Heart Response

Some people are fairly jaded when it comes to the generosity of others; always questioning motives; always assuming evil intent. Was that large financial gift a mere tax right off? Or was it seeking after the praise of others? Or maybe it was motivated by sheer guilt; an attempt to assuage their own tattered conscience. And when ulterior motives are assigned to others is this a deflection; an attempt to detract attention from one’s own lack of generosity? The reality is that sometimes people give with evil motives. Another reality is that we are not always great diviners of motive. Leave that lie for a moment. Have you ever felt overwhelming gratitude; an almost engulfing spring of thankfulness that leave you breathless? And if you give out of gratitude, is that merely easing your guilt or is it a heart response?
In Exodus 35:4-36:7 we are witness to the heart response of Israel. They had shattered the covenant relationship with Yahweh. They deserved to enter the promised land with God’s painfully felt absence instead of his presence. They deserved death. And yet God is renewing covenant. And as a part of renewal Yahweh is giving anew the instructions for the Tabernacle. This is more than the building of a holy place. This is an acknowledgment that Yahweh will dwell in their midst; he will tabernacle with them. He could have just re-issued the rules and remained aloof. But this renewal was to re-establish relationship. I think the Israelites were overwhelmed with guilt and gratitude. This is more than they could have hoped for. Since this is about renewal, our passage offers little that is new.
This passage begins and ends with contribution to the work of the Tabernacle. It is again emphasized that Yahweh wants this to be their gift given from their heart. No one is given an amount. No one is told they have to give. All who felt a heart response were to bring the same items mentioned in Exodus 25:3-7. Every skilled person was to work on the Tabernacle and its furniture and utensils. The specific instructions are found in 25:11-28:43. What is important here is that skilled laborers were to be put to work. This is not work that any old Israelite can do. And all of these things are to be constructed by God’s specific instructions. Their skill is not to supplant or go beyond God’s guidelines. And we may need this reminder today.
As soon as they receive the message, the people depart and get busy. They received God’s word and went to work. God’s word is always meant to be worked. Isn’t this what Jesus said at the end of the sermon on the mount? If you are wise, you will hear Jesus words and do them. If you are foolish you will not do them. Work the word then. For the first time, the giving and skilled labor of women is emphasized. Many of the articles of jewelry are female specific. These gifts were more than monetary. They were giving their earrings; their bracelets; their precious jewelry. Women were also busy spinning the materials needed for the curtains of the Tabernacle. It is again emphasized that this was a heart response. It may also be implied that not all of the Israelites gave and worked.
Again, we are told that Bezalel and Ohaliab were put in charge of the project. We are told here, that not only were they involved in the work, they were also busy training others in the work. Once again, we have the interplay between skill and God’s spirit placing skill within a person. Skill enhanced and motivated by Yahweh’s Spirit. I believe God still works this way. His spirit works through our natural skill and ability. Finally, we are told that every morning people were bringing in their gifts. So much so, that they had more than what they needed. The workers immediately inform Moses and he tells the people to stop. And this is nice isn’t it? They don’t take the access and tuck it away in their tent somewhere.
Some have focused on Israel’s guilt almost as if to say, “Well sure, they gave generously, but they are only giving because they messed up.” I would rather focus on the heart response that is mentioned several times throughout this passage. They gave and worked because their hearts were bursting with thankfulness. Yahweh was going to dwell in their midst even though they had messed up with that whole golden calf thing. So gratitude sprang up from the depths of their heart and they gave. You have been forgiven! Does it cause your heart to respond; awash with engulfing gratitude? Guilt and gratitude driving you to be generous even above the need. We’ve witnessed this over and over again, haven’t we? This is not about false motives. This is about a genuine heart response to the amazing love of God. Peace, Walter