You probably think that Exodus 35-39 seems redundant. In chapters 25-31, God instructed the Israelites exactly how to build the tabernacle, and in chapters 35 to 39 they actually obeyed God accordingly. Since they built it exactly the way God told them to do it, large sections of the text were repeated verbatim. This picture is what we ought to aspire for in our lives. When we get a word of instruction from the Lord, we must follow it exactly as He says it.
We need to trust God on a level that we can follow each step He instructs us to do. We don’t know to think another way is better. God’s clarity in this situation is actually gracious, because of His instructions to us in the present days. The clarity of God is a breath of fresh air.
When God repeats Himself, He does it for a reason. A lot of people want to skip over these texts because it seems redundant. Repetition is a common method in ancient literature, because repetition builds suspense. In Exodus, our sense of anticipation escalates as we wait to see whether God will come down and dwell with his people. Furthermore, repetition also reinforces the memory. What better way to learn the layout of the tabernacle—and thus the structure of our salvation—than to read about it more than once. Instead of skimming through these chapters or skipping them altogether, we should take the time to read them carefully. When God repeats something, He actually wants us to pay more attention to what He is saying, not skip it.
Another reason the author repeats himself is to display the obedience of Israel. They are not the most obedient bunch, but it shows us that when they do obey God’s blessings are apparent. The first time God gave the His instructions, they were busy doing their own thing. How many of us are like that?
The time they actually obeyed, God did not change. His plans were already perfect the first time, and so He just repeated what He instructed them to do before. Similar to how we are, the Israelites had a hard time obeying because of their sinful nature. The second time God gave His instructions, God told His people to bring their offerings, build the tabernacle, make the furnishings and dress the priests. The Israelites finally obeyed the instructions precisely, and in doing so, the glory of the Lord is revealed. God is exalted when we follow Him to the letter.
The repetition of Exodus 35-39 reveals to us the faithfulness of God. Even today, when you bring honor to the Lord by obeying His commands, His glory would still show up. Remember, these Israelites already fell into idolatry by making for themselves an object to worship. However, God waited for them to repent and to get on the right track. It doesn’t matter if your spiritual walk or ministry has gone off track, you can always go back to the path God set out for you. No one is perfect, and God is helping you let go of strongholds and issues that distract you from where you are supposed to be.
God has been faithful with Israel because He did not revoke the promise to be fully present among the people. The tabernacle was a sign of His divine presence. He allowed them to still build this, even when they committed idolatry. God has not revoked the calling and the mission of the people before the fall. The Israelites realized that God reinstated them in every respect, and mended what was broken. As a response to this restoration, the Israelites gave a contribution and obeyed the Lord’s instruction.
In our own lives, we tend to be so forgetful. In this context, we forget we are called to contribute to the work of the Lord. We forget we are supposed to bring in the tithe and the offering. We forget that we are only able to give because God gave to us first. We need God to tell us the same thing more than once. We need to read the Bible every day and listen to the sermons every Sunday to be reminded of God’s goodness and grace, as well as our joyful duty to live for him by serving others. Despite our rebellion, God still wants to have a relationship with us, to live with us, and to use us to display His glory.
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