1 - 11 Who May Build the Tabernacle
1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all [kinds of] craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all [kinds of] craftsmanship. 6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure [gold] lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, [with which] to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make [them] according to all that I have commanded you.”
God has explained to Moses what the tabernacle, His dwelling place, should look like. Now He announces who may build the tabernacle. These cannot just be people who are in the mood for it. God designates them Himself. He knows the qualities of every member of His people. He gave them at birth. But the qualities are not enough either. It is necessary that He provides them with His Spirit and the necessary wisdom in their natural qualities.
He calls Bezaleël by his name. Bezaleël means ‘in the shadow of God’. Therein lies an important characteristic for the service: service can only be performed in dependence on God and not in own strength or according to one’s own insight. A shadow is not the person himself, but refers to the person whose shadow it is. The servant is not important, but God.
He is the son of Uri, meaning ‘enlightened’. The enlightenment of the Spirit is necessary for this work. He is also the son of Hur, which means ‘pure’. In the service everything must be in accordance with God’s holiness and purity. Nothing of man, nothing of sin, may stick to it. He comes from the tribe Judah, which means ‘praiser of God’.
This Bezalel receives from God all that is necessary to work with all that is brought by the people for the construction of the tabernacle. But he doesn’t have to work alone. He gets help. He doesn’t have to search for them himself. God takes care of that. He knows who suits him. Thus God places every member in the body, so that the members can serve each other. No member can function on his own. The members need each other, but God determines the function (1Cor 12:11).
Oholiab means ‘the father’s tent’. He is aware of his task. He is the son of Ahisamach, which means ‘brother of support’. He knows that he is there for the other one – in this case Bezalel. He comes from the tribe Dan. This is the darkest tribe, but in His grace God also uses people from that tribe. We see this also with the construction of the temple (2Chr 2:14). The grace of God is greater than our origin.
Besides Bezalel and Oholiab, God has added more people to the building. These are all people who are naturally artistic or wise. God puts His wisdom in their hearts. Thus they are able to make all that He has commanded Moses.
In the list of the parts and utensils to be made, we see the tasks that each is assigned. Those who are allowed to build the tent of meeting present in spiritual application those who have special insight into the church of God and its meeting. Those who may build the ark of the testimony represent those who have special insight into the Person of the Lord Jesus. Those who may make the mercy seat represent those who have a great understanding of reconciliation.
The table and its utensils look upon the community of the believers. Those who work on it present those who want to ensure that this mutual fellowship can be maintained as something in which God finds His joy, His food. The lampstand represents the light that is spread in the sanctuary. Those who are working on this represent those who have a great deal of insight into the blessings of the heavenly places and can tell their fellow believers much about them.
The altar of incense represents Christ Who is a lovely fragrance for God. It is, spiritually applied, made by those who have much insight into the glories of Christ. The altar of burnt offering is made by people who understand what the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross means to God. The laver is made by people who take their sanctification seriously.
The garments are made by those who are ordained to the priestly service of the Lord Jesus and of themselves, who know that they are priests and who also perform the priestly service. The anointing oil is prepared by people who want to be guided by the Holy Spirit in everything they do. The incense is composed by those who we-ten what prayer is.
A brother in China once told me a nice practical application of this. He knew three leaders of house churches who have been of great importance to many house churches. All three had a nickname derived from the tabernacle. Brother John Sung was called ‘altar’ because he burned for the gospel. Brother Wang Mieng Dao was called ‘laver’ because in his preaching he put the emphasis on holiness and cleansing. Brother Charles Lee was called ‘sanctuary’ because he knew the Scriptures so well.
In this way we may also know brothers and sisters who, in the service they do, remind us by their way of working of certain aspects of the tabernacle. In fact, we should all have a certain characteristic. After all, we are all members of the body of Christ, each with his own specific task. We also all work together to build up the church, the house of God, each with his own specific gift.
In this way, we complement each other, without claiming that what we are allowed to do is more important than what anyone else is doing. In general, for the believers, it is true that they may know and enjoy all these things and will enjoy what others have discovered of the different truths presented in the parts and materials of the tabernacle. Thus they grow up together to Him Who is the Head of the church and of Whom everything comes: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, [even] Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15-16).
12 - 17 The Sabbath
12 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for [this] is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14 Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. 16 So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17 It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased [from labor], and was refreshed.”
The LORD has almost finished speaking with Moses. For the seventh and last time we read in His speech to Moses: “The LORD spoke …, saying.” And this seventh time is the introduction to the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, the day of rest for Israel.
This day looks forward to the rest of the millennial kingdom of peace. There all the work of God and all that has been done for Him ends up. God wants to remind His people of this. He also wants them to remember this constantly and to observe that day. Working on that day does mean not taking into account God’s commandment. It is punishable by the death penalty.
The Sabbath is the sign of the covenant between the LORD and His earthly people. God has set that day Himself after He has completed His creation work. On that day “He ceased [from labor], and was refreshed”. God wants His people to share in it with Him. That is a great grace.
This is the end of the LORD’s speech to Moses.
18 The Tablets of Stone
18 When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
The stone tablets determine us by the responsibility of the people. This responsibility contrasts sharply with the intention of God, about which He spoke with Moses. While He gives the tablets of stone, He knows how the people behave at the foot of the mountain. The following chapter gives details.