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Shemot/Exodus 37:22 Their knobs and their branches were from her, all of her one hammered work of pure gold.
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We are now in the fulfillment narrative for the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture. For several chapters, there are only minor variations from the instructions given a few chapters before: "You shall make", now being followed by "and he made". In this particular case, the object under discussion is the menorah - the seven-branched lampstand that was to be placed in the Holy Place, with lamps that would burn throughout the hours of darkness every night so that the Tabernacle was never without light. Bezalel - the master craftsman filled byHaShem with the , the Spirit of G-d in "skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft" (Shemot 31:3, JPS) - either did or supervised all the work of the tabernacle and its appurtenances, aided by his assistant, Oholiab.
Over the years, many craftsmen have read the instructions for making the menorah - with its stand, branches, lampstands and intricate decorations, all to be made from one piece of metal, hammered and shaped from a single block. The consensus has been that it simply can't be done; the design is too intricate for it to be worked from a single block of gold without cutting the metal into several pieces and rejoining them later. The instructions specify, "Their calyxes and their stems shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single hammered piece of pure gold" (Shemot 25:36, JPS), with only one word difference in the Hebrew text from the one above: the instructions have - the Qal 3mp prefix of , to be - "they shall be" in place of - the Qal 3mp affix, "they were". The words - a feminine singular noun meaning "hammered work" from the root , "to be hard, harsh, severe", and the number 'one' in its feminine form - are a vivid picture of oneness. The furthest tips of the almond blossoms, the bowls, all the bud forms, the lamps, the stems and branches and the base are not just organically connected; they have been carefully and painstakingly beaten - in all their incredible detail - from one solid block of gold. They have never been disconnected from each other; not separate pieces of the same substance - pure gold - welded or fused together, but absolutely one.
The text tells us that although the craftsmen were set what sounds today like an incredibly high standard, they managed to complete their commission: they hammered the menorah out of one solid block of pure gold. One Jewish tradition claims otherwise: that Bezalel had several tries but couldn't do it. Eventually, he turned to HaShem and said that he was very sorry, but just couldn't get it to come out right. The L-rd smiled and said 'Just watch!' and all the gold pieces melted and spontaneously reformed into the menorah, What man, even a man who had been filled with the Spirit of G-d, could not do, G-d just did, just like that.
We can see here a picture of unity and the way it is obtained that falls, perhaps, outside the range of ideas that we like to consider on the subject. There are many, many Christian denominations around the world, plus many more para-church organisations reaching across denominations, all teaching many of the same things with a small percentage of variation in each case. This is a perfect example of a single original piece of pure gold that has been cut into many pieces and then worked separately. Often, after some working and some beating out, a piece has then been subdivided a number of times, with that process repeating over and over until the amount of gold that remains is wafer thin, resembling the gossamer sheets of gold leaf used for veneering furniture and inlaid book covers. With a high focus on doctrinal purity, on particular understandings or readings of the Bible that show each denomination's proof-texts and reasons for existing, the Body of Messiah has been fragmented into so many miniscule pieces and so scattered that is seems humanly impossible to contemplate re-assembly into the whole that G-d desires.
The problem is that each group has taken to working in isolation, beating away in their particular corner of the work to obtain the perfect finish and glossy sheen that they feel called to produce, while losing sight of the overall project: to build one bride for Messiah, "a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect" (Ephesians 5:27, CJB). But the menorah is not made of wood, carved and jointed, then overlaid with a thin sheet of gold; it is to be of one piece of solid gold. Many recent attempts at unity tend to start from agreements concerning what not to talk about and reducing common events to the lowest common denominator in order to avoid offence and enable - in theory - the largest number of people to participate. In practice, however, what remains is often so nebulous that it lacks enough substance to please anyone. Here in the UK, where the Church of England has been forced by both reduced funding and man-power to group parishes together under one formal minister, a "united" service for all the congregations will often be attended by less people than usually attend the ordinary services at the particular church whose turn it is to host the service. Agreements between churches to amalgamate, to save costs or release buildings, even if approved by the all the leaders of both churches, rarely bring all the members of the churches together into one grouping; inevitably a number, probably from both original constituent congregations, will drift off to join other groups claiming some kind of doctrinal incompatibility that offends them.
Instead, consider how the text says that the menorah is to be manufactured by the craftsmen. As said above, the word means "hammered work" and this is perhaps the clue to how G-d wants to see His body coming together. While we are, of course, to do everything in love - "which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:14, ESV) - "bearing one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), it is the job of the Holy Spirit to beat us all together into one, working and hammering to smooth out all the imperfections and impurities. Whenever a piece shows signs of fracturing, it is to be drawn back into the work and hammered back into place, annealed back into the whole from which it must not be separated. This is not about human control or management, but the Ruach at work to maintain unity: forcing us to swallow our differences and reach out to each other in love, considering unity more important that petty disagreements. Neither does it mean that denominations or churches of different emphasis should not exist, but that the leaders of those churches should meet and work together as peers and fellow workmen, building up each other both individually and as churches, encouraging different expression while emphasising unity of purpose and calling as the one Body of Messiah, dividing the work between leaders and churches according to gifting and ability. Instead of competing or being jealous over numbers and transfers between groups, only uniting to try and prevent another leader starting a new work in the same area, leaders should set the example by blessing and encouraging what the Spirit is doing: welcoming new leadership to cover unreached people and areas.
As individuals we too must play our part. First of all, as Rav Sha'ul tells us, comes our relationship with our leaders: "appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and ... esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, NASB). This means speaking well of them, particularly in public, and trying always to honour them for their decisions and the way they teach and lead their flock. "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17, NASB). We must cooperate with and build up our leaders so that they may lead in confidence without constantly having to stop to put out fires and keep looking over their shoulder.
Secondly, we must pray for and love our neighbours, our fellow-believers, those around us. If they are sad, pray for them and lift their spirits; if they are rejoicing, share their blessing and rejoice with them - "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another" (Romans 12:15-16, ESV) - seeking always to build up relationships and peace within the Body of Messiah. Pray for and through differences, "encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25).
Further Study: Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
Can you be a peace-maker in the Body of Messiah? Can you win back a brother
to unity and peace today?
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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© Jonathan Allen, 2013
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.