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Wisdom to the Wise

by Tim O'Hearn

And in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot, And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office, And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do. (Ex 31:6-11)

Moses was given the pattern to build the Tabernacle. Then God told him that certain men would help him to make the tent and its furnishings. Betzalel and Achliav were extremely talented men, skilled in a variety of arts: metal casting, metal working, embroidery, carpentry, and tentmaking. Apparently they also had assistants. Speaking of all those who would help, God made a strange statement. “In the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom.” What did he mean by that? Isn’t the definition of wise-hearted having wisdom?

One interpretation of that passage might simply be that these men have the wisdom they do because God gave it to them. They are wise-hearted because God gave them a wise heart. This may be the simplest interpretation, but there might also be another one.

Why were Betzalel and Achliav chosen for this task? Was it because they already had the God-given abilities required? No. It was because they had the capability of receiving the wisdom to do the task at hand. And how did God know they had that capacity? Because they were already wise-hearted.

In education classes they talk about “readiness to learn.” A student cannot learn if they don’t have the background information on which to build. Teaching is almost worthless if the student is worried about not having had a meal in two days, or has a sick parent. There is also an emotional readiness. Many students have struggled with great literature because they were just not emotionally ready for that particular book. Two years, or two decades, later they may devour the book, but not right then. Betzalel and Achliav were able to learn because they were ready to learn.

Perhaps, though, the wisdom possessed from the beginning by Betzalel and Achliav had little to do with their craftsmanship. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Prov 9:10) Because they had a heart to follow God they were granted wisdom in multiple crafts. This would have been important. Many craftsmen feel that their way may be better than a draftsman’s concept. They may add something here, take away something there, until the finished product is different from the design off which they are working. These two gentlemen had such a wise heart for following God that they could be trusted to make the items “according unto the pattern which the LORD had showed Moses.” (Num 8:4) They could not improve on God’s pattern, and they were wise enough to know that. In their wise-hearted approach God added the wisdom to create some of the most beautiful items ever seen.