• The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 29 focuses on Exodus 35:1-40:38.
Heath A. Kirkwood, Lead Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lorena
With great care, the Israelites commenced and completed construction of the Tent of Meeting. It is easy to be lost in the details and miss the significance of completion: The tabernacle was erected just shy of a year following Israel’s departure from Egypt, and nine months after arriving at Sinai (Nahum Sarna, Exodus, 235).
The seemingly distant relationship between Yahweh and Israel would soon be brought closer as their God would now dwell among them. With our present understanding of God’s Spirit dwelling inside the believer, we must realize that to these people such closeness could not even be fathomed.
Verse 42 leaves no room for question. All was accomplished down to the most precise detail of God’s blueprint. The great finish of this significant task now ushered a fresh beginning of God meeting his people. Biblical scholars even point to this event as an allusion to the Creation story.
One may see Moses’ inspection compared to God’s observation of his handiwork in Genesis, noting that each part met the divine checklist. In light of this, Moses then offered the blessing, which rabbinical tradition notes in this phrase: “May the divine spirit rest upon the work of your hands” (Sarna, Exodus, 235).
Consider God’s blessing for faithful completion. His architectural plans were perfect, yet these would only be paper drawings without the obedience of the people. Does God affirm his desire for obedience? How important is “finishing” to God?
Our study references verses 1-4 specifically, however one may see the lengthy task of assembly stretching into verse 33. Just when we might think the “real work” is over, it actually is just beginning. So, Moses’ blessing in the previous section may have served as an exhortation to continue and complete the task.
Notice the specificity continues with the placement of each element. For this section, it may be good to research a quality diagram or virtual image of the Tent of Meeting. Attention to detail is clearly a key component to this part of the story, and we should respond to this by keeping a watchful eye.
With the stage set, it is time for the show, complete with a holy “fog machine” (so to speak) that let the people know of God’s arrival. Even though they previously fooled themselves into thinking of a golden calf as their god, Yahweh’s glorious arrival removed all doubt in each Israelite’s mind that he was real and present.
It is good to consider how God’s presence both covered the tent and filled the tent. While this would be his traveling place to live among the people, this realization reminds us God cannot be contained by human creation. Encourage your group to talk about the physical and spiritual nature of how God “covers” and “fills.”
Notice even Moses could not come close to God’s glory. The thickness of his glory points to God’s holiness and how even the most devout follower is unable to approach him (Peter Enns, Exodus, 599). What do we learn from wrestling with the fact that God is close and God is holy?
God’s cloud was not just his presence; it still served as Israel’s direction. Like a good game of “follow the leader,” Israel’s obedience and reliance on God would be proven by how well they followed. Even with the Tent of Meeting completed, their journey still was far from completion.
This mobility is a good reminder to us of God’s guidance. In a desert journey, the people needed his leading. Today we do not usually see God in a cloud-like form, yet we require his guidance. Ask your group, How do we sense God’s presence? If his presence led Israel, surely his presence still leads the believer.
With this lesson, we conclude the mass exodus of the nation of Israel, but we are only beginning in what would prove to be a long journey to the land of promise. If there is any constant relationship, it is that of God and his people. One must see that this is the key component of the biblical narrative: God is showing himself to his people.
The notion that God is real but distant is eradicated in this grand story. Even more, we may be grateful God did not think the Tent of Meeting would be the final step to drawing close to humanity. This final account is a part of the journey to God showing himself as Immanuel (God with us).
What does the book of Exodus teach us about God’s desire? How should we learn from Israel’s encounters with God? Like the people, we too have a journey ahead of us that should include getting to know our God more closely. His presence led them, and his presence will lead us.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.