Preached at New Wine Christian Fellowship on December 13, 2015. This sermon is a sort of bookend with my sermon on Grapes of Wrath. Audio will soon be available at newwineonline.com. If you listen, you'll note I didn't follow my notes well. You be the judge as to whether that worked or not. Let me know. Just please be gracious.
Numbers 14:9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.
“Got some bread?” For someone of my age the question means “do you have money?” The term bread has long stood for provision of all sorts. When Caleb and Joshua stand before the people of Israel to urge them to go up and take the land of Canaan which God has ordained to be theirs, they conclude, “they are bread for us”. They are not indicating anything weird about their future meals, they are clearly stating that the provision of Israel has been ordained by God. They must rise up and take what God has provided.
We know the story: Twelve men enter Canaan to spy out the land. Ten tell dire stories of the size of the inhabitants and the strength of the walled cities. Caleb and Joshua are the only two have a different viewpoint. Here they are laying down the basics which the people reject. First, God has already provided the victory. But, an action is required on the part of the people. And finally, fear is the enemy that will stop them from entering into the promise, if they allow it.
Isaiah 49:8-13: Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.”
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
There is no more persistent theme in all of scripture than God's desire to comfort and care for His people. We love that about God's Word. We take all those Bible promises and make books. One such book was handed out here at New Wine… several years ago. I couldn't find my copy so I went to ChristianBook.com to find another. There are currently 1,747 titles under the ‘Bible promises’ search alone. There are Bible promises for men, for women, for teens, for kids…
Does anyone express the promises of God better than David? David was anointed by Samuel to be king of all Israel. But David had to hang onto those promises through some very difficult times. Most all of us can, or should be able to recite by heart the 23rd Psalm:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even 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 overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
David knew that promises don't always come the second God speaks them. In fact, he was familiar with the valley of the shadow of death, as well as God's rod and His staff. Here is the problem: we love the promises, but we don't always like the process of getting there. If you recall, I preached on David in the Wilderness here, last year. Many of David's finest psalms were written during a time of great physical and emotional distress.
Psalm 63 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
- O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
- So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
- Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
- So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
- My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
- when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
- for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
- My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
- But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
- they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.
- But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
David had the ability to strengthen himself in the Lord regardless of his circumstances. He didn't suddenly get Saul to stop hunting him. His life wasn't suddenly comfortable. But his confidence in God's goodness and love was restored. All of the negative voices within him and around him lost their power over him. David still had many miles to travel and many more situations that called for strengthening before earthly comfort was his.
My fear is that we will camp out in the promises, but refuse the journey it takes to get there, i.e.: the valley of the shadow of death, as well as God's rod and His staff. Let me illustrate the issue: the Bible promise book I picked up is Bible Promises for You from Zondervan. It contains 178 pages of promises. Those promises all come out of a Bible, which in the NET version I typically carry with me is a little over 1500 pages including the maps, concordances and dictionaries. Some of that has to with what happens if you reject God. A lot if it has to do with how God pursues those who walk away. But a lot has to do with how to get to the happy place in the promises of God.
Some of that has to with what happens if you reject God. A lot if it has to do with how God pursues those who walk away. But a lot has to do with how to get to the happy place in the promises of God. It should be obvious that there is a lot to the promises that are missed unless we dive deeper into the Word of God.
I want to give you a better image of what you are missing if you don't. When I compare the Bible I usually carry with the promises book I want you to be aware that the 1500 pages of this NET Bible are a very thin parchment, so the difference is visually clear. So let me show you a Bible printed on heavy paper. This is the Wells family Bible which came into our family in 1882. I hope this clarifies the difference.
This is not an attempt to throw cold water on the Bible promises, even if I do come from Alaska's frozen chosen, no, I want to unlock promises. God is a redeemer who set the captives free. Why did David write such majestic praise of God's goodness in his darkest hours? David knew that as a shepherd leading his sheep over miles of wilderness, he had to keep his eye on where He was going, not on where he had been and not on the ground. Yes, had to keep an eye out for dangers, but if he got so wrapped up in looking for wolves that he never looked ahead, he would surely loose his way. And most of all, if he gathered his flock tightly around him in a nice safe spot, he would never get anywhere.
Just because God desires good for you, is no guarantee that you will obtain it. There are an estimated four million standing before the Lord when the spies returned from the land of promise. Only two of the adult men standing there actually entered in to take possession of that promise. Did the promise fail for them? There they were at a critical moment of decision. Remember the words of Joshua and Caleb, “do not rebel against the LORD” (Numbers 14:9). They telling the people that it is the Lord God who is telling them to go up and take the land of promise.
Matthew 23:37: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Here in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is lamenting that the actions of God's people have scattered the people away from Him instead of drawing the people closer to Him. Most of all they have attacked and killed the prophets of God. In this context, Jesus is directly addressing Pharisees who actively doing this same thing as they oppose Jesus, God in the flesh. They have not only trusted Jesus and listened carefully to him to discern the Word of God for their lives, but they have argued against him, purporting to be the more Godly representatives.
Isaiah 41:16: Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
Here Isaiah starts with a very strong word, “you worm!”. His meaning is that Israel is lowly and small. But with the LORD they are matchless. New Wine is a very small church. No one at New Wine is a mover and shaker that would make politicians and cultural icons tremble. But many of us have had the privelege to deliver God's people from demonic oppression, to pray for and see miraculous healings, and to move the lost into communion with God. How is that possible? We have a powerful God who makes us powerful.
Jesus demands to utmost from us. Do you remember the story of the fig tree that Jesus tries get fruit from but it has none. He curses it. This story is told in Matthew and in Mark, but Mark adds an interesting detail, “it was not the season for figs” (Mark 11:13). Jesus isn't ignorant. It seems clear that he was making a very clear point. The branch which does not produce fruit will be taken out of its place. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:19). We see this theme in Matthew 13:23 where Jesus speaks of the seed sown in good soil producing fruit; also the parable of the landowner who sends his servants to collect fruit from his tenants (Matthew 21:33-43). In this last, Jesus concludes, “Mat 21:43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43). This is but a few of the scriptures calling us into a higher relationship.
Bible teacher, Oswald Chambers tells us, “Jesus Christ demands that the heart of a disciple be fathomlessly pure, and unless He can give me His disposition, His teaching is tantalizing. If all He came to do was to mock me by telling me to be what I know I never can be, I can afford to ignore Him, but if He can give me His own disposition of holiness, then I begin to see how I can lay my account with purity.” (Chambers, 1992).
Keep drawing closer to God. When the fire burns, stay and be changed. And when God moves you to take some time or sacrifice to love the unlovely, Do It! Do not rebel.
Isa 40:9-11 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
The greatest enemy of your fruitfulness is Fear. How many prophetic words begin with “Fear Not!”? Fear is the arm of the flesh, which intends to stop you from ever accomplishing the mighty works that God has planned to do through you. I have never been comfortable speaking in public (like this). I enjoy writing. But I have steadily pushed myself to stand up and to speak when God asks. As a result is gradually getting easier.
Those who pray for healing tell us, pray and keep praying. I am speaking of statements or testimonies by Kevin and Chad Dedmon, Curry Blake, Chris Gore, David Hogan and others. Pray publically. Put God on the spot. David Hogan likens this to weight lifting. Don't start with Olympic weights. Start with what you can handel. I am not much of a healer, but I have seen some amazing things when I prayed. I have to push my self to more, especially when fear tries to shut me down.
There is an easier way. If you are staring at the problem, the problem is big is in your view. On the other hand, if you are staring a Jesus, at what Jesus has done, at what Jesus can do, at how much Jesus love you… what problem? So we see in Psalm 63, David goes to God. He talks to God about the greatness of God, about God's love and care, about God's faithfulness. The problem is inserted at the end, more like a footnote. This is David strengthening himself in the LORD.
John 6:28-58 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’.” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. 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. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66). Jesus is a confrontation with your flesh. This passage begins with ‘what should we be doing?’ Jesus answers clearly, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” They all understood that Jesus was saying, ‘the work of God is to trust me.’ We easily say, “I believe”, but these stood before Jesus in the flesh. They knew that he was known to tell those who would trust in him, ‘sell everything you have, and give to the poor’. That sort of trust is difficult unless your heart truly does believe down to its root.
I think there is greater issue here. Throughout this passage Jesus is saying “I am the bread”, but his audience isn't seeing Jesus, they are focused on eating, on substance. If there is a fundamental flaw to the Faith Movement it is precisely this: claiming faith in the substance prayed for, but loosing fsight of the one who provides. This played out in a different way in Jesus time. The priests had made tithes and sacrifices the object of devotion, and as Jesus points out, they failed in the more important devotion.
Matthew 23:19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
So we see in John 6, the crowd had bread on their minds, not discipleship: “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26). They were trying to sound genuinely concerned with the things of heaven, without committing everything to Jesus. The best tactic, evasion, evasion in the direction of bread: “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness.” (John 6:30-31). Jesus tells them “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). And so Jesus takes them right back where he started.
Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”
Jesus said some things that were strange. We understand them better than the disciples did at the time, or do we?