This congregation has long been blessed by people with generous hearts. We don’t have any loans to repay, we even remodeled this sanctuary and added air conditioning to it a couple years ago, we raised the money needed for the parking lot, the house next door where the Satre family will be living while on furlough from the mission work in Cameroon is furnished, on the other side of that we own the land where the youth group was playing softball on Wednesday night and the garage down the street where the youth group and puppets meet, the church also has been given different pieces of property adding up to about 15 acres along the 190 that we can access from Mayle Court and from Lockport Road, and when Mildred Thompson died last year she left us an annuity of almost $12,000 and we just found out that she also also left us some investments worth something like $17,000. And I could give other examples, but that should be enough to establish that this congregation has long been blessed by people with generous hearts right on down to the present. Praise be to God! Thankfully, the people of God have long had a reputation for being a generous people who willingly give to the Lord. The collection for the tabernacle in Exodus was no different. Back then the people gave so much that Moses had to command in Exodus 36, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution of the sanctuary” because “the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more” (36:6-7). Our two passages today describe the offering that would be collected. The first was while Moses was up on the mountain for those 40 days and nights and the remarkable thing is that the second was after the people sinned with the golden calf.
The people of Israel generously responded to God’s call for materials for the tabernacle.
This was their first opportunity to give to a major building campaign after salvation from slavery in Egypt. Being saved was plenty enough reason to be thankful to God and want to give generously to the tabernacle building fund. After all, much of the materials needed for the tabernacle had been plundered from Egypt. God had given the people of Israel favor in the eyes of the Egyptians so that the Egyptians would give to them whatever they asked. So now they had the opportunity to give that plunder to God as worship. But after the great sin with the golden calf, many of the people must have been filled with gratitude that they even had the opportunity to give to the project at all. Even after Moses talked God out of destroying the people and starting over, it was still not clear for a while that the building of the tabernacle would go forward and that God would be with them. But now that God has agreed to go with them, they responded faithfully with joyful generosity from the heart.
What giving with generosity from the heart means is perhaps even more clear when we contrast this giving with the giving of gold for the golden calf. Back in Exodus 32 Aaron didn’t ask for a free-will offering, he commanded the people to take off the rings of gold in their ears and bring them to him and then he fashioned the gold into a golden calf. By contrast God wanted the tabernacle materials to be supplied only by every man whose heart moves him or whoever is of a generous heart. In other words, God wanted contributions for the tabernacle only from those who would offer them willingly. Therefore, to be generous means to give freely or willingly or from the heart that is fully committed to the Lord. (This would not be the last time the nation would have the opportunity to respond to a building fund appeal with joyful generosity flowing from a heart fully committed to the Lord.)
Later in the history of Israel, the people would generously respond to God’s call for materials for the temple in Jerusalem.
The book of Chronicles in particular describes David as a new Moses and the temple as a new tabernacle and once again all Israel was invited to participate. 1 Chronicles 29 details how King David and the people of Israel made their freewill offerings and verse 9 reads, “Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to YHWH. David the king also rejoiced greatly.” And among other words that David said about their offering was this prayer to God: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chron 29:14). So once again this new Moses and all Israel understood that these materials in their hands belonged to God and they praised God for letting them willingly give those things to God for His house among them.
Chronicles was telling this story many years later, to people who lived after the exile, so that they would understand the faithful response of God’s people is joyful generosity flowing from a heart fully committed to the Lord. The application was straightforward for the Chronicler and he hoped that when Christ came the people would respond to Him willingly and that with a whole heart they would freely offer to the Lord.
And so now today you are invited to contribute to a grand building campaign – the building of a new tabernacle, a new temple, made up of you and every other Christian.
Jesus as the prophet greater than Moses and the king greater than David is overseeing the collection for the construction of a new home for God not just with His people but in His people. The Lord said to Moses, “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst,” (25:8) but in Christ you together are the sanctuary or dwelling place of God. The risen Jesus, exalted far above Moses and David, on Pentecost poured out the Holy Spirit on His church so that God would live within all of His people. Thus you have the great privilege to give to the Lord what is His for a building campaign far more important than the tabernacle or temple. Your freewill offerings pay the pastor whom God chose and gifted as a skilled craftsman to study His Scripture blueprint and to teach and equip you to build up this living temple and your freewill offerings provide the materials and meeting space for your training in this kind of carpentry, embroidery, and engraving. You might say then that all of your generous giving to the Lord goes into one building fund or another.
This congregation has long been blessed by people with generous hearts and can continue to be blessed because God lives in your hearts. You willingly and freely want to give to the Lord what belongs to Him with your whole heart. When we read in the passages about a person whose heart moves him or the person who has a generous heart it was a perfect description of your new heart. Every Christian has the Spirit of God in their new hearts and thus every Christian has a generous heart. This has several implications for how we think about giving. You don’t ever give in order to be saved; you freely give out of gratitude because Jesus already has saved you. You don’t give only when you have some extra money; you give to the Lord first before your other spending. You don’t give only when the church has a need; your giving is worship. You don’t hold back thinking the church has enough or even too much because unlike the materials needed for the tabernacle you know that you can’t give more than enough but you also know that God does. God is the perfect Father who always gives us more than we need. He does not ask us to give what we don’t have, but He does encourage us to give what we have in faith even when we don’t think that we have enough. There are several benefits to giving generously. When we are worried about our finances and think we don’t have enough, generous giving to God helps us to overcome those fears. When we are teaching our children values, generous giving to God helps us to show them that true joy and contentment are found in Jesus Christ and the greatest things in life aren’t things. When we generously give to the Lord we grow in faith, joy, and love. And there are other benefits too, but a generous heart doesn’t give for what I can get out of it; generous giving is worship offered from a heart where God lives. May you always give cheerfully and willingly from a heart fully committed to the Lord. And may He always get the glory. Amen.