The Good Lost Generation of Exodus - Part 4
The generation of Israelites that exited Egypt were lost in the wilderness, falling to the judgment of God for their own unfaithfulness. However, not everything they did was bad. In previous articles, we observed their faith at the crossing of the Red Sea and their admirable fear of God at Mount Sinai. The next, and last, positive moment for this generation comes a short time after the previous ones.
In Exodus 36 we find the Israelites still camped at Mount Sinai. Moses has been given more than just the Ten Commandments. He has also received instructions on how to build the tabernacle so that he and all of Israel would have access to God once they left the holy mountain. The instructions were detailed and while the tabernacle was just a tent, the plans were nonetheless ambitious. It involved a linen fence that spanned 150 feet by 75 feet and was 7 ½ feet tall (assuming a cubit is 1.5 feet). The tabernacle itself would have multiple layers of covering (Ex. 26:1-14). One layer would be blue and purple fine linen, another would be of goat’s hair, then another of ram’s skin and finally another of porpoise skins (or some translations say seals skin, but it is uncertain exactly what this layer was made of). That’s a lot of precious materials. Then of course, pretty much everything is covered in gold. The point is, the tabernacle required a lot of materials. Costly materials.
Where would Moses get everything needed? The people of Israel answered the call with “free-will offerings every morning” (Ex. 36:3). Remember, this is a nation of slaves. They likely did not know much about wealth until the beaten-down Egyptians showered them with parting gifts (Ex. 12:35-36). So, this wealth was new to the Israelites. Additionally, these Israelites had left their homes in Egypt and had no jobs or land out in the wilderness. They weren’t making additional wealth. All they had, was what they had. But still, these Israelites voluntarily gave gold and silver and whatever else was needed to assist in the building of the tabernacle. “So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated through the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more” (Ex. 36:6).
Imagine that. It didn’t take a command to get them to give. Instead, it took a command to get them to stop. That’s saying something about those Israelites and their attitude toward God and worship.
After sending the instructions on the weekly collection for the Christians at Corinth (I Cor. 16:1-4), Paul had to follow up that letter, exhorting the Christian to give liberally, as they had promised to do (II Cor. 8:7; 9:3-4). Wouldn’t it have been something if Paul had instead wrote II Corinthians telling them to stop because they had given too much? Wouldn’t that say something about them? It may have only been temporary, but these Israelites had set a positive example for the ages. They showed what it was to be a cheerful giver.
In the New Testament times, we do not give for the purpose of building a tabernacle. But we do give so that we have a place to worship God. We do give to adorn the spiritual temple (the church which is the saints and not to be confused with a building), with whatever might be needed (I Cor. 16:1). We give to help the word of salvation be spread to all men and all corners of the earth (Phil. 4:15-18). Wouldn’t it be something if preachers and elders never had to urge us to give liberally, but had to ask us to stop because there was more than enough for the work?
As this series comes to an end, I can’t help but stop and ponder the end of the generation of the Exodus. They showed such faith, such fear, and such liberal giving. It is a shame that they did not have spiritual endurance so as to finish the journey that they were on. We too, though there is plenty that could be said to our praise, must not quit. We must be like Paul, who had truly done amazing things for the Lord, but would also say, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (I Cor. 9:27).
The good lost generation of Exodus serve as our example and as an unfortunate warning for all time.