Ernest Robinson - Hebrews 9:1-9, The Tabernacle - Silverdale II, New South Wales - January, 1994

The tabernacle was a figure, a symbol, a shadow. I would like to speak about the different essential steps that we have so that we can draw near to God. We find them in this picture of the tabernacle. I hope you don't think I am going to tell you about the silver, the brass, the gold of the tabernacle, and what they all mean. I can't, because I don't know what they mean, so I hope you will realise that I want to tell you how it appeals to me. It is a picture of how we come before God, into His Holy presence.

The tabernacle was actually just a tent divided into two. The first room you went into was called the Holy Place. There were two things in that room; light and bread, and right in front of the curtain was an altar on which they burned incense. The second room had only one thing in it and that was a box, the ark. It was a very special box. This tent stood in a yard, a fence around it.

So now you have a picture of a tent standing in a yard, and in front of the tent, there were two things. One was a wash basin and the other was the altar of burnt offering. You had to get past these two things before you could get into the tent. Any person that approached this tabernacle from outside would first come up against this fence. Ezekiel 42:20 says, "... it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place." It was a separation between the clean and the unclean.

That is the first thing you come up against when you meet the Truth. God's people are a separate people. "Come ye out from among them and be ye separate...", "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." "Whoever would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." To understand this a little better think of this tent in two sections; one where we have fellowship with God's people and the second where we go into the presence of God Himself.

There are many people who have never entered into this fellowship for the simple reason that they have never been able to get past the wash basin. They have separated themselves from the world but there are still things, habits, in their lives that are not clean or honest. The least they could do was to wash their bodies before they went in there and the wash basin was provided. There are some things that we have to take care of ourselves. Some people roam around in that courtyard miserably for years, not enjoying the things of the world and not enjoying the things of this fellowship, either.

There was an altar, and no one enters into this fellowship unless their life is on the altar of sacrifice. Do you know how high the altar was? It was three cubits high, just about up to my armpits. It would have been a very difficult table to work at, a very awkward height, and the High Priests would always have felt that they were too small for this altar as they worked there. They were not allowed to make any steps to it.

This maybe applies especially to the Workers. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at a Gospel meeting and have felt so miserable, gone home, and pleaded with God, "I cannot do it. I am too small for this." But it seems that God planned that and it was only a shadow of what we have today. His servants will always feel that they are too small for this altar. The worldly ministers are built up with a lot of knowledge and they feel very able, very tall for this altar that they serve at. But the way of God is so different.

Another thing about this altar was that it had horns. Psalm 118:27, "God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." In the Old Testament they killed the animals before they burned them. This was symbolic, and we know we need these cords for the simple reason that we are offering a living sacrifice, and a living sacrifice doesn't just stop on that altar when the fire starts burning.

We heard about Abraham offering Isaac. That boy was strong enough to carry sufficient wood to burn a whole body. That is an awful lot of wood. He was not a little boy and Abraham was an old man. He could not have put that boy on the altar if the boy had not co-operated. No matter how willing Isaac may have been, lying there and seeing that knife come down straight for the throat, a reflex action would take over. You can make up your mind as much as you like, but you wouldn't be able to help yourself in such a situation. That is why Isaac was bound.

The spiritual application of that is a perfect example in Peter. He was firmly purposed that he would keep his life on the altar. He meant every word. But Peter didn't bind the sacrifice. In the garden of Gethsemane, three times Jesus had to remind the disciples to watch and pray, but they were sleeping and so when the fire started getting too hot, and when that maid came to Peter and said, "You were also among them," and death stared him in the face, a reflex action took over. He felt so terrible after that. In spite of ourselves we will draw back if we do not bind our sacrifice to the altar. It doesn't matter what kind of purpose we have here, if we are not going to be faithful in the place of prayer, we are not going to have the cords and when the fire gets too hot, we will shrink back.

An old brother in South Africa told us, "If you see people who have been professing quite a while but they still have no clear vision, you can be quite sure there is something in their lives they are not willing for." They still haven't got their lives on the altar and they still don't see the light. It has been very nice to hear so many testimonies telling of their appreciation of their church, and it is obvious that you are finding bread there. When you get into the tabernacle there is bread to feed our hungry hearts. And at Convention, we get a special portion.

In front of the veil there was the altar of incense. It is through prayer that we enter the Holiest of all, into the presence of God. In Jeremiah 18:15 there are some words that worry me, "Because My people hath forgotten Me, they have burned incense to vanity ..." Have you ever done that? How many times have I been on my knees and my thoughts have gone to vanity in spite of being quiet before God?

That altar didn't have its own coals. They had to be taken off the altar of burnt offering and the incense was burned with them. I realise only too well that if my life is not on the altar, I am not denying myself and dying daily and I don't have the coals to make sweet incense to God. I would like to live in such a way that God would be able to believe in me when I say that I am thankful.

There is a connection between the altar of burnt offering and the altar of incense. If I don't have my life on the altar of burnt offering, I don't have the coals to burn incense. Andrew Abernethy once stressed those words where the commandment was given to Moses that nothing else was to be offered on this altar, only that incense. He said, "Sometimes in the morning we get up too late and have to rush off and not really spend time in prayer. But during the day we try to make up for it by maybe writing a letter or sharing some thoughts from a meeting." You can try to offer it but God doesn't accept it. You can make up for it with nothing else.

The priest was allowed into the Holiest of All once a year but not without blood. It is just as well for us to remember every time we bend our knees before God; it is not without blood. There are some people who, when they pray, actually have a secret feeling that this is some religious thing that we do for God. I hope you will put that thought out of your mind forever. I don't know if you have ever considered what a privilege prayer is.

Quite a long time ago in the USA, there was a very infamous murder case. The man was condemned to death and while he was in a cell awaiting execution, the President of America came to that place for some reason. He had been following this murder case and he wanted to question that man, so he asked the warder to prepare that man for a visitor, but not to tell him who was coming. When the president came to the man's cell, the prisoner didn't lift his head once. He absolutely ignored the president. So the president left and as he went out he said to the warder, "You can go and tell him now who it was that visited him."

When the warder told the prisoner that it was none other than the president of the USA who had wanted to talk to him, he was speechless. And he became like an insane man. He said, "To think that there is only one man on the whole of the earth who had the authority to save my life, and I didn't know it was he!" Now do you understand? When you bow the knee you are having the privilege to come right before the One who holds your eternal future in the palm of His hand, right in the place where He will listen. Jesus paid a high price that we could have that privilege. It is a tremendous opportunity.

The High Priest went in there alone, and we do that, alone with God. Howard Mooney told us about an old lady who was dying when he went to visit her. She said, "Very soon you will be speaking at my funeral. Please tell those people that this way of God I have been walking all these years is a wonderful, sweet way. But the most wonderful times were the times I walked alone with God." We are thankful for what the Workers brought to us with the Gospel, but it is when we enter the Holiest of all that God Himself engraves it on our hearts with His own finger.

In the first tabernacle was the bread that was prepared by the priests, and we appreciate so much the little fellowship meetings. But it won't keep you going all the way to the Promised land. We have to get that manna. God Himself prepares it and gives it, and it is very sweet. We absolutely need it and we have to learn to enter the Holiest of all to get that manna. That is what gets our hearts burning within us. The manna had enough strength in it to keep the Children of Israel healthy all the way until they got to the Promised land.

The ten commandments that were written with the finger of God were contained in that box. There was another thing in that box and it was Aaron's rod that budded. In Numbers 17:10, the Children of Israel murmured about the true ministry. God told them to put down their rods and the one that budded was the one that had God's anointing, and it was Aaron's rod. There are still some people, and when I was in Tasmania I was quite surprised to hear it said, who have some doubts about the true ministry. We can tell you that we cannot resolve those doubts for you but if you get into the secret place you will see Aaron's rod that budded and you will have no doubts in your mind.

There was a very different light in the Holiest of All. I might just mention a little about the lid of that box. It was called the Mercy Seat. In the Korean and Dutch Bibles it is called the `Seat of Redemption.' I think that is maybe a little clearer. That was made of solid gold and was the very centre of everything, the Seat of Redemption. Doesn't that make you think of the Lord Jesus, solid gold and the centre of everything? The light of God Himself comes down in that place about the Mercy Seat.

But what I want to say is, it is only when we enter the Holiest of all that we see the light of the Mercy Seat. As we listen to the Gospel, the Workers, and sometimes the Friends help us to get a clear revelation of the Truth, but only God can give us a clear revelation of the character and nature of the Lord Jesus and it is an essential part of our salvation. That light that shone off the Mercy Seat was seen in the Holiest of All.

There were cherubims on the Mercy Seat. I am not going to try to pretend that I know what they mean, but I will tell you a few things that appeal to me. It makes me think of the two servants of God labouring together. We read that they had to be made of one piece. In John Jesus prayed, "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father art in Me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us."

It also says that they were to face the mercy seat. This is the only hope of God's Servants being able to continue, as they keep their eyes on Jesus. And those cherubims faced one another. That is so vital. A good number of years ago, among the first people to profess in Mexico, was a man named Manuel. He had been a Presbyterian minister. He had invited the two brother Workers to his home and cooked lunch for them every day for a week before he professed.

Later he told them, "I wasn't interested in feeding you at all. I was interested in something else. In all my religious experience, I have never come across a minister and his assistant who have been able to get along together. I wanted to see that in you, so I got you here for a week because I knew that if there was any strain in you I would pick it up." After a week, he was satisfied. It says that God spoke from between the cherubims. Sometimes it doesn't impress us which Worker said something because God speaks from between them, direct to your heart.

I will tell you about one other thing. Don't misunderstand me, but we do read that those cherubims had wings and there is a sense that the servants of God have wings. I cannot possibly live this life if not for the help of God. We are living a very unnatural life. Peter did something that was impossible for any human being to do. He knew he would sink when he stepped out onto that water, but he had the faith to know that Jesus would give him the power to do that. When God's finger points the way, His hand will make the way possible.

So Peter walked on the water but began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus. This way is completely against human nature. It is really beyond what we can do in our human strength, but as long as we are able to rise above those things that would drag us down. If we get our eyes off Him we lose our wings and begin to sink.

If you look at this tabernacle from the outside, it looked a very drab affair. It was covered in skins, but the more you uncovered it, the more you found it became beautiful. First there were badger skins, then ram skins, then goat's hair, then fine linen and then boards completely covered with gold. And there was the mercy seat of pure gold. Can you imagine that most beautiful light shining on that shimmering gold? The more you went into it, the more it became precious.

It is exactly the opposite to the worldly religions. First they have the beautiful buildings and the stained windows and the organ music; all very impressive. It is wonderful, but the more you uncover it, the more disappointed you will be. You will find that the whole thing is based on money. There was a very rich lady in Korea who came to meetings dressed up like a Christmas tree the first time she came. As she walked in, she saw our friends and felt so sorry for them. They looked so drab. But she soon looked at them with a different view; how noble, how beautiful, how clean and pure, and she herself had all those things dangling from her. But she found out that she was the one who was so unbearably drab. The deeper we go the more beautiful these things become until we enter the Holiest of all and see the pure light reflected from the mercy Seat of God.

There have been models made of this tabernacle by different people, mostly Workers. In Holland, there is one made by religious people. They are all different. That is easy to understand, because when you read it, you could look at it differently. Moses never had that problem. He had exactly the same instructions that we read, but he had no problem in making it right, simply because of God's revelation to him. "See that you make it according to the instructions that were given you in this mount." That is how God does it. The reason that the world is full of religions all reading the same Bible is because they have no revelation. God gives us the model of His own Son and that is why we see this miracle that the people of God are the same in every part of the world.

In my second year in the Work, I was preparing for a Gospel meeting. I was cleaning the benches and got a splinter in my hand. The thought came to my mind, "This would never have happened in the tabernacle because every bit of wood was covered with gold." How often have others got splinters from me because of my human nature?

I hope that we will remember the price whereby the veil was rent in twain that has opened the way for us to have these things that we have in Christ. Think of the time when the Lord Jesus was hanging on the cross. Yesterday Ray (Jamieson) showed me something that a medicinal man had written of what Christ suffered on the cross. It was gruesome. I think the Lord Jesus suffered even more than that agony of the cross, and it was the thing that made Him cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He paid the price so that no one else would ever cry that cry of desolation. That was the price He paid so that we need never be cut off from the Holiest of All.