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May 9, 2010

 

Background Passage: Exodus 35:1-40:38

Lesson Passage: Exodus 35:4-9, 30-36:1; 40:12-15

 

Introduction:

 

The Book of Exodus closes with an account of Israelís obedience to Jehovahís directives concerning the erection of the tabernacle and its furnishings.These final chapters, at first reading, may seem redundant and tedious, but they serve an important purpose.This material, indeed, does rehearse many of the instructions from Chapter 25-31, sometimes word for word.To a modern reader this repetition seems unnecessary; thus, Sunday School classes may experience some temptation to dismiss impatiently the valuable lessons of wisdom contained in these concluding chapters.I encourage an unhurried and sympathetic meditation on Exodus 35-40.

 

This section, for instance, gives invaluable insight into the nature of Christian living.The Book of Exodus honestly reflects the terrible failures of the Hebrews as they emerged from Egyptian slavery: unbelief, impatience, sexual misconduct, complaining, and idolatry.Yet, at this point, we observe the careful obedience of the Lordís people.They contributed generously to the tabernacle project, and the nationís craftsmen followed the Lordís directions carefully.Remaining sin wars against the souls of Godís people, and, all fail, at times, to live according to the perfect precepts of God.Nevertheless, failing people may, with the help of grace, do wonderful things that bring lasting glory to God and help to others.This detailed description of Israelís obedience should encourage all who reflect of the text.

 

Exodus 35:1-35 clearly describes the source of Israelís obedience; it arose from hearts stirred for the work.Many church leaders spend a considerable portion of their energies trying to motivate professing Christians to serve the interests of the Kingdom of God.I have come to the conclusion that such prodding does little good.No pastor can stir lifeless hearts, no matter how noble the task.These people had a heart for building the tabernacle.Generosity, self-sacrifice, and diligence made the project possible.Moses did not have a fund-raiser; rather, he simply told the people what was needed, and they gave until Moses had to ask them to stop! Read the chapter carefully, at every turn the text observes that the people's hearts were stirred for the work; no begging, pleading, scheming, indebtednessójust people moved to generosity and energy for the sake of Godís work.How refreshing! Church leaders should never feel forced to beg, cajole, and scheme to get the professing people of God to support Kingdom priorities. What a disgrace when affluent parishioners sit on their pocketbooks and thus encourage church indebtedness, when, if their hearts were stirred, the work would progress unhindered.

 

This enlightening section also outlines the role women played in the construction of the tabernacle.I believe this chapter contains the first reference to women serving the interests of the tabernacle, and their inclusion seems noteworthy.Women, in the ancient Middle Eastern world, were relegated to the periphery of social life, but, in this case, Moses included the gifts of self-giving women.I pastored southern Baptist churches for over thirty years, and experience teaches me the precious contributions made by women, faithful servants of Christ.

 

These chapters outline the special gifts afforded to the craftsmen who constructed the tabernacle.These gifts clearly came from the gracious hand of God, and the workers used their God-given abilities to advance the Kingdom.Exodus 36:1f describe these gifts as ďskillĒ and ďintelligence.ĒEvery child of God must take inventory of his/ her special aptitude and use that talent as God intends.

 

As stated earlier, this section rehearses much of the material from Exodus 25-32, and I have copied my comments from the previous lesson for your review.Also, I have added some observations that may prove helpful.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Tabernacle and Its Furnishings (25:1-27:21)

A.    Contributions for Building the Tabernacle (25:1-9): The Book of Exodus provides extraordinary instructions for erecting the tabernacle, instructions that occur in Chapters 25-31, and then appear again, almost word for word, in Chapters 35-40.The elaborate materials used in the construction, no doubt, came from the treasures bequeathed to Israel by their Egyptian oppressors (See Exodus 12:33-35). Each Hebrew, moved in his heart, was to give generously to the project.

B.     The Ark of the Covenant (25:10-22): Jehovah instructed Moses to construct an Ark (oblong chest) from acacia wood and overlay the wood with gold.Cubits were measured by the length from a manís elbow to the tips of the fingers; thus, we can only approximate the dimensions of the ark.In addition, God told Moses to fashion a golden lid for the Ark, complete with images of two cherubim, shaped from pure gold.On either side of the Ark the craftsmen were to place rings to hold poles for carrying the Ark.At this point, the narrative does not fully disclose the contents of the Ark (the tables of the Law, Aaronís rod that budded, and the container of manna), nor does it describe the future location of the Ark, in the Tabernacle (the Holy of Holies).Later, Moses discovered that only the High Priest could approach the Ark, on the Day of Atonement (See Leviticus 16).

C.     The Table of the Bread of Presence (25:23-30): The Table of Bread, like the Ark, was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, and it also had rings for careful, easy transportation.The priests arranged twelve large loaves of bread on this table, a supply that was replenished every Sabbath.

D.    The Lampstand (25:31-40 and 27:20-21): The craftsmen used about seventy-five pounds of gold to make the Lampstand.According to the instructions, the menorah had a central shaft flanked by three branches on each side.It seems that the Lord intended for the Lampstand to appear in the likeness of an almond tree.Pure, beaten olive oil provided the fuel for the lighting of the Lampstand. This furnishing stood adjacent from the Table of Bread, in the Holy Place.Our lesson passage does not provide a description of another article found in the Holy Place, the Altar of Incense, until Chapter 30.

E.     The Tent of Meeting (26:1-37): The Tabernacle itself conveyed Godís presence with his people; yet, this divine presence did not foster irreverent familiarity. The people could approach Jehovah, but only on terms that he prescribed.Ten curtains comprised the exterior of the tent, each made of the finest materials.A goat hair covering sheltered the exterior of the tent.An acacia wood frame, overlaid with gold, served as the ďskeletonĒ of the Tabernacle. Thick veils, made of fine wool and linen (made from flax, common and highly valued in Egypt), separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

F.      The Bronze Altar (27:1-8): The altar of sacrifice rested outside the Holy Place, near the Bronze Laver (not mentioned until Exodus 30:17-21).God told Moses to make this altar from acacia wood and bronze (an alloy of copper and tin).Again, poles were attached, by rings, to aid in the transport of the altar. Here, the priests offered burnt sacrifices.

G.    The Court of the Tabernacle (27: 9-19): A large, enclosed court surrounded the Tabernacle, a court marked by finely made linen curtains supported by a superstructure constructed of bronze pillars and silver bindings.

 

II.                The Aaronic Priesthood (28:1-29:46): The priests served essential functions in Israel: guardians of the Tabernacle, instructors in the Law, presenters of sacrifices, and, at times, oracles of Jehovah.Their elaborate, ornate garments reflected these important functions as they mediated for the people.

A.    The Priestly Garments (28:1-43)

1.      The ephod (28:1-14): After a brief introductory statement, the author of Exodus described the ephod, a woolen and linen garment worn by the High Priest.Two shoulder straps supported the garment, and two onyx stones, engraved with the tribal names of Israel, rested over the priestís chest.

2.      The breastpiece of judgment (28:15-30): This garment, studded with gold and precious stones, contained twelve stones engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel.Also, over Aaronís heart, the breastpiece contained the Urim and Thummim, two stones that the priests apparently used to discern the will of God.

3.      The robe of the ephod (28:31-35): This outer garment covered the ephod and breastpiece.The tailors, at Godís direction, affixed golden bells to the garment so the people could discern the movements of the High Priest as he ministered in the Tabernacle.

4.      The turban and coat of the High Priest (28:1-39): A plate of pure gold, denoting the holiness of the Lord, was affixed to the priestís turban, and a linen coat and sash completed the priestís attire.

5.      The garments of regular priests (28:40-43): Chapter 28 concludes with a brief description of the garments worn by priests other than Aaron.It appears that these clothes were not as elaborate as those of the High Priest.

B.     The ordination of the priests (29:1-46): This chapter provides expansive details about the ordination of priests.In the future, priests ordained new men to this ministry, but, since, no priesthood existed at Sinai, Moses consecrated these men.The text describes a series of sacrifices and rites that attended this initial ordination. The rites were to be repeated for seven days.Verses 38-46 outline the morning and evening sacrifices that punctuated the daily activities of the priests.

 

III.             Additional Instructions for Worship in the Tabernacle (30:1-31:18)

A.    The Alter of Incense (30:1-10): This altar, made of acacia wood and gold, held a fragrant incense that burned day and night.Many Bible scholars have interpreted the symbolism as referring to the constant intercession of the Lord Jesus on behalf of his people.

B.     The census tax (30:11-16): The Hebrews, from time to time, took a census of the people, and each census was accompanied by a ransom of a half shekel.The money from the census went to the financial support of the Tabernacle.

C.     The Bronze Basin (30:17-21): The Laver served as a reminder of the importance of moral purity in the worship of Jehovah.The priests, as they approached their responsibilities, were required to wash their hands and feet as a symbol of ceremonial purity.

D.    The anointing oil and incense (30:22-38): God commanded Moses to make anointing oil from fragrant resins to consecrate the articles in the Tabernacle and the priests.The Law forbids ordinary people from using this anointing oil.Also, the Lord prescribed a ďrecipeĒ for the incense used in the Holy Place (vv. 34-38). Again, ordinary people were not allowed to use this incense.

E.     The consecration of craftsmen (31:1-11): the Lord left little to the imagination of the Israelites; indeed, God specially equipped even the craftsmen for constructing the Tabernacle and its furnishings, Oholiab and Bezalel.

F.      The observance of the Sabbath (31:12-18): The Sabbath served as a token of the covenant, and God warned the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy as witness to future generations.This section concludes with the claim that God wrote these commandments, on the stone tablets, with his own finger.

 

 

 

 

Concluding Observations:

 

  1. When the craftsmen finished the tabernacle and its furnishings, Moses erected the component parts, on the first day of Israelís second year in the wilderness, on the first day of the month.The furnishings were arranged, within the tabernacle, as God outlined.
  2. The cloud of Godís glory (a pillar of fire, by night) filled the tabernacle; thus, even Moses could not enter the tent.As long as the cloud dwelt in the tabernacle, the Israelites remained in that location; however, when the cloud ascended, the congregation knew to move according to Godís leading.
  3. The Book of Leviticus continues the catalog of the various rites and laws that governed ancient Israel, and we will continue our study next week (sixteen chapters!).