“And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood” (Exo. 25:15)
The tabernacle of Moses established in the wilderness is a great mystery full of spiritual truths. As we look at its spiritual significance, let us first consider the wood used in its construction.
The shittim wood was an important feature used for the structure of the tabernacle, for the pillars, for the ark of Testimony, the altar of burned incense and the table of showbread and on it hung the curtains and outer covering of the goat skin.
What type of wood this was and where it came from is of much contention since not many trees grow in the Sinai Peninsula. It may seem that nothing can grow in the wilderness, yet in God, life is produced in the wilderness. The Lord declares: “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree” (Isa. 41:19). It is here in the wilderness that the Lord springs up a new divine order in our life.
In scripture, wood represents humanity. We see numerous examples of this in scripture. Jesus refers to His followers as the branches. He declares: “every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Luke 3:9). Paul refers to the Hebrews as olive branches and the gentiles as a wild olive branch. The Psalmist represents the man that delights in the law of the Lord as a tree planted by the rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). The rod of Aaron (from an almond tree) was used to represent the elect Levitical priesthood that were to carry out the priestly service.
God has a great purpose for humanity. And He is working in and through humanity to bring it into redemption. Like humanity, there are different kinds of wood each with its unique characteristics. Thus the construction of the tabernacle was a communal effort involving all the children of Israel, for “everyman, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it” (Exo. 35:24).
Just as God stirred the children of Israel to build and contribute to the service of the tabernacle under Moses, God is today assembling His tabernacle. Corporately, the establishment of the tabernacle is the product of joining together members of the body that are scattered. This union is energized by Christ – “From whom the whole body firmly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase…” (Eph. 4:16). This is characteristic of the tabernacle of God, a many-membered body coming together to make up a dwelling place of God.
There’s a pharse that a house has good bones. It simply means its structure is good. Man without bones has no structure and would have no capacity to move or function on the earth, just as the tabernacle of Moses could not house the ark and mercy seat without the shittim wood. Humanity is the instrument that Christ uses to function in the world, to be His hands to bless, to be His mouth to speak, and to be His feet to walk. This was the agenda of God in creating man – to be the vessel which manifests His nature in the earth realm.
What distinguishes the tabernacle from merely being a tent (flesh) is the habitation of God. In this tabernacle of humanity, God desire to reveal His glory for “behold the tabernacle of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3). Note, the wood was not exposed but covered by the goat skin, the curtains and the gold. Wood bare and fully exposed typifies humanism.
The divine tabernacle was portrayed by our Lord Jesus Christ who came by a greater and more perfect tabernacle. His humanity was not exposed but possessed (covered) by God. The people witnessed the life, words and daily dealings of our Lord Jesus Christ and were amazed. Astounded they wondered: “what manner of man is this?” (Matt. 8:27).
They encountered a different type of man, one they had never seen before. He spoke with such authority and demonstrated the power of God without fail. He healed, He multiplied, He quieted, He raised, He taught. He was man as God intended man to be. Man in absolute submission to God. Man in union with the Father, in mind, nature and will. He was all that God ultimately purposed man to be; the image and likeness of Himself.
Yet He was man. And because of His humanity He could empathize with our weaknesses, tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. We could witness the struggle between two wills that came with His identification with humanity a He declared: “take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matt. 14:36).
In the Gospel accounts of Jesus, both Matthew and Luke give emphasis to Jesus Christ as the Son of man. Matthew starts by tracing the lineage of Jesus from Adam to demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. Yet He was not man so we can imagine and worship a Galilean with a beard. He came as the pattern tabernacle manifesting the glory of God out from His holy of holies so we can do the same. He came as a pattern of truth and love established and manifested as man so we too would attain to the same standard of life. He came as righteousness, peace and joy – the kingdom manifest in an earthen vessel for the purpose that sons would come forth ministering the liberty of the kingdom unto creation.
Behold God is establishing His tabernacle among men and He is making His sons men as men should be – ruled by the nature, mind and power of Christ.
Praise God! May His glory fill His house, whose house we are!