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. And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work.
I give you a warm welcome to the groundbreaking of the building expansion to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. As you can see, the contractors have already done a lot of work in preparing the site for the future parking lot. We are very excited about seeing our building grow in square footage by 90% and want to take this time to remember God’s grace.
The text which I have chosen for this occasion, Exodus 35, pertains to the building of the tabernacle, the sacred tent where the Lord dwelt with Israel in holiness, grace, and worship. The tabernacle was a construction project requiring the skills of workers in metal, wood, and textiles. It was a beautiful and useful place for the priests to work. However, the tabernacle served a far greater purpose than pleasing the eye and sheltering the body.
God’s purpose in redeeming a people out of Egypt was that He would dwell with them and they would know He is the Lord (Ex. 29:46). This was a type of His great purpose in redeeming His church out of Satan’s dominion by the blood of Jesus Christ: that they would know Him and He would dwell with them. In union with Christ, the church is our tabernacle, not a building but a living temple built with living stones of people from all over the world. And this is the purpose of our seminary. We do not believe in holy buildings, but we gratefully use buildings to build up the holy church of Jesus Christ.
This Scripture teaches us three truths about how God builds His dwelling place. All three are of great encouragement to us as we break ground for the addition on our seminary building. We may summarize them with the three key words we use to describe our seminary: heart, head, and hands.
Heart: God’s redeemed people give willingly to God’s work.
Exodus 35:29a says, “The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing.” God had made known the materials that they would need to build the tabernacle: gold, silver, copper alloy, beautiful textiles, various kinds of leather, acacia wood, and other items (Ex. 25:1–9). It would not be cheap, but would require over 2,000 lbs. of gold and 7,500 lbs. of silver (Ex. 38:24–25). But not only did the people give, but they gave with a “willing” heart. They wanted to give.
Where did the people get all this gold and silver to build the tabernacle? They were slaves in Egypt. Slaves do not own wealth. But when God redeemed them out of slavery, He caused the Egyptians to give them silver and gold (Ex. 11:2; 12:35–36). Redemption made them rich, and they were eager to give for the glory of their Redeemer. How much more does the experience of Christians lead them to give generously to the work of the Lord?
This is the first encouragement to us as we break ground on our construction of an addition to the seminary: God’s redeemed people give willingly. Out of their experience of saving grace, they delight to give their resources to the Lord. We have already seen such remarkable generosity. Isn’t it amazing that of the $3.1 million needed, that we have already received gifts and pledges for nearly $2.5 million? Why would people do that? They understand that our seminary’s mission is to build God’s holy dwelling place in every nation. The redeemed people of God are delighted to give so that the glory of the Lord will fill the earth. I want to thank every one of you who has given your support to this project both in prayers and financial gifts. Your prayerful generosity reflects that the redemption of Christ gives people a willing and giving heart.
Head: God’s Word gives the blueprints for God’s work.
Exodus 35:29b says that Israel gave willingly “for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.” This is a great drumbeat that pulses through the last chapters of Exodus, that they built the tabernacle “as the LORD commanded Moses” (39:5, 7, 21, 26, etc.). God is holy, and His dwelling place must be constructed according to His Word, neither adding nor subtracting.
God did not tell us how to build our seminary addition. We had to find a skilled architect to do that for us, and we thank God for him. But God has told us how to build His church. The Reformed and Puritan vision for the church stands upon the great principle of sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is God’s authoritative revelation of what we should believe, how we obey Him, and how we worship. Our school is committed to the vision of Scripture alone. I thank God for the board and trustees of the seminary, who are profoundly committed to making this seminary a truly Puritan and Reformed institution.
This is the second encouragement for us as we begin this construction project. Like Ezra, we and our students have set ourselves to fill our heads with the Word of God, to obey it, and to teach it in the church—and therefore we expect for the good hand of God to be with us (Ezra 7:9–10). This is not about our merit, for our best works are riddled with sin. It is about God’s commitment to glorify Himself in His church through Christ (Eph. 3:21). Whenever people saved by grace seek to build God’s church according to God’s way, then they can confidently rely upon power of the Lord to strongly support them (2 Chron. 16:9).
God’s Word gives the blueprints for God’s work. Having spoken of the heart and the head, I now come to the third encouragement from our Scripture text.
Hand: God’s Spirit gives practical skills to accomplish God’s work.
Exodus 35:30–33 tells us that God not only gave the motivation and blueprint for the tabernacle, but he called a man named Bezaleel to oversee its construction. Verse 31 says, “And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” This man was gifted by the Holy Spirit, but not to be a preacher. The Holy Spirit filled him with skill to work with his hands as a builder and a craftsman.
If we confine the Holy Spirit to works like teaching the Bible, then we dishonor Him and forget that the Spirit of God created the whole world, including us (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4). All life comes from the Spirit (Ps. 104:30). All skill, all wisdom, and all ability comes from the Spirit. That includes the ability to build beautiful and useful things with earth, wood, metal, and stone.
It is a great encouragement to us to know as the worker’s hand steers the excavator or guides the saw, the Lord’s hand is directing the worker. You contractors and construction workers, we want you know that we pray for you. May God’s Spirit give you safety and skill so that this project is truly a blessing to us all and useful for the kingdom of God. And may you have joy in your labors, the joy of knowing that the Spirit of God is supporting you.
Isn’t God good? He gives the head, heart, and hands we need to serve Him! Let us pray that the results of this head-heart-hands ministry may be fulfilled in the hallways and classrooms of this projected building, such that hundreds of cities and villages on every continent of this globe may be its beneficiary. To that end, let us continue to pray and dream our great vision that every city on the earth would one day—and could it be soon—have at least one Reformed, experiential preacher who may herald forth the full and free gospel of Jesus Christ to lost and saved sinners to the glory of God alone.