Admirable accountability

Slices

Prepare

‘… each of us will give an account of ourselves to God’ (Romans 14:12). Give an honest account of your week to God. Humbly receive both rebuke and praise. 

Bible passage

Exodus 38:1–31

The altar of burnt offering

38 They built the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood, three cubits high; it was square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. They made a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar were of one piece, and they overlaid the altar with bronze. They made all its utensils of bronze – its pots, shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. They made a grating for the altar, a bronze network, to be under its ledge, halfway up the altar. They cast bronze rings to hold the poles for the four corners of the bronze grating. They made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. They inserted the poles into the rings so they would be on the sides of the altar for carrying it. They made it hollow, out of boards.

The basin for washing

They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

The courtyard

Next they made the courtyard. The south side was a hundred cubits long and had curtains of finely twisted linen, 10 with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 11 The north side was also a hundred cubits long and had twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts.

12 The west end was fifty cubits wide and had curtains, with ten posts and ten bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. 13 The east end, towards the sunrise, was also fifty cubits wide. 14 Curtains fifteen cubits long were on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, 15 and curtains fifteen cubits long were on the other side of the entrance to the courtyard, with three posts and three bases. 16 All the curtains around the courtyard were of finely twisted linen. 17 The bases for the posts were bronze. The hooks and bands on the posts were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver; so all the posts of the courtyard had silver bands.

18 The curtain for the entrance to the courtyard was made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen – the work of an embroiderer. It was twenty cubits long and, like the curtains of the courtyard, five cubits high, 19 with four posts and four bronze bases. Their hooks and bands were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver. 20 All the tent pegs of the tabernacle and of the surrounding courtyard were bronze.

The materials used

21 These are the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant law, which were recorded at Moses’ command by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 22 (Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the Lord commanded Moses; 23 with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan – an engraver and designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen.) 24 The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel.

25 The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel – 26 one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men. 27 The 100 talents of silver were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain – 100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base. 28 They used the 1,775 shekels to make the hooks for the posts, to overlay the tops of the posts, and to make their bands.

29 The bronze from the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. 30 They used it to make the bases for the entrance to the tent of meeting, the bronze altar with its bronze grating and all its utensils, 31 the bases for the surrounding courtyard and those for its entrance and all the tent pegs for the tabernacle and those for the surrounding courtyard.

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Operation Tabernacle sparked an outpouring of offerings. The people carried out the construction work with painstaking precision. But taking care of the details includes ‘mundane’ matters, like accounting: ‘the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle … were recorded at Moses’ command by the Levites’ (v 21a). These Levite accountants recorded the quantities of precious metals collected and detailed how these resources were used (vs 21–31). 

That this responsibility was entrusted to someone of the stature of ‘Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest’ (v 21b) testifies to the importance placed on accountability. Staggering quantities of gold, silver and bronze were collected from ‘wave offerings’ (vs 24,29) and taxes (vs 25,26). The gold would be worth in the region of 40 million pounds today! Accountability was essential.

Widespread corruption, both in and outside the church, makes the need for accountability even more urgent today. Accountability ensures that stakeholders are kept informed; it encourages wise stewardship, and acts as a check against waste, misuse or misappropriation of resources.

Author
Tanya Ferdinandusz

Respond

Initiate conversations about godly accounting and accountability practices in your local church or in ministries you support.

Deeper Bible study

Reflect on how you came to faith in Jesus Christ. Thank God for each step in that journey.

Our church just finished renovating the ‘old chapel’; the foundation of the original had been disintegrating and urgently needed repair. Somewhere the building committee had a list of all the materials the contractors needed: gravel, cement, large grey stones, sturdy beams and more. That’s what we have in the second half of today’s reading, the materials list from the tabernacle building committee. But here’s a question: what are the spiritual components of your church? 

The courtyard was the place where the animals were slaughtered and, as we see, the Israelites took pains to set it up according to God’s instructions (vs 9–20). The centre of worship in the tabernacle, however, would be the altar of burnt offering: the acacia-wood structure used for burning sacrifices (vs 1–7). That’s where Aaron and his sons, and the later priests, made atonement for the sins of the people. Over time, it became a place of refuge and ultimate justice.1 Today, some scholars point out that Israel’s altar-based worship was similar to others in the ancient Near East, where animals were sacrificed to appease and provide for the gods, but that sort of cultural comparison might cause us to miss what is distinctive here: this altar was a place where the people of Israel experienced the one and only God.2 That made it different. Very different. 

The ultimate significance of the altar wasn’t fully understood until Jesus entered history. As the apostle Paul explained, ‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith’.3 In the book of Hebrews we read, ‘he [Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption’.4 Jesus finished, once and for all, what God envisioned in these tabernacle details.

What are the spiritual strengths and areas for spiritual improvement in your church? Ask God to help you make a positive difference in both.

11 Kings 1:50–53; Exod 21:14  2Exod 40:34–38  3 Rom 3:25  4Heb 9:12

Author
Whitney T Kuniholm

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: 1 Chronicles 11–14; 2 Corinthians 12

Pray for Scripture Union

Local Mission Partner GenR8 (working in Cambridge) ask for prayer for their ongoing relationship with primary schools and for their team of volunteers as they look to reconnect and restart face-to-face work in the academic year ahead. Pray too for new volunteers to join the team. 

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