The book of Exodus opens with the story of Moses. The children of Israel have multiplied in the land of Egypt where they have been slaves for 400 years. Moses was raised by pharaoh’s daughter before he fled from Egypt to spend forty years as a shepherd in the wilderness. God meets him in a burning bush, sends him back to Egypt, ten plagues and two months later Moses arrives at Mount Sinai with 2.4 million Israelites and he receives the law while the people create the golden calf.
The Israelites were entrusted with the law but God knew they would not be able to keep the law. God desired to dwell amongst His people despite their sin but He could not dwell among them because of their sin. The tabernacle was God’s solution to both issues.
The sacrifices which took place at the tabernacle allowed for the forgiveness of the sin of breaking the law by pointing to the future sacrifice of Christ. The Ark of the Covenant and the altar and various other instruments allowed for the physical link to God that will last long after Moses and focus their worship in a God-honoring way without any graven images, and God’s presence dwelt in the Holy of Holies above the ark of the covenant and was evident to the people in a pillar of cloud above the tabernacle.
The tabernacle was God’s plan from the very beginning and He provided for the construction materials and the skill needed to build it.
And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth! - Exodus 12:35-36 NLT
All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the LORD. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. - Exodus 35:21 NLT
"The LORD has gifted Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other skilled craftsmen with wisdom and ability to perform any task involved in building the sanctuary. Let them construct and furnish the Tabernacle, just as the LORD has commanded." - Exodus 36:1 NLT
The Israelites were slaves for the last 430 years; they were not a wealthy people. God compelled the Egyptians to give them gold, silver, precious stones and fabrics, all the items they would need to construct the tabernacle. God did not give them these materials to make them rich or as some kind of social justice to compensate for their time as slaves, rather God gave them these materials so they could give them back to God.
After worshiping an idol (the golden calf) the people were given a small taste of God’s wraith (bitter water, 3,000 slain by the Levities, and a great plague sent by God – Exodus 32). But after the intercessory prayers of Moses the people then enjoyed the forgiveness and grace of God with a renewed relationship with the Almighty. God used their sin and His forgiveness to generate in them a grateful heart willing to donate to the construction of the tabernacle in abundance.
Then Jesus told him this story: "A man loaned money to two people--500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt." "That's right," Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. ... "I tell you, her sins--and they are many--have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love." - Luke 7:41-44, 47 NLT
The people understood how close they came to annihilation from the sin they committed with the golden calf. But even after this grave sin God announced that He would not only forgive them but dwell among them. God used His grace and forgiveness to stir in them an intense gratitude that compelled them to give to the tabernacle and they gave so much that they had to be ordered to stop giving.
The people did not give out of fear or obligation; they donated to the tabernacle out of their love for God. They gave out of the freedom and gratitude that comes from a heart changed by God’s grace. It was not an attempt to earn God’s favor, rather it was because God had bestowed His favor on them, and it was a response to His goodness and mercy.
They went to Moses and reported, "The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the LORD has commanded us to do!" So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: "Men and women, don't prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!" So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. - Exodus 36:5-6 NLT
We need to remember how much we have been forgiven and allow that forgiveness to stir our generosity.