Before Israel embarked on a new journey into the desert, God gave his people a departure gift: the plunder of Egypt. God empowered the Israelites to take jewelry, gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians and carry it into the wilderness (Exodus 12:35-36).
Later, this plunder was used in two collections – a collection to build the tabernacle and a collection from which to fashion a gold calf. Let’s take a closer look at these two collections.
A Collection for the Tabernacle
The Lord gave Moses detailed instructions to build a portable place where he would dwell with his people again – the tabernacle. How were the Israelites supposed to create a finely-designed portable structure in the middle of the wilderness? Where would they find the right supplies? Because of God’s previous permission for Israel to take plunder from Egypt before the exile, the Israelites had enough gold, silver, and other materials to construct the tabernacle exactly as God instructed them. Even more, God filled workers with the specialized gifting of his Spirit to skillfully organize, manage and build the tabernacle! All the Israelites needed to do was give the treasures and talents that God gave them and follow his instructions.
A Collection for the Golden Calf
Unfortunately, the Israelites were not always resolute in turning their hearts and hands to the Lord. When Israel came to Mount Sinai, the Lord called Moses to meet with him at the top of the mountain. During this time, the Israelites grew impatient and asked Aaron to make a god for them who would go before them. Aaron then fashioned a golden calf from the Israelites’ gold earrings and announced, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exod 32:1-4).
A Comparison of Collections
This “tale of two collections” presents us with a dichotomy of biblical giving. The first collection we examined was an invitation by God for “every man whose heart moves him” to give time, talents, and treasures toward building the tabernacle and participate in God’s plans; it was an opportunity to express their faith through giving (Exod 25:9). The second collection was for a plan hatched in the minds of wicked men--the construction of the golden calf. What lessons can we learn from these collections?
God still seeks generous-hearted worship from his people. He still calls his children to steward their time, talents, and treasures in ways that honor him and build his Kingdom on earth. But before we join ourselves to God’s work, we must acknowledge that all of our “gold” is a gift from God; everything we have to offer to him is only a gift from him. We understand that God has invited us to participate in his plans to help build his dwelling place, and in turn, we express our faith through using his gifts for his purposes.
Lessons for Today
- What resources do I have in my possession (more than just money) that I could give?
- What skills has God given me through which I could bless others?
- Do I consider my resources and skills as gifts from God to use for his purposes?