Yesterday was a day of giving for many of us, particularly those who live in the Western World. Christmas Day has become a time for the giving and receiving of gifts. Being a day of rest for most professions, we were able to spend the entire day with family, enjoying each other’s company, eating a feast together, and then playing games and watching films.
Although as children, our emphasis too often was on what we were “getting” for Christmas, as we grew older the enjoyment is what we are able to give to others. We realise the problem when we hear children who are more concerned with how many gifts have their name on them rather than wishing to see the joy on someone’s face because of the gift we gave them.
In Exodus 35, God asked the Israelites to give him a gift. The gift that God received would be used to construct a place of worship for the Israelites, a special tent where sacrifices would be offered and worship of God would take place.
“They came, men and women alike, all who had willing hearts. They brought brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments, all kinds of gold jewellery, and everyone came who waved a wave offering of gold to the Lord. Everyone who had blue, purple, or scarlet yarn, fine linen, goats’ hair, ram skins dyed red, or fine leather brought them. Everyone making an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the Lord, and everyone who had acacia wood for any work of the service brought it. Every woman who was skilled spun with her hands and brought what she had spun, blue, purple, or scarlet yarn, or fine linen, and all the women whose heart stirred them to action and who were skilled spun goats’ hair. The leaders brought onyx stones and other gems to be mounted for the ephod and the breastpiece, and spices and olive oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. The Israelites brought a freewill offering to the LORD, every man and woman whose heart was willing to bring materials for all the work that the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do” (Exodus 35:22-29 NET).
You might be wondering where a nation of slaves had acquired such expensive gifts of gems, gold and silver, as well as cloth. If you remember back when they left Egypt, the Egyptian people, in an effort to get them out as quickly as possible, gave them whatever they had asked for. God had told them to ask for gold and silver and clothing (Exodus 12:35-36).
In a way, what the Israelites were giving to God really was not their own – it was items that had belonged to the Egyptians and had been given to them. But God did not coerce them to give either – this was a “freewill” offering. It was their choice to give.
And is this not the same for us as Christians. We give to the Lord as part of our worship each week. But what are we giving? Is it really something that solely belongs to us? Or is it what really belongs to God that he has allowed us to have and to use? God has not specified how much we are to give. It is still a “freewill” offering. But he has challenged us: can we out give God? Paul simply reminds Christians of their great debt to God in this short sentence: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Readings for next week:
28 December – Exodus 37
29 December – Exodus 38
30 December – Exodus 39
31 December – Exodus 40
1 January –