Moses finished the work.
Section One (Parsha Debrief):
This week’s Parsha (Exodus 38:21-40:38) contained: the final moments of building the Tabernacle.
In the Midweek Reading Guide, we asked a big, bold question — If you were the author of the Bible, how would you wrap up the Book of Exodus?
Now that we’ve spent the last 10 weeks sifting through the details of Exodus, we can look at the landscape as a whole.
So, how would you wrap up a book with two huge events — Egypt and Sinai/Tabernacle?
The words in the Text seem fitting:
Moses finished the work.
At which point, “the cloud cover(s) the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord fill(s) the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).”
If we do the work of creating the space and time for God as we’ve unpacked these last few weeks in Exodus… God will fill that space and time throughout all the stages of our journey.
There’s more. The chiasm footnoted in Attributes of God and alluded to in the Midweek Reading Guide seems to transition us right into Leviticus.
Rabbi David Fohrman suggests that the two big bookends on either side of the chiasm are God’s presence on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:15-18) and God’s presence in the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:33-35). Moreover, he finds a mini chiasm within each bookend that mirrors the other.
The center of the two bookends give way to the first verse in Leviticus — “And God called out to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting (Leviticus 1:1).”
It’s as if what is about to be discussed in Leviticus is deeply connected to the Tabernacle’s purpose — bringing God with them and putting God on display to the world. What’s more, I think Rabbi Fohrman’s finding suggests that God can and will speak to us if we create the space and time.
Section Two (Connection to NT + haftarah):
There are 40 chapters in the Book of Exodus. Right about where you’d expect the midpoint to be, the whole book transitions. Amidst chapters 18 and 19, Israel finds itself at Mt. Sinai — the place of Revelation (as mentioned in The Space Between Us). Prior to this, the Book of Exodus was about Egypt and leaving Egypt. At the Revelation and thereafter, the book focuses on what it means, looks like, and takes to bring the Sinai experience with Israel on the rest of their journey (e.g. the laws and building the Tabernacle).
We’ve unpacked the Egypt part of Exodus and explained the possibility that the Signs and Wonders performed by God aren’t solely for the purpose of bringing Israel out, but might be more so about getting the ruler of the most powerful empire of the time to recognize YHWH ( the Creator God). Essentially, getting a pagan nation to experience the power and precision of the one true God. In unpacking the Sinai and Tabernacle details we laid out the case for a God who wants to join His people, take up residence among them, and go with them.
With that in mind, I find it interesting that the Luke Text (Luke 6:12-19) connected to the close of Exodus says,
…a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon… came to hear Him… because power was coming out from Him…
I had the privilege of recording with the Bema Discipleship Podcast crew recently. We ended up talking a little about Judea and Jerusalem, and Tyre and Sidon. Ask yourself this: why are these locations relevant to what Jesus is doing?
Here’s the short of it… Judea and Jerusalem, at their most basic, represent the Jewish world. Likewise, Tyre and Sidon, at their most basic, represent the Gentile world. In the Book of Exodus, God seemed adamant about both the Nation of Israel and the gentile world coming to recognize Him as YHWH. And, the second half of the book seems to be about the important details of how the Jewish people are going to put that same God on display for the world.
What if the author of Luke is suggesting the very same things? I’ll admit, at first glance when I read this Text I thought the people coming to Jesus were just using Him for His healing powers. But, when paired with the close of Exodus, I think maybe there’s more… maybe it’s not just about healing. Maybe God is still making His Creator God-self known through power and precision.
Side note — as if knowing we might fall trap to believing the Creator God’s is set aside for royalty — the very next story in the Luke Text is the beatitudes (which we’ll chat about next week).
Section Three (missing the mark):
The Tabernacle Text, almost half of the Book of Exodus, tends to get lost in translation. My hope is that as educated readers we are becoming more open to Torah’s details having relevance and meaning in how we follow Jesus. For example, I think some pastors can miss the mark by jumping to Hebrews for understanding and interpreting the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system.
Is it possible that reading Hebrews (or other NT books) in isolation from the events and ideas that they are commenting can lead to misinterpretations of the narrative? I believe so.
While the physical Tabernacle no longer exists, it’s purpose and design can be part of our modern day guidance in relating to God and humanity.
Let’s not dismiss the guidance we’ve been gifted (see what I did there? Rabbis talk about the Torah and the Laws as wedding gifts from God).
Section Four (real-world applications):
No matter how mature we become in life or in faith, God has gifted us this Text to guide us in our relationship with Him and Creation (Footnote #1). In fact, through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord says to the people of Jerusalem:
I remember the loyalty of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
Almost as if God continues to call us back to our youthful relationship with Him, where we listened as He spoke to us from the space and time we intentionally created for Him (i.e. the Tent of Meeting).
Finish the work of the Tabernacle.
Next Week’s Readings: Leviticus 1:1-5:26(or 6:7); Luke 6:20-49
It really seems like God’s presence and provision are hallmarks of the Book of Exodus. But, there also seem to be some nuances. In the first half of the book, God refers to the Israelites as His firstborn. In fact, Rabbi Akiva looks at the details of the Passover instructions in Exodus 12:7-9 and asserts that the Exodus is birth imagery. In Rabbinic thought, Israel was re-born that day in history. However, the details of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai provide different imagery — a marriage (e.g. the Ten Commandments as vows). One book; yet, two pictures. Israel is God’s firstborn and Israel is God’s bride/spouse. Despite obvious differences, the images actually evoke similar undertones in terms of relational maturity. Both images suggest infancy or newness in a relationship between God and His people. In the early years of rearing, child protection and provision are huge components of parenting. Similarly, newlyweds find themselves getting to know each other and each other’s preferences. If we step back from all that we’ve been taught and shake ourselves from the “Lullaby Effect”, maybe we can ask whether the Book of Exodus is designed to remind us how new God’s relationship is with the Nation of Israel. And, if we are able to come from that same place, maybe we’re also in a good place to ask if it’s possible that the remaining books in Torah are necessary tools a parent might use to instruct a child or a spouse might use to communicate to their new partner.