In Exodus 36, we learned about the dedication of both the people and the artisans as they carried out the will of God in preparing the tabernacle. It is pleasing to witness their return to God in the wake of the incident with the golden calf.
Work to complete God’s instructions on the tabernacle continues in Exodus 37. In this chapter, we watch Bezalel as he does the work to complete some of the major pieces of the tabernacle. As the chief artisan of the tabernacle, Bezalel is personally crafting the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, the table for the showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense in this chapter. These items were fashioned with the aid of gold rather than bronze because they were to be within the holy place of the tabernacle.
Verses 1-9: The Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat
The ark and the lid were both created as specified. The ark itself was made out of durable acacia wood, and was covered wholly inside and out with pure gold. The mercy seat, or ark lid was made out of pure gold. Being more than two cubits long and more than a cubit wide, it must have been very heavy. Bezalel took special care with the goldwork and it was surely very beautiful. This receptacle was meant to eventually carry those very special artifacts that carried much meaning for the Israelites’ relationship with Almighty God: the Ten Commandments, a golden bowl of manna which represented God’s care for their physical well-being, and Aarons’ rod.
Verses 10-16: The Table for the Showbread
The tale for showbread was also very ornate. It was made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold too. The utensils that accompanied the table were made out of pure gold as well: dishes, cups, bowls, and pitchers. The table and the showbread were meant as a constant reminder of how God provides for His people.
Verses 17-24: The Lampstand
The lampstand was another wonder. Made entirely out of one piece of solid gold, the lampstand held seven lamps, with ornamental flowers and branches, and the bowls were shaped like almond blossoms. The seven lamps, the wick-trimmers, and trays were also made of solid gold. The lampstand, fashioned as a tree and giving off light, was representative of the life-giving power of God and the light that He brings to the world.
Verses 25-29: The Altar of Incense
The altar of incense was also made of acacia wood with gold overlay and its incense represented the prayers floating up from the people to God.
The lessons from chapter 36 can still be found in this chapter:
- Honor God’s guidance to create something beautiful and honor Him
- Follow God’s instructions exactly because “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much”
But particularly in these four items crafted by Bezalel, we can still find valuable lessons:
- The ark of the covenant: Do we hold dear God’s covenant with us? The symbols of our covenant with God today are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, do we hold these artifacts in vessels of gold as it were? Do we honor Christ with the same or better reverence as what is physically represented in the ark of the covenant?
- The table for the showbread: Do we daily consider the ways that God provides for us? Do we count our blessings? If we started, we would not soon stop. God provides for us in so many ways, food being just a part of that. Do we express gratitude to God for health, families, comfort, His Word?
- The lampstand: Even today, God’s Word is a light to our path through life. His commandments and wisdom give us the needed information to make the right choices in life to avoid foolish mistakes and to make sure we are on a path to spiritual success. Do we pay attention to the things that God’s Word sheds light on?
- The altar of incense: Do we honor God each day when we rise and lay down with going to Him in prayer? Is our approach and attitude correct? Or do we get busy with ultimately less important pursuits? Going to God early and often in prayer is perhaps one of our most-overlooked advantages as His children.
Such is the absolute mastery of God’s living Word: even in an archaic-seeming chapter from the Old Testament, we find valuably practical lessons whose relevance to our daily lives is indisputable.