I have been deliberate about making sure our children read the entire Bible after returning home from a children’s workshop in which the following statement was made: the average American who considers him/ herself a Christian has never read the entire Bible. Not even once. This statement put into perspective for me so much about why people who are raised in church can operate so differently on Monday-Saturday. It also was a stark and painful reminder of my own earliest adult years, when it became obvious through my own life that while church attendance is important, it would not, in and of itself, sustain me as a Christian. Yet, ironically enough, when I began our original study of the entire Bible with the older two, I made very conscious decisions to skip certain portions. Moses as an author? Too boring once the Ten Commandments were handed down. One prophet sounded similar to another, so why cover them all? Same premise with the Gospels: as an adult I know that the four authors had different perspectives in what they shared and why, but I wanted to press onward. I say all of this tongue-in-cheek, but my real “eye” for what we covered was, what would keep it interesting/ engaging for the children? Bear in mind also that the kids were much younger when we began this first journey. I’ve since realized the arrogance of that decision. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2nd Timothy 3:16). So, this trip around, with the oldest on her own and the youngest in tow, we are reading each and every Word.
We are in the last chapters of Exodus right now, studying the making of the tabernacle—down to the cubit. After we read, I ask the children, “What is God saying to us today?” The youngest says some version of this answer: “Well, like we talked about before, the Lord is into details and wants order.” Her tone says it all: ‘I’m tired of reading about cubits and acacia wood, and if I see one more piece of purple/red/blue cloth…’ I feel her. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I chose to skip this portion of scripture entirely. But, as the Shepherd so often does, He leads His sheep to great places in our studies—if we hang in there with Him. Here are five lessons that I’ve discovered from our reading—repeatedly–about cubits and wood:
1) The Lord uses ordinary people and equips them with what they need. Bezaleel and Aholiab were given positions of tremendous responsibility, but, as the Word says, God filled them with the Spirit (first!), and skills, abilities, knowledge, and all manners of workmanship. Did they come empty-handed? No. Aholiab was a craftsman from the tribe of Dan. But their ordinary gifts in the extraordinary hands of the Master produced an awesome work. In fact, Bezaleel’s name is still mentioned in modern-day culture regarding design firms and architecture of all sizes.
2) The importance of operating in mercy toward one another. Once the frame for the tabernacle was built, the first piece of furniture to follow was the mercy seat. I personally think this is significant. God thought it was most important; we should see it as important, too, and use this lesson as a model for how we treat others. Mercy requires that we believe the best in people, that we give them the benefit of the doubt, and that we truly embrace James 1:19–slow to speak, slow to anger (please, Lord Jesus), and quick to listen (again, please, Lord Jesus).
3) There is unprecedented favor and anointing when you operate in your assignment. These two men, Bezaleel and Aholiab, were the lead construction engineers, in modern-day terms. We never hear from them again. They might have been called upon as leaders to give direction or expertise, but they didn’t use their influence and sphere of control to try and replace Moses; they weren’t looking to become priests. They operated in what was their assignment, with marvelous results. Recently, I have had the opportunity to do some freelance writing that I would have enjoyed, and I thought that because the information was presented to me—indirectly—it must have been for me. But God gave me a Word through our pastor about the danger of stepping out from under the covering of Christ, even when it appears to be a good thing. I knew almost immediately that I needed to reconsider.
4) In all things, God wants our best. When you read the word gold, there is an imagery that strikes the mind, or at least, that strikes my mind: fancy, elegant, eye-catching, and expensive. This was a portable tent, for goodness’ sake! Linen can be fancy, too, but what’s with the purple, blue, and red? Well, our history studies tell us that purple was a very expensive dye color to prepare. To make it, you had to crack open a shellfish called a trumpet shell. Because of the expense of this process, purple (and its derivatives, I imagine) was only available to royalty. Remember that Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) was a dealer of purple cloth, from which you could infer that she had a certain amount of influence in the city. I believe in part that that’s why her baptism was significant—she was a person that others noticed.
5) Be obedient to what God places in your heart. I am often amazed when a person says, “God spoke to me and said…,” or after praying for me, the person will say, “The Lord says…” I can’t help but wonder how they know it was God who spoke to them. I have this image of burning bushes or doves or some other miraculous show of God’s presence. Yet, my own experience with God “speaking” to me is the same as Watchman Nee described in his The Spiritual Man: God speaks through our conscious and our intuition, and even in our subconscious dreams,
confirming it through His Word (which is why it’s sooooo important to actually read the Bible and know what it says). Too many times, we dismiss what goes through these psychological venues, and it’s how we can easily miss a God move. In these final chapters, the Lord gave Bezaleel and Aholiab wisdom to construct the temple, but He also gave the people a heart to give, providing for the construction. That person that we always think about is an opportunity to intercede for them in prayer; that idea that keeps us up at night can be the beginning of a thriving and successful business. Don’t discount the gentle tugging at your heart to do something; it could be the key to unlocking a blessing.
I know that there are great books out there for children that cover the Bible and have fun activities to help children with learning. But I struggle with these in the same way that I struggle with many of the bells and whistles that are increasingly becoming a part of our youth and children’s ministry, as well as ministries across the country. I talk more about that in article I wrote here. I don’t think God’s Word needs ostentation, and at some point, all the videos, games and toys can be a distraction from the meat of the Word. In our home, we read, we discuss, and I believe God to grow those planted seeds. Our closing prayer over our Bible study has been the same for years now, as originally stated by a pastor of ours: ‘May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of His Holy Word, and may it instruct and inspire us in both our public and private lives.’ I trust Him to do just that. And while the kids will prayerfully have many years to read the Word again and again on their own, I do want to model 2nd Timothy 3:16 in our home as training for what they should do in homes of their own.
Can’t wait to see what the Lord does for us when we get to Numbers (yikes).