Friends, I have to come clean about following the bible reading plan I have selected. Some days the readings are powerful, they bring clarity and strike me in exactly the place I need. Other days, I want to skim. Do I really need to study the lineage? Is it critical that I read again all about the dimensions of the tabernacle? Cubits and the number of curtains, the specifics of the lampstand, the need for acacia wood? C’mon, we all know these passages are not really for us, let’s get to the “don’t worry” parts, I want the “follow me” nuggets. The readings assigned the last few days made my eyes water and my mind wander. With great sighs of martyrdom, I crossed off each reading when “completed” and hurriedly moved on to the new testament. Yet today, when I slowed down and really looked, sure there must be some point I was missing, some truth amidst all the repletion of how to build that tabernacle, it hit me. I stopped groaning so loudly that I was able to hear God speaking to me.
I can admit that I have always wondered about a God who wanted an ornate space in which to dwell, a fancy site to come down from on high to chat with Moses. Wouldn’t those gold earrings be better given to the poor? A bit showy and wasteful, hard to reconcile with the teachings of Jesus, in my mind. (Yes, I am that person questioning the expensive oil poured out to wash feet.) Then today it hit. God asked the people to offer all the materials to make the tabernacle. The items needed to build it already were in the possession of the people, they merely needed to offer them up to God, share them for the good of all the people. I am sure you already got this, you might be filled with the desire to say, “Duh, Lisa” and I am good with that. I encourage you to say so when next we meet.
Exodus 35.21 says: “Then everyone came whose heart was stirred and everyone whose spirit was willing and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle” Verse 29 says: “The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord” This text is in line with the new testament section I am reading, Matthew 6.19, remember that part about storing up our treasures? God didn’t want a fancy dwelling for His sake, but for ours, that it might be built with our sacrifice. Lightbulb moment! God knew what each person was storing up, the bits of treasure they hide form their fellow travelers. I get it, they were wandering around in the desert, they relied on the manna and quail that appeared, those gold earrings and fine tapestries were 401(k)s for former slaves. They gave up stability even if it was cruel in order to journey into daily reminders of just how little control they had, how small they were and how big God is.
We too are asked to give our most prized possessions to build His kingdom, we are invited to offer up the treasure we amass, whether it is is our gold earrings or our pride, our money or our artistic gifts, we must give those to the One who gave them to us in the first place. God is in the details of our wealth, our security, our big tv and our artfully arranged book shelves. God wants us to offer up every last bit of what we have in order to build His kingdom. Those gifts are not to make Him bigger, but to make us smaller, to make room for more of Him in us. The people gave according to their abundance and it was more than enough to build the tabernacle. More than enough. God said share your wealth and I will reside among you. I am embarrassed to say that in countless readings of the later chapters in Exodus, I didn’t get it until now.
Lent has begun, the season of sacrifice. We are asked to wander with Jesus and discover that less is more, that clearing out the clutter of too much chocolate or Netflix or pride creates more room for God. I am searching my soul for those bits I have stored up, for anger and hurts I wear like fine jewelry, for the self-doubt that I allowed others to nurture into robes of splendor. I am doing some soul searching and finding out-dated ideas and too-small dreams that I have held on to in order to justify timid steps into becoming a kingdom builder. I have also found too many bags of chocolate chips hidden in the pantry, but I digress. Or maybe not. Because God is into the details, is in the details. Skimming over the boring parts of a reading plan or of my day means I just might miss the message. Also, the book of numbers is next… Lord help me.