And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it…
Here is perhaps the longest chapter in all the Bible. What is it occupied with? It is, in effect, a List of Subscribers. Certain costly articles were wanted to complete the furnishing of the tabernacle. Twelve men of chief note in their respective tribes came forward, of their own accord, and offered to provide the articles. The offer was accepted; and in this chapter of God's word the Holy Spirit has inscribed, one by one, the names of the donors, together with an inventory of the articles which each of them brought. Some people affect to despise the piety which expresses itself in costly gifts to the Church of Christ, and deem Lists of Subscribers an exhibition of ostentatious vulgarity. But in this chapter there is the best of warrants for these despised features of our modern Christianity.
I. Observe the OCCASION of the gifts here commemorated. The Lord's tabernacle has been constructed, furnished, anointed, and (what is best of all) occupied by the King whose pavilion it was intended for. Yes; and the construction and furniture of this royal tent have been effected by the voluntary gifts of a willing people. The tabernacle and its furniture are completed according to the pattern shown to Moses on the mount. No necessary part is wanting. Still there is room for some supplementary gifts. Take two examples.
1. When the tabernacle was first dedicated there would no doubt he a golden spoon for Aaron's use when he burned incense at the golden altar. One such spoon was all that was strictly necessary. But it would occasionally happen that there would be more than one call to burn incense about the same time, and it was evidently unbecoming that in the palace of the King any worshipper should have to wait till the golden spoon was available. Hence the gift of the twelve golden spoons now presented by the princes.
2. The Levites have been appointed to bear the tabernacle and its furniture. They are able to do it; but not without difficulty, especially during the sojourn in the wilderness, where it is to be emphatically a moving tent. There was room, therefore, for a present of carriages and draught oxen. There are Christian congregations to whom this chapter teaches a much-needed lesson. The roll of their membership includes men of substance, yet they suffer the sanctuary to wear an aspect of threadbare penury and its services to be hunger-bitten. This ought not so to be.
II. THE INVENTORY OF THE GIFTS.
1. Some were for the tabernacle in its wandering state. Six wagons were provided, - they seem to have been small covered chariots, - and a yoke of oxen was attached to each. These wagons were distributed among the Levitical families according to the nature and amount of the burdens which had been assigned them respectively.
2. Others were for the handselling of the tabernacle service. These consisted partly of gold and silver utensils for the stated service; partly of offerings to be presently consumed. The offerings included all the principal kinds in use under the law. There were burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings. The first sort and the last were much the most numerous. It was a time when the congregation might well rejoice before the Lord - freely devoting themselves to him, and expatiating on the blessedness of communion with him. A time of spontaneous bountifulness in God's service is always a time of gladness. Yet even at such times we are not to forget that we are sinners. The sin offering may not be prominent in this chapter of gifts, yet it has a place in every one of the twelve lists of offerings. What has been said about the nature of the gifts will explain the circumstance that the presenting of them was spread over twelve days. The peace offerings far exceeded in number all the rest. While the sin offering in each case consisted of a solitary kid, and the burnt offering consisted of only three animals, a bullock, a ram, and a lamb, the animals included in the peace offering were no fewer than seventeen. Now the specialty of the peace offering was this, that the person who presented it thereafter feasted upon it with his friends before the Lord. It was a becoming arrangement, therefore, that the disposal of this offering should be spread over several days.
III. A word or two about THE MEN by whom the gifts were brought. They were the hereditary princes of the tribes - the princes of the congregation who had taken charge of the census. This deserves to be noted, for it explains a certain feature of the present gifts in which they differ from almost all other gifts recorded in Scripture. The rule laid down in the Bible for all ordinary cases is that every man is to give according as God hath prospered him. Here, on the contrary, the gifts of the princes are identical in number and value - doubtless by prior concert. There would be richer and poorer among the princes, yet they all give alike. It was not so at the erection of the tabernacle. On that occasion there was the utmost diversity: the mite of the poor widow was made as welcome as the rich man's ingot of gold. Although a man could bring no more than a handful of goat's hair, he was not denied the honour of having a share in the work. There are times for both sorts of giving. When a place of worship, where rich and poor are to meet together, is to be built, it would be wrong to exclude any from the subscription list, however poor. When a college of sacred learning is to be built or endowed, it may be the fittest plan to limit the subscription list to twelve or twenty "princes of the congregation" who are able to contribute every man his thousand or his five thousand pounds. It is a good omen for a nation when its "nobles put their necks to the work of the Lord." And it is good for the nobles themselves when they have the heart to do this. They who are honourable should show themselves serviceable. Noblesse oblige. When the nobles forget their duty in this respect, God will not long maintain their nobility.
IV. Does any hearer complain that we have been doing him wrong in preaching today from this chapter of the law - barren and secular (as he thinks) - instead of conducting him into the green pastures of the gospel? Let such a hearer remember how Christ sat over against the treasury and marked what every one cast into it. That scene in the gospel and this chapter in the law - is not the scope of them the very same? - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them;
WEB: It happened on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed it and sanctified it, with all its furniture, and the altar with all its vessels, and had anointed and sanctified them;