man and woman looking at blueprints February 14, 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Exodus 36:8–40:38

Note: The calendar dates in today’s study are combined because of the continuing theme. You may wish to do the Bible reading on the 14th then read this Bible study on the 15th.

Getting It Right (following the design)

Happy Valentine's Day! For those of you who wish for a message about love and relationships, many helpful things can be learned from this Bible study on following God's design for the building of the tabernacle. In order not to take away from the meaning of today's lesson, however, these relationship building principles will be given at the end.

Suppose that we have a project and want to begin construction. We have the plan, materials, labor and resources to start. How do we make sure that the project is done right?

First, we need to have willing laborers who desire to work on the project. There is nothing more discouraging to contractors, foremen, or supervisors than unmotivated workers. They may arrive late and leave early, or just stand around and waste time. They do not care about the project or its quality.

As we have seen in recent Bible studies, the tabernacle is the portable worship center for Israel. It will remain their worship center until they enter the Promised Land in the land of Canaan. When it is being constructed, the materials for the tabernacle are gathered by volunteers, who give with great generosity. The building of the tabernacle is also done by volunteers. There is no forced labor like they experienced in Egypt.

Second, although we may get willing workers for general labor, we must have skilled laborers to complete the work with quality to exact specifications. This is also true with the construction of the tabernacle.

Then Moses says to the Israelites,

See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.

And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers-- all of them master craftsmen and designers. (Exodus 35:30-35, NIV)

In the church age, of which we are a part, God has gifted believers with talents and abilities (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7-16), and he wants us to be willing to use our gifts for his glory. We are not all gifted in the same way. However, instead of using the excuse, “I don’t have that gift so I can’t do it,” we can be trained to help so the whole church will be encouraged and built up.

Third, we need someone to inspect the work to make sure that the work is done just right. If you have read today’s Bible reading, you will be struck by one thought: I just read this a couple of days ago. Why is this repeated again? You are right. Chapters 36-39 are almost an exact repetition of chapters 25-31, and then in Exodus 39:43 it is stated that Moses inspected everything which was made for the tabernacle. The point is that the construction was done exactly as the blueprint was dictated to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In fact, in Chapter 40 there is a constant refrain that Moses made everything related to the tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly as the LORD commanded. If we think about it, this is a convicting thought: Do we do exactly what God commands us to do? When we read in the Bible his blueprints for our lives and for spiritually building our churches, do we follow his designs precisely or loosely?

Why was the tabernacle to be made exactly as the LORD told Moses, without modifications? The writer of the book of Hebrews says the sanctuary was

a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:5, NIV)

Each article of the tabernacle has spiritual significance for us.

  • The Ark of the Covenant, with the angelic beings on top, pictures the glorious but invisible presence of God.
  • The lamp represents Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12).
  • The table of showbread, with the two piles of six unleavened flat cakes on it, represents fellowship between God and the twelve tribes of Israel. Today, the way is open, not just for Jews to have fellowship with God, but for believing Gentiles (non-Jews) to have fellowship with him as well (1John 1:3; Ephesians 2:11-18).
  • The altar of incense represents prayer (Luke 1:11-13; Revelation 5:8). Entrance into the presence of God was once inaccessible, except by the high priest once a year. But with the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, he, as our high priest, is able to bring us into the presence of God (Hebrews 9:7-15).
  • The bronze altar of sacrifice at the entrance of the courtyard represents the sacrifice necessary for sins. When we accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins in our place, we are forgiven of them and completely pardoned of our offenses. (Hebrews 9:14-15)
  • The bronze basin was used for the priests to wash before ministering with the articles of the tabernacle and its furnishings. Like the priests, we, too, need daily cleansing of our sins so that we may lead holy lives and handle the holy things of God (i.e., our spiritual ministry). (1John 1:9)

The tabernacle is a very rich. For some reason, Moses feels it important to record all the precious metals, stones, and luxurious fabric used in the construction. Why? Perhaps it is to show they serve a worthy God. He is holy, magnificent and worthy of our praise. Some of the precious metals used are gold, silver, and bronze. One ton of gold is used for the tabernacle proper and its furnishings, where the priests minister. Three and three-quarter tons of silver was collected when there was a census of all the 603,000 male Israelites. It is used for the temple and its maintenance (Exodus 30:12; 38:25). Two and one half tons of bronze are used for the altar and its articles used in sacrifice, the bronze basin, courtyard frames, bases, and tent pegs.

What do the materials of the tabernacle have to do with us? The Apostle Peter tells us that something much more valuable than precious metals is offered to us.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1Peter 1:18-19, NIV)

Christ is more precious than the precious metals of the tabernacle! Have you accepted him? Have you accepted his sacrifice as payment for your sins so you may be forgiven and be able to enter the very presence of God? (more...)

When the tabernacle is finished, everything is set up and anointed for service, including the priests. Everything is done exactly as the LORD directs. Then the presence of God in the form of a cloud descends, and the glory of the LORD fills the tabernacle. Whenever the presence of God lifts and moves from the tabernacle, the Israelites travel, but whenever it settles, for however long, they settle. Are we sensitive to the leading of the LORD? In everything, let’s try to get it right.

Lessons to Live By

How do we make sure that the project we begin is done right?

  • First, we need to have willing laborers who desire to work on the project.
  • Second, we must have skilled laborers to complete the work with quality. God has gifted us believers with talents and abilities, and he wants us to use our gifts for his glory.
  • Third, we need someone to inspect the work to see that the work is done just right. Do we do exactly what God commands us to do— following his blueprints for our lives and for building our churches? They are found in his Word, the Bible.

Focus Verse

Matthew 5:48 (NIV) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Principles for Building Relationships

  • You must be willing to work on the relationship.
  • Be generous in your love.
  • You can't force love.
  • Good relationships are built by good Christians giving their all.
  • When needed, it is good to get counsel from a mature Christian person regarding your relationship, but sometimes relationships need professional help.
  • Follow the blueprint of God's Word in your relationship. Is your relationship pleasing to God? Are you honoring him in the way you relate to each other? (Malachi 2:13-16; Ephesians 5:21-33 1Peter 3:1-12)
  • Love, trust and obedience are necessary ingredients in building relationships. When we mess up, confessing our faults and asking for forgiveness are necessary materials in rebuilding and maintaining them (more about this in our next lesson).

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A Look Ahead: After the tabernacle is built and the priests are clothed in special garments, and both are anointed (dedicated) for service, offerings to God need to be made. Just how are they to do it? Leviticus is written as a manual for them to use. The emphasis of the book is on the holiness of God. Stay with us. In our Next Lesson we begin to explain the procedures and how they relate in principle with Our Offerings to God.

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