The Corner Boards
For the rear of the tabernacle, to the west, you shall make six boards. You shall make two boards for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear. They shall be double beneath, and together they shall be complete to its top to the first ring; thus it shall be with both of them: they shall form the two corners. – Exodus 26:22–24
The two corner boards at the rear of the tabernacle were special. They were in some ways unlike all the other boards, and they were very necessary to hold the entire structure together. Without them, each of the walls may have been complete, but they would not have been attached to each other. A strong wind would have easily blown the whole thing down.
The six standard boards that made up most of the back were each one and one half cubits wide, so together they only made nine cubits. Since the back of the tabernacle was ten cubits wide, the missing cubit had to be divided between the two corner boards, making them only one half cubit wide each. They were also ten cubits high, just like the other boards. We might think that such a tall, narrow board would be weak, but the Bible tells us that these boards were somehow doubled, giving them added strength. Many scholars have puzzled over how this doubling was done and what it looked like, but our concern should be more with the spiritual significance.
These two corner boards are similar to the cornerstone used by God in the building of the church. This cornerstone is uniquely Christ as He joins the two walls of the Jewish and Gentile believers into one building (Eph. 2:20). However, the corner boards used in the tabernacle are not simply Christ, as shown by the fact that they were doubled. This doubling indicated that they are divinity and humanity put together. They are God plus man.
The New King James version says the corner boards “shall be coupled together at the bottom and they shall be coupled together at the top” (Exo. 26:24). The words “coupled together” show a proper understanding—the corner boards are actually two boards, God and man, put together.
Containing the Blessing
Every church should have corner boards. These are quite often the brothers and sisters responsible for the church and its testimony. They have grown in life, know the truth, and stand with God for what He wants.
Without these boards, there are gaps at the corners, and so the grace that God brings in cannot be kept. It all blows right through. “Corner board” brothers and sisters know how to stop these leaks and contain the blessing God intended for the church. If there is a special speaking that they sense is from the Lord, they know how to cooperate with that word to make it a reality among the saints. If they see God begin to move in the way of the gospel, they know how to mobilize the saints to capture the moment. Without such corner boards, it is possible that no one would even notice God’s blessing as it blew through, much less capitalize on it. A church with corner boards is a blessed church.
Corner boards also protect the church in times of suffering and turmoil. Because of them, the walls are connected and the church can continue to stand in spite of everything that comes against it. Church history is full of examples of corner board brothers and sisters strongly encouraging the saints in times of persecution. They are the ones that make sure the house is built on the rock, so when the rain falls, the floods come, and the wind blows, it does not fall (Matt. 7:25).
Joined and United
Darby’s translation uses two very helpful words to describe these corner boards: joined and united. It says,
Two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear; and they shall be joined beneath, and together shall be united at the top thereof to one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.
– Exodus 26:23–24
They are, according to Darby, joined at the bottom and united at the top, with a gold ring in the center. The gold ring was so that these boards could be attached to the other back boards by the golden bar. It is hard to picture exactly what this looked like in the Old Testament tabernacle, but when we consider in application what it means to be a corner board in the church today, it is profound.
Every servant of the Lord has a life before God and before man. To be joined with the Lord is to be firmly, inseparably one with the Lord in life. This makes such corner board brothers and sisters very rich in spiritual things. To be united is to be one with the Lord in operation, and this is what others see. They know exactly what the Lord wants to do and act in unison with Him. To be joined is inward—it is who they are. To be united is outward—it is what they do. Both are tied tightly to the Lord.
Every person has an inside and an outside. Our inside is hard for anyone to know because we always guard it. Even after being married for years, it may be hard for a couple to say they really know what is inside of each other. Yet the word “joined” indicates that these corner board brothers and sisters know the Lord inside just as the Lord knows them. In fact, they and the Lord are one in this inward life. In contrast, our outside is visible to everyone and is easily known by how we act and what we do. The word “united” indicates that these corner board brothers and sisters act in unison with the Lord. What He does, they do.
It is important that we who serve the church be joined to the Lord inwardly. Then, if we say that the Lord has led us in a certain way, everyone can have confidence in that word. Without a good inside, whatever we do outwardly does not work. The Lord said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Everything we do without abiding in Him counts for nothing. If we’re not joined to the Lord inwardly, how can we provide the saints with a proper direction and operation outwardly? This is why being joined to the Lord inwardly is so essential (1 Cor. 6:17).
The ring in the center divides the corner boards into top and bottom, but that does not mean the top and bottom were different boards. No, the top and bottom were sections of the same board. We cannot divide our inside from our outside. What we are inside is hidden, but it matches what we are outside, which is visible. We are one person. Paul writes, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). No doubt he was writing about the Lord’s return, but for corner board brothers and sisters, this is true every day. They reveal the Christ who is their life in every decision and action that concerns the saints and the church. What a glory!
Often those who are so rich in Christ develop a ministry that is genuinely of the Lord, but this is a blessing that can be hard for some to handle. Corner boards are for the building up of God’s testimony and for the perfecting of the saints, yet it is easy for those with a ministry to draw men to themselves. Their ministry is good, rich, and needed by the saints, but if it is promoted too much, the minister may become the focus instead of Christ. It is so good that the corner boards are plural, which means there are at least two. No ministry should be by itself, but should be with all the other ministries given by God for the church.
Each of the two corner boards were only one half cubit wide, which shows that no matter how good, spiritual, and rich their ministries are, corner board brothers and sisters cannot replace the church, the leading of Christ, or the saints. They are still only one half cubit wide while the rest of the boards are one and one half cubits. Corner board brothers and sisters must have the feeling that they are “the very least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8).
Caring for the Young Saints
In chapter eight of Song of Songs, there is a sweet conversation between the Lord and His lover, a believer who is experienced, mature, operative, and incorporated with the Lord. The question is asked, “We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister, in the day when she is spoken for?” (Song of Songs 8:8).
God is concerned for the little sister, a believer whose life is not yet mature, who is tender and weak. The mature and experienced pursuer of Christ in the Song of Songs would certainly be a corner board in the tabernacle. However, her concern is not what kind of board she could become, how spiritual she could be, how she could fulfill her ministry, or how she could testify for the Lord. Rather, her concern is for how the Lord and she can feed, shepherd, and take care of the tender and weak little sister together.
This is why a mature one would answer the Lord, “I am the wall. I will stand firm to protect the interests of the young ones, and my breasts are as towers. I will supply rich life to the young ones which I gained by my oneness with the Lord” (see 8:10).
How much the growth of a young one needs the surrounding protection of the corner boards! Here there is the bountiful supply of the divine life of Jesus Christ as well as the testimony of the golden lampstand produced by the work of the Holy Spirit. However, those who are tender and weak may not appreciate the protection of the corner boards, nor will they know how to dwell in such protection. They may face all kinds of temptations from Satan intended to take them away from Christ. At this time in Song of Songs, Christ, who is full of love, comes to behold this little sister and to care for her and gain her.
For the tabernacle to be raised up and to properly stand, it must have these two corner boards. The number two in the Bible stands for testimony, so in the church today there can be many more than two corner board brothers and sisters. They stand together as pillars and give stability and blessing to the church. We should all aspire to become corner boards—so one with the Lord inwardly and outwardly, caring for the saints and the church as He does.