Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Offerings of Captivity

Several days into the wilderness, far from the safety, security, and relative prosperity of their settlement in Egypt, Israel receives from the Lord instructions for building the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting where the Lord Himself will dwell among them. And you might think that a people who had packed up everything portable and carried it out of a more permanent place would have very little to offer in terms of collectively building something new out of their limited resources, but in Israel, exactly the opposite is true: they brought so much in freewill offering to the Lord that they had to be told to stop bringing it. 

Which kind of raises the question, where does a people in transition without a place to store anything come up with too much silver and gold and bronze for the Lord's house?

Simply put, Egypt.

Remember that when the people were preparing to leave at the first Passover, the Lord made Egypt generous to them. They asked for gold and silver and jewelry and gifts, and they received more than they asked for. The Egyptians were happy to give it to them. So they left not only with their households, but with tremendous wealth. 

So in the wilderness, when God asks for a measure of their wealth, they give what they've got. Now, think about this for a minute. This means that essentially the entire Tabernacle, the first place that God is going to physically dwell among His people, is made with the plunder of an enslaving enemy nation. Just let that sink in. It's amazing.

And it's still the offering that He's working with today, if only we'd be so generous in bringing it.

We were all at one point slaves to something other than the Lord. We have in our pasts a story, a brokenness, a captivity, and although we often look back at these times with deep anguish or even shame, the truth is that everything we've been through in our lives has left us with a tremendous gift, a great wealth that wouldn't be possible if we hadn't experienced it. 

Maybe it's compassion. Maybe it's fortitude. Maybe it's persistence. Maybe it's strength. Maybe it's a way of seeing in the world. Maybe it's love. Maybe it's something else entirely; you know what it is. It's something that you carried from one story to another, from one place to another, out of the darkness and into the light. And when you got there, it was probably wilderness at first, a place where you felt lost and didn't know what to do with all that stuff you were carrying around. 

But then there's this call. Bring your gifts. Bring your offerings. Bring what you have, so that the Lord can build a place among you for Himself. 

This is exactly where we need to bring our brokenness. He wants it. He calls for it. He's prepared to use it to build something glorious, a special place of mercy and sacrifice just for Himself, just to live among us. It's not a burden that you bear from your captivity; it's an offering, just waiting for its season. 

And this is that season.

It's easy to resent the things we carry with us from our broken places. It's easy to hate the heaviness that they bear on our shoulders. It's easy to wonder, at times, what we were thinking, trying to take that thing with us on an arduous journey through what seems like a desolate place. But that's not what we should be thinking.

What we should be thinking is...what can God build out of this? What can God make from my offering? What can He do with what I am able to freely offer Him, for no other reason than that I was willing to carry it into this wilderness in the first place?

I'm telling you - you have a tremendous gift. A tremendous gift. Make it an offering and see what glory comes of it. You won't be disappointed. 

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