Exodus 31:1-11

Exodus 31:1-11

SERIES: Exodus:  Moses, God’s Man for the Hour

You Belong in GTC!

SPEAKER: Michael P. Andrus

Introduction:  When our older son, Eddie, was just starting school several teachers told us, “You ought to have this kid tested because he’s way ahead of his age level.”  So we did.  And the school psychologist came back with her verdict:  he belongs in GTC!  Well, that was music to the ears of young parents, for GTC was a special program in the Wichita School District for gifted, talented, and creative children.   Even though Eddie had to be bused halfway across the city to a special school, we were happy to make the sacrifice and very grateful that God had given us a gifted child.

Well, after about seven years in the GTC program, we came to a different conclusion than the school psychologist.  We decided our son was not unusually gifted, talented, or creative, except that he had a phenomenal memory that enabled him to look at a page once and be able to see a virtual picture of it in his mind.  That was no small advantage in school, but sometimes it perhaps made him appear more brilliant than he really was.  So, we took him out of GTC and decided to allow him to grow up normally, without the pressure of performing up to the artificial standards of the GTC program.

I’ve had a lot of years to think about all that, since my son will soon be 21.  And now I’ve changed my mind once more; I’ve decided Eddie really did belong in GTC, only not in Wichita’s GTC but in God’s GTC.  And God’s has nothing to do with photographic memories or IQ or grades or academic awards; rather every child is eligible for God’s GTC, as well as every adult.  We are all uniquely gifted, talented, and creative, but many of us don’t know it because very few of our teachers—whether at school, at church, or at home—were trained to find and develop our areas of giftedness, talent, and creativity.  

What I am saying is that the elitist spirit of our age which separates the gifted “haves” from the ungifted “have-nots” has no biblical foundation.  I’m not exactly suggesting that we’re all playing on a level field, because in any given area of endeavor some people certainly have far more natural ability than others.  However, when we take into consideration the whole range of options for human achievement and fulfillment, I believe we may be playing on a level field.  Certainly, we are in terms of our opportunity to please God and to make a contribution to His Kingdom.  

Consider, for example, the disciples of our Lord.  What do you think their average IQ must have been?  Any chance any one of them would have been selected for a GTC program?  I doubt it.  Jill Briscoe writes in her book, Here Am I—Send Aaron, 

“There’s a story told of Jesus going back to heaven and being asked by the angels, ‘To whom did You entrust the message of salvation?’  Jesus pointed out big old Peter busy putting his foot in his mouth, James and John having their usual Sons-of-Thunder row, Thomas running around doubting everybody and everything, and Andrew tied up in a knot of inadequacy.  ‘I’ve left it with them,’ He said simply.  ‘But Master,’ the angels said aghast, ‘what happens if they fail?’  Quietly Jesus replied, ‘I have no other plans.'”[i]

But Jesus did have His own GTC program, and He demonstrated what amazing things could be accomplished by ordinary people rightly related to an extraordinary God.  And the same lesson can be learned by looking at the example of Bezalel and Oholiab, not exactly household names, even for Bible students.  The message I get from their story is really two-fold.  First, anyone is a potential candidate for God’s GTC program, and secondly, “secular” work can and should be full-time service for God.  Let’s begin with the fact that …

God chooses people. (31:1, 6)

For about six chapters God has been giving Moses detailed instructions regarding His plans for the building of a sacred place of worship known as the Tabernacle.  He has described the building itself, its furniture, its priesthood, its procedures, and everything else one could imagine.  Now the Lord says in the first verse of chapter 31: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah…. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.”  These two men didn’t make application, they didn’t go through psychological testing, and they didn’t participate in a competition; they were simply chosen by God to do a task.  

And this is not unusual.  Time and time again in the Scriptures the word “choose” is used—almost never of men choosing God but rather of God choosing men.  Sometimes the text reads “I have called so-and-so by name,” which is the same idea as “choose.”  The point is that God is very active in the affairs of men.  He knows us, He calls us, and He lets us know in various ways that He desires us to be a member of His family and to serve Him in His kingdom.  

God gives His Spirit to those whom He chooses.  (31:2)

Exodus 31 goes on in verse 2 to say of Bezalel, whom God had chosen, that “I have filled him with the Spirit of God.”  I think the point we want to gather from this is that when God chooses a person for spiritual purposes, He doesn’t expect him to operate with natural power, so He gives that person His Spirit.  The New Testament teaches that every true believer in Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the moment of conversion.  In fact, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, according to Eph. 4:30.  However, that was not true under the Old Covenant.  

In the OT God’s Spirit was given to certain believers for certain tasks, but no one was assured of the Spirit’s constant presence.  That’s why King David, following his terrible sin with Bathsheba, pleaded with God in Psalm 51, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”  I do not believe that is a prayer we need to pray today.  Rather our primary concern should be that the Spirit of God be given constant control over our lives—our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions.  It is the control of the Spirit that is being referred to in Eph. 5:18 when Paul says, “Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.”  

In both the Old and New Testaments, the believer could have the confidence that if God called him to do a task, the Spirit of God would be available to help with that task.  However, the Bible is clear that the accomplishment of God’s will here on earth is almost always a divine-human task.  A job cannot be done without God’s Spirit, but also God has chosen not to do it without people.

God gives skill, ability, and knowledge to those whom He chooses.  (31:3)

Look again at verse 3:  “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”  Now this verse makes explicitly clear that Bezalel’s skill, ability, and knowledge were a gift from God.  I believe there are plenty of Scriptures to indicate that the same is true for every one of us.  That is, every talent we possess is ultimately a gift from God.  In the first place He created us with the innate capacity for that talent.  The Psalmist writes in Psalm 143, 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  

Secondly, the fact that our skills, abilities, and knowledge are ultimately a gift from God can be seen not only in the fact that He created us, but also in the fact that He gives spiritual gifts to those who are part of His spiritual family (1 Cor. 12:4ff).  The relationship between the natural gifts that everyone receives and the spiritual gifts that only believers receive is not always clear.  I tend to feel that most spiritual gifts correspond closely to natural gifts.  That is, the Holy Spirit takes a natural talent or ability and gives it a distinctly spiritual dimension.  

For example, the person who exhibits the spiritual gift of teaching generally first demonstrates the natural ability to communicate.  Only now he’s motivated to do it without self-exaltation and with spiritual results.  The person with the spiritual gift of helps or mercy often has the natural gift of a kind and compassionate personality.  The person with the spiritual gift of leadership generally showed those same tendencies prior to conversion.  This is not to limit the Spirit’s ability, of course, to give a spiritual gift to someone who had no natural ability in a certain area—the Spirit cannot be put in a box.  But it is to acknowledge that the God who gifts believers with spiritual gifts is the same One who created them in the first place and knew everything about them before they were ever born.

I would suspect that something akin to a NT spiritual gift is operating in the lives of Bezalel and Oholiab.  God says, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—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 craftsmanship.”  It does not say when God filled him with these skills and talents—I think it quite likely that He did so at the time of Bezalel’s conception.  It certainly isn’t necessary to conclude that God took a 40-year-old klutz and miraculously made a skilled craftsman out of him.  But when the time came for this inherently gifted individual to be used mightily of God, the Spirit filled him and motivated him to use those innate skills for God’s glory rather than his own.

You perhaps have noticed that the gift of craftsmanship doesn’t appear in any NT list of spiritual gifts.  But I trust you have also noticed that no two of the NT lists of spiritual gifts are alike, and therefore I suggest that none of them is complete.  I believe the spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT are just representative and tend to focus on those activities that very directly result in the conversion, edification, and encouragement of the Body of Christ.  But the fact is almost any ability or talent can indirectly accomplish that same purpose if it is used in a spiritual manner.  I think that’s the point of 1 Cor. 10:31:  “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

Frankly, I would love to have been there as Bezalel fashioned the Ark of the Covenant with its intricate detail and with the hammered gold cherubim hovering over each corner. Nothing fascinates me more than watching a skilled craftsman at work.  When we go to Silver Dollar City it’s the craftsmen, not the crafts, that get my attention.  A month ago we were out in Creed, Colorado, and I could hardly take my eyes off a man who was shaping logs by hand to build a log cabin.  There are two TV shows on Saturday evening that my seven-year-old son Andy and I never miss if we can help it—Home Time and This Old House.  We like to think the only reason Norm Avery can make things we can’t is because he has better tools, but we really know better.

But craftsmanship is certainly not the only useful skill, ability, and knowledge that God gives to his servants to use for His glory.  To some He gives skill, ability, and knowledge in music.  What a joy it is to listen to the likes of our mixed quartet and the many other musically skilled servants God has given just to our church, to say nothing of the body of Christ at large!  To others God gives great skill in computers.  Alan Groh and Bill Olson are two geniuses who have used their incredible knowledge of hardware and software to help the church office become more efficient.  

To others God gives great skill in organizing.  I just marvel when I see individuals like Gloria Baraks and Carol Clarkson organize events like our annual mission conference and the Ralph Bell Crusade.  Still others are given gifts in general administration.  Most of you probably have little comprehension of the amount of administrative detail that our new building has generated over the past year and continues to generate.  But God has given us an administrative machine in Jerry Rich to come alongside Rich Keffer and the Building Committee, and I thank God them every day.

Then there are gifts of healing.  I think of the little lives that a loving midwife like Ruth Shoemaker brings into this world, and the critically ill children to whom a skilled surgeon like Rod Lusk gives a new lease on life, and the gentle care that nurses like Mary Lou Walker and Ginger MacKeen offer to the sick.  Friends, these are the hands of God ministering through those whom He has chosen, filled with His Spirit, and gifted with all kinds of skill, ability, and knowledge.  And I must not overlook the gift of cooking.  We have some incredible gourmet cooks in this church, headed up by Carol Glad, as anyone knows who’s attended one of the FCWM dinners she has prepared.  

Then there’s mechanical skill.  What Bob Port, Sr. and Jr. can’t do with air conditioning and heating systems hasn’t been thought up yet.  We were told it would cost $60,000 to air condition this gym, but we’ve been sitting in comfort for the past two summers at a total cost of $2,500 because these two guys and a group of willing helpers were willing to use their talents for God. 

Another skill that comes to my mind is sales, and when I think of sales I think of Donnie Williams or Carol Engelmeyer or Bob Perkins—people who could sell hams in a synagogue—but who also use their talents to win friends for Christ and to lift the spirits of everyone around them.  

And then there’s the skill, ability, and knowledge to make money and give it.  I can’t give any specific examples in this area today because I know nothing about your individual giving, but I do know that there are some very sacrificial givers in this church because the enormous needs for our new building are being met.  Did you notice in our Scripture reading this morning that many Israelites participated generously in giving for the Tabernacle to the point that Moses had to order the people do quit giving because they had too much.  We’re not quite there yet, but who knows?

And what’s different about the individuals I have mentioned this morning from the vast number of unbelievers out in the world who have the same skills?  Well, you learn the difference very quickly when the surgeon prays with you before operating on your child, when the computer expert comes after a hard day at work and spends hours trying to resolve a problem on the church’s data base, when the gourmet cook prepares a meal for the Schumacher family to help them through their time of need, even though she may be a working mother herself with little time to spare.

It’s possible I haven’t mentioned your area of skill, ability, and knowledge.  You could be a writer or a counselor or a waiter or a sports star or an electrician or a laborer or a banker or a car dealer or a housewife or a teacher or an engineer or a lawyer.  Whatever you are, I am convinced that God has given you certain skills, ability, and knowledge that can and should be used for the glory of God and for the furtherance of His kingdom.  But it is extremely important for us to realize that those talents are of spiritual value not only when used at church or on the mission field or in an evangelistic crusade, but also when used out in the secular world.  A good argument can be made that the very division between the sacred and the secular is meaningless in the believer’s life.  Even out in the work-a-day world, the believer’s skills, abilities, and knowledge should be used for the glory of God.  

If you sell insurance, you should sell it to the best of your ability, being honest, compassionate, and looking for opportunities to offer to your clients a reason for the hope that is in you.  If you are a housewife and mother, you should realize that you can change the world through those little ones God has given to you to rear, and that everything your husband accomplishes in his work is also your accomplishment because you are his partner.  You should do the dishes as unto the Lord, serve on the P.T.O. as unto the Lord, and show hospitality as unto the Lord.

I recognize that our society has elevated certain professions above others, but God does not.  The surgeon in our culture is highly honored and well paid, but where would he be without the nurse to stop the bleeding he causes, or the orderly who brings the patient to the operating room, or the maintenance person who keeps the operating room clean, or the electrician who makes sure electric power is available, or the common laborer who manufactures the gloves that protect both the doctor and the patient, or the truck driver who delivers the gloves, or the wife who graciously fixes his supper when he comes home four hours past suppertime.

Now I have dwelt extensively on this third point, namely that God gives skill, ability, and knowledge to those whom He chooses, but we must not overlook still another thing God gave to Bezalel and Oholiab, namely the privilege and responsibility to teach others the skills, abilities, and knowledge which God had given them.

God gives the responsibility to teach others to those whom He chooses.  (35:34)

Turn over to Exodus 35:34.  In the previous three verses Moses repeats the fact that God has chosen Bezalel, filled him with the Spirit of God, and gifted him in all kinds of crafts.  But then it adds this thought:  “And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” Isn’t this always God’s way?  He doesn’t give us talents to bury but talents to share.  And the best way to share them is to teach others who have a basic aptitude how to do the same things we are skilled in.  That’s certainly true for the minister of the Gospel.  In 2 Tim. 2:1-2 it says, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  And it’s also true for homemakers.  Titus 2:4 urges the older women to train the younger women to love their husbands and children, among other things.  But why shouldn’t this principle of teaching others be true for all of us?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have much more of the kind of thing the Women’s Ministry does from time to time, when they invite someone skilled in picture framing or country crafts or sewing to come and share that talent with everyone else?  I could get real excited about an announcement in the bulletin that said, “Anyone interested in learning how to do basic wiring is invited to so-and-so’s house on Thursday evening, or anyone who wants to know how to set up a family budget, or anyone interested in finding college scholarships….”  Sure, some of these things are available at local community colleges and you can pay for seminars in other skills, but how much better for members of the same Body to share their talents by teaching others. 

God expects those whom He chooses to be faithful, obedient servants.  (36:1-2)

This should surprise no one, but just in case, the point is made explicitly clear in chapter 36.  It says, 

“So Bezalel, Oholiab and every killed person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the workjust as the Lord has commanded.  Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work.”  

Do you see that “and?” There may have been those who had the ability but not the willingness.  It takes both.  And when both are present the rewards are great, especially the privilege of hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  That’s exactly what these two men were.  In Exodus 38:22 we read, “Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the Lord commanded Moses; with him was Oholiab.”  In conclusion, allow me to offer a couple of timeless principles:

Principles to ponder:

1.  God never requires anything without providing the resources to accomplish it.  My mother wouldn’t allow us to use the words, “I can’t.” She would say, “I wouldn’t ask you to do it if you couldn’t.”  If that is true of a human parent, how much more is it true of a heavenly Father?  If God requires me to resist temptation, and He does, He also provides the resources to resist, for as 1 Cor. 10:13 says, “God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to endure and will with each temptation provide a way of escape that you may be able to endure it.”  If God requires me to live a godly life, and He does, He also gives me His Holy Spirit to enable me to do it.  If God requires me to love my wife, and He does, He also gives me all the insight I need in His Word and all the encouragement I need in the Body of Christ to accomplish that task.  God never requires anything without providing the resources to accomplish it.

2.  God never forces anyone to employ the gifts, talents, and creativity He has given.  This is important, because even though God has equipped each of us with a unique set of skills, abilities, and knowledge, He will never force us to use those gifts for His glory.  Some of the most gifted people in the world are unfortunately also among the laziest.  On one of the TV news magazines recently I saw the story of a homeless man in a small town who was an incredible nuisance in the public library and elsewhere.  Part of the story made you wonder how a town could be so prejudiced against a homeless person until the facts came out that this man had once been a highly skilled businessman.  Many people had offered him work but he refused it because he just liked being a beggar.  It’s hard to be too sympathetic for those who have abilities they won’t use.

There are others who use their God-given skills to the hilt, only they use them for selfish purposes—getting rich, accumulating possessions, retiring early.  I think sometimes about how the resources and business acumen of a Sam Walton could be used for the Kingdom of God, if properly directed.  I wonder what a Michael Jordan could do if an open commitment to Christ were added to that winning smile and that enormous ability.  I’m not suggesting that either man should quit what he’s doing and go into the ministry—that might not be good for either man or the ministry.  Rather I’m saying that doing what they do best but for the glory of God is the highest calling a man could possibly have.

Are you and I doing what we do best for the glory of God?  Can we honestly say that our skills, ability, and knowledge, which come from God, are being invested for eternity rather than for our own selfish pleasure and consumption?  One final point:

3.  God honors the faithful servant, no matter what his area of giftedness or sphere of influence.  There are few Sam Waltons or Michael Jordans out there, just as there were few Moseses and Joshuas in the OT.  But there are a lot of us ordinary people—not geniuses, but belonging in God’s GTC program nevertheless—Gifted, Talented, and Creative.  I’m glad God mentioned Bezalel and Oholiab by name because it shows us that he honors faithful servants, whether they are in full-time vocational ministry or involved in “secular” work, like cabinet making or sheet-metal.

Some years ago I heard a story, the gist of which I remember but the details are a bit fuzzy. The story concerned Michelangelo as he was working on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.  The great artist was slaving away hour after hour and day after day, suspended on an uncomfortable scaffold a hundred feet from the floor, all the time painting a portion of the ceiling that would be hidden from every observer by one of the flying buttresses.  Finally, one of the cathedral helpers showed his disgust by asking, “Why are you spending so much time on something no one will ever see?”  And his response was, “God will see it.”  God will see what you do and if it’s done right, He will honor it whether anyone else does or not.

Let me close with two verses from 1 Peter 4:  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” 

DATE:  September 29, 1991


Spiritual gifts



[i] Jill Briscoe, Here Am I—Send Aaron!, 104.

Exodus 32