We have come to the final scene for the book of Exodus. Moses has been on the mountain making intercession for the people of Israel because of the golden calf failure. God has said that he will go with his people because he is a merciful and gracious God who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving transgression, iniquity, and sin. God will go in the midst of his people. The tabernacle project is back. This is what Exodus 35-40 records for us is the building of the tabernacle sanctuary so that God can be in the midst of his people.
Sabbath Restated (35:1-3)
Before we can begin the tabernacle directions to the people, Moses first calls the people and commands them to keep the Sabbath. It is interesting to see the continued emphasis given to the people for keeping the Sabbath command. Yet the Sabbath is the key to understanding Exodus 32-34 and the entire book of Exodus. The Sabbath points to the obtaining of the rest in the presence of God. The golden calf threatened the people resting in God’s presence, bringing Israel nearly to destruction and also nearly leaving Israel without the Lord on their journey. But after intercession has been made, the rest remains open for Israel to enjoy and enter. The Sabbath rest is for remembering that the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt and God set them free to bring them to rest. This is why their faithfulness to the Sabbath is so important. The Sabbath represented everything God was trying to give to his people: rest in his presence.
Hearts Were Stirred To Give
With the Sabbath restated, we will notice that there are two repetitions found in these final chapters of Exodus regarding the tabernacle’s construction. The first repetition is that the people’s hearts were stirred to give for the tabernacle construction. Moses tells the people what the Lord requires for the tabernacle’s construction in verses 4-19. Notice what happens in verses 21-29. “And they came, and everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service and for the holy garments” (35:21). Everyone who had something to give gave it. Skillful women spun with their hands as their hearts were stirred to participate (35:25-26). All the men and women whose hearts were moved were contributing and participating in the tabernacle’s construction (35:29). In Exodus 36:2 we see the skilled craftsmen whose hearts were stirred came to work on it. The hearts of the people were so moved, look at what happens in Exodus 36:3-7.
And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. (Exodus 36:3–7 ESV)
The people had such a heart to give that they had too much. In fact, they had so much that Moses had to tell the people to stop making contributions for the sanctuary. Listen to verse 6. The people were restrained from bringing because they had more than what was sufficient to do the work.
Friends, this is the heart that God desires of his people. He does not command us to give so that we will begrudgingly give out of obligation or requirement. This is the last thing God wants. God wants a cheerful giver. God wants people to give from their hearts. Notice what giving from the heart looks like. People so wanted to give that there was so much that Moses had to tell the people to stop. What a wonderful problem to have! The people gave and gave until Moses said to stop. This is a characteristic of God’s people: the desire to give. The shepherds mentioned at the beginning of the year all the work that we are doing and want to continue to do in this area. We have Casey and his family that we want to support as much as possible. We have the desire to continue to reach out to the county so that we people will know we are here. We want to continue to give as much teaching material and Bibles as possible. We have a lot to do for expansion of our building as well as upkeep. We trust in the Lord and in generous hearts who want to see the work of the kingdom done in this area. God blesses us so that we will do the work (2 Corinthians 8-9).
As The Lord Commanded
There is a second repetition found in these final chapters. The text notes again and again that the people made everything in the tabernacle as the Lord commanded. This point is made in Exodus 38:22; 39:1; 39:5; 39:7; 39:26; 39:31 and 39:32. The paragraph ends with these words:
According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them. (Exodus 39:42–43 ESV)
Why does the text keep saying this? Why emphasize that the people did just as the Lord commanded? The command-fulfillment repetition pattern is a way of highlighting the importance of what is commanded the precision with which it was obeyed. The things produced in obedience to the original command must be considered important. When God commands certain things to be done in certain ways, we are not to wonder what all the “fuss” is about. We are to take the commands and do them exactly was God commanded. It is not up to us to decide what we think is worth doing or not worth doing. Nothing that God says can be ignored, treated lightly, nor taken for granted. Our responsibility as God’s people is to do everything as the Lord commanded.
The Glory of the Lord (40:34-38)
All of God’s commands have purpose. God does not give commands just to give commands. Remember that the details and commands for the tabernacle are so that God can be with his people and live in their midst. This is exactly the result since the tabernacle was completed as the Lord commanded. Look at Exodus 40:34-38.
The cloud that led them in the wilderness, that had been atop of Mount Sinai, and was at the entrance of the tent of meeting when Moses went to speak with God now fills the tabernacle. This is how an invisible God can show his people that he has indeed come to dwell with them, in full covenant relationship with them. With ready hearts to give and obey, the Lord comes down and fills the tabernacle. God answers the question of Moses and the people. God will really be with the people. This is the message of the cloud as God’s glory fills the tabernacle. God is really with his people. God made his home with the people. Keep this image of the cloud which is the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle as we look at the New Testament to see the same picture. Listen to how Luke records the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure (Gk. exodos), which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28–31 ESV)
When Luke describes the transfiguration as Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory talking to Jesus about his exodus which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. The transfiguration of Jesus is a picture of the new exodus Jesus is accomplishing. Then notice what Luke records next.
As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:34–35 ESV)
Jesus is the cloud as it overshadowed them just as it did on Mount Sinai. These are physical pictures of the point the Gospel of John makes.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:14–16 ESV)
Jesus is the fullness of the glory of God that was seen as Jesus came to the earth and lived among us. Small snapshots are seen of this glory in the baptism of Jesus and the transfiguration of Jesus. The life of Jesus displayed the glory of God. The teachings of Jesus displayed the glory of God. Jesus is with us when we have hearts ready for him to submit and follow him. Listen to how Paul taught this idea to the Ephesian Christians.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14–19 ESV)
Carefully notice the ending: “That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” This tabernacle picture of the glory of God filling it is foreshadowing not only the glory of the Lord living in our midst, but also the glory of the Lord filling us. Notice that Paul says when we come to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that we are filled with all the fullness of God. As we come to know the love of our Lord and have Christ dwell in our hearts richly through faith, then we are pictured as being in intimate covenant fellowship with the Lord. Seeing God’s glory drives our obedience and transforms us to God lovers and God worshipers. Grace does not disregard the commands of God. This is how God is with us in all our journeys. Now we are ready to go to the promised land. When God moves, the people move. When God stays, the people stay. This is also us. Where Jesus leads we follow. Where he goes we go because he has the words of eternal life. We desire God’s presence with us every step of the way and we know we have him with us when we know the love of Christ.
The message of Exodus is that God draws us out of slavery and draws us to him. God sets us free so that we can belong to him. God releases us from our imprisonment so that we can be with him. God comes to us and tells us to love him and he will be with us every day all the way to the rest promised to us. Jesus is how we know God is with us. The cross is how we know that God will not leave us or forsake us. Jesus is the answer to our sin problem. Jesus is the display that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.