When I was in high school, we had a class called Drafting. Well, I should probably say a class by that name was offered. Very few of us enrolled; no one wanted to deal with all the tedium of technical drawing. Now schools have a course with a similar objective called Computer Aided Design (CAD), and students love it! They report that it is fun, it appeals to their creativity, and it prepares them for future careers. (I know this because I asked a classroom full of them.) The use of the computer—a relatively recent technological advancement—has made all the difference.
When you think about it, the building plans for the Tabernacle (Exodus 26) are very similar to CAD. Consider these descriptions: “The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall have the same measurements” (v. 2 NASB) and “You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards, two sockets under one board for its two tenons and two sockets under another board for its two tenons” (v. 19 NASB). If those ideas had been created today, they would have been produced with the assistance of a CAD program, complete with high-resolution graphics and specific measurements, all easily rotated with a mouse for minute examination. Just like today’s students, the writers of the Bible must have loved using new technology (in their case, writing) to record the precise specifications of their designs.
These writings would have been very useful for the work of the craftsmen who constructed the Tabernacle and of the priests who transported and maintained it in subsequent generations. Indeed, it is remarkable that it is a fairly straightforward project to build s scale model of the tabernacle based on the plans detailed in these verses. Though there are a few elements that are somewhat uncertain, on the whole we can be very sure of what the original tabernacle looked like.
One conclusion we can draw from this line of thinking is that God encourages us to embrace new ways of doing things! Just like CAD is relatively new today, technical writing was relatively new when the book of Exodus was written. God utilized a newly developed technique to convey His purposes, not just for that first generation, but for all time. If God used new methods for advancing His plan in those days, we can be confident that He wants us to use new methods today, as well. For example, imperfect as it may be, we would do well to utilize new media (Internet, social networking, etc.) to communicate the Good News to today’s generation.
You may be thinking, “Oh come now! Writing wasn’t that new at the time of the composition of Exodus.” New or not (I’ll leave that debate for the Pentateuch scholars), writing was surely “cutting edge” technology in the sense that it was the IT of the day and accessible only to an educated elite. And even if writing was not “new” at the time Exodus was written, still we know God loves the new. The Bible speaks about us as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), about singing a new song (Psalm 33:3 and many others), and about the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).
Too often, Christians are eager for the “good old days.” They are eager to discuss how things are going downhill at breakneck speeds. But in light of today’s passage, before bemoaning “kids these days,” ask what is new in the world that has real potential to advance the Kingdom of God. How can emerging methods be harnessed to reach people who were previously unreachable?
And, if you are the kind of person who gets excited about new technology, try re-reading Exodus 26 as if you were living back in the day when its technological advancement was brand new. It just might inspire you to try something new today!