The importance of the Tabernacle along with its furnishings and the Priesthood is given more space in the Bible than any other subject—by sheer volume of material, it is the most important subject of Scripture— for it teaches how God comes to us in Christ and we go to Him in Christ.
So important are these details that they are repeated in the Book of Exodus a second time. With a few exceptions, however, the material in final chapters of Exodus makes no new contribution to an understanding of God’s plan of salvation and Israel’s worship.
In Exodus 24:15-31:18, the instructions or commands of Yahweh are set forth for the making or construction of the Tabernacle and it furnishings along with the priestly garments. Then, in Exodus 35:1-39:43, we read that Israel carried out all of Yahweh’s instructions or commands to the smallest detail.
In these last six chapters of Exodus, the phrases “The LORD commanded” or “the LORD has commanded” occur 22 times to signify that the Israelites and Moses did JUST AS THE LORD COMMANDED.
Just as the Israelites completed to the smallest detail the plans that originated in heaven, Yahweh will complete His plan of salvation in Christ. As God’s will is done here on earth, so it will be done in heaven—a reversal of the Lord’s prayer—“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Chapter 35 opens with a command concerning the Sabbath. This is the seventh and last time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Book of Exodus. Again, we see the Sabbath strategically placed in the text. Exodus 35:1-3—
Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
Here the doctrinal significance of the Sabbath is that we must rest in the LORD before we can work for Him. Before we can bring to God, we must receive from Him.
The construction of the Tabernacle is of upmost importance, but the Sabbath is not to be violated to make it. Rest comes before work! Not vice versa!
Think about it? What’s the first day of the week—Sunday! What is the Christian’s day of rest? Sunday! Why? Its the LORD’S DAY—Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week! As Christians begin the week with rest, then we are to work!
It is the man of peace and rest who is able to do his work for the LORD. When Solomon was born, Yahweh said to David in 1 Chronicles 22:9—
But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.
David was not permitted to build God’s Temple, but Solomon the man of peace and rest did. Likewise, the Israelites could not build God’s Tabernacle unless they were at peace with the LORD and rested in Him. The observance of the Sabbath symbolically manifested this peace and rest.
Another restriction is added to this SEVENTH COMMAND in order to keep the Sabbath holy—“DO NOT LIGHT A FIRE IN ANY OF YOUR DWELLINGS ON THE SABBATH DAY.”
On the one hand, some scholars say the lighting of fire refers to heat necessary in using the tools and metal for the making of the Tabernacle. And therefore, this law was simply a prohibition to working on the seventh day in the construction of the Tabernacle.
On the other hand, the Jewish Rabbis say this law speaks about comfort. In keeping a true Sabbath one is neither occupied with one’s own activity nor with one’s natural consideration. A fire was not to be kindled to make food nor for warmth. That the needs of fleshly ease and gratification were not to be satisfied on the Sabbath. Man is not to find pleasure in his own ways on the Sabbath, but in the LORD’S.
Since YOUR DWELLINGS are mentioned as the place fires are not be lit, the Rabbis interpretation of personal comfort appears to be correct. Keep in mind that this particular law on fires was suited for the desert and Canaan. This stipulation would cause great problems in the frozen North.
Again, the death penalty is attached. If anyone did work on the Sabbath, he was to be stoned to death. The day of rest is not only commanded, it is demanded by God! If one violates it, one can anticipated the consequences!
The second thing we have in Exodus 35 is the people’s response to Yahweh’s invitation in 25:1-2—
The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.
Now we read in Exodus 35:4-9—
Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the LORD has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
This contribution to the LORD is not a tithe or a stipulated offerings required by the Law, but a free-will offering. This offering is to come from the heart. Most blessed is it to read in Exodus 35:21-22—
And everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, ear-rings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the LORD.
These were not unwilling donors who had to be begged and urged to give. Spontaneously, freely, joyfully, did they avail themselves of their privilege. Paul writes to Christians in 2 Corinthians 9:7—
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Look at Exodus 36:5-7—
And [the skilled craftsmen] said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
WOW! Too much was being given—Moses had to stop the offerings! I wonder if there has ever been a time such as this in Church History?
What could have possibly motivated these stiff-necked people to give this way? GRACE! They deserved to be destroyed in God’s wrath, but Moses interceded and the LORD relented! Everyone knew it! The Law—the Ten Commandments—convicted and condemned them, but God had showed mercy and compassion to them! Out of a grateful heart, they gave and gave!
The question is often asked, “Where did the Israelites get the different articles they gave?” Remember that God promised Abraham that they would come out of Egypt with with great possessions. He made sure they collected their back wages. After the Ten Plagues, the Egyptians were so glad to rid the land of the Israelites that they gave them whatever they asked. So Israel left Egypt with a great deal of wealth.
We should not be surprised to find the Sabbath and offerings linked together. Look at Exodus 34:20-21—
Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest.
There are required offerings and free-will offerings, yet both kinds of offerings stem from God’s grace— His redemption—and no one is to appear before Him empty-handed. To come before the LORD empty-handed is to come without gratitude in the heart! Empty-handed—empty-hearted!
With gratitude in their heart, the people are eager and zealous for this good work. Moreover, we read in chapters 35-39 that all the skilled came and skillfully made everything as the LORD commanded.
Keeping the LORD’S DAY holy and our checkbook are the two greatest indicators of whether we are delighting ourselves in the LORD. The giving of time and substance to the LORD is not a legal thing, a mere matter of duty, but a privilege and a joy.
Here is a redeemed people, a people who behold the glory of the LORD that are devoted to His cause. Here too it is the love of Christ, which compels us. He first loved us, and we delight to give because He first gave to us. Nothing so moves the heart as the contemplation of the love and grace of God as now revealed to us in Christ our glorified Mediator.
And that’s who Moses foreshadowed as his faced radiated from God’s glory. The last six chapters of Exodus emphasize primarily one thing—the Israelites responded with obedience to everything the LORD commanded.
These chapters also show that whenever there is a spirit of devotion, manifested by a free and liberal offering from the heart unto the cause of God, He will not be hesitant in raising up qualified workers, whose hearts have been stirred by His Spirit, to make a wise and God-glorifying use of His peoples’ gifts.
Let’s consider the order and connection of three things in these chapters.
First, God’s people are to keep the holy the Sabbath day as a rest unto the LORD.
Second, God’s people are to give free will offerings out of gratitude of their heart.
Third, God’s people are to get active in His work—building His dwelling place.
Acceptable service unto the LORD begins with entering His rest and then moves on to delighting in ourselves in the LORD—giving generously from a heart that manifests our affections for Him. First, we are saved and then we are grateful—a cheerful giver. Now we are ready to work for Him! But only after the first two conditions have been met.
Anything else is either the outcome of the restless energy of the flesh, or is merely “bricks” produced under the whip of the taskmasters.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law had the wrong motives for giving and serving. According to Jesus, they did everything for their own praise. They placed themselves under their own man-made laws and traditions, which made them look good in the eyes of the people. So Jesus said they had already received their full reward.
Observance of God’s laws is not to be burdensome, but a joy!
The Pharisees had practically the wrong idea about everything! Their very name PHARISEE means SEPARATED ONES. These final chapters of Exodus stress COOPERATION, not SEPARATION in the community of Israel. Both men and women working together to build the Tabernacle.
Exodus 39:32 sums up the work of the Israelites Chapters 35-39—
So all the work on the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed. The Israelites did everything just as the LORD commanded Moses.
The obedience of Israel is recorded for our learning. We to have received the LORD’S COMMANDS concerning the work which He has given us to do. His complete work is now in our hands. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 asserts—
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
ALL SCRIPTURE is available to us so that we might know exactly what God wants us to do for Him. Nothing is lacking—God has given His orders—we don’t have to guess what they might be!
As God gifted by the Holy Spirit individuals with skills to make the Tabernacle and its furnishings along with the vestures of the priesthood, so He has gifted each member of the body of Christ with skills to perform His work according to passages like Ephesians 2:8-10—
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We have been saved to do good works! If we desire God’s blessing, then there’s work to be done!
God’s work must not be done according to human expediency, convenience, or originality—its to be done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That’s the point of these final chapters!
Jesus told Peter, “I will build my church.” As Yahweh is the architect of the Tabernacle, which is symbolic of the Church. How does Christ build His Church? The same way God had the Tabernacle built in the desert —through obedient and skilled workers, who were Spirit-filled.
Remember that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Yet, God supplied them with all the necessary resources and skill so that they could build the Tabernacle to His specifications.
What greatly disturbs me is that so many leaders are trying to build Christ’s church in the world’s way with natural resources instead of spiritual ones. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15—
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
If any one build gold, silver, costly stones—Three sorts of materials which will bear the fire; true and solid doctrines. Wood, hay, straw-Three which will not bear the fire. Such are all doctrines, ceremonies, and forms of human invention; all but the substantial, vital truths of Christianity.
How can we explain the failure of the Sadducees and Pharisees? They were extremely religious. The Pharisees in particular were finicky about insisting on all the details of THEIR law. But in all their spiritual calisthenics, they missed the main message. They built their lives on wood, hay, and straw! Consequently they rejected their Messiah. They are proof that generating religious activity is no substitute for love of Truth—God’s Word.
These religious leaders did not teach people to think biblically, to search the Scriptures thoroughly, to test everything, to discern between truth and error. Instead, they issued a set of rules and told people to live accordingly. Many of their laws and rules were nothing but human inventions added to the Old Covenant. They became so wrapped up in their own traditions that they down-played the truth of Scripture and distorted sound doctrine. Jesus said to them in Matthew 15:6—
You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
As doctrine has been deemphasized, the church has moved from preaching the Word to other activities: drama, music, entertainment—things designed to evoke an emotional response rather than enlighten the mind. The charismatic movement has supplanted doctrine with experience. Psychology has elevated “felt” needs over “real” needs and behavioral theory over revealed truth. All this has accelerated the move away from doctrine and focused the pulpit message on everything but the objective truth of Scripture.
Preachers have become comedians, storytellers, therapists, showmen and entertainers rather than powerful envoys of divine truth. In their heart, these preachers believe the written Word and spoken Word are not relevant. Faith has become something subjective (a feeling or emotion) that can be better communicated through music, drama, and art forms—rather than by the straightforward proclamation of objective truth.
Evangelistic services are held where the preacher tells stories, cracks jokes, plays on the emotions of the audience. No reference is made to the issue of sin, no mention of the Cross, no call for repentance—in fact, there are only scant references to Scripture, and they have nothing to do with any of the central issues of the Gospel. Nothing is said that would remotely challenge the unbelief or sin of non-Christians.
Incredibly, however, an invitation is given and people streamed forward to make professions of faith. What are these people saying? They are moved emotionally and they want a religious experience!
Can we really view such a response as evidence of conversion? Can people become Christians on the basis of a message devoid of any Gospel Truth? Can someone who has never know real conviction of sin trust Christ as Savior in any meaningful sense? Is a walk down the aisle at a religious meeting the same thing as true conversion? Is just any kind of emotional experience as good as genuine repentance?
The state of affairs is such in many churches that multitudes who profess faith in Christ cannot even articulate the most basic issues of the Gospel. The essential details of the Gospel have been set aside! Materials of human design have been substituted.
Israel’s building of the Tabernacle in the desert is symbolic of believers building every born again Christian and Church in the world. Israel built the Tabernacle according to the Word of God—following every detail—just as the LORD commanded. And Jesus said that every Christian is to do likewise in His Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders—
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Foolish people who build their lives on “spiritual entertainment” will discover too late that they do not have the spiritual foundation of God’s Word that rests on the Rock—Christ and His righteousness!
The LORD called me not to entertain, but to preach His Word. To build with gold, silver and precious stone, not wood, hay and straw. I preach the details of Scripture for in the details is found the answers to abundant and eternal life. Jesus Himself said in John 5:39—
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.
The way of life and righteousness by Christ is manifested with the Law, the Tabernacle—within all the OT Scriptures. They are full of testimony about the coming Messiah. Here one finds Christ and every doctrine to build a life based on wisdom. Therefore, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15—
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Every Christian is called to be a workman for God and our work will be inspected according to 2 Corinthians 5:10—
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Jesus will inspect our work, just as Moses does in Exodus 39:42-43—
The Israelites had done all the work just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the LORD had commanded. So Moses blessed them.
Will Jesus approve our work for Him? Only if we pay careful attention to the details of Scripture and do everything just as the LORD commanded. It should be the goal of every Christian to hear Christ’s words—
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:23).
Faithfulness, not success is what our Master requires—to do just as the LORD commanded. Keep in mind that the obedience of Israel and Moses’ blessing are recorded for our learning!
We too have received the Word of God with all its details telling us how to construct our tabernacle for His glory. If we build our life according to God’s pattern, we also receive the LORD’S blessing!
Jesus announces in the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:12—
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
Are you anxious or does it make you anxious that Jesus is coming with His reward? If you have been doing JUST AS THE LORD COMMANDED, you should be eagerly awaiting Him! It will be a crowning day!
On the other hand, if the thought of Christ’s return alarms you, it’s time to start building your tabernacle according to God’s instructions! Jesus told His generation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” They had three and one-half years. He tells our generation, “Behold, I am coming soon!”
THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES indicate that time is running out for the Christian and the Church on this earth—the Rapture is near! Are you ready for the CROWNING DAY?