Last week when Jesse Turk spoke after the message, he used the term crowd-funding. The idea is that when a group of people come together to give, much more can be accomplished than with just a few major donors. Obviously, major donors are needed in any funding campaign. But websites like gofundme and kickstarter are showing the power of the crowd in raising money for worthy causes.
Ground for Grace is a crowdfunding initiative. And we are the crowd.
If you have read the Ground for Grace materials, you know that one of our key principles is the concept of equal participation. Not equal giving, but equal participation. We realize that it will take all of us giving what we can to make this need a reality.
It was the same way with the people of Israel. In Exodus 35, they have been delivered from slavery in Egypt and now are traveling in the desert to the land the LORD had promised to Abraham generations earlier. While they are on their journey, the LORD commands that a portable, traveling sanctuary be made where he would dwell among the people. [By the way, you can see an image of the Tabernacle with explanations at my blog.] At this point, Moses challenges the people to bring the necessary items that it will require to build the Tabernacle, also called the Tent of Meeting. He also challenged those with various building and craft skills to come forward and participate in the project. This challenge resulted in what may be the most successful fundraising campaign ever recorded.
Exodus 35 20 Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, 21 and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting… and for the sacred garments. 22 All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord. 23 Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or hides of sea cows brought them. 24 Those presenting an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the Lord, and everyone who had acacia wood for any part of the work brought it. 25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. 26 And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair. 27 The leaders brought onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. [vestments worn by the priests] 28 They also brought spices and olive oil for the light and for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. 36 1 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded…” 3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. 4 So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” 6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, 7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
They had “more than enough!” How did this happen?
I. An ANALYSIS of the Campaign reveals that…
When we look closely at this passage, four things stand out that give us a hint why it was so successful.
First, there was a practical need. Building the Tabernacle.
Second, there was an invitation for everyone to participate, not just a select few. Everyone had a gift to contribute. Gold. Fabric. Not to mention that weaving and building skills were required.
Third, the people gave willingly and eagerly. They were not trying to give as little as they could give, but as much as they could.
Fourth, the leaders gave special gifts. Apparently, everyone had gold to give, but only the leaders brought forward the precious stones like onyx and expensive spices and incense oils. We learn in Exodus 28 that the “other stones” for the priestly garments were to be rubys, topaz, turquoise, sapphires emeralds; jacinth, agate, amethyst, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper. This was an extravagant offering that the leaders brought, signifying their willingness to lead in generosity by example.
I want to suggest that the people’s willingness to bring these abundant gifts was the result of their hearts being moved. They were not merely obeying a law or command. And it was not just physical materials that they were donating. It was their wealth. Their gold. Their precious stones. This was their money. And they poured it out for this cause. That I think is the secret to their success. They all contributed.
This will be the reason for our success, too. After all, in crowdfunding, everything counts and adds up. Any pledge you are able to fulfill is significant. But for leaders among us, I want to challenge you to join me in bringing your precious stones. Not literally. But the reality is that we do need major gifts – we are going to need a few more five-figure gifts. You say, “I don’t have $10,15, or 20,000 in cash lying around.” I don’t either, but I do have an old IRA that I am cashing out in order to give at this level. So leaders, I want to challenge you to join me in this. While there is always something else we could do with our money, like buy a good used truck, go on an awesome vacation, pay college tuition, or install a state of the art surround sound system for our TV room,
Jesus tells us that there may be a better use of those funds. In the Sermon on the Mount he told his original disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Randy Alcorn has taken this teaching from Jesus and noted that, “You can’t take your money with you, but you can send it on ahead.” You send it on through generosity. What we give now, we receive later with 10,000% interest. But I don’t think that the Israelites were giving for that reason. The reason for such generosity is seen in…
II. The CONTEXT of the Campaign.
The Israelites had already been delivered from Egypt, but as Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the law from the Lord, Moses’ brother, Aaron, the high priest, created the infamous Golden Calf and the people worshipped it, causing Moses to become so angry that he smashed the Ten Commandments on the ground. That was Exodus 32, just 4 chapters previous. In view of the Israelites’ sin, Moses intercedes for the people, asking the Lord to forgive them and to take his life instead. They would be forgiven, but it would not be Moses who would be condemned for the sins of the people’s idolatry. That judgement would take place hundreds of years later upon a cross through the crucifixion of Jesus, who hung between sinners and the Father to say, “Forgive them; judge me instead. Reject me, but restore them.”
Freshly understanding the symbolism of the sacrifices that foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus—sacrifices that would play a central role in the function of the Tabernacle—the Israelites had come alive to the wonder of God’s mercy and were ready to obey any command the LORD were to give through Moses – not out of duty or fear, but willingly – even enthusiastically. That is what happens when grace comes alive in the heart. When our idol of materialistic gain and financial security is replaced by Jesus as our gain and security, we respond with a new desire and new power for obedience in every area of life, worshipping God whole-heartedly and giving money and possessions enthusiastically.
For the Israelites, giving to the building of the tabernacle was not just about the material need. It was primarily about the spiritual need that they had to respond in a tangible way to the utterly unmerited grace of God. They HAD to respond, and this was their opportunity.
This is why Ground for Grace is about more than ground. It is about grace coming alive in OUR hearts so that we draw near to Jesus as our Savior, Provider and Treasure. Like the Israelites, we are idolaters, too. We may not have bowed to a golden calf, but we have bowed to the gold that formed the calf. We have bowed to wealth as our Savior. How many of you, like me, have thought that your problems would be solved if you won the lottery? I think about it every time I drive by the billboard in front of the Dawson Kroger. The reality is that our problems would only intensify. Because idols never deliver on their promises, but enslave those who follow them. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, when money is our Precious, it will consume and ruin us. The only antidote to materialism is generosity. I fool myself if I think I am not a lover of money if I am not generous.
You see, the context of a fresh experience with God’s grace was the fuel that drove their generosity to supply the Tabernacle with the materials needed for its completion. That is the same experience that I need… that we all need! It is what our children need, and is what our children’s children and their children will need, which is why we must look beyond 2016 for why buying land this summer is so critical for Creekstone. We have to understand…
III. The LONG-RANGE PLAN of the Campaign.
The creation of the tabernacle was not the fulfillment of God’s plan to dwell in the midst of his people as their Savior-King. The fulfillment of what the Israelites were doing in the desert would not come to completion for generations and generations, until finally God came to dwell in a tent, not made of human hands, but a tent of human flesh. John 1:14 tells us, “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And as Paul says in Philippians 2:8, “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” It would be through the death of Jesus that the curtain in the temple would be torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that through his atoning sacrifice, we have unrestricted access to God. We may now approach his throne no longer as a place of judgment and fear, but as a throne of mercy and grace.
In the building of the Tabernacle, the Lord had envisioned a long-range plan for what he was doing in the hearts of his people.
The same is true with our giving this summer. We are seeking to purchase land in order to secure a place upon which gospel transformation can take place in Dahlonega and north Georgia for generations. We plan to influence the nations from this small place. So, what we do today will not have its fulfillment in August as we fulfill our pledges or in September when we close on the land. Unless Jesus returns beforehand, the fulfillment of this campaign will outlive all of us. It is a long-range plan.
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln made an address at the dedication of a battlefield in Pennsylvania. You’ve heard it. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure… The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The battle of Gettysburg was over, but not the cause for which men died on that field. Lincoln new this, and challenged the people to honor the full devotion of those men by devoting themselves to the unfinished work.
We, too, have an unfinished work. O, let’s be clear. From the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!” Meaning, everything necessary for us to be reconciled to God as fully-forgiven, perfectly accepted, beloved sons and daughters was complete. But the continuing cause for which he lived, died and was raised—the calling to reach and disciple the nations—is an unfinished work. The calling to be a witness in our community is an unfinished work. For us to secure a beachhead in Dahlonega, we need land.
Therefore, in view of God’s great mercy to us and the fullness of his devotion to us, may we commit ourselves to the great task remaining, so that the gospel of immeasurable grace shall not perish from the earth, but shall create a new birth of gospel freedom for those who know and will come to know Jesus as the liberator and lover of their soul.