While Moses is on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights, God tells Him many things. For the next few chapters in Exodus, we will review the content of the details God gives Moses on the various artifacts of worship. For chapter 25, God provides the detailed requirements for:
- Ark of the Covenant
- Table for Showbread
- Gold Lampstand
While these specifics seem foreign to us, keep in mind that God is telling them exactly what to do and exactly how to do it, leaving little to no room for private interpretation. God is specifying the conditions of worship and how the Israelites are to approach Him. In preparation of the decorative aspects of the materials listed, God makes request of special valuable offerings from the Israelites in verses 1-9. He asks them for items such as gold, silver, animal skins, oil, stones, and other things. All of this is to direct the people to create a place for God to dwell among them: The Tabernacle.
Ark of the Covenant (vs. 10-22)
A holy box, approximately four feet long and two and one quarter feet wide and high. Acacia wood is impervious to disease and insects and would have been durable. Although there is not yet a restriction mentioned of touching the Ark, a lot of description is in place to ensure that it can be carried with poles.
In contrast to their pagan neighbors, the Ark is as close as God’s people will get to an idol of any kind representing God. The only content specified for the Ark at this time is the Testimony which God will shortly give to Moses (The tablets of the Ten Commandments). The Ark would have surely been impressive with its gold and depiction of cherubim, which were mysterious angels atop the mercy seat, or lid of the Ark.
The mercy seat has an interesting meaning and application. It is translated from a Hebrew noun derived from the verb meaning to “atone for.” The Israelites would have recognized the mercy seat as representing peace with God. A commentary suggests that it would have a similar meaning to the Israelites as the cross does for us today.
Eventually, the Ark will come to contain many objects deeply relevant to God’s promises and covenant with His people. These physical reminders will serve to encourage and remind the often-forgetful Israelites of what God has done and has promised He will do for them.
Table for Showbread (vs. 23-30)
Like the Ark, the Table for Showbread is overlaid with pure gold and will be carried using poles, restricting the touch of human hands. The holiness of these artifacts before God and the people precludes human touch, who live in sin before a perfect God. The dishes on the table will be made of pure gold, to elucidate the value of God’s relation to man. The Table for Showbread will eventually contain twelve loaves of bread to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
Gold Lampstand (vs. 31-40)
This lampstand surely would have been beautiful. It was to be made out of one talent of pure gold, which equates to about seventy-five pounds, or about $112,425.00 in USD today. “Monetary” value of the lampstand at the time of the Israelites is uncertain. This gold lampstand was a menorah with seven lamps, which will eventually become the basic design of the menorah in Judaism. The number seven for the lamps represents completion. The symbolism abounding in these artifacts only increases in its complexity and impressiveness as we move forward through these chapters.
For us, the most relevant message in this chapter is found in the last verse: “And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” God is saying many things to His people, but there is a theme that connects all of His instructions and guidance: do not deviate. If God is going to all of the trouble of recording the history of His interaction with mankind, and is specific in how He wants man to approach Him (under both the old and the new covenants), then it follows that He fully expects us to pay close and focused attention on how He specifies our actions towards Him. Given His power, His love, His mercy, and His ability to punish, we are poorly served to frivolously approach His instruction.
Let us heed all of the Words of Holy Almighty God. Let us take all of His commandments seriously, putting on the whole armor so that we may find strength and success as we strive to live righteously and justified before Him. Heeding the ways of the world will not serve us well in the end.