Today’s reading is one that may be difficult for some folks to follow or to understand why it’s even included in the Bible — detailed specifications for the building of the Tabernacle! If you do, step back for a second and see the bigger picture; there’s a couple of things here that I think we should notice.
First, we ought to notice that the pattern was quite important to God. The importance of this pattern runs contrary to a post-modern mindset, in which anything goes and truth can be a fluid and vague concept. Specific patterns, however, matter to God; and if they matter to God, patterns need to matter to us, too.
- “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.” Exodus 25:9, NAS95.
- “See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.” Exodus 25:40, NAS95.
- “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” Exodus 26:30, NAS95.
- “You shall make it hollow with planks; as it was shown to you in the mountain, so they shall make it.” Exodus 27:8, NAS95.
The specifics are detailed enough to be blueprint quality, and a number of people over the years have built replicas of it, just from these directions.
“And your point?” you may ask. The point is that the details of worship, holiness, morality, and more could not be simply “close enough”. Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3) found out the hard way.
“Yes,” you might say, “but that was in the Old Testament, not in the New Testament. Isn’t God more gracious today than in those days? Doesn’t He allow more wiggle room for us than for them?” Well, the answer is sort of yes and no; let me explain myself.
The commands that we have been given under the new covenant are comparatively much less detailed than the Mosaic covenant. God has cited fewer details about worship, dress, food, etc. There are more generic commands for us than there were for Israel. This comparative wiggle room makes the Lord’s church adaptable to every culture, every continent, and every era. When God has said, for example, assemble on the first day of the week to worship and celebrate the Lord’s Supper; we can meet early in the morning, we can meet late in the evening, we can meet in Jerusalem or Manchester NH or Tibet, we can meet in houses or church buildings, we can have a formal setting or obey the command around a common table — it is generic and has room for different situations. But where God has given detail, we really need to pay attention; because although covenants may change, God’s nature doesn’t. When He gives specific commands about, for example, singing (without instrumental accompaniment), we need to sing a cappella.
So, yes and no. We have some wiggle room, but we need to pay attention to the details, when He gives them. Although we may not always understand the reasons behind God’s details, He is not just being arbitrary or capricious; there are reasons, some of which we may realize as we mature and some of which we may never know this side of Heaven — but then I didn’t understand my parents’ orders, when I was 3 years old, either; their reasons were over my head, but they weren’t just being arbitrary.
And speaking of possible reasons, have you ever given thought to the Tabernacle’s arrangement and furnishings? How interesting it is to come into the Tabernacle courts and be confronted immediately by the altar of sacrifice. Next comes the laver, right in front of the door to the Holy Place, where those entering into the Holy Place must wash and be made clean. Inside the Holy Place is the Table of the Bread of the Presence to the right, the 7-flamed lamp (the Menorah) to the left, and the altar of incense straight ahead, just in front of the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (the throne of God). An interesting progression, don’t you think? Perhaps, there was more behind the details than we knew or know even now.
What do you think? What do you see in the arrangement of the Tabernacle and its furnishings?
See you soon, Lord willing.