Book of Exodus Chapter Twenty-Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Follow His Pattern
Verses 1-2: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.'" Note that everything Israel contributed came from God. As seen in Exodus 11:2-3, the Lord told Israel (through Moses) to ask Egyptian neighbors for "articles of silver and articles of gold," and "the Lord gave the people favor..." In the next few verses, we will see a list of the items "borrowed" from Egypt, but it really wasn't borrowed...instead it was the Lord's repayment to Israel for four hundred and thirty years of slavery, in which they lost almost everything. As seen here in Verses 3-7, "This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, 4 blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, 5 rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, 6 oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece." It's important to understand that everything we have and are is borrowed from God. Your body and mind are His. If you have a job or a business, they are His. Your family, if you have one, is the property of Him who made you. What you have and what you are has a purpose which is higher than our understanding. What Israel received from Egypt would build a place of contact, a tent of meeting for the people to pray and encounter the Lord.
That's what Verse 8 says: "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them." And it's important that anything, any ministry or religious observance is designed and created by the Lord. If it's the idea of some mere human being, run away from it, for the Lord is not in it. Here's Verse 9: "According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it." If we go to the mission field, start a religion, enter the ministry or anything else, we do it because God leads us. The ministry is not a career choice; it's His call to follow the pattern of His choosing.
And notice in the next verses just how specific His intentions for us are, as in Verse 10: "They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high." This "ark" was to be precisely three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and two feet three inches deep. The "acacia" of Verses 5 and 10 is a hard wood with a beautiful grain that darkens as it ages and is distasteful to many insects. Its density makes it difficult for water or other decaying agents to penetrate. Note, by the way, that the items God called for in Verses 3-7, were sought BEFORE the people were told what was to be done with them. He may call you and me to do something we don't understand until far in the future. We simply respond in faith when He calls. Verse 11 continues, "You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it." The wood was to be further protected from the elements by a gold covering and it was to be beautiful.
They were in the desert and God knew they would remain there for decades, requiring this to be a portable device. Verses 12-15 reveal its means of transport, allowing this "ark" to be carried without actually being touched by the people who bore it: "You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on 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 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it." Not even the rings on the sides were to be touched, for the poles in them were always to remain in place. God is holy, untouchable by humanity and beyond all we understand. Verse 16: "You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you." The "testimony" was to be the two tablets of stone written by God's Hand.
Verse 17: "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide." The term "mercy seat" was the Hebrew "kapporeth," derived from "kipper," a forgiveness of sins through covering. And note again the precise measurements revealed here. Everything about our salvation and forgiveness is precise. Nothing is left to chance. And note that we are sinners saved by the grace of God. As David would say in Psalm 32:1 and Paul would cite in Romans 4:7, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered." God forgives, covering the sins of those who place their faith in the Lord.
Through the symbolism of this "ark," we see something of the place of God in eternity. Verses 18-20: "You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat." The Jewish historian Josephus said, "No one is able to state or conjecture of what form the cherubim were," but they are glimpsed in Scripture in places like Ezekiel Chapters 2 and 10, where the prophet saw four of them. Here's his description in Ezekiel 2:4-21—each had "four faces...four wings...they sparkled like bronze...the face of a man...of a lion...of an ox (and) the face of an eagle...their wings were stretched upward...two covered their bodies...they went wherever the spirit wanted to go and they did not turn when they went...fire was going back and forth among them...and out of the fire went lightning..." As observed in Ezekiel 10:12, "their whole body, with their back, their hands, their wings and the wheels that the four had, were full of eyes all around." If you have faith, someday you will see them, but don't be afraid—what they do is on our behalf.
Verses 21-22: "You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel." Inside the ark was the Law that none of us could keep. On top of that ark was a seat of mercy, protected by beings so powerful that no one can defeat them. The imagery is Jesus Christ, the ark of safety for you and me. The seat of God's mercy is extended even to us, and our relationship is protected by God Himself and these incredible beings. As we learn in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (the Son), to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." When He died on the cross, our sins died with Him. He kept the Law and in Him, it is as though we did, too. He did the work; we trust in Him and receive the mercy of God.
Verses 23-28 describe the "table of shew bread," listed in importance right after the ark of the covenant—"You shall make a table of acacia wood, two cubits long and one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a gold border around it. 25 You shall make for it a rim of a handbreadth around it; and you shall make a gold border for the rim around it. 26 You shall make four gold rings for it and put rings on the four corners which are on its four feet. 27 The rings shall be close to the rim as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that with them the table may be carried." It was interestingly simple in its construction, narrow for its length and it was small—three feet long, one foot six inches wide, but even though small and plain, it also was beautiful. It was to hold twelve cakes of bread continually (Leviticus 24:5). The table is a sign-post to the future, to Jesus Christ, who cried out at the feast, "I am the bread which came down from heaven," a reference to the manna given in the desert, and "I am the bread of life," referring to this table in Exodus 25 (John 6:41, 48). The dishes, platters and other serving utinsels were to be of pure gold, as in Verse 29: "You shall make its dishes and its pans and its jars and its bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold." And in Verse 30, the bread was to be on that table perpetually: "You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times." The requirements of these verses were never set aside, but the bread of the Presence, and everything related to it would stop, first in 587 B.C., and then finally in 71 A.D., with the destruction of the Temple. "Jesus Christ," on the other hand, "is the same, yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Our "Bread" is everlasting.
All of the items here were copies of heavenly originals. People have wondered, "What happened to the Ark of the Covenant in 587 B.C.? Where did it go? The answer is in Revelation 11:19—"the temple of God was opened in heaven and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple." We will see it on our arrival into eternity.
Next on God's list of items to be included in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple is the lampstand. It's full of symbolism, as is everything else, for here is how the Lord described it in Revelation 1:20—"The seven lampstands...are the seven churches..." Keep in mind that "church" is from a Greek word meaning "called-out ones." The church is not a building...it is people of every time and place who have received the grace, the mercy of God through faith in the Lord. Verses 31-36—“Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side. 33 Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower—so for six branches going out from the lampstand; 34 and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers. 35 A bulb shall be under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand. 36 Their bulbs and their branches shall be of one piece with it; all of it shall be one piece of hammered work of pure gold."
Verse 37 ties in the words of Jesus that "The seven lampstands...are the seven churches..." Here is Verse 37—"Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it." Light is one of the functions of this lampstand, and the statement of Jesus in John 8:12 is noted, for He said, "I am the light of the world." And He is.
The final instructions about the seven lamps and the lampstand are in Verses 38-39—"Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made from a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils." And note something else about this great lamp—it's powered by oil. Zechariah saw it in a vision, which he described as "...a lamp of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps." The lamp was fed by "two olives trees" which, of course, produce oil. Zechariah was asked if he knew what all of it meant...he did not, and so hewas told: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts" (Zechariah 4:2-6). The oil is God's Holy Spirit.
And here is an excellent reminder in Verse 40: "See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain." That was the instruction to Moses, through him to the people, and those words have come down through the centuries to you and me. When God calls you, follow the pattern of His call. If you're a teacher, then teach. If you're a helper, then help, as God leads. If a missionary, be one. We are simply what He has called us to be. As Jesus said, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Don't try to do what somebody else should be doing. Just follow His pattern, pray for help when needed, and you will find His rest.
Lord, I trust in You. I will follow the pattern You have set for my life and no longer try to do what others should be doing. I am Yours, Lord. Please lead me into Your will, Your rest. In Jesus Name. Amen.