Sometimes a rather obscure Bible verse jumps out and grabs your attention as you read along. Such was the case for me recently with Exodus 38:8. It reads, “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.”
I found it surprising that this small donation should be noted in an extensive passage detailing how Bezalel, skilled by the Lord in all manner of craftsmanship (Ex. 35:31; 36:1), designed and crafted the tabernacle curtains, implements, and objects. The bronze basin (or laver) was merely one of many things he made, but the source of the bronze is specifically mentioned.
Who were these women? The Mosaic Law describes an order of male priests but does not detail any official role for women. Apparently, these ladies were particularly pious and, like Anna in the New Testament, spent their time serving the Lord. Their hearts were devoted to God and to the construction of the tabernacle.
So when Bezalel began to fashion the bronze basin, these women saw another opportunity to give. This basin would be used by the priests for ceremonial washing, symbolizing the cleansing from sin that would prepare them to serve our holy God by offering sacrifices. Bezalel needed bronze. Perhaps the Israelites had run out of other sources of bronze by this point, but I think these women were moved by the Spirit to give from their own resources.
At first, I saw this as a small offering, a simple gift. After all, I have a mirror in half the rooms of my home, a hand-held one, and even a small one in my purse. Our car visors have mirrors. It touched me that God should honor ordinary women who gave a small gift to Him by mentioning it in the Bible. Indeed, all sacrifices, no matter how small, are noticed by God.
But then I realized that mirrors were not very common in the ancient world. Not everyone could afford a mirror or had access to the quality metal required to make one. Egyptians were the largest ancient culture to regularly make and use mirrors of highly refined and polished bronze. (Glass-making was not common until the later Roman Empire.) Each mirror was costly and a beautifully decorated work of art. These ladies had acquired the mirrors during their stay in Egypt, but they would have no way to replace them as they marched through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula.
So giving away their mirrors was not an easy thing. It was a great sacrifice. Perhaps it symbolized their repentance from pride and vanity. It was certainly a token of their zeal for the Lord. They gave an object that would help them enhance their own beauty so that the Lord could be glorified. As the priests washed each day in that basin, those mirrors reflected God’s perfection and His sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins.
So what am I willing to sacrifice today? In what ways do I put my comfort before the Lord’s service? What contributes to my own glory that I ought to be reflecting onto God? As Matthew Henry observed, “God’s service and glory must always be preferred by us before any satisfactions or accommodations of our own.” How can I enhance and declare God’s beauty today?