Week 4: Exodus 16-34

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After delivering His people from slavery in Egypt, God leads the people back to Mt. Sinai. It was at Mt. Sinai that Moses encountered God in the burning bush. Now the people would encounter God as fire at the top of Mt. Sinai. On Sinai Moses received two sets of blueprints from Yehovah: the blueprint of the law and the blueprint for building the tabernacle.

After his first trip up the mountain, Moses relays God’s message to the people: “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 9:5-6). The people responded: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!”(Exodus 19:8). At first this seems an inspired response but it turns out to be not a statement of faith but of false confidence. They are agreeing to obey laws that they have not yet heard.

In Exodus 24 after his fourth trip up Sinai Moses comes and first verbally relates the law, then writes it down and reads it to the people. Each time after hearing the law the people again stated “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” (Exodus 24:3, 7). However, when Moses returns up the mountain for forty days to receive the law on the tablets of stone, the people worship a golden calf and engage in sexual immorality.

Contrast this with God empowering the people (by His Spirit) to have the skill to build the tabernacle and all the related altars and utensils as well as make the garments for the priests. We are told that God filled them “3 … with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:3-5). God took people who were slave laborers, maker of bricks, and through His Spirit gave them the ability to be the skillful craftsmen needed to build the tabernacle.

God is demonstrating a principle: all that God asks us to do, He will empower us to do through the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When presented with the law the people did not say, “we cannot keep this without your help.” Instead they leaned on their own understanding and abilities to keep it – they failed. On the other hand, everything related to the priesthood and the tabernacle were skillfully made by those who responded to the Spirit moving through them.

This is why when God announces a new covenant to the people He says it comes with a new heart and a new spirit. A heart for God and a Spirit to enable them.

Dr. Samuel Abatte is a physician practicing in Wasilla, Alaska. This column first appeared in the Frontiersman, a Wick newspaper serving the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska.