Article 7 : Thoughts from the cross trainer


The other morning on my cross trainer, I was thinking of the very peculiar times we’re living in just now. These are profoundly challenging and unprecedented times, the like of which none of us has experienced before.

I was also reflecting that we know that the Lord did not send this awful pandemic – so, then, we know who did! But, we also know that it didn’t catch Him unawares. We intuitively know that it didn’t put a stop to His plans and, also, that He never misses an opportunity to teach us new things, about ourselves, our society and about Him.

I’ve been reading recently in Exodus 35 and onwards about Moses giving instructions to the children of Israel, that he’d received from God, about the building of the Tabernacle.

In Ex 35:5-9 Moses instructs “Whoever is of a willing heart … bring an offering to the Lord of the various materials that were going to be needed for this project”:

Take from among you an offering to the LORD; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the LORD's offering: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen; goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, and fine leather; acacia wood, oil for the light, spices for the anointing-oil and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and the breastplate.

Quite a comprehensive list! Then, I love what it says in v21:

And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the LORD's offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the sacred vestments.”

It says, “Everyone who’s heart was stirred”, and “whose spirit was willing”, because it’s never about the actual ‘value’ of what we bring to Him but the ‘attitude’ of our heart in bringing it!

In v10, we read: 

All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the LORD has commanded …

God then calls for the gifted artisans to do the work and in v30, He calls Bezalel, by name, to lead the group. He says of him in v31-33:

“… He has filled him with divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, 32to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 33in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.

So, this is a man who, over the years, has honed the gifts and talents he’d been given to become a skilled artisan and was perfectly placed to take on this incredible task of making the dwelling place for the presence of Almighty God to dwell with His people. I don’t suppose it would ever have entered Bezalel’s mind, as he daily developed his wide–ranging God–given talents, that he’d be called upon for such an assignment, or, that his name would be written in the scriptures for us to read centuries later!

Then, I thought of someone we read about in scripture who would be considered to be at the opposite end of the social scale to Bezalel, and this is Jael. We read about her in a story that I love in Judges, Chapter 4.

The Israelites had turned away from God and so had been oppressed by the Canaanite king, Jabin, for 20 years. Then Deborah, a prophetess, became their leader and commanded Barak to take 10,000 men and engage the enemy’s army in battle, under the command of Sisera. The Lord routed Sisera with his 900 iron chariots and Barak pursued and killed all the Canaanite army – but Sisera escaped on foot.

We read in v11 that just before this battle, that ‘Heber had left the other Kenites and pitched his tent in Zaanaim, near Kedesh’.

Heber’s wife was Jael and it would be her job to take down the tent and then pitch it again when they moved to a new place. She would have done this very many times during her life with her husband. It would not have seemed in any way significant to her just where she was pitching the tent.

This reminded me of a time, many years ago, when Jim and I went with our family to the Yorkshire Showground to the Dales Bible week. Now, campers we are definitely not! We borrowed a tent from a friend and spent a very damp week there as it seldom stopped raining. The cry went up often, “Don’t touch the sides!” It was so femmer it was like living in a pak a mac! – remember them?

Jael’s tent would not be like that. It would be very heavy, probably made of animal skins, and it would take considerable effort to erect and to hammer in those sturdy tent pegs. Jael would have developed strong muscles as she did this time after time. She was just doing her duty faithfully and, I’m certain, would never have imagined what was about to happen.

The location of the tent was very significant as Sisera, the enemy captain, fleeing the Israelites, arrived at her tent asking for a drink and somewhere to hide from those pursuing him. Jael gave him a drink of milk, told him to lie down and covered him up. Then, as he lay asleep, exhausted, she “drove the tent peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.” Well, he would, wouldn’t he! It must have been one mighty blow to penetrate his skull and go into the ground.

So, here’s a woman, just going about her daily life, putting up the tents, then taking them down again but, because of the strengths she’d developed, at a certain time, of great national need and importance, she stepped up and made history.

She, too, would never have imagined that her act of courage and strength would be recorded in scripture for us to read centuries later.

Bezalel worked with beautiful materials, did intricate embroidery and worked with gold and precious jewels with great precision, to make things of amazing beauty. Jael worked with smelly animal skins in the dust and heat of the day and there wasn’t much finesse in hammering in the tent pegs. His work was very skilled and he was renowned in his community; her’s much more mundane and would only be known in her family.

But God does know our names and He does know the skills and talents He’s given us. He also does know that, if we’ve diligently developed those gifts that He’s given us, in the environment where He’s placed us and with the community around us, we can have great influence for His kingdom. He’s been preparing us for such a time as this!

On a related matter, by now, we’ll all know that Pastor Tim has responded to the call from the NHS for doctors and nurses to return to the hospitals, and to help out at this time of a very great national crisis. Most of us will know that his speciality was as a chest physician. He will be calling on all the training he underwent over many years and the natural God–given talents and skills he developed in his hospital work.

He recently said ‘we feel for the future of the church family and the direction God has for us moving forwards; it’s important I hold hands with medicine and those relationships (hospital colleagues) again. Our Pastor is uniquely qualified to do this and we bless him and stand with him during this time. Truly God’s ways are not ours! But, we know with certainty that He will be building His Kingdom through this opportunity.

Just like Bezalel and Jael in the scriptures, and Pastor Tim in the here and now, let’s ask the Lord to use all our experiences, gifts and talents that He’s poured into us, probably over many years, to demonstrate kingdom living in our families and communities and, in these dark days, to let the light of Jesus dwelling within us, shine even more brightly.    

In last Sunday’s service (5th April), Pastor Tim encouraged us to pray:
I hope in You, I look for You to make Jesus’ brilliance shine in my world”.

Amen!!! Be confident and be hopeful in the days ahead as you shine with the brilliance of Jesus!

Lots of love,

by Ev Cowan Blog #2, 15/04/2020