Terumah

Terumah

Contribution

Exodus 25:1-27:19
1 Kings 5:26-6:13

“Faithful and Worshipful Contributions”


by Mark Huey

In this week’s Torah portion, appropriately entitled Terumah or “Contribution,” there are some very explicit instructions about how and where God desired to tabernacle or dwell with the Ancient Israelites, during their sojourn to the Promised Land. There are specific details issued regarding the ark of the covenant,[1] the table of showbread,[2] the golden lampstand or menorah,[3] the different veils and curtains to be used for the Tabernacle,[4] the bronze altar,[5] and the general dimensions of the Tabernacle.[6] While the instructions on how all of these items were to be fashioned is intriguing to consider, what is most beneficial, for us as both Torah readers and followers of Yeshua to understand, is that wholeheartedly giving to what God has ordained is a significant means of worshipping Him. It is through actions, and not necessarily words, that God’s people, in whatever age, are given the opportunity to express their faithfulness by contributing to His work.

A Calling to Holiness

As you examine Terumah, be conscious of the fact that the Lord had uniquely called out His people Israel, for a specific Divine purpose, among the nations of the Earth. After they had witnessed the awesomeness of God’s power in delivering them from Egypt, the Israelites had agreed to do all that the Lord had spoken:

“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel. So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:5-8).

With a committed responsibility to follow what the Lord had spoken, there was the implicit requisite that the people of Israel were to specifically worship Him with burnt and peace offerings upon altars built for sacrificial purposes:

“You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it” (Exodus 20:24-26).

The early references seen here, to altars of stone, do point us in the eventual direction of Solomon’s Temple, which would be built centuries later. However, at this early stage in the development of Ancient Israel, it was not yet time for such a permanent structure to be constructed. The Israelites still had to be trained in what the Lord expected of them, as they were steadily molded into a holy nation able to achieve His purposes. However, the Lord did inform His people about the dimensions of the Promised Land, with the additional word that He would cause its inhabitants to be driven out:

“I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:29-31).

The Israelites still had much to do, to be readied to enter into their inheritance.

Providential Preparation

With the promises of God spoken to them, and His great power having been displayed to them, the people of Israel were absolutely primed for His request to contribute whatever was needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. Just a few months earlier, before Israel’s departure from Egypt, the ten plagues had wreaked such havoc upon the Egyptians, that they literally gave the escaping slaves many of the materials that would become integral components of the items to be fashioned:

“The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, ‘We will all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock” (Exodus 12:33-38).

In the Lord’s foreknowledge of what was going to be required for the construction of the Tabernacle, He had the Egyptians give valuable materials to the Israelites. The description of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians indicates that God had blessed them, likely for having complied with His instruction on keeping the Passover. Additionally, one should note that a mixed multitude of non-Israelites, who had probably witnessed God’s judgment upon Egypt and recognized Him as Creator, departed with them. Israel was already becoming a holy nation, and having a positive impact on the world around it.

It is notably ironic to me, that there is every indication that upon departing from Egypt, Israel was in possession of a large number of livestock. One might wonder about the cries for food expressed in Exodus 16, that resulted in quail and manna being provided. Apparently, despite having flocks and herds, there must have been a tendency to hoard these means of sustenance from others in the community. Human nature being what it is, the natural inclination is self-survival. A significant part of the Torah’s instruction—which we even struggle with today as God’s people—relates to caring for others who are with need.

A Blood Covenant

After the Israelites had heard the voice of God at the base of Mount Sinai, and had at least received the Ten Commandments, recall that the unanimous response was to do all that the Lord had spoken. This was then followed by a blood covenant, with the sprinkling of blood not only on the altar, but on the people themselves:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:3-8).

At this point, it appears that the Lord was very pleased with the response of the Ancient Israelites. God allowed Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel to approach Him, and even dine with Him without retribution (Exodus 24:9-11). But in order to communicate a description of the Tabernacle and its different components, the Lord returned to speaking to Moses exclusively:

“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction’ So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. But to the elders he said, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.’ Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:12-18).

Contribution Requested

In Terumah, the Israelites continued to witness an awesome sight, as they gazed upon Mount Sinai from a distance. After noting what appeared to the onlookers to be a consuming fire in the clouds at the mountain top, Moses would spend forty days and forty nights communing with the Lord (Exodus 24:18). It was from this fiery and elevated perch, that Moses descended and made his request of the people for the materials needed to build the Tabernacle. Needless to say, after visibly observing the supernatural evidence of the Living God interacting with Moses, the Israelites were ready to follow what he asked of them.

At the beginning of Terumah, the request to raise a contribution from the people of Israel can be separated into two distinct sections. First, we see that this is stated to “all whose hearts prompt them to give” (Exodus 25:2, NRSV). Secondly, a list of some of the main materials needed is detailed:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:1-9).

In further reading, we will find that the response to Moses’ request was so overwhelming, to the point of Moses having to command the people to stop giving:

“They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it” (Exodus 36:3-7).

So what was it about the request from Moses, for the Israelites to give to the Tabernacle construction, that resulted in such an overwhelming response? Here are some useful questions to consider:

  • Was it Israel’s thankfulness for their recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt?
  • Was it the readily available supply of material taken from Egypt, that made it easy for Israel to give?
  • Was it Israel’s repeated pledge to do all that the Lord had spoken?
  • Was it the sprinkling of the blood on the altar and the blood covenant that had been made with Israel?
  • Was it Israel’s fear of the Lord, recognizing His awesome power as displayed at Mount Sinai?

While the questions posed above likely contain elements that impacted many of the contributors, the key statement to understand the overwhelming response is how Moses received contributions from “a contribution from anyone who wholeheartedly want[ed] to give” (Exodus 25:2, CJB). The Lord desired materials for the construction of the Tabernacle from those purely moved by their hearts—as opposed to those who would contribute primarily out of some sort of an obligation or mandate to give.

Giving from the Heart

Of the various materials Moses requested for the construction project, there is no doubt that there was intrinsic value in each of the items sought. But whether an Israelite gave valuable gold, silver, or precious and semi-precious stones—or gave more available acacia wood, animal skins, or colorful threads—the most critical aspect from the Lord’s perspective was that the contributors gave because their hearts had been moved. This is what the Lord was intently watching, as He prompted people to respond. For, we later discover that when the various items were constructed or fashioned, it was the “stirring of the heart” by the Lord, that enabled the artisans to create their respective parts of what the Lord had communicated to Moses (Exodus 35:21-36:2).

While we can be significantly amazed on how the Lord moved on His people, for them to provide what was needed for the Tabernacle—this is not what is generally seen throughout religious history. Much of the time, when things are needed for the Kingdom of God—His people do not respond in the manner that they should. Without really going into the issue of tithing or giving of one’s labor, how little do each of us simply do when it comes to giving of ourselves as a means to worship the Lord? Would not your heart be moved if you knew unequivocally that your personal contribution of your life, no matter how significant or insignificant, would be used by the Lord in His work on Earth? Consider the difficulties of considering how Yeshua asks His followers that they are to lose their own lives, in order to gain eternal life:

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’” (Luke 9:23-26).

These materials, that would need to be collected to build the Tabernacle, would be used to provide for a structure where the presence of God would dwell, eventually until the Temple would be constructed in Jerusalem. On a more personal plane, the images of the Tabernacle and Temple are used to describe us as God’s people—as we are to be filled with His Spirit. How might this change how we look at the contributions that are to be made for His Kingdom?

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

King David’s Insight

One might marvel at the heartfelt contributions and the skill of the human efforts inspired by the Holy One to build the Tabernacle. But, the Tabernacle and its furnishings cannot compare to the magnificence of the human body—which has been wonderfully designed and made by an omniscient Creator. David the Psalmist reminds each of us how God fashioned each person and knows them intimately:

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:13-18).

In his era, King David understood that even more than all of the material given to house the Spirit of God, the Holy One was most concerned that His people give themselves wholeheartedly to His work. Even though David accumulated abundant amounts of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, precious stones, and alabaster—for the construction of the Temple that his son Solomon would ultimately oversee—David’s concluding exclamation to his subjects questioned their willingness to consecrate themselves fully to the work of the Lord:

“Now with all my ability I have provided for the house of my God the gold for the things of gold, and the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, onyx stones and inlaid stones, stones of antimony and stones of various colors, and all kinds of precious stones and alabaster in abundance. Moreover, in my delight in the house of my God, the treasure I have of gold and silver, I give to the house of my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple, namely, 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the buildings; of gold for the things of gold and of silver for the things of silver, that is, for all the work done by the craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:2-5).

At this late stage in his life, David undoubtedly knew that totally surrendering oneself to the service of the Lord was the highest form of worship. After all, can all of the gold in the world buy or create a human person? From his many Psalms and confessions of faith, David knew that intimacy, acceptance, and especially forgiveness by a loving, compassionate, and merciful God—is far beyond all the sacrifices of giving, even if one gives all the gold in the world! Most critically David, cried out for salvation after understanding the consequences of his sin:

“‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.’ By Your favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar” (Psalm 51:10-19).

In the case of King David, his pleas for salvation were heard and accepted by the Holy One, as David completed his life attempting to teach transgressors the ways of the Lord, so that they might follow Him. But note that in this psalm when the Lord observed the personal sacrificial offering of a broken human spirit and a contrite heart, how He delighted in such a person. When God recognizes that a person has placed Him first in his or her life, there is the incumbent responsibility of a man or woman to offer up righteous sacrifices that will be acceptable.

Service of Worship

This week, as you ponder Terumah—and perhaps are led to analyze different aspects of the Tabernacle—perhaps some of my thoughts will instead prompt you to consider what it truly means to have your heart moved to contribute to the Lord’s work. While the details of the Tabernacle are obviously important, what is critical for all of us to consider is the relationship we have with the Lord, by serving and worshiping Him with all our hearts. Our Heavenly Father is most concerned about the heart’s intent of individuals and how they interact with Him. God is delighted with humble and contrite hearts turned to Him, when people are more concerned about who He is as their life, than their own mortal existence. This concept might require spiritual eyes to understand, but it is obviously a principle that is of paramount importance to us as followers of Yeshua. The Apostle Paul urged ancient Believers to serve one another, employing a description of God’s people as a living and holy sacrifice:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

Paul was a scholar who undoubtedly knew what was communicated in Torah readings like Terumah, and was able to apply it on a definite spiritual, applicational plane—to those who needed to be admonished in their service to God. But beyond all of the temporal gifts that a person can render unto the Lord, he understood and proclaimed that the most important thing a person can give is themselves. This contribution has inestimable value because it is irreplaceable!

Let your heart be moved to faithfully contribute your life as your spiritual service of worship! You will not be disappointed. The rewards are incalculable, but you may not see or receive them all until His Kingdom comes. So, exhibit the necessary faith in God’s promises to believe your service unto Him has eternal effects.

May all our hearts be so moved!


NOTES

[1] Exodus 25:10-22.

[2] Exodus 25:23-30.

[3] Exodus 25:31-40.

[4] Exodus 26:1-37.

[5] Exodus 27:1-8.

[6] Exodus 27:9-19.