PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
I typically have a single passage as my “message text,” but today’s exposition is different. I want to incorporate several passages that will help synthesize my message. Our first passage is taken from Hebrews 8:5, where God instructed Moses, with precise language, how to build the Tabernacle. The Scripture says: “Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the Tabernacle; “See that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” (Compare Exodus 26:30, Acts 7:44.)
But the Tabernacle was not the only Worship Center in the Bible that God supplied with specific instructions. He designed the Temple of Jerusalem with an explicit template too. Years ago, I wondered how Solomon knew to construct the Temple with all its grandeur. It had the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place, the Mercy-seat, the Golden Candlestick, the cherubim, the altars, the curtains, and so forth. The Temple’s construction was very different from the Tabernacle! What gave Solomon this latitude to deviate from the plan God had given to Moses in building the Tabernacle?
As I investigated, I discovered 1 Chronicles 28 contained the answer. God didn’t reveal the architecture of the Temple to Solomon—and he was the world’s wisest man. The Holy Spirit revealed the details of the Temple to David—a man anointed by the Holy Spirit. David said in 1 Chronicles 28:19, “The LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern” of the Temple.
God used a “Man of the Spirit” to design the Temple. Think about that. David overcame lions, bears, and Philistines apart from natural ability. He won his battles through divine strategy and strength. And that’s how he designed the Temple. He didn’t utilize worldly wisdom or human intellect; he let the voice of God transmit the architecture of the Temple.
Here’s what’s interesting about Solomon: Although he was the world’s wisest and most intelligent man, once David died, Solomon never consulted or crossed paths with a prophet of God. And it’s a likely reason that his heart couldn’t remain steadfast toward God.
Do you know why the Jewish Temple existed? It’s for a similar reason that churches today exist. Let me ask you a question. What is the divine purpose of this church? Is it to save sinners and disciple Christians? Is it to minister to the poor, weak, hungry, and local families? Is the primary purpose of our church services to support missions? While all that I’ve mentioned is important none is the primary reason God ordained worship churches. God didn’t design this church primarily for man’s benefit; although it blesses mankind immensely. David said in 1 Chronicles 29:1, “The Temple is not for man, but for the Lord God.” God designed the Temple expressly for His glory!
When we apply the “Temple Principle” and make it the “Church Principle” we will understand that every aspect of ministry and worship should be designed for our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ! And when that happens we will see God’s glory fill our house just as it filled the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. That’s what we’re after—the glory of God!
There’s nothing wrong with making our churches “seeker friendly” and “family friendly,” but most importantly we need to structure the church to accommodate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. “The Temple is not for man, but for the Lord God”! The worship agenda belongs to God; not man. And when we construct our worship “according to this pattern” God will release His blessing to us!
(Harbinger) Here’s the essence of today’s message. The Bible shows that God gave men assignments throughout the Bible. He called men to build boats, Tabernacles, Temples, garments, and so forth. He called some to fight battles, others to write Scripture, others to prophesy, and still others to evangelize and pastor. Whatever the assignment was, God always had a divine pattern for the project. And the blessing of God always followed those that lived According to the Pattern!
(Insight) The reason we fail in life isn’t because we aren’t doing what God ordained; it’s because we aren’t doing it His way! When God issues a plan, He also issues His pattern. And we are always called to implement that Pattern.
Details are important to God! Don’t ever forget that. If you want to succeed, you can’t keep fishing off the left side of the boat once Christ says, “Cast your nets on the other side.” Details are important to God.
(Bible Example) Let me remind you of a grave mistake by the “man after God’s heart”—David. In 2 Samuel 6 David is seen transporting the Ark of the Covenant to Bethlehem. It wasn’t anything God objected to but as the Ark was in transit, an ox that was transporting it stumbled. And when a priest tried to steady the Ark he was struck dead! You see, God doesn’t always object to our plans but He does object to our efforts to fulfill them contrary to His pattern. Moses had commanded the Ark to be transported on the shoulders of Priests; not ox; and that displeased God.
(Transition) I want to illustrate the importance of following God’s directives. And Noah is a perfect example.
God Commands Noah to Build an Ark
A thousand years after creation God warned Noah that a catastrophic flood would cover the earth and destroy man and beast. So He gave Noah the assignment of building a boat. It’s interesting that Noah’s task came with precise instructions. There was no ambiguity in how God wanted the Ark constructed.
In Genesis 6:14 the Lord said to Noah: “Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. (15) This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, seventy-five feet wide and forty-five feet high. (16) Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within eighteen inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make, middle and upper decks.” Why did God give Noah such precise instructions?
(Fact) The Ark was ten times longer than its height and six times longer that its width. In 1997, naval architect David Collins concluded that even in winds up to 210-knots—that’s three times hurricane force—the Ark was unassailable![i] Dr. Henry Morris published an article that said “The ark’s dimensions made it almost impossible to capsize—even if tilted through any angle less than 90 degrees.”[ii]
Noah’s ark was a nautical wonder! And naval architects understand that applying Noah’s proportional dimensions to ship-building produces the most seaworthy vessels. That’s amazing! Five thousand years ago God directed Noah to construct the Ark in a way that remains the prototype for building ships. Is it any wonder that God has a divine blueprint for our lives?
- God knows the winds of adversity that will howl against us.
He knows the battles we will fight.
He also knows the opportunities that await us.
That’s why the Lord has a specific design for your life.
(Illustration) Many years ago I accepted God’s call to preach. At the time I accepted the call to preach the Lord gave me an assignment that coincided with that Call. It wasn’t an audible voice but it was an irrepressible knowing that God infused deep into my soul. He called me to pray. The Lord let me know, that I was to maintain a life of prayer.
(Insight) There’s a prayer I have prayed repeatedly for many years. It’s Messianic prayer that’s found in Psalm 40:7 and also Hebrews 10:7. It says, “Behold, it is written in the volume of the Book, Your will, O God, I have come to do.” In other words, I’m assuring the Lord that I don’t have an agenda. He’s God; He’s the Father; and I’ll trust whatever He sets before me.
(Transition) I want to speak to you about opportunity. Because as the sage said, “All that glitters is not gold.” Turn to Acts 16 and let’s read how the Lord directed the Apostle Paul.
“Don’t Go to Asia!”
Acts 16:6 says this: “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; (7) and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; (8) and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. (9) A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (10) When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Paul first started toward Asia with the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit said, “Don’t go to Asia” (6). So, Paul altered his course and headed to Bithynia. But on the verge of going to Bithynia, the Holy Spirit said, “Don’t go to Bithynia” (7)! So Paul once again halted his course. Then, after twice being redirected, God gave Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him to minister there. It was most likely Dr. Luke because that’s where the Bible shows them meeting. And when Paul obeyed God the door to Europe and Asia Minor was thrown wide open.
One church historian studied the course Paul took in the First Century and concluded that his ministry in Europe and Asia Minor literally erected a barricade of churches that prevented Islam from flooding the Western World. Do you see how important it is to do things According to the Pattern? 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
(Illustration) Years ago my dad founded a worldwide ministry. He scheduled a trip to the Far East and assembled a team to assist him. After the plans were set one traveler cancelled his trip so my dad offered me an all-expenses paid trip. It was an incredible opportunity but I couldn’t accept! Several days earlier the Lord had given me a dream that I was traveling overseas. He even showed me someone on the trip. During the dream the Lord warned me against going. I didn’t understand why, but I had to decline my dad’s offer. But something unusual happened during that time. I had been pastoring a church for 2½ years with hardly any growth. On my first Sunday, we had 35 people and it had struggle to grow to 50. But on the Sunday morning I would have been in Asia with my dad, 27 visitors walked into that sanctuary! In a day, the church had grown to about 90 people. In three months we were having 150 people. In six months we were having over 220. Less than two years later we had built a worship facility for 600 people.
Folks, every opportunity is not necessarily a “stepping stone.” That opportunity could be disguised as a trap! That’s why we must maintain humility before God and submit to His will. He knows the “end from the beginning and when He says “No” to your prayers it’s because He’s designed something better!
(Example) Two thousand years ago the crowds tried to crown Christ King. They saw Him multiply bread and fish, open blind eyes, and work wonders; so they decided to crown Him. But He wouldn’t allow it! He rejected a Crown when He knew the Cross was just ahead. But why settle for a Crown when you can be transformed by a Resurrection? You and I are here today because Christ chose the Cross. The path of least resistance is not always God’s plan. Always follow God’s path.
(Transition) I want you to notice how David followed God.
David: Israel’s National Inquirer
In 2 Samuel 5 the elders of Israel anointed David King of Israel (5:3). Immediately after his ascent to the throne the Philistines attacked. But notice David’s course of action. The Bible says David “inquired of the Lord” (5:19). That’s important! David didn’t presume to know God’s plan; and He was the King! This is why I call David “The National Enquirer.” He was always “inquiring of the Lord.” David knew the importance of seeking God’s course of action. So “David inquired of the Lord saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” The Lord said, ‘Yes, David, go up. Launch an attack’. And when David obeyed he routed the Philistines.
However, the Philistines weren’t finished because a short time later they launched another attack. But once again, the Bible says “David inquired of the Lord” (5:23). And it’s good that David “inquired” because God gave him a completely different strategy. The Lord said, “Stay put David. Don’t move until you hear the sound in the tops of the balsam trees. I’m going to make the first move.” And when David obeyed God broke forth with another mighty victory!
(Transition) God always knows the strategy for victory! He’s all-knowing and He always knows the best course of action. Always! I want you to notice an interesting story in Mark 8. It involves the healing of the blind man from Bethesda.
Healing of the Blind Man
Mark 8:22 says: “And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. (23) Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” (24) And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” (25) Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (26) And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
This is a unique miracle. Why did Christ’s first touch not secure perfect vision? His touch merely improved the man’s sight to an imperfect blur; not 20/20 vision. What went wrong? There is a reason. The friends of this blind man desperately wanted him healed but they wanted him healed on their terms. They instructed Christ how to work the miracle. Listen again: “they implored Christ to lay His hands on the blind man.” The people of Bethsaida told Christ how to work the miracle!
- Does the Great Physician not know how to administer the healing touch?
Does the Good Shepherd not know how to tend the sheep?
Who are we to instruct the Lord in His mysterious ways?
What God wants from us is faith, not instructions!
This is why it took two attempts from the Lord to heal this man. It’s not our place to prescribe the pattern to God. It’s our place to submit to the pattern. When this life is over and we stand before God we will discover that He was a better Leader than we were follower! He’s a better Shepherd than we are sheep! Let God direct your life!
(Transition) You say, “How am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to follow His pattern? Perhaps the most important key to your success depends on this: (1) Seek God continually and (2) be yourself! You are unique and He will show you His plan if you will seek Him! In fact, God is more interested in communicating His plan to you than you are finding it out!
You can know God’s plan for you. It’s all through the Bible. Listen to some of the Scriptures that set forth the “Doctrine of Guidance”:
- Psalm 48:14 says, “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”
Psalm 73:24 says, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”
Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isaiah 48:17 says, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
Jesus said in John 16:13, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
Psalm 139:9 says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn or if I settle on the far side of the sea, (10) even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Do you know when we experience defeat? We often fail when we attempt to implement our strategy rather than God’s. But remember, if God knows everything, and He does; and if God is completely wise, and He is; then it makes sense to follow His leading. It seems appropriate to heed the “voice behind . . . [us that says,] “This is the way; walk in it.”
There are many ways God exercises the Doctrine of Guidance toward Christians:
- God leads us by His infallible written Word—the Bible.
He guides us when the Holy Spirit prompts and compels us to do something.
He directs us by placing deep-seeded desires within our heart that won’t go away.
He leads supernaturally through dreams and visions.
The fact that the Bible calls God our “Heavenly Father” carries an implicit guarantee that He will guide His people.
Sometimes we discover how to follow God by learning lessons from our mistakes. Rather than asking anyone here to expose their failures, let’s consult Scripture because the Bible scripts a long list of people that teach us how not to attempt to execute God’s will.
Moses is one of my favorite character studies of Scripture. He fascinates me. But as remarkable as Moses was, he was not without flaw. One of the rare mistakes Moses made was when he struck down an Egyptian. Turn to Exodus 2 and let’s read what happened:
Exodus 2:11-15. “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. (12) So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (13) He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” (14) But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” (15) When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian.”
This passage teaches how we must not attempt to accomplish God’s will. The Lord will never require you to violate biblical principles. He will never command you to ignore the moral code of conduct that Scripture affirms. If you must defraud or cheat or lie or impugn others in order to claim an opportunity, then the opportunity must be denied! God will never ask you to contradict His holy and pure Word. The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes and Christ’s Parables teach us how to form our character and conduct our lives and God expects us to conform to His commands.
One of the most revered men of the OT is Moses. He was a rare and inimitable prophet. Of all the people of the Bible I would never have wanted to succeed Moses. But somebody had to and Joshua was the man. In order to understand the magnitude of Joshua’s task I want to rehearse Moses’ resume.
- Moses is the man that conversed with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend.
Moses performed more miracles than anyone but Christ.
Moses entered into the presence of God and received human history’s greatest legislative document—the Ten Commandments.
Moses had single-handedly delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery when Egypt was the world’s mightiest monarchy.
Moses lifted his hand and the Red Sea parted and opened as a desert highway for Israel to journey through.
I believe the angels would have hesitated to lead Israel had God offered Moses’ rod to one of them. But somebody had to succeed him. And Joshua was the man.
It’s interesting that Joshua never healed one sick person. He never called down fire. He never gave Israel a miraculous supply of manna or water. But God used Joshua mightily to defeat the Canaanites and settle Israel into the Promised Land. In fact, Joshua followed God’s purpose for His life so diligently that he is regarded as Israel’s greatest military General. God didn’t want Joshua to be Moses. God called Joshua to be Joshua. He gave Joshua a completely different assignment than Moses had. And this is true for you. God has issued a unique calling upon your life. He’s assigned you with a unique mission. It may be similar to someone else; but nobody is made exactly like you and nobody has your precise assignment.
Be Who God Created You to Be!
Sometime back I noticed an interesting analogy between Jesus and John the Baptist. Each man was divinely chosen for a specific mission, but each fulfilled his mission uniquely.
“prepared the way.”
- Jesus was
John was the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” while Isaiah said of Christ, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets.”
The diet of John consisted of locusts and honey. Jesus dined at the tables of wealthy publicans and sinners.
John’s wardrobe was a garment of camel’s hair fastened by a leather belt. Jesus wore the beautiful seamless robe.
John baptized in water. Jesus baptized in the Holy Spirit.
John’s purpose was to decrease. Jesus’ purpose was to increase.
And there are more analogies like this throughout Scripture.
- David was a man of war. Solomon was a man of peace.
Jeremiah was a prophet to the nations. Nathan was a prophet primarily to one man—King David.
Peter was an apostle to the Jews. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles.
And Moses was called to take God’s people out while Joshua was called to lead God’s people in.
So many times we contest God’s grace for our lives. We try to lead the people out when God called us to lead them in. We see another person’s methodology and we try to imitate it instead of embracing God’s endowment to us.
(Illustration) Early in my full-time ministry I was praying in a field. The Lord spoke to me: “I sent you to reap on another man’s foundation.” I discovered this is what the Lord told His Apostles in John 4:38. “I sent you to reap whereon you bestowed no labor. Others have labored, but you have entered in upon their labors.” Throughout the years I have enjoyed fruitful labors when I worked with ministries that were already established and in the harvest field. You see, God knows how to make you fruitful and He wants you to live “according to the pattern” that He establishes.
(Transition) So how do you know whether an opportunity is from God? Let me answer that by presenting the answer in its most basic form.
What vision are you contemplating now? Is your heart is uneasy, distressed, or apprehensive? Have you secured the peace of God? If not, don’t move until you resolve those issues! But if the Holy Spirit has given you peace and faith, regardless of how huge the vision is, then it’s time to implement the vision and implement it “According to the Pattern.”