Tuesday, April 12, 2011

There's a Story in Them There Curtains

Reading: Exodus 26   
Do you ever think the instructions about how to build the tabernacle and the various related pieces is tediously boring? You wouldn't be alone if you did. However, it might help you enjoy chapters like these if you try to listen to the story they are telling. These curtains are no exception to story telling.
In Exodus 26:1, 31-33, we find that both the curtains which formed the tabernacle, and the curtain which separated off the most holy place from the holy place were made “of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman.” Don't read past these statements too quickly just because you've never met a cherubim. These cherubim are telling a story.
Before hearing that story, one should note the obvious royal nature of the colors chosen: blue, purple and scarlet. This “tent” in the wilderness is where God's throne is. A throne is for a King. The tabernacle is His palace and therefore it is designed to look like a royal palace so as to remind Israel that YHWH is their king. This is one of the key themes of Scripture, possibly the most significant. After all, the Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom. And it all begins in the garden when Adam and Eve rejected God as King. Now, their King will lead them into the garden like land of promise. Once again they will reject Him as King (2 Samuel 8:7), and of course when the King shows up in person, they will reject Him as King and crucify Him (John 19:15). We are saved when we bow to Christ as Lord, which is a bowing to Him as King.
This is closely connected to the story the cherubim are telling. Cherubim were on the atonement cover, their wings forming the very throne of God (Exodus 25:18-22). Now the curtains in front of His throne, separating the tabernacle from the most holy place, and the curtains which make the tabernacle, separating it from the rest of the camp, are embroidered with artistically designed cherubim. (I would love to see what they looked like!) What is the significance of cherubim? Are they just an artistic design, because God is artsy? Not at all. He is using art to communicate a message (like a real artist, with a real message).
The last time we had seen cherubim was right after God banished Adam and Eve from the garden.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
God's presence is back amongst His people. But the way had not yet been made for us to freely come into His presence and eat from the tree of Life. That way is yet to come (in Christ). So for now, in Exodus, the cherubim still have a job to do. They may well have been fierce-some looking creatures, for careless entering would have dire consequences. Yet now, for those who come by way of Christ, the new and living way, we can come boldly before the throne of grace (mercy-seat) to find grace to help in our time of need! (Hebrews 4:16) Oh thanks be to God!  (See also Hebrews 10:19-22.)
Imagine for a moment, that you are viewing the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies, with a tree of life shaped candelabra in front of it, spot-lighting the fierce-some cherubim, behind which is the throne of mercy. What is the message you would hear? I need mercy. God has it. I need to access Him. I dare not run past those cherubim to do it. How can I enter?
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for providing a framework for appreciating the inclusion of the cherubim on the curtains. Very helpful and encouraging.