Messianic Education Trust
(Ex 25:1 - 27:19)

Shemot/Exodus 26:6   And the tabernacle shall be one.

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This short but significant phrase comes at the end of the block describing how the ten panels of the inner covering of the tabernacle are to be made and joined together. Panels of woven or twisted linen, with decorations of turquoise and purple wool and scarlet yarn, and cherubim woven into the design are attached in fives, then secured into one piece by means of golden hooks or clasps inserted in loops of turquoise wool. Each curtain is twenty-eight cubits long by four cubits wide, to the resulting assembly is twenty-eight by forty cubits, that about sixty feet in length. The boards of which the tabernacle frame is made are ten cubits high and the tabernacle is ten cubits in width, so when the covering is laid over the frame, it reaches down to one cubit above the ground, where the silver sockets were revealed. The splendour of the panels are dismissed by this final phrase of the material and assembly instructions: "and the tabernacle shall be one". The phrase is meant to be noticed, since it is repeated in a different form for the outer covering at the end of verse eleven: " - and you shall attach the tent and [it] shall be one".

The phrase is significant because it expresses the mechanical unity and strength of the coverings. They were not simply thrown over the top of the frame, to overlap or not as the case might be, some exactly edge-to-edge, some slightly diagonally skewed, as best the foreman's eye could manage on the day each time the tabernacle was erected. Neither were they loose, free to move around as touched or pulled by humans or the sacrificial animals (if the latter tried to make a break for it before being slaughtered for offering). On both counts, the covering was made of one piece, so that it could not fall off, slip around or come apart. As the repetition indicates, the integrity of the coverings attached over the frame make the tabernacle into one unified entity, they provide structural unity and integrity; the tabernacle is one. The Who Is ...

The Rashbam: Rabbi Samuel ben Asher (1085-1174 CE), a grandson of Rashi; lived in Northern France; worked from the plain meaning of the Hebrew text even when this contradicted established rabbinic interpretaton
Rashbam says that "the ten strips of cloth called 'tabernacle' will now be a single piece".

Stepping one level back from the physical components and effect, Richard Elliott Friedman bring out an important point. "The wording - 'the tabernacle will be one' - also fits with the centrality of the Tabernacle to Israel's monotheism. One G-d, one Tabernacle, one altar, only one place of worship. Later it will be confirmed by divine commandment that Israel may have only one place of sacrifice and that this is in front of the Tabernacle: 'Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the L-RD, that man shall be cut off from his people' (Vayikra 17:8-9, ESV)". This reflects the position described by Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra: "An ordinary object is not called 'one', because it is made up of various smaller 'units'. But G-d, though He contains everything, is One and is called one. The same is true of the microcosm (man) and the mesocosm (the Tabernacle)1". Because G-d is One, so the Tabernacle - a small representation of G-d's holiness and the point where His presence is manifest - is called one, its unity reflecting His unity.

Picking up on yet another aspect of the tabernacle's unity, the Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno comments, "although the different levels are not equal (in importance), nonetheless they are (all) arranged in one order to do the will of their Creator." The boards making up the frame are one level, the embroidered curtains making up the first cover are another, the goat hair curtains another, the rams skins yet another and the goatskins on the outside are still another - each layer contributes to the whole although they are more or less visible to the priests, the people and, of course, G-d Himself. They are specifically and particularly set in that sequence because G-d has said so. It is only when the pieces are all together and correctly arranged in their ordained sequence that the thing called 'tabernacle' exists.

Rav Sha'ul builds a similar picture for the Body of Messiah: "For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah" (1 Corinthians 12:12, CJB). Because Jews and Gentiles are called together into the kingdom, because slaves and free men are called together into the kingdom - all called by and immersed in the same Spirit - "the body is not one part but many" (v. 14, CJB). Sha'ul then talks about eyes and ears comparing themselves with the feet, concluding that "G-d arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as He wanted them" (v. 18, CJB). There should be no bickering or jockeying for position within the Body, Sha'ul says, "On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary; and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity; and the parts that aren't attractive are the ones we make as attractive as we can, while our attractive parts have no need for such treatment" (vv. 22-24a, CJB). And this is for a reason: "G-d has put the body together in such a way that He gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it, so that there will be no disagreements within the body, but rather all the parts will be equally concerned for all the others" (vv. 24b-25, CJB). G-d wants the Body of Messiah both to be content with their own positions and to be concerned about every other member. If you hit your thumb with a hammer while taking care of a little repair work, it hurts at the time but - provided you didn't hit it too hard - the discomfort fades after a while; life returns to normal and the thumb is fairly easily ignored. Toothache, on the other hand, quickly absorbs the whole body so that there is hardly a part of us that doesn't know that we have toothache and everyone gets to share in the pain! "if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness" (v. 26, CJB).

As believers in Messiah, each of us is "a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19) and together we are being "are being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim set apart for G-d to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Him through Yeshua the Messiah" (1 Peter 2:5, CJB). Every house has gutters, drain-pipes and a cupboard under stairs where the cleaning materials, the vacuum cleaner and a mixed selection of old toys, last year's magazines and the part pots of paint left over from decorating the spare room are kept. They keep the walls, floors and ceilings dry, clean and tidy - without them the whole house would be damp, musty and cluttered. In our congregations we have people who put out the chairs, who copy, fold and hand out the bulletin each week, who sweep the floor and tidy away after services when most other people go home. They may not preach the sermon or be on the leadership team, but trying having a service with last week's bulletin, without any chairs and with the remains of the mother and toddler group's autumn picnic all over the sanctuary floor!

To work together, all the parts of the body must know where they are going and share the same vision. You can't climb Mt. Everest with one leg, while the other one spends a few days on the beach. That is why Nehemiah gets so upset when he discovers that Jewish men have married "Ashdodite, Ammonite, and Moabite women" (Nehemiah 13:23, JPS) - because the children are not being brought up within the Jewish people - "a good number of their children spoke the language of Ashdod and the language of those various peoples, and did not know how to speak Judean" (v. 24, JPS). Rav Sha'ul allows divorce in a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, "if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved" (1 Corinthians 7:15, ESV).

Our strength as the Body of Messiah only comes when we are united - when we pray, speak and act together. The Psalmist says, "How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together ... There the L-RD ordained blessing, everlasting life" (Psalm 133:1,3), and Peter wrote, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind" (1 Peter 3:8, ESV). Everyone who has lived for more than a moment in the real world knows that this is a really tough call. Unity doesn't just happen; to the contrary, disunity happens all the time and it takes positive and persistent effort to maintain unity. That doesn't mean that it can't be done, however; the L-rd may have set the bar high, but He hasn't set us up for failure. In Yeshua, we have all we need to reach unity and to stay there. We need to submit ourselves under His hand and seek His glory rather than our own.

1. - According to Wikipedia, a mesocosm is an experimental tool that brings a small part of the natural environment under controlled conditions.

Further Study: Ephesians 4:3-6; Philippians 2:2-5

Application: Would a visitor be able to walk around your house or your congregation, talking to people, and know that you are all one? G-d's blessings depend on unity, so if you want them, you've got to let Him get you there. Why not start today!

© Jonathan Allen, 2013

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