Move-In Day

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court.

“Then 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. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

16 This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, 23 and arranged the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 26 He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 28 He put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the Lord commanded Moses. 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. – Exodus 40:1-33 ESV

To say that the roughly nine months the Israelites spent at Mount Sinai had been eventful would be an understatement. During their stay in the shadow of Sinai’s peak, they received a divine visit from Yahweh, as He displayed His glory on the mountaintop. Lightning, thunder, smoke, and earthquakes accompanied His presence. And on multiple occasions, they watched as their intrepid leader, Moses, ascended the mountain to speak with God. During those encounters, he received the Decalogue and the Book of the Covenant. God gave him the plans for the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system.

But during one of his more lengthy sessions with the Almighty, the people became impatient and doubtful of his return. So, they demanded that Aaron, his brother and temporary proxy, take over leadership and begin by finding them a new god to worship. Sadly, Aaron had agreed with their demands. This led to a strong rebuke from Moses and the deaths of thousands of Israelites. But God continued to extend grace and mercy to the people of Israel, assuring them of His continued care and protection. But to guarantee His ongoing presence among them, they would have to build the Tabernacle He had designed.

Now, on the first day of the first month, almost exactly one year after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses oversaw the construction of God’s house. After months of laborious work and painstaking craftsmanship, the people were able to see the Tabernacle rise up from the valley floor.  This beautiful structure, designed by God Himself, gradually took form before their eyes. From its vantage point in the middle of the Israelite camp, the building site would have been hard to miss, and the people must have watched the project’s progress with eager anticipation. Slowly and with great care, the timber framework was erected. Then, the two heavy layers of the animal-skin outer covering were put in place. Next, the various pieces of furniture that Bezalel had crafted were moved into their proper positions within the inner recesses of the Tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. The Table of Shewbread, the Golden Candlestick, and the Altar of Incense were carefully situated in the Holy Place.  And everything was done according to the plan given to Moses by God.

This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. – Exodus 40:16 ESV

At this point, God was taking no chances. He provided Moses with detailed instructions that outlined the exact order of the entire construction and move-in process. There was a proper sequence for everything, and Moses followed God’s instructions to the letter. And his obedient fulfillment of God’s plan was key to ensuring God’s presence. The Tabernacle was intended to be God’s house and, therefore, it must be perfect and up to His exacting standards. Built by human hands, it was to be the earthly dwelling place of the God of the Universe.

One can only imagine the stress that Moses felt as he oversaw the build-out and move-in process. He must have second-guessed himself a thousand times and questioned whether he had left anything out. And during his inspections of all the various elements that made up the Tabernacle, he must have had a great deal of concern that everything would meet God’s expectations. There was a great deal riding on this project. If anything was unacceptable or incomplete, it could end up postponing or permanently canceling God’s move-in plans. And that would be catastrophic.

But Moses proved to be a worthy project manager. Eight different times the text states that Moses followed God’s instructions flawlessly, doing everything “just as the Lord had commanded him” (16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32). He took his responsibilities seriously because he knew that any failure to meet God’s expectations would be catastrophic. The Tabernacle was meant to illustrate the holiness of God. Everything about it was designed to reflect God’s glory and greatness. The flawless God of the universe required a residence worthy of His glorious status.

And after careful oversight of the entire project, the day came when the last piece of the puzzle was put in place and the Tabernacle stood completed. Moses and the rest of the Israelites must have stood back and viewed their work with awe and admiration. They had put a great deal of time, effort, and personal resources into this project. Now, it stood complete, but there was still one thing missing: The presence of God. His house was done, but if He failed to move in, the Tabernacle would end up being just another tent in the wilderness. Moses knew that there was one more vital step for the entire process to be deemed a success. God must take up residence in the Tabernacle. But would He be satisfied with their work? Would He give His Good Housekeeping seal of approval?

As the Israelites prepared to begin their second year since leaving Egypt, they were forced to wait on pins and needles to see if God would grace the Tabernacle with His divine presence. But they wouldn’t have to wait long.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God’s Glorious Throne Room

1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim. – Exodus 37:1-9 ESV

In this chapter. Moses begins his description of Bezalel constructing the various pieces of furniture that God had designed for His house. With the Tabernacle itself well underway, Bezalel turned his attention to these sacred “household items” that would become an important part of the ceremonial role of this sacred structure.

He began with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. These two items actually formed the single piece of furniture that was to occupy the Holy of Holies, the innermost and most sacred section of the Tabernacle. This rectangular wooden box was covered with gold filigree and topped off with a matching lid on which were placed two golden images of angelic creatures with their outstretched wings extended toward one another. This removable lid was actually called the Mercy Seat because it was there that God’s presence would dwell. Yahweh had designed the Tabernacle as His earthly dwelling place and had promised to live among His people with the divine manifestation of His presence resting over the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.

“…let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” – Exodus 25:8-9 ESV

God had provided Moses with detailed instructions for making the Mercy Seat and Ark of the Covenant, and He had assured His servant that, upon their completion, He would fulfill His promise and take up residence in the Holy of Holies.

“…you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.” – Exodus 25:21-22 ESV

Now, Bezalel was putting the finishing touches on these two sacred objects. It seems that the crafting of these two vital pieces of furniture was his responsibility alone. God had specially equipped Bezalel with all the skills and abilities he would need to turn Moses’ instructions into actual objects that met God’s approval.

One fascinating aspect of the Tabernacle and all the pieces of furniture associated with it was their need for portability. This large and complex structure had to be constructed in such a way that allowed for easy disassembly, packing, and transportation. The Tabernacle was not meant to be a permanent structure that remained in one location. As the Israelites made their way from Sinai to the land of Canaan, they would need to be able to carry the Tabernacle with them and erect it at their next campsite. So, it had to be constructed in such a way that allowed for both stability and portability. That would have made Bezalel‘s task all the more difficult. The massive wooden framework had to be designed for easy disassembly and yet sturdy enough to support the Tabernacle’s large and weighty animal skin covering.

Even the Ark of the Covenant featured four gold rings through which two gold-covered poles were placed to facilitate its transport from one place to another. This sacred object was never to be touched by human hands so that its holy status might be preserved at all times. Centuries later, long after the Israelites had occupied the land of promise, King David ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be moved from Baale-judah to the city of Jerusalem. In their attempt to relocate the sacred object, they loaded it onto an ox cart, and somewhere along the way, one of the men in the procession reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant. What happened next was devastating.

Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. – 2 Samuel 6:6-7 ESV

The Ark of the Covenant was meant to be carried by the Levitical priests. That was the whole purpose of the poles that Bezalel had crafted and placed on either side of the sacred object. God had warned Moses about the danger of treating the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat with disrespect or dishonor.

“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. – Leviticus 16:2 ESV

The Ark of the Covenant was to be a symbol of God’s glory, greatness, and goodness. God had instructed Moses to place certain objects inside it as reminders of His power and provision. One was a sample of the manna He had provided during their journey from Egypt to Sinai.

Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. – Exodus 16:32-34 ESV

Somehow, God would miraculously preserve this sample of manna, preventing it from evaporating like all the rest. It was to be a permanent reminder of His providential care.

The second item to be associated with the ark was Aaron’s staff. God had told Moses, “Place Aaron’s staff permanently before the Ark of the Covenant to serve as a warning to rebels” (Numbers 17:10 NLT). This was in response to a rebellion that had arisen among the people. A group of disgruntled Israelites, under the leadership of a man named Korah, had attempted to stage a coup and arrest leadership away from Moses. In response to this organized rebellion, God gave Moses the following instructions:

“Tell the people of Israel to bring you twelve wooden staffs, one from each leader of Israel’s ancestral tribes, and inscribe each leader’s name on his staff. Inscribe Aaron’s name on the staff of the tribe of Levi, for there must be one staff for the leader of each ancestral tribe. Place these staffs in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark containing the tablets of the Covenant, where I meet with you. Buds will sprout on the staff belonging to the man I choose. Then I will finally put an end to the people’s murmuring and complaining against you.” – Numbers 7:2-5 NLT

The next day, Moses entered the Tabernacle of the Covenant and “found that Aaron’s staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8 NLT). This miraculous sign confirmed the leadership of Moses and Aaron and put a stop to the insurrection of Korah and his companions. God then ordered Moses to “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die” (Numbers 17:10 ESV).

It seems that the staff of Aaron was placed before the Ark and not in it. But it served as another vivid reminder of God’s power and provision.

The next item to be placed in the Ark of the Covenant was the second set of the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments served as the official document that sealed the covenant agreement between the people of Israel and Yahweh. Placing the two tablets containing the “testimony” of God inside the ark and under the mercy seat served as a permanent reminder that God expected obedience from His people. As the manna illustrated, He would provide for all their needs. But the law was there to remind them that He expected obedience. And Aaron’s rod was there to remind them that rebellion was an unacceptable response to His divine will. His law was to be obeyed. His appointed leader was to be respected. His providential care was to be trusted at all times.

And on the top of the Mercy Seat, the presence of the two cherubim was to provide a constant reminder that this was a holy place. These two angelic creatures served as symbols of God’s heavenly throne room where He sits “enthroned upon the cherubim” (Psalm 80:1 ESV). Centuries later, the apostle John was given a vision of God’s throne room in heaven, where he saw four cherubim standing before God declaring His glory. and greatness

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8 ESV

Bezalel had been tasked with creating the earthly throne for God Almighty, and he took his work seriously, pouring every bit of his Spirit-endowed creative power into his efforts. The results would be “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5 ESV), but they would serve as constant reminders of God’s glory, holiness, mercy, and righteousness. He was a God to be revered, trusted, obeyed, and worshiped – at all times.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God’s House Built God’s Way

1 The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” – Exodus 31:1-11 ESV

The Tabernacle and its furnishings had been designed by God but were to be handcrafted by men. For an earthly house for God to go from concept to concrete form, human hands would be required. Up until this point in the narrative, the Tabernacle was just an idea with no basis in reality. None of its furnishings had been fabricated. The curtains and veils had not been sewn. The timber for its beams had not been harvested or milled. Even the bronze, silver, and gold that would adorn the Tabernacle had not been collected, let alone smelted and purified for use.

There was much to be done, but before Moses could begin the process of enlisting workers and making assignments, God revealed the names of the two men who were to oversee the construction of His house. While Moses had been assigned the task of recording God’s plans for the Tabernacle, he would not be in charge of its construction. That responsibility would fall to two men who had been specially chosen by God: Bezalel and Oholiab.

It’s clear from God’s instructions, that the construction of the Tabernacle would require great skill and craftsmanship. This was to be no ordinary structure and its fabrication would involve a wide range of disciplines, including stone masonry, metallurgy, weaving, engraving, carpentry, embroidery, and tanning. To our knowledge, Moses had none of these skills and knew nothing about managing a massive construction project of this nature. While he had grown up in Pharaoh’s court and was intimately familiar with fine furnishing and opulent surroundings, nothing on his resume would have suggested that he was the man to build God’s house. He was a prophet with 40 years of shepherding experience.

But God’s plans for the Tabernacle included the men who would oversee its construction. They had been there all along. When Bezalel and Oholiab had walked out of Egypt along with the rest of the people of Israel, no one had any idea that they were to become two of the most important men in the entire nation, including themselves. They were just two more Israelites making their way to the land of Canaan along with their friends and family members. But God had plans for them. And God had equipped both of them for their future roles as His construction foremen.

“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” – Exodus 31:2-5 NLT

Bezalel was a highly gifted man with expertise in a wide range of disciplines. He was an artisan and craftsman with extraordinary talents and abilities that set him apart from his peers. But God makes it clear that Bezalel’s gifts were divinely ordained. This man had been prepared for this very moment by the Spirit of God. We are not given any information regarding Bezalel’s previous construction experience or how he made his living in Egypt. Perhaps he put some of his diverse skills to work on the many building projects that Pharaoh forced the Israelites to complete. But, according to God, Bezalel was born for this moment. His true purpose in life had been to oversee the construction of God’s house.

And even his name suggests the future role that God had for him. Bezalel means “”in the shadow (i.e. protection) of God.” This man had been sovereignly prepared and preserved by God for this moment in time. He didn’t just “happen” to be in the crowd that day. He hadn’t submitted his resume to Moses along with a host of other candidates. It’s likely that Moses didn’t even know Bezalel existed. But God did. And God had providentially equipped Bezalel with “ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:3 ESV).

These words reveal that Bezalel’s expertise was divinely inspired. He had been given a supernatural endowment that enhanced his natural skills and abilities. This Spirit-empowered ability was going to allow him to take God’s design and bring it to fruition. The details that Moses had recorded would need to be interpreted and interpolated before they could become reality. Bezalel was not handed detailed blueprints and a lengthy list of design criteria. Much of the Tabernacle’s construction would be left to his Spirit-enabled imagination. Even artists who have tried to illustrate the Tabernacle based on the details found in Exodus have found it difficult to discern the exact nature of its final form.

But with the Spirit’s help, Bezalel would have the wisdom necessary to discern and carry out every detail of God’s plan. This was going to be a project of massive proportions that would require spiritual insight and practical skills. And Bezalel was just the man for the task. But he would not be alone. God had also chosen an assistant to serve alongside Bezalel.

I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.” – Exodus 31:6 NLT

Oholiab was to be Bezalel’s foreman, overseeing a team of “gifted craftsmen” who had each been divinely selected and equipped for their roles.

“The artistic gifts these men possessed all came from God. To be specific, they came from God the Holy Spirit. Presumably Bezalel and Oholiab already had some natural talent for the arts and crafts (which also came from God). However, they were being given a special commission, and with that commission came special gifts. They alone were called to build God’s holy tabernacle, and in order to do this work they were inspired in the true sense of the word: They were filled with the Holy Spirit.“ – Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory

This was not a Habitat for Humanity building project where everyone grabbed a hammer and started pounding nails. This entire project could have become an unorganized mess had not God preordained the very men who would oversee its implementation and completion. And it should not be surprising that God had a well-thought-out plan in place for carrying out the construction of His house. He had left nothing to chance but, instead, He had preselected and supernaturally prepared those who would carry out the plans for the Tabernacle’s construction.

Every single item that God described to Moses was to be made by these men. That means that there was a wide range of talents represented among them. Some of them, like Bezalel, were multi-talented and capable of contributing in a variety of ways. Others were experts in a particular field and assigned a single task to complete. There were those who did menial tasks such as chopping down the trees to make the support beams for the Tabernacle. Others slaughtered the goats and rams, then tanned their hides to make the outer lining for the Tabernacle’s roof. Some worked with precious gems and metals. There were those who sewed and weaved the curtains, while another group built the furniture that would fill God’s house. It was truly a team effort that required constant oversight and careful attention to detail. Nothing was to be overlooked. There was to be no skimping or cutting of corners. Attention to detail was paramount and mistakes would not be tolerated. After all, every facet of this vast project would ultimately form the dwelling place of God Almighty.

The Tabernacle was God’s idea, and so was the manner of its construction. He left nothing to chance. He had raised up the men who would build the Tabernacle long before He gave the plans for its design to Moses. Even before He had called Moses to deliver His people from their captivity in Egypt, God had sovereignly ordained those who would build His house. And according to King David, God had these men and their future roles in mind before they were even born.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:13-16 NLT

Every individual who played a part in the building of God’s house was chosen for their role. Not only that, they were divinely equipped to contribute their part to the overall project. There was no skill missing. Not one part of the Tabernacle’s construction was left unaccounted for. At no point did Bezalel or Oholiel run out of materials or skilled workers. No one was forced to work outside their competency. God provided all they needed. And the apostle Paul reminds us that God has called and equipped another group of individuals to whom He has assigned another important task, the building of His Church.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 ESV

God has chosen us and equipped us for service, just as He did with Bezalel and Oholiel, and Paul goes on to describe the purpose behind God’s supernatural endowment of His people.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV

God’s house built God’s way and all for God’s glory.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.