Questions & Observations
Q. (Exodus 25:1-40): Do we learn anything from God’s instructions on how to construct the Ark? Is it just that God knows what he wants to be comfortable? Any significance to the cherubim? Also, I notice that 27 inches is repeated many times.
A. God is asking His people to sacrifice in order to create a place of gathering that will serve His people for the next several decades. The Tabernacle will dwell within the center of the community — putting God in the midst of His people — and will be a point of gathering. The items requested would have made a beautiful gathering — which was very functional as well, it could be folded together and loaded up any time — that would have served the entire community.
I think we’re on the wrong track when we think of God desiring “comfort” as though He wanted a Lay-Z-boy to recline in. This is not an incarnational presence, like Jesus. This is the presence of God becoming the literal center of the tribes while they are in the wilderness. We will see how the instructions for the ark and tabernacle will come into play as we move along, but watch for the importance of the poles and rings when it comes time to move. There is a very special reason for the rings and poles on the ark.
The cherubs — a name for what we think is a classification of angel, but no one knows for sure — were seen in the OT as symbolic attendants to the throne of God, what we call the mercy seat, the cover to the ark. And in a throne room, the attendees of a king would have been at his left and right.
Don’t pay much attention to the dimensions, if for no other reason than the NLT uses modern units to help us more clearly understand the dimensions of the items being built. If you look at the NIV or King James, they give the units in “cubits” rather than feet and inches. For reference, a cubit equals 1.5 feet, or 1 foot, six inches. Obviously, there were no “inches” and “feet” as measures in ancient times, and generally there were very few standards of measure.
Q. (28:6): Is there any significance to the thread colors chosen — blue, purple and scarlet?
A. Yes. These colors were symbolic of royalty and were incredibly expensive. Like the gold and jewels for the task, God is seeking the best that His people have to offer. He is requesting them to sacrifice in this instance, as one would do for a human monarch.
Q. We see this lavishness that God commands for himself. No question, he deserves it all. I just wondered what kind of philosophy the Bible says churches should have when building their places of worship. Some churches are lavish, others are basically four walls and a roof. I have had the mindset that if churches spend a lot on their buildings, they are not using their money wisely. They could be using it for missions. But, then, are they showing disrespect for God by not having the best possible place of worship?
A. You’ve obviously asked a complicated question, as you can tell by the various ways that churches and individuals have answered it. Some churches are much more comfortable with “four walls and a roof” (I’m thinking of the of those pre-fab metal roofed churches that you see in rural areas), while others (I’m thinking of an absolutely amazing Catholic Basilica I visited in St. Louis) desire to create real beauty and glorify God through craftsmanship. I think that both decisions honor God in different ways: we can say, “Lord be glorified by this place” or “Lord be glorified by what we will do within this place” and be perfectly right in both cases. In this instance, God required the people to sacrifice their best in order to create something that would benefit everyone in the community. Overall, I would say there is no one “right” way to build a building for God — unless He gives you one as He did here — and we must be discerning to what God desires of us.
Q. I shouldn’t say this, but this reading is a yawner. Not much action. But, I do glean several things from it. 1) There are things made for Aaron’s attire that will remind him who he is, a representative to all the people of Israel. 2) God asks for a beautiful place to dwell among the people. I would love to see it!!! 3) Anything else I’m missing?
A. Seems like you’ve got the general idea. The instructions given here are just the groundwork: we will still see these things built later in Exodus, and put into action in the next few stories. So hang in there.
If you (or anyone else) wants to see what this would have looked like, I find that there are various groups on the internet who have built life-size replicas. Like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark.jpg