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THE COMMAND TO BUILD THE TABERNACLE
Exodus 25:8-9. Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
THE more minutely we consider the Mosaic economy, the more we find it fraught with the richest instruction: and we are persuaded, that, if the lovers of literature had any idea what inexhaustible treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained in it, they would not be so regardless of it, as they too generally are. We cannot read a single chapter without seeing ample ground for this remark. To go no further than the text; wherein we have the command of God to build a tabernacle for him, and to fit it up in a peculiar manner. Even upon the face of this command there is something that invites inquiry: but, when we have explored its hidden sense, we shall discover in it a deep mystery, and derive from it much important information.
Let us consider then the direction,
As given to the Jews—
In order to obtain a clear and just view of the subject, it will be proper to notice,
The general direction—
[God delights in the exercise of mercy. Mercy prompted him to separate for himself a peculiar people in the midst of a ruined world. Mercy led him to reveal himself to them in such a way as to impress them with an awful sense of his majesty; and afterwards to give an order respecting the making of a sanctuary for him, where they might obtain more easy and familiar access to Him, and He might the more abundantly display unto them the riches of his grace. It was not for his own accommodation that he gave the order, (for “the heaven of heavens cannot contain him,”) but for their benefit; that, by seeing him continually in the midst of them, they might know that he was in a peculiar manner their God. It was an honour to them that he would accept their offerings, and that he would condescend to dwell in an habitation, such as his poor and sinful creatures could provide for him.]
The particular limitation of it—
[Such things only as he appointed were to be used either in the framing, or the furnishing, of the tabernacle: and, that every thing might be formed agreeably to his mind, he not only gave to Moses a general description of what was to be done, but shewed him a model of every individual thing that was to be made; and enjoined him to make it exactly according to the pattern shewn to him in the mount. This order was given to Moses repeatedly, and with very peculiar force and emphasis [Note: See 0 and ch. 26:30.]: and his strict adherence to it in every particular is, in the last chapter of this book, mentioned no less than eight times, once after every separate piece of furniture that was made [Note: Exodus 40:16-33.]. In the New Testament too his compliance with the command is repeatedly noticed, and the very order itself expressly quoted [Note: Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5.]. Now what was the reason of this limitation? Why must only such and such things be made; and they of such precise materials and shape? The reason was, The whole was intended to typify things under the Gospel dispensation: and as none but God could know all the things which were to be prefigured, so none but he could know infallibly how to designate them to the best effect. Had Moses been left to contrive any thing out of his own mind, there might have wanted a correspondence between the type and the antitype: but when a model of every thing was shewn him by God himself, the whole must of necessity accord with the mind and purpose of him for whom they were made.
We forbear to particularize the correspondence between the shadows and the substance, because that cannot be profitably done without entering more fully into the subject than our time at present will admit of: but that the correspondence was designed of God, and actually exists, and was the end for which such precise orders were given, is beyond all doubt. “The first tabernacle,” says St. Paul, “while it was yet standing, was a figure for the time then present;” “and served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,” that is, of things under the Gospel dispensation [Note: Heb 9:8-9 with 8:5 before cited.].]
But the direction in our text had not merely a typical reference; for it may properly be considered,
As applicable to us—
The tabernacle typified, not only the Lord Jesus, “in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” but us also—
[“The Church of God is his house [Note: 1 Timothy 3:15.],” “the habitation of God through the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 2:21-22.].” Yea, every believer is himself “the temple of the living God; as God hath said; I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16.].” Moreover, God himself, commending the fidelity of Moses in constructing every thing according to his order, draws for us the parallel between the tabernacle erected by him, and that which Christ possesses in our hearts: “Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over his own house: whose house are we [Note: Hebrews 3:5-6.].” The truth is, that “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Even while his tabernacle and temple were yet standing, God testified respecting them, that the temple which alone he regarded, was a broken and contrite spirit [Note: Isaiah 57:15; Isa 66:1-2 with Acts 7:47-50.].]
To us therefore may the direction fitly be addressed—
[Make ye, my Brethren, a sanctuary for the Lord, that he may dwell among you: let every one willingly present unto him his heart, and entreat him to fill it with his presence. Let his habitation too be furnished with every thing suited to the worship which you have to offer. You are not called to carnal ordinances, and therefore have no need of such things as were wanted under the Jewish dispensation. It is with the gifts and graces of the Spirit that you are to serve and honour God. Abound ye therefore in them. Grudge no expense whereby you may obtain them. Let them all be formed according to the model shewn you in the mount. In Christ Jesus you have a perfect pattern of them all. “Look to it,” that your graces accord with his. Let none be wanting, none be different. Let the command of God be the reason of all that you present unto him, the example of Christ the pattern, and the glory of God the end. Whatever you have brought with you out of Egypt (out of your unconverted state) honour God with it: let it be gold and silver, or talents of any kind, consecrate them to the Lord: make use of them for the building of his tabernacle, and the exalting of his glory in the world. Remember too more especially to be conformed to the pattern in this respect; his tabernacle was most glorious within: on the outside were rams’ skins, and badgers’ skins; but within, all was of gold and linen exquisitely wrought. O that our interior might be such, as most to glorify our God! We are far from saying that the exterior should be neglected: but it should be modest and unassuming: and they who from their connexion with us can penetrate within the veil, should see that our hidden virtues are the most eminent, and that God is most honoured in those dispositions and habits of ours, which are most concealed from public view.
In vain are you baptized into the name of the Sacred Trinity, if you do not “observe and do all things whatsoever Christ has commanded you:” nor indeed can you in any other way hope for the accomplishment of that promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [Note: Matthew 28:19-20.].” Let me therefore entreat you to seek for “grace” whereby you may serve God acceptably; and to make the blessed resolution of the Psalmist, that “you will give neither sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eye-lids, till you have found a place (in your own hearts) for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob [Note: Psalms 132:2-5.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 25". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany