Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I wish I could have seen Moses’ face during the early days of the Exodus. Here he is, some guy plucked from his pastures and his sheep and then told to lead a nation. But even more, after getting out into the desert, God would ask ridiculous things of Moses, who then would have to relay God’s commands to a well-proven fickle people who honestly would’ve rather just gone back to Egypt. God knew Moses’ situation but he kept asking for the impossible anyway. And, as he asked, the Lord provided; and he also left lessons for us, one of which the Holy Spirit has highlighted for us today.
Ok, first let’s establish that the Israelites left in haste. We can find this recorded in Exodus 12:31-34,
During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing.
So the Israelites left with what they had and with what the Egyptians gave them, which is described in the next couple of verses,
The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35-36)
The vast majority of the haul from Egypt was gold, silver, and clothes. This had been prophesied by God in Exodus 3:21-22,
And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.
Now, these people were in the desert with an abundance of gold, silver, and cloth. But when it came time to build the tabernacle, check out what God asked from then:
Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece (Exodus 35:4-9).
I can just imagine Moses as God listed this stuff off… “Gold, sure- silver and bronze, great- yarn, ok- hides of what-now? -Acacia wood? Where am I supposed to- slow down- oil, ok” …and so on. Remember that the Israelites were wandering in the desert with just the stuff they could carry and what the Egyptians gave them. Who would think to grab building supplies, manatee skins, and pre-dyed red ram skins? (Note: I say pre-dyed because it is never established that the Israelites dyed the skins.)
But people did bring those things! The gold was basic,
All who were willing, men and woman alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord (Exodus 35:22).
But even the stranger stuff was covered by the people too, “Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or hides of sea cows brought them” (Exodus 35:23). And therein lies today’s message: There are all sorts of folk in the kingdom of God. Christians get a bad rap for being conformists (after all, our religious text features rules and instructions on how to live). But that’s actually not how the Church works. God calls people from all sorts of backgrounds and interests and gives them everlasting life and a unified goal. Check out how Paul describes the church,
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
Even Jesus’ crew was a motley mish-mash group of different trades, interests, and backgrounds: he had religious adherents (John 1:35-40), fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22), coarser folk (John 1:45-46), skeptics (John 20:24-27), taxmen (Matthew 9:9), and zealots (Matthew 10:2-4). And why not? Although we come from different places, all are equal in the eyes of God; for it is written, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11). And we’re all able to receive salvation through Christ and his work on the cross in our stead. Scripture reminds us,
…That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
This isn’t for just churchy people, but for everyone, because the Lord wants everyone to come to Christ for salvation. We know because Scripture says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
While the Israelites were leaving Egypt and taking their jewelry, who thought it would be a good idea to load up on wood? I don’t know, but if you look it up, the tabernacle wasn’t some small tent; the total size was pretty big and would have required some serious lumber. Somebody did think of it though- because the Lord hand prompted him to do so. You have a specific set of skills and interests that are useful in the kingdom of heaven. Sure, not everyone will be a pastor, but everyone has a part, even you! Paul put it like this,
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be (1 Corinthians 12:15-18).
You are an important part of the body of Christ. If you were not, the Lord would not have called you- and, more to the point, you would not have been born. So put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and stay strong; you are a useful and needed member of the body of Christ!