Q: Heaven and earth can’t contain God, so why would he ever ask ordinary, everyday people to build him a little box?
That is so upside-down, inside-out, backward, and counter-intuitive. No one would think of doing such a thing–especially immediately after God tells them don’t make idols, images, or anything else for themselves to aid in their worship experience. And now they’re building an entire complex and even casting images of cherubim? We have the record of God telling Moses, “See that you do it exactly according to the pattern I showed you,” but I wonder if that was in response to Moses asking, “Um, God, are you serious?”
So what’s the point? I don’t claim to know even partially, but this part piques my interest:
“And you shall put the mercy seat (kapporah, place of atonement) on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” (Ex. 25:21-22).
Fast-forward a couple thousand years. According to Paul and the writer of Hebrews, believers are not left without a high priest or a kapporah offering made by his own blood that makes atonement and allows us to meet with God. Yay for us. But what is the purpose of meeting with him? Apparently, according to what he says about it in Exodus, it is to hear his commandments. Cool.
But practically speaking, nothing is to be built in this section of Exodus without people freely choosing from their own hearts to give and build, to use their own resources and efforts. No one was extorted into it then and no one can be now. Those who did it didn’t do it to earn anything. I think they just did it out of love.