By Thomas Newberry
"And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the 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 two sides westward. And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end" (vv. 26-28).
We have considered the BOARDS fitly framed together, firmly fixed in the sockets of silver, as typical of believers standing in redemption. We have now to consider the BARS of shittim wood overlaid with gold - God's provision for compacting together and securing the whole.
In the first six verses of Eph. 4. the sevenfold unity of the Church is mentioned: One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. From verses 7-11, the FIVE gifts given from an ascended and glorified Saviour are noticed; apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
The object for which they are given is stated from verses 12 to 16 : "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
The FIVE BARS answer strikingly to these FIVE GIFTS from a risen Christ, and the object and the end is the same, both in the Tabernacle and the Church: the "perfecting," "edifying," and "compacting of the whole together."
They were to be of SHITTIM WOOD; reminding us that those who have received gifts for service to the Lord and to His saints, are men of like passions with others. They have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of them. Not sufficient of themselves to think anything as of themselves, their sufficiency is of God.
THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE BARS.
God's arrangements and provisions for ministry are simple, perfect, and uniform, adapted to the need of the Church of God throughout the whole world. All believers everywhere have need of all the gifts of the Spirit for their compacting and edifying; and according to God's arrangements, whatever gifts there may be, are designed for all.
The leading of the Spirit, or the providence of God, may place some in certain localities; all believers have a title to their service, and they are debtors, according to their ability and opportunity, to all. Two of the bars were placed near the bottom of the boards; one in the centre extending from end to end; and two near the top, thus
Pastors and Teachers.
Apostles and Prophets.
The two UNDER bars may be taken to represent the gifts of the APOSTLES and PROPHETS. These, as to doctrine and practice, according to the ability given them of God, have laid the foundation. The Church is said to be "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." They laid the foundation by their labours, example, and teaching in their lifetime; and in the inspired Scriptures in the New Testament which they have left, the Church has still the benefit of their gifts.
The MIDDLE bar in the centre of the boards was entire, extending the whole length of the Tabernacle, from end to end; beautifully suggestive of the widely extended sphere of the labours of the EVANGELIST; whose commission is, "Go ye into all the world, and ,reach the gospel to every creature."
The two bars near the top, represent the ministry of PASTOR and TEACHER: the PASTOR watching over souls of the converted, feeding the flock of God; the TEACHER leading the children of God onward and upward into further and higher acquaintance with 'divine truth, and of the love, person, and ways of the Lord Jesus.
THE OVERLAYING OF THE BOARDS WITH GOLD.
"And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars; and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold" (v. 29).
It is remarkable that the direction for OVERLAYING the boards does not occur in the portion which treats of the BOARDS (v15-25), but in connection with the BARS; doubtless, this is significant. The boards were of shittim wood: representing believers, IN THEMSELVES partakers of HUMAN NATURE in its weakness and frailty. But overlaid with gold: signifying that, as one in Spirit with Jesus, believers are also partakers of the DIVINE NATURE (2 Peter 1. 4). As we are by the grace of God - as seen by Him in the Son of His love - such we ought to be practically, experimentally, at all times; especially when gathered in the Name of Jesus, under the searching eye of Him with whom we have to do; that as builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, there may be nothing to grieve or quench that Holy Spirit of God, or hinder the full flow of blessing from our God and Father. As the shittim wood in the Tabernacle was nowhere to be seen, so the flesh, or that which is merely natural, should never be manifest in the assembly of God's saints. But putting off the old man, and putting on the new, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the divine nature should appear, and divine charity be ever in full exercise. The distinctions which cannot be overlooked with impunity in the outward walks of life, would disappear when believers are assembled in the Church; and all as children of God, members of Christ, dwelt in by the Spirit, would hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, without respect of persons (James 2. 1). Whilst the gold glittered on the surface, the shittim wood existed within. So it becomes us to remember that, notwithstanding all that divine grace has made us in Christ, in ourselves we are nothing at all. The true circumcision, worshipping God in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, but having no confidence in the flesh. This is no excuse for sin or failure; the grace of God is sufficient; His strength is made perfect in weakness.
But why is this direction inserted here with the instructions respecting the bars? Does it not intimate a connection between the exercising of the gifts for ministry, and the fuller realization and manifestation of the divine nature? Thus holding the Head, "all the body, BY JOINTS AND BANDS, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth WITH THE INCREASE OF GOD." Whilst God, according to His divine power, has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, THAT BY THESE WE MIGHT BE PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE - is it not through the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, in the ministry of the Word, that individually and collectively these great and precious promises are realized and this growth in grace is experienced? (2 Pet. 1. 3, 4).
THE GOLDEN RINGS.
"Rings of gold for places for the bars." There is a divinely given place for ministry in the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit in the Church of God.
There is a place appointed of God for each kind of ministry. A place for the APOSTLES and PROPHETS, which none else can occupy: a place of authority and power.
A place for the EVANGELIST, a work of vast importance and responsibility; having to do with souls and eternity.
A place for the PASTOR and TEACHER, in watching over and instructing the souls of the redeemed, with which the saints' well-being, and the honour of the Lord Jesus is connected.
THE OVERLAYING OF THE BARS.
Real ministry is the exercise of a gift received from God through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Ghost, according to the ability which God giveth, and for God's glory. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good A stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter. 4.10-11). To sum up these various figures of ministry. In the CHERUBIM OF the mercy-seat in the holiest of all, we have set forth MINISTRY IN ITS HEAVENLY ORIGIN AND SOURCE.
In the golden LAMPSTAND in the holy place, over against the Table, by the Altar of incense, MINISTRY IN THE ASSEMBLY, IN CONNECTION WITH COMMUNION AND WORSHIP. In these BARS uniting the BOARDS, we see MINISTRY FOR THE BUILDING UP AND COMPACTING of the Church of God.
"And thou shalt rear up the Tabernacle according to the fashion thereof, which was showed thee in the Mount" (v30).
Whether as to Church gathering and constitution, or as to ministry, God's pattern, and that alone, is to be followed; a pattern not earthly and human, but heavenly and divine.
God has condescended to arrange everything for us in His Word in type in the Old Testament, in example in the Gospels and the Acts, and in express directions in the inspired Epistles of the apostles. May we esteem all God's commandments concerning all things to be right: and hating every false way, be fully persuaded that His plans are the best, and that in keeping His commandments there is great reward.