Most people, when they give offertory messages, like to go to the same few places in the Bible over and over again. Rather than giving you reasons why you should give an offering this time, I thought it preferable to give you an example of what offerings are pleasing to God and how that may serve as an example to us of what is most important to God about the offering that we give. Let us look at three elements of a specific offering given a long time ago by the people of God: the types of items that are part of an offering, the types of people that give the offering, and the result of the offering.
Take From Among You An Offering To The Lord
Let us turn first to Exodus 35:4-9. Here we read about what items God wanted in an offering to build the tabernacle of Israel. Let us read what God said about this offering and see what it means for us. Exodus 35:4-9 reads as follows: “And Moses spoke to all of the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed read, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.”
Here we see that when God wanted an offering for the tabernacle, He specified exactly what materials He wanted. He was not vague about what He wanted Israel to give, but He was also specifically interested only in gifts from a willing heart. He did not want to force those who had items God wanted for the tabernacle to give them. Rather, He gave all of Israel the opportunity to give items, if they had them, that would be a part of the tabernacle. Not all of these items were precious—some were, like gold and precious stones, but others were items that hunters would have, like badger skins, and others were pretty ordinary, like bronze or wood or colored threads. God does not only like fancy offerings, but also is concerned about ordinary goods and behaviors.
They Brought The Lord’s Offering
To understand more about what people gave offerings to God, let us now turn to Exodus 35:20-29. Here we see what people brought the items that God had commanded to be brought for use in the tabernacle of God. Exodus 35:20-29 reads as follows: “And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 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 of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry made of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord. And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them. Everyone who offered and offering of silver or bronze brought the Lord’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair. The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and the breastplate, and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense. The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.”
Let us note two aspects of this particular passage. First, let us note who is involved in giving the offering. It is everyone with a willing heart. It includes ordinary men and women, skilled craftsmen and artisans, and rulers. Everything offered, whether precious materials or not, was considered the Lord’s offering. God did not show partiality to one group of people or one group of offerings over another. He respected and honored the offerings of all. And He does the same today. He respects the offering of the rich and poor, of male and female, of the young and old, so long as one’s offerings come from a genuine and willing heart.
Second, let us note that the offering does not only include the gold or items offered, but also the work that went into turning them into the tabernacle. Likewise, our offerings are not only our money that we give to God’s church, but also our work with our natural God-given gifts and talents. If we speak, or sing, or play musical instruments, or make artistic works, or write, or carve wood or stone, or build houses, or fix cars, or make clothing, or serve our brethren and neighbors in a godly fashion, or pray on someone’s behalf in time of need, we make an offering to God. Let us not be so consumed with material and physical matters that we forget the larger context of offerings, and show praise and gratitude for the offerings of others, for which we pray they will be blessed both now and in the world to come by our loving Father in heaven.
Much More Than Enough
For our final passage in today’s offertory message, let us turn to Exodus 36:2-7. Here we see what God says about the offering that the children of Israel gave. Exodus 36:2-7 reads as follows: “Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan whose work was stirred, to come and do the work. And they received from Moses all the offering which the children of Israel brought for the work of the service of making the sanctuary. So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work he was doing, and they spoke to Moses saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.” So Moses gave a commandment and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done—indeed too much.”
Let us note one final lesson from the story of this offering. The children of Israel gave with a willing heart, so much so that they gave more than God needed for the building of the tabernacle. When they had given enough, Moses commanded that the offering stop—because neither he nor anyone else was to be made wealthy as a result of the offerings of others. When people give genuinely with a willing heart, what the people give is enough, often much more than enough, for the purposes and plans of God. For God does not need our generosity—He is the maker of all things on heaven and earth and needs nothing from us—rather, God wishes us to be willing givers for our own spiritual benefit.
So, in conclusion, let us remember the three lessons we learn from the offering from ancient Israel for the building of the tabernacle in our own offerings today. First, God is specific about his offerings, and concerned above all else that they be done willingly and not coerced by others. Second, offerings are given by everyone, not merely the wealthy and powerful; and they not only include money and items, but also labor and service. Third, when we give generously and willingly, what we give is more than enough for God’s purposes. Let us remember today, and every Holy Day, to give as the children of Israel did in Exodus chapters 35 and 36, with a willing heart.