As I read Exodus 34-36 today, it hit me that God wants three things from me. And it just so happens that as a 21st century American male, they are probably the 3 hardest things for me to give him: my unquestioned obedience, my undivided worship, and my unlimited offerings.
My Unquestioned Obedience
I will do wonders such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation. All the people among whom you live will see the work of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am doing with you. (34:10)
When I read that verse, my first response was, “Wow! I want God to be able to say that about my life and about my church.” Imagine God working through us in such a way that our community’s first response would be, “This is from the LORD!” Incredible thought, isn’t it? Naturally I began to wonder what we would need to do in order for this type of spiritual revival to take place. As is typical, however, God’s word gave an immediate and indisputable answer:
Obey what I am commanding you this day.
Thats it. There’s no secret formula. No bestselling book. No fancy curriculum. Nothing to memorize, nothing to learn, nothing to do. In order for God to work through me and through my church, he requires one thing: obedience. For it is when we align our will with his, without question and without compromise, that we give his spirit the opportunity to work through us. This is why part of the Great Commission is to teach “them all that I have commanded you.” God’s plan for his people has never been to create an exclusive club marked out by circumcision or baptism, where the “chosen ones” could receive all of his blessings and none of the world’s trials. As evident here in Exodus 34 and again in Jesus words in Matthew 28, obedience is an integral part of who we are as God’s people, for it is only when we are obedience to his command and call that we bless the world with the blessing we have received.
My Undivided Worship
For you must not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (34:14)
I think this verse becomes much more meaningful when you think of God’s relationship with his people as a relationship between a husband and wife (an analogy which the Bible makes many times in both the Old and New Testament). If I were to take the honor and attention that is due my wife and give it to someone else, my wife would be devastated and my marriage severely damaged. It would also mean that I did not care enough about my wife or our relationship to avoid such a mistake. And yet I find myself doing exactly the same thing in my relationship with God on a regular basis. I go out of my way to avoid situations that may possibly make my wife jealous and never consider whether or not my attitude or actions are making my God jealous. I don’t bow down and worship carved images, but how often do I give time, money, glory, and honor that is due God to someone or something else? Probably more often that I’d like to admit.
My Unlimited Offerings
Money is important in our society. Not only is the cost of living ridiculously high, but we have more luxuries to spend our money on than perhaps any other society in history. Its hard sometimes to know where and when to spend money. There are things I need, things I want, and worthy charities and organizations to consider. This passage reminded me, however, that no matter what else I’m doing with my money, God gets his share first. Consider these verses:
The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. (34:19)
You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. (34:26)
Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’S contribution (35:5)
Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the LORD’S contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so did every man who presented an offering of gold to the LORD (35:21-22)
The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD. (35:29)
They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.” So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. (36:3-6)
I was convicted in two areas as I read these verses:
1. Am I giving cheerfully and willingly? Moses made a point to mention that these offerings were “freewill offerings”. That term made me question my motives behind my giving. Am I giving out of duty or devotion? Am I giving because I know I should or because I know the church needs the money? Or am I giving out of my own free will, without any objections?
2. Am I giving all that I can give? Despite all of their faults in the surrounding verses and chapters, the Israelites’ behavior here astounded me. They gave so much that Moses had to tell them to stop giving! Think about that. Could you imagine if our church gave so much that the deacons and treasurer had to tell us to slow down because we had more money that we knew what to do with? How amazing would that be? And yet that is exactly what happened in this passage.
Am I giving to God what is rightfully his? Am I giving it up cheerfully and willingly? Am I giving all I have to give or all I want to give?
Lord, help me to give to you what is rightfully yours. Whether it be my obedience, my worship, or my offerings, may you continually remind me that everything I have is because of you and for you. All to Jesus, I surrender.