Just as the Lord had Commanded

By Dr. Kim Jongerius.  Professor of mathematics and department of physics and mathematics chair at Northwester College.

“Just as the Lord had commanded.”

This phrase, or one almost exactly like it, appears in nearly one-fifth of the verses in this week’s section of Exodus. The Israelites completed the construction of the tabernacle, step by step, just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and Moses blessed them for it. Moses set up the interior, piece by piece, just as the Lord commanded him.

These words jump out at me as I read, perhaps because I have always had a love-hate relationship with rules.

On the hate side stand many unwritten rules, particularly those intended to make us better fit society’s mold, the ones that we have been pressured into following nearly from birth. “Sit with your knees together,” for example, which makes perfect sense if one is wearing a skirt but is otherwise completely unnecessary. Or, “Don’t wipe your hands on your pants.” (Seriously? Isn’t that why God created Levis? And washing machines?)

Despite my aversion to meaningless rules, however, I have always been drawn to the structure of mathematics, where rules offer paths to problem-solving and the freedom to approach a given problem in a number of different ways. 

“What should I do first?” a beginning algebra student asks when confronted with an equation like 3x+7=8. In the early days of algebra instruction, the teacher gives an incomplete answer: “Subtract 7 from both sides.”

This response is not exactly wrong; take the teacher’s advice, and you’re well on your way to the equation’s solution. But the truth is deeper. The truth is you don’t have to start by subtracting 7. You could start by dividing both sides by 3. Or subtracting 8. Or multiplying by 2.973. In fact, you can do almost anything you want as long as you do it to both sides of the equation. The truth is freeing and … kind of scary. What if you do something that complicates the equation? Well, yeah. That can happen. So undo it! Get back to an easier stage. Or just forge ahead. As long as you’re not making up your own rules without knowing for certain that they are valid, you’ll be on solid ground.

Children thrive, parenting experts claim, on clear expectations. They need structure, consistency, and consequences that make sense. The freedom of rules, basically. This is why math and grammar teachers usually start with rules and only later discuss which rules are firm and which may be adapted. And God, our good, good father, gives us the freedom of rules that offer structure and consistency and consequences while yet allowing us significant freedom of choice, including the choice as to whether or not we will follow the rules.

Old Testament law seems perfectly suited to those who love rules, but as the Bible shows us again and again (and as each of us, if we’re honest about it, provides ample evidence for) no human has a lock on this rule-following thing. On the Exodus journey, God’s children didn’t always follow God’s commands. Why, in building the tabernacle, were they suddenly listening so carefully? Was it the fresh  memory of consequences for those who had chosen an idolatrous path (Exodus 32)? Was it the evidence on Moses’ glowing face that he had indeed been chosen to speak for God (Exodus 34)?

Like the Israelites, we tend to convince ourselves that certain rules don’t really matter, that consequences won’t really come our way, that God didn’t really mean what he seems to have said. Too often we pursue not the freedom of rules but freedom from rules as we seek to live on our terms rather than on God’s, particularly if it’s been a while since we last saw the consequences of doing so. Or if we do not see overwhelming evidence that God is speaking words that contradict our individual wills.

This is why we need the Bible, isn’t it? To provide us with overwhelming evidence that God is speaking? To remind us that God offers us the freedom of rules? To assure us that God’s son has taken on himself the ultimate consequence of our inevitable disobedience?

2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 

We don’t have to build another tabernacle. But we do need to read God’s word, to study it, and to let it guide the way we live.

Just as the Lord has commanded.

Hebrews 11:23-12:2, John 1:1-18

Hebrews 11:23-12:2

The Faith of Moses

23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The Faith of Other Israelite Heroes

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

The Example of Jesus

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

John 1:1-18

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Hebrews 9:1-22. Psalm 150

Hebrews 9:1-22

The Earthly and the Heavenly Sanctuaries

9 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies. 4 In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.

6 Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tentto carry out their ritual duties; 7 but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. 9 This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.16 Where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Psalm 150

Praise for God’s Surpassing Greatness

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty firmament!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with clanging cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Exodus 40:17-38, Psalm 149

Exodus 40:17-38

17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was set up. 18 Moses set up the tabernacle; he laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars; 19 and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent over it; as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above the ark; 21 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. 22 He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the curtain, 23 and set the bread in order on it before the Lord; as the Lord had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord; as the Lord had commanded Moses. 26 He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the curtain, 27 and offered fragrant incense on it; as the Lord had commanded Moses. 28 He also put in place the screen for the entrance of the tabernacle. 29 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. 30 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. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed; as the Lord had commanded Moses. 33 He set up the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and put up the screen at the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.

The Cloud and the Glory

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 settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; 37 but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. 38 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.

Psalm 149

Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel

1 Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with victory.
5 Let the faithful exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their couches.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters
    and their nobles with chains of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment decreed.
    This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!

Exodus 40:1-16, Psalm 148

Exodus 40:1-16

The Tabernacle Erected and Its Equipment Installed

40 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 You shall put in it the ark of the covenant,[a]and you shall screen the ark with the curtain. 4 You shall bring in the table, and arrange its setting; and you shall bring in the lampstand, and set up its lamps. 5 You shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the covenant,[b] and set up the screen for the entrance of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin 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 screen for the gate of the court. 9 Then you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it shall become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar shall be most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin with its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall wash them with water, 13 and put on Aaron the sacred vestments, and you shall anoint him and consecrate him, so that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put tunics on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests: and their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout all generations to come.

16 Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him.

Psalm 148

Praise for God’s Universal Glory

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his host!

3 Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for he commanded and they were created.
6 He established them forever and ever;
    he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!

9 Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike,
    old and young together!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his faithful,
    for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

Exodus 39:32-42; Psalm 146

Exodus 39:32-42

The Work Completed

32 In this way all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished; the Israelites had done everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 33 Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its utensils, its hooks, its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 34 the covering of tanned rams’ skins and the covering of fine leather, and the curtain for the screen; 35 the ark of the covenant with its poles and the mercy seat; 36 the table with all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 37 the pure lampstand with its lamps set on it and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; 38 the golden altar, the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance of the tent; 39 the bronze altar, and its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the basin with its stand; 40 the hangings of the court, its pillars, and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords, and its pegs; and all the utensils for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; 41 the finely worked vestments for ministering in the holy place, the sacred vestments for the priest Aaron, and the vestments of his sons to serve as priests. 42 The Israelites had done all of the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Psalm 146

Praise for God’s Help

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
    in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish.

5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7     who executes justice for the oppressed;
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8     the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
    he upholds the orphan and the widow,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Glad and Generous Hearts

By Brian Keepers

It was such a blessing to gather on Wednesday night for our Thanksgiving Eve service to give thanks to God and hear stories of God’s faithfulness.   These words of Psalm 100 are still reverberating in my mind and heart: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, bless his name.” 

Throughout the story of the Exodus, we’ve seen the children of Israel grumble and complain and sin against God.  They have not always acted like a thankful people, eager to bless God’s name.  But in Exodus chapter 35, after they encounter God’s forgiveness and mercy and God renews his covenant to stick with them, their hearts (rightfully so) are filled with gratitude! 

Despite their sinful idolatry, God will not abandon them after all.  Instead, God plans to come dwell with them in an intimate and powerful way.  This is why God commands his people to build the tabernacle—a portable sanctuary that they could set up and take down as they travel to the Promised Land. 

Now, you may have found our readings from this last week a bit challenging.  I’ll be the first to admit that all the details about the tabernacle and its furnishings is not the most exciting part of the Exodus story.  In fact, it can feel anti-climactic as the story climbs toward its conclusion.

But it’s clear that these details are an important part of the story.  So important that we get God’s instructions for the tabernacle not just once but twice!  But here’s what strikes me about all of this: God calls everybody to be a part of helping build the tabernacle by offering their gifts to God, no matter what those gifts may be! Any person whose heart was stirred, regardless of how much or how little they had, was invited to play a part in giving back to God.  Read Exodus 35:20-29 below and notice the variety of gifts brought by the people.

Then all the congregation of the Israelites withdrew from the presence of Moses.  And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the LORD’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments.  So they came, both men and women: all who were of willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and pendants, all sorts of gold objects, everyone bringing an offering of gold to the LORD.  And everyone who possessed blue or purple or crimson yarn or fine linen goats’ hair or tanned rams skin or fine leather, brought them.  Everyone who could make an offering of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s offering; and everyone who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work, brought it.  All the skillful women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and crimson yarn and fine linen; all the women whose hearts moved them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair.  And the leaders brought onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breast piece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragment incense.  All the Israelite men and woman whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.

It’s quite a list, isn’t it?  While there are some ordinary things in this list, much of it includes treasures of great value. Not just stuff lying around in the cellar or set aside for a garage sale.  These things are Israel’s most prized possessions—their very best.  And they offer them to God as an act of thanksgiving! 

Where did they, an enslaved people, get such valuable treasures? From the Egyptians!  More accurately, it was God who moved the Egyptians’ hearts to load them up with such treasure before they left Egypt.  So none of these things were ever really Israel’s in the first place.  They all had been given to them as a gift from God.  And now, God invites them to offer them as an expression of gratitude and faith. 

This is also true of everything we have.  We are not really the “owners” of such gifts.  They come to us from the good and generous hands of God. When we offer them back to God, we are acknowledging that all we have (and all we are) really belongs to God in the first place!

The verse that most grips me is this one that gets at the motivation behind their giving: “everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing…brought the LORD’s offering.”  Hearts stirred.  Spirits willing.  They didn’t offer these gifts reluctantly or out of obligation or resentment. No, they offered them willingly with joy and gratitude. It was their act of worship—their way of saying, “Thank you, God!  We love you!  We belong to you!”

I wonder if the apostle Paul had this part of the Exodus story in mind when he wrote to the Corinthians: “Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor.9:7).  Our giving must come from the heart.  Even more important than the amount we give is the attitude and sacrifice with which we give.

This part of the Exodus story shows us that giving, when it comes right down to it, is really a heart issue.  As it goes with our hearts, so it goes with our giving.  A thankful heart lives with open hands, offering back to God the gifts he’s given us to be used for his glory and the good of others.

So may your heart find joy and delight in opening up your hands to offer what you have to the One who has opened wide his own hands on Calvary and generously offered his very life as a sacrifice of love.

Generous God,

Help us experience your grace anew

 and give us glad and generous hearts.

Stir our hearts and make our spirits willing to give freely

 of our time, talent and treasure,

recognizing that everything we have and all that we are

 is really a gift from you.

Unclench our fists to live open-handedly,

finding joy in the act of letting go

and giving generously and sacrificially.

 May it all be for your glory and

for the good of those you call us to love. 

Amen.

Exodus 39:1-30, Psalm 145

Exodus 39:1-30

Making the Vestments for the Priesthood

1 Of the blue, purple, and crimson yarns they made finely worked vestments, for ministering in the holy place; they made the sacred vestments for Aaron; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

2 He made the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen. 3 Gold leaf was hammered out and cut into threads to work into the blue, purple, and crimson yarns and into the fine twisted linen, in skilled design. 4 They made for the ephod shoulder-pieces, joined to it at its two edges. 5 The decorated band on it was of the same materials and workmanship, of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

6 The onyx stones were prepared, enclosed in settings of gold filigree and engraved like the engravings of a signet, according to the names of the sons of Israel. 7 He set them on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, to be stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

8 He made the breastpiece, in skilled work, like the work of the ephod, of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen. 9 It was square; the breastpiece was made double, a span in length and a span in width when doubled. 10 They set in it four rows of stones. A row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald was the first row; 11 and the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire, and a moonstone; 12 and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 13 and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper; they were enclosed in settings of gold filigree. 14 There were twelve stones with names corresponding to the names of the sons of Israel; they were like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 15 They made on the breastpiece chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; 16 and they made two settings of gold filigree and two gold rings, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece; 17 and they put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. 18 Two ends of the two cords they had attached to the two settings of filigree; in this way they attached it in front to the shoulder-pieces of the ephod. 19 Then they made two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 20 They made two rings of gold, and attached them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder-pieces of the ephod, at its joining above the decorated band of the ephod. 21 They bound the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, so that it should lie on the decorated band of the ephod, and that the breastpiece should not come loose from the ephod; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

22 He also made the robe of the ephod woven all of blue yarn; 23 and the opening of the robe in the middle of it was like the opening in a coat of mail, with a binding around the opening, so that it might not be torn. 24 On the lower hem of the robe they made pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen. 25 They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates on the lower hem of the robe all around, between the pomegranates; 26 a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate all around on the lower hem of the robe for ministering; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

27 They also made the tunics, woven of fine linen, for Aaron and his sons, 28 and the turban of fine linen, and the headdresses of fine linen, and the linen undergarments of fine twisted linen, 29 and the sash of fine twisted linen, and of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, embroidered with needlework; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

30 They made the rosette of the holy diadem of pure gold, and wrote on it an inscription, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the Lord.”

Psalm 145

The Greatness and the Goodness of God

Praise. Of David.

1 I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall laud your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
    and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
    he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Exodus 38:1-31, Psalm 145

Exodus 38

Making the Altar of Burnt Offering

38 He made the altar of burnt offering also of acacia wood; it was five cubits long, and five cubits wide; it was square, and three cubits high. 2 He made horns for it on its four corners; its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. 3 He made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the firepans: all its utensils he made of bronze. 4 He made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. 5 He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating to hold the poles; 6 he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with bronze. 7 And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar, to carry it with them; he made it hollow, with boards.

8 He made the basin of bronze with its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Making the Court of the Tabernacle

9 He made the court; for the south side the hangings of the court were of fine twisted linen, one hundred cubits long; 10 its twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their bands were of silver. 11 For the north side there were hangings one hundred cubits long; its twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their bands were of silver. 12 For the west side there were hangings fifty cubits long, with ten pillars and ten bases; the hooks of the pillars and their bands were of silver. 13 And for the front to the east, fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with three pillars and three bases. 15 And so for the other side; on each side of the gate of the court were hangings of fifteen cubits, with three pillars and three bases. 16 All the hangings around the court were of fine twisted linen. 17 The bases for the pillars were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their bands were of silver; the overlaying of their capitals was also of silver, and all the pillars of the court were banded with silver. 18 The screen for the entrance to the court was embroidered with needlework in blue, purple, and crimson yarns and fine twisted linen. It was twenty cubits long and, along the width of it, five cubits high, corresponding to the hangings of the court. 19 There were four pillars; their four bases were of bronze, their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their capitals and their bands of silver. 20 All the pegs for the tabernacle and for the court all around were of bronze.

Materials of the Tabernacle

21 These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant, which were drawn up at the commandment of Moses, the work of the Levites being under the direction of Ithamar son of the priest Aaron. 22 Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord commanded Moses; 23 and with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, engraver, designer, and embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen.

24 All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred thirty shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel. 25 The silver from those of the congregation who were counted was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel; 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, measured by the sanctuary shekel), for everyone who was counted in the census, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred three thousand, five hundred fifty men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary, and the bases of the curtain; one hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent for a base. 28 Of the thousand seven hundred seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their capitals and made bands for them. 29 The bronze that was contributed was seventy talents, and two thousand four hundred shekels; 30 with it he made the bases for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the bronze altar and the bronze grating for it and all the utensils of the altar, 31 the bases all around the court, and the bases of the gate of the court, all the pegs of the tabernacle, and all the pegs around the court.

Psalm 138

Thanksgiving and Praise

Of David.

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
    for you have exalted your name and your word
    above everything.
3 On the day I called, you answered me,
    you increased my strength of soul.

4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
    but the haughty he perceives from far away.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
    and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Exodus 37:1-29, Psalm 136

Exodus 37

Making the Ark of the Covenant

37 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; it was two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 2 He overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3 He cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 He made poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark. 6 He made a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its width. 7 He made two cherubim of hammered gold; at the two ends of the mercy seat he made them, 8 one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim at its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They faced one another; the faces of the cherubim were turned toward the mercy seat.

Making the Table for the Bread of the Presence

10 He also made the table of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 He overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding of gold around it. 12 He made around it a rim a handbreadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. 13 He cast for it four rings of gold, and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 14 The rings that held the poles used for carrying the table were close to the rim. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and overlaid them with gold. 16 And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings.

Making the Lampstand

17 He also made the lampstand of pure gold. The base and the shaft of the lampstand were made of hammered work; its cups, its calyxes, and its petals were of one piece with it. 18 There were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 19 three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, on one branch, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 On the lampstand itself there were four cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with its calyxes and petals. 21 There was a calyx of one piece with it under the first pair of branches, a calyx of one piece with it under the next pair of branches, and a calyx of one piece with it under the last pair of branches. 22 Their calyxes and their branches were of one piece with it, the whole of it one hammered piece of pure gold. 23 He made its seven lamps and its snuffers and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils of a talent of pure gold.

Making the Altar of Incense

25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood, one cubit long, and one cubit wide; it was square, and was two cubits high; its horns were of one piece with it. 26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top, and its sides all around, and its horns; and he made for it a molding of gold all around, 27 and made two golden rings for it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, to hold the poles with which to carry it. 28 And he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold.

Making the Anointing Oil and the Incense

29 He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.

Psalm 136

God’s Work in Creation and in History

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 who struck down great kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed famous kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to his servant Israel,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 O give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Exodus 36:1-38, Psalm 135

Exodus 36

1 Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful one to whom the Lord has given skill and understanding to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.

2 Moses then called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful one to whom the Lordhad given skill, everyone whose heart was stirred to come to do the work; 3 and they received from Moses all the freewill offerings that the Israelites had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the artisans who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task being performed, 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing; 7 for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.

Construction of the Tabernacle

8 All those with skill among the workers made the tabernacle with ten curtains; they were made of fine twisted linen, and blue, purple, and crimson yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 9 The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains were of the same size.

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 of the first set; likewise he made them on the edge of the outermost curtain of the second set; 12 he made fifty loops on the one curtain, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set; the loops were opposite one another. 13 And he made fifty clasps of gold, and joined the curtains one to the other with clasps; so the tabernacle was one whole.

14 He also made curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; he made eleven curtains. 15 The length of each curtain was thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; the eleven curtains were of the same size. 16 He joined five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves. 17 He made fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain of the one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the other connecting curtain. 18 He made fifty clasps of bronze to join the tent together so that it might be one whole. 19 And he made for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and an outer covering of fine leather.

20 Then he made the upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 21 Ten cubits was the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the width of each frame. 22 Each frame had two pegs for fitting together; he did this for all the frames of the tabernacle. 23 The frames for the tabernacle he made in this way: twenty frames for the south side; 24 and he made forty bases of silver under the twenty frames, two bases under the first frame for its two pegs, and two bases under the next frame for its two pegs. 25 For the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty frames 26 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under the first frame and two bases under the next frame. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle westward he made six frames. 28 He made two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear. 29 They were separate beneath, but joined at the top, at the first ring; he made two of them in this way, for the two corners. 30 There were eight frames with their bases of silver: sixteen bases, under every frame two bases.

31 He made bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 33 He made the middle bar to pass through from end to end halfway up the frames. 34 And he overlaid the frames with gold, and made rings of gold for them to hold the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold.

35 He made the curtain of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen, with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 36 For it he made four pillars of acacia, and overlaid them with gold; their hooks were of gold, and he cast for them four bases of silver. 37 He also made a screen for the entrance to the tent, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen, embroidered with needlework; 38 and its five pillars with their hooks. He overlaid their capitals and their bases with gold, but their five bases were of bronze.

Psalm 135

Praise for God’s Goodness and Might

1 Praise the Lord!
    Praise the name of the Lord;
    give praise, O servants of the Lord,
2 you that stand in the house of the Lord,
    in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
    sing to his name, for he is gracious.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
    Israel as his own possession.

5 For I know that the Lord is great;
    our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases he does,
    in heaven and on earth,
    in the seas and all deeps.
7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth;
    he makes lightnings for the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    both human beings and animals;
9 he sent signs and wonders
    into your midst, O Egypt,
    against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10 He struck down many nations
    and killed mighty kings—
11 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    and Og, king of Bashan,
    and all the kingdoms of Canaan—
12 and gave their land as a heritage,
    a heritage to his people Israel.

13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
    your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.
14 For the Lord will vindicate his people,
    and have compassion on his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but they do not speak;
    they have eyes, but they do not see;
17 they have ears, but they do not hear,
    and there is no breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them
    and all who trust them
    shall become like them.

19 O house of Israel, bless the Lord!
    O house of Aaron, bless the Lord!
20 O house of Levi, bless the Lord!
    You that fear the Lord, bless the Lord!
21 Blessed be the Lord from Zion,
    he who resides in Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Exodus 35:1-35, Psalm 119:129-144

Exodus 35

Sabbath Regulations

1 Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do:

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the sabbath day.

Preparations for Making the Tabernacle

4 Moses said to all the congregation of the Israelites: This is the thing that the Lordhas commanded: 5 Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and fine leather; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece.

10 All who are skillful among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded: the tabernacle, 11 its tent and its covering, its clasps and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12 the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the curtain for the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance, the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin with its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked vestments for ministering in the holy place, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron, and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests.

Offerings for the Tabernacle

20 Then all the congregation of the Israelites withdrew from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the Lord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments. 22 So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and pendants, all sorts of gold objects, everyone bringing an offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And everyone who possessed blue or purple or crimson yarn or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or fine leather, brought them. 24 Everyone who could make an offering of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s offering; and everyone who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work, brought it. 25 All the skillful women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and crimson yarns and fine linen; 26 all the women whose hearts moved them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the Israelite men and women whose hearts made them willing to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

Bezalel and Oholiab

30 Then Moses said to the Israelites: See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 he has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 32 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. 34 And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every kind of work done by an artisan or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of artisan or skilled designer.

Psalm 119:129-144

129 Your decrees are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 With open mouth I pant,
    because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    as is your custom toward those who love your name.
133 Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
    and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
    that I may keep your precepts.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant,
    and teach me your statutes.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears
    because your law is not kept.

137 You are righteous, O Lord,
    and your judgments are right.
138 You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
    and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me
    because my foes forget your words.
140 Your promise is well tried,
    and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised,
    yet I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
    and your law is the truth.
143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
    but your commandments are my delight.
144 Your decrees are righteous forever;
    give me understanding that I may live.

Filled with God's Spirit to be an Artist

by Karen Barker, Professor of Theatre and Dean of the Arts and Humanities at Northwestern College

Over the years there has been a kind of love-hate relationship with the institutional church and my work as an artist. It is in the church that I have had the most push-back on my work. If the work isn’t winning souls, what is the point in doing it? Or, acting cannot be good for a Christian because it is too self-serving and is about the applause. Or, acting is simply pretending, which is a pretty childish, even unchristian, thing for an adult to be doing. Or, it’s only entertainment and face it, most entertainment is of the devil at worst and a waste of time at best. Affirmation from the institutional church for such a seemingly frivolous thing has not been part of my experience.

So you can see why the following passage from our readings in Exodus this week leapt out at me. This is from chapter 31.

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— 8 the table and its articles, the pure gold lamp stand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand— 10 and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.”

Now, I’ve read this passage before. Mostly what I read was how beautiful everything must have been. This time what came crashing in on me was the idea the God had filled Bezalel “with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs.” Filled. With the Spirit of God. To be an artist. Really? If so, this changes things for me.

My acting students walk in the door of my classroom believing that the artistry of acting is fairly easy. In fact all you have to do is memorize dialogue and like the attention of everyone looking at you. When I tell them that being an actor takes the same kind of discipline being an athlete takes, they don’t believe me. I tell them that there is no actor genie who sprinkles acting dust on them when they’re born. There is no magic and no easy route to being an excellent actor. And it’s not a mystery. It is simple hard work. By the time they graduate, if I’ve done my job, they believe me.

But maybe that’s not all that it is. What if it’s more? I have been willing to say my artistry is my calling, though not very loudly since it seems more acceptable to say my calling is teaching. I have not, however, been willing to say I have been filled with God’s Spirit to do this work.

And that’s not all God does in this passage. God fills Bezalel with wisdom and with understanding.  Flakey artists? Undisciplined and irresponsible artists? Immoral and unethical artists? Not here. Not in God’s story.

In his book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch has a view of the new heaven and new earth that I love. Heaven is a place that, rather than abandoning everything we know, it is furnished with the best of what we have created. Redeemed creations. Not only the people, but the things as well. It is a place filled with the artifacts we have created. If that vision is true, I’d better come to terms with being filled with God’s Spirit to do my artistic work.

I look forward to seeing Bezalel’s gorgeous work with metals, stones, and wood in the New Jerusalem. Maybe he’ll let me enact stories of brokenness and redemption for him. I imagine he won’t ask me why I’ve spent my life on something so frivolous.

Exodus 34:1-35, Psalm 85

Exodus 34

Moses Makes New Tablets

1 The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lordhad commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5 The Lorddescended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

The Covenant Renewed

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

18 “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.

21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. 23 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.”

27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

The Shining Face of Moses

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them.32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm 85

Revive Us Again

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 Lord, you were favorable to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin.      Selah
3 You withdrew all your wrath;
    you turned from your hot anger.

4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
    and put away your indignation toward us!
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
    but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

Exodus 33:1-23, Psalm 81

Exodus 33

The Command to Leave Sinai

1 The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

4 When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” 6 Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent of Meeting

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lordwould go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses' Intercession

12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Psalm 81

Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.

1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
    shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
    the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
    at the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel,
    a rule of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph
    when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
    your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I delivered you;
    I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.      Selah
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
    O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you;
    you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
    Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
    to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
    that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
    and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Exodus 32:1-35, Psalm 80

Exodus 32

The Golden Calf

1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord's side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Psalm 80

Restore Us, O God

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2     Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
    and come to save us!

3 Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

4 O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.

7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
    and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
    so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
    and all that move in the field feed on it.

14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
    Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15     the stock that your right hand planted,
    and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
    may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
    the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we shall not turn back from you;
    give us life, and we will call upon your name!

19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Exodus 31:1-18, Psalm 77

Exodus 31

Oholiab and Bezalel

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8 the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

The Sabbath

12 And the Lord said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

1 I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints.      Selah

4 You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”      Selah

10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph.      Selah

16 When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
    your path through the great waters;
    yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 30:17-38, Psalm 75

Exodus 30:17-38

The Bronze Basin

17 The Lord said to Moses, 18 “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, 19 with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. 20 When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. 21 They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”

The Anointing Oil and Incense

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’”

34 The Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), 35 and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. 37 And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the Lord. 38 Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”

Psalm 75

God Will Judge with Equity

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

1 We give thanks to you, O God;
    we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

2 “At the set time that I appoint
    I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
    it is I who keep steady its pillars.      Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
    and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high,
    or speak with haughty neck.’”

6 For not from the east or from the west
    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment,
    putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.

9 But I will declare it forever;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
    but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

Honoring God

By Syl Scorza

  • Corporate honor by the Community
  • Family Honor by the Household
  • Individual Honor by Each Person

How would you classify your relationship to God?  Do you pray because you’re a Christian or did you become a Christian because you prayed and had an overwhelming sense of God’s holiness and judgment?  How fearful are you when you confess your thoughts and actions?  In Exodus 29-30 the Israelites approached God only through Moses and the priests and Levites.  They were very fearful.

The priests and Levites who were chosen to serve in the tabernacle had to meet Yahweh’s standards of age, tribal origins and preparation.  The gate, outer court, tent materials, furniture and upkeep met strict requirements.  When Levites disassembled, carried and reassembled the structure, they handled everything respectfully, and the most holy objects had rings and poles in order that touching them could be avoided.

Whether the sacrificial offerings and supplies for daily tabernacle operations came from these temple servants or from the many families of all twelve tribes, they were expected to be of the highest quality.  They might parallel or surpass the animals and foods we take to state and county fairs for prizes.

Why were such standards so high?  It was because Yahweh “resided” there, in the tabernacle, all the way through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The first evidence of his presence appeared when Israel huddled in fear of the approaching chariots on the west bank of the Red Sea.  They saw a bright cloud preventing the advance of their enemies until after Moses had held out the rod over the sea and opened a dry path for the people to pass to the other side.  The bright cloud was the shekinah presence of Yahweh’s protection.

The same cloud led them daily through the wilderness like a pillar of light, and if they had to travel at night it looked like a pillar of fire.  Each leg of the journey in those forty years ended when the cloud descended, often at an oasis, since only twice we read that God provided the thirsty Israelites with water from the Rock miraculously.  Last week Michelle Christy suggested that the Presence who led them was the Second Person of the trinity, and I agree.

The high standards were evidence of holding God in highest honor.  In our homes we honor prestigious guests with our finest plates, glassware, silverware and napkins and serve our most special food preparations.  Moses’ law in Exodus requires the highest honors for the God who was leading them.

The guidance of Yahweh’s presence would be confirmed in Exodus 34 with the promise that he was a God of mercy and forgiveness to all who sought cleansing from their sins.  However, several times along the way his honor was violated to the degree that those guilty lost their lives.  Nadab and Abihu died at the altar of incense for putting the incense of other gods (really idolatrous ones) together with his (Leviticus 10:1ff.).  Competitors to God’s chosen leaders were swallowed up by an opening chasm in the ground (Numbers 16:32).  Later, OT prophets condemned the worshipers who brought blind or lame animals for sacrifice (Malachi 1:8).  Two priests, Eli’s sons, died in battle for presuming to use the ark of the covenant to frighten the Philistine enemies (I Samuel 4:1ff.).  Many others, in his mercy, found great patience from Yahweh with forgiveness and restoration to a right relationship with him.

Aaron himself once under popular pressure poured gold into the form of a golden calf, probably to represent Yahweh (Exodus 32), thinking that Moses would never return from Mt. Sinai.  As soon as Moses saw it, he ground it up and disposed of the grindings.  Since Aaron retained his eligibility to be high priest, he clearly must have humbly repented and gained God’s gracious pardon, but there’s no record of his restoration.  It was somewhat like David’s near collapse! (Psalm 51).

The text uses “tent of meeting” to refer to places in the camp where Moses or (indirectly) the people could receive answers from Yahweh to puzzling questions.  Before the tabernacle plans ever were completed, Yahweh’s shekinah cloud kept all except Moses at a distance “outside the camp” (Exodus 33). 

If you still harbor fears, pay attention to this scripture:”Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

God had offered the covenant people this prospect: “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:8).  Each person would be capable of leadership and able to approach God personally and directly.  In Exodus 20:19 their refusal was: “Do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

Almost the same prospect is ours in the church: “[Jesus] made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father…” (Revelation 1:6).  The Reformers, 500 years ago, called this “the priesthood of all believers.”  This means that we are all called to be priests, set apart to be holy because of what God has accomplished for us in Christ, in order to represent Christ in the world.  Thus, we seek to live lives that honor God and bear witness to his glory, as Pastor Brian said last Sunday, not in order to achieve salvation but because God has already saved us in Jesus, our Great High Priest.

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through is flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:19-23

Syl Scorza is a retired RCA pastor and former professor at Northwestern College.

Exodus 29:38-16, Psalm 71

Exodus 29:38-30:16

38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering.41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lordtheir God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

The Altar of Incense

30 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 4 And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lordthroughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it.10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”

The Census Tax

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord.14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord's offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord's offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

Psalm 71

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent

1 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame!
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me, and save me!
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
    to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.

4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.

7 I have been as a portent to many,
    but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
    and with your glory all the day.
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
    forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me;
    those who watch for my life consult together
11 and say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue and seize him,
    for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, be not far from me;
    O my God, make haste to help me!
13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
    with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
    who seek my hurt.
14 But I will hope continually
    and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
    of your deeds of salvation all the day,
    for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
    I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again.

22 I will also praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
    O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy,
    when I sing praises to you;
    my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
    who sought to do me hurt.