Exodus 35:30-36:38 Builders

The Lord even created the very colors He wanted used in His project.

Moses announces God’s chosen builders and everyone gets to work. The whole group is excited to be undertaking this task.

I’m going to have to start off with a confession. We have read the details of the tabernacle so many times that I find myself skimming through this reading. It may be “old news” to us but it was exciting and new to those on “the ground floor” of constructing what God designed.

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The people had been gathering and bringing supplies to Moses as their freewill offerings to the Lord for a week now. There was so much gathered that it covered the floor of the tent of meeting and rose up in heaps. There was gold and silver and bronze articles in every
imaginable design. There were also stacks of spun yarn in blue, scarlet, purple and white along with pure white goat hair spun and ready for weaving. In another area there were pieces of acacia wood stacked and ready for construction into the various pieces the Lord had commissioned. And in the final area there were jewels of every stone imaginable waiting for their settings. Each and every item here represented the desire of the people to give back to their God.

Each morning Moses would receive the offerings of the people and Joshua would catalogue and stack them inside the tent. After looking over all that had been gathered Moses felt certain that it was time to move onto the actual construction work.

Moses called the people together at the clearing in front of the mountain. “It is time to begin construction of the Lord’s sanctuary. To this end, He Himself has identified and endowed His master builder.”

Moses pauses for a moment as a murmur goes through the crowd as everyone wonders who it is that the Lord has chosen. “I wonder who it is. Surely not me! I have no talents at all.” “Maybe it will be Joshua as he is Moses’ right hand man.”

After a moment of contemplation Moses continued. “The Lord had called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, tow work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft” (verses 30b-33).

Heads begin to nod throughout the congregation. Many had sought out Bezalel over the years to assist them in creating or mending one thing or another. Even in Egypt he was known for his skills as a master craftsman. But he was a humble man and never bragged on his skills.

Bezalel himself was stunned by Moses’ news. He was more than happy to help in this great undertaking but he was a bit concerned with how immense this task was. “What if I make a mistake or can’t do it all? Would the Lord be angry with me if I refused or asked for help?” These thoughts pass through Bezalel’s mind before Moses goes on.

“And He has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with the skill to do every sort of work done by and engraver or by a designer or by and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twisted linen, or by a weaver – by any sort of workman or skilled designer” (verses 34-35).

Oholiab was one of Bezalel’s closest friends and he had just clapped him on the back after being named by Moses. Now both men stand awestruck that the Lord knew them by name and chose them to complete His work. But they also feel SO overwhelmed by the enormity of the work they are called to do. Of course they will do as the Lord has asked but this is going to be a lifelong work with just the two of them.

Moses then addresses their greatest concern. “Bezalel and Oholiab and EVERY CRAFTSMAN IN WHOM THE LORD HAS PUT SKILL AND INTELLIGENCE to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded” (verse 1, emphasis added by me).

Both men breathe a sigh of relief as well as a building excitement to see exactly what it is the Lord is calling them to do. “I can’t wait to see the plans the Lord has given Moses! I wonder how many others will be joining us” comments Bezalel to Oholiab.

“I agree brother! I wonder when we are to begin.”

Again, Moses and the Lord answered the questions in these two men’s hearts. “I need Bezalel and Oholiab and every other craftsman who the Lord has put it into their mind the skill and whose hearts have been stirred up to help to meet with me at the tent of meeting. I have the plans the Lord has provided and the materials from the people waiting there.”

The assembly quickly broke up as Moses stepped down and made his way to the tent of meeting. Several groups formed throughout the congregation. Many were men talking over joining in the group of craftsmen. “I’m really skilled at woodworking. I’m sure there will be some need for that, especially since Moses mentioned that skill.” “I’m great with metals.” “My look work is known by many. I’m going to offer my talents.”

It took no time at all for craftsmen from every skill mentioned to follow Moses. Their wives and families were proud of them for agreeing to join in the task of making the Lord’s sanctuary. They would support them in whatever way they could. Maybe there would be some tasks later that could use a woman’s touch. They had already spun yarn and goat hair for the sanctuary but surely there was something more they could give to their God too.

Moses went into the tent of meeting so he could speak with Joshua before meeting with the craftsmen. He wanted to see the accounting Joshua had created for all the supplies that had been gathered.

“The craftsmen should be here soon Joshua. I need to know what they will have to work with.”

“There are abundant supplies Moses. There seems to be some of everything the Lord listed on the mountain. I can’t say if it will be enough but it is at least a great start.”

“The Lord will provide for His sanctuary. I’m sure He will see to its completion.”

“I agree. Nothing is too difficult for Him and since He commanded this, He will see to its success.”

Both men took one last look at all that had been gathered then turned and exited the tent to meet with the craftsmen. As they stepped through the tent door they were greeted by hundreds of men offering their services to the Lord.

Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab forward. “Bezalel, I am leaving in your hands the task of creating the tabernacle the Lord has designed. Joshua has written all of it out just as the Lord shared with me. There is much to do but I have faith you as the Lord has appointed you Himself. He will be your ultimate guide and inspiration. I look forward to seeing the handiwork He has designed.”

“Thank you Moses for your confidence in me. I will bring every detail to the Lord for His approval, after all, this is His house.”

Moses smiled and then motioned for Joshua to hand over the parchments where he had written the Lord’s instructions regarding His house. “You will find all the materials you need to begin your work in here” he said motioning towards the tent of meeting.  “I trust the Lord will bring the rest of what is needed as the need arises. And on that note brothers, I leave you to your tasks.”

Moses and Joshua turned and left the group of men to their tasks. They trusted the Lord had this task well in hand and didn’t need their assistance, at least for now.

Bezalel faced the crowd to address them. “I am overjoyed to see so many of you choosing to join in this task. I was afraid the Lord was going to have me do this on my own.”

Smiles and nods abounded in the assembled men. “You didn’t think you were going to get ALL the praise did you” was said with a laugh.

“Thankfully, no. But the first thing I need to do is go over the designs Moses had provided. Once I have done that I will have a better understanding of what lies ahead for all of us. While I do that though I would ask that each of you share with Oholiab your two greatest talents. This way we will be able to break up into groups and focus on the areas where we can be of the most value to the Lord’s work. After this is accomplished we will meet back here in the morning to begin this great work. May the Lord bless each of you for your gifts to Him.”

Bezalel stepped away from the front of the group intending to take Moses’ plans to his tent to study them. Many of the men gathered wanted to congratulate him on being chosen and to offer words of support for all that lay ahead of them. It took nearly a half hour for him to make his way through the group of craftsmen, thanking each who approached him for also being part of what God had in store for them.

Oholiab stayed behind organizing the men into groups. He used the skills Moses had specifically listed as his framework for forming the crews. Many of the men possessed several of the talents listed and some were not experts in any but wanted to be a part of the process anyway. Oholiab organized each group with men of all skill levels. Each group would be led by a master artisan to oversee everyone in their group, have several assistance to help with the lesser skilled workers, and some of the unskilled workers that would be used for errands and trained in the skill when time permitted. The only requirement to participate in this great gift to the Lord was a willing heart and a teachable spirit. Very few were turned away who had come at Moses’ call. Those so prideful that they would not work with others or accept direction were denied placement, but even they were given the opportunity to meet with the Lord and work on their issues, then reapply to join in with the others.

Work began the very next morning. The first task of the day was sorting through all the new offerings that people had brought to the work of the Lord. There seemed to be no end to the people’s generosity with this project. Bezalel also shared with his new crew the details of the tasks set before them. This was going to be a big job and take some time to complete. He wanted each man to be certain he was prepared to see it through.

“No one who has doubts about committing to the completion of this task will be looked upon with scorn. This is a BIG job and it has to be done with exacting detail. I imagine there will be many times each of us will be tasked with redoing something that didn’t come out just right. But this is for the Lord and only our best will be acceptable. If either of these is more than you want to commit to, please say so now. There is no condemnation for any who pull out now.”

No one asked to be excused from the roles they had been given. “Alright then. Let’s get started!”

To make work flow smoother, Bezalel set up work areas where the different craftsmen would gather to work on their assignments. Oholiab had gathered equipment well into the night and arranged it for each station. He had enlisted many of the less skilled laborers for this task and assured them that their service was invaluable. He want to make certain that even the most novice of workers KNEW how valuable they were.

It was easy for each of the master craftsmen to recognize their work area as it had all the tools necessary for the completion of their task available. Each master craftsman gathered the members of his group and led them to their workstation. He then went over the schedule they would follow and who would be working with whom. Teams were quickly formed and friendships cemented with a common task and goal. The last piece was for them to await their instructions from Bezalel.

Bezalel had prioritized the tasks as to which would be completed first, second and so on. He also worked with Oholiab regarding reorganizing some of the groups so that larger tasks had enough people to cover their needs while tasks that came later in the process were not left with nothing to do. It was amazing how the Lord seemed to know just who to bring together so that these shifts happened without any issues.

Bezalel and Oholiab made the rounds from group to group handing out assignments. The weavers, woodworkers and smiths were the first groups brought into action. The weavers had the largest load to carry in this portion of the process so its numbers was the most significant. More looms would be brought to bear now that the task was identified. For this first day though they would begin with what they currently had.

Runners were designated from each group to bring the supplies stored in the tent of meeting to their assigned spaces. Also some were tasked with creating shelters for the raw materials and the finished products. Everything had to be stored carefully so as not to spoil the work being poured into the Lord’s sanctuary.

The sounds of work could be heard reverberating throughout the camp as loom shuttles were slammed home, forges were heated, hammers were struck, and happy voices were raised in praise. This was a beautiful sound to be heard in the camp.

Life outside the workstations went on as usual. Animals being tended to, meals being prepared, clothes being laundered, stories being told, children playing, and gardens being tended. But there was a difference even in the everyday activities taking place. There were less arguments and more joy flowed through the camp. Not everyone was involved in the actual work being done on the Lord’s house but the spirit of that work permeated the majority of the camp. Of course there were always a few who refused to join in the joy but even they couldn’t spoil the spirit that flowed through the people.

Every morning started with the runners being called to the tent of meeting to retrieve the people’s latest offerings. The whole camp was caught up in giving to the Lord. After the supplies had been distributed Moses and Joshua would visit the stations and see the work that had been done the previous day. The first few days the crews were afraid Moses might be critical but then they began to realize he was just as excited to see what the Lord was working through the men’s hands as they were. Moses always complemented the pieces that were produced and gave thanks for their efforts. The rest of the day was spent in labor to the Lord.

Each Sabbath the work ended as night fell the previous day. NO work was to be done on the Sabbath. This was a time for reflecting on the Lord and also spending time with one’s family. Many families asked to see the work that had been going on and this was a good time to show it off. To ensure that no “work” was done, there would only be viewing of the piles of the completed and neatly arranged items at each station. In fact, one of the last tasks of the week each group performed was to arrange their work in a presentable order and fashion so it could be viewed by those curious to see the progress on the Sabbath.

After a month of steady progress and daily offerings the master craftsmen of each team met with Moses. “Moses, we have a problem we want to bring to your attention.”

“Please tell me it isn’t a problem with the tabernacle!”

“No. It’s not that kind of problem. In fact it’s not a bad sort of problem at all.”

“What is it then?”

“It is the gifts the people keep bringing.”

“Is there something wrong with the gifts? Do you need more? Are they bringing the wrong things? I can speak to them about this if it is.”

“No. It is just the opposite! The people have been so generous that we are nearly drowning in their gifts. We have MORE than enough to do the work the Lord has commissioned. Our storehouses are overflowing with the materials they have contributed. We would be VERY grateful if you told the people not to bring any more items.”

“Are you certain? Is there anything that is lacking that I could ask for instead?”

“We have EVERYTHING needed to complete the Lord’s design. Nothing is lacking, except space to store what keeps coming.”

“That is a good problem to have. I will speak with the people immediately. I am overjoyed to know that their generosity has exceeded the need and expectation.”

“We are overjoyed as well. Please pass our thanks along to them. They have made our jobs much easier with their generosity.”

That day Moses told the people that there was no longer any need for their offerings. Some asked if they could still bring other things because they wanted to be a part of the process somehow. Moses had to be firm and state that NO other offerings were to be brought. “The storehouses are full and can hold no more. Thank you each for all you have given and for your hearts that still wish to express thanks to the Lord. But you must find another way to do it. Our craftsmen can take no more donations and still have room to ply their skills. Maybe offer praise in song to the Lord instead. I know I never grow weary of hearing your voices in song.”

The people did just that. Their offering changed to words of praise and thanks giving instead of items of gold, silver, bronze and wood. All were given to the Lord for His goodness. Work continued on in the stations and all waited with expectant hearts to see the Lord’s finished results.

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I had to put that piece in here about redoing work that didn’t pass muster. I don’t know how many times I have made a mistake is something I’m working on and had to go back and redo it. My mom’s mom taught her and she taught me that “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Sometimes though, especially when it is a mistake in an area where no one will see, I ignore it and move on. There were no places for these kinds of mistakes in this project of the Lord’s. HE would see it even if “no one else” did. I’m a perfectionist and I don’t know if I could handle this kind of pressure. I see myself in tears TOO often if I had been part of this project!

Thank You Father for all those who were willing to put their hands into Yours to complete this task. YOU gave the talents so I’m hoping You also gave the skill to NOT make too many mistakes. I don’t know how I would have done in that situation. I make enough mistakes in the little things I try and do, including this work. I can’t imagine putting my work on display for hundreds of years to come!

Thank You for letting me be a part of the story today. I love going into the story and feeling what the people felt or seeing what they saw. Thank You for my imagination. Thank You for Your Spirit taking me behind the scenes. I would love to have walked through the “stations” on a Sabbath day and actually looked at what You had created through man’s hands. I wish there was some way to truly see what You commissioned. To trace the lines of the cherubim that were so skillfully woven into the panels. To see EACH AND EVERY panel match up perfectly in width, length, and design. Did You have any of the pattern flow from one panel to the next? Maybe someday You will show it to me.

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