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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Service

Carrying Your Tent Peg

tabernacle

Numbers 4:29-33
As for the sons of Merari, thou shalt number them after their families, by the house of their fathers;
From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every one that entereth into the service, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the tabernacle of the congregation; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof,
And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.
This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service, in the tabernacle of the congregation, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

 

Numbers 4:1-4
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers,
From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.
This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things:

 

Just some brief data about the Tabernacle here:

  • External Courtyard 150 x 75 feet. Outer walls 7 feet high.
  • Tabernacle tent itself. 45 x 15 feet, covered by an external tent structure.
  • Made of animal skins, ropes, poles and pegs, really a huge tent.
  • The Israelites were led by the Shekinah Cloud of Glory by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the cloud or pillar moved, so did the camp
  • It would have taken many wagons, oxen, and men to move all of the different parts of the Tabernacle, and God as was His habit, specifically assigned duties to different people. They did not simply pick and choose who did what, God assigned it.

 

That is even how it is today, God has a plan for all of us, every single one of us. This plan is specific to each of us and includes the tiniest details of our lives. God made this plan for each of us in eternity past and knows how us following or not following His plan will affect His ultimate plan for eternity future. And yes, we can exercise our God-given free will and choose not to follow His plan for our lives.

Some of us are Kohathites and some of us are Merarites. That is, in the service of God, some of us get to do the “important” jobs and some of us get to do the “Not so important” jobs. That was also the case for the Israelites as they wandered the desert for 40 years, One of the assigned responsibilities of the sons of Kohath was to carry the Ark of the Covenant, and lead the procession as the people moved from one place to another. The sons of Mera were assigned to carry the frames of the Tabernacle: the ropes, bases, and tent pegs. There is little doubt that carrying the Ark of the Covenant was seen as much more glamorous and “important” than carrying a tiny little tent peg!

The 4 men who each carried the four corners of the Ark of the Covenant were literally one in a million men, while men who merely carried tent pegs may have been barely noticed as they trudged through their lives diligently doing their duty and carrying their tent peg.

Imagine being Joe the Merarite, carrying your little unimportant tent peg year after year for forty years of wandering in the desert. Imagine packing up your peg year after year after year as the Tabernacle was moved from on place to the next as the Pillar of Fire moved. Imagine seeing how everybody noticed and fawned over the men carrying the Ark, or the altars or the contents of the tabernacle such as the lampstands and so forth.

It’s easy to imagine how Joe the Merarite might feel or what he might say as time marched on and he carried his little unimportant tent peg. “This tent peg can’t be very important, there are dozens of them!”,;” Why hasn’t Aaron the Priest ever come by and patted me on the back?”: “Look how everybody notices Bob the Kohathite and his stupid Ark!” It’s easy to see how over years Joe could become disillusioned.

What if Joe just got fed up one day and decided he was simply done carrying that little tent peg? It’s easy to picture one day as, the Pillar of Fire moved onward signifying that the camp was to move, that Joe the Merarite might just say to himself that he might just sleep in that day, since nobody would even miss his little unimportant tent peg. It’s easy to imagine the whole camp packing up, traveling through the desert, and setting up wherever the Pillar of Fire settled down. But, what might have happened when the Camp arrived at the new location, set everything in place, and then discovered that all was ready except for that one little, unimportant tent peg? Is it possible that the entire congregation might have been prevented from properly worshipping God just because of one small tent peg? After all, the design of the Tabernacle was very specific, down to the smallest detail; the truth is, without that one little unimportant tent peg the Tabernacle was in fact not complete the way God designed it.

Are you called to carry an Ark or a tent peg? Are you called to Preach? Are you called to sing in the Choir? Are you called to teach Sunday School? Are you called to clean the Sanctuary after Sunday service? Are you called to mow the Churchyard? Are you called to clean the bathrooms? Not everyone is called to carry an Ark. Some of us may spend years doing no more than carrying a tent peg.

But, whatever it is we have each been called to do, every task is ordained and designed by God. Each and every task is part of God’s design and the Tabernacle we call our Church is not complete without every single component in place. And, without every single component in its proper place, God’s design for our worship is not complete. What that means to us in our everyday lives of Christian service is that, whatever we have been called to do, every job is important. In fact, no job, no matter how “important” or “not so important” is actually of equal importance in the eyes of God. And we are to do our called and assigned tasks for as long as God requires it of us and to the best of our ability for that assigned duration

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Taking Off Your Uniform

 

 

2 Kings 5:9-11

“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.”

The full story for the background for this article can be found in 2 Kings 5, but we will briefly recap it here. Naaman, the Syrian General, had been afflicted with leprosy and was, of course, desperate for a cure. Word came to Naaman that the great Prophet of the Jews, Elisha, could cure him of his disease. As befitting a great general, Naaman showed up at Elisha’s home complete with Chariot and entourage, like the great man he was back in Syria.

We all know the story. Elisha didn’t even go outside to greet the great general; he simply sent a messenger out and told Naaman basically, “Go wash in the Jordan river, and you will be clean.” That was simple and with no fanfare at all. Needless to say, Naaman was greatly insulted, as he expected some great miracle from the Prophet. Naaman surely thought Elisha would come to the door, make a big greeting and perform some showy ritual for the big General. Elisha did not so Naaman stormed home in a huff basically. Of course, he was still leprous!

It was not until later in the passage, when Naaman’s servants spoke with him, that he changed his thoughts about what had happened. They pointed out to him, basically, that if Elisha had asked him to do some great thing that made him look good he would have done it; yet he had refused to do this simple thing that only glorified God.

Are we like that? Do we make a pretense of seeking what God wants, but what we really seek is the thing that preserves our status in our own eyes? Are we willing to “Take off our uniform?” Are we truly willing to humble ourselves and submit to the will of God, even when it doesn’t make us look good?

Naaman finally did humble himself and submit and was healed of his leprosy. We too might find that if we humble ourselves and submit we would also be healed of the diseases that afflict us: sin, death and lack of joy among them.

Faith In Action-Righteous Prayers

faith in action

James 5:15-20

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Here things seemingly get complicated. What does sin, faith, and Elijah all have to do with any of this? Well, here go my thoughts for what they are worth.

Why are they praying about this man’s sin? Maybe he is sick because he sinned. I don’t know. Even if this man’s sin had not made him sick, we all know one important thing: sin is an impediment to our prayers to God. Even if our malady is not caused by sin, it is simply a good practice to seek forgiveness for our sins before talking to God. Even though we may be forgiven the penalty for our sin, the presence of unresolved sins in our lives still hinders our fellowship with God.

It is important that we pray with the full faith that God will, in fact, answer our prayer. If we pray without granting God ultimate power to accomplish anything He wants to, we should not expect answers.

We have to pray in God’ will. This may be an illustration again of the presence of the Elders in the life of this ailing person. How do we learn God’s will? A knowledge of God’s will is a learned thing. We come to understand it through prayer, study, and meditation. Certainly a case could be made that the prayers of the Elders, while not necessarily more effective than the prayers of other believers, might be grounded in a better understanding of what God’s will might be in a situation.

If there was ever a many tuned into the will of God, Elijah would have been one. I can only imagine this great man of God, praying for the rain with great faith and great understanding of what God was trying to accomplish. Elijah prayed that a drought be ended and the rains given, and it happened! Clearly, Elijah was both fervent and effectual in his prayer, and his prayer was answered.


Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Finally, James closes his Epistle in a way we would certainly expect. The entire theme of James’ writing has been about the demonstration of true, saving faith. James has attempted to teach us that while what we do never saves us, what we do certainly provides the evidence and reality of our salvation. Who is the warning in the last few verses intended for? Given the overall tone of James’ writing, I think this is a warning to those who may be backsliding into a life of sin. He has spent an entire book warning what true faith looks like, so this seems to fit.

We certainly have a responsibility to an erring brother or sister, and it may be as important as our responsibility to win the lost.

Blessings and hope that you have enjoyed our trip through the Book of James.

Faith In Action-Who’s Doing the Healing? And What’s With the Oil?

faith in action

James 5:14-16

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Given the likely timing of this Epistle, it is very possible that the gifts of healing were still widespread and common at the time of its writing. That would make it possible that the Elders were to be called for the simple reason that they had been gifted with special powers to heal on The Lord’s behalf. Given that the sign gifts were primarily designed to establish the authority of the representatives of Jesus on the Earth and not simply for the sheer sake of healing itself, I don’t see that to be the case here; however, I certainly don’t dismiss it either.

Let us have a look at some issues and questions. Is this person sick because they don’t have enough faith in their prayers to have an effect? I would disagree totally with that and further say the telling anyone they are not healed because of their lack of faith is quite damaging. Is the healing discussed because of the extraordinary faith of the elders? I say no on that one as well.

We discussed earlier the fact that God has never stopped being God. He can do anything, at any time, and that would include things which might be considered miracles to us. But the key point is: Who did it? Well, God of course. That has always been the case and is the case even if He uses a representative to do it. It has always been, and always will be, God doing the healing and not man.

So, what is with the oil anyway? Some things to quickly note here. The anointing is being done in the ailing person’s home, and not with the congregation. So James is not trying to teach us that anointing with oil is some rite or ritual we are to practice. Really, it seems far simpler than all of that. Applying oil to the sick was simply part of what was, at the time, modern medical treatment. It is more or less what we should do today if we are sick: see a doctor and pray for God to heal!

Faith In Action-Why Call the Elders?

faith in action

James 5:14,15

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Previously we discussed the idea of an afflicted or ill person bearing some responsibility for getting him or herself assistance when they need it; they are to call the elders, and furthermore, the elders are to respond.

This is not the place to discuss the particulars of who the elders of any particular church are, or exactly what the word represents. Elders, deacons, pastors: the name used matters not nearly so much as what they represent.

Some might say the reason for calling the elders is because they have some special authority granted to have a special pipeline to God for the healing the sick. I personally don’t see this as being the case, now allow me to explain. Regardless of how we see the definition of the name elder, it is evident that the word is being used to represent those in the church who are spiritually mature and full of Godly wisdom. The question, then, becomes why that matters!

Why is this person sick? We don’t see the answer in concrete, but we can see some possibilities from context. We have been discussing the trials and pressures placed on those who live the Christian life. Perhaps this person was not so much sick as simply exhausted and worn out from the trials. Perhaps they are just wearied in their Christian life to the point where they have become ill. Who better, then, to provide comfort and guidance on how to recover from this malady than those who are mature and may have lived these very issues themselves.

It may be possible that this illness has come about as a result of some sin. Does our sin always result in illness? Absolutely not. Can our sin result in illness? Absolutely. Do we know that this is happening here? Not really. But, if sin is a factor, then perhaps what we see here is simply some church discipline going on. If not, then still who better to help a believer work through an issue such as this than those who are more mature and experienced?

Isn’t this simple thought true in all of our lives? The Christian walk can be a tough one at times and may take us to the point of exhaustion and even illness. Some may be new and unseasoned believers when exposed to all of this. Rather than just suffering in silence and perhaps falling away, we should seek those who can help us. Those of who are blessed with wisdom and experience should be ready always to help those who need it.

Faith In Action-Sick? Call for Help

faith in action

James 5:14

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Have you ever noticed that your pastor is a very busy man? Most are. Have you ever seen or heard a situation where a person got their feelings hurt because they felt ignored when a need presented itself?

We don’t necessarily see just why the person in this passage is sick. As with most of this passage, there is more than a substantial discussion about it. He may be simply sick. It may be that the trials and persecutions discussed previously have worn the person down to the point that they have become sick. They may even be sick as a result of sin.

The whys of the sickness don’t really matter as much as the reaction. Note here one very important thought, and the answer to this question: Who called for the elders? Correct, the person suffering the illness called. Why does that matter?

It matters because our Pastors, Elders/Deacons, cannot be all places at all times, nor are they all knowing. We certainly bear some responsibility to communicate our needs to our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a shame to be suffering from some great need and it not be met simply because nobody knew

Additionally, look at the reaction once a summons is made. The elders come; they respond to this expressed need. People gather to meet the need once it has been expressed.

This may not be the primary point of this passage, but it is certainly one we can make. We are to be there for each other. We should communicate our needs to those who can help us. If we are not the suffering ones, we should pray for, assist, and uplift those among us who are in need, whether physical or emotional.

Faith In Action-Ups and Downs

faith in action

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

During most of James Chapter 5, we have been dealing with some issues involving how we deal with and react in particular situations. We have discussed how we react to being rich and how we react to being poor. We have discussed reaction in terms of patience when confronted with the various trials and tribulations we may face to include interpersonal conflicts.

Even though there is some discussion about illness, faith, anointing and prayer in the section that follows I have, after substantial study and reflection, come to the opinion that this section is probably not about healing per se, but guidance on practical ways to deal with the issues of life. I am not saying healing does not occur, just that I don’t think that is what is being covered here as the main point. Overall, I think this fits with the practical nature of James’ Epistle.

Actually, the word affliction as used here has nothing to do with physical sickness at all, but more along the lines of. “suffering in difficult circumstances, ” or “in trouble.”  This ties our verse in quite nicely with the passages before and in my thoughts, ties it in with the ones to follow as well.

This seems to be a clear lesson. God wants to communicate with us; specifically,  He wants us to communicate with Him! Life will have its ups and downs; sometimes things will go our way, and sometimes we will be troubled, or afflicted. When we are in trouble God wants us to turn to Him in prayer. When life is great, God wants us to thank Him for it.

Do we do that? Is God our first resort when things head in a direction we don’t like or is He our last resort after we have exhausted all or our human resources? When life is great, who gets the credit? Do we pat ourselves in the back for a job well done or do we thank the true source of our many blessings?

David Jeremiah captures the essence of this well by saying, “We have a God for all seasons “(from What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do) He then goes on to quote the following from his own readings (from Alec Motyer, The Message of James.)

“Both in periods of suffering and trouble and in times of joy, prayer and praise alike acknowledge that He is sufficient. To pray to Him is to acknowledge His sovereign power in appointing our circumstances. Whether as the source of supply in need, or the source of gladness or our joy, God is our sufficiency.”

And finally, the chorus from a favorite song of mine really captures the essence very well. From the song, God On the Mountain.

For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

Faith In Action-Prayers For The Sick

faith in action

James 5:14,15

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Wow. Here we have what might be considered a pretty complicated passage of scripture and also one that is considered controversial by some. My hope and my desire are to nail down some clear lessons, while not getting bogged down in the controversy. Just some quick thoughts and questions to start with. Comments and thoughts are welcome, fighting and arguing are not!

Is God still God and can He, at any time, do anything He wants to do? Yes

Can God, through His sovereign power do anything he desires, even alter the “natural” course of events? Yes

Does God answer prayer the way we want? Yes

Does God sometimes not answer prayer in the way we want? Yes

Does God promise special healing based on the amount of faith we have or the special relationship the person praying might have with Him? No, but.

Can sin make us sick? Does our sin sometimes result in real physical maladies? Without a doubt.

Is illness always caused by sin in our lives or lack of faith? Absolutely not.

So, you see there are many questions raised by this particular passage, and I hope all will take the time to study for themselves and reach their own conclusions. Do that, and let’s talk again in a few decades when we all have it figured out. In the meantime, some things do seem fairly clear as we read through this passage in God’s Word.

One thing that is somewhat unclear and debated is whether this particular passage actually refers to physical illness in the first place. Some writers would say it does, while others would say it does not. Some think it means one thing in on usage and another thing in yet another usage. I’ll leave the linguistic debates for the experts.

What we can see clearly in this passage is one thing. God expects us to pray. And that, no matter who one interprets the particulars of this passage, is a clear lesson we see here.

Think on all of those things, and over the course of the next few days we will explore around some of the things we see here.

Faith In Action-Happy? Then Sing Praises!

faith in action

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

This is pretty simple. If we are afflicted, under fire, and set upon, we should pray. If we are not suffering any of these things, we should rejoice! We can’t really minimize the importance of these two directives standing side by side. The fact that they are side by side tells us one thing; to sing praises when things are good is just as important as prayer when things are bad.

There are several ideas we could toss around here regarding these thought being placed together. No matter how we might see these statements, the lesson remains the same. Prayer matters and praise matters. Prayer and joyful praise are both vital and important parts of the life of a believer, and the life of the church.

James may be using this as an example to us that our lives will be a mixture of ups and downs, and valleys and mountaintops. Even as likely is the idea, based on the earlier discourse on patience during trials, that there is a completely different idea being taught here. Perhaps James is not illustrating the idea that these are two separate events, the affliction, and the merriness. Wait, is it possible the two can coexist together?

Perhaps what is being taught here is that even through the affliction we may be under, that we are to maintain our joy, even in the face of it. What could we possibly find to praise God for during the tough times?

How about we praise Him for the grace to make it through the trial? How about we praise Him for the comfort He will provide through the trial? How about we praise Him for the fact that He will resolve the issue, in the way that most honors Him and is ultimately best for us?

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