Brass Nails and Linen Cords
“The pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords.”
The tabernacle was secured in its place by brass pins (nails) and linen cords. The nails were driven into the ground and the cords were stretched over the outer covering of badgers’ skins, tying everything securely in place, much like we use nails and cords to secure a tent to the ground today. We are specifically told that these nails were made of brass (Exodus 27:19; 38:20). Though we are not specifically told that the cords were linen, the only materials that could have been used to make these cords were blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen (Exodus 35:5-19).
The word “pin” is the same word that is translated “nail” in the Book of Judges (4:21, 22; 5:26). You will remember that Heber’s wife, Jael, drove a tent pin, an iron nail, through Sisera’s temples, firmly attaching his head to the ground. In Isaiah 33:20 and 54:2 the same word is translated “stake.” The tabernacle pins are not small brads, but huge, brass stakes, driven deeply into the ground.
The first thing suggested by these brass nails is security. They were used to securely fasten the tabernacle and its court to the earth. So securely was it fastened that we never read that it was even slightly disturbed by all the strong winds it must have endured during all the years of Israel’s sojourn through the wilderness. Many of the things inside the tabernacle (the showbread, the candlestick, the censer) might have been easily swept away with high winds or a flood of waters. But that never happened.
The brass nails were typical of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is set before us as “a Nail in a sure place.” The tabernacle nails were made of brass, a material that could not be corrupted, though the nails were driven deep into the ground. They withstood all the elements of the earth. Clearly, they typified our blessed Savior (Isaiah 22:23; Revelation 3:7), who alone is the blessed security of his people. It is he alone who has the key of David and he alone who when he opens no man can shut, and when he shuts no man can open.
When you read about these brass nails that held the tabernacle in place, let them remind you of the stedfast purpose and resolve of our Lord Jesus Christ. He faithfully and relentlessly pursued the path marked out for him as our Surety in the Counsels of the Triune God, even though that path ended in the storm of divine judgment and in the billows of infinite wrath. Neither the fierce attacks of the tempter, nor the anticipation of the death he had to die turned him aside from the settled purpose of his heart. — “I come to do thy will O God.” And though he experienced the deep feelings expressed in Psalm 55:4-8, he was never once inclined to forsake his purpose for coming into this world, his purpose to save us from our sins (Isaiah 50:5-7).
What faith and faithfulness he exemplified all the days of his life! He knew how to cast his burden upon Jehovah, upon God who shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. His heart was fixed, and God was his exceeding joy.
Behold the God-man, your Savior, fully God and fully man, fully man and fully God! — Weak, yet immovably firm. — Himself the Mighty God, yet dependent for everything on God his Father. — Setting his face stedfastly toward Jerusalem in order to suffer there; and crying out in deep distress, “O my Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me! nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” — Upholding all things by the word of his power, even while exclaiming, “I am a worm and no man.” — Laid low in the depths of the grave, yet life itself and alive for evermore! — Oh, the wondrous power of that weakness! Oh, the marvellous victory of that death! Oh, the eternal stability of our unchanging, unchangeable Christ! He is “a Nail in a sure place.” Upon him we confidently hang the weight of our immortal souls.
The tabernacle in the wilderness is commonly and rightly recognized as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ and God’s salvation in and by our blessed Redeemer. However, the Word of God also uses the tabernacle as a type and picture of the church of God. In Isaiah 54 the church is urged to carry the gospel into all the world with joy and singing, fully confident that all for whom Christ Jesus suffered and died shall be saved by his grace.
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 54:1-3)
In Isaiah 33:20 the Spirit of God assures us that not one of God’s elect shall perish, using the brass nails and linen cords of the tabernacle to symbolize that sweet assurance of our everlasting security in Christ. — “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” Every true believer is a “stake” or pillar in the house of God, which shall never be removed (Revelation 3:12). The cords by which God’s elect are all held together as one are the linen cords of God’s everlasting love (Hosea 11:4).
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