Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. … Then you shall make curtains of goats’ [hair] for a tent over the tabernacle; you shall make eleven curtains in all. … You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins above.
Exodus 26:1, 7, 14
Linen, goats’ hair, and leather: the materials from which the outside of the tabernacle is made.
Linen, in the Old Testament, is most often associated with the priesthood. The priests had robes made of linen as the base layer over which the rest of the priestly garments were worn. But the priests had robes of white linen. This linen is blue and purple and scarlet. Blue has a very obvious association with Heaven and he heavens generally, as the sky is blue. Purple is associated with royalty. And scarlet, I had to look at how scarlet was used in other places to get any sort of idea. Scarlet seems to be associated with cleansing (lots of the things priests are told to do to cleanse a person or place involve a scarlet thread), and salvation (Rahab is told to put some scarlet material out her window when the Israelites invade Jericho), and with luxury (the woman described in Proverbs clothes her family with scarlet). Together, the three colors appear in the tabernacle as well as the garments of the high priest.
Goat hair garments had a very specific association for the folks to whom this pattern was given: prophets wore garments of goats’ hair. This plays out across the Old Testament generally and finds its final scriptural expression in John the Baptist.
Covering the linen and goats’ hair is leather. The outer ring of leather is ram’s skins dyed [or tanned] red. The red coloration is both symbolic and functional. Symbolic in that red represents blood and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Functional in that the sacrifices were made outside the tabernacle and there was very likely to be blood sprayed onto the sides of the tent. Over the top of the tabernacle is something that is difficult to pin down. The concordance notes that this word is difficult to translate, as it may have a modern analog or may refer to a now-extinct animal. In any event, the covering over the top is of animal skin.
All of this is a picture of Christ. He is my High Priest (blue and purple and scarlet linen) Who intercedes with the Father on my behalf. He prays for me and made the one and only sacrifice that could ever truly expunge my sin. He is my prophet, giving me the exact words of the Father. He said as much when He asserted that He spoke only the words that the Father gave Him to speak (John 12:49-50, 14:10). He is my sacrifice, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (Genesis 22:8; John 1:29, 36). Christ is the place where I can meet with God and have my sins forgiven.
This is also a picture of Heaven; of the throne room of God the Father, as I must bring myself into the covering of Christ in order to enter into God’s presence. The only way into God’s presence is through the curtains of the tabernacle; through the picture of Christ. This reminds me of Jesus’ statement that He is the Way and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6).
I need this reminder. I need to be reminded that the only way into God’s presence is through Christ. I must enter God’s presence through Jesus Christ or not at all.
Father, thank You for this reminder that You are only accessible to me because of what Christ has done. Thank You for sending Him to teach us and to be the sacrifice for our sins. Please keep me mindful of how it is that I am able to come before You.