By Titus Chu
Gold, Acacia Wood, and Silver
God told Moses, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exo. 25:8–9). God gave Moses the pattern of the tabernacle while he was on Mount Sinai. This tabernacle was to be God’s testimony, and to construct it, God required that the children of Israel offer specific building materials. Each of these materials has profound spiritual meaning.
The materials God required for the construction of the Tabernacle included gold, which represents God Himself, acacia wood, which represents profound, solid humanity, and silver, which represents the redemption of Christ. They also included bronze, which represents God’s judgment, and fine linen which represents the living out of the fine humanity of Christ. All of these items together present a marvelous picture of God’s work in the church life for our growth to become His corporate testimony.
Gold was used throughout the Tabernacle. It covered the boards and the ark, and was used to make much of the furniture. If we were inside the tabernacle, gold would almost be the only thing we see. Light from the golden lampstands would reflect off every golden wall, bathing us in golden light. Of course it makes sense that God’s testimony would contain so much gold, because gold represents God and His divine nature. If we see no gold, no God, then it cannot be God’s testimony.
Acacia Wood—Solid Humanity
The Tabernacle is the richest expression of God’s desire in the entire Old Testament. It contains both gold and acacia wood—both God and man. Of course God is essential, but we may never have realized that man is crucial also.
There are different kinds of acacia trees. Some are big and tall, able to provide lumber and boards, while others are short and scrubby like a bush. One thing they all have in common are very long thorns. If you would look at a picture of these thorns, you would be impressed with their size. Because of these thorns, most animals cannot eat them.
Most of us today are like the short, scrubby acacia tree. The apostle Paul observed, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Cor. 1:26). The Lord does not seem to choose big, tall spiritual acacia trees.
Dare any of us say that we’re a tall, grand acacia tree, ready to be used by God for the building of His testimony? All that we can say is that we are little shrubs. While we don’t seem to have much, we do have good thorns. When movies want to capture us, our thorns come out to chase them away. When our computer or smart phone tries to waste our time with devilish things, our thorns come out to save us. Because of this, even in the harsh environment of the wilderness, we are able to grow.
If some among us did grow really big, there is a danger we would overly appreciate them and begin to worship them. The church might become their testimony instead of God’s. Christians love their leaders to the point that they can sometimes idolize them. They think that their church has a future as long as certain great leaders are with them. While we need mature ones among us, they should not raise themselves above others.
We shouldn’t compete to see who is a taller acacia tree. If we should compete, it should be to see who’s thorns are stronger. Don’t say that you’re greater, more talented, or more gifted. Say you have really good thorns. When Satan comes to devour you, your thorns resist him and make him flee. This is to be acacia wood.
Silver—The Redemption of Christ
God requires profound, solid humanity for His testimony, but unfortunately, our humanity is unqualified for this. God wants to use us, and we want to be used, but the quality of our humanity is too weak. We are fallen by nature, which makes us selfish with no ability to confront difficulties or temptations. We may even find it hard to be with other believers. We too easily change and cannot stand firm for what the Lord has given us. That’s not acacia wood.
So what does God do? He sets these unqualified boards of acacia wood on sockets made of silver (Exo. 26:19). We stand firmly for the Lord’s testimony based uniquely on the redemption of Christ. We are also connected together by silver bands, or bars (27:10). Based on the redemption of Christ, these unqualified acacia boards become qualified.
It is hard to be with the brothers in the church life. Every seemingly heavenly person is sometimes pretty fleshly. One brother may be very sweet and give you everything you need. He will be your mother, your father, and your servant. A second brother may be scary, demanding, and quick to lose his temper. A third brother is so capable but likes to keep the status quo, while a fourth is always full of ideas and eager to get things moving. How can God build His testimony using boards like this? Only by setting them each in a silver base and connecting them with silver bars. Without Christ’s redemption it would be impossible. When one board starts to fall, the others catch him. When one wants to run away, the others hold him. We all stand together in and by the redemption of Christ.
The Boards—One and a Half Cubits Wide
As boards in the tabernacle, each of us is only one and a half cubits wide (Exo. 26:16). No matter how long we have been saved or how gifted we are, we cannot be any wider. The half cubit measure shows that we are incomplete by ourselves. No matter how beautiful we are as boards, none of us can be God’s testimony by ourselves.
We each need at least one other board, also measuring one and a half cubits, so that we together can add up to a complete three. We will be held together by the silver socket and the silver bar of Christ’s redemption to bear God’s testimony. This is the principal in the church life: we are each only one and a half and therefore need a companion who is also one and a half.
Sometimes we do something that turns out well, and others begin to appreciate us. If we listen to their appreciation, we may in our own eyes begin to grow wider. Before long we think we are two cubits wide and our companions are only one. Eventually we may come to believe that we are three whole cubits wide and no longer have need of anyone. We may have the teaching that we are members one of another, but in our thinking and practice it is no longer so. We are living under an illusion brought on by our pride. If we try to act on our own and God has mercy on us, we will quickly realize that we are still only one and a half cubits and greatly need Christ’s redemption as the silver socket and bars to keep us attached to others. Once we are attached, we are protected and able to go on in a healthy way.
If you were to ask me how many times in my Christian life I have failed, how many times I have offended Christ, or how many times I have disgraced God’s salvation, I would have to confess that it has happened many times. If I only fail three times in a day, that would be an overcoming day. Then why am I still here? I must testify that ever since I was saved in high school, I had other boards beside me. The boards changed as I moved from one place to another, but there were always boards. Sometimes the boards made me happy, and at other times they were a torture, but they were always my salvation and blessing. God kept me by means of these boards.
The Lord was very wise in presenting such a picture to us through the tabernacle. We would perhaps never know what it means to become God’s testimony without it. May we grow into the full experience of every aspect.