The Tabernacle was beautiful, in fact dazzlingly beautiful. It only makes sense that the wood would be as beautiful as all the rest. But there’s an odd thing. All of the wood was covered over! Not one bit of it was visible.
A few days ago a neighbor gave my wife a gift of wooden kitchen tools. They are made of acacia wood, and the wood is astonishingly beautiful.
Acacia wood appears 28 times in the Bible. (It is “shittim” in the KJV.) All but one of those times are about the construction of the Tabernacle and its furniture in the wilderness. In fact it’s the only wood used. Part of the reason is no doubt availability. But the Tabernacle was beautiful, in fact dazzlingly beautiful. It only makes sense that the wood would be as beautiful as all the rest.
But there’s an odd thing. All of the wood was covered over! Not one bit of it was visible. The ark of the covenant was acacia, covered by gold. Same with the table for the bread. And the frames that held up the tent. And the pillars for the curtains—both the inner veil and the outer screen. And the altar of incense. And the poles for carrying the furniture. The altar for the sacrifices was made from acacia too, along with its poles, this time covered with bronze. (You can find the details in Exodus 25-38.)
Every bit of this beautiful wood was covered over. Why? We aren’t given a reason, but it got me thinking, and looking a little more into this wood.
Acacia is used all over the world. Besides being beautiful, it is very strong and very durable. It is also naturally water resistant, and does not warp. So it’s perfect for high-end furniture. It is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, which makes it perfect for cooking and food serving implements like our new spoons.
The Tabernacle was for the glorification of the one true God, the deliverer from bondage, the God who saves. You may have encountered detailed studies of the Tent and its furnishings, examining the symbolism of all the parts. I’m not going to go into all that here, but one symbolic element occurred to me.
The Tabernacle was designed and built to be beautiful. But the greatest beauty was inside—gold, gorgeous weaving and embroidery. Only the priests got to see it. And even inside, there was additional beauty that was hidden from all eyes: the wood that held it all up.
It is good to exhibit spiritual beauty—do good for those in need, help others in various ways, worship and praise with others.
This hidden, inner beauty is the faith, the hope, the love inside.
We are commanded to do these things. These things are the gold—beautiful, precious, and visible. Yet what holds the whole structure up (so to speak) is beauty that’s hidden from view. It is the beauty inside that gives the greatest glory to the Almighty. This hidden, inner beauty is the faith, the hope, the love inside. True beauty that is strong, durable, resistant to warping and corruption.
By nature, we aren’t so beautiful inside (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9). The acacia starts out thorny—not at all nice. But it can undergo a transformation into something beautiful, useful, beneficial, lasting. Into something for the glory of God, who sees the beauty inside just as well as the outside.