The Connecting Bars
The tabernacle is perhaps the most complete picture in the entire Old Testament of our Christ and His complete salvation. He is saving us both individually and corporately.
The Boards and Their Sockets
Consider the boards of the tabernacle. They are each ten cubits high, which is about fifteen feet (Exo. 26:16). Even though our spiritual maturity may differ, as long as we are growing according to the grace He has given us, God sees each of as ten full cubits. He covers us with gold and declares that we are well qualified to be built into His tabernacle.
Then consider the silver sockets into which each board is placed (v. 19). We might think that the tabernacle would be stronger if each socket held two adjacent boards, but this was not God’s way. He gave each board its own pair of sockets. If I shared a socket with another brother, I could put all the blame on him while I took all the glory. But, as Paul wrote, “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). Even though I am joined to others, I must stand in my own socket and answer for my own work.
Each board is only one and a half cubits wide, which, as we have seen, indicates we each need another brother or sister to be with us, making a full three cubits. Self-sufficient boards will never produce the tabernacle. But when we stand before the Lord, we will each stand in our own sockets. Unlike the bronze sockets used in the perimeter around the outer court, these sockets are made of silver. This means we stand in God’s redemption, not His judgment. Nothing can stand against us. Even if Satan himself accuses and mocks us, we can send him running by pointing to the redemption of Christ in which we stand. As long as we stay here, God will cause us to grow and develop.
“Then you shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of one side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle for the rear side to the west. The middle bar in the center of the boards shall pass through from end to end. You shall overlay the boards with gold and make their rings of gold as holders for the bars; and you shall overlay the bars with gold” (Exo. 26:26-29).
God directed Moses to make bars of acacia wood covered with gold to hold the boards together. He was to make five bars for each side and five bars for the back. In each set of five bars, only one bar was to reach from end to end. This was a long bar, especially on the two sides where it would have to reach twenty cubits, or thirty feet. This bar represents Christ in Whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
Surprisingly, no length is given for the remaining four bars. Considering the detail given to the rest of the tabernacle, this omission is significant. If these bars were all the same, ten cubits each, the top and bottom pairs would each meet in the middle, making that a weak point in the wall. If they were of differing lengths, each pair could meet in a different place, making the wall stronger. Since the Bible does not say, so we can only guess.
We Are the Bars
The number four in the Bible represents God’s creation, especially man, so these four shorter bars represent us as we co-labor with Christ in the building of the church. We cannot be the long bar that holds the whole wall together. Only Christ is qualified for that. But we should each aspire to be a bar that holds some boards together, if only a few.
Some who are gifted and somewhat mature are longer bars. They uphold the church and help put the saints together. By their teaching, shepherding, and example, many are kept and enabled to find their place in the church life. If they were to disappear, the wall of the church would be weakened and some younger ones might even fall away. Yet even in their labor, they must depend on Christ, for only His bar goes the whole length of the tabernacle. The church can never be an institution upheld by men. No matter how long their bars are, they can never replace Christ.
The number four tells us that God connects the boards of the church, the redeemed ones, using men. He wants to use us. We must ask how many boards do we connect? It makes no difference how long we are if we do not hold some boards together. We may have a rich ministry or we may be a new believer who does not know what a ministry is, but the question is the same. Are we holding some boards together?
The Need for Bars
All who have been in the church life for a number of years can look at and name those who were bars to them. It is because of them that we are still here. Maybe they took care of the brothers’ or sisters’ house we were in, maybe they served with us in the church, or many they simply took us out for coffee whenever we were troubled or confused. They were the ones we could confide in and cry with. They were a bar that God used to connect us to the church when we needed it most. Those who have fallen away most likely had no bar to hold them.
The church life has people of different races, languages, and cultures. It is sometimes hard for such people to be together. Perhaps they cannot even eat one another’s food. They need a bar to come in and put them together; then, all of a sudden, the differences disappear. They discover that they all share the same life, bear the same testimony, fight the same spiritual warfare, and stand for the same purpose. Then the church life becomes sweet.
How necessary it is that we would aspire to be such bars to others today. Maybe we can’t hold a large number together, but we can hold two or three. God was wise in designing the tabernacle! The long bar is Christ, but that is not the only bar. The tabernacle needed four more bars of varying length on each side. If we leave the care of the younger saints up to Christ alone, no doubt something will happen. After all, Christ said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). His bar is indispensable. Yet Paul writes that Christ holds the body together “by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, [causing] the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). God uses what we supply to cause the growth of the body and the building up of the church. How necessary are the bars!
We are boards in our church, but we should also be bars. We may feel we are too short to be a useful bar, but God intentionally did not limit the bars to a certain size. He left it wide open so we can all qualify. We can at least hold the boards right next to us. Make them your companions, and then you can hold each other through all kinds of trials.
Those who are not bars are often choppers. Instead of holding others together, they chop them off. If two brothers have a hard time together, and one of them comes to such a chopper for help, he may be told, “I have found that other brother to be peculiar also. If you want my advice, just avoid him.” Choppers don’t know how to bring others to Christ. They cause divisions and parties in the church based on their own disposition and taste.
It is sometimes helpful for saints of different languages to meet separately so that everyone can be freer to enjoy the Lord, but no one should cause one group to despise the other. This would be the result of having choppers rather than bars in the church. Bars realize that we are one church made up of all those redeemed by Christ. Differences of language or culture are not important. Only Christ in the saints has value.
The Value of Being Bars
If a church has bars, the young can be with the old, the well-to-do with the poor, the educated with the uneducated, and the vegetarians with the meat eaters. Paul said that in the church, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). And again, “There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). Such a church life requires bars to put it together.
Bars know how to call a song, read a verse, or give a testimony that puts everything together. They do this both in the meetings and in private fellowship. They know how to bring people to Christ. Suddenly whatever differences we have no longer matter. We are all just sinners saved by grace, called by God into the fellowship of the body of Christ, the church.
The bars may be long or short, but they are always covered with gold. Their natural ability doesn’t work. They have something divine. Through their labor, the boards are put together. Because of them, the church life is restful, peaceful, and the saints can love one another in spite of all their differences. How blessed is the church that has bars!