Scripture Reference: Exodus 25:1-9; 35:4-36:7; 39:32-43; 40:1-38
Suggested Emphasis: The Israelite’s generously gave their possessions, talents, and time for the work of God and so should we.
Up until this time there was a tent set up outside of the camp where Moses would go to listen to the Lord’s commands (33:7-11). Now it was time to build a special tent called a “tabernacle” that would be set up in the center of the camp. The Lord had very detailed instructions as to how it was to be built (chapters 25-31). He also wanted men from the family of Levi to serve as priests. They would wear special clothes and lead the people in worship. The people donated so many things to build the tabernacle that Moses finally had to tell them to stop because there was too much. Once the tabernacle was complete, a cloud settled on it which represented the presence of the Lord. At night there was fire in the cloud. When the cloud moved, the people knew it was time to move the tabernacle and the whole camp to a new place.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
“How do we give to God?” Let the children discuss giving money in the collection bags (or plate) on a Sunday morning, helping to clean the church building, bringing food for the needy, etc. Children (and adults) often forget that we can do volunteer work—with no wages—for the Lord’s church. You might want to find out what some people in your congregation do to serve God. Leading the discussion back to the Sunday collection . . . “Has anyone ever seen the collection container really full? What would you think if people filled the bags with money? What if the bags ran over? What if they had to empty the bags and start over? What if people gave so much money that the elders at church had to tell them to stop because there was too much? Did you know that something like that happened in the book of Exodus?”
After God’s people left Egypt they walked a long time in the desert. They would only stay for a while in one place and then they would move to another. They did not have houses to live in because they had to keep travelling toward their new land.
All of the people had tents but the Lord wanted to build a special kind of tent. This tent would be very beautiful. It would be made of rich cloths and contain furniture inside made of gold. It would be put in the middle of the whole camp where everyone could see it. Do you know why this tent would be so special? Because this tent was to be the Lord’s tent! It would be called a tabernacle. The word tabernacle means “tent” or “dwelling place.” The Lord can live and be anywhere He wants, but the tabernacle would be His special place so that the people would think of Him every day. The tabernacle could be packed up and carried with the Israelites every time they moved to a new place.
The Lord Moses’ and Aaron’s family or tribe to take care of the tabernacle. They were descendants of Jacob’s son, Levi. Sometimes they were called Levites. Only Levites could work in the temple. Some of the workers would be called priests. The priests would help take care of the tabernacle and they would help the people worship the Lord. They would always wear special clothes in the temple. God chose Aaron to be the head priest or the High Priest. His sons would help him.
While Moses was on Mount Sinai, God gave him instructions for building the tabernacle. The materials were to be gathered, and then the tabernacle and the furniture for it would be made. God gave very specific instructions to Moses. The tabernacle and furniture were to follow God’s pattern exactly! The people were learning to do things God’s way!
A lot of things were needed to build the tabernacle! Cloth, jewels, gold, special wood, animal skins, and all sorts of rich items would be needed. People with special talents would have to work very hard to build the tabernacle. The Lord did not want the people to buy the things for the temple. He wanted them to give all of the items. God wanted the people to show their love for Him by giving their own things. He also wanted the people to work for free in building the temple. Even if they did not have anything to give, they could still help with the work.
Moses told the people what God had asked them to do: to give offerings willingly—from the heart—to make the tabernacle. Where would the material come from? God’s people were in a desert area far away from any shops or people to trade with. There was no place where they could buy these supplies. They only had what they had been able to pack hurriedly when they left Egypt. They did have some clothing and articles of silver and gold that the Egyptians had given them just before they left. But you probably remember that they used much of the jewellery (earrings) to make something else. What had the people made from their gold and silver? (The golden calf).
Worshipping the golden calf had been a sad time in the story of God’s people. They were sorry for their sin against God. They had disobeyed His command! Now they could show how much they loved the Lord. They could give to Him and help make the tabernacle!
As the Israelites remembered what God had done for them, they wanted to show their gratitude. One by one they began bringing their offerings to the Lord. As the materials arrived, Moses instructed the workers to begin. All kinds of craftsmen were needed: those who could work with wood and metal, those who could design and work with gems, those who could sew and weave and embroider, and those who could spin and make cloth. Lots of people volunteered to help.
Then something unusual happened! The people brought more and more things. The people were bringing so many offerings that they had to be asked to stop! The workmen had all they needed to finish the job God had given them. The work was completed in a little over five months. They had followed God’s instructions and a beautiful tabernacle was ready for worship. When he saw that everything was just like God had commanded, Moses and his helpers set up the tabernacle in the middle of the camp. The priests began their work. The giant pillar of cloud and fire that the Israelites had followed since they left Egypt moved and settled on the tabernacle.
No doubt Moses was very pleased with the people. At times on the journey he had been discouraged by their attitude, but now he could commend them and bless them! The people were so happy because they were able to give to God.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What was God’s special tent called? The tabernacle
- What tribe served as priests in the tabernacle? The tribe of Levi (Levites)
- Who was the first High Priest? Aaron
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Use commentaries and/bible dictionaries to look up drawings of the tabernacle and all of its furnishings. Also see what the priests wore.
- Make a tent.
- Colour a picture of the tabernacle. Use gold paint or glitter on the appropriate furnishings.
- Older children might make a replica model of the tabernacle or any one of its furnishings.
- Older children can draw comparisons between Old and New Testament worship.
- Use a concordance to look up scriptures concerning giving to the Lord.
- Sing songs from the church song book concerning giving.
- To help children better understand the concept of generosity in everyday life situations try using this simple conversation starter called “Things Matter”.
- Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets at http://calvarycurriculum.org/
- Ideas for teaching about money (older children). Instructions at http://ministry-to-children.com/
- Craft: Written instructions for making a replica tabernacle out of a shoebox at http://www.ehow.com/
- Craft: Make a pillar of cloud and fire from an empty paper towel tube. Instructions at http://www.meetpenny.com/
- Worksheets: There are a number of Old Testament worksheets on the following link. Just scroll down to “Tabernacle, Priests and Sacrifices”. The link is http://www.squidoo.com/
- Game: ‘Journey to the Promised Land’ game at http://www.christiancrafters.com/
- Some might find this a bit irreverent but I really liked this 3 minute 16 second video prepared for a teen VBS by Philip Jenkins at the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ in Tennessee. View at http://youtu.be/xN1P4qD_Xn0