The Boards of the Tabernacle
The boards of the tabernacle represent us. That is, spiritually speaking, each one of us is a board.
The total number of boards used in the tabernacle was forty-eight. Twenty were on the south side, twenty on the north side, and six on west side, the rear of the tabernacle, plus two special corner boards (Exo. 26:18-23).
Each board was ten cubits high and all but the corner boards were one and one half cubits wide (v. 16). Thus the tabernacle was thirty cubits long (20 x 1.5). The six back boards would add up to only nine cubits (6 x 1.5), so the two corner boards together added one more cubit to bring the rear up to ten cubits.
The back boards are crucial. Without them the tabernacle would be like a tunnel and things could pass right through. Many churches are like this. Whatever God sends them passes right through. Everyone genuinely enjoys the ministry they receive at conferences or in their local gatherings, but when it is all over nothing remains. Year after year nothing changes. They have beautiful boards on the south side and on the north side, but they are missing the six back boards and the two corner boards.
Ten Cubits High
In this picture, each of us is a board ten cubits high (Exo. 26:16). This ten does not mean we all have the same growth in life or even the same experiences. God is not in the business of stunting the growth of some and stretching out others. Rather this ten indicates that God is fully responsible for us. As long as we are a board in the tabernacle, He is completely and perfectly responsible for our spiritual development and our stand before Him. Each of us may develop differently, but that is up to God. We trust Him to do His work with us because He is responsible. He guarantees we will reach our ten cubits. We will never come up short.
Too often we try to force ourselves to grow faster. This is like a child who stands on a chair to make himself look bigger when in fact he is no taller at all. When we try to manufacture our own ten cubits, we forget who is responsible. We take it out of God’s hands. Yet we do need to grow to the spiritual height that God allows us to grow to, nothing less. For many, this a big challenge.
God is not a gardener trimming every shrub to exactly the same height. He is not making us all the same. The apostle Paul wrote, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (Rom. 12:6). We are given different measures of grace, resulting in different gifts, different exercises, and different levels of maturity. It is not right to require everyone to speak the same way in the meetings. Some have a greater portion for speaking and others find their portion elsewhere. While we are not all the same, we all have the God-given grace to grow our ten cubits.
If we have this view, we will value every brother and sister. We are all crucial because we can each reach our ten cubits and become a blessing to the church. Our greatest fear should be that for some reason we under-grow. None of us should look for a reason to not exercise our portion. If we do not exercise what God has given us, we will not grow and the church will suffer. Never withdraw. Beseech the Lord, “Don’t let me under-grow!”
Once I visited a congregation of a few hundred believers that surprised me. I have hardly ever seen Christians that were so short of life. I gave a message on treasuring the one beside you. I asked them to turn to the ones beside them, shake their hands, ask their names, and call them brother or sister. They asked me back and I shared on the meaning of the word “amen.” I told them, “‘Amen’ means ‘Yes.’ When I say, ‘Jesus loves you,’ can you say, ‘Yes!’? When I say ‘Jesus loves you,’ can you say ‘Amen!’? If Jesus really loves you, can you say ‘Amen!’ louder?” I spent the whole meeting on “Amen.” If I have an opportunity to go again, I will tell them, “If you have a Bible, please open it, turn to any page, and put your finger down somewhere. There is a verse. God is trying to speak to you through it. When God speaks, His word is Spirit and life. Read it a little bit out loud and enjoy that word.” This is what they need. They have been together for many years yet don’t know much. None among them has reached their ten cubits. God is not after spiritual giants, but He does want us to each reach our full potential.
Acacia Wood Covered with Gold
The boards of the tabernacle were made of strong, solid acacia wood, able to stand even through the winds of desert storms (Exo. 26:15). Wood represents humanity, and only the humanity of Christ is qualified to be such a board. When He walked this earth as a man bearing God’s testimony, all kinds of storms beat against Him, but He always stood strong. God’s testimony was never in danger. It is the same today. Only those who are regenerated, who have received Christ as their Savior with His perfect humanity, can become such boards. Yet even with such humanity, these boards must be covered with gold, representing divinity (v. 29).
Some waste their lives chasing things other than Christ, and so they never reach their intended height of ten cubits. Others develop their various talents such as ministering, leadership, serving, or showing love and mercy to the saints. All these are needed blessings to the church, but if they are not covered with gold, pride will set in and spoil them. If we intentionally draw attention to ourselves or our gift, there must be a serious lack of gold. The church can never be the church of someone’s ministry. It must be the church of God. The church is to display Christ, not our gifts. Oh, how we need the covering of gold!
One and One-Half Cubits Wide
Every board was one and one-half cubits wide (Exo. 26:16). This seems like an odd number until two boards are put together, making up three cubits. The number three in the Bible represents the triune God. This shows that one board by itself can never satisfy God. We each need another board to stand with us so we can be three full cubits.
We may each love the Lord, the church, the Bible, and all the things of Christ to the fullest, but we can never be the church that satisfies God by ourselves. Being spiritually mature and loving the Lord is not enough. This is why the Lord told His disciples, “This I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17), and the apostle Paul wrote that we should “Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). By ourselves we are incomplete. We each need another one and one half cubits.
Too often we want to be superheroes who can do everything. We want to conduct youth camps, give messages, shepherd others, visit the saints, lead small groups, conduct the hymns, and teach the Bible. But the boards of the tabernacle show us that we must know our width. We are only one and one-half cubits wide. We need others to be with us. If we learn this we will be protected all our life. We will always seek fellowship and find those who can share our burden. This is God’s way.
Tenons and Silver Sockets
The Lord told Moses, “There shall be two tenons for each board, fitted to one another; thus you shall do for all the boards of the tabernacle….You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards, two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons” (Exo. 26:17, 19).
It is hard to say exactly what this looked like, but each board had two tenons, or arms, and two silver sockets, one for each each tenon. We might think the tabernacle would be stronger if the boards had to share tenons and sockets, but this was not God’s design. While it is true that we each need another board to make a full three cubits, it is also true that “Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load” (Gal. 6:4-5). We must each stand before God ourselves concerning our life and work.
Fortunately we do not stand in our success. If that were the case, we would all be condemned. Our stand is in the two sockets of silver. This means we stand in the redemption and salvation of Christ. We put one foot in the socket of redemption on the day we believed into Christ, and the other foot in the socket of salvation every day after that as we experience His continual saving. This salvation is very organic, because we are continually being saved by His life (Rom. 5:10).
Sometimes we may do terrible things, but we can still praise the Lord for His eternal redemption. Sometimes we realize we have not grown enough, but we can still praise Him for his daily, organic salvation. It is God’s wisdom that when we mess up, we stand before Him in His salvation by ourselves. But when we stand for His testimony, we must stand with others because we are each only one and one-half cubits.