I’ve been reading through the Torah (Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible) during my devotional time, and as the year wound down, I was reading the portions of Exodus in which Moses receives instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, and then those instructions are implemented by Moses and the people. In the pattern Moses and the Israelites followed, I think I see some key principles of building that we can apply in our individual lives as well as in our communities.

Receiving Instruction (Exodus 25-31)

I believe in prayer and listening, but especially in listening. There were several elements in the way that Moses received instructions that I think we can apply.

  1. Be willing to go out of your way
    Moses went up to the mountain, and isolated himself to spend time with God.
  2. Be ready to experience God’s presence
    Moses experienced this as an overwhelming glory, but it may come to you in different ways. Be ready for it!
  3. Be ready to take the necessary time
    Forty days and nights is a long time to spend receiving instructions!
  4. Put aside distractions
    Moses left off even food and drink (Moses was a trained professional-don’t try this at home, at least not for 40 days!)

Be Gifted! Accept the Gifts! (Exodus 31:1-11, 35:30-35)

Bezalel and Aholiab received special gifts from God to accomplish their work, and they then trained and supervised others. God gives the necessary gifts to accomplish his work.

Take Time for Rest and Worship (Exodus 31:12-17, 35:1-19)

God emphasizes his sovereignty over time through the Sabbath command. It is repeated twice between the time when Moses received instructions on the mountain and the beginning of Tabernacle construction. God places a high priority on rest, worship, and time with him, not just for leaders, but for everyone.

Avoid Golden Calves (Exodus 32)

When the people saw that Moses had been gone for a long time, they lost heart because they could not see and talk with the leader. They imagined that he was gone, so they looked for new leadership, and new gods. “Something is better than nothing,” is what I suspect they thought. But the golden calf was a distraction from the real worship and from the lessons they were supposed to learn. It is also NOT always the job of the leadership to ‘keep’ the people from finding golden calves -this may be the only way they learn a hard lesson — but it is our job to correct when it happens! Notice that God didn’t tell Moses about the situation until it was too late to stop it.

Spread the Work (Exodus 36:1-39:43)

While the instructions are given to Moses, and the special giftings are given to Bezalel and Aholiab, the work is spread out amongst all the people. Things that one person cannot even imagine accomplishing are made easy when all the various gifts are brought together.

Bring it all Together (Exodus 40:1-15)

When the various people involved in the work have completed their tasks, all the materials are brought together and placed in unity to accomplish the purpose of the plan. No individual can say, “I did my part, the rest doesn’t matter.” Until it is all brought together, the plan has not been accomplished.

Do it According to the Instructions (Exodus 40:16-33)

In this entire section of Exodus the emphasis is on accomplishing everything according to the instructions, but in the verses I indicate above, we have a neat little summary, which starts “Moses did everything just as YHWH had commanded him,” and ends with “so Moses completed the work.” Between these two statements, the phrase “as YHWH had commanded Moses” is repeated precisely seven times.

Expect the Glory! (Exodus 40:34-35)

When everything is accomplished according to the pattern, expect God to be in the work.

Follow the Glory! (Exodus 40:36-38)

Remember that the Tabernacle was a movable structure. It was not intended to stay in one place and never move. When God’s glory moved, it needed to move, and the people needed to move with it. The tabernacle didn’t contain or constrain God’s glory. The tabernacle was to be placed wherever God’s glory was manifested.

Let’s make 2005 a fully constructive year!