WORD STUDY – OFFERING (Part I) – תרומה
Exodus 25:2-9 : “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this [is] the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats'[hair], And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers ‘skins, and shittim wood, Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
So here we have God asking his people to make a sanctuary so He can dwell among them. Sounds good, but then He makes his demands for what he wants in this sanctuary and what he wants the people to give to Him. Like, wow, God really has an opulent life style. I mean He is really high maintenance.
After Donald Trump was elected President of the United States people began questioning whether he would live in the White House or stay in his New York penthouse. My first thought was; “Who would not want to live in the White House, a mansion filled with servants who will grant your every request?” But then I started to read about the President Elect’s life style and the question made sense. I mean his penthouse is gold plated, everything, with a staff that are handpicked who sing his praises all day long. Why would he want to live in a house that compared to his standards is relatively plain and filled with servants who are constantly saying: “Well, Obama never….” That would be like God leaving heaven with its pearly gates, streets of gold to live in the desert surrounded by rams and badgers’ skins and shittim wood.
My point is, why is God making demands for all these things? It is certainly not because He is demanding a first class life style. There really has to be some symbolic reason for all these things that would be very apparent to the children of Israel but not to us in the 21st Century.
So I ventured once again into Jewish literature to see if they could shed some light on what these offerings were for. What first struck me was the word offering. The Jewish sages and rabbis do not translate the word terumah as offering but as uplifting. Uplifting is really correct English word to us as corben is really the word for offering. Terumah comes from the root word rum which means to lift up or exalt. Commentators say that word is used because the smoke and scent of burnt offerings are lifted up to heaven. I mean, come on, really? Most of these offerings listed are not burnt offerings to begin with.
So what does an offering have to do with lifting up or exalting. The word offering is defined in Webster as a gift or a contribution. In this respect it is given to help a person along. How often in church do you hear a plea for the food pantry or to help an orphanage or missions. When the plea is given an offering is taken. You put your hard earned dollars in that plate to help lift someone out of a difficult situation whether it be hunger or financial need. You are lifting up that person. But how about God, He sure doesn’t need out money to lift Him up. He doesn’t need the gold, silver and brass, he created it and if He needs some more He can create more. It would be sort of like someone giving a friend ten dollars and saying, “Go buy me a present.” Thus, we have an additional word for rum which is to exalt. That is also lifting a person up, showing they are special and important to you. But if that is all why not just express it, why give God something He already has and can get on His own.
That is where God said in Exodus 25:2: “of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart.” The word willingly is nadab which means to incite, impel, free and independent. It is more correctly rendered like the ESV, “everyone whose heart moves him.” I mean you sit in church and you watch a video of starving children in a third world nation and that offering plate appears in front of you. Odds are you are not throwing that money in the plate to impress the usher or the person sitting next to you. Your heart has been moved and you have to do something. That is what God is wanting from the offering. He gave you a heart, use it. Your couple dollars will not make any difference whether you give it or not. Sort of like voting. Your one vote will not make a difference but you are banking on the fact that millions of others feel like you do and you are doing your part because you are moved by your heart. You see whether a person gave gold or silver for God’s sanctuary was of little consequence, the important thing is that someone was so moved in their heart for their love for God that they just had to do something and God said: “Ok, here is something you can do, will make you feel good.” Someone suggested that an offering was surrender of all. That is the idea. The expression of love requires some sacrifice, the giving up of something important to you, something that you really love but you surrender it to something or someone that you love more. People had gold, silver and brass, they had fine linen of scarlet and blue, and they had ram’s skin and badgers skin (tehasim, leather). Yet all these things were not necessary for personal survival. They were luxuries, things that they could wear or display to show off and impress your neighbor. They were part of their opulent life style so to speak. They were things that they loved, but not necessary for everyday life. When their hearts were moved by the presence of God and they felt His love, they just want to give Him something to express that love, something they loved but realized that they loved God more. They surrendered it all, willingly they gave out of the love of their hearts. God gave them a heart and He was giving them an opportunity to use it.
To be continued….