I’d like to think there was a sense of anticipation. I want to imagine that there was a keen interest throughout the camp as the pieces were being crafted. It sounds like many had committed themselves to “the project” for the right reason . . . and I’m thinking they may have been anxious to see what their offerings would become . . . that there was an undercurrent of excitement to see how it turned out. And as I think about that, I also think from where they’ve come. From dancing around a golden calf . . . from having sinned a great sin against their God . . . from having experienced the wrath of God and the death of many in their midst. And now, they can’t wait to invite the glory of God into their midst. That’s how grace operates . . . that’s how our God does it . . . He is the God of the comeback.
I’m wrapping up Exodus as part of this morning’s readings. Just as the pattern for the tabernacle delivered to Moses was recorded in painstaking detail, so is its construction. The heartbeat of the “Make the Tabernacle” project is a guy named Bezalel, son of Uri. His name literally means “in the shadow of God.” You think? In more ways than one. First, who knows his name today? Sure we know God the architect . . . we know Moses who drafted up the plan . . . we know of the project, the tabernacle . . . but who knows the name of the guy who built it? Bezalel was in the shadow of God. And second, he literally was in the shadow of God . . . not only has he been filled with the Spirit of God for the task (Ex. 35:30), but the glory of God is also hovering above him awaiting “move in” day.
But what grabs me even more than “shadow man” are the people of Israel and what God, in His grace, had stirred up within them.
After Moses receives the plans for the tabernacle, he assembles the congregation and kicks off the “Gather Materials for the Tabernacle” campaign. No high pressure tactics . . . no pledge cards . . . no easy access to give via a website or with VISA . . . just this simple appeal . . .
Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution . . . (Exodus 35:5 ESV)
Absolutely voluntary. Whoever had a generous heart . . . a willing heart . . . a heart inclined towards. And there’s another nuance to the word . . . a heart incited to. My sense is this is not the natural heart . . . not the heart of slaves who had just escaped from Egypt with their lives and with more possessions now then they had ever known . . . not the heart that would, in my mind, most naturally hoard gold, silver, bronze, and the fine materials needed for the project. But the hard hearts of these who had once worshiped a chunk of gold as their god were now incited to give. Yeah . . . my God is the God of the comeback.
And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. . . . All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD. (Exodus 35:21, 29 ESV)
Their hearts were stirred . . . their spirits were moved . . . and of their free will they gave. And they gave in abundance . . . so much so that Bezalel had to tell Moses to shutdown the campaign and ask the people to stop contributing (36:2-7).
And so, having given so freely, I wonder if, as they waited on Bez &Co. to complete construction, there wasn’t a sense of anticipation. A gladness of heart as they waited to see what their offerings would become. And while I know things are going to go south again . . . that desert time is inevitable . . . at this particular time, I can’t help but sense a joy in the camp.
A joy from giving . . . a joy from having their hearts stirred by the God they recently sinned against . . . a joy from anticipating His presence . . . a joy realized in seeing His glory descend.
Did they deserve such joy? Were they worthy to give to such a high and holy project? Not thinkin’ so. But isn’t that how grace works? . . . isn’t that what the comeback is about? . . . isn’t that so like our God?
Oh, the grace of God . . . to Him be all glory!