There’s a puritan steak in me that rebels against spending more than we need to on the things we use in worship – whether it’s robes, chalices or candles. But here, along with commands about justice for the poor, release for slaves, leaving some of the harvest for the homeless and all the rest, we have every detail of how the tabernacle and altar should be made. And it must have been impressive!
Clearly, only the best will do here! God is quite specific about the materials and the design. I don’t think it’s for his sake, but for the sake of the Israelites. He doesn’t need good and fine linen, but they do. They need to see the representation of the first commandment, that God comes first. Bringing the best of all they have to honour him will help them express and remember that.
For us, the church and its furnishings aren’t, like the Tabernacle, the place where God dwells on earth. But they are still the place where we gather to worship him, and so it’s right, within reason, to use precious resources to make our worship more beautiful. For in honouring God with the best we can bring, we place him at the right place in our lives – first.
And of course, the same principle of ‘first and best for God’ appkies in other areas of life too. How can I offer God the best that I have outside church? By giving as generously and carefully in the service of others as the Israelites have to build the Tabernacle.