Some of you who know me know that I’ve been working on a plan to read through the bible in a year, chronologically. I get up each morning at about 6, make a cup (or two) of coffee, and watch the sun come up while spending some time in God’s Word. It’s been great for starting my crazy, hectic, first-year-of-grad-school days in a place of calm and reflection that reminds myself of the big picture: that God has helped me to this point in my life to accomplish something great, and with His help and guidance, I can get through anything that He puts in my way.
While this is all well and dandy, that doesn’t mean I always gleefully embark upon this quest in the morning. There are days when I really would rather stay in bed, days when I spill my coffee and just want to cry, and, most recently, days when I wonder why on Earth something was explained in so much detail. Those lists of genealogies? Yeah, no idea.
One bit of clarity came this morning, though, as I finished Exodus. The past couple of days, I’ve been reading about the construction of the tabernacle. If you haven’t read it recently, here’s a brief overview:
- God tells them to build this tabernacle in exactly this particular detailed way.
- The Israelites build the tabernacle in exactly this particular detailed way.
- Moses and God review their work in excruciating detail and are pleased.
While it’s a great feat that this happened, in my head, I’ve been having the following internal monologue: “Why on Earth are you telling me about the robes Aaron & Co. will be wearing as priests *again*? I already know what they look like. You’ve told me twice. Can’t we just have a Dora moment or something that says ‘Yay, they did it!’ and move on?”
Then, I came to the end of Chapter 39:
33 And they brought the entire Tabernacle to Moses:
the sacred tent with all its furnishings, clasps, frames, crossbars, posts, and bases;
34 the tent coverings of tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
the inner curtain to shield the Ark;
35 the Ark of the Covenant and its carrying poles;
the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement;
36 the table and all its utensils;
the Bread of the Presence;
37 the pure gold lampstand with its symmetrical lamp cups, all its accessories, and the olive oil for lighting;
38 the gold altar;
the anointing oil and fragrant incense;
the curtain for the entrance of the sacred tent;
39 the bronze altar;
the bronze grating and its carrying poles and utensils;
the washbasin with its stand;
40 the curtains for the walls of the courtyard;
the posts and their bases;
the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard;
the ropes and tent pegs;
all the furnishings to be used in worship at the Tabernacle;
41 the beautifully stitched garments for the priests to wear while ministering in the Holy Place—the sacred garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments for his sons to wear as they minister as priests.
42 So the people of Israel followed all of the Lord’s instructions to Moses. 43 Then Moses inspected all their work. When he found it had been done just as the Lord had commanded him, he blessed them.
Exodus 39:33-43 (NLT)
And I was like “…wow.” I realized how much work this tabernacle creation actually took the Israelites and what an amazing feat they accomplished with God’s guidance. It’s even more so considering the fact that shortly before this, the Israelites had created a golden calf to worship because they didn’t know if Moses was coming back down the mountain. It’s a great moment of redemption for the Israelites and makes it much more logical that God backed them throughout the rest of history. Without the long buildup and excruciating detail to show how much work it took to carry out this task exactly as God had commanded, I would have had far less appreciation for the achievement and how God worked through these people.
That got me to thinking, though – why did the Israelites so epically fail with respect to the golden calf incident yet achieve such greatness with the tabernacle construction? Yes, it could be because they were petrified about defying God after He got upset about the golden calf, but at the same time, fear can only be a motivator for a certain amount of time. This construction took a very, very long time to complete. So, there must be some other underlying reason for their success.
Upon further examination, I think that the difference is in the very nature of the tasks. Waiting for Moses to come down the mountain is a very passive task – it’s not well defined, it doesn’t involve any specific action, and it doesn’t necessarily have a visible end, whereas building the tabernacle is a task – the Israelites were the one constructing the temple, they had very specific parameters, and it would clearly be done when it was done.
Last night, a friend of mine mentioned that she hated waiting to hear back from summer job applications because she cannot do anything other than wait. “I like having an action plan and getting things done.”
This is a common theme for most people. If there’s a problem, many want to do something to fix it rather than sit around and wait for God to take it in His hands when He clearly has said “Wait. I got this.”
What does this mean? I’m not entirely sure. But, in general, it’s much easier to be faithful to God when He’s given you a plan, action steps to take to accomplish a specific goal. What’s much harder is to wait, to be content in the moment and secure in the knowledge that He has us in His hands and won’t let us down. In that area, I’m pretty sure everyone, myself included, could use a little guidance.
Make it a challenge this week: be content with where you are, with what God is working in the background of your life, and ready to act when He says it’s time, but not a moment before.