A Skilled Church (Exodus 31:1-11)
When Tammy was working in a public library, she got home rather late. I, being a good husband, volunteered to take care of supper. On the first night, I fixed meatloaf. I found a recipe that looked amazing, and I carefully followed that recipe. When the meatloaf was ready, we sat down to eat. Each of us took one bite of the meatloaf and spit it out. I’ve never tasted anything so nasty in my life. We ordered pizza that night, and gave the meatloaf to the boys’ dog. Sky, our dog, sniffed the meatloaf, turned his nose up at it, and walked away. That is the only time I’ve seen a dog refuse food!
I’m sure you’re lacking some skills, too. Maybe you can’t cook, or you might struggle to keep a plant alive. Maybe you had a job that you just weren’t suited for—perhaps you were working in customer relations, and you just don’t like people, so it wasn’t a good fit. As a kid, maybe you took piano or guitar lessons, and your parents barely suffered through your recitals. Maybe you just aren’t a handyman—if something breaks in your house, maybe it’s best just to call an expert. Maybe you can’t drive very well or balance a checkbook or work a computer.
You may not be talented in some areas, but God has given you talents—skills—to use in his kingdom. That’s Bible: Romans 12:4-8. This morning, I want you to learn a simple truth: “God has given his people the needed skills to accomplish his will.” God expects the church to do much: there’s a world to save, the hungry to feed, the bereaved to comfort, the sick to help, and the discouraged to lift up. Within the body of believers right here is every single skill we need to accomplish the work God has given us.
Do you know why I believe that? Because our God has always operated that way. God gave Moses very detailed directions for the tabernacle’s construction. Real skill was needed to fulfill all God had commanded. To accomplish the tabernacle’s construction, God raised up two men—Bezalel and Ohaliab—with the necessary abilities. This morning, we wish to examine the text before us—Exodus 31:1-11—and learn from Bezalel and Ohaliab this truth: “God has given his people the needed skills to accomplish his will.”
Scripture (Exodus 31:1-11)
For several chapters before our text, God had been specifying to Moses exactly how the tabernacle was to be built: from the manufacture of the curtains to the construction of the ark of the covenant to the sewing of the priestly garments to the recipe for the anointing oil.
Moses was surely wondering how he would get all of this accomplished. However, God had a perfect plan. He had called Bezalel by name. Moses didn’t have to go and start asking for volunteers, but God specified precisely who would accomplish this task.
Notice something else, too. God had filled Bezalel “with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship.” God himself has ability, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship. God put all these qualities in people in different amounts, for all humans bear God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). As God stirs up different qualities in Christians today, I believe he is stirring within them different aspects of the divine image.
Bezalel didn’t need to do all the work himself, for God had also appointed with him Oholiab. God never expects one person to do everything. After the creation of the man, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18); God then created the woman. Speaking of the body of Christ, Paul wrote, “The body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor 12:14). Why does the body “not consists of one member but of many?” Because the body needs to work together—in unison, with everyone doing his or her part—to complete her divine-given role.
God had given “all able men ability” to construct the tabernacle. A whole array of men—with Bezalel and Oholiab as their leaders—would construct the tabernacle. Because all those men were different, they surely had different skills and complimented one another.
“According to all I commanded you, they shall do.” The men could not do whatever they wanted with the abilities God gave them. Instead, they were to use their abilities as God had instructed.
God intended the Israelites to have a tabernacle. God would dwell among the people at the tabernacle in a special way. The people would worship at the tabernacle. The people would sacrifice at the tabernacle. It was vital, therefore, that the tabernacle be constructed; God raised up Bezalel and Oholiab to use their skills to construct the tent.
God’s raising up Bezalel and Oholiab to construct the tabernacle demonstrates: “God has given his people the needed skills to accomplish his will.” In this church, God has raised up an ability in you to assist this body in doing the Lord’s work. You see God didn’t just raise up people in the wilderness with skills for his glory; he has done so in the church, too.
- Jesus gave gifts to his people: Ephesians 4:11-12. The Lord no longer makes men apostles and prophets; however, the apostles and prophets (through inspired Scripture) along with evangelists and teaching shepherds build up the body of Christ. Jesus gifted folks to bless his church.
- The Corinthian church struggled with the use of the miraculous spiritual gifts. Notice what Paul said about the gift of prophecy: “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Cor 14:3). The gift of prophecy was intended to build up the church; God bestowed people with prophecy for strengthening his people.
Your gift, too, is intended to build up the church. Let’s think about how you can use your gift to bless this church.
First: YOU EXPLORE.
You need to know what skills God gave you for service in the kingdom. God blessed Bezalel and Ohaliab with ability to do the artistic work he required. God had further “given to all able men ability” to do what he needed.
In the New Testament church, God gives different gifts to different people so that the church can function as a cohesive whole. In a context of miraculous spiritual gifts, Paul wrote: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Notice that these gifts were given in the first century “for the common good” (v 7). God determined what gifts he would give—he “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (v 11). The person receiving the gift had no say in what gifts he or she received or didn’t receive.
You have received a gift from God, but you need to explore your heart and soul to discover what your gift is. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul listed several gifts and how one should use them. The first gift in that list—prophecy—is miraculous. However, all the other gifts are non-miraculous and available today. Read through the spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans 12 and ask yourself, “What gift in that list has God given me?”
Something else you need to do to explore your gift is to open your eyes. Look around this church and see what needs to be done: Bible class teachers, reading Scripture, leading the Lord’s Supper, fixing meals for the sick and shut-in, and so much more. What can you do?
Second: You ENLIST.
In other words, you need to volunteer for service. God didn’t make Moses hunt down men who could construct the tabernacle. Instead, he told Moses that Yahweh had appointed Bezalel and Oholiab to the work. God isn’t going to tell the elders who will serve in different roles. Instead, you need to step forward and let it be known how you’ll serve.
Many through the ages have enlisted to serve.
- Zacchaeus willingly served the poor. Luke 19:8. There’s no indication in the text that Jesus told him to express that willingness.
- Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body to bury it (Matt 27:57-61). Jesus needed to be buried, and Joseph had a new tomb. Joseph didn’t wait until someone was begging to have a burial spot for Jesus—He went out and did what he could.
This week, I want you to be a Zacchaeus and a Joseph. I want you to volunteer willingly to serve the Lord and his church. Each one of you needs to go to one of the elders and volunteer to serve according to your ability.
What if we fully understood: “God has given his people the needed skills to accomplish his will?” I seriously doubt the elders would need to beg for servants; instead, we’d be too busy using the skills God gave us. I believe we’d set this city on fire proclaiming the truth of Jesus. I believe we’d wear ourselves out doing the will of God. I believe lives would be forever changed through our compassionate service.
How are you serving your Creator by serving his church?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.