Wednesday, February 08, 2017

On Details

Exodus 25 to 28 is some is seemingly some of the least interesting parts of the Bible.

I read ever year at this time (because this is how it always falls on my annual Bible reading plan).  If you recall - even hazily - from your memory, you will remember that this is the part of the Exodus where the Lord reveals to Moses about building the Tabernacle.  4 chapters of it.  It is very specific - and that is what creates the boredom.

The Lord, it seems, was quite concerned about how the Tabernacle was to look and to function.  Very concerned.  Witness Exodus 26: 15-25:

"And you shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood.  Ten cubits shall be the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame.  There shall be two tenons in each frame, for fitting together; so shall you do for all the frames of the tabernacle.  You shall make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side; and four bases of silver you shall make under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under another frame for its two tenons; and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side twenty frames, and their forty bases of silver, two under one frame, and two bases under another frame; and for the rear of the tabernacle westward you shall make six frames.  And you shall make two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear; they shall be separate beneath, but joined at the top, at the first ring; thus shall it be with both of them; they shall form the two corners.  And there shall be eight frames, with their bases of silver, sixteen bases; two bases under one frame, and two bases under another frame."

And that is just the upright frames.  It does not include the bars and the veils for the frames.

Moreover, in Exodus chapters 37-39 the Israelites do all this.  It reads exactly - precisely - as the instructions in the earlier chapters.  If you did not know better, you would think Moses was repeating himself.

My big struggle - beyond just getting through this - is application to my life.  I have struggled for years trying to figure out how these precise execution of a portable building in the Sinai desert and its construction could have a meaning (beyond the sacredotal one) in my life.  It has been on the back of my mind for almost two weeks running.

And then today, it hit me:  it is about paying attention to detail.

God spelled out what He wanted -  in precise detail.  In excruciating detail.  Why?  Well, it was going to be the place where He communed with Moses.  It reflected Him.  And so He was very precise about what He wanted.

And the Israelites responded (somewhat surprising, given the Golden Calf incident in the middle of these two sections).  They get it right.  They did it exactly as God wanted it, with His exact level of detail. No excuses.  No mistakes.

Suddenly this spoke to me.

I am someone who is not good at detail.  Not because I cannot, but (more often than not) because I will not.  Detail is boring.  Detail is painstaking.  Detail means sitting in front of something for hours and hours before you pass it along.  You are the backstop for errors, not someone else.

And I hate it.

But the reality is for me - for any Christian - this is as much our calling as anything else we are called to.  We represent God.  And God commanded good (and detailed) work.  If we are to represent Him well, we need to pick up the details and run with them.

This does not make it any easier for me.  At all . But what it does do is give me a reason beyond "I have to".  My attention to detail reflects the One whom I represent and ultimately work for.

And He has pretty high expectations in this regard.


  1. You hit the nail on the head, TB; God is who God is; not what we want Him to be. It's up to US to conform to HIS will; not the other way around.

    My take-away from this part of the Bible was that this was not a test by God to see if the Jews would comply, but rather God setting his expectations; "If you're going to follow me, you're going to do it all the way, or none of the way. Don't question me; just do what I tell you to do. I have my reasons."

    For the record; I hate details as well. It the missing of them that usually gets me into trouble... both with man, and with God... I guess that's what grace is for...

    1. True enough Pete. And this is a great struggle for our modern society: we think the world and everything in it needs to conform to us rather than the other way along - let alone to God.

      I would argue the details and attention to them are the greatest challenge and hindrance to my career growth.

    2. "I would argue the details and attention to them are the greatest challenge and hindrance to my career growth."

      You and me both, TB... You and me both...

    3. Thanks Pete. Makes me feel better. Or at least not as lonely.

  2. Anonymous2:42 PM

    Good explanation, works for me! I've been pondering Numbers 7, the tribes of Israel make their offering for the consecration of the temple,still pondering that passage. Some parts of the Old Testament require large amounts of coffee before reading.

    Some people at church say the Bible should be taken literally and some say a figurative interpretation is better. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle on that issue.

    I find Exodus 33:11 to be very important. It appears to me that God was with Moses when Moses wrote the pentateuch.

    Exodus 33 : 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.


    1. hanks Jeff! Like most Scripture, I am sure that is not the only thing going on there, but it at least gives me something more than I had before.

      You are right on with Numbers 7 (well, actually a great deal of Numbers). There is a point and purpose there, although mostly I seem to rush through it.

      The most cogent description of exegesis I have heard is from John MacArthur, who makes the point that Scripture should be taken in the contest of Scripture. Part of it is poetry, part of it is history, part of it is admonishment. Sometimes we fail to do that at our peril, which gets us into great trouble - for example, interpreting Proverbs 9 where wisdom is speaking as wisdom being an actual person instead of a figurative representation of wisdom.

      Agreed on Exodus 33:11. What must those conversations have been like?

      Thanks for stopping by!


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