This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Offerings for the Tabernacle
25The Lord said to Moses:2Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me.3This is the offering that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze,4blue, purple, and crimson yarns and fine linen, goats’ hair,5tanned rams’ skins, fine leather,* acacia wood,6oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing-oil and for the fragrant incense,7onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and for the breastpiece.8And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.9In accordance with all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.<!– 10 –>
The Ark of the Covenant
10 They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.11You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it, and you shall make a moulding of gold upon it all round.12You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on one side of it, and two rings on the other side.13You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.14And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, by which to carry the ark.15The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.16You shall put into the ark the covenant * that I shall give you.
17 Then you shall make a mercy-seat * of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width.18You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy-seat.*19Make one cherub at one end, and one cherub at the other; of one piece with the mercy-seat* you shall make the cherubim at its two ends.20The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy-seat* with their wings. They shall face each other; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned towards the mercy-seat.*21You shall put the mercy-seat* on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant* that I shall give you.22There I will meet you, and from above the mercy-seat,* from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant,* I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites.
1. As opposed to all superstition and mere supernaturalism, the people must make a place for God. This does not compel God or limit God’s freedom, but it demonstrates that the people love God and desire his presence. God’s dwelling on earth is made with human hands as a sign of human desire and divine humility.
2. As the people are still nomadic, the dwelling of God must also be movable. They do not carry God with them, but as they travel they make space for God in their midst and are ready to welcome him. In the changing locations of their life there will always be space for God.
3. The cherubim are not idols: they are signs of God’s otherness: even here, on earth his winged servants wait upon him.
4. The right translation is just “seat” or “throne” not “mercy” seat which comes from Martin Luther’s tranlsation into German. The throne is a model of the throne in heaven, a reminder that the God who comes to visit his people is the ruler of the universe. Indeed, he cannot be contained anywhere and neither needs nor uses this throne. Like Magrite’s picture of a pipe entitled, “This is not a pipe,” so this throne could be entitled, “This is not God’s throne.” It reminds the worshipper of the identity of God who says, “There I will meet you.” God cannot be seen but he can be encountered.
5. The ark contains the commandments which form the covenant. God will be present in blessing where his commands are honoured and in wrath where they are not.
The book of Hebrews in particular revises these rescriptions for Christian use. In their practicality and profound wisdom they have much to teach people. For example, it’s commonplace of modern spirituality that if people open their minds to God, he/ she will be with them. The authors of this passage would ask, “where are the offerings of the people which make a place for God in the life of the community?” Even believers in the inner light, like Quakers, need a meeting place.