1 Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. 2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”
4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 5 Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece.
10 “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 12 the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; 13 the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 14 the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.”
20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. – Exodus 35:1-29 ESV
His face aglow with the glory of the Lord, Moses delivered his latest message to the people of Israel, and he began with a reminder of the Sabbath day of rest. With the construction of the Tabernacle not yet begun, Moses knew that the Israelites would be tempted to violate God’s prohibition against working on the Sabbath in order to complete the massive project as quickly as possible. Since the Tabernacle was to house God’s presence, it would be to their advantage to finish its construction in record time. They likely believed that the longer it took them to build it, the greater the risk that God might abandon them. So, God had Moses warn them against working on the Sabbath.
“In six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord. Anyone who does work on it will be put to death.” – Exodus 35:2 NLT
They were not to allow the project’s size and scope and their zeal to complete it to lead to further disobedience. Violating the Sabbath would not be an acceptable compromise. In fact, God reminds them that even the simple task of kindling a fire on the seventh day would result in death. All of God’s were equally valid and binding. There were to be no concessions or compromises. Attempting to fulfill the will of God by breaking the law of God was never acceptable. The Tabernacle was to be built according to God’s terms and no shortcuts or loopholes were allowed. The people were expected to do everything God’s way or not at all.
With the golden calf incident behind them, the Israelites were to prepare for the construction of the Tabernacle. It was time for God’s design to become a reality but before they could begin, the people had to provide the materials for its construction. This was not the first time the people had heard about God’s command for a voluntary contribution of building materials.
“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:
gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.
“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” – Exodus 25:2-8 NLT
The people had been more than willing to donate their gold so that Aaron could make the golden calf but would they prove generous when it came to all the material needed to build God’s house? And the list was a long and expensive one. Precious metals, rare gems, fine linen, timber, thread, oil, tanned animal skins, and incense were all required for God’s house. Without the building materials in hand, the craftsmen would find it impossible to create the walls, framework, and furniture for God’s house. There would be no bronze altar, ark of the covenant, or mercy seat. The walls that designated the Holy of Holies where the presence of God would rest above the mercy seat could not be built. The entire structure would remain little more than an idea, instead of becoming a tangible reality and the place where God would dwell among His people.
So, Moses reissued God’s call for donations and restated that this was to be a voluntary contribution, given by those “of a generous heart” (Exodus 35:5 ESV). This was not a mandatory tax but was to be considered a freewill offering. God was giving His people an opportunity to participate in His work by donating their time, treasures, and talents. The promise of His presence would require sacrifice on their part. For God’s house to become a reality, they would have to give of themselves, sacrificially surrendering their resources and their lives to the cause. And the people responded.
So the whole community of the Israelites went out from the presence of Moses. Everyone whose heart stirred him to action and everyone whose spirit was willing came and brought the offering for the Lord for the work of the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. – Exodus 35:20-21 NLT
Motivated by the Spirit of God, the people rose to the challenge and contributed all the resources God had requested. Nothing was missing. No items were left out or withheld. And Moses records that this voluntary effort had 100 percent participation.
Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord‘s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. – Exodus 35:24 ESV
Everyone gave something, whether wood, gold, silver, fabric, spices, oil, yarn, or talent. The entire Israelite community got involved and engaged.
All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. – Exodus 35:29 ESV
God moved among His people, creating the desire to fulfill His will. This was not a case of coercion or forced generosity. Their hearts were moved to do the right thing. Left to their own devices, the Israelites would have proven to be stingy and stubbornly resistant to God’s request. But He moved their hearts to do the right thing. And this movement of the Spirit of God was a foreshadowing of things to come. Centuries later, God would declare His intention to move in their lives yet again, transforming their sin-hardened hearts so that they might do the right thing.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” – Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT
God’s will is always done His way, but He graciously chooses to use people to accomplish His will. To do so, He transforms hardened hearts so that they might respond to His invitation to serve alongside Him in His work. God could have built the Tabernacle Himself, but He chose to give His people a part to play in its construction. Their time, talents, and treasures would be essential ingredients in the making of His earthly dwelling place – for their good and His glory.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.