One commentator calls it a “tantalizing tidbit,” and indeed it is. Don’t think I ever noticed it before. Not surprising since it’s buried in that part of Exodus that repeats the details of the construction of the different objects which made up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
In Exodus 25 thru 31 it takes a bit of grit to read through the seemingly endless detail of how the tabernacle was to be built. Then, in Exodus 35 thru 40 that detail is repeated as Moses records how the tabernacle had been built, all of it “as the Lord had commanded Moses.” So, to miss a “tantalizing tidbit” shouldn’t be surprising. Not gonna lie, I usually read the second set of detailed instructions a little less carefully than the first set. But, for some reason (maybe a Spirit illumination reason), this morning I noticed it. This fun fact. This bit of trivia. Something to chew on.
Unlike so many other pieces of furniture for the tabernacle, the dimensions and details of how the bronze basin should be built aren’t recorded. But what is captured is it’s purpose.
The LORD said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die.
(Exodus 30:17-19 ESV)
After slicing and dicing and offering the sacrifice on the altar outside of the tent of meeting, before entering into the holy place where the furniture of gold resided–the table for the bread of Presence, the light-giving lampstand, and the altar of incense–the priests were to wash their hands and feet. If they didn’t, they would die. So this non-descript, bronze wash basin was kind of a big deal.
That the Holy Spirit moves Moses to record that the bronze basin was, in fact, made as God commanded, then, isn’t surprising. But what is intriguing is that God also wanted recorded where the materials of brass specifically came from and who actually provided it.
He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.
(Exodus 38:8 ESV)
The mirrors of the ministering women. That’s where the materials came from to build the bronze basin. That’s who gave them freely. And that’s all we know. But here’s some random thoughts from off the top of my head that are stirring my heart.
Mirrors in ancient time were made of finely polished brass. Suitable material for a bronze basin. But I think about the implications of re-purposing that material once used to gaze at one’s own face to be used to wash another’s hands. Once used to behold one’s own beauty, now used to wash off the blood and dirt from another’s feet. Sounds like a sacrifice to me.
And, when I think about who’s ministering at the entrance of the tent of meeting, I’m thinking sons of Levi, not ministering women. Who were these ladies? Not commanded to be there, yet determined to serve as close to where the glory dwells as possible. With no formal job description, yet permitted to give themselves to what might have seemed to others as menial tasks but elevated to heaven’s heights because they were performed out of devotion to a holy God.
What’s more, I’m thinking this isn’t just a couple of gals who had nothing better to do than hangout where the men were working. Because I’m also thinking that we’re not talking full-length mirrors here, but hand mirrors, relatively small pieces of polished bronze. And so, I’m guessing, it took quite a few of them to make the bronze basin, and thus, it took quite a few ladies to part with their mirrors for the washing of the hands of a few priests. In fact, it seems the original language carries the thought of a troop of soldiers mustered together, ready to go forth and serve. And so it was the many mirrors of many ministering women.
So, even though the Scriptures don’t give us much to go on, the mirrors of these ministering women seem to me to be kind of a big deal.
Isn’t that what God makes of the seemingly insignificant? Isn’t that how our God rolls when it comes to things offered in secret by no names? A few fish, a couple loaves of bread, some hand mirrors–when given for the Lord’s work used of the Lord for grand purposes we can’t even imagine. Like cleansing priests for entering into the holy place so they won’t die.
A tantalizing tidbit indeed. A fun fact which fuels our faith. A bit of trivia which is anything but trivial.
Because of God’s grace. For God’s glory.