Exodus 35 begins with God reminding Israel of the Sabbath regulations. This is because the work of building the Tabernacle is about to begin, and God wants to remind Israel that they need to take a day and dedicate it to God. Even for those whose vocation it is to be a minister of God still need to take the Lord’s Day to worship Him.
Moses calls for the Israelites, who had previously used what they plundered from Egypt to disobey God, to now give it for the building of God’s dwelling place on earth (35:4-9). God is so gracious that He forgives their sin for which He rightfully could have removed His presence, and offers the opportunity for them to obey and make the very place of His presence. Moses then calls for those gifted to use their gifts for the Lord (v. 10). We see God calls us to use both our physical wealth (which, like here with Israel, He gave us!) and our spiritual gifts (which, again, He gave us!) for His glory. And we see that God will stir the hearts of His people to do just that (v. 21), and to do it willingly (v. 29). In this, we see again the interplay between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
In verse 30 we see the identification of those God called for the work of building. We see that what they are called to do, God has given them the ability to do (v. 35). We also see that God calls us to help others use their gifting (v. 34), all according to His will (36:1). In 36:1-2, we see how we practically love the Lord with our heart and mind – God places desire in our hearts and the “skill and intelligence” in our mind to do what we desire to do for Him (Phil 2:13).
In verse 5 we see that the willingness of God’s people resulted in, literally, more than enough for the task. In the rest of the chapter, we see that the Tabernacle is made exactly according to God’s command to Moses. Israel’s willing hearts, their gifting, and their obedience resulted in God’s will being done through them down to the last detail. The same is true of us.
Chapter 37 begins with the making of the Ark. The “pure gold” used for the Ark is a physical representation of God’s majesty. The same is true for the table for the Bread of the Presence, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Incense. Those things closest to the Ark (God’s presence) are plated in gold. Those things further away (like the altar) are in bronze.
All of these things in the center of the Tabernacle, in or near the Holy of Holies, represent Christ. The Ark literally “kept” the commandments of God, which is fulfilled by Christ and Him alone in keeping the whole Law. It also represented God’s presence among man, which is fulfilled in Christ (John 1:14). As we have seen, the table held the Bread of the Presence, which points us to the true Bread from heaven, which is Christ (John chapter 6). The Lampstand represents the light that came and dwelt among us (John 1:9). The Altar of Incense was where the incense burned, which represent our prayers that are mediated by Christ (Psalm 141:1, Rev 5:8, 1 Tim 2:5). This altar is also used on the Day of Atonement, which points forward to the cross of Christ on the true day of atonement.
Every aspect of Israel’s worship contains a glimpse of the One We worship, Jesus Christ. Those who worshipped God in spirit and truth, even in the wilderness wanderings, were indeed Christians. Praise God!