Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com

 

 

 

 

Chapter 116

 

Brass Nails and Linen Cords

 

“The pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords.”

(Exodus 35:18)

 

While preaching in Australia more than 30 years ago, I ran into a man, a preacher, who, for some strange reason, objected to the fact that the whole Book of God is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2; Luke 24:27, 45-47). Thankfully, I don’t remember the man’s name. I only spoke to him briefly. But he mockingly asked me a question I could not answer at the time, a question I had never really considered. He said, with a smirk on his face, “If the whole Bible speaks of Christ, what was the purpose of the tent pins in the tabernacle.” I wasn’t embarrassed that I did not know the answer to his question. As I said, I had never really thought about the pins (nails) that were used to hold the tabernacle in place. But I said to myself then, “Perhaps, someday, the Lord will show me the meaning of those nails.”

 

            Well, that day has come. I am confident the Lord taught me, at least in part, the spiritual significance of those brass nails and linen cords that were used to erect and hold together the tabernacle. Here, listed among all the things God required Moses to make for the tabernacle are “The pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords.”

 

            The tabernacle was secured in its place by these 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 pins (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.” I point this out simply so that you will not think of these tabernacle pins as small things. They were large, brass stakes, driven deep into the ground.

 

Security

 

The first thing suggested by these brass nails is security. They were used to securely attach and 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.

 

            Like everything else connected with the tabernacle, those brass nails were typical of our Lord Jesus Christ. They 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. We are given clear indication of this in Isaiah 22, where our Lord Jesus is described as “a nail in a sure place.”

 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.” (Isaiah 22:20-24)

 

            We know this passage is talking about our blessed Savior, because he applies it to himself in Revelation 3:7. 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.

 

Stedfast Purpose

 

When we read about these brass nails that held the tabernacle in place, we should be reminded of the stedfast purpose and resolve of our Lord Jesus Christ. He faithfully and relentlessly pursued the path marked out for him by the counsels of God from everlasting, 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. He cried, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” and never turned to the right hand nor to the left. And though he experienced the deep feelings expressed in the 55th Psalm, he was never once inclined to forsake his purpose for coming into this world, his purpose to save us from our sins.

 

“My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” (Psalms 55:4-8)

 

            Jehovah’s faithful Servant, our dear Savior, refused to turn back from his mission. He refused to give up his work. He says…

 

“The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (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.” — Oh, the wondrous power of that weakness! — Oh, the marvellous victory of that death! — Oh, the eternal stability of our unchanging, unchangeable Christ! He was laid low in the depths of the grave, yet he was and is life itself and alive for evermore!

 

            The desert seemingly afforded a shifting foundation for a tabernacle of glory, but the solid sockets and nails of brass, driven deeply into the ground, made everything secure. So, it is our Lord Jesus Christ, the nail in a sure place, who secures all things for us. It is he and he alone who is our security.

 

“Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.” (Zechariah 10:4)

 

            Here are three references to the Lord Jesus. He is the Corner, the Nail, and the Battle Bow. He is the Chief Cornerstone and Headstone of the corner. He is the Battle Bow by whom we conquer and prevail over every foe. And he is the Nail that firmly secures all the eternal counsels of love, mercy, grace, and blessing of the Triune God and connects them with this earth. That means, that notwithstanding the desolation and ruin of such a wilderness as this world is, the purpose of God stands sure! No matter how barren this wilderness is, in Christ, with this Nail of Brass fixed in a sure place, covenant mercies constantly flow down in unceasing rivers of grace from our God in heaven.

 

Eliakim and Christ

 

Look at Eliakim, the man who typified our Savior as “a nail in a sure place.” God called Judah to repentance during the reign of Hezekiah. But the nation had no regard for God, his Word, or his prophet, because the leaders of the nation under Hezekiah were self-serving, godless men. The treasurer over the house of Israel, Shebna, was singled out by God for his sin. Shebna was as a nail in a sure place. But God pulled him down, destroyed him, and set up Eliakim in his place. Read Isiah 22:20-24 again.

 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.”

 

            This man, Eliakim, who was exalted in the place of Shebna, is set before us as a type and picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. When Shebna was removed, there was room for Eliakim. And Eliakim was fastened by God as a nail in a sure place. His name (Eliakim) means “my God shall establish or raise up.” Like Eliakim, our Lord Jesus Christ has been set up and fastened by God as “a nail in a sure place.” Upon him the triune God hangs his glory. And upon him we confidently hang the weight of our immortal souls.

 

            Clearly, this man, Eliakim, was a type of Christ. Remember, his name means “my God will raise up.” As he was raised up to be the ruler over the Lord’s house in the days of Hezekiah, so the Lord Jesus was raised up and exalted to be Head over all things for his church (John 17:1-4; Ephesians 1:21-23; Philippians 2:8-11). — Compare Isaiah 22:22 with Revelation 3:7.

 

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” (Isaiah 22:22)

 

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” (Revelation 3:7)

 

            The House of David is the church and kingdom of God. Christ is the Ruler, the King, the Sovereign of his kingdom. Christ is the only Way, the only Door of access into his kingdom. And When he opens, none can shut. — When he shuts, none can open. Christ’s throne is glorious in his Father’s house.

 

An Overthrow

 

In his exaltation, Eliakim was a type of Christ. But there is more, much more. Before Eliakim could be set up, Shebna had to be removed, cut off, and destroyed (Isaiah 22:17-21, 25). Shebna, who seemed to be fastened like a nail in a sure place had to be pulled out and discarded, so that Eliakim could be put in his place. Even so, in the experience of grace, in order for Christ to be established in the heart there must be an overthrow of someone else. The strong man must be bound, and the devils of self-righteousness must be cast out to make room for Christ in a man’s soul (Matthew 12:28-29). Whenever Christ comes into the heart, whenever he sets up his throne in the City of Mansoul there is a battle that takes place. Every rival to King Jesus must be cast out. He will share his throne with no one.

 

            All personal worth, merit, and righteousness must be pulled out, cast down, and torn to shreds. All men by nature have some kind of self-righteousness. There is no man so vile, but that he still wraps himself up in his rags of self-righteousness and comforts himself with the belief that his moral, spiritual, or religious goodness will stand him in good stead with God. Like Adam’s fig-leaf apron, your righteousness must be torn to shreds, every stitch unraveled! You cannot put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, until you have taken off your own (Philippians 3:1-10). Christ will never go shares in the business of salvation. As he was alone in his suffering, he will be alone in his saving.

 

            All self-confidence must be cast down, if you would trust Christ. Some seem to have the idea that we are to trust Christ for the past but look to ourselves for the future. Our only hope for the future is Christ. If I am kept, Christ is the one who keeps me (John 10:27-30). If I am lost, trusting him, Christ is the one who loses me!

 

            Having cast away all self-righteousness and self-confidence, we must continue to do so as long as we live in this world. Though in theory we recognize the evil of self-righteousness and despise it, it is always the darling idol of our sinful flesh. With both hands, we must pull it out, cast it down, and trample it under foot. We must look to Christ alone as our Savior. Christ is my Savior, not my faith. Christ is my Savior, not my repentance. Christ is my Savior, not my knowledge. Christ is my Savior, not my feelings. Christ is my Savior, not my faithfulness.

 

            As Eliakim was in the house of Hezekiah, so Christ in the palace of heaven is as “a nail in a sure place.” The picture here given is of a large, strong nail, fastened as a bracket, or an anchor in a wall, or a post, upon which you might with confidence hang anything.

 

            Christ is as a nail fastened by God himself. It is the Lord God who said, “I will fasten him as a nail.” He did it in eternity, at Calvary, and in his ascension. And he does it in the hearts of chosen, redeemed, heaven born sinners with the gift of faith.

 

            Here is a nail upon which you may confidently hang the weight of your immortal soul — Christ is the Mighty God! — Christ is the Mighty Redeemer! — Christ is the Mighty Savior! — Christ is the Mighty Advocate! The gospel is the proclamation of redemption by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3) and promises salvation to all who believe. Trust Christ alone and I tell you that, as God is true, you shall never come into condemnation. He is “a nail in a sure place!”  Our Lord Jesus Christ is as a nail fastened in a sure place. All the vessels of the Father’s house hang upon this one nail, Christ alone. He is the Nail that secures the whole tabernacle of God. As Eliakim was the glory of his father’s house, so the Lord Jesus Christ is all the glory of his Father’s house (Isaiah 22:23-24).

 

A Nail Proved

 

As those brass nails which held the tabernacle withstood every element of the earth, every storm, and the stress of every test, so our Lord Jesus Christ declares, “Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me” (Psalm 17:3). He was tempted in the wilderness, pressed hard in Gethsemane, and proved at Calvary. Like those brass nails, our blessed Savior was tempted, tested, and proved in all points, like as we are, yet without sin.

 

The Amen

 

Here then we have the Lord Jesus spoken of as a Nail, a Nail fastened in a sure place. It seems remarkable to me that the word translated “sure” is the same as the Hebrew word that is commonly translated “amen.” The Lord Jesus is the Nail because he is the Amen, the holy and the true, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.

 

            All “the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen.” They hang securely, utterly dependent on him like vessels of every capacity, filled with the wine of joy and blessing. And on him hangs all the glory of his Father’s house, the offspring and the issue. The nail driven down into earth in death, now raised up on high is all the strength of God’s house and God’s building.

 

 “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.” (Isaiah 33:20)

 

            As the tabernacle was firmly fixed by its nails of brass, so our souls, all the house of God and all God’s salvation are firmly fixed by Christ, the Nail in a sure place!

 

Linen Cords

 

But, if you read every passage in the Old Testament that mentions the tabernacle nails, you will see that the nails of brass and the linen cords were inseparable. Wherever there was a nail, there was a cord. Wherever there was a cord, there was a nail.

 

            The cords were fastened to the nails and stretched across the coverings. The cords were attached to the nails, holding everything tightly to the earth and holding the whole house of God tightly together, making it secure and complete. These cords set forth the drawing and holding power of our Lord Jesus Christ in his mighty love for his own. He calls them “bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). This is beautifully pictured in 2 Corinthians 5:14. The word “constraineth” signifies to “hold together.” If our union with Christ depended on our love for him, then the winds of circumstance would blow us apart. It is his unchanging love for the church that holds it together.

 

            The cords of love by which he draws us to himself are the powerful cords of love revealed in our crucified Savior (John 12:32-33). Someone suggested that the nails of brass speak of our Savior’s great and glorious person, and the cords speak of his work; and the two can never be separated. Another suggested that the nails refer to his accomplishments for us, and the cords refer to the Spirit’s work binding all together in the sweet revelation of his grace.

 

            The cords tied to the nails bound together as one all the parts of the tabernacle and secured everything! And so it is today. The crucified Christ, the Nail in the sure place, secures all the blessings of grace and salvation for all the house of God, for all God’s elect. God the Holy Spirit, applying the work of Christ to chosen, redeemed sinners, secures all grace to our hearts, as the earnest of our Salvation. And in Christ all who are born of the Spirit are one.

 

Something Better

 

Read Isaiah 53 and 54 and rejoice in something far better than the tabernacle in the wilderness with its brass nails and linen cords.

 

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-12)

 

      Read on…

 

“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. Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isaiah 54:1-5)

 

            The first time some smart-aleck asks you, “What was the purpose of the tent pins and cords?” You’ve got the answer. — They typified our Lord Jesus Christ, who by his accomplishments and by his Spirit secures the everlasting salvation of God’s elect and holds everything together. Because he is our mighty Nail in a sure place and the Linen Cords of his everlasting love that hold us together, all is well. God’s tabernacle cannot be moved. — Not by any wind of adversity! — Not by any attack of heresy! — Not by any flood of iniquity!

 

“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.” (Isaiah 33:20)

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Fortner’s

 

Audio Sermons

Video Sermons

Books

Itinerary