Dear radio friends,
In that great chapter on the resurrection from the dead, I Corinthians 15, the chapter celebrating the victory that is ours in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul concludes with these well-known words of calling: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 58). The Scriptures mean to say to us that those who truly know the wonder of God’s redeeming love and grace will go about their Christian life and calling with unbounded zeal. Abound, says the apostle, in the Lord’s work, not grudging, not the attitude, “Do I have to?” “How little can we get away with?” Not apathetic; but overflowing, going beyond, abounding in the Lord’s work. When the heart knows the wonder of God’s marvelous grace, we will go about the Lord’s work with abounding zeal. We will do much more than enough.
These are the words that we take today from the Scriptures in Exodus 36:4-7 where we read that in the days of Moses, when he had called for offerings to be brought for the temple, the people brought much more than enough, much more than was sufficient. In fact, Moses had to make a commandment that the people cease bringing their offerings. They did much more than just enough.
Is this the way you serve God? Do you serve God out of a heart that is overflowing in the love of God? There is the matter, of course, of our financial giving. That is always appropriate for us to hear. But more, there is also the work of the Lord involved in all of our Christian life, in all of our church life, and in the life of the Christian school. Do we go about the Lord’s work with the attitude, “Do we have to?” Do we go about that work with continual criticisms of those who are engaged in the work? Or are we characterized by an overflowing zeal?
In this day of materialism, do we, the citizens of Christ’s kingdom, seek our own ease and our own things first? Or, out of our hearts, awed by the grace of God, do we abound in the Lord’s work? Today we must look at ourselves. We must take hold of that sinful nature — for by nature we are always ready to look at somebody else, especially when it comes to financial contributions to the kingdom of God. And we are ready to say, “Why don’t they give more?” No, today let us look at our own hearts. What does my church life, what does my involvement in the Lord’s work show about my heart? Does it show that I am abounding in the love of God?
The passage that I referred to, Exodus 36:4-7, is an example of zeal and excessive giving on the part of the children of Israel. The name Exodus means, of course, “going out.” The people of Israel, God’s people, had been in Egypt for 400 years. God brought them out by a mighty hand. And when they were in the wilderness, He said to them, “Build Me an house.” They had just committed a horrible sin of image worship. While Moses was on the Mount receiving the law of God they had made themselves a golden calf and bowed down in worship to it. They had sinned greatly. But God had brought them to repentance. He had shown them again His grace and His mercy and His forgiveness. That grace, now, in their consciousness and in their heart, caused them to do much more than enough. We read the following concerning the people of God, “For the stuff they had [contributed] was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
For what were the people bringing too much? The answer is: God’s cause on earth, as represented in His church — the cause of the gospel. We read in verse 5, “for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make.” God had commanded them to make something. That something was the tabernacle. If we go back to Exodus 25:8 we read that God said to Moses, “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
The call had gone out, then, to each member of the congregation of Israel to bring that which he could — gold or silver, jewelry, dyes, skins, cloth, wood, oil, or themselves. Men had been placed in charge of these offerings. In fact, two men (Bezaleel and Aholiab) who were wise-hearted had been designated to oversee the enterprise. Every morning, we read, the offerings were collected. A report soon came to Moses that the people were bringing too much, that they had gone beyond the level of what could be used, that the builders were now swamped with raw materials. Moses, after he hears this report, makes a proclamation to the people of Israel: “Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people,” we read (v. 6), “were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
In today’s terms, it is as if a consistory of a church would announce in the bulletin (or from the pulpit), that at the last counting of the deacons “we have received too much for the work of the Lord. The deacons report that the balances in the funds for the congregation far exceed what could conceivably be used. The balance in the fund for benevolence and the poor is beyond what we can possibly use. The balance for mission work, the balance for the aid of those who are in need, the balance for the contribution for Christian schools has far exceeded any future expectations. There is much more than enough.”
Or as if an evangelism committee would report to the congregation: “Too many members showed up for our evangelism outreach on Saturday. We wanted to go through the neighborhood distributing pamphlets on the Scriptures and the Reformed faith and we ran out of pamphlets. There were just too many with this zeal.”
What was the cause, what was the reason for which they so enthusiastically and excessively supported this work? It was because they loved the cause of God. And that cause was summed in these words, “That I might dwell among them.” Remember that Moses had been up to the mountain, and God then had given to him the vision of how the tabernacle was to be built in its details, its minute details — the blueprints, the measurements, the materials, and the design had all been transmitted to Moses and it was all very beautiful. Sometimes we might think that the tabernacle that Moses built out in the wilderness was just a “ho-hum” tent. Maybe you even view it as an army surplus tent — dull gray or green. No! No expense was barred. It was beautiful. It was beautiful because it represented God’s covenant. It represented this truth that God might dwell among them.
This tabernacle that Moses was to build represented the truth that the Almighty would spread the canopy of His love over His people, a people whom He had found in a waste-howling desert land; that God would come down to them in the Shekinah cloud of His glory and He would dwell between the cherubim with His people. And God would show His heart to His people. And in that tabernacle, as the people came up to worship Him, God would say to His people, “I love you. I have great things in store for you.”
The tabernacle that Moses was to build was the center of their faith. It represented the presence of God. It represented atonement and reconciliation. It declared that their deepest problem was sin. The deepest problem they faced was not survival in the desert. The deepest problem was not low-income housing. But their deepest problem was sin. And the tabernacle represented the promise that God would wash away their sin in His own Son so that they could dwell with Him and have Him as their God. No wonder, then, that it was to be a lovely tabernacle. The very best and skilled craftsmen were called to work upon it. Precious stones were used. Everything was to be layered in gold. The softest of linen was used. It was to be luxurious because it represented the great and the invisible love of God — of God dwelling with them in covenant fellowship. And for this cause the people gave willingly. No, they gave excessively. They gave much more than just enough.
Is this true for you, for me? We, too, have the blessing of supporting the work of God and the building of His tabernacle. God, by His grace, has come down to us with the canopy of His love in Christ Jesus. In the gospel He has declared that He has washed us, filthy sinners, and He has drawn us to Himself by an irresistible love and grace. He has given to us His church on earth. This is the tabernacle of God. We read in Ephesians 2:18-20 that the church is that which is builded up as the holy temple — a habitation of God through the Spirit. “In My tabernacle, that is, in My church,” God says, “I will remind you of My love. I will teach you My secrets. I will show to you My gospel. And I will give you a work to do — a work in My service. That work is: preach the gospel. Build up the church. That work, parents, is: teach your children. That work, church, is: missions — spread forth the glad tidings of this glorious gospel. That work is: caring for the poor.” God is saying to us that in this desert world, this world of sin and hate, this world that is prepared for the judgment, God has, nevertheless, in this world pitched His tabernacle. He has built His church. In that church He has given the oath that He will care for us, and He will bless us. And in that church He has given to us a calling that we might be active in the work of the Lord.
Is there anything better than the service of God in His church? For that cause, we are privileged to give, give ourselves, give ourselves lavishly, and give excessively. Not just in financial contributions, but in talents, in time, in involvement.
Do we greet this call, this great work, with indifference? Do you give to the work of the Lord the leftovers of your energy? Do you go about serving Him in a grumbling way? Or, out of a heart that overflows? Do we give much more than enough?
There is, as I said, the cause of financial giving to the church of Jesus Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is concerned with the support of the ministry of the gospel because we believe that the minister is to give himself to the study and to the preaching and the teaching of the Word. Further, we believe that we should have a place of worship, a place of prayer, a place where the congregation can gather on the Lord’s day, a place for the teaching of catechism, a place for fellowship. Therefore, the call goes out to bring for the service of the Lord your contributions, your collections for the church.
But there is more. There is the cause of missions — the sending forth of the gospel, in this country and throughout the world. There is the cause of maintaining a seminary — something that Reformed churches take seriously. As Reformed churches, we gather together in one faith to establish a seminary where that precious gospel may be imparted unto young men, called of Christ into the ministry of the Word. And then there are the alms for the poor, the contributions that are made, the call of deacons to support the cause of the poor both within the house of God and, as we have opportunity, to do good unto all men. There is also the cause of the Christian schools, where we teach our children all subjects in the light of God’s Word.
Now, concerning all of these causes: do they go begging? Do they receive the leftovers? Or can we be characterized, can you, is your church characterized, by these words: “the people bring much more than enough”? “Their hearts overflow in zeal and love for the cause of God.”
But there is more than just the financial. There is the call to use our time, our talents, for the cause of God — to volunteer to help, to be involved, to serve the church, to serve on committees, to serve in the school.
How do we go about this work of the Lord? Do we go about it halfheartedly? Do we serve the King of all kings and Lord of all lords grudgingly, critically, as if we would much rather be in the employ of someone else? We would much rather give our time, our money, and our talents for other things, but, well, we have to do this. Is this the way we serve Him?
The Scriptures are teaching us that when we stand truly before the wonder of the grace of the Almighty God to such impoverished and filthy sinners as ourselves, we will abound in the work of the Lord. Moses had to restrain the people from bringing. He had to tell them, “No, no more. We can’t take any more. You’ve gone beyond what we can possibly ever need.” They had been so caught up in the love of God that Moses had to hold them back.
What about you? What about me?
We are told that this was done willingly and freely from the heart. That is very important to God. If you were to read Exodus 35 and Exodus 36, you would find repeatedly these words: That everyone whose heart stirred him up and whose spirit was made willing brought an offering to the Lord. It is repeated four or five times.
Offerings to the Lord are a deeply spiritual matter. There must be the stirring of the heart, which means that the Holy Spirit must work in you and give you to see how God has dealt with you. You have to be able to see the need and to love the need. In the light of what God has done for me, how can I not give to the needs of His kingdom? I want to do so. That is why the contributions for the church are not a tax. Do not ever refer to it as a tax. The church does not tax her members. Governments and kings tax. The Scriptures say we are to pay tribute to whom tribute is due. But not for God’s kingdom. There are no taxes in God’s kingdom. For all of God’s children offer willingly and freely, from the heart. They love the King, and His grace rules in their heart. And their offerings are not to be a mere outward compliance. But they spring forth from the grace of God in their hearts. This is important to God.
After all, God would say to us that it is not as if He is strapped and as if He needs us, for all the world belongs to Him. But He requires a willing heart. In the prophecies of Isaiah and of many others of the Old Testament prophets, God would say to the people of Israel at various times, “Don’t bring any more offerings.” Not because they were bringing in too much, but because they were doing it formally, they were doing it without thought, they were doing it grudgingly. They were bringing the secondary things of their life. The people would respond and say, “Why is God angry with us? We’re bringing in the offerings. After all, we’re doing what we were told. I paid my part!” And the Lord would respond: “Your heart is far from Me. You serve Me as a matter of the lips and not from the heart. You do this as a matter of duty and not from your soul.” God requires the heart.
When you are in a worship service and collection is taken, that is part of the worship service. That is not the time that everybody is to read the bulletin, to look around at other people as to what they are wearing, or who is in church. It is a time to worship, in which you are to meditate upon the riches of His grace to you, a filthy sinner. Then, out of your heart — in the words of Scripture: not grudgingly, not of necessity, but as a cheerful giver — you are to render to the Lord. Do we give willingly?
If you give out of necessity, there is a spiritual problem in your soul. If we say, “Well, that better be enough. That’s all I’m willing to do,” then you and I have a spiritual problem.
Not only did the people of Israel give willingly, but they gave according to their ability. Some brought skins, others brought gold. Some brought wood, others brought fasteners or linen, as the Lord had prospered each one. Then we can add: they gave continually, they gave each day, they gave out of all of their substance. They did not say, “I gave last year. I served my term in the past. I volunteered once but not anymore.” They gave continually until the need was met, until the church said, “Stop. We have much more than enough.”
Why did they do this? It ought to be plain by now, I would trust. It was not because of a law. It was not outward compulsion. And it was not for the eye of man. The motive must not be our pride — that we earn a reputation as those who are excessive or big givers. But we must give out of thankfulness.
Every offering to God, whether it is a dollar bill, whether it is time, whether it is talent, no matter what it is, it must be drawn out of the well of thankfulness. There is no other source for the offering unto God than thankfulness — the response that grace works in the heart to the gospel. In the gospel we hear God say, “I love you in Christ.” And that wonder stirs our hearts.
It is all found in Psalm 116: What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? How shall my soul, by grace restored, give worthy thanks, O God, to Thee? “Freely,” said Jesus, “ye have received; freely ye shall give.”
Here was Israel in the day of Moses standing at the Red Sea, having witnessed the wonderful deliverance of God out of Egypt and their enemies drowned in the Red Sea. Here is Israel, immediately having transgressed and shown that they have forfeited all right to any of God’s goodness. They are forgiven in the promise of God’s own Son. And they are now put back on the road to Canaan. And God says, “Build Me a tabernacle where I might dwell among you.” And they bring offerings, much more than enough.
Now God says to you and to me, “I have redeemed you. I have made you rich. Here is My cause on earth. This is the cause of the glorious gospel. It shall never suffer a day of defeat.” And we, too, feel our hearts stirred within us, our spirits made willing. It is a glorious thing to serve in His cause. It is a wonderful thing to be able to give of your time, your talent, your money, your all to that kingdom. Put yourself before the grace of God. What did you deserve? What did God give to us?
Now, with a willing heart, let us offer to the Lord. Then we will not think of what someone else is giving. We will not think, “How little can I get away with.” But, “I want to. I want to do more than enough. I want to abound in the Lord’s work.” Why? Because of His unspeakable gift of love to me in Christ Jesus.
Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thy Word may be the enlightening of our hearts today, and that we may serve Thee aboundingly, and that it may be said of us, the people bring much more than enough. In Jesus’ name, Amen.