Not too long ago, I told my mom that she and my dad could come and live with us. This was not the first time the offer had been made and I really didn’t expect her to jump all over it. The North Dakota winters scare her. But if they were out of options and they decided to come here, we would have to prepare for them to move in. We would have to make the house more accessible to people who cannot handle stairs anymore. We would have to put a chair lift because there are no living quarters on the main floor. We would have to make some changes to one of the rooms and possible to a bathroom. Having people come live with you takes preparation and change. The amount of preparation and change may depend on the new residents, but it always involves working on making things ready. So, have you prepared a space for Yahweh to live with you?
There is nothing new in Exodus 36:8-38. The instructions for making the Tabernacle were given in chapter 26 and now we are told about the actual work. There are a few omissions, but nothing that would cause concern or even a blink of an eye. Just because some people may want to check on those omissions and decide for themselves whether they are important, which I highly recommend, they are as follows: 26:12-13 (some obscure instructions about overlapping or half curtains); 26:30 (a reminder to follow the instructions given to Moses); and 26:33-35 (instructions about the placement of the ark of testimony, the table, and the lampstand – items which have not yet been built). Everything else is very similar.
There is some discussion about verse 8. The first part of the verse mentions the workers and the verbs are plural. The last part of the verse tells us that Bezalel made them (the items just mentioned) and the following verbs are singular. Maybe the author got a bit confused. Maybe there was this redactor who didn’t pay enough attention to his material and who actually made the Tabernacle and its furniture. But the reality is that for the Jews there would have been no confusion or cause to write volumes about source materials and apparent contradictions (something for which some people are ardently searching for). Bezalel was put in charge of the whole operation. It was normal to begin by mentioning all the workers as a group and then from then on saying Bezalel as the representative of the group. Everything done by these skilled workers is lumped under Bezalel because he is in charge. We do the same thing. We talk about buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright built understanding that he didn’t do all the actual work. He was the architect; the brain behind the work. Hmm. When we are the leader of a ministry we just may have our name attached to the work; all of the work. Onward hoe.
So, what do you do with a significant passage of scripture that contains nothing new? I would like to talk about building a space for Yahweh to live. The Israelites were grieved to find out that their dalliance with the golden calf meant the loss of God’s presence; the loss of covenant relationship. Now, God has renewed covenant and has once again deigned to dwell among them, in their very midst. But does that just happen? I mean, it could. Does God need a tent to dwell with Israel? The Tabernacle was a physical symbol of a spiritual reality. But maybe there was something else going on here as well. Maybe God wanted them to work on creating space. Maybe he wanted them to sacrifice monetary gifts, skill and time. Maybe he wanted them to understand that Presence should not be taken lightly. Maybe this is why when we arrive at 36:8, we are not simply told, “And they built the Tabernacle according to the instructions found in chapter 26.” Future generations are going to need to be reminded that the Presence demands preparation and change; sacrifice and attention.
You and I live under the new covenant; the covenant that has transformed us into the temple of God. We are saved by grace and that has led many to assume that the preparation and change are no longer important; that sacrifice and attention to instruction, can be written off as works and therefore contrary to grace. Bonhoeffer calls this cheap grace; a grace that relies upon justification of sin, but not of the sinner; a grace that claims salvation without discipleship. I think we are still called upon to prepare a space for Yahweh to dwell with us. Isn’t this the message of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Preparation! Change! Yahweh wants you to be his temple. Any amount of preparation and change is worth the I Am dwelling in you. Make room! Peace.