The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins,[a] acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.
10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits[b] and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.
17 “You shall make a mercy seat[c] of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. (Exodus 25:1-22)
We come now to a grand portion of Scripture where several chapters are dedicated to the instructions for the tabernacle. And later in Exodus several chapters are given essentially restating all this material but showing it to be completed by the people of Israel. We find that the details of the tabernacle make up a significant portion of the book of Exodus, and its construction when the Spirit of comes down upon it is in fact the culmination of the book of Exodus. The prominence of this subject indicates to us the importance we are to give to it in understanding it and its place in redemptive history. Upon entering into this portion of Scripture we can see the richness of it, almost to the point of it being overwhelming that we may not even know where to begin; yet its richness is evident. At this point, some have veered off into fruitless historical speculation about the tabernacle and its furniture, while others have rambled on in baseless allegory about all these details. We would like to do neither, for we have not been given a historical tabernacle, but a Scriptural tabernacle; meaning that we are not to speculate on extra-biblical details of the history of it, but deal with the tabernacle that we have in Scripture, which is historical of course. Neither have we been authorized to import our own allegorical meanings into the tabernacle; rather, we are to interpret the details through Scripture and through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
As A. W. Pink said, “The key to the tabernacle is Christ.” By the help of the Holy Spirit, this is what we will do. In so doing we should find that studies upon the Scriptural tabernacle will be for the benefit and blessing of our faith today. These old covenant regulations are not irrelevant to us in the new covenant, for these things spoke of Christ.
We begin this chapter by noting the list of materials that is to be curated for the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture. There is great significance to be drawn from the details of the materials used, that Lord willing, we will see when we arrive at each one as they are addressed specifically for how they are to be used.
The other thing to note is that these materials were to be curated through what could be called a free-will offering. These things were not part of the required tithe laws, but were to be given as each one is moved to give in his heart as we see in verse 2. Yet, while it was a freewill offering, they were not allowed to give just whatever they felt like they wanted to give, but they were to give the specific materials that God said to give. We see the idea here that while men are the instruments used in constructing the tabernacle, it was yet built by the Spirit of God, as God moved upon the hearts of the people to contribute; and where God’s Spirit truly moves upon the heart of man, man responds in obedience, not in whatever sentimental or emotional way he desires, but in the way that God has prescribed. And so God makes His dwelling where the Spirit of God has moved upon man to prepare Him a place.
I would also point out to you that if you look at the whole of this portion of Scripture, you will notice that the order in which the instructions are given to Moses for the tabernacle begin with the Ark of the Covenant, which was to be placed in the Holy of Holies, the innermost portion of the tabernacle. The instructions then move outward in order from there. But then, when we get to the portion where the tabernacle is actually constructed, you will notice that it is constructed from the outside in. This shows us that the point of the tabernacle is God – to make a sanctuary for Him. He is the center and the reference point. Yet, not just anyone and everyone was allowed into the holy of holies, thus it had to be constructed outside in, so the holy of holies would not be exposed and the people would not be exposed to it and die.
Thesis, V. 8
So, as we are about to endeavor into the tabernacle as it were and look upon the materials and furniture, we might ask, “What is the point? What is the point of such details and instructions for building the tabernacle and its furniture?” Well, verse 8 is essentially the thesis for these detailed instructions, and it is essentially the whole point of Exodus. God says, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” This is the whole point, that God would have a place to dwell in their midst and they wouldn’t all die because of their sin and unholiness. They needed to make a sanctuary that is purified in blood and set apart as holy where God may dwell in their midst.
This is a huge deal! Imagine you are Moses or a believing Israelite and you have seen the wonders of God in Egypt and the glory of the LORD on Mt. Sinai and this God speaks to you and says “build me this sanctuary that I may dwell in your midst!” How awful and awesome this is!
Because we are born 2,000 years into the New Covenant reign of Jesus Christ, we may not realize how world changing this statement from God was to Moses. God created the world and walked with Adam in the garden, but Adam sinned and was kicked out of the garden and off the mountain, where the garden was, and barred from the dwelling place and presence of God. History went on, lots of sin and rebellion happened, the world was restarted with Noah after the flood, then God calls Abram from his false religion and makes all these great promises to him, then long story short, there are many years of slavery and bondage in Egypt, then God hears the cries of His people, remembers His promises and does great wonders through Moses to deliver his people from Egypt, He gives them the law and covenant, and now He says that He will dwell in their midst. This a major progression in redemptive history – a major turning point. Man has gone from being kicked out of the garden and off the mountain, to God speaking from heaven to one or two of them, and then God condescends down to a mountain to speak to Moses, and now God is going to come down from the mountain and dwell in their midst in the sanctuary. This is not the ultimate act of redemption, but it is a major progression in redemptive history, which beautifully typifies the coming incarnation of God in Jesus Christ to dwell, or tabernacle among His people, as John 1 says.
There were a couple details that kind of set us up for this big thesis in last week’s passage. We saw at the end of chapter 24 that Moses went on the mountain and the cloud covered it for 6 days and then on the 7th day God spoke to Moses. This should obviously remind us of the creation week. But also we saw that Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. This should remind us of Noah on the Ark. This should get our attention to see that something big is coming. Something new is coming. It’s as if something new is being created, or a new world is being made. Indeed, the tabernacle is being introduced where God may dwell in the midst of His people. This is a new development that is world changing.
As magnificent as this was and as beautiful as the materials used were, these were just types and shadows. This was just temporary. This was just pointing forward, next to the temple, which would be stable and in the promised land, but then ultimately pointing forward to Christ and His Church. When John 1 says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the word for “dwelt” could literally be translated as “tabernacled.” The World became flesh and tabernacled among us. John’s gospel has a theme of tabernacle and temple, which He shows us fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. We’ll come back to more of that later.
But even in the New Testament there is more progression with this theme of God dwelling with His people. After Jesus resurrects from the dead, 40 days later He ascends to heaven, and then 10 days after that the Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost, so that now the Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” So now, we do not have God’s Spirit in our midst in a tabernacle in the holy of holies where we cannot go, and where He leaves when the people rebel, but now God’s Spirit actually dwells within us. God dwells now in His people. This is amazing and awesome that God would actually find a home in us. And like the tabernacle was sprinkled and purified first with blood, so God sprinkles and purifies us with the blood of Jesus that His Spirit may come down and inhabit us, and make us His temple. This is an amazing thing, and when we realize the significance of all the progressions in redemptive history, we can then all the more see how amazing of a thing it is that God has now down through His Son, and in us, by His Spirit.
Principles of Action, v. 9
So back in Exodus 25, verse 8 is the big thesis statement. Then verse 9 is essentially the principles of action for carrying out this thesis or mission statement. They were to make this sanctuary exactly as God revealed it to Moses, according to the pattern, or blueprint for the tabernacle. They weren’t just to make it how they felt, or according to their own architectural tastes, nor like the architecture of the Egyptian temples and pyramids, nor like the pagan temples of Canaan, but according to the pattern God gave to Moses. These were not the machinations of the crazy wilderness man, Moses, it was the revelation of God. Any veering from this pattern, and God would not dwell there. And because this blueprint and the details are from God, of divine origin, thus we see that all of these details in the material and structure speak to the divine – they reveal to us the things of God – His holiness and how He is to be approached.
The Ark, v. 10-16
The first and centermost piece is the ark of the covenant. Now in our English translations it might be tempting to want to draw connections to Noah’s ark, however, it is a different Hebrew word, and thus not necessarily supposed to be connected. We saw earlier in Exodus, that the basket in which baby Moses was laid in the Nile, was in fact the same Hebrew word for ark as used in Noah’s ark, and we saw those connections very plainly, but there is not necessarily a connection to be made here, this is something different.
We see from the dimensions given that the ark of the covenant is a rectangle box made of wood and overlaid with gold. It has four feet with rings for the poles which were to be used in transporting the ark. The testimony, or the tablets of stone were to be placed inside the ark. A. W. Pink almost humorously says that the Ark of the Covenant is so obviously symbolic of Christ that it needs no explanation, and then he goes on to explain it in gruelingly glorious detail. For example, he notes that the law of the testimony was kept inside the ark of the covenant which typifies the law being written on the heart, as we discussed last week. But then he makes a connection to Psalm 40 where he identifies Jesus as the ultimate speaker of this Psalm, as Psalm 40:7-8 says, “Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.””
We also noted that the ark was made of wood and then overlaid with gold inside and out, which points to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The ultimate one who carries the testimony of God is both human and divine, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He is humble yet royal. He is God in human flesh.
We also see here the first instruction that the poles were to remain in the rings of the ark and it was only to be carried by them. You may recall the story where they failed to follow this instruction and they carried the ark on a cart, and as it begins to fall off the cart, Uzzah reaches out to grab it, and he is immediately struck dead.
This also shows to us the temporary nature of the tabernacle, that it was to be for their wilderness journey until they reached the promised land where they would be able to build a temple for God. The tabernacle was transportable and the ark had to be transported during their years in the wilderness. Thus, like the ark and the tabernacle, Jesus was constantly “on the move” as it were during his earthly ministry, traveling throughout the land from place to place. Very fascinatingly, Pink says that through careful chronological study, the Bible indicates that Israel used the tabernacle in the wilderness less than 35 years – which is around the lifespan of Jesus on earth before His crucifixion.
And in Colossians 2:9 we are given New Testament language indicating that Jesus is the true Ark where God dwells, saying, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” Jesus is the ark of the testimony. He is the testimony of God to the world.
The Mercy Seat, v. 17-22
In verse 17-22 of Exodus 25 we then see instructions concerning the Mercy Seat which was to be placed on top of the ark of testimony. Just in the name of the Mercy Seat is the very proclamation of the gospel. Unlike the ark itself, the mercy seat was to be made all of pure gold, which shows us that mercy is all of God.
There were two cherubim that were to be made and placed on each end of the ark facing in towards each other. We might think here of the garden of Eden when Adam was banished from it, God placed Cherubim with flaming sword to guard it. So here, they are placed as guards, as it were, for if anyone wrongly entered the holy of holies they would be put to death. Yet, there are themes of redemption, for progressively God is showing that man is being brought back to the garden as it were, back to dwell with God from whom they have been separated.
But furthermore, the mercy seat and the cherubim speak God’s enthronement here amidst His people. For the Bible speaks of God being enthroned upon the Cherubim. Psalm 80:1 says, “You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.” And Psalm 99:1 says, “The Lord reigns…He sits enthroned upon the cherubim…” So what we have here is an indication of God’s enthronement in Israel. God is the king of Israel. The four feet of the ark may foreshadow the four corners of the earth of which the New Testament speaks of the gospel going out to, which is to say the ends of the earth, where Christ is now enthroned over all. So there is a hint of the progression of God’s enthronement over Israel, to over all the earth.
Furthermore, the text tells us in verse 22, that the mercy seat is where God will meet with Moses. The mercy seat is the meeting place of God and man from where God speaks. So now it is that Jesus is the meeting place of God and man, from whom God speaks. He is the fountain of all mercy that man may receive from God. The mercy seat is thus a picture of God’s Kingly enthronement over His people and of His priestly atonement for their sins; but also it from where He speaks. Thus we see here the three-fold offices of Christ – prophet, priest, and king.
But as we have noted, during this era, one could not simply waltz up to the mercy seat in the holy of holies and live. So it was, in an amazing progression of redemptive history that at the death of Jesus Christ the temple curtain was torn in two. And at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, John points out these temple themes and how Christ fulfills them. In John 20, when Christ resurrects and leaves an empty tomb, the disciples, Peter and John run to see it, and they find only the linen clothes of Jesus folded up and lying there. But then as Mary stands outside the tomb weeping, she then sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had lain. These two angels sitting in the tomb were like the two cherubim of the ark, the priestly garments of Christ, laid aside, and the stone rolled away – it’s as if it is a scene into the holy of holies, where Christ was raised up from, the door opened into. So that now through the finished work, Jesus comes out to be with His people. What was shut out to man, Jesus opens from the inside out, having finished the work.
So now, we are not barred from the mercy seat, but through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit boldly approach the throne of grace and speak with God in prayer, as Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The structure of the tabernacle and its furniture with all its strict regulations showed man his great need for atonement and cleansing, and that man cannot simply approach a holy God without a mediator and without the cleansing of blood. And so we have that in Jesus Christ, as He has come to us, opening the way to God as it were.
So then, as is said, how then shall we now live? Let us take full advantage of the access that we have to the throne of grace. Let us approach the throne with boldness in Jesus Christ by the Spirit. Do you often make use of the access you have to the throne of grace in prayer? Or is your life lacking in prayer? Let us not live as if we do not have access to the throne of grace. We have access to God in prayer for all of our needs that we may face; but also for confessing our sins. How often do you sin, but then do not confess it to God? You know that we are commanded to confess our sins to God, so do you, knowing that in Christ we have a mercy seat, a throne of GRACE to go to? It is not a judgment seat or a justice bench; yes God is the judge of all and He has that too and all will face that too; but right now, we have access to a MERCY seat, a throne of GRACE. Do you go to receive grace in confessing your sins? We need mercy and so much grace, and God has it for us in confessing our sins to Him.
Fathers, do you go to the mercy seat, to the throne of grace, to plead for mercy for your family? Do you lay your home down at His feet? Do you pray for your spouse? Do you plead there at the throne of grace for your children? Why do you not make good use of it? None of us have as we ought, so let us endeavor to all the more, since Christ has given us access to it. There is mercy there for our homes, should go there and ask God for it.
Fathers, do you model accessing the throne of grace to your families in your prayers? At the dinner table, in family worship, do you pray for things that really need God’s mercy in Jesus Christ? Or are your prayers so quick and shallow that no thing of weight is brought up for which it is made to seem we do not need mercy? If you sin against your family, or in front of your family, do you not only confess it to them, but do you model confession of your sin to God in prayer during mealtime prayers or family worship? Make use of showing your family your great need for the throne of grace as you go by the way. If they see that dad so needs the throne of grace, or that mom so needs it, then they’ll see that they need it.
May God be praised. Amen.