(Recommended Reading: Exodus 32 thru 36:7)
To set the stage – Moses was on Mt. Sinai meeting with God and receiving the Ten Commandments, which God wrote with His own finger onto two tablets. The Israelites, growing impatient for Moses’ return, petitioned Aaron to build them a golden calf to worship – and surprisingly, he did so. He then declared a festival for the next day where they ate, drank, worshiped the golden calf and “…got up to indulge in revelry.” (Ex. 32:6b) God grew very angry about this atrocity and wanted to wipe out the entire nation of Israel and start all over with just Moses. But Moses reminded God of his promises to the forefathers and God relented. Then we see Moses descend from the mountain with the tablets in hand. When he witnessed what was happening he became so angry he threw down the tablets and they broke. He then burned the golden calf in a fire, ground it up, put it in their water and made them drink it.
To make matters worse, Aaron, Moses’ own brother that had been his right-hand man during the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and had seen all of God’s miracles, exposes the piece of work he really is when Moses asked him what he had done. Ex. 32:21-24 says: “He said to Aaron, ‘What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?’ ‘Do not be angry, my lord,’ Aaron answered. ‘You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’” Really Aaron? Wow!
So, after this the people repented, God forgave them – again – and then once again Moses met with God. God “remakes” the tablets and gives directions for the construction of a tabernacle and garments for the priests. The instructions are very detailed and are to be followed meticulously. Starting in Ex. 35:4 when Moses has called together the entire Israelite community he puts out a call for all of the supplies they are going to need to accomplish this huge task. But he makes it clear that it is totally optional. No one is being forced to do something they are not comfortable with or committed to.
Ex. 35:4-5a “Moses said to the whole Israelite community, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring…’” Vss. 20-21a “Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering …” Vs. 29a “All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work…”
They also were challenged to use their knowledge and skills to work on all that was required for this structure and the garments needed. Ex. 35:26 “And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair.” Ex. 35:30-36:1 talks about some men (Bezalel and Oholiab) that were particularly gifted with the necessary knowledge for creating much of what was needed and how they taught others how to accomplish the monumental task. It does not specifically state this, but these two were obviously willing. Ex. 36:2 “Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.’”
But then for me, the most amazing part of this story is in Ex. 36:3-7 where it says: “They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.’ Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary. And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.”
I am fortunate, because I belong to a church that does not have to beg the membership to bring their tithes and offerings. That does not mean that giving is never mentioned, because it is. People need to be reminded at times what is Biblically expected of them and the blessings that are there waiting to be poured out on them when they follow the principles laid out for us in the Bible. My church has a huge budget and I believe is debt-free. We give a tremendous amount of offerings to other churches and organizations that need assistance; and, I believe that generosity is why we are so blessed financially as a church.
The key I believe to such success for my church is that the people are willing. No one forces anything upon the membership. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLV) “Each man should give as he has decided in his heart. He should not give, wishing he could keep it. Or he should not give if he feels he has to give. God loves a man who gives because he wants to give.” In other words, He wants you to be willing!
I have been a firm believer in tithing 10% of my income for many years. One particular experience cemented this standard into my heart. My family had moved from Midland, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The oil industry (the primary industry in Midland) had had a huge downturn – many people were losing their jobs and having to literally walk away from their homes and move out. We put our house on the market and moved, so we were making house, utility and upkeep payments on this house we left behind – while also paying rent and utility payments in Tulsa as well as all other usual living expenses. I had transferred with my job but my husband had to search for a new job and it took a long while to find something permanent with a decent income. Each month I was having to make our Texas house payment a bit later and a bit later until I finally was having to include late charges. It finally got to the point that I did not think I was going to be able to even make the payment in the month it was due. But then it happened – our home in Texas sold for our asking price and we made a very nice profit on it! So why did this prove anything? Because we had continued to tithe our 10% during that whole time. We passed the test and were blessed. We were willing to make the sacrifices and it paid off.
However, as the story in Exodus reveals, it was not only material offerings that were made by the people, but it was their skills to perform the required tasks and the time to accomplish all that was required to result in the tabernacle God commanded them to construct. We too need to be willing to volunteer our skills and our time as well. It is so easy to sit back and let others step up to do what is required.
Using my church as an example again, let me explain that it is a very large church – I believe it could be referred to as a mega church. So it takes hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people volunteering every week to help keep our church functioning. We have our primary campus plus nine other remote campuses. We have up to four services each weekend at each of those campuses to accommodate the large membership, not to mention the MANY other ministries that need volunteers to keep running effectively. That is a lot of needs to be fulfilled by volunteers that are willing.
Over many years I have worked as a volunteer at the church I belonged to, fulfilling various functions and was always blessed as a result. But, I have to confess though that I have not been as proactive at my current church, and I should be ashamed to admit to that. I am currently involved in one ministry as a mentor, but I have the time and the ability to do other things as well. Now, after reading and rereading the stories I have referenced in this article, I am convinced that I need to be willing and step up to do more in this area.
So, how do you compare to the Israelites in the area of willingness? This is not something that is only restricted to our church responsibilities and activities. We all have opportunities put before us at times where we can be a blessing to someone else if we just stay alert and willing. We should all pledge to help brighten our world by being willing! Are YOU willing?
Written by Karran Martin – February 3, 2022
(All quoted scripture is from the NIV translation unless noted differently and all emphasis is mine)