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Shemot/Exodus 39:5 The decorated belt of the ephod, that was on it, was of the same workmanship and materials ... as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.
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Our translation above is closest to the CJB, although the NASB also brings out the same comparison between the belt and the ephod itself: "like its workmanship, of the same material". This was commanded byHaShem: that they should be made in the same way, with the same level or care, attention and craftsmanship, and from the same materials, the "gold, the blue, purple and scarlet yarns and fine linen" (Shemot 39:5) as the ephod, not to mention the other garments, the hangings and the decorations of the Tabernacle and even the decorations and embroidery of the parochet, the heavy curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. All the furniture and accoutrements of the Tabernacle and its worship are to be of the same class of workmanship and the same class of materials, whether individually they are made of wood overlaid with gold, of embroidered material, cast from solid gold, silver or bronze or be hammered metal work.
Walter Brueggemann points out that this is the second of seven times in the current block of verses (39:1-31) describing the manufacture of the garments for the Kohen Gadol that the phrase "as Adonai had ordered Moshe" is used (vv. 1, 5, 7, 21, 26,29, 31). He notes that "this formula is absent in chapters 36-38 concerning the Tabernacle, but it is used with reference to Aharon. Perhaps its repeated usage serves to subordinate the priesthood of Aharon to the tradition of Moshe, a recurrent accent of Exodus. Conversely, the formula may also function to give strong legitimacy to the house of Aharon."1 But is the phrase even correct? A close reading of the instructions (28:6-43) and the fulfillment (39:1-31) suggests that there are small but definite differences between the two passages. According to Brevard Childs, "New material is introduced in verse 3; the details for the onyx stones shows abbreviation; the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned. These seem to fall under the general principle followed by the author of omitting elements which refer specifically to their use or position within the Tabernacle."2
Abravanel admits the changes, but claims that "since the text that describes each of the priestly garments is slightly different here than in the original command, each is followed by the assurance that it was made exactly 'as the L-rd had commanded Moshe'." The differences are not significant, he says; either small amounts of variation were accepted as inevitable during manufacture, or the exact detail was not critical, provided that the bigger picture was correct. We might envision that Moshe was shown everything by HaShem while he was on Mt. Sinai and described what he saw in one set of words (albeit divinely inspired), but when the craftsmen came to implement the design, HaShem had filled them with "with the Spirit of G-d, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship" (Shemot 35:31, ESV) and endowed with supernatural wisdom to fabricate what the materials could actually do while still complying with the overall look and feel of the heavenly design.
The phrase used for the way the belt was constructed - - supports this proposal. - the preposition , from, with a 3ms suffix, "from him" followed by the 3ms subject pronoun "he, she, it, this, same" (Davidson) - describes the materials to be used: the same as those used in the ephod. - the preposition , "as, like", the noun from the root , " to do or to make", so "work, labour, fruits" (Davidson), and a 3ms possessive pronoun, 'his' - covers the way in which the work was to be done: the same way as the ephod was made. The phrase is very qualitative: the same quality of materials and the same quality of workmanship, while referring to a different garment - a belt or girdle rather than an ephod - so that the exact cutting and assembly instructions will certainly be different. TheSforno helps us to understand what was going on: "the intent of the craftsmen, in their work, was to fulfill the will of G-d, the Blessed One, in accordance with His command to Moshe."
We can see the connection, then, to the days of the Early Church, when in response to reports of Gentiles becoming believers in Antioch, the church sent Barnabas down from Jerusalem to see what was going on. The Scripture tells as that "when he came and saw the grace of G-d, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose" (Acts 11:23, ESV). Were those Gentiles doing exactly what the Jewish believers in Antioch were doing? Were the Gentile and Jewish believers in Antioch indistinguishable? Clearly not, for then there would have been no need for Rav Sha'ul and Barnabas to go up to Jerusalem to seek a decision about how much of the Torah should apply to Gentiles. But they were working with the same materials - their hearts and minds turned to Yeshua - and the same intentions or quality of workmanship, as Barnabas reports. He doesn't urge them to be or become faithful to the L-rd, but to remain faithful and to maintain their steadfast purpose of being faithful. How do we know that Barnabas was right? Because, just like Betzalel, the master craftsman who oversaw the building of the Tabernacle, Barnabas was "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (v. 24, ESV). And the result obviously met with G-d's approbation since the verse closes with the report that "a great many people were added to the Lord" (ibid., ESV).
Our trail's next step is to the gargoyles and other decorated stonework to be found in mediaeval cathedrals that were erected in the eleventh-fourteenth centuries. In most cases, the elaborate carving of figures, faces and decorations are all on show and can be enjoyed and marvelled at by a visitor to the cathedrals. Take a tour of the attics, however, and you might expect to see a different story more in line with modern building techniques and standards. After all, why bother to finish the artistry and tracery along a line of stonework once it is no longer visible - perhaps sixty feet or more up in the clerestory or attic spaces. There you might expect to find the blocks of stone roughly finished off to plain edges and no time-consuming figures or decoration. Not a bit of it! In the attics at Salisbury Cathedral you will see carved faces and figures where none but the stone-masons would ever be expected to see them, dog-tooth pattern running around arches in the clerestory that are invisible from the ground. Sometimes, records exist to tell us that these workmen did the extra work to provide a consistent finish "to the glory of G-d" and because the angels would always be able to see if things had been left unfinished away from the public eye.
Perhaps these workmen from centuries past were familiar with Rav Sha'ul's words as he encouraged the community in Colossi. Not once but twice within just a few verses Sha'ul makes his point, urging first, "whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks to G-d the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17, ESV). How can you offer second-rate or incomplete work in the name of Yeshua and thank G-d for it? Then, to push home his point, Sha'ul adds, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah" (vv. 23-24, ESV). You aren't really working for men at all, Sha'ul argues; you are really working for Yeshua, even if you are working on an entirely civil contract, because everyone who is a part of the kingdom of G-d is now working for Him, even if the direct recipient appears to be a firm or another human being. Just as "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20, ESV), so to we serve heaven with our work and our worship in all things.
When so many people skip or only partly perform their work these days, on the grounds that the boss will never know or "what the eyes don't see the heart won't grieve over", we are called to work to a higher standard and make sure that everything we do is not only honest, legal and decent, but will be a source of praise to G-d for our faithfulness even in the small things. Do we always offer that level of service? Do we always finish folding the tails of the table napkins under? Do we consistently check the spelling in our text messages? Do we remember to sweep up behind the kitchen door as well as around the table? Can we really do this? Should we? I believe the answer is 'yes', that we are called to the highest levels of service and that when we consistently seek to excel, even if in practice we sometimes fall short, our attitude is noticed and provides a positive witness for the kingdom of G-d. Let's all try and go that extra mile for the sake of our Master, Yeshua!
1. - Walter Brueggemann, "Exodus," in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 501.
2. - Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, The Old Testament Library, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 637.
Further Study: Shemot 29:32; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33; Ephesians 5:15-20
Application: Do you find it hard to focus on delivering your best on a consistent basis? It's a tough nut to crack, but the Spirit of Yeshua in us can empower us to make the difference if we ask and allow Him. Put that request on your daily prayer list and star making a difference today!
Comment - 03Mar19 10:16 Stella Brookes: I've been seeking assurance from the Lord this week, that I'm fully in His will as a landscape artist. I've also painted dozens of 'Christian' themes and banners, but I feel drawn to pour my efforts into the landscapes now. This drash has helped me see, if I paint to the glory of God, it's good. Thank you
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© Jonathan Allen, 2019
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