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Buckles, Boards, Bases, and Bars
“And thou shalt make fifty taches (buckles) of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches (buckles): and it shall be one tabernacle…And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up… 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. 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. And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount.” (Exodus 26:6-30)
The Lord God told Moses to make 50 taches (buckles) of gold and 50 buckles of brass, and 48 boards. Each board was to have two sockets of silver, that is two foundations or bases of silver under it. And he was commanded to make 15 bars of shittim wood overlaid with gold.
What was represented by these buckles, boards, bases, and bars? As we seek to understand the typical meaning of the tabernacle and its furnishings, we should do so by following the direction of God the Holy Spirit. In the book of Hebrews, he gives us four distinct statements about the tabernacle and the ceremonies of carnal worship connected with it. He tells us that these things were…
1. “The shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5)
2. “The patterns of things in the heavens” (Hebrews 9:23)
3. “The figures of the true” (Hebrews 9:24) and
4. “A shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).
In other words, the things we read about here in the book of Exodus were designed to be shadows, patterns, types, and figures of those heavenly, spiritual things now revealed in the gospel of Christ. Specifically, the Holy Spirit tells us that the tabernacle in the wilderness was typical of Christ himself, the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14), of the church of God in this world (1 Corinthians 3:9), of every believer (Ephesians 2:19-22), and of the whole of God’s salvation wrought out for and given to chosen sinners in Christ (Hebrews 9:1-15).
May God the Holy Ghost give us grace as we come to the tabernacle, as Simeon came to the temple looking for the Consolation of Israel, looking for Christ. Seeing our Savior and God’s great salvation in him in such carnal things as buckles, and boards, and bases, and bars, may he cause our hearts, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, to burn within us, as he talks with us by the way.
In Exodus 25:8, God gave his command to build the tabernacle. — “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” What a remarkable command that is! The Lord God commands sinful men to make a tabernacle for him, that he might dwell among them! Does God desire the company and companionship of such things as we are? He does indeed; but he cannot come to us and we cannot come to him except in a way that honors him in all his holy character. The tabernacle was designed to show, by constant, daily sacrifices and services, how God and man can be and are united in the person and work of Christ.
Those who constructed the tabernacle were a chosen, covenant people. They were a people who had been specially redeemed by the blood of a lamb. They were a people delivered from death (the Red Sea) and sanctified to God by the work of his wind, the constant representation of God the Holy Spirit in Scripture (John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
God took Moses up into the mount and showed him the pattern according to which he must make the tabernacle. He showed Moses the accomplishment of redemption by the sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God, and said, “See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5; Exodus 25:9, 40).
Because these carnal things had spiritual meaning, they were to be made according to a heavenly pattern. The tabernacle, like salvation, was altogether according to the purpose of God. Everything was done according to God’s will and God’s purpose. “Thus saith the Lord” was the rule of everything. No man’s opinion was sought; and no man’s opinion was given. Everything was done to show forth the greatness and glory of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything was done for the glory of God alone. And everything was designed to display God’s marvelous scheme of redemption and grace by the substitutionary sacrifice of his darling Son at Calvary.
Remember, God required the children of Israel to bring the materials by which the tabernacle was to be made (Exodus 25:1-8). He would only accept that which was offered willingly; though the offering was received by divine command.
How can a sacrifice be a willing sacrifice, if it is commanded? The fact is, the only way we will ever offer ourselves or make any offering of sacrifice of any kind to God is if he commands it. It is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power!”
But where did these pilgrims, dwelling in a desert, get all the rich and rare materials necessary for such a costly enterprise? Where on earth did they get all the silver and gold and precious stones that God received from their hands to make the tabernacle? The Lord God himself put into their hands that which he now received from their hands (Exodus 12:36). So it is with us (1 Chronicles 29:14). In Exodus 36:6, we are told that these redeemed sinners, fresh out of Egypt, gave with such willing hearts, so liberally, that Moses had to tell them to quit giving.
In Exodus 31, Moses shows us the workmen God used to get the job done.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.” (Exodus 31:1-6)
Bezaleel led a whole crew of skilled artisans. Bezaleel means “In the shadow of God.” Bezaleel, like God the Holy Spirit, gave to “every man his work,” and imparted to each workman the wisdom needed to perform his work. Clearly, Bezaleel stands before us as one typical of God the Holy Spirit, foreshadowing his great work in the building of God’s spiritual temple, the church, which is “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” The Lord used many to make his sanctuary; but Bezaleel alone was skilled “in all manner of workmanship;” and he alone devised curious works (Exodus 35:30-32).
Now, let’s look briefly at the buckles, boards, bases, and bars spoken of in Exodus 26. We will begin with the 50 buckles of gold and the 50 buckles of brass (vv. 6 and 11).
“And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle.” (Exodus 26:6)
“And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.” (Exodus 26:11)
The number 50 is itself an indication that these taches (buckles) which held the loops of the curtains together represent God the Holy Spirit, fifty being the number for Pentecost. Added to the symbolic number 50, both gold and brass are used through the Scriptures as emblems of divinity. Then, we are twice told that the purpose for these buckles was to hold everything together, to “couple the tent together, that it may be one.” That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. He makes of many one in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-7).
Before looking at the boards, think about the bases upon which the boards were set. Each board was set in two sockets of silver, which formed the foundation for the tabernacle. These sockets of silver were made to serve as the two tenons, or hands, that held the boards upright and held them all together.
“And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board. Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons. And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards.” (Exodus 26:15-20)
Knowing that this house was to be typical of heavenly and eternal things, we may be sure that something very special is to be seen here. These bases formed the one foundation upon which the whole tabernacle was erected and upon which it sat.
In Exodus 30 we are told that every man had to give half a shekel as atonement for his soul. In Exodus 38 we find that that “atonement money,” the price of souls, was to be made into sockets, in which the boards of the tabernacle were to rest.
What does all that mean? Just this — The Foundation, upon which the whole tabernacle and all the services of the tabernacle sat was Atonement. Here Peter was inspired to make reference to this very thing, when speaking of our redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ’s precious blood.
“Forasmuch 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; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:18-20).
The tabernacle had no standing apart from the atonement; and the church of Christ, the House of God, has no foundation at all apart from the sin-atoning, precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. To deny the redeeming power and efficacy of Christ’s blood is to deny the only foundation laid by God upon which it is possible to build true worship and acceptable service. — “Other foundation can no man lay” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The bases, the foundation, represent the atoning work of Christ. The boards resting on and fixed in the foundation typify the redeemed of the Lord. The boards represent us, the Israel of God — always portrayed in the number 12 or in multiples of 12. Each board was fifteen feet long and twenty-seven inches broad. Each board had two tenons (The word means “hands.”), by which it laid hold of the silver socket.
These boards say much more than you may have imagined, representing every believer’s experience of grace, by which we are built upon Christ. They had to be cut down. As Saul had this experience while on his way to Damascus, so every chosen, redeemed sinner must be brought down in the dust of repentance before the throne of God.
The boards could not be used until they were completely dried up. The sap of pride and self-righteousness must be dried up in us. David knew about this when he cried, “Thy hand was heavy upon me. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32. 4).
The boards also had to be cleansed and covered, clad and completely encased in pure gold. Beauty was put upon them that is altogether foreign to boards. So it is with God’s elect. — “The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22).
The boards were fitly framed together, joined together by the God-given hand, representing God given faith in Christ, holding the foundation and holding us to the foundation. When planted in their bases, forming one foundation, they were joined one to another. — True spiritual union can only come through our being joined together in Christ. Each board resting on the silver sockets of atonement stood as one with the other.
Then, the Lord God commanded Moses to make fifteen strong bars of shittim wood, overlaid with gold. These bars encircled the golden boards like the arms of omnipotent mercy and grace, keeping them on the foundation, keeping them upright, keeping them together, and holding them upright, pointed heavenward. — Marvelous grace!
As each board had three rings, through which the bars ran, each believer has three golden rings through which we are united by almighty grace to God our Savior and to one another: faith, hope, and love. — “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost” (2 Corinthians 13:14). — “These three, and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The tabernacle is often referred to as “the tabernacle of witness” (Numbers 17:7-8; 18:2; 2 Chronicles 24:6; Acts 7:44). Like the church of God, it was a witness in the wilderness to the mercy and holiness, and justice and grace, and faithfulness and truth of God. That is precisely what we are, as the trophies of his grace. We are God’s tabernacle of witness in this world. Witnessing everywhere of God’s greatness and grace, his glory and goodness, and his free salvation in his dear Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.