Watch “The Gathering Storm: A Split in the Reformed World” on YouTube

This is a good program with good production values and a fairly concise message that gives enough detail that you feel like you learned something. After watching this, I went to to find a virtual firehose of fascinating Christian ministry videos and podcasts. Wow! They are worth a visit and an extended stay!

You can stop giving now!

And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. Exodus 36:2-7

I have never seen generosity in the church so great that I had to tell people to stop. So this example of giving seems positively miraculous. But I believe there is actually an explanation for it.

For one, this wealth that a nation of recently freed slaves gave was what they had just taken from the Egyptians that very week. It was unearned income. And I know that few things inspire me to generosity like an unexpected windfall. When we’ve made a tidy bundle on the sale of a house, we’re excited about our tithe, and it also made us more likely to help others. When my customers started unexpectedly tipping me, it made me a bigger tipper. Free money frees my money.

Unfortunately, when we earn our money through hard work, we lose our sense that it’s God’s money and we’re blessed to have it. We can become very possessive and resent the needs of others. “Hey! Why don’t you go earn some of this yourself.” There is a kind of judgment that is folded into that response, and it says more about the person who has than it does about the person who has not.

Jesus told us, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you,” Matthew 5:42, so it takes an intentional obedience that comes apart from “feeling led.”

Gifted to Teach Others

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer. Exodus 35:30-35

Building the Tabernacle was a big job. God had called two men by name to be the lead Craftsmen, but He has desired them to pass along their gifts. They have received this knowledge from God. Couldn’t He also just give this gift to others? He could, but it is His desire that we teach one another and share our gifts, just He desires us to share our wealth with those who are less blessed.

God does not give us anything just for our own pleasure. He intends that the more able enable others. He hasn’t called the many to be spectators of the few. This extends to ministry as well. It is the reason God gave gifts in Ephesians 4, that those who received them would equip others to do the work.

No Other Gods

Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. Exodus 34:11-16

As the Hebrews passed through the wilderness they were not required to act against the inhabitants. But when they got to the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that is where they were to cleanse the land of it’s gods and their worshipers. They were returning to execute judgment. And after they had done that, they were to worship the Lord only.

Today, we are sent into all the world to convert, not conquer. Jesus took the sin of the whole world upon Himself. Because of that, we are ambassadors from the kingdom of God, proclaiming peace with God to all who believe. The creator of the universe sends us offering generous terms in return for total surrender. And that is where God is still uncompromising: total surrender. Partial surrender, in which people keep their gods in reserve, is not acceptable. Our sin, when it continues to tempt us, is to be resisted, not embraced.

Hebrew Exceptionalism

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:12-16

Moses seems to be concerned that God will stop manifesting Himself in the visible way that He has. He is making the case with God that Israel is different than all the nations of the earth because He goes with them. After all, they just finished dumping God and Moses for a golden calf. He would understand if God wanted to walk out on them.

I understand this very reasonable fear. There was a time when many Americans thought that ours was a Christian nation. That may have been presumptious, or maybe it was something we aspired to, but we are clearly not that now. It would be a good time to remember that judgment begins in the house of the Lord.

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.C)” data-cr=”#cen-ESV-11340C” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”> Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

It is well past time for us to humble ourselves and realize that God’s absence in our nation is our fault. We have our own golden calves, our materialism and pursuit of pleasure, that has replaced the God who made us and sustains us.