When Moses was given instructions for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, they included a very specific command: “Make it with acacia wood.”
Acacia is a tree that is easy to find in the Middle East. It’s not an especially beautiful tree – it’s a common wood. There are more than one thousand varieties of acacia growing all over the world. Each variety adapts to its particular climate. These trees are thorny and bear pods and fragrant white and yellow flowers. The bark is filled with tannins. Acacia trees are also called thorntrees, whistling thorns, or wattles. Its grain is knotty and irregular.
The Tabernacle’s most holy implements were made with it.
“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. He overlaid it with pure gold….
They made the table of acacia wood….
They made the altar of incense out of acacia wood. They overlaid the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold….
They built the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood… and they overlaid the altar with bronze.”
Exodus 37 & 38
There’s a lesson in God’s choice of materials.
Acacia has some natural advantages. Its wood is hard, strong, and durable, stronger than hickory and oak. It has natural tannins that make it resistant to moisture and bug resistant. It is also antimicrobial. The acacia tree is adaptable and grows in many different climates. The trees on the African savannah have wide flat umbrella-shaped crowns that are adapted to capture all the available sunlight.
In choosing acacia wood, God revealed something profound...
He uses what’s common and available.
He chooses things that have endured hardship. Things that have lived in difficult places.
He chooses irregular and rough things. Even things with thorns.
He uses common things for Heavenly purposes and transforms them into objects of eternal beauty.
The Israelites wandered in a country that was strange to them – they wandered as strangers in the land but not strangers to God. The Angel of the Lord traveled with them.
"I am a stranger with you." — Psalm 39:12
When common people -- guilty sinners -- are transformed by God's grace, they become strangers to the world. As Spurgeon beautifully put it: “His pierced hand has loosened the cords which once bound my soul to earth, and now I find myself a stranger in the land.”
God identifies with His own. He is not a stranger to us but with us. It often feels like we're walking through this world as pilgrims in a foreign country. This was Jesus’ experience, too; “His own received him not. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”
But what a blessed way to live! We are strangers with Christ. He is our fellow-sufferer, our fellow-pilgrim, and He is transforming us into something beautiful.
“Oh, what joy to wander in such blessed society! My heart burns within me by the way when you speak to me, and though I be a sojourner, I am far more blest than those who sit on thrones.”
~Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, March 16th
With us, God is making something awesome!
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. ~2 Corinthians 5:1