The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand

(Originally Published in 1993)

Brass & Gold
More than enough
Ex 36:5


We hear many messages from this passage motivating people to give, maybe even beyond their means. By placing the emphasis in this chapter on the "gift and giver," do we overlook its message to leaders? I am inclined to believe this passage speaks more to the leaders than it does to the people. It makes one wonder if the use of this passage to motivate people to give quenches the Spirit from working in their heart to give. When people are motivated to give in order to finance personal desires and dreams of leaders, can we really expect to Spirit of God to move in their hearts?

The first key statement of Exo 36:5 is The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work. This statement is the dream statement of every person involved in the genuine work of God. Also notice the often overlooked key phrase, which the Lord commanded to make. The rest of the chapter contains God's record of the construction of the tabernacle. We will deal with this passage in two parts: first, more than enough, and second, which the Lord commanded.

The offering

Before we examine the command to stop giving, we should mention a few points about the offering itself as commanded by the Lord in Exodus 25:2ff. It consisted of God-ordained material required to build the wilderness tabernacle, and came from several sources: passed down by their fathers from Abraham; Egypt (they spoiled Egypt when the Lord brought them out); Amalek, whom they had already obtained victory over; probably from trade with the surrounding nations; and from the wilderness itself (shittim wood).

Its basis

1) Oehler rightly describes this offering as a "free gift for which there was no other occasion than the will of the offerer, whom his heart impelled to show his thankful sense of all the blessings which the goodness of God had bestowed upon him." Remember, just before the offering was taken the Lord in His mercy had spared the nation from complete destruction after their sin with the calf.

2) God tells Moses to invite, not command, His people to give this offering to the Lord.

3) 25:2, willingly... Of course, it goes without saying that one's willingness to offer his wealth and abilities in the work of the Lord is a mark of the Spirit at work in him, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure, Php 2:13. Thus the people are made willing by the Lord.

Willingly also implies that if the offering was not willingly, it was unacceptable. The willingness mentioned here was probably restricted to this offering because the rest of the offerings, sacrifices and tithes, were mandatory. Thus the rest were given in obedience to God. This offering was not commanded though Moses was commanded.

4) Notice that the Lord specified what was to be offered: it was not open for discussion or personal opinion. If the individual had not or did not want to give what was required, he could not give because everything was for a specific purpose. After all is brought in, the Lord spends the rest of Exodus explaining its use. Any other gifts or use would have displeased the Lord.

Observe:

This offering was extremely expensive consisting of gold, silver, brass, and other specific items. Only the best could be given.

Furthermore, although this first offering was a free will offering (not an enforced tax upon the people), neither the gift nor the use of the gift was 'free will.' In other words, the people could not "freely" give according to their own will and Moses could not "freely" use it according to his own will. Everything had to be given and used according to the command word of God, or the gift and giver were vanity and rebellion. The pattern for its use was already established in heaven (at least in the mind of God), and Moses' responsibility was simply to follow the pattern and see that others followed it.

The use of the offering

When we compare Exo 36:13 & 18, we find a very interesting point: taches of gold coupled the inner curtains; taches of brass coupled the outer curtains. Thus, in spite of "unlimited" funds for gold everywhere, the builders used brass on the outside and gold on the inside. We will develop a few things before we come back to which the Lord commanded.

Note:

1) The command word of God is very practical. Gold hooks on the inside were fit for the King of Israel, and brass hooks on the outside were fit for the same King. The thought can be reversed: brass was not sufficient for the inner curtains.

2) The workmen used good common sense: gold hooks would not have been suitable for connecting the outside curtains. God's command word is sensible and practicable, not mystical and impractical.

3) The wise hearted men (v. 1) neither took advantage of the working of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the people, nor took more from them than needed for the project at hand. Obviously, these wise hearted men used brass and gold as required by the word of the Lord. They did not allow the "love of money and praise" to cause them to depart from God's word.

The command of the Lord

The second key statement in 36:5 is which the Lord commanded to make. Even with the overabundance of funds, the wise hearted men (in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding) did not go beyond the command-word of God. The Lord provided detailed plans for what He wanted done and the men worked within those plans.

Moreover, these men were to devise curious works..., 35:32. Devise: to think, plan, esteem, calculate, invent, make a judgment, imagine, count. Curious: thought, device, plan, purpose, invent. These men were given clear, plain instructions by the Lord God, but they were to think, plan, invent, &c, within God' established guidelines. The command word of God does not make robots out of us; rather, it establishes frameworks in which to freely operate. How much freedom did these builders have in making the tabernacle? We will not speculate other than to say that maybe their freedom involved developing methods of doing the required work. All we know is that they were to devise curious works.

Much more than enough

Note that an overabundance of funds does not permit going (must not be used to go) beyond the restrictions of God's word. God has established His boundaries, and all the world's wealth does not permit going beyond His boundaries. (Thus God's blessings upon men or projects are not determined by the funds (& people) available, 1 Tim 6:5, 6.)

The Godly workers stayed within the framework of God's commands even though they had plenty of funds to go further. They could have said, "We have abundant funds, so even though it will cost more, let us make the outside taches of gold instead of brass." Such a thought, statement &/or action establishes one as his own god as he places his own opinion above the word of God.

Conclusion

TRUE FREEDOM! Though the people gave a free will offering, both its giving and use were bound by the will of God, His law-word. Free-will had to operate within the frame work of God's command word. "Here's the way you must give and use this free will offering." Even though this was a free will offering, its misuse in giving and using would cause its rejection. They were not free to give a wagon or a live beast in this offering; therefore, free does not mean free to do our own thing. Freedom means free to do by His enabling grace what God commands us to do. (EN 2.)

TRUE SERVICE!

The people could only carry out what God appointed, and could only fulfil their covenant duty, by the readiness with which they supplied the materials required for the erection of the sanctuary and completed the work with their own hands. Keil

Genuine, godly service to the Lord (36:5) is only doing what He has appointed us to do and giving back to Him what is already His. Did not our Lord make this clear in Luke 17:10, So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Consequently, we see that the only way the covenant-people of God can serve their God is by simply doing their duty as outlined in God's revelation to man, because the God of our redemption has total claim upon the total person and all his possessions. The word of God defines man's duty to his Master. Furthermore, no matter how hard one works for the Master, he is only doing his duty under his covenant-responsibilities. In other words, these people gave great treasures to the Lord, but it was their covenant-responsibility to give them.

How many folks feel that: 1) because they are "sacrificially" giving over and above what the Lord requires of them they have done a great service to God (when actually they were only doing their duty)? 2) because they are giving such a "great sum," they can serve (and do) according to their own will? and 3) they can give whatever they desire because it is given of their own "free-will?"

TRUE WORKMANSHIP! Sadly, modern thinking seems to be "Just enough is enough." "No one will see the inner hooks, so let's make them out of brass instead of gold," but the Lord sees the shortcuts taken in every area of our life. One of God's major promises is that we will reap what we sow, and one of the major ways we reap our crop is through society around us; the results will come to pass. How can people expect others to live up to standards which they themselves are unwilling to live up to? Shortcuts and compromise in the church, with the word of God and in our personal lives, will reap a terrible price in our society. There is no thought, word or deed done in secret that is not seen and rewarded by the Lord. Gold and brass cannot be substituted for each other without departing from the word of God. The Lord sees the "shortcuts" and compromise. See Endnote.

There is another point which we should touch on: there were many things connected with the tabernacle which were for beauty alone. They had no functional purpose other than that the Lord commanded them (cf. Ex 28:2). Thus not only should the Lord's work be functional, it should be beautiful (yet still within the guidelines of His word).

TRUE GIVING! Note that man did not have to constrain Israel to give because the Lord constrained them to give. I wonder how much giving is done because man constrained the people rather than because God constrained the people? Furthermore, if man constrains the people to give, are the people actually giving to the Lord? How much do we try to do the Spirit's work for Him?

TRUE WILLINGNESS!

By this liberal contribution of free-will gifts, for the work commanded by the Lord, the people proved their willingness to uphold their covenant relationship with Jehovah their God. Keil.

Thus we see the willingness of the people proved by their generosity in giving. Many times we pastors hesitate to give God's people opportunity to give a free-will offering above what is required of them: an offering may be for maintenance on the buildings or special projects, &c. But all service to the Lord must begin with freely giving one's self to the Lord, Rom 12. Clearly, leaders are required to give God's people opportunity to give unto the Lord of their own free will because it is the Lord which makes them willing, 2 Cor 8:11, 12; 9:7. Will we grieve the Spirit by not giving His people opportunity to give? Will people grieve the Spirit by not giving, Eph 4:30?

TRUE WISDOM! How many "Christian leaders" are taking advantage of God's people in whom the Lord has placed a willing heart? They take the "over abundance" given and pursued their pride: personal dreams, goals and ambitions. The workmen could have easily gone overboard (beyond the command of the Lord) with the surplus of funds and material, but did not. God's wisdom will not take advantage of the moving of the Spirit of God. Leaders must not misuse the willingness of those under them. If God made them willing, then their willingness must be used to advance God's kingdom on earth, not man's ambitions.

TRUE STANDARDS! It is just as bad to go overboard, or beyond the word of God (gold in place of brass), as it is to not go far enough (brass in place of gold). In other words, it is just as much sin to set standards above God's (established in His law-word) as it is to set standards below God's, i.e. it is just as much sin to expect more from folks than God's word requires as it is not to expect enough. In fact, maybe there is more sin involved in "overexpectation" or "overbuilding." Christ, while walking here on this earth, strongly condemned the pharisaical attitude which went further than the what His law had already established. Cf. Mt 5-7, &c.

We must carefully avoid misusing funds &/or people: placing gold where brass is required by the word of God (or placing brass where gold is required). If God's people replace brass with gold (i.e. require more than God requires), can we blame civil government for purchasing "gold plated" toilets?

Endnotes:

1. Though Dobson offers pleasant-sounding "Christianized, Humanism Psychology," he made an excellent observation on a program dealing with the recent sodomite march in Washington: society now accepts open sodomy because the same society accepts open immorality. Living together is an accepted life- style, both in and out of the church; sodomy and immorality go hand in hand. Therefore, it is impossible to deal with sodomy without first dealing with the immorality as accepted by professed Christians. In other words, a church (or society) which will not confront immorality cannot confront sodomy.

2. As if to confirm what I had already put together above: as a result of our public exposure in some recent confrontations over some very "taxing" issues, a lady contacted me over an extremely immoral, if not outright corrupt, situation against her 21 year old daughter by the local sheriff's department. It would have been useless to tell her that the immorality that is about to swallow her daughter from the department is no worse than the immorality she is overlooking in the life of her daughter. Thus, people are vainly searching for "moral & just" civil government because they are ignoring the required Christian basis for Godly civil government. Pastor Need


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