Sermon: Pentecost and Time
Living in Sync With God
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 31-May-20; 75 minutes
Of all the principles of natural law in the universe, perhaps the one that affects us most is time. Think about it. Time influences everything we do. When we are born we are like a leaf that has been thrown into a rushing stream of time, and it carries us swiftly away for the rest of our lives. It is a never-ending rush down the mountainside. As mortals in this time, we can never go back in time, but we are constantly aware of our past. Our past is what made us what we are, all of our experiences with our own genetic makeup and the nature that we were born with.
But we are constantly aware of what has happened throughout our lives, and in the present, time always moves so fast that we never seem to be able to get everything done that we would like to do. And the future hurdles at us with reckless terminal speed, and it is not long before we are dead. That is the end of our time. No matter how long we may live before our death, it seems we never have enough time to do all that we wanted to do. Never accomplished as much as we set out to accomplish. Never made that phone call. Never did this, never constructed that. Never had the time to get into this sort of thing that we had an interest in, whatever it happens to be.
Time also constrains us. It bottles us in, and we seem to be constantly struggling to escape that confinement, trying to find ways to use our time. We have a mere 70 or 80 years, according to Moses in Psalm 90, and we spend, we waste one third of that time, about 25 years, lying inert with our eyes closed. Many people say you can sleep when you are dead and they rush, rush, rush through life, trying to get everything accomplished, because they are constrained by the little time we seem to have.
We spend, looking at it objectively, way too much time resting, eating, washing, dressing, commuting, waiting in lines, and mindlessly staring at the boob tube, all of our screens that we have that we look at so much. In terms of productive work in progress, our early and later years, our years up to a few years of age and then the later years as were winding down, can seem to be a waste of whole years of our lives doing nothing that really achieves anything, or you think. But of course, I have given sermons on how important those early years are, and I think I have also given a sermon or two about how important those later years are. But to many, it seems that those years are wasted.
So after all that, we have about one-third to one-half of our time left to do something. Most of us fill it with some sort of work. That is good. God wants us to work. God gives us work. It is good for us, and sometimes the work that we choose to do, or we end up doing, is not by choice. We just end up doing something. Sometimes it is productive and fulfilling work, like building something lasting and beautiful. But sometimes we end up, maybe not because we want to do that, but just because of circumstances, we end up doing futile, mind-numbing work like turning the same five nuts every day on a line. Some people like that sort of thing, and that is fine. To me, it would be mind-numbing.
Most of us have a desire and this desire is stronger in some people than in others. They have this desire to leave something behind when they die—a little bit of me to go on into the future. The poets and the artists, they think of it in terms of their immortality. So they write a beautiful piece of poetry or a wonderful piece of music and they think they could live on through their art. That is their leaving something behind. And that is a noble enough aspiration to do, to leave something worthwhile and good behind for the future generations. Yet doing such a thing is not easy to do. There are very few people who have actually done that, left something really good and lasting behind. It is hard even to leave a good memory of oneself behind. People tend to remember all the ways that you cheated them or you said the wrong thing or whatever and "good riddance."
But usually it is just a matter that there is not enough time, we think. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that "there is a time for every purpose under heaven." Then, of course, he goes on and talks about a time to be born, a time to die, etcetera for the next seven verses or so. Now I take from this passage in Ecclesiastes 3 what I think is a good principle to always remember, and that is that God has given us enough time to fulfill His purpose in our lives. We always complain that there is not enough time, but He says, "I'll give you this time and you can do it."
Seventy or eighty years is plenty of time for us to do what needs to be done in this life. Our job is to use the time that we have been given wisely so that we know when to plant and when to pluck up, when to weep and when to laugh, when to gain and when to lose, when to speak and when to keep silent. Oh, that is a tough one. That one takes years and years to figure out because most people just 'bleh' and out it comes when they actually should have kept silent.
So the amount of time, the total amount of time is not a real problem, but the use of time, the prioritizing of time, the organization of time is where we tend to fail. We let time get away from us. We get distracted or sidetracked on something that is not useful, not good. Or we end up doing the wrong thing altogether and have to backtrack so much because we did not organize our time. We did not prioritize our time. We did not think things through. I do want to read Ecclesiastes 3:11 to you, because my sermon basically takes off from this verse. This is just after the more famous poem from Solomon in the early part of the chapter. But Solomon writes after this,
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from the beginning to end.
I think this is one of the most beautiful verses in Scripture. Not for the way it is laid out, not for any artistic type of thing, but because of what it says, the theme that is there. Because it explains, at least to me, so much about life in the here and now, and in the hereafter. I want you to hear the same verse from the God's Word translation because I think they caught the essence of what Solomon was thinking when he wrote this.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (God's Word) It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people's minds. Yet, mortals still can't grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end [of time].
I think that this verse teaches something amazing. I think it is something we perhaps may not have considered before. In this verse, Solomon packs the concepts of God, beauty, time, perfection, and eternity together into one thought, one major idea, and I think by doing so, he provides the perfect starting point and plan for how we, as God's chosen people, can use time properly.
You may not see right away what I am getting at in this verse. Let me just read it again to you from the New King James. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Or as the God's Word translation says, "It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time." "Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." God's Word says, "He has put a sense of eternity in people's minds. Yet mortals still can't grasp what God is doing from beginning to the end of time."
So the way I look at it, I will try to explain my thought here because it is important we get this one principle first before we go any further. Like I said, I believe this teaches us how we can prioritize our time, how we can plan our time so that we use it properly and end up with eternal life. Even as mere mortals who cannot fathom fully what God is doing across time, we can, because of our calling, use our time properly in preparation for eternity.
Now, how can we do this? It is because God times everything perfectly and beautifully. And what do you know, He has called us to Him. So if we can synchronize ourselves to Him, we will set ourselves on a firm foundation for the rest of our time under the sun. And in doing that, in hitching ourselves to His wagon in terms of time, and God is an eternal Spirit, what will that eventually produce for us? Eternal life, that eternity that men do not understand, though they sense that it is out there. The only way that it can be achieved, if you will, is by being in sync with God. So if we live within God's time, if we are astute and faithful, our lives will progress in harmony with Him and not against Him. And if we are with Him, eventually we are going to end up in His Kingdom. But we need to be synchronized with God.
Now let us throw Pentecost in here. Pentecost is the third holy day of the year, one of God's appointed times. It is a holy day that, at least to me, has a singular and intense relationship with time, as well as our Christian walk toward the Kingdom. It is like these two are inextricably linked. Pentecost is a yearly reminder that we need to redeem our time because the days are evil, as Paul says in Ephesians 5:16, and our days are short. So we need to be reminded every year that the time of our conversion is limited. We need to get on the ball. Or as Moses mentioned in Psalm 90:12, we need to "learn to number our days to gain a heart of wisdom." That is what Pentecost does.
Before we pull Pentecost into this fully, though, I wanted to go back to Genesis, the first chapter. We will start right at the very beginning. I want to lay down a few important principles here before we get into Pentecost itself. Let us read the first five verses and then we will read 14-19.
Genesis 1:1-5 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1:14-19 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth."; and it was so. 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, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Have you ever considered how much of a factor time was in God's creation? Two days worth. That is pretty good percentage of the time that He took up with time. By dividing light from darkness, God creates the day and the night, and not only does He give us our basic measure of time—a 24 hour day split into a daylight period and a dark period—He also created all the spiritual analogies that come down to us about light and darkness. And you know, God never does anything just for one single purpose. By doing something like this, He opens up a whole schmeer of things that we can learn. So as I mentioned this day and night cycle that He did here in the first day, we split into two 12 hour halves and that becomes our basic unit of time. From there we split it further in hours and minutes and seconds and we also expand it in to weeks and months and years and centuries and millennia and so forth. The first day He took care of all of that.
In day four, He created the sun, moon, and stars. Not just to give us light and to give us beautiful things to look at up in the sky, but also to help us count time more specifically and accurately and purposefully. Of special note to us, that is, His called people, His elect, is the phrase "for signs and for seasons," which is there in verse 14. There is a controversy about what the words signs indicates or refers to, but for our purposes today we are going to take it in its broadest sense. That the signs are identifiers and indicators because that is basically what the word means, an identifying thing, an indicator of something. In terms of, let us say, David saying "the heavens declare the glory of God," as he does in Psalm 19:1, they are signs. They are indicators of His existence and of His glory.
But He can also use them as signs in terms of prophecy, as portents. You know, we have in Revelation that the moon is going to turn to blood or the stars are going to fall from the sky, or the sun is going to lose one third of its strength, however, that that particular one was. But God uses those heavenly bodies as signs as portents of things to come.
He could also use them as allegories, allegories of Himself. Is not Christ allegorized as the sun, as the Bridegroom that is coming in the great glory of the sun. Also, He can use it to show parts of His plan. Just look at Revelation 12:1 where there is the sun and the moon and the twelve stars. It is talking about Israel there.
Signs and seasons is the phrase we are talking about here. What about the seasons? This is the Hebrew word mo'adim, which refers to recurring things. Appointed times are recurring in the year. It can mean the seasons of the year, and that is why a lot of translations have just simply translated it as seasons because seasons come at a regular interval. You know, once every 13 weeks or so there is a new season, whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter, and they all come around every year. That is just the way it works, and those seasons, we can tell when they are by looking up into the sky. We know where everything is arranged at a certain time of year, and we can know then that it is the summer solstice or the fall equinox, or what have you.
So it can mean that. That God put those things up there to show us when the seasons occur. And by that we know when to plant. When the spring equinox comes in, we know that it is a good time to start planting. And when the fall equinox comes in, it is pretty good time to start reaping, if you have not done it already. So we know that that is the way it is. They are recurring cycles. Did you know that this word mo'adim is also used in Jeremiah 8:7 for the annual migrations of birds? Because it happens pretty much the same time every year. It is an appointed time, if you will. God put it in their little pea brains to do this for a certain reason, and they fly here and there. Butterflies do this. The great monarch butterfly migrations every year, so that is also a recurring thing that happens each year.
Theologically, though, it most often means the times of the year that God has appointed as holy convocations like the holy days, right? These are determined in the Hebrew calendar by calculations based on the cycle of the sun and moon together. That is why it is called a lunar/solar calendar. Because you cannot make those calculations based solely on the sun. Nor can you make them based solely on the moon. They are all in this large cycle that goes over 19 years, and after 19 years it resets and on and on it goes. But those things can be seen in the heavens. We know when we see the new moon that it is a new month. What did He make here in the fourth day? Well, the moon. The moon is all part of all that observation and calculation that is done fix the holy days on the calendar.
So God put the sun, the moon, the stars in the sky not just to help us to tell time, but to insert—listen to this—God's own meeting times into our lives. It is like He had the great expanse of the heavens, all that blackness out there, and He threw out the stars and He put up the sun and the moon, and He said, "When it reaches this point, you're going to keep the Passover, and when it reaches this point, you're going to be keeping Trumpets," let us say. It is His calendar up there. We look up, we can see when and where God will be.
This is the first way, at least in terms of its appearance in Scripture, that we synchronize ourselves with God. When He appoints a portion of holy time, when He says that He wants us to gather with Him on the 15th day of the first month, well, that means that He has made it holy. He has set it apart. But there is another factor in there that when God says He is going to be somewhere in a certain time in a certain place, He is there! He infuses Himself into that time, and so it becomes holy time and He says, "I'm going to be there. I want you to be there, too. We're going to meet up. We're going to sync up on that day."
So He will be there, and He expects those He calls to meet with Him at that appointed time. And it is for our good. It is for our blessing, because when we keep the holy times, He provides us then with knowledge and with understanding and wisdom, as well as all the other intangibles that come with congregating with Him and with His people. It is a gift! When He gives us a holy time, He is giving us Himself and His time. How valuable is the time of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe? And He says that He will give us His time today. "Meet with Me," He says, "in holy convocation, and we will talk and we will learn and we will grow." And there will be all kinds of other blessings that come from that.
Further, keeping the holy days provides an additional benefit, one that Herbert W. Armstrong talked about fairly frequently because he learned this over several years of observing the holy days without understanding what they meant, and it bugged him. Herbert Armstrong had an insatiable desire to understand, and when he did not understand something, he really got frustrated. And he would then spend however long it took to understand what it was that he was not understanding. And this seven years in the early part of his conversion where he was keeping the holy days knowing that God said keep them but he did not really understand what it was all about, made him go into intense study on these sorts of things. He figured out that the holy days outline the plan of God. He figured out that the holy days, when you keep them, open a converted person's mind to the knowledge of what God is doing. Has done in the past, is doing now, will be doing in the future. It is all in the holy times. It is all in the appointed times.
Recall that Solomon said that mere mortals do not know what God is doing. But if we keep the holy days, those whom He has called, God reveals that knowledge to us. It is like, "Hey, you're in sync with Me now. Let me tell you what we are doing so you can help Me, so you can prepare for what's coming." And all of that further harmonizes us with Him and with His purpose. We can get on board and say, "Okay, this is what we are doing. This is what's next. Let's go!" and we can get ready.
So unlike all other mortals, the elect Christian, only one in billions, or many multiple millions, knows what God is up to. I mean, that is a tremendous blessing! And it comes from being in sync with God in terms of the holy days. Because then the converted person knows what God is up to, he or she can submit his or her life to Him and prepare for eternal life in the Kingdom. There is no longer guessing what is going to happen. You understand what I mean when I said that this understanding sets us up. It gives us a foundation for life with God. So we can organize the rest of our time, however long that may be—10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, a whole lifetime—in the proper direction, doing the proper things, making proper decisions, prioritizing what is important so that we can be in His Kingdom with Him and live forever.
That is an awesome blessing and advantage to have over everybody else in this world just because we decided that we are going to keep the holy days. Maybe just because is not the right way to put it, but because we decided to keep the holy days, this knowledge, this understanding becomes available to us. It is like a light bulb going off in our minds. And we say, Wow, this is amazing. God is calling and producing a harvest of people who He will use to help Him rule in the Kingdom of God. God is going to return to this earth and change things dramatically and for 1,000 years He is going to reign on the earth with those saints and change things dramatically. That is just a few of the things that we learn from keeping the holy days.
Speaking of holy days, let us go to Leviticus 23 now.
Leviticus 23:15-16 And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.
We have done that and we are here today.
Leviticus 23:21 And you shall proclaim on the same day [this day] that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
We are aware that Pentecost is the only holy day during the year that God commands us to count. It is very important part of this holy day. It sets everything up for understanding, to begin it through counting. The other appointed times that were to keep throughout the year are set dates on the Hebrew calendar. It is X day of the X month. Like I mentioned before the 15th day of the first month or the first day of the seventh month. Those are on the calendar and so we figure out the calendar, and we can say, Okay, this is the first month. We are going to have holy times here and here, and then we will have go to the seventh month and we can pick out the first day of the seventh month. That is going to be Trumpets, so we know that.
But Pentecost does not work that way. He says, "Count it from the day after the Sabbath." So we have to look on it and go, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Okay, that is a week. There is our Sabbath—count seven Sabbaths, seven weeks. We go down all the way to, well, today is the 31st day of May. We get to that day. Oh, that is the 50th day. Bingo! There is another one. There is Pentecost, the appointed time so we are going to keep that day. But we had to go through this practice of 1,2,3,4 all the way down to 50 or seven weeks of Sabbaths. It is an exercise God puts us through—to count.
So from this very basic beginning idea of counting, counting parts of time, we get the indication that the day of Pentecost has a lot to do with time. Time is one of Pentecost's themes, because God wants us to be aware of this counting process of time. We count either days or we count weeks, two basic measurements of time set at creation. How many days of creation were there? Seven. It was a week. He created physically on the six days of that week, and on the seventh day He did not stop creating. He just rested and began creating spiritually. And it continues even today.
So at creation He set those basic measures of time up for us, and He has put it into these holy times and specifically the day of Pentecost uses them in a way to teach us something. Even Acts 2:1 when the church was founded alludes to this principle when it says, "Now when the day of Pentecost had fully come." It is kind of an interesting phrase there "fully come" because that is really not what it says. It literally means, "And when the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled." It has a dual meaning when you look at it that way.
It has a physical meaning. The physical meaning is that they had fully counted the 50 days and they were at the actual day of Pentecost. So the day of Pentecost had been fulfilled. The counting of the day of Pentecost had been fulfilled. But it can also mean that the symbolism of the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled. It has both a physical and a spiritual meaning there, but even Acts gives us this indication of this counting process and even the word Pentecost means "count 50." It is right in the name that we use for the holy day.
This focus on time led me to conclude several years ago (and I gave a sermon on that, you could go listen to it if you want to), but the idea that came out of that was that the fifty days of the count to Pentecost, using the day-for-a-year principle, represent the years of a converted person's life—generally 50 years. Let us say you are baptized as a young person at 20 and you die at 70. Do the math. That is 50 years. That is a normal person's span of time. Not everybody has that much time in their converted lives, but we are talking just generally here. But God gives us most of a lifetime to live with Him in this life, to overcome and grow and to put on the righteous character of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And that is what Pentecost focuses on, those converted years of our lives when we are being made into that wavesheaf offering, as it were. When were made being made acceptable before God, with those other offerings, as David mentioned.
So the time of our conversion, those 50 years or whatever they happen to be, is our window to sync up with God. Just another way of saying grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, There are many other ways that we we phrase this but I am using time right now, so putting these two factors together—that Pentecost has a lot to do with time and that Solomon says that if we hitch our wagon to God and sync up with Him, there going to be great rewards in the next life. So that is what I am saying. The time of our conversion is our window to sync up with God.
Let us go to Amos 3:3, another verse that Mr. Armstrong often went to. I think I have already touched on this principle, but it is apt that we go there.
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
We are adding another layer to this concept of synchronizing our lives to God, and it is through this metaphor of walking with God throughout our lives. Mr. Armstrong used to explain this verse frequently, telling us that two people can walk together only if they agree to two basic things: The time and the place. If you are going to meet somebody and have an appointment with them, you have to give them a time and give them a place. So you could say Tuesday at three o'clock at the corner Starbucks or whatever. There you have it. You are going to get together at that particular place at that particular time, and that is the only way you could walk together—if you are both there at the proper time and the proper place. Get either of those two basic points of harmony wrong and no meeting takes place at all. It is either the wrong time at the right place or the right time at the wrong place.
It does not matter which one is wrong. It is really bad if both are wrong. But if you just get one of them wrong, you are not going to meet up. There will be no meeting in the minds. There will be no walking together, no doing whatever activity that was going to be done together. The parties will miss each other. There is no working together if the either the time or the place is wrong.
God, for however many hundreds of years, had a hard time meeting up with Israel because they were always either at the wrong time or at the wrong place. God was always there at the right time and the right place, but they were unwilling to meet with Him. Let us go back to Genesis. Remember we are talking about the metaphor of walking with God. This time in the sixth chapter during the life of Noah (put in another plug for my great flood series here).
Genesis 6:5-14 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch." [And His instructions went on from there.]
The idea of righteous men and women walking with God appears very early in Scripture. As a matter of fact, Noah is not the first one that it talks about walking with God. That is Enoch. Enoch walked with God, and it actually says in chapter 5 twice that he walked with God, verse 22 and verse 24. So Enoch was the first one that walked with God that we understand. Then we have here Noah.
Now, strangely, in the rest of Scripture, except for a one or two or three places, the idea that we are talking about here of a person walking with God is phrased differently. I do not know why, although I have a sneaking suspicion, and I will mention that in a minute here. But everywhere else in Scripture, the idea is phrased as walking before God, and the change of preposition is not terribly important. But it may indicate that a person walks in God's presence when it says "before God" rather than with God. So it may imply an especially close connection in a formal relationship.
And this is my sneaking suspicion, that from Abraham on there was a formal relationship through covenant. In that way, the men and women who walked with God were really walking before God in His presence under this formal relationship, under a covenant. What it means, then, is that the covenant mandates and binds the walking together. It is more formal than just walking with God. Now you are walking before God, and it is because of the covenant that arranges the terms here. I do not want to get off on that too much. But I just thought I would mention it.
In Noah's case, his walking with God in harmony, being in sync with Him in time, was a life and death matter. Consider: Did you know that the narrative of chapters 6 and 7 (I do not know if it is actually in 8 or not. I do not think so.), it says very specifically four different times that Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Noah is an exceptional example of obedience and following instructions. It mentions four times something like this. According to all that God commanded him to do, he did. He was not one to take shortcuts. If God said something needed to be done like this, he did it like this. If it needed to be done at this particular time, he did not do it one day early. He did not do one day late. He did not do it one minute early or one minute late. He did it exactly when God said. He did everything according to all that the Lord commanded him. He had to be in lockstep with God to save his own life and his family's lives. Because if he did anything outside of God's instructions, it could have meant death for all life on the planet.
So he followed God's instructions to the letter in building the ark, in caulking it with pitch, in gathering food for the people and for the animals, taking the animals in the right proportions. Seven clean pairs, two unclean pairs, etcetera. When God said, "Close the door." "Ham, Japheth, Shem! Over here! Close the doors!" They closed the doors. When God said, "Open the door! Get out!" "Shem, Ham, Japheth! Open the door! We're leaving!" And they left. He did everything exactly as God commanded him.
And what was his reward just at that time? Salvation. Deliverance. That was his reward for doing everything according to the word of the Lord. He was in perfect lockstep with Him. He and his family and all the animals lived and they entered a new world. What a beautiful analogy. It is a perfect parallel to living with God in this world for the saving of our souls and being granted new life in the Kingdom of God. But though God calls us just as He called Noah, Noah was required to do a work under God's instruction and supervision to affect deliverance. It was not just a calling and hey, presto, you are going to have eternal life forever, nothing required. Nope. That is not the way it works. I am sorry. Protestants are wrong. The calling is just the beginning.
We are required to do a work—put on the new man, prepare for the Kingdom of God in order to affect salvation, and to live in the New Age. God works the same whenever in history it happens to occur. He worked with Noah the same way He is working with us. The work is different, but He uses the same principles throughout the time of all of this preparation for the Kingdom of God. So no matter when God calls and offers salvation to a person, there is always a walk with or walk before God as part of the process. There is always a need, no matter when one is called, to be synced up with God. And when He zigs, we zig. When He zags, we zag. (Charles Whitaker has a wonderful little article on that from years ago that I would recommend we all read again.)
We have to be in step with God. We have to follow Him in everything. And because of the instruction that we have been given over the years, we can anticipate when He is moving and when He is standing still, when He is going left, and when He is going right. We have in this Book a pretty good idea of how to figure out what God is doing. In a way, we could say this is our pillar of cloud and fire if we can read it properly.
Maybe the best way to kind of put a cap on this idea is what God says to Abraham in Genesis 17:1. He says, "Walk before Me and be blameless." The phrasing changed. "Walk before Me and be blameless," and that is when He gives him the covenant there of circumcision and all that.
Let us consider this synchronization with God a little more closely and practically. We are done with all the principles of this. Now let us think about how this Book will help us sync up with God in a practical way, Christian living way. Let us go to Exodus 16. We are going to do my normal hop, skipping, and jumping through this chapter. This is the bread from heaven chapter, the manna chapter, if you want to put it that way.
Exodus 16:4-5 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not [whether they will be in sync with Me]. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily."
Pretty simple. Sixth day, gather twice. Not too hard to understand.
Exodus 16:13-15 So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" [manna] For they did not know what it was. [That is what manna means, "What is it?"] Moses said to them, "This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat."
Exodus 16:22-30 And so it was on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. [Hey, alright, they were in sync with that command. Was that not nice?] And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. Then he said to them, "This is what the Lord has said, 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today [on the sixth day], and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'" So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. [That is one part I skipped over. That if they left it over one more day it would start to stink and worms would be in it. But it did not do that on the double portion they collected on the sixth day of the week.] Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place. Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.
Every week we practice synchronization with God by keeping the Sabbath—or not. If we do not keep the Sabbath, we are not in sync with God. As He says here, this is a test commandment, and usually if somebody is going to have trouble, it is going to probably be a Sabbath question because it is tough to go against the world, tough to go against our nature that wants to use this day for their own pleasures or what have you.
So here is the first extended passage about the Sabbath since Genesis 2. God said He rested on the seventh day, He made the Sabbath. But in between there and here, there is precious little about the Sabbath and what Exodus 16 does is show us that the Israelites, as was their want, they were out of sync with God on this very fundamental point. They were treating the Sabbath like an ordinary day, and their treating of the Sabbath as an ordinary day receives God's immediate and angry censure. "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and laws?" It was like God thundered out of the cloud. "Look, there are people trying to pick up manna that's not even there. Didn't you hear what I said? If you want to be in sync with Me, don't do that on the Sabbath!"
This was even before the covenant was made at Sinai. God is almost touchy. You can read it that way, that He is touchy about are keeping His Sabbath. I would be, too, if I said, Hey, let's meet up at this time and this place and nobody showed." You like being stood up? God does not either. When He makes an agreement with somebody, He expects that person to meet the demands of the agreement.
Well, He gets touchy about these things because the Sabbath is the basic law that exposes whether we desire to be in sync with Him, because it is the test commandment. "Hey, God, we love You. I'm going to get baptized. This is wonderful." And within seven days at most comes a test. How are you going to keep the Sabbath? Then it happens the next week and the next week and the next week and the next week, and I could go on here for days and days, depending on how many weeks you have. It is a recurring test every week letting you gauge how much you are in sync with God.
So the Sabbath is a weekly engagement with Him that acts to re-center us in our walk with Him. How much we are going to be in His presence. If we do not keep the Sabbath, we do not keep it properly, we are not walking with God. It is a simple as that. We are out of step with Him, and we are going to end up missing out on instruction, correction, revelation, and all kinds of other additional blessings that He gives to His people who meet with Him on that day. There is rest on that day. There is fellowship on that day and many other things that we get out of keeping the Sabbath properly. And all these things that He gives us on this day enhance our growth because that is why He is doing it. He is not simply mean and saying you are going to meet with Me every week at this time and this place. That is not the way it is. He says, "Hey, come meet with Me at this time, in this place, and I'm going to give you all kinds of things that are going to help, okay? Why don't you meet Me there and we'll have fun. We'll sing. We'll pray. We'll do all the things we do. We've got a couple of lectures for you and you'll be able to meet with all your friends and it will be a great time, but you're going to come out of the other side of it better and have things to work on."
Actually, we will all be a lot closer. Hopefully, love will start to bloom, not in a romantic way, but in a spiritual way, among the brethren. Maybe some of the other kind too. You never know who you meet on a Sabbath. But when we meet with God on the seventh day, the date has been set for our weekly get together, and we come into His presence both formally and informally throughout the day because He is in the time. He is not just here at church services. When we ask Him to come and be with us, He is there throughout the entire Sabbath, in the time, and He wants us to be there the whole time with Him. And the benefits, whether we know what they are or whether we do not, will flow into us. Just for showing up.
That was one of the greatest things that came out of my dad's sermon series on prayer. That is, that just being in the presence of God in prayer is a stupendous benefit because He is giving stuff to us down that line of communication that we are not even aware of: answers, revelation, and all kinds of stuff come from just being in God's presence. And He gives us one day a week, 24 hours, to be in His presence each week and learn and grow with Him. I mean, look what David said in Psalm 16. I know this is a Messianic psalm, and I know it is basically for the future, but I think there is a principle here that we need to just keep in the back of our minds.
Just from being in God's presence is a blessing. Blessings flow from that. And as we saw earlier, this applies not just to the Sabbath day, the weekly Sabbath. It also applies to the annual Sabbaths in revealing God's plan and how we fit into it and many other things as well.
That was a practical one about the Sabbath, how to use the Sabbath. If we synchronize ourselves with God, our lives are going to improve significantly.
Let us look at another one. Interpersonal relations here. Let us go to Hebrews, the 13th chapter. We will just pluck this out of the context here because Paul has just finished giving all his doctrinal arguments there in Hebrews 1-12. And he ends the book in chapter 13 with some practical things that we could work on.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Here we have a what we call maybe a New Testament reiteration of the seventh commandment, God's command about sexual relations. "You shall not commit adultery." That is what it says in Exodus 20. It is just put it a different way here. "Marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers, God will judge."
Now God created sexual relations for husbands and wives and He says that this particular creation of His is honorable between a husband and a wife and He says that means that it is a noble thing. It is a proper thing. There is no shame in it. There is no guilt. There is no taint in marital sexual relations, but it is a matter of time, of timing. The same sexual activity practice before marriage is sin. It is fornication. And the same activity practiced after marriage with someone who is not your spouse is adultery. So if we do this wonderful thing that God has created at the wrong time, we put ourselves under judgment. But if we are in synchronization with God, if we are in sync with God and put the sexual activity in its proper place and time, we do not have to worry. It is honorable, it is noble, it is good. It is a wonderful thing.
So if we are synchronized with God, we wait to have sexual relations until after we say "I do" with the spouse that God has provided for us. If we commit fornication or adultery, we fall out of harmony with God. We are no longer in sync with Him, and if we do not repent, it is one of those things that may make us lose our salvation. Because Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:9-10 that neither fornicators nor adulterers will inherit the Kingdom of God. You see how important being in sync with God is? It can have dire consequences if we unhitch from His wagon as it were and go our own way.
Let us look at another aspect of synchronization with God and go back to the book of Daniel. We are going to read the whole 12th chapter.
Daniel 12:1-13 "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people [Before I go any further notice how often the word "time" is used in this chapter or any other kind of time marker. We are talking about the time of the end here.]; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."
Then I, Daniel, looked and there stood two others, one on this riverbank and the other on that riverbank. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days."
Lots of time words in there. We cannot know the times God speaks of here unless we are living in temporal harmony with Him, unless we are synced up with Him. He says in Amos 3:7 that He "does nothing unless He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets." What did the prophets do? Did they just sit on them? Did they just write them in a book and throw it on a shelf somewhere? No. The prophets do what they are supposed to do. They passed the information on. And so God gives this information to the prophets and they preach it to the people who will hear them, whose ears God has opened up. So the prophets passed those things on to the people and God here promises blessings to those who wait, who endure to the 1,335 days.
But how would one know to do this if he or she is not in sync with God? When does that 1,335 days begin? I cannot tell you for sure right now. This is something that will be revealed to His prophets when the time is right. But He says here, He assures us there at the end of verse 10, "The wise will understand." But what does He mean by that? Just for the purposes of this sermon, I am going to redefine what wise means just in terms of my theme here. I am going to redefine wise as "those who live in harmony with God." Those who live in harmony with God will understand. The wise, those who have skill in living. That is the definition my dad gave us when he was going through the Ecclesiastes series. The wise, those who are skilled in living, living God's way, will be granted understanding at the proper time. That is why he could tell Daniel, "Go your way, Daniel. Don't worry, go to sleep. I'll wake you up at that time and give you your inheritance."
It is not something we have to worry about. What we have to worry about is the day-to-day living with God, being in sync with Him.
Let us close in I Peter 4. That is what Peter tells us as he was winding down his life. The apostle writes:
I Peter 4:17-19 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Therefore [Get this. This is his closing argument here. His encouragement, his stir to action, if you will.] let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Those who are living on God's time, living in sync with Him, know that they are under judgment in this life. This is the playing field we need to win. Let us play to win.
But this life is short and full of tests and trials and potential stumbling blocks. It is not an easy thing to get through this life as a child of God, but those people who understand this, whom God has called and given this understanding, they know that walking before God is not easy, but they know there is one thing that they can do. They can commit their lives to the faithful Creator God. They can commit themselves to His time, knowing that if they keep their hand firmly in God's grasp, though they may stumble, they will never fall, and so they will gain entrance to salvation and the Kingdom of God.