Are the Tabernacle Instructions to the Israelites Relevant for Us Today? | PEKUDAY – WEEK 23
By Evan Levine
Ex 28:21 – 40:38
The Torah portion entitled “Pekuday” begins with the detailed instructions, handed down from God through Moses, on how the children of Israel were to build the Tabernacle, or the Tent of Meeting. The word “Pekuday” is literally translated as “commands,” as a subordinate would receive from a commander in the military.
Many of us, it’s fair to assume, get that glazed overlook in our eyes when we get to these sections of the Scripture. Is there really anything that we can learn from reading these extremely detailed instructions regarding the materials and structure of the Tabernacle? Is it even relevant today?
The short answer is, yes. While we may not be building a scale-model replica of the Tabernacle in our backyards, there is still much to be gleaned from these passages.
As I read over this portion, I am able to identify three major themes that relate to the proper manner in which we are to serve God.
- Excel in craftsmanship.
- Don’t deviate from the plan.
- Follow the cloud.
Excel in craftsmanship: Throughout the years, you have most certainly heard or taken part in discussions and debates as to whether the quality of our work for the Lord is more or less important than the heart position we have while performing it. For example, if one is putting together a children’s curriculum for a Sunday school program, is it more important that the truest intention of his heart is to serve and honor the Lord through this task or rather that the curriculum be accurate and excellent?
As a worship leader, I encounter this quite often. Many people who are true and genuine worshipers of the Lord with the purest of heart intention simply aren’t very talented vocalists or musicians. Should the position of their hearts allow them to serve the Lord on our worship team, even though the quality of the music will be affected negatively?
I find that, often in our circles, we allow for less than excellent work to be done in the name of the Lord due to the fact that the heart of the person performing the work was in the right place.
In this portion, we find an argument against this position:
Exodus 38:22 “Now Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord had commanded Moses. With him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and a skillful workman and a weaver in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and fine linen.”
Exodus 39:3 “Then they hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads to be woven in with the blue and the purple and the scarlet material, and the fine linen, the work of a skillful workman.”
Exodus 39:8 “He made the breastpiece, the work of a skillful workman.”
As we can see, God didn’t allow just anyone to build and outfit the Tabernacle. The work was important; it was holy, and it had to be done by those who were skilled in their particular discipline.
The heart position of those serving the Lord is of unquestioned importance, however, the level of skill that they bring to their service is not to be overlooked or diminished.
Don’t deviate from the plan: One of the great things about God is that He’s always right! He means what He says, and He says what He means. God does not need our counsel.
There is a sweet submission and release that occurs in our spirit when we realize that we can fulfill our calling and destiny simply by doing what God asks of us. We don’t have to write the script ourselves.
This point is driven home time and again in this portion by the repetition of one phrase: “just as the Lord had commanded Moses,” which appears 15 times in two chapters.
After every stanza of instruction, the words are repeated. God is trying to get through to us and let us know that we need not embellish on His plans. In the same way, we should never leave certain details undone, thinking they are too minor to matter.
This is a critical principal to apply to our lives as believers that is so simple and yet so hard to actually do sometimes. We can just relax and do it exactly as God has told us.
Follow the cloud: Once the work of the Tabernacle had been completed – with skillful excellence and exact accordance to God’s specifications – the cloud of God’s glory came to rest upon it.
Exodus 40:36-37 “Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up.”
God’s favor and blessing do not always remain in the same place. He isn’t stagnant. He isn’t tied down. He is spirit, and He moves as He wills. Our job is to follow Him where he goes, not to try to bring Him back to a place that He has already left.
People don’t like change. We don’t like to invest in something only to have to move on from it. But this is exactly what God is asking us to be prepared to do. Think how much work it was to disassemble and reassemble the Tabernacle each time. Surely the Israelites wanted to just stay in one place for a while!
Sometimes we experience seasons of intense anointing and closeness of God’s Spirit. This happens in the lives of individuals as well as in the corporate life of churches and ministry organizations. Our tendency when this happens is to set up camp right there and keep doing the same thing we were doing in that season – even after the glory has departed. In this way, we elevate the system and the place that was connected with God’s last outpouring to the status of being holy; when, in actuality, it’s just a piece of ground that God’s Spirit once rested upon. But the ground isn’t holy, His presence is.
The challenge for us is to be flexible enough to rejoice in God’s presence when it is found but, at the same time, be ready to tear down and move on to the next thing He wants to do through us and for us. We chase the cloud, or the cloud leaves us behind.
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About the Author
Evan was raised in a Reform Jewish family and came to faith in Yeshua shortly before his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 12. Guided by a singular passion to see the Jewish people come to faith in the Messiah, Evan has been involved in Jewish ministry throughout his life. In 2009 Evan and his wife, Elisa moved to Israel and helped to found the ministry, HaTikva Project, where Evan serves as the executive director. The ministry meets the needs of poor Israeli believers, provides dental care to thousands of patients a year in their dental clinics and promotes and facilitates adoption and foster care in Israel. Evan is also an accomplished public speaker and worship leader and serves as the worship director of an indigenous, Hebrew speaking, Messianic congregation in Jerusalem. Evan and his wife live just outside of Jerusalem with their three children.
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