SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON 7 - Ex. 25:1-9; 31:1-6 - A SANCTUARY
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in Ex. 20:1-17, as Moses came down from his encounter with God on the mountain and gathered the Children of Israel, we heard God issue the Ten Commandments. This event represented a turning point in the history of Israel from a focus on God's actions to deliver the people from slavery in Egypt to a focus on the covenant relationship that existed between them and God, with a particular emphasis on the people's responsibilities to God as their part of keeping the Covenant. These Commandments formed the opening of God's actions to give the nation of Israel what will become known as the Law of Moses. We learned two broad principles of application from this lesson: (1) We must experience God's grace before we seek to obey His commandments. For the Israelites, it was being delivered from slavery in Egypt. For us, it's being delivered from the eternal penalty of sin by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And for both us and the Israelites, God's commandments are like a mirror that allows us to see the sin in our lives. (2) We should willingly obey God's commandments (a) to honor Him and (b) because they are for our own good. The Bible clearly shows that that God gives us commandments that are not only designed for own good, but also become a source of blessings, when we keep and live by them.
This week, in Ex. 25:2-9, 31:1-6, we'll be introduced to what's known as the "Tabernacle." The Tabernacle of Moses reported in this lesson was a portable structure that the Israelites built during their wilderness wanderings according to God's very detailed specifications. The word "tabernacle" (Heb. mishkan) literally means a dwelling place. The Tabernacle itself was a tent about 45 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet tall that was divided into two rooms separated by a veil, the Holy Place in front and the Holy of Holies in back. The front room contained the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense, and the Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was a chest made of wood and overlaid with gold, that was 45-inches long, 27-inches wide, and 27-inches tall, and it held the two stone tablets (the Decalogue) containing the Ten Commandments. The actual Tabernacle was set in the back of a 150-foot long by 75-foot wide courtyard made of posts and curtains. Designed to be set up and disassembled as the people moved, it served as God's Temple until Solomon completed the permanent Temple in Jerusalem in 957 B.C.
Read Ex. 25:1-2 - OFFERING FOR THE SANCTUARY (TABERNACLE)
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from everyone whose heart moves him you shall take My contribution.
v. 1: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying. Notice the adjective "Then," which incorporates everything that has transpired since the people crossed the Red Sea: receiving God's moral law in the form of Ten Commandments and the main laws pertaining to a civil, political, and social order, which by now all have been reduced to written form as a covenant between God and His people.
v. 2a: "Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me" - This wasn't a tax or an assessment but an offering to be "raised," given willingly and with pleasure; it wasn't for the benefit of Moses, Aaron or any of the leaders. The word for "contribution" (Heb. terumah) literally means to lift upward. And notice the recipient, "for Me" is very personal-from each individual or family to God, personally.
v. 2b: "from everyone whose heart moves him you shall take My contribution" - The sense here is an individual gift given from a willing heart out of love for God, as opposed to giving grudgingly or under pressure. It's a safe statement that people who truly love God, not only want to give, but often give more than what is expected of them.
Read Ex. 25:3-7 - THE CONTRIBUTION YOU ARE TO RAISE FROM THEM
3 This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 violet, purple, and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, 5 rams' skins dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood, 6 oil for lighting, balsam oil for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
v. 3a: "This is the contribution which you are to raise from them" - "raise" implies a willing gift.
v. 3b: "gold, silver, and bronze" - These three items would come from gifts people had previously received from Egyptians, plus ancestral property going back many generations. These metals would provide the material to make the various furnishings that would be used in the Tabernacle: gold as a covering and trim material; silver for tableware and various objects; bronze for hooks, shackles, fastenings, nails, and other miscellaneous hardware (note: this was before iron had been discovered).
v. 4: "violet, purple, and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair" - The first three items are extremely valuable dyes: "violet" (or blue) is extracted from shellfish, "purple" from a certain type of snail, and "scarlet" from dried, powered eggs mixed with crushed worms of a certain type; "linen" was a material woven from flax fibers that the Egyptians had perfected into a "fine" grades; and "goat hair" could be woven into a coarse, felt-like material that could be used for coverings.
v. 5: "rams' skins dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood" - "rams' skins" were a fine, tanned leather in which all wool had been removed; "fine leather," ("badger skin" in some translations) has never been translated with certainty; and "acadia wood," a hardwood darker than oak, was plentiful in the ancient Near East where they were located.
v. 6: "oil for lighting, balsam oil for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense" - Because the tabernacle had no windows, interior illumination would come from various lamps that used oil as fuel, which is thought to have been a type of refined olive oil. The oils used for anointing and burned as incense were mixed with spices (e.g., myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassis, and frankincense).
v. 7: "onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece" - "onyx stones," are black stones that can be shaped and polished into a mirror-like finish. The "ephod" and "breastpiece" were accoutrements that formed part of the ceremonial dress of high priests.
Read Ex. 25:8-9 - CONSTRUCT A SANCTUARY FOR ME
8 Have them construct a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I am going to show you as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, so you shall construct it.
v. 8a: "Have them construct a sanctuary for Me" - Even today our church sanctuaries are designed and intended as places that invite the presence of God. Here, God reveals His purpose for the construction of the sanctuary: the word used for "sanctuary" (Heb. miqqedash [mik-dawsh']) literally means a holy place.
v. 8b: "so that I may dwell among them" - The word used here for "dwell" (Heb. shakan [shaw-kan'] literally means to camp out. Thus, God will only permit Himself to camp on holy ground. And the pattern for the tabernacle points to Christ: Just as Yahweh dwelled in a tent (or temple) in the wilderness, the Spirit of the Son of God dwells in the bodies of Christian believers as a NT temple.
v. 9: "According to all that I am going to show you as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, so you shall construct it" - The key phrase here is "I am going to show you." Based on this, many commentators believe that the original pattern for the tabernacle is (present tense) in heaven and was shown by God to Moses in a vision (like photographic total recall) that enabled him to "see" and expertly supervise construction of the various details in the tabernacle.
Note: We will skip the remainder of the chapter 25 in which God provides detailed specifications for three items to be placed within the Holy of Holies: (1) The Ark of the Covenant (vv. 10-22). Unlike the statutes of the false pagan gods, the Ark of the Covenant served as a holy symbol where the people could meet with God. God hovered over the Ark when the priests were present, and if the priests were absent, the presence of the law tablets reflected God's presence. (2) The Table of Showbread (vv. 23-30) served as a constant reminder of God's everlasting covenant with his people and his provision for the 12 tribes of Israel, as represented by the 12 loaves. And (3) The Golden Lampstand (vv. 31-40) represented God's life-giving power and echoed the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9). In the next five chapters, which we aren't covering, God provided additional specifications or instructions for the Tabernacle Tent (Chap. 26), the Bronze Altar and the Court of the Tabernacle (Chap. 27), the Priests' Garments (Chap. 28), the Consecration of the Priests (Chap. 29), and the Altar of Incense (Chap. 30). Now we are going to fast-forward to Chapter 31, where we will learn about two skilled craftsmen, named Bezalel and Oholiab, whom God appointed and divinely inspired to be in charge of the details for every craft needed in the construction of the Tabernacle.
Read Ex. 31:1-6 - CALLED BY NAME TO CREATE ARTISTIC DESIGNS
1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to create artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, so that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, so that they may make everything that I have commanded you:
v. 1: "Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying" - The conjunction "Now" refers back to all of the specifications and instructions about the construction and furnishing of the Tabernacle that God gave to Moses in the preceding chapters, including the vision of the pattern, in effect an architect's model, in Ex. 25:9. And to make this happen, God identifies the craftsmen He has chosen to turn all of these details into a reality.
v. 2: "See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah" - To be called by God "by name" is the highest honor any human being can achieve. Here, God calls "Bezalel," whom he recognizes through two ancestors of the tribe of Judah. His grandfather, "Hur," is thought to have been the person noted in Ex. 17:20 and 24:14.
v. 3: "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship" - Filling people with the Holy Spirit is a rare occurrence in OT, which is usually done for specified purposes. Here, Bezalel receives wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and craftsmanship. The word for "wisdom" (Heb. chokmah [khok-maw'] is associated with acquiring skill. So, we see here that God used His Spirit to equip Bezalel with both the knowledge and skill He'll need to perform everything that God expects from him. What has called you to do for Him?
vv. 4-5: "to create artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, so that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship" - The infinitive verb "to create..." tells us God isn't using Bezalel like a programmed robot but is allowing him a lot of latitude to use his own talents and imagination in the creation of various designs. If you go back and read many of the specifications for the material and furnishings, you'll find that many of the shapes, patterns, and specific designs for things aren't defined. Indeed, Bezalel himself will personally construct the most sacred object of all, the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 37:1).
v. 6a: "And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan" - It appears that Oholiab "of the tribe of Dan," was given responsibility to oversee the making of all the textile fabrics, both woven and embroidered (Ex. 38:23). Centuries later, it's remarkable that Hiram, also a descendant of Dan, was commissioned by Solomon for the ornamental work in the Temple. It's also interesting that Danites were known mainly as warriors, not artisans.
v. 6b: "and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, so that they may make everything that I have commanded you" - In addition to their personal projects, God inspired both Bezalel and Oholiab to teach all of the other craftsmen who had received special skills from God. If you read through to up Exodus, you will learn that these craftsmen, inspired by God and led by Bezalel and Oholiab, were able to complete the Tabernacle according to God's specifications (Ex. 36:8-39:43).
APPLICATION-The Meaning of the Tabernacle...Then and Now:
PRAYER: Lord God, our Father in heaven, we come to You with grateful hearts, praising You for the love, mercy, and grace You constantly show toward us as individual Christian believers and as a body of believers. We also thank You for allowing us to gather again as a class to learn and apply to ourselves the fundamental truths of Your holy Word. In today's lesson, Lord, we were encouraged to see how You can equip and use ordinary people just like us to accomplish Your great plans and purposes; and Dear Lord, I pray that this lesson will be an encouragement to everyone in this class to use the gift and talents You've given to him or her to build Your kingdom on earth. I also pray for the wellbeing of our new shepherd, Pastor Mike Donathan, and his wife, Holly, as they make all the preparations needed for their move to Mountain Home. And I ask these things in the Name of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, AMEN.