V Gold and Silver
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
The materials offered by the Sons of Israel for the construction of the tabernacle represent those spiritual things of which the Church or the Kingdom of God is formed in the human mind. It is significant that they were twelve in number, for everywhere in the Word the number twelve signifies all things of the Church in one complex.1
One of the indications of how minute was the operation of the Divine Providence in providing a purely representative building is that exactly twelve different materials were employed in its construction. The gifts brought by the children of Israel at the command of Moses were gold, silver, copper, linen, wool, rams' skins, badgers' skins, shittim wood, oil, spices, onyx stones, and stones for the breastplate of Aaron. Each of these represents some spiritual constituent of the Church. But they especially represent those spiritual things which are provided by the Lord during the period of childhood and youth, before regeneration begins, as the necessary means by which it may be inaugurated. They represent remains stored in the mind, without which spiritual faith and a genuine religion in adult age would be impossible of attainment. No man could receive spiritual blessings nor enter upon the life of religion which leads to heaven after death, unless during childhood the Lord prepared the way arid secretly provided the necessary means. For this reason heavenly affections are insinuated before any one can be aware of their nature, or of their great importance. "For so He giveth His beloved in sleep." (Psalm 127:2) Indeed, regeneration is a Divine miracle which the Lord must perform individually for every man. We are born into complete ignorance; we live by means of knowledges which come from without through the senses of the body. By this gateway we have touch only with the material world. Manifest sensations of spiritual things cannot be granted during childhood. How then can any knowledge or acknowledgment of God and of heaven be imparted? It is true that children can be taught about spiritual things, but such teaching merely enters the memory and is there retained without being understood. Whatever a child may learn from others is imposed upon him without any choice of his own. Only that which he acquires for himself by his own experience, and confirms by individual reflection becomes part of his life. When one becomes adult, and for the first time begins to think for himself, he inevitably interprets what he has been taught in the light of his personal experience. He then selects and retains from earlier teaching those things that appear to him to be true, and either ignores, or rejects the rest. Because he is primarily interested at that time in achieving some worldly ambition, the truths of religion seem visionary, like the fairies, the goblins, and the sprites of childhood's fancy. They may be remembered with tolerant affection, but they appear to have no important bearing upon the serious concerns of adult life. It is to some such state as this that every man would come unless the Lord provided him with the materials out of which a living faith and worship could be built. Such materials are actual sensations, living perceptions, as real and as inherently convincing as are the sight and hearing and touch of material objects. Yet they are sensations of what is spiritual, derived not from nature nor from other people but from direct contact with the spiritual world.2
Here is an apparent contradiction which must be explained if we would come to realize the wonder of the Lord's operation for the salvation of men. We said that children can have no understanding except that which comes from sense experience, and now we say that the Lord provides throughout childhood internal sensations from the spiritual world, and that without these it would be impossible to establish a spiritual faith in adult age. Nor is the contradiction avoided by saying that these internal sensations are not to be so called because children are unaware of their source. What can possibly be meant by this? Surely to be unconscious is to be without sensation; and to feel sensation is to be conscious. Yet it is a universal teaching of the Writings that all sensation is both natural and spiritual. Although it comes from the world of nature it affects the mind or spirit, and this affection is not only determined by the bodily senses but also, and more potently, by what we call the state of mind. That is, by the things that are felt from within. Man is actually living in two worlds. He has not only a material environment on earth, but also a spiritual environment, and he is in living touch with both of theseat all times. Nothing can be consciously sensed in the world of nature without presenting before the mind an idea, a mental picture; and at once into this mental picture there inflows from the spiritual world an affection, an emotion or desire that is not inherent in the material object, but is imposed by the spirits who are present with the man. This affection is actually a spiritual sensation although it appears to be a part of the material touch. Psychology reveals that every material sensation is qualified by a man's state of mind. The same object may be felt as delightful in one state, and as unpleasant and repulsive in another. We can have no conscious mental life that does not involve both a material sensation and a state of mind. Consciousness arises only when two forces meet, one from the material world, and the other from the spiritual world. Children, however, do not reflect upon their mental states. They naturally attribute all that they feel to the material objects from which the sensation comes. So far as they are aware, the only world is the material world, and yet without realizing it, together with bodily sensations, they are experiencing a continual touch with spiritual things and this makes a deep impression upon their mind. From this arises the delight which they feel in physical sensation. All such delights are stored up in the memory as part and parcel of their actual experience, and by means of them spiritual things later can be felt and perceived as real. These are what are called in the Writings, "remains." They are derived from angels and spirits and by means of them every one at adult age is inaugurated into the beginnings of spiritual life. Whenever there is a sphere of worship present; when the Word is read, and its stories are impressed on the mind as holy; or when the Lord's Prayer is repeated with reverence, angels draw near. A state of mind is induced which fills these external forms with the affections of heaven, with delights which the child does not understand but which he remembers, and to which he later seeks to return. All such states taken together serve to open to man a perception of things Divine and heavenly when the mind has been prepared by growth to receive it.
All these "remains" are represented by the twelve materials offered for the building of the tabernacle. The state of childhood in which they are unconsciously received and stored up is represented in the sacred story by the period of bondage in Egypt. It is a state of dependence upon parents and teachers, and therefore of obedience to external control. Strange as it may seem only by learning obedience can anyone be prepared for a state of freedom. This is because, only by obeying the law of the Lord can anyone be truly free. While they were in bondage to the Egyptians, the sons of Israel increased in numbers enormously. Although they received no material reward for their labor, they were nevertheless enriched in a way that was wholly unsuspected. By obedience to their taskmasters they were prepared to obey the commandments of Jehovah. On this their whole future as a nation depended. It was represented by the "jewels of silver and the jewels of gold" that the sons of Israel borrowed from the Egyptians on the eve of their departure for the land of Canaan. This borrowed wealth was later offered for the building of the tabernacle. So also, the "remains" of childhood constitute a fund of spiritual wealth without which a dwelling place of the Lord could not be established in the human mind.
The first gift brought as a free-will offering was gold.
It represents the delight of love to the Lord,3 insinuated, as above explained, during infancy and childhood: This love is the universal and all-embracing affection that reigns in heaven. Children cannot see the Lord and cannot know Him in any interior sense, for the knowledge of God is wisdom, and to this they have not yet attained. But in all their states of innocence angels are present who are in wisdom, and whose delight is love to the Lord, and in their presence the children feel their delight as if it were their own. Especially do they feel it in connection with all things that are holy, with the Word, with prayer, with the externals of ritual and of worship. Because children are in innocence, and because as yet the evils present with them by heredity lie dormant, the effect of these holy things is more powerful with them than it is with adults. When thinking of the Lord as their Heavenly Father, they innocently acknowledge His many blessings with a sense of childish gratitude. This is most powerful in early infancy, and becomes less constant and less effective in its appeal as they grow older. And yet the delight remains beneath all the shifting states through which they pass, and it moves the mind at adult age toward the acknowledgment of the Lord and the reception of faith in Him. This unconscious leading of the Divine is involved in the words of the Lord with reference to little children: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)
This love to the Lord instilled during childhood by means of what is holy is here meant by gold; and its quality is further described by the amount of the offering given. Every number that is mentioned in the Word expresses some quality which is to be ascribed to the object that is numbered. So here the number of talents and of shekels required as a gold offering describes the quality of that love to the Lord which is meant by the gold here mentioned. The sum of the gold offering was said to be twenty-nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels. (Exodus 38:24) The number twenty-nine signifies remains stored in full measure; the number seven hundred represents what is holy; and the number thirty signifies temptation.4 The whole number therefore represents the affections of love to the Lord and of charity that are insinuated during childhood, and recalled at adult age when first spiritual temptations begin. So would these numbers, when mentioned in connection with the gold of the tabernacle, be understood in heaven. Interpreted in terms of present-day values, this amount of gold would be equal in weight to 3158 pounds 4 ounces avoirdupois. Its monetary value would be approximately $1,667,556. This would require an average offering worth $2.76 from each of the 603,550 fighting men in the congregation.5
The second material offered was silver, and this represents the truth or the spiritual light which results from love to the Lord. For love is like a flame from which light radiates. The quality of the truth which man perceives is determined by the quality of the love that is active in his mind. Truth is but the form by which love expresses itself. It is the means by which love accomplishes its end. The truth which appears as a light radiating from the flame of love to the Lord is the truth of heaven, the law of spiritual life, especially as contained in the Divine Word. No one would be able to see this truth unless love to the Lord were insinuated during childhood. When the mind becomes mature, and when a sufficient store of knowledge and experience has been acquired, the light of spiritual truth first dawns.6 It has been present before, but it was enwrapped by ideas of space and time, and material qualities. As these are removed, especially by reading and reflection upon the teaching of the Word, the hidden truth comes into view. At first it is perceived only in faint glimmerings; but these inspire further study, which leads to the building of the tabernacle. Such is the meaning of the silver offering.
This opening of the spiritual mind cannot begin before adult age is reached because although knowledge can be learned from others, truth cannot. It can come only from the Lord to each one. It can be derived only from the Word. Each one must seek it there for himself.
The letter of the Word is of course learned during childhood, and its stories may then be remembered with delight. But their spiritual significance will not be seen. There are, of course, certain truths that lie open even in the letter. These are compared to the hands and face, which are bare when the rest of the body is clothed. That there is a God; that He is One; that He is wise, and merciful, and all-powerful; that He has given commandments that must be obeyed, these and many similar truths can be understood by children. From them a childish conscience can be formed. But they will be understood only in relation to external things, to physical acts, and outward behavior. Their spiritual implications will not be perceived. Nevertheless, they are the means of preparing children and young people to search for a deeper understanding, when adult age is reached. They represent what was called "the price of redemption."7 Every man among the sons of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, was required to give a bekah, or half a shekel of silver (in value about $.33) as a "ransome for his soul." (Exodus 38:26) The rich were not to give more, and the poor were not to give less. This was to be given for the service of the tabernacle. Because there were 603,550 fighting men in the congregation at the time the tabernacle was built, and because there were 3000 shekels of silver in a talent, the total amount of this metal was 100 talents and 1775 shekels. In modern money this would be worth about $195,146.54.8
The gold offering represented love to the Lord, and the silver offering represented a conscience of right and wrong, both of these being derived from the Word. They are Divine gifts because they are insinuated by influx from heaven. Yet they can be enriched, and made more effective through the cooperation of parents and teachers with the Lord in the education of their children.