Worship That Demands the Best
Exodus 25 to 31:18
Prior to this we have seen God as the Lord of both history and nature as he prepared Moses, delivered Israel, and led them to Sinai. There He was seen as the absolute Lord of life. From this point, continuing through Leviticus and the early portion of Numbers, God presented Himself as the Lord of worship.
There were no atheists in the ancient Near East. Everyone worshiped gods of some kind. Long before the Exodus, Israel’s ancestors were worshiping God. Their forms of worship had been similar to and occasionally identical with the worship of their neighbors. With the Exodus, however, they had been given a new experience with God. They needed new worship forms and facilities to express their new relationship to a new understanding of God. So they were given both new worship forms and new meanings for old forms.
God first told Moses how the materials to build his tabernacle were to be obtained. The first principle was that the offering was to be completely voluntary, being received from every man “heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.” Unlike other gods the Lord wants us to give out of the desire of our heart. (2 Corinthians 9:7) The word in Hebrew referred not to the seat of the emotions but to the seat of thought, purpose, and will. The offering was not to come from those who felt like giving, but from those who knew and were committed to the offering as the right thing to do.
God specified the needed materials. Some of the material was identified as to their purpose. God specified the ultimate purpose of the offering, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me.” The reason for the sanctuary was also stated as being that God might “dwell among them.” The people knew that God was with them at Sinai. The future sanctuary was to be visible evidence of His continued presence.
Under the directions and purposes of God the offerings were to be used. It would be imperative that God’s people use their resources in accord with His will. Nothing less will do. Much of the offerings specified were part of the plunder they had taken with them from the Egyptians.
Few were the objects of the interior but they were rich. Three objects were basic: the Ark of the Covenant, (Exodus 25:10-22) The Table of Showbread, (Exodus 25:23-30) The Golden Lampstand. (Exodus 25:31-40)
The ark was a small box to be overlaid with gold. (A cubit was the length from the tip of the fingers to the elbow, about eighteen inches.) The method given to carry the ark was to prevent anyone from ever touching the ark itself. The “mercy seat” comes from a Hebrew word that literally means to cover. This word is consistently used in the Old Testament with the theological concept of God’s covering or atoning for sin. Here it is translated as “mercy seat” rather than by its more ordinary function of serving as a cover for the ark or box. On the top of the lid were soldered two small cherubim. (Cherubim/cherubs are angelic beings involved in the worship and praise of God.) Cherubim were regularly considered to be symbolic of the messengers and attendants of God. Later, in the Temple, two gigantic cherubim were erected. (2 Chronicles 3:10-13) In the ark was to be placed “testimony”. This referred to the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The entire ark was to serve as the place God would speak with Israel.
There was also to be a table just as luxuriously finished as the ark. The table was portable and designed to hold the utensils used in worship. There were “dishes and its pans” used for incense offerings and “jars and its bowls” used for the drink offerings. The “bread of the Presence” was twelve flat cakes (Leviticus 24:5-6) which were set out fresh each morning and were removed each evening.
There was the Lampstand, which was called the Menorah, which is still one of the basic symbols of modern Judaism. The lamps upon the stand were primarily present for their practical value. They were to give light to the holy place within the tabernacle. In later times the light form the lamp came to symbolize the presence of God.
The beauty of the design and the worth of its content were surpassing. It is difficult to determine the actual weight of a talent. It seems to have varied from time to time. A talent was the largest measurement for weight in Israel and varied from about 70 to 130 pounds. The Lampstand itself with its branches and leaves apparently symbolized a tree. The almond tree later served as a reminder to Jeremiah that God was watching over His people. (Jeremiah 1:11-12)
In a final warning to Moses God said see that all of the furnishing was made in accord with God’s directions. It was imperative that the people follow the plans that God had given them in their divinely appointed tasks. The worth of the furnishings served as an obvious reminder that they were to use their very best in His service.
2 Corinthians 9:7, 2 Chronicles 3:10-13, Leviticus 24:5-6, Jeremiah 1:11-12