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Shemot/Exodus 39:43 And Moshe saw all the work and, behold, they had done it; just as the L-rd had commanded, so they did and Moshe blessed them.
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The Israelites workers and craftsmen have just finished weeks of work building the Tabernacle with its boards, curtains and decorations, its furniture and accoutrements, all the ritual equipment, the altars and the menorah. They have brought it all to Moshe for him to sign the work off as complying with the design specification that he received fromHaShem on Mt. Sinai. Nahum Sarna comments that "this finale is patterned after the Creation narrative of Genesis, in which the completion of the work evoked divine approbation followed by a blessing." Umberto Cassuto goes into more detail, explaining that the text "forms another parallel with the narrative in B'resheet relating to the completion of the creation of the world ... Compare 'Moshe saw ... just as the L-rd had commanded' to 'And G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good' (B'resheet 1:31). Also compare 'And Moshe blessed them' with 'And G-d blessed them' (1:22,28) and 'So G-d blessed the seventh day' (2:3)"1.
Picking out the string of verbs, "finished, saw, work, did, blessed, made holy", Richard Elliott Friedman writes that, "The conclusion of the account of the people's construction of the Tabernacle mirrors the language of the conclusion of the account of G-d's creation of the universe". He then adds, "This further reminds us of the role of the Tabernacle as the channel through which divine and human communicate. And it indicates that, after the first revelation at Sinai, such communication requires action by humans in order to receive it." Moshe and the Israelites needed to work to actualise HaShem's design that Moshe had seen - without their human action, their labour, the offerings of their materials, the Tabernacle would not exist. The construction of the Tabernacle depended upon a partnership of divine design and commission, combined with lots of human endeavour: project management and customer liaison was done by Moshe; Betzalel and Oholiab were the consulting engineers and technical leads on the contract; most of the work was actually done an army of volunteer craftsmen and artisans who contributed their effort and skills to complete the work within budget and on time.
RabbiHirsch sees a important principle at work here. Looking through the text, he says: "Moshe looked over the whole completed work, and lo! on the work two things were imprinted: 'they had made it'; in every part, in the smallest, in the greatest, the whole personality, the devotion, the voluntary enthusiasm, the power of accomplishment of the nation was expressed; and secondly, 'as G-d had commanded' this whole zeal and enthusiasm had nevertheless, in part and in whole, restricted itself meticulously to the Divine commands. This free joyful obedience, this freedom in obedience and obedience in freedom, which fills one with the happy consciousness of one's own powers just by sinking one's own personality in complete subordination to G-d's will is what forms the most essential sign that characterises a human being as 'the servant of the L-rd' - the highest moral perfection that can be attained."
In typical rabbinic fashion,Rashi wants to know how Moshe blessed the people. Was it using the blessing formula later to be given to Aharon and his sons - "Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: The L-RD bless you and protect you! The L-RD deal kindly and graciously with you! The L-RD bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!" (B'Midbar 6:23-26, JPS) - or in other words just for this occasion? He quotes Seder Olam2 to suggest that Moshe started by saying, "May the Shechinah rest in the work of your hands", followed by "Let Your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children. May the favor of the L-RD, our G-d, be upon us; let the work of our hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:16-17, JPS). He comments that, "this is one of the eleven songs that begins, 'A prayer by Moshe'"3. The Ralbag draws the general point that "We learn from this that a leader ought to bless those under his direction when they obey him, so that they will be the readier to do his will" (cited by Michael Carasik).
Yeshua alludes to similar blessing for those who have completed their assigned tasks in the parable of the talents4. Both the servant who had multiplied five talents into ten and the one who made two talents into four receive the words "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21,23, ESV). Similarly, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the division seems to be made solely on the basis of what the groups did and didn't do. Rav Sha'ul tells us that G-d has prepared tasks for us to do: "For we are of G-d's making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by G-d for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, CJB). More, his words say that we have been made or created specifically to carry out those tasks - there is a job for us to do that no-one else can do.
There is, then, a balance between obedience and freedom for believers in Messiah. On the one hand, we are called to obedience - we are "chosen according to the foreknowledge of G-d the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obeying Yeshua the Messiah" (1 Peter 1:2, CJB) - to obey G-d without changing or deviating from His word; in this there appears to be no freedom at all. On the other hand, we are given the freedom to choose between obedience and disobedience, so that we may obey G-d by choice rather than under compulsion - from a relationship based on love and trust rather than fear force. A slave has to obey his master or face punishment; an employee is required to obey his employer, at least during company time and on legitimate company business, but Yeshua tells the talmidim, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15, ESV). Yeshua emphasises that He has chosen us so that we might be obedient in relationship with Him: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you" (v. 16, ESV). Indeed, as Peter explains, our obedience is part of the process that makes us like Yeshua: "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth" (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).
Yeshua's words also imply that we are not just moving from one menial task to another, receiving our next instructions just one job at a time as we complete the last assignment. We have been told the Father's game plan, albeit not in minute detail, for the rest of time; we know the Father's objectives and strategy, we have been trusted with hearing His heart for the lost, for defeating the enemy, how He plans to bring all things together in Messiah and - after renewing this world and straightening out all the mess - how He will live among His people. As we read His word and spend time with Him, the Ruach brings it alive to us, reminds us of Yeshua's presence and involvement in this world every day, and reveals all that we need - either to do, to intercede or to proclaim.
We work alongside HaShem to actualise His plans for our lives and His world. Rav Sha'ul confirms that "we are G-d's co-workers; you are G-d's field, G-d's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9, ESV); picking up on the call to obedience Sha'ul also says, "As G-d's fellow-workers we also urge you not to receive His grace and then do nothing with it" (2 Corinthians 6:1, CJB). He reminds us, "You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men" (1 Corinthians 7:23, ESV) - we are voluntarily to become slaves to righteousness and serve G-d in all that we do and say. Yeshua calls us to take on His yoke of service: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV). It is nor irksome or unbearable, for He walks alongside us, but we do need to give ourselves wholeheartedly to obeying Him in everything. It is the only way to make progress in the kingdom of G-d.
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7
2. - Seder Olam - a second century CE rabbinic document bringing together and harmonising the chronological material in the Hebrew Scriptures to produce a smooth time-line of biblical history.
3. - In fact, only Psalm 90 starts in this way,but Psalms 91-100 have no title, ending with Psalm 101 which definitely switches attribution by having a the title "A song of David".
4. - A talent is a weight measure of money, usually silver or gold. It is the weight of enough water to fill an amphora - typically about one cubic foot. In the times of the Greek Scriptures, the weight was around 130 pounds.
Further Study: Vaykra 9:22-24; John 3:36; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
Application: Have you signed up to G-d's call for obedience in your life? Why not take the plunge to day and put yourself entirely and unreservedly at His disposal - you won't regret it!
© Jonathan Allen, 2014
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