Talk about your seismic shift in attitude! Three chapters ago the people of Israel were throwing a bit of gold into a fire to make inanimate gods who they somehow thought could lead them. Now, in Exodus 35, they are stripping themselves not only of their gold, but of their silver and bronze, as well; of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; of goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; of their acacia wood; of their best oil and spices; and of the precious stones they had walked out of Egypt with — and this for the building of a place where the glory of the living God, who actually could lead them, might dwell. What’s more, for the idols of Aaron they were willing to invest but the jewelry that hung in their ears (Ex. 32:3), but for the God of heaven they gave until they had to be restrained from giving any more (36:6-7).
So what happened?
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. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart . . .
(Exodus 35:21-22 ESV)
It was a change of heart. Something happening on the inside. Something which displaced dancing around a golden calf with a determination to provide the appropriate offerings required by the God who desired to tabernacle with them.
It was a willing heart which stirred such generous giving. It was an inclined heart which moved the spirits of idolaters towards such an over-the-top freewill offering.
And as I chew on it, while I’d like to think it was their love of God that created such a change of heart, I’m wondering if it wasn’t more their fear of God.
Between the golden calf and the great freewill offering, what’s happened?
Moses has come down from his first extended stay on the mountain to dancing in the streets. He’s broken the tablets containing the commandments of God (32:19). He’s taken the golden calf, incinerated it, ground it to powder, and forced it down the throats of the people (32:20). He’s led the Levites to strap on their swords and go through the camp in judgment of such grievous sin — about 3,000 men dying that day. And then, to top it off, “the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they had made the calf” (32:25).
So, when Moses heads back up the mountain and returns 40 days later with Tablets of Stone version 2.0, and with his face glowing like the sun, he doesn’t return to a grumbling people. He doesn’t encounter partying around flimsy idols. He returns to a people prepared for the will of God by the fear of God.
And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Prov. 9:10).
And wisdom and insight have a way of changing the heart. Their obedience in giving to God was a direct result, I think, of knowing the consequences of their sin against God. Their generosity fueled by their fear. Their offering fueled by their awe.
Yeah, someone might say, but that was then, the Old Covenant. What about now?
Same, I’m thinking.
I too have seen the consequences of my sin against God, His Son upon the cross. I too, through the eyes of faith, have beheld the wrath of God, the wages of my sin paid in full by a willing Redeemer. The holy justice of God meted out on the spotless Lamb of God because of my cheap idolatry and willful rebellion.
And while I do draw near to the cross with thankfulness, love, and adoration for my rescue, shouldn’t I also stand beneath the cross with a holy fear and reverent awe of the God who demanded such payment for my transgression? I’m thinkin’ . . .
And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And knowledge of the Holy One begets a willing heart. A heart stirred to generously give what’s asked of it, willing to give more than what’s required of it. A heart ready to freely offer my time, talent, and treasures at His call.
A change of heart. Praise God, it’s what I’ve known.
O God, it’s still what I need.
By Your grace. For Your glory.