Exodus 36: Lessons from the Building of the Tabernacle for Serving God Properly

Introduction: Every detail regarding the Tabernacle is repeated twice in the book of Exodus (Ex. Chapters 25-31; 35-40). Collectively, these chapters take up 13 out of the 40 chapters in the book. Thus, for several reasons, God wants believers to study the details of the Tabernacle: [1] The details are important because they reveal His means for dwelling with His people. [2] The repetition of the details represented a confirmation of His promise of fellowship. He will never leave us or forsake us. [3] The repetition of the details symbolized the importance of worshiping God the way that He wants. [4] The details of the Tabernacle also foreshadowed Jesus (Heb. 8:5). [5] The Tabernacle also foreshadowed the body of every believer where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:19-20). [6] The building of the Tabernacle also foreshadowed the role of believers in building God’s Church today (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1). [7] The Tabernacle also pointed toward life during the Millennial Reign when Christ will dwell with His believers.

Exodus 36 continues God’s revelation of the role of believers in being co-builders of His Church. Here, He reveals seven important lessons. First, He wants you to be obedient in responding to His call in your life. Second, He wants you to give in accordance with the gifts that He has given you. Third, out of gratitude and not obligation, He wants you to follow the example of the Jews in building the Tabernacle by giving generously of your time, talent, and treasure. Fourth, through the example of Moses having to turn back the Jews from further giving, God wants you to make sure that each task that you undertake for Him is completed successfully. Fifth, through the symbolism of the united tent curtains (which symbolized the purified Church), God wants you to give in accordance with the body of Christ. To do this, you must let the Spirit guide your efforts. Sixth, through the symbolism of the curtains of goat hair (which symbolized our sins of the flesh that were cast onto Jesus), God wants you to give with pure motives. Finally, through the symbolism of Jesus in the building boards that sustained the Tabernacle, He promises to sustain you and support you when you give out of love to help build His Church.

1. Give in Obedience to God’s Calling in Your Life. Ex. 36:1.

  • Serve God in the manner He requests. When He first revealed the details of the Tabernacle, God warned Moses to be obedient in the building details: “make them according to all that I have commanded you.” (Ex. 31:11(b)). Moses later began his description of the Tabernacle to God’s people by exhorting the laborers to be obedient in every detail while building it: “10 ‘Let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the Lord has commanded:’” (Ex. 35:10). Here, for the second time, Moses began his description of the building components by exhorting the people to be obedient: “1  Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.” (Ex. 36:1). The three calls to obedience have relevance for every believer today.

  • Be obedient in God’s call to serve Him. God calls every believer by name to do good works for Him: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21). God has not called you to be a spectator. If you don’t know your calling, you should pray for Him to reveal it (Jam. 1:5). Are you being obedient in God’s calling in your life?

Bezalel and Oholiab responded to God’s calling to help build the Tabernacle1

  • Be obedient in how you worship God. The Bible reveals the details for how God wants to be worshiped. Through the Holy Spirit, He may reveal false doctrines, empty human traditions, or worship done with the wrong motives. When He reveals an error in your worship, He wants you to be obedient in correcting it. Jesus says that, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Whether you are obedient out of love and not obligation is also a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). Will you worship God in the way He wants to be worshiped, even if His reasons are unclear to you?

2. Give According to the Gifts God Has Given You. Ex. 36:2.

  • Moses’ call for the skilled laborers to serve. After exhorting the people to be obedient, Moses called upon the skilled laborers to come forward to use their skills in building the Tabernacle: “Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it.” (Ex. 36:2). This was the second time that Moses had made this call: “10 ‘Let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the Lord has commanded:’” (Ex. 35:10). God has made a similar calling in the life of every believer.

  • Use your talents for His glory. God has given you talents for you to use as a co-builder of His Church (Matt. 25:14-30). If you are faithful with the small things that He gives you, He will entrust you with greater things: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. ” (1 Pet. 4:10). “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Ro. 12:6-8). “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Eph. 4:11-12). “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. . . . .4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:1-7). Are you using your spiritual gifts for Him?

  • Every laborer is needed. Every person’s gift is needed in the body of Christ because no one person has them all (1 Cor. 12:13-27). Moses could not have built the Tabernacle on his own. Christ also wants you to be His laborer (Col. 3:23). Are you laboring for His glory or your own?

3. Give Generously of Your Time, Talent, and Treasure. Ex. 36:3-4.

  • The Jews’ generous giving in response to God’s calling. After hearing Moses’ call for the people to give, there was an outpouring of offerings and laborers who responded to God’s call in their hearts: “ They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing,” (Ex. 36:3-4). The Jews knew that God gave them everything they had when He freed them from captivity (Ex. 12:35-36). Thus, they gave from the things that belonged to God. The early Church was inspired by their example of generosity.

God’s people gave with great generosity2

  • The generosity of the early Church. Like the Jews did while building the Tabernacle, the early church also gave generously to support others whenever a need existed: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35). The early church of Macedonia also received praise for its generosity: “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (2 Cor. 8:1-5). The actions of the Jews and the early Church carry lessons for every believer.

  • Gratefully give from the things God has given you. Every good and perfect thing in your life comes from above, even if someone in the world hands it to you: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Jam. 1:17). God commands each believer to give back from the things that He has given. He in turn promises to bless you as a steward with more gifts (Mal. 3:8-10). Yet, He only wants you to give out of gratitude, not obligation (Ex. 36:2-7; 2 Cor. 9:6, 8-14). Satan will also seek to cause you to sin by keeping God’s tithes. The golden calf was Satan’s counterfeit offering (Ex. 32:2-6). Are you giving to God from what He has given you? Or, has your coveting robbed God from His resources?

  • Make your life a living sacrifice for God. In addition to money, you can tithe your life as a “living sacrifice” to God: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Are you giving God the best of your time, talent, and treasure as a living sacrifice?

4. Give What is Necessary to Accomplish God’s Goals. Ex. 36:5-7.

  • Moses’ direction to the Jews to stop giving. The Jews responded to God’s calling with such an outpouring of gratitude that the Moses eventually gave an order for everyone to stop giving: “and they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.’” (Ex. 36:5-7). Believers can again learn from the Jews’ example. “This also shows that Moses and the planners of the work knew how much was enough. Their job was organized and planned to the extent that they understood what they needed, and when they had more than enough. When God’s people are asked to give to something, they should expect that it be well organized, planned, and managed. . . . Moses showed great integrity by not gathering more than the project needed. God told him to take an offering for the building of a tabernacle, and when the tabernacle was provided for, the offering was over. The purpose wasn’t to amass endless resources, but to properly put those resources into action.” (David Guzik on Exodus 36).3

  • Count the cost and complete the race. Christ wants every believer to count the cost and complete the goal for any project for Him: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”’ (Lk. 14:28-30). If you start a project for God and then give up as a result of your own poor planning, you reflect poorly upon the Church and what it means to be a believer.

  • Planning to finish the task does not involve hoarding. Although the main focus of this story was the faith of the Jews in giving, Moses also needed to have faith to know when he had enough. If you are led by the Spirit, you will know when you have enough and when you can return or tithe the rest. Keeping more than you need is hoarding.

5. Give in Accord with the Body of Christ. Ex. 36:8-13.

  • The fine curtains for the Tabernacle. The first thing that the Jews built was the fine linens for the Tabernacle: “All the skillful men among those who were performing the work made the tabernacle with ten curtains; of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material, with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman, Bezalel made them. The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains had the same measurements. 10 He joined five curtains to one another and the other five curtains he joined to one another. 11 He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set; he did likewise on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the second set. 12 He made fifty loops in the one curtain and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set; the loops were opposite each other. 13 He made fifty clasps of gold and joined the curtains to one another with the clasps, so the tabernacle was a unit.” (Ex. 36:8-13). The fine linens pointed toward the unified and purified body of Jesus. These verses are related to the subject of giving because believers should give in one accord with the body.

Inside the Tabernacle4

  • The symbolism of the fine curtains in the context of giving. As a believer, Jesus has “imparted” some of His righteousness to believers by making them “holy” with His blood (2 Pet. 1:4; Col. 1:22, 27). We see this fully manifested at the future marriage between Jesus and His bride (the Church). At that time, believers will each be given “fine linens”, which symbolize their complete transformation through Jesus to purity and righteousness: “It was given to her [The Church and bride] to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev. 19:8; 3:5). The other aspects of the fine linens also point toward Jesus. The blue symbolizes heaven. It is only through Him that access to heaven is possible. The purple material symbolizes His royalty as the “King of Kings” (Rev. 19:16). The scarlet material symbolizes His blood that was poured out to atone for our sins (Rev. 7:14(b); Heb. 9:14; 1 Jo. 1:7; Is. 1:18(b)). The 10 curtains joined together as one symbolizes the divine order that comes from living out of love and not obligations according to the Ten Commandments. The 50 loops and clasps symbolize the freedom from sorrow that comes from living within the protections of His Covenant. In the context of giving, the united curtains symbolize the importance in acting in one accord with the body.

6. Give Without Selfish or Self-Serving Motives. Ex. 36:14-19.

  • The building of the outer coverings for the Tabernacle. After creating the fine linen curtains, the next thing the Jews constructed was the goat curtains and the other outer covers: “14 Then he made curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; he made eleven curtains in all. 15 The length of each curtain was thirty cubits and four cubits the width of each curtain; the eleven curtains had the same measurements. 16 He joined five curtains by themselves and the other six curtains by themselves. 17 Moreover, he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the first set, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was outermost in the second set. 18 He made fifty clasps of bronze to join the tent together so that it would be a unit. 19 He made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of porpoise skins above.” (Ex. 36:14-19). In the context of giving, these skins symbolized the need to give without sin.

The layout of the Tabernacle5

  • The symbolism of the outer skins in the context of giving. Each type of outer skin had meaning. The goat skin symbolized sin (Gen. 27:11, 15; 37:31-34; 1 Sam. 19:12-17). During the Day of Atonement, the High Priest also cast the sins of the nation upon a goat and drove it away (Lev. 16:10, 20-22). This also foreshadowed Jesus. Our sins were cast onto Him who “knew no sin”. (2 Cor. 5:21). Like the goat, He will carry away our sin: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (Jo. 1:29; Acts 3:19; 1 Jo. 2:2). The fact that there are 50 bronze clasps signifies the freedom from judgment that comes from Christ’s completed work on the cross. With your sins being taken away, you are no longer condemned for your prior sins (Ro. 8:1). God even promises to forget your sins (Heb. 8:12). The rams’ skins dyed red symbolized the substitute trespass or guilt offering that He makes for each believer (Gen. 22:8; Lev. 8:18; 5:15; Nu. 28:19; Is. 53:10). The porpoise or badger skins symbolize the protection that He offers to those who take refuge in Him (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). In the context of giving, these verses speak to the importance of giving without sin and with the right motives. If there is sin in your offering, it is like goat hair to God. He does not want it.

  • If you boast of your works, you have received your reward. One of the most important ways to avoid the sins of the flesh when giving is to avoid boasting about your works: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:1-2). If you labor for your glory, your labor may also be in vain: “‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.’” (Matt. 15:12-13). Are you seeking the glory for your good works for God?

  • Serving or giving out of ritual or obligation is also worthless to God. There were many times in the Old Testament when the Jews gave or served out of obligation and not gratitude. God was clear that these acts were worthless to Him. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14). “You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities.” (Is. 43:24). “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba and the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” (Jer. 6:20). Are you merely going through the motions when you serve or go to Church?

7. Give in Faith that Jesus Will Be Your Rod of Support. Ex. 36:20-37.

  • The building support for the Tabernacle. Finally, God revealed how the Jews faithfully built the wood and metal support system and the veil door for the Tabernacle: “20 Then he made the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing upright. 21 Ten cubits was the length of each board and one and a half cubits the width of each board. 22 There were two tenons for each board, fitted to one another; thus he did for all the boards of the tabernacle. 23 He made the boards for the tabernacle: twenty boards for the south side; 24 and he made forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons. 25 Then for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty boards, 26 and their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board and two sockets under another board. 27 For the rear of the tabernacle, to the west, he made six boards. 28 He made two boards for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear. 29 They were double beneath, and together they were complete to its top to the first ring; thus he did with both of them for the two corners. 30 There were eight boards with their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets, two under every board. 31 Then he made bars of acacia wood, five for the boards of one side of the tabernacle, 32 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the tabernacle for the rear side to the west. 33 He made the middle bar to pass through in the center of the boards from end to end. 34 He overlaid the boards with gold and made their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold. 35 Moreover, he made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen; he made it with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. 36 He made four pillars of acacia for it, and overlaid them with gold, with their hooks of gold; and he cast four sockets of silver for them. 37 He made a screen for the doorway of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver; 38 and he made its five pillars with their hooks, and he overlaid their tops and their bands with gold; but their five sockets were of bronze.” (Ex. 36:20-38). These verses pointed to the support that God gives to all who support His Kingdom.


The completed Tabernacle6

  • The symbolism of the building supports the Tabernacle in the context of giving. Each aspect of the support system pointed toward Jesus. The acacia wood symbolized His incorruptible body (Ps. 16:10(b); Acts 13:35). The gold symbolized His divinity, which makes our salvation possible (Jo. 1:1, 14; 3:16). The silver symbolizes redemption (Matt. 26:14-16). It is only through Jesus that our redemption is possible. The bronze symbolizes judgment (Ex. 38:2; Rev. 1:15; Rom. 16:20). He bore the judgment for each believer (2 Cor. 5:21; John 1:29; Acts 3:19; 1 John 2:2). He is the boards and the sockets which hold the Church together. He is also the veil or door which leads into the Tabernacle and fellowship with both Jesus and the Church in heaven (Jo. 14:6). Are you giving thanks that Jesus has provided everything you need to be saved and to serve?

  • God will also supply all that you need to labor for His Church. When you serve Him, He promises to provide for all that you need: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;” (2 Cor. 9:8). “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19). “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Ps. 23:1). “O fear the LORD, you His saints; for to those who fear Him there is no want.” (Ps. 34:9). If you are missing anything, are you seeking to use your talents for yourself or for Him?

  • God will give back in proportion to your giving to Him. To the extent you give to God in faith, He will give back proportionally to you: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7). “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Lk. 16:9-11). Are you giving to God faithfully from your time, talent, and treasure? Or, are you holding back?

  • When times are tough, test God by giving Him more than you can afford. Giving is the one area where God encourages you to test Him. If you give to Him in faith, He promises to bless you with even more:  “But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’” (Mal. 3:8-10). Are you giving God the opportunity to bless you abundantly?