This passage records one of the most famous events in the life of Moses – and he had some really famous experiences! After leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses was now receiving specific instruction from God while camped at Mt. Sinai. God had already given Moses the Ten Commandments, chiseled on stone tablets. However, Moses had thrown the stone tablets to the ground in disgust upon seeing the Israelites worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). God now instructs Moses to prepare two new stone tablets to record His commands again (Exodus 34:1-4).
But the crux of this particular passage of Scripture hinges on Exodus 33:18 where Moses asks God to reveal His glory. Wow. What a request!
Glory of God – the Hebrew word for glory is kabod. It means “weight”. The idea is that it represents “significance” – it is the true manifestation of the nature of God. The glory of God is the visible representation of His essence. It is the expression of who He truly is. In Exodus 3, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Here was an example of His glory – the bush was not consumed. God does not need physical matter to appear as fire! He is a purifying fire, Himself! His glory was on display through the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire for the Israelites. His glory descended upon the tabernacle and Moses was not even able to enter it (Exodus 40:34-38). In our passage, Moses is seeking God’s direction for the people. He is asking God to verify His directions for Israel. He is seeking affirmation from God. So, he asks God to manifest Himself through a display of His glory.
God answered Moses’ request. However, God knew Moses could not survive an encounter with His glory! He would have to shield Moses and only allow a glimpse. That would be all Moses could stand!
The encounter with God was truly memorable. We read in Exodus 33:21-23 that God would protect Moses in this experience. Once Moses was in place on Mt. Sinai, God came down and stood there with him (Exodus 34:5). His very presence is a proclamation of His goodness. He then passed by Moses. Again, this manifestation of God is a declaration of His essence.
God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, full of love, faithful, forgiving and righteous (Exodus 34:6-7). As we read these characteristics of God, we are reminded of how we fall short of His glory! His glory is to be reflected through us (Isaiah 43:7), but we are sinful and fail daily (Romans 3:23). And yet, this is God’s desire for us. He has redeemed us so that His glory may be on display in us. He is at work in us to restore and redeem our brokenness so that His presence may be known in our world through His people. His power is the answer for all that is wrong in us.
Further, the workplace is a riveting example of the shortcomings of humanity. For many folks, their work environment desperately needs a display of God’s glory. Unfortunately, our workplaces are filled with broken people who have given in to the base desires of power and greed. Personal relationships and ethics are often sacrificed on the idol of material success in our workplaces.
Christian workers have been given an opportunity to reflect God’s glory in their lives wherever they are. We don’t do this just at church or at home. We can become agents of restoration and redemption at work. God’s glory can be on display in our lives. We can express compassion, love, forgiveness and justice as God’s representatives at our jobs.
After God revealed Himself to Moses, it was time to construct the tabernacle. This special tent would be the physical home to God’s presence in the camp of Israel. God gave specific instructions for how it was to be built. He was intimately involved in drawing up the plans for this new tent.
In Exodus 35 we read that God invited all of Israel to participate in the construction through giving. A massive offering was executed to insure the appropriate building materials would be available. This allowed everyone to participate.
Exodus 35:30-36:7 offers us insight into the theology of work. First of all, God specifically called Bezalel to lead this project (35:30). In fact, God had already revealed this to Moses (Exodus 31:1-11). Not only did God call Bezalel, he equipped him with the gifts and skills necessary for the task. Further, he gifted all the workers for the construction of the tabernacle (36:1).
Notice also that God makes a connection between the skills needed for the construction of this new building and the work of His Spirit (Exodus 35:31). Bezalel was “filled with the Spirit of God” – he is the only person in the Old Testament who was filled with God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God anointed people in the OT to accomplish tasks or receive a word from God. But this man was filled with God’s Spirit – so that he could accomplish the work God has assigned him.
The diverse skills needed for the tabernacle construction were given by God to workers. These were craftsmen, artisans and construction workers. Their abilities were blessed and affirmed by God.
This leads me to conclude that the giftedness from God for humanity is deeper and broader than the spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans and 1 Corinthians. As important as spiritual gifts are, we are also gifted by God for our vocational calling. He has placed talents, passions, skills and abilities within all of us. These gifts are as diverse as we are. Our interests can be lived out through the gifting we have received.
Look around you at our society. Think about just how diversely gifted people are! There are engineers who design buildings, roads, bridges and communities. There are architects who design living space and work space. There are carpenters, welders, brick masons, electricians, truck drivers and roofers who deliver goods and build what has been designed. There are writers, artists, actors, athletes and musicians who decorate our world with aesthetic expressions of beauty. There are computer scientists and technicians who develop and implement technology that defines our lives today.
The list is almost endless!
God gifts human beings for meaningful work!