Here the book of Exodus closes with the culmination, at least in part, of everything God has been doing throughout this book. He’s rescued his people out of slavery, made a covenant with them, and given them plans for how he will dwell among them. Even though Israel almost messed it all up by building the golden calf, God renewed his covenant and the plan to build the tabernacle is moving forward.
Exodus 35-40 is an echo of chapters 24-30. The plan God gave Moses for the tabernacle, priestly garments and everything that goes along with them is now being brought into reality. Everything God commanded Moses to build while he was on the mountain, the people obediently build in the camp. While it may feel like reading a different version of the same thing, there are powerful truths being communicated.
Israel is finally obeying the voice of God. After being angry at God for their increased labor under Pharaoh, after wanting to return to slavery before the parting of the Red Sea, after grumbling for more food despite God’s amble provision, the people of Israel are finally doing the right thing. They agree to God’s covenant by saying, “Everything the Lord has spoken, we will do.” While it looked like that wouldn’t be the case at all after the incident with the Golden Calf, things are looking up. What’s changed? What’s made this disobedient, grumbling people, obedient down to every word?
The difference is that God’s Spirit is at work. God’s Spirit equips everyone from the craftsmen to the donors to accomplish what God has commanded. The Spirit fills artisans create and those with resources to be generous. The people are obeying God’s voice by the work of God’s Spirit. All of this was taking place to build the tabernacle and create the priestly garments.
God Fills the Tabernacle
The last thing we see in Exodus is both spectacular and disheartening.
After the tabernacle is built, God comes and fills it with his presence. God is now with his people. Unfortunately, the last thing we hear from the book of Exodus is that not even Moses is able to enter into the tabernacle. The presence of God, as we have seen time and time again, is too holy, too glorious, too powerful.
So we are left with a problem. How can people dwell within the presence of God? This is the question left dangling in our minds which propels us to keep reading. Because in the next book, Leviticus, we get our answer. God’s people will be able to enter his presence through the sacrificial system.
Where is Jesus?
These questions should not only keep us reading our Bibles into the next book, but all the way through. Because these questions need to be asked by every person in every age. How can we be obedient instead of disobedient? How can we be near to a holy God? These questions don’t get their full and final answer until we hear the Gospel of Jesus.
Without the Spirit of God, we would always and only disobey God and grumble against him. We would be like Israel up to this point: getting angry, turning back, complaining, doubting, and building idols. Only when the Holy Spirit comes and works in our hearts to cause us to follow after him, can we ever do anything right. The good news is that the rest of the Old Testament promises God’s Holy Spirit will come and do this necessary work (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26).
This is what Jesus accomplished for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to us to give us new hearts that could obey. That’s why the New Testament speaks about living and walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:4). And why it talks about how the Holy Spirit has written God’s word on the tablets of our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). The Holy Spirit works a miraculous change in everyone who belongs to Jesus.
God Fills Us
But how are we a fit place for God’s Spirit to live? If so much effort was taken to carefully build the tabernacle in the exact right way, if so many rituals had to be followed to purify the space, if the people who worked in the tent had to wear special clothes and go through specific cleansing rites, if all of this had to take place for God’s presence to enter the tabernacle, how on earth are any of us a fit residence for God’s Spirit?
Surely, it can’t be because of any of our merits. Moses himself couldn’t enter this special dwelling yet. The only way any of us can be a place that God’s Spirit can live and work is if we are cleaned up and made holy. That’s what Jesus does.
Jesus cleanses us like the tabernacle was cleansed by perfume, incense, and sacrificial blood. He doesn’t just clean us up just enough to make us acceptable. He makes us so holy that we become God’s new dwelling place.
See For Yourself
I pray the Holy Spirit gives you eyes to see the God who works among his people to help them prepare a place for his dwelling. And Jesus as the one who accomplished everything in us to make our very bodies a fit place for him to live.