Last Sabbath I heard a sermon about a fascinating invitation that God gave to the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert en route to the Promised Land.
God invited them to provide the building materials in order for the sanctuary to be built. We’re talking gold, silver, and precious stones (Exodus 35:4-9). Yet their gifts were only accepted if they came from “willing hearts” (v. 5).
The irony of it all is that these Israelites had just come out of several generations of slavery in Egypt. For about four hundred years they were nothing but the property of others. It seems ridiculous to think that God would ask them to provide the treasures with which to build His house! You’d think that they would be the last people you could count on.
Where were they supposed to get the treasures from? The answer is found several chapters earlier. In Exodus 12:35 we read that before the Israelites left Egypt, the Egyptians themselves gave them treasures to take with them on their way out. So God didn’t ask of them what they could not give. Before He asked them, He placed the gifts in their hands!
When the people heard this invitation, their hearts were “stirred” and they came bringing their gifts (Exodus 35:21; 36:2). They were so excited to contribute that eventually Moses told them to stop because “the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done––indeed too much” (Exodus 36:7). There was no pulling teeth. It was a privilege to contribute to God’s temple.
So God didn’t ask of them what they could not give. Before He asked them, He placed the gifts in their hands!
It’s a beautiful story. And it all comes together in the New Testament. In Ephesians 2:21, Paul says that we are God’s “building” and “holy temple.” Then in chapter 4 he uses the analogy of the body. We are members of the body of Christ. We have all received a “measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7). Those gifts are to be used for the building up of the body, or the temple, which is the church.
We all have a part to play in the body of Jesus, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).
We’re like those Israelite slaves. God is asking for our gifts. But He’s not asking us to give what we don’t have. All we have to offer is what has been placed in our hands by the very God who is inviting us to contribute. So may our hearts, as the Israelites of old, be “stirred” from the amazing privilege of knowing that God is counting on us to contribute to the building up of His house!