Book of Exodus Chapter Forty Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
In Chapter 39 we saw the completed manufactured pieces of what was to be the Tabernacle. In this chapter, the parts will be put together, not unlike assembling a very large jigsaw puzzle. If your situation seems confusing, consider the possibility that parts of your life have been accomplished, but not yet completely put together. Moses will emerge more in this chapter than in the previous one because he is the man that was shown how to assemble the parts. And even though Moses will seem to be in charge, it is really the Lord who oversees everything. In Verses 1-2, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.'" Life may seem to drag on, but God has a specific time table, HIS time for us all. And note that God can complete everything in an instant, but He blessedly involves us, a process that includes completing and maturing the faith of ordinary people like you and me.
In Verses 3-8, the Lord gives His final instructions to Moses about assembling this wilderness Tabernacle: "You shall place the ark of the testimony there, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 You shall bring in the table and arrange what belongs on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and mount its lamps. 5 Moreover, you shall set the gold altar of incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the veil for the doorway to the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering in front of the doorway of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 7 You shall set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. 8 You shall set up the court all around and hang up the veil for the gateway of the court." This is not necessarily how Moses or Bezalel or Oholiab or Aaron would have done it, but just like them, none of us are in charge. A lot of our stress comes because we keep on struggling to do it OUR way, when only God's way is right. There is a certain pattern for your life and mine, and only God Himself knows what it should be.
You need to dedicate your possessions to the Lord. They are His anyway, so why not acknowledge that "our" things are His. Verses 9-11 include that idea: "Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and shall consecrate it and all its furnishings; and it shall be holy. 10 You shall anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, and the altar shall be most holy. 11 You shall anoint the laver and its stand, and consecrate it." The Tabernacle was the image of something greater than space and time as we know it. It was intended to show us a touch of heaven, along with God's intention to interact with His people. We ARE that tabernacle and through Jesus Christ, we are invited into the anointed Holy Place, which is set apart for those who say "yes" in response to His invitation.
And something good happens to those who enter God's Tabernacle. We are changed, as symbolized by Verses 12-15: "Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 You shall put the holy garments on Aaron and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister as a priest to Me. 14 You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them; 15 and you shall anoint them even as you have anointed their father, that they may minister as priests to Me; and their anointing will qualify them for a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations." You may recall 1 Peter 2:9, where simple, faithful believers in Jesus Christ are called a "royal priesthood," washed and dressed as He chooses. If you have faith in the Lord, this chapter is for you. And notice, in Verse 16, the kind of man Moses had become: "Thus Moses did; according to all that the Lord had commanded him, so he did." This ordinary man had become God's faithful servant, simply doing what He was told to do.
Verse 17: "Now in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected." It was the New Year, the month of Abib, also called Nisan, and we can see how carefully Scripture places events within space and time. This is recorded history, and is a reminder that God knows who you are, when you are and what you're all about. That's true for us all.
In Verses 18-23, "Moses erected the tabernacle and laid its sockets, and set up its boards, and inserted its bars and erected its pillars. 19 He spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 Then he took the testimony and put it into the ark, and attached the poles to the ark, and put the mercy seat on top of the ark. 21 He brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up a veil for the screen, and screened off the ark of the testimony, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 22 Then he put the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil. 23 He set the arrangement of bread in order on it before the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." When we read that Moses, this very old man, did all these things, it simply means he supervised the assembly, utilizing workers assigned for that specific purpose. Just because you are called to a ministry does not mean you have to do all the work. His focus, at first, was the Holy of Holies containing the ark of the covenant, moving outward from that central point. And note again that the true Director of all this was the Lord Himself.
Verses 24-25: "Then he placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table, on the south side of the tabernacle. 25 He lighted the lamps before the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." The workers who assembled this tabernacle did not know that the Lord they served would in the future stand up in the finished Temple in Jerusalem and shout, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), just as you and I don't fully know the significance of what we are called to do. The lampstand speaks of Him enlightening His faithful ones. The context continues in Verses 26-27: "Then he placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the veil; 27 and he burned fragrant incense on it, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." The true nature of this "fragrant incense" is revealed in Revelation 5:8 to be "the prayers of the saints." If you don't know how to please God, then pray; and if you don't know how to pray, then ask Him to help you, and He will. In Verse 28, "Then he set up the veil for the doorway of the tabernacle." The veils hid some of what is being shown to us in these verses. God lets much be veiled in our lives, which should draw us to Scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:7—"We walk by faith, not by sight." We are to trust; which is infinitely better than to merely see with our eyes.
Just look and you will know that humanity needs help. In Verses 29-32, "He set the altar of burnt offering before the doorway of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 30 He placed the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing. 31 From it Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they entered the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." Life begins to make more sense when we acknowledge that our works are not sufficient to save us from our sins. The burnt offerings and the meal (bread) offerings are like neon signs shouting that innocent life must be given for our sins. The laver for washing indicates that our natural state is unclean in the sight of God. This does not refer to the kind of washing we might do in a bathtub; it's a ceremonial washing for hearts that are not right, a confession of sin. And finally, in Verse 33. "He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work." It was done. Just like there will be a time when God's people will be complete in faith, this tabernacle was now finished.
After you become a human being or as soon as your church is up and running, what else is needed? The answer is seen in Verses 34-38: "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; 37 but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. 38 For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel." You may be eloquent and good looking, dressed perfectly as Aaron and his sons were; the building that houses your religious organization may seem "just right," but if the Lord is not in you and your work, it is nothing. You and your ministry are incomplete without Him.
Father, I am incomplete and need You. Fill me with the Lord, Your Son, Your Holy Spirit. I need You so. Forgive my sins. I surrender, dear God. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.