1 - 16 How to Set up the Tabernacle
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 You shall place the ark of the testimony there, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 You shall bring in the table and arrange what belongs on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and mount its lamps 5 Moreover, you shall set the gold altar of incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the veil for the doorway to the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering in front of the doorway of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 7 You shall set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. 8 You shall set up the court all around and hang up the veil for the gateway of the court. 9 Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and shall consecrate it and all its furnishings; and it shall be holy. 10 You shall anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, and the altar shall be most holy. 11 You shall anoint the laver and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 You shall put the holy garments on Aaron and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister as a priest to Me. 14 You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them; 15 and you shall anoint them even as you have anointed their father, that they may minister as priests to Me; and their anointing will qualify them for a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.” 16 Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.
The moment of its establishment heralds a new beginning: “The first day of the first month.” The often repeated use of anointing oil (verses 9-11,13,15) recalls our incessant need for the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, without whom the finest work is unacceptable to God. Only what emerges in our lives as the fruit of the Holy Spirit is valuable to God.
In verse 16 we read the starting point, which keeps coming back: to do everything as the LORD has commanded and not to act according to one’s own insight.
17 - 33 Moses Erects the Tabernacle
17 Now in the first month of the second year, on the first [day] of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle and laid its sockets, and set up its boards, and inserted its bars and erected its pillars. 19 He spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 20 Then he took the testimony and put [it] into the ark, and attached the poles to the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. 21 He brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up a veil for the screen, and screened off the ark of the testimony, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 22 Then he put the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil. 23 He set the arrangement of bread in order on it before the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 24 Then he placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table, on the south side of the tabernacle. 25 He lighted the lamps before the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 26 Then he placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the veil; 27 and he burned fragrant incense on it, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 28 Then he set up the veil for the doorway of the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering [before] the doorway of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 30 He placed the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing. 31 From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 33 He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work.
The workers prepared everything, but Moses erects the house of God. Not only does he erect it, he also performs a service in it. Thus we see that when he has placed the table in the holy place, he also arranges the bread on it before the LORD. The same we see with the lampstand. When he hath put it in its place, he lights the lamps before the LORD. And when he hath put the golden altar in its place, he burns fragrant incense on it. After placing the altar of burnt offering he offers the burnt offering and the meal offering on it. When he has placed the laver, he puts water in it for washing, and then he and Aaron and his sons wash their hands and their feet.
Moses sets an example in everything as a servant in God’s house (Heb 3:5), he ordains the service. He acts as a builder and also as a priest, among whom he is counted, although he is not appointed as such by the LORD (Psa 99:6). He is a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who is also greater than Moses, for Christ is “Son over His house, whose house we are” (Heb 3:6).
We also see in the example that Moses also gives an example for us. It is not only important that we know what the house of God represents, that we can describe and know how to behave, but it is just as important that we also do our service in it. What we know must also be put into practice by us. Then our teaching to others about the church will also have value and be imitated.
34 - 38 The Cloud Fills the Tabernacle
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; 37 but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. 38 For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
A mighty moment occurs, the goal of all previous work: God comes to dwell with His people. The cloud, the symbol of God’s presence, takes possession of the tabernacle. What He later says to Ezekiel regarding the temple applies from now on to the tabernacle: “[This is] the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever” (Eze 43:7a). For the new temple this applies “forever”. For the tabernacle this applies until the moment the ark is captured by the Philistines. Then it is “Ichabod”, which means “away is the honor” (1Sam 4:21-22). The glory returns when Solomon has built the temple (1Kgs 8:10-11). However, the glory disappears again from the temple by the sin of the people (Eze 8:4; 9:3; 10:4,18; 11:23).
But when the Lord Jesus is born, the glory of God appears in Him again on earth to dwell among His people: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). However, this glory was rejected in the rejection of the Lord Jesus.
After His resurrection and ascension, the glory of God on the day of Pentecost came to dwell again on earth in the Holy Spirit. He dwells in this time in the church as a whole (Eph 2:21-22; Acts 2:1-4) and in the body of the individual believer (1Cor 6:19).