EXODUS 37 and 38
Every great construction project needs a brilliant architect, a skilled master builder, numerous other craftsmen, a willing labour force prepared to work hard, and a suitable supply of high-quality materials. The Tabernacle project has it all: God the architect, Bezalel the master builder, Oholiab and other unnamed men and women were the skilled craftsmen, a volunteer workforce of labourers came from all the tribes of Israel, and all the building materials and more given as gifts from all the people. The parallels between this portable worship-sacrifice centre and the New Covenant Church are striking!
Most of the materials were totally freely donated – especially the gold, the bronze, and the precious stones; the silver came almost entirely from the Atonement (or Redemption) money described in Exodus 30. Every man of fighting age (20+) had to contribute no more and no less than half a shekel of silver, as a token payment for their redemption – and perhaps a symbol of their equal value to the Lord, regardless of socio-economic status. Silver symbolizes redemption or atonement, and it is interesting to see which items in the Tabernacle were made of it. At the end of Chapter 38, the entirety of the silver was used on bases of the posts to hold the walls of the sanctuary and on items related to those posts. Gold was used for the items mainly in the Holy Place – symbolizing the purity and glory of the Lord; bronze symbolized justice, holiness, judgment and was used for the outer courtyard and sacrifice items. Interesting to note that the total weight of gold and bronze almost exactly equalled the total weight of silver; there is a message in that if you consider it more carefully!
Bezalel and Oholiab were clearly highly gifted and skilled men, filled with the Holy Spirit and given freedom to design details of those tabernacle items mentioned earlier by God to Moses. God was the overall architect, providing very full and detailed plans, but there was still freedom for these Spirit-filled men to provide creative input to aspects of the whole project. The same applies to God’s church, surely? Within the broad plan set out in the Bible, we still need the leading of the Holy Spirit to direct us on a daily basis. Many willing Christians are not only the recipients of gifts from God but are themselves gifts from him to his church! If we want to see the Kingdom of God grow in our towns and cities, we much honour such people and also seek to be one of them.
Voluntary giving sometimes has unexpected outcomes: when God’s people are prompted by a heart of generosity, they will give to a level of super-abundance and sometimes need to be restrained. In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 8 and Philippians 4:10- show this generosity in practice. A sign that our hearts are in good spiritual condition is an instinct towards generous giving at every opportunity; sometimes this generosity will attract criticism from other believers that we have erred by being gullible and ‘foolishly generous. How many of us ‘bible-believing Christians’ never give to the poor and homeless in our streets – salving our consciences with the thought that “they would probably only spend it on alcohol anyway”? And why is it that we would rather be labelled ‘cynical’ (regarding it as a badge of maturity) then ‘naïve’? Where your treasure is, there is your heart also!
Bezalel had the honour of making the Ark itself – one of the simplest and easiest items of furniture in the Tabernacle – and the solid gold atonement cover – one of the most difficult. The ark housed the covenant tablets, and the atonement cover was the focus of God’s presence and the place of forgiveness. This item was the most important in the whole Tabernacle and the reason for its existence. Similarly, the New Testament master builder – a.k.a. the apostle – focuses his efforts on the foundational matters and does not get distracted by important administrative details. (Acts 6:2,4,7; 1 Corinthians 3:10). In our own walk with God, let’s make the main thing the main thing!