We have been considering the lives of some biblical characters, those whose lives do not jump out when we make a list of popular persons in Scripture. We have referred to them as ‘Silent Generals’. This third instalment shines the light on more of such individuals gone before.
BEZALEL AND OHOLIAB: ARTISANS FOR THE KINGDOM
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master of every craft.
‘And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make:’” – Ex. 31:1-6 (NLT).
In this passage, there are two main characters but we’ll consider them together. God had commanded Moses to receive material offerings from the Israelites for the purpose of building a tabernacle. The pattern of everything to be constructed as part of the tabernacle was shown to Moses by God, and he was required to adhere strictly to the designs he received. But Moses was no skilled craftsman. The fulfilment of this instruction was to be by the hands of other anointed artisans.
God was very clear with Moses: He had “specifically chosen Bezalel… filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability and expertise in all kinds of crafts.” God had also “appointed Oholiab … to be his assistant.” Other craftsmen were also to work with them, but these two were to lead the work. Many times, we mistakenly think that the gift of the Spirit of God is only in things like preaching the gospel. But here was God in His own words saying the ability for all kinds of craftsmanship that these men possessed came from His Spirit.
God wanted a tabernacle, Moses was shown the detailed designs, the Israelites offered the construction materials, but some other persons were to build it. Can you notice how God spreads out responsibilities to everyone, to get His work done?
Our main focus here is however on the leading craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab. They were filled with the Spirit of God for craftwork. The construction of the tabernacle which would provide a meeting point with God for the whole nation and the fulfilment of God’s instructions to Moses depended on their willing obedience. They submitted their skill to the dictates of an unskilled Moses so that the will of God could be done. They could have used these abilities to make a profit, but they didn’t. The temptation to use the anointing of God for personal ends has been Satan’s go-to bait through the ages. Even Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. But Bezalel and Oholiab did none of that. They diligently and meticulously followed Moses’ guidance to build the tabernacle. We didn’t hear of arguments like, “we are professionals, you are not.” Oholiab, who was appointed as an assistant stuck to his role; no power plays. All that we know of the tabernacle: the holy place, the holy of holies, the veil that separated them, the contents of the tabernacle, what it represented both in the old and new testaments, everything, was in large part made possible by the work of these men.
They could have used these abilities to make a profit, but they didn’t. The temptation to use the anointing of God for personal ends has been Satan’s go-to bait through the ages. Even Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. But Bezalel and Oholiab did none of that.Tweet
What about you? What ability or skill do you have? Have you realized that it has been given to you by the Spirit of God for His purposes? There may not be a physical tabernacle to build, but how have you utilized the ability in one or more crafts that the Lord has given you to advance His purposes? “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:11-12). When your church has required your expertise, have you insisted that without being paid, you wouldn’t render your service? Are you a carpenter, a mason, a keyboardist, a guitarist or a soloist or whatever skill you can be identified with? Can the Kingdom of God depend on your ability at any time?
PRISCILLA AND AQUILA: A HOME FOR THE LORD
“The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” – 1 Cor. 16:19
Here again we consider two persons, a Jewish couple, Aquila, and his wife, Priscilla. The first unusual thing we notice about them is the arrangement of their names: the wife being named before the man, something like Mrs and Mr. Which man allows that? But that’s what Mr Aquilla did. Humility! We first encounter them in Corinth, where they were residing at the time. Paul had arrived in Corinth and met this couple, who had themselves recently returned from Italy because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Because they and Paul were tentmakers, he stayed and worked with them (Acts 18:1-4). Here, we see that they opened up their lives, business and home to the apostle. They provided much-needed companionship to Paul. Later this couple accompanied Paul on his travel and arrived at Ephesus. They were willing to leave their comfort zone for the sake of the gospel.
Later we read that a Jew named Apollos came to Ephesus. He spoke about Jesus accurately and with great fervour even though he knew only the baptism of John. His knowledge of Christ was clearly limited. “When Priscilla and Aquilla heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Again, they opened their home for the sake of the gospel. They could have countered him in public like the Jews of their day did, but they rather chose to invite him to their home and explain Christ to him.
In Romans 16:3, Paul describes Priscilla and Aquilla as his “co-workers in Christ Jesus.” He said this couple risked their lives for him. In fact, all the churches of the Gentiles were grateful to them. Paul goes on to say, “Greet also the church that meets at their house” (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19). In the days when believing in Christ was unpopular and came with threats to life, this couple opened their home to be used as a meeting place for the church. What we see is a couple who know the Lord, are humble, supportive of missionaries, open their home and trade to the church.
What about you? How can your friendship help a lonely missionary in the field? How can your vocation support the cause of the gospel? Is your home open for young believers to come in and be taught the way of Christ more accurately? Can you open up your home to the church of Jesus Christ? In these days of the COVID19 pandemic when large gatherings are prohibited, are you willing to allow the use of your home and property, together with the accompanying discomfort, for the church?