Instructions for the sacred tent, its furnishings, and the sacred chest
The sacred tent
1The LORD said to Moses:
2Tell everyone in Israel who wants to give gifts that they must bring them to you.3Here is a list of what you are to collect: gold, silver, and bronze;4blue, purple, and red wool; fine linen; goat hair;5tanned ram skins; fine leather; acacia wood;6olive oil for the lamp; sweet-smelling spices to mix with the oil for dedicating the tent and ordaining the priests;7and onyx stones for the sacred apron and the breastpiece.8I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.9Make it and its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
The sacred chest
The LORD said to Moses:
10Tell the people to build a chest of acacia wood one hundred and ten centimetres long, sixty-six centimetres wide, and sixty-six centimetres high.11Cover it inside and out with pure gold and put a gold edging around the lid.12Make four gold rings and fasten one of them to each of the four legs of the chest.13Make two poles of acacia wood. Cover them with gold14and put them through the rings, so the chest can be carried by the poles.15Don't ever remove the poles from the rings.16When I give you the Ten Commandments written on two flat stones, put them inside the chest.
17Cover the lid of the chest with pure gold.18-19Then hammer out two winged creatures of pure gold and fasten them to the lid at the ends of the chest.20The creatures must face each other with their wings spread over the chest.21Inside it place the two flat stones with the Ten Commandments and put the gold lid on top of the chest.22I will meet you there between the two creatures and tell you what my people must do and what they must not do.
Having given Israel his law and having confirmed his covenant with them, the Lord now gives instructions about making a sanctuary for him where he may dwell among them. That God should dwell in the middle of a sinful people that he has redeemed for his own is another amazing example of his grace. But so it is, God himself will live in a tabernacle – a tent – among his people.
However, as the chapter unfolds we see that this is not just any tent. First of all, it will be constructed out of materials that have been voluntarily given by the people. When the Lord delivered the people from Egypt he had already moved the hearts of the Egyptians to give the Israelites articles of gold and silver and clothing for their children (3:21-22;11:2;12:35-36). Now he wants the Israelites to bring some of these same items as an offering to him.
Second, notice that they are items that have been specified by God. Moses and the Israelites are not free to make God’s sanctuary any way they want. They must follow his orders and approach him on his terms. When it comes to worshipping God, we must worship in the way that he has ordained for us.
Third, one cannot but help to see the beauty of God’s dwelling place. In these verses particular mention is made of the Ark of the Covenant, which is made out of pure gold, with its carrying poles, its atonement cover and two cherubim. It is the only piece of furniture in the Most Holy Place and inside it contains a copy of the covenant law – the Ten Commandments – which God gave to Israel.
Today, as then, God seeks willing, obedient people who will worship him in the beauty of his holiness.
Holy Father, Thank you for taking us to yourself as your own special possession. Fill our hearts with love for you. May we worship you as you have revealed yourself to us and may we adore and obey you forever. Thank you Jesus who makes all of this possible. Amen.