The Boards of the Tabernacle

Exodus 26:15‑30  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 9
(Read Ex. 26. 15 to 30)
God's desire ever has been to dwell among His people. Thus far in the Tabernacle we have had Christ personally as the Mediator, and His work, typically before us. " There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a Ransom for all, to be testified in due time " (1 Tim. 2:5, 65For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:5‑6)). " Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us To GOD " (1 Peter 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18)). We need neither the Virgin Mary, blessed among women, nor the pope, nor priest, be he Roman or Anglican, to mediate for us. The believer is brought to God, and has boldness to enter the Holiest of All by the blood of Jesus.
We shall find how the lesson of the boards will tell us typically how believers are brought to God, and " builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit " (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)). If the reader will look upon the Board as representing himself, and follow the details of what happened to the Boards, as illustrating what happened to him when converted, he will learn much of how we are blessed as believers.
The Boards Standing Up
The boards were made of Shittim wood, standing up. Shittim wood speaks of humanity. In the case of the blessed Lord His Humanity was spotless and sinless, else He could not have taken our place at the cross. In our case we are fallen and sinful. How then in our case can the board stand up? In other words, How can a guilty sinner stand up before a holy God?
The boards were ten cubits high and a cubit and a half wide, that is over 17 feet high and 21 feet wide. They were made of Shittim wood, the coarse indestructible wood of the desert, worth very little, but exceedingly heavy. How were they to stand up on shifting sand? Alas! how many sinners seek to stand up before God on the shifting sand of good works, and self-improvement, as if man could be his own Savior.
The boards were ten cubits high. Five is the number of human responsibility, ten, twice five, intensifying the thought of responsibility toward God, responsibility toward man. Now-a-days men do not like this thought, but there it is, spite of what men may think. " Every one of us shall give account of himself to God " (Rom. 14:1212So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)).
The Silver Sockets
If the reader will turn to Ex. 30:1111And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, (Exodus 30:11) to 16, he will find that when Israel was numbered it was necessary to furnish a ransom for their souls, failing which plague would break out upon them. King David once numbered the people, but there is no mention of their giving a ransom. The record is, " The Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men " (2 Sam. 24:1515So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men. (2 Samuel 24:15)). God cannot take account of sinful men in the flesh save in judgment. If man is to be in favor before God it must be through an accepted ransom.
All the males among the Israelites from twenty years old and upward had to bring a half shekel of silver. This contained ten gerahs in weight, as if to typify the meeting of the penalty of breaking the ten commandments, for " whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all " ( James 2:1010For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)). A half shekel of silver was worth about one shilling and two pence. However rich an Israelite was, he was not allowed to give more; however poor, he must not give less. Does this not set forth the truth that there is only one way of blessing for rich and poor, noble and debased, and that is through the atoning work of Christ upon the cross.
But we think we hear someone say, If the half shekel of silver is called " atonement money," is that not like paying for salvation? We are told in the New Testament that eternal life is the gift of God, and that we are saved by faith, and that the gift of God.
It is perfectly true that salvation can not be bought by money, or by any effort of the sinner. It is indeed procured by the propitiation of Christ on the cross, and that is " not of works, lest any man should boast " (Eph. 2:99Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:9)).
Redemption could not be procured by a paltry levy of a sum a trifle more than a shilling. That small sum was simply an acknowledgment on the part of the offerer of how he stood in God's presence, needing grace and pardon.
An illustration may help. Years ago we were seeking to rent a piece of ground on which to erect a Gospel Tent. A suitable spot presented itself. On inquiry we were told it was the property of the town. We went to the Town Hall, prepared to pay £1, or even 30s. a week rent for the use of it. We found the corporation officials sympathetic, and after a little consultation they said, " We are prepared to let you have the use of the pitch for six weeks, free of rent, but as we are obliged to have some record of the transaction in our books, we must ask you for the sum of one shilling. We blessed our good fortune, but it never occurred to us that we were paying rent, but simply making an acknowledgment. So it was with the children of Israel.
These paltry half shekels mounted to a considerable quantity of silver when every male Israelite of twenty years old and upward paid this levy. Ex. 38. 25 to 28 informs us it amounted to 100 talents, and 1,775 shekels. The 100 talents produced 100 sockets of silver, whilst 1,775 shekels provided the silver for the hooks for the pillars, overlaying and filleting the chapiters.
Two sockets of silver were apportioned to each board, fifty boards in all. A talent of silver weighed 114 lbs., which at 5s. an ounce amounts to over £340, so that the two sockets allotted to one board would mean silver to the value of £680. The 100 sockets for the fifty boards amounted to the sum of about £34,000.
Was there ever in proportion to its size a more costly foundation? Yes, indeed, if the type was very costly, it pales into utter insignificance when we think of the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dying on the cross of shame for us as the righteous foundation of the believer's standing and blessing before God. No wonder we read, " Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot " (1 Peter 1:18, 1918Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18‑19)). The type was amazingly costly; the Antitype infinitely more so. All the boards of the Tabernacle stood on costly sockets of silver, the believer stands on redemption ground. Surely the hymn writer must have had this in mind:
" Oh! joyous hour when God to me
A vision gave of Calvary;
My bonds were loosed, my soul unbound;
I sang upon redemption ground.
Redemption ground, the ground of peace!

Redemption ground, Oh! wondrous grace.
Here let our praise to God abound,
Who saves us on
REDEMPTION GROUND."
The Meaning of the Two Tenons
We read, " Two tenons [margin, hands] shall there be in one board, set in order one against another " (Ex. 26:1717Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. (Exodus 26:17)). Is this not an illustration of the hand of FAITH laying hold of the blessing? Does it not emphasize that salvation is not of works, but by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ? We have the hands at work in Heb. 6. 18, where it speaks of those " who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope " set before them.
Further there were two tenons, or hands, to lay hold upon two sockets of silver, the tenon and mortise of the carpenter. One tenon, or hand, and one socket would not be so stable as two tenons to the one board with two sockets, both equally taking the strain, thus giving stability and rigidity. So in the atoning work of Christ there are two great fundamental truths presented for our acceptance:
The finished work of Christ on the cross. His glorious resurrection proving the acceptance of the work of redemption by God.
Faith can triumphantly and joyously say, Christ " was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith [the hands laying hold on these two great facts], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ " (Rom. 4:25; 5:125Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)
).
The resurrection proves that the atonement was completed to God's full satisfaction. It is the Divine attestation to the work of salvation wrought out on the cross. What a foundation for the believer! The finished work of Christ! A risen triumphant living Savior!
No wonder the big heavy boards of the Tabernacle stood up well on such secure foundations as the twin silver sockets. No wonder that the believer can stand up before God in the value and efficacy of the work of our Lord on the cross, attested to by the triumph of the resurrection.
There were two extra corner boards coupled together by one ring resting on four sockets of silver, two for each board, thus emphasizing the thought of stability.
A Scriptural illustration may help further to the understanding of the two sockets. Two disciples were wending their way back to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They had placed their hopes on Christ, and now He had been crucified, had died, and this was the third day since He had been buried. There were rumors that He was risen, but there was no convincing proof that this was so, and these two disciples were left in sore doubt and depression.
Our Lord, risen from the dead, drew near to them. Their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. He inquired of their sadness. In their doubt and sadness they said, " We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done " (Luke 24:2121But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. (Luke 24:21)). Then followed a wonderful exposition of Scripture from the lips of the unknown Stranger, as He asked the question, " Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory " (Luke 24:2626Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? (Luke 24:26)), which made their hearts burn within them, and caused them to constrain Him, saying, " Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent."
He graciously acceded to their wishes, and lo! they discovered that the Stranger, who had ravished their hearts by His matchless exposition of Scripture to their utmost joy, was none other than the risen Savior, Conqueror over sin and death and hell. The scales fell from their eyes, as they beheld the risen Christ, standing before them. Did they see the nail prints in His blessed hands, we wonder, as He broke the bread at that hallowed evening meal?
For see, how unstable these disciples were when they only knew of the death of Christ. It needed the risen Christ to convince them of the value of that wondrous work upon the cross. His death acquired a far greater and fuller meaning in the light of His resurrection, as they stood with wondrous joy and delight in His very presence.
One moment He stood revealed before them, the next moment He had vanished out of their sight. But no more doubt now. The boards were secure on the two sockets of silver apiece. The hands of faith, like the two tenons laid hold with a firm grip upon the grand foundation. Thus would God assure our poor unbelieving hearts.
The Boards Fitly Joined Together
We have hitherto considered each board as an individual board. We shall, however, not get a proper idea of what God had in view unless we see that the board was intended to be an integral part of the whole Tabernacle. It was never intended to remain a single board " standing up." It was intended to be put into juxtaposition with the other boards, twenty boards on the south side, twenty on the north side, two boards for the corners of the Tabernacle, six boards for the west side (Ex. 26. 22 to 25), and four pillars with four sockets for the hanging of the vail between the Holy Place and the Holiest of All, making 100 sockets in all, necessary for their foundation.
What did this all typify? We have proceeded from the individual board to the boards " fitly joined together." What did it signify? We answer, God would have a people among whom He might dwell, a spot where He can place His name. This was set forth typically in the Tabernacle.
When we come to the New Testament we find the antitype to this. The boards were fitly joined together. We read, " Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: and are BUILT upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner Stone " (Eph. 2:19, 2019Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:19‑20)). Again, " In whom ye also are BUILDED together for an habitation of God through the Spirit " (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)). Again, " Ye also, as lively stones, are BUILT up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ " (1 Peter 2. 5). God has a house here on earth composed or built up of His own redeemed people, among whom He is pleased to dwell. How good it is that believers are not saved to remain as individuals, that there is a wonderful Christian fellowship, likened to a building, reared up by the Holy Spirit of God. How we should prize such fellowship. It is indeed a source of strength and encouragement when God's people get together as gathered to the Lord by the Holy Spirit. So we read of the early disciples, that " they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and FELLOWSHIP, and in breaking of bread and in prayers " (Acts 2:4242And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)).
The Five Bars
When the boards were placed in position, on either side of the Tabernacle were placed five horizontal bars. At the bottom of the boards there ran two bars, at the top were two bars, whilst an unusual arrangement was made for the middle bar. We read, " And the middle bar in the MIDST of the boards shall reach from end to end " (Ex. 26:2828And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end. (Exodus 26:28)), that is, it was grooved out of sight-. Nothing could have been designed to clamp and bind more strongly together the boards. Thus a compact structure was ensured.
What did the four visible bars typify? We believe they set forth the gifts given by an ascended Lord to His Church. What in particular did the two bars at the bottom of the boards typify? We believe the answer is that the Church is " built upon the FOUNDATION of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner Stone " (Eph. 2:2020And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)). We get it in symbolic language, " And the wall of the city [the Church in Millennial administration] had twelve FOUNDATIONS, and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb " (Rev. 21:1414And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14)). How indebted we are to the Apostles and Prophets for the introduction of Christianity in this world, in their labors in forming assemblies, and in their inspired writings.
The Apostle John, associating the rest of the Apostles in his statement, wrote, " That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full (1 John 1:3, 43That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3‑4)). How wonderful was that fellowship, first of all their acquaintance with Christ drawing each Apostle to the other, then the passing of it on to us, drawing believers to Christ and to their fellow believers.
We must remember these Prophets were New Testament Prophets, and had a unique position in revealing the mind of God to the Christians in the days of the early Church. This is seen in the memorable Chapter on the edification, or building up, of the Church as seen in 1 Cor. 14:2929Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. (1 Corinthians 14:29) to 31.
What was the meaning of the two bars at the top of the boards? We believe they set forth those wonderful gifts to the Church, Pastors and Teachers. These were given " for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ " (Eph. 4. 12). The evangelist does not come in here as an evangelist. His gift is with the wide world and sinners, and very blessed is his service in this way. But his converts need to be shepherded in the things of the Lord by the pastor. The word for shepherd and pastor is the same in the original. Then comes the teacher to unfold the deep things of God's word, whereby to build up the Lord's people in their faith. The pastor is like the nurse. Did not the Apostle Paul write, " We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children " (1 Thess. 2:77But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: (1 Thessalonians 2:7))? The teacher is more like the schoolmaster.
But what is the meaning of the long bar out of sight, the binding bar, grooved and tongued throughout the boards from end to end? What typical meaning attaches to this bar? We have no doubt that this bar typifies the Holy Spirit of God in His unseen power and influence. Without the influence of God's Holy Spirit, actively at work among the believers, there would be no cohesion, no standing together. Where that power and influence is weak or absent, there will be disunion, divisions, parties, sects. But where the Spirit of God is present in power, there the Lord's people will be found walking in peace and unity. The body of Christ was formed on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell each believer, binding them each first of all to Christ, the Head of the body in Heaven, and to each other on earth as members of the one body. " There is one body, and one Spirit," and we are called upon to be found " endeavoring to keep the unity of the SPIRIT in the bond of peace " (Eph. 4:3, 43Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:3‑4)).
The Boards Overlaid with Gold
Finally instructions are given to overlay the boards with gold, to provide rings of gold for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold. Here as the boards typify believers, the gold cannot set forth Deity. It sets forth the Divine righteousness in which the 'believer stands before God.
That this is no arbitrary interpretation is seen in the fact that Shittim wood and PURE gold set forth the Humanity and Deity of our Lord, whereas in this case, when it refers typically to believers, it is Shittim wood and gold, without the adjective pure. Further in the case of Shittim wood and PURE gold in connection with the Ark and Shewbread Table, the instructions for the overlaying of the Shittim wood with pure gold follow immediately, whereas in the present case the instructions for the making of the boards of Shittim wood begin in Ex. 26:1515And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up. (Exodus 26:15), and not till verse 29 is reached are instructions given for the overlaying of the boards with gold. Between these two points, fourteen verses in all, the instructions as to the silver sockets (redemption) are given.
Does this not convey the thought that the believer enters into the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins (silver) first, and that righteousness (gold), with which justification is connected so very manifestly, is entered into as the full meaning of the death of Christ is grasped? At the same time, let it be clearly stated, the moment the sinner believes he gets forgiveness of sins, justification, the righteousness of God upon Him, at one and the same moment, even when he puts his faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior. But whilst this is so, we go a step at a time in our understanding and appreciation of these things.
Young believer, look at those upright boards, and see in type what God would have you to know and enjoy. They then stand ten cubits high, speaking of responsibility to God, but they stand in silver sockets (redemption); the two tenons, or hands, grasping the foundation firmly, in other words, salvation is by faith alone; they are covered with gold (Divine righteousness, the answer to the atoning death of our Lord), typifying the justification the believer receives the moment he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ in simple faith as his Savior and Lord. So we read of " the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and UPON [typically boards covered by gold] all them that believe " (Rom. 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22)). " Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us... RIGHTEOUSNESS " (1 Cor. 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30)).
We remember the case of an English nobleman, who had been converted out and out. He read the word of God with great eagerness. One winter's day amid the snows of Canada, riding at the head of his troops, the verse came to his mind, " Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee " (Psa. 71:1919Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee! (Psalm 71:19)). This Scripture came in great power to his soul. He exclaimed to himself with great joy, " Then I am as high as God's righteousness.",
If Christ is our righteousness as believers, can we better that? Nay, the convert of yesterday is as righteous in God's sight as the Apostle Paul in the glory. The youngest believer has this gift in all its fullness, the maturest saint cannot have it in larger measure. Rejoice, young believer, God's righteousness is upon you in virtue of Christ's work of redemption on the cross.
In human law courts it is impossible in strict justice to justify the guilty. But such is the efficacy of the work of Christ on the cross, so thoroughly has He taken our place of judgment there, that God is able to justify the UNGODLY. We read, " To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the UNGODLY, his faith is counted for righteousness " (Rom. 4:55But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)).
The fact of God's righteousness being upon the believing sinner is portrayed in parabolic language in Luke 15, where we read that when the prodigal returned to the father in his rags and misery, the Father cried out in the gladness of his heart, " Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry " (Luke 15:22, 2322But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: (Luke 15:22‑23)). The righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ UPON all believers is surely " the best robe."
Justification is the believer being seen in the presence of God blameless, as if he had never sinned at all. Reader, do you rejoice in this marvelous blessing? Nothing less that this would suit God's presence and pleasure.