Exodus 40: …the Glory of God filled The Dwelling. Moses couldn’t enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud was upon it, and the Glory of God filled The Dwelling.
As Moses finishes the work God gave him to do, God moves in. Moses, through the God-given skills of the faithful workmen did what he could do. Moses led the project, the people funded it, and gifted men acted in obedience in preparing this place of worship. At this point they’ve done all that they can do, and the result is an impressive, lavish, and portable Worship Tent. Of course, that isn’t enough. Unless something else happens all they have is a fancy museum. Then God moves in. He fills the place with his glory – with himself. Now they really have a place of worship. A couple of things come to mind here. First, we do all we can do but it’s never enough until God moves. The best singing and preaching, the finest facility, the “best laid plans of mice and men” fall short without God. Second, we see an example of prevenient grace here. God not only graciously moves in, doing the “divine side” of this effort, but it was God who gave Moses the plans in the first place and enabled the people to do the “human side” of this project. It’s God who gifted the workmen. It’s even God who worked things out so that the Egyptians gave this nation of slaves the very items needed for the building of the Tent of Meeting before they ever left Egypt. Here’s a picture of God working on both sides of the issue. As always, in him we find grace, grace.
Take Away: We are recipients of grace all the way through.
Exodus 39: Moses saw that they had done all the work and done it exactly as God had commanded. Moses blessed them.
God gave the construction plans, Moses passed it on to Bazalel and company, and the people brought the materials. Everything from the frame of the Tent of Meeting to the Ark of the Covenant to the clothing of those who will serve has been crafted precisely to God’s design. Moses inspects the work and sees that it has been done well. Then he blesses them. Sometimes, the job of the leader is to point people in the right direction and then get out of the way while they do what they’re gifted to do. However, the leader’s job isn’t over at that point, in fact, that’s just one of a pair of “leadership bookends.” The other bookend is found in Moses blessing the workers at the end of their task. Leaders are to lead in appreciation as well as vision. As a pastor, I often point people in the right direction, whether they’re singers or electricians. Both are doing things that are beyond my capability and I certainly can’t micromanage their efforts. However, once the job is done, it’s my job to be the “lead appreciator” in the church. Every leader needs to be an expert in showing appreciation for the efforts of those we lead.
Take Away: A real leader knows how to lead in public appreciation of others.
Please, no more money
Exodus 36: The people were ordered to stop bringing offerings!
The Tent of Meeting is being constructed and it’s no simple circus big top! The best of everything is going into the mobile worship center and the people are bringing items needed for its construction. In their excitement they bring gold, silver, bronze, and fine fabrics. And they just keep on bringing these items. Finally, the craftsmen go to Moses with a problem. They have too much stuff! Moses’ solution is to tell them to stop. I can’t help but smile as I read this story because such an order is rare or maybe even non-existent in the Church today. However, there are a couple of things to consider. First, the goal of the Church is not to rake in all that it can. Bigger, more expensive, more impressive isn’t necessarily a worthy goal. Second, God’s people are wonderfully generous when they know God is behind something. In my years of ministry I have seen this many times. God is good – and so are his people.
Take Away: God’s people are generous people.
Gifted by God
Exodus 35: He’s filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and know-how for making all sorts of things.
Dear old Bazalel, what a man of God he was. He could preach some of the finest sermons, was a true prophet of God. Uh…you say he wasn’t a preacher? Well, then…what a singer and musician, so much talent. What? He couldn’t sing a lick? Well, if he was filled with the Spirit and a great blessing to the people of God, what did he do? You know the answer. This Spirit-filled man of God made things, working with his hands. He was the one God used in the construction of the Tent of Meeting and its furnishings. Why are we so spiritual about gifted teachers, preachers, singers, and musicians and so unspiritual when it comes to gifted craftsmen? Thank God for those piano players and singers…but when the plumbing is in need of repair give me a Spirit-filled plumber (not that there aren’t some singing plumbers out there). This is a good reminder to not only acknowledge the contributions of those who come to church work days, but to also recognize that their gifts and abilities are just as God given as are the pastor’s. And, to remember that those gifts include, not only artists who can do uplifting works of art, but carpenters, air conditioning people, and plumbers who are gifted by God to do his work too. In fact, we could sometimes use a few less “up front” folks and a few more “Bazalels” in the church!
Take Away: God gifts people in a wider variety of ways than we think.
The power of enthusiasm
Exodus 35: Then they came back, every one whose heart was roused, whose spirit was freely responsive, bringing offerings to God for building the Tent of Meeting.
God gave Moses the plans for the Tabernacle and now Moses has passed them on to the people. A one-of-a-kind of worship center will be constructed. It will be portable but in spite of its portability it will be an elaborate structure, a place reflective of the God they worship. When Moses tells them what God requires it sparks excitement throughout the congregation. Now, without any pressure, the people freely give so that the Tent of Meeting can be constructed according to God’s plans. As I look at the people coming with their gifts, my attention is drawn to those “roused hearts.” Enthusiasm is a powerful emotion. As it does for them, it stirs me to action and makes me willing to make sacrifices. I want to have a “heart that is roused” when it comes to my relationship with God and his Church. There are many things that demand my attention and my support. Those things may or may not be worthy. However, doing God’s work is always worth the effort. Stir my heart, O God, that I might be “roused” to enthusiastic, sacrificial service of you.
Take Away: I serve the Lord, not because I must, but because I may.
Exodus 34: He didn’t know that the skin of his face glowed because he had been speaking with God.
Coming into the physical presence of God impacts Moses in a physical way. His face glows. I haven’t a clue as to how this works, but, apparently, it’s intentional on God’s part. Even though I can’t explain the “how” I think I may know the “why” of the shining face. When Moses comes down from the mountain the previous time, he finds that the people have cast off their faith. This time, God wants there to be something about Moses that grabs their attention; something that these who are at the kindergarten level of understanding God can grasp. Therefore, Moses’ face reflects the transcendent holiness of God. Even that’s a bit too much for them, so they ask that Moses wear a veil as he reports what God is saying to him on the mountain. Of course, preachers like me have been drawing from this story to remind people to “let their face show it” across the years and I do think God intends this. God’s people should have a “look” of inner peace, joy, hope, and, yes, holiness. Like Moses, we spend time in the presence of the Almighty and everything about us reflects that.
Take Away: “If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it.” – Children’s Sunday School song
Exodus 34: God, God a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient – so much love, so deeply true – loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
Sinai II is taking place. During Sinai I, while the people rebelled Moses was on the mountain having an awesome encounter with God. Seeing that the people rebelled against God and his ways before they could even get started Moses broke the tablets containing the Law. However, Moses still intercedes for them and God graciously gives them another chance. In fact, God is willing to reveal himself to Moses in even a more personal way than he did out in the desert in the burning bush or when he came to Sinai the first time. It’s during this indescribable encounter that the words that arrest our attention today are stated. Old Moses can hardly contain himself as he proclaims God’s mercy, grace, and patience. Nope! This isn’t Moses speaking. Instead, it’s God! So what’s going on here? I think I know. As the Almighty begins to create a people and works specifically with the man he’s chosen to lead them, he’s giving Moses a lesson in worship. And Moses gets it! He falls on his face before God. Maybe I need some worship lessons too. I’m glad the Lord is a willing Teacher.
Take Away: Thank God for Second Chances and thank him also for being such a patient teacher.
Exodus 33: If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now.
Walking with the Lord
Following the golden calf incident the Lord tells Moses he’s going to change his relationship with the Israelites. Instead of being personally present, guiding them to the Promised Land, the Lord is going to assign that job to an angel. These Israelites, the Lord says, are a hard-headed people and they might just push too hard against God and be destroyed because of it. In response, Moses has another meeting with the Lord as the Pillar of Cloud descends on the Tabernacle. As Abraham interceded for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah centuries earlier, Moses begins to deal with the Almighty. He reminds the Lord that it was the Lord, himself, who called him from tending sheep to lead these people. He doesn’t want to settle for an angel. Instead, he wants the presence of the Lord, himself, on his life and on the lives of the Israelites. In desperate insistence, Moses declares, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now….are you traveling with us or not?” In the face of this intercession the Lord relents. It won’t be an angel who travels with the Israelites; it will be the Lord, himself. I have some theological issues with this whole exchange. After all, isn’t the Lord everywhere, all the time? Still, I’m drawn to this exchange between Moses and the Lord. As wonderful as an angelic visitation might be, it doesn’t hold a candle to the very presence of the Lord in my life. As Moses indicates, he doesn’t want to take a single step without the Lord. As I rise in the morning and enter into my day I want to do so in the spirit of Moses: I don’t want to say a word, to do a deed, to walk a step without the Lord in my life.
Take Away: I want to live in constant fellowship with the Lord, every step of the way.
A lesson on leadership
Exodus 32: Moses said to Aaron, “What on Earth did these people ever do to you that you involved them in this huge sin?” Aaron said, “Master, don’t be angry. You know this people and how set on evil they are.”
Aaron is left in charge while Moses is up on the mountain meeting with God. Just as the Lord said, there’s an idol-centered orgy going on. Moses demands an explanation from his brother who responds that these people are just bad people and there’s nothing he can do. Aaron is supposed to be the leader here, but he’s a spectacular failure. Leaders must have vision and be skilled in organizing and persuading people to work toward the fulfillment of that vision. Aaron’s view of leadership is to help the people do what they want to do already. His excuse to Moses is, “that’s just how these people are.” His error is huge and because of it he fails his people, Moses, and God. Genuine leaders don’t wring their hands as people do the wrong thing. Neither is it testing the political winds and “leading” the people to do what they already want to do, right or wrong. In fact, leadership can be lonely and occasionally it is practically suicidal. Aaron should have stood for God’s way even if it meant that the people just ran over him to do what they wanted in the first place. Moses understands leadership. He takes a position away from the goings on and calls for those who are on God’s side to join him. He’s going to make things right no matter what the cost. That’s leadership.
Take Away: Leadership is more than helping people do what they would do anyway.
Sons and daughters of Bezael and Oholiab
Exodus 31: I’ve personally chosen Bezael son of Uri…I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God.
Here we are at the familiar commissioning of Bezael and his assistant Oholiab. We know all about them, right? I’m kidding, these two men are lost deep in the pages of our Old Testaments and only the finest of Sunday School scholars knows who they are. Really, that’s too bad because today pastors of small and medium sized churches owe a lot to modern day Bazael’s and Oholiab’s. You see, Moses is receiving lots of complicated construction projects from the Lord, but, as far as I can tell, there’s not a blueprint in sight. The Lord tells Moses to just take note of what he’s being told but not to worry about the actual construction because there are two men down at the foot of the mountain that have been filled with the Spirit. The result of that filling is not that they’ll be preachers or prophets or singers. They are Spirit-filled craftsmen. All Moses has to do is give them the instructions he’s receiving from the Lord and they’ll take it from there. I firmly believe that the Spirit still empowers craftsmen (and women) for the hands-on needs of the church. For instance, when we have a church dinner, I’ve learned to stay out of the way as several women in the congregation are gifted at planning and executing church dinners. A while back someone came up with the idea of removing all the concrete sidewalks of our church building and replacing them with beautiful paving bricks. You can take all I know about stuff like that and put it in a thimble but they took that project on. I helped where I could, mainly as a “brick carrier.” Both men and women went to work on that big project and it came as no surprise to me that some of those folks knew how to do it. They handled everything from preparing the ground to knowing how to create a pleasing pattern in the bricks. In the church we tend to lift great speakers and singers but, I fear, fail to recognize the Spirit powered hands-on people. Thank God for sons and daughters of Bezael and Oholiab.
Take Away: There are many gifts for service, all of value to God and his people.