These words are the marginal rendering of the last phrase of Exodus 26. 5 in the Newberry Bible. Perhaps they seem odd or quaint, and yet they have very significant meaning. The author had the privilege of knowing two sisters, who were sisters by nature and also in grace. Their love and devotion to each other was an example to all. Everyone knew them for the deep devotion they shared. They did nothing apart from the other’s full acquiescence in the proposed intention, and whenever possible were seen together in meetings and elsewhere. Their love the one for the other was a bond so strong that it was for them “until death us do part”—that was the extent of the unity existing between them. So much so that whenever this marginal reference comes to mind, so do these two saints of God as an example of it.
There were two kinds of curtains used in the tabernacle—ten linen curtains over which were spread eleven curtains made from spun goats’ hair. It is to the latter of these that our title refers. S. Ridout, in his Lectures on the Tabernacle, has some interesting comments about these curtains. Among other things, he says that as it was the hair and not the skin that was used, it did not speak of the death of the animal.
The hair is that which separated the animal from the effects of the elements. He also points out that the prophet’s garb was often made from goats’ hair. So, brought out by his remarks, we have here the symbols of the separated life, and of warning and testimony.
The Gospel of John refers to the Prophet who brought the message from the Father, and plainly declares Him to be none other than the Son who came from the bosom of the Father. As the Prophet who came from God, and as the Sin-bearer, He is not only typified in the lamb but in the goat, Lev. 16. 5, 15.
The separated walk of the Lord Jesus is clearly indicated by John. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?”, He said on one occasion, leaving His opponents speechless. Again, He spoke the words of God as is emphasized by the apostle in his Gospel. As He did so, He shows Himself to be that Prophet. We have seen that these things are typically associated with the goats’ hair.
In making the curtains for the tabernacle, both wise-hearted (intelligent) men and women were needed. Exodus 35. 25 tells us that the wise-hearted women spun the material to be made into the ten curtains; and verse 26 says that every woman whose heart stirred her up spun goats’ hair.
In the next chapter we read of the wise-hearted men, v. 8, making the ten curtains from the spun material. The ultimate result of this combined labour of intelligent love was that there might be “one tabernacle”, Exod. 36. 13.
Let us now see the significance of all this. Space does not permit detail, but we note that the intelligent wisdom of the women was to choose that unobtrusive work of spinning (no doubt in the home or tent). We note also that they chose to spin the colours for the “linen” curtains and the goats’ hair. Their heart of love is expressed in their choice, for with hindsight we can see that their efforts were to speak of the Lord Jesus as presented to us in the four Gospels (the colours) and of His witness to God, and work for men, as seen in the goats’ hair.
The loops which were to be used “as a woman to her sister” speak very forcibly of the uniting power of love. The spinning of the materials draws our attention to the intelligent skill required to produce that unity; and the working together with the wise-hearted men depicts the unity of communion that there should be between all in fellowship, thus producing one tabernacle.
This is a different situation. This woman is a “keeper (guard) at home”. She shows her many-sided virtues in this her own sphere. Her husband can confide in her; she is a diligent and willing worker; she provides for her family and household; she prepares for the future; she is beneficent; she protects her household; she adorns herself becomingly; she promotes her husband’s respect; she speaks with wisdom, and this in kindness; and she is industrious.
But what is the underlying virtue which acts as a backcloth to the rest? In Proverbs 31. 10-31, her hands are mentioned seven times over! She takes wool and flax and willingly works them into their cloths … a uniting work. By the fruit of her hands she brings gladness, v. 16, Psa. 104. 15. With her hands she prepares the wool for weaving; she has compassion on the poor and needy, and generously supplies them. Again she is found in her work of uniting virtues, for her coverings of tapestry are not only works of beauty but works of unity also.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
In seven short verses in Acts 9 we have all that is said about Dorcas, vv. 36-42. This woman was full of good works and almsdeeds. What did she do? She made coats and garments—items in which pieces of material were brought together and united to form a covering. Works of love, for they were almsdeeds; works of charity, for they warmed those who received them; and again works of love (if taken metaphorically), for love covereth a multitude of sins. He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter, Prov. 11. 13.
No wonder the passing of Dorcas brought much sorrow to the disciples and the widows. Little wonder at the rejoicing of the saints when Peter presented her alive again to them.
This dear old saint, to whom the Holy Spirit gives three verses packed with information, must have passed her 100th birthday, and yet she was still spiritually virile. Like the righteous flourishing as the palm tree, she is still bearing fruit in her old age, Psa. 92. 14. Like Deborah of old she is a prophetess and a mother in Israel. She speaks of Christ to all who looked for redemption. Blessed occupation! Like the virtuous woman, her lamp did not go out at night.
The bustle of life, the false sense of values we possess, and the deception of material wellbeing have given a sense of self-sufficiency which no longer needs to turn to the Lord for wisdom, guidance and support, such as our parents knew.
In the wake of all this, Laodicean coldness, blindness, wretchedness and nakedness are pervading the church, and the lack of acknowledgement of those placed by God in the assembly to guide. In turn the ‘personality clashes’ are causing division, unrest and sorrow in many places. There are, of course, places where the atmosphere of this world has not penetrated in so far, and we must thank our God that this is so.
We must thank our God also for those wise-hearted women who are spinning the material for the wise-hearted men to bring together for the display of the many-sided glories of our Lord Jesus Christ. How they should be cherished as they ponder the Word for themselves and for the refreshment of their own husbands so that they can ‘sit in the gate’ and use the (often) hard-earned labour of treading out the corn.
What a wonderful work the Lord has given to sisters in assemblies. Naturally, their fingers are more deft and dextrous than those of their brethren, and their capacity for that quality of grace and love has been made proverbial by David’s lament over Jonathan that his love passed that of women, so complimenting the women as being noted for their love, despite the exceptional love of Jonathan. When moved by the Spirit they are equipped with that wisdom to know how to approach situations when division threatens, and, moving dextrously behind the scenes in love to their Lord, they gather together the damaged threads, or indeed weave that which will be the cloth for the curtains displaying the virtues of Him who has called us out of the darkness into His marvellous light, or spin the material for those curtains of goats’ hair so that the truth of the Word can be taught by those chosen of God to do so.
Also what a need there is today for those who will engage in that uniting ministry in the assembly, as silently as they would ply the needle, but as positively as they would produce the completed garment. How much pleasure would be brought to the Lord in beholding assemblies united according to His desire! How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard … for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore, Psa. 133. 1-3.
All things connected with the tabernacle had to be made “according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount”, Heb. 8. 5, and the ultimate of this was “one tabernacle” (nothing divided), a place for God to dwell in. So it is today: the assembly should be a place of unity permeated by love—the love of the Spirit. In such an assembly every whit will utter forth the glory of Christ, and be an habitation of God.
Dear sister, what an honourable and privileged position you have been given by the Lord of the assembly.
How much you are needed (having imbibed the mind of Christ) in the proper functioning among the Lord’s people for His glory. Consider the wise-hearted spinners; the mother in Israel; the virtuous woman; Anna the prophetess; Dorcas the needlewoman; and Paul’s word through Timothy, “that women adorn themselves … with good works”, 1 Tim. 2. 9, 10; then turning your heart and face toward the Lord say, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits”, Song 4. 16. So will He be exalted and be made very high.
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