Click here for the reading: Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38.
Large portions of the second half of Exodus describe the tabernacle and its construction in meticulous detail. As we learn from the book of Hebrews, especially Hebrews 9, this detail serves an important purpose. It is meant to teach us something about what is to come. Why does the Lord use types and symbols instead of “speaking plainly”? What do those types and symbols mean for those to whom they were given? Why should we not simply “jump forward” to their fulfillment when explaining their meaning? What does Paul mean by the former things being a shadow of things to come in Colossians 2:17?
Moses listens to the Lord and sets up the tabernacle just as God tells him to do. Placing the tablets of the Law into the ark, he sets the lid in place and brings it into the tabernacle. What is the purpose of the ark of the testimony? Why does it need to be screened? What is the entrance of the ark meant to teach Israel? How does the Lord express the same idea to the Church? Why does the Lord say that the ark will be forgotten in Jeremiah 3:15-18? How does that help us interpret this passage in Exodus?
Once the final preparations were made, the cloud of the Lord covered the tent. God’s glory filled the whole tabernacle, so that not even Moses could enter. Israel who had been enslaved, to whom God seemed so far off, now has her Lord dwelling in her midst. Why is this a fitting conclusion to the book of Exodus? How is God dwelling among us a comfort in the midst of distress? How do we know that He dwells among us? Why does John compare Jesus to the tabernacle in John 1? How is the glory seen in the tabernacle a type of the glory seen in Christ?
The cloud and the fire show that God is present among His people. Whenever they move in the wilderness, Israel is meant to follow. Thus, the Lord teaches Israel to not only follow the visible signs, but also to follow Him wherever He goes. What other signs did God use to teach Israel to follow Him? How does the Lord teach us? How does He not teach us to follow Him? Compare Deuteronomy 8:1-6 with this passage and the purpose of God’s signs in the wilderness.
The canonical order of the Bible, while important for learning all of the books, frequently exists simply by tradition. However, it is not accidental that the laws and regulations of Leviticus immediately follows. Now that Israel sees God’s glory in her midst, the Lord shows her the meaning of holiness, without which no one will see Him. What is the purpose of holiness? Why is it important to define it, especially with the presence of God in mind? Why does Christ’s appearance in the flesh call for us to be holy? How does John answer this question in 1 John 3:1-10?