And He Assembled
Our Parsha this week is a double portion, ending the book of Exodus. In it we see the final assembly of the Miskan (Tabernacle) and are left with the glory of Elohim filling the tent to such a degree that not even Moses could enter.
It begins, however, with two seemingly unrelated parts, that are very telling for our world today. First, with a reminder to keep the Sabbath.
For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to Yahweh, whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.Exodus 35:2 NASB
Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which Yahweh has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to Yahweh; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as Yahweh’s contribution;”Exodus 35:4-5 NASB
The order that Scripture places verses is not arbitrary. Though the very order we can gain a greater sense of what the inspired author is trying to communication. In this passage, through a few key words, it seems as though the author had our own current events in mind.
Tonight begins the first Sabbath in an America under lock down. While last week saw the beginnings of this, this week reached new heights. For an introvert like me who is often overworked and over stressed, it’s a God-send. The time I have to myself to rest and relax has been wonderful. The first verses in this week’s chapter seem a bit easier to follow. Yet, before the Sabbath reminder, Moses wrote the very name of this week’s portion, Vayekel – “Moses assembled all the congregation…” Then immediately after the section on the Sabbath the people were commanded to bring a contribution to build a Tabernacle – a portable temple for Elohim.
While being alone is vital to every person’s mental health (after all, even Yeshua went up to the mountain to pray alone at times), being a part of, and gathering as a community is equally as important. Even for an introvert like me. It is the same warning that the author of Hebrews 10 gave, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”
But in a time of quarantine, lock down, and viral infections how are we to do that? Do we just stay alone for a time until we are able to come back together? Do we shun the wisdom of the medical and governmental communities and meet together anyway? The answer, is in the Scripture after the Sabbath reminder.
The building of the Tabernacle was a community affair. It couldn’t not have been built by one person, or even a select few. It was to be built by the community, through their gifts and abilities for only in that way would it accomplish Elohim’s purpose. In Exodus 25:8 Elohim said, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
If left to the elite, or only to those with time and ability it would have been a place for Elohim to only dwell with a few. Rather the instruction was to accept the gift “of whoever is of a willing heart.” It was to be a place for anyone who desired to come and dwell with Elohim.
It was because of this openness that a poor woman could come and pray for a son and be granted her request (Samuel 1), and years later for a young mother to observer her son as he learned at the temple and treasure these things in her heart (Luke 2). This was a place to everyone who had a heart to seek Elohim.
But in order for it to be built, it required community effort. It wasn’t mandated, or taxed into existence. It was a free gift from those who valued it’s existence. How much more is this true of the body of the Messiah, the Ekklesia, the church? It is a community constructed for the purpose of allowing Elohim to dwell with His people. It is built not by social responsibility, or family tradition, but through the generous contributions of those who understand its value.
And so in times like these, where we know that we need to gather together but can’t what are we to do? We must rely on the gifts, abilities, and generosity of those within the community who are able and willing to give. This may lead to phone calls, services over the internet, stops at the grocery store for shut-ins, letters, prayers, songs of praise. For each community it will be different solutions, because their needs are different. But it will only truly succeed because people are willing to give generously.
I pray that as you enjoy the Sabbath at home this weekend you will find a way to be part of a community who is building the body of the Messiah. You may be the hand or foot that your community needs to be complete.
Chazaq, chazaq, venit-hazek
Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another