Think of the most important, powerful, and well respected person in the world. Let’s say this person is so wealthy and powerful and good, that you are a bit awed by them. Now, what if he or she told you that they are coming to live with you; camping out in your house for as long as you have life? Would you fix up a room? Would you completely redo the whole house? Would you seek financial help to make a space suitable for such an important house guest; a space that is large enough; opulent enough; important enough? Or would you leave things the way they are? If it is good enough for you and all that.
Exodus 25:1-9 is the first instruction Moses receives as he is on top of the mountain, in the Presence of Yahweh. Moses is to tell the people to take up a contribution; a word that implies an offering for sacred use. This is to be done for God and it is to be a heart compelled offering. It is interesting that God does not set a tax or a tithe here. This is a sacred offering taken up to build a sacred space for Yahweh to dwell. God didn’t want it to be about duty. He wanted the people to be moved on the inside – inspired and motivated by their heart – to take up enough materials. This gives us a glimpse at the heart of God doesn’t it? Yahweh desires his people to respond, inwardly incited to action. God is always aiming at the heart.
They are told to take up precious metals, which are listed in the order of greatest value to the lesser value: Gold, silver, and bronze (or copper). All dyed garments were expensive, but these may also be listed by descending value, blue (or violet), then purple and finally scarlet which comes from coccus ilicis worms. Gradwohl states that it took twelve thousand murex snails to yield 1.4 grams of pure dye of violet color. All of these dyes come from natural sources – purple being rendered from a shellfish. Fine linen is most likely Egyptian linen, which was acknowledged across the known world to be the best linen. Goat’s hair probably refers to natural, undyed wool. Then we have rams’ skins which were dyed red. Porpoise skin is literally “sea cow” skin, referring to a dugong which is a large herbivorous mammal found in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Acacia wood is a hard, durable wood, found in the Sinai peninsula. They would need olive oil for lamps. The instructions for making incense out of spices is found in Exodus 30:34-36. The setting stones may represent the two stones to be set on the shoulders of the ephods. If this be the case, the stones would need to be engravable.
So, where would these desert wanderers find all of these materials? In Exodus 12:35-36, the people asked the Egyptians for articles of gold and silver and for clothes. The Egyptians gave what was requested; glad to be rid of them. In chapter 17 the Israelites also defeated the Amalekites, which usually includes the taking of spoils. Some resources, such as Acacia wood, sea-cow skins, etc. could be gathered up during their wanderings. Basically, all of these things were provided to the Israelites by God. So, really, this is a request to give back what God had blessed them with. Isn’t this still the case?
The heart of this passage is verse 8, though verse 9 seems to receive most of the attention. All of these materials are so that they can build Yahweh a sacred place. And why would Yahweh need a sacred space? Because he intends to dwell among them. The consuming fire is coming to dwell among them; the Presence which is terrifyingly holy is asking them to build him an elaborate tent so that he can be right there with them. He will give them the plans for the construction. He is not willing to leave the details up to them. They don’t know what holiness requires. That they follow the pattern is extremely important, but it pales compared to the idea that Yahweh is pitching his tent among them.
Now, here is an amazing thought: God dwells inside of you. That makes you the Tabernacle of God. Have you created a sacred space for the Awesome and Holy God? Sometimes I wonder if I am not guilty of hastily sweeping what could hardly be described as sacred. There is good news here yet. I cannot make myself sacred; worthy of the Presence pitching a tent inside of me. The blood of Christ washes me clean and makes me sacred. And because of that blood, I have a sacred space for Yahweh, the devastatingly holy God. And the pattern is set by God. Though this is indeed true, we still want to be careful about how we treat God’s sacred space. You see, I don’t want to be guilty of dirtying up what Christ has washed clean. Keep it sacred brothers and sisters. Keep it sacred! Peace Walter.