Today the Lord tells Moses to ask the children of Israel to bring supplies for the building of the tabernacle – “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering… And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.” God loves a joyful giver who gives willingly from his heart. Paul is going to confirm later in the story when he writes to the Corinthians – “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The Lord gives Moses instructions for the tabernacle, the portable temple, which is broken down into three sections: the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The outer court is where the sacrifices will be offered. The Holy Place will contain three items: 1) a table for the showbread, 2) a lampstand with seven lamps, and 3) the altar of incense (in tomorrow’s reading). The Most Holy Place will contain the ark, and on top of the ark will be the mercy seat. The Lord says, “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” We will learn more about the ark and the mercy seat in a few days.
Then the Lord selects Aaron and his sons to “minister to Me as priest”, and He gives specific instructions for their priestly clothing called the ephod. As part of the instructions the priests are to place stones on both their shoulders and on the breastplate of judgment with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved in the stones. The Lord instructs the priests to be properly dressed “when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die.” Therefore, the priests will wear bells around the hem of their robes so the people on the outside of the tabernacle can hear the sound of the bells ringing and know that the priests are properly dressed and performing the sacred rites on their behalf.
The Lord is working His redemption plan through Jacob’s sons, the twelve tribes of Israel. Through these tribes, the Lord will magnify His Holy Name and keep alive His promise of the Savior to come. One day the people will not have to carry around a portable temple. One day the people will be the temple – “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Later in the story, after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, He will pour the Holy Spirit upon the believers, making their bodies the temple. But for now, the Lord has chosen the tabernacle as His meeting place while we await the arrival of our Savior.
Keep reading to see how the tabernacle will become a temple building, and then Christ will come and buy His people with His blood making our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit. (Exodus 25:1-28:43)