GOD'S BIG LITTLE PEOPLE - BEZALEL AND OHOLIAB, GIFTED TO SERVE
Dear friends in Christ,
If you want to be a pastor in the WELS, eventually you must spend time at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The Seminary catalogue outlines the course of study. There are four main areas of study: Biblical Theology, Practical Theology, Historical Theology, and Systematic Theology. In Biblical theology you will study portions of the Bible in their original languages. You will translate a good number of chapters of Genesis, Isaiah 40-66 and selected Psalms in Hebrew. In the New Testament you will translate Galatians, Ephesians and Romans 1-8. You will also study all the books of the Old and New Testaments in an introductory way. In Practical Theology you will be taught how to preach, principles of worship and how to lead worship, teach catechism and Bible classes, visit sick people, counsel and make evangelism calls. You will study the Pastoral Epistles I and II Timothy and Titus, much of it in the original Greek. Then there is Historical Theology. It is the study of the history of God’s church through the centuries. Lots of reading is done. Systematic theology is the most intensive and detailed catechism course you will ever take. It lasts for three years. We call our membership course here at Messiah “God 101”; at the Seminary it’s like God 401. It is an intensive study but I believe the best anywhere.
But they forgot something. After graduation I found out what it was. I was assigned to start a mission church from ground floor. There was no course on how to buy land or build a building or how to deal with government bureaucracy. Do you think I should ask for my money back? Don’t get me wrong I had the best foundation that anyone could have, but I found out that God gives his church people with talents to help do ministry. God supplies Bezalel’s and Oholiab’s like you to serve. These are the Big Little People we want to talk about today. They were Gifted to Serve.
We go back in time to Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, right after they escaped from Egypt. Not long into their journey God led his people to Mount Sinai. What happened at Mount Sinai? I think most of you, including the children, would answer, “God gave Israel the Ten Commandments.” That will get you an A. Those of you who answered the Ten Commandments and the Civil Law get an A+. The Civil Law explained things like: If you owned an ox and the ox gored someone, the Civil Law exacted punishment. But you get an A++ if you included in your answer the ceremonial laws, the laws about worship.
The ceremonial laws stated who to worship; who was to lead in worship; what they were to wear; how to worship; where to worship, when to worship; with what to worship. Included were specs for their church, the portable temple called the Tent of Meeting. They would worship at it for the next 400 years. The ceremonial laws told them what to build and how to build it.
But don’t you think that was a problem? Israel had fled from Egypt. They didn’t have time to pack. They couldn’t call United Van Lines or Two Men and a Truck. They couldn’t call Two Men and a Cart. Yet the specs called good carpentry, for gold and silver and bronze and all kinds of thread to weave a tent. Where would they get that?
Who studied metallurgy to melt the gold and silver and get the bronze? Who would design and mold and form what God wanted? They were living in tents. They didn’t have workshops set up for this. They didn’t have that kind of equipment, did they? These people were nomads moving from one place to another.
God took care of that. God supplied what was needed. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 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. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. The good Lord gifted and chose Bezalel to take the lead and appointed Oholiab to be his chief helper. God had given these two men special gifts to envision, design and then form these special vessels for their temple. They built “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.
I admire people who have artistic talents. I admire people who can draw life-like pictures or paint something that looks so life-like. I admire people who can write lyrics and sing songs in inspiring ways. Bezalel and Oholiab fit into this category and more. But there are a lot of people who can do these things. People with artistic flair can design a beautiful building or even a pagan temple and show how artistic they are. People can write songs that might be pleasant to listen to, yet often those songs praise selfish love or even sexual love. Bezalel and Oholiab had extraordinary gifts, but what made them different was the gift of “wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge” along with the skills.They were motivated and inspired to do these things for the Lord who had done so much for them. Someone building a beautiful but pagan temple doesn’t do it like they did. Someone who is building a big building for self-honor and self-glory don’t design and build for the same reasons as Bezalel and Oholiab did…to honor the Lord.
Their joy was doing it for the Lord. You see these two men were with the nation and looked to the right and the left and saw the walls of water while their feet were on dry ground. These two tasted the manna that was completely free to them. They saw the Lord in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. They knew the LORD of heaven and earth was present among them. This temple they were to build was the place where Hebrew nation would meet God and worship Him and the Lord of power grace and glory would meet with them. This temple and all of its trimmings were to honor him and continually reveal the only God of heaven and earth whom they were able to serve.
This is more than just a pretty little building to meet once a week. This is where we meet God and God meets his people. This is a place where we get to know and see with the eyes of faith the God of heaven and earth who is interested in each of us. He assures us of a love he gives to the whole world. He also personally assures each of his grace and forgiveness. Your sins are forgiven. He says it over and over again. He says it in Baptism, your sins are washed away. He says it in the Lord’s Supper. He promises that in bread and wine we receive the very body and blood that won forgiveness for all and is personally assured when we eat and drink. This is the place where we meet God and God meets us. Bezalel and Oholiab knew it; so do we.
Another point to know is how God supplies his church with Bezalel’s and Oholiab’s in the persons of those who fill this room this morning. When I was called to begin a church in Lawrenceville right out of the Seminary, I had to laugh. If God wanted a church there he needed to supply the people. I also knew if he wanted a church building built there he would need to supply the people to do it. I knew nothing about construction. I worked every summer during my school days and even in school, but never once in a construction job. While I was in school I was learning to conjugate verbs, not construct a roof. I was learning about the Light of the world, not about installing light fixtures.
Yet the Lord supplied always supplied the Bezalels and Oholiabs. My first congregation had three engineers. There was a family who were into building things. I am almost sure that when the kids were born they were not connected to their mom with umbilical cords but with too belts. In my second congregation we did a big outreach effort where we covered thousands of homes. During that outreach we came into contact with two engineers who became members and were in the middle of building of classrooms and gym for our school and expansion of our church. God had already supplied another engineer who held a number of patents on electrical equipment he invented. Another member was one of the first people hired at Disney to do specialty painting. Cinderella’s Castle and all the other buildings were painted by his crews. We had an executive for the McDonald’s Corporation and a bunch of CPA’s who did the financing.
Here, thank you Lord for Tim who knows engineering and how construction works. Thanks you for Dave and Jon who had connections with the people we needed. Thanks you for Dennis who knows finances and did a great presentation to show that we could do what we are doing. Thank you for Amanda and Lori who know interior decorating. Thank you for Darrell who know sound and media systems. Thank you for Bob and Josh and all the others who know technology. Thank you for Tre who knows landscaping design. Thank you for that we have a congregation that gives encouragement and is supporting what is being done, not to the glory of our name, but to the glory of God whose house this is.
Frankly, we are building onto the Lord’s temple because God has given us a very dedicated Sunday School staff who love Jesus and love kids who need Jesus. We are building onto God’s temple because God has gathered people who want others to know the love of Jesus and has given an evangelism committee that loves to do outreach in some very creative ways. We are adding onto the Lord’s temple because God has given this congregation gifted musicians and vocalists who love to worship Jesus and use their God-given talents in worship and help make everyone’s worship experience edifying and inspiring. We are building onto the Lord’s temple because God by his Spirit has given people who love the Word and the promises of God of peace and hope and mercy in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the certainty of a life hereafter where we will worship like we never have before.
I am not preaching on dedication Sunday. It is always appropriate to have a guest speaker to give encouragement. It will be good to hear Professor Zell, Messiah’s former pastor. This is my dedication sermon two Sunday’s early. As we look forward to the day we can enter the Christian Family Center and learn in the rooms God has given, we remember the Christian Family Center as a gift from God. But all who use it, all who in some way have contributed to making it possible are also the Bezalels and Oholiabs, gifts from God gifted by God to serve him and others.