Bezaleel and Aholiab as Pattern Servants

Exodus 31.

It is very remarkable to observe that the character of, and qualifications for, service are the same in all dispensations. The work to be done may vary; but, as the above chapter plainly shows, the service of Bezaleel and Aholiab proceeded upon the same lines as that of the apostle Paul. Both alike indeed were engaged with the house of God; and if Bezaleel and Aholiab were not exactly builders in the same sense as the apostle, they were yet all occupied with God's dwelling-place here upon earth. It cannot fail, therefore, of instruction and profit to consider how these godly men in the wilderness were fitted for the work to which God called them in connection with His sanctuary. And in a day of abounding activity, a day when the Lord's service is entered upon with a light heart, that is, with a very feeble impression of its seriousness and gravity, and with a very small equipment for the conflict which it involves, it is of all moment to understand what God's thoughts are concerning those whom He designates for His service and work.

In the first place, Bezaleel received a divine call: "See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri." In like manner Paul speaks, "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen," etc. It was impossible, therefore, for one or the other to doubt either as to the origin or the nature of his service. It is readily conceded that calls of this character were special and extraordinary; but, while admitting this to the full, it must be earnestly maintained that every servant now must be the subject of a divine call as distinct and as constraining as these pattern servants. True, it will be an inward one, and as such a secret between the Lord and the soul; but it will not, on this account, be any the less efficacious. It would be presumptuous in the extreme to embark upon any service without the overwhelming conviction that we had been called to it by the Lord. "I must go," said the only son of a rich merchant to his father, "and preach the gospel among the heathen." "My son," replied the father, "I cannot spare you; you are a comfort to me, and I want you at home. Stay, and I will sustain ten servants of the Lord to preach the gospel to the heathen." "Yes, father," said the son, "I would gladly remain if it were open to my choice; but the Lord has called me to go, so that I should not be free to abide at home if you were to send twenty in my stead."

Following upon the call we find the qualification: "I have filled him," saith the Lord, "with the Spirit or God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship," etc. (v. 3.) In a similar way we find that the Lord Jesus qualified His disciples for their service. He established their hearts in the truth of His resurrection, He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, appointed them to be witnesses of what they had seen and heard, and, having told them that He would send upon them the promise of His Father, He enjoined them to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:36-49.) So was it also for their service while with Him during His earthly sojourn. If He sent them forth, He bestowed upon them the requisite "power and authority" for the execution of their mission. Their qualifications were as divinely given as their call. It is true that they were different vessels, different in character and capacity; but the Lord chose them in view of the work to which He would appoint them, and gave to each according to his several ability. Whether, therefore, it was Bezaleel and Aholiab or the twelve, or, it might be added, Paul, James, Timothy, or Titus, all alike received their qualifications entirely from the Lord.

This is a lesson which every servant of the Lord would do well to ponder; for it is scarcely too much to say that the majority of those who take the place of servants in Christendom seek their endowment for their work mainly from man. Professing in some cases to have been called to preach the word, and declaring in others that they have chosen this vocation, they devote themselves to the acquisition of human learning, to the development of their intellectual powers, and to the study of "the art of preaching," in order to fit themselves for their work. The result from the very outset is often dependence upon human power rather than upon the energy and power of the Holy Ghost; and the issue is either rationalism or ritualism - the two great antagonistic forces which Satan employs to destroy the true character of Christianity. Nor let us forget that though we may have taken a place outside of these corruptions, we may be liable to the same temptations. There is not indeed a single evil in Christendom towards which we may not find the tendency in our own hearts. If, therefore, any of us look for power or acceptance from anything that is of man - from manner, learning, fervour, or eloquence - or if we study human methods of the presentation of the message given to us to deliver, we are at once off the ground of dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit, because we are calling in to our aid that which has its source in man and natural abilities.

Two other things may be noted in connection with Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were to do what God had commanded Moses, and they were to do it according to all that He had commanded. (vv. 6-11.) We gather from this that they were not to be choosers of their own work, that they had to be absolutely at the Lord's disposal; and, secondly, that in doing what they were commanded they were not left to their own pleasure or discretion, but that they were to be governed by the word of God. These are two most important principles. There are many inducements to select our service, and even the place where we serve, but the moment we admit the principle of choice our eye is off the Lord. The question is very simple. It is not, Shall we do this or that? but it is, "Lord, what wilt Thou have us to do?" Even our blessed Lord, the perfect Servant that He was, took this ground when He said, "The Son can do nothing of [from] Himself, but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." He even applies the same principle to what He said: "I have not spoken of [from] Myself; but the Father who sent Me, He gave Me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak." If, therefore, He only did and said what was given to Him of the Father to say and do, we cannot err if we seek grace to follow in His steps.

Nor is the second point less important. Bezaleel and Aholiab were under the authority of Moses, and every servant is under the authority and at the disposal of the Lord. His will is consequently our law, and His will is expressed in His word, and may be discerned without difficulty if we are living in His presence. It may often seem to us that the adoption of some human method in our service would add to its efficacy; but Scripture everywhere teaches that our true wisdom is in subjection to the will of our Lord. To human eyes no plan of taking Jericho could have been more foolish than that which Joshua adopted; but it was God's plan, and hence its complete success. So with these servants who were employed to make "the tabernacle, the ark of the testimony, and the mercy-seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle" - they were not at liberty to depart from the directions they received even in the smallest detail. All was to be done according as God had commanded. So was it also enjoined upon Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." And the last chapter of Exodus abundantly teaches the same lesson. The tabernacle was finished, and when, at the Lord's command, Moses reared it up, it is said eight times over, "As the Lord commanded Moses." "So Moses finished the work." And God immediately endorsed, and expressed His delight in it, for "a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."

Summing up what has been before us, it will be seen that the path of every servant is very exactly defined. The Lord distinctly calls everyone whom He deigns to employ, and of this call no servant should ever be in doubt. Secondly, if He call, He bestows the requisite qualifications. On Him alone, therefore, has the servant to wait for the needed grace, wisdom, and power. Independent of man, he is wholly and entirely cast upon the Lord. Thirdly, he must have the Lord's mind as to what he should do, and if he has not, he must sit at the Lord's feet until he receives direction. When Mary and Martha sent the message to the Lord that Lazarus was sick, He abode two days still in the place where He was. Pressing as the call was (and even the claim, the claim of affection), He would not respond until it was the Father's will that He should go. Adopting the same principle, our activities may indeed be limited, but what an increase in confidence in the Lord and consequent power would be gained! Fourthly, the servant must be wholly governed in his work by the Lord's word. As the apostle has written, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." And the same apostle said, "Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things."