HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR PLACE?

 

Week of August 9, 2009

 

Bible Verses:  Exodus 35:30-36:1; Jeremiah 1:4-8; Colossians 3:16-17.

 

Lesson Focus: This lesson is about discovering one's place of service in God's will.

 

Use Your God-Given Abilities: Exodus 35:30-36:1.

 

[30]  Then Moses said to the people of Israel, "See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; [31]  and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, [32]  to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, [33]  in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. [34]  And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. [35]  He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver--by any sort of workman or skilled designer.

[36:1]  "Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded." [ESV]

 

Since the tabernacle was an important step in God's eternal plan of salvation, the Bible tells us how it was built. First God gave Moses the plans. Then He invited His people to participate in the building project. The Israelites offered what they had and what they did to God. At the end of Exodus 35, construction is underway. With heartfelt gratitude for everything God had done to save them out of Egypt, the Israelites began to bring whatever materials were needed for the tabernacle. Making a building suitable for God's dwelling place required special talents. It took the right people to do the job. So as the Israelites began bringing their gifts and offerings for the tabernacle, Moses made a special announcement found in these verses. This is the first time in the Bible that someone is said to be filled with God's Spirit. This shows how important the tabernacle was. God wanted His house built in a special way. To that end, the same Holy Spirit who with the Father and the Son created the world in six days was poured out on the men who made the tabernacle. The outpouring of the Spirit teaches us something about the importance of spiritual gifts in the church. It takes the Holy Spirit to build God's house. In the time of Moses, the Spirit came with special gifts for building the tabernacle. The gifts the Spirit gave for building the tabernacle were mostly artistic. Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other members of Israel's artistic community had a divine calling to make the tabernacle, and with that calling came special gifts from God. This should be a great encouragement to anyone involved in the arts because it shows that some people are called to be artists. Admittedly, the experience of Bezalel and Oholiab was unique. God has never called anyone else to design and build a tabernacle like this original one! However, by commissioning these men, God was pronouncing His blessing on the arts. He is a God who takes pleasure in aesthetic beauty. Thus the Christian artist has a legitimate vocation. In the same way that God called Bezalel and Oholiab by name, He calls artists today to use their gifts for His glory. Artists need to respond to God's call with faith and obedience. This is what Bezalel and Oholiab did, with the rest of Israel's artists. Working on the tabernacle was strictly voluntary. God only wanted help from people who were willing to serve. These willing men were master craftsmen, with all the gifts for making great art: ability, intelligence, insight, and expertise. Bezalel and Oholiab also had a gift for teaching. Bezalel was the artistic director, chief engineer and shared his gift by training apprentices to make fine art. They used their God-given abilities in service to God in order to honor Him.

 

Open Yourself to a Divine Calling: Jeremiah 1:4-8.

 

[4]  Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, [5]  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." [6]  Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth." [7]  But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. [8]  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD." [ESV]

 

[4-5]  The expression the word of the Lord, which opens the account of Jeremiah's call, is significant. The Hebrew word translated word means word or action. For the ancient Israelite, word and action were part of the same experience. What a person thinks or plans, what he says and what he does are all part of the same event. During his ministry Jeremiah both preached and performed symbolic acts; both these activities were means of declaring the word of Yahweh. The clear consciousness of a call came to Jeremiah in the form of a dialog. That was not an unusual occurrence in Israel. Isaiah's call involved a dialog [Isaiah 6] as did the call of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 1-3]. It was important for Jeremiah to be able to claim that his call had come direct from Yahweh since he was to encounter other prophets during the long years of his ministry. Of particular importance to Jeremiah was the awareness that he had been predestined to occupy the prophetic office since his birth, indeed before his birth. The opening word of the dialog is deeply significant. If ever Jeremiah in later days were overtaken by despair he could know that the divine purpose for him reached back before his birth. The three verbs used here are also significant. The verb know often carried considerable depth of meaning in the Old Testament, for it reached beyond mere intellectual knowledge to personal commitment. For this reason it is used of the intimate relations between a man and his wife. It was used of Yahweh's commitment to Israel [Amos 3:2]. The second verb, consecrated, gathers about it another aspect of commitment. Basically the word is concerned with setting something apart from all other uses to a specific use. The Lord has set Jeremiah apart for a particular task. That awareness was to sustain him in many dark hours, and when he cursed the day of his birth he was really casting doubts upon his call [cf. 20:14-15]. The third verb, appoint, refers to the specific assignment of Jeremiah to a particular task, that of being a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah's special appointment was to the nations, not simply to Judah alone. There were no limits to Yahweh's sovereignty and therefore there were no limits to the scope of Jeremiah's ministry.

 

[6-8]  Jeremiah's response was hesitant and brief. Small wonder, since the great nations like Assyria, Babylon, Egypt were enough to cause fear to a mere youth. Due to his youth and inexperience, Jeremiah hesitated to accept the Lord's call. Human inadequacy and inexperience provide the occasion for divine enablement. It was so in the case of Moses and Isaiah and it was the experience of Jeremiah. The Lord rejected all excuses with a simple instruction, Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go. There was no choice of audience for Jeremiah. He was to go to anyone and everyone to whom the Lord might send him. Nor did he have a choice of message. He was to tell his audience all that the Lord commanded him. It was a continuing conviction of Jeremiah's that he was simply speaking the word the Lord had given him, and he declared this at times of extreme peril or at times when it might have been to his advantage to modify the Lord's word. But coupled to that imperious word was a strong word of reassurance: Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you. Nothing less than the deepest conviction that God will be with him will suffice. At times, Jeremiah felt bowed down by the pressures of his persecutors and seems almost to have doubted the Lord's assurance [20:7-18]. But it was only a temporary doubt in every case, and his persistence in his calling even beyond the fall of Jerusalem bears witness to his own deep conviction about the Lord's promise.

 

Honor the Lord in Whatever You Do: Colossians 3:16-17.

 

[16]  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

[17]  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [ESV]

 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts [3:15] parallels let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. And the rich indwelling of the word of Christ is parallel to the statement that everything should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus [3:17]. All this parallelism shows that Paul's focus here is on Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, is the center around which the believer as an individual and the community of believers gathered together in worship revolves. Anything that is done without Christ as the focal point violates Paul's instructions given in these verses.

 

The word of Christ was the focus of the congregation. This phrase is best understood as the word that proclaims Christ (compare the word of the truth, the gospel [1:5]). Thus Paul uses the phrase to summarize the authentic teaching about Christ and His significance for His church. The church as the community of believers was constantly to recognize the reason for its existence by a continual concern for the gospel message and its implications in the congregation. The objective, special revelation that proceeds from and concerns Christ should govern every thought, word and deed. While some understand this to refer to the indwelling of the word in the individual life, the rest of this verse, with its focus on the worship of the collective body, suggests rather that Paul is urging the community as a whole to put the message about Christ at the center of its corporate experience. This means that the words in you refer to the corporate body as a whole, although individuals certainly had to make sure that the word of Christ was in them as well. The message about Christ should take up permanent residence (dwell in you) among the Colossians; it should be constantly at the center of the community's activities and worship. Richly suggests that this constant reference to the word of Christ should not be superficial or passing but that it should be a deep and penetrating contemplation that enables the message to have transforming power in the life of the community.

 

Before every activity, the church should answer two questions: Is the peace of Christ present in the congregation at this point? And is this consistent with, and will it promote knowledge of the word of Christ? Certain activities encourage and promote the centrality of the word of Christ: teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The statement naturally divides into three parts: the importance of wisdom, the activity of teaching and admonishing, and the matter of the songs themselves. In Colossians, wisdom always has a spiritual dimension and is related ultimately to the mind of God. Paul encouraged them to express their corporate worship in real wisdom, which centers in and promotes Christ. Thus as they grew in their understanding of spiritual truth, they were to encourage others in the context of real wisdom. Among other aspects, wisdom means that there are proper means to an end, and those means will be employed. The word of Christ became prominent by the exercise of spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts identified here are teaching and exhortation. Teaching is the orderly arrangement of truth and effective communication of it. Admonishing differs from teaching. Admonishing has the element of strong encouragement. It is generally practical and moral, rather than abstract or theological. It is the way teaching is reinforced in the lives of the hearers. Such orderly arrangement of truth and strong practical encouragement are to be done in wisdom. Among other things, that means the person exercising these gifts will understand, in the will of God, how to exercise them appropriately. It also means that their exercise will be distinctly Christian in motivation and method.

 

Together psalms, hymns and spiritual songs address the entire scope of musical expression in early church worship. Music is a vehicle through which a message is delivered. The medium of music, therefore, must remain secondary to the message it conveys. Music is legitimate only when it is a medium pointing beyond itself to the exhorting and encouraging of other believers and the evangelization of unbelievers. Christian musicians must give primary attention to what is communicated and secondary attention to how it is communicated. Singing effectively teaches and encourages. The second descriptive statement modifying teaching and admonishing is with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Christian singing is to be in the realm of grace. The location of the song is the heart. Paul urged the Colossian believers to have their entire beings (your hearts) involved in the song.

 

Paul summarized the paragraph in verse 17. All of life is addressed with the words whatever you do, in word or deed. The two realms of speech and action encompass every area of life. The name of the Lord Jesus provides the proper atmosphere for life. They were to do nothing apart from His direction, approval, and purposes. Living in accord with His name means in harmony with His revealed will (the word of Christ), in subjection to His authority, in dependence on His power. The concluding clause again highlights thanksgiving as an important component of Christian obedience and, at the same time, an important source of that obedience. Thankfulness for what God has accomplished for us in Christ is an obvious and powerful stimulus to live under His Lordship. But note that  this thankfulness in the heart must come to expression only through him. It is only through Christ who has opened the way for us to approach God that we can offer our thankfulness to the Father.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What spiritual gifts or natural abilities has God given to you? How can you serve and honor God with the use of these gifts and abilities?

 

2.         Describe Jeremiah's calling in 1:4-8. How did God's promises expressed in this calling sustain Jeremiah in all the difficulties he faced as he carried out his calling as God's prophet? We may not have a special calling like Jeremiah, but God has called every believer to serve Him in the spread of His kingdom. And, like Jeremiah, our calling includes God's promises that He will supply us with whatever is needed in order to accomplish our particular calling. As you seek to glorify God in your particular service to Him, remember to rely upon His promises in order not to "grow weary in doing good" [Gal. 6:9].

 

3.         According to Paul in Colossians 3:16-17, what role must the word of Christ play in our corporate worship; and in our understanding of how we can make sure that our every word or deed is done in the name of the Lord Jesus? The deepest desire of every believer should be to bring honor to our Lord in everything that we do. Note in these two verses how the word of Christ is the determining factor in our deciding what will bring Him honor.

 

References:

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.

The Book of Jeremiah, J.A. Thompson, Eerdmans.

The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans.

Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Richard Melick, Jr., NAC, Broadman Press.