Yesterday’s message …
- Dealt with Bezalel and Oholiab, two of the bible’s movers & shakers who no one has ever heard of;
- Gave the analogy that the tabernacle is to the temple as a food truck is to a restaurant (original!);
- Had the people in the sound & AV booth call me a Prima Donna Preacher;
- Concluded with part of an essay by author, columnist, and speechwriter Peggy Noonan that perfectly complemented the bottom line: God turns the Can’t Remember Whos into the Can’t Do Without.
AV of Faces In The Crowd, including me at HPHS in 1980.
That’s what a lot of life is like, isn’t it? When you feel like you are little more than a face in the crowd. Especially if you’re a natural introvert, it can be easy to go through life almost anonymously, as the same face in a series of crowds – at school, at work, at a ball game, in a traffic line, in a traffic line, IN A TRAFFIC LINE, at church. It can be so tempting to view life through the lens that others are the movers and the shakers while you’re just a watcher and observer. You spend your time with all the rest of the masses watching the movers and shakers operate. Sometimes it feels like life happens around you, sometimes in spite of you, rather than because of you or through you.
And of course, when you feel like a face in the crowd, it is so very easy to adopt the posture of being overlooked. Overlooked at home, at work, at the gym, and even – or especially – at church. Convinced that people can’t or won’t remember your name.
And then, you come to church and you hear words and terms like “Holy Spirit” and the even more nebulous (though how can you be more nebulous than a ghost?) “Spirit-filled” and all of a sudden you feel like MORE of a face in the crowd. More overlooked. Because when you hear someone is “filled with the Spirit” you immediately think, “Oh that must mean they can sing. Or teach. Or preach. Or preach and teach while singing.” Those folks are the movers and the shakers. Being filled with the Holy Spirit has to be for the purpose of some kind of public, in the spotlight, headline dominating ministry. In my world the Spirit-filled preacher is the guy with the bigger church than you got. So we got some super Spirit-filled preachers on the loose in the Carolinas!
The Spirit-filled, we think, are the ones who separate themselves from the faces in the crowd and do the thing in public that everyone sees. (The irony around here is that in spite of what I do up here if we were at a party where I WASN’T THE CENTER OF ATTENTION, I’d be the one in the corner or by the getaway door, checking my watch and asking, “can we leave yet?”) So: most of us are faces in the crowd, others are the real movers and shakers and the HS fills you p so you can stand up in front of crowds. You good?
You’re not? Good you shouldn’t be.
Because the bible comes along, as it usually does, and makes mincemeat of all our presuppositions. When we get to Exodus 35 here is what is going on. It’s where the bible turns into a construction document (AV). It’s a library, isn’t it? And any good library has sections on masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and laying down of hardwood floors. The bible is no different. A large chunk of Exodus is essentially a building code – permitting and all! – for the children of Israel. And what are they building at this stage? The tabernacle. Exodus is in many ways the construction manual for the building of the tabernacle – a portable dwelling place for the God of Israel (AV). This is NOT the temple in Jerusalem … that comes hundreds of years later, built by Solomon, in Jerusalem, when they were a settled people. The tabernacle is like a food truck; the temple is a restaurant. Here is Exodus is much earlier and the people are nomads in need of a mobile worship space. So God through Moses lays out some incredibly specific instructions for building the tabernacle.
All that brings us to Exodus 35 and two of the most famous people in the bible: Bezalel and Oholiab. Do y’all have their bobbleheads? What? You mean you haven’t heard of them? They might be … faces in the crowd? Overlooked? Look at 35:30:
30 Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,
Now that’s not a bad pedigree, I suppose. Someone else is of the tribe of Judah. Now look at 35:31 where it gets really interesting:
31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—
Now: if we were to finish that sentence after “filled with the Spirit of God,” we’d be all “filled to speak, to teach, to sing, to be in the spotlight.” But we’re not writing Exodus; Moses is. Look how he finishes it: “with all kinds of skills.” Bezalel is Holy Spirit filled to work with his hands, to join a union, to be a laborer, to be the guy with the company shirt on and his name over the left pocket.
There’s more in 35:32-33:
32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.
Arts and crafts! What’s next? A carpet square, orange juice, and nap time? Then bump down to 35:35:
35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.
Yarn spinning, basket weaving, and I’m like, “This is Holy Spirit stuff? Where’s the preaching? Praying in tongues? Foretelling the future?” And God has the nerve to answer me – a 28 year veteran of preaching! – “you don’t have a clue about Holy Spirit filling, son. You think the movers and the shakers are up front, in the spotlight. Nope, most of my Spirit-filled people are behind the scenes, in the shadows.” God has that uncanny way of taking all of our preconceptions about talent and visibility and profile and turning them upside down indeed.
But we’re not done in Exodus yet. Because there’s this fascinating next scene where Moses says to the children of Israel, “Ok, we’ve got the workers, now it’s time for YOU to provide the supplies.” Look what happens in 36:1-5:
1 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled 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 work just as the Lord has commanded.”
2 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. 3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. 4 So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”
More than enough. There’s so much more than enough that a follow up command comes in 36:6-7:
6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, 7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
STOP please! We’re over-run with blessing and abundance! It’s like this confirmation: God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Something about the mad skills of Bezalel and Oholiab inspires such confidence in the people that they have to be restrained from giving more. That tabernacle is not only going to be built to specs, it will exceed them.
But do you know what these two that most of you have never heard of before today – Bezalel and Oholiab – do you know what they show us? What does it mean that these face in the crowd guys becomes the ones you can’t do without. Here: God turns the Can’t Remember Who Into The Can’t Do Without. Yes! God turns the overlooked into the indispensable. He ignites the ignored! He names the unknown. He lets us know that the movers and shakers with the biggest impact are most often the ones you’ll never see.
Makes me think of how things work around here. You know, I sort of depend on the right bible verses to appear at the right time up on these screens. But what if … what if … it weren’t right one time? Like look at Exodus 35:34, the verse we jumped over: READ EXCEPT PROJECT SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY … JN 3:16?
Hey! Y’all got it wrong! Let’s try this again:
This time the RIGHT VERSE … except in Russian.
Let’s get it right this time!
This time: NO YOU PRIMA DONNA PREACHER!
See, I’m the one in the spotlight, the one some of you are likely to think, “oh, he’s Spirit filled,” but if we take Bezalel seriously, it’s those people back there who are the Spirit filled ones keeping things together.
God turns the Can’t Remember Who Into The Can’t Do Without.
Or it’s like the church Pastor Bruce Larson grew up attending in Chicago many years ago. And it was one of those churches (like, well, almost all of them) where they have ushers who take up the offering. And one of the ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. And Bruce Larson’s dad would point out Frank Loesch to his son each Sunday, because Loesch had single-handedly started what they called the Chicago Crime Commission to do battle against Al Capone. Al Capone’s enemy in your church! And with threats on his life and security, Frank Loesch embraced that behind the scenes, no glory ministry of taking up the Sunday offering. Overlooked? Not a chance. Indispensable? You better believe it. God turns the Can’t Remember Who Into The Can’t Do Without.
Or even here. We sometimes ask one another, “who is there at this church who if we ask them to serve in a NO GLORY role like Sat a.m. cleanup for RITI would say, ‘I’d be honored.’” And that’s exactly how people respond. That’s Spirit-filled … and they’d be the last ones to claim it for themselves. God turns the Can’t Remember Who Into The Can’t Do Without.
Here’s why it matters and why it matters on Father’s Day of all days and for guys, especially: There is no such thing as natural talent. There is only SUPERnatural talent. Look at 35:35 again: READ. Filled with skills. Like the guy I know who can barely read a book but put a blueprint in front of him and he’s ON IT. That’s supernatural! God is the actor in all this. Giving YOU supernatural gifts that you’ve been (wrongly) conditioned to believe have no role in church life. Whether it’s blueprints or tech or spreadsheets or grounds keeping … there’s ministry for YOU to be a mover and a shaker. You! You’re easy to overlook, sometimes you simply come to church because your wife makes you, but today you realize, for the first time that your skills are not inbred. They’re heaven-sent. Yours hare the hands the ultimately give voice to the Gospel.
That’s why today in the lobby you can connect with our Family Ministry Team for all those behind the scenes roles that you thought were just filler but now you know are indispensable. Because YOU are indispensable.
And it’s why just for today you can also speak to the people in the orange vests out in the lobby about helping us extend our welcome ministry out into the parking lot.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that God calls the guy with the callouses the one who is Spirit-filled. I shouldn’t be shocked that God filled Bezalel with skills involving tools, metal, and wood. Because is Bezalel the last … carpenter … into whom the Father poured his essence? Do you think when Jesus died that the hands that were pierced with nails were freshly manicured? Always clean? Hardly. We serve a risen Savior who during his time on earth was a kneeling carpenter. One who knew intimately that the skills the world overlooks are the ones the Father highlights. God turns the Can’t Remember Who Into The Can’t Do Without.
Sometimes it’s a hard lesson to learn. Listen how author Peggy Noonan describes it:
The weekend after 9.11.01 I looked around me at all of us who were cheering the construction & electrical workers, the police, the emergency workers, the medics & the fire fighters. I saw who we cheer-ers were. Investment bankers. Orthodontists, Magazine editors. In my group was a lawyer, a columnist, and a writer. We had been kings and queens of the city, respected professionals in a city that respects its professional class.
And this night we were nobody. We were so useless all we could do was applaud the somebodies, the workers who, unlike us, had not been applauded much in their lives … I was so moved and, oddly I guess, grateful. Because they’d always been the people who ran the place, who kept it going; they’d just never been given their due.