“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 26:31.
“You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle…, Exodus 26:36.
“For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long…, Exodus 27:16, NKJV.
Three doors, in our reading, starting with God and working outward. We’ve talked about this in earlier posts. God starts at one end, with His grace and His mercy, but we have to start at the other end, because we’re on the outside, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:12, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
A writer of an earlier generation, I. M. Haldeman, suggested that these three doors represent Jesus’ saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
That may be, but I think the Apostle John had the right idea in 1 John 2:12-13a:
12. I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13. I write to you, fathers,
Because you have know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
Because you have overcome the wicked one.
In these two verses, John addresses three groups: little children, young men and fathers, and he counsels and advises each group. Three groups: three stages of human development from babe to adult.
I think this is something of what we have symbolically in the tabernacle, a picture of development and growth in our Christian life.
Now, the ordinary Israelite knew nothing of this. He had no idea that the very real things happening to him and his nation were “examples,” as Paul put it much later: Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition,…, 1 Corinthians 10:11.
They were very real to him, things that actually happened, but to us they are being used as object lessons, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted, 1 Corinthians 10:6.
There’s nothing that indicates the Israelite himself was able, when he brought a sacrifice, to go any further into the courtyard than the entrance where the bronze altar was. Only the priest had access beyond that point. Though there were age and other requirements, it was his life and responsibility.
On the other hand, according to the book of Hebrews, as believers, we have the right and the privilege to go as far into the tabernacle, symbolically speaking, as we can, by the grace and mercy of God.
The new believer, as it were, enters the courtyard where the bronze altar and the laver are. These represent the Cross of our Lord and our cleansing from the guilt and power of sin. It’s a time of rejoicing as the weight of guilt is gone.
Though it wasn’t yesterday by any means, I can still remember as though it were, that time when the Lord brought me out of the darkness of sin into the light of His grace and mercy. I thought I was saved. I’d “gone forward” in a special service at the church my Grandmother attended when I was staying with her during summers, services led by one of Billy Graham’s associates, Mordecai Ham. When I was home, I never went to church. I remember being baptized and nearly drowning, or so it seemed to me. Right after that, I did something Grandma didn’t like and she made me go forward again, not to be saved, but just to make it right, I suppose. I was nine years old. Grandma was a teacher of the little old ladies at her church and she made me listen to the radio preachers of the day: M.R.DeHaan, “First Mate Bob” and the crew of “the Good Ship Grace,” and some others; those are the two I remember. That was all the spiritual training I had as a kid.
Time passed. We won’t go into detail.
One day at work, one of the guys invited me to church. That was the last place I wanted to go. He kept after me and finally I went, just to shut him up! Funny thing, I never “went forward” or “prayed the prayer,” or any of the number of things folks talk about today, but I know as certainly as I’m sitting here in my recliner typing this post on this old, beat up laptop that the Lord met me there and rescued me. He changed me, cleaned me up and sent me to Bible College.
It was a time of light and rejoicing. I remember one of the supervisors at work commenting about my friend and me, that it seemed like “a young people’s meeting.” I was a changed man.
That was 1963.
That was my experience at the entrance to the courtyard.
Next post: Blood And Water.