What's Important?


Exodus 38:1-8 (ESV)

He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Five cubits was its length, and five cubits its breadth. It was square, and three cubits was its height. He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards.

He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

The big mysteries in this section are all about the ministering women who donated their mirrors for the construction of the basin of bronze.

First off, what did their mirrors have to do with their ministry? That’s easy – nothing. The text doesn’t say they used their mirrors in their ministry. It just says they donated their mirrors.

Next, how can there be any women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting when the tabernacle hasn’t even been built yet?

This is a reference to Moses’s tent being the tent of meeting (from Exodus 33:7).

So, apparently there were women who ministered outside that tent. We also learn from 1 Samuel 2:22 that after the tabernacle was built, women ministered there too. But what did they do? What was their function? It sounds important, but what was it?

We don’t have much to go on; there are no other references to these women or their service. The Hebrew word translated as minister here is “Tsaba.” In Numbers 4:23-43 and Numbers 8:24, it means Levitical service in the tabernacle. That’s pretty general but also pretty impressive. But they ministered before the tabernacle was built, so their ministry couldn’t have been some specific ceremonial function.

Whatever they did, it was important.

What’s important for us? We don’t do sacrifices anymore; Christ took care of that. So, what are the most important things we do? More to the point of this passage, what’s important in a church service?

Worship. Other things matter, but the weekly worship service is about worship. It’s not a performance, though excellence is a goal. It’s not an education time, though part of proper worship is preaching the word. It’s not a fellowship time, though that’s okay too.

But once a week we gather for worship. Everything else revolves around that.

The weekly study guides, which include all six devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.