His Presence

             I.      Introduction

Our scripture for the week was supposed to be Exodus 39 & 40.  It’s starts with these verses,

Moreover, from the blue and purple and scarlet material, they made finely woven garments for ministering in the holy place as well as the holy garments which were for Aaron, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.  He made the ephod of gold, and of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen.

 So I’m thinking one lesson we can learn is what sort of clothes we should wear to church.  This description of clothing goes on for like the entire two chapters of Exodus 39-40.    We should always wear our ephods of gold, blue, purple and scarlet.  And I ask a deep theological question of the Lord: Lord, please reveal to me, what is an ephod? 

Here is a traditional ephod:

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So then I asked, Lord, is there a deeper theological message, other than a church dress code?  If I understood God’s answer correctly, today we will discuss God’s relationship with His people through history, the functionality of God’s temples and the duties of His royal priesthood.  And ephods.

But let’s start with this:  Where does God live?

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When I want to speak to God through prayer, I look up.  As though God was in a particular direction, and if I looked in that direction, I’d see Him.  Is He close?  Is He far away?  Where does God live?  And what does He look like if I see Him?

Does He look like George Burns?  Morgan Freeman?  And how does any of this tie into Exodus 39?

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Our bible study today centers on Exodus 38 through 40 which begins with a description of the first temple and the clothing to be worn by the first priests.  There are a great many instructions on what to build and what to wear.  We could spend a long time reading the description of the temple and the clothing, but I want to get into the purpose, so we’re just going to hit a few verses.  Turn your bibles to Exodus 38.    Here’s how God instructed the altar to be built starting in Exodus 38:1 –

Then he made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood, five cubits long, and five cubits wide, square, and three cubits high.  He made its horns on its four corners, its horns being of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze.  He made all the utensils of the altar, the pails and the shovels and the basins, the flesh hooks and the firepans; he made all its utensils of bronze.  He made for the altar a grating of bronze network beneath, under its ledge, reaching halfway up.  He cast four rings on the four ends of the bronze grating as holders for the poles.  He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze.  He inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar, with which to carry it. He made it hollow with planks.

This goes on for 31 verses, and my second question (does anybody remember what the first question was?  Right, “What is an ephod?”).  My second question was, “what the heck is a cubit?”  That part was pretty easy to figure out, I guess they didn’t have a Wal-mart nearby to go pick up a ruler, so a cubit was simply the length from the back of the elbow to the tip of the finger, about 18 inches.  The final altar looked like this:

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And then, as if the altar instructions weren’t complex enough, there was some weird fashion show one had to wear before one was allowed to come near. 

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Church dress codes have certainly relaxed since biblical times.  Now we wear Astros gear.  I wonder why they don’t make Astros ephods?  That would be perfect.

Exodus 39 beginning in verse 1,

Moreover, from the blue and purple and scarlet material, they made finely woven garments for ministering in the holy place as well as the holy garments which were for Aaron, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.  He made the ephod of gold, and of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen.  Then they hammered out gold sheets and cut them into threads to be woven in with the blue and the purple and the scarlet material, and the fine linen, the work of a skillful workman.  They made attaching shoulder pieces for the ephod; it was attached at its two upper ends.  The skillfully woven band which was on it was like its workmanship, of the same material: of gold and of blue and purple and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.  They made the onyx stones, set in gold filigree settings; they were engraved like the engravings of a signet, according to the names of the sons of Israel.

And then this description goes on for another 43 verses.

What’s the purpose for all these instructions?    The Lord told Moses how the Aaron and the other priests were to dress when ministering in the Holy Place.  The Lord had specific instructions to Moses about a great many things before the Lord would, as Dr. Young says, “tabernacle among them.”

But when I was studying this chapter, it felt like I was reading a book out of order, and not even reading the entire book.  Like picking up a novel, reading a couple of chapters from the very middle of the book, then closing the book.  And afterward, I’d be asking myself, “How did the story begin?  How did it end?”  I dunno.  I’m only reading the middle part of the book.

I don’t know how many lessons I begin with Genesis 1, and many times I end in Revelation.  Today is another one of those times, so we’re going to have to study the entire bible today.  Shouldn’t take too long, right?  So let’s turn to Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1. 

          II.      Genesis 1:2, The Spirit of God

Genesis 1:1-2,

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

 To fully understand where God lives, well, that’s beyond our study.  But we can study what God has revealed to us in His Word about His Presence, and see how and when God reveals Himself to us.

When God created the heavens and the earth, it was perfect.  How could it be otherwise?  There is no presence of sin, no rebellion, nothing opposed to God.  God’s will is everywhere, God’s will is perfect.  And the Holy Spirit moved over the surface of the waters.  And this is important, God is in direct contact with His creation.  And at the end of the sixth day, God creates man and woman and places them in the Garden of Eden.  And there was still no sin.  In Genesis 2:15, scripture says,

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Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

In other words, God dwelt with man and interacted with Him in a perfect sinless environment.  But then mankind messed it all up, and disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  And sin entered the world. 

This is important an important change in our relationship with God.  Sin entered the world.  You and I tell little lies and gossip and steal office supplies and get mad at each other, but we live with each other and learn to get along.  But God is not like you and me.  God is holy and pure and good.  He’s omnipotent and full of justice, and when He sees any injustice or sin, God will destroy it.  How can a holy God be otherwise, so see evil and just say, “well, that’s not so bad, I guess I can accept that.”  No, God promises to make all things right.

After man at the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what happened to the relationship between God and man?  God drove the man and woman out of the garden, no more in direct contact, lest God be compelled to destroy the evil within.

       III.      Exodus 38-40 God Dwells in His Temple

But God is also perfect love, and God still loves His flawed, sinful people.  How will God dwell among those He loves without destroying them in the process?   In the Old Testament, God prescribed a method, sort of like a Martian airlock. 

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I’m not sure the altar of the Lord has ever been described like a Martian airlock, but let’s go with it.  The purpose of an airlock is to keep the Martian atmosphere on one side, and the earthly atmosphere on the other, with an intermediate area to transition from Earth to Mars and back again.

So sinful man cannot simply walk up to the presence of the Lord without being destroyed by His holiness.  So the altar was devised by God for God to indwell, and the priestly garments, like a Martian spacesuit, was worn after the priest was purified and temporarily pure for approaching the presence of the Lord.  All of the clothing was symbolic for being set apart for God’s work of atoning for sin.  The dress code was mandatory.  Noncompliance was sin, and the wages of sin is death, so getting dressed up for church was a good idea.   God says that this is the Martian airlock method of separating His Holiness from our sinfulness so we won’t die, in Exodus 28:43,

They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting, or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die.

 So even noncompliance with the dress code was a problem.  Forgetting to wear a tie to the altar was imperfect, a sin, and like all sin, no matter how big or how small, was punishable by death.  In Exodus 28:31-35, the Lord tells Moses to add little golden bells on the hem of the priestly robe –

“You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  There shall be an opening at its top in the middle of it; around its opening there shall be a binding of woven work, like the opening of a coat of mail, so that it will not be torn.  You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe.  It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the Lord, so that he will not die.

That’s a pretty sophisticated Martian airlock with all the bells and whistles.  And there’s meaning in the robe;

  • The blue represents heaven and water, the pristine state of the earth when God created it.
  • The gold represents, well, gold.  It’s pure and it’s rare.
  • The scarlet represents the blood; Leviticus 17:11 tells us that life is in the blood.  And this is important to the sacrificial system.  Since the wages of sin is death, sin requires atoning by blood, but God’s sacrificial system allows innocent blood of a lamb to be substituted for our sins.
  • The purple is the mixing of blue and scarlet together, mixing of the heavenly, of God and man, and indicated royalty.
  • The bells are because the Israelite must make noise to come before the Lord.  One of the words for praising God is the Hebrew word, ruah which means to make an ear splitting sound. The sound of the bells prevent the death of the priest when he comes before the Lord. While it is true that man needed to hear the bells to know that the priest was still alive, the bells actually seem to be protecting the priest from death.

Also, you may have heard that the priest also had a robe tied around his waist or around his ankle so that when the tinkling stopped, the people outside would know he had died and could pull the rope and retrieve the body.  I hate to say this, but that’s probably not true.  I checked on Snopes.com.  Actually, I checked a source by Dr. W.E. Nunnally, Associate Professor of Early Judaism and Christian Origins at Central Bible College and Adjunct Professor of Hebrew at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary ( https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/author/w-e-nunnally/  ) who researched this, and it’s an urban legend, though one that’s been around for a very long time, probably starting around 600 or 700 years after Christ.   Dr. Nunnally says,

“The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there.”

I mean, this professor is so smart, he knows what the Pseudepigrapha is and he’s read it.  So the story of the robe around the ankle is just not listed in scripture anywhere. 

I continued following the rabbit trail about the bells on the hem of the robe, and look at this last line we just read a moment ago –

It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the Lord, so that he will not die.

 But then if we jump over to Leviticus 16:2-4, it says,

“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.  “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.  He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments.  Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.

 These are two different places, even though the words are similar.  The second location is inside the veil, often called the Holy of Holies.  The first one, the Holy Place, is outside the veil, where Aaron ministered to the Israelites.  Notice that the robe with the bells is worn outside the veil, but not inside after he’s been washed and purified.

That’s the end of the rabbit trail regarding the bells and the robe and the ankle, so let’s go back to the Martian airlock and recap the purpose of the altar and the priestly robes –

  • God desires a relationship with His people
  • God is holy
  • Man is sinful. 
  • The wages of sin is death, but God implemented a sacrificial system to allow innocent blood to be shed for the guilty.
  • The temple and the robes provides a purified exposure of sinful man to a holy Lord that separates man from the wrath of God.

The priest ministered to the people, collected their sins, made a sacrifice on their behalf, purified himself, then if everything was pure and holy, the priest would walk into the Holy of Holies to communicate with the Lord.

          IV.      The Temple of the Lord: What Changed?

Where is our temple today?  Why don’t we purify ourselves and sacrifice and asks a priest to intercede for us today?

The answer is Jesus.  Jesus changed everything.

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When Adam sinned in the garden, God put into a plan to save man from his sins.  It begins with Genesis 3:15 where God tells the serpent that Eve’s offspring will eventually crush the head of Satan, continues through the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel and Daniel for the salvation of God’s people.  The purpose of the temple before Jesus was described in Exodus 25:8-9,

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.  According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

But the book of Hebrews tells us that the temple was just a copy of better things to come in Hebrews 9:23-24,

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these (blood sacrifices), but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

 What this verse is saying is that the Jewish temples constructed for the Lord’s presence were copies of Heaven, examples.  These old temples required earthly blood regularly sacrificed because man sinned repeatedly, and so the sacrifices had to be repeated.  But this verse in Hebrews says Jesus didn’t come to cleanse a copy of the temple that represented heaven, but Jesus entered heaven itself, once and for all and for many.  This verse in Hebrews 9:25-26 goes on to say,

nor was it that He (Jesus) would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

 In other words, the sacrifice of Christ is a permanent solution for all sin, past present and future.  His sacrifice was God Himself pouring Himself out for all of us on the cross.  And when Jesus breathed His last, His sacrifice to take away the sins of the world was perfect, and with His final breath in John 19:30, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  And this was not defeat; this was victory, for Matthew 27:50 says Jesus cried this out in a loud voice.  It is finished; sin has been defeated.

If you recall the purification of the priest, it enabled the priest to be temporarily purified so that he could offer sacrifices for our sins to God within the veil.  But the role of priest has also been fulfilled by Jesus, Hebrews 4:14-16,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 Because Jesus is a permanent sacrifice and also sinless, additional sacrifices are no longer necessary.  Jesus is the last priest we’ll ever need, and with His sacrifice, 1 Peter 2:5 says that all believers are now part of the royal priesthood, chosen to proclaim the praises of Jesus who called us out of darkness and into the light.

So what about the temple?  The same temple built by Herod with the Holy of Holies where God would dwell and accept sacrifices from the purified priests wearing fancy schmancy garments? 

Jesus, again, changed everything.

For one thing, the veil that separated us from God fulfilled a purpose; it kept sin out.  But Jesus defeated sin with His final sacrifice, and this veil od separation was no longer necessary.  After Jesus’ cry of victory, well, let’s look at Matthew 27:50-51 says,

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

The veil was torn by God from the top.  Remember that veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies?  Aaron wore the robe with the bells on the outside of the veil, but before he would go inside the veil, he’d had to purify himself before entering the presence of God.

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In Jesus’ day, Moses’ tabernacle was long gone, replace by Herod’s temple in the exact location, but the concept was the same.  A thick veil separated all from God except for the High Priest who would sacrifice for the sins of the people and purify himself before entering the Holy of Holies.

But because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the protective veil that separated God from Man was no longer necessary.  Man now had a permanent sacrifice, a savior.  Jesus is our permanent sacrifice.  So what do we need a temple made of stone for if sacrifices are no longer needed?  We don’t.

In fact, Jesus knew this, and prophesied the temple of Herod would be torn down and no stone would be left unturned.  And in 70 AD, Romans soldiers overturned the temple and it’s never been rebuilt.  For Christians, the temple isn’t needed, because we are the temple.  1 Corinthians 6:19 –

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Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

 Jesus changed everything.  We are his priesthood and He is our greatest priest, the sacrifices are finished, the veil that separates us from the Holy of Holies is forever torn, and when we accept Jesus as our savior, we become the temple of the Holy Spirit.  The separation between us and the Lord is forever eliminated for those who accept Jesus’ atoning death.

             V.      The Temple Yet to Come

But this isn’t the way the story ends.  What about any future temple?  Let’s head to the end of the bible and check Revelation for any, um, revelations.

There are two main temples discussed in Revelation, and I want to dismiss the first one pretty quickly.  The dimensions of this first temple are prophesied in Ezekiel 40-47, and Daniel 9:27 says this temple will be built on the Temple Mount by Jews eager for their Messiah to return which, of course, already happened 2000 years ago.  Sacrifices in this temple begin again, but then in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 the antichrist desecrates the temple in the middle of the Tribulation and declares himself to be God.   Ultra-orthodox Jews are already prepared to build what they call the Third Temple.  While important to understand this third temple when studying end times eschatology, I don’t believe it to be a temple directed by God.  Why would we need sacrifices to begin again?  This temple is a misguided effort by Jews and orchestrated by man.  And when Jesus returns, this temple is destroyed by earthquake in Revelation 6:12-17.

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But for believers, we can read a little further to Revelation 21:22-23, a beautiful description of our glorious future.  John is describing what he sees as a new heaven and a new earth with a new Jerusalem:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 

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God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and us will all dwell together in His glory where there is no sin, no pain, no tears.  That’s something to look forward to.

          VI.      Conclusion

I started off preparing for this lesson reading about what Levitical priests wore when going to prepare sacrifices, but there was a lot more to learn than just biblical fashion statements.  We learned that the role of temple was to be like a Martian airlock that separates our sinful self from the holiness of God who has vowed to destroy all evil.  We learned that priest purified themselves before offering sacrifices, but this had to be repeated every time a sacrifice was made.

And we learned that Jesus changed everything, who became our Great High Priest and we all became members of a royal priesthood with our bodies being the very temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells today.  There is no longer a separation between us and God because Jesus forever intercedes for us.  And we learned that at the end of time, there will be no need for a temple at all because we will dwell with the Lord forever, just as the Lord originally intended when He created the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve.

In the meantime, there is no need to look up when we look to see where God live.  God dwells inside each one of us.

Jesus changed everything.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

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Sufficient

s.      Introduction

What is “enough”?  When do we have “enough?”

Have you ever had enough chocolate?

How about money?  Have you ever had enough money?

How about family?  Never mind, of course you can have enough of family.  I withdraw the analogy.

When we do not have enough, what response pleases the Lord?  Do we take matters into our own hands?  Or do we seek to be obedient and trust in the Lord? 

II.      Exodus 16:1-3 Wilderness of Sin

Today we are in Exodus 16 and we will study the when the Lord provided manna from heaven.  Trivia quiz – you’ve probably heard of the manna from heaven.  They ate manna in the morning.  The Lord provided something else in the evening.  Does anybody know what it is? 

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Exodus 16:13 says the ground was covered by quail.

Exodus 16 is too long to read and study verse by verse in the time we have allotted today, so we are going to pick out a few important verses.  Let’s start with the Cliff Notes version – does anybody know what Cliff Notes are?  Is there such a thing anymore?

Anyway, Chris taught us last week from Exodus 14 that Yul Brynner chased Charles Heston and the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea.  Remember how grateful the Israelites were?  They said with great fondness and adoration to Moses in Exodus 14:11,

Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?

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 In response, the Lord divided the sea, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and the Lord closed the sea over Pharaoh’s army.  One of the most amazing miracles in the entire bible.  In the next chapter, Exodus 15, is a song full of praise and adoration to the Lord for the great things He hath done, beginning with

I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him.

 Obviously, having seen such power and glory from the Lord, the Israelites never again doubted the Lord or grumbled against Moses, at least until dinnertime.  Then in Exodus 16:3 the Israelites said to Moses,

“Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

 This, of course, is a recurring thing with the Israelites.  God does an amazing miracle, and the next day, the Israelites are like, “Well, so what have you done for me lately?” 

Or like, God sending His son to pay for my sins and the sins of every person that places their trust in Jesus, and then us saying, “Well, so what have you done for me lately?”

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The scripture in Exodus 16 says the day is the 15th day of the 2nd month after their departure from Egypt, so we know it had been less than a week since the parting of the sea.  The people are wandering in the wilderness of Sin.  Do I need to draw an analogy here?  The Israelites are wandering in the wilderness of sin, and we are… ?  That’s right, we too are wandering in a wilderness of sin.  If we are not a believer, we are very involved in this rebellion, refusing the gifts from the Lord and demanding to do things our own way.  And if we are a believer, we are still surrounded by a wilderness of sin and are still dealing with our own sin nature.

III.      Exodus 16:4-17 Manna from Heaven

But the people are hungry and grumbling, “Well, so what have you done for me lately?”  The Lord’s answer is one of instruction – remember, this is before even the Ten Commandments had been given.  The Lord says to Moses in Exodus 16:4-5,

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.  On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

 The Lord never tempts us, but He often tests us.  His tests are not for amusement or vindictiveness; the Lord test us for His purpose.  He tests us to strengthen our faith, to encourage us to walk in obedience.  And I believe He does this to us over and over again because we are a lot like the Israelites, forgetting the miracles God has already done for us and constantly asking, “Well, so what have you done for me lately?”  And God answers with a test, “This is what I am doing for you lately.”  And the Lord’s test always involves our obedience to His call.

The test to the Israelites was pretty simple.  Follow these instructions and you will have all the meat and bread you can eat.  Simple instructions.  In the evening, quail covered the camp, I suppose some sort of evening BBQ.  I don’t see any specific instruction in Exodus regarding how many quail they could have, but the next instructions were quite specific.  Every morning God provided manna for the day. 

What was the manna?  The Lord describes it in Exodus 16:4 as bread raining down from heaven. Exodus 16:13-17 describes it like this:

So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.  When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.

 Later in Exodus 16, the manna is described like “coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”  Numbers 11:7 says it looked like resin or tree sap.  Psalm 78:24 says it was “grain from heaven” and the next verse calls it “bread of angels.”    It seems to be a sweet bread that would miraculously appear.   I think it was kind of like that homemade banana bread my wife made yesterday, only without bananas.  And with coriander and honey.

Does anybody know what “manna” means?  The Israelites called it, well, let’s look at two verses side by side, Exodus 16 verse 15 and 31,

When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

 And

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.

 The Hebrew word for “manna” means, “What is it?”  Literally.  They named this miraculous bread from heaven “What is it?”  Kind of like we would use the word “whatchamacallit.”  Hey, y’all want a quail sandwich?  We have quail and we have, um, some whatchamacallit.

The Lord’s test to the Israelites was pretty simple.  They were to gather only as much manna as they could eat that day.  Don’t gather any more, don’t gather any less.  Eat what you gather.

I remember when I was young, my grandfather had a phrase, “my eyes were bigger than my stomach.”  I wasn’t sure what that meant as a kid.  I imagined my stomach the size of a softball and my eyes the size of marble, and I could see the size of my eyes hadn’t changed.  But later I understood what he meant.  Sometimes for dinner we’d go to a cafeteria and we’d walk down that long row of the ladies serving all manner of fine cuisine.  Seems the first stop was always jello for some reason, often with mysterious things floating in the jello.  Then there would be a fish station, then the roast beef and ham and chicken, then the vegetables. 

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I was a weird child who liked most vegetables like spinach and brussel sprouts.  I loved corn on the cob and spinach, but I would never get spinach at the cafeteria because I could never tell it apart from collard greens. Then the desserts like strawberry shortcake and chocolate pudding, and by the time I finished going through the line, I had selected almost everything they had, all piled up on my tray.  My grandfather knew I was a growing boy, he often said I had a hollow leg to be able to eat so much.  But sometimes I was so enthusiastic about all the food available that I’d select more than I could eat in one sitting.  And that’s when Granddaddy would say that my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

Perhaps the Israelites had eyes bigger than their stomachs.  The Lord told them only to gather as much manna as they could eat that day, and the Lord would provide for tomorrow’s needs tomorrow.  The exception was the Sabbath; the day before, the Israelites were to gather twice as much because there would be no manna delivery service on Sunday.

What did they do?  Of course they gathered too much.  Some tried to save their manna overnight, but Exodus 16:19 says that manna left overnight bred worms and became foul.  Sort of like that mystery package in your refrigerator.  You’d throw it out, but you’re afraid to touch it.  It has bred worms and turned foul. 

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Here’s an observation about leftovers in your fridge that everybody shares.  If we put something in the fridge overnight, we’ll eat it the next day.  Or maybe even the 2nd day.  But by the 3rd day, we’re not really so sure if it has bred worms and turned foul.  We pick it up and smell it, but we don’t detect anything wrong.  And then we put it back in the refrigerator.  I’m not going to eat it because I don’t know if it’s gone bad, but it hasn’t yet gone bad enough for me to throw it out.  So it sits in the refrigerator for at least 2 more days until it starts to grow some sort of fungus, and *then* it’s ok to throw it out.

Jesus has no scripture regarding leftovers.  Well, actually that’s not quite true.  Remember the miracle of the loaves and fishes when Jesus fed the 5000?  Afterward in John 6:12, Jesus said, “Gather up the leftovers so that nothing will be lost.”  But that’s a completely different lesson.

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Why did the Israelites gather more than a day’s worth of manna?  Well, there’s disobedience, there’s just being a stiff-necked people, probably greed is involved… but I think the issue here is trusting in the Lord’s promises.

The Lord told them in Exodus 16:11-12,

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

 And Israel answers, “But what have you done for me lately?”  The test from the Lord was designed to increase their faith.  The Lord is essentially saying, “I will provide for your needs every day, trust in me.”

But some, after gathering their daily manna, hid some under their pillow or under their bed overnight.  What if the Lord forgets?  What if the Lord changes His mind?  It’s a matter of trusting in the Lord that He is faithful and will keep His promises.

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Trust and faith are very closely related, but they are not the same thing.  Faith is a noun.  It is something we have.  Faith says, “I know the Lord, and I believe in the Lord.”

Trust is a verb.  Trust is something we do.  Trust says, “because I believe, I will think and act according to what I believe.”  It’s the Christian spiritual walk away from hypocrisy of being two people and toward integrity, of being a single person with a single mind.

The Israelites certainly had faith, the Lord had manifested amazing miracles, not in the distant past, but just in the last week.  They knew the Lord and His power.  They had faith he was Yahweh.

But some Israelites were lacking in trust.  Yes, God promised manna today and He delivered.  But what about tomorrow?  What if God doesn’t come through, what if He forgets?  And even though God promises, I’ll set aside a little something for me… just in case.

It is faith that saves, but it is trust that grows.  Trust says that not only do we have faith in almighty God, but I will live my life expectantly in a way that demonstrates my faith.  Trust says that I may not know all the plans of the Lord, but I know enough to seek His will and do what He asks of me.  If we have a little faith, we have a little trust.  Jesus says that’s a good start – with just a little faith, the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. 

There are plenty of examples of scripture that help grow our faith and our trust in the Lord.  Isaiah 33:6,

And He will be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure.

 And Psalm 33:11, God is forever faithful,

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

 And of course, the one that gives us such comfort from Romans 8:28,

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

 The opposite of trust is doubt.  Or worry.  Either way, it expresses that we do not trust the Lord to save, to serve, to protect, to heal, to revenge, to comfort.  We doubt the Lord’s promises.  But God never forgets about us.  We are worth a great deal to our Father in heaven.  Matthew 10:29, Slide19.JPG

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

 So when we face trials and tribulations and cannot see God’s hand at work, our actions tell us a great deal about us and our trust in Him.  We say we believe Him, but what do we do?  Do we wait patiently?  Psalm 46,

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God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

 Or do we gather some extra manna for ourselves, in our own strength, to protect us in case God forgets?

IV.      Jesus is our bread from Heaven

The manna freely given by God is a foreshadowing of Jesus.  Let’s go back to those leftovers after Jesus fed the 5000.  Jesus and the disciples left for Capernaum, and the crowd followed Him.  John 6:26,

Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

 Like the Israelites in the desert of Sin, they were focused on their own needs.  The Israelites had seen the Red Sea parting, yet they grumbled because there wasn’t enough to eat.  Likewise, the crowds around Jesus had seen His miracles, but followed Him to get more food.  Jesus tried to get their minds off physical bread and onto spiritual “bread of life” in John 6:32,

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

 But the crowds that followed Jesus were more concerned about the condition of their stomachs than the condition of their souls.

V.      Conclusion

Jesus is the bread of life, and we are to rejoice in the day he hath made today, and not worry about tomorrow.  Let God who has control over tomorrow worry about tomorrow for us.  Consider that worry is the same as the wilderness of sin, and worry is the opposite of trust.  Jesus makes this perfectly clear in Matthew 6:25-34,

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 God provided manna to the Israelites to save them from starvation.  God provided Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls.  The literal manna temporarily saved the Israelites from physical death.  The spiritual manna saves us from eternal death.  John 6:49-50,

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“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”

 Let us trust in the Lord to take care of our tomorrows.  Whatever we need, God knows we need it, and He will provide it when it is within His perfect timing. 

Do you know what God has done for me lately?  Everything.

In response to His gifts, remember, trust is a verb.  It is something we do.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 To God be the glory.  Amen.

Confrontation

I.      Introduction

Good morning, everyone.  Our lesson for this week is from Exodus 7, but I sort of felt the lesson this week should be on Exodus 14 where Moses parts the Red Sea.  Or maybe Genesis 7 about Noah and the Great Flood.  Or maybe we’re all worn out from talking about floodwaters.

Slide2The last time I taught seems so long ago now, even though it’s only been 3 weeks.  It was an appropriate lesson for what was about to come; the lesson was from Psalm 141 about how God is our protector, both from our seven deadly sins within, but also from dangers without, both seen and unseen.  Psalm 141:8 said,

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death.

I firmly believe that the Lord is our great protector.  He is our Rock.  He is where our help comes from.  And every one of us in this room is testimony to God’s protection.  God spoke to each of us individually through our trials.  To some, He provided comfort in the darkest, windiest rain and flood.  To others, He encouraged us to live beyond our comfort, to love one another as Christ loved us.  In our most extraordinary times, God speaks to us.

Would anybody like to share what they learned from God this week?

II.      Adopted Children of God

Today we are in Exodus 7 and we are going to look at the subject of confrontation, first between Pharaoh and Moses, but then between God and us.  Let’s start by opening our bibles to Exodus 7:1-7.  Ok, I was supposed to hear pages turning.  Here’s today’s scripture –

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.  You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.  When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.  The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”  So Moses and Aaron did it; as the Lord commanded them, thus they did.  Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Let’s look at a couple of themes in Exodus 7.  The first thing is who we are in Christ.  When we move from nonbelief to belief, we also change our family tree.  As nonbelievers, we are children of Satan and do not even know it.  In John 8:44, Jesus says to the Jews,Slide6

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.

Unless our words and deeds are bringing glory to God through Jesus Christ, then our words and deeds reflect the ill wishes of the devil.  Even when we are trying to do good, we are taking away from the glory that should be given to God.  We are opposed to God.

But when we accept that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we become adopted children.  Galatians 4:7 says,Slide7

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

We are either sons of the devil or sons of God.  We are either slaves to sin or bondservants of Christ.  And when we look at Exodus 7 again, this is what the Lord told Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh.

Maybe I misunderstood the word “God”?  The Hebrew word is Elohiym.  The same word can be used to speak of our Creator, the supreme God.  Nope, I didn’t misunderstand.  God either told Moses that Moses was God or that Moses was like a god.

Don’t’ be shy.  We are ambassadors for Christ, and God, through the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  When we speak to nonbelievers, there is no reason to be afraid, for we are adopted children of God.  And when He is for us, who can be against us?

I love that song by Matthew West called, “Hello My Name is”.  It starts off, “Hello my name is regret, I’m pretty sure we have met.”  And, “Hello my name is defeat, I know you recognize me.”

Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies
And I have believed them for the very last time

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

The world may try to bring us down, but we are children of God.  Hello, my name is child of the one true King.  There is no reason to ever back down from our faith because God is our protector and God is our father.

The song goes on,

Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh
Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh
Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh

But try as I might I have no idea of the theological significance of this part of the song.  Or why somebody might thing the phrase, “child of the one true king” could possibly be improved by adding, “Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh.”

III.      Hardened Hearts

But if one is not a “child of the one true king,” then one is a nonbeliever and a child of the devil.  Literally every one of us is at one point in our lives because of our fallen nature.  And every nonbeliever will have to make a choice to accept or reject Christ.

Nonbelievers do not think this is a choice they have to make, of course.  They may say their truth lies elsewhere or they are following a different path.  But that’s the same thing as rejecting Jesus.  If you do not follow Him, you are rejecting Him.

Let’s go back and look at today’s scripture, Exodus 7,

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.  When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.  The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

I notice several things to unpack from this.  Let’s start with “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”  When I first read this, I thought, “dang that’s cruel, Pharaoh never had a chance if God is hardening his heart.”

But that’s not the whole picture.  God revealed Himself to many rulers over the centuries, and like everybody else, Pharaoh had the choice whether to follow God or not.  Several kings saw God’s hand at work, like in Daniel 6.  King Darius was sort of tricked by his advisors into issuing a decree that required Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den.  Darius was very fond of Daniel, but the king could not break his own decree.  Daniel 6:16-20,

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Darius certainly recognized God’s providence.  I think Pharaoh did, too, but unlike Darius, Pharaoh believed he was a god.  And the Egyptians had their own gods, and I believed Pharaoh thought he could win any battle with Jehovah God.

God still hardens hearts today.  On one hand, God doesn’t wish for anyone to perish but to have everlasting life.  But it is a choice we make.  And if the choice is truly ours to make, then some will choose not to accept the free gift, either through willful disobedience, through ignorance, or through selfish desires.

God makes it clear to everyone, believers and nonbelievers, that He is God.  Romans 1:18-20,Slide15

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

And if one continually rejects this truth, Romans 1:28-32 goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

In other words, God hardens their hearts.  When we are sharing the gospel, that’s our sole job, to share the gospel.  We are not responsible for what someone chooses to believe.  And we have to aware that there are some people that have practiced the art of rejection so long and so well that they will never receive free gifts offered to them.

IV.      Judgments and Wrath

We just looked at Romans 1, but let’s put it side by side with Exodus 7 for a second:

Exodus 7:4-5 Romans 1:18-19
When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

In Exodus, “I will stretch out my hand” and bring “great judgements.”  In Romans, “the wrath of God is revealed.”  The wrath of God is a demonstration of His power.  Where have we seen the wrath of God lately?  How about Hurricane Harvey?

And the people of Florida, of course, are living a repeat of this with Hurricane Irma.  Atheists, nonbelievers, Christians, all look at the same thing and see something completely different.  Atheist and nonbelievers say, “if God exists, why does He allow this to happen?  Is God small and powerless to stop it?  Is God vindictive and mean?  Or doesn’t this prove God doesn’t exist?”  Their hearts are hardened.

Christians look at the storm and know that our God who can create a storm that big is bigger than the storm He created.  I can either fear the created storm, or I can trust in the God who can direct the wind and waves.

Romans 1:18 says the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness.  I am not about to point fingers at any particular demonstration of God’s wrath and say it is for a particular ungodliness.  No, I see God’s hand at work in so very different ways, either as demonstration of His power, or giving us an opportunity to trust Him, and I have to say that most of what I read about Houston and Texas and the nation throughout this crisis has been so very, very positive.  We really do have it within us to love one another, and when we love one another, we have incredible joy in the love of our fellow man, and it’s just a shame that it takes such destruction before we’re all willing to get out of our comfort zone and help one another.

But it also tells me, like it says in Romans 1:18, that the wrath of God has been revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness.  God has made it evident.

God’s wrath against Pharaoh was very specific.  I watched that Charles Heston movie about the Ten Commandments and remember the 10 plagues very vividly.  They were frogs and locusts and, um, bad traffic, and um… oh, the river turned to blood.  And there was something about cows maybe…

But I’ve found through this week’s study that the 10 plagues were very specific, and Pharaoh knew exactly what was happening.  God was demonstrating His power against the puny gods of the Egyptians.  Here are the 10 Plagues –

  1. Plague #1: Water Turned to Blood.  There were 3 different gods associated with the Nile:
    1. Khnum, Guardian of the river’s source
    2. Hapi, Spirit of the Nile
    3. Osiris, who’s bloodstream was the Nile
  2. Plague #2, Frogs:
    1. Hapi and
    2. Heqt, Frog Goddesses to Egypt, both related to fertility
  3. Plague #3, Lice:
    1. Seb, the earth god of Egypt
  4. Plague #4, Flies:
    1. Uatchit, the fly god of Egypt
  5. Plague #5, Disease on cattle:
    1. Ptah
    2. Mnevis
    3. Hathor, and
    4. Amon, Egyptian gods associated with bulls and cows.
  6. Plague #6, Boils: Sekhmet, Egyptian god of epidemics, and Ser
  7. Plague #7, Hail:
    1. Nut, Egyptian sky goddess.
    2. Isis & Seth, Egyptian agriculture deities.
    3. Shu, Egyptian god of the atmosphere.
  8. Plague #8, Locusts
    1. Serapia, Egyptian deity protector from locusts
  9. Plague #9, Darkness
    1. Re, Amon-Re, Aten, Atum, Horus – Egyptian sun gods
    2. Thoth – Egyptian moon god
  10. Plague #10, Death of each Firstborn
    1. This plague was a judgment on all of Egypt’s gods, including Pharaoh himself. In Exodus 1, Pharaoh had killed the sons Of Israel. Now the Lord kills the firstborn sons Of the Egyptians.

The plagues were not random that afflicted the Egyptians.  God was demonstrating to Pharaoh that God is God, and Pharaoh was not.  As Romans 1 and Exodus 7 says,

Exodus 7:4-5 Romans 1:18-19
When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

The wrath of God is revealed.  Pharaoh thought he could win a battle with Jehovah God.  But Pharaoh never realized because his heart was hard that he was never in a battle.  There is God’s will or God’s wrath.  Choose.

V.      Conclusion

God demonstrates His power in so many ways, from small coincidences to displaying His awesome power.  But for those who love Him, there is no fear.  Our God is bigger than any storm.

I am so proud of our city, and how we pulled together, from supplies to boats to rescues, it rekindled my faith in man’s potential to be good.  But mostly it showed me that whatever little god I’ve put in front of me to worship, like cars or houses or money or time, God is bigger, and God alone deserves to be worshiped.  Romans 8:20,

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For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

I hope and pray that each one of us realized something about God’s power this week.  The power we saw this last week pales next to the wrath yet to come during the end times, the Seven Bowls of Wrath listed in Revelation 16.   We cannot win a confrontation with God.  He is God, and we are not.

And I hope also that we all realize that each one of us can have this same power living within us.  If you haven’t yet accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, it’s time to realize that you are either growing in faith, or our hearts are being hardened.  One cannot win a confrontation with God, but with faith, we can move mountains and we can survive hurricanes.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Our Protector

I.      Introduction

I see we all arrived safely at church this morning.  Raise your hand if you’re not here.

Today we’re going to study how the Lord protects us, and I thank the Lord He protected all of us this morning and brought us safely here.  I’m not sure we all stopped to think how the Lord hand a hand in our safety this morning.  The Lord’s protection is ever surrounding us.  Sometimes we notice, sometimes we don’t.  He protects us from the big things – there are many threats on the world stage right now, from North Korea threatening to nuke the US Territory of Guam.  Guam has a tiny population.  I’m sure when the news broke, three fishermen in Guam looked up and said, “What?  What did we do?”Slide2

And God protects us in the small things, closer to home.  How many saw Chris’ video of driving lessons with his daughter?  Chris, did you feel protected?Slide3

Let’s begin with Psalm 141, a prayer from David to the Lord for His divine protection.

II.      We Need His Protection

This Psalm of David begins with praise and worship to the One who deserves praise and worship.  Psalm 141:1-2,

O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

It is right to give the Lord the praise He deserves, for the Lord alone can answer prayers.  We know that the Lord answers prayers, and we also know that the Lord works on His own timetable.  When David says, “hasten to me,” does He think the Lord is somehow far away?

No, not at all.  David is keenly aware that the Lord is always near.  I know we do not always feel like the Lord is near.  Sometimes it seems as though He is far away, but I once heard that if you’re ever feeling the Lord is far away, it’s not because He left you.  It’s because you left Him, and maybe it’s time to turn around and go back to the place where you left Him.

No, David’s prayer is for the Lord to act quickly, to answer his prayer now.  When we pray to the Lord, it’s ok to ask for the Lord to speed things up a little, to answer our prayers quickly.  Too often we dismiss our own prayers saying, “if it is the Lord’s will.”  And that is true, if it is the Lord’s will, He will answer.  But the Lord hears the pleas of the heartbroken who turn to Him, and we can ask for the prayers of our heart to be answered quickly.

Whether the Lord answers quickly or on a timetable that we can’t see, it is right to continue to praise the Lord.  David asks the Lord to consider his heartfelt prayers as incense, as an evening sacrifice.  And while offering tithes or service or other offerings to the Lord are sacrifices, nothing is as pleasing to the Lord as turning our hearts to Him and seeking His will.

III.      Protection from Within

David goes on in verse 3-4,

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

You know, we often cry out to the Lord to save us, but often we are our own worst enemies.  We eat too much, and then ask the Lord to help with our weight.  We sit in front of the television night after night, then ask the Lord to grant us the health that normally comes from exercising.  We say hurtful things to someone, then ask the Lord to repair our relationships.  We need the Lord’s protection from our own selves so that we do not corrupt ourselves.

First, David asks the Lord to keep watch over the doors of his lips.  I know this would be highly unusual, but have you ever said something you regret?  Ever?  I know, it’s a surprise to me, too.  But in this world, our flesh does not always obey the will of the Spirit, and we sin and go against the will of God.  And our tongues are the worst offender.  No wonder David prays for the Lord’s help to keep his mouth shut.

Let’s look at James 3 and see what the Lord says about our speech.  James talks about how small the tongue is, but also how powerful it is.  James 3:3-5,

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.  Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

We want our heart to be right with God, and God sees our inner beings first, but what we say, what comes out of our mouth, reflects who we are.  What we say reflects exactly who we are in Christ and where we are in our spiritual growth.  It’s more important than service or tithing or teaching.  Jesus says it this way in Matthew 15:18,

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

If you ever catch yourself gossiping, slandering somebody behind their backs, saying crude or vulgar things, remember this:  If it came out of you, it must have been inside you.

In the Psalm, David goes on to pray that the Lord will not only seal his lips, but also seal his heart.

Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice deeds of wickedness
With men who do iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Let’s discuss something uncomfortable about the human condition:  sin is fun.  It must have an appeal to it, or people wouldn’t be drawn to the bondage of sin.  Let’s look for a second at what we call the Seven Deadly Sins.  This list has its roots in Proverbs 16, then refined by monks in the 4th Century, and finally listed in the form we know now in 590 AD by Pope Gregory I.  The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

Each of these seven deadly sins takes a gift from God and perverts it into a sinful desire.  Which of the Seven Deadly Sins am I tormented with?  Why, all seven of them, of course.  The only one I haven’t committed yet this morning is “sloth,” but that’s only because I haven’t gotten around to it.

Slide10

Lust: God provides beauty to demonstrate His majesty, and it is right to desire the good things that God desires.  But lust converts the enjoyment of beauty into a primal urge of disobedience.  It is considered the easiest sin that can be done within one’s own mind.  According to Henry Edward Manning, an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1800’s, the impurity of lust transforms one into “a slave of the devil.”

Slide11

Gluttony: God provides food for nourishment, to fuel our bodies in service to Him.  And Christ calls us not to live for ourselves alone, but to love and serve one another.  But gluttony worships the created food and not the Creator of the food, and places our own wants above the needs of others.

Slide12Greed:  God promises to provide for all of our needs, and remind us that our security is in Him and that we should trust Him to provide for us.  But who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery?  Greed says I do not need to depend on God, I can rely on the world to provide all my needs.

Slide13Sloth: The Lord wants us to be diligent, to be His hands and feet for the church, but not rely on our strength.  We are to rely on the Spirit within us.  If we pervert that virtue, though, we let God do everything without participating at all.  The word “sloth” is originally from a Latin term that means “without care” and demonstrates a laziness in mental, spiritual, and physical states.

Slide14Wrath:  Jesus set an example of righteous anger when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the temple.  The moneychangers were taking what was meant for God and profiting from it.  But when we are angry, it is rarely righteous.  We get angry because we didn’t get our way.  In many ways, it is the opposite of love.  Wrath is hate.

Slide15Envy: God calls us to be compassionate toward others, and to be satisfied with the lot God has provided to us.  But envy says, it isn’t enough for me if somebody else has more.  I want what they have.  Envy is probably the second sin in the bible, as Cain slew Able, envious of the Lord’s favor.

Slide16Pride:  The father of all sins.  Christ demonstrated what it meant to serve with humility, even though as Lord of the Universe all things will bow before Him.  Yet Christ humbly washed the feet of His disciples.  Pride says I am too important to be humble.  Pride says I need not bow before God when it is I who deserves praise.

Protect me, Lord from myself.  I am full of sin and malice and evil thoughts, and the only way to overcome these seven deadly sins is to continually fill myself with the Holy Spirit so there is no room for anything except Your will.

The Seven Deadly Sins are everywhere.  Even on Gilligan’s Island.Slide17

  • The Skipper: Wrath. I thought he might be gluttony, but the skipper solved every problem with anger.
  • Gilligan: Gluttony. Ate everything he could and would do things he knew wasn’t right for a coconut cream pie.
  • Ginger:   She was constantly using her sex to try to manipulate others.
  • MaryAnn: Envy, always wanted what Ginger had.
  • Thurston: Greed. Everything was about the money.
  • Howell: Sloth. I never saw her lift a finger to do anything, ever.
  • Professor: Pride. His intellect made him better than everyone else on the island.

Another theological insight from Gilligan’s Island is that you can sing Amazing Grace to the theme song.  Just sayin’.

Another island I’m reminded of is the one on “Lost.”  Ultimately, regardless of who we hurt in this life, who we fail, the tasks we botch or refuse completely, there is one judge, the Creator, our Father in Heaven.  Some sins are against others or against ourselves, but all sins are against our Father and He alone has the authority and ability to judge us for what we have done and what we haven’t done.  I know that if there was a possibility that I could lose my salvation, I would have done it already a dozen times or more.Slide18

Ever heard this silly prayer?

Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped,
Haven’t lost my temper,
Haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

The Lord protects me from myself; my salvation is secure, my security is in Him.

          IV.      Protection from Without

What were we studying?  Oh yes, Psalm 141.  So after David prays to the Lord to respond quickly and to protect him from his own sinful self, David then prays for protection from external enemies.  Let’s continue with Psalm 141, verse 5:

Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it,

When my sinful self has taken control of my life, I am thankful I have Christian friends and family that will “smite me in kindness.”

This is probably one of the most important functions of the church, to strengthen one another in Christ.  I have a secular job as an engineer, and it’s in a diverse group of people, those with faith, some without, many with a different faith.  I’m blessed that I work with so many Christians, but it’s not the same as church.  I like what it says in 1 Corinthians 14:26,

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.

Each one of us has a role that only we can fulfill.  And when you fulfill your role and I fulfill my role, we build each other up so that the world outside may not tear us down.

Psalm 141, verse 5-6,

For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock,
And they hear my words, for they are pleasant.

There is no doubt that David was praying for his enemies to be dashed against cliffs.  Unlike David, though, Christians have the Holy Spirit living within us, and Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies.

But let’s keep in mind that we reap what we sew.  Those that are hostile to the love of God often find themselves at rock bottom before they will consider that a superior God rules the universe.  I know someone who considers themselves a Christian, but you cannot tell from their lifestyle.  I used to be just like them.  And I know, and David gives me an example here, that it’s ok for us to pray for their difficulties, if that difficulty eventually leads toward God’s will.  I don’t pray for them to be thrown against a cliff, of course, but I sometimes pray that their dependence on others will fail them so they learn to depend on the God they say they trust.

You can tell David loves his enemies; he wished for their failure, but he also wished they will heed his pleasant words for them to do what is right.

Verse 7,

As when one plows and breaks open the earth,
Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

David is saying that those who don’t trust in God will eventually come to nothing.  Their bodies return to the earth, bones scatter at the entrance to Hades.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14,

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Slide23Before we become believers, we are lost and don’t even know it, rudderless ships headed to destruction.  Among those that do not consider Jesus as their Savior, I see a great many destructive philosophies and odd beliefs.  One distant relative of mine believes we are descended from aliens and when she mediates she can sometimes see alien being projecting their auras into our plane of existence.  Another relative believes we are constantly reincarnated after death, and our next life depends on the good or bad we do in this life.  In other words, whether he makes good choices or bad choices, eventually he’s going to get a do-over.  And friends that don’t want to talk about it at all, that this life will just simply end, and we “check out.”

There are many ways to end up at David’s “mouth of Sheol.”  And only one way to eternal life.  No one comes to the father except through the son.  And that is why in verse 8, David says,

For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.

David focus his eyes on the one true God who is in control of all things.  With a focus on God, we have comfort that we do not worry about what the world may do to us.  When we contrast verse 7 with verse 8, we see the fate of the nonbeliever is destruction, but the fate of the believer is eternal safety and refuge from all evil.

Verse 7 is saying that the bones of those who ignore God will eventually rot to nothing because they have ignored Him.  In the meantime, I (David) am trusting in His guidance.

That last line, “do not leave me defenseless,” is from the NASB, but I’m not sure it’s a good translation here.  The Hebrew phrase literally translated asks God not to taking his soul, strip it naked, and abandon it.  I think the King James translation, “leave not my soul destitute,” is more accurate.

Verses 9-10,

Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me,
And from the snares of those who do iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I pass by safely.

And this brings us back to our trip to church this morning.  Genesis 3 tells us that, as a result of the fall of Adam, the land we dwell is cursed.  When we look at the horrible things that happen in this world, it’s easy to become frightened.  Terrorists in cars plowing through pedestrians.  Diseases that send people to hospitals.  North Korea still wants to nuke Guam.  I think that avoiding nuclear war in part depends on strong, dependable, and trustworthy world leaders like Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump.  That’ll keep you up at night.

            V.      Conclusion

God protects us from so many things.  He protects us from ourselves; He protects us from the sinful choices we make.  He protects us from evil from the world.  He protects us from the evils of our own sins.  He has given us every tool to protect us from the evils without and the evils within.  We equip ourselves with the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-13,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Slide26The Lord’s protection always surrounds us, and always indwells us.  In the Lord may we find refuge, in the Lord may we find eternal life.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

His Faithfulness

I.      His Faithfulness

We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 146, so let’s get right into it.  Verses 1-2,

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

God is worthy to be praised.  But do we always praise Him?  Do we praise Him in all things, at all times?

I know all of you have perfect, content lives, full of joy and peace and abundant blessings.  Me, I’ve had a few struggles along the way.  Family relationships that soured, times in my life where finances didn’t seem to be working out, a couple of lost jobs.  Sickness.  Disease.  A death in the family.

My soul, praise the Lord, I will praise the Lord all my life.

I have to say that when I’ve had difficulties, I’ve not always turned to the Lord for comfort.  Sometimes my attitude is, well, God’s not helping the way I think He should.  Where else can I get help?

II.      God’s Promise to Israel

I think Israel often felt the same way.    Way back in Exodus, Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites, forcing them into hard labor, and the bible said the Lord heard their groaning and remembered His promises.  The Lord sent Moses to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” and sent 10 plagues to make His point.  And Pharaoh freed the Israelites, and Moses led them to the Red Sea.

Psalm 146:1-2,

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Slide3But Pharaoh changed his mind and gave chase with his chariots, and when the Israelites saw the chariots coming, they were not singing a Psalm of praise like this.  If I read Exodus 14:11-12 correctly, the Israelites were a little grumpy.

They said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.

Slide4That’s a far cry from “My soul, I will praise the Lord all my life.”

The Lord promised Israel to save them and lead them to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey, the land of Canaan or modern day Israel.  God promised this land forever to Abraham and his descendants.  And yet, even as the Lord was delivering on His promises, Israel was begging to go back into slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  It is human nature to want to depend on other humans instead of supernatural dependence on a Living God.Slide5

Let’s look at our next verse, Psalm 146:3,

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.

This is the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, do not trust in man.  Other translations are the NASB (“mortal man”), NIV (“human beings”), and King James, “son of man” which really confused me for a little bit.  Wasn’t Jesus the “son of man?”  And the King James is saying not to trust him with our salvation?Slide6

Well, obviously, that cannot mean that.  And then I went on one of those rabbit trails that distract me from the lesson, but I learned so much on this trail I thought I’d share it anyway.  And don’t worry, we’ll get back to Psalm 146 eventually.

First, let’s look at the phrase “son of man.”  In Psalm 146:3, the Aramaic phrase is “ben ‘adam” and it occurs something like 500 times in the Old Testament.  There’s another 100 or so uses of the Aramaic “bar ‘adam”.  Literally, it means “the son of Adam.”  But even that phrase is confusing, since “Adam” is both a person’s name and it means “man, human being, mankind.”  And “Adam” is also used as a verb in the Old Testament.  It means “to be rubbed red, to dyed red, to show blood in the face and turn rosy.”Slide7

Context is so important to understanding scripture.  Among serious Christian scholars, proper translation has been debated for centuries.  “Ben ‘adam,” literally the “son of Adam,” can apply to Seth, Adam’s offspring, or it can apply to all of us as the offspring of Adam.  When used this way, then “human beings” or “mortal man” is a good translation for us English speakers.  In fact, in the book of Ezekiel, God called Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times, and in this context, “son of man” just means “man,” a son of a human.

But then the book of Daniel, among other books, uses “son of man” like this in verse 13-14:

I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.

“Ancient of Days” is a name for God used in the Book of Daniel, and whoa, this verse is certainly not talking about the son of Adam or mankind.  It’s definitely not talking about you and me.    That’s clearly a messianic prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ.

I couldn’t stop there, so I followed the rabbit trail a little further to see what Jesus meant when he used the phrase “ben ‘Adam.”  Well, ok, the original gospels are written in Greek, so “ben ‘Adam” is not used, but “huios anthropos” is used, but that’s also translated “son of man.” Slide9

In Matthew 16:13, Jesus refers to Himself like this:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

This is probably a formal use of referring to Himself in the third person.  Apparently in the ancient Greek, “son of man” was a formal way of saying”I” or “me.”  This could have been the equivalent of saying, “Who do people say that I am?”  There doesn’t seem to be any messianic connotations in this verse, just a simple question.

But then when we get to Mark 14:61-62, Jesus has been arrested and brought to the high priests.

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Slide10This is almost word-for-word from the scripture in Daniel 7 that we just read a moment ago, clearly establishing that “son of man” is a fulfillment of the messianic prophecy.  Jesus will rule in Heaven.

III.      Son of Man, Son of God

Jesus is both Son of Man and Son of God.  Mark 1 opens this way,

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It dawned on me while studying how closely that phrase matches Genesis 1:1,

In the beginning, God.

Jesus was and is the fulfillment of God’s plan to save us from ourselves.  The Hebrew word “mashiach” is the messiah, the “anointed One,” used in Psalm 2:2 and in Daniel 9:25-26.  In Greek, it is the “Christ.”  (When I was young, I though “Christ” was Jesus’ last name.  Now I know it’s a title, “Jesus, the Christ.)  This term is applied to the future ruler, sent from God, who will sit on the throne of David forever.  Acts 3:18,

But what God predicted through the mouth of all the prophets – that His Messiah would suffer – He has fulfilled in this way.

The life and death of Jesus on the cross was not a secret or an accident, but the result of God’s divine plan that He revealed throughout the scriptures.  In the Encyclopedia or Biblical Prophecy, there are 127 Messianic predictions involving more than 3000 Bible verses.  We’re only going to examine 2000 of those verses today.

No, just kidding, but let’s look at a few specific prophecies that God gave us in the Old Testament:

  • The Messiah would be the seed/offspring of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15).
  • He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3).
  • He would be a “prophet like Moses” to whom God said we must listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
  • He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
  • He would be called “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace,” and would possess an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, righteous and having salvation, coming with gentleness (Zechariah 9:9-10).
  • He would be pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).
  • He would die among the wicked ones but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9).
  • He would be resurrected from the grave, for God would not allow His Holy One to suffer decay (Psalm 16:10).
  • He would come again from the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14).
  • He would be the “Sun of Righteousness” for all who revere Him and look for His coming again (Malachi 4:2).
  • He is the One whom Israel will one day recognize as the One they pierced, causing bitter grief (Zechariah 12:10).

IV.      God’s Promises Fulfilled

In the fullness of time, God brought forth His son that fulfilled these prophecies.  The prophecies were not a bunch of scattered predictions randomly placed throughout the Old Testament.  They were a careful and cohesive plan from God where each individual promise is interconnected into one grand plan.  When God makes a promise, God fulfills a promise.   The son of God, the son of man, was sacrificed for our sins, a ransom paid for our shortcomings, out of His mighty love for us.Slide14

God has proven He is trustworthy by fulfilling His promises, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.

God proves Himself not for His benefit, but for ours.  We, as humans, need proof.  We are flakey people, or at least some of my friends are.  I’m not.

And when one of our flakey friends lets us down, we lose a little trust in them.  If we loan somebody 100 dollars and they promise to pay us back, but then act like they never made that promise, we are not likely to loan 100 dollars to them, or anybody else for that matter.  The trust has been broken and we have little faith.

Some broken promises are more hurtful.  Broken friendships, broken marriages, broken trust makes us fearful or angry.

But God wants us to know that He is unlike any other friend.  When He makes a promise, He keeps a promise.  Even when He knows that you or I have already broken our promise to always attend church or always go to bible school or always be faithful or always pay our friend back that $100 so long ago and is too awkward to bring it up again, He is still faithful.  Even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful.

And His love is so strong that we can have eternal life with Him, despite what wretched excuses we can sometimes be.

What promises has God made to us about our future?

  • The Bible is to give us hope.   (Romans 15:4-6)
  • Hope of eternal life is based on God’s promise.  And God cannot lie.   (Titus 1:1-3)
  • Our hope is laid up for us in heaven.   (Colossians 1:3-4)
  • Hope is eagerly waiting, with perseverance, for the redemption of our bodies, even though we do not see them now.   (Romans 8:23-26)
  • Our confidence of a better and enduring possession in heaven will be richly rewarded.  We must wait and rest in this hope until Jesus comes.   (Hebrews 10:34-39)
  • Earthly things are a vain hope for safety.  God watches over those who hope in His mercy.    (Psalm 33:17-22 )
  • God is good to those whose hope is in Him.   (Lamentations 3:25-26)
  • Jesus’ resurrection gave us a new birth into this living hope, to obtain an inheritance that will never perish.   (1 Peter 1:3-6)
  • Jesus is our hope.   (1 Timothy 1:1, Colossians 1:26-27, Romans 15:12-13)

V.      Trust in God, not Man

Ok, that’s enough of that rabbit trail, let’s get back to Psalm 146.

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Do not trust in nobles,
in man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die.

We trust not in mankind, but our hope is in the Lord.  Man’s promises are fleeting and cannot be trusted because one day our final breath will come and our work here on earth is done.

That doesn’t mean that we should not trust one another.  It means we do not place our trust in the promises of man.  But as the children of God, we are the hands and feet of God’s work here on earth, and we strive to be trustworthy and emulate Jesus Christ within us.  And that means we trust one another, but place our trust solely in Jesus.  God uses people like you and me to accomplish His will.

That, by the way, is my constant prayer every time I sit down to prepare to teach.  Do not place your trust in me; one day, my final breath will come.  Until then, I am a flawed earthen vessel, prone to failure on my own.

But when I sit down to study, I pray for the Lord to use me faithfully, to find something worthy in me than He can use to bring all glory to Him.  Tony and Dr. Young are right to pray for us to get out of the way, because we are weak but He is strong.  Y’all know I’ve been distracted the last few months, but my usual strategy for studying wasn’t helping this time.  For the last 3 weeks as I pondered Psalm 146, I had no idea how I was going to build a lesson.  My first reading, all I got was, “yay, trust in the Lord but not in man.”  And then I drew a blank.

But Saturday morning, just before I sat to study, I learned again that the lesson was for me.  I was again trusting in myself to put together a lesson, but I’m a son of Adam, I am a member of mankind, and the whole point of the lesson was to trust in God, not man.  Trust in God, not myself.  Let the Lord speak, talk to my heart and direct my words, and I pray only that God will use me as He sees fit to accomplish His will.

I was reminded of another Psalm, Psalm 121, when I realized I was leaning on my own understanding yet again.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Slide17You, too, should pray to get out of the way of the Lord who works within you.  You, too, are a flawed earthen vessel, but you are also a beloved and eternal adopted child of the living God with His very presence within you.  Your help does not come from your own strength, but the strength of the one who dwells in you.  If you and I can only get out of His way, then He will use us to demonstrate how good He is and to bring glory to Him.

VI.      Conclusion

So, except for my rabbit trail about the Son of Man, I learned a little more this week about trusting in the promises of God.  This world has a lot of pain and trauma, and as people, we’re to blame that we live on ground that God cursed because of our disobedience.

People will let us down, but God never will.  The government will let us down, but God never will.  Our family will let us down, but God never will.  Our friends will betray us like Jesus’ friends betrayed Him, but Jesus’ is faithful to keep His promise.

We pray for God to work His will in our lives to fix problems or to heal illness, and God promises to give us something even better.  He promises eternity with Him.  So even though people may let us down, we can trust in the Lord who never breaks a promise, is always faithful to His word, and promises that we have an eternity in heaven in the very presence of Jesus where there is no pain, no tears, not suffering.  Whatever chaos reigns in our lives, we know that all things work together for those who love Christ Jesus.  And that is a reason to rejoice today in the day that the Lord hath made.  Again I say, rejoice.

Hallelujah!
My soul, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I live.

Slide18To God be the glory.  Amen.

The Creator

             I.      In the Beginning

In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw the light was good.  God separated the light from the darkness, and there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the first day.Slide2

And God said, “Let us separate the water below from the water above, and the space between shall be called “sky.”  And there was the second day.Slide3

And God said, “Let dry land appear.”  And God gathered the waters and called them “seas.”  And God caused vegetation and plants and trees to grow and produce fruit with seeds.  And there was the third day.Slide4

And God created sun and the moon to mark the days and years, and made the stars in the sky, and there was the fourth day.Slide5

And God created the fish and the birds and filled the water and the sky with living creatures, and God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  And there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the fifth day.Slide6

And God created living creatures, wild animals and livestock and all the creatures across the earth.  And God said, “Let us create mankind in our image, in our likeness, so they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and the livestock and the wild animals and all creatures that move along the ground.  And God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Slide7

And there was evening, and there was morning, and there was the sixth day.

          II.      God’s Creation

How often do we stop and consider all that God has made?  Psalm 19:1,

The heavens declare the glory of God;

    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Slide8It’s not as though we have to travel to the ends of the earth to see His creation, or book a plane ticket to the Maldives or the Himalayas or New Zealand.  We only have to look up to see the glory of God.

Everyone who looks up on a clear night sees the heavens and the multitude of stars.  Unless you live in Houston, then you may have to travel outside of the city to see the stars.  But when you see the stars, we cannot help but realize how magnificent our Creator is.  Most of the lights we can see are actually suns, and each sun potentially has its own planets orbiting around it just as those in our solar system orbit our sun. With a high-powered telescope, the number of suns becomes innumerable – billions, trillions?  I checked the NASA website to try and find the number of stars in the universe, and found a few numbers.

First, they qualify the answer by saying “observable” universe.  Due to the speed of light, we can only see 13.7 billion light years.  Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a typical size of 100 billion stars.  Given what we can see, there are around 10 billion galaxies.  Multiplying these numbers -stay will me, we just read in Genesis that we were to go forth and multiply, so that’s what I’m doing.

Multiplying these numbers gives an estimate of 1000 billion billion stars, or 1000 quintillion.  That wounds like one of those made up numbers kids make up.  I plugged some numbers into a calculator for fun, and found that if you made a stack of 1000 quintillion pennies, you’d have a stack of pennies that would go to the moon and back.  261 billion times.

Psalm 8:1,

O LORD, our Lord,

How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,

Who has displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!

 

Slide9God has said in Isaiah 45:12,

“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it.

I stretched out the heavens with My hands.

 

Slide10.JPG

God placed the heavens right over our heads and declares that when you see this, you are without excuse.

And not just the heavens, God made the earth.  God has amazing math skills when it comes to creation.  Or maybe He created the heavens and earth to declare His glory, and then created the laws of gravity and other forces to suit His creation.

Our earth has been created so finely tuned in cannot be an accident.  We are just the right distance from the sun with a near circular orbit, so the earth’s temperatures are relatively stable throughout the year and from year to year.  The earth tilts slightly so that we have seasons, the earth heats and cools through the year instead of baking to a crisp on one end.

We have an unusually large moon, bigger than some planets.  Scientists believe it was formed when a planet the size of Mars crashed into the earth during formation.  A direct collision would have annihilated the earth; a glancing blow would have formed rings like Saturn, so the collision was perfect.

This collision also stripped away much of the earth’s atmosphere.  Venus is a much smaller planet with less gravity, but it has a very thick atmosphere.  Below that cloud cover is a runaway greenhouse effect and the surface is a dry desert with temperatures of 800°F.  Earth is larger should have a thicker atmosphere, but scientists think that same perfect collision that formed the moon also created the perfect atmosphere.  Thin enough and at the right density to allow water in all three phases of solid, liquid and gas necessary to maintain life.

The perfect moon tugs at the earth, creating tides that scrub the waters clean.  That collision also helped create a somewhat lopsided earth with land on one side and seas on the other.  Without this, the earth would be more uniform and almost certainly entirely covered by water.

The earth turns at the perfect speed.  If the earth spun faster and we had 8 hour days, wind speeds on the earth would approach 500 mph.  If the earth spun slower, the earth temperature extremes would be far higher with 200°F days and -200°F nights.

The center of the earth is made of a large and heavy metallic core which gives is the largest magnetic field of any of the planets, which creates the Van-Allen radiation shield which protects life on earth from harmful radiation.

The planet Jupiter is our biggest planetary protector now.  Most large planets are closer to the sun, sweeping away planets like earth and Mars and Venus.  Ours is outside the earth orbit at the perfect distance to deflect and sweep away meteorites.  Without Jupiter, scientist estimate up to 10,000 times the number of large collisions of meteorites which would destroy life.

Slide12Romans 1:20,

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

And life on earth is based on carbon compounds that depend on water in a liquid phase that only exists in a very narrow temperature and pressure range, which happens to be exactly what we have on earth.  Sometimes Hollywood or Star Trek will hypothesize life based on something else like silicon, but that’s unlikely because silicon doesn’t form long molecular chains, with or without water.  And life is amazing, far too amazing for “evolution” to be the sole theory for development.

Slide13Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  We all grasp this problem immediately, and there’s no clear answer except God’s creation.  The egg has no purpose unless there was a chicken before and a chicken after, yet the chicken could not exist unless there was an egg.

Or human design.  Ever heard the term “irreducible complexity?”   If we take something simple like a mousetrap, we know the mousetrap was designed and built for a specific purpose, to catch mice.

Slide14.JPGIt’s made of 5 parts, and each part performs a specific function.  If you take away a part, like the spring, it could be a paperweight, I suppose, but it won’t catch a mouse.  We also know that a mousetrap doesn’t naturally form over time; it is created for a purpose.

Here is a human eye diagram:

Slide15

It has a great many parts, all specifically designed.  None of the parts make sense by themselves.  Also, the eye itself has no useful function unless it is attached to a brain inside a head attached to a body.

Psalm 139: 13-14,

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well.

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       III.      My Creation

My wife and I constructed a new patio in our back yard.  Here’s before I got started –

Slide17

And here is after:

Slide18

My wife and I worked hard over several weeks to create this, and we look at it and declare it is good.  And when I show the patio to others, I like hearing them say it looks good, and it’s a job well done, and I should be proud.

Let’s look at that last scripture again, Psalm 139:13-14 –

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well.

 

I am God’s creation.  It pleases God when I acknowledge His works and to praise Him for what He has done.

My patio is new, but eventually it will age.  I’ll begin to take it for granted, when friends come over they’ll be accustomed to seeing it there.  Instead of saying, “Hey Mike, good job on that patio,” they’ll be saying, “Hey, how about those Texans?”  Other than walking on it, we will barely acknowledge that it is there.   I will take it for granted.

How sad if we treat God’s creation that way.  He makes every day new.

 

          IV.      Worship of Our Creator

Since every day is a new creation, give should give praise and honor to God every day for what He has done, and never take for granted.  I may have made the patio, but God made the stone, God made the sand.  God made me, complete with eyeballs and my irreducible complexities.  Our study verse for today is Psalm 95, but much of the bible is a reminder to us to worship the Lord for what He has done.  Verse 1,Slide21

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

 

He is the Rock of our salvation.  For those who place their trust in Him, He fulfils His promises.  Our salvation is secure and we can depend on the Creator of the universe to provide for eternal life.  Many Christians operate in a mode of fear, that they are unsure of their salvation.  The Catholic church teaches that, depending on your state of confession and works in this life, you spend time in Purgatory working out the remainder of your salvation, a time which is shortened by the prayers of relatives.  This is unnecessary fear, for the Lord is our Rock and did not intend for us to guess if our works are sufficient.  1 John 5:11-13 scripture says,

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 

The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Slide22.JPG

So that you may know.  We can have confidence that our salvation is secure.  It is not arrogance to tell somebody that I know for sure that I am going to heaven.  The God of the universe told me so.

Psalm 95 verse 2,

Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving;

let us shout triumphantly to Him in song.

Slide23

In one sense, we are always in His presence.  There is a time for private worship, but there is also corporate worship when we come together as a group to praise His holy name.  Worship in a group involves song, even if your name is Theresa and claim you cannot carry a tune.  Psalm 100 says all should make a joyful noise unto the Lord, and my singing is sometimes enthusiastic and joyful and sometimes it just sounds like noise, but God wants us to express the joy that is in our hearts with our mouths and sing His praises.

Verse 3,

For the Lord is a great God,

a great King above all gods.

Slide24

This is the epic truth that justifies our call to worship God.  He is the One and Only Deity, the First Cause, The First and the Last, Jehovah, Rock, Refuge, High Tower, Salvation, Most High, the Beginning and the Ending, the Creator and Sustainer of Everything in the Universe.  All of the man-made pagan deities are mere colonies of insects in comparison with the true God of Heaven and Earth.

Verses 4-5,

The depths of the earth are in His hand,

and the mountain peaks are His.

The sea is His; He made it.

His hands formed the dry land.

Slide25.JPG

It took me several weeks to complete that patio.  My back was sore, I scraped my knees and knuckles.  God made the universe and everything in it by speaking it into existence.  The universe is His, this world is His.  The skies and the oceans and the plants and the animals are His.  We are His.  And sometimes we think He is not there, or our sinful ways are hidden from Him, but Jeremiah 23:24 says,

Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

Slide26

Psalms 95:6-7,

Come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God,

and we are the people of His pasture,

the sheep under His care.

Slide27

Even those who claim to be atheists and adamantly declare themselves to be independent from Him belong to Jehovah God, and one day every knee will bow.  Some in respect and adoration, others by submission.

For those that seek Jesus Christ, we are His sheep and He is our Shepherd.  We are under His care; He makes us lie down in green pastures, and there is nothing else we need.

            V.      Conclusion

On the 7th day of Creation, the Lord rested.  He declared His creation was very good.  The Lord is Lord of all heaven and earth, and He is our Lord.

Let us praise Him for who He is, His perfect and holy character, who rights every wrong and heals every pain, who declared his holiness with the very stars in the sky.  He created us to love and worship Him.

Let us do so with a joyful shout of adoration.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

The Lord is My Shepherd

             I.      Introduction – Why do We Pray?

First of all, I want to apologize for my absence recently.  It’s been a difficult month for me.  My stepfather was a warm, loving father who taught me much about the meaning of family and forgiveness, and he was also the first close family member to me that passed.Slide2

I learned much about prayer this month.  At the funeral, they handed out this card, and more than one Christian brother remarked to me that the verse on the card and the verse assigned to me to study this week are the same.  There are a total of 31,102 verses in the bible, yet God singled out 6 of them for me.

One of the questions I asked myself is, “Why do we pray?”  We’ve given admonishment before that God is not some sort of magic genie and we are granted 3 wishes, yet in the midst of our trials, we go to God and start asking for our 3 wishes.

Let’s look for a moment at Matthew 6.  In the verses leading up to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us much instruction on prayer, but this verse in particular, verse 8, Jesus says this about prayer –

For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

And in Romans 8:26,

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.

In my case, sometimes I imagine the groaning of the Holy Spirit comes with an eyeroll of the Holy Spirit.  Groan, Michael never gets this prayer right, I’ll have to fix it for him.  Again.

So God, being perfect, knows what we need before we ask, and if we get it wrong, intercedes for us and prays for the correct thing.

So why do we pray?  When we pray for God to do something for us, knows in advance and corrects our prayers, so why do we pray?  Do we think our prayers are somehow going to change God, when it is God who is perfect and we are fallible?

When we pray and ask God to change, then we miss the most powerful aspect of prayer.  Pray doesn’t change God.  It changes us.  It brings us in line with God’s will, His plan, His desire.  Our goal in prayer should not be to put together some sort of compelling argument so that God will answer our prayer.  Our goal should be for God to bring us in line with His will so that our prayer and God’s will align.  When we are in line with God’s will and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are seen as righteous before God.  And James 5:16 says the prayers of a righteous person is very powerful.  Not because we are powerful or even righteous, but because He is powerful.

          II.      Prayer through difficult times

When we are seeking the very face of God through our prayers, God is pleased with us.  In the Old Testament, the incense burned on the altar represented the prayers of the people, God tells us the prayers are a pleasing aroma.  David wrote a Psalm, essentially a prayer about prayers, where he wrote in Psalm 141:2 –

Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Slide4It’s important that we pray; if we look at the rest of James 5:13-18, James gives a lot of insight into the purpose of our prayers.

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land.  Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.

We’re not telling God anything that He doesn’t know.  But God wants us to acknowledge Him in all our ways, through good times and bad, through times of plenty and times of famine.

When Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer was given as a “model” prayer.  It was never intended to be mere words, quoted over and over; the same chapter two verses earlier, Jesus cautioned us not to let prayer become “meaningless repetition.”  Instead, God wants is to open our heart, go into our closet and have a private conversation.  Just God and me.  What do we ask for if God already knows?  The New Testament has many verses that tell us what God wants us to pray for.

  • Pray at all times —Ephesians 6:18
  • Pray for opportunities to witness —Ephesians 6:19
  • Pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding —Colossians 1:9
  • Pray without ceasing —1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Pray for knowledge —Philemon 6
  • Pray for good conduct —Hebrews 13:18
  • Pray for wisdom —James 1:15
  • Pray for those who are sick/suffering —James 5:13-14
  • Pray for one another —James 5:16; 1 John 5:16
  • Pray for those who persecute you —Romans 12:14
  • Pray for good health —3 John 2
  • Pray without doubting —James 1:6
  • Pray with the right motives —James 4:3
  • Pray knowing God is listening —1 John 5:15-16

So we should be honest.  We should pray what is on our hearts.  And above all, we pray that it is not our will, but Thy will be done.

       III.      Pray in Life

Because if we’re honest, we don’t always like it when we don’t get our way.  This list above are all good reasons for us to pray, and answers to those prayers seem to be within God’s will, but then sometimes God is silent.  Or God says no.

Sometimes God says no when we pray about our finances.  Sometimes God says no when we pray about our health.  And some of the toughest prayers are when we pray about life itself.

In Genesis 5, the descendants of Adam are listed.  At the age of 130, Adam had a son Seth, and Adam then lived till the age of 930.  Seth had a son Enosh when he was 105, and then lived to 912.   Enosh lived to 905, his son Kenan was just a young child at the age of 70 when he fathered Mahalel.  And so on until Noah; Noah was 500 years old when he fathered Shem, Ham, and Hapheth.

Slide7So why don’t we live until the ripe old age of 900 years?  Why do we die?

The length of our lives have been impacted by our sin nature.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve at the fruit from the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  And knowledge of Evil taints us; what we have seen cannot be unseen.  Part of the fall of man included this judgement from God in Genesis 3:22 –

The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”

And Noah, at 500 years old, lived in such an evil, wicked world, that God brought forth a flood to kill all the evil.  After Noah, the Lord said in Genesis 6:3,

And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.”

It seems to me that God has a purpose for death.  We have a deadline sometime in our life to accept the sacrifice of His son.  We don’t know when that deadline is, but it is surely less than 120 years.  And this limit is because of our own sin nature.  We are limited in days because of God’s mercy and protection from this fallen world.

So when my stepfather was moved to hospice last month, there were many days God interceded in prayer.  Maybe I overthinked it.  Overthunked it?  Do I pray for my stepfather to continue living so we can enjoy his company for a while longer?  Do I pray for his release from pain?  We loved him so much none of us wanted to see him suffer, yet we loved him so much we didn’t want to see him go.  And it was at this point, this fork in the road between two conflicting prayers of life and death I found myself, marked with tears of grief either way.  And I know that God answers some prayers the way we hope about health and life and death, but eventually death comes to us all, and we are marked for eternity by the choices we make.

I’m thankful the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans.  And eyerolls.  I know that God provides peace that surpasses all understanding, but I couldn’t figure out how to get from grief to peace.  I needed God’s guidance, I needed God’s comfort, and I realized the fork in the road wasn’t between life and death.  When I prayed for God’s will to be done, I realized the third option was not life, not death, but life everlasting.  There is peace knowing that Jesus Christ rescues us from death and gives us eternal life, and that I know I will see my stepfather again in heaven, where there is no pain and there are no tears to wipe away.

          IV.      Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd

This life offers many challenges, and when we are younger, I think we believe we can win them all.  But age and experience teaches us that we cannot win over all our enemies, we cannot live without the impact of illness, we do not always feel blessed by abundance and opportunity, and grief and sadness will come to all of us.

Kind David had a full life.  We’re familiar with his childhood, full of braggadocio and power.  His faith was so pure that God enable David to bring down the giant Goliath with just a stone.

Slide10But his life had challenges, especially as he got older.  Despite David’s loyalty to King Saul, Saul kept trying to kill him.  David lived in caves for a while because David wouldn’t harm Saul, yet Saul would try to kill him.  Later, once David was king, his whole family had serious issues that dwarf what you or I face.  David’s oldest son Ammon raped his half-sister Tamar.  Tamar’s brother Absalom was David’s favorite, but Absalom was outraged that King David did nothing, so Absalom ordered the king’s servants to murder Amnon.  Absalom lived in exile and eventually organized a rebellion against his own father, King David.  In 2 Samuel 18:33, David cried out in heartbreak and grief, “O my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

We’re not sure when David wrote Psalm 23, but no doubt David had already experienced grief and heartache few can bear.  It’s only 6 verses, but they’re powerful verses.

Psalm 23,

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Slide11.JPGSuch a beautiful prayer.  It speaks not just of our life now but our confidence in a life everlasting with our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s interesting to me that this Psalm is part of a Messianic trilogy.

Psalm Verse Time / Image Theme
Psalm 22 / The Good Shepherd My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The Saviours Cross Past His past death for His people
Psalm 23 / Great Shepherd Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him… The Shepherds Crook Present His present care and provision for His people
Psalm 24 / Chief Shepherd Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. The Kings crown Future His future return for His people as the King of Glory!

Past, present and future.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 in a little more depth.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord.  Every word in the bible is important.  Jesus is Lord.  We sing songs about Jesus being our friend and our savior, and those are true, but he is also Lord.  The Lord’s name is Yahweh, sovereign, almighty, delivering Lord God.  When we seek comfort, begin by acknowledging that He alone is Lord of all.

Is.  Jesus is my shepherd right now.  Yes, he was there in the past, and yes, He will be there in the future, but Jesus is the great I AM.  He is here now within our midst.

My.  Jesus is personal.  He’s not a figurine hung on a cross in the front of a church.  He is not an abstract idea of goodness, He is not simply a long dead teacher or morals.  He is Mine, and I am His.

Shepherd.  Jesus is our shepherd, and we are His sheep.  What’s interesting about sheep is they are 4D.

  • Dumb
  • Dirty
  • Defenseless
  • Dependent

They are dumb; if there was a school for farm animals, sheep would be dropouts.  If there is a wire fence, they will get their necks caught in it, not just today, but tomorrow, too.  Their wool smells like you’d imagine a wool coat would smell if you left it in the rain, they have no ability to defend themselves, they have terrible eyesight, they are fearful skittish creatures that are prone to wander and get lost.  No wonder we need a shepherd who will provide for us, protect us, guide us, and wash us clean as snow.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Don’t get confused; David isn’t saying, “I don’t want a shepherd.”  The word “want” here means “needs.”  If the Lord is my Shepherd, then there is nothing else I need.  The Lord Jesus is all sufficient, and I place my trust in Him.  There may be trials of all sorts ahead for us, but the Lord uses everything for good, and I will trust in the Lord to provide everything I need for the day he has given me.  Everything will be ok.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;

When our bodies are tired, we put them to bed.  A nice comfy bed and a soft fluffy pillow, and we rest.  The Lord does this for our soul, if we only let him.  If we follow the Lord, our soul can be still and know that He is God.  When we rest in Him and leave our troubles with Him, He restores our soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

God’s word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  He teaches me to be righteous so that I may bring Him glory.  I cannot do this on my own, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  If I am following my Lord’s direction and letting Him guide my path, then the Lord receives the glory due to Him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

This world is not the valley of life.  This world is the valley of the shadow of death.  Death comes to us all, no more than 120 years and for most of us a lot less.  My hope alone is in Him so that one day I may walk in new life.

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me.

David has changed pronouns; in the first three verses, David talks to God in the third person and refers to him as “he.”

But when you are surrounded by evil, God is not a distant third party.  We can talk to Him directly.  David talks directly to God, saying, I have nothing to fear for my hope is in you.  You surround me, you comfort me, you love me.  And if you are for me, then who can be against me?

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The Hebrew word here translated “rod” can also be translated as rod, scepter, and weapon.  It is not a “walking stick.”  A shepherd’s rod is about two and a half feet long with heavy pieces of iron embedded on the end, like a mace.  The rod is the shepherd’s primary offensive weapon for protecting the flock from enemies, whether the threats are wild animals or human thieves.  When used as a weapon, it is intimidating and deadly.

Slide14The rod and staff mentioned in Psalm 23:4 represents God’s defense and His divine guidance.  His rod is used to drive off our enemy, Satan and his minions.  God’s staff is used as guidance to us, to lift us back on the pathway after we fall.  The Lord protects me from my enemies, and rescues me from my own mistakes.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

God provides everything I need, despite the efforts of Satan to undo me.  In fact, God provides an abundance for me so that my cup runneth over and I can provide blessings to others.  Even though he is my Lord and my Savior, God treats me as an adopted son and an honored guest.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

If you trust in the Lord, then no matter how far you stray, the Lord follows you with goodness and mercy.  The Hebrew word used for “follow” is the same word used when Pharaoh “followed” Israel across the Red Sea.  It doesn’t mean goodness and mercy follows from a distance.  God is actively pursuing us daily.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

            V.      Conclusion

God knows our lives.  He knows us before we are born, He knows us through our final destination.  He actively pursued us and rescues us.  And while goodness and mercy may actively follow me, one day I am going to slow down enough so that he catches me, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Forever is a very long time.  It’s far longer than the 120 years allotted to us.  Our prayers bring us in line with the spirit of the Living God who comforts us and provides for all our needs; he is our shepherd, and there is nothing we shall want.  I know that my stepfather dwells in the house of the Lord, and one day, I too, will dwell there, for Jesus promises there are many rooms in His mansion, and one day he will come back for me.  No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.

I’ll leave you with these two verses from our hope and future in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 7:17,

for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:4,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

The Lord is my Shepherd.

To God be the glory.  Amen.