Exodus 24-27
(First House of Worship)
January 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up the mountain to me, and while you are here, I will give you two stone tablets which contain all the laws that I have written for the instruction of the people.”

- Exodus 24:12 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

Most of the passages in this group of chapters are focused on God’s specific instructions for building a tabernacle that can be assembled and disassembled as the Israelites traveled through the desert. This detailed set of oral instructions is preceded by a follow-up meeting and ceremony related to the Ten Commandments.

In chapter 24, God calls Moses and a select group of others back to God’s mountain. Moses offered sacrifices and sprinkled the people with blood as a symbol of their commitment to uphold their part of the covenant with God (obeying the laws). In the follow-up meeting, God presented Moses with stone tablets on which was engraved the Ten Commandments. He later instructs the people to put the tablets in a small ark that would sit in a special place in the tabernacle. The ark was specified to be about 3 1/2 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet high.

God works from the inside out. He listed the raw materials that were needed to build the tabernacle, and then gave the people instructions on building sacred objects that go inside the tabernacle, and finally gives instructions for the design and building of the tabernacle and the outer courtyards. In chapter 26, he instructs the builders to

    "Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place."

    - Exodus 26:31,33 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

God first gave the Ten Commandments orally, as described in Exodus 20, and then gave a written version, as described in Exodus 24. He knows that we are much better at remembering what we read then what we hear and wanted to make sure that this material was remembered eternally, thus he wrote them in stone. If we have an important message for someone, we might want to first explain it and then follow up in writing – an email might be sufficient in some cases, but in others, a more formal document may be best.

God is worthy of the most precious materials. Gold, silver, onyx stones, and acacia wood were among the raw materials that God requested. Where would the Israelites obtain all of this? Some of it may have come from the “friendly plunder” collected when they left Egypt as recorded in an earlier chapter:

    The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away. Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.” The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.

    - Exodus 11:1-3 (NRSV)

Other donations may have come from long-held family treasures. In either case, it was precious valuables. The willingness to give up to God some of our most valuable treasures is one of the important attributes of worship, and was the first step in the creation of the first worship structure.

Note in chapter 25 that God instructs the people to make a lampstand and seven lamps to light the space of worship.

    You shall make a menorah (lampstand) of pure beaten gold—its shaft and branches—with its cups and knobs and petals springing directly from it. Six branches are to extend from its sides, three branches on one side, and three on the other.

    On one branch there are to be three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, each with its knob and petals; on the opposite branch there are to be three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, each with its knob and petals; and so for the six branches that extend from the menorah. On the menorah there are to be four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with their knobs and petals.

    The six branches that go out from the menorah are to have a knob under each pair. Their knobs and branches shall so spring from it that the whole will form a single piece of pure beaten gold.

    You shall then make seven lamps for it and so set up the lamps that they give their light on the space in front of the menorah.

    - Exodus 25:31-37 (NAB)

The lampstand is an important symbol that is mentioned throughout the Bible, including 1 Kings 7, Zechariah 4, and Revelation 1. One edition of a newsletter from the Living Stream Ministry Radio provided an illuminating explanation of the significance of this lampstand. The newsletter explained that the "substance of the lampstand was pure gold, which symbolizes God the Father in his divine nature. The gold was beaten into the form of a lampstand, which symbolizes God the Son, who is the embodiment of God the Father. The seven shining lamps symbolize God the Spirit as the seven spirits of God, for the expression of the Father in the Son. Thus the three attributes of the lampstand - its substance, its shape, and its shining expression - symbolize the Three of the Divine Trinity-the Father, the Son, and the Spirit (1)."

The seven lamps on one stand is one of the many uses of the number seven in the Bible, which represents completeness. When we get to the book of Revelation in December we will read about a vision of John in which he heard and saw Jesus in heaven. But before he saw Jesus he observed seven golden lampstands and among them was Jesus ( Revelation 1:9-16). The one lampstand representing Jesus had multiplied into seven lampstands, representing the seven churches Jesus told him to write what he observed and explained that the seven lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia, which are reproductions of Christ (2).

Sometimes God gives us very specific instructions to follow. If you are going to build a house or a house extension or develop software you need a detailed set of specifications from an architect or designer so that the house builder or software engineer knows exactly what to do. God is the master designer of our world and the master designer of the first tabernacle. It seems reasonable that he should do this because no one had ever built a structure of worship before. There was no prototype, no comparable structures, and no design classes. It may seem odd to us that he was so involved in detailed measurements, but it makes sense when we consider the context. Sometimes he gives us specific instructions for our lives because we are entering places we have never been before and he wants us to follow his master plan.

The ark was used frequently to bring God’s protection in battle, as we shall read later. The tabernacle served its purpose for many generations until the building of non-mobile temples by David and Solomon. The curtain, ark, and other objects were placed in those temples. The ark was lost or destroyed during the Babylonian siege in 586 B.C when the temple was burned to the ground (3). As far as we know, the ark was never recovered. Although there was an action-oriented fictional movie called Raiders of the Lost Ark that told a tale of the recovery of the ark in the early 20th century and the acquisition of it by a certain party who intended to use it for their evil purposes.

The curtain was re-created in later versions of the temple and was still used for its intended purpose up until the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth. When he died on the cross the curtain was split in two, symbolizing that the people were no longer separated from God by an intermediary priest and could now approach him directly ( Matthew 27:45-51). For further reflection on today’s topic, we recommend chapter 9 of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, in which he summarizes the instructions for building the tabernacle and explains the connection to Jesus ( Hebrews 9).

If you have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark you can get a feel for it in the trailer video clip below. In one of the scenes you will hear a character say that "the army that carries the ark before it will be invincible!" This claim is based on the history of the ark as described in the Bible. However, the fallacy is that the ark would provide protection for whoever held it. This is unlikely, as the ark represented the covenant between God and the people of Israel. If the Babylonians or other invaders had taken possession of it then it seems unlikely that God would protect them because of it. You will also note that the ark depicted in the movie appears to be the size described in these passages, and is ornately decorated and carried with poles, as defined in the reading for today.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the oldest house of worship that you have seen?
    2. What precious treasures are you willing to sacrifice for God’s purposes?
    3. What are the specific instructions from God for you today?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to sacrifice our precious treasures for you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Those who build our churches, homes, and other structures in which we live and work


    (1) Hearing of Faith, Living Steam Ministry Newsletter, Number 24, April 2000, p1
    (2) IBID, p2
    (3) Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984, p.184

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Exodus 28-30 (The Role of the Priest)

    Comments and Questions
    If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at ted@listeningforGod.org, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)