THE HEAVENLY PATTERN SHOWN MOSES ON THE MOUNT
It was none other than Jehovah God Himself, who appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, and warned Moses with a Divine warning as to the architectural plan of the tabernacle and its furniture. The writer to the Hebrews mentions this in our text here in Hebrews 8:5, quoting what we read in Exodus 25:40 “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.”
It ought not to escape our notice how the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this divine warning, as though God is still speaking this warning to Moses. Up till the present moment this warning of God stands in all its awesome import. When one reads Exodus 25:40 one hears God speaking to Moses. No, one does not simply read Moses’ account of what he heard the Lord tell him. Most emphatically we hear the Lord warn Moses; this warning still stands across the ages. And we ought to take notice of this. For do not forget that the issue at stake is: the exactitude of the form of the gospel, lest the tabernacle of God would be a common building, differing not principally and radically from the temple of idols. One cannot eat of the table of God and of the table of devils. God will not have His holy name profaned. God is ever very jealous of the architectural design of His tabernacle, the revelation of the triune God in His Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost. It is basically the warning of Paul: other foundation can no man lay than what is laid: it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against this tabernacle of God; nothing may mar its beauty.
A close look at the text in Exodus will shew that the Lord warns Moses twice. The first time He warns Moses prior to telling him how to build. The text there reads “And 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 (furniture) thereof, even so shall ye make it.” (Exodus 25:8, 9) This meant that the furniture too must have a certain pattern. When we look at the sacred record here you will notice that there are three pieces of furniture (instruments) mentioned. They are (1) the ark of the covenant (2) the table of (the face) shewbread (3) the seven golden candlesticks. It is of interest to notice not only that it was these three pieces of furniture, but also to notice the order in which they are given. Personally, I believe that the order here in which they are made is the order in which they were shown to Moses on the mount.
The latter point we ought to note a little more in depth.
What Moses saw on the mount was the “pattern” of the heavenly things. This was the pattern of God, the archetype of the heavenly things themselves. No, Moses did not see the heavenly reality in their perfected form itself. This was not yet realized at that time. What he saw was what God had designed in His eternal counsel of peace, and the place of the Son as Mediator in the works of salvation. And this pattern being shown was already the revealing of the secret counsel of God concerning our redemption. And the pattern on the mount was that after which the tabernacle was to be built.
When Moses saw this pattern as related to him by God in the spoken Word, he saw this perhaps as did John on the Island of Patmos. John too was shown the vision. (Rev. 5:1) And the first thing which John sees is a “throne.” Thus also here in the case of Moses. The first piece of furniture which must be made after the pattern shown Moses on the mount is “the ark”. This ark of God, the ark of the testimony, is a small representation of the throne of grace. It is in the throne upon which God will dwell in the midst of his people, between the cherubims. And thus the Ark is the great Shepherd on Israel’s place of meeting his flock. This was first to be made. It is the foundation piece of furniture in the temple. When the ark is removed from the tabernacle then the “glory is departed”—Ichabod. Truly, then the glory is departed from Israel!
Hence, this was the first piece of furniture.
It is made after the pattern of the heavenly throne, called the right hand of the majesty of God, who dwells in the Most Holy place. And this piece of furniture was placed in the Holy of holies. From out of this Holy Place the Lord will come to dwell with his people.
Secondly, Moses must have seen a “table.” It was the table of the face of the Lord. It was the table whereon the loaves of bread were placed, a sign and symbol of God fellowshipping with us at His table. Here it is proclaimed: come to the feast for all things are ready.
And, thirdly, Moses saw seven golden candlesticks. It was the representation of the seven Spirits which are before the throne of God.
When we look at this a certain “pattern” emerges. It is the pattern of the triune God, our heavenly Father, as he dwells with us from his throne of mercy. For the Ark of the covenant was at once the place where the blood of atonement was sprinkled once a year by the attending and ministering high priest. And the table makes us think of the Son of God, who is the true Bread which came down from heaven, from the throne of grace. And the seven candlesticks likewise makes us think of the Holy Spirit as He is the Spirit of God in Christ, and through which Spirit the covenant fellowship is wrought in our hearts, since this Spirit sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts. (cf Rev. 1:4-6)
Here we see the “pattern” emerge: it is out of the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit that the tabernacle of God is with men. Here we see the pattern of Immanuel, God-with-us!
It is in this pattern that Christ fits!
We ought to observe that it was already symbolized in the very furniture (instruments) that from this ark of the testimony, the Lord Himself ministered to our needs in his High Priest. The Lord Himself is the great LITURG! Notice that in this Ark of the Testimony there must be deposited the covenant Words of the ten commandments. This was no after-thought. Fact is that it belonged to the divine pattern. It fit into the design of God’s covenant ministry. Yes, in this Ark too there was the pot of Manna, a remembrance of God feeding his people from heaven. And, lastly, there was the rod of Aaron which had miraculously budded. Taking these three together you will see another “pattern” emerge according to New Testament phraseology. It is that the true ministry of the High Priest in the temple is before God’s throne, and that there are three things which belong to this ministry. These three are (1) the pure preaching of the Gospel of the Covenant of grace (2) the proper administration of the Sacraments (3) the exercise of Christian discipline. That these three are, the earmarks of the true church in the world is not any man’s guess, but it is the basic pattern of the temple ministry.
Now, let us not forget that it is Christ who is the real preacher of the Word of God; He is the one who makes the Sacraments efficacious by his Spirit; He also makes the Aaron’s rod to blossom in the church and makes the spiritual discipline to be fruitful in repentance. That is His work.
And, now, let us underscore once more: it is above all things important that we see that we have such an High Priest who ministers in the tabernacle of God, not pitched with man’s hand. And where this Christ ministers, the Son perfect forever, there we have the true tabernacle. Here the reality is seen of Balaam’s parable “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacle, O Israel. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, . . . . And His kingdom shall be exalted.” (Numbers 24:6 ff.)
THE SYLLOGISTIC PROOF OF CHRIST’S HEAVENLY MINISTRY (Hebrews 8:3)
The writer to the Hebrews more than once employs a certain syllogistic form of reasoning to prove his point. We need not repeat here what we stated in an earlier essay concerning the fact that such use of a syllogism is not rationalism, whereas both the content of the “major” as well as of the “minor premise” is taken from the Word of God. The same also holds for the “conclusion.” The Christian religion and the pattern of the heavenly temple is a reasonable “pattern.” It has in it the logic of God’s house.
We call your attention to verses 3 and 4 of this Chapter, where we read,
“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have also somewhat to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.”
Yes, it belongs to the very nature of a high priest that he minister at the altar. Thus we read in Joel 1:8, 9“Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn;” (See also Isaiah 61:6; Jeremiah 33:21.) However, the point is that the priest which we have does in no sense of the term have any appointed tasks from his heavenly Father in the earthly temple which was pitched by Moses. His gifts and sacrifices are different.
We have this expressed in a kind of syllogism in the text:
1. In an earthly temple there are gifts and sacrifices offered by the priests appointed.
2. Christ is not an earthly priest appointed to stand in the earthly temple.
3. Conclusion: there were no earthly sacrifices for him to minister. He could not minister in the earthly temple.
Christ is a high priest in a temple, the real and the true tabernacle. He is made higher than the heavens. Hence, the readers must see that Christ does not fit in the earthly temple at all. He never brought any sacrifices in the earthly temple. Had He done so He would have been guilty of transgressing the temple ordinances, as was Uzziah, who was smitten with leprosy. Christ did not attempt to usurp the place of Aaron. He came to fulfill the law and thus dissolved Aaron’s priesthood. The zeal of God’s house consumed him so that he came to take away the first that he might bring in the second. Hear Him say to the Old Testament temple authorities “break down this temple and I will build it in three days.” (John 2:20)
Such an high priest we have who is sat down on the right hand of the majesty of God.