New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

 

Exo 40:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Exo 40:2 On the first day of the first month you shall raise up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting.
Exo 40:3 You shall put the ark of the testimony in it, and you shall screen the ark with the veil-

The “testimony” refers to the tables of the covenant, the ten commandments, which were within the ark; the connection between the ark and the “testimony” is very strong in the record. The ark was symbolic of Christ, in whom dwelt the word and covenant of God.


Exo 40:4 You shall bring in the table, and set in order the things that are on it. You shall bring in the lampstand, and light its lamps.
Exo 40:5 You shall set the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the screen of the door to the tabernacle.
Exo 40:6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting-

Sacrifice is necessary before we can enter God’s presence. Sacrifice doesn’t simply mean giving material things to God; it refers to giving up to God that which is personal and valuable to us. We’re not involved with God simply in order to get from Him; in this case, spirituality would be purely selfish, as it is in many religions. Authentic relationship with God depends upon our having the spirit of sacrifice; not in the sense that we can only get to God if we give something, for that too would be too primitive and a denial of grace as the basis of our relationship with God. But His grace and the wonder of fellowship with Him cannot be accepted by us passively nor with indifference; our natural response, if we believe it, is to want to give to Him.


Exo 40:7 You shall set the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and shall put water therein.
Exo 40:8 You shall set up the court around it, and hang up the screen of the gate of the court.
Exo 40:9 You shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is in it, and shall make it holy, and all its furniture; and it will be holy.
Exo 40:10 You shall anoint the altar of burnt offering, with all its vessels, and sanctify the altar; and the altar will be most holy.
Exo 40:11 You shall anoint the basin and its base, and sanctify it.
Exo 40:12 You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and shall wash them with water.
Exo 40:13 You shall put on Aaron the holy garments; and you shall anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office.
Exo 40:14 You shall bring his sons, and put coats on them.
Exo 40:15 You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office. Their anointing shall be to them for an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations-

The Sabbath is described as a perpetual, eternal ordinance between God and His people (Ex. 31:16). Yet in the New Testament we read that the Old Covenant has been done away; and the Old Covenant clearly included the ten commandments (Dt. 4:13), one of which was concerning the Sabbath. For this reason the New Testament is at pains to explain that Sabbath keeping is not now required of God’s people (Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 14:1-3). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is described as an everlasting covenant (Is. 24:5; Dt. 29:29), but it has now been done away (Heb. 8:13). The feasts of Passover and Atonement were to be “an everlasting statute unto you” (Lev. 16:34; Ex. 12:14); but now the Mosaic feasts have been done away in Christ (Col. 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 5:7). The Levitical priesthood was “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:13), but “the priesthood being changed (by Christ’s work), there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). There was an “everlasting covenant” between God and Israel to display the shewbread in the Holy Place (Lev. 24:8). This “everlasting covenant” evidently ended when the Mosaic Law was dismantled. But the same phrase “everlasting covenant” is used in 2 Samuel 23:5 concerning how Christ will reign on David’s throne for literal eternity in the Kingdom. In what sense, then, is God using the word olahm, which is translated “eternal”, “perpetual”, “everlasting” in the Old Testament? James Strong defines olahm as literally meaning “the finishing point, time out of mind, i.e. practically eternity”. It was God’s purpose that the Law of Moses and the associated Sabbath law were to continue for many centuries. To the early Israelite, this meant a finishing point so far ahead that he couldn’t grapple with it; therefore he was told that the Law would last for ever in the sense of “practically eternity”. For all of us, the spectre of ultimate infinity is impossible to intellectually grapple with. We may glibly talk about God’s eternity and timelessness, about the wonder of eternal life. But when we pause to really come to terms with these things, we lack the intellectual tools and linguistic paradigms to cope with it. Therefore there is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible text to speak of absolute infinity. We know that death has been conquered for those in Christ, therefore we have the hope of immortal life in his Kingdom. But God speaks about eternity very much from a human viewpoint.


Exo 40:16 Moses did so. According to all that Yahweh commanded him, so he did.
Exo 40:17 It happened in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up.
Exo 40:18 Moses raised up the tabernacle, and laid its sockets, and set up its boards, and put in its bars, and raised up its pillars.
Exo 40:19 He spread the covering over the tent, and put the roof of the tabernacle above on it, as Yahweh commanded Moses-

"As Yahweh commanded Moses" is a phrase runs as a refrain throughout the chapter, as an appropriate ending to the book. See on Ex. 36:31.


Exo 40:20 He took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the poles on the ark, and put the mercy seat above on the ark.
Exo 40:21 He brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:22 He put the table in the Tent of Meeting, on the side of the tabernacle northward, outside of the veil.
Exo 40:23 He set the bread in order on it before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:24 He put the lampstand in the Tent of Meeting, opposite the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.
Exo 40:25 He lit the lamps before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:26 He put the golden altar in the Tent of Meeting before the veil;
Exo 40:27 and he burnt incense of sweet spices on it, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:28 He put up the screen of the door to the tabernacle.
Exo 40:29 He set the altar of burnt offering at the door of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:30 He set the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water therein, with which to wash-

Before we can come to offer acceptable sacrifice and do God’s work, we must firstly wash in baptism.


Exo 40:31 Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and their feet there.
Exo 40:32 When they went into the Tent of Meeting, and when they came near to the altar, they washed, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Exo 40:33 He raised up the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work-
Jesus had this in mind when just before His death He said that He had finished the work God had given Him to do (Jn. 17:4); and He died saying “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). He felt His work had been to build a dwelling place for God- not in a literal tabernacle, but in the hearts of willing men and women whose weakness and sin He had enabled to be overcome through His sacrifice.


 
Ex. 40:33 is perhaps the clearest basis for the words of Jn. 17:4. This describes how Moses "reared up" the tabernacle, representing us (2 Cor. 6:16); "So Moses finished the work" God had given him to do. Dt. 31:24 likewise speaks of Moses finishing the work. The Hebrew for "reared up" is also used in the context of resurrection and glorification / exaltation. As our Lord sensed His final, ultimate achievement of the Father's glory in His own character, He could look ahead to our resurrection and glorification. He adopted God's timeless perspective, and died with the vision of our certain glorification in the Kingdom. This fits in with the way Psalms 22 and 69 (which evidently portray the thoughts of our dying Lord) conclude with visions of Christ's "seed" being glorified in the Kingdom. There are a number of passages which also speak of the temple (also representative of the ecclesia) being a work which was finished (e.g. 2 Chron. 5:1). In His moment of agonized triumph as He died, the Lord Jesus saw us as if we were perfect.

What God did at creation, He can do at any time. When Moses “finished the work” of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:33), there is clear allusion to God ‘finishing the work’ of creation (Gen. 2:2). The whole phrase “Behold I have given you…” (Gen. 1:28) occurs later when the Priests are told what God has given them (Ex. 31:6; Lev. 6:10; Num. 18:8,21; Dt. 11:14).


Exo 40:34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle.
Exo 40:35 Moses wasn’t able to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud stayed on it, and Yahweh’s glory filled the tabernacle.
Exo 40:36 When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys;
Exo 40:37 but if the cloud wasn’t taken up, then they didn’t travel until the day that it was taken up-

They didn’t know their itinerary ahead of time, each day and night they would’ve wondered whether they’d be called to move on or not. Their lives in this sense had no stability. If the Red Sea crossing represents our baptisms (1 Cor. 10:1,2) then this speaks of our lives afterwards being under God’s leadership and guidance, we in that sense cannot map out how we would wish our journey to be.


Exo 40:38 For the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.