Opening Prayer: Almighty and most merciful God, we ask that you would cause your Spirit to be poured out upon us once again. We are here as your new creation, and we ask that you would continue to renew us and remake us. Empower your word now that we might be built up into your house, fitted together as your temple and dwelling. Amen!
We considered the tabernacle last week as the embodiment of Israel as the Warrior-bride of Yahweh. Bezalel and Aholiab are the fulfillment of the midwives, leading the wise-hearted women who are building the house of God as the armies of Yahweh (Ex. 38:8).
As the Lord Commanded
We noted lasted week that this is the second time we’ve read all these details. Ex. 25-31 was the record of the initial instructions given by God on the mountain, the seven speeches of the ‘new creation’ of Israel. This explanation of the actual work of Bezalel may seem superfluous, but it both proves that the new covenant is in force and that God’s word does not return void. As in the first creation account, ‘God spoke and it was done’, so too, here God has spoken, and now it is being done “all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (38:22). The new covenant with Israel is not merely ‘another try,’ it is what completes and fulfills all that the first covenant sought to perform. The entire list of what was carried out is given as a summary in 39:33-41 and in the order that it is carried out. Another way of looking at this recapitulation of the details of the tabernacle follows the original creation pattern of Gen. 1-2. Just as Gen. 1 is the creation of the world according to God’s spoken word in six days and Gen. 2 follows the creation of man, his situation in the garden, his naming of the animals and finally the creation of the woman, so too these two accounts of the details of the tabernacle accomplish similar goals. In Gen. 2, we see Adam imitating God and following his commands in naming the animals. In Ex. 36:8-39:31 we see Bezalel (chiefly) carrying out the commands of the Lord. Likewise, if the tabernacle is to be seen in feminine terms, the completion of the tabernacle is the creation of a new Eve from the side of Israel, the new Adam-son of God (cf. Ex. 4:22).
Blue, Purple, Scarlet and Engraving
Because the construction of the tabernacle includes a number of allusions to the original creation account, we should not shy away from looking for more. We have noticed by now that the colors blue, purple, and scarlet show up all throughout the tabernacle descriptions. The colors blue and purple are clearly royal and are associated with kings and nobility, and the color scarlet is literally the word for “worm” (cf. Ex. 16:20, Dt. 28:39, Ps. 22:7, Jon. 4:7). This is because a particular sort of worm was used to create a red/crimson dye in the ancient world. But all these colors are the same as the sky, and the fact that there is a sea-basin at the entrance of the tabernacle reminds us of the “waters above” (Gen. 1:6-7). The firmament is what joins heaven and earth, and this is what the tabernacle is designed to do. The tabernacle is the sky come down into the middle of their camp. The fashioning of the tabernacle is described as “engraving,” “designing,” and “weaving” (38:23). “Engraving” is a word that is associated with plowing, but it can also refer to remaining silent. The first use of this word was in Gen. 4:22 where the cultural achievements of the descendents of Cain are recorded. The building of the tabernacle is a reversal of that curse. The same word is used to describe how the names of Israel were to be engraved on the shoulder stones of the priest’s garment (Ex. 28:11). But it is also used a number of times to refer to remaining silent in times of crisis or tension as a strategy for deliverance as in Ex. 14:14 where the Lord promises to fight for Israel (cf. Gen. 34:5, Josh. 2:1, Jdg. 16:2, 1 Sam. 23:9). This is the deceptive warfare that the people of God are called to. Israel is this sort of warrior-bride. The word for “weaving” really only shows up one more time in the OT in Ps. 139:15 where David describes how God “knit” him together. This word may also be related to the word for “expanse/firmament” and would tie back to the idea of the tabernacle as the sky, the expanse/firmament which is symbolically what joins heaven and earth.
Conclusions and Applications
The charge last week was from 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul ties together the building of the temple of God with the wisdom of God. Paul says that God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world, and the world’s wisdom is foolishness with God. There Paul warns the Corinthians not to defile the temple of God through worldly wisdom. Every generation is tempted to live and build God’s house with worldly wisdom. We do this by thinking that real power is found in swords and guns and politics. We do this when we think that different traditions, teachers, denominations are a threat to God’s kingdom. We do this when we put our confidence in men (think numbers, money, buildings) rather than Christ.
God is building his kingdom in this world, and he is building it with us. This kingdom began as a stone that will grow up into a mountain that will fill the whole world (Dan. 2:44-45). The fact that God is using us is already a sign that God’s wisdom is folly with the world. He’s using us with all our failings, all our weaknesses, and all our problems. But furthermore, God’s wisdom has determined that water and preaching and singing and eating and drinking is the means by which he will overrun the world with his grace. We are the armies of God. Israel carried out her warfare through building the tabernacle, and carrying out the work of the tabernacle (Ex. 38:8). Likewise, we are the victorious warrior-bride of God. Therefore believe this and live this.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that you would continue to build us up into your house and temple. We pray for our community and the people of Greer and Greenville, SC in particular that you would establish your kingdom here through the prayers, praises, and feasting of your people.