Exodus 40:1-33 Erecting the Tabernacle
Everything is finally ready and all together. It’s time to have an old fashioned “barn raising.” God’s house is going up!
It has been almost a full year since the children of Israel left Egypt. They left on the 15th of the first month. God now tells Moses that on the 1st of the first month he is to erect the Tabernacle.
I was trying to figure out how long it took to make the Tabernacle but I’m running into a few problems. The first one is that we are not told how long Moses was on the mountain the first time with God. We know Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1). From that point on we lose dates until the one we encounter today.
Some want to say that it took nine months to complete the tabernacle but that isn’t right. We have to account for the first time Moses was on the mountain, the time they were sent away from Sinai because of their sin, and the second time Moses met with God. We don’t know how long the first two were but we KNOW the last time mentioned was 40 days. We also don’t know how long Moses waited to give the instructions on building the temple. It may have been the same day he came down or it could have been a week. So MY best guess is it took somewhere around six months to complete the work. This gives plenty of time for all the other events to transpire in our timeline without being too cramped.
Regardless of how long it took to complete, it is now time to erect God’s house. I would have expected as much or more fanfare with this event than was present with the golden calf. Maybe there isn’t that kind of revelry on purpose. The drastic difference draws a clear distinction between the two events. The raising of God’s Tabernacle was reverent, respectful and orderly. It also required work on the part of the people.
We are told that “Moses” erected the temple and put all the different pieces in place. I know for certain that one man could not do all this alone. The pieces God ordained were not lightweight or small. They took four men carrying most of them to put them where they were to stay. I do not doubt that the Levites did this work instead of the whole company though. This would certainly be their role for the rest of the time in the wilderness. I wonder if God let the other people assist with the outer court, the ropes and the stakes.
Everything went together just like it was designed to do. It fit perfectly. I wonder if they had to do a little experimentation with how to tie off the corners of the tent in order to keep them from dragging on the ground. Did they make a mock up model and figure it out before they erected the real one? Did they have anything they had to take apart and try again with? Did anything tear when they were putting it up?
I can almost hear the shouts as they tried it out for the first time. “Move over to the left. No! Your other LEFT.” “Hold that rope tight while I pound this stake in.” “Catch it before it falls!!!” “On the count of three everyone lift together.” “Whose bright idea was it to leave a hammer in the middle of the walkway?” “Can anyone tell me what number we are on? I don’t want to have to tear this down and start over!” “Come on people, just a few more pieces then we will be done.” “I sure hope this holds! That’s an awful lot of weight being put on those frames.” “Can someone hold this first layer still so it doesn’t get bunched up as the second layer is pulled over?”
We don’t get to hear how long it took the group to complete the process but we do know that they did it and did it well. Each piece was placed exactly where God had told them to. They didn’t have to try and arrange the “furniture” to fit the room. No one said “I think it might look better over there.” God had set the order for His house and their job was to make it to His specifications.
After everything was in place there was still work to be done by Moses. He had to anoint everything that had been made, including anointing Aaron and his sons. Moses anointed the objects first because he needed to use the basin for part of the process of anointing Aaron. He also burnt incense on the altar and made the first sacrifice of burnt offering and grain offering in God’s new house. All was now ready for the perpetual service to the Lord.
Aaron and his sons were to be washed and then clothed in the garments specifically made before they could minister before the Lord. Moses had to wash too before he entered the Tabernacle. I imagine this was already his custom from when he met with the Lord outside the camp in the tent of meeting. Now THIS was the new tent of meeting; the Tabernacle.
I wonder if there was a celebration AFTER all the work was done. Did they celebrate the Passover that year? It was only two weeks away. I think this was the perfect way to celebrate the New Year though. How better to set the tone for the year than to erect the Lord’s house on the first day of it.
Father God, is it wrong for me to wonder about so many things? Is that what You expect and want of me? I know You gave me my imagination as well as my inquisitive spirit. I pray I never overuse them to the point that it is damaging to others. I want to excite deeper inspection and conversation, not raise confusion. I wish I could accurately paint the picture I see in my mind of everyone working to get this important work done. I wish I could see how it really stacks up against the real events. I have a feeling that this job got easier every time they did it. The first time probably had more than its share of frustrating moments. I would love to see how You handled them and what You were thinking as You watched the process. I can picture a few giggles escaping during the process. And probably a few head shakes too. I hope You will “play back the blooper reel” for me when we finally meet face to face. I’m sure my life has a HUGE “blooper reel” by now. We can skip that one if You want.
I pray I’m part of something big for You somehow. I PRAY my service doesn’t end like this group’s did. Help me know Your plan and FOLLOW IT TO THE LETTER. I have a feeling I’m “off script” more than I’m on. Direct me Lord where I should go and help me follow with eagerness and grace.