The tabernacle of the LORD was a beautiful thing. I would have so loved to have seen it. Exodus 26 is all about God describing to Moses the plans and process for building this traveling tent of His. It describes the pillars overlaid with gold, the fine linen walls, the scarlet draperies, the goat skin tent covering the tabernacle, and the curtain that separates the holy place from the Holy of Holies. I can only imagine what it would be like come to the tabernacle. To come to the alter. To enter the holy place. To look into the Holy of Holies.
Of course i know that even if i were somehow transported to that time and place, i could never go there. I am not a jew, i am a gentile. So the closest i would be able to come would be to see it taken down and put up from a distance, or to see its splendor and beauty from the outside. Even as an Israelite, you still wouldn’t be able to look into the Holy of Holies. If you could see inside the tabernacle there was a great curtain between the holy place and the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter and only 1x per year. That great curtain was both a blockade and a protection. It prevented people from casually entering and being consumed due to their sin and lack of godliness.
The wonderful thing is though, that we don’t need to. When Christ died on the cross the curtain was torn from top to bottom. His sacrifice removed that barrier that prevented us from being able to relate directly to the God that created us. Through Christ’s blood we are redeemed and cleansed. We can have a relationship directly with God. There is no need for a high priest. There isn’t even a need for an ordinary every day priest. There is God and there is us. Through Christ’s cleansing blood we are able to speak with YHWH with no curtain in the way. Don’t you want that too?
Either i’ve become a faster writer, the verses are shorter or easier in this chapter some how, or both. It took me less than an hour and a half to copy over the 40 verses in this chapter. When i started this project it took me an hour and a half to do ~30 verses. If i was to gander a guess, i would say that it is probably a combination of things. Either way, its good to see this, as i will be starting an earlier class schedule today and i have less time to get prepped each day to teach.
Here we see God prepping Moses and Israel to build Him a sanctuary. He calls for the people to raise a contribution by asking for specific materials, and He gives Moses the plans for how to make the ark with the mercy seat, the table, the lamp stand, and other necessary tools and utensils. It’s funny, when i think of the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat, what i visualize is the Ark of the Covenant from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that’s very different from what is described here.
What i thought was interesting about this chapter is that YHWH initiates the first fund raiser for a church building project. He also doesn’t just ask for gold or money to purchase the right equipment to do the job, but He asks for the material itself. It’s an interesting and intriguing way of getting things done. It’s not just… “Write a check for this much money.” It’s about investing in the actual building and development. Then the people can turn around and say to their kids, “look, see the fine linen that is used in the ephod and breastpiece? We donated that.” Or, “See the red rams skins used in the curtains of the tabernacle, that’s from us and our family! See, we are a part of this place.” It gives the people some semblance of connection and identity with the project. The very building itself becomes a legacy. It’s much more personal than just writing a check.
Are we investing OURSELVES into the kingdom of God, or are we just writing a tithe check? Is the kingdom work about us doing the work, or us funding the work? Maybe that’s a key to helping people embrace the mission and work of the church and ministry?
So YHWH finishes giving the people His first set of instructions. They have heard His Decalogue and His various other commands, so now we get to see their response to this sampling of the laws. God starts out by telling Moses and the leaders of Israel to come up to worship Him, but before that happens Moses wants to make sure that the people understand what is expected of them. He doesn’t want them rebelling as soon as Moses and the leaders go up the mountain or anything.
So Moses starts out by recounting to the people what YHWH expects of them. YHWH told them once, now Moses tells them again. The people respond that they will listen, and they will obey. Great! Now Moses and the people sacrifice to the LORD, and Moses sets up 12 pillars to represent the 12 tribes. Then for good measure, he takes the evening / night to write down the covenant and instructions that God has given to him and the people. Then, to MAKE SURE that the people know and are aware of YHWH’s instructions, he reads the book of the covenant to the people!
Don’t you think that that’s a little overkill! I mean come on! They heard it from God Himself, then Moses reminds them of what they have already heard and agreed to, so they confirmed it to him again. Then after worshiping and sacrificing to the LORD…THEIR GOD, Moses wrote it all down and read it back to them the very next day! I mean come on Moses, didn’t they already agree to this TWICE! I mean honestly, what do you think is going to happen here? Do you think you will go up the mountain with the leaders and the people will forget everything that has happened and everything that they have sworn to do!?! Give it a rest already!
So now Moses and the leaders go up. The leaders actually see YHWH, the God of Israel! Wow! I mean, WOW! To see the LORD in all His glory! Now that is a life changing experience! Isn’t it!?! No man can see that and ever rebel or fall away… can he?
How many of us desire to see God? How many of us think that if we just see Him perform a miracle or see just a part of His glory it will change who we are and how we live the rest of our lives? He is The Living God after all. Is that enough?
This chapter seems to have quite a few miscellaneous justice and balance regulations. I was going to say that they are oppression and mistreatment laws, but then i realized that they are not rules to tell people not to do something so much as they are regulations to help you live in justice and balance. Here are some examples. Do not pervert justice. Don’t take bribes. Take care of your enemy’s beasts even if your enemy isn’t willing to take care of them himself. Work six days and make sure you rest on the seventh. Plant for 6 years but let your fields go fallow for the seventh.
Then YHWH goes into our responsibility to honor and celebrate Him. Three times per year the people are to get together and celebrate feasts to God. Offer sacrifices with unleavened bread, not leavened, and bring your first fruits into the house of the LORD. It’s all about recognizing and honoring Him above all.
Finally, YHWH talks about what He will do. He will send an angel to guide and direct them. He will bring terror of them on their enemies. He will bless the land and the people. He will drive their enemies out ahead of them… not all at once, so that the land is not overrun by wild beasts. But the people MUST make sure that they do not pursue the false gods of the people of the land.
Overall, i don’t see an overarching theme that describes / covers the entire chapter, but these concepts need to be understood and applied to fully honor God.
Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this. To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures. They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better. As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21. So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!
Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view. Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal. But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me. Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery? Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery? Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?
I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning. It was really bothering me. Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind. It’s not that He supported slavery. It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what. He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves. It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation. It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.
The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals. Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with. This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests. If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.
If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves? Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?
I am not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew expert. I wish that i was, and someday i may become those, but today is not one of them. The nice thing is though that i have studied under people who are, and i have learned a great deal as a result.
One of the principles that i have learned from and really grasped into my life is a better understanding of this concept of “You shall”: “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God (YHWH-Elohim) in vain.” When you read those words, “You shall”, what does it mean to you? Chances are, if you are like most people, you see “You shall” as a command. It begins the 10 commandments and it is God telling us that we have to do something. While that is not incorrect, neither is that an accurate understanding.
This is one of those easily misunderstood things that once you have a grasp of it, can change your whole outlook on something. The words “You shall have” here is יהיה (hâyâh). Strong’s concordance says, “…to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass…”. So what does that mean for us? It means that this is not simply a command; it is a promise. This WILL come to pass! It is something that we are to do, but when we pursue and surrender to God, this is also a promise to/for us. So this promise is not just “Don’t have any other god’s before me!” It’s also, “Don’t worry, you won’t have any other gods before me.”
Isn’t that beautiful! It’s not only the 10 commands, but it’s also the 10 promises! That’s what our relationship is like with God. Yes, He gives us commands to follow! Yes, we have rules we have to obey; but as time goes by and we pursue Him, these are things that He promises us will no longer be rules and regulations, they will also be a part of who we are. They go from external instruction to internal drives and motivation. We have a promise! …that this is who we are to become! …and i love it!
There are still many times that i struggle and sin. There are still times that i mess up, screw up, and fail. I have struggled with the concept of repentance, and i need God’s help to get to that place. Part of these big 10 promises is learning to accept and acknowledge that we fail and we sin. Understand, i am not some expert in this. I am just as messed up and flawed in this as so many others. I need to repent of my sins and stand on these promises as who i am in the process of becoming. I need the prayer and help.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.