born of Mary, and her genealogy is traced by Luke right back to Adam, Luke 3:38. It is not Adam the sinner, however that Luke refers to, but Adam the son of God, the product of God’s creatorial work. Thus Luke is reminding us that it is possible to be a sinless man, for such was Adam, fresh from the hand of God. But because he fell, there needs to be a Last Adam, and He is Son of God in a far higher sense, for He is not son by creation, but Son by nature. Luke tells us that the word of the angel to Mary was, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”, Luke 1:35. The angel is assuring Mary that the child she will cradle in her arms will have lost nothing by His birth. He is still the Son of God, as ever, and it will be appropriate for Him to be known as such. Luke reserves the genealogy of Christ until the point where He is about to go into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. It is as if Luke is ranging over the previous four thousand years of human history, and in effect admitting that the Devil has been triumphing all down through the centuries. But then he tells of one who met the foe, and defeated him. Having been tested in every way, he will gloriously triumph, whereas Adam disastrously fell. So it is that we are assured by the rams’ skins that the one who is appointed to deal with the question of sins, is consecrated and committed enough to carry the work through to its glorious completion.