Furnishing the Courtyard

Exodus 38:1-31, Psalm 51:14-17, Hebrews 10:1-14

BY Andrew Stoddard

I recently boarded a flight that was overbooked by at least ten passengers. It’s become much more commonplace for airlines to do this, booking passengers close to or over capacity on a flight, but on this particular occasion even the boarding attendants knew they had a massive problem. From the concerned looks on their faces to the announcements that evolved rapidly from informing, to offering, to begging—we all knew something was wrong.

The airline offered the passengers free rebooking, and then free rebooking plus flight vouchers, and finally, free same-day rebooking plus flight vouchers plus a sizable gift card. With that last push, they finally obtained enough volunteers to step off the flight.

Crisis averted.

Now imagine this scenario: instead of offering and delivering all of those nice incentives, the airline simply gave the bumped passengers a $20 gift card to the pretzel stand in the airport. Can you picture the rioting that would’ve ensued? Not only would the displaced passengers have been furious, but many other travelers and onlookers would have thrown themselves into the revolt. That’s because we’ve all been created with a universal, ingrained sense of justice that knows wrongs need to be made wholly right.

Today’s reading in Exodus deals with furnishing the courtyard. This is the place where offerings are made to the Lord. This is the place where the transaction by which God’s people will be made right begins. But these sacrifices are not impersonal transactions. They are matters of the heart. I think this is what David is recognizing when he cries out: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering” (Psalm 51:16). Clearly, the wrongs committed by the Israelites, or later by David, were on a completely different level than an airline fumbling some reservations—not to mention that our spiritual well-being isn’t a customer service transaction.

However, David knew in his heart what the writer of Hebrews also declared to be true: the sacrificial system could not permanently repair the repeated and egregious offenses of humanity against God and His holy nature. This was not necessarily because the law was faulty, but because humanity was unable to abide within its boundaries.

This is something that David, in the pit of his sin, had the wisdom to recognize many years after the Exodus and many years before the coming of Christ. On the heels of his adulterous and murderous actions, David realized what the book of Hebrews confirms: God wants our hearts! That’s why David cried out in despair: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). More than our things, more than our words, more than our self-beratements or self-pity, what God desires and requires is our hearts. The work of Jesus on the cross has ensured that the rest will flow out from there.

If you know you’ve been trying to hand out IOUs and 1-ounce bags of honey roasted peanuts for too long, maybe it’s time you consider the alternative: surrendering your heart to Jesus. It’s costly, scary, and sometimes a painful process. But we know from David, and time and time again from Scripture, that it’s the only way to thrive in deep relationship with the God who created you and desires to be closely connected to you.

Written by Andrew Stoddard

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2 thoughts on "Furnishing the Courtyard"

  1. RN says:

    Always interesting to me is how the value of the metals used in the tabernacle declines the farther out you get. It’s like God is saying, you don’t need to be super showy throughout this building, just value appropriately the things I have told you to value. It’s similar to how later Jesus does the same thing in condemning the Pharisees for tithing mint and dill and cumin but ignoring the heart of the law.

  2. Epp.ic says:

    Lord, you know my heart. You know that before you I am to keep it blameless and pure, and that I seek for it to be regularly broken and humble. But Jesus, sometimes in my life, I get wrapped up in the details of the HOW? How do I keep my heart broken and my spirit contrite before you? How do I put myself in a position to constantly be in awe of your redemption in my life? How do I maintain a proper view of myself when it is so easy to have that view compromised by the world!

    I know you haven’t promised an easy road. You’ve said that the way is hard and long, but that the burden is light and easy! I don’t always understand your words, and I certainly don’t always understand how I’m to live in light of them! But God, Father of light, teach my heart through the big and the small, the joyful and the tragic, the spiritual and the secular to humble my heart before you, and to break it in your presence. May I live my life humbly before your throne, graciously offering all I have, and receiving all that you offer in return! Amen.

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