‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood’ (John 1:14, MSG). How would you feel if Jesus moved in next door?
17 So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. 18 When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. 19 Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him.
20 He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. 21 Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.
22 Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain 23 and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.
24 He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him.
26 Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him.
28 Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him.
30 He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, 31 and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. 32 They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses.
33 Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.
The glory of the Lord
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out – until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.
The Israelites completed their work and Moses blessed them (Exodus 39:43). This, however, was not the climax of the story, just as the sixth day – the creation and blessing of humankind – was not the high point of the creation narrative (Genesis 1:1 – 2:4).
Once everything has been set up for the ceremony, the wedding planner slips into the shadows, allowing the spotlight to be on the undisputed stars of their ‘Big Day.’ Once ‘Moses finished the work’ (v 33), he stepped aside; and the Lord filled the tabernacle to the exclusion of all else (vs 34,35). This divine presence would continue to guard and guide Israel all through her wilderness wanderings (vs 36–38).
On the cross, Jesus, the new ‘Moses’, declared ‘It is finished’, then ‘bowed his head and gave up his spirit’ (John 19:30). As the Israelites gave willingly towards the work of the tabernacle, Jesus laid down his life willingly, purposefully, painfully. His agony culminated in his being ‘glorified’ (John 12:23), the temple veil was torn in two (Mark 15:38), and ‘a new and living way opened for us’ (Hebrews 10:20). Another era. Another tabernacle. Another work finished to the glory of God.
How will you become more like that person of whom Jesus said, ‘he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him – we’ll move right into the neighborhood!’ (John 14:23, MSG).
Deeper Bible study
‘“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”’1
In the first half of this chapter, God spelled out specific instructions for setting up the tabernacle (vs 1–16). Now we see Moses doing exactly what he was told (vs 17–33). The text summarises by saying, ‘And so Moses finished the work’ (v 33). That raises an interesting question: did Moses finish well? On the one hand, he led the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and to Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments and all the instructions from God we’ve been reading through. On the other hand, however, Moses had a criminal past, an anger problem and, even after all those years wandering in the desert, he never made it to the Promised Land.
Finishing well in the Christian life doesn’t mean we’ll have a perfect record, or that we’ll always end on a winning season. The key to success for Moses was that all along he understood that God’s presence was more important than even the Promised Land. His prayer was ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations’.2 That’s why the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle is a fitting conclusion to the book of Exodus. It was a dramatic expression in fire and cloud of the presence of God.
Centuries later, Moses witnessed a similar expression on the mountain of transfiguration.3 ‘While he [Jesus] was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”’4 Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s presence, experienced now through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Someday, maybe soon, that glorious presence will fill the whole earth.5 Staying focused on that reality is the key to finishing well.
No matter how old you are, what would it look like for you to finish well? Make that the focus of your prayer today.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 1 Chronicles 22,23; Galatians 2
Pray for Scripture Union
Thank God for all the Faith Guides already registered. Pray for more opportunities for them to meet the 95 and to invite them on a journey of exploring relationship with Jesus.