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                                                         - The Tabernacle of the Congregation -

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  (Exodus 27:9-19)   

Fence of the Outer Court!

If you had suddenly come across the children of Israel in the desert-like wilderness of Sinai, you would have witnessed a sprawling camp of over two million people, probably not unlike a  refugee camp, although perhaps a little more orderly in appearance. The tents belonging to the common man were probably a dreary black and brownish color, set in contrast with the sandy / rocky desert-like wilderness around them.

In the center of the camp, you would have seen the Fence of the Tabernacle's Outer Court, measuring 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 10 feet high; it was truly an awesome spectacle! The hot desert sun, shining ever so brightly against the white linen fence, would have been so incredibly noticeable against the drab black and brownish color scheme of the main camp, and surrounding wilderness. Of course, it would have been absolutely impossible for the common man to see inside the Tabernacle's Outer Court from the outside camp. Why is that? The white linen fence surrounding the Tabernacle created a separation (or 'barrier') between the outside world and the holy objects inside the Tabernacle.

The separation (or 'barrier') caused by the Fence of the Outer Court was absolutely necessary for it shed some much needed light on an important spiritual truth from the Bible. What truth? Without the person of Jesus Christ, there exists an even greater separation (or 'barrier') between mankind (dwelling in the world outside the Tabernacle) and God (dwelling in the Sanctuary inside the Tabernacle). We're talking about the 'sin barrier' that works to eternally separate mankind from God's presence! This eternal separation from God's presence is the predominant theme behind the Fence of the Outer Court. The fence was specifically designed with one purpose in mind, to keep out anything offensive to God. Let me further explain! It is absolutely impossible for sin to exist in the presence of God, in the same way that it's impossible for light and darkness to co-exist in the same space. What would result? The light would immediately eliminate the darkness; the same is true concerning the righteousness of God. It would immediately eliminate anything having to do with sin. What then can we say about the Fence of the Outer Court? It's main purpose was essentially to protect mankind from inadvertently entering into God's presence, which could only result in man's ultimate destruction. With all of this in mind... let's examine the Fence of the Outer Court in a little more detail starting with the 'White Linen' curtains. What does 'White Linen' come to symbolize in the Bible?   

'White Linen' (in the Bible) always signifies 'Righteousness' (Revelation 19:8). It also denotes holiness, purity, innocence, cleanliness, godliness, and all things pertaining to Heaven. The Lord is a righteous God, and thus He calls upon us, His chosen people, to live in a righteous manner (Matthew 5:48). Psalm 92:15 tells us that the Lord is upright and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 45:7 predicts that the Anointed One, the Messiah (or 'Christ'), will love righteousness and hate wickedness.

Due to the fact that the Lord is a righteous God, it should come to no surprise to learn that the priests, those set aside for His service in the Tabernacle, were instructed to wear white linen garments indicative of God's righteousness (Exodus 28:39-43).

Likewise, in the New Testament, the book of Revelation speaks of the Lamb's Wife, otherwise known as the Bride of Christ, who is seen by all dressed in white linen garments. The Lamb's Wife is a corporate bride, composed of individuals who have truly accepted God's saving invitation to be joined unto the one true Husband, Jesus Christ, during the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), and thus, have adequately prepared themselves with a repentant heart  (as seen by their clean garments): they are all seen as dressed in white linen garments, as were the priests of the Tabernacle before them. Revelation 19:8 even goes so far as to indicate that the white linen garments worn by the individual members of the Bride of Christ consist wholly of their righteous acts on earth. What can we say then? No righteous acts on earth is the direct equivalent of NO white linen garments in Heaven!

By way of contrast, in Isaiah 64:6, we learn that all of our righteous acts are as filthy rags compared to God's righteousness. As Christians, our inner man is now directly connected to the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ. We of our own selves (outside of Jesus Christ) have no righteousness to offer to the equation. Jesus Christ is now our only source of righteousness, and we dwell (or 'tabernacle') continually in Him; thereby making us righteous with His righteousness. 

Why do we need Jesus Christ in order to be righteous in the eyes of God? The simple answer to this question is 'Sin'. Our sin works to separate us from God in every way (Isaiah 59:2), in the same manner that Adam's sin caused him to be separated from God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23-24). The cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, our true sacrifice for sin, is the only means by which a person can truly receive atonement (or 'true forgiveness') for sin. Sin is the exact opposite of righteousness! For this very reason, the Fence of the Outer Court reminds us of a single truth: Those dwelling on the outside of the Tabernacle, like those dwelling on the outside of the Body of Christ, are truly separated from God's presence due to their own sin (a type of 'barrier'). Why is that? Because He alone, who dwells inside the Tabernacle, is righteous; while those living outside the Tabernacle, in the world, are unrighteous.

What can we learn about the construction of the white linen fence? The white linen fence was structurally supported by a series of wooden pillars (a total of '60') set in an equal amount of brass sockets (or 'foundation footings'). Silver hanging rods were then attached to the wooden pillars to form as series of horizontal cross beams. From there... the cross beams (or 'hanging rods') were used to hang the white fine linen fence in an upright position using a set of silver hooks. So what do the above materials symbolize?

'Brass' is always symbolic of 'God's judgment' in the Bible! Therefore, it would make perfect sense for the brass sockets (or 'foundation footings') to symbolize God's judgment on those who rebelliously sin against Him, as depicted in Numbers 16:29-39 and 21:4-9. In Numbers 21:4-9, the children of Israel rebelliously murmur and complain against the Lord. They remained unrepentant for what they had done, and thus, the Lord had no other choice but to send His judgment upon the people for their sins. How was God's judgment dispensed? The Lord sent fiery serpents into Israel's camp. What happened? The fiery serpents proceeded to bite the children of Israel; thereby, causing a number of deaths. The Israelites got the message fairly quickly, and proceeded to repent to Moses for their sins against the Lord. As Moses prayed intercessory prayer on behalf of the people, God told him to make a bronze (or 'brass') serpent and hang it on an upright pole in the midst of the people. What did this do? Those who proceeded to look upon the bronze (or 'brass') serpent hanging on the pole would receive immediate healing from their bite wounds; thereby avoiding certain death.

The Apostle John in his gospel message shares with us a valuable truth regarding this incident. It certainly appears as though the Lord Jesus Christ hanging upon a cross, an upright pole, in the midst of the people is the hidden truth, or the ultimate fulfillment, behind the Old Testament imagery of the bronze serpent. That's weird... how does the image of the bronze serpent hanging on a pole represent Jesus Christ? Why doesn't the image of the serpent represent Satan? The serpent is always symbolic of "sin" in the Bible. This goes all the way back to the serpent, a direct representation of Satan, purposely deceiving Eve with the knowledge of good and evil (the knowledge of sin) in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that Jesus Christ took upon Himself our "sins", representing the image of the serpent, when the people hung Him on that pole (i.e., the cross). As the crucified Son of Man, Jesus Christ became our substitute, and bore God's righteous judgment for our sins, so that we may live. This is the true spiritual meaning behind the imagery of the bronze serpent. Like the children of Israel before us, we can only receive healing for our sins by looking to the cross of Jesus Christ.

Silver is always symbolic of the "Price of Redemption" in the Bible! Therefore, it would make perfect sense for the silver capitals on top of the pillars to symbolize the ransom price placed on the heads of God's people (Exodus 30:11-16). Simply stated... God wants very much to ransom, or "redeem", His chosen people from their sins. He doesn't want to condemn them, but in order to properly satisfy His righteous standard a ransom price must be paid by a kinsmen redeemer on behalf of His beloved people. What are some Biblical examples depicting the need for such redemption from sin?

When Jesus was betrayed to the priests by Judas Iscariot, the price paid was thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). Yet, another side to redemption is depicted in Exodus 12:1-13:16: The Old Testament way to "redeem" the life of the first-born son among the people of God was by the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb. What about the New Testament? God sacrificed the life of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the true Passover lamb, to redeem all of us, His beloved people from our sins, which can only lead to death.

Final thoughts... when we see the white fine linen curtains of the Outer Court, we are immediately reminded that our sins have separated us from the life of God inside the Tabernacle (Isaiah 59:2, Romans 3:23). When we read the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we see His compassion and His love for all people. We also see His condemnation of hypocrisy and sin (John 8:10-11). We see in Jesus Christ a man who loves righteousness, and hates lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9); the Son of God in whom God delights (Matthew 17:5); the Son who is the express image of God's righteousness (Hebrews 1:3). Just like the white fine linen curtains of the Outer Court, the righteousness of Jesus Christ (representing the white fine linen curtains) is supported by His judgment of sin (representing the bronze base sockets), and capped by His desire to redeem us (representing the silver capitals), in order to bring us back into the presence of God (I Peter 3:18). The good news is, although we start off outside the Tabernacle compound, separated from God's presence, there is always a way to enter into the Outer Court of the Tabernacle, a "Door", colorful and welcoming, beckoning us to come inside.


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