This Shabbat we have two parashas: Vayakhel which means, “And He Assembled” and Pekudei which means, “An Accounting” and it covers Exodus 35:1-40:36.
Chapter 35 opens with a serious reminder for Israel to observe the Sabbath. God then invited any Israelis with generous hearts to bring offerings for the Tabernacle. They brought gold, silver and brass; cloth, leathers rams and badgers skins, acacia wood, spices, olive oil and jewels needed for the High Priest’s special garments.
These contributions were to make the Tabernacle and all that was associated with it. This included the Ark, the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the anointing oil and sweet incense, the Altar of Burnt Offerings, the laver, and the garments for the priests who served in the Tabernacle.
In Chapter 36, Betzalel and Oholiav were anointed with wisdom and the special ability to perorm this work. The Israelis had given generously – even more than what was needed.
The skilled workers began making the Holy Tent. The first items were the Tabernacle coverings. There were four in all. The first was made of fine linen; Betzalel decorated this curtain with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and then skillfully embroidered Cherubim into them. This curtain formed the visible ceiling of the Tabernacle and it was certainly beautiful.
The second covering was of goat’s hair. This curtain would not have been visible, and was of a rougher substance than the fine linen. It acted as a protection for the linen.
The third and fourth coverings were ram’s skin dyed red and badger skins, possibly gray in color. These two leather coverings, like the goat hair covering, also acted as protective layers for the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle walls were 15 feet high and made of acacia wood, over which the covering curtains were draped. The walls were overlaid with pure gold. This made them appear to be solid gold walls and would have made the inside of the Tabernacle a place of breathtaking beauty. The walls were set in sockets of silver, which anchored them in place.
In chapter 37 the furniture for the Tabernacle is described. The first piece of furniture was the Ark with its atonement cover. The Ark was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold, both inside and out. The Ark cover itself was made of solid gold.
Chapter 38 describes the Brazen Altar. It was 5 cubits long, 5 cubits wide; and 3 cubits high. A horn was made for each of the four corners. Then Betzalel covered the altar with bronze. The Brazen Altar was the first thing a person would see when coming into the court of the Tabernacle.
The brass laver was made and filled with water. This provided a place for the priests to wash their hands and feet in preparation for the sacrifices. The dimensions of the outer court were 150 feet by 75 feet, and it was enclosed by fine linen curtains, about 8 feet high.
Chapter 39 describes the garments made especially for the priests, according to Adonai’s specific design. When Moses saw that everything had been done just as Adonai had commanded, He blessed the people.
In chapter 40 Adonai instructed Moses to set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month. These instructions included the physical arrangement of the sanctuary, the consecration of the Tabernacle and everything in it, and the ceremonial preparations Aaron and his sons had to make in order to serve as priests to God in His Sanctuary.
Moses did everything Adonai had commanded him. In fact, Moses’ obedience to every detail of the Tabernacle is noted seven times in this chapter. When all was complete it was then that the glory of the Lord filled the Sanctuary.
Allow me share some closing thoughts:
There is meaning and rich symbolism behind the many details of the Tabernacle. The beautiful colors and fabrics and precious metals remind us that Adonai is a God of artistry. To draw near to Him is to come into a beautiful place. And yet at the same time, the purified gold used in the Tabernacle reminds us that when we come to Him, we are approaching infinite holiness. we need to show reverence, because our God is a consuming fire.
But let’s also remember that Adonai commissioned the building of the Tabernacle after Israel’s terrible rebellion of the golden calf. This teaches us about God’s mercy. He is gracious and patient with us, and gives us fresh opportunities to serve Him if we will only repent.
The New Covenant Scriptures tell us that we ourselves are God’s living Tabernacles and that His Holy Spirit dwells in us, empowering us to faithfully serve Him as a kingdom of priests through Messiah Yeshua. But we can do nothing without the sanctifying work and Person of the Holy Spirit. He strengthens us, teaches us, gives us joy and brings us shalom. He helps and protects us. The Holy Spirit is the grace and mercy of God. And that grace enables us to do the very things He commands.
Spirit of God, give holy zeal to Your servants today. May Your people speak Your truth with courage and zeal. Set us afire with holy desire to do the will of the Father.