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Parasha Vayekhel-Pekedei – Completing Our Projects for the Lord

Parasha Vayakhel–Pekudei (And He Assembled–Accounts)
Exodus 35:1–40:38; I Kings 7:51–8:21; John 6:1–71
Shabbat Parah: Maftir: Numbers 19:1-19:22; Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-36:38

This Shabbat, a special reading is added to the Torah Portion (Exodus 12:1–20), which details the laws of Pesach (Passover), since the festival of Pesach is but a couple of weeks away (March 25–April 2).

Sefer-Torah-Hagbaa

Holding up the Torah scroll at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

In the last few Parshiot of Terumah, Tetzaveh and the first part of Ki Tisa, God instructed Moses regarding the making of the Mishkan (Tabernacle, dwelling place), its vessels, and the priestly garments.

Because of adjustments in the Parasha cycle to achieve the needed number of readings, this year the Torah reading schedule combines Parasha Vayakhel and Parasha Pekudei.

In this week’s readings, the glory of the Lord filled the Temple after the work of building it was completed.

Aron-Kodesh-Holy-Ark-Safed-Israel

Torah scrolls are stored in this elaborate Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) in a synagogue in Safed, Israel.

 Completing the Temple

“How lovely is your dwelling place [Mishkan], Lord Almighty [Lord of Hosts]!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”  (Psalm 84:1–2)

Vayakhel records the actual implementation of God’s instructions on how to build the Mishkan, which was recounted earlier in Parasha Terumah.

Indeed, Vayakhel is almost repeated word for word in Terumah, with one notable change: the instructions in Terumah that were prefaced with the words “and they shall make” are now written with “and they made.”

Holman-Tabernacle-Wilderness

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness, 1890 Holman Bible illustration

The Tabernacle and the Sabbath

“For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of Sabbath rest to the Lord.  Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.  Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”  (Exodus 35:2–3)

The people stood prepared to begin the construction of the Tabernacle.  But even as important as this work was, Moses brought to their attention, yet again, that they must not work on the Shabbat (Sabbath).

The holiness of the Sabbath was not to be violated even for the sacred purpose of building the Tabernacle.

men-bus-stop-Shabbat-festive-day-prayer-spending-time-family

The Shabbat, which is kept diligently by ultra-Orthodox Jews, is a festive day that offers opportunity for prayer, reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, and spending time with the family.

Building the Tabernacle: A Community Affair

Regarding the building of the tabernacle, God stirred up the hearts of the people to bring their offerings for the work of the Lord.  It was not just Moses’ private project; it was a community affair, so each one contributed what they could from their material resources.

Some prepared the holy garments, while others prepared the anointing oil, and the sacred vessels, etc.  Everyone worked together toward this common goal.

Similarly, none of us can do the work of the Lord alone.

Building up the body of Messiah must be a communal work—each one whose hearts are stirred by the Lord, giving what they are able.  Some use their talents and others give their material resources.  Many give both.

Jewish-boy-pushka

A Jewish boy is ready to give his best gift to charity by depositing his coins in the pushka (offering box).

 A Joyful Outpouring of Resources

“The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!”  (Exodus 36:5)

The Israelites were so overjoyed to give to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that they gave enthusiastically.

So generously did they give that they actually had to be restrained from giving more!  (Exodus 36:3–7)

God responds to the cheerful giver with love and generosity, and He multiplies the seed sown so that there is no lack.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7–8)

If everyone whose heart was stirred by the Lord gave what was in their heart to give, there would be more than enough to meet every need.

tzedakah-pushka

The Hebrew word on the pushka (offering box) depicted above is tzedakah, which literally means righteousness, but is commonly used to signify charity.

The Widow’s Mite

It’s not so much the amount of the offering but the amount of sacrificial love with which it is given that counts to the Lord.  In chapter 21 of the Gospel of Luke, Yeshua (Jesus) observed the rich putting their gifts into the Temple treasury.

He also witnessed a poor widow putting in two leptons, which are called “mites” in the King James translation of the Bible.

In Yeshua’s day, a lepton (Greek for small or thin) was the smallest denomination of coins.  Like pennies today, they would hardly be considered worth the effort of stooping to pick one up off the street.

Her two mites were not going to make an appreciable difference in the upkeep of the Temple, but Yeshua took special notice of this tiny offering and gave this widow a great honor.

What might be considered an insignificant offering by some has been recorded and is still read about two thousand years later!

Yeshua actually valued this poor widow’s offering more than the generous offerings of the rich.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”  (Luke 21:3–4)

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Women praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

Offerings of Time and Talent

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

It wasn’t only financial offerings that the people gave to complete the work of building the Tabernacle.  They also gave of their gifts and talents.

In some individuals, such as Betzalel (see last week’s Parasha Ki Tisa), God placed His Spirit of wisdom and understanding for a specific artistic gifting to complete the building of the Mishkan.

Likewise, God gives each one of us gifts to be used for His glory.  Just as God gave explicitly detailed instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, and not just a general outline, we may also seek the Lord for specific instructions on what He wants us to do for Him.

Young-Jewish-men-read-Torah-scrolls-Western-Wall-Jerusalem

Young Jewish men read from the Torah scrolls at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

According to God’s Plan

“And so Moses finished the work….  Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle [Mishkan].”  (Exodus 40:33–34)

In the Pekudei section of this week’s Torah reading, the construction of the Sanctuary is completed.  That work was finished exactly as God had commanded Moses:

“And so at last the Tabernacle was finished.  The Israelites had done everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.”  (Exodus 39:32)

The Israelites did not veer away from the plans given to them by God to do their own thing.

They faithfully carried out His directions.  Moses did only according to the heavenly pattern that was shown to him on the mountain.

Likewise, we need to make sure that our works are what our Father is asking us to do, the way He is asking us to do it, and that we are not just doing our own thing.

Hearing from God and receiving His Divine guidance comes out of a close, intimate relationship with Him—there is no other way.

Tabernacle-Timna Park-Israel

Model of the Tabernacle in Timna Park, Israel

And a relationship with God, like any other relationship, requires time and meaningful communication.  Yeshua invested time in His relationship with the Father, and like Moses, did everything according to His Father’s will.

“So Yeshua explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself.  He does only what He sees the Father doing.  Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’”  (John 5:19)

And He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me.”  (John 6:38)

In the end, our works will be judged and the fire will test each work.  Only those done in accord with the will of the Father will endure and be rewarded.  (1 Corinthians 3:13–14)

preparing-Torah

Preparing to read from the Torah scroll in a synagogue in Israel

 Receiving the Blessing

When the people completed the work, Moses blessed them.  It’s as if Moses looked at all that had been accomplished and said to the people, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

“Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it.  And Moses blessed them.”  (Exodus 39:43)

Notice that the blessing didn’t come when they began the work, but when they completed it.

Beginnings are easy.  When we are fired up by enthusiasm and zeal, we can undertake almost anything, but it takes endurance to make it to the end.

Completions are both difficult and rare.  Nevertheless, it’s when we complete the work that we receive the blessing.

walls-old city-Jerusalem

Orthodox Jewish men walking on a road next to the surrounding wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Priorities and Procrastination

“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”  (Haggai 1:4)

Incorrect priorities and procrastination in doing God’s work can result in spiritual stagnation.

The Book of Ezra provides a powerful picture of this.  In 538 BC, King Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to their beloved city of Jerusalem and begin the work of rebuilding the Holy Temple, which the Babylonian armies had destroyed.

All too soon, however, they forgot their purpose and lost sight of their priorities.  Opposition and apathy brought this important work to a standstill (Ezra 4:4–5).

The people languished because they were more concerned with their own personal needs than with doing God’s will.

young-man-reads-Torah

A Jewish man wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) reads from a Torah scroll at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

 Bringing Our Work to Completion

“Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.”  (2 Corinthians 8:10–11)

In the same way Moses completed building the Tabernacle, Solomon completed building the Temple, and the Jewish exiles of Babylon completed building the restored Temple, we must bring our work to completion.

Completing our work doesn’t mean that all the loose ends have been tied up or that there is nothing left to do; it means that we have done what God specifically commissioned us to do.

Workshop-Israeli-youth

Israeli youth

 We know from this week’s Parasha that once the work is finished, not only does the blessing come, but also the glory—the glory of God that filled the Tabernacle when Moses finished building it!  In that same pattern, Yeshua declared how He had completed His work and brought glory to the Father:

“I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.  And now, Father, glorify Me in your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.”  (John 17:4–5)

In the end, after we bring our works to completion, may we receive the blessing and hear those words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

May we also be able to declare, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

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