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A Pattern of God's Work With Mankind: Day 6 of the Feast

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A Pattern of God's Work with Mankind

Day 6 of the Feast

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A Pattern of God's Work With Mankind: Day 6 of the Feast

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Andy Lee looks at one of the patterns that God uses that includes Removal, Journey, and Promise.

Transcript

[Mr. Andy Lee]: I was checking in at work the other day, as I tend to have to do from time to time when I’m away, and I just happened to see an article that someone had written – one of my colleagues. I didn’t get all the way into the article, but the headline of the article read, “The human brain is not capable of processing all of the uncertainty that we’re encountering now.” And I felt like, in one headline, that kind of summed up what I’ve been thinking for quite some time. I don’t know about all of you, but it seems like every time you want to make a plan, every time you want to do something, every time you think ahead that “this is something we’d love to do in two or three months or half a year,” the uncertainty comes in. And you have to think about all the eventualities and what might happen.

What I’d like to talk about today, though, is something very closely tied into that. And that is the fact that, despite the fact of human uncertainty in the world around us, God has given us a sure plan. I think there’s nothing more important for us today – especially in the environment that we’re living in – than to really ground ourselves to the sureness and the certainty of God’s plan.

God provides us in creation all kinds of patterns. Now, maybe I was just kind of a weird little kid, but I used to love, when somebody gave me a banana, I would squeeze it, and I realized that every time you squeeze a banana the right way, it breaks up into thirds – perfect thirds. Cucumbers are very similar to that. When you open up a watermelon – cut it open – you don’t really wonder what’s going to be inside. In fact, if somebody came to you and said, “Hey, I’ve got a special watermelon. You’ll never believe what’s inside of this one. It’s grapes!” you’d look at that person, and say, “You are completely strange,” because everybody knows when you open up a watermelon, you know exactly what’s inside. In fact, there’s a point on our buffet where they had some yellow watermelon out on the buffet. They put up a little sign to explain what it was, because we don’t expect watermelon to look yellow.

Now, Romans 1:20 Romans 1:20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
American King James Version×
– we’re not going to turn there – but it tells us that “the invisible things of God are clearly seen and understood by His creation.” What I’d like to do today is just to talk about the pattern that’s in God’s – not His creation, but His plan – the way that He has dealt with people throughout the ages. And no, there’s not a mistake on the slide. This is what I’m going to talk about. Maybe there are a few people out there who tend to be a little more visual thinkers, so I’ll do something most ministers don’t do when they speak, and I’ll encourage you to draw some pictures if you’re taking note. And there’s one you can start with.  We’ll fill in some blanks as we go through here. What we are trying to construct here is an understanding of what is the pattern that God has fulfilled in working with mankind? And what does it have to do with the Feast of Tabernacles that we’re observing today?

The first section we’ll cover, then, is God’s divine loving care. And the way that He expresses that is symbolized by booths. I don’t know if you’ve thought about that before, but God’s divine loving care for His people is symbolized by booths.

Now, some of you might be familiar… of course, the Bible – the Old Testament – was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for the Feast of Tabernacles is Sukkoth. Sukkoth is a plural word. It means multiple Sukkah. Sukkah is a single booth – or tabernacle, as it is sometimes translated in the Bible. But still, Sukkoth is the Feast of Tabernacles, a place where there are multiple Sukkahs built. Now if we look at the next slide, we can look in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia to see a little bit more about what they write about what a Sukkah is. “The Hebrew word cukkah (rendered in the King James Version ‘booth’ or ‘booths,’ eleven times; ‘tabernacle’ or ‘tabernacles,’ ten times; ‘pavilion’ or ‘pavilions,’ five times; ‘cottage’ once) means a hut made of wattled twigs or branches. In countries where trees are abundant such wattled structures are common as temporary buildings as they can be constructed in a very short time. Cattle were probably housed in them.”

So, what is this telling us? What it’s telling us is, that a booth was a common structure for people who were living at that time. It’s not like God came up with some strange thing to build some new and different structure that they had to do to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. And actually, I was walking on the beach the other day after the storm, and I saw one of the workers. He was pulling some of the palm fronds off the palm trees and he was stacking them up. It was interesting. He was discarding them. He was stacking them up on the side. We can along the beach some of the huts and shelters that are built are built with those palm frowns over the top of them. So, what was really customary during that time period, you’d have a lot of people out in the field, and they’d be tending sheep. They might along their way, and taking a rest, and living in a place where there were a lot of boughs and branches and sticks and fronds to use, and they would set up a structure to provide shade. We know that animals look for shade. We see that animals are sometimes housed in these. We were driving down the road the other day here, and we saw a herd of cows, and they were all sheltered in the shade underneath the trees. We don’t usually think of cows as being incredibly intelligent animals, but they’re smart enough to find the shade. And you can see, at this time, if you were out there, if you were out there with a herd of sheep, or maybe some other livestock, having some of those branches out there to build some shelter from the heat and from the sun, for both yourself as well as your flock, could be very useful. The Bible actually talks, as well, about Sukkoth – sukkahs – as being very common and very functional structures. We don’t usually think of these passages in the context of booths. But in Genesis 33:17 Genesis 33:17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
American King James Version×
, bearing out what was said on the previous slide, Jacob made booths for his cattle when he was returning to Canaan and made peace with Esau. So we see a very common everyday use for these.

In 2 Samuel 11, which is the account of Uriah coming back, and David summons him back after his infidelity with Bathsheba, and Uriah informs David that the Israelite army is dwelling in booths. It doesn’t mean they were keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. It means they were out in the field as an army and they needed shelter. They grabbed what was around them and they built shelters for a temporary period of time in order to shade them – make they as comfortable as they could.

1 Kings 20:12-16 1 Kings 20:12-16 [12] And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, that he said to his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the city. [13] And, behold, there came a prophet to Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus said the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into your hand this day; and you shall know that I am the LORD. [14] And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus said the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, You. [15] Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty two: and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand. [16] And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him.
American King James Version×
, as we see up there, also refers to non-Israelites building booths. In this case it was Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, and he was attacking Samaria – northern the kingdom of Israel – their capital. He and other kings are recorded in the Bible – I believe it is in verse 16 – as being in a booth and getting drunk there. They were probably hanging out – they were laying siege to a city, things were getting boring, there was alcohol at hand, they went for shade and comfort in their booth and got drunk (not a suggestion, by the way).

And then lastly – Luke 9:28-36 Luke 9:28-36 [28] And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. [29] And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. [30] And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: [31] Who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. [32] But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. [33] And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. [34] While he thus spoke, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. [35] And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. [36] And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
American King James Version×
– some of us might recognize this as the account of the transfiguration. Jesus took some of His disciples, and they went up to the top, and Moses and Elijah came down in a vision. And what was it that Peter said? He woke up. He was sort of disoriented. He sees Jesus Christ there. He recognizes – in whatever way – Moses and Elijah, and he says, “Hey, we want them to stay a while. Let’s build them each a booth.” Now, commentators will lay different things out there in terms of what it means, but many will say, “They were just doing what you would do for hospitality when there were people were there and you wanted them to stay for a while.” “Let’s build them some shelter and give them some shade so they can stay a while and sit and be comfortable and spend that time.

Let’s go to the next slide – so in the end… this is a rough depiction of a booth… it’s actually from a card – an image of a booth. You find a lot of plywood-kind of structures like Orthodox Jews will build today. This was something similar, I think, to what a booth might have looked like, although not quite the same as talked about in the Bible, but I think it works as a visual – it’s a fragile structure. It was temporary. Nobody expected that a booth was being built – people out there with their flock or their herd, or if you were an invading army and needed shelter – nobody expected that structure to stand for very long. It was kind of hastily put together out of materials that were out there and put up to provide some temporary structure. It symbolized a lack of permanence.

And what I find very interesting is, that we’re not Jewish, we don’t rely on rabbinical pronouncements on how we worship, but it is interesting to note that, in rabbinical law – and it talks about building a booth – one of the instructions is, the booth cannot be so solidly constructed that you cannot see through the ceiling. It’s supposed to be deliberately constructed so that you can see the stars through the roof that’s over your head. And it’s meant to carry with it that symbolism – that when the children of Israel were in booths, there was a temporariness, there was a fragility that was going, And the shelter that they had over them – the physical shelter – was not sufficient to meet all of their needs. Lets go on to the next scripture, the next slide. We see here in Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10 [8] By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. [9] By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: [10] For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
American King James Version×
– in the Faith Chapter – we see Abraham talked about. Now I’m going to make a terrible pun and say that Abraham was an intense guy. He was in tents - he lived in tents.

Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10 [8] By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. [9] By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: [10] For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
American King James Version×
– “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he waited the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

So we see what’s being expressed here in Hebrews – the contrast is being set up – how Abraham went out and he lived in temporary structures. The word used for tents here – New Testament Greek – different word, but it is translated tabernacles in the rest of Hebrews. The old King James also translates it as tabernacles, rather than tents. But the key here was that contrast again. Abraham was taken out, and he waited for the permanence. And the permanence was only going to come when that building with the solid foundation from God was going to come.

We look at the next slide. We often think of older cultures as having been very primitive in nature. These, typically, would just be ruins on the screen. But Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham came out of, was actually a very advanced civilization. We see here 24,000 inhabitants – a good size settlement at that time – market places, schools, libraries. A lot of wealth. Looking a little bit further on the Internet, most people believe that there was hot and cold running water in Ur of the Chaldees – that was nearly 4,000 years ago. They had that ability and that technology. Additionally, it was an advanced center of learning. You’ll see also, if you looked it up – it’s called the sexadecimal method of measuring time – was invented there – 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour. All of that came out of Ur of the Chaldees.

So what did God do? God dipped into an established society – a place where life was good, a place where there were as many conveniences as you could find anywhere in the modern world at that time – and He asked Abram to come out of that. He took him out of all that permanence that he had around him, and He asked him to live in tents – tabernacles – and to stay out there as a nomad, really, without a solid home. Go to the next slide.

So, what Hebrews lays out to us is the faith that Abram had to have. As he looked to God, he was taken away from the physical permanence that was around him – everything established. I can only imagine what his friends thought. “Look at everything we have around here. We’ve got the best schools. We have libraries, multi-story buildings” – you read accounts that are out there that they had – “and you’re going to go out and live some place in a tent? What’s with that? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.” But he went by faith and God was teaching a lesson to us – those who follow Him in faith – about the permanence that we look toward. If you can go to the next slide.

This was mirrored, as you probably already know, in Leviticus 23 as well, where we see in verse 40, and 42 and 43, the command about the Feast of Tabernacles. Let’s read here. It says:

Leviticus 23:40 Leviticus 23:40And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
American King James Version×
, 42-43
– “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” Verse 42: “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths” – and there’s a specific reason that comes next – “that your generations may know the I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

So there was an instruction here that part of the Feast – part of the command of the Feast – in fact, the very reason why they were to build these temporary dwellings – was to look back – to take away the permanence that they had in their everyday lives, and to think about the deliverance that God had given them. And it was to refresh their faith in God. It was to make them understand that the things that they had around them – the things that they had been blessed with – were not things they had put together by themselves, but rather, things that God had given them as a gift. Let’s read this further in Deuteronomy. I tend to turn to this scripture a lot when I speak at the Feast because I think it’s really critical to the way that we think about this time when we remove ourselves – when we think about the lives that we are living on a day-to-day basis – and when we recommit ourselves to continue to walk down that path to the promise that God has for us. Deuteronomy 8, and we’ll start in verse 11:

Deuteronomy 8:11-17 Deuteronomy 8:11-17 [11] Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day: [12] Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelled therein; [13] And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; [14] Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; [15] Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint; [16] Who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not, that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end; [17] And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.
American King James Version×
– “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments and His statutes, which I command you today.” I think we recall that the Deuteronomy was the time right before the children of Israel were entering the Promised Land. So these were reminders that were being given to the children of Israel – essentially, a rehearsing of everything that they’d been through since coming out of Egypt 40 years earlier, and warnings about how they would live once they entered the land of promise. Verse 12: “Lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and when your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that your have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who led you” – next slide, verse 15 – “through that great and terrible wilderness , in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land, and there was no water, who brought water for you out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you, that He might test you, to do you good in the end. And then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand gave me this wealth.’” Next slide.

So, for Israel – we see in these passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there was a specific lesson that was supposed to come out from living in booths. I find it instructive as well that the lesson was not stay temporary. It wasn’t, “Don’t build brick homes.” It wasn’t, “Do not till the land.” They were not told to continue to be nomads – the way that Abram lived. They were encouraged – “Go in and possess the land. Establish yourselves there. Farm the land. Live everyday life and do the things that you need to do. But when you do that, keep one thing in mind. Keep in the center of your mind the fact that it is God that has given you the capacity to do all of those things.”

And that’s the symbolism, really, that comes into the rabbinical thought of the ceiling above you has to be something where you can see the stars. And it’s really laying out the irony – if any of you are into literature – Russ DeVilbiss mentioned lit class many years back – irony is a literal term, right? It’s a literal device. In this case, the irony is using the temporariness of booths to picture the divine and permanent care of God, and the fact that, we can, as human beings, tend to build these walls around us – whatever those might be. Perhaps it’s our jobs. Perhaps it’s our identity within our community or our society. Perhaps, as we heard in the sermonette, it’s things that we believe about public health policies or about politics in our country. And we start to build these walls around us brick by brick. And then we build a really solid ceiling above, because we don’t want anything else coming in. We’ve made up our minds. We’ve got it figured out and we’re going to seal ourselves into our little box where nobody can come and hurt us. And that’s the opposite of what we’re told to do when we reflect on booths and temporary dwellings in the context of the Feast. We always have to have our minds and our hearts open to God above us, understanding that none of the things that we have, none of the things that we’re capable of doing, none of the productive assets that He gives us to multiply come from ourselves. They are gifts from God. We’re expected to be good stewards of them. We’re expected to develop them, as we see in the parable of the talents. But above all, we’re expected to remember that they come from God in order for us to grow and to learn and to bless others. Go on to the next slide. So, the lesson in the end is, the true shelter lies in God.

Going back to Deuteronomy 8:11 Deuteronomy 8:11Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command you this day:
American King James Version×
, 13. Here we read:

Psalms 27:1 Psalms 27:1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
American King James Version×
, 5
– “The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?” Verse 5: “For in the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion. In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me, and He’ll set me high on a rock.”

So, in this expression of faith in God – the divine protection of God – we come back to a tabernacle. And even the word translated pavilion here comes from another Hebrew word that’s a derivative of the word sukkah – essentially a poetic use of two different terms that mean roughly the same thing. And what it’s telling us, again, it that that booth – that tabernacle – is a symbol of God’s protection – His divine protection – and the fact that He’ll come down and He’ll give comfort. Let’s turn to the next scripture on the next slide:

Isaiah 4:5-6 Isaiah 4:5-6 [5] And the LORD will create on every dwelling place of mount Zion, and on her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for on all the glory shall be a defense. [6] And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
American King James Version×
– “Then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion” – Isaiah 4:5-6 Isaiah 4:5-6 [5] And the LORD will create on every dwelling place of mount Zion, and on her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for on all the glory shall be a defense. [6] And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
American King James Version×
– “and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining flame of fire by night.” Now this is a millennial scripture, looking forward to the prophecy – talking about what the world tomorrow will be like. And it’s using symbolism here of the cloud and the smoke, which is how the children of Israel were led through the wilderness. “For over all the glory there will be a covering” – just like there was that fire over the Old Testament tabernacle in the center of the camp of Israel. And in verse 6: “There will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”

So, in this prophecy of Isaiah, again, he’s coming back to that irony of God’s permanence, which is laid out to us through the symbol of a temporary structure and giving us that shelter and that divine protection. Going on to the next slide.

So, the Feast reminds us, in this way, as we think about tabernacles, that the physical security that we seek is actually the flimsy thing. I think that’s what God is trying to tell us through these temporary structures. You know, as human beings, we tend to look at the things that are in front of us. I knock on this lectern. Feels solid, doesn’t it? We build houses out of wood, we build them out of cinderblock, build them out of concrete, out of other materials. We feel like we’ve got this solid thing around us and nothing can hurt us. And that’s exactly – when we go back to those verses, when Moses was talking in Deuteronomy, that God wants us to remember. We can build this seeming security around us – this solidity – all these material things that we surround ourselves with – and, if we’re not careful, that we put our trust in – and what we’re supposed to learn, as we step back from this – as we think back on this – we’re removed for a bit, and we get to look at our everyday lives from a distance. I think that’s one of the powerful things of the Feast. We still have a couple days left here.

If we haven’t taken time to reflect – to think about our day-to-day lives – it’s a great time to go out for a walk on the beach in the morning, sit out on a chair, as I see some of you do in the morning when I’m walking, and just think, reflect. “What is it that’s going on in my life? Where have I built walls around me that I put my trust in, and perhaps, surpassed the trust that I put in God. How much have I covered that ceiling? And when I look up, all I see is what I’ve built around myself? I don’t see the divine care of God. I don’t see His plan. I don’t the direction that He’s carrying me.” I think it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. We need to consider how and where do we need to build some more space in our lives to make sure that we don’t lose that vision of God’s divine, loving care – staying with us all the time in everywhere we go.

So, for those of you who drew a pretty picture, we’ll go back to the next slide and we’ll fill in the first part – only three more parts to go – God’s divine loving care. That’s a pattern of how God has worked with mankind. All the people that He’s called out, He gives His Spirit. That Spirit is referred to as many different things, but as a Comforter is one thing. And His divine loving care is over everything that He does with us. Let’s move to the next slide.

So in the balance of the message, I’d just like to spend a little bit of time on those last three boxes that you saw in the diagram. Let’s talk about the pattern – because there is a pattern – it’s not the only pattern; it’s a pattern – of how God works with mankind. But I hope it’s something that can give us comfort. I hope it’s something that can give us hope and can also center our thoughts a bit in terms of how we approach our day-to-day lives. If you’ll advance the slide one more, I’m not going to keep the mystery going any longer. We’ve finally filled in the boxes. There’s a pattern – a pattern of “Removal,” followed by a “Journey,” followed by a “Promise.” Can you think of anything that fits that within the Bible? Within our own lives?

Let’s go to the next slide. It might be a little bit hard to read, depending on where you’re sitting, but it just took me about a minute to list out these five examples that I think are emblematic of this idea of removal, a journey and promise. And this is a slide we’ll come back to. I’ll ask Wendy to back us up in a few minutes and come back to this and make a few more points. But all of these people that God dealt with had these common denominators.

Abraham – we talked about the fact that he was taken out from Ur of the Chaldees. He lived in tents for years. He was made a promise of being a great physical nation, but let’s never forget – much more important than any physical promise that was given to Abraham – was the comment that in him – or in his seed – all of the nations of the earth would be blessed – all of the nations, regardless of heritage, regardless of background. And that is recognized across the board as a prophecy of Jesus Christ – that Jesus Christ would come from the seed of Abraham, and through him, all people would have an avenue to come to God. He waited 25 years for an heir after that promise was made.

And we can see time periods against these other people. We’re familiar, probably, with many of these stories – how Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egypt, labored as a servant in Potiphar’s house, thrown in prison after that. And it wasn’t until 12 years had past – or 13 years – that he ascended to a position of power in Egypt, where he was used by God to save His people.

So we’re all undergoing this familiar pattern of God’s work. And I’d like to suggest that we use the Feast – the remaining time within the Feast – to reflect on how does that pattern look in our lives? If you’re like me, you’ve probably had conversations already with some people who’ve talked with you about the journey that they’re on – whether it’s days past, whether it’s things that are going on now – and the hope that they’ve expressed, as well, about what’s coming in the future. It’s a great opportunity as we’re all here together to share these stories with one another, as we see so often in the Bile, “to encourage one another with these words.” But also to reflect on our own conduct and the way that we’re going to direct our steps and our paths as we go forward.

So let’s go briefly through these three sections – go to the next slide – and talk about this three-step way that God is working with human beings and consider how it’s working, as well, in our lives. We’ll talk first about removal. This really is a commitment to an ongoing process. Next slide. Now we’ve reached a point, within the church, where there are lots of people with more than a little bit of gray hair – like me – who grew up in the church. And it’s different, probably, than it has been in some days past.

And I would say – for those of us who have grown up in the church – it can be a challenge sometimes to see the difference of what you’ve been called out from. I came into the church kicking and screaming. I’d usually sleep during sermons. That was just last year – I was about a half-year-old when I started coming to church. And the fact is, as I went through life, the tangible things that I was doing day-to-day didn’t really change that much. And I’ll tell – and I’ve spoken with some other people who’ve grown up in the church – it honestly took me several years after being baptized of questioning whether I had God’s Holy Spirit. And the reason was because there wasn’t a tangible difference in my life – not something I could put my finger on in the same way. I went to services every week. I tried to be helpful and serve other people within the church. I tried to continue on in prayer and in Bible study and the Christian disciplines that we know exist. And over a short period of time, it was difficult to really see a difference. I can tell you that, over a long period of time, I can say with confidence that I believe that God has done things within me to help me to change – to become a better person, to become more like Him – but it’s not something that always becomes evident immediately.

But this process of transformation – the process of change – even though it’s slow, and sometimes imperceptible, it’s something we have to commit ourselves to. We have to reflect on our lives. We have to look at the places where we need to let God in more. We need to follow His Spirit more fully. We need to understand what it is that He wants from us and not just act on our own impulses. Go to the next slide.

Let’s reflect a little bit about our calling as a removal from our past ways. Now, those who didn’t grow up in the church can probably identify much more strongly with this scripture. I talk with people who talk about, “Boy, when I came into the church, I had to give up all my friends, because my friends were just not going God’s way and they weren’t going to encourage me to.” Or, “I had to stop my association with different activities or clubs I was in, whether it was something that happened on the Sabbath or things that just weren’t in line with the values of God’s way of life.” Because we read here in Ephesians 2:11-13 Ephesians 2:11-13 [11] Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
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Ephesians 2:11-13 Ephesians 2:11-13 [11] Why remember, that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.
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– “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

How incredible is it for people who didn’t know God’s way of life at all – had no concept of it – to come to it and really understand it? Let’s look at the next scripture – Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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– this is for all of us. Maybe some of us don’t have that same clear contrast between life before we were baptized and received God’s Holy Spirit, but this scripture applies no matter what, because we’ve signed on to this ongoing process. Let’s admit it. It’s not always easy.

Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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“Do not be conformed to this world” – Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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– “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” That’s what we’re to move to.

The thing that is made clear through these scriptures and many other passages is this idea of removal – just like we saw through all of these other characters within the Bible whose lives we see being removed from something. Transforming ourselves – moving towards the image of Jesus Christ – is what our spiritual lives are about.

So my question for all of us through the balance of the Feast, as we have this opportunity of hearing God’s Word daily, being removed physically from our day-to-day routine, having a chance to reflect on our lives, hopefully to set goals and objectives for how we’re going to live our lives when we return from the Feast, how do our actions reflect the values of our society rather than those of God? Fantastic sermonette today by Kamani, talking about exactly those things. In what ways do we have to further transform our thinking? The hallmark of our society today, fueled by social media, is separation, fragmentation, groups mixing up into different areas of opinion. Because how do make money if you’re in social media? Eyeballs, likes, views. How do you get people to keep viewing things? You get more and more salacious things out there, more and more extreme viewpoints to try to whip people up. And there are plenty of studies out there that will show that, as a people, even though social media should, in theory, and can draw people together, it’s more often dividing people up into separate camps. But we belong in one single camp, as Kamani so beautifully pointed out in the sermonette. We belong in the family of God. All of those other divisions, those separations, those opinions need to stay below that and subservient to the fact that God’s Spirit is in us, God has called us as part of His family. That’s where our focus needs to be. And, if you’re having difficulty with that, whether it’s with yourself, whether it’s with other people… I’ll just throw out a simple antidote that you might consider: it’s called 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve suggested this to a few people over the course of time in the last year and a half: and that is, if you find yourself getting whipped up about something that’s going on in the world today, if you think that you have all the answers for something and everyone else just has to see it, or perhaps someone else thinks that they have all the answers and you have to see it, take ten minutes out every night, read 1 Corinthians 13 before you go to bed. And, if you have God’s Spirit working in you, you cannot help but change your mind set if you’re taking in that chapter on a daily basis for a period of time and reflecting on those words. It strikes at the heart of what we need to think. It puts everything into perspective about our removal and what it is we need to start working toward.

Let’s move to the next slide – filling in one more blank – Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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. Transforming ourselves is part of this spiritual removal that we have to go through. And let’s face it. It’s a more difficult removal because it’s intangible. It requires us to look at our hearts. It requires us to ask God to prove us and to reveal things about ourselves, and for us to face, honestly, some ugly truths about ourselves.

Next slide – Understanding the process God is working out within us – our journey. This is where I’m going to make Wendy’s life difficult, and ask her if she will rewind us back to that earlier table. And what I want to focus on is that column there that says, “Journey,” and think about the number of years that passed with all of these different people. If I came up to you, and I said, “Hey, I’ve got this great plan. We’re going to go out and we’re going to convert a whole bunch of people to Christianity. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take somebody whose got an incredible background and a zeal that needs to be directed in the right way, and we’re going to call him. And do you know what we’re going to do next? We’re going to send him away for a dozen years.” What would you think of that plan? That’s the apostle Paul. Look at the time periods that are involved in the journey in each one of these examples – something we might not have focused on as carefully.

But there’s a common denominator in the journey that God puts human beings on. And that’s that it takes time. And what is more frustrating than that as a human being. You can turn to the Psalms and you’ll see David, and what does David cry out? “How long? How long, O LORD?” I’m sure we’ve all prayed that. I know I have. Probably the two most common phrases to God is why and how long. God works on a different schedule than we do, because He has a different objective than what we’re always tuned into. He knows exactly what He’s building on.  And as we see these examples and how they were fulfilled, and when we look in the rearview mirror on what it was that God was building, it all comes together. It all works perfectly.

Who would have thought to throw Joseph into prison on a trumped-up rape charge and think that that was, somehow, going to lead to the deliverance of his family from a famine? We would never construct something that way. It seems like a very round-about way of doing it. But God knew. God working something in Joseph, who was honestly a pretty immature guy. He was mouthing off to his brothers and strutting around as his father’s favorite. And God humbled him over the course of time, as well as working out exactly where He wanted him to be at exactly the right time to fulfill His plan. More time wouldn’t have done it. Less time wouldn’t have done it. But God knew and God worked that out.

Let’s fast forward again, Wendy, to the journey. God is working with us in the same way, and we have to expect to be on a journey, just like all of the other people God is calling.

Now, when we were going with a small group just a couple of days ago – we went out to Dunn’s River Falls – the guide pointed out to us the school along the way from here to Dunn’s River Falls where Usain Bolt went to high school. That was pretty neat to see. Fantastic sprinter. I think he was three times Olympic champion, if I’m not mistaken. I’m sure our Jamaican brethren will correct me if I got that wrong. But you look at Usain Bolt – look at how he’s built – his muscle structure. He had to train in a very specific way as a sprinter to have muscle structure. He doesn’t look like a marathon runner, does he? What do marathon runners look like? Then tend to be taller, tend to be very slender. They’re built differently because they train differently. Their muscles develop differently than somebody who is going to run sprints. Sprinters tend to be a lot more bulky – a lot stronger muscle structure – because of the muscles they need to react.

I saw a similar thing – I don’t know if many of you are Michael Jordan fans – but there was really interesting documentary that came out about two years ago about Michael Jordan, called The Last Dance – about twelve episodes long. It came out right about the time that Covid started, and so we spent a lot of time, as a family, watching those episodes, which I found really interesting. But further to this, it pointed out, at a certain point in Michael Jordan’s career, he quit playing basketball, and he went and decided to play baseball. And they interviewed his personal trainer. And he said, “Most people just don’t realize what it takes to switch sports like this. Because the muscle structure you need, the kind of workouts you do, what you do day-to-day changes so dramatically when you’re moving from basketball to baseball. And then, in the middle of a basketball season, he decided he was going to come back to basketball. And they talked about how difficult it was for him physically, because that wasn’t what he’d been training to do. It took him an entire year of a completely different physical regimen in order to be ready to play basketball again. Now, that’s a flimsy analogy compared to what we’re doing and what Jesus Christ is building within us – what God is building in us through His Spirit – but maybe it’s a way that helps us to understand it a bit better.

Let’s turn to the next verse. Our journey includes hardship. And it includes hardship for a purpose. You’ve probably heard messages comparing this to working out. There’s a spiritual muscle structure that God is trying to work within us. And it’s different than what humanity and society around us is trying to build. It’s not always compatible. In fact, it’s often incompatible.

James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 [2] My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; [3] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. [4] But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
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– “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

That word perfect is a bit of a unfortunate translation. Mature is probably a better way, because when we think of perfect, we think of something that has absolutely no flaw to it. But what this verse is really trying to get to is growing into a mature and complete person, like growing from a child into an adulthood – not being that bumbling toddler, like we heard, that can barely walk into being someone that can run in a coordinated fashion. So, God is trying to work spiritual maturity in us. And that’s something we have to understand about our journey. We have to be in the right training regimen so we’re building the right muscles, figuratively speaking, for that journey. Turn to the next slide please, 2 Corinthians 3:18 2 Corinthians 3:18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.
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– addressing the same concept.

2 Corinthians 3:18 2 Corinthians 3:18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.
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– “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image – from glory to glory – just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

What we’re being told here by Paul, as he addresses the Corinthians, is we’re in a process that is refining us, and changing us, and training us and moving us into the image – the mature image – of Jesus Christ. And we have to make no mistake about that in terms of what journey we’re on – what workout we’re supposed to be doing, figuratively speaking. Turn to the next slide.

So, that perspective – that understanding – of what it is that God is trying to work within us is incredibly important – just like the children of Israel. Yes, they were to be on the land. They were to build their houses. They were to till and God was going to give them physical blessings for the work they put in. But there were other things that they needed to recognize. And that was the supremacy of God and what God was trying to do.

We have to have that same perspective in our minds And, again, as we reflect during the remainder of the Feast, it’s something I encourage all of us to think about. How are we thinking about what it is that God is working out within us? And to be honest with you, there are some very dangerous messages out there about this. They come mainstream Christian circles. We’ve probably all been exposed to different gospel that say, “Plant the seed of faith, and God is just going to open the doors of heaven and give you riches.” We hear other messages that are out there about the fact that God wants you to be abundant – that’s usually always referred to in physical terms with material blessings – and that’s what God wants for you in life. That is not Scripture. That’s training for the wrong thing. If we’re going in and we’re trying to worship God, we’re trying to do Godly acts, we’re trying let His Spirit live within us, and we’re doing it because we think we then deserve a certain type of physical blessing – whatever that might be – we’re not focusing on the right journey. It’s not always an enjoyable thing for us to hear. It’s certainly not an enjoyable thing for us to go through as we go through those rough patches in life.

But what God clearly lays out in the scriptures that we read is, there’s a singular focus that He has. It’s the focus of bringing many sons to glory. He wants us in His Kingdom in the image of His Son – mature and complete. And He will do what it takes to build that within us. Like Anthony Coors said in his sermon a couple of days ago, expressing love in a way that we sometimes can’t understand, because it just feels like pain, and it feels like suffering. And that’s where it helps to stand back and understand that we are on this journey. We’re fulfilling this pattern that God has fulfilled so many times in human beings. And that’s what He’s trying to do.

Let’s go to the next slide, and we’ll attach James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 [2] My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; [3] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. [4] But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
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, to our journey – for those of you who are doodling on your picture.

And let’s go to the next slide and our last section for this message. And that is refocusing on the fulfillment of God’s plan. There’s a promise out there and we can never forget that God has this magnificent promise. It’s something we need to focus on. But it’s more than just a matter of sitting back, and saying, “Wow! Won’t it be great!” The Feast is about a whole lot more than that. And hopefully, as we’ve gone through this message, I’ve helped to convince people that that’s the case. Christianity is active. It’s not a passive thing. We do need to look to the promises, but we need to do it to motivate ourselves, to motivate others to be reminded of the journey we’re on and why it is that it is worthwhile in the end and have faith in God as we go through it. Go to the next slide. God has given us clear promises. We know that. We see it in the Bible and the Feast sharpens our view.

Let’s look at just a couple of those promises. One is the promise of a form of a permanent immortal body. Permanent immortal body. And again, we see here the terminology of tabernacles, tents, temporariness versus permanence coming through in this passage – 2 Corinthians 5:1 2 Corinthians 5:1For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
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2 Corinthians 5:1-5 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 [1] For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2] For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed on with our house which is from heaven: [3] If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. [4] For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed on, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. [5] Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit.
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– “For we know that if our earthly house – this tent – is destroyed, we have a building from God.” Now Paul is comparing us to one of these temporary flimsy structures – “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation, which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has also has given us His Spirit as a guarantee.” Through His Spirit, we can understand that God wants this more than anything. God wants our success, no matter what it might feel like at some point in time. I look at verse 4, and as every year goes by, I fulfill this a little bit more by groaning. If I sit down on a low couch and I try to get up… As people age, we recognize that, don’t we? We start to recognize some of the fragility and some of the temporary nature of our human body. Let’s go to the next slide.

Revelation 21 – we have a promise in the form of God’s permanent rule on this earth. It’s an incredible scripture – very moving to me, especially at this earth with everything that we deal with in the world. This permanent place that God will bring – which is going to take away all the suffering and all the self-sabotage we seem so good at as human beings.

Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 21:1-4 [1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city – the new Jerusalem – coming down from heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, there will be no more pain, for the former things are passed away.’”

This is the promise of true permanence – the tabernacle of God coming down – again, the symbol of God’s divine care returning to the earth and being with us – not in a transitory form, but permanently. God’s care will be there not only for us, but for all of humanity. We have the opportunity for everyone who has lived to have the opportunity to truly understand God and commit their lives to Him and to be sons and daughters in His Kingdom – one of the greatest hopes we have. Go to the next slide.

This promise fulfilled in Revelation 21:1-4 Revelation 21:1-4 [1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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, is something we can never forget. These things happen around us in the world, and it’s so easy for us, again, to just get walled inside of where we live – inside of our little box – and the Feast is a fantastic opportunity – through the messages we hear, through fellowship with one another, through quiet reflection on our own – to refocus ourselves on what that great promise is.

Along with the words last scripture, the word conclusion was always one of my favorites in the sermon when I was growing up. Let’s just recap. We live in a world where uncertainty is just rampant. I do tend to agree that the human brain has just a difficult time trying to deal with all the uncertainty that’s out there. The good news is we do not have to be uncertain. I think of Jesus Christ in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. The storm is out there. The boat is moving, the waves are high. Jesus Christ is asleep. He’s not worried about the winds and the waves that everyone else sees, because His faith in God and His knowledge of that plan that was going to be filled out, and the fact that God was not going to lose Him was so secure in His mind. He knew it. We have to that focus on that promise etched in our minds.

Let’s move to the last slide – and this is the last scripture as well. To me, this gives so much more context to this passage by Peter, where he says in 1 Peter 4:12 1 Peter 4:12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:
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1 Peter 4:12-13 1 Peter 4:12-13 [12] Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: [13] But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.
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– “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

If I can paraphrase this scripture in the context of what I’ve been talking about, what Peter is saying is, “Look, you’re on a journey. God has worked this process out with humanity over the millennia. So don’t think it’s odd that God is going to remove you from where you were. Don’t think it’s odd He’s taking you on a journey, and that journey is going to be longer, and perhaps sometimes more painful than any of us want. Don’t think that’s odd. Because God is taking us on a path – on a path to His fulfilled promise – a renewed heaven and earth – our eternal reward with bodies that will not disintegrate and degrade – and, in my opinion, the greatest truth that we have, which is that all of humanity can join us there if they so choose. They’ll have the opportunity to do that.

So, as we keep moving forward in this world of uncertainty, as we move forward these last couple days of the Feast, I’d just like to encourage everyone. Take a little time to reflect. Think of this process that God is working out. It’s wonderful to reflect on God’s care. We all have stories about how He’s poured out that divine and loving care on each one of us. Think about the journeys that we’re on and how we’re doing on that journey. And let’s set some goals to continue to move in a productive way towards that promise that God holds for us.