Wilderness Instructions, Part 11: You Will Make a Tabernacle with Ten Curtains -- By Lyn Chaffart
Last week, in Wilderness Instructions, Part 10, we learned that the veil in the wilderness is there to remind us of the atrocity of sin and the holiness of God. It helps us understand how incapable we are of working our way into God’s grace, and it helps us remember that the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ has changed it all. Once we are covered by His blood, we have free access to the presence of the living God!

Our lesson today takes us back to Exodus 26, where elaborate instructions are given regarding the covering of the tabernacle: "Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them." (Exodus 26:1 NKJV)

As you read through the 26th chapter of Exodus, you will quickly note that there are a total of four curtains described: The inner curtain of linen, embroidered with colourful cherubim, as described in verses 1-6. Next is the covering of woven goat's hair, as described in vs. 7-13, then the covering of ram's skin, died red (see vs. 14a); and finally, a covering of the hide of another creature, which is sometimes translated "sea cow", and sometimes "badger" (see vs. 14b).

But wait. Why were four layers needed in the first place?

Pure speculation on my part would say that the multiple layers was for protection from the elements. The innermost layer was a work of art, beautiful, but hardly substantial enough to brave the elements. The second layer, of goat’s hair, which is what the tents of the people were made of, would provide that necessary protection. And perhaps the layers of animal hides would then further ensure that the structure was both dust and waterproof.

Though nothing but pure speculation, there are some valuable lesson here for our heart-temples. In the book of Philippians, Paul tells us how to protect our hearts: "...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7 NKJV). Thus, when we read about the elaborate description of the coverings for the tabernacle in the wilderness, let's remember that our heart-temples are also provided with protection -- The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding! And the best part is this: God's peace is ours for the asking!

But when we look more closely at each of these layers, we find several interesting symbolisms in these coverings:*

1. The innermost layer: This was made of "fine linen", just like the garments of the priests (See Ex. 28). The words "fine linen" is also seen in the book of Revelation, where it is declared to be the "righteous acts of the saints". (See Rev. 19:8 NKJV). We know that all of our righteous acts are but filthy rags (See Is 64:6), but they shall be seen as "white as snow" (see Is 1:18), thanks to the blood of Jesus. Thus, the "fine linen" covering to our heart-temples is to remind us that through Jesus, we are seen as pure and clean!

There were also cherubim embroidered into the linen. The Psalmist makes frequent reference to wings in regards to protection. We are told that we are in the "shadow of His wings" (Ps. 17:8). Thus, when we think of the rich embroidered cherubim, let's remember God's protection is always surrounding us, that we are always hidden in the "shadow of His wings"!

2. The second covering, made of goat's hair: It is interesting to note that the word "curtain" in Hebrew had the root meaning of "tremble" or "waive". Another similar Hebrew root is the word for "fear". We are to honor God and reverence Him, and the curtains remind us of this.

We must also remember the goat was the animal pre-imminently used for the sin offering. Thus, the "goat hair" points to Christ, the great "sin offering" (See 1 Cor. 5:21).

Finally, the covering of goats' hair completely hid the beautiful linen curtain, which could only be seen from the interior of the holy place. This can serve as a reminder to us that it is not until we have personally accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation that we can rejoice in His peace, in His comfort, in His care.

3. The third covering of ram's skin: The ram was the sacrifice used to consecrate the priests (See Ex. 29:26), and it spoke of devotedness to God. This skin was dyed red, thus giving us a vivid symbol of Jesus' devotion until death. The rams' skins covering, then, foreshadowed Christ as the Head of His people, the "sheep" perfectly consecrated to God.

4. Over the rams' skins were placed badgers' skins. Interestingly, this is the only cover seen by the eyes of the people of Israel. It reminds us that when Christ came to this earth, "He made Himself of no reputation" (Phil 2:7). He humbled Himself, and the glory of His divinity were hidden from the eyes of the people.

As we contemplate this 4-fold covering to the tabernacle, let's let it be a reminder to us of Jesus Christ, who came as a humble servant, who is the head of His flock, who took the punishment for our sins, and thus, covered all of our sin. When we accept His sacrifice, we are then brought under that covering, our sins are removed from us, and we are seen as "white as snow". Only then can we fully experience being under the "shadow of His wings", that we can fully experience His protection, His comfort.

But this covering had to be held up by a framework of some kind. Are there any lessons we can learn from the frame? Please join us next week for Wilderness Instructions, Part 12: The Boards.

In His love,

Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.

* http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Gleanings_Exodus/exodus_41.htm
** Archaeological Study Bible, Copyright 2005 by the Zondervan Corporation, p. 153, The Tabernacle and the Ark and p. 133, Commentary on Vs. 25:37.

(To access the entire "Wilderness Instructions" mini-series, please click here.)