A Working People, 31. 1–11

In this passage, we have some searching and solemn principles that can be readily applied to the local assembly. The local assembly is the most precious thing that God has in any locality, and we do well to take heed as to how we act in relation to it In this portion, the kind of people in the midst of whom God will dwell will be a working people. In Exodus 35 & 36, we find that the people were willing-hearted, wise-hearted, and warmhearted. However, in chapter 31 we suggest two features in particular.

The Pattern to Guide

Over and over God says, “I have” - “I have called”, v. 2; “I have filled”, v. 3; “I have given”, v. 6; “I have put”, v 6; “I have commanded”, vv. 6, 11. Here, then, we have the pattern to guide us in our service. We draw attention to three aspects of service:

(i) Divine Selection. “I have called”, v. 2, and “I have given”, v. 6. Here we have the sovereignty of God in calling whomsoever He wills - He is sovereign in His choice. In Matthew 4. 18-22 the Lord calls men who afterwards were called ignorant men - unlearned men. He did not go to the schools of the Rabbis to call them. Very often we find God calling the least expected. Who would have thought that He would have called David, the youngest in the family, and the one seemingly forgotten. 1 Sam. 16? Or Gideon, the least in his father’s house? Or Amos from the herdsmen, Amos 1. 1? But God is sovereign in His choice. Every child is called to some kind of work, but God choses the work for the person and the person for the work Consider 1 Corinthians 12, where we read that God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. v. 18. This, of course, is in relation to the local assembly. We know that very often God’s choice does not please us - there are some who would like to be something else, or to do something else. However, we cannot blame our brethren, and we should not quarrel with our fellowbelievers or the elders, for it is God who determines our place and work in the assembly. The selection is God’s - our responsibility in our service for God is to determine what God would have us do. It is not our responsibility to decide what we are going to do, but rather to determine what God would have us do. and the sphere in which He would have us to move.

(ii) Divine Sufficiency, “I have filled”, v. 3, and “I have put”, v. 6. When God calls a person to a particular work. He gives him the ability to carry out that work. In Matthew 4. 19, when the Lord called His disciples, He said, “Follow me. and I will make you fishers of men”. He did not send them to the school of the Rabbis. In modern terminology, He did not send them to a Bible School or College to fit them for service. He fitted them for service Himself - He made them - He gave them the ability that was necessary for them to carry out the work committed to them. He is skilful in the making of His servants. We are all servants and God has a work for every one of us, so He gives us the ability to carry out that work, whatever it may be. It is costly to be moulded by the Lord for service, for very often He uses heartache, tears, adverse circumstances and many other aspects of life to make His servants, but He is skilful in the making of them. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3. 5-6, “our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament”. The words “sufficiency” and “made able” have the same Greek root, and carry the idea of being competent The apostle is saying, “Our competency is of God”. It was God who had made Paul a competent servant. When God calls. He fits. When God commits a work to anyone, then God gives the necessary ability to that person to carry out the work. Exodus 31. 3 states “I have filled him with the spirit of God”. All that is done for God can only be done in or through the power of the Spirit of God.

(iii) Divine Scrutiny. “I have commanded”. vv. 6. 11. All the work in relation to the tabernacle was to be made according to the pattern given. In Exodus 39. 43, all the articles of the tabernacle passed before Moses to be examined. There were the beautiful curtains, but also the badger skin covering which was not so appealing to the eye; the beautiful work of gold but also the work of copper which was not so attractive. However, Moses, as he examined the articles, looked for one thing only, to see if they had been made according to the pattern - according to the commandment of God. One article might look more beautiful than another, but the important thing was, not its appearance, but whether or not it was according to the pattern laid down - the instructions given by God. All our service should be in keeping with the Word of God. At the judgment seat of Christ, it is not how our work appears in the sight of men that will matter, but whether that work has been done in keeping with the character and Word of God. We are sure that there will be some surprises - divine scrutiny for us will take place at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Principles to Govern

We now draw some principles from the names mentioned. The two tribes named (Judah and Dan) were the first and last standards on the march, Num. 10. 14, 25. This would illustrate that in service, from first to last, all are included. In Exodus 36. 2 we read, “every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it”. The principle for us’is that there is a work for every child of God in the assembly. It may be spending time in prayer, taking a Sunday School class, or engaging in tract distribution, but whatever it is, we all have a work to do and are responsible for carrying it out.

(i) Bezaleel means “in the shadow of God”. In our service, the presence of God is to be enjoyed, because only the realization of His presence will give us courage. In 1 Kings 17. 1, Elijah stood fearless before the wicked king Ahab; his first statement was, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand”. Israel was acting as if God was dead, but of course He was not, and Elijah knew that full well. Ahab acted as if God had no claim at all, but Elijah had come to rebuke such a monarch. Where did Elijah get the courage from? From God, for he enjoyed the presence of God. He had the realization of the presence of God with him in the work he carried out. The presence of God should be enjoyed in all our service; we must know something of this if our service is to be effective.

(ii) Uri means “light”. This would teach us that, in our service, the purity of God is to be remembered. We must be transparent in our service. We should be motivated by love and affection, the love of Christ constraining us, 2 Cor. 5. 14. What motive have we in our service? It is so possible to have the motive of drawing attention to self, gaining the applause of our fellowbelievers, or even seeking a following. Paul says in Acts 20. 18, “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons”. They knew the apostle, his manner - and his consistency. He could say to them. “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel”, v 33 He was transparent in his service for God His motive was pure; he had the welfare of saints and sinners at heart. Not only is the presence of God to be enjoyed, but the purity of God is to be remembered in all our service.

(iii) Hur means “freeborn” or “noble” In John 8 the Lord said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free ye shall be free indeed”, v. 36. Those who are Christ’s have been set free from the bondage of sin and Satan, so as to be the willing bondslaves of Christ. Thus we must ever remember the privilege of service. It is indeed a dignity to serve the Lord who is the best of masters. John the Baptist realized the truth of this when he said, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose”, Mark 1. 7, He was saying that the most menial task was too great a dignity for him. That is true humility, and service is then a privilege.

(iv) Aholiab means “tent of my father”, speaking of pilgrim character, and this should be maintained in all our service. In 1 Peter 2. 11 we are called “strangers and pilgrims”. The moment we were saved we became strangers to the world; our home is heaven, and therefore we should be like pilgrims just passing through. When we lose sight of the fact that we do not belong to the world, we soon lose our pilgrim character and settle down in the world that rejected our Lord. Many of God’s people have sunk their roots so deep into the world, that they have lost the appreciation of the fact that they are destined for heaven. They have taken up material things at the expense of spiritual things. We stress that pilgrim character is essential if we are to be of value in the service of God.

(v) Ahisamach - means “brotherly support”. The principle here is that our service is to be in fellowship with others. In Philippians 1. 27, the apostle exhorts the saints to “stand fast” - never to retreat despite the attacks of the three-fold enemy. The flesh, the world and Satan would launch their attacks, but the saints were to stand firm, “striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries”. The adversaries will do all that they can to turn the saints from the pathway, and thus mar the testimony of the assembly. We see, therefore, the importance of striving together and the great need for brotherly support in our service for God. Strife among the saints is a dreadful thing, and should never be seen in the assembly. There should be harmony in the assembly and in our service. Remember, we are labourers together with (or, of) God, 1 Cor. 3. 9. We are all to take our share of suffering, to endure hardness in service, 2 Tim. 2. 3. We should be giving support to each other in service.

The kind of people in the midst of whom God will dwell will be a working people, a people engaged in active service for God.


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