Skill, ability, and wisdom are all qualities that would make anyone successful. These are the qualities of a successful businessman, farmer, rancher, welder, or horseman. These are qualities that are better modeled than taught and before they were ever modeled in humanity our Heavenly Father modeled them for us from the beginning.
It is fitting that the first person to be spoken of as “filled with the Spirit of God” is not an academic or leadership guru. Nor is it a celebrity or a financial savant, but a craftsman drafted into the service of the Lord. In Exodus 31.2 it says: “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” The three qualities that the Spirit of God “filled” Bazalel form a distinctive cluster of words that are found a few other places in the Old Testament. He is said to be filled with “skill” or hokma, a word more commonly translated “wisdom”. Biblical wisdom is the tools to live well. It is our life lived and decisions made in response to who God is. Bazalel was also endowed with “ability” [tebuna] and “knowledge” [da’at]. “Ability” denotes understanding; a capacity to see the big picture that comes from a long-life (Job 12.12), an even temper (Prov 17.27) and a hold on the tongue (Prov. 11.12). All of these things will contribute to a life lived without need for a course correction (Prov. 15.21). Bazelel was a man of the big picture, able to keep true to the direction and the plan.
The importance of his work cannot be over stated and undoubtedly was not lost on him. The cluster of words previously mentioned carry great weight because the only other times they are found together, they speak of the character of God or the communion of God with His people. They are clustered at:
- “By wisdom [hokma] the Lord laid the Earth’s foundations, by understanding [tebuna] he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge [da’at] the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Prov 3.19-20) Creation was the original meeting place of God and man. It was the first communion between our Heavenly Father and us. No veils, no separation, no distance. True face to face communion and communication fostered by His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
- The Tabernacle. “…the Lord has chosen Bezalel…and has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill [hokma], ability [tebuna] and knowledge [da’at] in all kinds of crafts.” (Ex. 35.30-31) The tabernacle was the sanctuary of God during the time of wandering in the desert up until the Temple was built by Solomon. (2 Samuel 7.6; 1 Chron. 23.26). In it resided the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Wash Basin, and all the other things need for worshipping the Lord. Everything that resided in the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle itself was under the skill and supervision of Bezalel and the Spirit that filled him.
- The Temple. David wanted to build it (1 Chron 28.2), he was given the plans for it (1 Chron. 28.12), but was told by God that Solomon would do it (1 Chron 28.6). Solomon undertook the building of the Temple (1 Kings 6), but hired Huram who “was highly skilled [hokma] and experienced [tebuna + da’at] in all kinds of bronze work. He came to Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.” (1 Kings 7.14) The ark was brought from Shiloh to the Temple, where God’s glory filled His new dwelling place (1 Kings 8.10-13).
- The Messiah. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom [hokma] and of understanding [bina], the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge [da’at] and of the fear of the Lord…” (Isaiah 11.2) The “him” here refers to the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” which is to say the Messiah. The Jewish community interpreted these verses (and all of chapter 11) as a Messianic prophecy. A careful study of the life of Jesus and the teaching of the early Church in the book of Acts reveals a community that understood Jesus as a resting place for the Spirit of the Lord. He even applies another Isaiah text to himself that begins “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. (a quote of Isiah 61.1-2) Jesus was from the line of Jesse (Acts 7.23), grew in wisdom (Luke 2.40, 52), and had the Spirit rest on him (Matt 3.16)
What ties all of these together is not just the words but also the implication of God’s presence. These were all places where God dwelt with Man. In the Garden/Original Creation, God would walk with man in the “cool [ruach] of the day” (Gen. 3.8). Sin broke our relationship and made hiding desirable. There would be no more walks with the Lord and no more seeing His full glory. For year’s there would be intermittent contact with God. People knew that he was with him (even non-Hebrews could see that [Gen. 39.3]) but there was no lasting place for God to dwell among His people until He gave Moses instructions for the Tabernacle. Moses was to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell [sakan] among them. Make this Tabernacle…” (Ex 25.8-9) The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place in the center of the Hebrew camp. When they entered the Promised Land it was set up at Shiloh, where God would eventually say “Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling [sakan] for my Name…” (Jer. 7.12) But the Tabernacle would eventually be replaced by a building designed by God, communicated to David by the Spirit, and built by the oversight of Solomon and the hands of Hiram. In the Temple at Jerusalem would now be where God’s name would dwell (Neh. 1.9; 1 Kings 8.12). God, however, would soon find another way, a different way to dwell amongst his people. John writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1.14) Jesus was God’s representative to this world for 33 years until he sent his replacement, the Spirit, to make his dwelling in us (1 Cor. 3.16).
The Lord dispensed His wisdom, skill, and ability in His interactions with man. These qualities came out because they were central to God’s character. He “gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2.6) because that is part of His character. That is why Solomon implores those to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2.2-3)
We are now the vehicles by which God meets others. We are the carriers of his wisdom, skill, understanding, and ability. We not only bear the image of the one who created us, but we are indwelled with the very qualities that God has meet with humanity for ages. As we walk through the day, as we undertake a project, as we comfort those around us, as we interact with others, we are the meeting place where God’s character meets others…its our job to let Him do His thing.