On reading through Exodus recently, I was stuck by the severity of the command given in Exodus 34:20 by the Lord, who is relating his requirements to Moses, to pass on to the people:
No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
This seems a little strange, but there are some interesting implications. The first is that everyone has something to give. Surely the Lord would not require something from those who had nothing. It is his provision, his generous gifts to us that enable us to give something back.
A couple of chapters later, we read the result of this injunction, as Bezalel and Oholiab who are overseeing the construction of the sanctuary report back to Moses:
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 workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing 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.
How about that! Their generosity was so great that they had to be told to stop giving! Can you imagine this scene translated into a contemporary church where the pastor has to instruct the ushers to sit down because we can’t collect any more in the offering bags, and we already have more than we need? Or a Children’s Pastor turning away volunteers because they have more than they need?
To identify the source of this incredible generosity, we need to go back one chapter, to Exodus 35:21:
…and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord…
There’s the secret isn’t it? A combination of detemination (will) and compassion (heart moved) towards the things of God.
So my simple question is this: What do you bring to the Lord today? If you are not to appear empty-handed, what can you bring? Your patience? A kind word to a colleague? Offering to help someone who seems overburdened? A hug for a distressed child? An email or phone call to a lonely relative?
Who knows. But be sure not to appear empty-handed before the Lord 🙂