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Moses: The Raising Up of the Tabernacle (13)

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

The Coverings as God’s
Blessing to the Church

God’s View

The four coverings of the tabernacle picture who we are both as believers individually and as the church corporately. When men examine us they do it as though they are looking at the tabernacle from the outside, and see many problems. They see the ugliness of the badgers’ skin, the sin of the rams’ skin, and the problems of the goats’ hair. They are right to see these things because we are full of imperfections.

Fortunately, God has a lot of grace when He examines us. He looks at us as though He is inside the tabernacle, and sees the fine woven linen with the blue, purple, and scarlet material (‭Exo. 26:1). We may think we are a terrible piece of linen, but God is very happy. This linen is the work of Christ, and when God looks up from the ark in the holy of holies, it is the only covering He sees. It is the work of Christ, yet we are there partaking of it. To God, this is the unique covering of the tabernacle, and it is most precious.

While others look at us and see problems, God looks at us and sees those who are the result of His workmanship (Eph. 2:10), who bear the testimony of Christ. Even if we lack much spiritual maturity, there is something of Christ worked into each of us that God genuinely appreciates.

It is the same with the corporate church life. Men see all the problems, of which there are many. It seems all we can produce is goats’ hair. But the real layer that God sees is right below. To God, the fine linen, with its colors of blue, purple, and scarlet, and its skillfully made cherubim, is the first and only layer. He sees “the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (5:27).

 

The Blessing from Goats’ Hair

No matter how spiritual we are, we are still fallen people. We have all kinds of problems. If we think we have no problems, it is just a matter of time before our problems get exposed. At first we will try to excuse and justify ourselves, because we just can’t believe we are so bad. Then, once we realize that we have problems, we will try to fix ourselves. Eventually we will have to admit that we continually grow goats’ hair. It is God’s mercy that He can take our goats’ hair and use it for a covering for His testimony.

If any would examine me, they would find a lot of goats’ hair. I have a lot of problems. But instead of being disappointed, please realize that my problems are why I can still be here serving the churches. If I was problem free, only the angels would be qualified to receive from me. My problems qualify me to minister to those with problems. This is true of all of God’s servants.

Even our married life is full of goatishness. Any couple that claims they never argue must be so cold to one another. They are not human. How scary and exposing it would be to be married to a perfect person. A normal marriage is full of mistakes, problems, disappointments, hurt feelings, and quarrels. It is full of goats’ hair. Yet most couples find a way to cover, forgive, and accept one another with all their faults, and so their love for each other grows and matures. Such a loving marriage is the covering produced by God out of their messy goats’ hair.

When I was young I used to dream of one day being like Jesus. I even sang hymns that had this thought. Now that I am older, I am afraid to sing such hymns because I know it is impossible. Instead I tell the Lord that I cannot be like Him because I am just a terrible goat who produces a lot of hair. I don’t mind confessing this because I know we are all alike. But somehow, God uses it. He takes our ugly, dirty, smelly goat hair, combs it out and makes a covering that is so useful for His testimony. He turns the curse into a blessing. We who are useless are thus made useful.

We should all be amazed by the Lord’s mercy. We have produced nothing but problems and failure in the church life, yet God is still able to produce a covering of fine linen woven with blue, purple, and scarlet. We can point to no victories or successes, yet God has His testimony. Those of us who are older can look back on our life of failure and really appreciate this mercy. Our failures have turned into a blessing to the body of Christ.

 

The Covering of Linen

Under the covering of goats’ hair is the covering of “fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material” (Exo. 26:1). To God, this is the real covering, the only one that counts. The blue, purple, and scarlet material was most likely colored threads woven into the linen.

As we have seen, the process of producing this fine linen involves a lot of painful striking and beating work. This was literally true in the book of Exodus, and it is spiritually true as God works on us today. The process He takes us through can at times be very hard, but only through such hardship can He get the material He needs for His testimony. It may not seem to be God’s blessing as we pass through this process, but what comes out is a real blessing to the church.

The linen was made of both cotton and flax. The cotton represents life and the flax represents the dealings of the cross. How the church needs those constituted with life and those with the experiences of the cross. Without life, we cannot survive. Without the cross, nothing works.

Although we might think that life is good enough, the Lord needs some who experience the cross. If everyone is just cotton, no one will be able to stand when the church needs them. If no one has experienced the Lord’s dealing, the church will not have the backbone to withstand the winds of teaching that inevitably come. It will just be blown away. This has happened again and again in church history.

It is easy for some gifted ones to give good messages on life and gain a following. But can they take a stand when it is needed? Has God worked something solid into them so that they know what they stand for? It is not enough to speak from footnotes, cross references, and word studies. If the truth is not worked into us through the experiences of the cross, our messages will not help anyone when the test comes. Both the speaker and the hearer will withdraw.

Let me boast a little. Concerning life I really depend on the brothers’ support. But concerning our stand, I am very firm. I only care that what the Lord has committed to us concerning the church life be practiced, and that the church not change its nature. That is our vision and commitment. We have to pay a price for this, but we have no choice.

 

The Colored Threads

The blue, purple, and scarlet threads in the linen represent believers being woven together with other believers in the divine life. What a blessing it is to have these threads.

If we only have the linen experience of being stricken and beaten but are not woven together with other believers in life, we run the danger of becoming bitter. I have seen this happen to some. If in the end they do not see the result they thought they would, they feel cheated. It seems to them that their many years of sacrifice were for nothing. They blame God, the brothers, and the church. Such ones are short of a healthy relationship with others that could cover, strengthen, and nourish them at such a time.

Nobody cheated them. The problem was that their understanding was wrong and they were short of life. Therefore when something came along that bothered them, they quickly reacted as if everything was wrong. Yes, practices can be shallow and God’s ministers can fail, but truth is truth. There is never anything wrong with the truth. What God is doing stands and the ministry of Jesus Christ continues. If we hold up the wrong thing we are bound to be disappointed. But if we are properly woven with some blue, purple, and scarlet ones, we will be protected.

How crucial is the covering of fine linen. It pictures how the church stands and grows. First we need flax which has gone through the hardships of the cross to beat it and break it down. This will produce those who know how to fight for the interest of Christ. But we also need a lot of cotton to supply life. If we only have the flax without the cotton, the cross without the life, it would be too hard. If we have cotton without the flax, we cannot stand. Even more, we are woven together with the blue, purple, and scarlet threads for our protection. All this is God’s supply for the church.


The 2017-2018 Vision Week Information

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

(more…)


The 2017-2018 Winter Conference Information

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

(more…)


The 2017-2018
Winter Conference and Training,
Dec. 30, 2017 to Jan. 6, 2018

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

The leading brothers in Cleveland have announced the dates for the Winter Conference and Training with Brother Titus Chu. This will be held in two parts, beginning with a conference in Cleveland and continuing with a training in Ashland Woods. Full details on these gatherings will be provided as they become available; general information is given below.

The brothers in Cleveland state in their letter:

We are joyfully inviting the churches to both the Winter Conference and Winter Vision Week Training with our brother Titus Chu….During this last Summer Vision Week all of us were very much enlightened and helped by our brother’s sharing in Genesis concerning God’s creation of man, and the two lines of mankind’s development.

We sincerely pray and trust that the Lord will encourage many to participate in both the Conference and Training for our spiritual nourishment and advancement. This is needed for both ourselves individually and the churches as well.

Your Brothers in Christ….

Further information, including links to the details about these gatherings, is provided below.

(more…)


Moses: The Raising Up of the Tabernacle (12)

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

The Fine Twisted Linen

“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman”
– Exodus 26:1.

Under the curtain of goats’ hair was the curtain of “fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material.” Exodus 26:1 makes it seem like this was the only covering that counted, for the tabernacle was made of it.

 

Byssus

John Darby’s New Translation called this linen “byssus.” He translates this verse as, “And thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of twined byssus, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of artistic work shalt thou make them.” Byssus was an ancient Egyptian linen most likely made from cotton and flax.

Darby is accurate when he drops the word “material” after the words “blue, and purple, and scarlet.” There is no word in the original language to say what these colors were made of. The three uses of the word “and” indicate that there were four distinct items used in this covering: linen (or byssus), and blue, and purple, and scarlet. These colors may have been colored thread as some translators say, or they may have been colored pigment used on the linen. God in His wisdom did not say, so the New American Standard translation simply uses the word “material.”

A long process is required to produce byssus. Thread must first be produced from the raw materials, and those threads must be woven together to form the covering of the tabernacle. Somehow during this process the three colors get woven in as well. This represents the believers today (the byssus) being woven together in the divine life (the colors) to form God’s testimony (the tabernacle).

 

Cotton

The first material used to make byssus is cotton. As the cotton plant grows it produces a thin hard shell that protects the cotton material as it forms. Eventually the shell cracks on its own and the cotton ball is exposed on the plant ready to be picked. The cotton does not go through a lot of hard processing to become useful. It is picked, the seeds are removed, it is cleaned, and it is ready. From there it is spun with other balls of cotton into thread.

For God to have His testimony today, some of us have to be cotton. We simply grow with no special hardship. The spinner must be skillful to produce useful thread that is of consistent thickness and strength using whatever cotton he has. Praise the Lord, He is the most skilled spinner. As cotton, we have to do nothing but stay in the church life and let Him do His work.

When we are ready, God picks us, cleans us, and begins to spin us with others. We shouldn’t be a cotton ball that rolls away every time He reaches for us. We must be willing to be handled and controlled by God so that useful thread can come out.

If we resist the spinner, no thread will be produced. We know we are resisting Him if we don’t spend time touching Him in our daily life, if we rarely read the Bible, or if we often miss the meetings. If we find reasons to avoid the saints and not answer their calls, we may be cotton balls, but no thread will be produced.

On the contrary, the more we touch the Lord, enjoy His presence, taste His riches, enjoy the brothers and sisters and the church life, the more we will experience a divine spinning that produces useful thread. Eventually a good deal of riches will be produced for God to weave together as fine linen for His testimony.

 

Flax

Unlike cotton, flax comes from a rough plant that is sharp and easily cuts people. For this reason, it must pass through a hard process before it can become useful. Once harvested, it must be soaked in water to soften it. Then it is beaten to make it tender. I am told that some kind of oil is used during this beating process, which is good because we need a supply of the Spirit if we are to pass through such a hard process. Eventually thread is produced that can be spun with the cotton.

If we are cotton, we need only take care of life. We just praise the Lord, read the Bible, go to the meetings, enjoy Christ, and then the thread will come out. It’s all a matter of life. If we are flax, however, we have to be soaked in situations too deep for us, in order to soften us up. When we finally learn how to swim a little, we stick our head up, and boom, He knocks us down and beats us. This continues until we lose our original shape and texture. His soaking and beating make us different. The hard thing becomes soft and the rough thing becomes fine, something God can use.

Would we rather be cotton or flax? All the sisters want to be cotton. No sister wants to experience the soaking and beating needed to become flax. They pray, “Lord just make me a sweet piece of cotton. Hold me so I won’t get lost, so I’ll still pray to you, I’ll still read the word, I’ll still make the meetings, and I’ll still be with all the brothers and sisters. Please Lord, cotton is good enough.”

Many brothers however want to be heroes and choose to be flax. They pray, “Lord, beat me up. I’m not afraid of the cross, I’m not afraid of hardship. Discipline me, knock me down, do everything so that I can be broken. Lord, I want to be flax!”

Eventually the one who becomes flax is very solid. The one who becomes cotton is very tender. If you put them together, as God did in the tabernacle, we have both. It is like a good family in which the mother is full of tenderness and love for their children, while the father loves them in a different way, with firmness and discipline. Cotton becomes the tender life-strength for the family to go on. Flax becomes the shelter that protects it. Children whose parents are both cotton or both flax will have problems, but those who have one of each will most likely grow well.

 

Both Cotton and Flax are Needed

The church life is same. We need some who are flax. We also need those who are cotton. We need the brothers and sisters who have been through a lot, who can stand firm for Lord’s interest. We also need many who are rich in the enjoyment of Christ, able to supply life to the Church.

Actually we have no choice regarding what we become. It makes no difference how much we beg the Lord to be one or the other. God decides if we are cotton or flax. Both were needed to make the byssus for the tabernacle, and both are needed in the church life today. Most of us have some experience of each. At times He holds us close and nourishes us. At other times we experience His discipline. Eventually He as the skillful spinner produces a good covering for His testimony.

Sometimes a church wants to try different kinds of activities to bring people to the meetings. As long as they keep the fellowship I say let them try. But I know that if what they try is worldly, it will not work, because it is neither cotton nor flax. It violates the principle of the covering of the tabernacle. There is nothing wrong with having good meetings with good music, but never violate the principle by going too far. If we bring people to their emotions and not to God, there will be no cotton or flax, and no covering for the tabernacle can be produced.

We think that because we have beautiful music the church can go on, but the people who come may come just to hear the beautiful music, not to meet the Lord. This will never be enough to cause them to give their lives to the Lord and consecrate themselves to His service. They will become neither cotton nor flax because they are only feeding their soul with good music. Yes, we should have good music, but we must have more than that.

Those who come to us must be brought to the Lord. They must be placed in the hand of the Lord to let Him work on them. If they are cotton, He will confine them. If they are flax, He will pressure them by striking and breaking them. But remember He always adds the oil of the Spirit to His work so that it will produce what He desires—the fine humanity of Christ in His divine attributes.
Woven Together

The threads of cotton and flax must be woven together to produce the fine linen. If we are not woven with other saints in life, there will be no covering, and those who experience a hard time may become bitter toward the Lord and the church. They need to be woven with those who have gone through such hard times before them and who now have some growth in life. These mature ones can help them pass through their difficulties. The apostle Paul writes, “We will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4). If no one has already had such experiences and the whole church is made of cotton, that church is hopeless because no one can render the proper help.

I went through an experience when I was young that made me bitter and so I wanted to give up the Lord for a time. I had finished my basic military training in Taiwan and then received orders to go through that same training again. I remember, while waiting at the station for the train to take me back, singing songs about the cross because I felt I was suffering so much. Suddenly another train pulled up and many of my old companions from my first basic training got off. When they saw me, they began to taunt me. They were going home and I was going back. This was too much. I told the Lord that He had the right to work on me and beat me, but not to humiliate me. I decided to give up on Christ and stop being a Christian. Every time I started to pray, I stopped myself. Every time I started to sing or turn to the Bible, I stopped myself. After about two weeks I became so dry I had to repent and turn to the Lord. Almost immediately after my repentance, the mistake of my being there was discovered and I was sent home. How happy I was that I had repented before I was released and not after. I got back just in time to attend a three month church training where I spent every day with mature brothers who could help me. That time has been my stability for many years. What a wonderful Christ we have. He surely knows what He is doing.

Every church needs both those who are cotton and those who are flax. The cotton ones will keep us in life, and the flax ones will stand firm for the truth and help us pass through hard times. These brothers and sisters nourish and protect the saints. If a church has only cotton, it will never be able to take a strong stand. If it is all flax, it will be too rough and many may leave. How blessed is that church that has both. This is the fine twisted linen that makes up the covering of the tabernacle.


 

 

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