“There’s no avoiding the fact that Exodus dedicates exorbitant space to the architectural details of the tabernacle. And those details occur not only once but twice. Every preacher must solve the conundrum of how to preach Exodus without preaching the same sermon(s) multiple times.”
I used to lead a small group Bible study in my home. And when I proposed we study Exodus, people agreed to participate only if we stopped once we hit the Ten Commandments (chapter 20).
Some time later, I proposed preaching through Exodus at our church. Some of the other elders expressed concern that a chapter-by-chapter exposition would be too taxing for the people. They wanted assurance that we wouldn’t belabor the tabernacle details.
Over the years, I have heard from many friends, who attempted to read the Bible cover-to-cover, that they gave up in the closing chapters of Exodus (though I can think of some who made it as far as Leviticus or Numbers before abandoning ship).
These three anecdotes highlight a major barrier for modern readers: There’s no avoiding the fact that Exodus dedicates exorbitant space to the architectural details of the tabernacle. And those details occur not only once but twice. Every preacher must solve the conundrum of how to preach Exodus without preaching the same sermon(s) multiple times. Every Bible reader must cope with both the pile of cubits, fillets, calyxes, and ephods (Ex 25-31), and the pile of cubits, fillets, calyxes, and ephods (Ex 35-39). As my son loves to ask me: Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell out, and who was left?
If we believe that all Scripture is useful and profitable (2 Tim 3:16-17), and we are to take heed of what God has revealed about himself, how might we approach chapters 35-39 of Exodus? Will we simply skip them, trusting the lessons from Exodus 26-31 to be sufficient? Or does the Lord have more for us than that?
I have 6 suggestions.
1. Ask why the tabernacle has so many details.
I’ve tried to cover this in my sample Bible studies on each chapter, as I’ve landed on the big picture from the beginning: Yahweh wants to dwell with his people. Here in the tabernacle, we have one of the clearest pictures of Immanuel, God with us. This is worth much time, attention, and detail to ensure we comprehend the glory of it.
2. Ask why Exodus repeats nearly every one of those details.
God chose to give us this particular picture of Immanuel two times. Let’s not let it go to waste. After all, it’s not an exact repetition. First, Yahweh says “you shall build” so and so. Second, the narrator says “Bezalel built” so and so. That shift from instruction to construction must not go unnoticed. (For an example, just do a verse-by-verse comparison of the ark in Ex 25:10-16 and Ex 37:1-5.) Yahweh told them to do something, and they did it. Or more accurately: Yahweh told them to do a thousand somethings, and they did them all. Exactly as they had been told. Down to the jot and tittle. Even if Moses had written his scroll with fluorescent gel pens, he could not have made this obvious point any more vibrant.