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In the account of the building of the tabernacle, one refrain stands
out above everything else: “Moses did everything just as the Lord
commanded him” (see Exodus 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32).
Wilbur Fields calls these eight verses “An overview of obedience! A
chronicle of compliance!”
The tabernacle in essence served as a portable temple. The Lord had
told Moses, “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell
among them” (Exodus 25:8, 9).
Then he added, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly
like the pattern I will show you.” Moses did just that!
James E. Smith put it this way: “The Tabernacle is rooted in divine
revelation. The Israelites merely implemented the directives of God.
Eighteen times in the last two chapters the narrator emphasizes the
complete compliance to the commandments of God.”
Exodus 25-31 contains the Lord’s instructions about the tabernacle
proper, while chapters 35-39 explain how it was constructed.
That God could manifest Himself to me without their immediate death
was proven in His encounters with the patriarchs. That men could
serve Him without the necessity of a structure was evident in the
Yet man was limited in his approach to God. The Tabernacle
became the blueprint for how a man should approach God with
reverence and worship.
That blueprint would find completion in the person of Jesus Christ and
the indwelling of His Spirit.
Moses did everything just as the LORD had
Moses received one of the greatest compliments the Bible: “Moses
did everything just as the LORD commanded.”
Yet later, Moses did disobey God when he misused the staff of God
and struck the rock to give water to the people. Earlier, God had
commanded Moses to strike the rock for water, and he obeyed (see
Exodus 17:6). Later, God commanded Moses to “tell the rock before
your eyes to yield its water,” and thus show the power of God’s
word, but Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock with his staff (see
But, from the time he met God at the burning bush to the time of the
second Passover, Moses did everything just as the LORD
commanded. He obeyed and built the tabernacle exactly as God
told him to do, and this verse refers primarily to the time period of
Moses building and furnishing the tabernacle (Exodus 40:17).
Everything that God commands has a purpose (Exod. 40:17-19)
It is the frailty of man that ruins our appreciation of God’s command.
We grow up under that commands of men and women who are not
perfect and who commands are sometimes errant or even harmful.
We learn early that we do not have to obey every command given
us and sometimes should not obey.
Perhaps the closest image of God command is found in the coach or
instructor. If they are competent, they know why we should follow
their commands even when we do not. In time, we see the wisdom
of their instruction.
Trusting the intent and purposes of God eventually builds a
relationship where we covet His instructions because He has proven
In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the
month, the tabernacle was set up
The new first month of the year was established by God at the
celebration of the first Passover.
During their first year of freedom as Israelites, God revealed to
Moses the exact details and dimensions of a tabernacle, which
means “tent of meeting,” that Moses was to build as a place
where God would meet him and where the Levite priests
would make appropriate sacrifices.
Moses set up the tabernacle; he laid its
bases, and set up its frames, and put in its
poles, and raised up its pillars;
The Bible describes the tabernacle as God intended for
it to be built (not a house, not a building, not a
temple), but a tent for God to use so He could speak to
Moses and lead the people from place to place on their
way to the Promised Land.
The fact that God wanted a tent built indicated that the
Israelites were not to consider their wilderness
wandering their true or final home.
The New Testament sometimes calls our human bodies
a tent, because our bodies on this earth as we currently
reside are not the eternal home that Jesus has
prepared for all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior
(see John 14:1-3 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-4).
and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put
the covering of the tent over it; as the LORD had
The completed tabernacle was a tent that was covered
by another tent. The outer tent would protect the inner
tent, the tabernacle, from the seasonal changes in the
wilderness as the people traveled to the Promised
The tabernacle was holy or set aside to the LORD and
required the greatest respect and care.
He took the covenant and put it into the ark, and put
the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above the
The ark was an elaborately decorated box covered with
gold, and God commanded Moses to put the two stone
tablets upon which were written the 10
Commandments inside the ark.
The 10 Commandments were the moral law of God
with application to all people everywhere.
Above the ark was a mercy seat that indicated mercy
from God and forgiveness was possible for those who
broke God’s law but repented and participated in the
correct sacrifices for their sins.
The original Hebrew word translated as Mercy Seat is
(pronounced) kap-po-reth, and means to cover, in two
ways; as a noun, meaning a lid, or a top, but also, based
on the Hebrew root from which it was derived, as a
verb meaning to pardon, or to atone for, as in to cover
The Hebrew word kap-po-reth is used exclusively in the
Scriptures for The Mercy Seat, for nothing else.
The poles were used by Levites to carry the
ark, because the ark was too sacred to be touched with
human hands and God had commanded how the ark
was to be carried by the Levites (as Uzzah and King
David discovered when they mishandled the ark; 2
Lesson: In the service of God, the details do matter
We live in a world of ‘good enough’ where service and
product suffer. That is why we are so impressed when
we encounter true customer service. Their dedication
to the details astound us and guarantee our support
and purchase because we find it so rare.
Too many Christians live a life of ‘good enough’ faith
and service. They do what they think is good enough
and their lives and witness suffer for it. It is in the
details that the level of our faith and quality of our
obedience is elevated to faithfulness.
When we do all things as for Him, we impress those
around us and better our spiritual life. We glean the
details for in them is found the excellence.
and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up
the curtain for screening, and screened the ark of the
covenant; as the LORD had commanded Moses
The Bible not only teaches that Moses also obeyed
God’s rules for setting up and moving the tabernacle in
the future “as the LORD had commanded,” and the
rules needed to be followed exactly “as the LORD had
commanded,” and Moses recorded these rules for
others to follow later after his death “as the LORD had
The materials used were not sacred in their own right
but the act was sacred in its performance. They were
invoking God into their presence. The care given to
construction was not so much about materials as it was
about reverence and submission.
He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north
side of the tabernacle, outside the curtain,
The tabernacle would be entered only by appointed
Levite priests from a north side opening. A curtain or
screen separated the priests who worked daily in the
service of God from the most holy place, “the holy of
holies,” that contained the Ark of the Covenant, an area
in the tabernacle that only the high priest could enter
once a year for atonement.
and set the bread in order on it before the LORD; as
the LORD had commanded Moses.
The table held the bread that the priests presented before
the LORD. Bread was essential for life and health, and
unleavened bread was eaten at Passover and during the
feast of unleavened bread following the Passover.
It would be appropriate to offer what is essential for life in
the temple, though God of course does not need bread to
eat. Believers should trust God to provide for their lives in
service of God, even as the priests offered to God what was
essential for human life.
He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite
the table on the south side of the tabernacle,
As the priests entered the tabernacle, they would come
first to the table to present the bread to the LORD. As
they looked up from the table, behind the table they
would see the lamp stand that would provide light for
the tabernacle and would also serve as a reminder that
God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
Jesus later said He was the light of the world.
and set up the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD
had commanded Moses.
The rules that the LORD commanded Moses and all the
priests who follow were very practical rules for setting
up a place of worship and for conducting sacrificial
worship in an orderly manner. Later, these rules with be
modified somewhat and adapted to worship in
He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before
In addition to the table for the bread and the lamp
stand, God commanded Moses to put a gold altar in
front of the curtain that hid the Ark of the Covenant
from view during normal times of worship.
Only the priests were permitted to dismantle the
tabernacle and move it, and only the priests could offer
fragrant incense on this table and work in other parts
of the tabernacle.
and offered fragrant incense on it; as the LORD had
Whereas the priests would offer sacrifices to the LORD
outside of the tabernacle, the LORD commanded them
to burn incense on the golden altar inside the
tabernacle. Both were considered offerings to God.
The tent of meeting would have been a place worthy of
meeting God when everything was completed “as the
LORD commanded Moses.”
He also put in place the screen for the entrance of the
The screens served as cloth “doors,” which would
effectively keep those who were only curious from
looking inside the tabernacle. They would also serve to
remind the priests that they were about to enter a holy
place and show them the boundaries beyond which
they could and could not go. Only the high priest could
pass behind the inner curtain and into that part of the
tabernacle that contained the Ark of the Covenant.
He set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of
the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on
it the burnt offering and the grain offering as the
LORD had commanded Moses.
Two offerings were mentioned here that the LORD
commanded Moses to offer outside the tabernacle.
Offerings were of various types called peace
offerings, thank offerings, offerings for the forgiveness
of sins, wave offerings, etc.
God-pleasing worship is always founded on purity and
sacrifice (Exod. 40:29-30; cf. Hebrews 10:1-10)
Every parent has known the joy of a child’s homemade
gift and has cherished it above much of what they own.
Those little paintings and scrawled words thrill our soul.
It is not the gift but the heart of the giver. So is our
worship of God.
It is not surprising that God preferred the peace and
thanks offerings above the sin offerings.
He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the
altar, and put water in it for washing, (31) with which
Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands
and their feet.
After the priests offered their sacrifices, their hands
and feet would be dirty; therefore, God commanded
that a basin of water be placed between the altar and
the tabernacle for the priests who wash before they
entered the tent of meeting.
Every aspect of the tabernacle and its parts provided a
practical and orderly reason for worship.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the
glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Because Moses had done everything as the LORD had
commanded him, the tabernacle or tent of meeting
was ready for the LORD to fill with His presence. The
LORD filled the tabernacle and the people saw God’s
glory come into His tabernacle. They learned from this
experience that God was in their midst and not to be
found only on a mountain top or in a cloud or pillar of
Lesson: The knowledge of God's presence serves as
both a comfort and a warning (Exod. 40:34)
What do you think when you see a police cruiser in
your rear view mirror? What if the lights are flashing?
Our first response is to tense and assume we have done
something wrong. What do you think when you see
the police cruiser going the other way? Do you think
someone is in trouble or that help is on the way?
We condition ourselves unfairly to those in authority.
We tend to assume the worst of them. The difference
in response depends in part on any police officers we
know. Knowledge of them tempers our prejudice.
We may even see God unfairly until we take the time to
really know Him.
For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by
day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes
of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
The LORD visibly demonstrated His presence to the
people so they knew the LORD was present with them
and with Moses, the prophet of God. In spite of all God
did for them and showed them, the people still
complained about God to Moses and also complained
about Moses and his provision and leadership while
they were in the wilderness.
In every generation, God directs His people (Exod.
40:38; II Tim. 3:16-17)
Our children will never truly know how much we have
done for them until they have children of their own.
We can never really appreciate what God has done for
us in this life until we look from the other side. What
will amaze us them is how God raised up people and
events in each of our generations to aid and lead His
Like parents, much of His support goes unnoticed but
unlike parents, His interventions never end. God does
not leave a person or a people. He just uses people we
might never expect.
The tabernacle provided the symbol of God’s rule over
them and his dwelling among them.
The significance of the tabernacle is especially
important for Christians, declares Peter Enns. “Hebrews
3:1—4:13 is an explicit and relatively extensive
‘commentary’ on the Exodus. . . . The basic analogy that
the writer of Hebrews draws is that Israel’s desert
wanderings correspond to the daily life of the church
on its way to ‘Canaan.’”
Freed from Egyptian bondage, Israel had God's
presence in her midst by means of the tabernacle.
Instead of cherubim turning away God's children by
means of a sharp sword to guard the way to the tree of
life (Genesis 3:24), the Israelites had images of
cherubim marking the place of God's presence.
Perhaps the candlestick stood for the tree of life as it
illuminated the holy place.
Jesus declared himself to be the true temple (John
2:19-21; Mark 14:58). The apostle John declared "the
Word became flesh and made his dwelling
[literally, "tabernacled"] among us. We have seen his
glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came
from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
That was Jesus.
Christ is the eternal high priest and the perfect sacrifice
in an everlasting tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-10:18). Today
all Christians have access to the most holy place
In the New Jerusalem there will be no temple, for "the
Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple"
Our future is to live in God's immediate presence