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Exodus 35-40: The Message Comes Together Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 September 2009

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The conclusion is usually the last part of the sermon that I type.  Of course, this makes sense.  Very rarely do we write the conclusion first, whatever it is that we may be working on.  No, the conclusion comes at the last.  Why?  Well, because the conclusion normally depends upon whatever else has been written.  It is a summary of all that has come before or a bringing together of the message that is being communicated.  Thus, after we have said what we want to say, we wrap things up with a nice conclusion (at least, thatís the goal anyway).

We see this same idea in many of the biblical books as well.  Almost all of the New Testament letters end with some sort of conclusion.  I think the same can be said of the book of Exodus.  Not that Exodus ends with a formal conclusion like a letter or a sermon, but that these last few chapters seem to bring together the different themes that have run throughout the book.  Of course, this is not the end of the story for the Israelites.  There is still much to come for them.  But Exodus 35-40 wraps up much of what has been going on at Mount Sinai.  Thus, in that sense, it is a fitting conclusion to the book.  What exactly are the themes that come together is these six chapters?  Let me identify three.

First, the theme of Godís provision.

The book of Exodus is a book about God providing for His people.  We have seen this over and over again in the text.  He provided midwives who spared their sons.  He provided Moses who would eventually lead them out of Egypt.  He provided redemption by rescuing them from Pharaoh.  He provided atonement for their firstborn with the blood of the Passover lamb.  He provided a way through the Red Sea.  He provided food, water, and victory for them once they left Egypt.  He provided the law and the Ten Commandments that they might know how to live as His people.  And as we saw last week, He provided grace even when they chose to worship the golden calf.  Exodus is book that teaches us about Godís provision for His people.

Two other provisions are highlighted in these chapters that we have seen before.  First, the Lord provides the materials required to construct the Tabernacle.  Look at 35:4-5.  We will speak in just a moment about Godís commands, but what I want us to see here is how the Lord provides for His people to keep His commands.  So then, look at 35:20-21.  The Lord commands and then moves the people to give.  They brought it freely.  Look at 35:29.  In fact, they brought so much that Moses had to tell them to stop bringing.  Look at 36:3-7.  Moses even records all that what used for the construction of the Tabernacle and it was no small amount (see 38:21-31).  Yet, where did the people get all of this stuff?  I mean where do ex-slaves from Egypt come up with enough materials to build the Tabernacle?  The best answer that we can probably give is found in Exodus 12:36.  The Lord gave Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians and they plundered them.  The Lord provided for Israel the plunder of the Egyptians so that they could keep His command to provide materials for the construction of the Tabernacle.

Second, the Lord provides the workers required to build the Tabernacle.  We have noted this before in 31:1-11, but I want to point it out again here.  Look at 35:30-35.  Moses points out that the Lord has called by name Bezalel, who is filled with the Spirit and everything needed to construct the Tabernacle.  Likewise the Lord has raised up Oholiab as well to teach others.  Thus, not only has the Lord raised up these two men, but He has gifted them in such a way that they can teach others and instruct them for the building as well.  We see these Ďother workersí mentioned in 35:10.  Look at that with me.  Look also at 36:1-2.  Notice that that it is the Lord who has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary.  These workers are a provision of the Lord.  He has provided them with instructions for the Tabernacle, materials for the Tabernacle, and workers for the Tabernacle.  He is a God who provides for what He demands.

Second, the theme of Godís commands.

As we noted above, the Lord has commands for Israel to carry out.  In fact, this has been the case from the beginning.  The Lord redeemed His people and gave them commands about how they are to follow and worship Him.  He expects and calls them to obey.  And as we saw last week, there are consequences when His people do not obey.

I want to note three commands in these chapters.  First, the Lord gives them commands about the Sabbath.  Look at 35:1-3.  Just as we have seen before, the Lord expects the people to work six days and to rest on the Sabbath.  They are to do this even as they carry out the Lordís commands to construct the Tabernacle.  They are not to neglect the Sabbath.

Second, the commands concerning the building of the Tabernacle are central in this passage.  In short, 36:8-39:31 are in many ways exactly parallel to 25:10-28:43.  The Lord instructs Moses in chapters 25-28 and the people obey in chapters 36-39.  So you can see the parallel, letís consider the command and construction of the Ark.  Look at 25:10-14.  Keep your finger on those verses and turn also to 37:1-5.  I want to read these verses one at a time so that you can see the parallel.  Itís hard to miss is it not?  If you go back and read the other components you will see the same.  The parallelism is very intentional.  Moses, in the writing of Exodus, is pointing out to us the fact that Israel built the Tabernacle in exactly the way that the Lord told them to.  They obeyed His commands.  Not only this, but look at 39:1.  Note the last phrase: as the Lord commanded Moses.  This phrase is used fourteen times in chapters 39 and 40.  Look at 39:42-43.  Over and over again the text is making it clear that they obeyed the commands of the Lord.  It seems that at least in the building of the Tabernacle the Israelites had learned their lesson about obedience. 

Third, the Lord gives them commands concerning consecration.  Look at 40:9.  The Lord goes on to give instructions about specific items and then also includes the consecration of Aaron and his sons.  They are to be set apart for service as priests in the Tabernacle.  We have seen this before and the book of Leviticus will talk extensively on this matter.  God commands consecration.

One final thing to note in regards to the theme of Godís commands is Mosesí obedience in 40:16-33.  It is in this section where the final seven statements are made about Moses doing everything according to the Lordís commands.  Thus, putting all of this together, we see the importance of obeying the commands of the Lord, no matter how small they may seem.

Third, the theme of Godís presence.

Since the very beginning of the instructions concerning the Tabernacle, we have seen that one of the primary purposes of Godís redemption of Israel was for Him to be present with them.  The building of the Tent of Meeting is so that His tent can be in their midst.  We saw last week the threat of His presence being removed from them.  Yet, how do we know that the Lord did not carry out that threat?  Look at 40:34-38.  After the sanctuary is built, we are told that the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.  His presence is represented by the cloud that covered the Tent by day and the fire that filled it at night.  He was with His people.  His presence was real.  Thus, as we noted last week, the Lord showed His people great grace in giving them His presence in spite of their rebellion with the golden calf.  One of my commentators note: ďNevertheless, the fact that God is still present with his people, and in such an intense way, reminds the people of something else: All is forgiven.Ē   What an amazing thought!  His presence with His people is a constant reminder of His grace and mercy.

The idea that God will be present with His people throughout all their journeys leads us to consider the rest of the Pentateuch.  The books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy will deal with Israelís journeys in the wilderness.  They will make serious mistakes, one so serious that it costs a whole generation a trip to the Promised Land.  Yet, when they stand on the edge of the Jordan in the beginning of Joshua, they are there as Godís people.  He has brought them out of Egypt and His presence has gone with them through the wilderness.  He is prepared at that point to give them their promised inheritance, which is what we read of in the book of Joshua.  It will be many years before that day, but we see here that the Lord blesses His people with His presence.  We do not deserve such a blessing, but He is gracious in giving Himself to His people.

As we have seen throughout the book of Exodus (and the rest of the Old Testament), these themes of Godís provision, commands, and presence find their ultimate fulfillment in the work of Christ.  I think I can show you this in just one passage even though many could be used to make the point.  Look at Matthew 28:18-20.  Jesus begins the Great Commission with these words: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  This phrase probably refers to number of ideas, but at least one of them is the fact that He has provided and will provide all that we need as His disciples.  He has provided for our redemption.  By coming in the flesh, obeying the Father, dying on the cross, and raising from the dead, Christ has provided us with all we need to be His followers.  All authority belongs to Him and we can trust Him to provide.  He goes on and commands us: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  He commands us to go and make disciples, to share the gospel with any and all.  He commands us to baptize them and to teach them of all that He has commanded.  We can only fulfill these commands by His further provision, but again that has already been promised.  Thus, like Israel, we labor to obey His commands through His provision.  Finally, He states: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Jesus promises us His presence.  We know that He fulfills this through the gift of the Spirit that comes to all of His followers.  His presence with us is as real, if not more real, as the cloud and the fire that filled the Tabernacle.  It is His presence that is the ultimate blessing of obedience.  As we labor to obey all that He has commanded us through His provision, He blesses us with His presence.  He will be with us throughout all our journeys.  To Him be all glory!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )

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