Feast: Outside the Normal Pattern of Order
Martin G. Collins
Given 07-Oct-17; 74 minutes
God does not do anything randomly. Everything He does is orderly and at the proper time. And I thought it was interesting that the last hymn we sang says that exact thing, that He does things at the proper time. It is interesting how God ties these things together.
I am going to begin by reading part of a somewhat scientific article, just an excerpt out of it. You do not have to be concerned about getting every detail of it. I just want you to get the gist of what is being described here. I promise you will not be tested on the material afterwards.
Dr. Henry M. Morris, the chief executive officer of Institute for Creation Research, in his article “Can Order Come Out of Chaos?”, analyzes the faulty reasoning behind chaos theory. He begins with the analogy of the turbulent hydraulics of a waterfall (we can all picture that) which seemed to exhibit some kind of order in the apparently chaotic tumbling. And that the faulty chaos theory has been developed to try to explain and measure the order in this chaos.
Sounds like a contradiction in a way, does it not? Even very regular linear relationships will eventually become irregular and disorderly if left to themselves long enough. Thus, an apparent chaotic phenomenon may well represent a breakdown in an originally ordered early system, even when the disruption is minute. This has become known as the “butterfly effect.” Most of us are familiar with that term. James Gleick is an American author and historian of science whose work has chronicled the cultural impact of modern technology. He has simply defined this term as follows (that is, the butterfly effect): the notion that a butterfly stirring the air in Peking (or Beijing now, I guess) can transform storm systems next month in New York.
Now, Dr. Morris writes,
There is no doubt that small causes can combine with others and contribute to major effects, effects which typically seemed to be chaotic. That is, order can easily degenerate into chaos. It is even conceivable that if one could probe the chaotic milieu deeply enough, he would discern to some extent the previously ordered system from which it originated. Chaos theory is attempting to do just that and also to find more complex patterns of order in the overall chaos. The discovery that there may still be some underlying order instead of complete randomness in chaotic systems is, of course, still perfectly consistent with the laws of thermodynamics. The trouble is that many wishful thinkers in this field have started assuming the chaos can also somehow generate higher order: evolution, in particular. This idea is being hailed as the solution to the problem of how the increasing complexity regarded by evolution could overcome the disorganizing process demanded by entropy. The famous second law of thermodynamics, also called the law of increasing entropy, notes that every system, whether closed or open, at least tends to decay. The universe itself is running down, heading toward an ultimate heat death. And this has heretofore been an intractable problem for evolutionists.
Fritjof Capra, the Austrian-born American physicist, elaborates further:
In classical thermodynamics, the dissipation of energy in heat transfer, friction, and the like, was always associated with waste. Now, Prigogine’s concept of a dissipative structure introduced a radical change in this view by showing that, in open systems, dissipation becomes a source of order.
Now that I have thoroughly confused you but hopefully not. But you will understand shortly. So the chaos theory, which evolutionists so desperately hang onto, cannot explain the complexity by which energy dissipates. Therefore they cannot explain the complexity at which their own theory of evolution happens. The omnipotent Creator God even designed order into the dissipation of energy, into the way the universe is running down and the complexity, even in the decay of the universe, requires a Master Designer. This is what the evolutionists do not want to admit.
But the facts are, there that such things require that. Dr. Morris concludes that,
Such notions come not from any empirical evidence, but solely from philosophical speculations based on lack of evidence. Since there is no evidence that evolution proceeded gradually, it must have occurred chaotically. And this seems to be the idea. If anyone wants to believe by blind faith, that order can arise spontaneously out of chaos, it is still a free country. But please don’t call it science.
The world conducts itself in confusion and chaos yet they call God's creation chaotic when, in fact, even the turbulence of a waterfall has been ordered by God. Now imagine a waterfall with water running over the rocks and coming down the side of the mountain. That is not chaotic. But it looks chaotic, does it not? When you are looking at, it just looks like there is no sense to it. God has even designed that. That is how carefully designed everything on earth is. Even the water that falls or flows over a waterfall, all of the required laws of different areas of physical life that it takes just for that to happen. And it is beautiful, is not it? God designed it to be beautiful like that. We sure appreciate it.
As mankind desperately tries to lamely explain the order of things, God uses order to teach spiritual principles. God is not the author of confusion but of order, as you well know. I think, for example, of human life in the womb right after conception. The stages of the growth of the baby can be seen in 3D pictures and videos today in our technological society.
These images show the baby, as young as twelve weeks old, able to practice real life movements so he is prepared for the outside world. His legs are going back and forth so he can build and strengthen muscles. He is practicing walking. His arms are going back and forth, as well, learning to coordinate. He is sucking his thumb, so he is prepared to suck nutrients from his mother. When he reaches the outside world, he opens his eyes. He cannot see anything because it is so dark in the womb, it is pitch black there. He smiles at the sound of his mother's voice and frowns at noise from outside disturbances because water is a conductor of sound, and he hears it very clearly.
All growth and progress has been previously designed to prevent confusion. His development has been carefully planned by God, his Creator, to be orderly. And he has been given a mind capable of learning and analyzing and experiencing. Now there is a set time to be born, and when the miracle happens that he has been born, he comes into the world and he does something for the very first time. He breathes and he is no longer dependent upon the umbilical cord to be fed.
And later, when God calls him, then God's plan is still working, is it not? Another miracle has happened. He is given God's Spirit, enabling him to think on a spiritual level, all of it ordered by God.
Does God ever work outside the “normal” pattern of order? God does not do things randomly, as I said at the beginning. God gave us things that are not random, and there is a specific order to which comes first. Then something is different and the order changes. But it is still controlled and ordered by God and that is God saying, “Pay attention, because this is important.” And there is nothing trivial in God's inspired written Word. Everything is important. As we have heard John say many times: everything matters.
Even the word “order” itself is derived from the Hebrew word “sedar” (transliterated). A lot of people have heard of the Passover seder, which is to the Jews a special meal and service to commemorate the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. It is called a seder because it is conducted in a very specific order, which is, again, what this word seder means.
Successful business meetings, for example, have an order in which you focus on the predetermined agenda. You are using the power of order to conduct that. Another example. Those of you older men know that the procedure for Ambassador Club, in the Worldwide Church of God, and the local church Spokesmen’s Club meetings were based on Robert's Rules of Order.
This is the respected rulebook establishing parliamentary procedure for parliamentarians and club presidents. Robert's Rules of Order has been this country's recognized guide to smooth, orderly, and fairly conducted meetings since 1876. And the reason it is continued to be that is because it works. It brings order to where chaos can come in very easily in a meeting. This was begun or established in 1876 by General Henry M. Robert himself. So, it took a general to get things organized in meetings.
Now in God's church, formal meetings and formal worship services must follow an organized procedure. Otherwise, we would have chaos here, or confusion, or both. Herbert Armstrong established the format we use today for Sabbaths and holy days. It has worked well and has produced good fruit, which justifies its continued use. Add to this God's Spirit active within us and you produce a fellowship of sincerity and peace and truth and organization.
However, modern ideas of order and disorder are largely shaped by mechanical concepts. Human beings tend to go that route, do they not, whether technological or mechanical. But they are largely shaped by mechanical concepts derived from Newtonian physics that suggests that the universe is an orderly, albeit supremely complex machine, like a clock.
Such clockwork imagery is not found in Scripture. That is not the way that God views it, which sees the orderliness of the universe in much more personal items. The order of the universe is not a clock. It is a personal thing. And the reason it is personal is because there is a covenant between Him and us.
According to the Genesis account, when God created the earth, He distinguished between day and night and set the greater and lesser lights to govern them and to mark the passage of days, seasons, and years. He reformed the seasonal regularity and order following the Flood.
Genesis 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.
With the conflict between light and darkness as a context, light has the properties of rulership over the universe. Without light in the universe, who would be able to see anything? With an accompanying sense of awe, such as a subject might feel toward a benevolent king, so it is imagery that shows the universe as seeing the light.
We find this theme of rulership in the Creation account when, on the fourth day of creation, God made lights. You are very familiar with the this.
Genesis 1:16-17 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth.
Turn with me if you will, please, to Jeremiah 33. As an image of order, light is the ally of people and their civilized enterprises, protecting them as they battle the forces of chaos and danger. Here in Jeremiah 33, we are going to read verses 19-26, and this is under the heading in my Bible of “The permanence of God's covenant.”
Jeremiah 33:19-21 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers.’
God is explaining there that both the covenant of the day and night that He established, and the covenant with David are both permanent. They cannot be broken.
Jeremiah 33:22-26 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’ Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Have you not considered what these people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord has chosen, He has also cast them off’? Thus they have despised My people, as if they should no more be a nation before them. “Thus says the Lord: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant [And we can also add to that the Israelites], so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’
So God's covenants with the Israelites were as fixed as the natural order of the universe and they could not be overthrown by mere human beings. God was going to work with them in the best way possible.
Similarly, God's providential ordering is revealed in His relationship to living creatures. God establishes an interdependency among living creatures, and He provides their habitat, designates their water supplies and food chains.
Psalm 104:27 These all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season.
It is an ordered process that He has designed.
Psalm 104:29 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
God does not do things randomly, as I have said for the third time here. However, God's working outside the normal pattern of order is often described as “the miraculous.”
Let us shift gears here and notice some examples in which the order of something is significant. Look at Noah just before the Flood is about to start. God is sending the chosen animals into the ark, and now it is time to come into the ark. It does not just say Noah and his family entered the ark.
Genesis 7:7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.
Genesis 7:15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
So they went into the ark in a specific order, as instructed by God. It was Noah and his three sons and then Noah’s wife and his sons’ wives, in that order. It does not just say, “and they all went into the ark.” And it does not just say, “they all came out of the ark.” It is very specific.
One chapter later, we are going to read versus 13-18 to pick this story up later.
Genesis 8:13-16 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried. Then God spoke to Noah, saying, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.”
God commands Noah to go out of the ark, and He specifies the exact order in which He wants them to leave. So, walking into the ark, we see four men followed by four women. Walking out of the ark, God says, “Leave the ark. I want you and your wife, Mr. and Mrs. Noah, followed by Shem and Mrs. Shem, and Ham and Mrs. Ham, and Japheth and Mrs. Japheth.”
So, before the Flood, four men and four women were segregated going into the ark, and afterwards, God said, “Come out in couples.” It is significant that God chose the specific order for a reason.
Genesis 8:17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.
That “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” is important. It is significant. God tells them to be fruitful and multiply. But they did not listen to God's command to come out in couples. They disobeyed him. It does not say they disobeyed him, but we can see what God told them and what they did. That is two different things.
Genesis 8:18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.
The reason God chose the specific order is because life and death were at stake here. Life and death need to be separated. It is very unhealthy to have a life-affirming activity at the same time as death is going on. Sensitivity is important. We do not want to become desensitized to death in any way, so we have to acknowledge it. And some people are really uncomfortable with death, and they make really callous jokes about it. It is a way of covering their discomfort.
It is important for us to understand that there are cycles in life, and sometimes there is tragedy when death comes as a surprise, as with the death of a child. And the natural order of things is upset. But then there is life, and life and death must be kept separated. It is not appropriate to laugh at a funeral.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us everything has its time. And there is a time for every purpose.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
It is not appropriate to mourn at a wedding nor laugh at a funeral, so we have to keep these things separate. For a time, after the death of a loved one, there is not a desire to have sex because one [act] represents procreation and the other does not. It may be natural for a man to seek comfort in intimacy with his wife. However, it is appropriate to keep things separate for a while.
Now, when the world was being destroyed by flood, Noah was about six hundred years old. So he lost dozens of sons and daughters very likely, and hundreds of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Initially, it was a time to mourn, when they entered the ark. Therefore, God told Noah and his sons to go into the ark first, separately from their wives. It was not appropriate for them to begin to have children again until after they built and established homes for their families to live.
We know that when they came out of the ark, there were no children mentioned. When they came out of the ark and God told them to go out as couples, He was telling them it was time to start families again and to replenish the earth, be fruitful and multiply. And they did not listen to God. Why? Were they so shocked at the devastation? Were they fearful? What caused them to disobey God?
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.
Romans 8:6-8 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
This enmity showed up again as they were leaving the ark. It signified that mankind's rebellion would continue even after the Flood. It reared its ugly head immediately as they left the ark and society was already contrary to God. How sad.
Now, let us look at another example in which the order of something is significant, and this has to do with Jacob and his sons. Jacob left his father-in-law Laban's house. He is about to meet his brother Esau with four hundred people. And Jacob prays about meeting Esau. He prepares gifts to give to Esau. Then he prepares his family to meet his brother Esau. Turn over a few pages, if you will, to Genesis 33. In this section, of course, Jacob and Esau meet.
Genesis 33:1-2 Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front [We are beginning to see an order happen here.], Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.
Keep in mind that this was before Benjamin was born.
Genesis 33:3-7 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down. And Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down.
There is an order there. You cannot miss the difference. The way Jacob arranged the family with the maidservants and their children, then Leah and her children, then Rachel and Joseph. And Joseph is at the very end. Now, when they stepped forward to meet Esau, it is reversed. It is Joseph and Rachel.
Why a change in that order? It is so easy to miss unless you are analyzing it as we are right now. Why would Joseph step out of the order in which Jacob had placed him? Joseph stepped forward to protect his mom, most likely. He was worried that Esau might not receive them peacefully. He was a young man at this point, and so the message was “Look, but don’t touch.” He wanted to protect her. Joseph is exhibiting, right from the beginning there, leadership qualities.
Turn over to Genesis 49, please. You will see something also interesting about this. Let us look at the blessings of Joseph and Benjamin. Their father, Jacob, is blessing all his children. And then we come to verse 22. Remember, this is the blessing Jacob is asking God to place on his sons here.
Genesis 49:22-26 Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.
So then it changes to a prophecy about Benjamin in verse 27.
Genesis 49:27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
The point is that Joseph and Benjamin are blessed in the order of their birth, as you would expect. But at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses is about to die and his last act is to bless the sons of Jacob, that is, Israel. He goes through all the tribes of Israel and he goes through the same list beginning with Reuben and so on. But something interesting happens in Deuteronomy 33.
Deuteronomy 33:12-17 Of Benjamin he said: “The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him, who shelters him all the day long; and he shall dwell between His shoulders.” And of Joseph he said: “Blessed of the Lord is his land, with the precious things of heaven, with the dew, and the deep lying beneath, with the precious fruits of the sun, with the precious produce of the months, with the best things of the ancient mountains, with the precious things of the everlasting hills, with the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come ‘on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.’ His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox; together with them he shall push the peoples to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”
Is not that exactly what the British Commonwealth and the U.S. empire has done in these end times? A very apt description of what was to come. Jacob blesses Joseph and Benjamin in birth order. Moses blesses Benjamin and then Joseph out of birth order. Jacob's order makes perfect sense. Birth order is in order. But why does Moses bless Benjamin first, then Joseph?
At this point, Moses is not concerned with birth order of the original children, but of the tribes that have grown over hundreds of years from those original twelve sons. The difference between the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Joseph is that it is in the territory that Benjamin will inherit that the Temple is to be built. And there was something special about that youngest child. Solomon's Temple is built in a portion of the land of Benjamin.
Later, when the land is divided under Joshua, there was not a portion of the land that goes to Joseph. What happens is that a portion of the land goes to Joseph’s son Manasseh, and a portion of the land goes to his son, Ephraim. In the overall scheme of things, the thing to notice is that special recognition is given to Benjamin because of the association with God's Temple.
Okay, let us look at another example of the significance of order. If you will turn to Genesis 12, please. Well, we know that God inspired these men to choose these orders at the appropriate time. This example is a little bit more subtle than the previous ones. Abraham has been told by God to start traveling, to leave his birthplace.
Genesis 12:4-6 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.
Now the sequence, the order, is people then assets, people then wealth, people then money. The people are first in the order and then the possessions follow. So Sarah and Lot, and then possessions. Flip over to chapter 13 and verse 1, where Abraham and his family go to Egypt and certain things happen.
Genesis 13:1 Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South.
The sequence has changed from Genesis 12:5 where the order was Abraham and his wife, then Lot, then all his possessions. Now in Genesis 13:1, the order is Abram and his wife, then all his possessions, and then Lot. Why is that? The answer is because Abram’s possessions had come between Lot and him. Abram’s possessions had come between Lot and him. There has been a split between them.
Have you ever heard of a family squabbling over inheritance? Who has not heard of the sad cases where family members argue over who gets what? The patriarch or matriarch of the family dies, and things rarely go smoothly. It can happen with a lot of assets or very few assets.
Lot has moved away from his closeness to Abram and Sarah. And the wealth has come between them and Lot is starting to see himself as Abram’s heir. He is starting to be a little more focused on money than the family's relationship. The difference in the order that is mentioned in the two verses sheds a great deal of light on the subject. You will not be surprised to find that four verses later, there is an argument between Abram and Lot.
Abram wisely sees that this contention will only get worse because it has spread to Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen. And so, in order to bring peace between Abram’s and Lot’s households, Abram suggests that they part ways.
Genesis 13:5-10 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted his eyes . . .
You have the image here that maybe Abraham's head was down. Here is Lot. He is ready to grab hold of whatever was best. In verse 10:
Genesis 13:10-11 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.
So God wants us, each and every one of us, to confront spiritual challenges which happen often in our lives, being in God's church. He does not want us to be cowards and run away from trials. He wants us to learn to be problem-solvers. And the accumulation of wealth is not necessarily wrong if it is used in service to God and His children. But that was not the case between Abraham and Lot. Lot was so focused on himself and what he was going to get.
Sadly, the average person sees the world only in terms of how it could benefit him. He sees his connection with the world as a great big pipe with a one-way valve ensuring that goodness and abundance only flow inward. That is human nature. At first glance, to the carnal mind, this would appear to be sound business strategy: focus on getting rather than giving and evaluate people only in terms of what they can do for you.
However, nothing could be further from the truth, as we well know being in God's church. Our behavior shapes our personalities. And with the passage of time, here is a shocker: it also sculpts our faces into an unappealing self-centeredness. God's way of life motivates us to be obsessively preoccupied with needs and desires of His other children, not ourselves. He does so by bestowing upon us the enormous blessing of financial abundance, especially spiritual abundance, in proportion to how many of His other children we care for and how significantly we care for them.
Most of us prefer being pleased by people who at least appear to be as interested in our needs as they are in their own. And when we encounter a sales professional who radiates only self-interest, we try to take our business elsewhere, do we not? There is an immediate rejection, or there is an immediate offense felt. One way to make our personalities and faces radiate a pleasing effect is to be repeatedly involved in acts of giving.
We should make a conscious effort to devote ourselves more to giving than we do to getting. And that “giving” is also giving attention, giving of love and concern for one another. When a new person comes in the door, we should be very excited and very happy to greet them. You know, when you are the first one into a room of this size and you are the only one who you know (unless you have your wife with you, you know her hopefully), but then the nicest thing that can happen to you is for somebody to be friendly, come up, and smile.
Every strength comes with a parallel weakness. For all the strength and advantages the oldest sibling acquires, he also should be extra vigilant to resist becoming self-centered.
You might remember the story from Numbers 32 when, upon the eve of Israel's conquering the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben and Gad requested to settle on the east side of the Jordan River, where they had encountered excellent grazing for their animals.
Now Moses reacts quite angrily. Why would he do that? Why would he act so angrily just because they asked for that land? He accused them of abandoning their brethren as the tribes approached the impending war for the land of Israel.
Numbers 32:6-17 And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, so that they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them. So the Lord’s anger was aroused on that day, and He swore an oath, saying, ‘Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’ So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone. And look! You have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the Lord against Israel. For if you turn away from following Him, He will once again leave them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people.” Then they came near to him and said: “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
After they were chewed out by Moses, they change their mind and they back-pedaled and decided “we better go to war with the rest of the Israelites.” Once the two tribes explained that, of course, they meant to settle in the trans-Jordan only after helping fight the war of acquisition, Moses was still not placated. He remained critical of them.
So, what still bothered Moses? They betrayed their true interests when they told Moses that they would build enclosures for their animals and cities for their children before joining the war alongside their brothers. When Moses responded, he reversed the order, pointing out that their priority should be their children and not their wealth.
Numbers 32:20-23 Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord until He has driven out His enemies from before Him, and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the Lord and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.
That is a very well-known phrase by all of us, is it not?
Numbers 32:23-24 . . . be sure your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.”
So children are one of the primary vehicles that God uses to train us to become joyful givers. Moses recognized the negative tendency of egotism which can infect the firstborn who has a time as the one and only child, and he can be prone to self-centeredness and self-centeredness tends to isolate us from other people.
It gets more interesting as well. A few years later, Joshua berated these two tribes in Joshua 22. I am just going to tell you what happened there. A few years later, Joshua berated these two tribes because they built their own altar to God instead of joining in the worship with their brothers in Jerusalem. Their eventual punishment was that they were the first tribes to be exiled when Israel was later attacked by her enemies.
The regular practice of giving stimulates awareness of, and a connectedness with others. When we are giving an offering together on a holy day, there is a camaraderie, there is a brotherhood, a fellowship that we are enjoying. And those who are far from us do the same thing on the holy day. They are joining us in spirit and have that fellowship as well.
Their eventual punishment was that they were the first tribes to be exiled when Israel was later attacked by her enemies, those two firstborn tribes. The regular practice of giving stimulates awareness, often connectedness with others. If we learn this truth, immediate and tangible benefits would flow to us. Because we would be following God's plan for human financial interaction, we would receive far more spiritual blessings than physical ones. But the physical ones also come.
This principle is something to keep in mind when choosing to go to another Feast site rather than the one the rest of your brethren are attending, although in some cases it may be justified to go to another Feast site once in a while. It may be that God applies the same principle to Feast attendance as He did to these tribes who built their own altar somewhere else. And because you have not really fellowshipped with your brethren, it may be that when things get a lot worse in the world, which they will, you are the first to get left out.
Of course, I am not talking about those who cannot fellowship with the brethren because of distance or bad health or old age. I am talking about those who make a choice not to when they have the means to do so, that is, fellowship with their own brethren together at the Feast.
Now, God wants us to be blessed and He is not the stern God He has so often been accused of. One primary way God has provided for our joy, as well as our growth and development in the true Christian life, is through fellowship with our brethren at the annual feasts. But not all are able to have this kind of fellowship. Many of the brethren are all alone in this world, which I have mentioned, except for the spiritual fellowship they can have with God. Yet they, too, can have real joy at every festival if they know what to do and how to be an example to unconverted members of their family. There may be many difficulties that may take time, but there is a way they can achieve peace and harmony and order in their home, even if all the members of their family are unconverted.
Now turn over to John 4. God's holy days and feasts illustrate the true order of God's plan of salvation for humanity. They clarify the order of events at the end time. A festival or feast is a part of ordered time ordained by God for our physical, and especially our spiritual, rejuvenation. In this age, God realizes that many are now unable to assemble either on the Sabbath or on the annual holy days. We are to worship the Father in spirit and truth, no matter where we may be.
John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Whenever it is possible to assemble, we are commanded to do. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Brethren who find it impossible to meet on the weekly Sabbath are, however, able to do so on the annual festivals. And the whole spiritual church family is commanded to attend whenever possible, and God does not accept most of our excuses.
Let us shift gears here again. Although the divine orderliness of the universe is often manifested in patterns of regularity, the divine order is most frequently described in Scripture by various (interestingly) separations and distinctions. You would not necessarily connect separations and distinctions with order, would you? Especially when it is the diversity that the world keeps trying to throw in our face.
For example, in creation week in the first chapter of Genesis, God overcomes the formlessness of the universe with a series of boundaries: between light and darkness, day and night, sea and dry land, the firmament and the heavens, the creatures that live in those various realms and human beings created in the image of God and called upon to rule over all the rest of creation.
Orderliness, through distinction, carries over into the worship and service of Israel, in these four ways: (1) in the Sabbath principle that sets apart the Sabbath day and year, and the year of Jubilee, (2) in the ordinance of sanctity that separates the clean from the unclean, (3) by circumcision and the law which distinguished Israel from the other nations, and (4) by the Word of God, which distinguishes the commandments of God from traditions of men, and the worship of the true God from that of idols.
This pattern of distinction is reinforced by various principles of separateness embedded in the law. God commands His people that different fabrics are not to be mixed in clothing, different seeds in the field, or different cattle in the breeding stalls. Likewise, the law insists that the customary clothing that is traditional for sexual differentiation is not to be exchanged between the genders (so transgenderism is in many, many, many ways against God's law and laws, multiple laws. There is no way of justifying such things.), and the law maintains the laws of relationships between people descended from the same ancestor that distinguished between neighbor and king.
Next, let us look at the biblical principle of the proper order of wisdom. The patterns and boundaries that reflect both the physical and moral order of the universe, while always present and integral to creation, are not always easily discerned or their effectiveness immediately understood. Nonetheless, God gave to men and women, as His image-bearers, a commission to gain insight into this order and make explicit use of it by bringing the earth into subjection and by being good stewards of the Garden into which they were placed.
So the responsibility to do so continues in the form of the biblical obligation to pursue wisdom. That is an obligation. It is not optional. In the world, you can see that most people think it is optional, do they not? Part of wisdom is to be able to understand the order with which God created the world, to distinguish things that differ, and to discern the appropriate from the inappropriate times for everything under heaven. Now let us use Ecclesiastes again, from a slightly different perspective.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-5 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
On that “embracing” part: if somebody has a cold, you do not embrace somebody else. If you do not have a cold, you embrace them. So we have to be very careful about such things, even in those details. Verse 6.
Ecclesiastes 3:6-8 A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
(I was just trying to remember what the group was that sang that song under the title “Turn, Turn” or something like that. Was it The Turtles? The Birds! That is right. Thank you. I like that song personally. That shows was my age, does it not?)
Those who refuse to pursue wisdom and prefer instead to live disorderly lives are labeled “fools” and “sluggards” in the book of Proverbs. Orderliness is crucial for humanity, civility, and the duty that it requires, and the cultural tasks of dating and marriage. And it is even more important for God's work in us. If God and His Word bring order, then sin disrupts it. We know that sin separates, it states that in Scripture. God’s solution is through a certain order by distinguishing between things that differ, as He does between the church and the world.
Now to the church, the apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 14:
I Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
As His ambassadors, and as His children, we are required to be orderly in our meetings. Ultimately, the fact that God is a God of order and not of confusion extends beyond the physical realm to include relationships within the church. It includes God giving authority to church leaders to make sure that all activities within the household of God are conducted decently and in order. Paul states this in verse 40.
I Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
And doing things decently and in order is why Solomon said, “There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” God brings about order by distinguishing between things that differ. Funerals and weddings. You mourn, you laugh, and so on.
Now I am going to a subject that I have harped on several times this past year, but it fits here perfectly. I think we in God's church groan for our marriage to Jesus Christ. But we must go through the proper order of things, the proper process which takes time. As human beings, we are naturally impatient. But the best things are worth waiting for. The dating time period, then the engagement time period, followed by the marriage, takes time. It should be done in an orderly manner according to God's will and according to His timeframe, and not one that we impatiently force. If we move too fast, we cause ourselves no end of problems that may show up years later.
So we must resist the influence of a society that demands everything now, if not yesterday. The point is that it takes time to develop a close enough relationship to be ready for marriage. Sometimes this time process is artificially sped up by premarital pregnancy, which has a negative impact on the marriage relationship far into the future. It puts dating and marriage into a state of disorder. It takes time to cultivate a good relationship in an orderly fashion, and we live in a society where people want it now and they are willing to lie to get it. And I have known of people who have lied to a person that they are about to marry and the lie comes out later.
It takes time to cultivate a good relationship, as I said. This attitude affects the way courtship is handled. Singles commonly make the mistake of moving too fast in a relationship, but there needs to be time to discern things about the other person. So what is a single in God's church to do with regard to dating people in the world? Well, the proper order of things applies in all circumstances, and it applies to the world as it does to people in church, both the singles who are attending God's church and who are in the world.
The proper order of developing a friendship, possibly followed by dating, possibly followed by marriage, is essential in forming a lasting, intimate relationship. Time is of the essence when it comes to developing a relationship. Give it time, let time pass, and you will find that eventually a person's true colors will come out. You may not like the colors you see. And I am not talking about race, of course. In this day and age in this society, we almost have to qualify ourselves, do we not?
Or hopefully time will confirm you have made the right decision. Never get interested in someone with a bad reputation and certainly never marry him or her. I have heard numerous divorced people say that they would not have married the previous spouse if they had taken the time to get to know him or her better.
Please turn over to Isaiah 30. Let us begin to wrap this sermon up. God has a perfect, orderly plan for the salvation of humanity that He is seeing through to completion. The orderly way in which God has set His plan in motion will continue on through the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, which will look chaotic to the unconverted human mind, then continuing on into the Millennium. Here in Isaiah 30, we read here something very special about God. You already know what it is. But it is so special that we have to wait for the right time for it. Verse 18.
Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the Lord will wait [And I add to that, He is patient and He is organized.], that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.
As God is patient and organized, so are His saints. And verse 18 shows why God is not bringing the Millennium right now today: so that He may be gracious to you, so that He may have mercy on you. In His set time, he will establish His Kingdom.
Now that includes us, we who are now waiting patiently. Eventually everyone during the Millennium is going to be doing the work of and the will of God, the way God wants it done. So the saints will be waiting on God, so to speak. But we were already in training to do what God's will is. We will already be greatly prepared for that. Let us go continue here in Isaiah 30 and we are going to read verse 18 again and add verse 19.
Isaiah 30:18-19 Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.
Now it says in another place that He is going to really do some fantastic things for us. He is even going to answer right away while we are asking for things and that should help us to be able to have more faith in our prayers that we offer up to God. But now we are developing faith by trusting Him and patiently waiting for Him to intervene on our behalf.
One way to never have a prayer answered is to go pray your heart out, be as fervent as you can, finish and say “Amen,” and then stand up on your feet and say, “I wonder if God will answer my prayer.” You have just undone, or may have just undone, everything that you have asked for.
The virtue of waiting on God is united with hope in expectancy. And to wait is to anticipate the time that God will act, and He will act at the proper time, no matter what it is that involves His children (and each and every one of us are His children). We know He will act on our behalf. And whatever God’s will is, it always ends in good. The virtue of waiting on God is united hope and expectancy, as I mentioned.
Psalm 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.
And there is an effort to be made: Bible study and overcoming and serving others are necessary duties that we all have while we patiently wait. This waiting proceeds to assurance. And there is hope in the Lord with whom there is steadfast love and abundant redemption.
When God acts, it will be the best possible time for us. If we do not interfere with what God is working out in our life, it will be done according to His will and within His timeframe. Therefore, nothing could make the timing be better than what God has chosen. Because God is the God of order and of hope and of love.
He has offered each of us something that is unshakable and steadfast. He is presenting us with something that is set before us as an encouragement. He has given us, through faith, access to real hope of a wonderfully joyful and bright future. No one but God's people has a brighter future than we do. Patiently wait and persevere according to God's will and instructions, and He will give you the desires of your heart because they will be according to God's will.
Micah 7:7 Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
God has ordered the lives of each and every member of His church in such a way that our lives have been ordered in all things and we are secure if we submit to Him.
II Samuel 23:3-5 “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.’ Although my house is not so with God . . .
This is, I think, David who is speaking here and he says he knows his house is not perfect, complete before the Lord.
II Samuel 23:5 . . . Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire; will He not make it increase?”
I believe that is a rhetorical question. He knows God will make it increase because he submitted to God. All David’s salvation and all his desires were made sure in the covenant, which would be fulfilled in due time. Is not our church family the same with God because He has made with us an everlasting covenant? Those words apply to us, as well.
Turn with me for a final scripture to Psalm 37. David also speaks of this God-ordered life in the Psalms.
Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
And, of course, “man” there also applies to “person,” or “man,” and “woman.” The steps of a good man or woman are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his or her way.
Barnes’ Notes says the word rendered “order” means to stand erect, to set up, to found, to adjust, to direct. The idea here is that all which pertains to the journey of a good man through life is directed, ordered, and arranged by the Lord, and that his course of life is under the divine guidance and control. The word “good” here has been supplied by the translators, and there is nothing corresponding to it. In the original, it is simply “the steps of man are ordered” and then et cetera in the scripture.
Yet there can be no doubt that a good person is particularly referred to because the connection demands this interpretation. The word “steps” here means his course of life, the way he goes, the way he lives, his way of life. Now we are going to end here by reading verses 24 through 28:
Psalm 37:24-28 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever.
Everyone have a God-ordered remainder of the Sabbath.