Opening Prayer: Almighty and Gracious God, we are your house, your temple, your dwelling place. Therefore we ask that you would fill us with your glory-spirit. Come and dwell with us now, and impress your image upon us through your Word, Amen!
We come at last to the end of the book of Exodus. The chapter opens confirming that the erection of the tabernacle is in fact a new creation, the beginning of a new world: the tabernacle is set up on the first day of the first month (40:2).
The New World
The fact that the text repeats the day on which the tabernacle was raised means it’s important for us to catch (40:2, 17). We noted the similarities between the Moses and Noah previously (Ex. 33-34), and the beginning of Moses’ life had an explicit correlation to the story of the flood in the word “ark” (cf. Ex. 2:3). But this chronological placement on the first day of the first month is the same point at which Noah removed the covering on the ark and saw that the earth was dry (Gen. 8:13). This also reminds us of the Passover, in that the Passover was to be celebrated beginning on the 10th day of the first month. This means that the tabernacle is finished exactly one year after Israel left Egypt (cf. 40:17), getting ready for their first anniversary celebration of Passover. This temporal placement emphasizes all the great contrasts between Pharaoh and Yahweh. This is a new world.
Filling the House
After the tent is constructed, the furniture is brought in starting from the center and working outward (40:3-7). Everything gets anointed and consecrated (40:9-15); this once again emphasizes the continuity between the tabernacle and Aaron and his sons. Notice that what God commands runs parallel to what Moses does and what happens: God command Moses to arrange the tabernacle (vv. 3-8), and commands Moses to anoint/wash everything (vv. 9-15). Then Moses arranges everything (vv. 18-33), and God’s glory cloud comes and fills the tabernacle to lead Israel (vv. 34-38). In other words, the anointing/washing of the tabernacle and its utensils (and people!) corresponds to the spirit-glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. This has a clear NT antecedent in the close association between baptism and the Holy Spirit (e.g. Acts 2:38, 1 Cor. 12:13). When we anoint in obedience to God’s commands, God’s Spirit confirms by filling.
Filling the House
The use of the word “house” is a key term throughout the book of Exodus: Jacob is recorded as having come down into Egypt with his sons’ “houses” (Ex. 1:1), the midwives are blessed and given “houses” for their faithfulness (1:21), blood is put on the doorposts of the “houses” of Israel in the Passover (12:7), Egypt is called the “house” of slavery (20:2), and of course much of the second half of the book is concerned with building the “house” of Yahweh. Interestingly, the tabernacle is never explicitly called the “house” of Yahweh. Israel is supposed to bring offerings to his “house” (23:19, 34:26), but the word “house” is otherwise only used to describe certain materials used to build the tabernacle, as an architectural term often translated as “inside” or “holder” (e.g. 25:11, 25:27, 26:29, etc.). The tabernacle clearly is a “house,” but Exodus closes, the “house” having been completed, explicitly insisting that the people Israel are the “house” (40:38). All the concern with the tabernacle is really concern with Israel. The “arrangement of the furniture” is really a concern for Israel’s heart, her whole-hearted worship and service of the Lord.
Applications & Conclusions
Two things: How is the furniture of your heart arranged? How is your family’s house put together? This works both as an exhortation and as an encouragement. The exhortation is to pattern your lives after the true tabernacle, the Lord Jesus: pursue beauty and glory in your homes. But the encouragement is that if the tabernacle is in your midst then God promises to accomplish that re-creation in you and in your family. God promises to give you the wisdom of the Hebrew midwives, the wisdom of Bezalel and Aholiab. He promises to give you the Spirit of wisdom.
The Holy Spirit was sent into the tabernacle to lead the children of Israel in all their travels, in all their journeys. It was not Moses who lead them in all their journeys; he had been driven out of the tabernacle. It was the Spirit who lead them. This is God’s pattern: first Moses then the Spirit, first Jesus then the Spirit. There is something bound into the character of God that delights in teaching people to walk in faith and live by the Spirit.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Gracious Father, we call upon you to give us that Spirit that you poured out on Bezalel and Aholiab that we might make our homes and our hearts holy and beautiful. Teach us to order our ways after your ways. Make us love the things that you love and hate the things that you hate. Grant that your Spirit might continually remake us. We give you thanks for what you have already done and trust you for the rest.