Opening Prayer: Kind Father, we come before you once again and ask you for your Spirit to be with us now. We know that the Spirit pours out your wisdom and knowledge and understanding. And we confess that we need those things desperately. We live in a day and in a culture that has rejected your wisdom and delights in incoherence and confusions. Open our eyes to see, give us clear thinking minds, and enable us to walk before you faithfully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
Today we come to the completion of the construction of the tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments. Just as the first creation was concluded with the blessing of God, so too this new creation of Israel concludes with the blessing of God.
Priest as Tabernacle
The priestly garments are the same colors and fabrics as the tabernacle itself. The tabernacle curtains, veil, and screen are made of blue, purple, and scarlet threads (36:8, 35-37). So too are the garments of the priest (39:1), the ephod (39:2), the breastplate (39:8), the pomegranates on the hem (39:24), and the sash (39:29). Like the tabernacle, the priest also has precious metals worked into his uniform: gold threads woven into artistic designs on the ephod (39:3, 5). The word for “beat/hammered” (39:2) is related the word for the firmament (Gen. 1:6), and strikingly, the golden thread is said to be worked “in the midst” of the blue, “in the midst” of the purple, “in the midst” of the scarlet thread just as the firmament is said to be placed “in the midst of the waters” (Gen. 1:6). Like the curtains of the tabernacle, the shoulder straps are “coupled together” (39:4). The High Priest is a walking, miniature tabernacle. Remember that we noted previously that the High Priest’s garments are like armor: e.g. the breastplate, shoulder guards, and the robe which is like a coat of mail (39:23). If the High Priest is a warrior, then the tabernacle is a military fortress. Yahweh is teaching his people how to wage war.
The phrase “as the Lord had commanded Moses” is repeated throughout chapters 39-40. It occurs 7 times in chapter 39 and 7 times in chapter. 40. This is surely a double emphasis on the completion of the work, and that this work is the completion of a new creation. The first seven instances of “as the Lord had commanded Moses” refer specifically to elements of the priestly garments, the second set of seven refer to elements of the tabernacle. This reinforces the idea that the priest is a walking tabernacle, and vice versa, we can say that the tabernacle is meant to represent man restored to fellowship with God, humanity walking with God in the garden. The tabernacle is a person filled with the glory-cloud-presence of God, and it pictures what God always intended to do to every individual. This is why Christ can be said to have come and “tabernacled” with us (Jn. 1:14). In Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19). Lastly, the blessing of 39:43 is clearly an allusion to Gen. 1:31-2:3, and it means that the work is finished. And this is why we go out from here with the blessing of God week after week.
Conclusions & Applications
We serve the God who completes what he starts. He has begun a good work in you as individuals, as families, and as a congregation. But notice how God delights to finish the project: he does it by bringing us into the community where the completed project is present. The tabernacle was a picture of the completed project, a picture of people walking with God, drawing near without dying. Christ is the fulfillment of that picture, the true tabernacle of God to which we draw near and in whom we walk with God.
But God calls us to faith in the midst of life that always needs finishing. Maybe you feel the need for completion in your marriage, in your children, in your parents, in your work, in the church, in your friends, wherever. God calls those things which are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). You serve the God whose word is more important than the way things look. You serve the God whose word always finishes what he starts. The New Covenant means that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it. Just as God created the world in the beginning, calling light out of darkness, Jesus is our sure confidence that God is in the process of remaking this world. And that includes our marriages, our children, our families, our neighborhoods, even the world. Therefore, imitate your God: let your words and actions be done in faith, acting as though God’s Word is sure and true even if the whole world looks the opposite.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Concluding Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask you to give us faith in the midst of the many things that are unfinished. We know that you have been pleased to call us as though we are finished, and we rejoice in this grace and ask for more.