In this chapter and the following, a second description of the tabernacle follows. This is given according to the actual construction of the tabernacle. God’s Spirit does not suffice by placing a general remark that everything is made according to the precepts the LORD has given Moses.
The fact that all the details are mentioned again is not a useless repetition. It shows that no detail is unimportant. Every repetition is important. It underlines what has been said before and indicates its certainty (cf. Phil 3:1). As God has shown it on the mountain, so it is made, with those materials and in that form. Knowing that something has to happen, and also how it has to happen, is different from doing it and doing it as it was said. This new description shows that God forgets nothing of what is done for Him (Heb 6:10).
1 - 2 Who Perform the Work
1 “Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the LORD has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.” 2 Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it.
Moses sets to work the men who have received wisdom from the LORD for this purpose. Their competence is reflected in the work they do. That ability is not of their own accord, but of God. This also applies to us, as Paul says: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as [coming] from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2Cor 3:5). Moses is here a picture of the Lord Jesus. For the construction of the church, the house of God, the Lord Jesus has given gifts (Eph 4:11-12). These gifts go to work on His command.
Two things are important in every work for the Lord: ability and willingness. Someone can be competent for a work, but if he does not want to use his gift, nothing happens. Sometimes someone must also be encouraged to perform his ministry: “Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Col 4:17).
Anyone who does a work for the Lord will offer that work and its results to Him as a pleasant sacrifice to Him. Thus Paul saw his service in the gospel which he performed in the power “of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that [my] offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:15b-16).
3 - 7 The People Bring Much More Than Enough
3 They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still [continued] bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. 4 And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, 5 and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded [us] to perform.” 6 So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing [any more]. 7 For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.
The whole people of God provide materials for the building. They do that “every morning”. It is good to start the day by bringing our contributions to the construction of the house of God. By us that can happen by offering ourselves and what we have. We make ourselves available and ask the Lord if He wants to use us that day to promote His work. That can be by speaking to someone about the Lord Jesus as Savior. It can also be by going somewhere to encourage someone.
The people are so willing to give that there is too much to come. We also see this attitude among the poor believers in Macedonia who are kept by Paul to the Corinthians as an example (2Cor 8:1-5). It is not an order or a commandment. On the contrary. We read from these believers in Macedonia that they begged Paul to favor them to give, in their desire to share in a service performed for other saints. Service is not only ‘serving with the Word’ but also by deed.
Paul can testify of them that they have given as much as they could, yes, that they have given more than they could actually give. They came to this because giving was a favor for them. Giving is a privilege and not a duty. Anyone who sees this in this way is not dependent on his money. The Lord Jesus Himself said that you become happier in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). What the Macedonians have given, even exceeded Paul’s expectations.
What secret lies behind such generosity? This is the secret: “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (2Cor 8:5). Whoever first gives himself to the Lord in complete surrender, has no difficulty in giving away his earthly possessions. Whoever is full of the Lord trusts Him that He can provide all that is necessary, for “The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains” (Psa 24:1).
Are these examples of willingness – from Israel and the Macedonians – not embarrassing for us? By God’s grace and by His Word and Spirit we may know so much more about Who He is; by His grace we have been brought into a much more intimate relationship with Him; we are as a church most intimately connected to the Lord Jesus; we may know that the church is the dwelling place of God in the Spirit – and what do we do with this knowledge? Does it lead us to make all our time, powers and resources available to the Lord Jesus?
The call to us is: “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord” (1Cor 15:58). The Lord Jesus says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Mt 9:37-38). Someone once said that too much has to be done by too few. That is more indicative of the current situation than the one we find here with Israel. It is to be hoped that their example will be followed by us today.
Then comes the statement that there is no need to give more. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9:7). Giving is His nature. When we give, we act according to His nature. If He finds that enough has been given, He lets you know.
Voluntary gifts are also used for the construction of the temple. David praises the LORD that He has put this voluntariness in his heart and the heart of His people (1Chr 29:14).
8 - 13 The Colored Curtains
8 All the skillful men among those who were performing the work made the tabernacle with ten curtains; of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet [material], with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman, Bezalel made them. 9 The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains had the same measurements. 10 He joined five curtains to one another and [the other] five curtains he joined to one another. 11 He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set; he did likewise on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the second set. 12 He made fifty loops in the one curtain and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set; the loops were opposite each other. 13 He made fifty clasps of gold and joined the curtains to one another with the clasps, so the tabernacle was a unit.
When describing the tabernacle that the LORD gives Moses in Exodus 25, first comes the ark, for it is most important to God. When constructing the tabernacle first comes the building. This means the spiritual lesson that the believer must first learn what the church is. A believer only comes to the knowledge of the truth when he learns to see that he is part of the church of the living God as the house of God, with the Lord Jesus as its center.
The church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1Tim 3:15). When that is recognized, insight will come in the other parts of the tabernacle that are given in the following chapters and represent all kinds of aspects of God’s truth.
The colored curtains are called “the tabernacle”. It is as if this is the actual dwelling lace of God, although that applies to the whole building. The colored curtains represent in a special way the versatility of the glory of the Lord Jesus, with in each color a certain aspect of his glory. In Him dwelled on earth and still dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col 1:19; 2:9). And through the church, “the dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:22), “the manifold wisdom of God” is made known (Eph 3:10).
See also Exodus 26:1-6.
14 - 18 The Curtains of Goats’ Hair
14 Then he made curtains of goats’ [hair] for a tent over the tabernacle; he made eleven curtains in all. 15 The length of each curtain [was] thirty cubits and four cubits the width of each curtain; the eleven curtains had the same measurements. 16 He joined five curtains by themselves and [the other] six curtains by themselves. 17 Moreover, he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the [first] set, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain [that was outermost in] the second set. 18 He made fifty clasps of bronze to join the tent together so that it would be a unit.
The glory of Christ and its manifestation by the church is seen only by those who enter the sanctuary, these are the priests. The world doesn’t see anything of it. The curtain of goats’ hair is not seen either by the priest or by the people outside. But the priest knows it is there. The New Testament priest also knows the meaning of it. It speaks of the separation of the world. The truth of the separation from the world is also seen only by those who live in the presence of God.
See also Exodus 26:7-13.
19 The Coverings
19 He made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of porpoise skins above.
The covering of goats’ hair is covered with a covering of rams’ skins dyed red. That covering too was not seen either by the priest inside or by the people outside. But also here the priest knows it is there and the New Testament priest knows its meaning. It has everything to do with devotion to God. It is the counterpart of the goats’ hair covering. Separation on the one hand must be followed by devotion to God on the other. They complement each other and are both necessary for the house of God to meet the goal, namely that God can dwell in it.
The covering of porpoise skins is visible to the people. It is not beautiful, but it is useful. It protects the tabernacle from heat and storm and rain. For the world, the dwelling place of God has nothing attractive. The world as led by satan is the instrument through which he tries everything to destroy God’s building (cf. 1Cor 3:16-17). But God makes sure that the building He builds is protected from “every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14), from every pernicious influence. Our responsibility is to keep or remove the sin in doctrine and life outside the church (and our own life!).
See also Exodus 26:14.
20 - 34 The Boards and the Bars
20 Then he made the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing upright. 21 Ten cubits [was] the length of each board and one and a half cubits the width of each board. 22 There [were] two tenons for each board, fitted to one another; thus he did for all the boards of the tabernacle. 23 He made the boards for the tabernacle: twenty boards for the south side; 24 and he made forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons. 25 Then for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty boards, 26 and their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board and two sockets under another board. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle, to the west, he made six boards. 28 He made two boards for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear. 29 They were double beneath, and together they were complete to its top to the first ring; thus he did with both of them for the two corners. 30 There were eight boards with their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets, two under every board. 31 Then he made bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle for the rear [side] to the west. 33 He made the middle bar to pass through in the center of the boards from end to end. 34 He overlaid the boards with gold and made their rings of gold [as] holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold.
Each board is of the same material, they all have the same length and have the same foundation. Some boards have a special place: they are placed on the corners. All boards are held together by five bars, one of which is fitted in a special way. These characteristics can be applied to believers who are all members of the church without distinction. In this context we can think of the statement of the Lord Jesus: “For one is your Teacher, and you are all brethren (Mt 23:8). The distinction between ‘clergy’ and ‘layman’ is alien to God’s Word.
However, there is a distinction in gifts: “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7). Special gifts were also given by the Lord Jesus with a view to building up His church: “And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13). Although this is not about the church as the house of God, but as the body of Christ, we can connect growth and building (cf. Eph 2:21). We should not confuse pictures, but we can see them as a complement to each other.
See also Exodus 26:15-30.
35 - 36 The Veil and Its Four Pillars
35 Moreover, he made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet [material], and fine twisted linen; he made it with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 36 He made four pillars of acacia for it, and overlaid them with gold, with their hooks of gold; and he cast four sockets of silver for them.
A veil is hung between the holy place and the holy of holies. It is called “the second veil” in the letter to the Hebrews, behind which was “a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies” (Heb 9:3). The holy of holies is the very dwelling place of God, for there stands the ark. Only once a year the high priest may enter therein and not without blood.
For us, the way in the sanctuary is open, as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews teaches us. We may even have boldness to enter. We read: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Heb 10:19-20). This way has therefore been “inaugurated” for us by the Lord Jesus. To inaugurate is to put something new into use. Christ entered the sanctuary first, as a Forerunner, on the basis of His blood.
On the basis of His blood we can now enter and that is “through the veil, that is, His flesh”. God Himself has shown that the way to Him is free by tearing the veil from top, which is from Him, to bottom (Mt 27:51). Through the flesh of Christ, that is His body, our sins have been done away, and the way into the sanctuary has been opened for us.
See also Exodus 26:31-33.
37 - 38 The Screen and Its Five Pillars
37 He made a screen for the doorway of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet [material], and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver; 38 and [he made] its five pillars with their hooks, and he overlaid their tops and their bands with gold; but their five sockets were of bronze.
A curtain is also hung in front of the entrance to the holy place. Behind this is what the author of the letter to the Hebrews calls “a tabernacle … the outer one” (Heb 9:2a), by which he means the first part of the tabernacle. He goes on to say of this “in which [were] the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place” (Heb 9:2b). In this part, priests are allowed to come there daily to do their service.
See also Exodus 26:36-37.