“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” (Exodus 25:2)
From the beginning to the end of the Bible we notice that God wants to dwell with the crown of His creation – man. At Christmas time we readily quote and sing one particular name of the Lord Jesus Christ and its meaning: Emmanuel, God with us. The purpose of the incarnation was to open the way for God to dwell with man. At Easter we remember how this was accomplished and directs our attention forward to the day when it will be an absolute reality.
Israel had a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as witness of God’s presence. The next step was to have Israel build a portable sanctuary where God would dwell with the people as they travelled in the wilderness.
One can only wonder at what Moses thought of the Lord’s directive to obtain all the materials, including much gold and silver, from the people of Israel. They were a tribe of slaves who had left Egypt kicking, screaming and complaining at every obstacle. Would they have the materials and, if they did, could they be extracted from their hands? Also, the materials could only be received from those who give it willingly with their heart. Moses was not to use guilt or duty to provoke giving and people were not to give for self-esteem or the praise of men.
What would provoke the people of Israel to willingly give their gold, silver and other materials for the sanctuary? The answer is given in verse eight; “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Only the people who valued the Lord being physically present with them would be moved to give willingly from the heart. Anyone who preferred gold and silver could keep it but they would not have a sense of God’s presence.
We should remember that Israel had these materials because they were given to them by the Egyptians as they left Egypt. The Egyptians gave the materials to them because of the fear of the Lord that came upon them. God gave them the materials and now He asks for a portion so that He may have a physical presence with them.
No one has given anything to the Lord unless they understand that all they have has been given to them by Him. Their response is to give as He directs with a glad and willing heart. If the motive is anything else then it will not result in a sense of God’s presence. A sense of duty performed or self-satisfaction is no substitute for giving with a willing heart and it will not have the desired outcome of God’s presence.
Paul writes that the churches of Macedonia gave “according to their ability, yes and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we should receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).
The people of Israel did this, even giving more than required, and the sanctuary was built and God dwelt among them. When we give from the heart desiring God Himself He will manifest Himself to us and we shall know His presence now and be confident of His physical presence in the resurrection when He creates all things new.