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The High Honor God Puts upon His People
Everybody wants to be a part of something big. Everyone wants to be a part of something great, important, and significant. Here, in Exodus 35, we are told about some people who are a part of something truly great, men and women used of God to make for him a tabernacle of worship. What a great privilege and honor it is for God to allow such things as we are (fallen, depraved, fickle, unstable, sinful men and women) to perform his work in this world!
The highest honor we can or do give to the triune God, to the Lord Jehovah, our God and Savior, is faith in him. Our faith in him is his gift to us; and our faith in Christ is our gift to him. Believing him, we honor him. And the Lord God has declared, “Them that honor me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30). In this portion of Holy Scripture, we are given many pictures of the way God honors those who honor him by faith in Christ.
Because, at first glance, chapters 35-39 seem to be nothing more than a recapitulation of chapters 25-31, most of the commentaries have very little to say about these final chapters of Exodus, treating them almost as though they were redundant. That is a great pity. Nothing written in the Book of God is redundant, merely repetitive, or unnecessary. At the very least, any repetitions given in Scripture are needful repetitions. None are redundant. When a man sharpens his pocket knife, is it redundant to go over the whetstone many times? No. The more strokes the better. And we are specifically told to teach the things of God with repetition (Deuteronomy 6:7; Philippians 3:1).
Exodus 25-31 is a description of the tabernacle as it was given directly to Moses by the Lord God himself. Chapters 35-39 record what was actually made according to the pattern shown to Moses. Typically, that fact alone is very significant because that which was accomplished by God in his purpose of grace in sovereign predestination shall be performed by the sovereign power of God in time.
Exodus 35 is all about serving God. In the previous chapters we are told about the pattern God gave Moses in the Mount. Here the work is actually begun; and it is begun with another declaration of God’s command that the children of Israel must keep the sabbath.
“And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.” (vv. 1-3)
In this chapter, we see the children of Israel serving God with willing hearts. Here are God’s chosen people making sacrifices with joy and laboring with gladness; but the chapter begins with a commandment to keep the sabbath day holy.
So, the first thing evident in the chapter is the fact that service begins with rest. We cannot do anything for God until we quit trying to do something to appease God. We cannot serve the Lord until we rest in Christ, our blessed Sabbath Rest. We cannot bring anything to God until we find rest in Christ.
Remember, the tabernacle was designed of God and given by God to portray and typify our Lord Jesus Christ and the full accomplishment of salvation by him and in him. So, before the work of erecting the tabernacle began, the Lord God gave this commandment again. — “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” Before we are fit to serve the holy Lord God, we must rest in Christ. Before we can bring anything to him, we must receive grace from him.
This is the seventh and last mention of the sabbath in the book of Exodus, the book of redemption and deliverance. It was Solomon, “a man of rest” (1 Chronicles 22), who alone could build a house to Jehovah’s name. Both the sabbath days of the Old Testament and Solomon, the man of rest, typified our Lord Jesus Christ, our blessed Sabbath, in whom and by whom we rest.
But in Exodus 35:3, an additional feature is added to the observance of the sabbath. Even the lighting of a fire on the sabbath day is here prohibited! — “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.” The Lord never mentioned that before. Why is it added here? There may be other reasons for this additional requirement; but I am sure that this is intended to show us at least these two things.
Having faith in the Son of God, trusting Christ alone as our Savior, resting in him, every believer calls the sabbath a delight.
“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
Next, in verses 4-19, we see the Lord God bestowing a great honor upon the children of Israel. He so highly honored them that he allowed every man and woman in the nation of Israel to have a hand in making the tabernacle. Without question, God did not need Israel’s assistance. Everything the children of Israel brought to him he had given them. Yet, the Lord condescended to use the people he brought out of Egypt to establish his place of worship and all the things connected with his worship while they were in the wilderness.
“And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD.” (vv. 4-5)
“And every wise hearted among you shall come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded; the tabernacle, his tent, and his covering, his taches, and his boards, his bars, his pillars, and his sockets, the ark, and the staves thereof, with the mercy seat, and the veil of the covering.” (vv. 10-12)
“The pins of the tabernacle, and the pins of the court, and their cords, the cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest’s office.” (vv. 18-19)
Great as that privilege was, high as that honor was, it pales into insignificance, when compared to the great, high honor and extraordinary privilege the Lord God has placed upon believing sinners in this world. God almighty has chosen us as his witnesses and his servants in this world. What a high honor God has put upon his church! We are his witnesses.
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.” (Isaiah 43:10-12)
“Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8)
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” (John 20:21)
“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (2 Corinthians 6:1)
The People and Their Gifts
Now, look in verses 20-29 at the people God uses and the gifts they bring to him, by which he is honored and served. But, before looking at these verses, let’s apply the passage as personally as possible. Behold the people God uses to build his kingdom in this world, the people God uses to spread the gospel to the four corners of the earth, the people God uses to call out his elect in every generation.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Who are the people God uses to honor himself? Who were those people he used to make the tabernacle? They were a chosen, covenant people. — “All the congregation of the children of Israel” (v. 20). The offerings they brought were “the Lord’s offering” (v. 21), that which the Lord had given them, that which really was the Lord’s, that which they acknowledged to be the Lord’s. Both men and women, rich and poor, the rulers and the laborers worked for and brought their offering to the Lord, each serving with what God gave them, and in the capacity, God designated to them.
“And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD. And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers’ skins, brought them. Everyone that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the Lord’s offering: and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it. And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair. And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.” (Exodus 35:22-28)
The offerings were the offerings of willing hearts. That is the only service and the only offering God will ever accept, that which arises from and is performed by a willing heart. — “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.” (Exodus 25:1-2)
The materials out of which the tabernacle was made were to be provided by the voluntary offerings of devoted hearts. — “And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing…And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man offered an offering of gold unto the Lord” (vv. 21-22). Spontaneously, freely, joyfully they availed themselves of their great honor and high privilege.
Everything offered to God must proceed from hearts made willing by his Spirit. It must be spontaneous and free, not the result of persuasion or of external pressure, but from the heart. It must be given, not taken, constrained by love, not by law, motivated by gratitude, not by fear, inspired by reverence, not by reward.
Nothing is more certain to ruin any work, any missionary enterprise, any ministry, any church than the employment of carnal, fleshly, worldly schemes to raise money: tithing, pledges, deputation, bake sales, begging, etc. Nothing more dishonors God and his people than the many ways churches, preachers, and religious organizations try to get their money!
Moses simply told the people that the Lord God almighty, who brought them out of Egypt and destroyed all their enemies, God their Savior and Redeemer, was willing to receive a gift from them. He did not tell them what to bring, how much to bring, or even commanded them to bring. He simply said, God is willing to receive your gifts. Each one brought what he had in his possession (blue, silver, gold, shittim wood, etc.). Each one brought only as much as he wanted to bring, no more and no less than his own heart dictated. And there was more than sufficient, “much more than enough,” to finish the work (Exodus 36:5-7).
If the God of Glory calls us to do a work, the God of Glory will supply everything needed to do the work. God’s servants do not beg; and God’s people are not mercenaries. We serve our God and do whatever it is that the Lord God allows us to do for his glory, because we want to do it. — “The love of Christ constraineth us!”
Bezaleel and Aholiab
In verses 30-35, Moses introduces Bezaleel and Aholiab to us. Without question, these two men typify our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who builds his church. But let me briefly show you that these two men also represent those men who are called and gifted of God to lead his people in building his house. Bezaleel and Aholiab clearly represent faithful pastors, gospel preachers, appointed of God as overseers in his house.
“And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, in blue, and in purple, in scarlet, and in fine linen, and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work.” (Exodus 35:30-35)
Like all those men called of God to the work of preaching the gospel, Bezaleel and Aholiab were divinely called (v. 30). They were filled with the Spirit of God (v. 31). They were gifted of God with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to perform the work to which they were called (v. 31); and they were “cunning (skillful) workman” (v. 35).
Little did Bezaleel or Aholiab know that while they were making bricks in Egypt, under the lash of cruel taskmasters, the God of Glory was preparing them to be skilled artisans by whose hands he would erect the tabernacle in the wilderness for the glory of his name and the everlasting good of his people!