The Lord's Day Morning
April 24, 2005
“Moses’ Reverse Capital Campaign”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
Amen. If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Exodus, chapter 35. This Lord's Day and next, on Sunday mornings we're going to take a break from our study of the Pastoral Epistles and from II Timothy to look at two passages that have been very important in the thinking and the praying of the Capital Campaign Committee. They have given to us, as a part of the text from which they've drawn the theme of the campaign, Ephesians 2, and we’ll be looking at that passage next Sunday morning, and also another passage that you've seen [quoted from] in the literature. It's this passage from Exodus 35 and 36, and so I want to look at it with you today.
You remember the context of this passage: Israel has been brought by God's amazing grace out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and they've been saved to worship. They've been saved to commune with the living God. They've been saved in order to be brought into the fellowship of His presence, to experience His nearness and care for them. This theme is emphasized throughout the Book of Exodus, and they've been brought to Mount Sinai; and indeed, they've met with God, and God in His own voice has spoken to the people of God.
And then you’ll remember, after that great event in which God Himself speaks the word of the Ten Commandments to His people and Moses then delivers the whole of the Book of the Covenant to the people of God, Moses goes back up the mountain to receive the instructions from God for the tabernacle that the people of God are to build.
Now, that tabernacle (which is a beautiful and ornate and elaborate tent) is going to be the place which symbolizes the presence of God…the nearness of God to His people. He's going to dwell in the midst of His people in that tent. They’re in tents, and so He's going to be in this tent; and that is the place where the people of God are going to go to offer sacrifices, that's going to be the place where they carry out the ceremonial worship of the old covenant.
And so while Moses is receiving those instructions from the Lord…you remember the rest of the story in Exodus 32: the people of God became restless. He had been up on the mountain for forty days. He had not come back down, and so the people of God got impatient, and they said, ‘We want to worship God the way we want to worship God, and we want to worship Him now!’ And so they said to Aaron, ‘Let's make a golden calf and worship the God who brought us out of Egypt.’
Well, of course you remember the rest of that story. As Moses comes down the mountain he hears a sound that is like war in the camp, but when he gets closer he realizes that it's singing. And the people are caught up in a horrendous orgy and frolic in the valley below the mountain, and God says, ‘I'm going to destroy this people. They’re wicked. They've betrayed Me. They've served other gods.’ And Moses intercedes, and the people of God are spared.
Exodus 35 and 36 happens in the wake of that. Though God's people deserved to be destroyed right then and there, God in His mercy still allows them to build the tabernacle. It's an extraordinary thing. None of the people of Israel would have been saying, “Aw, do I have to give to the building of the tabernacle?” That wouldn't have been their attitude! Their attitude would not have been, “Have to?” It would have been, “Have to? I get to! I'm alive today because of the grace of God. He didn't blast me into oblivion, which is what I deserved. He didn't bring His judgment down upon me. I get to build the tabernacle of the living God!”
You remember the rest of that story is quite moving. Moses first intercedes that God would not destroy His people on the spot. Then the Lord says, “Well, I’ll tell you what, Moses. I'm not going to destroy them, but this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to send an angel before them to take them up into the Promised Land in Canaan, but I'm not going to go up in their midst, because they betrayed Me. And My anger might burn against them in their sin and I might destroy them, so I'm not going to go up in their midst. I'm just going to send My angel before them to take them into the land.”
You remember what Moses says to that? He says, “Lord, if You’re going to do that, well, then just kill us here, because You’re the whole purpose. It's fellowship with You, it's communion with You, it's worship with You…that's what it's all about, O God. If we can't have that, then just…let's just get it over with right now.”
And you remember the Lord's gracious response to Moses: ‘OK, Moses. I will go up in your midst. The people of God will be allowed to build a tabernacle, the instructions for which I have already given to you.’
And so when Moses comes to the people of God in Exodus 35 and tells them that they’re going to be able to build a tabernacle, they are awash with the sense of the grace of God to them because they deserve to have been judged, but now they are given the privilege of building the tabernacle that will be the place where God manifests His visible presence and nearness to them.
Now, I want to say very quickly, the elders of this church know that they are not asking you to join with them in building the equivalent of the tabernacle. In the Old Testament the tabernacle (and then later, the temple) was the place, the one place on earth in which God visibly manifested His nearness and presence to the people of God. If you wanted to fellowship and commune with God, and worship with the people of God, the place you did that was at the tabernacle or the temple: and there is no structure which is the New Testament equivalent of that. You understand that in the New Testament the place where you meet with the living God is in Jesus Christ, in the midst of His people. And my friends, we could do that on a hillside; we could do that on the north parking lot; we could do that in a tent; we could do that in a bombed out furniture store downtown somewhere. But in God's mercy, for about 168 years this congregation has had a place to meet.
This congregation was gathered in April of 1837, just about 15 years after the city of Jackson was founded. And in 1843, the minister of this church preached a sermon calling on the congregation to build a house of worship. And in 1846 or ’47, this congregation for the first time in its history had a place to meet. And I don't think there's anyone who can doubt that having a place to meet served the interest of the worship and discipleship and outreach of this congregation. That first little church was built right next door to where First Baptist Church is now, just a few blocks down North State Street. And the people of God, called First Presbyterian Church, met in that little building for about half a century, and then something happened: they outgrew it! And the elders of the church thought about this for a number of years, and they said to the congregation, ‘We think we need to build a larger house of worship.’ And so they did, right on that spot, right in that original location they built a larger sanctuary for the people of God to meet in.
In 1892, that sanctuary was dedicated. Dr. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, who was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, made his way up the road from New Orleans to Jackson and he preached the services of dedication of that building. In fact, we still have the furniture that he sat in the day that he preached those messages. You can see some of it in the History Room, and we bring it out on special occasions here at First Presbyterian Church. But that was the second building that this congregation occupied.
About a half century later, something had happened. The congregation had exploded! It had continued to grow; it outgrew dramatically its facilities, but this time there was a problem. There was no space on the property down town to expand any further a place for worship, a meeting house for the people of God. And so the elders did something very bold. They said, ‘You know, we've got a little land up North State Street, and we're going to recommend that the congregation acquire more land and build several blocks up on North State Street.’ It was a bold thing to do. They were in the middle of the Second World War, they were in the middle of a Depression. They were trying to put money in the bank to save up for it, and inflation left them with less money at the end of the year than they had in the bank at the beginning of the year! And so it was a very bold thing that they did when they decided, ‘Yes, we're going to build a sanctuary. We’re going to move up North State Street.’ But they did that, and in 1952 they occupied this building.
Well, my friends, here we are a half century later, and the elders of the church have said, ‘We believe that it is time for the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church to be enlarged. We believe this congregation again needs to provide more space for the people of God to worship.’ The elders know that they’re not building the tabernacle, but they do believe that they are making a recommendation to you that will entail better discipleship and new opportunities for evangelism and outreach.
And I want to share with you today seven reasons…seven reasons, just so that you have an appreciation for what we're about to do in the text as we look at Exodus 35…seven reasons why our elders have voted that we enlarge the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church.
And the first reason is this: Because of the church's health and growth that the Lord has granted us, since the completion of this building, of this meeting house, in 1952, Sunday morning worship service has quadrupled since we occupied this room over fifty years ago. There are four times as many people worshiping in this facility as there were fifty years ago, but in all that time there has not been a single seat added to our sanctuary. We've had to open up Lowe Hall and Hutton Chapel as overflow rooms, but not a brick has been added to the sanctuary; and because of this, the elders are recommending that we enlarge the sanctuary.
Secondly, because Sunday morning worship attendance has averaged more than twice the capacity of this sanctuary for over a decade and a half. That is, for more than fifteen years, the average–not the Easter Sunday, not the Sunday before Christmas, not big Sundays when there are no football games in Oxford and Starkville on the weekend–but the average worship service attendance has been more than twice the capacity of this sanctuary.
Do you realize that on very many Sunday mornings, maybe a dozen or more Sunday mornings a year, there are Sunday mornings where there are as many people outside of the sanctuary worshiping as there are inside the sanctuary at one or the other of the two services? In other words, there is another third of the people that are worshiping on a given Sunday morning outside of the sanctuary. That happens numerous times during the year, but the average morning attendance is twice the capacity of this sanctuary, and has been for the last fifteen years.
Thirdly, the elders have recommended that we enlarge this sanctuary because this sanctuary, as the room in this church facility devoted to the public worship of God, as the hub of this whole church facility…this room has never been enlarged, even though our membership has tripled since it was built. Our worship service Sunday morning attendance has quadrupled, and all our other ancillary facilities have been added or expanded over the last half century. We've added new Christian Education space; we've added Westminster Hall and the Fellowship Hall that goes with it; we've added the Gymnasium; we've added the Study Center; we've added the Youth House; we've expanded…are expanding…the Youth House. All of the other ancillary facilities have been added to over the course of the last fifty years, but the sanctuary–even though it is disproportionately small in comparison to the rest of the facility–has never had one seat added to it. And so the elders believe that it is now time to enlarge the sanctuary. But that's not all.
Here's a fourth reason. The elders believe that it's time that we enlarge the sanctuary because of the numbers of regular attenders on any given Sunday morning. Because of those numbers, our congregation is spread out into three rooms during each of the two morning worship services: in the sanctuary, in Hutton Chapel, and in Lowe Hall. And this has the effect of dividing the congregational family in an unhelpful way.
It also prevents us from holding one another accountable in the matter of regular attendance. There are people who very faithfully come to worship every Sunday morning, and I don't see them sometimes on Sunday morning for months at a time. There are other people who, because of illness or whatever reason, miss two or three or four Sundays; and I never know that they've missed Sundays, because normally they can't get a seat in the sanctuary and they’re in Lowe Hall or in Hutton Chapel. And I miss the opportunity to encourage them in a time of need, because I didn't even know that they weren't here. I don't see a third of the people who come to Sunday morning worship every Sunday. I don't see them. Unless I pass you in the hall on the way in, I don't see you. And so the elders are concerned about this effect on dividing the congregational family, since you don't know whether someone is absent or simply in another of the three rooms.
Fifthly, the elders believe that it's time that we enlarge the sanctuary because visitors are often discouraged from attending First Presbyterian Church, and potential new members are discouraged from joining because they cannot find a place to worship in the sanctuary. The ushers can tell you of the look on the face of visitors who come when they say, ‘Well, I'm going to have to take you to one of the overflow rooms because there's no room for you in the sanctuary.’ And this happens on a regular basis, and we recognize that this discourages visitors and potential new members.
Sixthly, the elders want to avoid going to three services and to the two or more Sunday Schools that that would require, because they believe that would further undermine a sense of community and family in the congregation. We want to build the sense of community and family. That's difficult to do in some ways with two services, but having one Sunday School helps us. If we go to three services we have an even greater challenge in developing the sense of community, since we use Sunday School as the key place for introducing the church family to one another in a smaller group setting. Multiple Sunday Schools, which would be necessitated by a three-service plan, would prevent us from doing this and present significant challenges to cultivating the sense of community and family in the congregation.
But seventh, the elders believe that it's time that we enlarge the sanctuary because our city-center location is strategic both as a base to impact this city for Christ, but also as a multi-county outreach. Do you realize that our congregation is a multi-county church? The bulk of the congregation is drawn from three counties: Hinds, Madison, and Rankin; but we have people who are members of this congregation and who regularly attend from Simpson County, and even from Warren County (which surrounds Vicksburg), so this is a multi-county congregation.
Many of the people who are members of this church routinely pass twenty other evangelical congregations and five PCA churches to get to First Presbyterian Church. And so we have a unique location. We minister right here in the city, and we don't want to leave this location that has the opportunity both to minister to the city and to reach out in multi-county outreach.
Let me elaborate on this. Have you ever thought about this? Right down the street we have the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A little bit further down the street we have St. Dominic's. Just across the street we have the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. And then in the other area right around us we have numerous health facilities…ancillary facilities to Baptist and other hospitals just right down the road. We are right in the middle of a major medical community, and we're ministering. We’re supporting the ministry of Jimmy Turner, for instance, at Christian Medical and Dental Association at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. We’re reaching out to those communities with the gospel. Many of you have come to Christ or have been grown in grace through the outreaches of this congregation to the medical community.
Think of it again: just across the street, we have Millsaps College; just behind us we have Belhaven College–two major liberal arts institutions; and many of the people in this congregation have been ministered to through the outreach that we have through the Christian Fellowship at Millsaps or through the outreach that we have through the Reformed University Fellowship at Belhaven.
We have wonderful strategic opportunities to minister, and we're right in the middle of a major traffic confluence: the Woodrow Wilson/I-55 corridor; the Riverside Drive corridor; the Fortification/North State Street corridor. It makes it very easy for people to come from multiple counties to First Presbyterian Church.
In fact, it's quite amazing, isn't it? We get to be a downtown church, and yet, being in the heart of the city we're anchored in an old, beautiful, revitalizing neighborhood. My friends, I want to tell you, there's no church in our city that has a better location. In fact, I would argue there's no church in our state that has a more strategic location, able to minister to the Capital City–to the city, in the city–and at the same time to have a multi-county outreach. And the elders don't want to lose that. They don't want to pack us up and move us somewhere else.
We’re right where God wants us to be. He's providentially gifted us with this strategic location, and we want to take advantage of that. And so the elders believe that expanding the sanctuary and enhancing our current facilities is the most cost-effective and congregationally edifying way to provide for the present discipleship of our current congregation and to open the way up for future congregational growth.
Now, that's the introduction! Let's look at Exodus 35, and let's consider it together; and before we do, let's look to God in prayer and ask His help and blessing.
Lord God, this is Your word. We thank You for Your word of truth. Teach us by it. Energize us by it. Mold our hearts by it, we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the word of God in Exodus 35, beginning in verse 20:
“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from Moses’ presence. And everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord's contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments. Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold; so did every man who presented an offering of gold to the Lord. And every man, who had in his possession blue and purple and scarlet material and fine linen and goats’ hair and rams’ skins dyed red and seal skins, brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver and bronze brought the Lord's contribution; and every man, who had in his possession acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. And all the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats’ hair. And the rulers brought the onyx stones and the stones for setting for the ephod and for the breastpiece; and the spice and the oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the Lord had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the Lord.
“Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, ‘See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship; to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.
“Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded.’
“Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it. And they received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let neither man nor woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its
eternal truth upon our hearts.
I. The nigh unto universal and willing provision for the tabernacle.
In the time that we have together today I want to draw your attention to three things from this passage. As the people of God prepare to build the tabernacle, the first thing that we notice (in verses 20-29) is their willingness to give. Moses repeatedly points us to the fact that there was a nigh unto universal response from the people of God: that they were willing to make provision for the tabernacle. Look at how he emphasizes this. Look at verse 21 — “Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord's contribution…; verse 22 — “All whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came…”; verse 23 — “Every man came…”; verse 24 — “Everyone who could make a contribution of silver and bronze brought….”; verse 25 — “All the skillful women…”; verse 26 — “All the women whose hearts stirred…”; verse 27 — “The rulers also brought….”
The point is that the people were stirred in their own hearts to give, and that it was a nigh unto universal experience. Now, this is quite extraordinary. You notice what Moses does. Look at verse 20. Moses, in the previous verses 1-19, presents the people of God the fact that God is going to allow them the privilege of building the tabernacle which will be the place of His presence. And then in verse 20, what does he do? He sends them all home. ‘The Lord's going to let you do it…’ — and he sends them home. No on-the-spot ‘OK, empty your pockets right now! You’re not going home until we have enough! Everybody's going to give, whether you like it or not!’ Moses said, ‘The Lord's going to let us build His tabernacle: go home. Beautiful, isn't it?
It's in total contrast to what happened in Exodus 32. Look back there. In Exodus 32, when the people of God wanted an idol built, what does Aaron do? While they’re all standing around, ‘Aaron, make us a golden calf…’ — look at Exodus 32:2. On the spot, Aaron says what? ‘OK, you want me to build an idol? Empty your pockets right now, every one of you. Ladies, all the earrings off, right now! Tear ‘em off, right now! Hand them all to me.’ It's the ultimate coercion. It's like the TV preacher: ‘I know there's another one of you waiting…yep, there's a $5,000 gift out there! I'm not going off the air until you give that $5,000 gift.’ It's this coercion: ‘You’re going to give, and you’re going to give right now!’
But not with Moses. Why? Because Moses doesn't want anybody to give a dime to the tabernacle, whose heart is not compelled to. Moses says, ‘The Lord's given us the opportunity to build the tabernacle. Now here's what I want you to do: go home. And if you want to give to that tabernacle, you come back on your own. You come back with a willing heart and you give.’
My friends, the elders of the church are saying that to you. We don't want you to give to this work unless your heart is willing. And it's amazing…already the people of God are showing their heart for this. Do you realize that three times what we have ever contributed to a capital campaign has already been pledged to this capital campaign, and we haven't even gotten to Commitment Sunday for it yet? The people of God are showing a willing heart, and the elders of the church are saying to you, “Come with a willing heart. If you want to build a larger sanctuary for the people of God to worship in, come with a willing heart.”
Moses is emphasizing that these people, because they sense the grace of God to them….They deserved to be destroyed in the wilderness. They didn't deserve to come into God's presence. They counted it a privilege to be able to build this tabernacle. They were moved. They wanted to build the tabernacle. He's emphasizing, isn't he, that there is this willingness to give among the people of God.
And that's what our elders want to see in you. Don't give to this unless your heart is in it. Give to it because you see this as a way to glorify God, as a way to exalt Him in worship, as a way to disciple His people, as a way to reach out to those who are lost and who do not sit under faithful gospel ministry Lord's Day after Lord's Day. Do this for God's glory! Don't do it for the elders. Don't do it because we're trying to be “bigger”, or trying to keep up with the Joneses; do it for the glory of God, and for ministry, and do it with a willing heart or don't do it at all.
That's what's so striking about this. Moses says, “Go home.” If you want to give, you come back and give. So that's what we see in verses 20-29…this willing response from every quadrant of Israel. Wealthy men, rulers, women who are spinners, men who have gold and silver…they come out of the woodwork! Why? Because they’re willing to give. They sense the grace of God to them, and they say, ‘Lord, what a privilege that I get to build the tabernacle!’
Well, as I said, we're not building the tabernacle here. We’re building a house of worship. It's a meeting house. We could meet with God in the parking lot. All we need to do is gather in His name in accordance to His word. But think of how many people have been discipled because a half century ago people made a commitment to build a building that most of them are not enjoying today.
You know, we have about 3,250 or so members in this congregation, and over 2,000 of them have joined in just the last decade. That means that about 1200 or so are members from before that time, and an even smaller proportion of that 1200 were here when this sanctuary was built. That means that the people of God who built this sanctuary primarily did not build it for themselves. They built it for people who weren't even around when they built it. They built it for you. Many of you are the beneficiaries of their gift. They've long gone to be with the Lord, but they were thinking of their children, of their grandchildren; they were thinking of the people who were not sitting in the pew next to them. They were thinking of ministry, and, because of their sacrifice in the middle of a Second World War and a Great Depression, we're here today ministering, serving the Lord in this beautiful house of worship.
That's how we want you to think. We want you to think of the ministry angle of this. We want you to think of the worship of God, of discipleship, of outreach. That's how we need to think of it, and we need to have willing hearts. That's the first thing that we learn.
II. The filling, gifting and equipping of the builders of the tabernacle
The second thing–and I’ll just briefly comment on this–you’ll see in verses 30 of chapter 35, down to verse 1 of chapter 36, and it is simply this: notice that God does not appoint a Committee of 700 to decide the designs of the sanctuary and to carry them out. He engifts certain men for the building and the design of the tabernacle. God, of course, Himself had given many specific design commands for the instruments of the tabernacle and for the shape of the tabernacle; but for the building and for the rest of the design of the tabernacle God engifted Bezalel and Oholiab. And we're reminded here that God as the Engifter of Israel gifts and equips those who are going to build the tabernacle.
And we see this same principle today. God has not called all of us to be the ones that make the designs, or which make the architectural determinations. Have you ever been to a congregational meeting where they argue over what color the carpet is going to be, or what color to paint the walls, or where the bathrooms are going to be? I've been to them before. I'm so glad we don't do those at First Presbyterian Church! They’re horrible! You argue for three hours, and at the end you do what the officers who have been studying it for nineteen months decided was the wise thing to do anyway! And God is giving something of that principle here in Israel: that the people of God are to come and bring their gifts, and Bezalel and Oholiab are the ones who are going to carry out all the details.
You know, you would be worried if I were deciding about the air conditioning system in the new sanctuary; and if you weren't worried, you should be! No! You’d want Denny Terry and the people who do those things to be working on that. They’re the ones who have the gifts and the experience.
You would be worried if I were doing the architectural design work; and if you weren't worried, you should be! No, you’d want Doug Dale and his people working on that.
You would be worried if I were deciding where floor joists were going to be, or where mechanical operations were going to be housed in the new building. (If you weren't, you should be!) No, you've got Orrin Swayze and Stewart and a whole host of other people from our church, as well as those that they’re working with, making those decisions. God has gifted them in those areas.
Well, what I have the gift to do is to give! That's what I have to give. I give, and they will wisely, as God has gifted them, know how to do all these things. And you see that principle even here.
A sanctuary isn't built by committee. God gifts certain people in His land to do this work, and He, by His Spirit, enables them to do it. When God calls us to serve Him, He provides the competency required for our vocation so that all that we accomplish must be attributed to Him. He's the one who gives those wise people their competencies.
III. A response so great that Moses has to stop the giving!
But there's a third thing I want you to see here, as well. Look at chapter 36:2-7. Notice the response from Moses’ call. You know the first thing he does wrong…you know the capital campaign advisers would just be going nuts when he sends them home: ‘No, no, no! You've got them right there! Put the squeeze on them, Moses!’ Nope! Send them home.
But then look what he does. They’re a few days into this, and the workers start coming to Moses and saying, ‘Moses, we've got a problem here.’
‘Ah…the people are giving us too much. We can't use all this. We've got everything that we need and more. We've got a problem, Moses.’
And so Moses calls a meeting, a congregational meeting, to tell them to stop giving! ‘I've got an important announcement to make. Do not give any more to the tabernacle.’ It's the “reverse capital campaign”! Notice that when Aaron built the golden calf, he has to issue a command to give. Moses issues no command to give. He issues a command to stop giving, and this is quite extraordinary, because these are ex-slaves. All that they own is what they were able to carry on their backs and on their animals out of Egypt, and the few things that they got from the Egyptians on the way. (You remember the Egyptian masters gave to these ex-slaves certain items.)
Now, some of that has already been wasted on the golden calf, and I assure you that the bronze, the molten gold, had been melted down and it did not have a single part in the building of the sanctuary. So they've got to build this beautiful structure, this expensive structure, as ex-slaves; and yet, they give more than enough for this work to be accomplished.
We are far more affluent than the children of Israel. We have so many more times what they had. We are exponentially wealthier than those slaves in the wilderness, but this challenge before us is nevertheless large. There's a six or seven million dollar ministry budget every year at First Presbyterian Church. That doesn't go away while we build a sanctuary. There's a million dollar a year mission budget at this church; that doesn't go away while we build a sanctuary. There are bills to pay; they don't go away while we build a sanctuary. There are children to put through school; that doesn't go away while we build a sanctuary, so I don't belittle the size of the task before us at all.
But do you notice how the people's hearts are such that the only thing that Moses has to say to them is to stop giving? One hundred and forty-five people in this congregation have already committed over forty percent of what it's going to take to build the sanctuary. Now, you don't have to be an outstanding mathematician to tell that if we have anything like the response of the people of God that we have here, that this sanctuary can be built; and you can put me in the position of having to stand up one Sunday morning and say, “Please! Stop pledging to the sanctuary! We've got more than we need. Stop.”
Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't it be great three years from now to announce that there's no indebtedness at First Presbyterian Church? Though we've expanded Twin Lakes, doubled the Youth House, added extra rooms for the Day School, expanded the sanctuary…now we're going to have an unparalleled opportunity to throw ourselves into ministry, into evangelism, into outreach, to missions. Wouldn't that be great? My friends, it can happen, but it will depend upon the willingness of the hearts of the people of God.
Go home, and pray about it.
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Your word. We ask that You would help us to discern what You would have us to do. It may be sacrifice; it may be hard. And we pray that what we do in response to Your word in this time would serve ultimately only the interests of Your glory and of Your mission. When we give, we're not giving for ourselves. Many of us will not long enjoy the privileges of a new sanctuary, but there are generations who will. And as we pray, O God, help us to remember that we do this not for the person who's sitting next to us right now, but for the person who's not sitting next to us right now. Make this a decision for Your glory and for Your ministry, and for Your kingdom, not our own.
And then, O God, do what You will in our hearts. You make the determination. This is Your church, not ours. You know what we ought to do. Make it evident, we pray, in the hearts and lives of Your people. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
[Congregational Hymn: Take My Life, and Let It Be]
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.