Exodus 31:6
Moreover, I have selected Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, as his assistant. I have also given skill to all the craftsmen, that they may fashion all that I have commanded you:
Sermons
Genius and IndustryExodus 31:6
Gifts from God as Well as GracesJ. Cumming, D. D.Exodus 31:6
Grace and GeniusJ. S. Exell, M. A.Exodus 31:6
Spiritual GiftsBiblical MuseumExodus 31:6
The Danger of AccomplishmentsJ. H. Newman, D. D.Exodus 31:6
The Method of ProvidenceJ. Parker, D. D.Exodus 31:6
The Wise Hearted OnesC. R. Seymour.Exodus 31:6
Various Kinds of InspirationJ. Parker, D. D.Exodus 31:6
Bezaleel and AholiabJ. Orr Exodus 31:1-12


The calling of these two craftsmen for the work of the sanctuary, and the statement concerning Bezaleel that Jehovah had "filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (ver. 3), suggest various important lessons. On the distinction of the terms - "wisdom," "understanding," "knowledge," see the exposition, and consult the valuable notes on Ephesians 1:8, Colossians 1:9, in the Bishop of Durham's Commentaries. The general moral is, that when God has any important work to be done, whether in Church or State, he will not fail to raise up, and in due time to "call by name," the individuals needed for the doing of it. The preparatory training school or' these individuals may be far removed from the scene of their future labours. Bezaleel and Aholiab were trained in Egypt. Of what is said in "From Log Cabin to White House" of Presidents Lincoln and Garfield, of the United States - "Both of these statesmen were born in log-cabins, built by their fathers, in the wilderness, for family homes. Both were poor as mortals can well be. Both were born with talents of the highest order; but neither enjoyed early advantages of schools and teachers... Both worked on a farm, chopped wood, and did whatever else was needful for a livelihood, when eight years of age," etc. Thus God gifts, trains, prepares men, without a hint of the use to Which he means afterwards to put them. Till the event discloses it, the honour in reserve for them is kept a secret, even from themselves. The Genesis is polished in obscurity by the master's hand. Ultimately it is brought to light, and astonishes the beholders by the rare finish of its beauty. The tabernacle was built with the spoils of the Egyptians in more senses than one. More special lessons are the following -

I. ALL GIFTS ARE FROM GOD. Not simply gifts of intellect, of oratory, of holiness, of spiritual understanding, but gifts of every kind, from the highest to the lowest. Grace, in the case of Bezaleel, Aholiab, and their fellow-craftsmen, proceeded on a basis of natural endowment. Cf. ver. 6 - "into the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom." Skill in handicraft is a species of mental excellence, and deserves the name "wisdom." It, also, is from God. So with all natural talents; with, e.g., the pectic gift; gifts of music, painting, sculpture, architecture; business faculty; the gift of statesmanship; the power to "think out inventions"; the skill of the artificer. This truth lies at the basis of the demand for a religious use of gifts.

II. NATURAL GIFTS ADMIT OF INDEFINITE EXPANSION AND ENLARGEMENT UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GOD'S SPIRIT. The workers in the tabernacle were supernaturally assisted in their work. Nothing less than this is implied in the words - "And I have filled him with the spirit of God" (ver. 3); "into the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom" (ver. 6). Grace aids nature. Regeneration is often accompanied by a mysterious and almost miraculous improvement in the powers of knowledge, so much so that, from a state of stolid imbecility, a person may be seen rising up and standing forth an acute argumentative pleader for the truth. (Cf. Dr. Wm. Anderson on "Regeneration," p. 37.) What holds good of the general invigoration of the powers, may be expected to apply in the particular. Dedication of self carries with it dedication of gifts. And if an individual dedicates to God any special gift which he possesses, seeking, whether in the Church or in pursuit of an ordinary calling, to use the same for God's glory, it will be his privilege to have it aided, strengthened, purified, and largely enhanced in its operations by the influences of Divine grace. The commonest work will thus be better done, if done in the spirit of prayer. And so with the noblest. Milton speaks of his great epic as a work "not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pea of some vulgar amourist or the trencher-fury of a rhyming parasite - nor to be obtained by invocation of Dame Memory and her siren daughter, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases."

III. RELIGION SANCTIFIES LABOUR. The Bible is a text-book of instruction on the dignity of labour. It has no sympathy with the contemptible foppishness which looks on labour as degrading. It includes labour in religion. It sees in the occupation of the humblest handicraftsman the exercise of a Divine gift. The good man who, whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, does all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) does not demean himself by an honest calling, but transfigures his calling into part of his service to his Maker. In his case, laborare est orate. The shewbread on the table in the sanctuary was a recognition of the sacredness of labour. It had as one of its meanings the dedication to God of the exercise of the calling by which Israel won its daily bread. So manual labour was sanctified to God in the making of the tabernacle. But it was reserved for Christianity to give the crowning proof of the dignity of labour by showing it ennobled and glorified in the person of its Founder. The fathers of the Christian Church, in contrast with the Greeks and Romans, who looked on artisans and barbarians with contemptuous disgust, preached in their noblest tones the duty and dignity of honourable toil. "The proudest bishops were not ashamed to dig; a Benedict worked six hours a day with hoe and spade; a Becket helped regularly to reap the fields. The monks at once practised labour, and ennobled and protected it. The towns and the middle classes grew up under their shelter. Laborare est orate became the motto of Christian life" (Farrar; cf. Lecky, "History of Rationalism," vol. 2. p. 261).

IV. THE HIGHEST USE OF GIFTS IS TO DEDICATE THEM TO THE SERVICE OF GOD IN THE WORK OF HIS CHURCH. Transformed by grace, and employed in the service of religion, gifts become graces - "Charismata." All labour, all gifts, admit of being thus devoted. The handicrafts can still bring their tribute to God, if in no higher way, in the erection of places for his worship. Art can labour in the adornment of the sanctuary (cf. Psalm 60:13). The service of praise affords scope for the utilisation of gifts of music, vocal and instrumental. There is need for care lest art, ministering to the worship of God, should overpower devotion; but, considered in itself, there need be no jealousy of the introduction of the tasteful and beautiful into God's service. It is meet that the Giver of gifts should be served with the best our gifts can yield. Earthly callings may minister to God's kingdom in another way, by bringing of their lawful gains and laying them at Christ's feet. There is, besides, the private consecration of gifts to God, as in the case of Dorcas, making coats and garments for the poor (Acts 9:39), or as in the case of a Miss Havergal, or an Ira D. Sankey, consecrating to God a gift of song. Minor lessons taught are -

(1) Gifts are not all alike, yet God can use all.

(2) Some are made to lead, others to serve and follow, in the work of God's kingdom. We glorify God most when unambitiously content to fill our own place; when not envious of the greater gifts of others. The humblest is needed. Bezaleel could ill have dispensed with the artificers; Aholiab, with the needle-workers. They in turn needed the master minds to direct them. There should be no jealousy among those engaged in the same work (cf. 1 Corinthians 12.).

(3) Diversity of gifts gives rise to division of labour.

(4) Bezaleel and Aholiab, though of different tribes (Judah and Dan), wrought together as friends, were not opposed as rivals. What kept out the spirit of rivalry was the consciousness that both were working in a sacred cause, and for God's glory, not their own. The feeling that we are working for Christ should keep down dissensions among Christians. - J.O.







In the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom.
There are persons who doubt whether what are called "accomplishments," whether in literature or in the fine arts, can be consistent with deep and practical seriousness of mind. I am not speaking of human learning; this also many men think inconsistent with simple uncorrupted faith. They suppose that learning must make a man proud. This is of course a great mistake; but of it I am not speaking, but of an over-jealousy of accomplishments, the elegant arts and studies, such as poetry, literary composition, painting, music, and the like; which are considered, not indeed to make a man proud, but to make him trifling. Of this opinion, how far it is true and how far not true, I am going to speak. Now, that the accomplishments I speak of have a tendency to make us trifling and unmanly, and therefore are to be viewed by each of us with suspicion as far as regards himself, I am ready to admit, and shall presently make clear. I allow that in matter of fact, refinement and luxury, elegance and effeminacy, go together. Antioch, the most polished, was the most voluptuous city of Asia. But the abuse of good things is no argument against the things themselves; mental cultivation may be a Divine gift, though it is abused. An acquaintance with the elegant arts may he a gift and a good, and intended to be an instrument of God's glory, though numbers who have it are rendered thereby indolent, luxurious, and feeble-minded. But the account of the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, from which the text is taken, is decisive on this point. How, then, is it that what in itself is of so excellent, and, I may say, Divine a nature, is yet so commonly perverted? Now the danger of an elegant and polite education is that it separates feeling and acting; it teaches us to think, speak, and be affected aright, without forcing us to practise what is right. I will take an illustration of this from the effect produced upon the mind by reading what is commonly called a romance or novel. Such works contain many good sentiments (I am taking the better sort of them); characters, too, are introduced, virtuous, noble, patient under suffering, and triumphing at length over misfortune. But it is all fiction; it does not exist out of a book which contains the beginning and end of it. We have nothing to do; we read, are affected, softened, or roused, and that is all; we cool again — nothing comes of it. Now observe the effect of this. God has made us feel in order that we may go on to act in consequence of feeling; if, then, we allow our feelings to be excited without acting upon them, we do mischief to the moral system within us, just as we might spoil a watch, or other piece of mechanism, by playing with the wheels of it. We weaken its springs, and they cease to act truly. For instance, we will say we have read again and again of the heroism of facing danger, and we have glowed with the thought of its nobleness. Now, suppose at length we actually come into trial, and, let us say, our feelings become roused, as often before, at the thought of boldly resisting temptations to cowardice, shall we therefore do our duty, quitting ourselves like men? rather, we are likely to talk loudly, and then run from the danger. And what is here instanced of fortitude is true in all cases of duty. The refinement which literature gives is that of thinking, feeling, knowing and speaking right, not of acting right; and thus, while it makes the manners amiable, and the conversation decorous and agreeable, it has no tendency to make the conduct, the practice of the man virtuous. The case is the same with the arts last alluded to — poetry and music. These are especially likely to make us unmanly, if we are not on our guard, as exciting emotions without insuring correspondent practice, and so destroying the connection between feeling and acting; for I here mean by unmanliness the inability to do with ourselves what we wish — the saying fine things and yet lying slothfully on our couch, as if we could not get up, though we ever so much wished it. And here I must notice something besides in elegant accomplishments, which goes to make us over-refined and fastidious, and falsely delicate. In books everything is made beautiful in its way. Pictures are drawn of complete virtue; little is said about failures, and little or nothing of the drudgery of ordinary, every-day obedience, which is neither poetical nor interesting. True faith teaches us to do numberless disagreeable things for Christ's sake, to bear petty annoyances, which we find written down in no book. And further still, it must be observed, that the art of composing, which is a chief accomplishment, has in itself a tendency to make us artificial and insincere. For to be ever attending to the fitness and propriety of our words, is (or at least there is the risk of its being) a kind of acting; and knowing what can be said on both sides of a subject is a main step towards thinking the one side as good as the other. With these thoughts before us, it is necessary to look back to the Scripture instances which I began by adducing, to avoid the conclusion that accomplishments are positively dangerous and unworthy a Christian. But St. Luke and St. Paul show us that we may be sturdy workers in the Lord's service, and bear our cross manfully, though we be adorned with all the learning of the Egyptians; or, rather, that the resources of literature and the graces of a cultivated mind may be made both a lawful source of enjoyment to the possessor, and a means of introducing and recommending the truth to others; while the history of the Tabernacle shows that all the cunning arts and precious possessions of this world may be consecrated to a religious service, and be made to speak of the world to come. I conclude, then, with the following cautions, to which the foregoing remarks lead. First, we must avoid giving too much time to lighter occupations; and next, we must never allow ourselves to read works of fiction or poetry, or to interest ourselves in the fine arts for the mere sake of the things themselves; but keep in mind all along that we are Christians and accountable beings, who have fixed principles of right and wrong, by which all things must be tried, and have religious habits to be matured within them, towards which all things are to be made subservient. If we are in earnest we shall let nothing lightly pass by which may do us good, nor shall we dare to trifle with such sacred subjects as morality and religious duty. We shall apply all we read to ourselves; and this almost without intending to do so, from the mere sincerity and honesty of our desire to please God. We shall be suspicious of all such good thoughts and wishes, and we shall shrink from all such exhibitions of our principles as fall short of action. Of all such as abuse the decencies and elegancies of moral truth into a means of luxurious enjoyment, what would a prophet of God say? (Ezekiel 33:30-32; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 1 Corinthians 16:13).

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Who are the wise hearted ones?

1. They are those who prove themselves as having ability to do useful work. Work done, and well done, though it be in itself of trifling value, is the determination of wisdom.

2. The wise hearted are they who reach beyond present ability to perform. No true workman is satisfied to simply repeat his last job.

3. The wise hearted are they who, at Christ's call, enter His kingdom, there to labour under the influence of the purest, strongest motives.

(C. R. Seymour.)

I.NATURAL GIFTS ARE OFTEN DISCOVERED BY GRACE.

II.NATURAL GIFTS ARE DIRECTED BY GRACE.

III.NATURAL GIFTS ARE HEIGHTENED BY GRACE.

IV.NATURAL GIFTS ARE SANCTIFIED BY GRACE.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

God would have everything built beautifully. What an image of beauty have we seen this Tabernacle to be through and through, flushed with colours we have never seen, and bright with lights that could not show themselves fully in the murkiness of this air! He would make us more beautiful than our dwelling-place. He would not have the house more valuable than the tenant. He did not mean the worshipper to be less than the Tabernacle which He set up for worship. Are we living the beautiful life — the life solemn with sweet harmonies, broad in its generous purpose, noble in the sublimity of its prayer, like God in the perpetual sacrifice of its life? Not only will God build everything beautifully; His purpose is to have everything built for religious uses. His meaning is that the form shall help the thought, that images appealing to the eye shall also touch the imagination and graciously affect the whole spirit, and subdue into tender obedience and worship the soul and heart of man. What is the Tabernacle for? For worship. What is the meaning of it? It is a gate opening upon heaven. Why was it set up? To lift us nearer God. If we fail to seize these purposes, if we fail of magnifying and glorifying them so as to ennoble our own life in the process, we have never seen the Tabernacle. Herein is it for ever true that we may have a Bible but no revelation; a sermon but no Gospel; we may be in the church, yet not in the sanctuary; we may admire beauty, and yet live the life of the drunkard and the debauchee. In all His building — and God is always building — He qualifies every man for a particular work in connection with the edifice. The one man wants the other man. The work stands still till that other man comes in.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Who can read these words as they ought to be read? How it makes ministers of God by the thousand! We have thought that Aaron was a religious man because of his clothing and because of many peculiarities which separated him from other men; but the Lord distinctly claims the artificer as another kind of Aaron. Who divides life into sacred and profane? Who introduces the element of meanness into human occupation and service? God claims all things for Himself. Who will say that the preacher is a religious man, but the artificer is a secular worker? But let us claim all true workers as inspired men. We know that there is an inspired art. The world knows it; instinctively, unconsciously, the world uncovers before it. There is an inspired poetry, make it of what measure you will. The great common heart knows it, says, "That is the true verse; how it rises, falls, plashes like a fountain, flows like a stream, breathes like a summer wind, speaks the thoughts we have long understood, but could never articulate!" The great human heart says, "That is the voice Divine; that is the appeal of heaven." Why should we say that inspiration is not given to all true workers, whether in gold or in thought, whether in song or in prayer, whether in the type or in the magic eloquence of the burning tongue? Let us enlarge life, and enlarge Providence, rather than contract it, and not, whilst praying to a God in the heavens, have no God in the heart. You would work better if you realized that God is the Teacher of the fingers, and the Guide of the hand. Labour is churched and glorified. Art turns its chiselled and flushed features towards its native heaven.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

God gave the plan clearly, graphically, distinctly, to Moses; but it needed men raised up specially by the Spirit of God to execute the plan, and to give it practical development. And we learn from this fact that a gifted intellect is as much the creation of the Spirit of God as a regenerate heart. Gifts are from God as truly as graces; it needs the guidance of God's good Spirit to enable a man "to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them; and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship"; just as it does to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. We thus see that God gives light to the intellect as well as grace to the heart; and we may, perhaps, from this learn a very humbling, but a very blessed truth — that the man with a gifted intellect is as much summoned to bow the knee, and to thank the Fountain and the Author of it, as the man that has a sanctified heart feels it his privilege to bow his knee, and to bless the Holy Spirit that gave it, for this his distinguishing grace and mercy.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

Biblical Museum.
1. Prize them inestimably.

2. Covet them earnestly.

3. Seek for them diligently.

4. Ponder them frequently.

5. Wait for them patiently.

6. Expect them hopefully.

7. Receive them joyfully.

8. Enjoy them thankfully.

9. Improve them carefully.

10. Retain them watchfully.

11. Plead for them manfully.

12. Hold them dependently.

13. Grasp them eternally.

(Biblical Museum.)

— A friend of Charles Dickens, a man who had given promise of a noble career as an author, but who, through indolence, had failed in doing any permanent work, called upon him one morning, and, after bewailing his ill-success, ended by sighing, "Ah, if I only were gifted with your genius!" Dickens, who had listened patiently to the complaint, exclaimed at once in answer, "Genius, sir! I do not know what you mean. I had no genius save the genius for hard work!" However his enthusiastic admirers may dispute this, certain it is that Dickens trusted to no such uncertain light as the fire of genius. Day in and day out, by hard work, he elaborated the plot, characters, and dialogue of his imperishable stories. Whole days he would spend to discover suitable localities, and then be able to give vividness to his description of them, while, sentence by sentence, his work, after apparent completion, was retouched and revised. The great law of labour makes no exception of the gifted or ignorant. Whatever the work may be, there can be no success in it without diligent, unceasing, persevering labour.

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