I imagine that the call to construct the Tabernacle was overwhelming to Bezalel but with the Lord’s Spirit empowering him he must have risen to the occasion. He is briefly mentioned in a total of 13 verses between Ex. 31 and 37 (Ex. 31:1-5; 35:30-36:2; 37:1) but his work stood the test of time, lasting 40 years in the wilderness and beyond. He was not alone in this high call. Oholiab (Oh-hoe-lee-ab), a fellow craftsman, from the tribe of Dan was appointed to assist him in the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings (Ex. 31:6; 35:34-36:2). Ancient craftsmanship should be greatly admired. If you’ve ever been to a museum and seen pieces from this period (approximately 1450 B. C.) saying that the artistry is impressive would be an understatement. Ancient craftsmen had many resources at their disposal: clay, stone, wood, and metals were all used widely. Artisans also worked with precious and semi-precious stones to create jewelry and decorative pieces for wealthier homes. Religious objects were also highly artistic in nature. Plant sources were used to create textiles and several murals painted on tomb walls depict both horizontal and vertical looms upon which garments, tapestries and blankets would have been woven.
The Israelites had learned a wide variety of artistic skills while they were in Egypt as evidenced in the natural skills that were attributed to Bezalel and Oholiab. But there was one element they possessed in order to achieve the goal the Lord had in mind. It set them apart from the other craftsmen who would be working under their leadership. They were “filled with the Spirit of God” (Ex. 35:31) which enhanced their existing talents so that they could design the Tabernacle according to God’s pattern (Ex. 25:8-9; 36:1). The words used to describe their endeavors illustrate the unique combination of natural skill and the Spirit’s influence: skillful (Ex. 35:25) is often connected to wisdom meaning one who is skilled because of experience; understanding (35:31) is a noun which illustrates insight; the word knowledge describes God’s gift of technical or specific knowledge along with wisdom and understanding (Ex. 31:3; 35:31); know (Ex. 36:1), a verb which means to learn, to perceive, to experience and to be skillful; mahsabah (mah-say-bayh) which is translated in the NASB as “designs for working” meaning a thought, purpose or intention, a poetic word that indicates the origins of such things are in the mind (Ex. 35:32); and hasab (hah-sahb) translated as “makers” which speaks of how God endowed certain people with the ability to invent new and artistic things for practical use (Ex. 35:32, 35). The task that Bezalel and Oholiab demanded the use of both their natural abilities and the leading of the Holy Spirit. God provided both.
Every believer is imbued with natural talents and a gifting from God (1 Cor. 12:7-11) which is there for the building up of Christ’s body. How do you tell the difference between the two? It is good to remember that talents are inherited (like the Manning brothers of NFL fame or Natalie and Nat King Cole in the music world) but Spiritual gifts are given by God and received by the believer. And everyone has a “talent” but only believers have spiritual gifts. While not all the lists of Spiritual Gifts are comprehensive, altogether they offer a complete picture of their purpose in the church (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 28-30; Eph. 4:7-12). How can you discover what gift/gifts you have and where to use them? Lawrence Richards offers this advice, “Gifts operate in an interpersonal context. So as a Christian builds close and caring relationships with other believers, the gifts are discovered as they function”. Simply put- get involved in your church and you will discover what your spiritual gifts are! Sometimes, as in the case of Bezalel and Oholiab, they will go hand in hand with your natural talents and abilities. But you’ll never know what they are unless you’re involved. Where is God calling you to serve? Are you responding?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 4/30/2017