Genuine service for and fellowship with the Lord is characterized by obedience, generosity, and the pursuit of excellence and a focus on His holy character and glory. Who would think such truths could be found in a description of a building project?
A business journal listed fifteen kinds of people you should have in your life if you want to be happy and successful. They include the strategist, the mentor, and the coach. I would add the guy who drives the ice-cream truck, but that’s just me.
Well, the article does raise an important question: What kind of people do you want in your life? But here’s a more important question to think about: What kind of people does God want us to be? Well, as we come to the final chapters in the book of Exodus, we’re given some insights into the kind of people God wants us to become.
It seems, for now at least, the Israelites have learned their lesson. After their sinful choice to build a golden calf and experiencing God’s discipline and then forgiveness, the children of Israel are now ready to build the tabernacle.
In describing the building of the tabernacle, a lot of details are repeated from the earlier instructions, and we don’t need to cover that again. But what I want to highlight here is how the Israelites are challenged to become the right kind of people. And the first characteristic of the right kind of people is obedience to God’s word.
Notice that Moses doesn’t go out here and immediately assign hammers and saws and nails to the builders. He begins by reminding the people that obeying God in one area of life doesn’t mean they can disobey Him in another area of life. Here in the first two verses of Exodus 35, Moses challenges them:
“These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”
Obedience cannot be compartmentalized. I read about a couple who returned some money to a fast-food restaurant that had made a mistake. They drove back after they realized they had been handed a bag of cash instead of food. When the manager wanted to take their picture and give it to the local newspaper, the man sort of turned red and said, “Well, this woman here isn’t my wife. And if you take our picture, my wife might see it.” And they drove away.
God is stressing here how important it is for His people to live in obedience to all of His declared will. The Sabbath was the sign of God’s covenant with Israel. It’s how God was going to measure Israel’s heart attitude toward Him. Working on the Sabbath would reveal contempt for God’s will, and just because they were building the tabernacle in obedience to God didn’t mean they could disregard another of God’s commands.
Now, Christians today are not bound by the Sabbath law. That was a unique sign between Israel and God. But the timeless truth for us here is that obedience to the Lord’s will is still a great way to measure our true love for Christ. PQ
Second, God desires His people to not only be obedient to His word but also generous in their giving. Beginning here in verse 5, Moses calls for contributions for this building project:
“Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’scontribution.”
This contribution includes all the materials necessary to build the tabernacle, where God Himself will live with Israel.
Over in verse 5 of chapter 36, Moses announces that they have exceeded their financial goal—they needed to stop passing the plates. He says, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.”
Don’t ever think God needs your money or mine to do His work, but He does give us the joy of being a part of advancing His gospel through our generous giving. We don’t have to give—we get to give. We are allowed to invest in the Lord’s work—and what a privilege that is.
Third, God desires His people to pursue excellence in their work. The overriding emphasis in these construction details in chapters 36 and following is that the tabernacle was to be built precisely as God instructed.
The workers didn’t just throw together a few bricks and some paint on the project. They weren’t hoping that their work would be adequate; they wanted it to be excellent. So, they followed God’s exact specifications.
We see the same pattern in chapter 39, as we read again about the priestly garments that were made “as the Lordcommanded Moses.” Every detail mattered.
We might not get everything perfectly buttoned down—only God is perfect. But our goal is to represent Him well. We’re not trying to do the least; we’re trying to do our best, for the reputation and glory of our Father, to whom we belong as His redeemed children.
Fourth, God wants us to become people who reverence His holy presence. When the work on the tabernacle is finally completed, God instructs Moses here in chapter 40 to set it all up. Then the Lord tells him in verse 9:
“You shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and
consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy.”
Aaron and his sons are anointed as well—essentially consecrated to serve the Lord as priests. Everything about this tabernacle—everything about the presence of God who is about to dwell among them—is treated with the utmost respect as holy.
Now comes the big moment. We read in verses 34-35:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, and Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Can you imagine this awesome sight of nothing less than God’s presence?
Well, it gets even better. We’re told here that God would—and did—graciously lead His people on their journey. Look at verses 36-38:
Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out . . . For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
So, God essentially comes down to dwell with Israel. He will lead them in this awesome pillar of cloud by day, and at night it will become a pillar of fire.
The nation of Israel is now walking with God. They are becoming the right kind of people—people who will experience genuine fellowship with God and worship Him alone in truth.
How about us today? Are we the kind of people who magnify the reputation of God? How can we tell?
- Are we obedient to God’s Word?
- Are we generous in giving to His work?
- Are we pursuing excellence in what we accomplish?
- Do we reverence the character and glory of God?
Let’s become the kind of people who can answer yes to those questions.
And with that, our wisdom journey through this wonderful book of Exodus comes to an end.