“And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze. The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver,” Exodus 27:10.
“All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:17. (NKJV)
In our last post, we considered the linen fence that enclosed the tabernacle courtyard. The items in these two verses were the things which held the fence together and kept it from falling over.
At the foot of all this were the foundations, the sockets of bronze. Together these three items made a sturdy and cohesive unit. Remember, the children of Israel weren’t just out for a Sunday stroll. They were traveling through rugged wilderness, where there were probably fierce winds as part of the weather out in the middle of nowhere. The tabernacle, though entirely portable, had to be able to withstand all that, as well as to stand firmly in one place when put together.
The bronze footings were the foundations for the fence. Buried in the sand, they provided a firm basis for the posts. Without this footing, the posts and the linen would have sagged miserably and probably fallen in a heap.
As we look at the symbolism of this foundation, the bronze reminds us of the justice of God. We’re so used to hearing of the love of God or the grace of God that we forget that it is really His justice that is the basis for who He is.
The Scriptures are filled with reference to God’s justice, to His being just. On Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses is filled with praise to the God of Israel,
“He is the Rock; His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.”
In Job 32:23, after listening to Job’s three friends pretty well miss the boat as they try to diagnose the whys and wherefores of Job’s suffering, his younger friend Elihu bursts in. Part of his defense of God is this,
“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,
In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.”
Lest anyone say, “Well, that’s just the stern God of the Old Testament. The God of the New Testament is a God of love,” Paul has an answer in Romans 3:23-26:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forebearance He had passed over the sins previously committed [that is, in the Old Testament], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is Paul’s answer: God is just, as well as the One who declares those who believe in Jesus to be righteous themselves. Not just innocent, as if they’d never done anything wrong, not just “not guilty,” as if there’s no or not enough evidence to establish guilt, but righteous, as if they’d always done everything right! That, to my way of thinking, is something far greater. And this not because of ourselves, but because of the Lord Jesus.
If the bronze represents God’s justice, then what do the silver rods represent? (The silver was also used for footings for the tabernacle itself.)
This is easy.
The silver rods represent His grace.
In Exodus 30:11-16, God told Moses to count the children of Israel, and while he was doing that, each man of military age was to give a ransom for himself, a half-shekel, or about 30 cents, roughly speaking. It was called “ransom” money, though Moses gave no reason why he called it that, perhaps to remind Israel of their origins, namely, they had been a slave people in Egypt. God had redeemed them for Himself at no cost to themselves. I think it might also remind them that they were nothing “special;” God hadn’t chosen them because they were extraordinary. Quite the contrary, as Moses tells them:
Deuteronomy 4:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.”
In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, referring to the Canaanites who were in the land Israel was about to inhabit, Moses says,
“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or of the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
It wasn’t because of their greater numbers or their superior righteousness that God was giving them the land. He mentions this latter three times in three verses. When they left Egypt, they’d been only a handful of people, and their record during the wilderness journey was one of nothing but complaint and rebellion. There was absolutely nothing in them for the reason God chose them. In fact, there was plenty of reason for Him to reject them! It was His own good pleasure to be gracious to them.
It is His own good pleasure for us, as well, Ephesians 1:3-14.
We’ve already mentioned that Moses used the word “ransom” in describing this offering, but he also calls it “atonement money” in v. 16. This brings us back to Romans 3. Paul explains that Jews are as guilty of sin as Gentiles in that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23. God gave the law so that men might see their spiritual state, and their sin clearly, and not just the fuzzy generalizations the Gentiles might have had through their vague understandings of right and wrong, as in Romans 2:14-16.
So, the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, is guilty in the sight of God, Romans 3:19.
How then can God be just, yet declare men to be righteous who in themselves are anything but that? How can anyone escape the judgment due their sin?
Now it is true, there was a righteousness available through the Law, Deuteronomy 6:25. In exhorting a new generation of Israelites to obey the commands God gave him on Sinai, Moses said, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”
Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD,” vs. 1-5.
The rest of Leviticus 18 gives us an idea of “the doings of the land of Canaan.” Folks are always so worried about “the poor Canaanites,” but they were a terrible, wicked people.
The trouble is, Israel never kept God’s statues and judgments. They weren’t really any better than the people they dispossessed. They never attained any kind of righteousness on their own, except maybe that external and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees our Lord encountered and rejected, Matthew 5:20. They never obeyed.
Neither do we.
Paul gives us the remedy: God declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:28.
What does that mean? Elsewhere, Paul explains. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In the cross, the Lord Jesus didn’t die just so we could have pretty jewelry to wear or as ornaments for our house. He didn’t die by mistake, or as a martyr, or as an example.
He died because we couldn’t.
Our deaths could never pay for even one of our sins, let alone the many, many of which we are guilty. Our sufferings, our church membership, our good works, our time in purgatory, if there were such a thing, could never provide even one stitch in that robe of righteousness God gives His people because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, as Spurgeon once remarked, “If there is one stitch in the robe of righteousness we’re required to put in, then we are lost.”
The Jew can never be saved by “keeping the Law.” Neither can the Gentile. Nor, for that matter, can a church member. Only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the ransom paid by His blood on the behalf of sinners is salvation to be had.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”