20 Then all the congregation of the Israelites withdrew from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought theLord’s offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments. 22 So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and pendants, all sorts of gold objects, everyone bringing an offering of gold to the Lord. (Exodus 35:20-22 NRSV)
This section from today’s Life Journal reading (Exodus 35-36) details the actual creation of the tabernacle described in earlier chapters. Similarly, it describes after the passage I have selected above the chief artisans who were described earlier (and about whom I wrote a few days ago in my Life Journal entry).
The offering brought by the congregation emphasizes the same thing as the descriptions of the artisans – the heart is as important, perhaps more so, than the gifts themselves.
Their hearts are described as “stirred” (KJV says “whose hearts stirred him up”) and whose spirits were “willing. According to the NET Bible footnotes, the “stirred” in English comes from a verb meaning “to lift up, bear, carry” and therefore suggest being moved to action. Similarly “willing” is a word used to describe in other parts of Exodus the freewill offerings that people brought. NET notes says “his spirit made him willing.”
Both of these verbs suggest (?) something almost outside the control of the congregations. Their hearts and spirits took control of their actions?
This offering represents the climax of the plan God had spoken to Moses in earlier chapters and for which God had inspired and gifted those who could do the work.
If I seem to be stuck in the Old Testament it may be the case. I have journaled on some Gospel and New Testament passages but few so far this year. I think one of the reasons is that the passages each day have grabbed my heart regarding something with which I am wrestling or something about which I had been thinking.
Today I noticed that this tale of the generous offering brought for the creation of the beautiful objects described earlier is the final act of a drama that began with Moses being told what to construct in some details (the tabernacle, the ark, etc.) and also noting that God has both gifted and inspired some for the work that the beautiful creations require.
This speaks to me about vision and mission today – something that is causing me restless nights and more than a little daytime anxiety. God reveals to Moses a plan, a picture of what He wants them to do and calls/gifts some to lead the effort. Moses shares the vision and the people respond out hearts stirred and spirits that are willing. A clear picture of articulating and living into vision.
This story pushes me today as this compelling picture isn’t one that fits with my recent experience and I am wrestling with how to respond and react. I shared after some significant preparation and prayer a brief vision several weeks ago and then last Sunday gave the first of three (promised) sermons unpacking what I said two weeks ago. And the only significant response that I received was highly critical and, from my perspective, a reaction to something I didn’t even say.
So I have bagged the remaining two sermons. I am struggling with the final piece – what happens when people’s hearts aren’t stirred and their spirits aren’t willing? Is the vision wrong? Did I not hear what I thought God and others in were saying? Feeling adrift, frustrated, and defeated today.
Lord, Moses heard from you a clear vision of what you wanted and you stirred the him, the leaders, and the people to give themselves to that vision. It seldom seems so simple in my life and ministry. Help me to learn, to see, to understand what you have left here for my instruction and edification because today I don’t see or understand. Amen.