‘And the Lord spoke to Moses’ is how the invitation to bring voluntary offerings is documented in the first story of Generosity in the Old Testament. We note this because it is important to remember that God takes the lead to invite generous offerings. It is not Moses or the leaders of Israel that come up with the idea to ask for free will offerings. The story of generosity in Exodus is the first story in the Bible that documents generous giving. It is a story that provides richness in biblical principles that can be learned for ministries and churches seeking generous offerings from the Church. The invitation from God to Moses happens also in a moment of isolation and spiritual discernment for Moses. Moses had been with God forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18). This was a time for Moses to isolate himself from leadership responsibilities and spend time in communion with God. The nation of Israel is three months old (Exodus 19:1), it is a time of beginnings and time to establish a foundation. Moses as God’s appointed leader needed this time away. God speaks, Moses listens. God will instruct Moses so that he in turn can instruct the nation. God would give Moses ‘instructions and commands so that he could teach the people’. (Exodus 24: 2, 12)
In the story of building the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-2) we see that it is God himself the initiator of asking for voluntary offerings.
“The Lord said to Moses, tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.”
In any invitation to generosity how important it is to remember that God himself should lead the process and that God shares his desires to someone that is submitted to God, as Moses was. Moses had been with God forty days on Mount Sinai. We can then note two important aspects: God initiates the invitation to generosity and shares his desires to Moses. Moses having spent time with God has understood God’s will and desires and communicates this to the nation. (Exodus 35:4)
‘Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, this is what the Lord has commanded, take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord…’
In all, about 14 different types of gifts are mentioned, not just gold and silver. The rest of the chapter describes how the people went away to their tents and eagerly and promptly identified the gifts and brought them in abundance. So much that they had to be stopped from giving. (Exodus 36:6)
For reflection: Why is it important to remember that God took the initiative for generous giving?