By Titus Chu
Living Out the Humanity of Jesus
It is interesting that only acacia wood is used throughout the tabernacle. God was very specific. Even if pine, oak, or some other wood was available, Moses could not have used it. Of course such wood was not available because they were in the desert. Only the acacia tree could survive in such a harsh environment.
Acacia wood represents the proper humanity that has been worked on by God. This is the humanity lived out by the incarnated Jesus as He testified of God to the men of His time, and it is the humanity He is producing in us today for His testimony in the church life.
We may think that the testimony He desires could only be expressed by those who are super-spiritual, heavenly, and angelic. But God did not float spiritual wood down from heaven for the building of the tabernacle like He did heavenly manna for food. He told Moses to use earthly wood that grew in the environment of the wilderness, and He wants His testimony today to be built using the humanity of Jesus that grows in the wilderness environment around us.
The Pillars and Hooks
The Bible says much about the pillars of the outer court, but it does not say what they were made of. As we saw in the previous message, some scholars say they were made of solid bronze, others of acacia wood covered with bronze, and still others of just acacia wood. Based on my realization that the tabernacle is a picture of the church life today, I prefer to agree with the last group. God needs men that He has worked on to hold up His testimony represented by the fine twisted linen. A testimony of bronze (judgment) would scare people away. A testimony of acacia wood (humanity) welcomes people to come in.
The Bible is also very clear that the pillars of the outer court had silver hooks to hold the silver bar, but it is unclear whether those hooks were on the inside or the outside. If we do some research, we will discover that both views are held by different scholars. Some diagrams show it one way, some the other. Since the Bible does not say, we really don’t know. But again, based on my realization that the tabernacle is a picture of the church life, I would put them on the inside. This would allow the linen to hang behind the pillars, making the pillars visible. If the linen were in the front, no one could see the beautiful acacia wood which represents the fine humanity of Jesus in the saints.
The Church Life
The church life is a display of the decent humanity that comes out of divine attributes. As believers, Christ is in us and we can enjoy Him (Col. 1:27). As we enjoy Him together, a certain kind of sweet human life is produced. It is a life of acacia wood, not of bronze. If we scare people away, something is wrong. People should find the life we live together attractive and inviting.
It is fine to honor older brothers or sisters, but we should never fear them. Fear causes us to not want to be with one another. If an overly-spiritual bronze brother comes toward us, we may quickly turn the other way. Fellowship is hindered and the building of the church is frustrated. This is not the testimony God is seeking.
In my advanced age, it is my dream that there would be no such fear among us. I long to walk among the saints freely with no hindrance to the fellowship with anyone. Yet I know, perhaps because of of my strong ministry over the years, that many fear me. Once I slipped into a meeting and hid in the back row. The brother who was ministering was quite experienced and doing very well, but then he spotted me sitting in the back. Quickly he finished his sharing and sat down. I had to ask myself, am I that bronze? Surely there must be something wrong with me for the brother to react in this way. Where was the acacia wood?
Our future in the church life is not found in becoming prevailing or spiritual, or even in striving to magnify Christ. Rather, it is in living a genuine, healthy, normal human life. When others see us living like this, they want to be with us. When the church life is full of human love and care mixed with the enjoyment of Christ, we will not have to pressure people to come.
Healthy Love and Care
There is an older couple I know who are not necessarily so full of truth and not so overly-spiritual, but who genuinely care for the saints with them in very practical ways. All the young people are kept in the church life through them. If you listen to these young ones talk, they all refer to this couple as Grandma and Grandpa, and they are so happy to be with them. They feel this way because they get care through Grandma’s cooking and love through Grandpa’s attention. I’m pretty sure they feel free to come for advice or consolation when they need someone to talk with. This couple is not necessarily more spiritual than the other saints, but they take the time to display their acacia wood humanity in the church life and it is attractive. This is the church life we all long for.
Over the years we have been through so much. We’ve seen the strong move of the spirit come and go. We’ve seen high truth, but eventually the truth we see will become dim. The apostle Paul wrote:
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away…But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13:8, 13
The love God has put within us will always remain. The love for the young, the weak, and the discouraged will always be there. The love to be with the saints is permanently installed. Any church with a loving grandma and grandpa is blessed, and every church could have several such couples.
If we want to become such people, we shouldn’t try to do so much. We should just find ways to love the saints with us. There are countless people that need to be loved. Many have been through a lot and are wounded both spiritually and humanly. They need us to spend time with them with no motive or expectation other than to love them. We don’t need to see visions and revelations to do this. If we have a home and the heart of Christ, we have everything we need.
Consider the ones around you and come up with a plan. Don’t just be inspirational. Ask yourself, “How can I encourage the ones God has given me? Maybe I will have them over for tea next week.” Don’t wait for a chance meeting. Plan something and take action. It doesn’t have to be something great. Your love will cover any shortage.
If we don’t have this humanity, the people we contact will all be targets, the objects of our work, and they will sense it. The harder we try, the more we will drive them away. No one enjoys being the object of our work, a notch on our belt. The more we focus on numbers, the lower our numbers will go. It is those who live out the acacia wood humanity of Jesus who are fruitful. The Lord said:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 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 15:4-5
If I could write a prescription for the need of the churches today, it would simply be “humanity”. Exercise the fine humanity of Jesus Christ. We don’t even have to do much. We don’t even have to expect much. A warm, family based church life will be blessed.
Don’t say the church is weak and that it doesn’t have many new contacts. Forget about all that. That is not crucial at all. The crucial thing is what we do in our local church life—do we stress and exercise a healthy humanity? Does our church life have Christ as its substance expressed through our humanity? Are we a piece of acacia wood? Are we a pillar that can hold the fine twisted linen of Christ in the tabernacle? This is what is needed.
If I could stay in just one church, I would make a point of living among the brothers. I would spend the time to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them. I would have a little prayer with them, have a little Bible study with them, and have a time of singing with them. No one is too old to be rescued. No one is hopeless if we believe what we preach. The life in them is eternal, always fresh, and always new. We should never consider them as old.
I will give you a real testimony. When my wife passed away, I felt pressured with no joy for a long time, even though I continued to minister and serve the churches. One day a young family invited me and some others to dinner. After the meal, I sat on their couch and watched them as they talked among themselves. Their genuine brotherly love elevated me. I felt the sadness taken away. From that day, I was able to live a normal life again. I didn’t get help from hearing a good message or from reading the Bible. No one told me to stand tall for the testimony’s sake and forget my grief. Even if the Lord had told me that, I could not have done so. But the brotherly love I saw at that simple dinner rescued me. At that moment I told the Lord to keep me and take away my sorrow, and He did. The display of humanity I saw in this young family saved me.
The churches today need the exhibition of the humanity of Jesus. We should not say that we are unqualified and can’t do much. We can do a lot. We shouldn’t think everyone else is hopeless and not worth our time. Everyone is hopeful. The only question is: do we want to love them or work on them? Only if we want to work on them is it hopeless. But, if we love them, they know. If we care for them, they know. If in the church life we care for one another in this way, the Lord will know, all the angels will know, all the saints will know and even our gospel friends will know. The church will be fresh again all because we love one another with a healthy proper humanity. If such a life becomes normal among us, the Lord will be testified and we will be blessed.