PREPARATIONS FOR THE LORD‘S SUPPER – SOME THOUGHTS ON EXODUS 35. 4-35
A word of command
Illustrations are word pictures or windows that let in light. The command in Exodus 35. 4 and the subsequent responses in verses 5-35, help to shed light on our present individual responsibility in corporate worship. It is an Old Testament picture presenting for us timeless principles applicable to our attendance, condition of heart and participation at the Lord’s Supper.
All the details mentioned in verses 5-35 stem from the divine command in verse 4, ‘this is the thing which the Lord commanded’. This verse reveals to us that the details presented in the rest of this chapter were not the activity of a religious form but a needful response to a declaration from God Himself. So it is with the Lord’s Supper. We are commanded to ‘do this in remembrance of me’, and our response is from our heart, not just our head, 1 Cor. 11. 24.
A word requiring willingness and affection
This command, though from God, calls for a different response than do most of the commands given elsewhere in Exodus. Verse 5 starts with the command, ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord’. The command is elaborated in the following verses but right at the start a condition governing the response is given. The verse continues, ‘Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord, gold, silver and bronze’. All the people of God could respond, male and female, as is the case in verse 22, ‘both men and women’ brought their offerings. The possibility was open to all to contribute; however, there were many that may have heard the command but would choose not to obey because their hearts were not willing.
In verse 21 there are two descriptions made of the offerers, ‘Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering’. Thus, a heart that has been stirred and a spirit that is willing are involved in the appropriate response to the command of God. The margin renders a stirred heart as one whose heart has ‘lifted him up’, that is, the affections have touched on those things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God. The command would have been heard and processed in the mind, but God wanted a response from the heart. He wanted a response of love and devotion out of a heart that had been stirred. This would lead to a response of free will, giving a visible demonstration of a willing spirit, not one of necessity.
The same response as was seen in them that the Lord desires from us with respect to our participation in worship. Worship is for men and women alike as all have the ability to gather precious thoughts about the Lord Jesus. The Lord will not force us, but looks for a response from a heart that is moved by love and a spirit that is willing. There may be many believers that have read the Lord’s command in the gospels and the requirements of 1 Corinthians 11 and yet have never acted on them. There may be some that seem to respond, in that they are there at the Lord’s Supper, but the character and spirit required are absent.
A word requiring the substance of worship
Of equal interest is to consider what these willing hearts brought to the Lord. Everything in the list of items in the verses speaks in some way of the person of the Lord Jesus. It was within the purpose of God that the tabernacle, in all its glory, should display to the people of Israel the means of approach to a holy God. The Lord Jesus makes it clear that there is no other way of approach than through Him. All the items of the tabernacle in some way speak of Him in either His Person or His work.
What was brought to the Lord was to be brought as an act of worship. In verse 29 we read that ‘the children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord’. The items would all be of value to those who possessed them and offering them to the Lord would have involved a sacrifice. No one person was likely to have had all these items in their possession, nor would anyone have the quantity of any single material that was needed. Each would bring the amount they were willing to give. There may have been some that brought things from out of the plenty they had and others who brought out of their meagre belongings. Of such from the first group would be the rulers who brought out of their treasures onyx stones and other precious gems for use in the high priest’s garments. It seems obvious from the value of their gifts that they gave out of greater wealth, v. 27.
A word that revealed variety
As has been said these materials are representative of various aspects of the Person of Christ. The gold speaks of the deity of the Lord Jesus. Just as no one person was in possession of all the gold, so in the same way no one person can comprehend all the glories associated with Christ’s deity. The same could be said of silver as typifying the redemptive work of Christ or of the accacia wood speaking of His incorruptible humanity. And so this would be true of all the materials and the truths they represent. The offerings of the rulers are of such things that have to do with the heart of Christ. This is indicative of a greater maturity and a deeper devotional life. The gift was not more necessary than the others, but was a result of greater capacity.
So it is as we come to take our place at the Lord’s Supper when we come together as a body. Each one whose heart has been stirred and whose spirit is willing is to bring what they have enjoyed of the Lord Jesus. Every believer has a different capacity. Some bring out of years of enjoyment and others come as newer believers bringing what they can. All are needed to give a fuller appreciation of the person of Christ. One may have enjoyed thoughts relative to His moral glories, another may have considered the servant sufferings of Christ and yet another His shepherd character. There is no lack of material when the object of one’s meditation is ‘the chief among ten thousand’, and, ‘altogether lovely’, S. of S. 5. 10, 16.
A word that brought harmony
It is noteworthy that in our passage the assembling of the material is seen to be the superintending work of the Spirit of God. Individuals brought the goods, but the Holy Spirit directs as to how the finished product will look. In verses 30-35, the Spirit of God is said to fill and give ability so that the final object is the result of His work and not theirs. Thus it will be a full representation of the Person and work of Christ. It was not left to the inventions of man or human reasoning, but ultimately displayed the mind of God. So it is in our coming together with what we have enjoyed of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit guides and directs and as individuals we should respond to His prompting. The variety of appreciations of Christ take shape as men contribute to the worship and others add to this in further appreciation and offer up the whole to the Father. Never could any gathering exhaust the worship material offered in our wonderful Saviour, but it is essential that what is offered up should be that which the Holy Spirit is directing and controlling. We are utterly dependent on Him to put the worship together.
A word that demands action
Chapter 35 of Exodus demands, as does all scripture, that there must be an application and a challenge to our heart. Each believer must examine his heart as to his response to the Lord’s command. Is there a disobedient heart whose seat is vacant when the saints gather to worship? With others it may be that the seat is physically occupied, but there is no willing heart that has been stirred by the Spirit of God. If either of these is the case, then there will be material missing from the offering as the assembly collectively brings treasures from hearts and minds to speak of Christ.
The cost of bringing acceptable worship is simply that of time and effort spent with the Lord in His word. What is brought is presented as an offering, whether audibly or silently, as the Spirit of God directs the hearts of those who are sensitive to His leading. Each Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, believers should be asking several questions of themselves as they come together with His people. ‘Am I ready to obey the Lord with a proper attitude of heart? Is my heart stirred? What material have I gathered? Am I ready to present it to the Lord?’ If the answers are from hearts willing and stirred then there will be worship.