God likes to place gems of comfort, encouragement, guidance, and conviction in odd places in the Scriptures — places we don’t expect to find them. Places like the more tedious parts of Exodus, where I was in my devotions recently.
Full disclosure: in devotional reading, I’m tempted, like many, to skim over the portions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that contain the kinds of details that I rarely find “relevant” and that my brain doesn’t retain well (genealogies, ritual instructions, temple inventories, and so on). Sometimes I do skim. I’m grateful I didn’t this time because I came across a rare gem.
First, here’s a word about gem-finding before describing what I found. One reason we read the whole Bible over and over is that its “gems” move around. The Holy Spirit may illumine one particular detail one time, and then something else the next time. A text that seemed rather bland this time through Exodus might hit us with fresh wisdom-giving insight next time. That’s part of the never-ending adventure of interacting with the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The Spirit surprises us. Like he did when I was reading about the tabernacle construction.
Given an Impossible Job
In Exodus 25–30, God gives Moses a lengthy list of detailed directions for how to build the tabernacle. Besides the “blueprints” for the tent, God gave precise instructions for the handcrafting of the Ark of the Covenant, the bread table, the lampstand, the lampstand’s oil, the altar of sacrifice, the altar of incense, the incense itself, the water basin, the priestly garments, and the recipe for the holy anointing oil. These instructions fill six chapters.
I was struck by how often God told Moses, “you shall make . . .” (Exodus 25:13). I looked up the phrase “you shall make” in Hebrew. The “you” is a second person, masculine, singular verb. In other words, You, Moses, shall make.
Moses already had an impossibly huge job. He was lead prophet, head-of-state, foreign minister, chief justice, supreme military commander, lead biblical counselor, and more for a nation of two million discontented nomads, who all depended on his guidance for their daily sustenance and safety. Now God was saddling him with a bunch of exacting “you shall make” projects. Moses was an extraordinarily humble man of faith (Numbers 12:3). If it were me, I may have been thinking, Me and what army? An impossible job just became more impossible.
Sufficient Ability Provided
Then I stumbled on the gem in this pile of precious stones:
The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you. . . . According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” (Exodus 31:1–6, 11)
God gave Moses the abilities he personally lacked in the form of other able people. He expanded the “you shall make” into “they shall do.” An impossible job just became more possible.
Never before had this text struck me with such hope and joy. God has given to all men — and women (Exodus 35:25–26) — the needed abilities to carry out every work God calls his people to do.
I felt a particularly renewed hope in the responsibilities God has given me as a father. A Christian father (and mother) feels the weight of God’s command: “You shall teach them diligently” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Parenting is an overwhelming job. I’m regularly tempted to anxiety by all that my children yet need to know — not just hear, but know and believe. I’m aware of my limitations to help them know and believe. And with my youngest three (of five) all in their teens now, I feel the time getting short. I’m simply not adequate to the huge job of equipping them in all the ways they need — and now they’re at ages when many other things compete for their time and attention.
This gem in Exodus 31:6 reminded my soul that God will supply everything I need to fulfill my calling as a father, including other precious people to whom he has given abilities to do for my children what I alone cannot (Philippians 4:19).
You’re Not Alone
This, of course, goes for every overwhelming job God gives us. We are never truly alone in the work God gives us to do. God will provide all the ability we need. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). Hudson Taylor said, “Depend upon it, God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” And when God supplies the abilities, most will likely come in the form of other able people. God expands almost every “you shall . . .” into “they shall . . .”
A New Testament version of Exodus 31:6 is 1 Corinthians 12:18–20:
As it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
What God requires of us is almost always meant to be carried out in the context of a community or “body” of saints. For “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). As each contributes his or her abilities, we work together so that “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). That’s how God loves to make our impossible jobs more possible.
All that comfort in one verse in Exodus 31, where I wasn’t expecting it. It was a good reminder, not only that God provides all I need, but that he likes to place his gems of comfort, encouragement, guidance, and conviction in surprising places.