Exodus 35

Before coming to this church, our family attended a small church near Orwell, Ohio. The church met in an old building which was formerly an elementary school. The building was old and had cracking paint, but our church family was able to rent the building for a reasonable price. And we enjoyed being together so much that we often overlooked the facility just because of our common love for the Lord.

There came a time when the leadership of the church decided that it was a good time to begin the process of building a building of our own. This was a big step because it would require purchasing land, hiring an architect, building a foundation, and putting up the building, etc. The probable cost could have been over $300-500,000. While this was a great project, the members of the church decided to move forward.

That was more than five years ago. Since then, the Lord has provided a building, funds for renovating, and volunteer labor to put things together. During a recent visit, the pastor showed me the inside of the building and the current state of affairs. It was good to see how the Lord has provided through His people for a more permanent meeting place for that church.

During the time of the Exodus, the Lord commanded the people to build a tabernacle for worship. It was intricately designed and required many expensive materials for construction. How would these former slaves accomplish such a task? In our passage today, we will see how God’s people came together to build the tabernacle with voluntary donations and labor.

  1. What God commanded (35:1-19)

    Moses gathered all the people together to tell them what the Lord expected them to do. During the meeting, He relayed what God had told him while on the mountain. While the whole conversation may have been longer, this chapter summarizes three of God’s commands given specifically to Israel.

    a. Rest on the Sabbath Day (1-3).

    The first part of the Sabbath command is work. We usually talk about the rest aspect of the Sabbath Day. But notice that this is only part of God’s command to the Israelites. He begins with the command to work for six days. God wanted His people to be diligent about their work.

    ILLUS. I recently heard that employees at Twitter headquarters have had some very nice benefits. A video showed a meditation room, swanky break rooms with wine available, and a game room. I assume that the former managers thought that providing these things would keep their employees happy. But recent events seem to indicate that the employees have become entitled and expecting to have whatever they want. That isn’t good.

    The Proverbs of Solomon contain many wise statements about work:

    Prov. 10:4 – “He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
    Prov. 13:4 – “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;

    but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
    Prov. 31:13 – “She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands.”

    Because of the temptation to be lazy, the Lord included work in his instructions about the Sabbath. The Sabbath Day is not an excuse to be lazy during the week. Instead, it is a reward for working hard all week long.

    The second part of the Sabbath command is rest. Moses explained to Israel that God wanted them to rest on the seventh day. “On that day no work was to be done, not even the work of the tabernacle” (Bush 265). Each Saturday, the people were to stay home and to recuperate from their labor. This was so important to the Lord that He included two extra thoughts about this. First, anyone found rebelling against the Sabbath rest was to be put to death. While this may seem harsh by our current standards, this was necessary to show the seriousness of rebelling against God’s prescribed way of life. Working on the Sabbath would be direct disobedience against the One whom they had promised to follow.

    Second, they were not to kindle a fire in their homes. With winter approaching, you may wonder about not having a fire. “Suppose no fire was kindled on the Sabbath. This would cause great problems in the frozen North. God’s laws were made to suit the land in which Israel lived” (McGee 309). Israel was in a hot area of the world and this prohibition was probably about cooking food not heat since they were elsewhere instructed to cook their Sabbath food on the day before (Ex. 16:23).

    Do you remember what Jesus said about the Sabbath? He said that it was designed for the good of people (Mark 2:27). “The Sabbath was intended to help people, not burden them” (“What…”). Taking one day off during a week was not going to harm the people, their productivity, or anything else. It was God’s design to help them stay rested both physically and mentally. Think of the time that the family would have to be together after a long work week. Think of the aching muscles that would have time to heal. Think of being able to take a deep breath and let it out with a smile. God definitely knew what He was doing.

    APPLIC. Are these rules about the Sabbath binding on Christians today? Surprisingly, the Sabbath Day command is the only one of the Ten Commandments not mentioned in the New Testament. So, Christians are not required to rest on the seventh day. However, do you see the benefit of taking a day to rest each week? It is definitely a good idea although it is not required.

    b. Bring an offering to the Lord (4-9).

    The next command was to gather the items needed for constructing the tabernacle and its equipment. Moses told the people that this was what God commanded, but also that it was to be a voluntary offering to the work of the Lord. The offering would include precious metals, cloth, animal pelts, wood, oil, spices, and precious stones. While the list of needed items is not terribly exciting, there are two things that I notice in this paragraph.

    First, notice that the offering was to be given by willing people. “Moses put no compulsion upon the people, nor did he give any directions as to the quantity of the different articles which they should bring. The whole was to be left to the promptings of their own willing and generous hearts” (Bush 266). Yes, the tabernacle project needed items to be provided by people. But God wanted them to give willingly. They were to consider what was needed and then voluntarily give to the project. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthian church about giving toward needy Christians.

    2 Cor. 9:7 – “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    Second, notice that the people had the necessary items. God was not asking for items that were unobtainable but for precious items that they could give if they were willing. When you look at the list of items, you will see that there were precious metals and jewels. The Israelites had been slaves for a long time. Where would they have gotten such riches?

    “Remember that God said that they would come out of Egypt with great wealth (Gen. 15:14). He made sure they collected their back wages. The Egyptians were so glad to rid the land of the Israelites that they gave them whatever they asked. So Israel left with a great deal of wealth of Egypt” (McGee 309).

    APPLIC. If you think this through, God was asking the people to give to Him a portion of what He had already provided for them. Isn’t this true of us today? When God asks us to give for the work of His Church or to support a missionary, are we really giving our money? or is it something God has already provided for us?

    c. Put together the tabernacle (10-19).

    A pile of goods would be nice, but, if nobody put them together, there would be no tabernacle. Moses instructed the gifted artisans (“wise hearted” KJV) to gather together and make the tabernacle. This would involve talented construction workers. But it would also take talented artists to form the beautiful curtains, ark of the covenant, lampstand, altar, priestly garments, and other items used in the tabernacle.

    How do you think the people responded when Moses gave them God’s commands? They were to rest once a week, to bring voluntary contributions, and to put together the tabernacle. This could be viewed as asking too much. But is that how the people responded?

    ILLUS. I remember when our church decided to fix up a room in the parsonage for visiting preachers and missionaries. The idea was to have a place for them to stay overnight when they came to visit. It was enjoyable for me to see how the church people jumped at the opportunity to do this. People gave enough to furnish the room and decorated it rather nicely. It got to the point, where I wasn’t needed because they took over the project and completed it.

  2. How the people responded (Ex. 35:20-35)

    After Moses delivered God’s commands to the people, they went back to their tents. Look at verse 21 and see how the people responded.

    a. Offerings were brought by volunteers (21).

    Something happened in the hearts of the people. Their hearts were stirred to help with the project. They saw the need and then volunteered to give of their goods and talents. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the wall listening to what some of the people said inside their tents? I can imagine a husband and wife talking about how good God had been to them, how He had delivered them from Egypt, and how He had provided for their needs. Then one of them might have said, “We have some gold that could be given to God’s work. Why don’t we give that? Let’s do it.” Wouldn’t that have been a delightful time as God moved in people’s hearts?

    b. Offerings were brought by men and women (22, 25, 29).

    In three different verses, Moses noted that men and women were a part of the offerings given to the Lord for this project. In verses 22, men and women gave golden jewelry that could be melted down to plate the ark and other golden items. In verse 25, talented women spun yarn and made cloth for the curtains and linen outfits. In verse 29, men and women brough all kinds of materials that were needed. What a smile this must have put on the faces of the Lord and His servant, Moses.

    APPLIC. While the Lord has chosen to use men and women in different ways in the home and church, this does not mean that one or the other is inferior or any less valuable. God has designed men and women to function in a complementarian way where each is complemented by what the other supplies. We saw that clearly in Israel’s giving. Both men and women were stirred by God to give of their belongings for the furtherance of God’s work. Let us follow their example with the same kind of willingness to give of what God has provided for us.

    c. Offerings were brought of all types (29).

    We have already talked about the willingness to give and the people who gave, but there is something more in verse 29. Notice that people brought “material for all kinds of work.” While some had wood to give, others had gold. While some had yarn to give, others had cloth. While the rulers gave the precious jewels for the ephod, others gave animal pelts. What was given was based on what each person had. And when all of them gave, there were enough items together to complete the project. “It has been estimated that about five million dollars [1981] went into the construction of the tabernacle according to the value of the metals of a few years ago” (McGee 310).

    APPLIC. Have you ever felt like you had little to contribute to God’s work? You hear about a wealthy person giving millions of dollars to build a new building. You see a missionary giving his time to serve in a foreign land under difficult circumstances. But when you look at yourself, you feel that you have little to give. Let me remind you that Jesus was more impressed with the widow’s two small coins than the large bags of money given by the wealthy (Mark 12:41-44). We are only called to give as the Lord provides and are never to compare ourselves to others.

    d. Bezalel and Aholiab were called by God (30-35).

    In this final section, Moses announced that the Lord had specially gifted two men with the abilities needed to design and assemble the tabernacle. The first man was Bezalel from the tribe of Judah. He was in charge of working with the precious metals and jewels. The second man was Aholiab from the tribe of Dan. He was in charge of engraving and working with weaving curtains and the priestly garments.

    But these two would not have been able to do everything by themselves, so the Lord enabled them to teach those who helped them. Bezalel taught people how to make the molds for the candlestick, how to pour in the precious metals, and how to hollow out the insides so the oil could flow. Aholiab taught his helpers to make beautiful designs in the curtains and how to design and fit the garments to each priest.

    APPLIC. You know what it looks like? It looks like some people were able to give while others were able to work. All of the people who were willing had a part to play in the construction of the tabernacle. Some gave materials and others gave their time and effort. Which was better? Neither was better. They were all part of the same project and were used by God with the items or talents God provided for them. Maybe this is a good time to ask yourself how God has gifted you for service. Perhaps you are in a place where you have extra to give to God’s work. Or maybe you have time and effort that can be donated to the Lord’s work. Think about how God can use you this week to accomplish His purposes.


You might get the impression that our church is raising funds for a new project today. That is not the case. And I hope that no one is offended by this message. That was not my intention at all. Instead, I hope that you will leave with the idea that God has a place for all Christians in His work. The work of this church could not be accomplished without the help of every member. So, as you consider how the Israelites finished their project by volunteering their goods and efforts, consider how you can contribute to God’s work here and abroad.


Bush, George, Exodus, Vol. 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, pp. 265-271.

Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, pp. 159-60.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 309-10.

“What does it mean that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=26615 on 10/29/2022.

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