Exodus 40 – The Completion of the Tabernacle
A. God tells Moses how to assemble everything.
1. (1-5) How to arrange the furniture within the tabernacle.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil. You shall bring in the table and arrange the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and light its lamps. You shall also set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the Testimony, and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle.”
a. On the first day of the first month: This indicates that it was a year since Israel came out of Egypt. This was an amazing year in the history of Israel. They could count the great works of God and measure their own spiritual growth.
i. It is fair to use the passing of time to see how far we have come with God. Some Christians never grow much beyond their initial experience with God. Some who have been Christians for 10 years have only the maturity of a one-year-old Christian – they simply repeat their first year over and over again.
b. You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony: The tabernacle had to be built according to pattern and assembled according to pattern.
2. (6-11) How to arrange the items in the courtyard.
“Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. You shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen at the court gate. And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy. And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it.”
3. (12-16) Anointing Aaron and his sons to minister as priests.
“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water. You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did.
a. Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did: The full description of this dedication ceremony for the priests is found in Leviticus 8 and 9.
B. Moses oversees the assembly of the tabernacle.
1. (17-19) The tent of meeting goes up by setting up the boards, covering with the curtains.
And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up. So Moses raised up the tabernacle, fastened its sockets, set up its boards, put in its bars, and raised up its pillars. And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
2. (20-21) The Ark of the Covenant is set in the Most Holy Place, and the veil is set in place.
He took the Testimony and put it into the ark, inserted the poles through the rings of the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung up the veil of the covering, and partitioned off the ark of the Testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
3. (22-23) The table of showbread is put in the Holy Place.
He put the table in the tabernacle of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil; and he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
4. (24-25) The lampstand is put in the Holy Place.
He put the lampstand in the tabernacle of meeting, across from the table, on the south side of the tabernacle; and he lit the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
5. (26-27) The golden altar of incense is put in the Holy Place.
He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil; and he burned sweet incense on it, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
6. (28) The screen is hung at the entrance of the tabernacle.
He hung up the screen at the door of the tabernacle.
7. (29) The brazen altar is put in its place.
And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
8. (30-32) The laver for washing is put in between the altar and the tent.
He set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing; and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it. Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
a. Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed: This describes the priestly use of the laver. They could not properly perform their duties without a ritual cleansing, indicating that God wanted service from pure hands and feet.
b. As the Lord had commanded Moses: In this section (Exodus 36-40), these words (or something similar) are repeated at least 19 times. The obedience had to be complete and exact – and it was.
i. “All things (not some only) are to be made according to the Divine pattern (Hebrews 8:5).” (Thomas)
ii. “It reminds us that Divine work must always be done according to the Divine pattern, and most strictly in the Divine way. The truth is so self evident, that it would seem needless to stress it. Yet a perpetual temptation to the mind of man is to endeavour to improve upon a Divine plan.” (Morgan)
9. (33) The outer court is set up.
And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
a. So Moses finished the work: When the tabernacle was finally assembled, it was an earthly model of a heavenly reality. Since Moses was instructed to build and arrange everything according to pattern, it isn’t surprising that we see elements of this tabernacle arrangement in the Bible’s descriptions of heaven.
· In Revelation 4:1-6, the Ark of the Covenant (representing the throne of God), the lampstand, and the laver all correspond to a heavenly reality.
· In Revelation 8:2-4, the altar of incense in heaven is mentioned.
· In Isaiah 6:1-7, the tabernacle structure is implied by the mention of the temple, and the brazen altar is described.
· In Hebrews 9:23-24, it tells us that at some point in time (after the cross), Jesus entered the heavenly reality represented on earth by the tabernacle, and appeared in the presence of God to offer a perfect atonement for our sins. Therefore, every time before this event, when the High Priest made atonement in the earthly tabernacle, it was “play acting” – and looking forward to – the perfect atonement the Son of God would offer.
C. The glory of God and the tabernacle.
1. (34-35) God’s glory fills the tabernacle.
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
a. The cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle: Obviously, God was pleased with the obedience of Israel. This was not so much because it showed His superiority over them, but it was more so because it proved they really did believe Him and love Him.
i. There is a real and significant connection between the continually mentioned obedience of Moses and Israel (as the Lord had commanded Moses) and this remarkable display of glory. We shouldn’t think that Moses or Israel earned this display of glory because of their obedience; yet their obedience welcomed it.
ii. This is an enduring principle. We don’t earn our rescue, and God doesn’t love us more when we obey. Yet, undeniably, when we walk in God’s light and truth, there is blessing. Proverbs 3:5-6 speaks beautifully to this: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
b. Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it: The same thing happened when Solomon completed and dedicated the temple – the glory of God so filled the temple they couldn’t stay in it (1 Kings 8:10-11).
i. Without the glory, it was just a fancy tent. The same could be said of a church, of a home, or of the human tent.
2. (36-38) God’s glory abides with Israel in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
a. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward: This is beautiful evidence that God did answer Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33:14. God’s presence was with Israel, despite the golden calf debacle.
i. “The book ends with the fulfillment of the promise of Exodus 29:45. YHWH is living among His people: the theology of the presence of God has become the fact of His presence.” (Cole)
b. Throughout all their journeys: The Book of Exodus ends with great hope and trust in God. Though Israel was in the middle of a desolate desert, had fierce enemies in the Promised Land, and was weak and liable to sin and rebellion, God was with them. This gave them great cause for faith and confidence.
i. “To speak of a journey is to look for an arrival: He who has begun a work of salvation for Israel will complete it (Philippians 1:6).” (Cole)
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission