In Chapter 35, Moses puts out a call for volunteers to build the tabernacle the Lord has commanded Moses to build for Him. The Lord has given Moses detailed instructions: this many curtains, exactly this size; this many hooks made exactly this way.
Moses goes to the children of Israel and asks for donations. Bring me your gold, your silver, your brass, your fine linen, your purple, blue and scarlet dye. Bring me your goat hair and ram skins and shittim wood and badger skins. Come, all who are wise-hearted. Come and work on the tabernacle.
Maybe it’s proof that I’m a bit cynical that I read that and thought, “Oh oh. That’s asking for trouble.” Because in my lifetime I’ve met a few truly wise people, and a whole lot of people who think they’re wise. I’ve met hundreds of self-proclaimed geniuses, most of whom aren’t . . . you know . . . really genius material. So as I read on, I kept waiting for the bomb to drop.
Not because everyone whose heart was filled with the desire to work on the tabernacle was a genius in his own right but because, in Chapter 36, the Lord puts wisdom and understanding into the hearts of every one whose heart has stirred him to come and do the work. For me, this is the biggest revelation contained in the last few chapters of Exodus — but maybe I feel that way because this particular idea is one the Lord has been working on with me over the past few months.
It seems that everywhere I turn lately, I’m being reminded of this one simple principle: If you are doing the work of the Lord the Lord will grant you the talent, the wisdom, the energy, and whatever else you need to accomplish the work. When I say “the work of the Lord,” I don’t mean we all have to be out there preaching or building the next tabernacle. I mean that whatever work we’re doing, whether it’s cleaning toilets, rocking a baby, walking the dog, or running a multi-million dollar organization, we’re doing for the Lord.
If we’re working for the Lord, He will give us what we need to do the work. Maybe not in one huge burst of amazing cosmic wonderfulness. Maybe just one drop after another, day in and day out, so that our ability or energy level is exactly what we need at any given moment, not a shred more and not a shred less. And maybe He does it this way to keep us from getting too full of ourselves — which seems to be a pretty common human failing.
If the Lord flipped a switch and turned us into geniuses in a blink, we’d probably walk around all puffed up and proud of ourselves, of our knowledge, of our abilities, of our accomplishments. Let’s face it, we do that anyway, even when we’re not doing anything particularly special or noteworthy.
That’s the message of the world, isn’t it? You. You. You. You work hard. You deserve this reward. You’ve done it all. You’ve studied. You’ve put forth the effort. You’ve worked your tail off. You’re doing your very best. If everything isn’t going exactly the way you think it should be going, something’s wrong — but the failure is on God’s part. You’ve done everything you can, but God hasn’t helped you enough. He hasn’t given you what you’ve asked for. He hasn’t healed you, cured you, or sent you money. He hasn’t stepped up and worked that miracle you think you need.
That kind of chatter fills up the universe around us, and that makes it pretty difficult to avoid that kind of thinking day in and day out. God knows that. Granting us just what we need, little by little, helps to keep us humble.
Over the years, people have given the words humble and humility some pretty negative definitions, and that’s one reason we either consciously or unconsciously resist the idea that humility is a good thing. I mean, who wants to be lowly and inferior? Who wants to feel ashamed, humiliated, or abased?
Frankly, I don’t think that man’s definition of “humble” is anything like God’s definition. When you’re thinking about humility and Christ, forget Webster’s definition. I believe that humility in Christ has a much more positive meaning. Humility doesn’t mean walking around like a doormat or thinking and saying negative things about yourself. God doesn’t ask us to make ourselves small or to debase ourselves on His behalf. It’s just the opposite, really. He asks us to rise to the full measure of our creation.
But how do we do that and remain humble?
I don’t believe that humility is something the Lord curses us with. Keeping us humble isn’t a punishment. In fact, humility is something we should aspire to — which means looking up, not looking down. Humility lifts us. It’s pride that goes before a fall.
Just look around the world. How often do we see someone who has reached some amazing pinnacle in their life — president of the United States, Hollywood icon, or hugely popular television evangelist for example — who then crashes and burns in an amazingly spectacular and public way? How often do we see friends, relatives and acquaintances do the same thing?
I believe that humility simply means acknowledging God’s hand in what you do and what you have. It means recognizing and acknowledging that you aren’t working alone. Ever. That everything you do, you do with God — and yes, that includes cleaning the toilet. You can’t be a good steward over the home God gave you if you don’t keep it clean.
Humility means knowing that everything you accomplish in the course of the day you do with God’s blessing. That all increase comes from God, not from your own spectacular efforts. It means acknowledging that every task we undertake in this world is important to God. That’s it’s the spirit with which you perform the task that’s important, not the nature of the task itself.
Which brings us back to the Israelites when they got together to build the tabernacle. Some were inspired to help build. Some were inspired to put their artistic talents to work. Some were inspired to donate the materials. Probably some were inspired to bring meals to those who labored. I wouldn’t be surprised. Those who donated brought in so much gold and silver and brass and linen and the like that Moses had to tell them to stop. A crew of truly wise and gifted artisans assembled to build the tabernacle, to craft the mercy seat and the ark. God granted them the ability to do the work as He wanted it done. They worked in wood and linen and precious metals. They carved and they embroidered and they did all kinds of amazing work, and all through God.
And when they finished, the glory of the Lord entered the tabernacle.
I don’t think it’s some weird coincidence that this experience is included in the Bible. I believe it’s there, like all the rest, to instruct us. God wants us to do as He asks. To follow His instructions. Acknowledge His hand in all that we do. When we do that, He will bless us and our efforts.
And that’s quite a promise.