Exodus 35-39 Giving to God’s Cause
The Lord doesn’t need our offerings nor our labor (see 2 Nephi 27:20-21, wherein He says twice, “I am able to do mine own work”). But His “work and glory” is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39). How does He do this? By inviting us to engage with Him in His work. In the case of the children of Israel, in these chapters the Lord is calling upon them through their prophet to make and contribute things—and to put forth volunteer labor—for the building of the tabernacle:
- Read Exodus 35:4-10, 20-35; 36:1-8, looking for things the Lord said about how we should go about doing His work. Look also for the ways in which the people responded. Think of something you did “for” the Lord or gave “to” the Lord’s work. What impact did those offerings have upon your life? (See also D&C 64:33-34.)
- Scan through chapters 37-39 to gain a view of the abundant offerings of materials and labor. Note the heartwarming summary in Exodus 39:32. It is apparent that that the skills the Lord called for were developed as the Israelites labored under their taskmasters in Egypt—which are now available to devote to the gospel cause.
Exodus 40 The Glorious Results
The on-again, off-again obedience and spirituality of the children of Israel is definitely on in Exodus 35-40, culminating in the completion of the tabernacle. What things did the Lord instruct Moses to do in Exodus 40:9-16?
The tabernacle consisted of a fenced, outside area, plus the tented area which consisted of two rooms:
- The outer courtyard included an altar for animal sacrifice, plus a laver (basin) of water, for cleansing (some scholars have thought that the laver may also have been used for baptisms).
- The first room inside the tabernacle was known as the holy place. It contained three items: a menorah (candlestick or cups of olive oil), to provide light and thought to represent the Holy Ghost; a table with loaves of shewbread on it (a likely forerunner of today’s sacrament); and an altar of incense, placed just before a curtain (the veil) which separated the two areas. The rising smoke from the incense represents prayer to God, and was placed just the veil into the second room.
- The second room inside the tabernacle—just beyond the veil—is the holiest place (also called the holy of holies), representing God’s dwelling or presence. It contained the ark of the covenant.
- The ark of the covenant (also known as the ark of the testimony) was the only thing placed inside the holy of holies. The top or covering was called the mercy seat or seat of Atonement, a place for God to appear. The ark was a box or chest, into which were placed the stone tablets containing the law given by God to Moses. Also placed inside was Aaron’s rod by which miracles were performed, plus a sample pot of manna, which never spoiled.
- The ark of the covenant was placed beyond the veil in the holy of holies, which was entered only once per year by the high priest, on the Day of Atonement. It represents a place where the Lord can appear to His appointed servants.
- Some scholars believe that in the New Testament, Zechariah was fulfilling the role of high priest as he entered the holy of holies to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, representing the future atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It was at this time that an angel appeared to Zechariah to announce that he and Elizabeth would have a son, John the Baptist (see Luke 1:5-23).
- Note the sacred care observed by Moses, Aaron, and others in Exodus 40:31-33. According to verses 34-38, how did the Lord respond to the completion of the tabernacle? (See also D&C 110:1-7.)
Leviticus 1; 16; 19 Foreshadowing Christ
Some consider the book of Leviticus to be a “priesthood handbook,” containing instructions for worship and rituals under the law of Moses. It contains the Lord’s instructions to ancient Israel regarding the tabernacle, sacrifices, feasts, and becoming a holy people; all in preparation for them to follow their Holy God into His Holy Land.
There were three main kinds of offerings to be made unto the Lord, performed by the priests in behalf of the people:
- Burnt offerings—to be fully reduced to ashes; perhaps symbolizing complete dedication to God.
- Peace offerings—to manifest thanksgiving to God and covenant-making with Him.
- Sin offerings—to represent atonement for sins.
Look in the following references for things to be learned in relation to sacrifice, offerings, atonement, and daily living:
- Leviticus 1:1-5, 9-11 Note that “north” in verse 11 can relate to Jesus’s future death at Golgotha—north of Jerusalem—while “east” in verse 16 may relate to the Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane, east of Jerusalem.
- Leviticus 16:8-10, 21-22, 29-30 The high priest transfers all the peoples’ sins to the scapegoat; the goat then takes the sins away “unto a land not inhabited,” just as Jesus Christ would go somewhere no man could go, taking away our sins. “On that day” (verse 30) refers to the Day of Atonement.
- Leviticus 19:1-5, 9-10, 13-14, 18, 30-31 Note the Lord’s instructions in verses 9-10 regarding giving to the poor; also His injunction to “love thy neighbour as thyself” in verse 18. These teachings help us see the law of Moses as more than the oft-cited retributive approach of “eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth” (see Leviticus 24:19-20; see also Matthew 5:38-44.
Leviticus, Chapters 2-26 Additional Scriptural Gems
Consider also these verses in the book of Leviticus:
- 2:1, 11—the oil can represent the Holy Ghost, while the frankincense represents prayer; leaven and honey are excluded because they can spoil or corrupt the offering.
- 3:1; 4:3—as in numerous other references, the sacrifices “without blemish” represent the perfection of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Offering for sin.
- 5:16; 6:1-5—to “make amends” is to restore or make restitution.
- 6:12-13—fire can be a cleansing process (like the Holy Ghost); never allowing the fire to go out can represent always having the Spirit with us.
- 8:6, 8, 10—the washing, clothing, and anointing are represented in latter-day temple worship (see also Exodus 40:12-13).
- 9:5-7—Aaron acts symbolically for the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ, although before Aaron could perform offerings in behalf of the people, he had to “make an atonement for [him]self” first; which was not required of Jesus, being perfect (see Hebrews 9:12).
- 9:22-24—consider the solemn joy of the people—and the Lord’s response, after the first sacrifices were offered in the new tabernacle.
- 10:1-3—two of Aaron’s sons performed unauthorized sacrifices and the Lord took their lives; showing the sober seriousness of the sacred rituals (see also Moroni 7:6-9 regarding unacceptable offerings to God).
- Chapter 11—contains many instructions that modern practicing Jews still follow in their diet. These commands promoted health and obedience, and were daily helps for the Israelites to remember the Lord during their quest to become a peculiar people before God.
- Chapter 12—laws relating to offerings of women after giving birth; note that those too poor to offer a lamb were allowed a substitute offering, as was done by Mary, mother of Jesus (see Luke 2:22-24).
- 17:11—a perfect reference to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
- 18:3-5, 20-28—the Lord’s people are not to adopt the evil practices of the worldly among them, lest the land “spue” them out (see also Ether 2:8-12).
- 20:13, 23-24, 26—the Lord’s command against homosexual behavior; He calls upon us to be “separated” from the world.
- Chapter 23—like Exodus 23, this chapter outlines the feasts of Passover and Pentecost, plus more on the Day of Atonement.
- Chapter 25—outlines the celebratory practice of sabbath years (every seventh year) and of jubilee (every fiftieth year).
- Chapter 26—similar to Deuteronomy 28, wherein the Lord recites the blessings He will shower upon the Israelites if they obey Him (verses 3-13); followed by the curses and downfall they will experience if they do not hearken to Him (verses 14-39). However, the Lord always keeps open the door to repentance and forgiveness (verses 40-45). See also the April 1977 general conference talk by President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord Expects His Saints to Follow the Commandments,” all based on Leviticus 26.
- Choose one of today’s commandments (such as the law of chastity) and make two lists: 1) The blessings that can come through obedience to this specific commandment; 2) The ill consequences that can come through disobedience to this commandment.
- What does it mean to you to live in the world, but not be of the world? (as taught in John 15:19; John 17:14-16). How does having a living prophet help?