THE beauty and bounty of Christ bedeck the entire Bible. By means of the medium of multiform symbols and signs, God has set forth the superiority of His Son's surpassing glory and the sufficiency of His sovereign grace. One of the most illuminating and illustrious records of His manifold greatness is suggested in a chapter devoted to Israel's encampments to which very little attention is paid, viz, the book of Numbers, ch. 33.
From the time the tabernacle was completed, it was pitched in new surroundings and with different settings on every occasion when the nation encamped during its pilgrimage. This unique structure represented the manifestation of God dwelling in the midst of His people. The dwelling places for encamping were selected by the Spirit of God who is expressed in the symbol of a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. In order to reassure Moses, the great guarantee had been given, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Exo. 33:14)
Similar features to these characterize the unveiling of truth in the New Testament. Every varied environment and experience of life has been enriched by virtue of Immanuel's presence pledged to us in those dignified and familiar words. "Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end." Let us grasp the fact that our Saviour Lord is familiar with the whole course of life's journey, and adapts His wealth of resource and wondrous relationship so that the church and the Christian may adequately meet every exigency of the pilgrimage. We need but recall the statement of the apostle John in which he declares, "The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
This true Tabernacle, which has already been manifest for a season in the person of Christ, is yet to be pitched permanently with men in an abiding presence, for “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev. 21:3, 4) Let us remember that the tabernacle in the camp of Israel, which was a figure of the true, was pitched in a series of selected settings, each of which could be viewed from differing perspectives and beheld in all the fascinating features of its structure from the northern, southern, eastern and western aspects. The highest and holiest refinement of wisdom was expressed in its construction, not a single loop, or tache, of which there were two hundred in the innermost curtain alone, was left to human judgment. The whole of the distinctive plan was a miniature model designed in material form as a foreview of that later display in the person of Messiah in Whom all the divine attributes were made manifest.
The character of its construction from a heaven.born pattern, the contents of its canopy, which included the golden vessels and furniture, the comeliness of its curtains in gorgeous colors of blue, purple, scarlet and white, the constitution of its calendar which was of septiform compilation, the coordination of its ceremonies indicating the various seasons of the year by a system of feasts, the centralization of its communion for commemorating national history and contemplating national hopes, the confirmation of its covenant through atonement by blood, the counsel of its cherubim from between which God spoke to the priesthood, the celebrations of its court where gifts and offerings were presented and cleansing secured, and the credentials of its consecration evidenced in the Shekinah glory, were all finger.posts directing to Christ, union with Whom brought to light everlasting communion.
In beauty of design, in breadth of array, in the brilliance of its Shekinah light and in the blending of its bright colors, the tabernacle in its entirety was an arresting spectacle. If this be so in relation to the Old Testament shadow, of how much more is it true of the revealed substance. A very wide field of investigation is open to us in contemplating the true Tabernacle - Christ - in the multiform settings in which He is depicted in the gospels. Many of us have paused to view Him in His prophetical setting wherein over 300 direct references to His work and witness on earth are referred to as being fulfilled during His ministry, “for to him give all the prophets witness.”
Some have considered Him in His ministerial setting serving, healing, preaching, teaching and a wide range of helpful activities, for "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Others have spent time contemplating Him in His mediatorial setting as the One Who opened heaven to mankind, and Who declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."
Large numbers have concentrated attention on the sacrificial setting in which capacity He offered Himself upon a cross in agony and shame, "For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." "He bare in His own body our sins on the tree.” How easily we may extend such aspects of His manifestation until they far exceed the number of encampments in the national pilgrimage of Israel. Time would fain tell of all the vocational settings in which Christ is presented and portrayed. These stand in relation to His Sonship, Kingship, Lordship, Judgeship, Messiahship, Friendship, Heirship, Companionship, Suretyship, Leadership, Kinship, Stewardship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Headship, Mediatorship, Partnership, Workmanship and many other similar phases on each one of which a separate volume could be written.
No one would have any difficulty in viewing Christ in any of the following forty-two settings: - His deity, humanity, affinity, royalty, regality, majesty, mastery, victory, beauty, purity, humility, glory, sovereignty, sufficiency, stability, integrity, agony, sincerity, fidelity, honesty, cordiality, constancy, amiability, imperialty, felicity, affability, efficiency, presidency, benignity, infallibility, capability, superiority, amity, loyalty, dignity, sanctity, pity and liberality, in every aspect of which He is full-orbed and perfect.
Then again we may consider Him in those qualities of character which we usually term attributes, such as righteousness, perfectness, holiness, joyfulness, goodness, greatness, meekness, lovingkindness, graciousness, guilelessness, peaceableness, faithfulness, fearlessness, God.likeness, truthfulness, gentleness, lowliness, cheerfulness, blamelessness, tenderness, watchfulness and worthiness. This list might likewise be extended to the same degree.
We must of necessity omit the list of attitudes relative to mediation, separation, submission, and so forth, together with the activities of obedience, patience and diligence which are too numerous to mention.
How profitable it becomes to trace the missionary annals in order to see Christ manifest in the setting of a New Hebrides family circle, a Solomon Islands tribe, a Papuan Bible class, a New Guinea church, a Borneo head.hunters community, a Zulu congregation, a heart of Africa mission school, a Mexican Indian village, and in a thousand and one other localities.
If we concentrate on the four gospels and glean some of His glories from the rare and wonderful settings of His manifestation as King, Heir, Priest and Son, we meet with fresh fountains and flowing streams which set forth His ever-expanding fullness.
Forty years ago in South India I was introduced to a business manager who had then recently married one of Sir Robert Staines's daughters. His companion was visiting her parents at the time, and he began telling me of all her wonderful qualities. Repairing to a private room, he returned with a photo album in his hand . one that he had received from his intended during their courtship. He told me the album was one of his real treasures and contained snapshots of his beloved Maud in 120 settings, each one of which had a participle below the picture descriptive of the occupation in which she was engaged at the time - writing, reading, singing, dining, sewing, motoring, hiking, rowing, swimming, basking, golfing, knitting, gardening, baking and such like throughout the volume. He found delight and pleasure in contemplating every one of these phases of his beloved.
How desirable it is that we should set our affection on Him Who sitteth at the right hand of God. (Col. 3:1, 2) One of the most enjoyable exercises in which we can engage is to visualize our Lord and Savior under every type of environment and shade of experience as, for instance, we may consider Him teaching, preaching, providing, subduing, healing, serving, revealing, eating, journeying, reading, praying, instructing, warning, predicting, interceding, commanding, thirsting, dying, rising, ascending, and scores of similar activities, each of which is a veritable garden of delights. From amid this inexhaustible range of viewpoints, we have selected but one, that of our Lord in the setting of a beloved bridegroom, in the hope that the very beauty of the function in which He features so fully and faithfully may lead others to contemplate the surpassing Savior in other of the innumerable aspects of His matchless personality and many-sided character. The manifold wisdom of God has exercised infinite prerogatives in portraying the unsearchable riches of Christ. Our blessed Lord is the One of Whom the lines were written:
He spake in loving words, heaven.hewn and royal.”