Tag Archives: Exodus 36

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Exodus 36:6-7 – “Willing Service: More Than Enough”)

“Willing Service: More Than Enough”

Exodus 36:6-7, “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”

This morning, self-centeredness abounds. One of the universal failings of mankind is that we put self before all else, even though we can mightily convince ourselves that we have not. One of the things that a self-first mindset genders is an unwillingness to do anything that is not an absolute requirement. Even then, the performance is out of obligation rather than devotion. One of the hardest things for any devoted disciple of the cross to live up to is a willing heart of service that does the right thing guided by the right motivation. Since there are so many promised and realized blessings to be had in obedience, it is easy to slip into looking at the rewards of service rather than the true motivation of service, which is sole affection and devotion to the Almighty. As a minister, there can be times when our preaching meets with encouragement that can be used wrongfully. Whenever we are commended for our service, that can become an idol in our minds and hearts that clouds our service to God. Whenever we are looking at the results and rewards of the service as our end, we have lost our way in willing and faithful service to God. As I have heard it said throughout my days in the church, “Our purpose here should be to see how much we can put into it rather than how much we will get out of it.” God is faithful to bless us, but we devote our sight to how much we can do in it.

Much of the time during the journeys of the children of Israel in the Old Testament under Moses and later Joshua we point out all the ways in which Israel failed God. Time and time again, they murmured and complained even though God had been so good to them, and His presence dwelled with them perpetually. Much like the Apostle Peter these folks can become the handy “punching bag” for an illustration of what not to do. However, like Peter, there were times when they “got it right,” and this is one such time when they are to be commended for their service. Our study verses show a worthy example that is applicable to followers of Christ in our day, thousands of years removed from these people.

During this period, the children of Israel have come out of Egypt with a mighty hand. They have not yet received the Promised Land of blessing that God said Abraham’s seed would inherit. Moses has just received the law and the pattern of worship that the Lord has ordained should be followed. After returning with God’s law and pattern of worship, the congregation sets out to fashion everything as God had commanded. They had to construct the tabernacle, the furniture for the building, and all the alters and other constructs that would be needed. To do this, they had to give materials for the service, their time for the construction, and ultimately set their hearts to follow the order as God had established.

In our study verses, we see where this often stiff-necked and hard-hearted people actually performed admirably in their giving. They gave so much so willingly that Moses had to proclaim an end of giving for that season. The things given were sufficient and over and above. What a blessing for a people to give time, service, and supplies so that there was not room for everything! In a world where we constantly hear about deficits and other losses, they had a windfall of surplus for the Lord’s service here. People were that engaged and willing to go about doing the Lord’s work. One of the reasons that this success occurred is that they knew God Himself had ordained it. They saw His manifestation on the mount in fire, and they knew this God who had showed them so much said, “You will worship me this way.” Another reason they had this success is that though commanded to do so, they wanted to do it.

Willing service gets to one of the hallmark differences between God’s service and discipleship and every other form of group service. Oftentimes, religious activity is marked by either willing service or commanded service, but not both. When someone is commanded to do something, they may do it out of fear, duty, bribery, or some other form, but they perform it because it is required. When someone does something that is not commanded just because they want to, they really have liberty to do what they want, since there is no commandment for it. God’s service is the only one that joins the two together. He commands obedience, but He attaches willingness to it. (Isaiah 1:19-20) To simply do as commanded is not sufficient, but to want to do what is commanded yields sufficient for the work and more than enough.

Have you ever observed people do things in life that they enjoyed and things they had to do? Do they look the same while performing them? I remember Dad taking us to Disneyland when we were younger, and looking back, he might have preferred a root canal than to be at an amusement park for 2 whole days. It just was not his thing, but he knew that we enjoyed it and did it. However, he learned quickly that with wait times for rides, he could get a lot of Bible reading in. So, he started carrying a pocket Bible and reading it while we waited on roller coasters. The look on his face when we walked into the park or stepped on a ride was not nearly like the look on his face while standing there reading. He supremely enjoyed the reading, while he did the other to please his children.

God is not pleased when we help one another grudgingly. He is not pleased when we come to church with some sense of duty without the willing heart of love. He is pleased when we want to do what He has commanded. He is pleased when we help one another not to get something out of Him or others but just because we want to help our brethren in need. Oftentimes, I will hear people say, “I just don’t get anything out of that anymore.” Maybe the “that” is reading their Bible. Maybe it is going to church. Maybe it is their preacher. Whatever the object, a little investigation oftentimes yields the conclusion that long before their mouth declared their dissatisfaction with a thing, they lost the willing desire to engage. Maybe they kept at the activity for a season, but their heart was not in it.

Recently, I talked with a brother who had quit attending church, and when I asked him if there was something I could help him with, he said, “I had to quit cause I wasn’t being fed.” When I asked a few simple questions like “How were your prayers for the service?” “How about singing in service?” and things of that nature, he said, “Well I don’t really sing in church, and the preacher just seemed to be dry and saying the same things.” I encouraged him to go back and prepare his heart for the Lord’s service and fully engage while there. (I Chronicles 22:19) If we come to God’s service with the attitude to do as much as we can, there will be more than enough. Even if the task seems impossible, consider that God commands us to do the possible, and while performing it, He accomplishes the impossible. When He gave His disciples commands while feeding the multitude, He told them to do things they could. They made the men sit down in the grass, and then they distributed what He gave to the people. But, the impossible happened, because Christ was involved! Does the task seem insurmountable? Does everything seem to be going wrong in life? Do what He has commanded, and the impossible will be performed!

In recent years, I have heard far too much depressing talk from God’s people and sadly, too much doom and gloom from some of His ministers. Friends, take courage! God is still here, and when we willingly follow Him, we will have more than enough to do what we have been commanded by Him. The success of our performance in His service does not hinge on Him giving us all that we need or the ability to do it. Everything God commands us, He has already blessed us with the ability to perform, and all the supplies necessary have already been given by Him to use. The success of our engagement depends on how willing we are in our obedience and service. When these people gave gold and other things for the work, where did that come from? When they gave themselves and their time, where did that come from? Whether material supplies or our very lives, all that we are and all that we have belongs to Him. He has blessed us with it; therefore, He has supplied all that is necessary to serve Him acceptably in in Godly fear.

During this time of the calendar year, we normally focus on the coming year and make “resolutions” that oftentimes dissolve within the first month of a fresh year. Whether the resolution is losing weight, reading through the Bible, etc. we fall down on our commitment. The things dissolve when we lose the resolve to perform them. Spiritual drifting and waning comes when we lose our willingness in the performance of it. Then, we seem to be lacking and wonder, “What happened?” If there is any lack of supply or time, friends the fault lies with us. He has given us so much, we have sufficient for His service and more than enough. May we band together as these people did and be so willing and faithful that there is not time or room for it all. What grand days of service can be ours to enjoy when we say, “He said do it this way, so let’s get busy and do it.”

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Exodus 36:7)

Exodus 36:7, "For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."

This morning, problems abound in the world in which we live.  Scripture declares that the root of all evil is a love of money. (I Timothy 6:10) With all of the economic problems today, can we doubt that this Scriptural statement has lost any of its vitality, freshness, or relevance?  Indeed, many today indicate publicly that they care for "the less fortunate," but their mindset is to gain as much money, power, fame, etc. as they can for themselves.  While it is not the Christian's duty to be entangled with the affairs of this life, we should be diligent to conduct ourselves honourably in all things, and the money question is no exception.  Oftentimes, we might think that as long as we avoid the "rat race" of money-driven society that we will successfully ward off this problem.  However, we can allow the "money question" to creep into our lives by simply having the wrong mindset about what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Admittedly, the subject of money drives emotions higher than any other subject.  Therefore, let us approach this subject Biblically, and attempt to keep any emotional flair out of it.  Our study verse above is set in the conclusion of a rather long context that stretches through the last chapter or so.  The people are bringing money, supplies, etc. to build the articles of the tabernacle as the Lord instructed Moses in the mount.  Others are bringing their skilful abilities to construct the items in question.  So, people are sacrificing their goods, their time, and their abilities to accomplish the building according to God's pattern.  Over and over again throughout this context, we find several phrases appearing again and again.  I encourage the reader to peruse the 35th and 36th chapters in their entirety to number up the occurrences of these phrases.  The people are called: 1. wise hearted, 2. willing, 3. cunning (skilful), and 4. understanding

Looking at these repeated adjectives to describe the people, we are left with little doubt as to the mindset and state of the congregation.  They not only did all these things, but they wanted to (willing), had knowledge of what to do (understanding), were able to do what was required (cunning), and had the courage to see the tasks through to the end (wise hearted).  This collection of characteristics will yield the results and conclusion from our study verse.  Therefore, let us examine these characteristics in turn, apply them together, and find the point they arrived at.

As people examine the "money question" in society, family life, church life, and other venues, one of the shortcomings today is a lack of understanding.  Whether one is describing giving in a church capacity or simply how to approach credits and debits in their monthly budget, they lack understanding or knowledge of what to do and how to do it.  One of man's failings is to blame others for a lack of understanding, but the simple point is that God has not left us without sufficient knowledge about what to do – money included.  Rather, most people have either failed to consider His teachings or have failed to even look for them to know the right way to go.  The Bible plainly and simply states that we should work to eat (II Thessalonians 3:10), be content with food and raiment: the things we have (I Timothy 6:8), and not to be grudging with our means. (II Corinthians 9:6) If these items are followed, people will not live above their means, nor will they be without enough sufficiency to honour God in their spirit and body.

Once someone has the understanding of what to do, the next step is to be willing in their doing of it.  One of the most important lessons about New Testament giving in a church capacity (but applies to all areas of Christian service) is that God loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:9) When we render service to God willingly, it is a sweet smelling savour in His presence.  Since Christ was willing and obedient in all that He gave and did, our model is to be likewise.  Not only does it not follow the Scriptural command, but a forced service of payment, time, etc. does not lead to the harmonious outcome that our study verse shows.  When people willingly give of money, service, etc. they do so in a way that can never be imagined under the forced method.

Another impediment to fruitful service and giving is the idea that "I can't really do anything."  Sometimes, people feel insufficient in funds or talents to be worth consideration.  If we have been blessed by God – and friends we have been whether we admit it or not – He has given us rich gifts and abilities to be used in His service.  If we say we have not the ability to really serve, we are implying that He has left us without some necessary item to serve Him.  Such is not and will never be the case.  No, we have not all been given the same types or amounts of things.  Some of us have less money than others.  Some of us have less talents than others.  The point is not how much we have, but the point is how much we do with the means that we have.  He has given us things, and we need to be skilful and cunning in using them to best serve Him.

If we have the understanding, willingness, and abilities to serve and give, what could be left?  Why would we need yet another item?  Sometimes, people have the first three we discussed, but it takes wise heartedness (courage) to see it through.  To follow the Lord's path of service in how we give and how we live, there will be times when we feel discouragement from without and within.  It takes prudence and courage under fire to say, "This is what I'm going to do, and I'll see it through."  Some today have no willingness to do these things, others have no understanding of what to do, and yet others fail to see their God-given abilities and means to serve Him.  Yet others have all of these things but lack the internal fortitude to see it through in fruitful service to Him.  Friends, the world discourages virtuous living, but to be virtuous, we must be courageous, especially since virtue has a connotation of courage (manliness) associated with its definition.

By putting all of these traits together, we get a glimpse to the noble efforts and hearts of the people of Israel on this occasion.  They desired to praise God.  They desired to erect what He said, just as He said to do it, and obey Him from the heart in all things.  To do so, no one had to do a fund drive.  No one had to raise money by pledges.  No one sold goods in exchange for means to construct the tabernacle and the furniture in it.  Rather, they all came forward as willing servants with their gifts in their hands and their abilities in their bodies.  The result was not simply a sufficiency of means and services; they had more than enough (too much).

Oftentimes, men today neglect the willingness aspect of giving as they believe that without it, there will not be enough to make ends meet.  In other words, unless someone has an "imposed minimum" of service, simply commanding willing and cheerful service will yield significantly lower results than the imposed minimum.  This passage indicates the very opposite.  Other men claim that there are not enough talents or abilities to get the job done, and again, this passage contradicts such thinking.  If we apply the Lord's gifts to our service to Him with the understanding of His word out of a willing heart and with the courage to perform it, we will find the same conclusion that they found.  Not only will there be enough to suffice, but the Lord blesses more left over than we needed.  Consider a spiritual parallel to this.  We oftentimes describe the miracle of Christ feeding the 5,000 as a literal story that illustrates the power of gospel preaching in filling God's sheep from His table.  Does the gospel simply suffice our hunger?  The miracle includes that there is more left over than when we started.  The power and miracle of faithfully serving the Lord in giving is that even though we sacrifice our time and means, we actually end up with more of both to go around than we had before. 

Finally, this passage does not prove – as so many in the world today promote – the idea that serving God will make an obedient disciple "healthy, wealthy, and wise."  Rather, serving the Lord requires us to deny ourselves and endure hardships as so many New Testament examples show, but the true "pay-off" is that even though we sacrifice of ourselves in our service and devotion to Him, we will not be left insufficient, and more to the point, we will have more than enough in our service to Him.  Looking back through the years of my short pilgrimage, I see quite glaringly that my times of spiritual coldness have coincided with my periods of greatest languishing.  Whenever I have devoted my energies to serving the Lord, I have more energy, find more time, and seemingly have more left over than at other times.  I am by no means a wealthy person, but the service of God has not left me destitute or impoverished of those things that I stand in need of.  May we renew our sights upon His mark.  As He was courageous and wise hearted, so may we be.  As He was willing in His walk, so may we be.  As He had abilities and talents that He employed with understanding, so may we do likewise.  In so doing, we will find the sweet and fulfilling conclusion that we have everything we need to fulfill our service to the Lord and too much besides.

In Hope,

Bro Philip