This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
The first account we have in the Scriptures of any building erected for the worship of God, is the taber-nacle. The account (Ex. xxxv.-xl.) is briefly this: When on the mount, Moses received from the Lord the command to build the tabernacle, which the children of Israel were to carry with them as they removed from place to place in their journeys through the wilderness.
"And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; 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, and oil for the light, and spices for annointing oil, and for the sweet incense, and onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate, and every wise-hearted among you shall come, and make all that the Lord hath commanded."
"And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and ear-rings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord."
And the workmen "received of Moses all the offer-ing, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning. And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made; and they spake unto Moses, saying, The people being much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."
"All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary. And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was a hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary. A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand five hundred and fifty men. * * *
"And the brass of the offering was seventy talents, and two thousand and four hundred shekels."
Dr. Adam Clarke tells us that this would be 4,245 pounds of gold, 14,602 pounds of silver, and 10,277 pounds of brass, troy weight. This, reduced to avoirdupois weight, makes nearly ten and a half tons. The gold would amount to $960,002.50; the silver, $219,-088.64; the brass (at one English shilling per pound), $2,487.03, making a total of $1,171,578.17.
If we add to these figures the value of the many other offerings brought by every one "whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing," we may get some idea of the cost of the first building erected for the public worship of God, of which we have any record. We should also remember that the scarcity of the precious metals at that early period rendered them so much the more to be prized by their possessors. The gold which had been employed in the golden calf had all been destroyed, and yet so freely and cheerfully did the people respond that they had to be told, as morning after morning they came with their offerings, that there was already more than enough - they even had to be "restrained from bringing."
There are at least three reasons why such vast wealth should have been used in the construction of the tabernacle; (a.) To impress the minds of the people with the glory of the Divine Majesty, and the estimate which was to be placed upon His service. (b.) To convert the spoils which they had brought out of Egypt into the blessed means of rendering them liberal and cheerful givers, while at the same time they unburdened their hands of that which was liable to become the occasion of covetousness. (c.) To prevent pride and vain-glory, by giving for the divine service those ornaments of person which would have had a direct tendency to divert their minds from sacred things.
Later in the sacred history we find that when the temple of Solomon was built, the free-will offerings of the people were poured in such astonishing profusion that we fail to comprehend the value of such vast treasures. When David instructed Solomon (I. Chron. xxii: 14,) concerning the building of the temple, already he had "prepared for the house of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold ($2,456,678,125,) and a thousand thousand talents of silver" $l,711,-383,666.) To this various additions were made, until the vast masses of gold and silver become almost incalculable. The various authorities differ greatly. Among the lowest is our own calculation of $4,396,-606,465. One, of credible authority, whose estimate is not among the highest, states the amount at $35,-520,000,000, making 48,000 tons of gold and silver. Now, if this latter amount be correct, and all this precious metal were to be loaded on wagons bearing one ton each, allowing twenty feet space for each wagon to move in the procession, the unbroken line would reach from New York to Harrisburg, a distance of 182 miles.
If this seems startling, turn to I. Kings, vi.and vii., and read the description of this costly structure with "the whole house overlaid with gold," and "the floor of the house overlaid with gold, within and without." All ordinary things may be overstated, but there are some things so vast that words are crushed beneath the freightage which they must bear to convey even the idea from mind to mind. Niagara never has been, and can never be described. Words cannot make the mountains of Switzerland arise in their towering magnitude before the mind, or convey any idea of the vast proportions of St. Peter's, at Rome. The Queen of Sheba had heard very wonderful things concerning the beauty of Jerusalem, the glory of the temple and the wisdom of Solomon. The reports seemed so exag-erated that she affirmed that she could not believe them until she should see them with her own eves, and yet, when she came, she declared that even the half had not been told her.
What unbounded prosperity and blessing did the people of God enjoy when they obeyed the injunction: "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."
"There was never a moment when obedience did not bring affluent prosperity, and when disobedience did not bring destructive curse. Never before or afterward were such immense exactions called for as during the period in which the temple was built. And yet there was prosperity, material and spiritual, during that period such as had never been before and never was again. The people came up to the full measure of the legal requirements, and God poured in upon them material wealth like a mighty river. And afterwards, when decline came upon the nation, in every attempt made to revive it, the people were reminded, and everything was made of the fact, that for a long time the offerings had been neglected. And the decline was attributed to the divine displeasure upon the nation for this neglect. This reminder marks the revival under Hezekiah and that under
Nehemiah, and, in fact, every revival and attempt at revival."*
Repairing the Temple. - During the reign of Jehoash, when the temple was in need of repairs, Jehoiada had a chest placed by the altar of sacrifice, and as the people prayed they proved their sincerity by their offerings for the repair of the Lord's house. When Joash, King of Juda, repaired the temple, a chest was made and set "without at the gate of the house of the Lord," into which the people might cast their offerings; and "the king's scribe and the high priest's office]' came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to his place again. Thus they did day by clay, and gathered money in abundance."
So also during the reign of the good King Josiah the offerings of the people were gathered by the "keepers of the door/' So it was again, when poor and few in number, the Jews returned from Babylon, they gave liberally and worked faithfully for the rebuilding of the temple. Never was there a debt but provision was made before the work was begun, and when the topmost stone was brought on, it was with shouting, Grace, grace unto it!
*Rev. David Cole, D. D., in "Offerings to the Lord."