April 19, 2009

When God Moves Hearts

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Growing in Grace-Building Project Scripture: Exodus 36:3–7


When God Moves Hearts

Exodus 36:3-7
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Pastor Randy Smith

It's hard to believe how far the Lord has taken our church.

I can still remember over a year ago asking all of you to pray for land on the corner of the Parkway and 138. A few months later the State Police Barracks went on the market. I can remember negotiating with the owner of that property and some long sleepless nights until he accepted our offer and signed the contract. And after three congregational votes and preliminary approvals from the town and countless meetings and architectural drawings and interviewing builders and sermons from Ezra and a wonderful banquet and a lot of prayer - we find ourselves only three weeks away from "Collection Sunday." It is amazing what God has done. And it is encouraging how much this project has taught our church so much about unity and interdependent service and gospel priorities and fasting and sacrifice. Apart from your participation and cooperation and supplication, I would not be up here saying these things.

By God's grace we have come a long way and for that we should be thankful. But these next three weeks will possibly be the most crucial in this entire endeavor. Without mincing my words and beating around the bush, all of you know we need to raise a lot of money. We need God to provide through us some lofty resources if we wish to see this project come to completion. So now is the time more than ever that we need to know what the Bible says about money and how God would direct us individually to respond. And considering the entire project, this will be perhaps the biggest test of our faith.

I do not take this subject lightly. I know these are tough economic times and many of us are not sitting on a financial excess. I know the subject of raising money and then the subsequent spending of that money raised has been historically abused by many church leaders. As a fellow member of this congregation, I have personally heard in my head the hundreds of voices that remain dormant until I start praying how the Lord would have me respond financially. As far as I am aware, nobody denies we need a larger facility. Nobody is against moving into the beautiful building we have proposed. Yet the moment we start to talk about money and use the word "sacrifice," we all become a little uncomfortable. And we say, "Maybe staying here with three services doesn't sound that bad after all!"

A few disclaimers…

One, I empathize with your struggles. But just because this subject makes us uncomfortable does not mean we should avoid it altogether. The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders: "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men" (Ac. 20:26). "The blood of all men?" That sounds pretty serious! Why was Paul innocent before God? The next verse tells us. "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God" (Ac. 20:27).

It is not my job to pick and chose the subjects I wish to cover from the Bible. And it is not our job to pick and choose the subjects we choose to obey. What marks us as true Christians is a love for all of God's Word and a desire to follow all of God's Word faithfully.

Another disclaimer. I don't know why we are shy to talk about money because the Bible certainly isn't! God says more about how His people should use their material possessions than any other subject, second only to what He says about Himself. It has been estimated that there are about 500 verses on prayer, under 500 verses on faith and over 2000 verses on money and possessions. Jesus talked more about money than any other subject. Sixteen of His 38 parables deal with money. Roughly 10% (that's 288 verses) in the four Gospels have to do with money and possessions. There is more said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined.

Number three. Because God inspired the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16), we have to realize He is making a point by devoting so much space to the subject of money.

Money is a great gift from God. It can be used for wonderful purposes, but money can also ruin lives when used improperly. First Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Matthew 19:24, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Money can keep you out of heaven. And although money cannot buy your salvation, money can definitely put your heart where it needs to be. Luke 12:34, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

A proper theology of money lived out in our lives will do more for our joy than we could ever imagine. Worldly thinking and worldly spending will suck everything out of our souls and leave us empty. God knows it, yet we often disregard His instruction to our own peril.

Number four. When it comes to money, the best principle to remember is that none of it belongs to you.

When the Jews were building the temple with their hard earned funds God said through Haggai, "'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts" (Hag. 2:8). Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains." The Jews as commanded gave their valuables. Yet God is quick to remind the people that all of it ultimately belonged to Him.

We are not the owners. We are the stewards of His resources. Therefore every spending decision is a spiritual decision. Our goal is always to have God's best interests in mind. When it comes to spending, we do not have rights. As stewards we have a responsibility. And as 1 Corinthians 4:2 states, "It is required of stewards that [they] be found trustworthy." A good question to ask ourselves: "If God slept, could He sleep soundly knowing that I am in charge of His money?" (cf. Gen. 39:4).

As one pastor told his congregation, "As I talk about giving this morning, you may be getting nervous, thinking I am going to ask you to give some of your money to this church. Well, I want you to know you can relax. I'm not going to ask you to give any of your money! I'll be talking about giving God's money, because all your money really belongs to God. Now don't you feel better?" (Rod Rogers, Pastor Driven Stewardship, p. 49).

And disclaimer number five. Some of you will say, Randy, you didn't need to tell us this, yet I feel compelled so I'm going to say it anyway. When I talk about money it is not for my personal profit. Our family is content with our lifestyle and thankful for the salary we receive from this church. For the past five years the deacons have graciously approached me about a raise and my response consistently has been, "We are fine, we don't need any more money." It is not about me. It is about my desire to see God bless you in your giving and use the money you give to further His kingdom purposes.

Well, we have been in the book of Ezra for the past four weeks. The book of Ezra is devoted to how God moved the Israelites when they returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple. Together we extracted 13 principles that apply to a building project. And when we consider their building project, the Bible does not avoid the subject of money. Though it was God's will to reconstruct the temple, He called the exiles to make financial sacrifices (cf. Neh. 10:32; 13:10).

In Ezra 1:4-6 we read, "'Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.' Then the heads of fathers' households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. All those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering."

Two words we heard often and two words that are used throughout the book of Ezra (3:5; 7:16; 8:28) is the term "freewill offerings." According to the Old Testament law, the Jews were required to give 23% of their income to the Lord's work annually (Levitical-Num. 18:21, Festival-Dt. 14:22-23, Welfare-Dt. 14:27-29). Yet these freewill offerings were to be over and above that required offering of 23%. A "freewill offering" is the cheerful and generous response to the Spirit of God as He moves the hearts of God's people.

How did the people in Ezra's time respond? Ezra 2:68-69 says, "Some of the heads of fathers' households, when they arrived at the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation. According to their ability they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 gold drachmas and 5,000 silver minas and 100 priestly garments." They gave willingly. They gave according to their ability. They gave generously. And as we know, the funds necessary to build the temple were sufficient.

This morning with our time that remains, I'd like to examine another building project from the Bible where God also used freewill offerings. The project was the Tabernacle. And as we will see, when God's people responded obediently to God's call, the money necessary once again took care of itself.

We are in the book of Exodus. And when we think of the book of Exodus what naturally comes to mind is the birth of Moses, Egyptian captivity, the burning bush, the plagues, the Passover lamb and dividing of the Red Sea. All together that composes 15 chapters. We think of the 10 Commandments. That takes up less than 1 chapter. How often do we think of building the Tabernacle? Obviously it had some importance to God since 13 chapters are devoted to describing the process, and it is saved for the conclusion of the book.

The theme of Exodus is God in the midst of His people. And what better way to demonstrate that than to have His people build for Him a Tabernacle or we could say, "dwelling place." So while they wandered in the desert and even for the early centuries in the Promised Land, God commanded the Israelites to build Him this holy tent. Measurements were given. Articles for the inside were to be constructed. Excellence and beauty were stressed. But in order for this project to be completed, the Israelites would have to provide the necessary materials through a freewill offering.

Amazing! While they had just come out of Egyptian bondage and were living in a harsh desert (times much more severe than we are experiencing today), God called them to sacrifice. God gave them an extensive building project.


The first thing we see is God very specifically stating the need. I will begin my reading in Exodus 25, verse 1: "Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams' skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it'" (Ex. 25:1-9).

Clear expectations! What can we observe from these verses? The need was stated - God wanted a sanctuary. The cost was determined - everything from gold to wood was necessary. Then people were asked to respond voluntarily as their hearts were moved. As we spoke of earlier, this was a one-time freewill offering for a special purpose. God is not speaking to those reluctant to give. There is no command to give. God is moving hearts and simply looking for cheerful givers that are excited about participating in His work.

To the best of our ability we have sought to follow these principles in our present campaign with our own freewill offerings. Against the counsel of some, we did not hire a slick talking professional to speak on our behalf. We did not follow the example of many churches and hold special fund-raisers to gather money. We have simply presented the need for a new building and an estimate of the total cost. As we see in Exodus 25, we presented these spiritual needs to God's people. We did not even do our collection immediately after the banquet when emotions might be at their highest. This is a spiritual situation and all we did after presenting the facts was to kindly ask you to take this matter to God. There are no gimmicks. There is no hard sell. There is no fleecing the sheep. If we cannot get excited about this opportunity in and of itself, nothing will raise the funds that we need. And if God does not work, we will fall short of our goal. We are resting on verse 2 from Exodus 25. That "from every [person] who heart moves [we] will raise God's contribution."

Turn to Exodus 35. The truth is so important that it is repeated once again. Verses 4 and 5, "Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, 'This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, 'Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD'S contribution''" and again the necessary resources are mentioned through verse 9. Through the repetition and clarity, the need was unmistakably before the people.


Well, how did the people respond? That takes us to our second point. In chapter 35, verses 20-29, we see that the people responded favorably. But what I really want you to see in these verses is again the emphasis on God moving hearts. There is no doubt that the people sacrificed, but their sacrifice was the result of God working in their lives.

Verse 21, "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." Verse 22, "Then all whose hearts moved them, both men and women…" Verse 26, "All the women whose heart stirred…" Verse 29, "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."

This is remarkable because throughout the Exodus account these people are described as obstinate (Ex. 32:9; 33:3) and stiff-necked (Ac. 7:51)! Yet regarding this situation they definitely rose to the occasion. They received the need, prayerfully determined how they would participate, and according to how God had blessed them gave voluntarily, joyfully and sacrificially.


With another question we move to our third point. Was the need met? Did God move enough hearts? Did enough people respond favorably to provide all the resources to complete the building project?

Exodus 36, verses 3-5, "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.'"

Amazing! The emphasis here is on the willingness of the people. And they gave so much the workers actually declared they had a surplus! Due to the generosity of the Lord's people the gifts even exceeded the needs!

Moses responded in verses 6 and 7: "So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, 'Let no man or 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."

From many church testimonies people give only based upon special perks and people give what they have leftover and people are offended when you even talk about money. Yet in this case, "The people were restrained from bringing any more." What made the difference? They were humans just like us. They were well aware of other things their money could buy. They were not financially wealthy. But the difference was made because God touched their hearts.

This is God's church and God's project. Apart from His working we have no chance. That is why we have been praying and fasting so fervently. Because when God moves us internally to get excited about His work, the resources will come. God's people will overflow with joy, and God will get all the glory. Scripture testifies to it.

other sermons in this series

May 3


Grace In Giving vs. Giving To Grace

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1– 9:15 Series: Growing in Grace-Building Project

Apr 26


The Sacrifice of A King

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Chronicles 29:1–19 Series: Growing in Grace-Building Project