the ministering women


Exodus 37:25-38:8

25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were carved of one piece with it. 26 He plated it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a border of gold around it, 27 and made two rings of gold on it under its border, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. 28 And he made the poles of acacia wood and plated them with gold. 29 He made the sacred anointing oil also, and the pure aromatic incense, blended like the perfumer would. 38:1 He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Its length was five cubits, and its breadth five cubits. It was square, and three cubits was its height. 2 He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were carved of one piece with it, and he plated it with bronze. 3 And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. 4 And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. 5 He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. 6 He made the poles of acacia wood and plated them with bronze. 7 And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards. 8 He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, fashioned from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

the ministering women

Stuart says that it “appears that women were organized into bands that served at the tent of meeting.” [1] In fact, the word for their service is not the usual one. It is the word usually used for soldiers in an army. Aside from that, we know little of what they did. But it is significant that at least part of the bronze basin was made from the bronze mirrors of these same women. They must have been rich, and probably prominent in their tribes. Perhaps they were greeters at the entrance of the tent. The role was no doubt a sought-after one. Their presence in this sacred place would be a message from the LORD that his worship is for everyone. It is not an exclusive club for the men only.

Dear lady in Christ, do not think that you are a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God. There is no such thing. What the Father said here, the Holy Spirit said by pouring himself out upon the believers at Pentecost, resulting in the daughters of Israel prophesying in his name.[2] And, in the Lord Jesus Christ there is neither male nor female.[3] You are equal to your brothers in Christ in all respects, because God has no favorites,[4] and he challenges us to show no favoritism.[5]

Thank you LORD for those godly women who serve in your holy army. May they be treated with the respect that they deserve as your ministers.

[1] Douglas K. Stuart, New American Commentary, vol. 2 – Exodus. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group), 2006.

[2] Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17.

[3] Galatians 3:28.

[4] Acts 10:34.

[5] James 2:1.

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spotlighting his face


Exodus 37:17-24

17 And he made the lampstand out of pure gold. He made the lampstand by shaping it with a hammer. Its base, its stem, its cups, its bowls, and its flowers were fashioned from one piece. 18 And there were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 19 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with bowl and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with bowl and flower, on the other branch- so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their bowls and flowers, 21 and a bowl from the same piece as it under each pair of the six branches going out of it. 22 Their bowls and their branches were from the same piece as it. The whole of it was a single piece of pure gold, shaped with a hammer. 23 And he made its seven lamps and its tongs and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils out of a talent[1] of pure gold.

spotlighting his face

The Menorah and all of its utensils were to be fashioned out of one huge block of pure gold. Although the lampstand was a complex thing, this insured that it would serve a single purpose. As one entered the sacred place, the light from the Menorah would draw his focus onto the table of face bread, directly to his right. The purpose of the light was to focus the worshipper’s attention on the symbol of the presence and provision of God.

As we lead people to Christ, we must be careful to keep them from being distracted by us, and keep them focused on the LORD himself. The Christian light is not like a chandelier, drawing attention to our own ideas or brilliance or beauty. It is more like a spotlight on Christ himself.

LORD, give us wisdom to light our world with a focused beam on the presence and provision of our Savior.

[1] The talent was a measure of weight, about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms.

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come to the table


Exodus 37:10-16

10 And he made the table of acacia wood. Its length  was two cubits, its breadth was one cubit, and its height was a cubit and a half. 11 And he plated it with pure gold, and made a border of gold around it. 12 And he made a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and made a border of gold around the rim. 13 He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 14 The rings were close to the frame, to serve as holders for the poles to carry the table. 15 He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and plated them with gold. 16 And he made the articles of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and jars with which to pour drink offerings.

come to the table

An altar speaks of sacrifice, but a table speaks of fellowship. It is fitting that the God of grace who would sacrifice his own Son for us has a table in his tabernacle. By his grace he calls on his people to enjoy his presence, and feast on his provision. We do not deserve it any more than the priests serving in the tabernacle did. But God loves us, and he loved them. He wanted to show them that serving him was not just a job. It came with the privilege of fellowship with the LORD at his table.

Today, the LORD invites us to come to his table. Like the Laodiceans, the Lord invites us to open the door and he will come into our hearts and have a fellowship meal.[1] It is not about becoming worthy of his presence. It is about believing in his grace.

LORD, welcome to our hearts. Come and have fellowship with us.

[1] Revelation 3:20.

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hidden masterpiece


Exodus 37:1-9

1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood; its length was two and a half cubits, and its width one and a half cubits, and its height one and a half cubits; 2 And he plated it with pure gold inside and out, and made a border of gold around it. 3 And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 And he made poles of acacia wood and plated them with gold 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark for carrying the ark. 6 And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubs of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. He made the cherubs as a unit with the mercy seat on its two ends. 9 The cherubs spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubs.

hidden masterpiece

This amazing and beautiful masterpiece, crafted by the chief artisan himself, was destined to be hidden from view to almost everyone in the community. Only Aaron (then the high priests who succeeded him) was to see it, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. [1] The golden cherubs face toward the ark, not to guard it from outsiders, but to be the symbols of the only other witnesses to its function: the angelic beings.

Because one day in history, God would fulfill the symbolism of this hidden ritual. He would sacrifice his most prized One: his only Son. The angels would watch as this sacrifice would take place – not in a glorious temple, but on a tragic hillside.

None of us have ever seen this event. We might have seen paintings or drawings depicting it, or video representations of it, but we did not actually witness it. It was the most important event in our lives, yet we did not see it. We were not even born yet. But just like the ritual of the Day of Atonement, we believe that what took place that day made a difference in our relationship with God.

LORD, thank you for the cross that Jesus died on. Thank you for the love that sent him to die in our place. Thank you for the day that made all the difference.

[1] Leviticus 16.

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strength and beauty


Exodus 36:20-38

20 Then he made the structure for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 21 Ten cubits was the length of a board, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each board. 22 Each board had two hand holds for fitting together. He did this for all the boards of the tabernacle. 23 The boards for the tabernacle he made this way: twenty boards for the south side. 24 Also he made forty bases of silver under the twenty boards, two bases under one board for its two hand holds, and two bases under the next board for its two hand holds. 25 For the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty boards 26 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one board and two bases under the next board. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle westward he made six board. 28 He made two boards for corners of the tabernacle in the rear. 29 And they were separate beneath but joined at the top, at the first ring. He made two of them this way for the two corners. 30 There were eight boards with their bases of silver: sixteen bases, under every board two bases. 31 He made bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 33 And he made the middle bar to run from end to end halfway up the boards. 34 And he overlaid the boards with gold, and made their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold. 35 He made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; with cherubim skillfully worked into it he made it. 36 And for it he made four pillars of acacia and overlaid them with gold. Their hooks were of gold, and he cast for them four bases of silver. 37 He also made a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework, 38 and its five pillars with their hooks. He overlaid their capitals, and their fillets were of gold, but their five bases were of bronze.

strength and beauty

When choosing the raw materials to make a building out of, a builder needs to ask what purpose the building is for. If the purpose calls for endurance, the builder will look for materials that can endure the stress. If the purpose is mainly for show, the builder will look for materials that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Most of the time, it is not one or the other. Architects and designers and construction engineers have to find the right balance between strength and beauty.

For the tabernacle, the challenges included the fact that it was to be taken down and moved regularly. This made strength even more important. Also, it was to be constructed in a desert. Its beauty was not going to be enhanced by idyllic surroundings. The materials had to dazzle.

The LORD has decided to manifest his presence among his people today. He takes up residence inside us. He has decided not to wait until our permanent glorified bodies arrive. We will always feel like we are not strong enough to endure, and we will always feel too ugly to represent God’s glory. But we are the ones he has chosen to do just that.

LORD, use us to show yourself to a lost world. Strengthen our structure, and beautify us, so that this dying world sees your life shining through us.

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curtains and a covering


Exodus 36:14-19

14 He also made curtains of she-goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle. He made eleven curtains. 15 The length of each curtain was thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains were the same size. 16 He joined five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves. 17 And he made fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain of the one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the other connecting curtain. 18 And he made fifty clasps of bronze to join the tent together that it might be a single whole. 19 And he made for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and male goatskin leather.

curtains and a covering

The lexicons are not unified on the meaning of some of these terms for the materials, so it is hard to nail down their significance. But one interesting thing I noticed is that all the curtains were made of the long flowing hair of female goats, but the outer covering was made of the leathered hides of male sheep (rams) and (probably) male goats. Both male and female animals are used in this part of the construction of the tabernacle. Notice what Moses had already said about “male and female” in Genesis:

  • God created male and female in his image.[1]
  • God blessed both male and female when he created them.[2]
  • God preserved both male and female through Noah’s ark.[3]

We will not have marriages at the resurrection, but they are a good thing for us today. Both genders have a part to play in the manifestation of the LORD’s presence among us. Neither is insignificant or intended to be suppressed or belittled. Through our cooperation and valuing each other, we demonstrate our relationship and mutual submission to one LORD, who created us each to display his glory and reflect his image.

LORD, forgive us – as men and women — for belittling each other. Give us relationships which demonstrate your worth that that we see in one another. Help us to celebrate our differences and see your plan in them.

[1] Genesis 1:27.

[2] Genesis 5:2.

[3] Genesis 6:19; 7:3,9,16.

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unified diversity


Exodus 36:8-13

8 And all the experts among the workers constructed the tabernacle with ten curtains. They were made of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns, with cherubim woven in by a designer. 9 The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. All the curtains were the same size. 10 He joined five curtains to one another, and the other five curtains he joined to one another. 11 He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain of the first set. Likewise he made them on the edge of the outermost curtain of the second set. 12 He made fifty loops on the one curtain, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set. The loops were opposite one another. 13 And he made fifty clasps of gold, and joined the curtains one to the other with clasps. So the tabernacle was a single whole.

unified diversity

The various fabrics, substances and parts of the tabernacle were all perfect just as they were, but they were meant to be put together into a unified whole. The diversity of the tabernacle was at once a reflection of the diversity of this world, and the diversity of the tribes of Israel. The construction of the tabernacle into one “single whole” was to demonstrate the one creator of the diverse creation, and the one Father God of a diverse family-nation. The skill of the experts called to construct the tabernacle was partly the skill of taking all these various materials and producing a whole that was greater than the sum of the parts – a holy place befitting a holy God.

The New Testament speaks of diversity and unity as well. There are many members in the church, but it is one body.[1] Each member has been given a different gift or gifts, for the glory of one Lord and the good of the body as a whole.[2] As the place where the presence of God dwells among humans, the fellowship of gospel preaching believers is designed to be a masterpiece, which takes diverse elements and puts them together for a unified purpose.

LORD, teach us how to demonstrate the glory of your perfect unity amid our diversity.

[1] Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-20.

[2] Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 12:7; Ephesians 4:7.

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much more than enough


Exodus 35:30-36:7

30 Then Moses told the people of Israel, “Look, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of work, 32 to plan with precision, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. 34 And he has put it in his heart to teach, also Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver – by any sort of workman or skilled designer. 36:1 “Bezalel and Oholiab should work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded along with every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary.” 2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. 3 And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 because the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

much more than enough

The tabernacle project leapt upon the blueprints of these master artisans and skilled workers. They were skilled not only in producing a finished product, but also in thinking the thoughts necessary for it to come together. Having more than enough of the raw materials to work with was not wasteful, because it enabled them to choose only the best for the project. So, when they were satisfied that they could produce a masterpiece with what was given, they asked the people to stop giving.

The LORD has provided the raw materials for you and me to build a home for himself in our lives as well. His Holy Spirit has taken up residence within every born-again Christian, and is all set to do the work. He knows those raw materials well:

  • his grace, which turns our weaknesses into his power made perfect,[1]
  • his word, which corrects our ignorance and sinful ways,[2]
  • his love, which enables us to stay connected to him while he changes us.[3]

Remove any of those raw materials and the project will be stalled. Fortunately, the LORD puts us into communities where there is much more than enough of those raw materials for the master craftsmen to work with. But often we turn our backs on those communities – those churches. Life in churches is messy, but that is where the finished product is going to come from. The LORD did not call Bezalel and Oholiab to go away into some perfect place to produce the holy place. He commanded them to produce it there, in the wilderness, from gifts given by the Israelites themselves.

LORD, we surrender our will to you, we will not resist the community of faith that you have brought us into. Instead, we will give freely of the abundant gifts you have given us, so that your word, your grace and your love can change us all into a building fit for your presence.

[1] 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16.

[3] John 15:10; 1 John 4:12.

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everyone who could


Exodus 35:20-29

20 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, bringing the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who had an inclined heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all kinds of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and other stones to be set, for the ephod and for the sacred pouch, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the sons of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.

everyone who could

Construction of the tabernacle would be the work of those with specialized skill and calling. But the raw materials and the constructed and collected elements of the tabernacle could be given by anyone in the camp. It was an equal opportunity project. Everyone who had been given a gift fit for this symbol of the LORD’s presence brought that gift and contributed it as a freewill offering to the work.

Today, the LORD is doing a special building project among his people themselves. He uses a similar means of ministering to the world. He gives gifts to men and women, and inclines the hearts of those gifted to contribute those gifts to his work. What would the church look like today if the ministry was not left to a few professionals, but everyone who could – would?

LORD, incline our hearts to share the gifts you have given us for the building up of the whole church.

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responding to elaborate grace


Exodus 35:4-19

4 Moses told all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This reflects what the LORD has commanded. 5 Take from among yourselves a contribution to the LORD. Whoever has an inclined heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the sacred pouch. 10 “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12 the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the face bread; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the drapes of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked garments for serving in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.”

responding to elaborate grace

Moses continues to explain every aspect of the ten words that are written on the covenant tablets. The practical outworking of the commands relating to their relationship with God[1] includes the tabernacle worship. So, Moses explains how these wandering Israelites can show their devotion to God in that context.

1. It took willing hearts. Although the requirements for the tabernacle were precise and specified, no one was singled out and commanded to give. These contributions had to come from those who were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2. It took reciprocal love. The LORD challenged those who feared him most to love him. They needed to renew their minds, so that they could respond to his grace rather than his judgment. This event was right after one of the most vile of transgressions committed by the Israelites as a whole: the golden calf incident. It took faith and courage to respond to the LORD in love.

3. It took elaborate worship. The service in the tabernacle was an amazing and complicated spectacle. Each item of furniture and each garment of the attending priests was a teaching tool. It is right and proper to respond to elaborate grace with elaborate worship.

LORD, thank you for your elaborate grace. Teach us how to worship you in ways that reflect your love and grace, and befit your awesomeness.

[1] particularly Exodus 20:2-7.

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