8 Observations about Sacrificial Giving

Here are eight observations about sacrificial giving, based on how the people of Israel brought their gifts for the tabernacle (from Exodus 35–36):

 1.     They gave in response to the initiative of God.

It’s not like God needed their stuff. The hardest parts he had done by himself—the plagues, defeating the Egyptians, providing manna in the wilderness. But he invites them to be a part of the building of the tabernacle.

 2.     God used their stuff to build his tabernacle.

Even though God didn’t need their stuff, he chose to use it. The work God does on earth is always facilitated through the gifts of his people. Think about when Jesus fed the 5000: he used a kid’s lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish. Clearly a God that could do that did not need the 5 loaves and 2 fish . . . as if he could not have pulled it off with 1 fish and a bread crust!

 3.     Everyone had something to contribute.

Exod 35:20 says “all the congregation of Israel” was involved in this. If you read the text you’ll see it then starts listing all these different kinds of people. The craftsmen did this; some of the women did this; and the people who were good with cloth did this. Everybody had a part because God was not after a few resources of a few wealthy people; he was after the hearts of all his people.

4.     You can’t give what you don’t have.

What you see throughout Exod 35 (esp. 35:22–29) is that each person gave out of what God had given them. But you shouldn’t feel guilty about what you can’t give. God determines the seasons of your life. You are responsible to be faithful in the season he has you in.

5.     They gave in response to grace.

Not only are they responding to God’s deliverance from Egypt, but to the grace that God showed them in Exodus 34. There Israel had made a golden idol to worship, and God should have destroyed them. But instead he showed them mercy. Even the gifts they gave were a reminder of God’s mercy, since they were given to the Israelites by the terrified Egyptians as they left Egypt. They are only giving to God out of what they had received from God.

6.     Giving was both free and Spirit-prompted.

There is an interplay between the Holy Spirit and the hearts of the people throughout these chapters. Moses does not command anyone what to give. Instead he says, “The Holy Spirit will put in your heart specifically what to give.”

7.     They gave publicly.

The word translated in the ESV as “contribution” in Exodus 35:5 is terumah, which literally means “to raise up.” In the old King James Version they called this the “heave-offering.” You would heave it up for all to see, showing them that you were “all-in.”[1]

8.     They had to hold a congregational meeting to tell them to stop giving.

This is my favorite one. Moses has to gather everyone together to stop them from giving because the gifts are too plentiful (Exod 36:5–7)! Just one time, I would love for my church to let me experience this. I promise I will do a really good job calling the congregational meeting!

[1] Strong, J. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: 2001; Osborn, N. D., & Hatton, H. A Handbook on Exodus. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1999, pp. 698-9.

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