Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Why All This Detail about the Construction of the Tabernacle? (Exodus 26-27)

Among the genealogies listed in the Bible, the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and especially the Tabernacle is probably one of the most boring things to read in the Bible. Why record its construction with such pedantic specificity? One reason I can think of, along with the genealogies, is to emphasise the historicity of the accounts—that these things truly happened in human history. If the Bible were untrue, why would the authors go into such amazing detail about genealogies and religious constructions? It would’ve been a complete waste of their time, especially considering the intense attention to detail and meticulousness that went into copying the Scriptures on animal skins and expensive parchments of paper that were a sparse commodity.

Regarding the specifics of the Tabernacle, the whole point for its construction is for the Holy God to be present with His people in a real (or sacramental) way, hence the central part of the Tabernacle: the Holy of Holies where God would be centrally present (26:33-34). The whole place is holy, which literally means set apart. Holy things stand out. This is no ordinary tent. Nothing else in all the camp of Israel would’ve looked like the Tabernacle. It’s holy, which means it’s vastly different than any other building in all of Israel. It is necessary that it stands out in such a way because its holy function is so much more unique than any other tent.

The same is true of our churches. The church is no ordinary building, even though we keep building them as ordinary, boring, minimalistic rectangles with vain platitudes hanging on amusement park banners. The building is an essential part of the church because God’s people need a place to locally gather to worship Him and receive the forgiveness of sins, but the church also consists of God’s people. The church—both her corporate building and her individual members—are holy, set apart, uniquely different. Our churches and lives ought to reflect God’s holy selection given to us in our Baptism.

We don’t look or speak like the rest of the world. That’s why our church buildings look different (at least they’re supposed to), why we speak differently, why we also look different, and why our music sounds different. We use hymns and traditional instruments because if we wanted to get our worship from the world, a Taylor Swift concert could well do that for us. Our churches don’t look like office buildings because they utilise symbols and icons to evoke messages of our faith. We use different vocabulary and refrain from obscene talk (Colossians 3:8) and slander (8th Commandment) unlike the rest of the world. We dress modestly and abstain from sexual immoralities because we honour God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). And so on.

Things that are holy don’t look like the rest of the world. The Tabernacle looked nothing like ordinary tents. Our churches aren’t supposed to be hardly distinguishable from an office building or McDonald’s. And God’s people don’t speak, dress, act, or talk like the rest of the world. Are we truly set apart if we can’t distinguish our churches from the marketplace and our people from those who engage in hedonistic living? If our worship and Christian living reflect the world more than they reflect Christ, then there is some serious reformation that needs happening.


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