Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai with God. For the Israelites, it felt like a silent period, but God was speaking volumes to Moses. The next six chapters of Scripture cover all that God spoke to Moses. Instructions about building the sanctuary, alter, Ark of the Covenant, and more were given. We are not going to dive in depth into all the details God gave Moses, but there is one thing that stands out to me in this portion of Scripture: how often gold is mentioned in the building of God’s holy abode.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.’”
Gold is mentioned forty-three times in Exodus 25-30. It was valuable and traditional for places of worship to be covered with gold. However, what I find interesting in this context is the fact that 1) God didn’t require the people to donate gold to the sanctuary but wanted them to give out of their own generosity, and 2) the Israelites even had enough gold for the designs God gave Moses.
Notice in the passage of Exodus 25 quoted above the phrase, “From every man whose heart moves him…” Contributing to the sanctuary was voluntary. It was not required. God wanted the resources for His earthly dwelling to be given freely as a gift. It was not a command to complete in order to become justified nor was it a tax. The gold and all that would be needed to the sanctuary of meeting would be given as each man desired to give.
This is in stark contrast with how other cultures and peoples built their pagan temples. Most of the time, kings financed the building of temples with resources taxed from the people. Or precious stones and ornate artifacts were stolen from conquered people and relocated to the temples of the victors.
However, that’s not how the living God of Israel wanted His earthly residence to be built. The supplies and gold would be given by the people freely and without external pressure from the government. It would truly be a house of worship created by grateful people for their faithful God.
But where did this gold come from? Recently freed slaves don’t own much, so how did the Israelites possess enough gold to complete the Tabernacle according to the LORD’s design? Remember, gold is mentioned by God forty-three times in reference to the construction of the sanctuary. That’s a lot of gold! But amazingly the gold wasn’t the Israelites’ in the first place. God gave it to them.
Remember back to Egypt? God told the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and precious things. And the Egyptians gave it to them. So these things of value were not the Israelites’ to begin with. God gave it to them when He granted them favor among the Egyptians. He prepared them by gifting them all they would need to later construct His holy Tabernacle. What an amazing thought!
God didn’t ask the Israelites for more than they had. On the contrary, He was asking them to give back what He had blessed them with. But it was giving that needed to be done freely of each one’s one volition.
So what can we learn from this? What take-away can we glean from these truths?
First, build with what you’ve been given. God always gives us what we need and never asks for something He hasn’t already prepared us with. So don’t look around at what others are building in their lives, but build with what God has given you. Just as the Israelites were given gold and other valuables from the Egyptians months before God called them to build a holy tabernacle, so He has also prepared and given you unique talents and abilities to bring Him glory. Therefore, use what you’ve been given!
Second, give from a grateful heart. God didn’t want the Israelites to be forced into giving. He specifically told Moses to receive gifts only from those whose heart moved them to give. Likewise, God doesn’t want your coerced gifts. He doesn’t want your offerings if they’re given from a begrudging or reluctant heart. He doesn’t want your contributions if they’re given because others are giving and you feel guilty or because you want to please others. God wants gifts given from joy and love, from a heart that is grateful for all that He’s given us. Therefore, make sure to give for the right reasons so that your contributions may be accepted and favored by the living God.
In closing, the Israelites were given gold, and God asked them to give it back to Him in the form of a beautiful masterpiece to house His presence. What has God given you? And what is He asking you to do with it?
Let’s use our God-given gifts to bring Him glory and give back in a way that will point others to the loving, merciful God we serve!
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