One of the challenges of reading through the Bible is that you hit these passages early in the Old Testament with all these seemingly irrelevant verses, and I’ve been in one of those stretches for the last several days.
This particular one is the closing chapters of Exodus with all the detail about how the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant are supposed to be constructed. Oh, and how the robes for Aaron and the other priests are supposed to be made. (OK, I know the Ten Commandments and some other meaty stuff is in the section above, but this particular thing is what’s on my mind at the moment.)
I’ve read more about cubits and shekels that I even care to know. Here’s a representative selection:
Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and blue, purple, and crimson yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them.The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be of the same size. Five curtains shall be joined to one another; and the other five curtains shall be joined to one another. You shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set; and likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. You shall make fifty loops on the one curtain, and you shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. You shall make fifty clasps of gold, and join the curtains to one another with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be one whole. (Exodus 26:1-6)
There much, much more where that came from.
Chapter after chapter, verse after verse rolls on with how to make the Ark, how to make the Tabernacle, how to make the furnishings, how to conduct sacrifices, how to make clothes.
The list goes on in seemingly excruciating, and for us in the 21st Century irrelevant, detail.
But one of the benefits of slogging through this part of the Bible is the hidden gems you find, buried in the middle of all this.
In this case, it’s just part of a verse, almost an aside:
… I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you. (Exodus 31: 6b).
To use a favorite phrase of the internet and Twitter these days: Wait, what?!
You could almost miss this powerful and significant little nugget that says, very clearly: God has provided all you need to do what God asked.
And, characteristically, there’s no pause after it, there’s no pointing back saying “Pay attention, folks.” It just rolls right along, with more instructions.
It does get revisited a bit later:
Then Moses said to the Israelites: See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; he has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every kind of work done by an artisan or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of artisan or skilled designer. (Exodus 35:30-35)
So don’t talk to me about a vengeful God who asks the impossible. Don’t talk to me about a different God of the Old and New Testaments.
Because what I see time and time again, in the Old and the New, is a God to cares for the people, who gives them all they need, even to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.
I see grace. I see abundance, even in the middle of the desert. I see caring. I see love.
It’s all there if, as the saying goes, you have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Grace and peace.