Patterns of Atonement

Exodus 26:15-37

Chapters 25-40 of Exodus focus on the theology of the worship of God. The only interruption of this theme is the episode of the golden calf, which contrasts the divinely appointed worship established in connection with the Tabernacle with humanly devised worship that adores the work of human hands and leads to debauchery. The sheer amount of text devoted to the topic of the Tabernacle demonstrates its importance.

The most important question about the Tabernacle deals with its significance. The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived in the time of the apostles, relates the Jewish interpretation of its significance. Josephus claims that the Tabernacle represents the UNIVERSE (the court equals earth, the TABERNACLE itself equals HEAVEN, the LAMPSTAND equals the SEVEN PLANETS, THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE equals the TWELVE MONTHS).

Others would have the Tabernacle represent the CHURCH. They say the COURT equals the external visible church, the TENT, the true invisible church, the HOLY PLACE, the church militant, the MOST HOLY PLACE, the church triumphant.

Others held that the Tabernacle embodied the KINGDOM OF GOD established in Israel, especially since the text stresses form, numbers, and measurements. This Kingdom of God will one day come to completion and encompass the entire world, just as the Most Holy Place is a cube—so is the New Jerusalem, which points to the completion of the Kingdom of God.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the New Testament writers looked at the Tabernacle and its furnishings and saw our Lord Jesus Christ, Salvation, and the Christian indwelt by the Holy Spirit along with the theme of worship.

Last time I taught that the FOUR COLORS of the fine twisted curtains—purple, scarlet, white and blue— are the four colors in which the Four Gospels. Although, there is no direct NT statement saying these writers painted Jesus in these colors—it does not take a genius to see that:

1. MATTHEW’s PURPLE portrays Christ as the ROYAL KING
2. MARK’s SCARLET portrays Christ as the DYING SERVANT
3. LUKE’s WHITE portrays Christ as the RIGHTEOUS MAN
4. JOHN’s BLUE portrays Christ as GOD-MAN from heaven.

Case in point is that every detail of the Tabernacle is significant and symbolic. Some details are easy to understand, others are more difficult to grasp! We are not going to look at all the details in our passage today, only those that deal primarily with PATTERNS OF ATONEMENT—the main theme of this section.

The Hebrew word rpk, from which ATONEMENT, RANSOM and PROPITIATION are derived, has a variety of senses all bearing the same truth. We find the word includes the thought of COVERING our sin—as a covering of pitch covered Noah’s ark.

The blood of atonement blots out the page of sin, and hides it from the eyes of God. It also means to APPEASE or PACIFY. God Himself appeases His own anger and wrath against sin and the sinner with the BLOOD of Jesus. Therefore, we read in 1 John 4:10—

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Our sense of the word ATONEMENT is AT-ONE-MENT— two opposing parties being brought together in agreement as one.

Exodus 26:15-25—

Make upright frames of acacia wood for the tabernacle. Each frame is to be ten cubits long and a cubit and a half wide, with two projections set parallel to each other. Make all the frames of the tabernacle in this way. Make twenty frames for the south side of the tabernacle and make forty silver bases to go under them—two bases for each frame, one under each projection. For the other side, the north side of the tabernacle, make twenty frames and forty silver bases—two under each frame. Make six frames for the far end, that is, the west end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom all the way to the top, and fitted into a single ring; both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases— two under each frame.

The Tabernacle is a tent of two curtains and two coverings. It has upright frames made of ACACIA WOOD. The traditional rendering BOARDS has led many to the idea that the walls were solid; but if this were so, it would have obscured the inner curtains of fine twisted linen with their embroidered Cherubim. These frames formed a trellis-like structure over which the four curtains were draped.

Each frame was to be fifteen feet long by two and a quarter feet wide. The framework of the Tabernacle consisted of twenty boards each on the north and south sides with six on the western end with a post at each of the two corners.

These frames are ACACIA WOOD, a species of the mimosa, whose wood is darker and harder than oak and therefore avoided by wood-eating insects. The ACACIA is like the HAWTHORN, a twisted and thorny tree. It is common in the Sinai Peninsula.

Keep in mind that every detail of the Tabernacle points to the person of Christ or His ministry that secures salvation for us. Every covering, every thread, every article of furniture reveals something about the Savior.

Psalm 16:9-10 explains the ACACIA WOOD—

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The Holy Spirit speaking through Peter on Pentecost applies this passage in Acts 2:29-32—

Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

Like ACACIA WOOD, Christ body did not decay in the Tomb! This is GOOD NEWS in light of Psalm 49:7-9—

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on for ever and not see decay.

Notice that BASES of the frames are SILVER. For the significance of these silver bases, turn in your Bible to Exodus 30:11-16—

Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD.

All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.

Exodus 38:27 records how this silver was used in the Tabernacle—

The 100 talents of silver were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain—100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base.

Every male 20 years of age paid half a shekel of silver as (rpk kaphar) ATONEMENT MONEY, confessing that he deserved to die, owning that he was in debt to God, and bringing the sum demanded as a type of a great redemption that would by-and-by be paid for the souls of men. God’s people are a RANSOMED PEOPLE—a REDEEMED PEOPLE.

Whenever we attempt to number the people of God, it is absolutely needful that we count only those who at least profess to have brought the ransom price in their hands, and so have taken part in the atonement of Christ. David, when he numbered the people, did not gather from them the atonement money, and hence a plague killed 70,000 Israelites. He had failed in obedience to the LORD’s ordinance, and counted his subjects heads, not as redeemed people, but merely as so many heads. Let us beware of over estimating the number of Christians also.

There was not a lump sum to be paid for the nation, or twelve amounts for twelve tribes; but each man must bring his own half shekel of silver for himself. So there is no ransom that will be of any use to any of you unless it is personally accepted and brought before God by faith. You must each one be able to say for yourself concerning the Lord Jesus, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” For it Jesus who announced in Mark 10:45—

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The doctrine of general atonement, which teaches—we are all sinners, you know; Christ died for us, for He died for us all—lays a very poor foundation for comfort. The great sacrifice for the sin of man must become to us a personal atonement, for only then do we realize its effectiveness. Each person must take Christ unto the Father, taking Him into your hands by simple faith. No other price must be there; but that ransom of Christ’s life.

Since there is no atonement without BLOOD, the silver speaks of the BLOOD of CHRIST. And of course, the BLOOD MONEY paid to Judas Iscariot was thirty pieces of SILVER! Matthew 27:3-4—

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

This type before us, of the silver atonement money, preached a very clear and blessed Gospel. It was absolutely essential that each one should bring the half shekel of atonement money—for atonement is the only way in which you and I can be accepted to God. If birth could have done it, the Israelites had the privilege beyond all doubt—for they had Abraham—they were lineally descended from the three great patriarchs, and they could say, “We are Abraham’s seed.” NO—salvation is not of birth, nor of the will of the flesh—salvation is by atonement, even the descendant of Abraham must look to the atonement for redemption and life.

The whole foundation of the Tabernacle rested on silver made from ATONEMENT MONEY. Do you see the instructive emblem? The foundation of salvation and worship is ATONEMENT. The dwelling place of the LORD their God is founded on ATONEMENT! All the frames of incorruptible wood and precious gold stood upon the RANSOM PRICE, and the curtains and coverings in its massive oneness rested on nothing else but the solid mass of silver which had been paid as the atonement money of the people.

There was one exception was only on exception, and that was the ENTRANCE CURTAIN to the HOLY PLACE. There the FIVE POSTS were set upon FIVE BRONZE BASES, perhaps because there was much going in and out of the priests and they should not tread upon the token of ATONEMENT.

In the context of the Tabernacle, Hebrews 10:29 warns—

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Whether the ENTRANCE POSTS are BRONZE instead of SILVER for this reason I am not certain, but I bring this application to you as an illustration.

Notice that each came on the very same terms, whether rich or poor—one half shekel of silver—there is only one acceptable ransom—the life of Christ! Nothing can be added to it or subtracted from it! Nothing but the atonement price will satisfy God.

One half shekel of silver was worth about 35 cents so no one could possibly believe they were purchasing their salvation! It was a BLOOD TAX! Failure to pay the ransom meant the death penalty!

The believer’s standing is Christ is separated from the world as the frames were separated from the earth by the silver bases.

Verses 26-29—

Also make crossbars of acacia wood: five for the frames on one side of the tabernacle, five for those on the other side, and five for the frames on the west, at the far end of the tabernacle. The center crossbar is to extend from end to end at the middle of the frames. Overlay the frames with gold and make gold rings to hold the crossbars. Also overlay the crossbars with gold.

Fifteen CROSSBARS were to be fitted on the outside of the structure to strengthen the trellis framework—five on each of the two sides (north and south) and five on the back (west). On of the five was full length down the middle of the wall, the other four extended only half the length of the wall, making three rows of bars on the outside of the frame.

The GOLD RINGS were to serve as HOLDERS for the BARS, which also were of acacia wood covered with gold—symbolic of Christ’s humanity and deity.

Once more we are reminded of the symbolic nature of the material. Verse 30—

Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain.

Next comes the DIVIDING CURTAIN. Verses 31-35—

Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the Testimony behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

This CURTAIN separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. I am going to call it the DIVIDING CURTAIN since it separated the two rooms of the Tabernacle. It was made of the same material and design as the ten inner curtains and supported on four gold-covered acacia wood pillars. Elsewhere in Exodus and Numbers, it is called the SHIELDING CURTAIN for it shielded the priests from God’s glory. To come into Yahweh’s presence of God’s glory spelled certain death—except for the High Priest, who sprinkled the sin offering of goat’s blood on the ATONEMENT COVER, on the Day of Atonement.

The DIVIDING CURTAIN was God’s sign—KEEP OUT—NO ADMITTANCE! We read in Mark 15:37-38—

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

It was a miracle. It was a heaven-sent miracle. No human hand could have done the work of tearing this curtain. Rabbinical writers tell us that the curtain was so firmly woven that two teams of oxen pulling in opposite directions, with the curtain between them, could not tear it apart. Neither could the curtain be repaired, for it was torn by the hand of God. Tradition tells us that the priests tried to mend and sew it together again, but were unable to, for no thread, no cord, would hold in the repaired part. it was torn once for all, and forever!

Since Temple worship continued another 37 years until A.D. 70, the priests must have substituted another curtain. If so, this illustrative of man’s attempt to make salvation anything other than by the grace of God. For the Holy Spirit tells us exactly what the TORN CURTAIN signified. Hebrews 10:19-22—

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through THE CURTAIN, that is, HIS BODY, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

The NIV translates the Greek term sarx (sarx) as BODY, but it should be FLESH. THE DIVIDING CURTAIN typifies Christ’s FLESH torn for us. The TORN CURTAIN:

1. Signifies that we have access to God through Christ
2. Reveals that Jesus is the Son of God
3. Shows that Jesus’ flesh was torn for our sin
4. Demonstrates that our atonement was made complete in Christ
5. Manifests that reconciliation between god and man came by Christ’s death
6. Defines the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant
7. Marks the end of Judaism—Ceremonial Law—the Levitical Priesthood and the beginning of Christ as High Priest and the Church

Exodus 26:34-35 reminds us of the layout of the Tabernacle—

Put the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy Place. Place the table outside the curtain on the north side of the tabernacle and put the lampstand opposite it on the south side.

There is a second separating curtain in the Tabernacle. Verses 36-37—

For the entrance to the tent make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer. Make gold hooks for this curtain and five posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold. And cast five bronze bases for them.

The ENTRANCE CURTAIN was exactly like the DIVIDING CURTAIN. Since it went to the outside and to the corners of the wall, it had FIVE POSTS of ACACIA WOOD, instead of four. Interestingly, Isaiah 9:6 gives five names for Jesus—

And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Certainly, BRONZE in the Scripture stands for JUDGMENT and JUDGMENT is symbolized by the ENTRANCE BASES being BRONZE.

Perhaps, the bronze signifies Jesus as Judge of the Church. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace when the Apostle John saw Him in the midst of the seven churches.

Perhaps, the bronze signifies that Jesus bore our sins so that we might enter into God’s redemption. There can be no fellowship or communion with the Trinity except through atonement which appeases God’s holy wrath and judgment.

The bronze and silver bases show that redemption not only displays divine mercy (silver) but also vindicates divine righteousness in judgment (bronze). Those who enter by God’s way through Christ have all judgment (condemnation) removed. Romans 8:1—

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Do you want to pray? You cannot speak with God except through Jesus Christ. Do you wish to praise? You cannot bring the censer full of smoking incense into the Most Holy Place except through Christ. It is only through the One, who bore our judgment and entering within that foundation of silver, you can speak to God, or hear Him comfortably speak to you, or enjoy fellowship!

One comes through the ENTRANCE CURTAIN by faith to partake of the TABLE OF THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE and the LAMPSTAND—symbols of fellowship and communion with Christ. In Christ, we have access to God the Father and can enter through His Vicarious Death (symbolized by the TORN DIVIDING CURTAIN) into the Father’s presence. Jesus emphatically declared in John 14:6—

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Romans 5:1-2 is a marvelous summary of the ENTRANCE and DIVIDING CURTAINS—

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

From Romans 5:1-2, we learn how a sinner can stand before a righteous God, and from Hebrews 10:19, we learn the far deeper and more amazing that we may approach a God of infinite Holiness and Glory—

We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.

Beloved, we cannot worship God any old way. We have to come through the Lord Jesus Christ. Both CURTAINS prefigure the Lord Jesus.

Our CONFIDENCE is based on knowing our glorious Savior, and the eternal redemption that He has brought us. The confidence of faith has nothing in common with presumption begotten of ignorance and error. It is intelligent faith based on facts and truths revealed in the OT Tabernacle and explained in the NT.

The OT saint had no such CONFIDENCE. God was a consuming fire, who had revealed Himself on Mt. Sinai with fire, lightning, smoke and thunder, with blackness and darkness—His awful voice filled their hearts with terror. God still is a consuming fire—yet by virtue of Christ’s death, He has open up the way for those who trust in Him to approach the awesome God and address Him as MY FATHER WHO IS HEAVEN!

Our CONFIDENCE depends on what the death of Christ is to us, and what it is to God on our behalf. Hebrews 10:14 declares—

Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.

And verse 17 adds—

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.

Someday you will stand before the One who is a consuming fire in a resurrected body—and if He remembers your sins and lawless acts—you’re going to be tormented in the Lake of Fire forever.

There is only way to be made perfect and holy in God’s sight—that’s by entering into the Tabernacle— Jesus Christ! If you remain on the outside—all that remains is the blackness and terror—and that awful voice that thunders judgment!

I am of Martin Luther’s mind when he said, “I will have nothing to do with an absolute God.” God out of Christ is absolute terror to me.

Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just and scared Three
Are terrors to my mind.

But if Immanuel’s face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sin.

Have you ever entered through the CURTAIN? You may be religious, admire Christ as a perfect man, worship His goodness, virtues and graces, but until you come alone as a poor sinner, and appropriate the blood of Christ, here is no hope and no salvation.

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