As we come to this 35th chapter of Exodus we come to the last major section of the book. Pretty much everything recorded in these chapters has already been mentioned in chapters 25-31. For example, at the end of chapter 31 God restated the Sabbath law and with the opening of chapter 35 we find the same command. As one commentator put it, it is as if chapter 35 begins with, “Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted.”1
We saw in those chapters that the Lord had given detailed instructions with reference to the building of His tabernacle; the place where God would dwell with His people. But while Moses was receiving this magnificent revelation the people below were engaged in idolatry. Their covenant with God was broken and the plans for the tabernacle were shelved. God, it would seem, was done with them—at least, that is, until Moses, their mediator, began to intercede.
In response to Moses’ persistent intercession the Lord graciously relented. The result was His recovenanting with the people and them with Him. It is in the context of this reinstitution of the covenant that we must view what takes place from chapter 35 to the end of the book. In other words, there is a very good reason for this repetition. There always is.
Some critics say that the repetition indicates that the book of Exodus is a combination of two books, and that this latter part is the work of an editor. If that is the case, it seems to me that he was not a very good editor! After all, why would an editor make the mistake of merely duplicating material?
The repetition was certainly not the work of an editor. Rather, it was placed there by Moses to highlight the reaffirmation of the covenant. “It is a reduplication . . . to point to the lesson of the faithfulness of Moses in carrying out God’s instruction. It also emphasizes the faithfulness of God; He will still dwell among His people, in spite of their initial failure.”2 These repetitive chapters were designed to give hope to the people that God’s plan was on schedule. God had forgiven them and would use them for His glory. All He asked of them now is to trust Him.
The children of Israel had sinned greatly and gravely in making the golden calf. Their idolatry was a loud statement, “God, we don’t trust you!” But now they had experienced the grace of God and their response—as we will see—was one of covenantal commitment; it was a statement of, “God, we do trust you!”
The same can be said of each of us who has been born again by the Spirit of God. Before we were saved we were worshippers of false gods; we were idolaters. And then God in His grace granted to us the repentance and faith to turn from our idols to serve the living God through His appointed Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, effectively, we went from those who said, “Lord, I don’t trust you!” to those who said and who continue to say, “Lord, I do trust you!”
But to profess trust in God is one thing; to practically demonstrate it another. How do we practically demonstrate that we trust God? Our passage of study points to four areas:
- We must trust God with our time;
- We must trust God with our treasures;
- We must trust God with our talents; and
- We must trust God with our task.
May God so encourage us through this study so that we will respond from the heart to practically live out our trust in Him.
Trusting God with our Time
The opening section, which deals again with the Sabbath law, teaches us the need to submit to God’s Lordship with regard to our time.
Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These are the words which the LORD has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
As noted, this is the seventh and final time that the Sabbath law is mentioned in the book of Exodus. Its placement is strategic, for several reasons.
First, the people had just recovenanted with God and so this sign of the covenant was once again reinstituted. This is why the death penalty is attached here: To defy this commandment was to reject the sign of the covenant, which in effect was to reject what the sign signifies—redemption by God. One who was covenantally cut off needed to be removed from the covenantal community.
Second, the people were being commanded to build the tabernacle and so it was important that they first rest before working. This is God’s pattern for His people.
Third, the observance of the Sabbath was a means of very practically expressing their trust in God. To rest rather than to labour—even on a good work like the sanctuary—was an indication that their relationship with God was such that they could trust Him when all common sense said they should be busy. It was a statement that they were not pagan.
This is why it was forbidden for them to kindle a fire in their dwellings.3 This was not merely a domestic prohibition (16:23) but also a prohibition against working to make the various metallic items for the tabernacle. And there may well have been another reason: In that part of the world Baal worship was predominant, and part of the religious ritual in Baal worship was to kindle a fire on the seventh day for the purpose of moulding their idols. We can see that perhaps the Lord was emphasising the need for His people to sanctify the seventh day in such a way that there would be no confusion with reference to whom they were worshipping.
Fundamentally the Sabbath law was aimed at practically demonstrating their profession of the Lordship of Yahweh. I would submit that the same holds true for the new covenant church.
I am aware that mine is a minority opinion but that is simply because the majority are wrong! There is not a shred of evidence under the new covenant that the Ten Commandments have been abrogated. In fact, Jesus made it very clear that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it.
Though many wholeheartedly vocalise the conviction that nine of the commandments are morally binding they are just as quick to add their denial of the fourth commandment. I will not rehash all of the arguments that I have put forth previously to answer such denials of the fourth commandment, but suffice it to say that there is no reason to assume that God does not hold us accountable—especially His people—for a one-in-seven-day sabbatical. To refuse to recognise this in practice is detrimental to our souls and our bodies, and it is to hinder the progress of the kingdom. Until the church takes seriously its covenantal confession of trust in the Lord, as exhibited by a holy observance of the Sabbath, we will not see the widespread awakening and revival that we so desperately need and desire.
Trust in God is practical and I am not sure that there are many ways that exhibit our trust in God and our submission to His Lordship quite like a loving, joyful and intentional observance of the fourth commandment. In most societies, this will be exercised on the Lord’s Day.
To obey here is to express that God’s pleasures determine our pursuits. It is to express that we trust God to run the world without our help. It is to express that we trust God with meeting our needs while we cease our normal labour towards that end. It is to express that, even—especially?—when it comes to the extension of His Kingdom, God does not need our constant labours. It is to express that we know our limitations and recognise the Lord’s eternality. It is to express that we see that worship is our supreme need. It is to express that our profession of covenantal commitment is not mere lip service. In a very real sense, this law is foundational to all others. If we truly will have no other gods before Him then surely we will have no other gods before Him on the Sabbath: the gods of self-sufficiency and self-security.
I don’t want to belabour the point, but surely our stewardship of the Lord’s Day is a key demonstration of how we view Christ’s lordship. After all, in new covenant language, we are told that Sunday is “the Lord’s Day”; that is, it is a day which is uniquely His. If the Lord’s Supper is a meal which is uniquely the possession of Christ—and thus demands a serious and sober observance (with sanctions attending its defilement)—why would we not assume the same about the Lord’s Day? Truly His day is as important to Him as His dinner!
Let me close with point with an illustration, albeit a tragic one.
Many reading this will no doubt remember the athlete Jonathan Edwards. Edwards set numerous world records on his way to winning gold at the Sydney Olympics. He was raised in what I understand was a deeply devoted Christian home. In fact, I believe that his father was a rector of a parish church. Regardless, young Edwards was well-known as an evangelical who saw his athletic skill as a means to glorify God; and one means of doing so was to use his athletic platform to evangelise.
Many likened him to Eric Liddell for, like Liddell, Edwards became known for his refusal to participate in athletic events on a Sunday. In fact, because of this conviction he missed the World Championships in 1991.
But by 1993 he had a change of mind and no longer saw the need to withdraw from Sunday events. Upon his retirement in 2003 he began to travel and share his testimony. He became the presenter of a Christian program produced by the BBC called Songs of Praise.
But that was then. Presently, Edwards is a professed agnostic who has disowned the Christian faith and says that he will definitely not be returning to Christianity. I read his account on a website recently, which boasts of being “humanist, atheist, scientific, secularist, naturalistic, evolutionary, rationalist, sceptics”—ad nauseum. (That last detail is my summation, not theirs!)
In that interview, Edwards said that looking back on his life he now realises that sport was his identity rather than his faith. In other words, he was (and is) an idolater. I wonder if perhaps the first step towards fully embracing his idolatry was revealed in 1993 when he decided to no longer obey the fourth commandment.
I submitted a comment to the website, which was screened and ultimately rejected, in which I wrote, “I have to wonder if his decision to no longer observe the fourth commandment was not the beginning of his departure from the faith. I thank God for His gracious revelation of His wisdom as to what we need.” And I do.
When we tell God no with reference to the fourth commandment it does become easier to tell Him no in other areas.
As we leave our consideration of the fourth commandment in the book of Exodus it is vital for us to remember that there is an inseparable historical, theological and anthropological link between the fourth commandment and the temptation to idolatry. God has given to us the former to protect us against the latter. If we fail to trust God with His Sabbath, then we may find that we are not in fact trusting Him with our souls!
Trusting God with our Treasures
Before the people could begin construction of the dwelling place of God they were required to rest, and even during the construction they required to rest once a week even from this very noble and important task.
The intended fruit of this was to practically help the covenanted people to come to a greater appreciation of Yahweh’s sovereign lordship. The next command—the stewardship of God’s resources—was intended to flow from this appreciation.
The Commandment to Take an Offering
Moses had the plans for the tabernacle tucked under his arm and was no doubt excited about beginning the project. Having recently been exposed to the transforming glory of God he wanted more of this for more people! He wants the nations to be glad (cf. Psalm 67)!
In order to build the tabernacle, of course, materials needed to be collected. And so, under strict instructions from God, Moses called for the people to make a substantial contribution to the project: “And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the LORD commanded’” (v. 4).
It is estimated that about a ton of gold went into the construction of the tabernacle, and three tons of silver. There were many tons of acacia wood as well as kilometres of various threads and cloths. This was a mammoth task requiring lots of material—and valuable material at that. This building program would require the people to give a large offering. If this dwelling place of God was going to be constructed, if God’s presence would be experienced among them, and if the mission of God was to go forward, then the people would need to participate materially—in a meaningful and even sacrificial way. And this has always been the case when it comes to spreading the glorious gospel of God. God’s mission moves forward in this world to the degree that God’s people are faithful with their monies. Money and mission are inseparable. And certainly this is clearly seen here in Exodus 35 and 36.
If vv. 1-3 teach us about the responsibility to be faithful stewards of our time, then vv. 4-29 teach us to be faithful with our treasures and our talents.
You see, God has given us every resource that we need for the extension of His kingdom. And all our resources ultimately and actually belong to Him. As David later prayed, while collecting offerings for the construction of the temple, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). If we grasp the Lordship of Christ then we will exercise faithful stewardship.
Our profession of faith is put to the test in practical matters. A. W. Tozer once wrote, “The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in. What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.”4
We are often tempted to be people of pseudo faith when it comes to stewardship. But if we really trust Christ with our souls then we will trust Him with our sustenance. If we trust Christ as Lord of all then we will practically trust Christ with all. If we trust Christ for the gospel then we will trust God with our goods. If we trust Christ with that which is ultimate, with that which is eternal, then we will trust Him with that which is temporal and penultimate. Let’s learn something about this very precious and practical aspect of the Christian life.
Many years ago, Jack Taylor wrote a book entitled God’s Miraculous Plan of Economy. John Bisagno introduces the book with these words: “Without apology my philosophy has always been: if a project is worth receiving an offering for, it is worth going after all you can get.”5 Moses would agree.
The Conditions for the Offering
In the verses that follow the materials that God had previously prescribed for the construction of the tabernacle were collected. But collection was only taken under a very specific condition.
As you read this chapter you soon notice an obviously repetitive theme when it comes to their giving. The people were informed of the need and the command concerning the offering. But the offering was only to be brought by those “of a willing heart” (v. 5). The idea of willingness is repeated in vv. 22, 29. Verse 21 speaks further of a willing spirit, and v. 29 speaks of “freewill offerings.” Verses 21 and 26 speak of the offerers as those whose “hearts” were “stirred” to give.
In all, there are nine statements here that highlight the fact that the giving on the part of the congregation was to be voluntary. They were not to give under compulsion. In the words of the apostle Paul, it was not to be done “grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Literally, God loves a “hilarious” giver!
This is how believers should give for the extension of the kingdom. The Scriptures teach, without ambiguity, that the tithe is the Lord’s and whether one “feels like” giving or not is irrelevant. The tithe has been described by Matthew Henry as a tax, which God has laid upon every covenant member of His kingdom. And, of course, as with your national revenue service, God does not ask us to give according to what you choose!
But when it comes to special offerings, like the one here for the tabernacle, God asks us to go above and beyond our required level of giving and to do the exceptional. And it was because this was an abnormal request (after all, the tabernacle was a once-in-history structure) that God’s command to give was qualified by statements that make it clear that the offering should come only from those whose hearts were moved.
Before delving further into this issue, let me turn our attention to the importance of non-compulsion in such sacrificial giving.
The Consideration before the Offering
Verses 20-21 are significant when it comes to freewill offerings: “And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses .Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.”
Moses confronted the people with the qualified commandment and then let them go home without passing the offering plate! This highlights that Moses (under God’s authority) was very serious about this matter. He gave them time to make their decision with reference to the offering. He let them go home so that their hearts would stir them up!
I suppose that some would look at how Moses handled this as a failure to “maximise the moment” for a big offering. After all, was there not the danger that those who were excited at the prospect of this project would go home and cool down? I suppose so. But again, God distinctly said that He wanted the gifts to come from those whose hearts “stirred” them to give. And so giving them time was actually a means for them to warm up to the idea rather than to cool down! Think about how this would play out.
As the people went home they would think about what it meant for God to dwell with them. In fact, consider how they would have responded to such an act of grace. After all, they deserved to be destroyed by God, but they had now been the recipients of His amazing grace. They perhaps would have been shamed as they thought about their recent act of idolatry and how the Lord had graciously forgiven them, even conceding to the request of the mediator to go with them to the Promised Land. They would no doubt have given serious thanks at the knowledge that they had been owned by God as His inheritance and, if they were thinking clearly, would have marvelled that God was going to use them for His glory among the nations. Having considered the grace of God expressed to and by them, there is little doubt that soon their hearts would have been “stirred” to willingly give such a freewill offering. Their spirit would be very willing as they contemplated the salvation they experienced from their sovereign God.
Such was the case some 1,500 years later in the case of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45; 4:33-37). This was also the response of the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) and such was to be the case in the life of the Corinthian Church. And the same applies to us today.
The key element in sacrificial giving is not merely an appeal to the affections but an equal appeal to the mind. As we contemplate (particularly on the Sabbath?) what the Lord has done for us in the gospel, we will find our hearts strangely warmed and moved to give of our substance to the Lord. But note another factor here.
As these people considered the list of items that were to be offered they would be reminded of God’s goodness to them when He brought them out of Egypt. God was asking for precisely what He had provided! They would remember how the Lord had so wondrously worked in the lives of the Egyptians so that, when the children of Israel asked them for gold, silver, scarlet linen, etc., they so amazingly acquiesced! In other words, they would have been in a position to reflect upon God’s sovereignty, including His ownership of all. And such contemplation moves hearts and opens hands. In other words, they would have been encouraged to trust this Lord by giving back to Him what He already owned (cf. Psalm 24:1; 50:10).
This understanding of God’s ownership is the key to practising faithful stewardship. When we reckon on the reality that we own nothing and that we are only stewards of what God has entrusted to our care, then it becomes much easier to let go and trust God! There is a wonderful freedom that the thoughtful believer experiences when it comes to giving to the Lord. You see, since we own nothing we have plenty to give! Our problem of course is that we often develop sticky fingers.
Let me summarise what we have learned by highlighting that there were at least three truths that the Israelites would have pondered that would have resulted in their hearts being stirred and a freewill offering coming forth: their pardon, their purpose and their provision. And of course these three considerations should and will move us as well.
We need such level-headed and loving-hearted consideration if we will give in a way that pleases the Lord and extends His kingdom. I dare say that, when local churches are filled with those who contemplate such truths, sacrificial giving will come forth and the needs in the kingdom will soon be met. We are to give, not under compulsion, but rather we are to give under constraint; we are not to give grudgingly but rather gratefully. And such giving will come to the degree that we live thoughtfully.
Note some issues that arise in this text with reference to the offering. First, the need was God-caused (the tabernacle was God’s idea). Second, the need was God-centred (note references to “as the LORD commanded”). Third, the need was God-controlled. That is, it was provided beforehand; God did not ask them to supply more than He had already provided them with. God never confronts His church with a bigger need than He plans to meet!
When Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, was opening a bank account for China Inland Mission, the banker asked him how much he had with which to open the account. Taylor replied, “Ten pounds and all the promises of God!” Would to God that we would share his faith!
The Contents of the Offering
God was very specific about what He wanted for the tabernacle and so He gave a detailed list of what was required (vv. 5b-9, 22-29). If I am correct, everything that God required for the construction of the tabernacle is listed here. There was to be neither waste nor lack.
I see here an important principle for the financial support of the church. The congregation is to be made aware of the need and the more details, the better. In other words, vagueness when it comes to church expenditures is not helpful. Our church recently placed an offer to purchase on the property next door to the church. The offer was accepted, and we promptly informed the church of precisely how much we had offered, what we had in the bank as a deposit, and what was yet needed in order for us to comfortably make the purchase. The transparency was important as we prayed for God to stir hearts for people to give.
They Brought What They Could
As you read this text it becomes obvious that different people brought different gifts. Some had gold and therefore brought gold. Others had silver and therefore brought silver. Some brought acacia wood, some linen and some badger skins. Some had more, some had less, but each brought according to his ability.
This is a principle that is clearly taught throughout Scripture. In Acts 11:29, for example, the Antiochan disciples, “each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” Similarly, giving in the local church “is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:8-12).
The widow gave two mites, an insignificant amount in terms of the economy, but it was all that she had and God was pleased with it (Mark 12:41-44). I recall being at a church many years ago that was in the midst of raising money for a large building project. The appeal went out to the congregation, and after the service people were invited to come to the front and leave their offering for the building. I watched as one woman, who was part of the church orchestra, slowly made her way to the front and laid her violin down as an offering. Clearly, she understood the principles!
The church in which I was raised embarked on an extensive building project in the 1980s, and I can recall people selling cars and properties and whatever they could to fund the project. That is the type of willingness that is called for in order for the local church to be effective in the extension of God’s kingdom.
They Brought What Was Needed
Everything that was necessary for the construction of the tabernacle was carefully detailed by God, and the people therefore brought precisely what was needed. God caused the need and then used His people to meet the need.
God has created all sorts of needs for the functioning of His church and the extension of His kingdom, and we must realise that He uses His people to meet those needs.
A young pastor came to see me recently. He and another pastor are involved in a church plant in another part of the city, and we are doing as a church whatever we can to assist them. A believer from another church recently offered to pay the monthly rental for offices for the pastors’ use, and when he came to see me he informed me that the same man, having cashed in shares held in a particular company, has now offered to buy the church a building!
I have no doubt that God is at work in that church, and He has stirred the heart of a willing saint to provide what is necessary to fund the work.
They Brought What God Had Supplied
Significantly, God had in fact supplied everything that was needed for the construction. Yes, the people were expected to bring it, but they were able to bring only because God had previously supplied. He controlled what they could give by what He had already given them (cf. 12:35-36).
This is at the heart of stewardship. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-20 teaches us this vital principle: We are to invest what is already God’s for His purposes. It is a trust issue. We give to God trusting Him to resupply.
When we understand Christ’s lordship and thus our stewardship we then see ourselves as channels rather than reservoirs. All we need to do is open the sluices!
Importantly, we should understand that God is an exact planner. He always supplies what His work requires. We must simply let it go; give it back to God joyfully and faithfully.
The Contributors to the Offering
We see in vv. 21-29 (and later in chapter 36) that the people responded. In fact, it appears that all kinds of people responded: male and female, rich and poor, old and young. Each gave according to his or her ability. There was a diversity of people who gave but there was a unity of purpose.
We can learn from this that God stirs the hearts of all in the church to do something when it comes to freewill offerings and that all the gifts are precious to God.
I find this scene wonderful. As the people went back to their tents after hearing of the opportunity to give they began to contemplate the goodness of God to them. Each had their own story of grace and each had been endowed with different kinds and amounts of provision. And so each gave according to his or her ability. This is precisely what the Lord expects.
We are not all called to participate at the same level, and some may in fact not be called to participate financially at all—at least not immediately. We are each to respond to the God-caused need according to our affections and abilities. And, as we will see in our next study, when we do the needs are abundantly met.
So may God so move in our hearts that the opportunities He presents to us drive us to contemplate His grace and His omnipotent work. As this happens, we will surely feel a sense of gracious obligation to offer up what He has already so graciously provided to us. And with such contemplation our trust in God will grow.
Trusting God with our Talents
The stewardship required for the construction of the Tabernacle was not merely one of materials but also included manpower.
All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the LORD has commanded: the tabernacle, its tent, its covering, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; the ark and its poles, with the mercy seat, and the veil of the covering; the table and its poles, all its utensils, and the showbread; also the lampstand for the light, its utensils, its lamps, and the oil for the light; the incense altar, its poles, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, and the screen for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle; the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, all its utensils, and the laver and its base; the hangings of the court, its pillars, their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pegs of the tabernacle, the pegs of the court, and their cords; the garments of ministry, for ministering in the holy place—the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.
Workers were required as well as wealth. And in a sense, these were two sides of the same coin. Somebody had to be able to make sense of the pile of gold, silver, brass, goat hair, acacia wood, and various linens. And so the Lord received an offering of talents as well as treasures.
The opening words of verse 10 help us to see something very important. The text speaks of “all who are gifted artisans among you.” To be “gifted” implies that one is a recipient of gifts. It would be prudent, therefore, to ask, gifted by whom? The answer, of course, is by God.
God had equipped Israel with gifted individuals who could take the offered materials and shape them into functionally beautiful use. But for this to take place such gifted individuals would, like those who had been provided the materials, be of a willing heart to serve in this way. I would suggest that, like those supplying the goods, these gifted individuals would need to come to the appreciation that their gifts were also the provision of God.
As they went home after hearing about the offering they too would have recounted the kindness of God to them. They would have then been moved to offer up their lives as a living sacrifice and their giftedness would have been at God’s disposal. In fact we have evidence of this in vv. 25-26.
It would seem that there were gifted seamstresses who received the goat hair and the thread from the hands of others and then applied their skill to shape it into what was needed for both the tabernacle structure and the garments for the priesthood.
We can learn from this that every believer has something with which God has provided them for the building up of the dwelling place of God, the Body of Christ. We have different giftings as well as different amounts of gifts that we can contribute, but as each does his or her part the job gets done and God’s glory extends to the nations. As it was with Israel so it is—in a far grander way—in the new covenant church.
When the church in which I was raised embarked on its building project in the 1980s, there were many who could not give financially who gave their time in building, painting, tiling and glazing. One particular man, the husband of a church member and who had long been a vociferous opponent of Christianity, was converted just months before the project commenced. As it turned out, he was in the air conditioning trade, and he spent hours doing the work necessary for the building to have air conditioning. Our pastor estimated that that work alone had saved some $40,000.
Everyone has something to offer, regardless of their financial situation. The abilities and talents that we have are given to us by God, and we must use them however to further the ministry of the local church.
Trusting God for Our Task
The Israelites were moved by the grace of God to contribute and to construct the tabernacle of God. Their task was to be a light to the nations and the tabernacle was a huge means towards this end. This reach was the reason for their existence.
The new covenant church is called to the same task: to be the light of the world as we reflect the light of Christ. But whereas the old covenant church did so through the tabernacle, we do so through the temple, the church of the living God. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:19-21, “You are . . . fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
It is through the work of the church that the Lord brings His presence to bear in this world. Our task is therefore a glorious one; an even more glorious task than that which had been given to Israel. But like Israel of old, we will only fulfil our task to the degree that we trust God.
But is it not also true that our grounds for trust, though not any more sure, do leave us with less excuse than Israel. For whereas they looked forward to Christ, we look back at the historical cross work and resurrection and ascension of Christ. Whereas, for many in that time, their eyes were veiled to the glory of Christ, God in His grace has removed the veil for us. We therefore have more reason to be moved by grace to gratitude. And this gratitude will move us to giving.
Christ who was rich became poor so that we would be enriched by His gracious salvation (2 Corinthians 8:9). And such grace should move us to give of our time, treasures and talents to build His temple, the church of the living God. If we trust Christ with our souls then we have every reason to trust Him with our Sabbaths, with our service and with our substance.
As a church, BBC is in precisely this situation as I write these words. We currently face a God-caused need. God has blessed the church with much growth over the decades and it is clear that our facilities are stressed to the max. We need the extra space because God has demonstrated His grace. As noted above, this has led the church to make an offer to purchase the adjoining property, an offer that has been accepted by the doctor who currently owns the property. Now, we require the funds to make the purchase and, no doubt, the manpower to work so that it becomes what we require as a church.
But this is also a God-centred need. There is one reason for the opportunity we face: the glory of God in the extension of His kingdom. This is not merely a matter of extra parking or another building. Rather, the extra property will help us to improve our ministry to both the household of faith as well as the community.
The need is, furthermore, a God-controlled need. God has created the need and I have no doubt that He has already provided to meet the need. The provision is in the hands of the church membership. We have a substantial cash deposit in the bank as I write. We only require the balance. And what is required is for each of us to contemplate what the Lord has done for us in Christ and therefore to respond willingly and bring forth an offering according to what God has graciously provided us.
As in our text, this offering is only for those whose spirits are willing. There is no compulsion, but rather it must come from hearts constrained and obviously from those whom God has supplied so as to be able to contribute.
There is always the possibility of applying for a bond, and if necessary we will do so. But our prayer as church leadership is that a bond, if necessary at all, will be negligible to such an extent that we can pay it off in a few years. For then we will have that much more money to invest in ministry and missions for the hallowing of God’s name, the extension of His kingdom, which is His will in heaven to be carried out on earth.
What a wonderful opportunity to trust God. It is my prayer that we would now do so for His glory.
- Alec Motyer, The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 318. ↩
- R. Alan Cole, Exodus: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 233. ↩
- Note, by the way, that the word “dwellings” does not primarily describe individual houses but the encampment of the nation as a whole. ↩
- A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Camp Hill: OM Publishing, 1980), 50. ↩
- Jack R. Taylor, God’s Miraculous Plan of Economy (Nashville: Baptist Sunday School Board, 1975), 3. ↩