Life-Study of Exodus

Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0397-9
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 96 of 185 Section 1 of 3

LIFE-STUDY OF EXODUS

MESSAGE NINETY-SIX

THE COVERING OF THE TABERNACLE

(2)

Scripture Reading: Exo. 26:7-14; 36:14-19; 40:19

In the previous message we considered the first layer of the covering of the tabernacle. As we pointed out, that layer is itself called the tabernacle. Exodus 26:1 speaks of making the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine linen. In this message we shall consider the second, third, and fourth layers of the covering.

Verses 7 and 8 say, “And you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle: you shall make eleven curtains. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits—one measure for the eleven curtains.” In the last message we pointed out that the tabernacle is a tent. Now we see from verse 7 that the second layer of the cover is a tent over the tabernacle. Thus, the second layer is a tent which covers the first layer, which is the tabernacle. The tabernacle was made of ten curtains, each measuring twenty-eight cubits by four cubits. The second layer is made of eleven curtains, each measuring thirty cubits by four cubits. The first layer is called the tabernacle, and the second layer is called the tent.

It is significant that there are ten curtains in the first layer and eleven in the second layer. In the Bible ten is the number of human completion and perfection, and twelve is the number of perfection in the divine administration. Furthermore, ten is composed of two times five. For example, the ten virgins in Matthew 25 are in two groups of five, and the Ten Commandments were inscribed in groups of five on two tablets of stone. As we have seen, the number five is composed of four, signifying the creature, plus one, signifying God the Creator. The number eleven falls between ten and twelve. It is more than human completion and less than the perfection of the divine administration. Thus, the number eleven in the Bible indicates something sinful. On the one hand, it points to something in excess of human completion; on the other hand, it indicates something short of the perfection in the divine administration. Therefore, this number indicates sinfulness.

The ten curtains which make up the first layer of the tabernacle indicate that the Lord Jesus as a human being was complete and perfect. He is the true number ten, for with Him there is no defect, bias, shortage, or excess. He also has the colors of blue, purple, and scarlet which, respectively, signify heavenliness, royalty, and redemption. Furthermore, the golden cherubim embroidered on the linen curtains signify that in Christ as a creature God’s glory is expressed. Therefore, the ten linen curtains of the first layer reveal that Christ is a perfect, complete, and altogether beautiful human being.

The second layer of covering typifies a very different aspect of Christ. In this layer we have nothing blue, purple, or scarlet, and there is no embroidery. Instead, there are eleven curtains of goats’ hair. Everything is plain, natural, and without beauty. Furthermore, the number of the curtains is eleven instead of ten, something more than human completion, but below the perfection of God’s government. The eleven curtains of goats’ hair signify that Christ was made sin for us. During the last three hours He was on the cross, from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, He was judged just as if He were a sinner in the eyes of God. This was the time He cried out and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). In these hours He was forsaken by God because God regarded Him as a sinner, as the One who was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). The perfect and complete Lord Jesus thus became a sinner under God’s judgment. He, the righteous One, was judged by God on behalf of the unrighteous.

In the Bible fine linen signifies the proper conduct of a pure and perfect human being. However, goats signify those who are evil and condemned by God (Matt. 25:33, 41). Thus, goats signify sinners, and goats’ hair signifies the sins, the evil deeds, of sinners. Thus, the second layer is composed of sinners with all their sins.

Having considered the number of curtains in the first two layers, let us now turn to their measurements. Each curtain in the first layer was four cubits wide. Ten curtains times four cubits gives us the number forty. In the Bible forty can be a positive number. Perhaps the most impressive use of this number concerns Moses staying with God on the mountain for forty days. We have seen that the number forty signifies tests and trials. The forty days Moses was on the mountain were a test both to him and to the children of Israel. Although Moses was approved by God during this period of time, the children of Israel were exposed. In addition, they were tested during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The Lord Jesus also spent forty days in the wilderness. This signifies that He was One who was tried, tested, and eventually approved. According to the four Gospels, the Lord was tested and tried throughout His life. At the very end of His life, He was tried both according to God’s law and to the law of the Roman Empire. Three times He was tried by Jewish authorities according to God’s law, and three times He was tried by officials of the Roman Empire according to the Roman law. Thus, during the last night of His life, He was tried a total of six times, but no wrong could be found in Him. He was fully approved. Thus, He was a perfect number forty. As far as the Lord Jesus is concerned, this number is very positive.

When the ten curtains of the first layer are joined, they form a rectangle measuring forty cubits by twenty-eight cubits. Of these forty cubits, twenty covered the Holy Place, ten covered the Holy of Holies, and ten hung down over the rear of the tabernacle, covering the back side. Furthermore, as we pointed out in the foregoing message, there was an overhang on two sides of the tabernacle of nine cubits. Nine, composed of three times three, signifies the Triune God in resurrection. Christ, the perfect One, has an overflow on each side, and this overflow is the Triune God in resurrection. As we consider the Lord Jesus revealed in the Gospels, we see that He is truly such a person. He is a perfect human being with an overflow of the Triune God in resurrection.

Each of the curtains in the second layer measured thirty cubits by four cubits. When all the curtains were joined, there was a rectangle measuring forty-four cubits by thirty cubits. This second layer completely covered the first layer and protected it. Fine linen cannot protect anything, but goats’ hair can serve as a protection. According to verse 9, the sixth curtain was doubled over at the front of the tent. This was for protection and strengthening. The overhang at the rear completely covered the first layer. Furthermore, with the second layer of covering there was an overhang of ten cubits on the two sides. Since the first layer had an overhang of only nine cubits, it was completely covered by the second layer. This means that no part of the linen curtains was exposed to the sun, wind, or rain.

The number thirty in the Bible is composed in two ways, of five times six and three times ten. Five is the number of responsibility, and six is the number of sinners. Thus, thirty composed of five times six signifies responsibility for sinners. When the Lord Jesus was made sin for us, He bore all the responsibility for us as sinners. But when the number thirty is composed of three times ten, it signifies resurrection life in human completion. As the One who became sin for us, the Lord Jesus is full of resurrection life in His human completion. In His human completion, signified by the number ten, we see resurrection, which is actually the Triune God Himself, signified by the number three.

With the Lord Jesus as the One made sin for us, we have the numbers thirty and forty-four. Forty-four was the length of the second layer when all the curtains were joined. This number signifies that Christ was tried as a sinner.

We need to be impressed with what is portrayed by these first two layers of covering. The first layer signifies that in Himself the Lord Jesus is glorious and wonderful. The second layer signifies that this wonderful One was made sin for us. In His being, Christ is wonderful, but as our substitute, He became sin in the eyes of God. We have pointed out that the second layer protects the first layer. By this we see that Christ protects us by being our substitute, by being judged for us, and by dying for us. Christ’s substitution, therefore, becomes our protection.

The numbers in each layer are significant. God is the best designer, and the numbers were all determined by Him. Thus, it is meaningful that the dimensions of the first layer of ten curtains are forty by twenty-eight, whereas the dimensions of the second layer of eleven curtains are forty-four by thirty. It is no accident that the first layer was made of fine linen and the second layer, of goats’ hair. In brief, these two layers signify that the perfect man, the Lord Jesus, was made sin in the eyes of God for our redemption. Now, as our substitute, He is our covering and protection. As we shall see in the next message, under these two layers of covering were the standing boards, which typify us as believers. We are the boards standing under the covering and protection of Jesus Christ, the perfect man, who was made sin for us.

If we did not have this type, we would not be able to know the Lord Jesus in such a detailed way. We could not see so clearly how He is a perfect man, and that He became our substitute to die on the cross for our sins and to be judged by God for us.

The many details of these two layers of covering—the fine linen, the goats’ hair, and all the numbers—are related to Christ. For example, we have seen that six is the number of sinners. It points to something in excess. Surely hatred and theft are things which are in excess. Thus, the number six is the number of sin. According to the New Testament, the antichrist, the man of sin, will be the number six hundred sixty-six. This reveals that he will be completely constituted of sin. The Lord Jesus, by contrast, is eight hundred eighty-eight, for He is a Person constituted of resurrection. He was resurrected on the eighth day, the first day of a new week. If we do not accept this understanding of the details of the coverings, how should we understand them? The proper way to interpret them is as types of Christ.

Many Christians follow the teaching which says that we should not regard anything in the Old Testament as a type unless it is explicitly referred to as a type in the New Testament. According to this view, we should only accept as types those things which the New Testament clearly says are types. For example, because John 1:29 speaks of Christ as the Lamb of God, we may then regard the lamb in Exodus 12 as a type of Christ. However, when Paul was interpreting the typology of the tabernacle in Hebrews 9, he told us that he had a great deal more to say, but did not have the time. This indicates that those matters which Paul does not refer to as types may also be types. Thus, many persons and things in the Old Testament may also be genuine types, even though they are not denoted as such in the New Testament. Take Joseph as an example. A great many Christians recognize that Joseph is a type of Christ. However, the New Testament does not say that Joseph is a type of the Lord Jesus. Many Christians neglect important Old Testament types by holding to the view that only what the New Testament indicates is a type should be regarded as a type.

Many readers of the Bible think of the tabernacle as a type of the church. However, where does the New Testament say directly that the tabernacle typifies the church? Although this is not stated directly, implications of this can be found. If we infer from these implications that the tabernacle typifies the church, how shall we understand the first two layers of the tabernacle? What place do they have in our inference? To be sure, it is necessary to make proper inferences concerning these two layers and interpret them as types of Christ.

The Old Testament is a picture book, and the New Testament is a book of interpretation. In principle, what is revealed in the New Testament corresponds to what is contained in the Old Testament. It is not always necessary for the New Testament to say definitely that a certain thing in the Old Testament is a type. It is adequate and proper to find in the New Testament the meaning of all the aspects of the Old Testament types. All these matters pertaining to the tabernacle should be understood according to the New Testament principle. We understand the Old Testament in a New Testament way and thereby see a detailed picture of both Christ and the church.

I can testify that after I came to know more details of the Lord from studying the types in the Old Testament, I began to love the Lord more. In addition, this understanding of the Bible strengthens my faith that the Bible is truly inspired by God. It is impossible for anyone other than God to design such a structure as the tabernacle and to give us such a record concerning it.


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