Exodus 31:1-11

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle in the wilderness was “a shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). Ultimately, it was designed to witness to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, and Sovereign. It is not without significance, therefore, that God chose consecrated workmen to erect the tabernacle.

In this passage we have the story of the appointing and anointing of Bezaleel and Aholiab for this stupendous task. What God expected of these two men is what He demands of us today, if we would be living tabernacles for the display of the Savior’s glory in the wilderness of a modern world. Notice, in the first place,
I. How God Appoints His Workmen
“… the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘See, I have called by name Bezaleel … of the tribe of Judah…. I have appointed with him Aholiab … of the tribe of Dan’ …” (Exodus 31:1-6). Consecrated workmen do not simply emerge; they are appointed of God. The verses before us clearly reveal the method of God’s appointment.
Bezaleel and Aholiab were sovereignly appointed by God. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘See, I have called by name Bazaleel;” and again: “… I have appointed with him Aholiab …” (Exodus 31:1-6). Moses was informed of the divine call, but otherwise had no part in it whatsoever, nor did Aaron; the appointment was entirely by God’s sovereign choice.
Bezaleel was the grandson of Hur of the tribe of Judah, and since it is generally assumed that Hur was the husband of Miriam it follows that Bezaleel would have made it appear that he was taking honor to himself or his own family, but all these difficulties were obviated by the sovereign choice of God.
Aholiab on the other hand, was of the tribe of Dan, which was one of the less honorable tribes. In choosing this man God demonstrated that He is no respecter of persons. He can use whom He will — whether he is born of the favored tribe of Judah or Levi, or the less distinguished tribe of Dan.
How wonderful to know that God calls us by name. He knows our backgrounds, our dispositions, our propensities as well as our potentialities. In His grace and goodness He says to you and me: “I have called you by name. I want to separate you unto the work for which I have called you.” Have you heard His call? And even more important, have you responded?
Bezaleel and Aholiab were suitably appointed by God — “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘See, I have called by name Bezeleel …’;” and again: “… I have appointed with him Aholiab …” (Exodus 31:1-6). Apparently Bezaleel was to be the architect or master workman, and Aholiab was to serve under Bezaleel as “… an engraver and designer, a weaver …”(Exodus 38:23).
It is evident from these verses that when God appoints His workmen He does so with their suitability in mind. God never would have chosen Moses to lead the children of Israel unless he were naturally and spiritually equipped for such a task. The Bible tells us that “… Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). Such a background proved to be what was needed to fulfill the purpose of God. What was true of Moses was equally true of Bezaleel and Aholiab.
W.E. Griffis pointed out that under Jehovah’s merciful providence even the Captivity had a sunny side. Not all the Hebrew sons and daughters toiled in clay, or ate cheap bread and onions. Many were house and body servants to Egyptian ladies and gentlemen. The smarter and more dexterous slaves learned trades. Others secured first-class knowledge in all manner of workmanship that had to do with gold, silver, bronze, stones and wood. It is reasonable to suppose that Bezaleel and Aholiab were in this category. An omniscient God not only sovereignly, but suitably, appointed them.
It is inconceivable to believe that God would call a man to be a preacher who had no ability whatsoever to speak in public; or a woman to be a soloist who was hopelessly tone deaf. How reassuring to know that when God appoints His servants He does so with a sovereignty and suitability that never makes a mistake. This is why it is so serious for an individual to refuse the divine call and commission.
II. How God Anoints His Workmen
“… I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:3-5).
Whatever natural gift a person may have, he is not ready for the service of God until he knows the divine anointing. Consecrated workmen are not only appointed, but anointed. Such anointing implies, first of all, the filling of the Spirit for divine service — “… I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:3).
It is significant that the writers of the New Testament often speak of the filling of the Spirit when anointing and empowering are also implied. Jesus told the disciples to wait “in the city of Jerusalem until (they were) endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49); and again He said: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me …” (Acts 1:8).
When the day of Pentecost arrived we read that the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit …” (Acts 2:4). Later Luke tells us that “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to [the people] …” (Acts 4:8). Stephen, being stoned to death, was “… full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Barnabas, we are told, “… was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and … encouraged [the believers of Antioch] to “continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24). Then there is that interesting account in Acts 13:9 where “… Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit …” rebuked Elymas the sorcerer.
It would appear from these passages that there is a sense in which the fullness of the Holy Spirit also includes the anointing of the Spirit. Such anointing, of course, is for service or for suffering.
For Bezaleel and Aholiab, this anointing meant wisdom, understanding, knowledge and workmanship. By wisdom is probably meant the power to invent and originate artistic forms; by understanding, the ability to appreciate artistic suggestions from others; by knowledge, acquaintance with the method and process of art; by workmanship, the dexterity of hand on which the power of execution mainly depends.
How wonderful to know that God can fill us with wisdom, understanding, knowledge and workmanship! How poverty-stricken is the church of Jesus Christ today when men and women do not know the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
This anointing of God also involves the fitting of the Spirit for divine service. “… I have filled him with the Spirit of God … to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels …” (Exodus 31:3-5). There can be no fitting of the Holy Spirit without the filling of the Holy Spirit. When a person knows the fullness of the Spirit he will trust God to be fitted for the task.
Notice carefully that Bezaleel and Aholiab were fitted to determine priorities in the work of God. It is not by chance that the sacred record lists the materials in order of their importance. There was gold, then silver, then bronze, then stones, then wood. All these were necessary, but they had a scale of values which had to be observed, not only in the workmanship but also in their use in the tabernacle. Anyone who knows the symbolism of these materials will recognize how discerning Bezaleel and Aholiab had to be.
Without question, there is more time wasted in Christian service today through failure to discern priorities than for any other reason. Religious activism is the result of involvement in areas of work which are unimportant and irrelevant. Only the Holy Spirit can fit us to determine our priorities.
Only the Holy Spirit can determine the place of gold in our lives. In the tabernacle, the gold symbolized the contemplation of God in all the wonder of His being, nature, and power. The focal point of all worship was the mercy seat made of pure gold. How seldom we are engaged in the contemplation of God, and yet this is man’s chief end!
Only the Holy Spirit can determine the place of silver in our lives. In the tabernacle, the silver symbolized the proclamation of Christ. Every informed Jew would know that silver was the price of redemption (see Exodus 30:12-16). Our gospel is of the Christ who died to redeem us from all iniquity, and this is the message that all the world must hear. To make this Good News known is of utmost importance.
Only the Holy Spirit can determine the place of bronze in our lives. In the tabernacle, the bronze symbolized the dedication of gifts. The great altar was made of bronze or brass and only gifts laid upon that altar were truly sanctified to God. Even Jesus reminded the Pharisees of His day that the altar sanctified the gift (see Matthew 23:19). What priority are we setting upon the dedication of our lives, our talents, and our tithes?
Only the Holy Spirit can determine the place of stones in our lives. In the tabernacle, these stones symbolized the valuation of souls. Upon those precious stones were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Even more significantly, the stones were worn over the heart and upon the shoulders of the high priest. What prayerful concern and strength do we invest in the great task of winning souls to Christ?
Only the Holy Spirit can determine the place of wood in our lives. In the tabernacle, the wood symbolized the consecration of work. Wood undergirded most of the structure of the tabernacle, and so speaks of the multitudinous tasks that need to be done in the life of the church. What these jobs are and how they are to be performed must be determined by the Holy Spirit. He alone can fit and guide us.
But notice again that the Holy Spirit fitted Bezaleel and Aholiab to develop abilities in the work of God. Now while the Spirit filled them to “design artistic works” (Exodus 31:4) this does not contradict the point we have made already concerning their natural endowments. On the contrary, God used what was natural and enhanced it by that which was spiritual.
We have only to read the intricate and complicated instructions concerning the building of the tabernacle to realize what an impossible task these men had to perform. Remember, they had no model or pattern to follow, except such instructions as were given them by Moses. They had seen nothing like this in Egypt; yet they finished their work with absolute perfection.
This same miracle happens every day on the mission field, and in other areas of Christian service. My father, who was a missionary for thirty-five years in the heart of Angola (West Africa) never imagined that he could construct buildings, decarbonize car engines, extract teeth, suture leopard wounds, reduce a tribal language into writing, translate the New Testament, and establish an indigenous church. But what Bezaleel and Aholiab proved my father also experienced. The Spirit of God not only fills for service, but also fits for service. This is consecrated workmanship.
We have seen that God’s purpose in every age is to erect the gospel tabernacle so that the glory of our wonderful Savior, Sanctifier and Sovereign may be displayed to men and women. In order to do this, however, He must have consecrated workmen. Such workmen must be appointed and anointed.
Are you a consecrated workman? Have you been appointed and anointed by God? If not, God is calling you by name. In Scripture, the name stands for all that you are — your background, disposition, potentiality, and even weaknesses; but God knows your name, knows your nature, and He wants to appoint and anoint you. Will you respond to His call to become a workman approved unto God? If so, say to Him now, “Lord, here am I; send me.”
With the calling of God will you accept the filling of God? Remember, God not only appoints, He anoints. To appoint to His service He must have your total obedience of faith. To anoint with His Spirit He must have your total dependence of faith. I invite you to pray.
Lord, here and now, I do obey
Thy call to serve Thee all the way;
And claim Thy Spirit’s mighty power
To fit me for each day and hour.

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