Fit For A King
Exodus 35:4-21; 36:2-7; 40: 34-35
This is the final week of our series on the Life and Lessons of Moses. It is hard to believe that this is already my sixth message that I have prepared for you all. We started off in Exodus 3, where God called to Moses out of a burning bush and revealed to Moses the grand plan. We traveled with the Israelites out of slavery and into the desert. We were cornered by the Red Sea where we saw God do great and marvelous things. We grew hungry with the Hebrew people as they grumbled and demanded that God provide. We charged into battle with Joshua while Moses raised his arms in prayer. We learned that God wants to have a relationship with us through the covenant of the Ten Commandments chiseled into stone tablets. We have heard, fled, witnessed, traveled…
That has led us to here. To the final episodes of the book of Exodus. Where we will learn about having enough to do the work of the Lord.
You will notice in our Scripture readings that we are jumping around a lot within about five chapters of Exodus, but really the whole episode that we are going to talk about today take up about fifteen chapters. Starting all the way back in 25 when the Hebrew people settle into a nice long stay at the base of Mount Sinai. But I figured that if we read all of that, took the time to do so, there would have likely been a mutiny, as we round the three hour mark… you all would have likely walked out on me… so I trimmed it down a bit. I also thought we might break these sections apart a little bit and talk about them one at a time.
In Exodus just before today’s Scripture passage, Moses climbs down from Mount Sinai, with the two “tablets of testimony.” These are the stone tablets on which the law of God is written … If any of you have seen the film The Ten Commandments, you might remember that really dramatic scene when Charlton Heston shouts “those who will not live by the law, shall die by the law!” And then he throws the stones tablets holding the laws of God at the golden calf… then there are some 1950s pyrotechnics and an earthquake… Well… Moses, in a moment of justified rage, broke the original tablets… so he had to climb back up the mountain to get another set. And this replacement set is called the Tablets of Testimony. Which Moses had with him when he came down the mountain this time around.
So Moses climbs back down, with his face radiantly bright (as he had just been talking to God), it is so bright in fact that he has to put a veil over it so as not to scare anyone.
And as soon as Moses is back, he gathers the Israelites together and tells them what God had to say while he was on the Mountain. He says this, imagine him saying this with a veil over his face.
God had given Moses very particular instructions on building and assembling a tabernacle, or tent of meeting. Right down to where to place the lamp stand, who was to carve the altar, who was to assemble the curtains and tapestries. This tabernacle was to be a place in which the God of Israel would be worship, and as a place for God to dwell. God wanted a home with his people. And given that the Israelites were wondering through the desert during this time, it needed to be portable as well… This is a portable church. A mobile sacred space.
The incredible thing about the instructions that God gave to Moses, is that God didn’t call for anything that they didn’t already have. Now you may be asking yourself, where did a bunch of fleeing Israelite slaves get things like gold, silver, fine linens, gems, fancy building materials like acacia wood? Where did all this come from?
Well if we were to flip back in the book Exodus to when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt in Chapter 12, we would read this: “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed towards the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” In the Message version of this text, it says “Oh yes! They picked those Egyptians clean!”
God knew that the Israelites had all these things: gold, silver, gems…
It was their pirate’s booty! The spoils of their victory over Egypt! I imagine that when the moment came for these Israelite slaves to take from their masters that they really would have picked them clean! They would have taken everything and anything that they could have gotten their hands on.
And God invites them to make a church out of that! Who would ever say that our God doesn’t have a sense of humor!?!
A lot of times, this passage gets a little used and abused as a call to pass the hat around the church, when the church is short on money… But that really isn’t what this scene is about. It is about having a stirring in your soul. Moses didn’t relay a message to the people that demanded that they turn out their pockets. Moses put out a call to the people to build something that they were passionate about. In this section of Scripture we hear language like “All who is willing.” “All who are skilled.” “All who’s hearts have been moved.” Build a place for God to live. In fact, seven times while Moses is speaking does he mention that these things are freely offered and given. Moses could have issues a decree in which everyone had to pool all their valuables, had to give them to the church. But he didn’t. Only if your heart has been moved.
I think this translates in a way that is really important for this gathering of God’s people. We are all given and gifted with skills and passions. God wants us to offer them forward for the glory of God! What grows out of our interests, our skills, our passions… is what is going to feed and fuel the church! God doesn’t ask us for things that we can’t already provide. In this scene, God needed someone to build an altar, he needed someone to sew curtains, he needed their pirated treasure.
What might this be saying to us? It says to me that we don’t have to have overflowing offering plates to serve the least of these. We don’t have to have a packed sanctuary to grow a ministry that has heart and life to it. God only asks from us what we already have to give. What do we have, that can be used for the glory of God? What are your gifts, skills, abilities? What are we good at?
The next section of Scripture will help me illustrate this point more fully:
Exodus 36: 2-72 Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom theLord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. 3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. 4 So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” 6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, 7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
Now, Bezalel and Oholiab are both crafts people that were directly invited by God to help in the building of the church. They came to Moses, and said “There is way to much stuff! People have got to stop throwing resources at this project. We had enough a long time ago.” This church, and that is what this body is, the first church group. This church actually has to cut off the call for resources!
I just learned this past weekend that 60% of churches in the US, worship with a crowd of less that 100 people. The average size of a congregation in the United States is 86 people. Yet small churches across the country are still aspiring to be big mega-churches. Which is a church that worships 500 people or more. We, the small church that is, want to be bigger, with more programs, more resources, in a bigger church, with worship that is shinny and exciting. That is what fills our dialogue.
But you know what mega-churches are doing? Their dialogue is “how can we be smaller? …
We have too much going on. The worship is too shinny. The church is too big, too grand. How can we be small?”
Mega-churches have had to go towards fragmenting their worship. Small groups, multiple chapel sized services, home prayer meetings… that is what they are moving towards.
As a small church we want more, more, more…
While the big church wants less, less, less…
So the lesson is, “There is more than enough to do the work of the Lord.”
Big church, small church… it doesn’t matter. We have enough to do the work of the Lord!
From the eyes of the small church, I really like the phrase: “abundance of enough.” That is the nature of God’s blessing. God does not often give us everything we want; but God does give us everything we need. Probably not a lot of cushion! Probably not a surplus! But God will supply an abundance of enough.
Our goal as a worship community must be only three things! The first is to seek out the Gospel, the second is to love and tend to our neighbors, and the third is to be bear the light and invitation of the Gospel to the world. Anything else is just extra…
There is always enough to do God’s work! In this room there is enough skill, enough time, enough energy, enough resources to do the work of the Lord. There is enough here to seek the Gospel, to love and tend to one another, and there is enough to bear that light to the world.
The final section of Scripture for today is Exodus 40: 34-3534 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Moses made everything just as God had instructed. Artisans within the group offered their skill and talent to make the altar, to make the curtains and tapestries. All the gold and silver that had been stripped from the Egyptians was now decorating the tent. It must have been a sight to see, their church. Their place of worship. They had all offered something to this church. Not out of being begged or asked… but they all offered something out of reverence… respect, or just because there was such excitement out of creating something that was their own. Something that they were all passionate about!
And God blessed it. God wasn’t just pleased with their work… but God occupied it! God moved right it!
I want us all to be thinking about what this church is building. Are we building something that is exciting to us? That is reverential? That uses our gifts and our passions? Is there something that this gathering is doing or building… something that our God can bless, occupy, move right into!? I think we are. I think that there is something good, and honest, and joyous about our gatherings. But do you think that as well? Think about this. Consider it. Where is God on the move in our church?
Saying, if only we had more people, more resources, more time, more energy, more youth… is not really a valid argument… because there is always enough to do God’s work. There is always enough.
The Lord only asks us for what we have. And then God takes it and runs with it. Blessing it and moving right in!