The gold used in the tabernacle was its most precious ornamentation. As far as the structure of the building proper (not the court or the external items of furniture), this precious metal was seen in almost all the items presented to us therein. Look at each significant item and the meaning of the gold in relation to each. It will be important for us to remember that this tabernacle has its pattern in the heavens, for the Lord showed Moses in the mount something that already existed (Exo 25:9 and 25:40) and the writer of the Hebrews tells us the same message when he writes of “the patterns of things in the heavens” (Heb 9:23).
Throughout the building, and in most of the items of furniture, the common fabrication began with shittim, or acacia, wood. We understand that this tree grew readily in the wilderness, sometimes to a considerable height; it was not difficult to obtain. But whether it was the boards, the pillars, or the other items of furniture, the wood was never to be exposed by itself! It must always be overlaid with gold. The gold speaks to us of the glory of God put on display by the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in all the various facets of His human experience. The wood speaks to us of the humanity of our Lord, because it was impervious to decay and of beautiful grain or texture. Our Lord’s sinlessness and holy perfection are fully displayed in this shittim wood.
Let us learn a valuable lesson: we can never separate the deity of Christ from His humanity. The gold overlaid the wood, so that one could not see the wood without first considering the gold that overlaid it. But the gold was so thin (it was like wallpaper), that when you saw the gold, the grain of the wood was simultaneously evident through the gold. We can never speak of our Lord doing something “as God” and then doing something else “as Man.” Everything He did or said, He did it and said it in the totality of His Being. John could write of Him when He became flesh, “and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14, KJV). The union of Godhood and manhood is as total and complete, as it is mysterious to us.
The table of showbread (or bread of faces) is composed of the same two components, wood and gold. But now there is a third item added to lie against the gold. It is the unleavened bread that was to be presented to the Lord fresh each week as “bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Lev 24:7). Again, bread reminds us consistently of the life of the Lord here on earth (John 6:51; Luke 22:19). That bread was to be “set in order before the Lord continually … an everlasting covenant” (Lev 24:8). The Lord’s life on earth was a demonstration of His eternal commitment to humanity, a relationship with us that He will never relinquish. It was identified intimately with the gold upon that table.
When we come to the lampstand, we discover that there is no wood here, for the lampstand was fashioned out of one talent of pure gold. But here, too, the gold is complemented by another ingredient, the pure olive oil which speaks consistently of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and empower the individual; it is here presented to us in direct association with what speaks to us of the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As usual, the Holy Scriptures contain a fascinating parallel. As there were seven lamps to give light over against the lampstand, there are seven distinct quotations in the Gospel of Luke when the Lord Jesus, in His earthly experience, is seen in direct association with the Holy Spirit:
Luke 1:35 “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you, wherefore also that which is being begotten shall be called holy, Son of God.”
Luke 3:16 “I indeed baptize you in water, but a Mightier than I is coming … He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Luke 3:22 “And descended the Holy Spirit bodily like a dove upon Him …”
Luke 4:1 “But Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan.”
Luke 4:1 “And was led in the Spirit in the wilderness.”
Luke 4:14 “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.”
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me.”
There are many other references to the Holy Spirit, of course, but not just in such direct association with His person. It may also be worth remarking that the central one of the seven quotations above is the only reference to Him being “full” of the Holy Spirit, just as the central stem of the lampstand was the tallest of the seven.
We must also note, and never forget, that the lamps were never to go out. They were to be trimmed each day so that the light was always burning in the holy place. Our Lord’s life was the light of men (John 1:4), and that light never dimmed or wavered in its power to disclose the truth of man’s heart and his shortcomings before a holy God.