Why did God feel the need to yet again stress the importance of the Sabbath to His people? I believe the answer lies in the rest of the portion. This was an exciting time for the people of God. They were preparing to build the tabernacle - the place where the Shekinah, the presence of God, would come down and dwell among them. I can imagine what a flurry of activity, what a spark of expectation was buzzing throughout the camp! Men were helping to bring gold, silver and bronze, along with skins and hides and olive oil; the women were consumed with spinning colorful yarns, in blue, purple and scarlet, along with fine linen to beautify the sanctuary. Not only did they do all of this, but the Scripture says that they performed all these activities with their "whole hearts" (35:21) and "willingly" (35:29). This was not the forced labor of Egypt, but a freewill offering of praise to their Redeemer.
But in the midst of all the excitement and worshipful activity, there is a tug at their hearts. It's almost time for the Sabbath! They might have ignored it and continued working - after all, weren't they doing something good? They wanted to see this tabernacle completed, in all its glory - with the Shekinah abiding with them.
Our gracious Father knew this would happen. That's why He lovingly reminded them about His special "date" with them before they began the work. He was saying, "No matter how important this work you are doing unto me seems, nothing is as important as meeting with me - not even the building of My tabernacle!"
Wow. How much does this apply to us today? We often become so involved with "religious" activities - prayer meetings, Bible studies, discipleship groups, mentorships, conferences, conventions, youth groups, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, worship practices (the list goes on and on) - that we forget to STOP and just enjoy the work that He has already completed. I am hugely guilty of this. I enjoy all of those activities; they are fun and I feel good as I am "building up" the Kingdom. But in those times that I find myself becoming too busy with the "things of God" rather than with God Himself, I need something to remind me to STOP. He gave us that reminder - the Sabbath!
What was the purpose of the tabernacle? Again, as stated in my commentary on last week’s portion, it was a physical reminder to us about something spiritual. God knows that we are spirits, but we live in these physical bodies with which, at times, we become preoccupied. However, the tabernacle was to remind God’s people that He, unlike the “gods” of the nations, desired to come down and dwell in their midst. It is also a picture of what was (and is!) to come – Messiah Yeshua. Consider these verses as we study this context:
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (“tabernacled”) among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Philippians 2:6-7 “…Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Colossians 2:9 “For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…”
Colossians 2:17 “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah.”
What about the future? Will God again come and dwell in a physical sense with His people? Now consider these prophetic verses concerning the Messianic era:
3 This is what the Lord says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain." 4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." 6 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the Lord Almighty. 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
This portion speaks volumes to me, and I'm glad for yet another reminder of how much our Heavenly Abba just longs for us to dwell in His Presence. Yes, building up His Kingdom is pleasing to Him, but we must do so only after we've STOPPED, both physically and spiritually. Shabbat Shalom (Have a peaceful, restful Sabbath)!