Exodus 40:34 “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
It’s easy to miss this little gem right at the very end of Exodus because so much of what comes before it is so darn boring. First you have God instructing Moses on how to construct the Tabernacle, not in general terms but right down to how many loops to put in the curtains. It goes on for chapters. Then, once you think you’re done, it goes on to report that Moses went out and did what God commanded…repeating all the instructions again, right down to the last detail. One wonders why “And Moses did so” couldn’t have been an acceptable substitute for all of Exodus 35-39.
But after all of that, just when you think that God belongs on HGTV rather than in worship services, we get this amazing statement about the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle. Maybe it doesn’t seem amazing to you, but it does to me. For about 10 chapters it has seemed like God is immensely concerned with the minutiae of tabernacle design, and I really came to wonder why…if God was so worried about getting all those cubits right…that God didn’t just miraculously create the thing and plunk it down in the desert for them.
And then it hit me. “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself” is not a Bible verse. God had a design in mind, but it was part of God’s plan that human beings be a partner in its creation. God wanted to use the gifts of those skilled embroiderers, gem cutters, woodcarvers, and those who twisted all that fine linen. God wanted the people to bring their gold and silver, to use their talents, and to be fully a part of the place where God would dwell. And the people did so. They brought so many resources that Moses had to tell them to stop, and then it was finished.
I’m guessing that there were imperfections. Maybe a curtain didn’t hang exactly straight or one lampstand was a tiny bit shorter than another. Certainly it wasn’t as perfect as it would have been if God had done it Himself. But God honored the work of their hands. Human participation, sharing in the effort, was more important than technical perfection and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, blessing human effort with divine presence.
I’ve called this verse the “Old Testament Incarnation,” since it seems to be exactly the same thing the Gospel of John is saying when he reports, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Human flesh is not perfect. It has flaws and limitations. But God wanted participation more than perfection, and so God’s spirit joined with human flesh and became a baby in a manger. I believe that is still God’s desire—not to rule over us, but to be a partner with us in bringing the glory of the Lord into the tabernacle of human hearts, to help create God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
God of tent poles and curtain loops, thank you for accepting the work of our hands. Amen.
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