In this section God’s people have been given instructions on the building of the tabernacle, and how they are going to go about gathering the resources to build it. Every architect will tell you that a building tells a story. It is the same with God. The places where we meet God prepare us to meet a certain kind of God and in a certain kind of way. We have been following Israel to Mt Sinai to meet with God. In chapter 25, God then tells them to build a place for Him to dwell. In this series, we learn what it is like to come before our God and to be physically in his presence. As we learn about his tabernacle, we will see how this building reflects a shadow of the heavenly.
A People God Claims for Himself (Ex 1-24)
Before we understand this section of Exodus, it is important for us to understand what has happened previously. Each of these sections remind us what God has been telling his people about himself.
Exodus 2:23-25 tells us that God had made a covenant with Abraham. They had a special relationship. When they ended up as slaves to Egypt, we find them crying out to the God of their fathers, groaning under their oppression.
In Exodus 6:6-7, we see that “I (God) will bring you out from under the Egyptians”. These verses tell us two things. 1) That God will deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians, and 2) after God is done, he will take them as His own.
In Exodus 12:27, we reach the climax of what God does, where God sends judgment on Egypt but preserves the Israelites. They are spared and they see his mercy. It is however, the final toll on the Egyptians.
In Exodus 14:30-31, we have the last verse of the middle section of exodus, describing God’s deliverance by opening and closing the red sea over Israel’s enemies.
In Exodus 19:7-9, we are brought to the wilderness. God brings his people here and tells them that He will meet with them in a special event to give the law. God then gives the law in 3 sections: moral (reveals God’s character and design for our lives), civil (how to organise our life together), ceremonial (how God’s people are to participate together in worship). Here in Exodus 25, God takes the ceremonial law and zooms in to a specific part, of the place that he will dwell.
These chapters also reveal the relationship between God and His people. We see God as the one who has done all these things, and the Israelites as the ones he has done it for. The relationship is covenantal and predicated on his salvation plan for them. He is a God who saved them, not ultimately for their own sake, but so that he could have a relationship with them. He did not raise them up to leave them alone. He has an exclusive relationship with His people. He knows all about them, and He knows what He is doing when he chooses them.
This is important because this type of relationship is an identity defining relationship. It is the kind of relationship that you would put a ring on your finger for. One that you can show to everyone else around you that you are different. “Of all the nations of the earth I take you to be my treasured possession.” These are words of our identity. Words of exclusion. Words that if you want to keep a relationship with God, you must renew your covenant.
Are there things in your life that you announce that you are out of bounds for? Where in your life do you tell the watching world that you belong to God? Where are you saying no to Baal, no to the gods of Egypt, no to anyone? The God of Israel took them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Where in your life do you declare this to the world that you and God are in an exclusive relationship? It is far more tempting to let this relationship be assumed. Assumed things are forgotten and not binding. Only renewed things are identity defining.
What would this covenant relationship look like? It looks like us waking up and reminding ourselves in the morning that we belong to Jesus, that He has saved us from slavery. We affirm this covenant relationship when we remind ourselves that when we were lost in the world, that God redeemed us with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and set us free, not to be a random agent in the universe, but to be his. We ought to say this to ourselves before we leave the house because these are identity defining things.
Hearts Moved to contribute to God (Ex 25:1-7)
What does God want Moses to tell the Israelites (v1-2 c.f. 2 Cor 9:6-8)
God has a specific set of instructions for Moses — “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution.” (Exo 25:2) Why does God need this contribution? Does He not have enough? This is because God has a relationship with this people and He has claimed them for Himself. Now, He wishes to take this relationship with them into deeper ways and He also intends for the world to see this relationship. The tabernacle was designed with this specific purpose.
How much were the people supposed to give? “From every man whose heart moves him.”He is saying, listen to what I have put in your heart, respond to your own heart. This is unusual language because there is freedom in this command. It is an act of choice. Why does God say that? What does he desire? He desires free response of praise. God’s people are living in dependence day to day on him, for food, direction and purpose. This is the life we have when we depend on God. We receive grace from him, and he wants us to respond to his grace.
Have you considered that this is God not of compulsion? God gives us a choice because he gave himself a choice. The choice to redeem us or not. There is free will, which begins with God. He acted first, and our wills then act responsively. God says “because I acted first, now according to the movement of your heart, you respond”.
In 2 Cor 9:6-8, when God calls for a gift, he never compels us with threat or force. His is always a call for the response of the heart. No external pressure should ever be a driving force, it should be the movement of the heart. This is the OT and NT pattern.
God is not calling his people to a transaction where they more they give, the more He will bless them. Greed motivates this kind of giving. However, the biblical pattern here is that God motivates you. Your heart’s response to him motivates you, not what you can get. God has never called for his people as if he needed stuff. God needs no cash. All he wants is your heart responding.
Yet, though they are free to respond from their heart, He requires them to give specific things (Exo 25:3-7). Just before God’s people left Egypt, God broke all of Egypt so that they gave the Israelites their riches. God plundered the Egyptians.
As God’s people heard these instructions, they were also to consider the riches that they had and possess and to remember that all they have, they did not earn, but were given by God. And now this same God calls them to give what their heart moves them too. What about us? Do we think of our bonuses and salaries as God’s? Are we holding back what is truly God’s?Hearts moved to give up to Him and also moving out to others.
This faith exercise is also an evidence that God is at work changing His people. These were the same people that were demanding water, manna and quail. Yet, they’re now stepping forward in faith and obedience. When we respond in faith and obedience, it doesn’t just build our faith. It strengthens the faith of those around us, and points them back to God.
The tabernacle, inlaid with gold, daily reminded the people of God. The tabernacle, as it followed the people of God through the land, was also a striking, visual symbol for the nations around. What kind of economy furnished such a building? Hearts moved by a God who provides.
Dwelling For God’s presence (Ex 25:8 c.f. 6:6-9)
This entire place had 1 purpose, as a sanctuary for God to dwell in the midst of the Israelites. The corresponding Hebrew word means “a consecrated place, sanctuary, dwelling”. We still call the big hall in our church the “sanctuary”. Why? We think of it as a safe place. Where there is no threat, a resting place. But this is a distance from what it was meant to be. It was a dwelling place, a permanent place of residence. An MRT station will never be a dwelling place. It is for transit, like your school or your office. Your dwelling place is your residence.
The tabernacle was built as a dwelling place in their midst. God wanted to take up residence with his people and to live with them permanently. This is not a new thought. It comes from the beginning of the bible, when he put man on earth.It goes back to the beginning of the Bible when He made the heavens and the earth. He prepared the space for them to live and breathe and thrive and flourish. Right at the start in Eden, He planned to live with His people and enjoy a relationship with them. Yet sin marred this relationship and Man sought to hide and run away from this God.
What would it be like to be in the presence of a holy God, to experience His very presence? Ps 84 is an excellent meditation on this. Dwelling in God’s presence has been what your heart has always wanted. Don’t you long for a place of peace and rest? A place where you no longer need to be anxious, fearful and where sin (both of your own and others) no longer touch you? What an amazing thought!
Heb 9 describes the holy place, and the most holy place. This physical structure was always meant to point forward to Jesus. What that means, is that if you want to know Jesus you can look to exodus 25. The tabernacle was meant to be a picture of Jesus. The goal of this series is not merely to learn new things and to be intrigued by all the details only. We want to come hoping to see where God chose to dwell through His Son, Jesus.
How is your relationship with God like? Maybe far, distant? Maybe things are great with you and God. In his word we are told that his dwelling place was meant to help us to see Jesus. We should ask God to come and dwell in us, to fill our lives with Jesus Christ, that we may know him each day in a way that defines who we are. Say no to the world and yes to God! Take the time to reflect on what God is saying. The shadow of heavenly realities, Jesus Christ, is God’s dwelling place for us.