By Titus Chu
The Covering of Badgers’ Skin
According to Exodus 26:1, the main covering of the tabernacle was the fine twisted linen:
Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen.
This verse seems to say that the entire tabernacle was to be made of this linen, making it the main item. But the verses that follow indicate three additional layers that were to be placed on top of the linen covering:
Then you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle….You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins above”
– Exodus 26:7, 14
The goats’ hair covering lay directly on the fine twisted linen, followed by the rams’ skin dyed red, and, on the very top, the porpoise skins, often translated “badgers’ skins.”
These four layers represent four conditions in our spiritual life. We can consider them from the inside out as Exodus 26 does, or from the outside in which is more according to our experience. Since the ark of God is in the holy of holies, God’s view starts from the linen covering on the inside. Since the people of God stood in the outer court and beyond, our view starts from the badgers’ skin on the outside.
Ugly in Appearance
The first thing that impresses everyone about badgers’ skin is how ugly it is. It is dark, rough, and seems to have nothing to appreciate. We have to wonder why God would choose such material for the outside of His tabernacle where everyone would see it. Why would He not choose to make it glorious using precious materials such as in Saint Peter’s Cathedral? In contrast to such religious buildings, God hid all the glory on the inside, and made the outside of something men would despise.
When I was a young Christian I read, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday” (Psa. 37:6). I was so happy. My life, I thought, was going to get brighter and brighter until I would eventually shine like the noonday sun and everyone would appreciate how spiritual I had become. But for some reason, as time went on, I became uglier and uglier and many bad things have been said about me. Instead of becoming bright and golden, I had become badgers’ skin.
A government official in China once said to me, “Oh, Mr. Chu, you’re very famous. I went to the Internet. There are so many articles about you.” I dared not ask him if the articles said good or things or bad things. If they were good, I would be very embarrassed. If they were bad, they would insult my dignity. When anyone begins to admire or appreciate me a little, I get a bit nervous. If I’m a spiritual man, I should give people a feeling that I am the ugly badgers’ skin. This doesn’t go with our concept.
Badgers’ skin represents the true appearance of Christ. The Bible describes Him in this way:
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
– Isaiah 53:2-3
Those who saw Christ as a man in the flesh thought He looked far older than His years. Though He was in His early thirty’s, they thought He was close to fifty (John 8:57).
Eventually, almost nobody liked Him. He was not as handsome as many think or as many artists have painted him. Of course, He was not necessarily ugly, but He was common. There was nothing outwardly attractive about Him that would cause others to admire Him. This was true of Christ, and it is just as true of the church and of those who serve Him according to the picture of the tabernacle. Those who want to follow the Lord and give their lives to Him should be prepared to become despised badgers’ skin in the eyes of others.
Durable in Function
The outer covering of badgers’ skin served a valuable function for the tabernacle. It was tough and could endure all kinds of weather. It stood against the beating desert sun, the pounding rain and hail, and the strong wind with its sandstorms. It was durable, strong, and firm. As such, it served as a needed protection to the tabernacle with its contents. This is much more important than the outward appearance.
While badgers’ skin represents the appearance of Christ, and many people rejected Christ because of His appearance, what He looked like was never the main point. There were some, such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who looked beyond His common appearance and discovered who He really was. Over the years many, including we ourselves, have made the same discovery and taken refuge from the storms by hiding in Him. He is durable, strong and firm.
God sees the church according to its content, which is glorious and precious. At the same time, the outward testimony of the church before man is not at all glorious, but is covered by a tough Christ who can resist all storms and bear the heat of the day. This is the visible testimony of a healthy church.
People should not be impressed by a grand building or stately liturgy. That is not the church. Our meeting halls are functional but not at all impressive. Rather, people should be impressed with the One in whom we have taken refuge, the Christ who is the content of the church.
It is the same with the testimony of individual Christians who are full of the constitution of Christ. We think transformed people should appear so holy and glorious. But no matter how spiritual people are, their outward appearance is only badger skin. On the one hand they are just people, perhaps not impressive at all, but if their content is Christ, there is something that should be appreciated.
Sometimes those who serve the Lord do well accidentally, and pride starts to come in. At such times, the Lord is faithful to remind them that they are just ugly badgers’ skin. People even said of the apostle Paul:
His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.
– Second Corinthians 10:10
His weighty and strong letters were the toughness of the badgers’ skin, but his unimpressive presence and contemptible speech were its ugliness.
Those who are spiritual should not live among the saints by form or comeliness but by the tough and strong humanity of Christ. Then they can bear whatever comes and defend against any attack as did the apostle Paul. When the weakness of some gets exposed or some young ones get troubled, they can bear them up, cover them, and give encouragement to go on. When criticism or false teaching tries to creep in, they can strongly stand for the Lord with no compromise.
May the Lord produce many with the testimony of badgers’ skin among us!