Book of Exodus Chapter Thirty-One Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Touch Of God
In this chapter we find craftsmen touched by God to understand materials and processes, along with the ability to fashion them into something beautiful. We also will see the touch of God in His gift of rest. And God's hand will literally imprint His good intention for humanity on tablets of stone. The purpose of our gifts, along with the rest we need, and an understanding of His corporate and individual will for mankind are in this chapter.
In Verses 1-5, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.'" Who is "Bezalel?" His name means "in the shadow (under the protection) of God." We will see him again in Exodus 35:30-35, but we really don't know any more about him than what we read right here. We can learn from these verses that the "natural" skills, abilities and talents possessed by otherwise ordinary people are from God. Even though the persons themselves may not understand, "natural" gifts are generated through His Holy Spirit. We can misuse them, but they are His. We don't know this man, or his father, Uri, or his grandfather, Hur, but God touched His life, just as His touch is on you and me, right this minute.
God has a way of creating that which is holy and wonderful out of what we think of as "ordinary." Previously we have seen God's blueprint, His plan for the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and now direction is given for its completion. You can see urgency here—it was to be done—soon. Verse 6: "And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you:" As it is in some translations, "Aholiab," or "Oholiab" meant "a father's tent," and he was interestingly of the tribe of Dan, a people who would turn away from the Lord in the future. A person's heart can be right, even within a negative context. This is one of those extraordinary craftsmen who can do what others can't; and the mechanic, musician, painter, architect, doctor of any kind or skilled technician should wonder: "Why has God given this talent to me?" Our so-called "natural" talents are given by God for purposes infinitely higher than our own.
Here are the sections of the Tabernacle Oholiab was to oversee, for he was not only an artist, but a manager as well: Verses 7-11: "the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you." Can you imagine what these men must have felt for the rest of their lives, after touching precious items in the holy Tabernacle of God? Oholiab and Bezalel fashioned the treasures of these verses, as led by the Lord through Moses, God's prophet. If we have been or are in ministry, you and I have touched something of God. They must have wondered, as the various items took shape: "What does this mean? What is God saying to us?" And when you participate in a class, teach a Sunday School, raise children or open God's Word, you can wonder, what does He mean by this? as He touches your heart and life.
Do you know how much you need God's rest? You may think you do, but we all struggle to live in our own strength, at least to some extent. The people in these verses had suffered under the slavery imposed on them in Egypt. They lived under a system that can be described as "twenty-four seven." They had no days off and were on call, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And now they were "free," but who in this world is really free? The danger they did not see was this: Just like the child can become the abusive parent, many of them would become slavemasters, abusing their own people. And so, right at the beginning of their new standing as a nation, in Verses 12-17, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 13 But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. 16 So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.'"
This was an externally-imposed rest, necessary because most of them lacked the faith to find God's true rest. Self-motivation describes humanity, and the "Law" is necessary for those who are self-directed. If you have merely a hint of belief in God, it will occur to you that pleasing Him is a good idea. And so God imposed this command, this LAW of rest; otherwise, the slave-masters of the future would become like those of the past. Jesus called to us: "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Yes there would be problems and yes, slavery continues even now as part of humanity, but He intends that we will find rest in even the worst of circumstances. Anything less than HIS rest is just the Law, which may alter our actions, but doesn't change our hearts. He offers us something much more—the deep REST that comes from God. Come to the Messiah Jesus Christ and He will change you inside and out for the good—forever.
A compelling touch of God is seen in Verse 18: "When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God." Can you even IMAGINE what it would be like to hold in your hands, "tablets of stone, written by the finger of God?" Moses had that privilege, but as we will see in the next chapters, these God-touched tablets would be damaged, destroyed by the hands of Moses because of the sins of the people. God has in mind fashioning something beautiful out of your life and mine, by the way. As David would later say, you are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14), and your makeup includes the circumstances surrounding you. We have sinned, sadly damaging God's intentions for us, but don't despair: "Come unto (Him)" and you will find His touch, His rest once more.
Father, I am touched by Your love for me, as seen in the giving of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed as payment in full for my sins. I trust in You, Lord. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.