Exodus 25:1-9 The Grace of Giving

Preached Sunday 23rd January 2010

Click here to download the sermon notes in PDF format.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the tabernacle, which will take us more or less to the end of the book of Exodus.

The tabernacle was a movable tent which would be the place of worship, and the place where God would dwell with his people.  But first of all they needed the materials to make it, and these materials would be received as offerings from the people.

In the previous chapter, in Exodus 24, God confirmed the covenant with Israel, and what we read resembles a service of worship – there’s a call to worship, confession of faith, reading of the word of God, the blood of sacrifice, and a celebration of communion.  And all this was done in the presence of God.  The only thing they didn’t do was to take an offering.  But here in chapter 25 the first thing God tells Moses to do is to collect an offering for the tabernacle.

There’s the story of a minister who preached on the subject of money and giving, and the following day received a letter: “I was never so disappointed in a service as I was on Sunday.  I have an unbelieving friend that I got to come to church with me, and what were you preaching about?  Money!  I can assure you she was not impressed!  And why money, when there are so many beautiful things to say?  You’d better reconsider such messages in the future.  Leave money to God, and he will handle everything, believe me.  I love this church and usually like the sermons, but that was terrible.  Yours, a Christian who loves to go to church to hear God’s word.”

Well, I’m feeling very nervous since I realise we have quite a few visitors here today.  But the truth is that if we want to hear God’s word, sooner or later we be talking about money and giving.  Giving is an important biblical theme and money is something which is relevant to all of our lives.  However it is also true that some Christian ministries and churches abuse people in the area of finances.  We don’t want to abuse anyone, but to learn what the bible teaches on this subject.  Exodus 25 is one of those passages which has something to teach about the grace of giving.

This morning, I am delighted to say, I come to this subject not because we are in great need.  I come to the subject simply because it’s the next passage in Exodus, which is the great advantage of systematic bible teaching.  In fact I’ve been greatly humbled this year but the extraordinarily generous giving in this church – the Lord has wonderfully provided for all our needs.  So I’m preaching to the converted!  But it’s still good to be reminded of these things.

Main Points

  1. 1. Our giving is first of all giving to God

Exodus 25: 1,2a The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me and offering.”

The people were not giving to make Moses rich; their offerings were not for the personal benefit of Aaron and the priests.  Their offering was first of all for the glory of God and it was an act of worship.

Sometimes when we give we speak of giving to the church.  In some ways this makes sense since most of our giving goes to the local church.  But what we are really doing is giving to the Lord.  We are giving part of what we own back to the Lord who has blessed us in the first place.  God has commissioned for the church to do his work in the world.  So when we give to the church we are giving to his work.  This is why we collect an offering in our worship service since giving to God is an act of worship.  Our giving is an expression of our love and adoration to the Lord.

Brian was on the door this morning, and when you came to church he didn’t charge you to come in; there wasn’t an admission charge to pay; you aren’t asked for a subscription to become a member of the church; our giving is an expression of praise and worship.

Ps 96: , “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.”

Whether our giving is from our material goods or in other ways, it is a response to his grace.  When we give God gives back to us and blesses us.  And we can’t out give God.

Jesus said: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” [Luke 6:38]

The apostle Paul said: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”  [2Corinthians 9:6]

  1. 2. Our giving comes from the heart

Exodus 25:2b “You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.”

One commentator puts it like this: “God makes giving to the building of the tabernacle a voluntary gesture!  He does not demand, or command, how much a person must give, or even that a person must give.  He leaves it to the heart of the individual member of the covenant community.”

This, of course, is why it’s called an offering!  It’s not something God takes; it’s something we give.

This teaching is in the New Testament: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” [2Corinthains 9:7].  Giving must come from the heart, not grudgingly, from the overflow of our hearts.

God is more concerned about our attitude in giving than about what or how much we give, such as in the story of the widows mite.   The same is true for us when we are given a present.  If we find out the person only gave it to us reluctantly, it sort of makes you feel you don’t really want the gift anyway.  I think God feels the same way.

There were times when God did specify the amount his people should give.  It was called a tithe, which literally means a tenth.  God expected his people to give regularly and faithfully 10% of their produce back to God.  The tithe was used to support the Levites in their work of looking after the temple.

As Christians we generally think it’s a good idea to follow the same pattern.  10% serves as a useful guideline.  In a congregational church such as ours, all the finances to run everything that happens comes from the congregation, there is no central fund.   So for the church to be sustained here with a pastor we need to be living by biblical principles of giving.

  1. 3. We give our very best

God had a long list of items he wanted for the tabernacle.

READ Exodus 25:3-7

This list sounds a bit like a list that might go in the bulletin before Holiday Club.  “The following items are needed for the craft activities for Holiday Club.  If you can help, please see Barbara.”

God had a major craft project in mind, but he wasn’t just going to use old cereal packets or old clothes, as useful as these might be for Holiday Club.  The items he chose were costly items: gold, silver and bronze.  They were to give valuable coloured fabrics.

A commentator says this: “The wool was dyed the colour of a dye extracted from a species of shell-fish found in abundance in the sea, by the coasts of the Mediterranean, and especially by the shores of Phoenicia and the Land of Israel.  The dyers used to prise open the shell-fish whilst they were still alive, and the transparent liquid secreted from their glands acquired in sunlight a deep violet colour.  It took thousands of shells to collect enough dye even for a single robe, and the process was extremely expensive.”

There were to give olive oil, fragrant incense, and valuable gems.   But where would they get all this from in the desert?  The answer is that they got it from the Egyptians when the left Egypt (Exodus 11:2).  God had already provided the items for them to give.

Not everyone had gold to give, but those who did could give gold.  Not everyone had fine linen or precious gems, but those who did could give them.  Some of the items were less expensive such as the acacia wood.  So for a poor man, all he had to do to give was to go and cut down a tree and bring the wood as an offering.  The important thing was that everyone was invited to give, and people were to bring the best they could to God.   The love the Lord means to bring him the best of our time, talents and material blessings as well.

More than that, this was an extraordinary opportunity.  God was giving the people the opportunity to participate in building a place of worship for his glory.  They had the wonderful privilege of offering the gifts which would go into making the tabernacle.  What contribution would you have like to have made if you had been there?

  1. 4. Our giving is giving to God’s work

Exodus 25:8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

When the people gave, the offerings weren’t horded up for a rainy day, but they were put to work.  We are not interested in the church or its ministers becoming rich; we are interested in God’s work.

The chapters which follow (Exodus 25-31) describe in detail how this giving was used to make the tabernacle.  As Christians we know that the church is the people not the building.  But sometimes we think giving to buildings is unspiritual and we think our money could be better spent on missions.  But buildings are important as well.  They provide a place a place in the community for preaching, for worship and ministry, youth clubs and so on, all of which are God’s work, and wouldn’t happen without the building.

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