“Tell the people of Israel to take up a collection for me – accept a contribution from anyone who
wholeheartedly wants to give” (Exodus 24:3).
The portion of T’rumah (contribution) begins the intricate narrative focusing on the
construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness; instructions that will account for one-third (1/3rd)
of the Book of Exodus itself; and as Moses elaborates on the pattern revealed to him on Mt. Sinai
(Ex. 25:9), ultimately hundreds of verses will describe its construction and purpose – a purpose that
will serve Israel for nearly five hundred years.
It is easy to overlook, or even ignore, the complex details that are recorded to ensure that the
Tabernacle is built to the exact specifications of heaven. With something that long ago slipped into
the history of Israel, do we really need to consider these details at all? While it is beyond the scope of
this article, and a series of articles, to examine in detail the meaning of the elements of the Tabernacle,
we do note its importance by simple comparison.
The Torah opens in Genesis 1 with the account of creation. In this chapter we find the
beginning of all things – the heaven, the earth and all their array – described in thirty-four verses. By
comparison, the Tabernacle and its ministry, which inhabited but the tiniest speck of creation, is
detailed in fifty chapters. Why is the Tabernacle given such attention? Is it of greater importance
than creation itself? Not greater importance, just a different importance. Creation is a general
revelation of the majesty, sovereignty and glory of the Lord, as we read in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens
declare the glory of God, the dome of the sky speaks the work of his hands.” The Tabernacle is part of His
special revelation to man, specifically covenant man; and its purpose is to change the heart of man
who is living and working in His creation.
When we consider the flow of the narrative from Exodus 24 to Exodus 25, something
seems to be amiss. The rabbinic sages noted that Exodus 25 appeared to be the cure sent before the
illness of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32:1, “When the people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come
down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get busy; and make us gods to go ahead of
us; because this Moses, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt – we don’t know what has become of
him.” Aaron then receives contributions of gold from people whose hearts were motivated to give to
this cause – the cause to manufacture the Golden Calf.
Why place the cure before the illness, textually speaking? At times it is not necessarily what
you are saying that has the greatest impact, but rather, the order in which you are saying it. For
future generations of God’s covenant people, to read of the molding of the Golden Calf, and the
plague that resulted, might have become a stumbling block of fear in light of so great a
transgression. Nevertheless, by placing the instructions for the Tabernacle, with its furnishings,
offerings and sacrifices ministering reconciliation before the record of the Golden Calf,
demonstrated that His forgiveness, grace and mercy is greater than our transgression.
The sin of the Golden Calf began as an issue of covetousness – thus violating the tenth
commandment. This transgression led Israel to violate the second commandment – that of idolatry.
In both cases we find a heart issue. The hearts of the covenant people desired a visible god to go
before them, revealing that an idol had already crept into the “holy of holies” in their hearts and
established itself in the place of the covenant Lord. To remedy this, atonement had to be made and
the hearts of the people had to be changed – the ministry of the Brazen Altar.
When building a house, the standard practice is to first build the foundation and then add
the furnishings. As the Lord reveals the Tabernacle, He does not reveal the boards or coverings of
the Tabernacle, but what will be placed in the most sacred of locations – the Ark of the Covenant in
the Holy of Holies. This is the place where the blood on the Day of Atonement will be sprinkled,
the stones of the commandments will be set, where the light of the Lord is the only light, and where
the two cherubim, those armed angels guarding the way into the Garden (Genesis 3:24), will be still
in the presence of atonement. Here we see, in type, the changing of the heart by blood covering and
The Tabernacle is built by contributions from those who hearts moved them to give (Ex.
25:1), just as the Golden Calf was created by the stirring of motivated hearts to contribute. While the
Golden Calf led to exaltation, partying (Ex. 32:4-6) and ultimately despair, the pattern of the
Tabernacle leads to reconciliation by the symbolic death of those approaching the holy one of Israel
and ultimately joy.
The Tabernacle demonstrates to us that our first love must, in fact, be first. When the
children of Israel wholeheartedly contributed of their treasure to the construction of the Tabernacle,
they were placing their treasure where their hearts desired to be – and in that place the Lord would
“dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). Messiah said, “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths
and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth
nor rest destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
Israel shows us that any attempt to replace the covenant Lord with something of our own
creation will only end in failure and heartache. How can we determine where our treasure is? Where
our first love is? We must ask ourselves this question, “To what do we flee when things go wrong?”
Do we flee to the Lord? Or do we flee from Him?
The record of the Tabernacle reminds us that our treasure is and is with the Lord; Who
redeemed us, provides for us, and Who mercifully waits for us even while we are yet far off, “For
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
May our hearts be ever changed by the shedding of the blood of Messiah, this grace shown
to us before our need was recognized by our minds, or our hearts desired for Who it truly lacked.