Obedience That Delights the Spirit
Exodus 35:1 to 40:38
Much of what is written in these final chapters duplicates what we have read in Exodus 24:25 through 31:18. The earlier chapters gave the commands for the worship equipment while these describe the actual construction. There are some significant truths here to be found and are worth noting.
Exodus 35:1 to 36:7
In setting the Israelite people to work, Moses first set forth the Sabbath commandment. The Sabbath commandment was in the conclusion of the last chapter and now the author restates it again in the introduction here. There was obviously a deliberate reason. The observance of the Sabbath was a basic sign of Israel’s covenant relation and the fact that Moses began with it here served to reaffirm that fact as well as to underscore that it was to be observed while they were actually involved in the construction project. Being involved in God’s work is not sufficient justification for not observing the Sabbath.
Nowhere else in the Old Testament is found the prohibition of kindling fire on the Sabbath. It may have been intended to prohibit the smelting or working with metals on the Sabbath. This was a major task in the construction project
Moses then called for the people to provide the materials needed for the construction of the tabernacle, but only those who were “of a generous heart.” As slaves from Egypt the Israelites could not have possibly possessed the materials needed for the project. These offerings must have come from the treasure which they had asked for and received from the Egyptians.
Not only were the supplies needed but also the workmen. This appeal was directed to “every skillful man among you come” that they should give their time and talents to the construction of the tabernacle. Whatever a man’s skill, there was something he could do. God’s Kingdom still uses the ability which we might have. His call is still for “able” workers.
The people responded overwhelmingly. They came as the will and purpose led them, bringing their gifts to God. Another thing to note is that “both men and women” participated in the offering. Women played a small part in the Israelite life, that they were mentioned here shows how significant a part they must have played in this offering.
Bezalel and Oholiab were men of God given skills and they were also “put in their heart to teach.” The workmen came with willingness, skill, and with intelligence. Without all three the work would have suffered.
Another great significance is that the offerings of the people were overwhelming. It was reported that “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.” Measures had to be taken to end the offerings. When the people of God respond with joyous generosity to God’s call for gifts, there should always be an abundant supply.
Exodus 36:8 to 38:31
This next section gives us a report of the construction of the tabernacle. At a glance it appears that all of these accomplishments were done in sequence, one following the other. It is more likely that all of these tasks were going on simultaneously.
The record here indicates that the tabernacle was constructed in a brief period of time. It is possible that some of the later features of the tabernacle as it existed in Canaan, before the erection of the temple, may have been read back into this initial construction. If this is true, the actual construction may have lasted over years rather than months.
The interior equipment was also made just as it had been described. (Exodus 77:1 to 38:20) The construction is recorded in logical sequence rather than how it was commanded.
One significant item is the bronze laver that was made “from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” In those times mirror’s were made of polished metal. The identity and function of these “serving women” is unknown. The only other record of such is found in 1 Samuel 2:22, but it sheds no real light. What these women did is lost to our knowledge. Whatever their function, it was obviously a service dedicated to God and one which continued after the erection of the tabernacle and on into the settlement of Canaan. It seems this service came to an end after the settlement in Canaan. This was probably due to the fact that in Canaanite worship, women who served in their shrines were sacred prostitutes. Israel would have done away with this practice as it may have caused a misunderstanding.
In these verses we find a recurring phrase “as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Exodus 39: 1, 5, 7, 21, 29, 31) It is hardly by accident that this phrase was repeated seven times. This would have indicated to them the sacredness and completeness of the making of the priestly vestments.
Another significant fact is the statement that “they hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads” as a description of the technique used to manufacture the gold thread. Such detail offers fascinating insights into the skills and handicrafts of the day.
One more point of interest is the absence of any mention of the Urim and Thummim in the description of the breastplates. (See Exodus 39:8-21 and Exodus 28:15-30) This omission may indicate that the sacred lots were natural stones and not shaped, fashioned, or otherwise manufactured. This becomes probable when we remember that the stones of the altar were to have been of such a nature. (Exodus 20:25) That which was natural was considered to be more sacred than that which had been fashioned.
Exodus 39:32 to 40:33
Once the work was complete they brought all the various items to Moses. (Exodus 39:32-43) This was done for his inspection. The repetition of verses 42 and 43 lays force upon the fact that they had done the work exactly as they had been told. By listing the details the fact of Israel’s faithfulness and obedience to the minutest detail was visibly complete.
After the construction of the tabernacle was completed Moses was instructed to set it up. (Exodus 40:1-15) This divine command called not merely for the setting up of the tabernacle but also for its consecration.
The tabernacle was set up “in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month.” This would have meant that the tabernacle was erected eleven and one half months after the actual exodus from Egypt. This would also indicate that the time spent in Sinai up to the setting up of the tabernacle was nine months.
The statement “Moses erected the tabernacle” is not to be understood as Moses did all the labor. It would have been impossible for any one man to have completed such a task. The expression probably means that the task was done under his authority.
The only detail added here is the washing of the hands and feet of the priest. (Exodus 40:30-32) This was to indicate that one’s feet had to be clean before he could step into the holy place and that his hands had to be clean before he could serve the Lord with the sacrifices. This outward cleansing signified that an inner cleansing was also necessary.
When the tabernacle was dedicated, the “cloud covered the tent of meeting.” The symbol of God’s presence had descended from the mountain and had moved to the tabernacle. This visible movement had served to demonstrate to both Moses and Israel that God had accepted and approved their labors. The glory of God had so filled the tent that no longer could even Moses enter the most holy place.
In the beginning of Exodus, Israel was enslaved in Egypt and did not know that God was either near or aware of them. In the end of the book, they are free, redeemed people, on to the land of promise, accompanied and guided by the almighty God Himself. So it has ever been. Those who have been redeemed by God are guided and sustained through the wilderness as they journey to the new land of promise. God always leads those whom he has redeemed
1 Samuel 2:22