I love when the Lord ties things so gracefully together in your life. When you’re learning about something, and then He lets you run into someone who speaks directly to you about that thing, or perhaps He causes a circumstance to catch your attention that takes you even deeper into that lesson He’s sharing with you.
He’s done this for me over the past week. My church community group has been going through the book of Exodus, and we most recently learned about the building of the Tabernacle. I am also reading two more devotion books in addition to my community group study, so sometimes I get overwhelmed and wonder how I’m going to remember all these different lessons when I don’t give myself enough time to soak each of them in. But this week, God tied all of them together for me. He must be really trying to make a point!
I’ll start with the study of Exodus. If you are not familiar with the stories within this book of the Bible (I wasn’t until my community group taught me), they’re plentiful and each relevant to us. Just because we don’t throw around words like “goat-hair cloth” and “altar of burnt offering” on a day-to-day basis doesn’t mean we can throw out the stories of the Old Testament. They’re teaching me even now. Although I’m still uncertain what a cloth made from goat hair would be like.
There’s a lot that happens in Exodus up to this point, but essentially the Israelites had been rescued from brutal slavery by the Egyptians, and Moses was leading them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The Israelites were prone to disobey and make idols to worship (like me and you) when they failed to trust in God and questioned whether He was really going to help them or not.
Now, they repented and chose to learn from their past disobedience to make changes and start listening carefully to God’s instructions for their lives. And God had a plan for them to partake in building the Tabernacle, which would be the place His presence would dwell among them. The Tabernacle itself has so many wonderful lessons that are worthy of being explored in depth, but to put it simply for now, the Tabernacle was a big deal! This was how God, in His perfect holiness, would choose to dwell among the clumsy and sinful Israelites. It wasn’t a little tent constructed in a week. Gold, silver, bronze, special gemstones, and all the finest materials were used to make this Holy Place.
Because the purpose of the Tabernacle was to be a place for a Holy God to live on earth, much detailed care had to be put into its construction. Though Israel didn’t have the best track record of perfect obedience, they successfully handled things just as the Lord commanded them in every detail of building the Tabernacle.
So how in the world did they come up with all of these precious materials to use in the building process? The gold, the silver, the extravagantly colored fabrics… God had provided it all. He allowed them to take these things from the Egyptians when He rescued them, and He knew they’d be used for a divine reason later in the story.
So this brings me to my next lesson God kindly shared with me through another Bible study where I’m learning about different women of the Bible. This week, I read about Dorcas and her generosity which left its beautiful mark on many widows in her time, for she had faithfully used her creativity and skill to make coats for widows who needed them. When she passed away, the city mourned because they had been so touched by her kindness.
What I gathered from Dorcas is that she used her creativity and her talent to meet needs of people around her. That led me to write down an “inventory” list of things that I have and can use creatively – certainly not just money, but a specific skill, a spiritual gift, any free time I have, or resources like my car or my home. And I’ve been praying for a generous heart and an idea from God on how He would like me to use these things I have, because like the Israelites’ materials they gave to help build the Tabernacle, what I have has been given to me from God.
But while I have these gifts from Him, what I lack right now is a heart that reflected those of the Israelites when God commanded them to begin building. “So the people of Israel – every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the Lord had given them through Moses – brought their gifts and gave them freely to the Lord” (Exodus 35:29). “Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing” (Exodus 35:22).
They had hearts excited and eager to give. I think that’s key; I do want to give, and I want to be obedient to the Lord, but my attitude is not yet so joyful that it inspires excitement. So I pray for this.
The second major point I want to make, one that God has been so good to show me, is that obedient work had to be done before the people could sit back and enjoy the finished completion of the beautiful, sacred Tabernacle. My community group leader said, “We don’t just plan to meet up with God at the intersection we think He’s headed towards. Where is God right now in your life?” Be there.
In my own life, I’ve been eager to meet God at some intersection for a while. I’ve made the comment on numerous occasions that I wish I could just plop myself into 2018 because hopefully the painful growing periods of my life will be over and I’ll have more clarity and my heart will feel a little healthier and more wholesome. But right now, I’m here. And I have a choice to ask God what He wants me to be doing while I’m here.
God didn’t ask the Israelites to meet Him at the completed Tabernacle so they could see this unveiling of the Lord’s home on earth at the time; it wasn’t as if He fashioned it overnight with a flick of a wand (although if He wanted to, all He had to do was speak it, and the Tabernacle would have been there, perfectly completed and wonderful.) He instead chose to have the Israelites build it, with materials He had given them, and He wanted it done His way. They couldn’t cut corners; they had to obey every detailed instruction in this building process. And then, after their obedience, blessings and the satisfaction of a job well done flowed forth.
Here’s one last way God has tied these lessons into a beautiful little gift for me this week. I have a short, daily devotional book that sits on my nightstand, and I occasionally pick it up and turn to the day’s date. I think the last time I’ve actually read from it was in May. But on November 3, this devotion contained a verse from Exodus (not lying) and it was specifically Exodus 35:25 (yep, the chapter that talks about building the Tabernacle): “Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun – blue, purple, or scarlet yarn or fine linen.”
It gets even better; I love the author’s words that followed the verse, so I’ll share them here:
“When you make art, use what you have, what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: cool nights and the smell of fire. Our kitchens are filled with the smells of apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white and silence of winter. Fall is begging for us to dance and sing and write with just the same drama and blaze.”
And she gives this challenge:
“Use what you have to make art: your skills, your energy, your passion, your dreams, and what’s happening all around you. If you take time to look, there may be more raw materials than you thought.”
So here’s a special thanks to Moses, the Israelites, and the story of the Tabernacle; Dorcas; and a random little devotional book that just happened to tie the two together – but most significantly, I give thanks to the Lord, for He’s the one teaching and constructing and giving and calling us to obey. Maybe He didn’t ask me to meet Him at the intersection up ahead, but He absolutely gave me some interconnected lessons this week that wove their way into my heart.
Here are the great resources the Lord used to teach me this week.
Capps, Matt, et al. “His Presence.” Explore the Bible: Daily Discipleship Guide, 2017.
Kelley, Rhonda Harrington. Life Lessons from Women in the Bible. Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2017. Print.
Niequist, Shauna. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. Print.