The Purpose of the Wilderness Tabernacle: It Begins With a Gift
On Mount Sinai, Moses was given more than just the Ten Commandments. He was also granted a set of elaborate instructions for the building of a structure that would serve as a meeting place for God and His people. It was a temple of worship that involved specific protocols and procedures that were required for the express purpose of providing a possible means for God's people to dwell with Him per God's request.
Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
— Exodus 25:8
From the fall in Genesis up until the Tabernacle construction, the Bible records people occasionally walking and talking with God but not dwelling with Him. As we shall see, it is within the framework of this Old Testament sanctuary that God draws His people closer to Himself through an intricate sacrificial system. This arrangement can speak volumes to us today about the specifics of such a great salvation and indescribable gift.
. . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . . . ?
— Hebrews 2:3
Every detail that Christ accomplished in order to restore our relationship with God can be discovered in the particulars of the wilderness tabernacle.
The Invitation to Give
Before any building begins, God invites the people to give, willingly, a contribution to this project. Human will is the first thing God chooses to deal with.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.
— Exodus 25:1-2
God is not interested in coercion. Love isn't loving if it is forced or manipulated. God will do neither.
There is more to the story than this, however. God's invitation to give seems to be a point of entry in giving to us. We shall see what this looks like.
The Widow of Zarephath's Gift
Our first demonstration begins with the Biblical narrative of the prophet Elijah, a type of Christ, who visits the widow of Zarephath at the prompting of the Lord to do so. God wanted to do something great and provisionary for them both, but He first asked the woman to give to the prophet according to what she had.
Women in Bible typology represent the humankind that God seeks to connect with. It is notable that this widow is from Zarephath, meaning she is a Gentile. This woman was without a husband which meant that she was without provision, as was the state of mankind after the fall and prior to Christ.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.”
This particular part of the scene is reminiscent of another narrative in the New Testament concerning a woman at a well.
Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” . . .
. . . Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
— John 4:10-14
This scene, too, exhibits Jesus wanting her to ask Him so He could give to her. Continuing with the widow of Zarephath . . .
And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread (Word of God) in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil (Holy Spirit) in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” (image of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit)
So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah
— I Kings 17:8-16
Again this is mirrored in the New Testament at the feeding of the multitude.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled
— Matthew 14: 15-20
All of these together point to what God wants to accomplish in establishing His truth and the pouring out of His Holy Spirit. It begins with the invitation to actively participate by exhibiting our willingness. Our faith is demonstrated by our decision to give.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1
God functions through faith.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love
— Galatians 5:6
And love always gives. God so loved the world that He gave. The gift He requests is to be born from a heart that understands the gravity of that gift.
A Pictograph Insight
The Hebrew word translated "offering", as it is used in Gods request to give for the building of the tabernacle, reveals this very concept of reciprocation based upon our understanding of, and faith in, the indescribable gift we have been given and the gratitude that naturally should flow from that.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
— II Corinthians 9:15
This particular word comes with an interesting pictograph interpretation that coincides also with what we have studied thus far about the tabernacle as it concerns the concept of Christ and relationship.
A note before we continue with this section is that the Hebrew fonts of the word we are studying are presented in a right to left reading format.
The Hebrew word for a free will "offering" is "tĕruwmah" תְּרוּמָה and its root is "ruwm" רוּם. The root is the three center letters of "tĕruwmah" and means to "exalt", "elevate" or "lift high". This word's very first occurrence is in reference to Noah's Ark, another tri-part temple template and a foreshadow of Christ or salvation, who was lifted up as a sin offering on our behalf.
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself.”
— John 12:31-32
In order to stay on topic, we are going to look at just a couple of letters from this word in their pictograph forms. The two outer letters "tav" and "hey" in that respective order, are a prefix and suffix to the root "ruwm" רוּם and can shed some light on what is meant by this word.
The first prefix letter of the word "tĕruwmah" תְּרוּמָה is a "tav" and it was presented as a cross. It symbolized the sign of a covenant. This is sincerely marvelous considering that this was a written symbol long before the cross was used as an instrument for justice and judgment.
The final suffix letter of "tĕruwmah" תְּרוּמָה is a "hey". It can be portrayed as a window relating to the idea of revelation and can display what comes from the word being defined.
In combination with this prefix, suffix, and center root we could say that "tĕruwmah" תְּרוּמָה or freewill offering is what comes from lifting high and exalting of the covenant.
The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt (ruwm-רוּם) him
— Exodus 15:2
The "Song of Moses" in Exodus above hints that this is connected with preparing for Him a habitation. God initially prepared a place for us in Eden. Now God asks us to prepare a place for Him. Relationships are not one-sided. Love completes its circle when reciprocated.
This interchange continues into the New Testament as described in a conversation between Jesus and His disciples with God once again preparing a place for those who have prepared a place in their hearts for Him.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; but if not, I would have told you, because I am going away to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also. (Lexham)
— John 14:2-3
The covenant is key. God is mindful of His covenant.
. . . He will ever be mindful of His covenant
— Psalm 111:5
He invites us to reciprocal rightful mindfulness of the same.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Be ye mindful always of his covenant . . .
— I Chronicles16:14-16
His covenant was not a matter to be taken lightly. His gift to us, if truly understood and appreciated, would and should naturally result in our lifting up freely the covenant in lavish generosity.
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
— Hebrews 10:28-29
The freewill gift was the evidence of what was elevated in the heart of the person who gave.
A Notable Sinner's Example
The book of Luke chapter seven offers us a great example of giving from a heart of appreciation in the scene where Jesus was invited to eat at Simon the Pharisees' house.
A woman who was a notable sinner in the community visited Jesus during this gathering and began to wash His feet with her tears and wipe them dry with her hair. Simon, a self-perceived righteous Pharisee, was appalled in his thoughts that Jesus was having anything to do with this woman. Simon didn't say anything, but Jesus knew what he was thinking and began to teach, by parable, an incredible lesson about complete forgiveness and a woman who understood it correctly.
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
— Luke 7:41-42
Simon answers correctly that the one who was forgiven much would love more. I don't think the lesson implied that Simon was any less of a sinner before God than the woman known as a sinner.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
— Romans 3:23
It speaks more to the fact that Simon couldn't experience that type of forgiveness because he was unwilling to face his own sinfulness and thereby experience the greatness of God's forgiveness. He could therefore not appreciate the largeness of the gift as the woman did and it was evident by what Simon was unwilling to give.
Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
— Luke 7:44-47
As stated earlier, the will of man is an integral part of this relational transaction that God seeks to establish. Once the will is engaged towards God it appears that God is able to offer His gift as Abraham will show us what that looks like.
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
— Genesis 22:1-2
It's as if the free-will giving of man, in faith, at God's request, creates a space for God to mirror that gift with His own offering.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16
God does not ask us to give because He needs what we offer. He asks us to give so we can make a space for Him through the exhibition of our appreciation and faithfulness.
“Hear, O My people, and I will speak,
O Israel, and I will testify against you;
I am God, your God!
I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices
Or your burnt offerings,
Which are continually before Me.
I will not take a bull from your house,
Nor goats out of your folds.
For every beast of the forest is Mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the mountains,
And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
Or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
— Psalm 50:7-15
The video below dives much deeper into the rich concepts that detail the application of the Old Testament "tĕruwmah" תְּרוּמָה.
We will part with Paul's New Testament application of this lesson.
I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work
— I Corinthians 9:5-8
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