Book of Exodus Chapter Twenty-Seven Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
God's Perpetual Statute
In Chapter 27, we step out of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle and enter the Tabernacle Courtyard, where the people were to encounter the Lord and seek His forgiveness. Since we are all sinners, we initially meet God through repentance, acknowledging our sins and asking the Lord to make us clean. Our need is pictured by the equipment of this chapter, beginning with Verse 1: "And you shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits." As it was with the other materials of the Tabernacle, the basic support of the altar was to be the strong, weather and insect resistant acacia wood, brought on wagons from Egypt. Details of this altar of burnt offering commence in Verse 2: "You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze." Gold was reserved for the Tabernacle itself, whereas bronze, a substance linked with judgment, was the material encountered by penitents seeking forgiveness. The fashioned "horns" of bronze at the four corners of this large square altar were like the horns of strong oxen that had farmed their land in Egypt. The blood of the sin-offering was to be smeared on the horns (Leviticus 4:7), and those fleeing for their lives from human revenge would run into the courtyard and grasp the horns of the sanctuary (1 Kings 1:50 is an example). This altar was to be seven and one-half feet square and four and one-half feet high.
Sacrifices on this altar were to be utterly burned up, leaving a considerable residue of ashes, and the equipment for offering the sacrifice and cleaning up the ash is in Verses 3-4: "You shall make its pails for removing its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 "You shall make for it a grating of network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners." If we look around the world and consider our own lives, humanity is such a mess that the clean-up is an ongoing problem. God's world is a beautiful place, but our sins are like trash scattered throughout an otherwise lovely garden. In Christ, God takes our sins and completely destroys them, though the after effects of those sins may linger. Jesus utterly gave Himself up to destruction, losing His life in paying for our sins. Verse 5 continues: "You shall put it beneath, under the ledge of the altar, so that the net will reach halfway up the altar." The "net" in this verse is the "network of bronze" in Verse 4.
Like the "ark" and other objects within the tent, this altar of the Outer Court was not be touched after construction and consecration; and so in Verses 6-7, "You shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 Its poles shall be inserted into the rings, so that the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar when it is carried." Once this altar was complete, it was to be carried as directed by the Lord, but not touched by human hands. When Christ died, our sins died with Him. He came out of the tomb, the faithful come with Him, but our sins remain buried in that tomb, never to be touched again. We are forgiven.
The construction of the altar continues into Verse 8: "You shall make it hollow with planks; as it was shown to you in the mountain, so they shall make it." God was the Master Architect of this Tabernacle, revealing His purpose and pattern to Moses, who became like the engineer who follows the Architect's plan. And in this we find God's intention that each of us will follow the revealed will of God. His intentions for marriage, for our personal holiness, for honesty and His command to love—His purposes are revealed in Scripture and His call is expressed through His Holy Spirit. He reveals His will to the faithful, as Moses was, and those who are given understanding are to obey Him.
The Outer Court enclosure was to surround the tabernacle. The Holy Place had a roof of three layers which covered it from view. The Outer Court had cloth and acacia wood surrounding it, but anyone could see into it from above. The description of the cloth exterior walls begins in Verses 9-10: "You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side; 10 and its pillars shall be twenty, with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver." Metals brought from Egypt were used, but only after melting them and fashioning them into something completely new. It was also true of the "hangings." The designs and patterns were from God.
The Word of God to the people through Moses continues in Verse 11: "Likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, and its twenty pillars with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver." This cloth covering was huge and as we shall see in the next verses, it was a thing of beauty, supported by upright acacia beams called "pillars."
There will be some repetition here, but once again, it's important to see how precise the Lord is in everything He does. Jesus said about the future of His faithful ones, "In My Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). We can KNOW that the heavenly originals we will see are infinitely more wonderful and appropriate than the earthly structures we now build and inhabit. Verses 12-15 of these verses report: "For the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits with their ten pillars and their ten sockets. 13 The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. 15 And for the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets." Precise, perfect, utterly right in what it would mean to the people—what He builds in your life and mine is tailor-made for our needs, even when we don't understand.
"God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and He has no need for a "place" to dwell on earth or anywhere else. Yet just as He saw Israel's need for a physical setting where they could meet Him, He sees your need also. Buildings that are called churches, temples or whatever, are actually not necessary, except He knows our human need for a place where we can go and meet in His Name. This Tabernacle Courtyard was for those humans who would enter and find the Lord in that place. Notice that it was not only utilitarian, but also beautiful, designed to suggest and reflect the beauty and wonder of our Lord. As the Lord continued in Verses 16-17, "For the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be furnished with silver bands with their hooks of silver and their sockets of bronze."
Verse 18: "The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze." This was a LARGE tent. Considering that a standard cubit of the time was about eighteen inches long, the length of the external curtains described here would be about one hundred fifty feet, the width about seventy-five feet, and the curtains would have been seven and one-half feet in height, taller than anyone who lived in the Israel of that time.
Verse 19: "All the utensils of the tabernacle used in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze." Again, in this outer courtyard, the predominant metal used in its construction was bronze, an alloy made of copper and another metal, usually tin. The metal had many uses at the time of these verses, but symbolically, it spoke of judgment. Those entering the outer courtyard brought an animal for sacrifice on the bronze altar, as a substitute for the person who had sinned. Scripture is clear that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23), and so this courtyard is a look into the future from that time—to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who died so we might live. The "pegs" in this verse were driven into the ground and connected by ropes to the walls of the Outer Court.
Verse 20: "You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually." The "oil" of this verse was to be the purest possible because it represented the Holy Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:2-6), given to those who believe in the Lord. The lamp containing the oil was the golden lampstand standing on the south side of the Holy Place within the Tabernacle. The lampstand portrays those who trust in the Lord, a corporate entity including believers in Israel and elsewhere, later called the "church," a Greek term best translated as the "called-out ones" of God. In Revelation 1:20 you can read: "the seven lampstands are the seven churches."
Verse 21: "In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel." What Christ did for us, as depicted in the many facets and functions of the Tabernacle, is God's "perpetual statute" for His faithful ones. "Aaron and his sons" represent the Levitical priests who would serve in this sanctuary through the centuries. The lampstand, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, would sadly be extinguished more than once, but "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). He is the "light of the world" (John 8:12) and our Savior forever. His love, His light will never go out.
Lord, I confess my sins and place my trust in You. Thank You that You will always be there for me. In Jesus Name. Amen.