The children of Israel brought a willing offering to the LORD, every man and woman…
There was plenty of compulsory work, of statutory contribution, in the Old Testament system of worship. Sacrifices and tithes and other things were imperative, but the Tabernacle was constructed by means of undemanded offerings, and there were parts of the standing ritual which were left to the promptings of the worshipper's own spirit. There was always a door through which the impulses of devout hearts could come in, to animate what else would have become dead, mechanical compliance with prescribed obligations.
I. We have set forth here THE TRUE MOTIVE OF ACCEPTABLE SERVICE. "They came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing." There is a striking metaphor in that last word. Wherever the spirit is touched with the sweet influences of God's love, and loves and gives back again, that spirit is buoyant, lifted, raised above the low, fiat levels where selfishness feeds fat and then rots. The spirit is raised by any great and unselfish emotion. Continual contact with Jesus Christ, and realization of what He has done for us, is sure to open the deep fountains of the heart, and to secure abundant streams. If we can tap these perennial reservoirs, they will yield like artesian wells, and need no creaking machinery to pump a scanty and intermittent supply. We cannot trust this deepest motive too much, nor appeal to it too exclusively. Let me remind you, too, that Christ's appeal to this motive leaves no loophole for selfishness or laziness. Responsibility is all the greater because we are left to assess ourselves. The blank form is sent to us, and He leaves it to our honour to fill it up. Do not tamper with the paper, for remember there is a Returning Officer that will examine your schedule who knows all about your possessions.
II. We get here THE MEASURE OF ACCEPTABLE WORK. We have a long catalogue, very interesting in many respects, of the various things that the people brought. Such sentences as these occur over and over again — "And every man with whom was found" so-and-so "brought it"; "And all the women did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun"; "And the rulers brought" so-and-so. Such statements embody the very plain truism that what we have settles what we are bound to give. Or, to put it into grander words, the capacity is the measure of duty. Our work is cut out for us by the faculties and opportunities that God has given us. The form as well as the measure of our service is determined thereby. "She hath done what she could," said Jesus Christ about Mary. We often read that, as if it were a kind of apology for a sentimental and useless gift, because it was the best that she could bestow. I do not hear that tone in the words at all. I hear, rather, this: that duty is settled by faculty, and that nobody else has any business to interfere with that which a Christian soul, all aflame with the love of God, finds to be the spontaneous and natural expression of its devotion to the Master. The words are the vindication of the form of loving service; but let us not forget that they are also a very stringent; requirement as to its measure, if it is to please Christ. "What she could." The engine must be worked up to the last ounce of pressure that it will stand. All must be got out of it that can be got out of it.
III. Notice, again, how in this list of offerings there comes out the great thought of THE INFINITE VARIETY OF FORMS OF SERVICE AND OFFERING, WHICH ARE ALL EQUALLY NEEDFUL AND EQUALLY ACCEPTABLE. The list begins with "bracelets, and ear-rings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold." And then it goes on to "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood." And then we read that the women did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun — namely, the same things as have been already catalogued, the blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. That looks as if the richer gave the raw material, and the women gave the labour. Poor women, they could not give, but they could spin. They had no stores, but they had ten fingers and a distaff; and if some neighbour found the stuff, the ten fingers joyfully set the distaff twirling, and spun the yarn for the weavers. Then there were others who willingly undertook the rougher work of spinning, not dainty thread for the rich soft stuffs whose colours were to glow in the sanctuary, but the coarse black goats' hair which was to be made into the heavy covering of the roof of the Tabernacle. No doubt it was less pleasant labour than the other, but it got done by willing hands. And then, at the end of the whole enumeration, there comes — "And the rulers brought precious stones, and spices, and oil," and all the expensive things that were needed. The big subscriptions are at the bottom of the list, and the smaller ones are in the place of honour. All this just teaches us this — what a host of things of all degrees of preciousness in men's eyes go to make God's great building! All the things that are given, and the works that are done from the same motive, because of the willing heart, stand upon the same level of acceptance and preciousness in His eyes, whatever may be their value in the market-place.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.