One important principle which must be observed if the Word of God is to be intelligently studied, is noting carefully the order in which truth in the Scriptures is presented. God is a God of order, and infallible wisdom marks all His handiwork—Yet His order is often different than ours.
In the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit frequently ignores the sequence of events and places side-by-side things which did not immediately follow each other in time. The arrangement by the Holy Spirit varies according to His diverse designs. Sometimes the chronological order is departed from for a dispensational reason—sometimes details are arranged to present a climax—sometimes the order is a moral one—at other times, things are placed close by to show the relation between cause and effect or to make a contrast.
The Bible student loses much when he fails diligently to keep in mind the principles of arrangement. Strikingly is it exemplified in connection with the Tabernacle. It is not always easy to discern the Divine plan, and much prayerful meditation is required to discover the perfections of every detail.
Yahweh’s instructions for the COURTYARD and its GATE of the Tabernacle appear to be out of order. These instructions immediately follow the ALTAR, which follows the SHIELDING or DIVIDING CURTAIN and the ENTRANCE CURTAIN. Exodus 26:34-35 is sandwiched between these two curtains and is a reminder of what is to be placed inside the Tent of the Meeting—
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.
To our surprise, the LORD omits the INCENSE ALTAR and the BRONZE BASIN—these two furnishings are described three chapters later in Exodus 30 after a High Priest is supplied in Chapters 28 and 29.
I believe the reason for this order is that Yahweh first describes the mode He would manifest Himself in Christ, and then He describes the mode of man’s approach to Him in Christ.
With this in mind, let’s look at the Exodus 27:9-15 and see how it fits into God’s overall design—
Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains of finely twisted linen, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The north side shall also be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts.
The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. On the east end, towards the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide. Curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, and curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on the other side, with three posts and three bases.
The COURTYARD for the Tabernacle was a perfect oblong, twice as long as it breadth—150 feet long by 75 feet wide.
Interestingly, the length of the Courtyard Curtains is exactly the same as the curtains spread over the Tent of the Meeting that presents Christ in His nature and character, and His future glories and judicial authority. When Christ walked this earth, THE FEW beheld His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth that lie beneath the COVERING OF HIDES OF SEA SEA COWS.
THE MANY were like the Rich Young Ruler who called Jesus, “Good Teacher.” All Israel observed the WHITE COURTYARD CURTAINS. They recognized Jesus’ goodness—His purity, but never penetrated His lackluster outward appearance. Even Pilate had to confess over and over again that there was no fault in Him. The religious leaders could not find one spot in His character so they contrived charges against Him that proved futile. Not a single speck could be detected upon the FINE TWISTED LINEN of Christ’s HOLY LIFE—His life of righteousness flowed from the purity of His being.
The smallness of the COURTYARD stands in contrast to the vastness of the ENCAMPMENT that surrounded. This is more than a hint of the FEWNESS of those from among the crowds of professing Christians that really enter into God’s presence.
The COURTYARD WALL had at least a fivefold purpose:
1. It was a picture of Christ’s righteousness and holy life.
2. It was a barrier in that it prevented unlawful approach.
3. It was a protection, keeping out wild animals.
4. It was a positive line of demarcation between the world and the holy presence of God.
5. It was a restricted and definable access to the presence of God with its single GATE.
The COURTYARD was divided in half. The Tabernacle proper also known as the Tent of the Meeting occupied the central position in the western half and the Bronze Altar and Bronze Basin were probably centered in the eastern half.
The COURTYARD was oriented toward the east, with gate facing eastward. On the north and south sides of the wall, curtains 150 feet in length were suspended from twenty posts set in bronze bases. The curtain on the west wall was 75 feet long.
The BRONZE BASES reflect the sanctity of the threefold division of the Tabernacle complex—THE MOST HOLY PLACE, THE HOLY PLACE and THE COURTYARD. Access was limited into these three sections. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement. Only the priests could enter the Holy Place and only priests and Levites could enter the Courtyard. God sought intimate fellowship with His people, but He was still transcendent, still to be feared, still too holy to be approached by sin-stained humans.
Hence, the sacrifices on BRONZE ALTAR in the Courtyard every evening and every morning for the people. The INCENSE ALTAR was used by the priests inside the Holy Place and the High Priest sprinkled blood on the ATONEMENT COVER of the ARK OF THE TESTIMONY for himself and the people once a year.
The Tabernacle stood at the center of Israel’s encampment. This expressed that the nation’s life must revolve around the LORD, and that He was dwelling in its midst for worship and fellowship. The entire scene of the encampment with the Tabernacle at the center pictures the fact that God had chosen Israel out of all the nations to be His treasured possession—a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The SPOTLESS WHITE CURTAINS OF FINELY TWISTED LINEN of the COURTYARD stood in direct contrast to the coverings of the tents of the encampment that surrounded the Tabernacle. Tents in the ANE, and to this day, are commonly made from dark-colored cloth woven of goats’ hair.
Since the GOAT is symbolic of sin in the Bible, the dark-goat hair tents of the Israelite vividly pictured the depravity of the people who dwelt in them—while in contrast, the white, finely twisted linen, Courtyard Curtains gave witness to the Holiness of the One who dwelt inside them.
The fine linen white walls of the Tabernacle’s Courtyard served both as a barrier and a protection. FINE LINEN stands for RIGHTEOUSNESS according to Revelation 19:8. To those without Courtyard, the righteousness, of which it spoke, was an exclusion to all who would approach the LORD God in any way other than the way He prescribed.
To those within the Courtyard, righteousness served as a shield, a shelter, an adornment, a glory, a defense.
The COURTYARD was entered through a GATE—a CURTAIN made of the same fabric and four colors as the DIVIDING CURTAIN between the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place, and as the ENTRANCE CURTAIN into the Holy Place. Verse 16—
For the entrance to the courtyard, provide a curtain twenty cubits long, of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer—with four posts and four bases.
The ENTRANCE or GATE was on the East Wall. Its curtain was only 22 1/2 feet long, set on three posts extending from the corner of the South Wall, and a comparable curtain extending 22 1/2 feet from the corner of the North Wall. This left a gate in the East Wall which was thirty feet wide of FINELY TWISTED LINEN suspended from four posts.
Once again the colors of the curtain tells a story. BLUE is the HEAVENLY color and spoke of the fact that Christ came down from heaven—John’s Gospel of Jesus is painted in BLUE. PURPLE is the ROYAL color of Matthew’s Gospel, which pictures Christ the King. SCARLET is Mark’s color for Jesus—the One who came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Purple comes from the blending of the blue and scarlet—pointing to the King of the Jews dying on the Cross for our sins. WHITE (the natural color of the finely twisted linen) is Luke’s color of the perfect, righteous man—Jesus!
Turn to Philippians 2:6-11. Here also we see the fulfillment of what the four colors of the CURTAIN of the GATE of the Tabernacle pointed towards.
Verse 6—Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped—that’s the BLUE!
Verse 7—But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness—that’s the WHITE! Likeness refers to Jesus without sin! He is the Holy and Righteous One.
Verse 8—And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!—that’s the SCARLET!
Verses 9-11— Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father—that’s the PURPLE!
No wonder the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of Himself as the SMALL GATE when He gives the invitation to enter His kingdom in the Sermon of the Mount—
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Anyone who entered the courtyard entered through the finely twisted linen of blue, purple, scarlet and white. It separated those on the inside from those on the outside. There were FOUR COLORS, but ONE GATE. There are four Gospel accounts, but ONE CHRIST!
This GATE is the WHOSOEVER GATE! It marked a division between the world and the dwelling place of God. However, there are no CHERUBIM that guard the holiness of God on this CURTAIN. No guards were needed at this GATE, for the gate was the entrance to WHOSOEVER WILL COME! God has placed no barriers for whoever will come to His ALTAR—Jesus Christ—for salvation! Jesus Himself said in John 3:16—
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Peter preached in Acts 4:12—
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
The FOUR GOSPELS are written to FOUR GROUPS: MATTHEW to JEWS— MARK to ROMANS— LUKE to GREEKS— JOHN to the WORLD. So you see no one was overlooked or excluded, but all of them have provision made whereby to enter. The GATE to the TABERNACLE into the presence of God is wide enough for all, is universal in its invitation, is all-inclusive in its appeal. All of it points to Jesus, who said in Matthew 11:28—
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
We might look at the WALL or FENCE surrounding the COURTYARD as the LAW, which says STAY OUT—but the GATE is the DOOR OF GRACE, which says COME IN.
The posts of the fence were set in bronze bases. BRONZE in Scripture pictures JUDGMENT and this is precisely what anyone who tried to climb over the fine linen curtains would have experienced. Sinful man was forbidden and prevented from approaching the perfect God except through the GATE on the East. The wall was too high to allow any access to God without coming the prescribed way. And any who tried to climb the wall would meet certain death. The Law demanded perfect obedience.
This is why James 2:10 says—
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
And remember, there were far more than TEN LAWS—most Bible scholars say that there were 613 laws altogether. This shows why no one can be saved by the Law—no one could keep the TEN COMMANDMENTS, yet all 613 without transgressing in one point. So the LAW is not the way to God, but the GATE. Jesus taught in John 10:1—
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
Satan and man have invented myriads of other ways by which one can approach God, but all of them are the ways of deception, and lead only to eternal destruction. Proverbs 14:12 warns—
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Jesus called the way that seems right—the WIDE GATE and the BROAD ROAD that leads to destruction. Today, we are living in an age of great and unprecedented deception, and there are thousands of strange voices being raised, calling out to the sinner, “This is the way—this is the way!” But Jesus declared in John 14:6—
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There is no other way under heaven to be saved! So I want to emphasize the simplicity of the Gospel. The ABC’s of salvation.
A—ADMIT your are a sinner. Admit your guilt, and come to Christ without any claim of righteousness or merit of your own, without any dependence upon your own works, goodness, religion, or morality, and acknowledge that without the blood of Christ, you are utterly and eternally lost.
B—BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins and arose the third day from the dead so that you might live.
C—CONFESS with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
Unless you come through the WHOSOEVER GATE, you cannot be saved. Many false doors that may look appealing minister to the flesh, but they are only the way of death. In these days of much deception, and many strange voices we must remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:4—
Watch out that no one deceives you.
This LINEN CURTAIN was to be high enough (7 1/2 feet) to block the view of all persons. Each long side was to have twenty posts and twenty bronze bases. The posts were spaced 7 1/2 feet apart, with a frame or guy rod to give stability to the posts. They were also anchored by guy ropes and pegs. Verses 17-19—
All the posts around the courtyard are to have silver bands and hooks, and bronze bases.
The courtyard shall be a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide, with curtains of finely twisted linen five cubits high, and with bronze bases. All the other articles used in the service of the tabernacle, whatever their function, including all the tent pegs for it and those for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.
The sections of the curtains that made up the wall or fence that enclosed the Courtyard of the Tabernacle was in the pattern of squares of 7 1/2 feet high and 7 1/2 feet wide—making the Courtyard 150 feet long and 75 feet wide.
All the POSTS surrounding the Courtyard had SILVER BANDS, which apparently were narrow strips of binding metal used as decoration and not as connecting rods. The SILVER used in the COURTYARD WALL signifies REDEMPTION—the means of righteousness being imputed and imparted to those in Christ.
We should notice that the metals used in fashioning the Tabernacle and its Furnishings were more lustrous and costly if they were near the presence of God in the Most Holy Place than if they were farther away—as in the Courtyard.
The TABERNACLE was of modest proportions. Even the whole complex was microscopic in comparison with the temples and pyramids of Egypt, which covered acres of land. Precious metals and artistry, however, spoke of God’s excellence. The Great King of Israel deserved nothing but the best that men could offer. IF QUALITY COUNTED, MERE QUANTITY DID NOT!
Too often we reverse this basic axiom. Every time we look around in the Scriptures, God is reducing the size, looking for quality, not quantity. He reduces Gideon’s troops from 22,000 to 300. Jesus reduces the many would be disciples down to the Twelve Apostles—one traitor and eleven men who will turn their world upside down.
God’s point with this modest Tabernacle is that He looks first for quality, not quantity from His people. A nation or church filled with unrighteous people brings no glory to God. Israel failed! So today, the Church is a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Although the Tabernacle was made of costly materials, it was fragile and required constant, loving care. A stone temple could withstand almost anything, but the Tabernacle would survive only if faithfully maintained. What better way to illustrate that only as Israel cultivated her relationship with the LORD would the nation be able to enjoy fellowship with Him.
The same, of course, is true of Christians. If we don’t work at maintaining our relationship with God, it will become torn, tattered and eventually collapse—falling to pieces!
The TABERNACLE was portable. Even though God was leading His people to a permanent home. He wanted a portable dwelling to teach them that even in the Promised Land they would in some sense still be pilgrims and strangers. Yahweh states in Leviticus 25:23—
The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.
The TABERNACLE was only one central sanctuary, not many. This declared that the authorized approach to God was one, not many, and stressed Israel’s spiritual unity. The same fact is true of the Church. Paul asks the saints at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:16—
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
The three YOU’s in Paul’s question are in the second person plural. In other words, all the saints of the Church at Corinth comprise God’s TEMPLE. Paul stresses oneness, not the many! The lack of unity was a big problem in this church that moved Paul to write three letters, two of which are Scripture.
Christians, individually and collectively, are called the temple of God in which the Holy Spirit lives. Such a relationship with God is made possible because the Word became flesh and made his dwelling [literally, TABERNACLED] among us (John 1:14).
The TABERNACLE and its succeeding Temples, symbolizing as they did God’s desire to dwell with His people, eventually came to typify God dwelling in Christ on the one hand, and God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) dwelling with, among, and in Christians on the other.
Jesus, for example, refers to His own body as a Temple in John 2:19-21—
Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
Colossians 2:9 states—
For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
Some bright morning, when the old order of things has passed away, all who are in Christ will echo the words of Revelation 21:3—
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
The TABERNACLE and its furnishings were planned by God, realized through divine enablement, and inhabited by the glory of Yahweh. Israel’s religion and Christianity was from beginning to end God’s creation, not man’s!
The natural order of presenting the details of the Tabernacle would have been to start with the COURTYARD. But that would be man’s way! God gave instructions for the BRONZE ALTAR before the COURTYARD. The reason is simple. The COURTYARD represents those dwelling in the HOLINESS and RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ.
Always keep in mind, no matter how good a person might be—no one is HOLY or RIGHTEOUS! Paul quoting Psalms writes in Romans 3:10-12—
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
On our own, we cannot obtain righteousness according to Isaiah 64:6—
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Therefore, the BRONZE ALTAR —CHRIST ON THE CROSS comes first—there—
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
To enter into God’s righteousness, we must come by the way of the Cross. It is impossible for any human being to overcome the depravity of sin. We dwell in dark-goat hair tents! We are by Adamic nature— sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Therefore, God’s precise order of making of the Tabernacle is the only way a person can be saved. His order is the order of GRACE, not works! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Christ is foreshadowed by THREE CURTAINS of the Tabernacle
He is TORN DIVIDING CURTAIN, having opened the WAY to the Father by making atonement on the Cross.
He is the ENTRANCE CURTAIN, having provided the WAY to fellowship with Himself and the Holy Spirit—symbolized in the Table of the Bread of the Presence and the Lampstand.
He is the GATE CURTAIN, being the WAY one enters into righteousness. Having come through the Small Gate, we receive imputed righteousness at the BRONZE ALTAR and as we’ll see later imparted righteousness at the BRONZE BASIN.
The redeemed Israelite Priest who entered the Courtyard was shut in by walls of righteousness upheld by the silver bases of atonement. This is the blessed portion of every sinner who has fled to Christ for refuge.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).
Therefore, every believer has cause to worship the LORD with JOY, saying with Zion in Isaiah 61:10—
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.