The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. 6 Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: (Exodus 31:1-6 NIV)
Chapter 31 continues the description of not only the workmanship of the articles in the tabernacle but also the workers, the craftsman, the artisans who made these beautiful things for the place where God’s presence would dwell and where worship would happen. There is no sense of acquired skill or training here (which we can only assume did take place?) but rather that God gave these two artisans their abilities and artistic knowledge. God says to Moses in fact that he has “… given skill to all the skillful…”
The relationship is one of instrumentality – God has given these gifts so that the work God has directed can be accomplished.
There is again in this passage a connection between skill or ability and the heart and mind. Inspiration is given as much and is more important than the physical skill (which is also God-given anyway!).
Exodus portrays this beautiful dynamic by which the Lord tells Moses in several places that there is a beautiful work to do – and that the same Lord who gave the design has also given members of the community what is needed to do this work.
I struggle with our current focus on strengths-based leadership and ministry. In most ways it is helpful and necessary even. But in Exodus what we see, I think, is the mission – the end – the project – being given first and then the revelation of God’s gifting to accomplish it.
God gives us gifts for God’s purposes – not ours. God gives skill and wisdom that are meant for God’s glory and God’s mission.
Too often I ask “How can I use my gifts for God?” The question ought to more often be “What does God want me to do and how has God given me what I need to do my part of that work?”
Giver of every good and perfect gift, all that I think of as my giftedness is from you. Every experience as well as every skill and every bit of knowledge and wisdom. Show me what beautiful things you would have me do… what great works you have in mind and that you have given me some small measure of ability to help make real. Amen.