Exodus 35-36, Mark 15
And they came, 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. – Exodus 35:21 ESV
In chapters 35-36 of Exodus we have the beginning of the construction of the Tabernacle that God had commanded the people to build. But before the work could begin, the construction materials had to be gathered. It’s interesting to note that the Israelites were a group of people who had spent over 400 years in exile in Egypt. They had been shepherds and farmers by trade. Now they found themselves living in the wilderness and given the task of building a portable temple for God, that could be set up, taken down, and carted with them wherever God should lead them to go. And it was not to be just some ordinary structure. It was to be made of the finest materials and crafted with care and precision. So where was all this gold, silver, wood, and fabric to come from? How in the world was a group of freed slaves going to pull this off this formidable task? God had already taken care of it. When they left the land of Egypt, God had caused the Egyptians to weigh them down with all kinds of gifts. After suffering through the ten plagues, they basically paid the Israelites to get out of their land. Moses records, “The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in hast. For they say said, ‘We shall all be dead’…And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked for. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:33, 36 ESV). So when the people of Israel left Egypt, God had loaded them down with Egyptian treasure. Little did they know that there was a divine purpose behind this surprising blessing. God was simply providing in advance all the materials necessary to build the Tabernacle. God had told Moses this would happen. “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:21 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
Everything they would need for the construction of the Tabernacle had been given to them by God. Not only that, God had supernaturally endowed two men with “with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft” (Exodus 35:31-33 ESV). These men had been filled with the Spirit of God so that they might do the work of God. And they were also given the ability to teach and train these ordinary farmers and shepherds to do the work that had to be done. Everything about the Tabernacle, from the design and construction to the material, was the work of God. When it came time to collect all the gold, silver, wood, jewels, fabric, and thread needed to begin construction, God would ask the people to give – out of the treasure given to them by the Egyptians. But even the giving was God-inspired and motivated. “And they came, 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” (Exodus 35:21 ESV). God knew exactly what treasures were necessary and who held them in their possession, so He caused His Spirit to stir the hearts of each individual to give what was needed. And they gave and they gave, to the point that Moses had to command them to stop giving. Rather than having to scrimp and scrounge for the materials, God ensured that they would have more than enough. All so the people of God could build a dwelling place for God, where His presence could exist among them.
What does this passage reveal about man?
The text doesn’t say it, but knowing human nature like I do, I have to believe that each and every one of the Israelites had long since decided that the treasure they walked out of Egypt with belonged to them. God had given it to them for their own use. But they were going to find out that God had blessed them for a much more significant reason. The treasure was not for their individual use, but to minister to the body, the corporate community of Israel, by providing for the presence of God in their midst. The Tabernacle would become the place where God would meet with them. It was where their sins would be atoned for and forgiveness would be offered. They would find mercy and grace there. That structure would become the focal point of their community and the most important part of their lives as the people of God. Those gifts they had carted out of Egypt, given to them by God, were never intended for their own selfish purposes, but had been intended to accomplish God’s will in providing for Himself a dwelling place among them.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Ultimately, both the Tabernacle and the Temple were symbols of something much greater and more significant to come. They would provide a foreshadowing of the coming work of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV). Once again, God was going to provide everything necessary to ensure that sinful mankind could have access into His presence and a means by which they could find forgiveness for their sins. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 ESV). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).
God provided all that was necessary for me to have a restored relationship with Him. He sent His Son in the form of a man. He sacrificed His Son on a cruel Roman cross. He provided the “resources” necessary for man to have access into His presence. Jesus was the ultimate Temple or Tabernacle. He Himself declared, “Destroy this temple, and in three days ‘I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise t up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21 ESV). The earthly Tabernacle was provided for by God. It was made up of expensive materials that had great earthly value. But Jesus was also of great value, the very Son of God, sacrificed for the sins of man. It is fascinating to think about the fact that, at His trial, Jesus was covered in fine linen too, just like the Tabernacle. He was clothed in an expensive purple cloak and a crown of wood was placed on His head. He was to be God’s ultimate provision for forgiveness of sin, providing access into His presence. Mark 15 records the death of Jesus and he writes, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38 ESV). At the death of Jesus, the veil that had long separated the people of God from the presence of God was ripped in two. And it was God’s doing. With the death of His Son, He removed once and for all the barrier that had long kept men out of His divine presence. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). God has provided me with all I need to have access into His presence. It is all His doing, not mine. It is His plan, not mine. It is based on His effort, not mine. Like the Israelites, I don’t deserve access into God’s presence, but it is by the death of Christ that I can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV).
Father, You have provided everything. I bring nothing to the table. You gave the most precious thing You had to offer, Your Son. You sacrificed Him on my behalf, all so that I might enjoy the pleasure of Your presence in my life. I find grace, mercy and forgiveness for sins, all because You provided the ultimate sacrifice. Thank You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men