Exodus 35:1-38:20 Parasha Va-yak-hel

The name of this parasha is “Va-yak-hel” – “and he (meaning Moses) assembled”. Moses had come down a second time from Mount Sinai. He had been on Mount Sinai for a second forty days and forty nights, drawing near to God, and receiving God’s laws and teachings for Israel.

He came down the second time, with the new pair of stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. This was the copy of the first set that Moses had ruined when he came down the first time, and saw most of Israel worshiping the golden calf. When he saw that, Moses threw the Two Tablets, written by the finger of God, from his hand, and they were shattered at the foot of the mountain.

When Moses came down among the people this second time, the Torah records that his face was shining, because he had been in the presence of the God of glory, and the face of Moses reflected some of the glory of God, just as face of the moon reflects the glory of the mighty sun. And, we will radiate the glory of God the closer we draw near to Him and His Son, praying, worshiping, studying, witnessing, fellowshipping, serving.

Va-yak-hel – then Moses assembled all the Adat B’nai Yisrael – the congregation of the sons of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. And what is the first thing Moses mentions? The Sabbath. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

Perhaps the Sabbath is listed first because it is so important for the life of the Holy People. It is kodesh – special, unique, holy. A Holy God demands a Holy People, with Holy Priests, serving in a Holy House, within which is a Holy Place, in which is a Most Holt Place. There is also a Holy Day – the Sabbath, which is set apart to accomplish God’s special purposes. What are some of those holy purposes?

Shabbat gives us lessons in holiness. The Holy God has given us a way of holiness, with a holy book, and holy sacrifices, with holy commands, all leading us to the Holy Messiah, who with His Holy Spirit, make us truly holy. The Sabbath helps us understand that it is the Lord who makes us holy. We don’t make ourselves holy.

It helps us remember the Creator and His mighty work of creation. At the beginning of the Shabbat, when the sun starts setting, we should consider what a great God we have, who made this incredible and beautiful universe, and everything in it, in just six literal days. We understand that the Creator is independent of His creation. He existed before it. He is almighty, infinite in knowledge, wisdom and goodness. This is so important, especially as our society drifts away from Biblical values and denies the Creator and creations. The Sabbath helps us in our fight against secularism, humanism, evolution and post-modernism.

The Sabbath helps us remember that God is not only our Creator, but also our Savior and Redeemer. God didn’t just create the universe and then abandon it. He is a God who intervenes in the universe to save human beings. This great saving God saved a whole nation, who were slaves, out from under the terrible power of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of its day. Sabbath reminds us our salvation out of Egypt. It wasn’t until the Jewish people were delivered out of Egypt that we began observing the Sabbath.

The Sabbath also points us to the salvation found in the Messiah, who called Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath.” As the Lord of the Sabbath, He is able to give us His rest, as He promised when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). The rest Messiah provides is daily; it’s acquired by faith, not self-effort. The secret of victorious living is that we learning to rest in Him and His perfect work! As we trust Him, abide in Him, believe in Him, and as we rest in Him, He works through us, giving us moment by moment victory and success!

The Sabbath reminds us of the future completion of all things. There will be a completion to history; there will be a fulfillment to salvation. There is a tradition that the seven days of creation are symbolic of seven thousand years of human history. As is typical for a normal week, the first six thousand years would be full of work and weariness. But the Sabbath represents a future time when the Messiah will rule over the entire world, which will enjoy one thousand years of salvation, peace, wholeness, and rest. When the Garden of Eden blooms again on Earth, Shabbat will be there. And, after the Millennium, there will be an eternal Sabbath that awaits us in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The Sabbath reminds us of the unseen and the spiritual. Human beings are prone to be engrossed by the things of this world so that they forget the spiritual. There is to be one day in seven that we are forbidden to think of the things of the world and encouraged to think of things unseen and eternal.

The Sabbath helps free us from materialism and greed. Man need not be subject to work as though work was the dominating force in our lives. God knew that there was a danger of working ceaselessly for material things until you burnt yourself out so much so that you can’t enjoy them. God command us to stop working, stop acquiring wealth, stop reaching for more and more material things and reach for the spiritual instead. So, He gave us one special day to be grateful, not greedy. It’s a day for freedom from work, from human exploitation, from over-attachment to things.

&Shabbat reminds us that life is not about working all the time. There are six days for that, but life is also about resting, thinking about our great God, and enjoying the good things in life that our good Creator has blessed us with – Himself, our families and a good religious community, the ability to enjoy good fine, good wine. It’s about considering Him, and thanking Him for all these good gifts.

Making a commitment to observe the Sabbath can increase our faith. We will understand that the universe will not fall apart if we take a day off. God is in control and He will provide for our needs, both physically and spiritually. Our faith is in Him, not in our own ability to provide for ourselves.

Not only does your soul needs to rest, but so does your body. It needs to be refreshed as well. We need time when the cares of this world are eliminated. No work, no boss, no bills, no fixing broken faucets. It is like an oasis of peace in the middle of a hectic life. The Sabbat is to be a break from the routine of work. By the prohibition of all work the Sabbath provides rest for all those on whom the curse has fallen. It helps soften the curse.

The Sabbath can strengthen the family. The average American father spends little time each day with his children. This can produce angry, damaged adults. As the family faces more and more pressures in our fast paced society, as homes are left in shambles, as we are vulnerable to more and more bad influences, we need extra protection. A family that spends Shabbat together will be a happier home, a blessed home, with children who are blessed.

The Sabbath is an “ot” a sign between Israel and God. It is a sign pointing us to Israel’s unique relationship to God. We were to be distinguished as Sabbath keeping people among all the nations on earth (Exodus 31:13-17, Ezekiel 20:12).

The Sabbath also reminds us of the Breet Olam – the eternal covenant between God and Israel. God has created and chosen the Jewish people, and this relationship, where He will be our God, and we will be His people, will last forever. The Sabbath is at the heart of this covenant. Observing it is part of our covenant obligation with God. It is to be observed It is to be perpetually observed, eternally celebrated, throughout our generations, including our generation.

“But Rabbi Loren, Israel has sinned so often. From the golden calf, to the rejection of the Messiah, the majority of the Jewish people have not been faithful to God. Hasn’t that covenant been broken? Do we still need to keep the Sabbath?” Remember the words of the Lord found in the book of the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day (that’s power!) and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night ( that’s intelligence, that’s design, that’s beauty, that’s power) who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar (that’s more evidence of His great power); Adonai Tz’vaot – the Lord of hosts is His name: Adonai, the One who is who He is, who has absolute being, existence, reality, and life in Himself. He is the eternal and all-existing God. He is without beginning and without end because He always is. He has being inherent in Himself. Everything else derives its being from Him. Our life, our existence, is completely, totally dependent on Him.

But not only is He Adonai, He is Adonai Tz’vaot – the Lord of Armies. He is the most powerful Being in the universe, the most powerful force in the universe. He is the supreme Commander in Chief of the millions of powerful angels in Heaven and the forces of His people on Earth, and all the forces of nature and creation. Does He have the power and the ability to fulfill His word and His promises regarding the nations of Israel? Absolutely! Completely! Most assuredly!

The Lord continues: “If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord (and it won’t), “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.” (And we won’t – we will never cease from being a special nation in the mind, heart, plans and councils of this Supreme God).

Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured (and they can’t be explored by man. We have no starship capable of going Warp 10 that will enable us to explore and measure the farthest reaches of the universe) and the foundations of the Earth searched out below (and they won’t be – no human exploratory team will make it to the center of the Earth) then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the Lord.

In spite of our sins, Israel still has a covenant relationship with God, and therefore the Sabbath is an essential part of a healthy Jewish life, including a Messianic Jewish life. I know that in my own life, it has become, and continues to become, even more important. I want so much that all Jewish Believers everywhere would really take this seriously, and enter into the importance and the blessings of the Sabbath. And, I am also delighted when my non-Jewish brothers join me, setting this day apart, making it special, wanting to draw nearer to the God of Israel and His Chosen Nation.

The Sabbath is not a burden but a precious gift. The Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). Isn’t is nice when someone makes something special for you? Shabbat is a custom made gift for us, given to us by our Heavenly Father. It is meant to be a joyful festival, a celebration, with the best meals of the week, the best foods, the best drinks, rest, worship, time with family, time with friends, time with God. It is a wonderful gift from God to us.

It is Shabbat Shabbaton – a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord; no ordinary work is to be done.

This Shabbat Shabbaton is “Lah Adonai” – it’s for the Lord. It’s not just about you. It’s deeply connected to God. Before the Sabbath starts, can I recommend that we pray, “Lord, this day is Lah Adonai – it’s for You. What do You want to accomplish this day? What good and spiritual purposes do you have in store for me, my family, my congregation? Lord, this day is for You. What can I do? How can I help You today?”

To show us how serious this commandment is for Israel, the Lord says that whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You don’t put someone to death for a misdemeanor, for a small violation, but the Sabbath is a “biggie”. It’s really important.

You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day. I don’t think that this command is teaching us that we can’t enjoy light or fire on the Sabbath, as some Jewish sects have understood it to mean. It seems to have to do with the family cooking and baking (see Exodus 12:16 and 16:23). Just as a double portion of the manna was collected on Friday, but not collected on Shabbat, so too we should make extra preparations on the Day of Preparation before the Sabbath. All the work that goes into ordinary food preparation and cooking should be avoided. Those who make the meals for the family need a rest too!

Next, Moses moves on to the building of the Mishkan. He had received the plan to build the Mishkan from the Lord Himself, while up on Mount Sinai. The earthly tabernacle was a copy of the Temple in Heaven, which is where God is present and is manifested in a much greater way.

Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a t’rumah – an offering, a contribution to the Lord; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the Lord’s contribution

And, it this was to be a voluntary offering, only from those whose hearts, whose innermost beings, freely willingly wanted to give. There was no pressure to give, no appeal letters, no taxes, no manipulations or coercions of any kind. The same holds true of our giving. We should want to give to and support building the dwelling place of God on Earth in our day – which is Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles. We are God’s Temple the place where God lives and dwells on Earth in the most powerful way, and we should want to bring our contributions to help build it.

And, that is how Congregation Shema Yisrael operates. We don’t coerce, we don’t tax. We allow those who have willing hearts the opportunity to give. And, when things are right, people will want to give. The people kept bring more, and more, and more, until there was more than enough and Moses had to issue a command for them to stop giving.

Now, most of the people here at Congregation Shema Yisrael have been generous, but we’ve never reached this place, where we’ve had to issue a command to stop giving because there was t too much! Maybe we will come to that place some day, but it hasn’t happened yet!

When Moses finished speaking, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, both men and women, brought jewelry and items of gold and silver and bronze, and blue, purple, and scarlet material, and fine linen, and goats’ hair and rams’ and porpoise skins.

And not only were there contributions of these precious materials, but those who had skill, like the skilled women, spun and wove the material into a usable form. And the special men that God raised up – B’tzalel, Oholiav, who were master craftsman, along with other artisans, and other skillful persons in whom the Lord put skill and understanding, helped build the Mishkan.

Maybe you can’t give much – but you can give something! Maybe you can’t do much – but please, do something! Use whatever ability, whatever skill that you have, to build up the Holy Community, the Temple of God.

The materials that the people were asked to give were valuable, since the Mishkan was made out of precious metals and valuable other materials. That tells us that God is valuable, precious, and the things connected to the Lord are likewise of great value. Are they to you?

That brings us to 36:8 to the end at 38:20, the details for the actual building of the Mishkan. The curtains and boards and veil provided boundaries. They were designed to keep people at various distances from God. Israelis could enter the court, but not the Holy Place. Priests could enter the Holy Place, but not the Most Holy Place. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and only on Yom Kippur. God is too holy and pure for sinful men and women to approach directly. Access to the dwelling presence of God, in the Most Holy Place, was severely limited to mankind.

The precious metals used were gold, silver and bronze. Gold was and is the most valuable, silver the next, and then bronze. The closer to the ark, the more gold was used. Outside in the court, there was more bronze. The point is that God is precious, and the closer we get to Him, the more we realize how beautiful, how valuable, how precious the Glorious One is. Do you?

In the Most Holy Place of the Mishkan was the Ark and the Ark Cover. This is the exact location where God most especially and powerfully dwelt on Planet Earth. Atop the Ark was the Ark Cover, with two golden Cherubim, their wings touching each other. Just as in Heaven, the Living Being, and the Cherubim and Seraphim, surround and protect the throne of God, so from above the Ark Cover, the Creator would manifest His Presence on Earth.

Inside the Aron were the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a golden jar with manna. The Two Tablets tell us that the God of Israel is a God of law and justice. His laws are of central importance to Him. If we are going to have any kind of genuine relationship with God, it will only happen on the basis of His laws. We must come to Him on His terms – there is no other way. The demands of His Torah must be met – not bypassed. If you violate God’s laws, ignore them or try to circumvent them, you will not dwell with God. It’s that simple.

The golden jar with manna reminded us that God promised to supernaturally provide for His people – even in a desert wilderness. Just as He miraculously provided for Israel, so He will provide for us too!

Aaron’s rod tells us that we need a God-appointed, God-ordained mediator to approach God for us. Man in his fallen state cannot enter the Presence of God. Sin has damaged us too deeply to approach the presence of God directly. We can’t approach Him directly ourselves, and we can’t appoint anyone we please.

The Golden Table, which held bread and wine, speaks to us of God’s provision. God will provide for the spiritual and physical needs of His people. It also speaks of chah-vay-root – fellowship. Eating together has always represented sharing and friendship. The God of Israel wants to be intimate with us, sharing in our lives, so that we are His friends. Are you?

The Golden Seven Branched Menorah, which gave light for the priests to serve the Lord in the Holy Place, tells us that God and the source of truth and victory. Let me point out that the seven cups that held the oil were shaped like almond blossoms. That tells me that some of God’s light shines to us in nature. God reveals Himself to us in the beautiful creation, in the flowers, the trees. Creation reveals His power, His glory, His artistry, His subtlety, His intelligence. I love trying to discover something about God as I observe nature. Do you look for it? I do, and it greatly enriches my life.

The Golden Altar of Incense, on which every morning, and every evening, k’toret samim – fragrant spices were burned on it, ascending upward to Heaven, teaches us that God does listen to the prayers of His people. He is a who hears, enjoys and answers the good prayers and praises of His sons and daughters. Our prayers and praises should ascend to God at the beginning and at the end of every day.

The Bronze altar teaches us that God is a God who provides atonement through the sacrifices, ultimately the Final Sacrifice of the Son of God.

The Bronze Wash Basin was made from the bronze mirrors given by the women who served the Lord at the doorway of the Mishkan. Godly women are great, and have a special place. Godly women should be moving from vanity to purity, from the physical to the spiritual, from outward beauty to inward beauty.

The Mishkan is gone. Everything in it is missing or destroyed. We have no High Priest with his beautiful clothes, with the ephod, the Urim and Tumim. The other sons of Aaron, the other priests, are not serving. There are no sacrifices being offered to make atonement. No fragrant spices. But Messiah, who is the Substance to which the Shadows pointed, remains. He is serving in the True Temple, the Greater Temple, which is in Heaven itself. In fact, He is our Temple, where God most fully dwells and manifests His presence among human beings. And He enable us to become part of the Temple of God.

He is our Ark, the place where God and man meet. He is like the Veil: He opens the way to God for all mankind. He is like the Table: He provides us with the Bread of Life, and the Wine of Joy. He is our Golden Altar, making our prayers rise up and ascend into the presence of God, and be accepted by Him. He is our Golden Menorah, who gives us blazing light, total victory and the fullness of salvation, and the knowledge of God. He is our Bronze Altar, where the Ultimate Sacrifice – Himself, was offered, bring us Final Atonement. Like the Bronze Wash Basin, He cleanses us. He is our Great and Holy High Priest, and, He makes us a kingdom of priests, giving each one of us skills and abilities to serve God. Do you know Him? Do you trust Him? Do you have Him? Are you serving Him?