Previous article in this series: November 15, 2014, p. 86.
And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.
One important aspect of our giving to the Lord in worship is the motive of our giving. We must give to the Lord with willing heart. The letting go of the money from the hand must be tied to a heart that loves God, that wants to serve Him, and that wants His kingdom to prosper. As the apostle Paul states in“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth taka cheerful giver.” This is worship, when we give freely and cheerfully to the Lord.
The Israelites in Exodus 35 gave of a willing, cheerful heart. It is striking in that account of giving how often the willing heart of God’s people is emphasized. God’s commands willing giving in: “Whosoever is of a willing heart let him bring it.” And then in verse 21 we see the people responding to this command from the heart: “And every one whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing….” Again, verse 22: “And they came both men and women as many as were willing hearted.” It continues in verse 26: “And all the women whose heart stirred them up.” And finally verse 29: “The children of Israel brought a willing offering…every one whose heart made them willing.” The Scriptures reveal that this is the explanation for the fact that they brought their offerings and could build the tabernacle in chapter 36—they had willing hearts before the Lord.”
So willing were their hearts that they gave whatever was needed for the work of the tabernacle. If they had it and it could be used, they gave it: gold, silver, wood, garments, precious stones. They gave their time, their energy, their gifts. Men helped. Women sewed and spun, if they could. There was a grand outpouring of willing service to give whatever it was that could be used for God’s kingdom.
Their willing hearts are also seen in how promptly they gave. Moses gives the command in; according to verse 20 the people leave to go to their tents. And immediately in verse 21 the text says, “And they brought the Lord’s offering.” They wanted to give, and so promptly they gave more than was necessary. Exodus 36:3 tells us that after the offering was originally collected, the people did not stop. They kept giving every morning, even though it was not commanded. They gave and gave until Bezaleel and Aholiab, who were in charge of making the tabernacle, had to come to Moses and say, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded to make” (v. 5).
What an example of cheerful givers, not giving grudgingly, but willingly pouring out all that they could in service to the kingdom! The word the apostle uses when he says, “God loveth a cheerful giver,” means a giver with overflowing joy—readiness, willingness, desire. This de scribes the Israelites in Exodus 35. They did not go back to their tents and grudgingly mull around in their minds, “What here can I keep? What here is for me, and what little left over shall I give to God?” But with joy in their hearts, they went back and asked, “What here can I give in service to the kingdom of God? How can I worship Him with the resources I have?”
Is this how you and I give in the offerings of the church? There is no contradiction between things that are commanded and willingness of the heart. Notice this in Exodus 35. God commands Moses, “Take an offering for my house.” And Moses in effect says to the people, “This is what God commands; now, everyone who is willing, give.” They gave because their hearts were willing to do what God commanded. They loved to do what God’s will was. They loved His church and they loved Him. God commanded; Moses communicated God’s commands; and the people gave.
Other causes may require fundraising tactics, even other Christian causes for which we give. But the church of God does not. Moses did not have to “make the sale” according to Exodus 35. He did not have to give the people something in exchange for what they gave to the cause of God’s kingdom. He did not have to go to their homes asking for money. He simply made it plain that God commands that His people support the church, and the people willingly gave.
There are many causes of the kingdom for which we take collections. View the offerings in worship as the primary giving that you do in support of God’s kingdom. How unspiritual if we wait for drives or fundraisers to give substantially to kingdom causes! We must not think, “I’ll put in my bit in church, but it’s not until they come knocking on my door or give me something in return that I will really give.” The weekly giving ought to be such that we give with generous hearts and open hands. Come with willing and liberal hearts for the worship of His name. This is a privilege that we bring gifts to the Lord in worship.
The Motive for Willing Giving
Why did these Israelites have willing hearts? The answer is, because they understood God’s willing heart to give to them. Their understanding of God gave them willing hearts. They did not view God as a great thief, taking all their things every time the collection plate came around. Rather, they viewed God as the great Giver. When Moses gave God’s command, they did not think, “Here is God taking from us, that thief. Why doesn’t He find His own gold and silver and stones?” Neither did they think, “Well, if God wants something, I know there are more wealthy people than I, so God can get it from them. Why is He pestering me?”
They understood that all they had was a gift from God. Where do you think they got the gold and silver and precious stones that they give for the building of the tabernacle? They are out in the wilderness walking to Canaan. They are not mining for gold and precious stones. And before they left Egypt they were slaves. Where did all that they gave come from in the first place? All they had came from the Egyptians themselves before they left Egypt.explains, “And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.” After the tenth plague the Egyptians gave the Israelites all kinds of gifts and said, “Get out of here. We will be destroyed if you don’t leave.” The Israelites received gold and silver and stones and garments so that they spoiled or plundered the Egyptians.
It would have been tempting for the Israelites to horde this gold and silver. It would have been tempting for them to think, “We suffered so long in Egypt as slaves, it’s about time we got what was coming to us for all the work and toil we gave there. We deserve this gold and silver the Egyptians gave. And who does the Lord think He is, calling for offerings? This is ours, we have the right!” But they did not think that. They saw that God had given them these things. God had taken them out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to Himself. God had plundered the Egyptians for them. And now they are willing to give back what is His in the first place.
But that’s not even the deepest motive. Not only had God given them all their material possessions; He had forgiven them of their great sins. It is no coincidence that this outpouring of offerings recorded in Exodus 35 and 36 takes place immediately following the account of the worshipping of the golden calves in Exodus 32. There the Israelites, assuming Moses was dead on the mountain, began to worship an idol made by hands. God’s wrath was kindled. But through the intercession of Moses, God did not destroy the people in His holy wrath; instead He showed Israel that He is a merciful God who forgives their sins. Instead of destroying them, God tells them He will take them to a land flowing with milk and honey and that He will drive the other nations out before them. Israel, therefore, sees God as the God who is the great Giver of grace to them when they least deserved it. Therefore, in chapter 35 they give willingly from the heart to the cause of God’s kingdom.
Do you and I love to give? Willingly? Cheerfully? When the collection plate comes around, when there is this cause and that cause to which we can give, do we think, “God is a thief?” Or do we view God as the great Giver of earthly sustenance and grace? Do we see that all we have is His to begin with, that He has given us the talents and abilities to work, the place in which we live, the job we have, the material possessions we own, the money in our accounts? What do we have that we have not been given?
Does grace fuel in us a cheerfulness to give? The streams of forgiving grace wash over God’s people, and they experience that especially in the worship service. Does that grace make us want to give—love to give? The desire to give willingly, liberally, generously, comes from a heart transformed by grace. It flows from the realization that God has delivered us from the bondage of sin, and even after that time and time again has poured out His mercy upon us. Whereas the old man of sin would rather part with his very life-blood than his money, the new man opens wide his hand, for God’s hand has been opened wide to him.
Giving as Trust
Because the child of God has seen God gracious to forgive and provide, he trusts God and therefore gives. Giving is an act of trust. When one sits down to fill in the amount for a check he is writing, the thoughts of worry come immediately to his mind: “What if the economy continues to go sour; what if no one is buying homes next year; what if the corn prices sink; what if this or that happens, what if I need this later on?” Of course, there does have to be wisdom. One does not make himself the object of the deacons’ mercy for the sake of his giving. Nonetheless, I dare say that is not our temptation. The temptation is to say, “When I reach this amount of income, then I’ll really start to give. When I am able to protect myself from all that I am afraid might possibly happen, then I will put more in the collection plate. When I reach this much in the savings account, then I’ll start to be more generous.” But the willing heart is the trusting heart. And the trusting heart becomes a willing heart.
This is what God wanted to teach His children when He commanded offerings for the tabernacle in Exodus 35. Why did not God simply have a tabernacle fall from the sky? He could have easily done so. Because He wanted them to give. He wanted them to let go and trust Him. And, why did He wait until they were at Mt. Sinai to tell the Israelites they needed to give their materials for the tabernacle? The materials they are giving they had received from plundering Egypt. Why did God not tell them then, “This will be for My kingdom”? The answer is, that He wanted to give them an opportunity to handle those things and still be required to let go of them. He wanted Israel to have those riches in their tents and to use them. He wanted them to think about how they could spend it with the nomadic groups around, if they were in a bind. And then with these possibilities swirling around in their minds, He wanted them to let go and trust.
When we deposit our contributions in the collection plate, God is teaching us to trust. He is teaching us to say to Him, “God, I let go of this money, and instead by faith take hold of Thy promises to care for Thy people. Thou art a faithful God. I have experienced that in my greatest need, the forgiveness of my sins. I trust Thee to care for me body and soul, and here I give with willing hands and hearts that which Thou hast blessed. I bring in thankful sacrifice my choicest gifts and best.”
God is always trustworthy. He provided manna when there was no bread, water from the rock when the church was thirsty. He protected Israel from her enemies when attacked. We, too, can let go and trust Him.