Exodus 35-40; Psalm 29
So far in Exodus, we have seen the Israelites, once oppressed in Egypt, find a beacon of hope in Moses. Born in adversity, Moses is chosen by God through a miraculous Burning Bush encounter. He and Aaron challenge Pharaoh with a series of plagues, leading to the Israelites' liberation during the Passover and their miraculous escape through the Red Sea.
The journey to Mount Sinai is far from smooth, marked by wavering faith and complaints. Yet, they reach Sinai where God establishes a covenant, offering the Ten Commandments as a moral compass for society. Detailed plans for the Tabernacle follow, symbolising a new Eden where God and humans can coexist.
Just when we think God has finally restored his people to him, the Israelites falter. Moses' prolonged absence leads them to create a Golden Calf, an act of idolatry and faithlessness to God. Over 3,000 Israelites are killed and God's wrath is kindled, but Moses intercedes, reminding God of His promises and character.
God relents and invites the Israelites back into a covenant relationship again. Even when his people are faithless, God remains faithful.
These last five chapters are mostly a rehash of what we read in Exodus 25-31. We first got the instructions of how to build the tabernacle and prepare the priest. We now get the people following those instructions. Because of this, most of what we said about Exodus 25-31 also applies here. The final chapter has some new details though, so we can look at those.
Having just renewed their covenant, Moses calls the people into a second offering of resources for the tabernacle. This time the people are so generous with their giving, those making the tabernacle have to ask them to stop bringing them stuff.
The craftsmen begin work on the tabernacle. Having made the tent itself they move on to the furniture, starting off with the pieces that are going to be in the centre of the tent and slowly moving outwards.
Something we didn’t mention before is some of the imagery that is woven/engraved into the items being made. The priestly garments had pomegranates hemmed in (Exodus 39:24) and the tabernacles curtains and veils woven in (Exodus 36:8, 35), as well as other examples. This imagery is to further reinforce the call back to the garden of Eden. This is a play of fruitfulness and abundance where the divine meets the earthly.
Once finished, everything is given to Moses who inspects, sees that it’s good and blesses it. He then is the one to finally put all the pieces together.
Moses erects the tabernacle on the first day of the first month. This is the start of a new year for the people. A new beginning. It’s an incredible moment. As the tabernacle is finished, God’s presence comes and fills the place.
This place, which has been designed for God to dwell, and for the people, specifically the priests and Moses, to be able to enter and meet with God, is finally ready.
And so Moses goes to enter it. And he can’t. It’s an incredibly sad moment. The mistakes and the poor choices of the people, their sin, have made them no longer worthy to come into God’s presence.
So where do we go from here? Well, the people have contaminated themselves with their sin and are unable to enter God’s presence. So just like the tabernacle was made pure and holy so that God could dwell there, we need a system to clean the people so they can be pure and holy and enter into God’s presence. That’s where the next book, Leviticus, comes in.
This psalm falls into the category of praise psalm. Because of the focus on strength and God’s voice, this was like a psalm sung after a great military victory. There was a sense that the war cry of God is what helped the Israelites win battles.
Psalm 29:1-2 - Ascribe glory to the Lord
Psalm 29:3 - His voice is like thunder
Psalm 29:4-6 - His voice is powerful
Psalm 29:7 - His voice is like fire
Psalm 29:8-9 - His voice shakes the earth
Psalm 29:10-11 - The Lord sits enthroned
The psalm opens with the call to ‘heavenly beings’ (the Hebrew describes them as sons of God) to praise God. So great is the sense of victory amongst the Israelites that they tell the very heavens to sing Gods praise.
They mention that God’s voice is like thunder over water. There's lots of imagery being pulled in here. God speaking to the water and dividing it at creation (Genesis 1:6-8); the flood narrative (Genesis 7-8); God splitting the red sea for the Israelites to walk through (Exodus 14), to name a few.
We’ve mentioned with each of these that the sea embodies the forces of chaos, and so just as God’s voice has power of the sea, it also has power over chaos. This includes the enemy armies, seeking to bring chaos and destruction. They must all submit to God’s voice.
The next feat of strength we see from God’s voice is that it breaks cedars from Lebanon. Lebanon was an area to the north of Israel, and many of their enemies attack them from the north. But God takes these enemies and breaks them, chasing them away like a young calf.
God’s voice is described as like fire, or lightning (depending on your translation). The very earth itself trembles, deers give birth, and forest are stripped bare. In each of these we see God’s authority and power over every area of nature.
And so the psalm ends, by honouring God with his rightful place, as a king enthroned. He enthroned of the flood, the embodiment of all things chaotic. His reign last forever, and he strengthens his people.
In this psalm we learn of God’s great power and authority. All the scary things of earth, whether it be chaos, enemy forces, or just day to day life, must bow before him.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.