The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23

Today we look at the most popular Old Testament passage.  This Psalm has been quoted in fox holes and in funerals. Presidents have used it to help a grieving nation; Lincoln read it during the Civil War and George Bush after 911. It’s only 6 verses; simple enough for kids to understand and yet a bottomless pit for theologians to discover. The 23rd Psalm has ministered to millions of believers. It is as timeless today as it was when written over 3000 years ago.

Do you like dogs? We do. We have three. Have you ever seen a dog that was mistreated in some way? One time it was cold outside and I saw this dog tied to a tree shivering, I thought to myself, “that person really shouldn’t own a dog!” Or have you seen that person and their dog has a little sweater, their nails done and they eat like a king or queen? Like Paris Hilton’s dog carried around a little purse always on her lap?   Which dog would you chose to be?

Each of us has a choice in who will care for us in this life. Satan would love nothing more than for you to be tied up to a tree shivering out in the cold. Or we can choose to let God guide us. Some will say, “I lead myself.” If I lead myself I tend wrap the rope around and around the tree and I choke myself! I’m not capable leading myself for long. I believe God does a better job!

Let’s look at verse 1 “The LORD is my shepherd.” Noticed how personal this is.  It’s not, “the lord is A shepherd, but MY shepherd. I think it’s great to insert your name where it says “my shepherd.” The Lord is Darrell’s Shepherd.

Notice also the use of all cap for LORD. The word used here is the word “Yahweh.” the Covenant name of God, the personal name of God. We first see this word used in Exodus 3 when Moses asked God through the burning bush, “who shall I say sent me?” “God replies, you say ‘I AM THAT I AM’ sent you.”  Fast forward to the New Testament in John 8:58, Jesus was having a discussion about who he was with the Pharisees and he says, “before Abraham was I AM.” Jesus claims to be Yahweh; A God that is knowable. He is the first and the last,”  He is the one who’s “the same yesterday today and forever,” so another way to look at this Psalm is to say “Jesus is my shepherd” and that would be very accurate!

The second part of verse 1 says, “I shall not be in want.” This is also translated, “I shall not be in need.” God is our Shepherd and will meet our needs (not to be confused with our greeds.)  Phillip Keller wrote a book called, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” He was a Shepherd by trade born in Africa and later move to Canada. He writes that he would always take his sheep to the best pastures so that they could be fed and cared for. He tells of one particular sheep, a beautiful female. She would always tend to walk along the fence line looking out into another pasture; he also called her, “Ms. Gadabout.”  She never seemed to be content. I wonder how many of us as believers are like that? Always looking over the fence thinking that someone else’s life is better, or that someone else’s blessings are better or that the grass is greener? What type of reflection is that upon our shepherd who is guiding us and leading us exactly where he wants us to be?

In verse 2 it says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”  The main idea of these first two verses to me is that God wants to give us an enduring peace. I’ve been fascinated by the articles lately talking about how in our society today there are high levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia and suicide. Especially among young people, these issues are at all-time highs. I wonder how in a time where we have so much technology, so many medical advances, food and resources and comfort at our fingertips why is there such high stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia? Some propose different reasons, but I wonder how often do we trust those things instead of God? I know for me I’ve tried to find peace in the pantry (food or drink).  How many try to find peace in a pill or peace in a bottle, peace in a relationship?  I’ve discovered the only lasting peace is found in God.

In verse 3 it says, “you restore my soul.”  Sheep get “cast” meaning they eat something they shouldn’t eat and then it causes their bellies to swell up.  They then lie down and before long they’re lying on their back with their feet sticking up.  If they stay like this they will die.  The shepherd has to come along pick them up set them upright,  massage their swollen belly and help them to feel better.  This is also a picture of what God does for our hearts minds and souls when we follow him. That is why a day off is so important (like the Sabbath) a day to rest physically and mentally. But I also believe that we need to be restored spiritually by worshipping and attending church. This is how God restores our soul.

Verse 3 continues, he guides me in Paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  This could also be translated, “he guides me down well-worn paths.” In other words God knows the paths that we need to go down and they are clear in His Word. How many times do we try to take another path and find ourselves in trouble? There are some fascinating stories out there about sheep.  One that comes to mind is from some Shepherds in turkey that gathered their flocks together to talk, and before they knew it one of the small sheep decided to go off the cliff and took 400 other sheep with it before the shepherd’s could run over there and stop the chaos!  How many times we see people taking other people astray, away from God’s principles and paths that are clearly outlined in His Word?  We may think a new path or teaching may be better for us but it will lead us to death and destruction.

Verse 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  Can a shadow hurt you? When we walk with God even something as scary as death is only a shadow.  It reminds me of the story of a dad and his young daughter driving down the road with the windows open on a nice spring day. Suddenly a bee flies in, the little girl is terrified and begins to scream. She’s allergic to bees and a sting could be dangerous for her. The bee lands on the dashboard and the dad cups his hand over the bee and weights for the inevitable, the sting. After the bee stings he opens his hand and the bee flies out.  It’s buzzing around and the little girl screams again, “Oh Daddy the bee! The bee!” The dad says, “Honey he can’t hurt you now, and he opens his hand and reveals the stinger lodged in his hand.  And this is exactly what Jesus has done for us!  He’s taken the sting of death upon himself.

Shepherd’s would intentionally lead their sheep through dark valleys or crevices between cliff facings leading them from one pasture to another.  God also leads us through shadows and dark times in our lives. There’s a there’s an Arab proverb that says, “All sunshine and no rain makes for a desert.”  What does all rain make? A flood.  Plants and animals need both sun and rain.  Human beings also need times that are up and times that are down. God is the God of the hills and the valleys. God is there in the high times of our life and God is especially there in the low times of our life. Notice in verses 1 through 3 it says “he” or “his” five times referring to the Shepherd. In verse 4 he moves from talking ABOUT the shepherd to talking TO the shepherd!

It’s as if the dark times is when God becomes closest and most personal to us. It’s been said that, “God speaks to us in our pleasure but he shouts to us in our pain.” He is close to the brokenhearted. In dark times in scary times God is there.

It goes on to say,  “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”  This is referring to the tools that the shepherd would use. The rod was for protection. It was generally a heavy stick that could be used as a club against the enemies of the Sheep. The rod wasn’t for the Sheep, but the enemies of the sheep.

How many times do I try to fight my own battles instead of letting God fight my battles for me? I’m reminded that the battle belongs to the Lord. That no weapon formed against me shall prosper!  If I start trying to defend myself against people who would accuse me or speak against me main. I find myself on the wrong path of trying to get even, or get vengeance and that’s not God’s path for me.

The staff was longer and had a cook at the top.  The end was used to guide the sheep, or prod the sheep when they needed to go on the right path. The crook was used to catch the sheep if he was going to go off of a cliff.

Verse 5,  “you prepare a table for me” is also translated,  “you prepare a banquet.” The Hebrew word is, “a king’s table.”  This is no TV table! What do you find on a king’s table?  Just goldfish and juice boxes? No, the king’s table would have the very best! This is a picture of God desiring to bless us in the presence of our enemies. How many times do I know that I’m blessed, but I’m slow to acknowledge my blessings come from God to others? I don’t want people to be jealous or envious. But I’ve found that God chooses to bless His people and he’ll do it in front of others!  I don’t have to be ashamed a God’s blessings.

You anoint my head with oil.” Now this is a term it’s not used very much in today’s language. In Old Testament times anointing was generally for kings, prophets and priests.  They were anointed with olive oil (poured on their head) signifying that they were set apart for a particular task or purpose. The truth is that God still anoints as His followers today! You have been set apart for a task and purpose. That’s why God has created you to be here on this planet. He has something for you to do and he sets you apart and anoints you to make a difference in your family! To make a difference at your work!  To help people, serve people, love people, encourage people!  You are on this planet at this time at this moment and you’ve been anointed by God to make a difference.

“And my cup overflows.”  this is also a picture of God’s abundance. God doesn’t just bless us a little bit. He often gives us so much and we need to see ourselves blessed in this way!  Each of us has been greatly blessed by God and we have an opportunity to either act like Eor or from Winnie the Pooh. “Oh woe is me. poor me!” Or we can act like Tigger and be jumping up and excited about all that God has done in our lives.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”  This is a promise: God’s blessings are not just for today, but every day for the rest of my life!  Then it leads us to the last part that says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  As this Psalm closes it again reminds me of Jesus.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  He leads us, He calls us, He protects us, He lays his life down for the sheep. In the Old Testament the Sheep died for the sins of the Shepherd (in the sacrificial system). In the New Testament Jesus Our Shepherd dies for the sins of the sheep. He conquered death, He rose again and he says, “Do not fear, in my father’s house are many mansions I go and prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”  We know that guides us through life through hard times and ultimately to him in heaven.

I’ll close with story about a group of people that were at a dinner party.  At this gathering was a famous play actor who had been in Broadway plays and a few movies. People were asking him to quote famous lines from plays or movies. As he did people would clap and cheer.  There was also a pastor there that night and he asked the play actor, “Do you know the 23rd Psalm?  He’d had a hard week and he wanted a little bit of encouragement. The play actor said, “Yes I do know the 23rd song and I will quote it under one condition. After I quote it, I would like you to quote it.”  The pastor agreed, so the play actor quoted the 23rd Psalm and everybody clapped and cheered. It was a pastor’s turn, (thinking about his hard week and the Lord with him) he quoted the 23rd Psalm and when he got done there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Someone asked the play actor, “why when you quoted 23rd Psalm people clapped, but when he quoted the 23rd Psalm people cried.  (They were impressed by the play actor but they were moved by the pastor) The play actor said,  “I know the Psalm, he knows the shepherd.

Do you know the shepherd?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Special thanks for the inspiration from Rick Warren for his series, Living the Goodness of God. https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/daily-hope/series/
And Skip Heitzig, Safe and Sound, https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/connect/listen/safe-and-sound-part-2-627968.html
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The Shelter of God’s Word – Psalm 1

A young man was learning to skydive and was so excited that he would get to do his first solo jump. Before his solo jump, he was given these instructions, “You’ve seen how this works, jump when you are told. Count to ten and pull the ripcord.  In the unlikely event that your chute doesn’t open pull the emergency ripcord.  When you get down, a truck will be there to take you back to the airfield.

The young man had these instructions memorized as climbed aboard the plane. The plane climbed to ten thousand feet and the skydivers began to jump. When he was told to jump, he jumped. He then counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. Nothing happened. His chute failed to open. So he pulled the emergency ripcord. Still nothing happened. No parachute. “Oh great” he thought, “And I suppose the truck won’t be there when I get down either!”

I know that we all have had days like that where nothing seems to go right! In Psalm 1 we will see that like a parachute is to a skydiver, God’s word is to His followers, a matter of life and death.

This Psalm is so practical, in a nut shell it shows us two groups of people, going down two separate paths leading to two distinct destinations. Which one will you be, the righteous or the wicked? Which path will you take the one of sin and scorn or the one of blessing and prosperity?  Which destination will be yours at judgement, the place of death or life?

When I first read this Psalm as a teenager it spoke volumes to me about the company I kept.  My friends determined the path and the person I would become.

Let’s look at it:  Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,

Notice the pattern: walk, stand, sit.  As we walk with the wrong crowd we begin to be comfortable with it and to sit is to be entrenched their lifestyle. I’m sure that you had an experience or are living an experience like I did in 7th-9th grade.   I had some friends who got involved in drugs, they used drugs and then they begin to sell drugs.  We rode the bus together, played baseball and were in boy scouts together.  As I continued to walk with them what do you think happened to me?  You know the answer.  As I walked with them, I stood and did drugs with them too, how long before I would sit or be entrenched in that lifestyle and sell drugs too?  Because of Christ in my heart, His word in my mind and my parents and other godly influences in my life I was able to change my friends and go down a different path.

I experienced the wrong path and I’m sure you have too.  It’s great that God has an alternative path for us!

“Blessed (or happy) is the one whose… delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

God’s word puts us on the right path.   I like the word “delight” because it reminds me that Christianity is not a list of “do’s and don’ts.”  Walking with Christ is not what we are against its about what we are for.  We love Jesus, we love God’s word, we delight in what’s right.

Meditate” is not something the Buddhist or Eastern religions came up with.  It’s biblical.  It’s means in the Hebrew to “chew the cud.”  It’s a picture of a cow or sheep regurgitating what it ate for breakfast (gross I know) and then re-chewing it to get the most of it.  How do we meditate on God’ word?  Read it, think about it, talk about it, discuss it with others, memorize it, teach it to others and most importantly do it and live it.   That’s why church is so important.  We get to do all of the above together: messages, Connect groups, and kid’s classes and youth group.

Our families are also a great opportunity to meditate on God’s word.  We have Discussion Questions each week to go with each message on the outline to take home and discuss with your family. I love how God tells us in Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 that we can walk, stand and sit as go through God’s Word together.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Notice the three illustrations that blessing or happiness in verse 3.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither
whatever they do prospers.

Let’s consider each of these:

  1. Planted by streams of water.” (We have what we need.)

When I read this I think about the Cypress trees along the San Antonio Riverwalk.  Having grown up in San Antonio I love to go back there and walk along the river enjoying the shade, the beauty and the majesty of these trees. I can’t reach my arms around them they are so large. When I look up, they tower into the sky. Their roots are well established with their nobs or knees that pop up along the bank showing their grip.

These trees are a picture of stability, much like the life of Christ follower who lives by God’s word.  We are established. We have our needs met, we are satisfied, we are secure.  Contrast this with a leaf that is blowing down the sidewalk like verse 4 reminds us.

  1. Yields it Fruit” (Fruitful)

If we delight in the Word of God we will be a fruitful people Do you know a fruitful person? They are refreshing and nourishing to be around. You go away from them encouraged. You go away strengthened. Their words are healing and convicting and encouraging and deepening. Being around them is a blessing.

  1. Whose leaf does not wither” (Perseverance)

In life we will all experience storms, drought, high winds, sleet, cold and high heat.  We all face these hardships, but rooted in God’s word we can persevere.  We will not be blown by winds of cultural change.  We will hold on when life is hard because our foundation is not in people or money but God’s word.

  1. Whatever they do prospers” (Prosperity)

I’m reluctant to even mention prosperity because of the misunderstanding that has been given by some that following God leads to monetary wealth.  Part of God’s blessing could be monetary; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Job were all wealthy, but the best definition of prosperity is knowing and living for God.  Prosperity is long term as opposed to money that is short term.  Prosperity is hearing, “well done my good and faithful servant.”

As we close out this Psalm, I want to share with you something else that jumped out to me as I looked closer at the last two verses.   It’s about Jesus!

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

What about Jesus? How does this psalm lead us to Christ?

The word righteous in verse 5 and 6 presses us forward to Christ as our righteousness.

Righteous and righteousness are major biblical words and doctrines listed over 1000 times in our bibles.

Let me share a few.

Jesus lived out righteousness: 

When Jesus asked John to baptize him, John objected saying, “no, you should baptize me” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15 (NIV)

Jesus said we should seek righteousness: 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Jesus says that we can’t earn righteousness by our good deeds:

 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (NIV)

Jesus says righteousness is about believing:

 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. Matthew 21:32 (NIV)

 Who is righteous? 

Paul writes,

 “There is no one righteous, not even one; Romans 3:10 (NIV)

How do we become righteous?

  • By faith

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (NIV)

  • In Jesus

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:22 (NIV)

 How does this apply to Psalm 1?  We were on the wrong path, walking with sinners, sitting with scorners, being blown away by the wind and heading for death and judgement.  Christ takes us, gives us new life by planting us by the streams of water; Him.  We find life, peace, fruitfulness, blessing only in Christ.

Thank you Jesus!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Inspiration for this post is from:
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 85-87.
Rod Mattoon, Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Treasured Psalms, Volume 1, (Springfield, IL: Lincoln Land Baptist Church, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 4-19.
John Piper, Desiring God, Summer Psalms

 

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Storm Shelter – Introduction to Psalms

How often you check the weather forecast? I find myself doing this often to be prepared for rain, sleet, wind or storms. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an app giving a forecast for the real storms of life?  Although no such app exists we do know that storms are a part of life.  In our series from the book of Psalms we will learn that God provides shelter from life’s storms. He does not just provide shelter, God is our shelter.

At the center of the Bible is the book of Psalms. This great collection of songs and prayers expresses the heart and soul of humanity. In them we find the whole range of human experiences expressed.

Dr. J Vernon McGee has written, “Someone has said that there are 126 psychological experiences, I don’t know how they arrived at that number, but I do know that all of them are recorded in the Book of Psalms. It is the only book which contains every experience of a human being. The Psalms run the psychological gamut. Every thought, every impulse, every emotion that sweeps over the soul is recorded in this book.”

I’m grateful to John Piper for compiling this list of emotions found in the Psalms:

  • Loneliness: “I am lonelyand afflicted” (Psalms 25:16).
  • Love: “I loveyou, O Lord, my strength” (Psalms 18:1).
  • Awe: “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in aweof him” (Psalms 33:8).
  • Sorrow: “My life is spent with sorrow” (Psalms 31:10).
  • Regret: “I am sorryfor my sin” (Psalms 38:18).
  • Contrition: “A broken and contriteheart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalms 51:17).
  • Discouragement and turmoil: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoilwithin me” (Psalms 42:5)?
  • Shame: “Shamehas covered my face” (Psalms 44:15).
  • Exultation: “In your salvation how greatly he exults” (Psalms 21:1).
  • Marveling: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelousin our eyes” (Psalms 118:23).
  • Delight: “His delightis in the law of the Lord” (Psalms 1:2).
  • Joy: “You have put more joyin my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalms 4:7).
  • Gladness: “I will be gladand exult in you” (Psalms 9:2).
  • Fear: “Serve the Lord with fear” (Psalms 2:11).
  • Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalms 4:4).
  • Peace: “In peaceI will both lie down and sleep” (Psalms 4:8).
  • Grief: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalms 6:7).
  • Desire: “O Lord, you hear the desireof the afflicted” (Psalms 10:17).
  • Hope: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hopein you” (Psalms 33:22).
  • Brokenheartedness: “The Lord is near to the brokenheartedand saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
  • Gratitude: “I will thankyou in the great congregation” (Psalms 35:18).
  • Zeal: “Zealfor your house has consumed me” (Psalms 69:9).
  • Pain: “I am afflicted and in pain” (Psalms 69:29).
  • Confidence: “Though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalms 27:3).

More explicitly than all the other books in the Bible, the Psalms are designed to awaken and shape our emotions in line with the instruction they give.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was crucified, but the Psalms tell us what went on in His own heart during the Crucifixion. The Gospels tell us He went back to heaven, but the Psalms begin where the Gospels leave off and show us Christ seated in heaven.

There are sixteen messianic psalms that speak specifically about Christ, but all 150 of point to Christ. “The Book of Psalms is a hymnbook and a HIM book — it is all about Him.”

“Out of 219 quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, 116 of them are from the Psalms,” says Dr. McGee.

Psalms has the more chapters of any book in the bible.

Purpose of Psalms:  To provide poetry for the expression of praise, worship, and confession to God

Authors: David wrote 73 psalms; Asaph wrote 12; the sons of Korah wrote 9; Solomon wrote 2; Heman (with the sons of Korah), Ethan, and Moses each wrote one; 51 psalms are anonymous. The New Testament ascribes two of the anonymous psalms (Psalms 2 and 95) to David (see Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7).

Date Written: Between the time of Moses (approximately 1440 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.)

Christ (the Messiah) is prominent throughout. The King and the Kingdom are the theme songs of the Psalms.

The key word in the Book of Psalms is Hallelujah, that is, Praise the Lord. This phrase has become a Christian cliché, but it is one that should cause a swelling of great emotion in the soul. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

Different types of psalms were written to communicate different feelings and thoughts regarding a psalmist’s situation.

Psalms of Lament express the author’s crying out to God in difficult circumstances. Psalms of Praise, also called hymns, portray the author’s offering of direct admiration to God. Thanksgiving psalms usually reflect the author’s gratitude for a personal deliverance or provision from God. Other types of psalms are referred to today as Wisdom psalms.

Did you know that Psalms is found at the center of your bible?

The very center of the Bible when measured by chapter count is Psalms 118.

Here are some other fun facts surrounding Psalm 118:

  • The longest chapter of the Bible falls just after this center chapter– Psalm 119.
  • The shortest chapter of the Bible falls just after this center chapter– Psalm 117.
  • There are exactly 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and exactly 594 chapters after it. When you add the number of chapters before Psalms 118 and those after, the sum is 1,118. And the verse at the very center of the Bible is Psalms 118:8.

The Center Verse

Psalm 118:8 – “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (NIV)

God is our refuge and shelter!   I hope that you will join us in our series, Storm Shelter.

We’ll cover:

  • The Shelter of God’s Word -Psalm 1
  • The Shelter of God’s Leading -Psalm 23
  • The Shelter of God’s Presence -Psalm 84
  • The Shelter of God’s Power -Psalm 95
    The Shelter of God’s Encouragement -Psalm 42
  • The Shelter of God’s Forgiveness-Psalm 51

Darrell

http://www.Upwards.Church

Sources:

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/songs-that-shape-the-heart-and-mind
  1. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “PSALMS”.
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 841-842.

 

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God is With Us – The Tabernacle, Ex. 40

This week we’re wrapping up Exodus and it ends on a positive note.  Last week, we examined the Golden Calf debacle, a real low point for the people of God.  Many of you know that I attended Texas A&M and love a good aggie joke.  The Israelites, like many of us can’t help but make some boneheaded decisions from time to time. It reminds me of… the aggie that interviewed for a job painting highway stripes.  The foreman said, “to get this job, we have to have an agreement.  I need for you to paint at least 3 miles of stripes a day.”  The aggie said, “no problem, I can do that.”   The first day, he painted 5 miles of stripes. The foreman was impressed. His second day on the job, the aggie painted 3 miles of stripes. The third day, the aggie only painted 1 mile of stripes and the fourth day a ½ mile. The foreman said, “I don’t think this is working out. What’s the deal? Your first day you did so well, but now it’s bad.”  The frustrated aggie replied, “I’m sorry boss, the bucket just keeps getting farther and farther away!”

The Israelites learned from their mistake.  As Exodus closes, they have been faithful, helpful and generous. They would follow God’s instructions, build the Tabernacle and experience God’s blessings upon them.

I love this quote from Skip Heitzig, he says, “Exodus starts out in the brickyards of Egypt, but ends in the tabernacle with God living at the center of his people. In the same way God wants to take us out of the slavery of sin and live at the center of our lives.”

In Exodus 25-40, God told Moses how to build the Tabernacle, and Moses delegated jobs in order to do it. God allows people to participate with him in carrying out his will. Our task is not just to sit and watch God work, but to give our best effort when work needs to be done.

The physical care of the Tabernacle required a long list of tasks, and each was important to the work of God’s house. This principle is important to remember today when God’s house is partly represented by the church. There are many seemingly unimportant tasks that must be done to keep our church buildings maintained. Cleaning, mowing, printing, washing dishes, changing diapers, painting walls, or pulling weeds may not seem very spiritual. But they are vital to the ministry of the church and are an important part of our worship of God.

I was amazed as I studied the Tabernacle how much it is mentioned in the bible.  Did you know that 1/3 of the book of Exodus deals with the Tabernacle?!  Chapter 25 to chapter 40 (leaving out 32 & 33 the Golden Calf) gives us 13 chapters.  Leviticus has 18 chapters devoted to the Tabernacle. Numbers has 13 chapters devoted to the Tabernacle. Deuteronomy has 2 chapters devoted to the Tabernacle. Hebrews has 4 chapters devoted to the Tabernacle.

50 Bible chapters devoted to the Tabernacle!   It must be important.

Each aspect of the Tabernacle teaches us about Christ. The tabernacle was designed specifically, in detail by God, and pointed to the Person and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

We will look at this in more detail when we get into Leviticus next year but briefly I’ll share how a few parts point to Christ.

By looking at the image of the Tabernacle, see that there was only one way in.  This reminds us of Jesus who said, “I am THE way, no one comes to the father but by me.” John 14: 6  In John 10, Jesus says that he is THE gate, whoever enters through me will be saved.”

After the entrance we come face to face with the altar, a place of death and sacrifice. Sheep, goats and bulls were sacrificed at the altar and their blood atoned for the sins of the people.  When John the Baptist sees Jesus he reminds us, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  Jesus’ death on the cross, his shed blood is our atonement “once for all.”

Then we see a large basin for washing. The washing symbolized spiritual cleansing and forgiveness of sins. The basin reminds us that we are washed and cleansed by Christ.  The basin is also a picture of baptism, we are dead in our sins as we go down into the water but come up raised to walk in new life with Christ.

Next, entering the Holy Place and Most Holy Place we see that the décor changes from bronze on the outside to gold on the inside.  Gold symbolizes royalty and deity. The articles in the Holy Place reminds us of how we are to live with Christ in our lives.

The menorah represents the perfect light of Christ that guides us. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”  The bread of Presence reminds us that Christ is our sustenance and living bread. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”

The Altar of Incense pointed to Jesus Christ as the great Intercessor and Mediator who represents us before God and makes our prayers acceptable to God.

The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place were divided by a large (shielding) curtain.  Do you remember what happened to the curtain when Jesus died on the cross?  “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Because of Jesus, “we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.”

As the Moses and the people finish the work of the Tabernacle, God is pleased.  Let’s look at what happens.

Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle

God’s presence is with His people!  He is living or dwelling at the center of his people.  The people see and experience the glory of God.   Every day when they woke up and they looked out and saw God and his glory in their presence.  Isn’t that what Jesus also did?

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Christ was born and came to “tabernacle” (dwell) with us.

As Exodus closes, not only was God with the people, He also guided them.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.

The Israelites were once Egyptian slaves making bricks without straw. Here they were following the presence of God, carrying the Tabernacle or place of worship that they had built for God.

Exodus begins in gloom and ends in glory. This parallels our progress through the Christian life. We begin as slaves to sin and are redeemed by God.  He guides us through life with His word, the Holy Spirit, the church, and other believers.  We always have his presence and guidance.  We end our pilgrimage living with God forever.

Darrell

Sources: Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 156.
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Exodus II, (Chattanooga: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “F. The Assembly and Dedication of the Tabernacle, the Center of Worship: Experiencing the Presence of the Lord, 40:1-38”.
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