Brethren Archive

The Tabernacle

by John Ritchie

The Tabernacle


The following pages contain “Notes” of a series of addresses on the types of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

They were originally spoken to audiences chiefly composed of young believers, at the close of a summer’s Tent work in Glasgow, and shorthand notes were taken by a hearer. This accounts for their blunt and oral style.

They are rather suggestive than exhaustive. The needs and capacities of the hearers had to be considered, and consequently truths connected with the Gospel: the believer’s acceptance: the early stages of Christian life and walk in the church and in the world were chiefly dwelt upon.

Brethren of more mature years, and understanding of the Holy Scriptures, have written fully and particularly on the many parts of this important subject, and the reader may, if he desire, find much to help him there.

To the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Who leadeth His flock to the “pastures of tender grass,” and beside “the waters of rest,” I commit this little book, with the earnest wish, that He may make its simple words concerning Himself, His Cross, His perfect Sacrifice, His Priesthood, and His coming Kingdom and glory, as a cup of cold water, and a word of cheer, to some of His lambs and sheep, who may be faint and discouraged because of the way.

J. Ritchie

Kilmarnock, 1889.


I desire to state, in a few words, the object we have in view in coming together thus to search and meditate on the typical teaching of the Tabernacle. It is not to instruct those who have been searching and inquiring into this subject for years, and who can therefore rejoice in its riches; nor is it to expound minutely or go into all the details of this deeply-important portion of the Word of God. Those who do so will find it an interesting study, and a large and fruitful field for deep searching and meditation. Our desire is rather to guide the dear lambs of the Lord’s flock—those who have been recently converted to God—to these green pastures, and, as the Holy Spirit may show them, to seek to point out a few of the precious things concerning the Person and work of Christ, as they are found lying on the surface of these types, trusting that all may be sufficiently interested to dig deeper into the mine for themselves.

I suppose we have all been struck on reading our Bibles to find how much of that Book is occupied with types. The first five books are almost entirely typical, and many other parts of the Word abound in them. This was the Lord’s method of teaching His people in days of old. And when the Lord Jesus was here on earth, we all remember how often He used those types to illustrate the truths He taught. (See John 3:14; 6:31-33.)

We cannot for one moment entertain the infidel and foolish speculations of some would-be wise men about those parts of the Word of God. They would like to make us believe that they were only intended for patriarchs and Israelites, and that we can derive little or no profit from them; indeed, some are now saying that they form no part of the inspired Scriptures at all! But the youngest of us knows better. We prize them as part of our Father’s holy Word, of which it is written—“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (or is God-breathed), and is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16); and “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). The first of these Scriptures assures us that the typical books are from God; the latter, that they are for us. In our unconverted days, we saw no beauty in long chapters about bullocks and altars; and we either passed them by unread, or we were glad when we got through them. Like a young lady of whom I have read, who was presented with a book and asked to read it carefully. Out of courtesy to the giver, she did so, but found it uninteresting and very dry. By-and-bye, she became acquainted with the author, loved him, and became his bride. With what interest and pleasure she read the same book then! How eagerly each line was scanned, each page perused! To her it was a new book. And why? Because she knew and loved the one who wrote it. So it is now with God’s saints. They know God; they love His Book. The types are God’s own pictures, and they point forward to Christ.

I remember seeing in this city several years ago a well-marked Bible. It belonged to a precious saint, who has since gone home to be with her Lord. Along the margin of one of the typical books the following two lines were written



I thought this was very sweet. It expresses most simply the meaning of the types and how we may understand them. It is the Jesus of the New Testament, that we see in the types of the Old; Jesus in the lamb, the altar, the priest; Jesus in the varied glories of His Person and the varied aspects of His work. The believer who has most acquaintance with the Lord Jesus, who loves Him best, will see most beauty in the types. Love is quick-sighted, it sees beauties and perfections in its object where a stranger’s eye sees none. We look narrowly at those we love; the lineaments of the countenance, the ways, the habits, and the resorts of the loved one, are all observed. The deeper our appreciation is of Jesus, the closer we will study each type that speaks to us of Him. Remember, they are no mere rough sketches; each detail will bear the closest inspection, and the deeper we search the more we shall find that the types are the work of God, and, like Him of Whom they speak, unsearchable in their riches.

I have sometimes thought how real they must have been to the Lord Jesus as He read them. What feelings must have filled His holy soul, as He mused on such types as the killing of the paschal lamb and the burning of the sin-offering without the camp, knowing as He did, that they had to be fulfilled in Himself.

The types of GENESIS are chiefly dispensational. Turn to chapter 1. Here in verse 1 we have the story of the Creation. Then the six days’ work in the forming of earth for man’s habitation, beginning with the giving of light and ending with the creation of man in the image of God. The story is most interesting; but how very much more so when we learn that it is a figure of the new creation (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10). It illustrates the work of God by His Word and Spirit in a sinner’s soul, from the day that the entrance of God’s Word gives light, on to the perfect day when he shall be presented in the image of the heavenly. Chapter 2 introduces Adam and Eve. Adam “is the figure of Him that was to come” (Rom. 5:14), “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), the Head of the new creation; and Eve, a type of the Church, His Bride (Gen. 2:21-23, with Eph. 5:30-32).

The story of Hagar, the home-bringing of Isaac’s bride, and Joseph’s rejection by his brethren, all abound in typical truth.

Exodus is the book of REDEMPTION. The Passover, the Red Sea, and the Tabernacle with its furniture, are all types of redemption and its results to the people of God.

LEVITICUS is the book of the PRIESTS. It chiefly consists of types showing the way of worship and access to God, and how communion with God may be maintained, or restored when broken, and so on.

May the Risen One, who drew near to the two weary travellers on the Emmaus road, and, “beginning at Moses, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,” draw near to us and reveal Himself while we meditate on these very portions of His Word. So shall our heart burn within us, and we shall go on with quickened step toward our home.


A word on the history of this favoured people in whose midst the Tabernacle was. Turn to Exodus 1. Here we have a picture of Israel in bondage. They had no Tabernacle, no glory-cloud there. Like the unconverted sinner, they were slaves; they lived without God. Yet He loved them, and, faithful to His promise, He redeemed them. Exodus 12 shows their redemption. It was their birthday as a redeemed people.

Next comes their separation to God. The Red Sea opened to let them out of Egypt’s power, and closed behind them to keep them out of it for ever. They were brought out to be alone with God in the desert. Here it was, far away from Egypt’s altars and its gods, that God came down to dwell among them. Here it was that the Tabernacle was pitched. Let us learn a lesson from this. No believer who tarries in Egypt need expect to apprehend the typical teaching of the Tabernacle. So long as a child of God is governed by the world’s maxims and mixed up with its abominations, he can know but little of communion with his God. The promise, “I will dwell in them,” is closely followed by the precept, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6:16-17). It is vain to sigh and cry over one’s barrenness and lack of communion, and still remain in friendship with the world. If God’s child can afford to forfeit the sunshine of his Father’s face to gain the pleasures of the world; if he can coldly barter the friendship of his God for that of the enemies of the Cross, he has no just reason to complain of his bargain. If he know not the fellowship of the Lord’s redeemed encamped around His Tabernacle, let him heed the call, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate. . . . and I will receive you, saith the Lord.”