Many of us have a heart to serve Hashem, but often our hearts are divided. On one side is the desire to follow His commands or His leading completely. On the other side is the desire to set our own terms of service. We set up all sorts of conditions and limits on what we will do, where we will go, and how we will serve; all under the guise of following the Lord and doing His bidding. We want to remain in control of what we do and how we do it. In doing so, we forget Yeshua’s word of caution to his talmidim (including us),
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’”Matthew 7:21-23
I suggest that the works of lawlessness were not the actions or ministry done in the name of the Lord, rather they were the fact that these actions were being done outside of the plans and directions of Hashem, seemingly of their own volition.
In this week’s parasha, Terumah, Exodus 25:1 through 27:19, Bnei Israel is taught this lesson.
“Tell Bnei-Yisrael to take up an offering for Me. From anyone whose heart compels him you are to take My offering. These are the contributions which you are to receive from them…”Exodus 25:2-3
The word translated “offering” is terumah, a special gift, a contribution, something that is dedicated or set apart for sacred use. Notice first that the terumah or offering was to be given as each individual’s “heart compels” him/her, meaning that the individual had a degree of control over whether he or she gave, what he or she gave, and how much he or she gave. Second, the terumah was NOT just anything the heart compels. Hashem continued to give Moshe specific instructions as to what type of offerings were to be received from the people, and the list is long enough that everyone would have been able to participate in the terumah in some way or another. There were fifteen categories of items and there was no set amount, minimum or maximum stipulated.
After the command to give the terumah, Hashem gives the reason for the terumah, “Have them make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them,” (Exodus 25:8) But then, as with defining the acceptable terumah, He gives exact instructions on how to build the Sanctuary,
“You are to make it all precisely according to everything that I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings within—just so you must make it.” As with the offering, the Sanctuary had to follow a set, certain pattern.Exodus 25:9
So, while Hashem did want willing or heart motivated offerings, He was very specific in what offerings would be acceptable, as well as in exactly how the offerings were to be used. Remember that earlier Hashem had told Bnei Israel, “Now then, if you listen closely to My voice, and keep My covenant, then you will be My own treasure from among all people, for all the earth is Mine,” (Exodus 19:5); and the people responded, “Everything that ADONAI has spoken, we will do” (Exodus 19:8). Just as one cannot play baseball with golf clubs, Bnei Israel, if they were going to follow Hashem, had to do so by His rules, and that included the offerings brought as well as their use.
Concerning the Tabernacle Hashem told Moshe, “You are to make it all precisely according to everything that I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings within—just so you must make it.” It should be noted that in the Ancient Near East, (ANE), this would not be a surprising command. According to Nahum Sarna,
A prominent characteristic of the narrative in both its parts is the repeated reference to divinely given instructions and the celestial patterns for the terrestrial edifice and for its contents. Such a conception of a sanctuary is not unknown elsewhere in the ancient world. It is attested as early as about 2200 BCE in the narration of a building project by the Sumerian King Gudea of Lagash. It also occurs in Egyptian texts that treat similar enterprises. The idea of divine inspiration, initiation, and specification of a religious institution generally communicates the deity’s sanction and acceptance of the sacred structure, which is thereby endowed with legitimacy.Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1991, 156.
In other words, receiving instructions from Hashem was not unexpected. If their God truly cared for them and desired their allegiance, they anticipated that He would tell them what He wanted and how He wanted it used. In fact, Hashem’s giving of rules and directions actually validated or as Sarna intimated, legitimized His and Bnei Israel’s mutual covenantal relationship.
Returning to the beginning, I said that “Many of us have a heart to serve Hashem, but our often our hearts are divided.” Better yet, maybe we want to serve Hashem according to Frank Sinatra’s classic affirmation, “I did it my way.” Unfortunately, Yeshua told those who did it their way what he thought about their claim of service – “I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” On the other hand, Yeshua told his followers, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” (John 14:15). For those who choose to keep his commandments and not to do things our way, I believe we will more likely hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a little, so I’ll put you in charge of much. Enter into your master’s joy,” (Matthew 25:23)!
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.