Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Terumah

Exodus 25 - 27:19

God actually wants to dwell among men! If he hadn’t said so himself, we might find it difficult to believe; but he did say it, “Make me a sanctuary [mikdash] that I may dwell among them”. That sanctuary reveals to us more about God and what he requires in order for him to be able to dwell among us.

What is God like? He is like gold. Looking at the sanctuary, as we move from the outside to the most inner part, we see that the metals to be used in its construction become more and more precious until, within the tabernacle itself, all is gold. The walls, the table, the menorah, the ark and the cherubim were all made of gold. How beautiful it must have looked as the light of the menorah gleamed upon it all. To have seen it must have been to feel something of the purity of God. Gold does not rust or tarnish; that is one of the reasons we value it so highly. God, too, is incorruptible, pure in all His ways, as the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity.”

Also, gold is beautiful; to look upon it satisfies our aesthetic senses. When David erected a tent and placed the ark of God in it he wrote these words in a Psalm of praise, “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness”. The character of God is beautiful; He is the sum of all loveliness.

How then can God dwell with us? We are not pure and we have no spiritual beauty. This problem is made very apparent by the separateness of God’s dwelling place in the Tabernacle. It was not open and visible to all Israel, nor to the priests. Not even the High Priest was allowed to view the inner sanctuary except for once a year, on Yom Kippur. God remained hidden from the sight of Israel within the Holy of Holies.

What is the solution to this great problem? The Ark in the Holy of Holies presents both the problem and its solution to us. It was from above the Ark that God spoke; it was there that he made his presence known. Under him was the Law written on two stone tablets, as if to remind us of what is required of any man who would approach God: no idolatry, no disrespect for parents, no lying, no coveting. Who then can approach him? No one, it would seem, for we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God”.

But, thank God, there is a solution to the problem. The cover of the Ark was called the mercy seat (haKapporeth) the place of atonement. This mercy seat proclaims the solution to the problem: the holy God is willing to be merciful to impure sinners such as you and me. There is hope!

We learn from this Sidra that we are utterly dependent on God’s mercy if we are to enter his presence.

Think of this another way. Did God ask Israel, or even Moses, for suggestions about the design and construction of the Tabernacle? After all, they were the people who would use it; did they have nothing of value to say? Obviously not. In fact, in this Sidra the LORD reminds Moses in four places that he must make the entire tabernacle “according to the pattern” shown to him by God on Mount Sinai. God requires no bright ideas from us about how he is to be approached and served. His mercy is given in his way and his alone.

How do you react to that? Do you feel, “Well, yes, but surely I have something to contribute?” When we looked at the last Sidra (Mishpatim) we saw that to enjoy fellowship with the LORD we must obey him and walk in his ways. But we have also to remember that such things are not the basis of our acceptance by God; they are simply the fruit of it. God accepts us on the basis of his own willingness to be merciful and on what took place at the mercy seat. It was there that the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled.

All the details of the Mishkan in this Sidra teach us very clearly that if we are to receive God’s mercy and know him dwelling with us, we are totally dependent on him. We are asked to contribute nothing. All we have is our sin, and that is what has created the problem. We are in no position to resolve the dilemma. God alone can do it.


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