tabernacle

Exodus 40, Proverbs 16, Psalm 88

Today we’re reading Exodus 40, Proverbs 16, and Psalm 88.

This devotional is about Exodus 40.

At long last the tabernacle was completed as well as all the items that were needed to make it useful for worshipping God. The Lord ordered Moses to set it all up (vv. 1-8), set it apart with anointing oil (vv. 9-11), and anoint Aaron and his sons for their ministry in it (vv. 12-15). The rest of the chapter details how Moses obeyed these commands (vv. 16-33) and how the Lord blessed this tent with his presence and communicated his will through that presence (vv. 34-38).

God had promised his presence would go before Israel and give them rest in the promised land (Ex 33:14). That promise was now visually fulfilled through the cloud that inhabited the tabernacle. So, on one hand, the tabernacle demonstrated God’s presence with his people.

On the other hand, there is an emphasis in this chapter on the importance of keeping the people separate from the presence of God in the tabernacle. The word “holy” means to set apart, to make special by separating something for a particular use. Each anointing of the tabernacle and its furnishings and instruments was done to set it apart as holy for the Lord’s service (vv. 9-10). The strongest indication of God’s separation was the “shielding curtain” (v. 21a) that “shielded the ark of the covenant law” (v. 21b). What was is shielded from? Everyone. Nobody was allowed near the ark which represented God’s presence. It was kept in the most holy place and only the high priest could enter and then only once a year. So, while God was truly present among his people, his holiness still kept them from direct contact and fellowship with him.

This is why the gospel writers took note of how the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. The curtain that was torn was the one between the most holy place and the rest of the temple. When it was torn at the death of Christ, it was a direct, visual symbol that the separation between God and man was now over. God did not lower his standards and allow people into his presence. Instead, in Christ, we are declared to be holy because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

Through Christ we have access to God that people before Christ never had. God invites us to know and love him, to contemplate his greatness and worship him in holiness because our Lord Jesus Christ gave us access by his death.

As we prepare to remember the Lord’s death tomorrow in our Good Friday service at 6:30 p.m., keep in mind what God has done for us in Christ. Through him we have direct access to God and can approach him at any time in prayer without fear.

Have you approached him yet today?

Exodus 40, John 19, Proverbs 16, Philippians 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 40, John 19, Proverbs 16, Philippians 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Exodus 40.

After months of collecting materials donated from the people of Israel and watching the skilled, Spirit-filled artisans craft the Tabernacle and all the tools and garments associated with it, the time came to put the puzzle pieces together. In verses 1-15, God gave instructions for how Moses was to assemble it all. Everything was to be done in order (vv. 1-8), then consecrated in a special ceremony to the Lord (vv. 9-15, including Aaron & his sons, vv. 12-15). Verse 16 told us that “Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him,” but then verses 17-33 detailed step-by-step that Moses did what the Lord commanded him. These verses even go into more detail than the instructions; for instance: 

  • Verse 2 says quite simply: “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month.”
  • But verses 17-19 say, “So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. 19 Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him.”

Likewise:

  • Verse 3 says, “Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain.”
  • Verses 20-21 say, “He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.” 

Each of these sections describing Moses’ obedience ends with, “…as the Lord commanded him.” (v. 19, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 32). When Moses finished this work (v. 33), then “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34). In fact, “Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 35). The book of Exodus concludes with these verses from our chapter today: “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” For those who knew the Lord by faith, this must have been an incredibly comforting and awe-inspiring thing. Here is the visible presence of God not only “with us” but leading us from place to place to the Promised Land. My heart longs for this kind of visible expression of God’s presence and favor. Although we have the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:13-14) and the witness of the Spirit with our spirit (Rom 8:16), we have to wait for eternity to experience God’s presence in such a tangible way (see Rev. 21:22-22:5). It will be worth waiting for, however, because our experience will be like Moses’ who saw God face to face (compare Ex 33:11 & 34:33-35 with Rev 22:4). 

And, even in our other passages today, we have the confidence of God’s leading—not in a cloud by day and fire by night but in Providence: 

  • Proverbs 16:3-4: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.
  • Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” 
  • Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Until the day when we are with Christ for eternity, we should pursue knowing and following him daily as Paul described in our reading from Philippians 3:7-14. When we follow him in faith, we will someday reach “the prize for which God has called me [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.