Obedience in Building the Tabernacle
Posted October 9, 2022
Lesson 6 Fall Quarter
Lesson Text: Exodus 40:16-21, 29-30, 34, 38
Golden Text: Exodus 40:16-17
Our lesson this week is the third lesson within the second unit of lessons for the fall quarter which is titled – Obedience in Worship. In this unit of lessons so far, we have seen the Lord give the Ten Commandments to Moses and called for the children of Israel to respect the Lord’s rule. Our lesson this week will be taking a look at the building of the tabernacle.
Obeying God’s Command
Now, our lesson this week skips quite a few chapters so I feel I must sum up what was skipped in the previous chapters from our last lesson. After our last lesson, the Lord gave more laws to Moses, and therefore the children of Israel; laws concerning violence, property, and even animals.
Understanding to be obedient
Israel would affirm their keeping of the covenant with the Lord (Ex. 24). Moses went to a higher point on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights to receive the word of the Lord on the two tablets of stone (Ex. 24:13-18). However, during the forty days and nights that Moses was on the mountain, the children of Israel sinned a great sin by worshiping the calf of gold (Ex. 32:1-16). When looking upon the sin of the children of Israel, Moses would cast the tablets that he had just received from the Lord to the ground which shattered the tablets to pieces (Ex. 32:19).
After the great sin, the children of Israel were eventually commanded to leave Mount Sinai and continue to make their way to the Promised Land (Ex. 33:1). Moses was commanded to make two new stone tablets for the Lord to write on and the covenant was then renewed (Ex. 34:1-28). Work on the tabernacle had also begun along with the ark of the covenant and other items that would be included in the tabernacle (Ex. 36-38).
So, by the time we get to the scripture of our lesson this week, the children of Israel had learned what it would be like to go against the Lord. When they broke the first commandments by building a carved image and then worshiping it, they learned a very tough lesson as the people were punished. Yet, at the same time, we also see that the children of Israel learned that the Lord is a forgiving God. Yes, they were plagued because of their great sin but they were still allowed to move towards the Promised Land.
So, in the chapter that our scripture for this week’s lesson is located within, we find that the Lord had called for Moses to set up (raise) the tabernacle (Ex. 40:1-2).
Importance of the tabernacle
Moses, our lesson tells us, did all that the Lord had commanded him to do (v.16). This verse essentially sums up all that the Lord had commanded to be done in constructing the tabernacle. God gave to Moses a specific guideline to follow in order to be the tabernacle – from the type of wood to be used to the curtains that would be used! God is one that is always going to give us guidelines to follow and we should certainly do our best to follow the Lord’s guidelines.
Now, the significance of the tabernacle was that it would essentially be the place for worship of the Lord. The tabernacle was a large tent that the children of Israel could quickly set up and also take down as they were always on the move to the Promised Land. Now, an interesting fact about the raising of the tabernacle is that it was to be raised in the first month of the second year after being freed from bondage (v.17) – Passover marks the start of the year so the raising of the tabernacle marked the anniversary of being freed from bondage.
In the tabernacle
Scripture tells us that Moses raised up the tabernacle – its frame – and spread out the tent over the tabernacle just as the Lord had commanded (vss.18-19).
After getting the tent set up, Moses took the Testimony – the ark of Testimony – and put it into the ark of the (v.20). The ark of Testimony, were the two stone tablets of the Mosaic Law that also contained the Ten Commandments. The book of Hebrews tells us that Aaron’s rod and a golden pot of manna was also included in the ark (Heb. 9:4). Aaron’s rod, we could imagine, was not in the ark when the tabernacle was initially raised up; it was probably added a lot later.
The ark was then brought into the tabernacle and we are told that the veil was hung to separate the most holy place from the rest of the sanctuary (v.21). The holy of holies, as the holy place is often referred to, was only entered once a year – on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). On the Day of Atonement, the glory of God will fill the holy place and only the high priest could enter into this part of the tabernacle.
Not mentioned in the scripture of our lesson were the other things located in the tabernacle. Scripture tells us that a table overlaid with gold was also in the tabernacle which was called the table for the showbread (Ex. 40:4). Sitting on the table were pots, dishes, and the showbread which were literally loaves of bread. There was also an altar of gold in the tabernacle that would be used for burning incense that sat before the ark of the Testimony (Ex. 40:5).
As we can see, the tabernacle truly was a very special place that should have been treated with dignity, honor, and respect. The way the Lord laid out the temple, and all of the gold that we see in the tabernacle, how could it not be treated with dignity, honor, and respect? This was a holy place, with the holy of holies inside of it – it was a place meant for worship. Remember what the Lord said to Moses about how holy ground was to be treated.
Outside the tabernacle
Outside of the tabernacle was its courtyard which we also get to take a look at in today’s lesson.
We are told that an altar of burnt offering sat before the door of the tabernacle (v.29). This altar was to be used for both burnt offerings and grain offerings. As I mentioned in a recent lesson, burnt offerings were meant as a sign of total commitment to the Lord. Grain offerings were offerings that were of grain and did not consist of an animal sacrifice; they were thought of as gift offerings.
Moses then sat the laver – a large basin – between the tabernacle and the altar (v.30) – so the laver sat outside the tabernacle. Though these verses are not covered in our lesson, we can see the purpose of the laver in the follow up verses. We are told that Moses, Aaron, and his sons would use the water in the laver to wash their hands and their feet. Whenever they came to the tabernacle they would wash – or purify – themselves (Ex. 40:31-32). This, again, reiterates to us how the tabernacle was to be treated with dignity, honor, and respect.
Our lesson then moves on to speaking about God’s glory which was very significant when it came to the tabernacle. The tabernacle, we should also understand, stood as a sign of the Lord’s fellowship with the children of Israel just as the temple did during the years and post years of the kings.
We are told that the cloud – God’s glory – covered the temple after it was raised and it filled the temple (v.34). This, again, showed that the Lord was with the camp of Israel. By day, we are told that the cloud of the Lord would be above the tabernacle and at night, fire would be over it (v.38). This should sound very familiar to us as we know the children of Israel were led from Egypt by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21-22).
The scripture of our lesson does not cover what it meant for the cloud and fire to rest above the tabernacle but let’s take a moment to speak to what this meant. In the scripture prior, we are told that when the cloud would be taken up from the tabernacle, it stood as a sign for the children of Israel to move (Ex. 40:36). If the cloud was not taken up but rested over the tabernacle, it stood as a sign for the children of Israel to rest (Ex. 40:37).
We are a tabernacle
Again, the tabernacle stood as a sign of Israel being in fellowship with the Lord; they were to listen to and follow the Lord in this fellowship. They were to treat the tabernacle with all honor, dignity, and respect. The tabernacle, we can also liken to us today as we ourselves are a moving tabernacle (or temple).
The Holy Spirit is our pillar of cloud and fire – it stands as our sign of being in fellowship with the Lord. You see, all of those that genuinely believe in the only begotten Son of God receive the Holy Spirit which was promised to us by Christ. The Holy Spirit tells us when we should move and when we should not move. So, we should be very disciplined (obedient) and all ears – ready to listen to the Spirit’s guidance.
When you listen to the Lord’s guidance, how can you ever go wrong? Listening to God’s guidance led to a beautiful tabernacle being built by Moses and the children of Israel. We become a beautiful tabernacle (or temple) when we are obedient to the Lord’s guidance.