In 2003, an Egyptian lawyer announced plans to sue “all the Jews of the world” for the gold, silver, jewels, and other treasures “stolen” from the Egyptians in the Exodus. Based on Exodus 35:12–36 in today’s reading, he calculated the amount to be at least 300 tons of gold—plus 5,758 years’ worth of interest!
The wealth taken from the Egyptians in the Exodus made possible the construction of the tabernacle. How appropriate that these riches, linked to slavery and idolatry, would now be used for worship of the one true God!
From Exodus 35–40, God’s instructions were carried out and the tabernacle was built. Bezalel and Oholiab and their volunteer team of men and women took the gold, silver, and other materials given by the people and got to work. This obedience contrasts strongly with Israel’s flagrant disobedience in chapter 32, especially in terms of what use was made of their material and artistic gifts. One was sinful and idolatrous, the other righteous and worshipful.
Why were the detailed instructions of earlier chapters repeated again? The NIV Study Bible explains: “Such repetition was a common feature of ancient Near Eastern literature and was intended to fix the details of a narrative in the reader’s mind.” This was particularly helpful in an oral culture, when books were not available.
As the work started, the craftsmen encountered a rare problem—too much giving (36:3–7)! Moses had to command the people to stop. Repentance and discipline after the golden calf episode had transformed their hearts. Permission to begin work on the tabernacle served as an additional reassurance that the covenant still existed, and God’s presence would continue to go with them on the journey ahead.
The Lord has given you special talents and abilities to use for His glory, as well as spiritual gifts for service in the church. Using them to build only a successful career or a comfortable life is like creating a golden calf. Are you obediently using your talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts for God’s glory? Is He leading you to do more?