Exodus 40
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics


1. It reminded them of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; "this month shall be unto you the beginning of months" (Exodus 12:2). God's dwelling-place is ever erected amid the adoring remembrance of his redemption. "The love of Christ constraineth us."

2. It was a consecration of the year upon which they were entering. It struck the key-note of the after time. The joy of the new year was to rise into the greater joy of the new life. The joy which hallows all time is that of reconciliation to, and union with, God.


1. The tabernacle was first erected in which God was to be served. The duty to serve God is confessed before the power is attained or the way understood.

(1) The emblem of the law in its strength and weakness.

(2) The story of all the saved.

2. The tabernacle is next furnished, and the altar and laver and outer court set up. The means are given of reconciliation and service. It is not enough to be convinced of duty. God must be waited upon for power. His way must be taken. "No other foundation can any man lay."

3. All things are anointed with the holy oil. The spirit hallows and energizes all the means of grace which God has given.

4. The priests also are anointed; we, too, must be so in order to serve, and we shall be if we come, as they did, into the midst of what God has provided and sanctified for man's redemption.

III. THE ERECTION OF THE TABERNACLE WAS FOLLOWED BY ITS IMMEDIATE USE. So soon as the shew-bread table was placed, the bread was set in order upon it. The lamps were immediately lighted. He burnt sweet incense upon the altar before the veil. On the altar of sacrifice he offered burnt offering and meat offering. At the laver "Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their feet." Belief should follow fast upon the heels of knowledge. God has sent forth his salvation, not to be the subject of intellectual interest and theological speculation, but to touch and change the heart. The bread of life has been given to feed the perishing, not merely to be examined, weighed, analysed. - U.

The sanctuary did not take long in making. When hearts are wilting, gifts liberal, and hands active, work is soon accomplished. Everything was ready by the first day of the new year after leaving Egypt. The new year was inaugurated by the setting up of the finished dwelling. How suitable an employment for the new year, to consecrate our hearts anew as dwelling-places for Jehovah! The section conveys lessons as to -

I. ORDER IN THE SANCTUARY. Every thing was done with order and deliberation. "Set the bread in order" (vers. 4, 23). "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 15:40).

II. BEAUTY IN THE SANCTUARY. God's house, when completed, was a beautiful house. Cf. Isaiah 9:18.

III. HOLINESS IN THE SANCTUARY. The place was holy. Moses consecrated it by anointing (vers. 9-12). Those who served in it were to be holy. This is signified by the wearing of "holy garments" (ver. 13), and by washing in the laver (ver. 31). Holiness becomes God's house (Psalm 93:5). His servants are to serve him in "beauties of holiness" (Psalm 110:8).

IV. WORSHIP IN THE SANCTUARY. Moses set the bread in order on the table, lighted the lamps, burnt incense, etc. He offered burnt offerings and meat offerings on the altar (ver. 39). The tabernacle was a picture Gospel. - J.O.

There is a difference at once perceptible between the words of sanctifying in ver. 9, and the words of sanctifying in ver. 10. Whereas the tabernacle and all therein are declared as holy, a special sanctity is somehow attached to the altar of burnt offering. "It shall be an altar most holy." The reasonable explanation of this is, not that there was any special sanctity in the altar of burnt offering itself, but that from its exterior position it was in great danger of being treated thoughtlessly, and therefore needed special attention to be called to it. Hence we are led to note the existence of a similar distinction among such things as we are bound to treat in a reverent and careful manner. Certain persons, things, and places are of such a kind as to be their own protection. Perhaps it is still true to some extent, though doubtless it was much more felt in former times, that there is a divinity which doth hedge a king. Men of coarse and scandalous tongues manage to put a check on them selves in the presence of women and children. Some are still alive who remember the horror and indignation excited by the resurrection-men of fifty or sixty years ago, and how little watch-houses were built in some churchyards, and men took it in turns to guard by night the resting-places of their beloved dead. But those who would shrink with loathing from the bare possibility that they could be guilty of such desecration are nevertheless found treating great realities of holiness with indifference, if not with contempt. Remember with what profaning hands the Holy One of God was abused; he who spake concerning the temple of his body; he who was holy, not by any mere association, not for the purposes of some temporary economy, but essentially holy. Are there not those who, thoughtless enough of all the evil they are doing, crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame? (Hebrews 6:6.) What a fearful outlook is indicated for those who tread underfoot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant, wherewith they are sanctified, an unholy thing, and do despite unto the spirit of grace! (Hebrews 10:29.) The very same thing may in one way be hallowed, and in another be desecrated. There is a great semblance of hallowing in the huge family Bibles so often seen in English houses, rich, and not unfrequently tawdry, in their binding and gilding; but after all they may only be there as part of a reputation for respectability. The true hallowing is in the dog's-eared, well-worn book, poorly printed it may be, and on common paper, and with that indefinable appearance about it which tells of constant use. It is only too easy a thing to put superstition in the place of an intelligent, diligent, profound, and practical reverence. Even Christians are strangely negligent concerning the holiness inherent in them if they are really born again. Very unobservant are they of the persistent references in the New Testament to the holiness of a Christian's personality. How much is done, as a matter of course, that is inconsistent, yea, scarcely compatible with being, indeed, a living sacrifice! - Y.

So Moses finished the work. Cf. Exodus 39:32 - "Thus was all the work of the tabernacle finished." View the tabernacle as a type of the spiritual house - the Church. This tabernacle is being made. A time is coming when, in a more special sense, it will be reared, - the "day of Christ" - the day of "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19. Cf. Revelation 21:2, 3).


1. The tabernacle was made with a view to its being reared. This was the end. So the calling, saving, and perfecting of individuals for the kingdom of God has always reference to their ultimate manifestation with Christ in glory (Romans 8:17-26; 2 Corinthians 4:15-18; 2 Corinthians 5:1-11; Ephesians 5:25-28; Philippians 1:6, 10; Colossians 3:1-4, etc.).

2. The labours of making were entirely finished, before the rearing was begun. The rearing was but the bringing into visibility of an already finished work.

(1) All the parts of the tabernacle were made.

(2) All the furniture of the tabernacle was made.

(3) The dress of the servants of the tabernacle was made.

Not till all this was done was the command given to rear. So the day of the manifestation of believers will not arrive till all labours preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom of God in glory have been concluded. The Gospel preached through all the world (Matthew 24:14), the "elect" (ver. 31) gathered in, the last soul saved, believer's; sanctified, avery "living stone" (1 Peter 2:4) shaped and fashioned for the place it is ultimately to occupy In the heavenly building, etc.

3. These labours having been concluded, the rearing was proceeded with without delay. The rearing included

(1) the putting of the parts of the tabernacle together.

(2) The arrangement of its furniture.

(3) The ordering of its service.

So, when once the preparatory labours in connection with the kingdom of God have been finished, no time will be lost in setting it up in its final glory. Christ will appear, and his people will appear with him (Colossians 3:4). He and they will be glorified together (Romans 8:17).

4. The rearing of the tabernacle was the setting of it in visible glory before the eyes of the Israelites. So will Christ come to be "glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

5. The rearing of the tabernacle completed the preparation of it as a sanctuary for Jehovah. The same will be true of the glorification of the Church (Revelation 21:3, 4).


1. Christ admits us to be fellow-workers with himself in the labours of his Church. These are carried on by human agency (2 Corinthians 6:1).

2. He alone has to do with the glorification of his Church.

III. WHEN THE TABERNACLE WAS REARED, IT WAS FOUND THAT NOTHING WAS WANTING TO ITS PERFECTION AS A SANCTUARY. So will the glorification of the Church make manifest the beauty, symmetry, completeness, and perfection of the spiritual structure. It will be found to be "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27); complete as a place of habitation for Jehovah; a unity, and a perfect one. - J.O.

I. GOD OWNS THE DWELLING-PLACE SET UP ACCORDING TO HIS COMMANDMENTS. "Then the cloud," etc. "And Moses was not able to enter in," etc.; it was claimed as his own and taken possession of by the Lord.

1. The soul which comes by God's way will be filled with God's glory.

2. The Church which honours God he will glorify.

3. The full glory of the perfected Church, the bride of Christ.

II. WHERE THE LORD DWELLS HE GUIDES. When the cloud was taken up they went onward; when it rested they rested.

1. He is our guide in our onward journey.

(1) In providence. We must make sure that we follow him. It will not avail to choose our own way and then ask God to be with us. We are to follow his leading, not he ours.

(2) In grace. We may be mourning departed joy. There may be no longer the freshness and power we once felt in the ministration of the word, or in prayer. We have been slumbering and loitering. We have not striven to press through our sins and into fuller light. The cloud has lifted and gone onward, and we must follow after. "This one thing I do."

2. He is our guide into patience.

(1) He teaches us to bear and so to overcome.

(2) By the resting of faith to possess and to grow. - U.

The close of the book of Exodus is worthy of the greatness of its subject. It ends where the history of the world will end, with the descent of Jehovah's glory to dwell with men (Revelation 21:3). We have seen Israel in bondage; have beheld its redemption; have followed it through the wilderness; have heard the thunders of the law at Sinai; have been witnesses of the nation's covenant with God; have seen its shameful apostasy; have traced the steps of its reconciliation; have heard the instructions given for the building of this tabernacle; have viewed the tabernacle itself. We see now the symbol of Jehovah's glorious presence in the midst of the people whom he has thus in so many ways made his own. What a wondrous succession of subjects we have thus had before us in the course of our review. The intolerable anguish of oppressed Israel; the birth of the deliverer; the singular providence of his early life; his great choice; the call in Midian; the revelation of the name; the return to Egypt; first failures; the long and tragic contest with Pharaoh; the hardening of Pharaoh's heart; the exodus; the Red Sea; the miracles of the desert; the law; the covenant; the "patterns" shown to Moses in the mount; the sin of the calf; the great intercession; the name of mercy; the preparation of the sanctuary. There remains to complete the series only this final scene of the entrance of Jehovah's glory into the house prepared for his habitation. This was the true consecration of the sanctuary, and the true consecration of the nation. "A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (ver. 14). In what is related in these verses we have: -


1. Indwelling. The filling of the tabernacle with the glory was the symbol of Jehovah's taking up his abode in it, and so in Israel (cf. Exodus 25:8). It testified

(1) to the completeness of his reconciliation with the people. Cf. Isaiah 12:1 - "O Lord, 1 will praise thee, though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me."

(2) To his complacency in the beautiful house they had reared for him. Cf. Psalm 132:14 - "This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; for I have desired it."

(3) To his desire to dwell among them. Note -

1. The true glory of the Church is God's residence in her midst. This was Israel's highest distinction (Exodus 33:16).

2. We should pray that the time may come when the Church shall be, not only dwelt in by her Lord, but "filled" with the "glory" of his presence (Isaiah 60.).

2. Protection. The glory filled the tabernacle within, while the cloud spread itself above the tent as a protective covering without. So is Jehovah the protection of his Church (Isaiah 4:5, 6; Zechariah 2:5).

3. Guidance (vers. 36-38). See Homily on Exodus 13:21, 22.

II. A HINT OF IMPERFECTION. "Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation," etc. (ver. 35). Thus are we reminded that, amidst all these glorious circumstances, that which is perfect is not yet come.

1. Law, not gospel.

2. A material building, not a spiritual house.

3. Earth, not heaven. It was a glory

(1) too great for man to see. Even Moses, who had seen so much of the Divine glory, was not able to look upon it.

(2) Too great for such a building - a mere material structure - to contain. Man longs for nearer communion. So great a glory needs a better house to contain it - a spiritual (1 Peter 2:5).

III. A FORECAST OF WHAT SHALL BE. That which is perfect is not yet come, but it will come by-and-by.

1. The tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell among them (Revelation 21:3, 4). His glory will fill it. "The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:23).

2. This glory will be no longer unapproachable. We shall be able to endure the sight. "His servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face" (Revelation 22:3, 4). We shall receive the Vision.

3. This, however, will only be when earthly conditions have been exchanged for heavenly. "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). Till that hour arrives, we must be content to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), seeing only "as through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). - J.O. THE END.

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