Exodus, the second book of the Torah (or Instruction), was a description of the initial journey from Egypt to Canaan. Everyone was on a journey, inclusive of Yahweh, who initiated this passage in order to shape, formally and practically, a peculiar people set apart to Himself from among the nations. Intrinsically, it was a forty-year spiritual identity formation orientation, with God as her trainer and Moses as His co-instructor. And what a struggle it was for everyone! The participants in this trek were to discover for themselves their new identity, and hence, the distinctiveness of their God.
The large chunks of information, over a third of the Book, on the building plans for the Tabernacle (25-31), followed by its actual construction (35-40), together with the earlier promulgation of the feasts and festivals (12:1-32, 42-51; 13:1-16) and the subsequent laws and ordinances (20-23:19) were significant in informing us the meticulously precise basis of obedience required for the relationship between Yahweh and His people. By designing in detail His own ‘house’ (25:8-9) and choosing its location at the heart of the Israelite community (Num 2:2), God was adamant that His identity and fellowship with His people were inseparable, and He wanted the world to notice this enduring association. However, His allegory of a husband living with his estranged wife helps us empathize with His deep disappointments whenever Israel turned her back, time and again, away from Him (Isa 54:5; Jer 3:20).
Yahweh’s purposeful choice of colours and material combinations for the priestly attire, the Tabernacle coverings and paraphernalia, were extraordinary in their elegance and beauty, and quite unlike anything seen in that part of the world. They were not without meaning, as in all of His creations, they disclose who He is to His people. For example, each metal fixture in the Tabernacle was hammered out of one single metallic piece, and each portion of fabric was weaved individually as one continuous whole, signifying a God who is the indivisible One. Consequently, the concept of worshipping such a unique Being, illustrated brazenly by a disastrous representation of a calf (32:5), was a totally ill conceived Israelite perception of Yahweh from a background of pagan influence. Hence, the recurrent uphill endeavours to transform them into One-God-worshippers, Who cannot be represented by any graven image, as He is I AM (3:13-15). And to demonstrate His presence among them, the most sacred object decreed by Yahwehistic worship is an empty seat atop the Ark of the Covenant (25:21-22).
In this passage, Moses’ discovery of himself matured from a reluctant leader to an able administrator (18:24-26; 39:43), from a reclusive shepherd to a friend of God who was privy to view a reflection of His glory (33:10-11; 33:18-23). The Israelites grew from a rebellious motley group to one that learnt to follow Yahweh’s directions as they prepared to possess Canaan (40:36-38). Even the erstwhile Egyptian Pharaoh learnt to his detriment what this God could do for His people (5:2).
The Exodus journey is not unlike our orientation towards the Almighty as we struggle and grow in our appreciation and acceptance of His love and authority. The author of Hebrews clarified that these ancient religious trappings point us to Jesus, who is the “more perfect tabernacle, not made without hands, that is to say, not of this creation” (Heb 9:11). Exodus clearly indicated to us God’s deepest desire for a personal relationship with His people, and that remains extant down the centuries to this day, with Jesus as the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3). It is a privilege drawing near to this great God with thankful and obedient hearts.