Well, the tabernacle proper and the alter have been built. Now it is time for the very core of the tabernacle; the furnishings. We have the table, the lampstand, the alter of incense, and most importantly, the ark of the covenant. When i was a kid i always thought that the ark of the covenant would be BIG. It would be taller than me and so big i wouldn’t be able to touch from end to end. Almost like it would be the length of a big dining room table, but it’s actually very small. If a cubit is the distance from the average person’s elbow to the tip of their middle finger, and the ark of the covenant is 2 1/2 cubits long, it’s really not very big. Add to that the height and width each being 1 1/2 cubits, it’s something i could easily jump over from a standing position (not running)… not that i would. I’m just saying that it would have been feasible if i had wanted to and God hadn’t struck me dead for even thinking it.
It’s even more interesting when you consider that the ark of the covenant sat on the floor / ground and not on a table. So chances are that the ark of the covenant didn’t even come up to most people’s waists. It was the throne of YHWH, yet while standing up you looked DOWN on it!?! I guess it’s surprising to me because i would think that the throne of the God of the universe and everything would be a wee bit bigger than… well, than that. But it’s His ark. I’ll let Him make it as big or small as He wants it to be.
The other interesting thing i wanted to note is how you hold it. I grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. My dad really liked that movie. So i know what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. It was covered in pure gold, it had the two cherubim on top and the rings for the carrying poles about 3/4 of the way up. But wait! According to the text, the rings for the carrying poles were at the feet of the ark?… It was the same way with the table. The rings for the carrying poles were on the feet. It’s almost like YHWH wanted everyone to be able to see it when they travel. Almost as though it wasn’t just meant to be hidden away in some tent 24/7/365. Hmm, what an interesting concept! You mean God isn’t just some hidden away god that we aren’t allowed to see or interact with?
In Exodus 32 (Sheep and Calf) we brought up this concept of the people’s desire to worship and offer sacrifice to God. They wanted it so much that when it wasn’t given to them how and as fast as they were looking for it, they created their own god so that they would have something… some sort of god to worship. They had been instructed by Aaron to give the earrings from their ears and he created a god for them from the gold. Here however, God, YHWH, has a better way. He doesn’t just want gold, He wants silver, and bronze, and fine fabrics, and goats hair, and acacia wood, and oil, and spices, and setting stones, and so much more. There should not have been a single person of the sons of Israel that could not give / offer something. They have all had a desire to give to the God that gave to them. Now they finally have a chance to do that. They can finally give back to YHWH to their heart’s content. They finally have a healthy outlet for their appreciation.
We have that need too. We have the need to honor and serve something / someone: to express our honor and our praise. It is something that is deep inside of every one of us. It is as much a part of us as our very need to breathe. We are a people of thanksgiving and blessing. If we are not worshiping YHWH, the God of the universe and everything, then we are worshiping money, or family, or education, or entertainment, or ourselves, or something else entirely. We have to find an outlet for our praise and worship or it tears us up inside. We are a people of offering.
It is such a fascinating concept to consider; that WE are beings with a need and primal desire to worship. To give and be an offering. It makes sense when we understand that YHWH created us for relationship with Him. Whether it is purposeful or simply a side effect of that purpose, we NEED to praise, worship, give an offering, and BE an offering.
This chapter also parallels back to Exodus 31 (Work & Rest) in a couple of different ways. Right away the LORD emphasizes the need for a Sabbath rest. In fact, in verse 1 the people are told, “These are the things that the LORD (YHWH) has commanded you to do:” Then the very first thing listed is observing a sabbath rest. In our busy schedules, how often do we ignore this so important command? The other parallel from chapter 31 is that our offering is our giving of our skills and abilities. So often we get into this rut of thinking that our tithe and offering to God is the first 10% of our money, but God doesn’t just ask for our money. He seeks our hearts and our lives. He accepts /expects / demands from us our very lives. Our tithes and offerings are not just our money, they are our skills, abilities, and work / play.
We ARE our offering, and we need to live that way.
John J. Camiolo Jr.