So Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skilled person are to carry out everything commanded by the LORD, who has given them skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work of constructing the sanctuary."
I. MOSES GOES FORWARD IN FAITH.
1. He makes an immediate beginning. He might have doubted the people's liberality (so much was required) or the workmen's ability, and have waited; but it was enough that God had commanded the work. If Christ has commanded us to rear up a tabernacle for God in every land nothing should stay us. He will give offerings and men.
2. He followed the Lord's guiding. He called the men whom he had named and prepared. There must be obedience as well as faith, not calling those we would choose, but hailing gladly, and honouring, the men whom God has prepared.
3. The materials are committed to them. If we are to be built into God's temple we must obey them who have the rule over us.
II. THE PEOPLE HAVE TO BE RESTRAINED FROM GIVING.
1. The glory of a liberal spirit. There was no need of a second appeal. Though they knew that much had been contributed they still gave.
2. It consecrated the work.
(1) It was a joy for the workmen to labour amid that generous liberality.
(2) It was a joy to Israel and their children to remember the story of the tabernacle. To labourers in the Lord's vineyard it is a mighty consecration when hearts are yielded on every side and more is thrust upon them than they can well use for the Master; and the remembrance of such times is power and refreshing in after days.
III. THE WORK PROCEEDS; THE SKILL AND LABOUR FAILED NOT. First the framework of the tabernacle is reared and the inner curtains made and placed; then the outer curtains, and lastly the boards, and bars, and veils are set up. The heart is first gained for God, then more and more of light and power is poured upon the outer life till the whole "grows unto an holy temple in the Lord." - U.
There was, of course, a special Divine influence on these two artists; but in a very real sense, it is true of every man of genius that his excellence has been given him by God, and he should seek to consecrate it to God's service. Let us be just, also, and add that, in a large proportion of instances, they have done so. Take the noblest things in poetry, music, architecture, and painting, and you will find that they have been done in the service of God, and have a religious significance. The grandest epic in our language is on a religious theme; and some of our grandest lyrics have come from the harp of a pious heart, swept by the breeze of a holy influence. What are the oratorios of Handel but the consecration of his genius to Jehovah? and the finest specimens of architecture which Europe has to show are its venerable cathedrals, every one of which, in the ideal of its designer, was a sermon in stone. The greatest triumphs of the painter have been in the delineations of sacred subjects; and many among them who have become famous have, like the Fra Angelico, done their work upon their knees .... Every true product of art, no matter in what department, is a poem; and if we can adopt the lyrics of the singer into our hymnology, why should we not encourage our artists to preach on the canvas and in the marble? Never minister gave a more eloquent sermon than that painted by Holman Hunt in "The Light of the World." And the advantage is on the painter's side in more ways than one, for, while the sermon dies out of recollection, the picture lives. So let us encourage men of genius to consecrate their abilities to God's service; and then, perhaps, the time will come when, in the highest of all senses, "the day of the Lord shall be upon all pleasant pictures."
To devise curious works.
Religion may not despise art and inventive power. It should absorb everything that can give pure joy and assist devotion. The best art generally has a Godward look.
I. ART AND CHRISTIANITY BOTH IMPLY WORK. Indolence is disgrace. Work is honourable, whether it be the work of the horny hand, the skilful touch, or the busy brain. There is no curse upon work, unless when poorly paid. Indeed, the world would be accursed if there were no work, no art, no skill.
II. ART AND SCIENCE, LIKE RELIGION, STIMULATE THOUGHT. Man, weak in bodily frame, is to be strong by the exercise of mind. Thought is to overcome force, and ingenuity inertness. We believe that Christianity will flourish best where there is truest art culture and deepest reverence arising from contemplation of God's works.
III. ART, SCIENCE, AND CHRISTIANITY ALIKE TEACH US THAT WE ARE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT. The comforts and joys, as well as the necessaries of life, are the result of much thought and care on the part of others.
IV. ART AND SCIENCE, LIKE CHRISTIANITY, ARE USEFUL IN FOSTERING PURER AND HIGHER TASTES, God intended that we should be educated in this way to appreciate something higher in the better world.
We are accustomed to limit the inspiration of God's Spirit to thoughts and words. For this, however, we have no warrant in Scripture. The sevenfold Spirit has differences of administration and operation. The body as well as the soul experiences His sanctifying influence. He enters the sphere of man's labour as well as of his thought, and inspires the work of his hands as well as the meditations of his mind. The same Spirit that inspired the eloquence of Isaiah, and the melodies of the chief musician Asaph, also imparted to Samson that marvellous bodily strength which he displayed in Herculean labours, and tremendous feats against the Philistines; and to Bezaleel and Aholiab that fine aesthetic taste and mechanical skill, by which they were enabled to construct the Tabernacle after the pattern shown on the mount. What is the lesson conveyed to us by the Theocratic government of Israel, whose affairs, secular and religious, national and individual, were regulated directly by God Himself? Is it not that the whole of life is one; that true religion is the proper use of man's whole being, and of the universe around him? What does the ascension of our Lord teach us? Is it not the unity of life; the oneness of the natural and the religious life? Godliness is now profitable unto all things. It is not the setting up of an estrangement between man and the outer world, but the working out of a true harmony between them; not the elimination of any of the elements of man's life, but the proper blending of the whole — the sanctification of body, soul, and spirit; the doing all, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to the glory of God. Bearing in mind this solemn truth of the unity of all life, let me proceed to consider the significance of the inspiration of Bezaleel and Aholiab. This fact is not of individual but of general application. It is not unique, but representative. The Tabernacle of the wilderness was a miniature model of the whole earth, just as the people of Israel were the miniature pattern of all nations. Every man has a part assigned to him in the erection and adorning of this wonderful Tabernacle, whose floor is the green fields, whose walls are the rocks and mountains, and whose roof is the ever-changing sky. Every man who does a day's work is a fellow-worker with God, in carrying out His great design in creation, in improving the face of nature, changing the wilderness into a garden, in making the world fairer and richer, and better fitted to be the home of redeemed man, and the shrine of the Most High God. Toil is the first stage of the process of redemption — "the condition of man's elevation out of the state of a sinful, suffering, degraded creature, to the friendship, fellowship, and likeness of God." In the Pacific Ocean there are lovely islands built entirely by coral zoophytes, out of the profound depths of the ocean. Raised above the waves, floating germs of vegetation alight on them, and speedily cover them with a fair clothing of verdure. Man comes and takes up his abode on these Edens, and makes their resources subservient to the purposes of human life. By and by the missionary appears, and by the preaching of the gospel changes the moral wilderness into a garden of the Lord. The last great result is thus but the completion of a process begun by the mere natural instinct of a creature in the depths of the ocean. The work of the missionary rests upon, and is closely connected with, the work of the polyp. So is it with human toil. It may be a mere instinctive process carried on in the depths of spiritual ignorance; a blind, aimless motion, having no higher object than the mere satisfying of natural wants. Man may be induced to work purely by physical necessity, because he cannot otherwise get his bread; and yet toil is absolutely necessary as the foundation upon which the spiritual structure of our soul's salvation is laid. The effects of the fall began indeed in the soul; and it is in the soul that they must first be counteracted. The work of grace is radical. It begins in the heart, and spreads outwardly through the life. But work is the fulcrum by which its blessed leverage is exerted, the discipline through which it is carried out. Toil, first of all, teaches man his utter poverty. He forfeited life and all the means of life by his sin. As an outlaw under sentence of outlawry, he can hold no possessions whatever; he has no right even to his daily bread. But further, toil makes man subject to the law which he has broken. He sought to escape from law by his transgression. Striving to escape from the beneficent law of God, he fell under the cruel law of poverty, hunger, and death. He must become, as Mr. Brown says, the servant of the laws by which God maintains the order and life of the world, if he would earn the smallest blessing from their co-operation. Only by falling in with the Divine rule in every work can any man hope to succeed in it. Those who conquer nature are those who comprehend and obey her. But further still, toil opens the door into the sphere of duty, and is the hinge on which the deepest relationships and richest experiences of life turn. Not for himself does any man toil. Wife and children have to be provided for. But the highest ministry which our toil performs is to bring us into communion and fellowship with God our Redeemer, to make us fellow-workers with God. We enter into His purposes, comprehend His plans, and sympathize with His feelings. The patience which the husbandman exercises in waiting through the long summer months for the fruit of what he sows, and which the artist and mechanic display in slowly developing their special work, enables us in some measure to understand the patience of God in His work of providence and redemption. The disappointments and failures to which all kinds of work are exposed, prepare us for sympathizing with God's grief over the ruins of the world which He had made all very good, and over the disappointments which He meets in His redemption work. The courage, the faith, the devotion, the perseverance, the self-denial which our daily work calls forth, are closely related to our higher moral and spiritual discipline, and have the most important effect in redeeming us from the consequences of the fall. We need the inspiration of God's Spirit — the inspiration which Bezaleel and Aholiab had — to rescue our work from the degradation into which it so easily slides, and make it what God meant it to be. The very labour of our hands sinks down into depraved methods, unless kept up by the ennobling influence of God's Spirit. The inspiration of the Spirit does not indeed impart gifts — does not stand in place of natural abilities and attainments. Men have different talents naturally; and a Christian may have only one talent, while a thoroughly worldly man may have ten. And yet it is marvellous what the inspiration of the Spirit can do, even in the absence or deficiency of natural attainments. The entrance of God's Word gives light, and makes the simple wise. Conversion is itself an education. Religion exalts and ennobles the whole man. It quickens and elevates all his powers, and makes itself felt in everything with which he has to do. We see the marvellous influence of the Christian religion, even although mixed with much superstition, in the art of the Middle Ages — in those paintings of sacred subjects, and those abbeys and cathedrals which are the admiration of our age. There is nothing in Christianity that forbids, but, on the contrary, everything that favours the widest expansion, the loftiest achievement of the human mind, and the most skilful production of the human hand. It behoves all who are Christians, then, to show what Christianity can do in the way of purifying and ennobling common every-day work. Let us seek to make our work an essential part of our religion. The labour of Bezaleel, from a worldly point of view, was evanescent. The Tabernacle which he constructed with such rare skill, passed away; all its precious materials and workmanship disappeared like a beautiful dream of the morning, and not a trace of them now remains on the face of the earth. And yet, notwithstanding this, the work of Bezaleel was abiding in its spiritual results. Israel reaped the benefit of it through all their generations. We ourselves are the better for it to-day.
No nobler thought of God, no more welcome gospel, after an assurance of purifying grace, has been uttered than this which these verses hold. Fallacious and fatal is the thought that a man can live a divided life. Hopeless is his struggle to "serve two masters." And surely few heresies have done so much damage to religion as that which would lead a man to think that the things which necessarily occupy a large proportion of his time and energy are matters of no concern to the God who claims his worship, and that to Him the toil of the industrious, the genius of the skilful, the patience of the earnest, with all the products of such life's endeavour, are things of no moment, lying outside the region of His care and cognizance. Honour to the soul that rises in revolt against an injustice to God and man! I meet with men who are troubled by this misconception; men who need, as we all need, help from God day by day, and all day long; men who, if their industry cannot be brought within the sphere of their religion, feel that they must be irreligious, or at all events unreligious for the greater part of their life. Let me try to win such men from their mistake by setting before them this truth of God. Do you not feel how full-charged this truth is with the power of quickening and redeeming grace? Do you not feel how all-inclusive this truth is, how it touches every man, and makes his whole self worthy, how it touches the whole of the man, and leaves nothing of him outside of Divine help, nothing of him undignified by Divine overruling? Let us put the truth into plain words, and look it straight in the face — power of hand and brain is of God and for God. It has a comely aspect, significant of hope, voiceful with strenuous incentive, calm with conscious triumph. We are brought just back to this simple, ancient way of putting the fact, after all the revelations and imaginations concerning species and development, which have been given to the world. Genius may be largely hereditary, special capacities may be cultured and developed. But who planned the conditions and the laws? It is interesting to discover method; but method is not cause. Knowledge of the means through which anything is done is not the same as a knowledge of that by
which the thing is done. I don't know, I don't believe that any one wants to try to prove atheism. But we might almost as well doubt the very existence of our God as fail to reap the great harvest of privilege which springs from this great seed truth, "in Him we live and move and have our being." Oh, if all the thinkers and workers in the world, our fellows and associates in the office and the warehouse, in the factory and in the foundry, could be brought to feel this, what a power for good would grow! If men and women went into each day's toil with not a vague, shadowy idea, but a great and vivid conviction that the strength, the skill, the ingenuity, power of adroit and delicate touch, power of fanciful and beautiful designing, strength to sling the hammer and make the anvil ring, delicacy, deftness, knack, that indescribable way of doing just the right thing at the right time, which is so marvellous to watch — that all this is a Divine gift bearing the seal of the Most High God, the pledge of His thought and care and love, a holy trust to be used for Him — would not such a conviction be as good as it was great, as redemptive as it was real? It makes all the difference between drudgery and duty, between toil and work. It changes hard labour, recompensed by coin of the realm by which a man's debts are paid and his needs met, into an exultant exercise of power, recompensed by the approval of a conscience void of offence, recompensed more gloriously by the approval of the Master who was once Himself a workman and is eternally a worker: "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." I appeal to those who listen to me to get rid of the fallacy and to get hold of the fact. The call to labour is a summons to high privilege. The inspiration to true labour has its origin in God. Take the truth with you tomorrow, friend, and it will lift your life out of its monotony and rid it of any aspect of dreariness. It will put a soul into what has, perhaps, been a lifeless thing. It will send a glow to you through what, perhaps, hitherto has chilled your very heart. It was the Lord God who put wisdom and understanding into every wise-hearted man "to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary," and He, the Lord, is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." This brings me naturally to the emphasizing of another point illustrated here: that the power, the disposition to use the skill is also a Divine gift. I say use, for misuse and abuse are of a man's own selfishness. Often do we hear the question, "What will he do with it?" Now I imagine that a man who has felt the pressure of the solemn fact of which I have spoken, namely, that power of hand and brain is of and for God, will be found looking for this second fact — that power to use the skill is also a gift from Him. If I discover that I am in possession of some precious thing which has come to me from God, the natural and immediate impulse will be to look to Him for guidance and power in the use of it. I am anxious not to misuse it. I fear to make a mistake. A man makes a sorry bargain who sells himself for money or for the passing gratification of his senses. Yet men have been tempted to abuse their skill, intelligence, strength, by the doing of a deed, one result of which was the enabling them to say, "That pile of gold is mine," a saying which could only be true for a time, and another result of which was the withering and maiming of their very soul. I believe in the possibility of consecrating all endeavour. I believe that daily labour in any man's lawful calling may be ennobled with the grandeur of Divine service. If, then, you and I feel gracious influences and powers leading and qualifying us to use our force and skill in this highest way, "not with eye-service as men-pleasers," but with "singleness of heart" as reverencing God, thankfully may we recognize the influence as His influence, the power as His power, the grace as His grace. Mental endowment and power of speech, physical endowment and power of handicraft, are high gifts, and the generosity is meant for good.
()Few minds are sunlike, sources of light to themselves and to others. Most are moons, which shine with a derivative and reflected light. Bezaleel and Aholiab drew their skill from Divine inspiration. Indeed, it has been said by Cicero that all great men are in some degree inspired. They are Divinely qualified for their respective missions. Was not Gutenburg inspired to invent printing, with the view to a world-wide diffusion of the Word of God? The history of nations and of the Church afford numerous illustrations of this species of inspiration in the raising up of special men to certain works when such needed to be done.Under Jehovah's merciful providence even the captivity of Israel had a sunny side. Egypt, then at the noon of her civilization, was pre-eminently the home of science, art, and culture. For both rede-craft and hand-crafts her children were world-famed. The Israelites were educated in a school of fine arts as well as in brickyards. Not all their sons and daughters toiled in clay, or ate only cheapest bread and onions. Many were house and body servants to Egyptian ladies and gentlemen. The brighter and more dexterous learned trades; and though slaves, served their masters as skilled mechanics or workers in art products. Not a few secured first-class knowledge in stamping, chasing, and various branches of metal-work, in the lapidary and glyptic art, as well as in weaving, dyeing, carpentry, and leather-dressing. In addition to their theoretical knowledge and practical handicraft, they had pretty full sets of models and masterpieces of mechanism. The keepsakes and souvenirs borrowed from the Egyptians were easily copied and manufactured, when raw material from mine and flock, sea and soil, in the Sinaitic peninsula were put to account. It was not entirely a "horde of slaves" that went up out of Egypt. Between the mob of ignorant freedmen and the princes, statesmen, and leaders inspired of God, stood another class of men: these were metallargists, jewellers, engravers, architects, and weavers possessing that skill, born of hand and brain working in harmony, without which a high civilization and the order of cities are impossible.
Christian Journal. — A young painter was directed by his master to complete a picture on which the master had been obliged to suspend his labours on account of his growing infirmities. "I commission thee, my son," said the aged artist, "to do thy best upon this work. Do thy best." The young man had such reverence for his master's skill, that he felt incompetent to touch canvas that bore the mark of that renowned hand. But "Do thy best "was the old man's calm reply; and again, to repeated solicitations, he answered, "Do thy best." The youth tremblingly seized the brush, and kneeling before his appointed work, he prayed: "It is for the sake of my beloved master that I implore skill and power to do this deed." His hand grew steady as he painted. Slumbering genius awoke in his eye. Enthusiasm took the place of fear. Forgetfulness of himself supplanted his self-distrust, and with a calm joy he finished his labour. The "beloved master" was borne on his couch into the studio, to pass judgment on the result. As his eye fell upon the triumph of art before him, he burst into tears, and throwing his enfeebled arms around the young artist, he exclaimed, "My son, I paint no more!" That youth, Leonardo da Vinci, became the painter of "The Last Supper," the ruins of which, after the lapse of three hundred years, still attract large numbers annually to the refectory of an obscure convent in Milan.
()A touching story is related of Thomas Telford, the Scottish mason who became one of the greatest of British engineers. His great scheme of a suspension bridge over the Menai Strait, connecting Carnarvonshire with the Isle of Anglesea, had passed through many stages of difficulty and doubt. Will and genius had battled with, and overcome the obstacles, and the bridge was a fact. An experiment had been made, and all went well. Enthusiastic friends missed the designer. They went to seek him, and to tell him how thoroughly his plans appeared to be justified, and how reward had come for labour and anxiety. Telford was found on his knees, lifting up his heart to God in adoration and prayer. He recognized that all wisdom and all power was a Divine trust, and that God was the Giver of all his good. This is the right way to take success. Such men do not lose in soul-stature through their prosperity.
Every wise-hearted man in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work. Dannecker, the German sculptor, occupied eight years upon a marble statue of Christ. He believed then, and ever afterward, that he had been inspired of God to do that thing. He thought that he had seen a vision of Christ in his solitary vigils. He had but transferred to the marble the image that the Lord had shown to him. His rising fame attracted the attention of Napoleon, and he was requested to make a statue of Venus similar to Ariadne, for the gallery of the Louvre. He refused, saying, "A man who has seen Christ would commit sacrilege if he should employ his art in the carving of a pagan goddess. My art is therefore a consecrated thing." Is there not an experience of communion with God in Christ, not uncommon with mature believers, which is equivalent to a vision of the Lord, and which renders life and life work, even its humblest occupations, sacred? The lowliest not less than the loftiest life may have this element of an infinite dignity.A North American Indian convert, being catechised upon "original sin," stated that he rather thought that in his case it was laziness. Original sin certainly seems to take this form in the case of many members of our Churches. What is the proportion of Christian workers in any Church? Are they not invariably a small minority? Why so? What exemption can the majority plead? It is said the working bees cast out the drones from the hive. Were we to proceed upon this principle, what terrible depletion would our Churches suffer!
()We sometimes form a too favourable estimate of the number of workers in our Churches, erroneously judging from the number of departments of service, and imagining that each department has its own distinct staff; whereas, as a rule, it is the individuals who are active in one sphere who display the same activity in another. I believe that in dramatic exhibitions the impression of a large army is sometimes produced upon the spectators by the device of marching the same band of persons over and over again across the stage. We get our impressions of the noble army of Christian workers very much in the same way.
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