Isn’t it amazing when God shows you something new in a scripture you’ve read so many times that you thought you had the message down pat? It happened to me again this morning as I read about the contributions for, and construction of, the Tabernacle. Moses had come down from Mount Sinai with his face shining from being in God’s presence and he assembled the congregation of Israel to lay out the things the LORD had commanded them to do. Long lists of materials and instruction followed—not too inspiring unless one is digging into the significance of each item, or has a heart for design details. But suddenly phrases started popping out at me…
And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him…All who were of a willing heart brought [gifts]…All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill…All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded…everyone whose heart stirred him up to come and do the work.” (Exodus 35:21, 22, 26, 29; 36:2)
These people didn’t give or serve because they were forced to do so—they didn’t act out of legalistic guilt or obligation—they came freely and willingly as their hearts were touched by God, and they were so generous that Moses had to tell them to stop bringing gifts because more than enough had been accumulated to build the tabernacle.
What an example for us! We need to give and serve out of a willing and joyful heart as God leads us; not because someone has told us it is required. Oh how the LORD loves a cheerful giver!!!
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)
Sheba joined our family when our son, Kevin, was thirteen. He contributed half of the money to buy her and, for him, it was a very high price—it was all he had. The deal was that Kevin would take care of Sheba but, as often seems to happen, he mostly just played with her and Mom (that would be me) did all the work. Then Kevin grew up—went off to college, graduated, moved into an apartment, got a job—and there was no room for Sheba, so she stayed at home. Oh, Kevin still loved her—called her his dog, played with her when he came home; but one day he told me that Sheba loved me more than she did him—yes, she was always glad to see him, but she followed me around constantly, seldom letting me out of her sight. Why is that? It’s because Sheba was now my dog—Kevin never paid the full price for her but I did. I met all of her needs—I fed her, bathed her, walked her, took her to the vet, scratched her favorite spots, played with her—I was always there for her—every day—and Kevin wasn’t.
To whom do I belong? To my husband? To my son? To my parents? To my extended family? To my friends? Each has paid a high price for me in terms of time, money, self-sacrifice, love; each has given all they know how to give—all they can afford. And each one shares a part of me, just as Kevin shared a part of Sheba. But I belong wholly to the only person who supplies all of my needs; the only one who loves me unconditionally, who never fails me; I belong to God. Heart and soul, mind and body, in work or play or worship, in joy or in pain—in total, I belong to God because he is the only one who has paid the full price of ownership—on the cross—and he can be counted on to be there every time I call on him. Now and forever; loving and accepting; always with me; always patient and kind when I stumble and fall and make mistakes.
Like Sheba constantly keeping me in her line of sight, I must always focus my vision on God. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love and appreciate all of the others in my life—my husband, son, grandson, parents, family, and friends—but none of them, alone or in unison, can do what God has done all by himself because;
…when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12)
You are not your own; you were bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)
The Ben Franklin Five and Dime at the Arcata Plaza was doing a booming business—it was 1958 and hula hoops were a nationwide craze. Kids, myself included, were all over the plaza, whirling and twirling those brand new hoops around our waists and from every appendage.
Fifty-some years later, the Plaza that I remember so well was still there; the surrounding businesses now a more eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, and the Ben Franklin building housing a furniture store. But that was OK because I wasn’t shopping for hula hoops this time—I was browsing bookstores, hoping to find unique-to-the-area publications featuring the redwoods. I did make a few good discoveries, but there wasn’t much that couldn’t be picked up at any local tourist trap. Perhaps these ancient trees are just too big to describe adequately via the written word; only in their presence can their majesty be experienced.
A few days ago, reading through the gospels, I was struck anew by the fact that there’s really not a lot written about Jesus’ life on earth either—just four short books, with many of the events of His life duplicated in two or more places. And yet, in those few pages, lies the greatest biography ever recorded. How can so few words hold so much truth? How can the brief accounts of His teachings convey everything we need to know in order to have a relationship with God? How can each passage be so simple that a little child can understand, yet so complex that every time you read it you may see something new? I think it’s because the words were inspired by the best communicator ever—the Holy Spirit; and He knew exactly what we needed.
The Apostle John said it well as he concluded his account with, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
The majesty of the redwoods forests is nothing compared to the majesty of Jesus; and only though relationship as we sit in His presence can we even begin to comprehend the fullness of Christ.