WORD STUDY – OFFERING (Part II) – תרומה
Exodus 25:2-9 : “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this [is] the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats'[hair], And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers ‘skins, and shittim wood, Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
So, yesterday I did a study on terumah or offering which means to exalt. This offering in Exodus 25 was meant to exalt the Lord by giving up something that was important to you, that you loved but it was not necessary to sustain life. We’ve got gobs of that in our society.
So God asked for gold, silver, brass among other things. Why these particular items? For one thing they were not necessary for the essentials of life, they were what we call today, luxury items. Also, the people of that day, being Semitic people, saw symbolisms in these items that we in our present 21st Century culture do not see.
In the Midrash HaGadol I found some of the meanings or symbolism behind these gifts of these offerings. To the children of Israel in that day gold symbolized your soul, silver the body, copper the voice, blue the veins, purple the flesh, red the blood, fine linen your intestines, goat hair your hair, rams skin dyed in red is your face, tachash (badgers) skin your scalp, shittim wood your bones, oil for the light represents your eyes, spices for anointing oil and the sweet incense for you nose, mouth and palate. The stones listed represented your kidneys and physical heart. In other words all these items represented your fleshly body. To give of these items was symbolic of surrendering your all to God. They were a terumah or a lifting up to heaven as a sacrifice to God you entire physical life.
This were given to create a sanctuary that God could dwell in. When I hear the word sanctuary I think of a place of refuge or asylum. Why did God need a sanctuary or place of refuge? Webster give two meanings to our English word sanctuary. One is indeed a refuge but another is a sacred or holy place. A place set apart. That is obviously the meaning intended in this verse. But why would God want to be set apart from the people if he wants this as a place to dwell among them. The word dwell is shakan where we get the word shekinah as in the shekinah glory the nurturing presence of God. God is everywhere, omnipresent. He did not need a special place to live in but He did need a special place where people could go as a refuge for the daily grind and cares of this world. God dwells everywhere. but it was in His tabernacle you could find a refuge from the world and be alone with God without outside interference and experience His shekinah, His dwelling in you and hence His presence. I mean God dwells in us 24/7 but we often need a sanctuary to be able to focus on Him who dwells within us to experience His presence. The sanctuary in a church exist for us, not for God. It is a place, a quiet place where we can go to be with God. It is not a holy place, that holy place is within us, but it is a special separate place to be quiet and reverent before God, to feel His presence and experience Him.
Like other Christians I pray constantly. I always like to be in a state of prayer but during the week there are many distractions and my concerns dwell on many things other than God. So it is really difficult to be alone with God in a way where I don’t have to worry about someone interrupting me or making a demand upon my time. On Sunday I go to a church building and after the service ends and the people leave, I like to stay behind and as the meeting room empties, it gradually becomes a sanctuary for me, a place where I am alone with God and I can pray without interruption or someone bothering me or making a demand upon my time.
The word sanctuary in Hebrew is maqedash. This comes from the root word qadash which simply means to set apart for a specific purpose. That is all the sanctuary in your church means. It is a place specifically set apart for the sole purpose of drawing near to God. It is His dwelling place in the sense that the Oval Office in the White House is the dwelling place of the President of the United States. The President is not always in the Oval Office, he does not sleep or eat in the Oval Office. That office is symbolic of high level conferences and meetings of importance to the world. In the Oval Office the President is always addressed as Mr. President, informality is rare.
I remember working as a paralegal and I was with various parties in a court where the judge was sitting at a table just having an informal discussion over the case that was about to go to trial. The attorneys and all that were present were very respectful of the judge calling him “your honor.” But there was an atmosphere of informality, some joking, and some light hearted discussions over things not relevant to the case. Then all of a suddenly something was said that would change the course of the entire hearing. All of a sudden this judge stood up and said: “I must robe.” He went to his chambers, put on his robe, and when he returned he sat on his judge’s bench, the hearing was officially called to order and the judge’s presence was made known and all stood before him in respect to his authority. There was no joking, no light hearted discussions and if anything was said that was irrelevant to the case the judge instantly declared it out of order and warned the attorney to stay within the confines of the case.
That is what it means when God asked for a dwelling place that would be a sanctuary, set apart. Throughout the week God and I have informal discussion, sometimes I dwell on irrelevant things, but when I am in a sanctuary, where God is now robed, so to speak, I stay on topic and show Him the respect and the formality that the Creator of the Universe deserves. I show him terumah, an exalting.