The Covering of Goats’ Hair
The outer covering of the tabernacle was made of badgers’ skin. The second covering was made of rams’ skin dyed red. The third covering was a curtain made of woven goats’ hair: “Then you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle” (Exo. 26:7).
When outsiders first see the church life, they may think it is rough and ugly, because they only see the badgers’ skin. When they look a little deeper, they wonder at how peaceful our life together is, but that is because of the rams’ skin dyed red. Since we are all sinners saved by grace living under the redeeming blood of Christ, we must give grace to one another. But when they see the covering of goats’ hair, they will be amazed. We, who are by nature destroyers of life, are being transformed to become a covering for God’s tabernacle.
Goats are extremely rough and unclean animals. They eat whatever they can find. They spoil and damage whatever is living by eating the roots of healthy plants and leaving the land barren. They represent something very displeasing to God. When the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will divide His sheep from the goats, and the goats will be cast away into eternal punishment (Matt. 25:31–46). Goats typify that part of sinful and fallen man that destroys the things of life.
The Living of the “Goats”
Many times we consider that being a sinner is only a personal matter, but too often it goes far beyond that. By nature, a goat destroys life and damages everything around it. It has no discernment about what it eats and no thought as to the consequences. To a goat, there is nothing called clean or unclean. Likewise, those believers who live like goats have no sense of what is godly and what is not. They do not know what is damaging and what builds up. They have no feeling about the harm they are doing to those around them.
The internet is full of things to eat, and most people have almost no discernment about what they take in. We may think it is just entertainment, but what we take in usually finds a way out. Often it comes out as gossip that distracts and even damages the ones around us. God may have been working some fine element of Christ into someone, but because of our goat-like looseness, that work is torn down (Rom. 14:20). Being a goat means that we have no awareness of the damage we are causing. We are just doing what goats do.
Perhaps we were watching a singing competition on television. The next day, we may tell a young one that the one singer was really bad, just like the sister sitting next to us in the meeting. From then on the young one will never respect that sister again, and will think about her singing instead of Christ whenever she sees her. Such a comment, like the work of a “goat,” causes damage and destroys life, but we may not even be aware of it.
Someone may be gifted in writing new hymns, but our comment is, “Why do we have to keep singing his songs? We don’t owe him anything!” From then on, the ones around us will not appreciate these new songs and their enjoyment of Christ in them will be destroyed.
No one is perfect. There will always be some problem to talk about, but not everything should be talked about. We should learn to cover one another in love and only speak those things that build up. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:23-24).
Once the goats have eaten, the land is barren and exposed to the wind and rain which carries it far away, doing even more damage. I have seen this myself in China where large herds of goats stripped acres of land of its vegetation. Not only did that make the ground there useless, but the dirt and sand blew into the cities hundreds of miles away, causing problems there as well.
Goats do local damage, but the effect can be far reaching. Something said about someone locally easily spreads to other churches. In this day of electronic communication, even oceans are no barrier. Things can be known on the other side of the world instantly. If the person who was the subject of the gossip then tries to travel to have fellowship elsewhere, the fellowship can be killed even before arriving.
This is fallen man. This is us apart from God’s salvation. Even if we feel we are a beautiful goat, we are still a goat, and God simply does not like goats. A goat does not just commit a sin. It is marked by ruthlessness, impulsiveness, and selfishness, driven by his fallen goat nature. Goats’ hair signifies the living out of such a life-destroying nature. It only takes one or two goats and the whole church can lose its peace and become unhealthy.
God’s Salvation from
Our “Goat” Nature
The good thing is that God has saved us. We may be beautiful goats or ugly goats, but our destiny can never be eternal punishment. Based on His own righteousness, God must accept us because all our punishment fell on Christ when He died for us on the cross. Christ not only accomplished redemption for us sinners, but also became sin to be judged by God on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
As fallen men, our living can be degraded, rough, offensive, and damaging to many people. Our living (the goats’ hair) is dirty, smelly, dusty, matted, and knotted with thorns. But praise the Lord! God is able to sort out our living, clean it, and eventually weave it into a covering for His testimony. This is a picture of the Lord’s transformation work upon us.
How amazing it is that God weaves people like us, who are so much like goats and far from God, into curtains of goats’ hair for His use. The apostles Peter, Paul, and John were all like this. Peter was always too quick to speak, Paul persecuted the church with his religious zeal, and John’s temper gave him the nickname “son of thunder.” Yet God transformed each of them into a curtain of goats’ hair useful for His building. If He could do that with them, there is hope for each of us.
Nothing is more beautiful than this. We should be amazed at how sinful we are, how anti-God we are, and how harmful we are to the saints we are with and to the church as a whole. We even damage ourselves without knowing it. But He has saved us and is now transforming us. Be assured, He will not allow us to take our “goat” nature into eternity. We must worship God and joyfully tell Him, “Oh God, I used to be hopeless, yet now I have hope. I used to be incurable, yet now I live. I used to be wild and rude, yet now I am meek and able to be woven together with all those who love You and serve You. Because of Your saving and transforming work, all we who were formerly so much like goats are becoming the curtains protecting the testimony of Your church.”
Processed Goats’ Hair
The goats’ hair represents our living. No matter if we are lovely goats or rough goats, we are still goats, and that means that we unknowingly damage the very thing we want to build up. We love our Lord and want to see His church established as the glorious testimony He desires. Yet we are goats and nothing good can come from us. We are always covered with dirty, smelly, dusty, matted goat hair. That means that our living is dirty, smelly, dusty, and matted. Nothing with us works. Everything comes up short.
Somehow God is able to take what we are with all our failures and process it, until He eventually turns it into useful material. Then, from this material, He makes a curtain of goats’ hair to cover His tabernacle. This is amazing. We should not try to fail, but God is able to use even our failures. Whatever comes out of us is material for God to work with.
Cashmere is made from goats’ hair, and it is a very desirable material for sweaters, blankets, and other warm things. Those who have worn cashmere clothing know how comfortable it is. Yet this warm, soft material came from a dirty animal that uprooted and destroyed everything in its path. It is the processing of the hair that made the difference. God is amazingly good at processing the fruit of our living, no matter how goat-like it is. We should all take encouragement from this.
The psalmist wrote, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psa. 130:3). This is true. If God began to count our failures, no one could stand. The psalmist then continued, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (v. 4). God, in His mercy, put the goats’ hair covering directly under the covering of rams’ skin dyed red. All our goat-like nature and all our goat-like deeds are covered by His blood. This is His forgiveness in His mercy.
The psalmist says that we should fear the Lord as a result of His forgiveness. This means that we should not try to take advantage of His forgiveness by sinning willfully. Paul said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” (Rom. 6:1-2). We should never purposely allow ourselves to be unnecessarily goat-like. We have no right to do wrong. But we have to realize that our very person is wrong. Because of this, whatever comes out of us can be goat-like. We should always guard ourselves from doing harm to those around us, but we are goats, and harm will come. How wonderful it is that God can take even that and use it for His tabernacle. He makes the non-profitable thing to become very profitable. He gains us, works on us, uses us, and weaves whatever grows out of us into the further protection and covering of His church.
We should tell the Lord, “I want the fruit of my living to become a covering of goats’ hair that blesses the church I’m in, the churches I’m serving, and the children of God I’m with.” The Lord is looking for those with such a desire.