The Tabernacle represented the totality of the people of God, the sum of them all, in their life together in Christ. It was, however, a movable erection, not fixed in any permanent way, but built and taken down again then rebuilt and again taken to pieces, according to the journeyings of the people as determined by the will of God. Every time this dismantling process took place, there was a moment when the essential nature of the building was uncovered and found to consist of boards - boards standing up.
When the four coverings which masked the Tabernacle were removed, the essential structure was seen to be made up of three wooden walls with their curtains. After the curtains had been taken down, it could be seen that the rows of boards were held together by various bars which ran horizontally along the inside of the boards to join them up. In the dismantling the time came for these bars to be removed, but it is important to realize that when this was done the boards did not collapse, they remained standing. Even when their connections were removed and all outward supports taken away from the individual boards, they did not fall flat.
One by one the boards were then lifted up and prepared for the journey, until at last there was only one board left. It was not necessarily the same board each occasion, but there was always a time when only one remained. This was not all that could be seen of the Tabernacle representation of the House of God - just one board. But it was still standing. "He made the tabernacle of boards of acacia wood, standing up." Thus, with the final uncovering and separating, it was seen that, reduced to its simple minimum, the hidden secret of God's building is boards which are always capable of standing up.
Preparation of the Boards
Each board, of course, had its own history, just as every one of us who has a part in God's spiritual House must also have a personal history under God's hand. It was a history of severance, for at one time the tree had grown on its own roots and depended on them for its life and support. It may have been a good tree and stable enough, but when it stood by virtue of its own natural strength it had no place in God's building. Nature, however, was dealt with, dealt with severely and even ruthlessly, as the felling axe cut away the tree from its own standing and left it prostrate and helpless. Nor was this the end of the story, for the cutting process had to go on, reducing and shaping the wood until it was suitable for the sacred task for which it had been chosen.
The spiritual application of this felling and shaping process is familiar to us. We know that we can have no vital place in the purposes of God until the sharp knife of the Cross had done its work. It is essential that we should know ourselves to be cut away from our on natural resources, removed from the realm of what we are as men, and it is also essential that the Lord should be able to reduce us and re-shape us according to His own mind. We cannot do this for ourselves, but we can recognize our need and cooperate with the Lord in humble faith and patience as He works upon us. In the case of the board, it was a once-for-all operation. In our case the work of the Cross must go on all the time. Not till we get to glory shall we be able to claim that no more of this work is needed.
Reduction is, of course, the negative part of God's dealing with us, but it is all done with the positive purpose of making us fit for the work in hand. Every one of the boards was made to measure up to a certain prescribed standard; to all appearances they were all alike and all according to the divine measurements. In the spiritual outworking we must appreciate that God neither desires nor produces outward uniformity, that is not His purpose at all. For us the divine standard is an inward matter, but there is nothing haphazard about it, for the divine measure is the measure of Christ. This is the positive objective which the Father has in view in all His dealings with us, He is conforming us to His Son.
(continued with # 2)