Stumbling my way through the Pentateuch I ran into Exodus 35 & 36. In the preceding chapters, God has been giving the law to Moses and now the attention turns to the construction of the tabernacle. There are a myriad of things that are fascinating about these chapters. It had to be awe-inspiring for the people of Israel to think that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel was coming to reside in their midst. What times of reflection they must have had around the campfire discussing the new laws God had given them and the incredible detail required in the building of His tabernacle. These new events adding an incredible layer of complexity to what they knew about the God who’d delivered them from Egypt.
However, a new thought struck me from these couple of chapters. In Exodus 35:4-19, Moses tells the people what the Lord has commanded regarding the collection to be taken for materials needed to construct and adorn the tabernacle as well as the need for skilled workers.
(There is a lesson to be learned as well from the people of Israel and their response to this request of the Lord. In a day and age where we are consumed with materialism and inundated with cries for cash we are sometimes oblivious to where and how God is directing us to invest our resources. In this chapter it states that Israel was quick to give and to respond to the Lord’s leading. ‘Everyone whose heart stirred him’ (v.21), ‘everyone whose spirit moved him’ (v.21), ‘all who were of a willing heart’ (v.22), ‘and every one who possessed’ (v.23), ‘everyone who could make a contribution’ (v.24), ‘And every one who possessed’ (v.24), ‘and every skillful woman spun’ (v.25), ‘they all brought’ (v.25), ‘All the women whose hearts stirred them’ (v.26), ‘and the leaders brought’ (v.27), ‘all the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.’ (v.29). There is much we could learn from this spirit of generosity to the work of the Lord, but that’s a lesson for another time, so feel free to ignore this paragraph.)
In Exodus 36:3 the skilled craftsmen receive from Moses the contributions of the people to begin construction and it notes that the people were continuing to bring more and more. In fact, what struck me today, was the comment of the craftsmen in verse 5, ‘[they] said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.”‘ Moses follows this up in verse 6 with a command to all the people to stop contributing. In fact it says, ‘So the people were restrained from bringing.’
What?!! The people were joyously giving! They wanted to give more! There was opportunity to really do this tabernacle right – I mean who doesn’t like a little extra decorative gold? The people were willing, the skilled laborers were ready, and God is certainly worthy of having the best, most elaborate, most beautiful, most awe-inspiring, most impressive house among us right?! Why in the world would they tell Israel to stop contributing?!! Why not go back to the drawing board and make this thing a bit better, a little bigger? Why not do a little more for God?
But therein lies the point…God didn’t need a more elaborate house or more service from His people. It could have been twice as big and ten times as beautiful, but the craftsmen knew that wasn’t the point. God had a plan laid out and obedience to it was more important. The quality of their response, obedience, was more valuable to God than the increased quantity of riches they could have used to modify God’s design.
I’m impressed by the craftsmen and their simple willingness to do what God had said. There was opportunity to serve more, to expand the project, to do more for God, but they responded by saying, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” (Exodus 36:5). Sometimes we beat ourselves up trying to do more than God has asked us to do. Sometimes it’s motivated by our pride to do a little more than those around us and sometimes it’s motivated in our pride of disobedience in choosing to do it our way instead of God’s way. Sometimes we just need to simply do what God has asked us to do and be content with that.
*In no way do I think Israel was doing anything wrong in their willingness to give more…their willingness to give, their continued generosity, and their lack of materialism is a testament and example to us all. However, the workers response, when presented with a surplus stood out to me – I’m not sure I would typically respond the way they did.