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Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday, January 20th
Or read the whole section Exodus 24:1-31:32 & chapters 35-41
We live in an age in which people are increasingly identifying themselves as spiritual but not religious. That’s different than atheist. It’s most often associated with the “nones,” those when asked which religions do you practice respond, “none of the above.” Many of these seekers are looking for genuine experiences of God. They’re hungry for transformational experiences of a Divine Word. They’re thirsty for life-sustaining community life which is more than just a club or organization. Often the critic is made (at least in the metropolitan and increasingly secularized context in which we live) that it’s easier to find God outside of church, rather than in it. This week Morning Edition on NPR is doing a great series of interviews on just this topic. I encourage you to listen to them (they’re each roughly 8 minutes long). You’ll find them online here: http://www.npr.org/series/169065270/losing-our-religion
Our passage today – or the larger theme/story is of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, the space and place in which the Israelites moving towards freedom in the desert encountered, sought and experienced God. It is the resumption of the movement of Moses “coming up to God” begun before the listing of the Book of the Covenant in Exodus 20:22-23:33 (which we saw last week).
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Intertexualities:
Exodus 25-31 tell of how God wants the Tabernacle built. Exodus 35-40 tell of how the Israelites finally build and use it. These two movements in the construction of the holy place for God to dwell are interrupted by the Israelites disobedience in building the Golden Calf (Exodus 32-34) when they fear that God has forgotten them.
There is great attention to detail given in this construction. Some of this can be seen in the graphics on the next page, taken from the NIV Study Bible. It can also be seen in historical details that we forget. For example blue and purple were the color of royalty, expensive dyes (25:4) which came from shellfish which swarmed in the waters of the Northeastern Mediterranean. These dyes were so important to the local economy that the land was named Canaan (in Aramaic), and later Phoenicia (by the Greeks), meaning “the land of purple”.
In 31:1-11 we learn of Bezalel and Oholiab, chosen to be in charge of construction, inhabited by the Spirit of God which gives sill, ability and knowledge to them. Their names mean respectively, “in the protection of God” and “the divine father is my tabernacle.” The spirit of God equips them for special service to God.
The Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting was not a permanent place where God’s people met for collective worship, but a moveable one where God met, by appointment, not by accident – with his people as they became a free people. See 29:42-43
Other Biblical passages that build upon Exodus 24-31 (aka “inter-textualities”)
Hebrews 3:1-6 – Jesus is presented as the “new” Moses, mediator with God.
Matthew 4:1-2 (Jesus’ temptation) & 17:1-13 (the story of the Transfiguration)
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How?
2. The passage for today is basically an explanation of how to be ready, or get ready to come before God. What strikes you in their preparations? How do you/we prepare to come before God? How is that different and/or similar? Why?
3. Theologically we affirm that there is no need for a Tabernacle or Temple; that we are the temple of God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Revelations 21:22). So if the church is our Tabernacle or Temple, do we still need to have a church building to prepare or come to in order to meet with God? Why? Why not?
4. What role or purpose does the church have in our world today? What should it? Why?