"I wanna be like Mike" was a ubiquitous jingle
during the 1990’s as our society declared its collective dream to be like the greatest basketball player in history. Last year I found an Old Testament role model more inspiring than Michael Jordan—an obscure Israelite artisan named Bezalel. His name is mentioned only once in Scripture, in Exodus 31
. Here is his story:
"The LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand…’"
Here’s the context: after 400 years of living in Egypt (most of that in slavery), the children of Israel have departed Egypt and are in the midst of 40 years in the wilderness, wandering and awaiting their arrival in the Promised Land. God had given Moses the law (including the Ten Commandments), and God had just finished instructing Moses on building the Tabernacle
—something like a big, fancy, portable church building.
In Exodus 31
, God supplies the talent in the form of Bezalel and others to make the Tabernacle and its lavish furnishings. There are two things that are most striking and simply remarkable about the life of Bezalel:
1) God used the horrid circumstances of Egyptian captivity to serve as the training ground for Bezalel’s skills, abilities, and knowledge.
We can imagine that Bezalel learned his craft from his father. As slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, they were likely serving an ancient Egyptian business owner whose employees (slaves) were making and selling idols and replicas of Egyptian household gods. So Bezalel the apprentice, journeyman, and master is slaving year after year, learning his stuff and plying his trade while making products abhorrent to his faith. (This may strike a chord for those of us who labor
in a secular job, feeling far removed from what matters most to us. Another parallel would be the 20th century Jews who were forced to make war munitions for their enemy captors during World War II.)
Finally, the day of Bezalel’s dreams arrives and he joins the throng of millions of Abraham’s descendants in the journey to the Promised Land. After a few years in the wilderness, unable to use his skills and abilities because the Israelites were constantly on the move, one day he gets the call to lead the building of the project of a lifetime…the Tabernacle. (Like Bezalel, it often takes awhile for those of us at MHC to find the niche where we are invited to use the specific gifts, talents, and abilities God has given us. This requires patience, perseverance, and the faith that in due time, the Holy Spirit will move, guide, and direct us to that very place where we can best serve using our gifts.)
2) This is the first time in all of scripture where the Bible describes a man to be "filled…with the Spirit of God."
This is simply staggering. Wow! Wouldn’t you love it if, like Bezalel, you could say without hesitation, "God has filled me with His Spirit, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship"? The fact is God has already done this for all Christians.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in John 14
, and spoke to the work of the Holy Spirit two chapters later. Acts 2
recounts the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and various works of the Holy Spirit are described in the Pauline Epistles. Each believer in Jesus can rightfully say that God has filled them with His Spirit. As it is written in 2 Corinthians 5:17
, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
By God’s immeasurable grace, we can all "be like Bezalel." May Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians be ours:
"...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all"