The True Design of Work
Exodus 35:30-34
And Moses said to the children of Israel, See, the LORD has called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur…

We are accustomed to limit the inspiration of God's Spirit to thoughts and words. For this, however, we have no warrant in Scripture. The sevenfold Spirit has differences of administration and operation. The body as well as the soul experiences His sanctifying influence. He enters the sphere of man's labour as well as of his thought, and inspires the work of his hands as well as the meditations of his mind. The same Spirit that inspired the eloquence of Isaiah, and the melodies of the chief musician Asaph, also imparted to Samson that marvellous bodily strength which he displayed in Herculean labours, and tremendous feats against the Philistines; and to Bezaleel and Aholiab that fine aesthetic taste and mechanical skill, by which they were enabled to construct the Tabernacle after the pattern shown on the mount. What is the lesson conveyed to us by the Theocratic government of Israel, whose affairs, secular and religious, national and individual, were regulated directly by God Himself? Is it not that the whole of life is one; that true religion is the proper use of man's whole being, and of the universe around him? What does the ascension of our Lord teach us? Is it not the unity of life; the oneness of the natural and the religious life? Godliness is now profitable unto all things. It is not the setting up of an estrangement between man and the outer world, but the working out of a true harmony between them; not the elimination of any of the elements of man's life, but the proper blending of the whole — the sanctification of body, soul, and spirit; the doing all, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to the glory of God. Bearing in mind this solemn truth of the unity of all life, let me proceed to consider the significance of the inspiration of Bezaleel and Aholiab. This fact is not of individual but of general application. It is not unique, but representative. The Tabernacle of the wilderness was a miniature model of the whole earth, just as the people of Israel were the miniature pattern of all nations. Every man has a part assigned to him in the erection and adorning of this wonderful Tabernacle, whose floor is the green fields, whose walls are the rocks and mountains, and whose roof is the ever-changing sky. Every man who does a day's work is a fellow-worker with God, in carrying out His great design in creation, in improving the face of nature, changing the wilderness into a garden, in making the world fairer and richer, and better fitted to be the home of redeemed man, and the shrine of the Most High God. Toil is the first stage of the process of redemption — "the condition of man's elevation out of the state of a sinful, suffering, degraded creature, to the friendship, fellowship, and likeness of God." In the Pacific Ocean there are lovely islands built entirely by coral zoophytes, out of the profound depths of the ocean. Raised above the waves, floating germs of vegetation alight on them, and speedily cover them with a fair clothing of verdure. Man comes and takes up his abode on these Edens, and makes their resources subservient to the purposes of human life. By and by the missionary appears, and by the preaching of the gospel changes the moral wilderness into a garden of the Lord. The last great result is thus but the completion of a process begun by the mere natural instinct of a creature in the depths of the ocean. The work of the missionary rests upon, and is closely connected with, the work of the polyp. So is it with human toil. It may be a mere instinctive process carried on in the depths of spiritual ignorance; a blind, aimless motion, having no higher object than the mere satisfying of natural wants. Man may be induced to work purely by physical necessity, because he cannot otherwise get his bread; and yet toil is absolutely necessary as the foundation upon which the spiritual structure of our soul's salvation is laid. The effects of the fall began indeed in the soul; and it is in the soul that they must first be counteracted. The work of grace is radical. It begins in the heart, and spreads outwardly through the life. But work is the fulcrum by which its blessed leverage is exerted, the discipline through which it is carried out. Toil, first of all, teaches man his utter poverty. He forfeited life and all the means of life by his sin. As an outlaw under sentence of outlawry, he can hold no possessions whatever; he has no right even to his daily bread. But further, toil makes man subject to the law which he has broken. He sought to escape from law by his transgression. Striving to escape from the beneficent law of God, he fell under the cruel law of poverty, hunger, and death. He must become, as Mr. Brown says, the servant of the laws by which God maintains the order and life of the world, if he would earn the smallest blessing from their co-operation. Only by falling in with the Divine rule in every work can any man hope to succeed in it. Those who conquer nature are those who comprehend and obey her. But further still, toil opens the door into the sphere of duty, and is the hinge on which the deepest relationships and richest experiences of life turn. Not for himself does any man toil. Wife and children have to be provided for. But the highest ministry which our toil performs is to bring us into communion and fellowship with God our Redeemer, to make us fellow-workers with God. We enter into His purposes, comprehend His plans, and sympathize with His feelings. The patience which the husbandman exercises in waiting through the long summer months for the fruit of what he sows, and which the artist and mechanic display in slowly developing their special work, enables us in some measure to understand the patience of God in His work of providence and redemption. The disappointments and failures to which all kinds of work are exposed, prepare us for sympathizing with God's grief over the ruins of the world which He had made all very good, and over the disappointments which He meets in His redemption work. The courage, the faith, the devotion, the perseverance, the self-denial which our daily work calls forth, are closely related to our higher moral and spiritual discipline, and have the most important effect in redeeming us from the consequences of the fall. We need the inspiration of God's Spirit — the inspiration which Bezaleel and Aholiab had — to rescue our work from the degradation into which it so easily slides, and make it what God meant it to be. The very labour of our hands sinks down into depraved methods, unless kept up by the ennobling influence of God's Spirit. The inspiration of the Spirit does not indeed impart gifts — does not stand in place of natural abilities and attainments. Men have different talents naturally; and a Christian may have only one talent, while a thoroughly worldly man may have ten. And yet it is marvellous what the inspiration of the Spirit can do, even in the absence or deficiency of natural attainments. The entrance of God's Word gives light, and makes the simple wise. Conversion is itself an education. Religion exalts and ennobles the whole man. It quickens and elevates all his powers, and makes itself felt in everything with which he has to do. We see the marvellous influence of the Christian religion, even although mixed with much superstition, in the art of the Middle Ages — in those paintings of sacred subjects, and those abbeys and cathedrals which are the admiration of our age. There is nothing in Christianity that forbids, but, on the contrary, everything that favours the widest expansion, the loftiest achievement of the human mind, and the most skilful production of the human hand. It behoves all who are Christians, then, to show what Christianity can do in the way of purifying and ennobling common every-day work. Let us seek to make our work an essential part of our religion. The labour of Bezaleel, from a worldly point of view, was evanescent. The Tabernacle which he constructed with such rare skill, passed away; all its precious materials and workmanship disappeared like a beautiful dream of the morning, and not a trace of them now remains on the face of the earth. And yet, notwithstanding this, the work of Bezaleel was abiding in its spiritual results. Israel reaped the benefit of it through all their generations. We ourselves are the better for it to-day.

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah;

WEB: Moses said to the children of Israel, "Behold, Yahweh has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

Prayer for Artistic Skill Answered
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