Moses has, with YHWH’s direction and doing, successfully brought the people of Isreal out of their bondage in the land of Egypt. He has brought them to Mount Sinai, the Lord’s / YHWH’s mountain, and brought them face to face with God / YHWH. From there, YHWH has given the people direction, understanding, and instruction. They have built a tabernacle for YHWH to go with them, and it is getting ready for the people to start heading out.
In the meantime, the people need to be prepared. They will be taking the promised land. They will be fighting battles and defeating nations of people who had allowed their sin to consume them to the point of their being vomited out by the land they live in. As such the men of Israel need to be aware of who they are, what they are capable of, and how many of them are going out to war. So God / YHWH calls them to do something simple. Number yourselves. Figure out how many there are who can fight and go to war. So every male 20 years old and older has to register by their families and tribes. They must make themselves known and be prepared for war.
So the leader of each tribe goes about getting their people registered. In the end, all the males 20 years old and up of the sons of Israel amounts to 603,550 men. Not counting women and children under the age of 20, and not even counting one of the tribes. The Levites have been set aside to serve the LORD / YHWH. As such, approximately 1/12th of the people aren’t even considered for the census That is a lot of people!
What’s amazing to me is that just over 500 years before this census occurred, God made a promise to 1 elderly man and his elderly, barren wife;
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:16)
So from 2 elderly and barren people and a promise from YHWH, around 500 years later is this huge, massive nation divided into 12 tribes with an army of over 600,000 men aged 20 and older with 1/12 of them not even involved in that number. Now that’s what I call fulfilling a promise!
What kind of promises has God / YHWH made in your life? Are they promises you are working to fulfill, or are you trusting completely in Him to do all the work and fulfill them for you? Think about it…
“Then God (Elohim) spoke all these words, saying,
‘I am the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God (YHWH Elohim), am a jealous God (Elohim),’” Exodus 20:1-5a
Leviticus 17 expands on and deals with the particulars of this passage a little bit more. There are two connected issues here. First, no one may slaughter an ox, lamb, or goat within or outside of camp without bringing the body to the tabernacle to offer it as an offering to the LORD. This is to ensure that there is no other worship except the worship of YHWH in the Israelite camp. If a man or a woman sacrificed an animal to another god, that would have brought defilement upon the camp and people of Israel.
Reading that you could not slaughter an ox, sheep, or goat without offering it as a sacrifice to YHWH, i wonder how the Israelites could harvest their flocks and herds. If sheep, goats and oxen were the primary means of meat for the Israelites, and they could only be slaughtered to sacrifice them to God, where do they get the meat needed to live on? I don’t have the answer to that one, but knowing me, i’m probably just missing something simple.
The second part of this chapter deals with the command not to consume blood. Blood is the life of the creature. That’s been backed up by research for centuries. The essence of the creature, it’s life and support system, comes from the blood. As such, God requires that we do not consume of it. In fact, when we hunt or kill an animal, we are instructed to let the blood drain out and cover it with dirt.
Do we take Exodus 20:1-5a seriously? Have we made for ourselves gods other than YHWH? Obviously we don’t make idols. However, we have a tendency to worship, pursue, and trust in many things other than YHWH. Some worship the god of money, others the god of family, others the god of education, others of technology. Most American’s worship and bow down to the god of self. When we place any of these things before YHWH, we are making them gods in our eyes. What will it have to take to change our view and for us to start truly worshiping YHWH, the one true God, once again?
After going through Exodus like this; i’ve come to understand it a little bit better. Exodus is more than just about YHWH bringing his people out of Egypt and rescuing them from Pharaoh. It’s more than about bringing them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. It’s even more than about bringing the people of Israel face-to-face with God. The conclusion that i’ve come to is that Exodus is about fulfilling a promise and it’s about giving the people true worship.
YHWH had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob about their descendants; that he would make their descendants a great nation and that he would bring them out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Israel have become vast in number, yet they have turned against each other. In fact, they have united against Egypt and become a unified nation in spite of being 12 separate tribes. YHWH has led them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself. He made promises to Moses and to the people as well, and is fulfilling them.
What is worship, and what place does it have in our lives? The only understanding of God that the people of Israel had was that He was the God of their fathers, and what limited experience and information had been passed down through the generations. The people knew that there was a God of their fathers, but they had no understanding of who He was / is and what His purpose was for them. There was a need and a desire for God. There was a drive to know and worship Him. There was a pursuit of God, but there was no fulfillment. That, i believe, was YHWH’s greatest gift to the people of Israel in the book of Exodus. Not the parting of the Red Sea… not water from a rock… not manna… not the destruction of Egypt… not even freedom from slavery or the unification of a nation. No, the greatest gift that YHWH gave to the Israelites in Exodus, was the ability to worship Him. It was the fulfillment of their need and purpose. That’s the true jewel of the book of Exodus.
The time has come for all the work to find completion. The design and construction work have been completed and inspected, and now is the time for the assembly and final work to be done. This appears to be a work that Moses, himself does, or in the very least that Moses directs. He anoints it all with oil and puts everything together. Piece by piece and part by part, the work gets done and the tabernacle is erected, “just as the LORD commanded him.”
There is something fascinating to me about the process of anointing oil and anointing with oil. I know that anointing oil and anointing with oil (among other things) are used to represent YHWH’s spirit being poured out as well as being anointed or consecrated for a work. This is what is being represented here. It is a preparation of these materials for the work that YHWH has for them. They are set apart for a holy purpose, and somehow anointing them with oil helps to do this.
Anointing with oil is something that some churches and denominations do, and some do not. It serves the same purposes, it is anointing in preparation of materials for the work of service. It is also to set something / someone apart as holy for God’s use and purpose. The third primary purpose of oil / anointing oil is for healing. Oil used to be used to cleanse wounds to prevent infection and other problems. As such, it is also used to represent the supernatural healing work of God’s Holy Spirit. This can be physical healing as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. It’s a beautiful image of some of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Overall though, the real beauty of this chapter comes in the last verses of the chapter; “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” The work is completed. The tabernacle has been anointed and erected, and now the reason and purpose of not only the work and the tabernacle but the very book of Exodus and the Bible is here. The LORD… YHWH, and His glory (weight / presence) fill this place. His is the true anointing presence.
Thus ends the book of Exodus.
All the work that needed to be done to finish making the tabernacle has been completed. The last, and extremely important task of making the priestly garments has been finished. All the work and weaving. All the fine linen and twisted woven work is done. Even all the pure gold threads individually cut from a sheet of beaten gold have been woven in among the blue, purple and scarlet threads. It must have been amazing to have seen! Oh, how jealous i am to have missed it.
The work has all been completed by the workmen and they brought it to Moses to inspect. Moses looked it over and found that it had been done exactly as YHWH had commanded. Every piece was there and every part done. Nothing was missing that was needed, and all was ready.
Oh, how i wish i could have seen it, but then again i have also seen the completion of the scripture, and the fulfillment of the law. That is something that the Israelites of the time never saw.
So the tabernacle and all that it will contain has been made. Now on to the court and the alter. If i thought that the ark of the covenant was small, the alter is HUGE! At 5 cubits long (~7 1/2 feet) and 5 cubits wide and 3 cubits (~4 1/2 feet) tall, this thing was not small at all. But then again, when sacrifices included bulls, size does matter!
So the court of the tabernacle is underway with its pillars and linen hangings. All around the tabernacle are these hangings of fine twisted linen connected to pillars of bronze with hooks of silver. The entryway was to the east, to the rising sun, and the work of making all of the tabernacle and its tools of worship is finished. All that’s left is the priestly garments, putting everything together, and… the results.
All of this came together with structure and a plan. It took time, and effort, and finances to make it happen. It wasn’t just God doing it because it would be faster and easier for Him to do it Himself than to rely on humans to do it. He gave us the work. He gave us the plan. He gave His people the desire to make it happen. Do we have a structure and plan for our spiritual growth? Are we willing to invest ourselves into that plan? Are we willing to put our time, effort, and finances into loving God and loving others, or are we only willing to do the absolute minimum in order to get away with the least we can. Are we giving our firstfruits or our leftovers? Do we want to enter the court of the King, or are we satisfied with just passing it by and knowing that it’s there if we need it?
So construction has finally begun on the tabernacle. The people continue to bring their offerings and Bezalel and Oholiah and every skilled person are at work doing the work of construction. The curtains and the tent with its covering and the wooden structure that holds it all together are all being constructed and completed.
There is a great deal of work to be done, and Bezalel seems to be in charge of the work. However, there appears to be one serious flaw to the whole plan. That flaw is the people. They keep bringing more and more and more to give to the construction work, and the workers just don’t know what to do with it all. It is way too much for the work, and the people just keep giving. So Moses has to send out a message to the people to stop giving! Wow, imagine that! You have a church building project and the people are giving so much to the construction fund that early on you have to tell them to stop giving. What kind of people are these, and how do we get them into our church…
Is this the mentality we have? Do YOU and I give to the church and ministry of the church body so much that WE have to be told to stop giving? No? But we want others to do that? Maybe WE need to change how we spend our time and money.