May 7-11, 1993

Exodus 39

The completion of the tabernacle, and its presentation to Moses (as the Lord commended). The tabernacle was all built within no more than a total of six months. Obviously, there was a huge labor pool and the people did not have to work for their livelihood, so they could dedicate themselves completely to the work.

Vs. 1-31, the work in general on the priest's garments. Great skill, cunning work, was required to make the cloth (which was various colored linen with gold woven into the fabric), wonderfully engrave the stones, form the gold and then all united with great skill into the beautiful priests' garb.

I. Let me cover a point from Exodus 39:30 for a foundation for the rest of what we will cover in this section. This first section discusses the making of the high priest's garment. The last piece of the garment (the plate of pure gold placed upon the forehead of the high priest, 28:38) is mentioned in v. 30. The plate had engraved upon it, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. Therefore, this engraving is the sum total of all the priest's garment.

Although we discussed the phrase when we first encountered it (28:36), let me mention some points.

Not even the high priest was holy in himself; his holiness was provided for him by the Lord, his garments. The NT application is as obvious as any illustration in the OT:

1 Co 1:30; But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
2 Co 5:21 For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Heb 7:26 For such an high priest became us, [who is] holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Re 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Conclusion concerning the garments:

The garments provided by the Lord made the high priest holy just as the garments provided by the Lord makes His NT priests holy. Neither the OT nor NT priest was holy in himself; rather, his holiness was provided by an act of God's sovereign and free grace. Aaron had, and every priest (NT believer) sense Aaron has, shown himself unworthy, yet God's grace was/is sufficient, Exodus 32.

Clearly then, the Lord, in His sovereign grace, provided the OT priest's holiness in the garments. Equally clear is that the Lord, in His sovereign grace, provides the NT priest's holiness in the garments provided through faith in the Lord Jesus; we are clothed in His righteousness (HOLINESS).

[There is also coming a day when everything will be holy, In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Zech 14:20. See my study in Zech.]

II. Now to build on the fact that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, let us pursue a point and its implications. Chapter 39 describes the work that went into making the beautiful garments. It opens with an easily overlooked three word statement that is the very heart of the chapter (& Christianity): cloths of service. As if to emphasize the point, the Lord reiterates: to do service. The priest's garb was made for glory and beauty (Ex 28:2), but all the glory and beauty was worthless unless placed into the service for which it was intended.

Matthew Henry rightly comments: "Those that wear robes of honour must look upon them as clothes of service; for from those upon whom honour is put service is expected... Holy garments were not made for men to sleep in, or to strut in, but to do service in; and then they are indeed for glory and beauty."

Yes! the garments were for glory and beauty, but they were only so when they were placed into service. We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ for a propose: His clothing must be viewed, not as preparation for heaven, but as preparation for service: work! Christ's clothing is WORK clothing: its purpose is to do service to the King. The beautiful clothing of Christ's "HOLINESS", v. 30, is not for "heaven," but for hard work, long hours, sacrifice of personal pleasure and desires: WORK for the King and His Kingdom.

III. There is another point in this chapter which should be mentioned. Six times in these 32 verses, we meet the words, as the Lord commanded Moses. Thus, hard work and sacrifice are only acceptable because they are according to God's command-word, 1 Sam 15:22.


First, many times hard work and sacrifice are wasted when not according to the command-word of God. Hard work and sacrifice are not acceptable in and of themselves, but because they are according to the Lord's command.

Second, the vast majority of God's people view Christ's clothing of holiness as simply "beautiful" clothing for strutting, sleeping and entrance into an exclusive club, heaven ("no shirt, no shoes, no service;" but outside you can "take it all off"). To the average Christian, Christ's clothing has very little, if anything, to do with work. The result is that society in general views work as very distasteful. See EN.

We must realize that society in general reflects the Christian's attitude in particular. The attitude of Christians toward service and hard work must be reflected back to them in society: they will reap what they sow.

EN. A couple of years ago, we moved into the country where we are surrounded by large farms (over 1,000 acres). One of our neighbours said that he can no longer get boys to help him during the summer: they want good pay, but do not want to work. This attitude seems to be all to typical of the average young person coming up today. They desire to step right in and take over where their parents left off after 40 years of hard labour and sacrifice (sadly, parents many times expect the children to be able to pick up where they, the parents, leaves off with no hard labour & sacrifice from the children).

The prevalent Christian attitude (sleeping, strutting &/or heaven) concerning the clothing of Christ's holiness permeates the work force.

Vs. 32-43

1) Unity: the speed with which all the tabernacle was built assures us that the people worked together in harmony. Everyone did their part with no murmuring and complaining. No one was fearful of someone else receiving the credit for their work.

I am struck with the unity of spirit: their unity of spirit for the Lord's work was totally out of character for these people. They had been complaining from the time Moses first met them, they built the calf as soon as Moses was out of sight. In Aaron's words, they were bent on mischief, Exodus 32:22. Moses, in one of his final sermons to them, describes Israel well: De 9:7 Remember, [and] forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.

Yet for these few months, thy work together as one person on the tabernacle.

A) Unity: the above point of the determination of this people toward disunity leads us to ask, "How could they be so unified for these few months in a common, godly goal?" The obvious answer was found in Exodus 35: the Lord made the people willing to lay aside their differences, their pride and overcome their rebellion long enough to build the tabernacle. From the foot of the mount, they moved on to the border of Canaan, where again their rebellion takes control. But for a few months, it appeared that they would indeed serve the Lord God with all their heart.

Observe an important implication: a people cannot raise above their character over a long period. They can buckle down for a short time and do marvelous things, but as for sticking with it over the long haul, they are unable to do it.

B) Unity: Bezaleel & Aholiab were divinely inspired to build and to teach; thus they were able to unite and inspire the people and accomplish the marvelous work for the tabernacle. But, we do not read of these two men or their children making the right decision a few months latter at the border of Canaan.

Therefore, the point here is that God worked in the hearts of the people for a specific time and task: build the tabernacle. When the task was complete, the Lord seemed to remove His hand from them and allowed them to return to their old carnal nature; they had no change in character, so they returned to their old character. This situation of the people laying aside their rebellion for a few months, then returning to it reminds me of Peter's words in 2 Pet 2:10-22, But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire, v. 22. Israel here turned to the Lord for a few moments of time in amazing, Godly service, but it returned to its rebellion just a quickly. There must be a change of heart, and that change will be evident over a lifetime.

I believe another point here is the necessity of training up our children with Godly character, so the situation will be reversed. They may depart from the good character, but they will return to their training. Proper training must take place in the home.

I am again struck with the sovereignty of God: the grace which intervenes in the history of sinful man. God's grace overrides sin and rebellion, and causes man to accomplish God's will. Thus God is not restricted by sin: in His time, His will and purpose is accomplished.

The NT application is obvious, and we have covered it many times. Everyone has a skill given by the Lord, and we are responsible to use that skill for His glory. We are to use it without murmuring and complaining, without pride and deceit. As we do, a beautiful work will be accomplished for the Lord. Instead of unity being the exception for the Christian, as it was for Israel here, it should be the rule of the day. The situation should be at the very least reversed from what Israel did. They only united for a few months, then went back to their bickering and rebellion. The Christian, if he does it at all, should only temporally get caught up in bickering and rebellion.

C. Unity: The key to their unity is found in vs. 32, 42 & 43, all that the Lord commanded Moses. They had a common Commander, the Lord; they had a common leader, Moses; they had a common goal, the tabernacle. Disunity comes when everyone goes their own way and sets their own standards. Really, disunity results when the commands of Moses are departed from.

There are an abundance of passages dealing with this doing. A few are:

Ro 12:5 So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
1 Co 10:17 For we [being] many are one bread, [and] one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
1 Co 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ.
Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

The workmen did not deviate one bit from God's instruction. As previously, they did not add to or detract from the command-word of God. "God is pleased with willing worship, but not with will-worship. (MH)" Or doing things beyond or short of the command-word of the Lord, Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Col 2:23.

Unity: Moses was not acting on his own; he was acting for the Lord God, as the lord commanded Moses. I think one of the major causes of disunity is the leader either not properly presenting the command-word of the Lord or he presents his own command-word.

V. 42, the emphasis is on the people doing the commands of the Lord. Moses made it very clear to the people that they were obeying the Lord, they were working for the Lord and not for him. Do we as leaders make that clear to our people. I know that I have a difficult time with Steve: he feels that every time I ask someone to do something, I am taking advantage of them. In other words, I have not made it clear that the people are working for the Lord, and not for me.

V. 43, the people brought the finished products to Moses for his inspection; Moses found everything up to "specs," and Moses blessed the people. Observe:

1) the same Lord who gave the ability and willingness to work, also gave humility: the people were not offended that they had to bring everything to Moses for inspection. I know people who do indeed have great abilities, but they would not bring their "finished product" to another for inspection for the world. They would rather not do anything than have to humble themselves and submit their efforts for inspection. Are their abilities of God? Does God give abilities without a sense of responsibility. These people, no matter how much ability they had, willingly humbled themselves and submitted to proper authority.

2) The specifications for the work were not Moses'. He examined everything, but he examined it according to the command of the Lord. Many times leaders hold people up to their own personal standards, not to the standards of the word of God. Leaders and authorities must be extremely cautious of expecting more from people than the word of God expects. The fundamental Baptist movement which I grew up in was very bad about setting standards above what God established. I covered this in the last chapter which was also in a MO (5/93).

3) the people were not paid for their service for the building of the tabernacle, but then again, they were not having to work for a living. Later at the repair of the temple under Assa (?), the workmen were paid. Where is the line between doing what is expected and being paid? Hag complained because the people were more concerned about their own houses than they were about the temple. Hag 1:4 [Is it] time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house [lie] waste?

4) This chapter closes with a blessing upon the faithful, and Moses blessed them. A) he blessed them for doing all the Lord commended, not for doing all he (Moses) commanded. B) He blessed them as a leader is required to praise those under his authority, Rom 13.

A) Is it wrong to praise people for doing what the Lord commands them to do? This is a problem because of the Lord's parable concerning the servant who did what was commanded of him:

Luke 17:7-10, But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

How can Moses' blessing and Christ's words be reconciled?

Notice therefore, Moses did not say to the people, "You only did as the Lord commanded you," although obviously they did. Note Deut 33:1 &c: the implication of the use of the word bless in this particular passage of Ex 39, is that Moses explained to the people what the Lord would do for them because of their obedience in the work. He did not brag on them; rather, he reminded them of God's promises upon the faithful.

He may have said something like, The lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Num 6:24-26.

Or more than likely, it was something like this: "The Lord bless thee according to your faithfulness."