Length, 222 pages (including appendix). Published 2012, Reformation Trust.
In Exodus 35, Moses takes up an offering for property to be used in the building of the wilderness Tabernacle. In chapter 35, we begin the account of the building of the tabernacle. Earlier chapters discuss the lampstand, the bronze altar, the showbread, the courtyard. This description of curtain rings and animal skins and golden vessels can easily be bewildering; and at first seems like a great deal of detail for little purpose.
It is that purpose which Hyde seeks to explain.
In 17 chapters, Hyde methodically works through the details of the tabernacle. The chapters follow a basic plan and are structured like a series of short sermons. Each chapter begins with a quotation of the applicable text. There follows an introductory statement which demonstrates the importance of particular aspect of the tabernacle. In good sermonic fashion, there are three points concerning the item which are detailed, together with application.
By way of illustration, I will take one chapter from the middle of the book. Chapter 7 concerns the Bronze altar. The essential purpose of the altar is to teach us and remind us of our need to resolve our conflict with God on the basis of justice and mercy. Hyde develops this theme through three points: Satisfaction, Confession and Substitution.
Satisfaction: There is a conflict between us and God which must be resolved: there must be satisfaction for our sin. Hyde highlights the fire which is to be kept always burning on the altar. That fire was originally started by God. That fire needed a constant satisfaction, “The fire of the altar needed to be satisfied constantly lest it be extinguished.” Hyde then draws in the observation from Hebrews, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28.
From that, Hyde applies the doctrine by means of reference to the Heidelberg Catechism. Hyde makes frequent reference to Reformation Confessions and Catechisms. This makes work constantly practical and applicable.
The reference to confessional documents anchors Hyde’s doctrine and protects against the fear that he is going too far or has become fanciful in his observations about the elements of the Tabernacle. Even if one were to think a particular observation as mistaken (Hyde is quite judicious in his reading; and I never found him outlandish, but some may feel strange thinking that the rim on the table for the bread is an illustration of perseverance by God’s sovereign act), there is never a fear that his doctrine has gone afield.
Next Hyde comes to Confession: When the sacrifice was presented, the one making the offering placed their hands upon the animal’s head. In Leviticus 16:21, we are told that when offering the animal the priest would confess the sins of the people. Wenham also notes that a prayer was offered with the sacrifice.
From this act, Hyde discusses the doctrine of repentance (with reference to the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Book of Common Prayer).
The final section speaks to the substitution of the sacrifice for the sinner offering the animal. At this point, Hyde makes an insightful application:
Do you ever get that nagging feeling that you are just not doing enough? To need to be better person, to be more generous with your time and money, to be more patient, more loving, more forgiving – and the list goes on. You have these feelings because you are guilty. But there is nothing you can do to take away that guilt; there is no point in trying harder. (111).
This gives a fair example of the structure and content of the book. The tone of the book overall is pastoral. It reads like a well-thought-out sermon. The book is not aimed at academics nor is it aimed at those who are seeking Christian pablum and entertainment. It is a serious book; but not a difficult book. It will demand attention, but it is not beyond the average reader.
It also fills a useful need. There are very few mediations nature: it does not seek to explain all of the ANE parallels, but rather seeks to draw out the spiritual lesson of the building. Indeed, I have only one other book in this vein (Soltau’s The Tabernacle, printed in 19th Century). It is ideally structured for personal devotion (indeed, the book should be digested, not merely referenced), small groups or even as a source book for a preacher (he has an appendix for those who may preach Moses’s books).