Honestly, it's one of those parts of the Bible that is really easy to skip over. When the Lord wants you to build something, He can be painfully explicit in the building plans: use this much of this material on this part of this thing which is to be this size - no more, no less. And so on and so forth. I realize that, tedious as it appears, this is still God's Word, so I sort of feel guilty if I skip over it. My typical solution? Speed reading.
But when I recently encountered the passage in Exodus in which God gives building instructions for His tabernacle, I wasn't bored. I was actually a little jealous.
I was jealous because these people were receiving instructions, a mission to accomplish. When they put their hands to that task, gold-plating that wood or carving out that cherubim, they knew that what they were doing was exactly what the Lord wanted them to do. Moses had spelled it out down to the last detail.
Tim Keller says that mission is a need of the human soul. We all need to do work that is meaningful, that accomplishes some worthwhile purpose. I can testify to this: I used to have a mission. I used to know that what I was doing was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. That knowledge, friends, is worth more to me than gold - even a solid gold cherubim.
Now, the leading that I've followed has brought me into a wilderness where there is no clear road and no signposts. There are no instructions. Why won't He spell it out? Why won't He give me a blueprint like He did in the Egyptian wilderness?
We all go through the wilderness at some point. The Israelites spent 40 years there; Jesus spent 40 days. Who knows how long I will spend out here. But where the Israelites were led through the wilderness by the letter, like school children who needed every detail spelled out for them, Jesus was led into and through the wilderness by the Spirit. Jesus didn't need details (or bread). He needed only to trust His Father. Jesus, in His human knowledge, had no roadmap to the cross. But through the Spirit, in complete love and surrender to the Father, He had only to put one foot in front of the other, obediently doing what each day and moment required. And His mission literally saved the world.
I still struggle with want of clear direction. In this sense, the letter is so much easier to follow than the mysterious Spirit. But following the letter and loving God are not one and the same, and only one fulfills the other. The former can be done without the latter, but the Spirit leads us into the will and the love of God. I must not seek God to find a purpose; I must find my purpose in seeking God. So for the present, I will try to learn not to eat rocks, and when to jump, and Whom alone is to be to worshiped, all without a blueprint. And when I learn to dine on true Bread, and jump only when He jumps, and worship the Father alone and nothing besides, perhaps I will also find myself no longer in the wilderness, but surprisingly in the midst of something else: a mission.