21 November 2010

unquestionably able

In a passage discussing Exodus 28, Jack Levison addresses the notion of the workers being "filled" with the wisdom of God.

In his own translation of the text, he renders the Hebrew of 28:3 as, "And you shall speak to all the wise of heart whom I have filled with spirit of wisdom, and they will make Aaron's vestments . . ." (52). This aligns with his overall thesis that the spirit of god as understood in Scripture is more than a supernatural gift, but the very source of life and wisdom within the individual. From here, the notion of filling is to be understood as completing (or 'topping off') the spirit which is already present within the individual. It is an interesting thesis and deserves more exploration.

In regards to Exodus 28 Levinson writes, "The artisans were not partly prepared for the task ahead; they were not slightly skilled in weaving and stonework. They were filled with the spirit of wisdom, unquestionably able to do what would be demanded of them" (55, emphasis in original). The notion that God's filling makes the individual unquestionably able to complete the task which has been set before them is a powerful statement.

I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which is taken in the wrong direction in my view. We often think that God will not give us anything more than we can handle. This has some theological difficulties all around, not least of which is that it accredits God with providing us the trials and temptations which we are supposed to be overcoming on his behalf. What the verse actually says is that God will not allow the temptations that we encounter overcome us by providing us a way to rise above it. How? Perhaps in the same way that we interpret Exodus 28, that God will fill us with his Spirit to make us unquestionably able to complete the work before us of providing witness to the kingdom.

One of the great strengths of Levinson's thesis is that it acknowledges the spirit which is inherent to every individual, but also understands that it must be cultivated to virtue. The artisans weren't random people who were filled with the Spirit and suddenly able to make beautiful temple furnishings. They were already skilled (and probably refined in their skill through training and learning) when the Spirit came and completed (fulfilled) their ability for the task at hand.

What have we to learn about ourselves? Do we regard those who are skilled and filled with the Spirit of God as unquestionably able to complete the work? Perhaps we are often too busy debating the hows and whys, ins and outs, or trying to debate who is more qualified than we are supporting those who have been summoned, placing our confidence in the God who has given his Spirit to ensure that these little ones are unquestionably able.

So it is with each believer, and flowing from this comes a community of God's presence, all using their diversity of gifts to serve a unified purpose of kingdom. Thus we come to the work of the church as those able and skilled, but completed and motivated by the Spirit. I look forward to reading the remainder of Levinson's book and offering a fuller review later on.

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