In my read-through-the-Bible resolution, I hit Exodus 25 with a thud. I peered warily down a long stretch of chapters about building materials and cubit measurements. At this point in the Pentateuch, reading gets bogged down in curtain lengths and specifying numbers of brass rings, while I—I prefer to soar in the stratosphere and imagine Pat Boone singing the 1960 “Exodus Song” in the background of a Cecil B. DeMille drama.
But I have come to appreciate why God purposely includes the sewing and sawing chapters, and why He would rather I plow through them than leapfrog to the book of Joshua. In these tedious math dictations, He is telling the Israelites exactly and in no uncertain terms how He wants to be worshipped. Worship was not a feel-good invention of their own imagination. The chapters on temple specs remind us that God is God and we are not. Directions for life and worship flow from the top down. They are not open to discussion.
The problem is that unless we stick to the text we tend to get sentimental about religion and make God a projection of our own preferences. Sentimentality is easier than measuring curtains. The real God gets sidelined, and we end up worshipping a god of our own invention, one who (surprise, surprise) happens to like the same things we like. “I’m sure God would just love a golden calf made from these earrings I don’t wear anymore. What do you think, Aaron?”
The falling dominoes of Exodus International, Vision Forum Ministries, and World Vision (now trying to reverse field) don’t just happen. These represent big-time mission drift. Mission drift happens when God’s instructions seem boring or passé, so we make up more user-friendly ones. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).
But the prosaic parts of the Old Testament have a place in our psyche after all. The very exercise of reading them drives home to us that God is the boss and His policy stands even if we don’t understand it and think we know a better way. (Why “ram skins dyed red” and not blue? Why 20 boards for the south wall and not 30?)
If God says a man should only lie with a woman and not a man, that might sound crazy to us, but God said it and that’s good enough.