Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
71. The Lord’s Dwelling Place
In the last six chapters of Exodus four things are brought before us. First, mention is made once more of the Sabbath (35:1-3). Second, the people of Israel bring unto Moses all the materials required for the Tabernacle (35:4-29). Third, the setting to work of the appointed artificers with their assistants, and the actual making of the Tabernacle and its furniture (35:30—39:43). Fourth, the setting up of the Tabernacle and the glory of the Lord filling His house in Israel’s midst (40). Nearly all that we have mentioned in 35-39 is a recapitulation of what has been before us in 25-31. As we pointed out in article 33 of this series, what we find in Exodus 25-31 is a description of the Tabernacle as it was given by Jehovah Himself directly to Moses in the mount; whereas 35-39 records what was actually made according to the pattern shown to Moses. Typically, this double account of that which, in every part, prefigured Christ, tells us that all which was originally planned in Heaven shall yet be accomplished on earth.
That which is central and distinctive about our present lengthy passage is the actual setting up of Jehovah’s dwelling-place in the midst of His redeemed people. Before we attempt to bring out something of the deep and rich spiritual significance of this, a few remarks need to be made upon the opening sections of Exodus 35. In vv. 21-29 we behold the children of Israel bringing an offering unto the Lord, giving to Him of their substance. At the beginning of 36 we see the appointed artificers actively engaged in their work, the work of the Lord. But before these, at the very beginning of 35, mention is made of the sabbath as "a rest unto the Lord," in which no work was to be done. The doctrinal significance of this is: before we are fitted to work for Him, we must rest in Him: before we can bring to Him, we must receive from Him. Most important for our hearts is this seventh and last mention of the sabbath in Exodus. It was Solomon, "a man of rest" (1 Chron. 22), who alone could build a house to Jehovah’s name.
It is to be noted that an additional feature is here added to the Sabbath restriction: "Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day." As another has said, "That speaks of the absence of consideration for one’s own comfort in a natural way. In keeping a true sabbath one is neither occupied with one’s own activity nor with one’s natural consideration." That needs to be borne in mind in this day of fleshly ease and gratification. God’s word to us on this point is: Thou shalt "call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father" (Isa. 58:13, 14).
In its deeper spiritual significance, this mention of the sabbath and the non-kindling of the fire in our dwelling, coming right after what is recorded at the end of Exodus 34, signifies that the privileges of the new covenant and our enjoyment of the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, calls for the setting aside of the desires of the flesh. Only as we rest in God, and only as we give heed to that word, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:5), shall we be free to enter into the enjoyments and employments of the new-creation realm. On the other hand, the words "six days shall work be done" announce very distinctly that nought connected with our natural responsibility is to be neglected.
The second thing we have in Exodus 35 is the people’s response to Jehovah’s invitation in 25:1, 2. There we read, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take My offering." The materials out of which the Tabernacle was made were to be provided by the voluntary offerings of devoted hearts. Most blessed is it to read what is said in 35:21, 22, "And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and for all His service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man offered an offering of gold unto the Lord." No unwilling donors were these, who had to be begged and urged to give. Spontaneously, freely, joyfully, did they avail themselves of their privilege.
Commenting on what has just been before us, Mr. Dennett has well said: "It is therefore of the first importance to remember that everything offered to God must proceed from hearts made willing by His Spirit, that it must be spontaneous, not the result of persuasion or of external pressure, but from the heart. The church of God would have been in a very different state today if this had been remembered. What has wrought more ruin than the many worldly schemes of raising money? and what more humbling than the fact that solicitations of all kinds are used to induce the Lord’s people to offer their gifts? Moses was content with announcing that the Lord was willing to receive, and he left this gracious communication to produce its suited effect upon the hearts of the children of Israel. He needed not to do more; and if saints now were in the current of God’s thoughts they would imitate the example of Moses, and would shun the very thought of obtaining even the smallest gift, except it were presented willingly, and from the heart, as the effect of the working of the Spirit of God. And let it be remarked, that there was no lack; for in the next chapter we find that the wise men who wrought came to Moses and said, ‘The people bring much more than enough’ (36:5-7).
"If the first Pentecostal days be excepted, there has probably never been seen anything answering to this even in the history of the church. The chronic complaint now is concerning the insufficiency of means to carry on the Lord’s work. But it cannot be too often recalled—first, that the church of God is never held responsible to obtain means; secondly, that if the Lord gives work to do, He Himself will lay it upon the hearts of His people to contribute what is necessary; thirdly, that we are travelling off the ground of dependence, and acting according to our own thoughts, if we undertake anything for which the needful provision has not already been made; and lastly, that gifts procured by human means can seldom be used for blessing."
It is very beautiful to note the relation between the two things which have now been before us: first, the keeping of the sabbath; second, the bringing of an offering unto the Lord, an offering which was the outflow of a heart "stirred up." First the resting in, delighting itself in the Lord, then the affections drawn out towards Him. This too finds its accomplishment on new-covenant-ground. It is a redeemed people, a people who behold the glory of the Lord, that are devoted to His cause. The giving of their substance is not a legal thing, a mere matter of duty, but a privilege and a joy. Here too it is the love of Christ which "constraineth." We love Him because He first loved us, and we delight to give because He first gave to us. Nothing so moves the heart as the contemplation of the love and grace of God as now revealed to us in the glorified Mediator. In article 34 we have already pointed out the typical significance of each part of Israel’s offerings; so we pass on now to notice, briefly, the work of the artificers.
Upon the two principal workmen, Bezaleel and Aholiab, we have already commented in article 57. There we dwelt upon the significance of the workmen’s names, the equipping of them for their appointed tasks, and the particular service allotted them. Here we read, "Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded" (36:1). Note carefully the opening word, and also the expression "every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work" in v. 2. Ah, wherever there is a spirit of devotion, manifested by a free and liberal offering unto the cause of God, He will not be backward in raising up qualified workers, whose hearts have been stirred by His Spirit, to make a wise and God-glorying use of His peoples’ gifts.
But let us now seek to take note of the connection between this third item and what has gone before. First we have had the sabbath, the soul resting in God; second, we have had the free will offering of the people, the heart’s affections drawn out to the Lord. Now we get active work. This puts service in its true position. Occupying as it does the third place, it shows us that acceptable service to God can only proceed from those who have passed from death unto life. Following, as it does, the other two, it intimates that the vital prerequisites for service are, delighting ourselves in the Lord and the affections flowing forth unto Him. Only then can we truly "abound in the work of the Lord." Anything else is either the outcome of the restless energy, of the flesh, or is merely "bricks" produced under the whip of taskmasters.
There is one detail given us here that has not come before us in the previous chapters. "And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose hearts stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair" (35:25, 26). This brings in the thought of co-operation in the Lord’s work: the sisters have their place and part too. Yet note it is a subordinate place: they "spun," not provided the material. The character of their work also shows us the legitimate sphere of their labors—in the home.
"And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate" (35:27). The leaders set the people a godly example. This is as it should be. But, alas, how often is it otherwise. The preacher who sets before his people the teaching of Scripture on the subject of stewardship and the privilege of giving to the cause of God, but who is miserly himself, is not an honest man: he says one thing, but does another. God’s word to pastors is, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works" (Titus 2:7).
Before turning to the 39th chapter, there is one detail in the 38th which should be noted. In v. 21 we read, "This is the sum of the Tabernacle, even of the tabernacle of testimony, as it was counted, according to the commandment of Moses." Then we are told, "All the gold that was occupied for the work... was twenty and nine talents... and the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents," etc. (vv. 24, 25). This conveys to us a most important practical lesson in connection with the work of the Lord. Everything was counted, weighed, numbered. What attention to detail was this! "People talk of essentials and nonessentials, but when they do, you may be sure they are only thinking of man’s side. Every detail of the divine mind is essential to the glory of God in Christ. A missing peg would mean a slack cord, and a slack cord would mean a curtain out of place, and so the disorder would spread. Indeed the whole tabernacle would suffer if one detail were out of place" (C. A. Coates).
In the 39th chapter of Exodus the work of the Tabernacle is finished. Blessed is it to note that all was done "as the Lord commanded Moses." Mark how this expression occurs eight times in that chapter: vv. 1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, 43; while in vv. 32, 42 it is added, "and the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they . . . According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work." "The Lord had given the most minute instruction concerning the entire work of the tabernacle. Every pin, every socket, every loop, every tach, was accurately set forth. There was no room left for man’s expediency, his reason, or his common sense. Jehovah did not give a great outline and leave man to fill it up. He left no margin whatever in which man might enter his regulations. By no means. ‘See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount’ (Ex. 25:40). This left no room for human device. If man had been allowed to make a single pin, that pin would most assuredly have been out of place in the judgment of God. We can see what man’s ‘graving tool’ produces in chapter 32. Thank God, it has no place in the tabernacle. They did, in this matter, just what they were told—nothing more, nothing less. Salutary lesson this for the professing church! There are many things in the history of Israel which we should earnestly seek to avoid,—their impatient murmurings, their legal vows, and their idolatry; but in two things we may imitate them: may our devotedness be more whole-hearted, and our obedience more implicit" (C. H. M.).
Yes, the obedience of Israel is recorded for our learning. We too have received commandment from the Lord concerning the work which He has given us to do. His complete Word is now in our hands, It is to be our guide and regulator in all things. It is given that "the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17). If we desire God’s blessing, then His work must be done according to His appointments. Human expediency, convenience, originality, are to have no place. The approval of God, not that of his fellows, is what every servant of the Lord must continually aim at. Faithfulness, not success, is what our Master requires. The quality of service is to be tested not by visible results, but by its conformity to God’s Word.
There is ore other detail in Exodus 39 which, in its spiritual application to ourselves, is very searching: "And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the lent, and all his furniture, etc . . . And Moses did look upon all the work" (vv. 35, 43). Everything was brought before the typical mediator for his inspection. All had to pass under the scrutiny of his eve. The typical significance of this is obvious. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done whether it be good or had." This does not refer to a general Judgment-day at the end of the world, but to that which follows the Lord’s return for His people, and precedes His coming back to the earth to set up His millennial kingdom.
A further word on this same subject is found in 1 Corinthians 3, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation—gold, silver, precious stones: wood, hay, stubble. Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (vv. 11-15). The reference here is to the Christian’s service: 2 Corinthians 5:10 treats more of his walk. Discrimination is made between two classes of service. On the one band, "gold," the emblem of divine glory; "silver" which speaks of redemption; "precious stones" which are imperishable. Only that which has been done for God’s glory, on the ground redemption, and which will stand the test of fire, shall abide and be rewarded. On the other hand, "wood, hay, stubble," which, though much greater in bulk, will not endure the coming fiery trial. The difference is between qualify and quantity; that which is of the Spirit, and that which is of the flesh.
"And Moses did look upon all the work, and behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them" (39:43). So will Christ in the coming Day. That which has been done in full accord with God’s Word, though despised by man, shall be owned and rewarded of Him. His own words, in the final chapter of Holy Writ, are "And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). In view of this, how earnestly and prayerfully should we heed that exhortation, "And now, little children, abide in Him: that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28).
In the last chapter of Exodus we have the actual setting up of the Tabernacle. Let us take note, first, of the time when it was erected: "And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle" (vv. 1, 2). It was on the anniversary of Israel’s departure from Egypt (12:2). This is very striking. As their deliverance from the house of bondage constituted the commencement of their spiritual history, so the dwelling of Jehovah in their midst marked an altogether new and most blessed stage in their experiences. That which was foreshadowed by this we shall point out later. Its spiritual application to Christians is given in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."
Next we would observe that Moses is the sole actor in this chapter: "And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the pillars thereof, and reared up his pillars" (v. 18). All subordinates disappear from view and only Moses is seen: read vv. 19-33, at the end of which we are told, "so Moses finished the work." The present application of this is given us in Hebrews 3:3-6, "For this Man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. For every house is builded by some man: but He that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
Finally, we read, "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (v. 34). The "then" points back to the "so Moses finished the work" of v. 33. The N. T. equivalent was what took place on the day of Pentecost: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit."
As an appendix to this glorious incident we are told in the closing verse of our book, "For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys." They needed only to keep their eyes on the Cloud. "The Lord thus undertook for His people. He had visited them in their affliction in Egypt: He had brought them out with a high hand and an outstretched arm: and had led them forth through the Red Sea into the wilderness. Now He Himself would lead them ‘by the right way that they might go to a city of habitation.’ Happy.’ we might well exclaim, ‘is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’ For surely there was nothing more wanted to the blessing of Israel. Jehovah was in their midst. The cloud of His presence rested upon, and His glory filled the tabernacle" (Mr. Dennett).
It or by remains for us now to point out the most striking and lovely dispensational picture which is presented before the anointed eye in the last six chapters of Exodus. What is recorded there is that which followed the second descent of Moses from the Mount. In the opening paragraphs of article 61 we called attention to the fact that when Moses was called up unto Sinai to receive from Jehovah the tables of stone (the words of which formed the basis of His new covenant with Israel—the old one being the Abrahamic) Moses descended twice( having, of course, returned thither in the interval): see 32:15; 34:29. What immediately followed these two descents foreshadowed that which shall follow the two stages of the second coming of Christ, as these bear upon the Jews. Just as the first descent of Moses was succeeded by sore judgments on Israel, so the descent of Christ into the air to catch up His saints unto Himself (1 Thess. 4) will be succeeded by the great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob’s trouble. But let us now review that which attended the second descent of Moses. First, he appeared before them with radiant face: type of the glorified Mediator as He will come back to Israel (Col. 3:4). Second, the tables of stone were not broken this time, but deposited and preserved in the ark (Deut. 10:4): so when the Lord Jesus makes the new covenant with Israel, He declares, "I will put My law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts" (Jer. 31:33). Third, this last section of the book of Exodus opens with a reference to the sabbath (35:1-3), telling us that it is in the Millennium when all of this shall be made good. Fourth, the next line in the picture is the hearts of Israel flowing forth unto the Lord in free-will offerings (35:23, 24): the antitype of this is seen in Zephaniah 3:9, 10, "Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My suppliants, even the daughter of My dispersed, shall bring Mine offering." Fifth, next we see Israel engaged in the work of Jehovah, doing all "as He had commanded:" so in Ezekiel 36:27, we read, "And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them." Sixth, the tabernacle was now set up: compare with this, "Behold the Man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord... and He shall bear the Glory" (Zech. 6:13). Seventh, the Lord then dwelt in Israel’s midst: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for. lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord" (Zech. 2:10). Eighth, the glory of the Lord was visibly displayed: "And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day. and the shining of a flaming fire by night: and above all the glory shall be a covering" (Isa. 4:5). May the Lord hasten that glad time.
Thus, in the closing chapter of this book of redemption we behold the full and perfect accomplishment of God’s purpose of grace. Notwithstanding man’s failure, notwithstanding Israel’s sin of the golden calf, notwithstanding the broken tables of stone: in the end, grace superabounded over sin, and all the counsels of God were made good by the typical mediator. In its ultimate application what has been before us points forward to the new earth: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more plague: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:3, 4).