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The Lord Finished Speaking

Date: Feb. 13, 2022

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Exodus 31:1-18

Key Verse: Exodus 18

When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

Some people have a fear of speaking publicly. They don’t want to do it at any cost. For them, to get up in front of a crowd fills them with dread, and that fight-or-flight response starts building in their body. They are going to nope right on out of there. In all honesty, I was one of those people. I hated the spotlight and was so afraid to speak in front of other people. I hated going up in front of the class to present something. It bothered me so much that I would shake like an unbalanced washing machine. My hands would become indistinct because they were shaking so much. I would put my hands behind me and hold on to the chalkboard tray to keep my hands from shaking. It was like that for many years, but the Lord got me through it, and I remember very clearly when I realized that it was no longer an issue for me. In 2005, I presented my master’s research where I spoke for over forty minutes about the results of my research. During that time, I wasn’t nervous once. There was no shaking, no grabbing the chalkboard tray. I spoke clearly and effectively. Now, I no longer have that issue. By the Lord’s grace, I have spoken in large settings for technical conferences and Bible conferences. It is entirely the Lord’s doing, which makes a lot of sense. Since the start of chapter 25, the Lord has speaking to Moses. Moses was on the mountain with God for forty days and forty nights and during that time, the Lord spoke to Moses and told him all the things we see chapters 25 through 31. It was a big ol’ speech with more power and charisma than any Steve Jobs keynote. He gave Moses the plans for the place of worship and all the articles of worship. Now, here, in this passage, we reach the end of the Lord’s speech.

For the past few chapters, the Lord has been giving Moses the plans for the tabernacle, the ark, the altar, the priests’ clothing, and everything used for worship. Even the materials were specified. The best needed to be used in service to the Lord. Now that Moses knew everything that needed to be made, the Lord was going to tell Moses who was going to make it. Our passage starts out, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,’”. (1-2) The Lord told Moses about Bezalel. Bezalel was the son of a man named Uri and the grandson of a man named Hur. This probably wasn’t the Hur who helped hold up Moses’ hands in chapter 17. But it is of note that Bezalel was from the tribe of Judah. Once the ark, the tabernacle, and all the articles of worship were created and consecrated, they were only to be handled by the Levites, the same tribe that Moses and Aaron were from. But, to build them, there were no such restrictions. Only the most capable people were chosen to build what the Lord designed.

The passage continues, “and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” (3-5) Here, the Lord tells Moses about Bezalel. God specially equipped Bezalel with all the knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and skill that would be necessary to make everything. Bezalel was a gifted craftsman who was able to work in metals, stone, and wood, which is amazing. Most of the time an artist or craftsman excels in only one medium, but Bezalel was skilled in many media. Plus, this wasn’t merely some contractor putting up drywall, Bezalel was to make these articles with artistic flair. These items were to be decorated and embellished. Above all these things and mentioned first, is that the Lord filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit was on Bezalel. What this means is that Bezalel knew exactly what the Lord meant in his plans. Plans, in many ways, are up to some level of interpretation. The Lord gave Bezalel a boost in his abilities so that his interpretation of the plans would align with the idea the Lord had. The Lord had wanted the best materials for his tabernacle, and he wanted the best people to make it as well.

However, Bezalel was not the only one chosen to build the articles of worship; he was to have help. “Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you:” (6) Bezalel was to have help in constructing everything in the form of Oholiab. He was a man from the tribe of Dan. Again, we can see God using the right person no matter wherever they came from. He wasn’t a Levite but had the appropriate skill to help. Bezalel and Oholiab are the only two people explicitly mentioned as the craftsmen working on the tabernacle and the rest. In God’s eyes, these two were non-negotiable in the construction of everything. They were required and could not be replaced. God had equipped them to perform this task and there was no one else specifically called to do it. Now, they didn’t do all the work themselves. They trained others to perform much of the work, but Bezalel and Oholiab were the ones who oversaw the entire operation.

The passage mentions everything that these craftsmen had to create, “the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent—the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand—and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.” (7-11) Bezalel, Oholiab, and the rest of the skilled workers had to make all these things for worship. It reminds me a bit of the creation of everything. God created everything, the heavens and the earth and all things in them. He crafted everything from his very word, from the stars in the sky to the beasts of the field to our very selves. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God was the craftsman that created each one of us, and he created us beautifully. God is the best craftsman, creating uniqueness and beauty in everything he makes. Just look out, in any direction and you can see his handiwork. From every sunset, you can see the multitude of colors in the Lord’s palette. In every snowflake, you can see they beauty of his order. In every heart, you can see the joy in his creation.

Bezalel and Oholiab are called to mimic that nature of God. They are to try their best and give their best in service of the Lord in creating the items for worship. God gave them all the abilities that they need to perform what they needed to perform. Just a few months prior, Bezalel and Oholiab were slaves in Egypt. They probably used their gifts there, in their slavery. God was preparing them to serve him by making these items of worship. They may have dabbled in their artistic endeavors, but here they are allowed to flourish. Paul explained to Timothy that all of God’s word is holy and useful. He showed that God provides for those who serve him. He wrote that God provides “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17) If we are called to serve God in some manner, he makes sure that we have everything that we need. We don’t need to worry about it. Jesus told his disciples, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:18-20)

It is at this point where the passage pivots. The Lord moves on from talking about Bezalel and Oholiab and starts talking about the Sabbath. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”’” (12-13) Everything up to this point was about the tabernacle and worship. The Israelites had already promised to call the Lord their God. This was the covenant that they agreed to before Moses ascended the mountain to converse with God for these forty days and forty nights. When they agreed to worship the Lord, he made sure that they had everything they needed to worship him, but after making sure everything was provided, the Lord reminded Moses of the Sabbath. It was already mentioned as one of the Ten Commandments, but the Lord reminded Moses that worship was to occur weekly on the Sabbath. Worship on the Sabbath would be a sign of the covenant. It would be a sign that the Lord is their God, and that it is he who makes them holy.

The passage continues, “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.” (14-16) These verses seem to be harsh. The Lord calls on the Israelites to observe the Sabbath and see that it is holy. Those to desecrate it or even work on it were to be put to death. It was a constant reminder of their covenant with God. Every week they would gather and celebrate their God who saved them. If you didn’t observe the Sabbath, if you worked on it, then you were saying that you were not going to abide by the covenant. You would be saying that the Lord is not your God, and you would forsake him by doing work. The Israelites were to be God’s people, but anyone who was not observing the Sabbath was not one of God’s people.

The Lord does remind his people the significance of the Sabbath. “It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” (17) The Lord made the heavens and the earth in six days, and on the seventh day he rested. He did it as a sign for us. He knew that we would need dedicated time to rest from our daily lives and focus on him. This was especially important for the Israelites. Just a few months prior, they were slaves and probably never had a day off. They probably worked every day because the Egyptians made them. Now that they were no longer slaves, they might have kept that tendency to work every day out of habit, but it was important for them to have a time to focus and worship the Lord their God, so he lays out the need and seriousness of the Sabbath. It was to be a lasting sign between the Lord and the Israelites forever. It was a sign between God and his followers.

The Sabbath is Saturday, the last day of the week. We Christians, on the other hand, primarily worship on Sunday, like we are doing right now. Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord mention that the Sabbath was to be changed from Saturday to Sunday, but most Christians do worship on Sunday. The exact moment this change occurred is uncertain, but it seems to be done to honor the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, and we worship what he has done. The Saturday Sabbath was observed because of the Lord creating the heavens and the earth and resting on the seventh day. We worship on Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, and we have a path to become a new creation. Jesus’ death and resurrection is as important of an event as the creation of creation.

The Lord really knows what we need. We tend to work until we burn out. We will just try to keep going and one day we will just collapse. The Lord knows that we need time to refresh ourselves, but he also knows that there are many times we will not take the time to refresh. It is becoming more and more apparent that our bodies really need sleep. The body needs to rest and getting enough sleep is important for our memory, our metabolism, our heart and even weight management. Even with just one hour less that what is recommended can have a lasting effect on our bodies. Getting a good night’s rest is important. Similarly, our spirits need a rest as well, but unlike sleep, the Lord shows us that we need it at least weekly. Our souls need to be charged with God. We need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to keep us going and prevent us from burning out. We rest by worshipping the Lord. We rest by coming to him and recharging at the source of life. We thank the Lord for all he’s done and sing his praises.

It can be hard to keep the Sabbath. It can be hard to set aside a time to focus on worshipping the Lord. Even knowing its benefits, it can still be hard to do so. The things of the world tend to get in the way. For us, worship is on Sunday morning and depending on your Saturday night, it might be hard to get up in time for worship. Or as a student researcher, you might be tempted to be working on your research and all waking hours or you might try to use the time to do your homework. However, it is very important for us to keep a time to worship the Lord. He saved us and we need to acknowledge what the Lord has done. If we don’t, then we don’t appreciate the salvation the Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. We really must take time out of our busy schedules to focus on the Lord. If we don’t, then we are not the Lord’s treasured possession.

The passage ends with, “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (18) Each of these two sections in the passage begins with, “Then the Lord said to Moses”. It is important to remember that everything that was mentioned since chapter 25 is the work of the Lord. Now, the Lord finished speaking to Moses. He said all that he needed to say. When the Lord was done, he gave Moses the two tablets of the covenant law. These tablets were the physical contract of the covenant. Popular belief is that these to tablets contained the Ten Commandments, five on each, but the Bible doesn’t say that. Instead, it is mentioned that they are inscribed on both sides, and they are probably identical. They were two copies of a contract, one for each party. We still do this nowadays. When a contract is signed, a copy of the signed contract is given to each party. When we closed on our house about a year ago, we signed a lot of paperwork, but we received a copy of the paperwork along with the other party. The same is happening here. There were two copies of the covenant, one for the Israelites and the other for God, but since God is God, the Israelites were to keep both copies inside the ark. This contract was not put together by human hands, but the finger of God. The Lord, himself, wrote this contract out.

It was hard to find some connecting tissue between these parts. I settled on this last verse about the Lord finishing speaking. In Genesis, when the Lord finished speaking, creation was created. The Lord spoke the heavens and the earth into creation. When he spoke, it was done.  After he was done speaking, it was a time of rest, the Sabbath. Here, the Lord spoke plans to Moses, and when he was done speaking, it was time for the Israelites to create items from these plans. The passage starts out with work and ends with rest, just like that creation. It is a parallel that we can focus forward.

In the New Testament, in the book of John, we see that Jesus is the Lord who came down to the earth and was made flesh. Jesus is the very Word of God made flesh; the power of God made flesh. For over three years, Jesus had an earthly ministry, where he taught about God’s heard and his kingdom was coming soon. Jesus taught about the heart of God and showed what he truly was seeking from his people. Jesus offered healing and forgiveness. He rankled the religious leaders of the time because he called out the hypocrisy. Eventually, they had him arrested and tried. They tried to do that many times, but it was not yet time. Instead, only when it was time, that Jesus went to the cross. Jesus was sentenced to death on the cross, but it was because it was the Lord’s will. It was all for the sake of God’s plan for salvation. Jesus didn’t speak much on the cross, but he did speak some. The last thing he said was, “It is finished” then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30) The last thing the Lord spoke on the cross was about finishing his work, the work of salvation.

With Jesus’ last words, God’s work is finished. He created with his word and by his word we are saved from a life of sin. We’ve touched on the sacrificial system a little bit in Exodus. Because of the sinfulness of humanity, blood was required for our forgiveness. The blood of lambs and goats were only temporary, and it was a lot of work to sacrifice all the animals that were needed for forgiveness. After every sin, another sacrifice would be required. It would go on and on, but with Jesus’ final words on the cross, all that is finished. There would be no more sacrifices because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He died, one and for all, to bring salvation to all who believe. There is no more for us to do in order to be saved.

Sometimes, people think that we must do something to be holy or to be saved. We try to use our merits to make ourselves better. We might think that our good works must outweigh the bad things we do. As long as we do more good works than bad, then we are saved, but the law doesn’t work like that. If you commit a crime, you’ve committed a crime, no matter how good or bad you were before or after. Our salvation depends on what Christ has done, not on what we have done. We don’t have to do some great deeds to be great, but Jesus already has done what is great. We need to rest on what Christ has done. He died on the cross for our sins. He sacrificed himself so that we could be saved. We have a Sabbath salvation, one not based on works, but based on faith in what Jesus has done. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) Any work we do for the Lord is because of the gift of salvation that was given us through Jesus. The Lord has spoken. Let us pray.

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