SOAP Journal – 20 January 2017 (Exodus 35:4-9)

Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORDS contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ [hair], and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece.’”

Exodus 35:4-9

Moses got the second set of stone tablets and came back down the mountain. This time, there was no unpleasant surprise waiting for him when he got there. Instead, he learned that spending time with God caused his face to shine in such a way as unnerved the Israelites. So Moses went around wearing a veil. The New Testament elaborates on this and says that the veil was worn because the glory; the shining of Moses’ face faded until he spent time in God’s presence again. Somewhat like the glow-in-the-dark bobbles that absorb light and glow based on how much time they spent in the light and how brilliant the light was.

It is in this context that a veiled Moses comes to the Israelites and lets them know that the tabernacle is to be built on a donation basis. I love the juxtaposition of things in these verses. For example, the LORD has commanded … a contribution to the LORD [from] whoever is of a willing heart. God commands that the willing give. The willing would give with or without the command, but God gives them a command to obey the generous inclination of their hearts.

The list of things that the willing are commanded to give is the list of things necessary to construct the tabernacle and the altars and the priestly garments and whatnot. There is nothing on the list which is not a necessity.

A couple of thoughts present themselves here.

One, God only commands those of a willing heart to give. Too often, I have heard of fellowships guilting believers into giving to some project or another. In Exodus, it will turn out that those of a willing heart are so numerous and so generous in their giving that there is more than enough to build the tabernacle. So much, in fact, that Moses has to ask the people to stop giving. If God wants something to get done, then He is more than capable of arranging the resources to make it happen.

Two, the giving is a contribution to the LORD. This is important. When I give to ministries, it is not to people that I am entrusting those resources, but God. People will handle those resources and manage them and I should be responsible in the organizations and individuals to whom I give, but my giving is a contribution to the LORD. It is not as though He needs the resources. God says elsewhere in The Bible that He would not ask me for resources if He had need of them. He does not need me or my resources, but He wants to allow me to work with Him in the ways that my heart comes up with. My daughter loves to “help me” by pushing the cart when we go shopping. She is an inch over three foot and often drifts the cart into things — mostly because she cannot see where she is going as the cart fills up and she tries to look around the side. Sometimes, I am exasperated and just want to get the shopping done and ask her to “help” in some other way. More often, I let her bumble the cart all over the store, not for any need on part my part, but because I want to let her generous heart express itself. She loves me and wants to be a part of what I am doing. So, too, do I with God. And I, in a much diminished fashion, allow my daughter to help me in what I am doing as God allows me to help Him in what He does.

The LORD has commanded [that] whoever is of a willing heart should give to the LORD. If I am unwilling, let me keep the thing. God does not need it and it is the giving; the outpouring of love from my heart to His in which He delights, not the gift. God loves a cheerful giver, as Paul writes later. Let me give to God as my heart is willing. No more. No less.

Father, thank You. I cannot really think of anything else to say. Thank You for allowing me to participate in Your work, even though I probably make it far less efficient. Thank You for allowing my gifts — meager though they always are — to be offered to You and accepted by You. Thank You.

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Good Gifts (Luke 11:13)

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Luke 11:13

Matthew renders this statement as If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11). While calling the Holy Spirit what is good is accurate, it is not the whole of Who and what the Holy Spirit is and does. Since whole treatises have been written on the topic and since I am no theologian, I will leave the unpacking of Who and what the Holy Spirit is and does for those better and wiser than myself.

What I notice is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If you begins with the lesser. If mere mortality; if imperfection; if selfishly motivated I can bring myself to care enough for my own progeny to give them good things, then why would I think that my Father in Heaven would do less? Why would not immortality; perfection; and altruism Himself not give so much more and better than ever I could?

I notice also that what my Father in Heaven gives me is the Holy Spirit. When Paul writes to the church in Galatia, he enumerates the fruit that comes with the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — and that fruit is very good. What Jesus tells me the Father will give is the Spirit Who brings with Him all of those things. And those things are the very things for which my soul yearns. Everyone, without exception, wants at least some of what that list contains. Do I want love? God is love and He will give Himself to me liberally. Do I want peace? God promises that I can come to Him with my worries and cares and burdens and exchange them for His peace.

In this season wherein we run mad trying to find the perfect gifts for one another, God offers to give Himself. He offers to give me Himself and all that He entails — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And He offers Himself for the asking. Will I ask Him for still more of Him? I need Him. As the hymn says, I need Him every hour.