Exodus 38:21-40:38 Parasha P’koo-day

The name of this parasha is “P-koo-day” – “amounts of or number of” – referring to the amounts of the materials given by the Jewish people to build the Mishkan.

A little background: Israel has been redeemed from slavery in Egypt with great power, signs and wonders, and by the deaths of the Passover Lambs. We are no longer slaves. We are a free people. We have crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground. God is providing for all of our needs, even miraculously, with manna, and the water that came from the rock that Moses struck. We’ve fought and defeated the Amalekites by relying on the Lord, symbolized by the hands of Moses being lifted up – then there was victory. God then manifested His presence on Mount Sinai, and the voice of God was heard by all of Israel, and the Ten Commandments were given. Other laws were given. Israel accepted this covenant with God, promising to obey His commands. Animals are killed, and blood is sprinkled on the people. The covenant is confirmed.

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, climb Mount Sinai, and celebrate this covenant with God. They had a meal on Mount Sinai, and they saw the God of Israel, who manifested Himself to them!

Now it’s time to build the Mishkan The word Mishkan comes from the Hebrew root Shachan, which means “to dwell, to abide.” We get other Hebrew words like neighbor and neighborhood from this same root. You see, in spite of the Fall of man, and our sinfulness, God still wanted to be our neighbor! He wanted to dwell among us, and be a close and good neighbor to us! He wanted to live in our neighborhood! And, that’s the kind of God He still is; but now He is dwelling among us, not in a tent, or in a Temple made of wood and stones, but in Messiah!

Then the Lord called Moses up on Mount Sinai by himself, where God gave him two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God, along with other laws, and the plans to make the Mishkan and its various items. The plans for the Tabernacle are described in chapters 25 through 31. Moses remained on Mount Sinai for 40 days receiving all this instruction.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of Mount Sinai, the majority of the Jewish people are quickly losing sight of God, and His commands, and our covenant obligations. The majority of Israel starts combining our religion with the religions of the world around us. We make a golden calf – other nations had visible representations of their gods, so why shouldn’t we too? O, we won’t deny the God of Israel altogether, but let’s compromise a little, and worship the God of Israel, and have an idol too! Even Aaron, the brother of Moses, gets carried along.

If we are not careful, it doesn’t take very long for God to fade from our sight – only forty days – less than two months. And if we do lose sight of God, then we will start reverting to the ways of the world around us. That’s scary! So, let’s keep our eyes on the Lord!

Moses comes down, destroys the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments, and ends this shameful debauchery. 3,000 men are killed, the golden calf is burned up, ground into powder, scattered in water, and the people forced to drink it, showing everyone that it is no god. Then Moses intercedes with the Lord, so that He does not destroy Israel. Moses goes back up on Mount Sinai, and gets a greater revelation of the Lord than he ever has before. The Lord reveals His Thirteen Attributes to Moses. Moses comes down after this second 40 days with his face glowing, and with another set of the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

Then Moses assembles all the people, and takes an offering to raise the things needed to build the Mishkan. It was taken only from those who freely wanted to give. And, most of the people responded. There was a great outpouring of wealth. The people had to be restrained from giving, because too much was being given! When things are right between us and God, we will want to give voluntarily, willingly, generously to build up the Dwelling Place of God. Do you?

The God of Glory is so beautiful, so precious, so valuable, and in keeping with who He is, the Mishkan was made from valuable and precious materials: gold, silver, skins, oil, spices, and precious stones. B’tzalel, Oholiav, and the other men and women of skill begin making the articles of the Mishkan: the curtains, the boards, the veil, the Ark and Ark covering, the Table to hold the bread and wine, the Golden Menorah and Golden Altar of Incense, the Bronze Altar and Washbasin. The Court, with its pillars, sockets, and hangings of linen, were made.

That brings us to today’s section of the Torah, chapter 38, verses 21-31, which is a tally of the amounts of precious metals given. Approximately 2800 pounds of gold, 9600 pounds of silver, and 6700 pounds of bronze were given! That’s a lot. This generosity is an indicator of Israel’s love for God. When there is genuine love and dedication for God, normally it is accompanied with an outpouring of wealth to build up the Dwelling Place of God on Earth. A person’s checkbook is generally a good indicator of their true spiritual condition. Where your heart is, that’s where your checks will be too!

That brings us to chapter 39, verses 1-31, which describes the beautiful garments of the High Priest, and the other priests. A Holy God needs a Holy People, and a Holy Land, and a Holy City, and a Holy House, and a Holy Place, and a Most Holy Place. Serving in the Holy House there must be a Holy Priesthood. A Holy Priesthood needs Holy Garments – special, beautiful clothing. The clothing of the High Priest included a breastplate, which was a square piece of beautiful material, with twelve precious stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The breastplate was placed on the front of the ephod, which was a short, close-fitting jacket.

The ephod also had two onyx stones, which were placed on the shoulder pieces of the ephod. The names of six tribes were carved on each stone. When the High Priest wore the ephod and breastplate near his heart, the Lord saw the stones, He remembered His love and promises and covenants with all of Israel.

Under the New Covenant, Messiah Yeshua is our High Priest, who carries us on His heart, into the presence of God. The Father sees the Son, and love and accepts Him, and because we are joined to Messiah, and are bone of His bone, and flesh os His flesh, God sees us and remembers us with love and mercy as He sees His Son!

There was a beautiful blue robe, worn under the ephod. The blue robe had a hem of golden bells interspersed with pomegranates of blue and scarlet and purple material. When the priest served in the Holy Place, the bells made their sounds, and nothing secret or strange would take place, and the Lord would not kill the priest. May the Lord keep each one of us from secret and wrong behaviors that would bring His wrath down upon us!

The priest also had to wear a hat – a turban, with a gold plate, with the words, “kodesh l’Adonai – holy to the Lord” inscribed on it, telling us that the head of the priest, and by implication, whole priest, was set apart by God to accomplish God’s purposes. Since the High Priest was holy to the Lord, God would accept the priest, who represented the nation of Israel, and who mediated on behalf of the Jewish people. These were the garments of the high priest. Ordinary priests had tunics, sashes and caps, and linen underwear.

Under the New Covenant, every Messianic Jew and every Christian is also a priest. We are mediators between God and men. We know the Lord, and we bring the knowledge and blessings of God to the rest of the world. A priest needs to be prepared for this great task. He needs to wear the right clothing. He or she reflects a little of the glory and beauty of God. God must be seen as attractive, which in truth He is.

What is our clothing today? Holiness. Salvation. Godliness. Being like Messiah. Are you clothed with the beautiful new spiritual garments of salvation, and the robes of righteousness? Is the way you conduct yourself attractive to others? Does it reflect something of Messiah, something of God?

May I also say that on a more mundane, practical level, if possible, when you are serving the Lord, dress nice. Look attractive. Don’t wear schlocky clothes, but nice clothes, when you come to worship the Lord at the synagogue, and when you are serving the Lord in other capacities.

Before we come to Chapter 40, let me make another observation. Six times, in verses 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, the words,“ka-ah-sher tzee-vah Adonai et Moshe – just as the Lord commanded Moses.” Ka-ah-sher tzee-vah Adonai et Moshe – just as the Lord commanded Moses. Ka-ah-sher tzee-vah Adonai et Moshe – just as the Lord commanded Moses.

Verse 32 informs us that all the work of the Mishkan was now completed. The sons of Israel had done everything according to all that the Lord commanded Moses.

Then, everything is brought to Moses, Israel’s leader. Moses examined all the work, and seeing that had been done just as God commanded, Moses blessed them. I like that: Israel’s leader, and the mediator between God and Israel, blessed them. And we too will be blessed when we are careful and do everything just as the Lord commanded us. Are you? But if we are not careful, and don’t find out what God has commanded, and don’t pursue what it is that the Lord has commanded us, we will not receive this kind of blessing.

That brings us to the Chapter 40, the last chapter of the book of Exodus.

Everything has been built, but more needs to be done, before God’s Sh’chee-nah, His Neighboring Presence, will descend to the Mishkan, and the Living God dwell among us.

The Torah record that almost one year after Israel left Egypt, on the first day of the first month, meaning Nisan, the Tabernacle and everything in it was set up, and put in place. But that wasn’t enough. Building a building isn’t enough. It must be sanctified. It must be made holy. It must be set apart for God’s special purposes, before it can be indwelt by God.

Outward religion, even God ordained religion, is not enough. A nice building is not enough. A prayer – even a good prayer, reciting a confession or a creed – even a good confession or creed, reading the Bible is not enough.

Verse 9 tells us that the Mishkan and everything in it had to be anointed by oil. The oil represents the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that brings religious objects and activities to life, and gives them true spiritual power. Do you have the Holy Spirit? Is He living and dwelling in you? Are you a little Mishkan?

And, the priests not only needed to be anointed, but also washed with water. A priest must be clean in order to fulfill his tasks. A priest’s hands, which represents his actions, and his feet, which represents his walk, his lifestyle, must be clean in order to serve God, come into God’s presence, and bring the blessings of God to other people.

Under the New Covenant, every Messianic Jew and every Christian is a priest. We know God, and we bring the knowledge and blessings of God to the rest of the world. A priest needs to be prepared for this great task. He needs to be clean. It’s not good to try and serve God with dirty hands and feet. Are your hands clean so that you can serve God in the best way possible? Are there things that you are doing that are dirtying your hands, that you need to stop doing? Are your feet clean so that you are walking with God, and living according to His ways?

Have you transferred your sins onto the head of the Ultimate Sacrifice, the Messiah, by believing in Him, His death and resurrection, and confessing your sins to God? Are you turning away from sinful things, and are you turning to God’s ways? Have you been washed by the waters of baptism? Do you continue to be washed by the cleansing that comes from exposure to the Word of God? Do you continue to be washed by confessing your sins, when you do sin, and asking the Lord to forgive you, and by His grace, help you to do better?

The tent is set up, having been built according to God’s command; everything else is also set up and in its place. Everything is anointed; the bread is on the Table, the lamps of the Menorah are lit, fragrant incense is burned on the Golden Altar, burnt offerings and grain offerings are burnt on the Bronze Altar, representing the dedication of God’s people, and their trust in God for providing for their food. The Bronze Wash Basin is filled with water, and used to wash the hands and feet of Moses, Aaron and Aaron’s sons. The priests are clothed in their garments, and anointed and washed, and clean. What is going to happen? God is going to come, and reveal Himself in a powerful way!

Verses 34 through 38, which we earlier read in Hebrew from the Torah, powerfully conclude this book: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

This is the same cloud in which the Lord came down, while the Jewish people were in Egypt, leading us, and protecting us from the Egyptians; this is the same cloud in which the Lord descended on Mount Sinai.

The cloud tells us that the God of Israel is so much greater and purer than us that He is hidden from human sight. He can not be seen by mortal eyes. No mortal can gaze on the unveiled majesty that is God. Even Moses, the man of God; God’s servant, our leader and mediator, couldn’t approach the glorious dwelling presence of God.

And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord – a special measure of the manifested presence of God, either more light, or a special heaviness, filled the tabernacle.

While the older covenant mediated by Moses made having distance from God essential, the New Covenant make distance from God impossible! No more clouds. No more veils. No more walls and temples to keep us distant from our Heavenly Father. Now we are joined to Yeshua, the Mediator of the New Covenant. By placing our faith in Messiah, we are joined to Him who is joined to God! We become bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. His Spirit indwells us, and we become the Mishkan of God!

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.

And the same should be true with us on our journey through life. We keep our eyes on God. When He guides and directs, we get up and go in that new direction. When He moves, we move. If He doesn’t move – we stay. If He says, “Loren My son, I want you to head in a new direction. I want you to leave the staff of Jews for Jesus, leave New York, and move to Michigan. I will lead the way. I will be with you. I will bless you” – then Loren must go. If God says, “Nancy, I know you are doing a good job for Me here in Michigan, but the cloud of My Presence is moving to New York – but don’t worry – I will be with you and guide you and protect you” – then Nancy needs to start getting ready to go.

For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. Wow! Day and night, for almost forty years, the glorious presence of the Creator of the Universe, could be seen by all of Israel. And, if anyone else from the other nations got close, they too would see that the Holy People were blessed with the presence of the one true and living God. God was alive and living among His people Israel.

May this same God, manifest His presence in and through us, more and more, as we do just as He commands, building according to His plan, have everything set in its place, filled with the Holy Spirit, washed and cleansed and serving the Lord, so that all the world may know that the Lord God of Israel is God, and the Messiah Yeshua is Lord and Savior! And, may this glorious God once again restore His visible presence to the nation of Israel. And let us say, “Amayn”!