Called and Equipped

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
“And I, indeed I have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all I have commanded you:”
Exodus 31:1-6 (NKJV)
And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.
“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill…,”
Exodus 35:30-36a (NKJV).

God is giving some instructions to Moses about the building of the Tabernacle, the place of His presence among the children of Israel.  But this building will not suddenly just appear; God will use men to build it.  He called the earth into being by His word, but not this.  Men have the honor and privilege of working with God.  Make no mistake about that.  He doesn’t need any of us; He is pleased to use us.  More glory to Him, to use such poor instruments.

Two men are named, Bezalel and Aholiab.  One was from Judah, the head tribe of Israel, and one from Dan, perhaps the “tail” among the tribes.  It doesn’t matter where we’re from; what matters is where we are, and what we’re doing.  One thing about Bezalel.  He was mentioned hundreds of years later when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the place he had prepared for it prior to the building of the Temple by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 1:4.  His work was still valuable and useful.  Who knows how the Lord will be pleased to use our efforts for Him?  The thing is, they will last far longer than any mere thing of this world we can do, necessary though those may be.

These two men were the foremen, if you will, of the artisans doing the work, 31:6, but the other men were also gifted for their work.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 has something for us here:  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 

That last phrase could be translated, “for the mutual benefit.”  The gifts of the Spirit aren’t about us.  It’s about those around us, especially in the assembly and how we may be a blessing and benefit to them.

Early in our marriage, Sharon and I attended a church who taught for a while on the ministry and gifts of the Spirit.  The emphasis was on how we could know which particular gift was ours.  For some reason, this bothered her because she couldn’t figure out “which” gift was hers.  That seemed to be focus of the series and it really bothered her that she couldn’t see her “gift”.  She couldn’t teach or sing or play the piano.  But one of the gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in I Corinthians 12 is helps, v. 28, and that was and is her “gift”.  She has always been more than willing to pitch in, to help.  This says nothing of the fact that she has put up with me for more than 48 years….

You see, it may not be the man behind the pulpit; it may be the ones who listen to him.  Do you pray for your minister?  His “job” is perhaps one of the most important there is.  He stands in front of men and women who will never cease to exist and it may be that something he says either prepares them for an eternity of glory or for an eternity under God’s wrath because the sin question has never been answered for them.  Spurgeon used to say that the sight of the crowds he preached to at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London crushed him to the ground because he recognized his responsibility toward them.
But standing behind a pulpit is not the only “ministry”.  Your job is a ministry, if you could but see it, how you do it.  Do you have little ones?  Oh, the ministry there!  Those little souls, so impressionable and willing.  They’re like sponges, and they likely learn more from what they see you do than they will from what you say.  Our culture may devalue them, but they are a treasure.

Nothing is unimportant in the life of a believer.  After all, God has numbered the hairs on your head, Matthew 10:30.  If you’re that important to Him as His child, do you think your life and doings are unimportant to Him?  Nothing is “minor” or of no concern to Him.  As little as a cup of cold water given in His name will be richly rewarded, cf. Matthew 10:42.  As Paul put it, let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith, Galatians 6:9, 10.


[Note: The first draft of this post was started while blasting through the air at 550 mph in a pressurized metal tube, 39,000 off the ground. 🙂 ]

In earlier days, I accumulated a few trophies: high bowling score, high handicap game.  My wife and I won a 2nd place trophy in the league we used to belong to.  In fact, I joke that the only reason I married her was because she beat me bowling.  Before the Lord saved me, I had thoughts of becoming a professional bowler and spent hours at the local bowling alley.  (This was back when you could bowl 3 lines [games] for a dollar, so you know it’s been a while 🙂 ).

After the Lord saved me, I went to Bible College, then to a church where I met my then-future wife.  I didn’t bowl very often, but could still put together a decent game.  The young people’s group of which I was a member would go bowling once in a while, and Sharon joined the group and went with us.  On the occasion when she beat me, it wasn’t so much that she beat me; it was the score she beat me with – a 99.  If you’re not interested in bowling, then this score means nothing to you, but let me tell you, it isn’t particularly good!  I guess I figured that if I couldn’t beat her, then I should join her 🙂 .

If you’re familiar with miniature golf, then perhaps you know Putt-Putt miniature golf courses.  One opened up where I lived and for a while I held the record for low score – a score long since beaten, I’m sure.

The place I worked when I retired held an annual 18-hole “best-ball” golf tournament. The first year I played, the foursome I was in won the tournament with a 62.

I’ve rolled a “300” bowling on the Wii – a perfect game – but admittedly considerably easier than in real life.  The best I ever did then was, I think, was about 240 – it’s been a long time.  My wife and I enjoy “golfing” on the Wii, again, much easier than in real life.  We’re pretty evenly matched, but I think she beats me more often than not – and, no, I don’t “let” her win!  I’m much too competitive for that.

My point to all this rambling…?

The Apostle Paul was also a sports fan.  Even though he didn’t have golf or bowling or their easier versions on the Wii, he still made several references to running, boxing and wrestling and what it required to participate at a high level in those sports.  In I Corinthians 9:24, he applied this effort to the Christian life.  He wrote that these athletes work to the point of agony for a “trophy”: Now they do it for a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown, I Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV).  This “crown” was a laurel wreath placed on the head of the winner of one of these events.

I learned this verse as “incorruptible crown,” and as a young Christian and Bible student, more than once heard and read that this “crown” was one of a group of five different crowns Christians could earn.  However, as I began to read the Bible for myself (something which I’ve since learned, only partly tongue-in-cheek, can get you into trouble), it seemed to me that Paul wasn’t referring to a class of crowns distinct from other crowns, but was teaching the characteristic of the crown: it was “imperishable,” as opposed to the temporary nature of earthy crowns and trophies.

The laurel wreath soon wilted.  The bowling trophies I won – what’s left of them – gather dust in a closet.  The cup I won for rolling a 220 at Bowlero Bowling Lanes makes a dandy holder for pens.  The other “accomplishments” are meaningless as my wife and I sit here in the airport waiting for a connecting flight home.

Indeed, perhaps, by the grace and mercy of God, these few words may be of more significance than all the trophies I could ever win, even to a Super Bowl ring or Stanley Cup trophy, if I could even rise to such a high level of competence.

Oh, let me encourage you if you are discouraged in your efforts to serve God.  You may not be cheered on by the world and what you can do might seem insignificant compared to others, but, remember, our Lord taught that even something as simple as a cup of cold water given in His name to someone who is thirsty will have its reward – and that reward is “imperishable.”

“…to be seen of men,” Matthew 6:1-5

Our Lord scolded the Pharisees on more than one occasion.  One of the things He charged them with was doing it for the attention they received.  Ostensibly, they were serving God, but really, they were serving themselves.

One time, Spurgeon referred to ministers who sought out snippets of praise like a cat sniffs out a mouse, that they might have them for their breakfast.

There is something “heady,” if you will, about standing in front of people and being the center of their attention, at least for a little while.  This is why some pro athletes and movie stars find it so difficult to “retire,” and sometimes “come back” when it would have been better for them to have stayed retired.  They miss the “center.”

A couple of you have nominated this blog for awards.  Thank you.  It means a great deal to me.

At the same time, I sense in myself the attitude Spurgeon commented on.  I’m disappointed when there seems to be no response to something I’ve posted.  When there are comments, I’m happy.  I have to ask myself, why?  Am I disappointed because I’m not receiving the attention?  I’m not in “the center”?  Do I seek praise as the cat seeks breakfast?

In all truth, I’m just an instrument in the hands of God, amazed that He’s pleased to use such a contrary one.  When a tourist goes into the Sistine Chapel, he doesn’t ask to see Michelangelo’s paintbrushes.  He is awed by the painting.

I’m just a “paintbrush” in the hand of God.  Even that statement seems almost to be one of insufferable pride.  If I know anything of Scripture, it’s only because God has allowed that.  If I’m able to write, it’s only because God has given me that ability.  If something is blessed to you, it’s only because God has blessed it to you.

I do love to write.  Some men and women are able to take wood or stone or some other material and make something of it.  I use nouns and verbs and punctuation.  Yet all of that is in vain if God doesn’t own and bless it.

I thank those who have nominated me from the bottom of my heart, but I can’t in good conscience receive these awards.  Thank you for thinking of me like that.  I don’t deserve such honor.  Jacob told God, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth that You have shown Your servant,…,” Genesis 32:10.

I’m not, either.