Earlier last week an email showed up in my inbox. It pointed out a problem, a mistake, an issue and it gently suggested that I was the one to blame and thus, the one to find a solution. There was just one thing wrong – I was not to blame, not in the slightest. A fire erupted in my chest as I quickly and angrily hit ‘Reply All’ on the email. It’s one thing to blame me for something I didn’t do – it’s another to publicly blame me for something I didn’t do! I have a reputation to uphold! As quickly as the wrinkle appeared, it disappeared, when the sender of the email apologized for their mistake. Satisfied, I sat back. Justice had been done.
I know there are at least a few kindred spirits out there who would do the same as me – but how many would also fire up their computer to dash off an email requesting credit for what they have done? That scenario is much less common and much more taboo. Even the Israelites didn’t do that. In this chapter of the Bible, their work on God’s new home continues. The Israelites, led by Bezalel and Oholiab, complete the work on the ark of the covenant, the lampstand, the altar of incense, and more. It was hard work. The Bible describes the intricate styling of the lampstand – buds, flowers, and blossoms were sculpted into the base of each of its branches. Solid gold overlaid everything in sight. It was unpaid labor, but it was earnest labor. And on it went.
The Treasures Within:
Exodus 37 is so simple, straightforward, and almost repetitive that you begin to wonder if it even needs to be here. If I were Moses, I might have written it pretty quickly, anxious to get to the good stuff. But there’s a detail – a very tiny detail – but a detail nonetheless, that he added, that intrigues me. It is the word “they”.
In verses 1-9, the Bible describes the construction of the ark, using ‘he’ in describing all of the work that was done. We know that ‘he’ means Bezalel, because verse 1 tells us so. Bezalel overlaid the ark with pure gold, Bezalel cast four gold rings for it, Bezalel made the cherubim for the ark, etc. But for the rest of the chapter, the pronoun used to describe the work switches from “he” to “they”. The work on the lampstand, the table, and the altar of incense wasn’t just Bezalel – it was done by many persons. Perhaps Oholiab helped or perhaps tens of other hardworking Israelites pitched in. We don’t know exactly, but we do know that there is a difference. Else, why would Moses take the time to switch the pronouns?
You may be thinking, Congratulations, so what? And maybe it’s nothing but for some reason that pronoun change struck me because it reminds me that some other unnamed, unknown individuals worked on the ark and the lampstand and the altar. We don’t know who they are. But those people, whoever “they” are, knew. Their friends knew. Moses knew, even if he didn’t use their names. And most importantly, God knew. Every person that lifted a hammer, every young girl who stoked a furnace to melt the gold, every young man who held down a slab of acacia wood – God knew their names, their stories, and what they did for Him. He saw it and His heart swelled. He saw it and He blessed them for it. He saw it and He was glad.
Human praise and human applause can be some of the side effects of working for God, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes no one notices our service. Sometimes no one thanks us or supports us. Sometimes people even make it harder for us. And we are a prideful, conceited species, so you know this gets under our skin. Maybe we considered slowing down or changing things up or even quitting. But there’s another option: recalibrate. Instead of looking for shoulder claps, pats on the back, and flattering words to keep us on track, let’s feed off of something different. Let’s look for the smile in God’s eyes, the supporting touch of His hand, and His silent applause.
God’s Message To Us:
“I know what you have done for Me.” There’s just something sweet about a hearty ‘Amen’, a kind word of appreciation, or even just a “good job”. But if we find ourselves looking for this and only this to sustain our efforts in service for God, then we’re doing it wrong. When you or I write for God or speak for God or build for God or create for God or even just smile for God, it’s got to be for God. We can’t do it for our ego. We can’t do it for our reputation. They say “know your audience”, well, we have an audience of One. And when we realize that, all of a sudden we’ll find that we already have all the notice love and accolades and support that we ever could have wanted, because it was coming from heaven the entire time.
What do you think? What has God seen you do for Him? What message did God convey to you through this chapter of the Bible?