The Vailing and the Unvailing

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 10
IT must have been a marvelous sight "the congregation of the Lord," led out into the wilderness-an event that occurred once in the world's great history, but never to be repeated!
Look at them as they are come out to their God, without a change of raiment, without bread, and without water; and see them as they leave their tents to gather the manna from heaven morning by morning. See, again, that "pillar of cloud by day," and that " pillar of fire by night," which accompanied them in all their journeyings, and directed them in the path they were to take.
Wonderful as this congregated mass of people is in their dependence upon Jehovah their God for everything, more wonderful still will they appear as we behold them encamped around " the tabernacle of witness," the token of covenanted blessings to be enjoyed in "a land flowing with milk and honey." Look again, the entire camp is in a stir; all is in motion; tents are being struck; the tabernacle itself, with its splendid hangings, and magnificent vails, and pillars, and boards, is being taken down. Hark! the silver trumpets are sounding, to summon the princes and the priests to their respective places, and appointed services.
Who shall dare to touch those sacred things of the tabernacle, whether of the holy place, or the most holy? All this is under the direction of Moses, "by the word of the Lord," and Aaron and his sous step forward to take down "the covering wail," and cover "the ark of testimony," and put thereon the covering of badger's skins, and spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and put in the staves thereof; likewise "the table of show bread," with its cloth of blue; the dishes, and spoons; the bowls and covers, and " the continual bread," overspread with the cloth of scarlet, and the covering of badger's skins, with the staves. These, and " the candlesticks of the light," and two lamps, &c., within a covering of badger's skins, are put upon a bar, and now comes "the golden altar," with its cloth of blue, and the instruments of ministry. (Num. 4)
All is thus taken down by the hands of Aaron and his sons, and has passed under their priestly inspection. But who are to be the bearers of these holy vessels of most pure gold? "The sons of Kohath" are summoned, and take their places under the appointment of the God of Israel, as the bearers of those costly and precious deposits-but with this injunction, they shall not touch any holy thing, " lest they die."
"The Gershonites" are now commanded to their work, and what is it I They shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, the coverings, the hangings, and their cords, under the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the high priest.
"The Merarites" are then bidden to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and this is the charge of their burden. The boards and the bars, the pillars, and their sockets, with the pins and their cords, under the hands of Ithamar.
Do any inquire what these three classifications of the parts of the tabernacle meant? What think you they were to the mind and heart of Moses? or what were they to the eyes and hands of Aaron? or what upon the shoulders of those who bore them along? Imperfectly as they were taught by types (nevertheless types which have almost a tongue) many a one. looked by their means through them, and saw "Jesus," just as the burnt-offering, and meat-offering, and sin-offering, had presented Him to their faith in the value of his sacrifice and death.
In later times, and by the scriptures of the New Testament, dm.,-we-may safely ask what the four evangelists were bearing along before our eyes in the Gospels? Is not John, for example, occupied with the person of the Lord in His divine nature, as he traces " the word from the beginning"-the Word which was with God, and was God. What is John's office by pen and ink, but the Kohathites work by the staves and the shoulders? Are not, further, the two evangelists, Luke and Matthew, busied with the human genealogies of the same person, as born of a woman. And what is this kind of work Surely they are but doing in their way what the Merarites were charged with, when they bore along the pillars, and sockets, and boards of the tabernacle. So, again, as regards the Gershonites, to whom were committed the curtains and coverings, what is the view of the person of the Lord with which Mark is engaged? Let his opening chapter answer, as it shows us-" The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," or the perfect character of the Sent One.
True, a practiced eye, or a loving heart, may find the blue and the scarlet, and the badger's skin covering of the ark, in its great anti-type in each of these penmen whom the Holy Ghost selected for the especial work of portraying, in the moral character of Christ's life and ways, what eclipsed the typical curtains. How could it be otherwise, when each had the same Person before his eyes and heart?-though each, as we have seen, had his own particular work assigned him. Lessons of immense practical value must necessarily attach to the fact that where Christ is known, and held in the soul in the completeness of His person, and offices, and work, there will be confidence before God, and joy and peace in believing. On the other hand, where the Person of the Lord is divided, the most disastrous consequences have followed to the individual, and to the Church of God. We may safely say, that almost every heresy has connected itself, or else sprung from the separation of the Kohathite trust, from the Merarite boards and sockets; or, in plain language, the separation of the natures of Christ, divine, or °human, from the one glorious person.
What is Unitarianism, but an acknowledgment of the boards, the pillars, the bars, and the sockets; or the humanity of the Lord, to the denial of the golden vessels of the Kohathites, which betoken His Deity? In a certain way a Unitarian will allow the Gershonites to speak of the curtains, the hangings, and the coverings, which denote the moral perfectness and beauty of the characters of Christ, but it will be a very poor scarlet, and a very pale blue, and a counterfeit badger's skin, apart from His divine nature.
Turning from these considerations for a while let us look again at this remarkable congregation on their march. They are obediently and safely following the pillar of fire, or the pillar of cloud, by night or by day, according to the appointment of the God of Israel. But see this moving multitude halts! What has happened to stop their progress? What unforeseen enemy has crossed their path? None; for who dares to stop the courses of the Omnipotence that conducts them to their resting place? No opposing hosts are seen, not an arm of flesh is in question, but the pillar of cloud stands still. Why is this? It only does its bidding; the mind of the Lord is that the congregation shall halt, and pitch their tents. The Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites, drop their costly burdens, and rest them on the ground. All is now to be put in place, and put together, by the skill of an Eleazar and an Ithamar, in their varied offices under the oversight of an Aaron and a Moses. The sockets are in the ground, and the pillars are reared up-the boards arc in their places-the pins and the hangings, the curtains and their taches, are all in their order-with the vail, the golden altar, the table, and the candlestick, and the instruments of the sanctuary. And now see, over the whole is thrown the coverings of blue, and of scarlet, and upon these the outward covering of the badger's skin. All beautiful within is this tabernacle, as we well know, but why this external and unsightly badger's skin? Can this be a representation of the Lord Jesus-and how? Of whom did the prophet speak when he said-" He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." And, again-" His visage was so marred, more than any man; and His form more than the sons of men." (Isa. 52;53)
How different when faith penetrates this external, but suited covering of the badger's skin, and takes its title to fold it back, and sees the heavenly blue; and, further still, the royal majesty which the glorious scarlet displays! What joy, as faith guided by the Spirit, looks deeper, saying-" We have ail altar "-as it beholds all that brass, and silver, and pure gold, can tell forth of the inward and hidden value of Him who is "the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." What could He present to the world, as it is, but Himself in wailed humanity-this badger's skin? Have we eyes and hearts that can understand and appreciate "Jesus" in this outer covering-the glory of His humiliation I Who does not trace in the descending steps of the Son of God, as described in Phil. 2, the same moral glories as were aforetime pictured forth by these Levites and their respective services of the tabernacle? " Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death: even the death of the cross." What are these steps of Him who descended, but from the scarlet to the blue, and from the blue to the badger's skin? We may further add, that what in this day marked His own person gave its character to His service, as He says to His disciples—-"I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." And, again, " I am among you as he that serveth."
Do not these precious truths find. a still wider application, if we think of the "Church of the living God" as the "pillar and ground of the truth?" What was this wondrous Church, the body of Christ, entrusted with; and what did she, in Pentecostal days, 'bear along on her journey to meet the Lord I In reply to these questions, we may say she was seen as safely guarding the precious doctrines and revelations of the glorified Lord, her Head, as ever were these Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, when the same Christ was brought up to them in other days. Look at the multitudes of them that believed, as represented to us in the Acts-"They were rill filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
Take another view of the Church as she journeyed onward to the glory, and see how she guarded her banner with its inscriptions, and how confidently she unfolded the record of her treasures-" Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." What were these triumphant records to the heart of the Bride-of the Lamb; what but the scarlet, the blue, and the badger's skin? Dare we, in the presence of such deposits, ask how this church is acquitting herself, and whether she is faithful to the trust which the love of her Lord committed to her? Is she now as jealously holding all the truth of the person of Christ, and does she still sedulously guard every doctrine touching the Deity, and humanity of " the word made flesh l" Will she endure it, that a curtain, or a hanging, or even a cord shall be awanting, of the Gershonite charge? Or that a single socket for the pillars and boards shall be missing of the Merarite trust? Much less the tongs for the golden altar, or the snuffers for the pure candlestick mislaid, of her Kohathite treasure! What inquiries are these, and alas, what will she say?
But, further, as to the character of her own service, does she retain the unostentatious form of her Lord's ministry; and is the first thing that meets the eye of an unbelieving world "the badger skin covering?" Does she treasure in her inmost soul the instructions of Jesus-" The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors-but ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that cloth serve." Alas! alas! what shall be said? Shall we turn to the Apocalypse for a reply to this query? " So He carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness, and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns; and the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand; and upon her forehead was a name written Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." ln times past was the Kohathite service under the hand and eye of Eleazar, as the Gershonite and Merarite services were under the oversight of Ithamar. So in these church times, at the very beginning of this dreadful apostasy, as John will say" Even now are there many anti-christs, and " if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." So also Paul will write to Timothy-" I besought thee to abide still in Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." Eleazar, Ithamar, and their responsible charges are ended lone- ago, and since then Paul, and John, and Peter, with other apostles, have acquitted themselves as " good stewards of the mysteries of God."
See how Paul tried with his loved Corinthians to bring them back to conformity with Christ and himself, as he says -"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise." How he tries to hide the scarlet, as he adds, "now ye are full, now ye -are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us." Though owning their right to the scarlet he will tell them-" I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." Look, again, how he desires they should love the glory of the humbled Christ; and how he tries to spread the badger's skin covering over all, as suited to the uncongenial clime and undiscerning eyes of the world, from which they were separated -"For I think that God hath set forth us, the apostles, last, as it were appointed to death, for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men; being defamed we entreat, we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off-scouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved Sons I warn you."
The congregation, of Israel dropped, and lost almost all their Kohathite, Gershonite, and Merarite charges whilst on their way to Solomon's glory; and the Church, as a responsible body on the earth, has done what is worse on its way to the heavenly glory. Satan has succeeded in corrupting the truth, and the precious revelations which were committed to her. The Son of Man has walked in " the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," and has said to one of them-" I have against thee because thou host left thy first love," and to another, "be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die." Do these seven churches prophetically mark the declensions of this corporate witness, and if so what is the last of them but a Laodicea! The word has gone forth, "so, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
What, then, is left to us, and what is the resource of my faithful soul I " He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," is the encouraging word to the individual conscience. "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me," has been a delivering word to many a troubled heart, awakened up to the discovery and acknowledgment of the ruin of all that was once manifested as the Church.
A word of encouragement will suitably close these meditations-" To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on His throne." Oh! for exercised hearts, that can step outside the constructions of men in this day, and accept the suited remedy, and unfailing resource in the Lord Himself-" where two or three are gathered. together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."-B.