The parasha for this Shabbat is entitled Terumah and covers Exodus 25:1 through 27:19. This morning, rather than our usual 5-7 minute commentary, I’ll be expanding our parasha into a full message. Terumah means contribution, gift or offering.
The parasha opens with God’s invitation to raise a contribution – a terumah. It was not to be under any compulsion, but rather, “…from every man whose heart moves him”. The needed materials included silver and gold and bronze, but also multi-colored fabrics, animal skins, exotic stones, oil and spices. Obviously not everyone had silver or gold to contribute, but some people might have scarlet or purple or blue fabric. Others might have extra oil or an abundance of spices. But almost everyone would have had something of value that they could choose to contribute. You might say it was the world’s first Go Fund Me campaign! Here, again, is the list in its entirety
- gold, silver and bronze (gold closed at $1,235.00 / oz.)
- blue, purple and scarlet colored fabric
- goat hair
- rams’ skins dyed red
- porpoise skins (where do you find porpoises in the Sinai?)
- acacia wood
- oil and spices
- onyx stones and other precious and semi-precious stones
And all of this was for one most significant purpose, which God declared to be “…That I may dwell among them” (25:8). Maybe it would be more accurate to liken it to a wedding registry! After all, almost the entire remainder of the book of Exodus is devoted to a single theme: the commission and construction of the Tabernacle – a special place where God could meet and dwell among His people Israel.
We are not told who brought what, but we are told that it was altogether voluntary, brought by those whose hearts stirred them to participate. And those who did so would have the deep satisfaction of knowing that they contributed to something of incalculable value – the Mishkan itself! The same would later be true of those who contributed to the rebuilding of the walls around the city of Jerusalem in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Their names are forever inscribed in the Word of God! Imagine the joy of being able to tell your children and grandchildren that a certain part of the Beit HaMikdash was donated by your family!
Within the Tabernacle would reside the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Showbread, the Menorat Zahav – the Golden Lampstand and the Bronze Altar – each so rich in symbolism, demonstrating God’s holiness, His desire to draw near to us, and the great Redemption that Messiah would bring.
The most significant piece of furniture for the Tabernacle was, of course, the Ark. It was to be constructed of acacia wood; it’s dimensions 45” long x 27” wide x 27” high, and we were to overlay it with pure gold – inside and out. It was never to be picked up and hand-carried, but four cast rings of gold were to be fastened at its four corners, and poles of acacia wood, also overlay with gold, were to be used to carry the Ark whenever God was leading Israel to move out.
The Tabernacle structure included a court 150′ long and 75′ wide. Within that court was the Tabernacle itself, surrounded by curtains, within which only the priests and Levites could go. Within the inner court was the Holy Place, into which only select priests could go, and only at appointed times. And within the Holy Place was the Most Holy Place, into which only the High Priest of Israel was permitted, and only once each year (at Yom Kippur), and only after considerable ceremonial preparations, and only for a very short time.
If you get a sense of separation, you are beginning to understand. God, who is infinitely holy, must separate Himself from fallen, sinful human beings, though it has always been His desire to have fellowship with us. Therefore, Israel had these necessary degrees of separation.
It also helps us to appreciate fully what Matthew wrote – that at the very moment of Yeshua’s death on that Roman cross, the veil which previously blocked the way into the Holy of Holies was supernaturally ripped in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The way has been opened for man to have intimate fellowship with God. What’s more, this access to the Throne of Grace is open to Gentiles as well as Jews. God has made us into one flock, Yeshua being our one Shepherd.
I want to come back to the idea we considered at the outset of the message: that while not everyone had gold (or even silver) to contribute to the Mishkan, there were many other things that were needed as well; specially colored fabrics, animal skins, oil and spices. Other people were needed to cut, carve, overlay, hammer and assemble all the components. Fact is, just about everyone had something to contribute, if their heart was in it, that would have been needed. And with that idea, let me share with you three short passages from the New Covenant that I hope will encourage you. One concerns a poor old woman; one has to do with a young boy, and one tells the story of a wealthy, obnoxious guy that nobody liked.
While all the people were listening, Yeshua said to His disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” As He looked up, Yeshua saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
That woman had next to nothing. But maybe that’s the very place you need to be in order to summon up the courage to ‘throw caution to the wind’ and do something ridiculously extravagant for Adonai. Two tiny copper coins, worth next to nothing, set the stage for a priceless lesson from Messiah that has endured through the ages!
Some time after this, Yeshua crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick. Then Yeshua went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover was near. When Yeshua looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Yeshua said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Yeshua then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, He said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So, they gathered them, and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Yeshua did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Because that young lad was willing to give what he had, small as it was, thousands were fed, and through that miracle, many came to believe in Yeshua. The lesson for us is that, however little you have, if you’ll put it into the Master’s hand, watch what happens! Watch how many people can be blessed and helped because you gave that little bit of who you are and what you have.
Yeshua entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Yeshua was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Yeshua was coming that way.
When Yeshua reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Yeshua said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Zaccheus (Zakkai) was somebody everybody loved to hate. First of all, tax collectors were branded as traitors, since they extorted money from their fellow Israelis and gave most of it to the despised Roman government. Of course, they made themselves rich in the process, which only engendered more resentment. And it probably didn’t help his image that Zaccheus was ‘vertically challenged.’
But so determined was he to catch a glimpse of Yeshua, the miracle-working rabbi about whom he’d heard so much, that as Yeshua came into town, Zaccheus, in his excitement, forgot all about himself and climbed up into a sycamore tree, risking public humiliation just to see Him. What he didn’t expect was that Yeshua would start walking over in his direction. “What? Wait – He’s coming over here. And He’s looking straight at me!” Oh, great, now everybody’s looking at me”.
But when Yeshua came right over to him, called him by name and invited Himself over, Zaccheus was so overcome with joy and gratitude; humbled and honored to have this great rabbi visit his home, that he immediately pledged to divest himself of half his estate for the sake of the poor, and to pay back 400% to anyone he had defrauded. That was a day of genuine salvation.
Let me share with you a few last thoughts, and I’ll start with a question. Could not God, who is all-powerful, and whose artistry is infinitely greater and more imaginative than ours, have simply spoken a word and brought a Tabernacle into existence? Wouldn’t it have been vastly more beautiful and refined than anything of our own doing? He asked frail and sinful men to construct it.
Perhaps we are to see the use of porpoise skins and goat hair and wood and fabric and bronze as representing man’s earth-bound nature, whereas the gold, silver and precious stones represent God’s purity and holiness. But the point is, God invites us to participate, rather than merely to observe. He could certainly do things more skillfully, thoroughly and efficiently than we, but by bringing a perfect end result out of the efforts of flawed humanity, He will be all the more glorified.
During the wilderness wandering, the Ark of the Covenant was at least occasionally visible, as Israel followed God and moved from place to place. But eventually the Ark would be placed permanently in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, where it would be seen by only one man, and only on Yom Kippur, and only for a very short time. Does it make you wonder why commission all this beauty – the ornate hammered gold and the winged cherubim, if it would never be seen and appreciated by men? I think the point of it is that the beauty of all these things is for Him – just as there are beautiful mountain flowers that nobody sees, and fascinating deep-sea creatures that until recently no one had ever seen; but He sees them; He created them, and everything and everyone exists for His pleasure.
You see, the Tabernacle isn’t about us, it’s about God’s glory; but the Tabernacle is definitely for our sake. Remember earlier I told you the Hebrew word for Tabernacle is Mishkan, from the verb shachan – to dwell or inhabit? Here’s the main thing I believe God would have us take to heart: He wants our friendship!
He desires to dwell in our midst! God deigned to dwell in the midst of sinful human beings in the time of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. He humbled Himself to do this. Consider the weightiness of the fact that in the New Covenant God, through the Holy Spirit, dwells within us! This is the greatest lesson for us to take from this parasha. Here are a few more:
- Giving should proceed from a cheerful, grateful heart.
- Giving should not be done out of guilt, nor with the mistaken idea that it will offset wrongs committed. Nor should your terumah be given instead of paying your rent or if you have outstanding bills, or you owe somebody for something.
- Your terumah is proportional to your wealth, and an expression of your own gratitude. Don’t make the mistake of comparing what you give with other people’s gifts. You’ll only end up feeling either guilty (if it’s less), or prideful (if it’s more).
- When you have a guest coming to stay with you, especially a very important guest, you make sure you get the guest room ready. You go through it and dust the surfaces, and put clean sheets on the bed, and if you’re extra thoughtful, you put a few nice chocolates on the desk with a welcome note.
While you sojourn on this earth, your heart is the place where God wants to dwell. How’s your guest room at this moment? Could it use a good cleaning? Submit your heart to Him and let Him do the work of cleansing you, so that He can inhabit a well-arranged room and a welcoming home.