The Riband of Blue

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As a confirmation of the typical import already proposed respecting the color, Blue, it may not be amiss to insert here a short exposition of Num. 15:32-4132And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses. 37And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 38Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: 39And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: 40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God. (Numbers 15:32‑41), a peculiar ordinance, giving directions concerning the dress of the children of Israel. One of that people had been found transgressing a commandment of God by gathering sticks on the sabbath-day. He had, by this act, violated the direct precept, " Thou shalt do no manner of work:" and had he been allowed to carry out his purpose, he would have broken another statute, " Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the sabbath-day." For this offense he was stoned to death-; an early example of the severity of that law under which Israel had voluntarily placed themselves, and which they had promised to obey. He perished without mercy: for the law knew no grace. It demanded strict obedience; and no plea of necessity or of ignorance could be allowed in mitigation of its fearful penalty. It was on this occasion that the following directions were given by God: " And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart, and your own eyes." Ignorance of God is the fruitful source of disobedience. The sabbath-breaker (who was but a specimen of the whole nation) had sinned because he had forgotten God and the great redemption out of Egypt, in which God had made Himself manifest, both as to His holiness and His mercy. The Law made righteous demands on those who were under its covenant. It was " holy, just, and good." But, in its precepts, it made not a full display of God's blessed character of mercy. Grace and truth did not come by it: they came by Jesus Christ; and there would be no power to fulfill the righteousness of that law, or even to remember it, unless the heart were first instructed in the goodness, love, and compassion of God. A little intimation of this blessed truth (which was afterward fully revealed under the new covenant) is given us in the command respecting the riband of blue. That heavenly color, figuratively directing the beholder to the gracious character of God, was to be the ornament of his dress. The skirts of his clothing were to remind him, as he walked, that he belonged to God, who was holy, and who had redeemed him out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, and through the waters of the Red Sea, unto Himself. The Law, written and engraven on stones, had proved ineffectual as to securing obedience. Even its threatenings of judgment prevailed not to restrain the willful purposes of the heart, which, by nature alienated from God, only despised His judgments, and found an additional zest in sinning presumptuously against His word. It might be, that some intimation of His grace, kept constantly under the Israelite's eye, would remind him of those commandments of which he had proved himself forgetful.
This seems to be the purport of the fringe of blue riband. But, like all ordinances addressed merely to the senses, we know how it failed. The Pharisees enlarged the blue riband, in order that men might praise their scrupulous adherence to the letter of the law. They did it, to be seen of men; not that they might themselves look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord. They fashioned their dress, in order to attract the notice, and gain the approbation of others; to get a character for sanctity, and separation from the world; and they had their reward. They were held in reputation among men. So, in modern days, a peculiar garb may be assumed, an outward appearance affected, an ascetic life practiced, which will gain human applause; and he who adopts such will be hailed as a heavenly man. But, if the heart be not first right with God; if the affection be not set on things above, and that on the ground of resurrection with Christ, and the life hid with Christ in God; all these outward observances are mere Pharisaical displays, and nourish, instead of mortifying, the flesh.
The every-day garments of the Israelite were to be adorned with this memorial of the God who had redeemed him, and to whom he especially owed his allegiance. The believer is constantly to keep in view his heavenly origin, and to remember, he is not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world. He should gaze continually on the face of Him, who has manifested the love of God in giving His life for his redemption. God, in the gift of Jesus, has proved that love is inseparable from holiness; and if we reflect His character, we shall, in our ordinary ways, display something of the grace and purity, which pre-eminently shone forth from the Son of God. As holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, we have to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and thereby we shall be more and more conformed to His likeness, and adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. The heart first, and the eye next, can only be kept from lusting after the things of the world and of the flesh, by being fixed on heavenly things.
The touch of faith drew out cleansing virtue from the border of His garment, who was truly the Heavenly One; and as we, by faith, hear, see with our eyes, look upon, and handle, the Word of life; as we exercise our every spiritual sense in contemplating Christ; so shall we be practically holy, and have the adorning of the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, but which will be made manifest in the meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price: " That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." " As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.-Col. 1:1010That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10), Col. 2:66As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (Colossians 2:6).
The Blue color in the vail, and other hangings of the Tabernacle, may therefore, without assuming any fanciful interpretations, represent the gracious and holy character of God, who is Love, as displayed in the Lord Jesus.
The Scarlet
As blue is peculiarly the color of the heavens, so, scarlet is the gorgeous color belonging to earth. The flowers, the produce of the soil, display its brilliant tints. We do not look above to find it: but it meets our eye when we contemplate the flowers of the field. The Word of God also employs this color as an emblem of royalty. The beast, and the woman in the Revelation, are both represented as scarlet. Not that the scarlet of itself, denotes evil; but because the kingdoms of the world were held under their regal sway And, when the Lord Jesus was, in mockery, hailed as king, the soldiers of imperial Rome clothed him with a scarlet robe. Matt. 27:2828And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. (Matthew 27:28).
This color, in the Vail, seems therefore to typify the perfect human kingly glory of the Lord Jesus. He was, by birth, of the royal line of David; David's son, as well as David's Lord. He was born King of the Jews; having title to the throne, and sovereignty of the world, not only by descent, but He was truly a king, by virtue of his own intrinsic excellency.
At his creation, Adam had dominion conferred on him by God. All things of this earth were put under him. But he debased himself by giving credit to one who was classed as of the beasts of the field; for it is written of the serpent, to whom man yielded his allegiance, that " he was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made." Gen. 3 I. Adam was not indeed deceived, as Eve was; but he participated in her sin, and thus both parents of the human race forever lost their legitimate place of authority.
A true king would neither come in his own name, nor accept his kingdom from any, but from God. Too exalted for ambition; satisfied with the favor of God, and owning no other as Lord over him; contented to be His servant, in meekness and righteousness would he triumph. Combining mercy and truth in all his actions, and uniting boldness and courage with pitifulness and courtesy, he would scatter away all evil with his eyes, and would plead for those who are appointed to destruction. Liberal of heart and having a bountiful eye, he would give bread to the poor and needy. Unerring with his mouth as to judgment, a divine sentence would ever proceed from his lips. In the light of his countenance would be life; and his favor, as a cloud of the latter rain. These are some of the leading features of the royal character, portrayed in the Word of God: and such was the Son of Man.
The blind beggar discerned, in the despised and rejected One, the true Son of David. He saw the royal color; whilst others, who had eyes, perceived it not. And the woman of Canaan put Israel to shame, for she, though a dog, recognized her royal master. Once, for a moment only, the multitude owned their meek and lowly King. They caught a transient glimpse of His majesty and glory. But soon they lifted up, in shame and dishonor, on the tree, Him whom they had welcomed, a little while before, as their rightful sovereign. Never did His glory shine forth more resplendently, than when His crown was thus trampled under foot. Never did the Royal One so prove His own majesty, as when disowned by all, and even cast off by God. The exaltation of the cross was His one step to the throne of God. He manifested Himself, when hanging on the tree, so glorious and so worthy, that no place was high enough, but that at the right hand of Jehovah: no name sufficiently dignified, but " the name that is above every name."
The true dignity of man was blessedly maintained and exhibited by Christ when tempted of the devil, as recorded in Matt. 4:1-41Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:1‑4). Eve, when surrounded by all that bespoke God's care and kindness, mistrusted His love, and believed the insinuated lie of Satan, viz that God had withheld the best fruit lest she should become, by eating it, like Himself. Her ambition was stirred; she desired to be greater than she was. Her eye also was attracted by the beauty of the fruit, and her heart received the whisper of the enemy. She gave credit to the devil in preference to God. She took and ate, and gave to her husband, and he did eat: and the dignity and honor of the creature, Man, was voluntarily surrendered to the unclean apostate spirit, Satan. " Dust thou art," was all that could now be said of the fallen ford of creation: and there was no power in him to regain his lost greatness.
Let us now mark the contrast displayed by the Son of God. In a wilderness, surrounded by wild beasts, an hungered, and apparently deserted by God, Satan desired, if possible, to induce the blessed Lord to act independently of His Father; to provide Himself with the bread which He needed for His sustainment, by a simple act of His own power. But he answered the tempter, not by asserting His dignity, as being Himself God, but by keeping His own subject place as man. He proved Himself thus above the control of the circumstances in which He was placed, and above yielding even to His own need. Again assailed by the enemy with the suggestion as to whether God's Word were true, and therefore, would it not be well to test its faithfulness? He not only maintained His perfect reliance on that Word, but proved His obedience to its commands. And when, as a last device, the tempter spread out before Christ such a vision of earthly glory as human eyes had never beheld, and sought, by that enticement, to allure Him from His allegiance to God; the Lord, taking, for a moment, His kingly seat of judgment, drove the wicked one from before Him; at the same time preserving His humble, yet happy position as a worshipper of the Most High. Throughout this wondrous scene the kingly color, the scarlet, is most manifest.
Two Hebrew words are united in all the passages in Exodus relating to the Tabernacle, where our word, scarlet, occurs. The first of these, (tohlahgh,) is translated worm in the following texts: " The son of man, which is a worm." Job 25:66How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? (Job 25:6). " I am a worm, and no man." Psa. 22:66But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (Psalm 22:6). " Fear not, thou worm, Jacob." Isa. 41:1414Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14). The other word, (shahnee,) is of doubtful signification. Some suppose it to mean double-dyed. In the margin of Prov. 31:2;12What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? (Proverbs 31:2), double garments is the rendering suggested instead of scarlet, where the Hebrew word occurs. In Isa. 1:1818Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18), both words occur separately. " Though your sins be as scarlet, (shahnee,) they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, (tohlahgh,) they shall be as wool." In this verse, perhaps, the first word, (shahnee,) is used to imply the depth of the dye; and the latter, (tohlahgh,) its glaring color, red. Others suggest, that the two words used together, express the kind of insect, (coccus,) from which this color was extracted. It is remarkable that our most brilliant dye is procured from it.
Is there not some deep instruction to be gained from these Hebrew words? On the one hand, do they not teach us, that, however gloriously attired through human agency, however dignified with human greatness, the robe of honor, after all, is but the produce of a worm, and covers but a worm? And we read in Isa. 14:1111Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. (Isaiah 14:11), that the king of Babylon, who is hereafter to be clothed with regal splendor and dignity heretofore unknown on earth, so as to exceed even his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings, in greatness and glory, will be brought down to the grave, where the crimson worms will be his bed and his covering.
On the other hand, does not this word worm, or the scarlet color derived from it, instruct us as to. the humiliation of the blessed Lord? He made Himself of no reputation, when He took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. He who was equal with God, was found in fashion as a man. The blue of the heavens was connected with the scarlet of the worm. And at length, on the cross, in the depth of His self-abasement, and under the judgment of God, He exclaims, " I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." But what a glorious display of the perfect Man was this! How that dazzling color has been, as it were, expressed so that now we behold it on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
Purple
If we were to place the blue and the scarlet side by side, without the intervention of some other color, the eye would be offended with the violent contrast; for, though each is beautiful in itself, and suitable to its own sphere, yet there is such a distinction, we might almost say opposition, in their hues, as to render them inharmonious if seen in immediate contact. The purple interposed, remedies this unpleasing effect: the eye passes with ease from the blue to the scarlet, and vice versa, by the aid of this blended color, the purple. The blue gradually shades off into its opposite, the scarlet; and the gorgeousness of the latter is softened by imperceptible degrees into the blue. The purple is a new color, formed by mingling the two: it owes its peculiar beauty alike to both: and were the due proportion of either absent, its especial character would be lost.
The order of the colors, blue, purple, scarlet, repeated at least twenty. Four times in Exodus, is never varied. The scarlet and the blue are never placed in juxtaposition throughout the fabrics of the Tabernacle. Does not this intimate a truth of an important character? Would the Spirit of God have so constantly adhered to this arrangement had there not been some significant reason for it? Are we not hereby taught a very precious fact respecting the Lord Jesus? He is God and Man: and we can trace in the Gospels all the fullness of the Godhead, as well as the dignity and sympathy of the perfect Man. But, besides this, in His thoughts, feelings, words, ways, and actions, there is an invariable blending of the two. Many mistakes and errors would have been avoided, in the Church of God, if those, who have undertaken to write or speak on this subject, had been subject to the definite words of Scripture, instead of adopting abstract reasonings upon the divinity and humanity of the Son of God., The Christ of God is the object of our faith; not a nature, or natures, but Himself. He was born of the Virgin, though HE eternally existed as the Son of God: HE died on the Cross, though He is the Mighty God. The importance of this little word HE, cannot be over-rated. The Apostle John was so intimately acquainted with his Lord, that in his first epistle, he constantly refers to Him, without mentioning His name; as if assured that the hearts of his readers would be so filled with the same blessed object that occupied him, that they would at once know to whom he alluded. See especially chap. Ill, 2-7.
In contemplating Christ, it is well ever to remember the first syllable of His name, as given us in Isa. 9;6. "WONDERFUL:" and part of this marvel is, that in Him are combined the deep thoughts and counsels of God, with the feelings and affections of man. In Him there is no incongruity; in the days of His flesh, and on the cross itself, He was "the same," the " I AM," the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. He could say, whilst on earth, " The Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." When speaking to Nicodemus, in that memorable meeting by night, He said, " No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven." And subsequently, when some of His disciples murmured at the difficulties raised in their carnal minds by His words of life, His answer was-" Doth this offend you? What, and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before? " ( John 6:61,6261When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? (John 6:61‑62).) Such words as these, from the lips of the Son of God, should silence our fleshly reasonings, and cause us to bow down and worship, instead of attempting to fathom that which is unfathomable. Vain of our own conceit, we try, with our puny resources, to sound the depths; and fancy, when we have run out our little line, that we have reached the bottom. We cut and square systems of divinity, and stamp, with our imprimatur, as orthodox, the theology of this or that divine; and all the while, lose sight of HIM, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Man can applaud his fellow; for, in so doing, he praises himself. He can approve the sayings of another; for, thereby, he constitutes himself a judge. And thus, in the divinity of the day, we shall find that creeds, confessions of faith, and writings of the Fathers, really assume the place of the Word of God; and orthodoxy consists, not in holding what God says, but in subscribing to articles drawn up by fallible man.
Three instances are recorded in the Gospels, of the dead being raised to life by Christ: Jairus's daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and Lazarus of Bethany. Together, they afford us a complete display of His mighty power: for, in the first case, death had only just seized its victim; in the second, the sorrowing mother was on her way, to commit the body of her only son to the grave; in the third, the corpse had already been deposited some time, and had become corrupt in the tomb. In each of these remarkable scenes, the colors of the Vail may be traced. We can have no hesitation in recognizing the Blue, in the manifestation of the love of God, when His blessed Son, at the entreaty of the sorrowing father, went to the house, to heal the dying child. On the way, the message came to the ruler, " Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? " Little did they, who spake these words, understand who that Master was; or the depths of trouble, in which He would be overwhelmed, in order that the dead might live. They knew not that God was present with them, manifest in the flesh: but He at once stilled the fear of the damsel's father; thus doing what none but God could do; commanding peace into his bosom, in the very presence of death. Again, the voice of the Mighty God sounds forth, to hush the boisterous grief of those who had no hope, saying " Weep not: the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." But they perceived not who it was that thus spoke. Death was to them a familiar sight; they knew its power: but they laughed Christ to scorn. Ought not the believer exactly to reverse this? In the presence of the Lord, he may well laugh death to scorn. Lastly; how were the power and the grace of the One from heaven made known, when He spake those words-"Damsel, I say unto thee, arise! "
Let us now turn to the scarlet in this beautiful picture. Who but the Son of Man, would have pursued the path of kindness and sympathy, notwithstanding the rude scoffs, with which His ready love was met? and who, but one that knew what exhaustion and hunger were, would have added, to this mighty miracle, the command " Give her something to eat"? And does not this also exhibit to us the purple? With sympathy and love for the child, deeper than the mother's, and yet present in the scene as one who was Lord in it, and above it; He can call the dead to life, and at the same moment, enter into the minutest want of the little maid. The mere human beings who were present, even the very parents, were so overpowered with what they had witnessed, and with the joy of receiving back the dead one to life, that their human sympathies failed. None but God could thus have abolished death: and none, but He who was God and Man, could so have combined power, majesty, grace, sympathy, and tenderest care.
The next instance already alluded to, depicts in few but full sentences, the beautiful tints of the Vail. Unsolicited, the Son of God went to the city where He knew the stroke of death had fallen, and had inflicted another wound upon a heart already stricken with grief. He timed His visit so as to meet, at the gate, the mournful procession, bearing to the grave the only son of a widowed mother. If any hope of God's interference had at one time cheered her whilst she watched her dying child, all such hope must now have fled. A little interval only remained, and the earth would close over her lost son. But attracted by the very extremity of the case, He, who declared the Father, drew nigh. With the authority of God, He touched the bier, and arrested the bearers in their progress to the tomb. Struck by a sudden consciousness that they were in the presence of One who had a right to stop them on their way, they stood still; they did not, like the attendants on the dead in the former case, laugh Him to scorn; and therefore, they had the blessing of witnessing His mighty act. He commanded the young man to arise from the bier, as He ordered the child to arise from her bed; and in like manner He was obeyed. " He, that was dead, sat up, and began to speak." Here, then, the heavenly color was evident; so that even they that looked on, said, " God hath. visited His people." But the heart of Christ was occupied with the mother as well as with the son. As the voice of the risen youth reached His ear, He knew how the widow felt as she heard it. Himself undistracted by the exercise of His life-giving power, yet fully occupied in sympathy and grace with the yearning of the mother to embrace her son, and thus to assure herself of the reality, which even the evidence of her eyes and ears scarcely enabled her to credit, He gave completeness to the scene by delivering him to his mother. Here was the perfection of human sensibility, such as no man could have exhibited in such circumstances, unless that man were also God.
But perhaps the most- complete manifestation of " the Word made flesh" is to be found in John 11, if we except, as we must always do, the Cross, where all was marvelously concentrated. It seemed to the sisters as if the Lord had strangely disregarded their urgent message: for, He still abode at a distance, and allowed not only death to bereave them of their brother, but the grave to close upon his remains. His very reply to their announcement. (" Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest, is sick,'') contained in it a paradox which they were unable to comprehend, and which the subsequent circumstances apparently falsified; for, His answer was, " This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." And yet He tarried till death had, for four days, retained its victim.
Thus, love and truth in Him who is Love, and who is the Truth, for a while appeared to have failed; but in reality the glory of God was the more to shine forth in His Beloved. It was, to Mary and Martha, as if the Vail had suddenly lost its colors. The short suspense, however helped them to discover fresh and deeper beauties in that curiously wrought fabric.
What mingled feelings occupied the heart of Christ, when, seeing the grief of Mary, and of those around, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled! He grieved over their unbelief and ignorance of Himself: and yet He wept in sympathy with them, and sorrowed for the very sorrow which His presence might have prevented. Who could have shed tears in such circumstances but Christ? Had a mere man been gifted by God with the power to raise the dead, he would be so eager to exhibit that mighty power, and thereby to still the mourners' grief, that he would be unable to weep whilst on the way to the grave. He must be more than man who could display what man in perfection is. The tears of Jesus are precious, because they are those of true human feeling: but they are most precious because they flow from the heart of Him who is the Mighty God. And when those tears plenteously fell from His eyes, all questions as to His love were at an end; and even the Jews exclaimed, " Behold, how He loved him." Again another groan burst from Christ as He drew nigh to the sepulcher: for, not only was his heart sorely pained because of the inroad that death had made in this once united family, tearing asunder the most cherished human relationships; but it may be also that the cave, with its door of stone, presented to Him in anticipation the sepulcher to which he was fast hastening, and that fearful death upon the tree where He for a season was to experience the forsaking, even of His God, whose bosom had been His dwelling-place from all eternity. This second time He groaned in Himself.
As with authority He had touched the bier, so now He commanded that the stone should be removed. But Martha interposed her objections; and though she owned Christ as Lord, and had heard, from His lips, the wondrous words, " I am the Resurrection and the Life," yet she believed not that there could be a remedy for one who had already seen corruption. It was then that Jesus reminded her of the message he had returned when they sent to inform Him of Lazarus's sickness that it should not be unto death, but for the glory of God, by answering, " Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"
God's glory was ever His object: and to accomplish that, He had been content to bear the questioning of those dear to Him, who could not understand why He had not at once come to their aid.
The sepulcher was now laid open; and Jesus lifted up His eyes from that receptacle of death to the heaven above, resting His spirit in the bosom of His Father, and audibly expressing His dependence on Him, before he cried, with a voice of almighty power, " Lazarus, come forth." What a wondrous blending was here of subjection and authority, of obedience and command, of " the opened ear," and of the great " I Am."
The dead, hearing the voice of the Son of God, came forth. The corrupting corpse stepped out in life. What a moment of astonishment and delight must that have been to the sisters, as well as to their brother! But here again the Lord alone entered into the minutest details of this astonishing act of His power. He saw, or rather felt, (for He loved Lazarus,) that His friend was still encumbered with the relics of the grave; and He left it not till others awoke from their surprise, to perceive the clothes that bound and troubled the risen one, but gave another command, " Loose him, and let him go."
Jesus is the second man from heaven, made like unto His brethren, yet not of the earth, earthy; that Holy thing born of the Virgin, partaker of flesh and blood, yet incorrupt and incorruptible; in Him are inseparably united God and Man; yet He is the One Christ, manifesting that which is altogether new, viz.: the perfect blending of all that is of God, with all that is proper to man. Nor can we ever contemplate Him, unless we keep in view the mystery of His person. God, in sending His beloved Son, has given to man and angels a new object of attraction. He enables us to behold the brightness of His glory; yet in such a manner, that we are not terrified or struck down by the sight. We can also look upon man in perfect union with God. All such expressions as, " the Divinity being in abeyance," "the Divine nature sustaining His human nature," " Divinity enshrined in humanity," and the like, are attempts to explain to human understanding, that which can only be received by faith: they are the efforts of intellect to grasp that which is beyond human scan; and in measure falsify the great truth, " The Word made flesh."
The Jew saw no beauty in Christ to admire: he could only perceive an afflicted man of sorrows. The believer, at the same moment beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The type we have been considering especially teaches these truths: for, all the colors were curiously wrought with the fine linen, so as form one mass of cherubim; a vail instinct with life and power, manifesting glory and beauty.
It will be seen that, in Ex. 36:3535And he made a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubims made he it of cunning work. (Exodus 36:35), the word "with" is in italics before "cherubim:" the vail being so fashioned as to present nothing but cherubim. Much has been written on these emblematical figures; and the reader will find the subject more fully expounded in the work on the Holy Vessels before mentioned, under the article, " The Mercy-Seat." Many have supposed that the Church is symbolized by the cherubim in Exodus. But the fact of their forming the vail seems to preclude this interpretation. As the vail shadows forth Christ in the flesh, we cannot suppose that any type would be given representing the union of the Church with Him then; as, before death, the corn of wheat abode alone: it must die, in order to bring forth fruit. The union of the believer with Christ is in life, quickened together with Him; seated in heavenly places in Him. He was the substitute in death; but He is the last Adam, the head of the new family, and source of its existence in resurrection.
The lion (one of the four faces of the cherubim) is classed with the king, against whom there is no rising up, in Prov. 30, 30, 31; and is also described as going well, and being comely in going; and as strongest among beasts, turning not away from any. Majesty, strength, and courage, are therefore here typified.
The ox, in addition to its well-known character for patient enduring labor, is also recognized in Scripture as knowing its owner; herein it may prefigure the persevering resolution of Him who unflinchingly set His shoulder to the arduous work committed to Him by His Father, and who always recognized His Father's will, and delighted to do it.
The way of an eagle in the air is alluded to in Prov. 30;19. as too wonderful to be known: referring probably to the astonishing extent and accuracy of its vision as to things of earth, when poised aloft; and to its swiftness of flight when the object of its search is discovered. Fit emblem this of Him, whose eyes search the depths of the heart, and who is as rapid in discovering where the lawful prey is, as in delivering it from the power of the destroyer.
These three faces, combined with the human face and form, completed the cherubim: for all this power, labor, activity, and quickness of perception, were put forth under the control and guidance of perfect wisdom and sympathy. Wings were also spread abroad over the surface of the vail, proceeding from the cherubim; denoting the heavenly origin and unearthly ways of the Son of Man, who was " from above," and who could say, even while here, " The Son of Man, who is in heaven."
The vail, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, and cherubim was made" of cunning work," or, as it might be translated, "the work of a deviser." It was skillfully wrought with wisdom and cunning device; a matchless fabric, copied from a heavenly pattern, and never again to find its equal on earth: type of Him who said " A body has Thou prepared me." Gabriel's words to Mary betoken the wonder of Immanuel's birth. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God." She conceived in her womb, and brought forth a son, and called his name Jesus. He was the Son of the Highest, and to Him, the Lord God gave the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of His Kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:28-3528And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:28‑35).) Wondrous mystery! the Virgin's Son, and yet the Son of God: the Son of the Highest, and yet inheriting the throne of His father David: the Child born, the Son given; His name, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace: Jesus, Immanuel, to whom every knee shall bow, and who is the object of the church's contemplation and worship on earth; and the subject of eternal song in glory forever. May we ever be filled with reverence and godly fear, when speaking or meditating on Him. The precincts of the tabernacle are holy ground: and before we view the great sight of God manifested in the flesh, we must loose the shoes from off our feet.
The Hebrew word, translated Vail, is, according to Gesenius, derived from an unused verb signifying to break, and in a secondary sense, to separate. It is called the Vail of the covering. (Ex. 39:3434And the covering of rams' skins dyed red, and the covering of badgers' skins, and the vail of the covering, (Exodus 39:34): Xl. 2 1.
Num. 4:55And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of testimony with it: (Numbers 4:5).) It was hung up, in order to separate between the holy place and the most holy, and also to cover or hide the ark, (Ex. 26:3333And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:33); and Ex. 40:33And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail. (Exodus 40:3).) And when the tabernacle moved, the vail was taken down, and thrown over the ark as its first covering. As long as the Lord Jesus was in the flesh, His very presence on earth declared the impossibility of any one approaching God excepting Himself, or unless having His perfectness.-He stood as the Perfect Man, who alone was fit to appear before God; the standard weight of the sanctuary. Any one, weighed against Him, was found wanting. His perfect righteousness placed in dark shade the uncleanness of all men. The measure of His stature declared the utter insignificance of all human attainments. His fullness proved man's emptiness. The white and glistening purity of His character, exceeding white as snow, put to shame the filthiness of all that was born of woman.
Thus, the very display of the Perfect One on earth, showed the impossibility of any approach to God, unless some way could be devised, whereby the sinner could draw near, clothed in garments equally unsullied. Man, both Jew and Gentile, had made it plain that he was by nature a sinner, and had come short of the glory of God: and the presence, amongst men, of One who was fit for that glory, only rendered the melancholy fact more apparent. The vail, as it hung on its golden pillars, precluded entrance into the holiest: the ark and mercy-seat were hidden, instead of being laid open to public gaze.
The whole ritual of Jewish worship, under the law, was one that served to maintain the distance between God and the creature. Bounds were set about Sinai, so that not even a beast must touch it: and the people felt, their safest place was far off. One tribe alone was permitted to encamp around the tabernacle: one family alone of that tribe was singled out to be allowed to enter the holy place: and one man alone of that family had access to the holiest; and that, only once a year, and with such preparations, and fearful ceremonies, as must have inspired him with dread, lest, in the very act of approach, through some omission, he might incur the judgment of the Most High.
The incarnation of the Blessed Lord, and His subsequent sojourn here, presented in themselves no gospel to the sinner: the requirements of a holy God were only made more manifest. A vail unrent, a mercy-seat without blood, might indeed exhibit what the glory of God required, but could not advance the ruined sinner towards that glory, or throw open the way of access.