by Darin Avery
The Israelites were free. God had rescued them; Moses had led them. Fundamental rules of divine worship and inter-human relationships (the Ten Commandments) had be given to the nation. But they’re still in the wilderness—and they will be for many years to come. As a further pledge of His presence among His wandering people, God wants Moses to build Him a tent, a portable sanctuary.
As with any building project, materials must first be acquired for the final structure to take shape. A desert isn’t a great place to find such things as gold, silver, bronze, precious stones, oil, incense, fine fabrics and yarns, etc. Yet God asks for them. He knows the people have them, not because they found them lying around the sand and rocks of the Sinai peninsula but because they’d carried them off in a day of great plunder from their former Egyptian oppressors. The stuff for building His tent would come from their tents!
But I noticed something reading this passage (Exod. 25:1) that I never saw before: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.'“ Interesting! This was not a compulsory collection. God was not demanding anything from His people; His only demand was that Moses announce the opportunity for people to freely return a portion of the bounty with which God had already blessed them as they fled Egypt.
We can see this principle throughout Scripture, can’t we? God is not so impotent as to manipulate His people’s hands; rather, He always begins by moving our hearts. He would rather have the widow’s two pennies than the miser’s moneybag, the willing boy’s basket over the baker’s bulging bundles of bread, a gift cheerfully given over a tax taken.
As Moses cast the vision of a tabernacle made of so many different materials, it wouldn’t be hard for every Israelite to see something of his or hers woven into the final structure. “The curtain is God’s, but a strand of that purple binding at its fringe was mine,” one woman might say to another strolling past the tent of meeting, water jars in hand. “The poles the priests use to carry the ark belong to the LORD now, but I remember dragging those unfinished acacia logs through the Red Sea thinking I might have to leave them behind when Pharaoh’s chariots were hot on our tail; I’m sure glad I didn’t!” one man might say to another, as his companion catches a fragrant whiff of incense wafting from the sanctuary—the very type of incense his Egyptian neighbor once gave him as a gesture of good-riddance.
What’s my point?
The point is this: Every child of God has "stuff” at his or her disposal, valuable stuff like time, money, church buildings, talents, material possessions, relational capital, technical know-how, interpersonal skills, etc. And while all of that is good and may be valuable to us personally (or congregationally), God is still in the building business and is looking for materials, “stuff” from which to finish His eternal dwelling place, called the Bride, the New Jerusalem, the wife of the Lamb, a building not made with hands eternal in the heavens, a temple of living stones... Yet He doesn’t despair over not having enough, nor does He demand that we give anything to that most glorious project. He doesn’t have to! Why? Because not only is He still in the building business, He’s still in the heart-moving business too.
So, a question we need to continually grapple with is this: Do we think we can put our spool of “purple yarn”, our unfinished “acacia log,” or our chunk of “incense” to better use than He can? Sure, it involves a surrender of raw material to God’s design, but for now (and in eternity to come) which will delight our hearts more: yielding to the heart-movings of the Spirit to contribute freely, or resisting and keeping stuff for God’s tent tucked away in ours?
Thanks for taking time to read this post. I hope it’s encouraging to you—and perhaps a bit challenging too! Want to be a guest contributor to Hope Notes devotional? Submissions welcome! Email me your ideas at email@example.com
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