Put Down That Tablet! Exodus 35
Moses assembles the people of Israel at Sinai one last time before they set out into the wilderness, headed for the Promised Land. He gives them a reminder of some portions of the commands of God and emphasizes the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 link).
He also gives the one Biblical mention of tablet-type mobile devices in Exodus 35:3, where the command is given not to use your Kindle Fire on the Sabbath Day.
Some of you just groaned. Some of you skipped the one-liner, and others just missed it. I’ll address you all in turn, but first let us address the person who thought this might be the hidden meaning of that command. After all, we are so easily distracted from our worship and commitment by all of the digital noise around us, why would we not take this text in this manner?
The quite simple answer is: because it is not about digital devices. In total, the command to focus the day on Yahweh, Covenant God of Israel and all of Creation, and if your device subtracts from your focus, then you should set it aside. We cannot, though, bend the text to meet the impulses of the moment. If the text does not say it truly, then that is not the meaning of the text.
In this case, the text is clear that the people were not be kindling fire in their dwellings. That is, the work of building a fire was not to be done. I do not doubt that in the winter, a roaring blaze was in place before the Sabbath began and was large enough to provide the evening’s heat.
We must always be cautious not to add our own needed meanings into the text. That is not the path of the Christian who is seeking to hear from the Master. Rather, the path is to see what is there and understand how it applies. Consider the fire command here: what is the point? The point is that even our most basic life functions should take a seat behind focusing on the Lord God Almighty.
Which may mean you should not touch your Kindle Fire or your iPad on certain days to focus on worship in life, thought, and deed. Yet you cannot make that the Word of God—it is rather how you apply the Word of God.
If you missed the joke, sorry. You’re either new here, or you could cut my 30 minute sermons by 5 minutes and be completely happy. Usually there’s a slightly goofy one-liner in every sermon and every blog post that I do. It’s just part of how I deliver material. It’s ok, though, that you don’t get it. There’s lots of things I don’t get, too. Like Seinfeld. Or Big Bang Theory. That’s just me, though.
If you skipped it, shame on you. I worked on that for at least 3 minutes. It’s ok to skip a few jokes and laughs, but don’t spend your life skipping the funny parts. For example, I totally crashed a plumbing project Saturday. It was a huge mess, with water and buckets and the stuff of nightmares. Now that it’s over, it’s funny. Don’t miss the laughs.
And a special note to all of you who think that we should always be serious: yikes. There is certainly a time to be serious and to not let it go, but eventually, if you cannot laugh at something, especially yourself, you will go crazy. Laughter, people, is a sign of hope. One thing I hear from people that have been in various and diverse parts of this world is that the most hopeless people are the ones who never smile, never laugh. One of the first things that comes along with knowing the Gospel is a good smile. It’s that hope, that perspective that this gets better.
So lighten up. You don’t have to laugh at everything, you don’t even have to laugh at what I laugh at. You do not need to laugh at other people unless they start—you can laugh at any reference of me and plumbing, ok? I think there were things Jesus laughed about. I do not think He laughed at people, but He laughed. I think He laughed because He knew someday, someone would find a platypus and that would just rock their world.
Those of you who groaned and moved on: you’re used to me. Yet be aware, sometimes, there’s truth buried in humor, like a dog pill in a hot dog bit. It’s helpful to see it.
All that, and we haven’t considered much of the text. It’s a good chapter, especially when you hit the amount that the people brought freely for the construction of the Tabernacle. Well worth your time and effort, to see that people who have been delivered from much love with all they have, and hold back nothing.
Today’s Nerd Note: Something of general consideration: when the Israelites left Egypt, they plundered the Egyptians for all kinds of nice stuff. Then, as they have encountered a few enemies already, they have plundered more stuff.
When stuff starts to come in, society starts shifting its focus to stuff. Take a look at the classic film “The Gods Must Be Crazy” and consider the Coke Bottle in that movie. True, that was an exaggerated look, but that might drive home the point. Stuff shifts focus from people onto itself.
As the people have been encamped around the Mountain of God, do you think that they have, perhaps, begun to ponder the stuff of their neighbors? To wonder “Why didn’t I think to ask my neighbor for his flat screen, too?” or “I can’t believe it. She took the Kitchen Sink!” As this develops, jealousy sets in. Trouble sets in.
Yet now, as the gifts pour in from all who have a mind and the ability, that plunder moves from the people to the treasury of God. Why would that matter? For this reason: the people begin to re-equalize in terms of wealth. They are in a crisis, after all, and it is not time to be enriching oneself. It is a time to be together. There will be fortunes made once they are in the land.
Yet for now, as they give, they reduce the temptation to have their lives be about the stuff. That’s a good reduction.