By Edward Dennett
THE Tabernacle, with its sacred symbols, has now been completely detailed. Two things only are wanting — the anointing oil and the sweet spices.
"Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: and thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt-offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest's office. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations. Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured; neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices, with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: and thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: and thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people." (vv. 22-38.)
The oil of holy ointment is given first. It was compounded, according to divine direction, from myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus, and cassia in their several proportions, mixed with an hin of olive oil. (vv. 23, 24.) The Psalmist, speaking of the Messiah, says, "All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia;" and in the preceding verse he says, "God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy Fellows." (Ps. 40: 7,8.) This will help us to understand the typical meaning of the holy anointing oil. The spices, then, speak of the graces of Christ. His very garments smell of these sweet perfumes. But they were mingled with oil, and oil, as has been frequently stated, is a figure of the Holy Ghost. Combining, then, these two things together, we learn that the graces of Christ — the moral fragrance of His excellencies — were expressed in the power of the Holy Ghost.
This holy anointing oil was used to anoint the tabernacle, the ark, and all the sacred vessels, the priests, etc. (vv. 26-30.) First, the tabernacle, etc., were anointed. This is of great significance. For looking at the tabernacle as the house of God, the scene of His manifestation, and the place of priestly service and worship, the fact that everything was anointed with the holy oil teaches that everything connected with the house of God, its regulation and service, all the priestly work carried on in it (see 1 Peter 2: 5), must be ordered in the power of the Holy Ghost, and that when so ordered it will be expressive of the sweet fragrance of Christ to God. For indeed it is in the power of the Spirit that God reveals Himself, and it is in the power of the Holy Ghost alone that worship and service can be rendered. If therefore everything connected with the house of God were arranged even according to His own word, and yet the holy anointing oil — the power of the Holy Spirit — were lacking, it could not be acceptable to Him. Notice also the effect — everything is sanctified, becomes through the anointing "most holy," so that whatever touches anything on which the oil has been put should likewise be deemed holy. (v. 29.) This is the effect of the action of the Spirit of God. Whatever His power rests upon is set apart for God, and everything that comes under His action, even by contact, is also claimed as holy. The whole sphere of His action is sanctified. (See 1 Cor. 7: 14.)
Aaron and his sons were also anointed. The significance of this has been explained in the consecration of the priests. But there is a special reason for its being introduced here in connection with the tabernacle. It is to point out — to emphasize — that the essential qualification for priestly service is the anointing and power of the Holy Ghost. Every other qualification may be possessed — born again, robed, and under the value of the blood; but if there be not, in addition to these things, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the priestly position cannot be truly occupied. Even our blessed Lord Himself is said to have been anointed with the Holy Ghost, and with power (Acts 10: 38), and all who are His must be so likewise if they would enjoy the privileges into which they have been introduced. The lesson is needful in a day of incessant activity, and of legal service on every hand. Let it then be ever remembered that, though children of God, we can neither worship nor serve apart from the present power and action of the Holy Spirit. (See John 4: 24; Phil. 3: 3.)
There are two warnings. First, "Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured." (v. 32.) This teaches that the Spirit of God cannot rest upon or dwell in the natural man. It is in direct violation of this truth that in ecclesiastical ordination unconverted men are professedly endowed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The anointing is never received until after the new birth and known forgiveness of sins. When we are justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are both anointed and sealed. (See Rom. 5: 1-5; 2 Cor. 1: 21, 22.) Secondly, no imitation of this anointing oil was to be made under the penalty of death. (v. 33.) It is thus a heinous sin to imitate the action of the Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira did this when they professed to devote the whole proceeds of the property they had sold to the Lord's service. (Acts 5) The same penalty, observe, was attached to putting it upon a stranger, upon those who had no title to it. God is holy, and He jealously guards His sovereign rights, and cannot but visit any infringement of them with punishment. If He seems now to pass by such sins unnoticed, it is owing to the character of the present dispensation — being one of grace; but the sins themselves are no less in His sight.
The sweet spices were also made into a perfume by divine direction, and will mean, as in the former case, the graces, the moral fragrance of Christ to God. It appears from Ex. 25: 6 compared with Ex. 35: 8, that these spices formed the sweet incense which was burnt upon the golden altar, as also indeed from the direction that it should be put "before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee." (v. 36.) This being the case, there is the additional thought that the graces of Christ were brought out through the action of the holy fire; that His exposure to the judgment of God's holiness (fire) upon the cross, as there made sin, did but bring out all that was most precious and fragrant to God. He was indeed never more precious in His eyes, His perfections were never more fully displayed, than when He proved His obedience to the uttermost in the very place of sin. Hence He could say, "Therefore doth My Father love me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." It was for God's glory that He passed through the fire of judgment, and in doing so all the "sweet spices" of His moral graces and the perfection of His entire devotedness were brought out, and ascended up as a sweet savour to God. On this account — because of the preciousness of its typical significance — it was to be beaten very small (for the more it was beaten the more was its fragrance emitted), and put before the testimony of the tabernacle of the congregation, where Jehovah met with Moses. Moses as the mediator would thus be before God in all the acceptability of this holy perfume; and hence God could meet him in grace, and communicate to him His mind and will for His people.
There is also in connection with this a warning with a penalty. None was to be made like it. This perfume was "most holy," "holy for the Lord." Whosoever therefore should make any like it, to smell thereto, should be cut off from his people. (v. 38.) Counterfeits of the graces of Christ, and finding satisfaction in these, are both an abomination before God. Just as we have seen that the lord guards against any imitation of the action or the power of the Holy Spirit, so here He also warns against any imitation of the fragrance and preciousness of Christ. Man can neither do the one or the other — whatever his pretences. But such is the subtlety of our hearts that we often deceive ourselves, as well as others, into the acceptance of the sweetnesses of nature, its grace and amiability, as the work of the Holy Ghost, as resemblances to Christ. There can be no likeness to Christ except as the result of the work of the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, as we have seen, is the gift of God. It would be, therefore, hypocrisy of the worst stamp to present knowingly to others any natural qualities, any human graces, the effect of training or cultivation, as the product of the Holy Ghost. Nothing can please God, and nothing should please us, which has not been wrought out by His Spirit for the glory of Christ.