Building God's House
I am going to ask your attention for just a little while to an Old Testament passage and perhaps at first sight you may not think of it as a missionary passage but I think you will soon see that it is. It is found in the book of Exodus in chapters 35 and 36. (It is nice to hear the rustling of those leaves. I wish the people out in radio land could hear it. I believe the Lord will honor and bless the church where there is the rustling of the pages of the Bible. D.L. Moody said if you have three miles to go to church and carry your Bible under your arm, you are preaching a sermon three miles long. Take your Bibles to church and check up on the preacher! There wouldn’t be half as much false teaching if people drew their Bibles on the preacher). We will read from chapter 35, verse 4.
“And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass.”
The Lord told Moses a number of other things to be used in building the tabernacle—and then to verse 10:
“And every wise-hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded; the tabernacle, his tent,” and so on.
Then in chapter 36, verses 1 to 7:
Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it: and they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning. And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made; And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
I have always hoped that some day before the Lord takes me home to Heaven, I might have the experience that Moses had there. It has fallen to my lot through the years to devote a great deal of time seeking to stir the hearts of God’s people to recognize their responsibility to give toward the building of the house of God; but I have never yet come to the place where I had to be told by the deacons and church officers to tell the people that they had brought too much already—not to bring any more. It would be a delightful experience!
You will observe this Old Testament passage has to do with a subject very dear to the heart of God—the building of a house in which He was to dwell. I wonder if you have ever noticed that it takes two chapters in the Old Testament to tell the story of the creation of the universe. In Genesis 1, you get the outline of the story and in chapter two, God gives more detail, dealing more particularly with the creation of man. There is no contradiction, as some people imagine. They simply haven’t apprehended what God is telling us. Those two chapters bring before us the whole story of the creation of the universe. When we come back to Exodus, we find it takes 16 chapters to tell the story of the building of the sanctuary of Jehovah, the tabernacle that was set up in the wilderness. That tabernacle in the wilderness was a very modest building indeed; it would not in any way be compared with this building in which we have met today, The D.L. Moody Church; but God uses 16 chapters to tell about the building of the sanctuary, the materials to be used and the furnishings.
There must be some reason why so much space is given to the instructions for this sanctuary. Well, you know God loves to dwell with His people and Israel was no sooner out of Egypt until they were singing, “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. I will prepare him an habitation.” God took them at their word and said, Yes, I want you to bring material, give your best and give willingly with a glad heart, to build a sanctuary that I may dwell among you. And that sanctuary in a wonderful way tells us the story of redemption. That is one reason it has so large a space in the Bible. I sometimes say I would be willing to rest the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible on the five books of Moses; particularly on what we read of the building of the tabernacle, its furnishings and the ceremonies connected with it. All the New Testament rests on that. You can’t understand the New Testament and the story of redemption in Christ Jesus, you can’t understand the atonement and our Lord’s sacrificial and high-priestly work unless you understand what God revealed to Moses concerning the resurrection of that “temple”—as it is called in Psalm 29:9. A better rendering would be “His sanctuary” for the temple was not built at that time. He was referring to that house of curtains which God owned as His sanctuary. We are told that every whit of it uttereth His glory, every detail of the sanctuary in the wilderness told out in some way the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. In the New Testament we find God referring to it again and again and showing us it was a type of the house in which He now dwells. Let me call your attention to two or three verses in the third chapter of Hebrews. Here the apostle shows how the glory of the Lord Jesus transcends by far the glory of Moses, the servant of God in the old dispensation. Verses 3 to 6 read, “For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony, (Notice this, for a testimony) of those things which were to be spoken after, but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
What is the Spirit of God telling us here? He is telling us the house of curtains built of old typifies the house of God in which He dwells by His Spirit today whose house we are. That is, the house of God at the present time is not a house of stones, brick and mortar like this great building and many other similar buildings dedicated to the Lord, but the house of God is built of men and women saved by grace and brought into holy, happy fellowship by the indwelling Spirit of God. There are a great many people who profess to be Christians but prove their profession is not genuine for the Scripture reads, “whose house are we, if we hold fast…firm unto the end.” It doesn’t do to profess to be a Christian and by and by turn away and deny the Lord who bought you. There are many who join the church, are baptized and then the after-life proves there was no genuine work of grace in the soul. When people are born again, they manifest the reality of that work by continuing steadfast in the faith, and those who thus prove to be truly born of God and are His regenerated children constitute the house in which God now dwells.
Another passage is found in the second chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians—that glorious letter which lifts us to the highest pinnacle of Christian privilege. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” You see it is not complete yet; it has been in the course of construction 1900 years. When Peter made his great confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Augustine, of Hippo, has well said, “So then Christ, not Peter, is the rock upon which the Church is built.” And the foundation of that building was laid in the death of Christ on Calvary and ever since Pentecost, God has been adding one and another to that building.
Here is where the missionary message comes in. That temple is nearly completed; it won’t be long until the last piece of material will be set in place and then the Lord will take the entire church out of this world to be with Himself in yonder glory. Our business now is to be occupied with building that Church and going out after those who seem worthless, to go after those with whom it would seem nothing could be done; but when they believe the Gospel, God in His matchless grace transforms them and makes them His own. The Apostle Peter said, “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.” And so it is our business, then, to go out and get the material to build living stones into that house.
If we are going out, as we have been commissioned, to take the Gospel to others and carry on a great world-wide missionary program, conditions are such in this world that it demands constant sacrifice and self-denial. God told Moses to tell the people to bring in all that was needed for the construction of the house of God, but to tell them to bring a willing heart. He did not want anything given grudgingly. He did not want a gift from those who said, “I hate to part with it, but I must keep up appearances.” Moses said, “We don’t want gifts from them. Those who give must give willingly.”
They came from all the families of Israel. Here comes a man with a talent of silver and puts it down, and here comes another man with a great purse of gold. Here is a poor woman who hadn’t much to give but she sheared a couple of goats and wove the wool into part of a goat’s hair curtain. Here is one who can’t bring silver and gold but brings copper. I think he is in pre-eminence today! God has been using gold, silver and copper in the building of His work, and I think if you were to put it as Paul puts the three graces, you would say, Now abideth gold, silver, copper; but the greatest of these is copper! It is wonderful how much work of the Lord has been made possible by the people who were only able to give the copper; but God has been able to do what all the alchemists of the Middle Ages were not able to do—He has transmuted it into pure gold for His honor and glory.
They came and brought their gifts so gladly and of such quantity that the builders finally came to Moses and said, “We are swamped; we already have more than we need, you must tell the people to stop.” Just think of some church, where one would have to meet the people at the door, crying, “Stop! Don’t bring any more. We don’t know what to do with it.” Wouldn’t it be great! Well, dear friends, we will have the privilege today of seeking to emulate those men of old. The Moody Memorial Church has something over 100 missionaries who have gone out to carry the message to the heathen. They are seeking those who can be builded into the house of God and made a habitation for the Holy Spirit. Of that number who have gone out, we fully support 70. You know what that means. Every year we find it necessary to raise $40,000 just for their bare support. When it comes to furloughs, passages and so forth, we have to raise more; but it is marvelous how year after year the means have come in—not from wealthy people, but from those in moderate circumstances who give out of love for Christ.
A year ago at this time our cash and pledges amounted to $37,148.40 but during the year the amount that has come in is $45,868.03. You will say, You got more than you needed. $8,719 above the amount pledged. We needed it all. Our missionary committee tells me we have at the present time a number of sick and worn missionaries who should be home on furlough but on account of war conditions, depletion of missionaries, many are remaining overtime although in poor physical condition. Our missionary committee has figured it out this way—we need the customary $40,000 and another $7,000 to pay the traveling costs of these dear people. The traveling costs are exorbitant today but you can’t send the bill to those responsible in Europe. It is so very unsafe to travel but we want to do our part and so one Sunday a year we take the time at our three services to make our gifts and our pledges in order that we may stand behind our missionaries and help build the house of God.
In response to the annual plea, contributions and pledges came in amounting to over $36,000 to date.