Exodus 35-37
(Moses Explains Tabernacle Design)
January 26th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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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 Verses

So everyone in the community of Israel left the presence of Moses. Then they came back, every one whose heart was roused, whose spirit was freely responsive, bringing offerings to God for building the Tent of Meeting, furnishing it for worship and making the holy vestments.

- Exodus 35:20-21 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

In these three chapters Moses explains to the Israelites the work required to build God's tabernacle (tent of meeting), but he first begins by explaining the importance of the Sabbath, as noted in chapter 35.

The next most important instruction from Moses was to ask the people for contributions of their precious materials and time and skills, to which they responded heartily. Moses then announced that Bezalel and Oholiab have been appointed by God to use their special skills and to train others in those skills to create the tent and the inner furnishings.

    Moses said to the Israelites: "See, the LORD has singled out Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and has filled him with a divine spirit of skill and understanding and knowledge in every craft: in the production of embroidery, in making things of gold, silver, or bronze, in cutting and mounting precious stones, in carving wood, and in every other craft.

    He has also given both him and Oholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has endowed them with skill to execute all types of work: engraving, embroidering, the making of variegated cloth of violet, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen thread, weaving, and all other arts and crafts."

    - Exodus 35: 30-35 (NAB)

In chapter 36 the workers report to Moses that they have more than enough raw materials, therefore Moses asks the people to stop offering their gifts. "And so the people were restrained from bringing more (Exodus 36:6 - NIV)." The remainder of chapter 36 and all of chapter 37 describe how the experts created wood frames, crossbars, curtains, the covenant box (ark of the covenant), decorative lampstands, perfumes, and other elements of the tabernacle - all measured to comply exactly with God's specifications.

    Bezalel made the Covenant Box out of acacia wood, 110 centimetres long, 66 centimetres wide, and 66 centimetres high. He covered it with pure gold inside and out and put a gold border all round it. He made four carrying rings of gold for it and attached them to its four feet, with two rings on each side. He made carrying poles of acacia wood, covered them with gold, and put them through the rings on each side of the box. He made a lid of pure gold, 110 centimetres long and 66 centimetres wide. He made two winged creatures of hammered gold, one for each end of the lid. He made them so that they formed one piece with the lid. The winged creatures faced each other across the lid, and their outspread wings covered it.

    - Exodus 37:1-9 (GNB)

Reflection and Application

Are these the same tribes who were getting jiggy with the golden calf in the previous chapters? They have been transformed from sacred disruptors to model citizens. Let's take a closer look at the ways in which they had changed their character and behavior: The first observation of their transformation was that they gave more offerings than was needed, resulting in Moses restraining them from giving more!

In the modern financial markets we sometimes hear of successful hedge funds that have more than enough money under management and turn down further investments. Now imagine if our churches and charities received so many offerings from us that we had to be restrained from giving more!

The next observation is that the people applied their skills exactly as they had been told and made matching sets of components. These components were so accurately constructed that it would have seemed as if they came from a machine - if machines had existed at that time, but the Industrial Revolution would not take place for several millennia. Thus, the people must have been very obedient and disciplined in order to fulfill these standards.

How did this transformation happen? The people had been transformed through their experience with God. They had transgressed and were punished. Then, Moses atoned for their sins and they recommitted themselves to God. This pattern is consistent with the greater narrative of the fall and redemption of humans. The people also recognized that they were responsible to help others identify and develop their abilities to serve God, even those skills not considered distinctly religious, such as sewing and carpentry.

We can follow those same steps when we have transgressed: There may be an earthly price to pay, but we can accept the atonement that Jesus offers to us and recommit ourselves to living the life God intended and using our skills for his purposes.

"Change My Heart, Oh God," performed by Hillsong

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What situations can you think of in which you have been involved in a volunteer project and there were more people than needed?
    2. What are the resources that God wants from you to build his church (not necessarily the bricks and mortar, but the broader mission of the church)?
    3. Why do you think that Bezalel and Oholiab received special mention from God in this chapter and the earlier one but are not featured prominently in the remainder of the Bible? Note that Oholiab is not mentioned at all after Exodus and Bezalel is only mentioned with reference to his work on this tabernacle.

    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help me to use my heart to determine what I should donate for your church.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Volunteer coordinators

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Exodus 38-40 (Tabernacle Done!)

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