Exodus 40:34-38

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 40:38 (HCSB)

38 For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.

Reflection/Application:

Exodus comes to a close with this very short pericope. But, despite its brevity, the passage brings together the theme of Exodus, and points forward to the journey before the Israelites.

We first see that all the preceding chapters finally culminate with God descending and manifesting among His people in the tabernacle. So much so, that not even Moses can enter the tent of meeting during these times when God filled it. This serves as a reminder of two things:

  1. We, as sinful, broken, people, cannot enter into the presence of God. It is not that God does not want us to, it is because it is for our own good. But we have a great promise that one day we will be with God, due to the sacrifice of Jesus.
  2. We should celebrate the completion of God’s work and His plan! Despite all the speedbumps and wrong turns, God gets His people to the finish line. This should bring us hope!

The final three verses demonstrate the following:

  • When God moves, we should move. When God is still, we should be still. That’s exactly the situation with the Israelites. When God is manifest and filling the tabernacle, they stay put. When God ascends, and leaves the tabernacle, they move. What could make more sense? When God is with us, we are in the right spot. When God leaves us, we ought to chase after Him, follow Him.
  • I love the final part of Exodus 40:38: “visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey.” God is not about hiding. He is visible to us, and as believers we should be even more attuned to His presence. But again, we should find hope and safety that God is with us in the journey He lays before us, just as He was with the Israelites on their journey to the promised land of Canaan.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for being with us. I pray that we would move when You move, and stay when You are still, always seeking to be near You. Help us to trust in You in our journey, when trials come up, and when things are easy. Amen.

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Exodus 40:1-33

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 40:33 (HCSB)

33 Next Moses set up the surrounding courtyard for the tabernacle and the altar and hung a screen for the gate of the courtyard. So Moses finished the work.

Reflection/Application:

So we have been brought to the point of actually assembling the tabernacle, and its surrounding area, and placing all the items within it, all according to the way God commanded. In addition, this passage contains instructions for the washing of Aaron, as well as his anointing, and that of the other priests. This is the culmination, from the human side, of all the work done in producing the tabernacle.

I think much of this has the same significance as the previous 3+ chapters: it highlights the obedience of the Israelites, here embodied by Moses. We see brief summary descriptions from God for the assembly, and brief summary descriptions of Moses carrying them out. And it is easy to simply skim through here and not really see anything new. But I think there is a small nuance here, and it is embodied in Exodus 40:33b.

“So Moses finished the work.” (Exodus 40:33b) Don’t we know from life experience what happens when we start projects, but do not finish them? Almost certainly the end result is unsatisfactory, it falls short of its full potential, or simply fails altogether. And what does that look like in our spiritual life when we make great beginnings, but never reach the finish? Does it leave the door cracked for sin and evil? Does it harden us, through missing out on the reward of completion, to God’s glory? Does it condition us to accept the world and it’s ways rather than God and His?

No doubt the Israelites have had their struggles. Imagine what impact it would have had on them had the tabernacle been built, all the parts and pieces finished, but then never actually assemble and set it up. It would have been catastrophic! Heck, they couldn’t go 40 days not that long ago, while Moses was up on the mountain, without crafting an idol and worshipping it rather than God. Because remember, the tabernacle was to be where God would dwell among His people. So if it never is assembled, it does not exist, and God does not dwell among His people. If God is absent, how long does it take for man to fill His place with something else, whether it be a golden calf, money, food, porn, demons, or self?

This makes me think of Paul’s writing in 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:7 (HCSB)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

It’s very easy to get stuck on the starting. We want to see God’s kingdom expand, see new souls be saved, see people come to know Christ. As we should! But we should not forget the end of the race either. Just as Paul “finished the race,” and Moses “finished the work,” we should be mindful to “finish” as well. God is not a god of starts and no finishes, nor should we, His people, be the same.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for already finishing it. You hung on the cross, died, were buried, and rose again. You defeated death, You’ve already won the battle. I pray that You would empower us to march with You, to finish string all the races that You have designed for us. Amen.

Exodus 36:8-39:43

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 39:42–43 (HCSB)

42 The Israelites had done all the work according to everything the Lord had commanded Moses. 43 Moses inspected all the work they had accomplished. They had done just as the Lord commanded. Then Moses blessed them.

Reflection/Application:

I’ve chosen to combine multiple chapters, and obviously many pericopes, into one entry. What is covered here is the actual manufacturing of the tabernacle, the furniture to be placed inside and outside of it, and the garments for the priests. Much of the significance of these items was previously covered when God commanded them originally.

What we should be taking note of here is the obedience of the Israelites. And a few things that stand out to me are as follows:

  1. God, although ultimately in control, is not directly overseeing this construction. He has placed the responsibility into the hands of Bezalel. Sometimes that is how God operates: passing His will, His message, through others to us. Allowing others to guide and lead us. Sometimes this is because He has revealed His plan to others, but not to us, sometimes it is just the way He has ordained the hierarchy. But ultimately, we are responsible for following and obeying God, whatever way He chooses to lead us, just as the Israelite workers did here.
  2. Bezalel followed God’s instructions. Throughout these chapters we read: “just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” How often are we tempted, or do we, put our own touch, our own spin, on what God has commanded. Success comes from following God’s perfect leadership, not from trying to improve upon it.
  3. It is interesting that when the project was complete, everything was made, it was brought to Moses to inspect. We are not without peers as God’s children. Just because God raised Bezalel for the task of managing the construction, it does not mean he did not have a peer in Moses to examine and critique the finished project. God places us in community for a reason. Iron sharpens iron. We correct and lift each other up with God’s guidance and wisdom.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for working in and through us. I pray that we always remember to enjoy the freedoms You bless us with, but follow closely the guidelines You protect us with. Help us to seek each other out for growth and guidance, and be loving towards each other in our correction and blessing. Amen.

Exodus 35:30-36:7

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 36:1 (HCSB)

Bezalel, Oholiab, and all the skilled people are to work based on everything the Lord has commanded. The Lord has given them wisdom and understanding to know how to do all the work of constructing the sanctuary.”

Reflection/Application:

We are reintroduced to Bezalel and Oholiab here, and the construction of the tabernacle is about to begin. There are two verses that stand out to me in this passage.

  1. Exodus 36:1 – The wisdom and understanding needed to construct the tabernacle came from God, not man. Make no mistake: the tabernacle is God’s house, designed by God, and built by God through men. And note that God empowers those He selects to do the jobs He appoints them to. What a great comfort this should be to us! There is nothing that God will expect from us that He has not prepared us for, or empowered us to do. God doesn’t put the construction on hold while He waits for Bezalel and Oholiab to go learn the required skills, or train under other great artisans. It was put in hold briefly due to the sin of the Israelites, but not because of some lack of ability. The whole first part of this pericope is about how skill and knowledge come from God, even the ability to impart one’s skill and knowledge on others. Perhaps this is to remind the Israelites, and us, before construction even begins, that God is orchestrating.
  2. Exodus 36:7 says, “The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.” We have more than enough to do the work God has called us to do! God might use our neighbors, our family, or even strangers, or He might simply provide what we need directly Himself, but He has given us all we need, more than we need. And again the contrast to Pharaoh, who certainly would never have stopped the Israelites from giving him something, even if it was over and above what may have been needed. Yet God does. God cares, He loves, He wants for us also. That manifests as Himself being glorified, but we get to bask in that as well, we get to enjoy the fruits of His blessings. The Israelites had more to give, yet God, in essence, says, “Keep the rest, it is for you.” So not only does God provide what is needed to do the work He calls us to do, but He provides extra to do it, and then He blesses us on top of that with excess. What a great God we serve!

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Your blessings, for Your preparing us, and providing for us, to do Your work in the world. I pray that we would follow You, that we would carry out the building of Your spiritual temple, Your church, even today. Help us to remain faithful and loyal. Amen.

Exodus 35:4-29

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 35:29 (HCSB)

29 So the Israelites brought a freewill offering to the Lord, all the men and women whose hearts prompted them to bring something for all the work that the Lord, through Moses, had commanded to be done.

Reflection/Application:

With the covenant established again, the Israelites are again commanded to construct the tabernacle: the place where God will manifest among His people. The pericope contains a refresher of everything that needs to be done, but is not a full rehash of the preceding chapters of detail.

There is an interesting contrast in this pericope. On one hand, the construction of the tabernacle is clearly a command from God. Exodus 35:4 says clearly, “This is what the Lord has commanded.” And again, in Exodus 35:10, there is the reminder that the construction of the tabernacle was a command from God. But on the other hand, there is a free will choice for the Israelites. Exodus 35:5, God speaking, says, “Let everyone whose heart is willing.”

The tabernacle was a required construction. It was necessary for God to be among His people. Therefore it is a command from God. This should help us realize that God’s commands are for our benefit. Certainly God has no need to dwell among men, but we have everything to gain from His manifest presence among us. It is also worth noting the difference between the reaction of God following their disobedience and that of their previous ruler, Pharaoh. Pharaoh commanded for his good, and for the detriment of the Israelites, while God, also ultimately commanding for His glory, also blesses His people.

While the construction was commanded, it was not forced upon the Israelites. God allowed the Israelites to choose to follow, to choose to take part in His plan. We don’t need to get into the debate concerning predestination here to recognize that a choice to bring an offering to God must be made to join Him. In this case it is was materials and skills to construct the tabernacle, in all time it is our surrender to our Savior. Again, we might note the difference between Pharaoh and God. God asks for a free will offering, both of the nation of Israel, but more importantly at the individual level, while Pharaoh enslaved and forced service upon the Israelites.

The tabernacle construction ultimately is a beautiful combination of the surrender and desire to follow and join God, and the will of God coming to be. Exodus 35:29 combines the freewill of the Israelites, and the command of God.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for weaving all things for Your glory and Your blessings upon us. I pray that we would not choose the yoke of man, of sin, but instead choose to come to You. We pray for Your presence around us, and in us. Amen.

Exodus 35:1-3

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 35:2 (HCSB)

For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord. Anyone who does work on it must be executed.

Reflection/Application:

This is a very short passage starting chapter 35. God, through the intercession of Moses and by His grace, has yet again rescued Israel. The covenant has been reestablished. And then this pericope comes, a reiteration of the Sabbath command.

How important it was for Israel to be reminded that the seventh day is reserved for God. Even the construction of the tabernacle, as important and God-honoring as it was, was not to trump the command. The worship of man should be aimed at God, not the tabernacle, not the structures and systems put in place to point to Him.

And again the people are reminded that the Sabbath is a day of “complete rest to the Lord.” It’s not a day dedicated to football and restaurants. It’s not a day dedicated to the pursuit of self-indulgence. When our Sabbath turns into “our day”, we have missed what God has given us and twisted it into a path of sin. Our rest comes from God and is found in Him: God should be the center of our Sabbath. Is it a wonder sometimes that our weekends feel so short and rushed? Perhaps we are not truly resting in the Lord.

And this remains a serious command, punishable by death. There is always a line where we, as humans, sit in judgment about God and His choice of penalties for certain things. It might seem extreme to us that God would command execution for spending some time on a Sabbath day catching up on a few work files, yet that’s what God says in Exodus 35:3b. But doesn’t it seem logical that if we cannot follow God concerning a command that refreshes, rejuvenates, and gives us rest, that when hardship comes as a believer, or anything challenging, we are so much less likely to follow Him? In other words, if I cannot, or will not, follow laws that are clearly beneficial to me, am I really a law-abiding citizen?

The confusing part of this passage is the final verse, Exodus 35:3. There are apparently a few explanations that much smarter people have come up with. One being that this possibly refers to metal-working, or some sort of fire necessitated work outside of food preparation. Another suggests it is in fact speaking of food preparation, and that anything that would have required fire should have been done the day before. There is even mention that fire for heat is part of the target, and that flame should have been started before sunset. I don’t know, but I would tend to take this literally and say that if there was going to be a need for fire, it should have already been lit prior to sunset. We can only assume that Moses had some sort of clarification on this.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for designing Your creation, and the way we operate within it, so that we can rest, so we can realign ourselves to You. I pray that we would honor the Sabbath, not just to serve ourselves, to indulge in selfish pursuits, but to be truly refreshed and focused on You, to honor and glorify You, through that day. Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 34:34–35 (HCSB)

34 But whenever Moses went before the Lord to speak with Him, he would remove the veil until he came out. After he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 and the Israelites would see that Moses’ face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil over his face again until he went to speak with the Lord.

Reflection/Application:

This shorter passage is all about the effect God’s presence has upon Moses’ appearance, specifically his face, and how the Israelites react. At first it would seem it’s a straightforward account, and might be intended to simply take literally, but I think there is something more to be gleaned.

  1. The presence of God has a lasting impact. Moses was in the presence of God, as close and personal as any man has ever been, and the impact was long lasting. Note that Moses was not in any pain, there was nothing wrong with him. But it was clear that he had been close to God. Shouldn’t it be clear and obvious to all when we are close to God? That we are in his presence?
  2. Those close to God glow, those separated from God fear. Although God has reestablished His covenant with the Israelites, they are still sort of the “outside” in a way. Moses alone was allowed up the mountain. Moses alone speaks directly to God. Moses alone intercedes successfully. And when Moses returns, the Israelites know the radiance is due to God being with Moses, and they are afraid! Look, there is something to be said for a healthy fear of God, it is a good thing. And it’s not necessarily bad that the Israelites transfer some of that fear to Moses due to his closeness with God. But if we are constantly afraid to come close to God, or even His people (i.e. the church?), we might want to take stock of where we are in relation to God.
  3. The veil continues. The Israelites have been separated from God, despite being His chosen people. Moses is their mediator, and now, as he moves closer and closer to God, there is a veil between him and the Israelites. The veil between Moses and the Israelites is sort of like the veil in the tabernacle: a separator, something that makes a distinction between the holiest of places and the outside. But we should take heart! Because, instead of simply removing himself from the presence of the Israelites, just as God continues to endure us and remain among us, Moses stays among the Israelites.

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for sticking with us, despite our sin and failures. Help us to not be afraid of You, but to fear You in a reverent way, constantly seeking to be closer. I pray that we would glow in the world, a light drawing your people to You. Amen.