Read Exodus 25:1-9
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
‘Build a house. I’m coming to live with you.’
Wait a minute.
Just yesterday, we read how the people felt that if they saw God face to face, they would die. Now He’s planning to move in? How will that work? How will His presence not just burn everyone up?
They have to do it right.
God gives detailed instructions over the next seven chapters (read the headings in your bible if you want to) about everything from the Tabernacle itself to what the Priests will wear, even to the washbasin! He says, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”
It’s not open to artistic interpretation.
This is God’s house.
Yet, He does want the Israelites to build it. He could simply speak it into existence, as He did the entire universe, or even the manna, but He wants this place, this special Tabernacle, to be something the people have a part in.
It will be made from things the Israelites have already: gold, silver and bronze; as well as blue, purple and scarlet thread (they’ll have to make the cloth); skins, leather, oil, spices and jewels. Many of these things are plunder they took from the Egyptians when they left; and notice that God does not demand the gifts: “everyone whose heart prompts them.”
He’s looking for joyful givers.
Likewise, in chapter 31 God talks about the man He has chosen to oversee the whole project. “I have specifically chosen Bezalel … I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.”
You get the sense that Bezalel is going to love this job.
He has literally been made for it.
This Tabernacle will be a tent – a grand tent, to be sure – but a tent nonetheless. If I were Moses, I might be wondering why. Why a tent, and why now? Why not wait until they are in the promised land, and then build a proper temple with stone and wood?
For reasons of His own, God thinks the Israelites need His physical presence among them right away. It’s more important to Him that He be among them for the journey, than that He get them to the end of journey.
This is often His way.
He’s more interested in now, than later.