The Tabernacle Chapter 2: The Materials
Every structure of historical significance contains details which represent the personality of the designer, or society. Structures of this magnitude are often erected to last forever. For some reason God designed His earthly sanctuary as a temporary structure. One reason is, the entire structure and its contents were carried from location to location for nearly forty years. There must have been a spiritual explanation far deeper than anyone has yet to imagine, explaining why the Tabernacle was carried by the Levites. Another reason may be the fact, the Tabernacle was a symbol of the Heavenly Sanctuary. A third reason may be, one day when the earth is made new, not a single possession ever held by any person will be found in the world once it has been recreated. Maybe the temporary existence of the Tabernacle reminds us of this fact.
There are a number of interesting points included in the construction of God’s Tabernacle on earth. One of the most unusual may be that, the construction details are listed twice. You can find the details listed in Exodus chapters 25, 26, and 27, and also in Exodus chapters 35, 36 and 37. It is advisable to read these chapters to gain a better understanding. Each will be studied in detail.
God must have a very good reason for dedicating a number of chapters to the materials used in the Tabernacle. These chapters include detailed information on size, shape, materials, color, and arrangement of the items. Numbers chapter 4, provides detailed instructions for the disassembly, and packing of the items for transportation.
The best place to begin a study of the Tabernacle is found in the book of Exodus. God already knows the design, and has a list of materials required. The Tabernacle was constructed in the middle of the wilderness while Israel wandered from Egypt to the promised land, know as Canaan. I’m not sure if the wilderness was a desert, wooded, or a combination of landscapes. The fact remains, the land could have only supplied a small amount of the materials required.
Some of the materials included, wood, linen, iron, bronze, silver, gold, and precious stones. Where did the Israelites get all the materials, and tools required to fashion the various items?
Exodus 3:22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.
You might say, the Israelites labored four hundred years for the equipment, tools, and materials to build the Tabernacle. This fact reveals another important fact concerning the Tabernacle which must be considered while studying the subject.
Israel was enslaved in Egypt four hundred years. We can assume they worked for little more than food, water, basic clothing and housing. Before revealing any plans involving the Exodus, God told Moses about the plan to collect materials for His Tabernacle.
Israel labored four hundred years, building roads, clearing fields, planting crops, tending flocks and herds, cleaning houses, and maybe even building some of the national treasures that still exist in Egypt today. Imagine working long hot hours under the burning sun, enduring a lifetime of abuse and ridicule.
The life of a slave was not an easy one. The Egyptians used taskmasters to control the slaves. Taskmasters were Israelites appointed by the Egyptians as slave drivers. For a higher rank, better food, clothing, and housing, the taskmasters turned against their own people to serve their masters, the Egyptians.
The lowest slaves lead the harshest lives. Many of them were starved, or beaten to death. The Egyptians feared the growth in numbers of the Israelites, therefore their lives were accounted as less than an animal.
Masters could beat their slaves at will. Before the Exodus, the order had been given, all male children were to be executed at birth. This left Israel at the mercy of their masters, whose cruel hearts cared nothing for the well being of the slaves under their control.
Powers controlling Egypt had already spread fear throughout the nation, claiming Israel was a threat. Fear can be a very motivating factor. It is also a tool used by Satan to exterminate those who stand against him. Fear bread prejudice. Satan and his agents filled the eager ears of the Egyptians with distorted images of national pride. The Egyptians were convinced, social order, and the security of their nation depended upon the inhuman treatment of the Israelites.
The slightest offenses were met with the harshest punishments. Satan’s agents introduced the cruelest and most bazaar forms of punishment to the minds of the masters. Slaves were often beaten, and executed for sport. When the Egyptians were fully given to Satan’s desires, God heard the cry of His children. It was time to raise up a leader, from the heart of the royal courts built by the Israelite slaves. Moses was God’s choice. An Israelite adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh.
It is ironic to consider the fact, Israelite slaves constructed a number of temples dedicated to the many gods worshipped by the Egyptians. When the time had come to free Israel, the women collected spoils from all the houses of the Egyptians as payment. No one worships the gods those temples were dedicated to. But the materials collected as payment was used to build the Tabernacle dedicated to the Savior of the world.
Why were the materials for the Tabernacle collected only by the Israelite women? There may be a number of reasons to speculate upon, but no direct reason is supplied. The Bible does however tell us, the materials for the Tabernacle were donated by both men, and women.
Exodus 36:5-7 And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. (6) And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. (7) For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.
Moses must have been very surprised, and satisfied to experience the cooperation of all the people. What prompted such an unprecedented outpouring of unselfish dedication? We can assume, the Israelites may have felt it was much easier to donate the material, than carry it through the wilderness, but at that point, the Israelites believed they were only days away from the promised land. They must have been tempted with visions of entering the promised land as rich aristocrats, to live out a life in luxury.
To put this into perspective we have to review a few previous chapters. God had already given the ten commandments to Israel by direct oral communication. Moses then went up into the mountain to meet with God, and receive the law written in stone. While he was in the mountain, meeting with God, he also received instructions for the Tabernacle. At the same time Israel was donating their golden earrings to produce a molten calf. Upon his return, Moses melted the calf down, pounded it into dust, cast it into water, and made the people drink it.
This is another spiritual lesson. When gold is absorbed by a thinner, such as water, it turns red. The most expensive paints are red, because of the amount of gold dissolved in the thinner.
When Moses returned with the second set of commandments, written in stone, the request for materials was announced. The results were beyond all human expectations.
When we think of the Exodus, we often remember the mistakes made by the people. The times they cried to Moses for meat, and water. The foolish statements they made. How many times did they say to Moses, “it would have been better if we died in Egypt.” Donating materials for God’s Tabernacle was one of the few positive stories included in the books of Moses, which describe the journey.
The Spirit must have been working overtime to impress them with the importance of the Tabernacle. Physically the Tabernacle represented the dwelling place of God on earth. Spiritually, it represented the life, and actions of the Savior of the world. Like the life of Jesus, there was not to be one missing item. No detail was to be overlooked.
While Jesus walked this earth, every one of his actions served a purpose in the plan of salvation. His work now continues in the Heavenly Sanctuary, which was the pattern for the earthly Tabernacle. The donation of materials not only illustrates the cooperation between man, and God, it is also an example of man’s cooperation in the work of salvation.
If every one of God’s followers demonstrated the same dedication to the labor of saving souls, as the Israelites displayed with the donation of materials for the Tabernacle, the results would still not be enough. We will never hear the command, let neither man nor woman make any more work for the saving of souls. This is why it is so important to learn to look past the physical, into the spiritual aspects of the Tabernacle and the symbols it contains.
The study of the Tabernacle must be accomplished on two levels, the physical, and the spiritual. The physical is temporary. The physical temple no longer exists. No one has a complete vision of it’s construction. Only Moses saw the pattern of the Heavenly Sanctuary. The physical Tabernacle may have been temporary, but the spiritual symbols, lessons, and the life they point to are eternal.
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