Allen Jackson - Understand What God Is Doing - Part 2
I want to walk with you just quickly. I chose the biblical characters that I think you will know. You'll be familiar with their general narrative. If they're not, spend a few minutes with Rabbi Google today. 'Cause he'll introduce you to some of their back story, but Samuel is one of the most important characters in all of the Bible and certainly from a Jewish perspective. Samuel stands ahead of Daniel and some many others that you and I would consider to be heroic characters. Samuel was a transitionary figure. He's the last of the judges, that book of Judges. You know from your Old Testament Samuel is the last of the judges because after Samuel there's a monarchy implemented.
And Samuel is the character that God asked to bridge that transition. Samuel began serving the Lord as a small child. His life begins with the promise of his mother, who had no children, and promised God if he would allow her to conceive that she would give the child to the service of the Lord, and she conceived and gave birth to Samuel, and she relinquished him to the care of the priest when he was but a boy. Samuel grew up in the service of the Lord. Parents, we need to desire to see our children serve the Lord.
If the Christ followers don't have a desire to see our children serve the Lord with their whole heart, mind, soul, and body, where do we think the leadership for the church is gonna come from? Why do we aspire for them, for the same things that the ungodly are seeking? Because we don't attach enough value to the things of God. We don't think the rewards are legitimate. We don't think the promises are real because all we can see is our routine. And where would serving the Lord fit into that routine? I almost missed God's invitation in my life because I couldn't imagine a place in the routine.
When I went to church as a boy, ministers wore long, black robes and vestments. I don't ever remember seeing a leader of a religious service smile, let alone laugh. And I could not imagine yielding my life to that. There was more about a little of God in me than it was anybody else's fault. But I almost missed the invitation. Samuel saw the outcome of the king. Samuel saw the pride of Saul. He saw the heart of David. He had a vision, an awareness, an understanding that those around him didn't have. Again, Abram was not unique. 1 Samuel chapter 8, this is what he said to the tribal leaders when they came, and they said, "We want a king".
Listen to what Samuel said. Israel's never had a monarchy. They've never had a king, or a palace, or a central government. God has been their governor. God's been their king. Listen to Samuel's understanding. "This is what the king who will reign over you will do. He'll take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and his horses, and they'll run in front of his chariots, and some of you he'll assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He'll take your daughters to be perfumers, and cooks, and bakers. He'll take the best of your fields, and vineyards, and olive groves, and he'll give them to his attendants. He'll take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials in attendance.
Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he'll take for his own. He'll take a tenth of your flocks. And you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you'll cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day". The brightest and the best, the most powerful, the most influential in the nation of Israel are standing in front of Samuel and saying, "We want a king". They're blind. They think it's going to make their lives better. They think it will enhance their portfolios, expand their influence, give their children and grandchildren a better future. And Samuel is standing in a very lonely position, saying, "Can't you see? Can't you see? Let me tell you what it will bring". And look at their answer. The people refused to listen to Samuel. "We want a king over us".
The kings led them ultimately into slavery. They lost everything. Samuel could see. He had a revelation from God. And folks, we are desperate for people with vision. Joseph. Samuel's not unique. Joseph, Joseph saw his brothers bow down. He was the youngest. They were stronger. They had more training. They had more life experience. And Joseph saw them bow down. Joseph saw Egypt in both abundance and famine, when nobody else saw it; not Pharaoh, not his wisest counselors, not the agricultural experts, not the people for whom Egyptian was their first language. Joseph had an insight that nobody around him saw. It came from his relationship with God, and it brought a significance to his life that could not have come from an Egyptian university, from an Egyptian business adventure.
We have undervalued, we have underestimated the significance of understanding spiritual things. We've said we want to be born again because we want to go to heaven; but between here and heaven, we want to do what we want to do. God, forgive us. Our interest in serving the Lord has been so, you know, we might volunteer for something. We might give something that isn't that essential to us anyway. We offload our appliances. We have better ones coming. But we've lacked the vision, the insight to say that the things of God are, God, better than all the things that I can touch and feel.
Moses, Moses understood the power of Pharaoh. When God was recruiting him at the burning bush, he said, "I don't want to go back there. I know that man. I know that palace. I know that power structure. I'm not going". He argues with God through a whole host of some pretty neat tricks. Serpents and snakes in your hand, in your jacket, and it comes out, and it's diseased, and it goes back, and it's clean. He's not questioning the power of God. He's saying, "I understand the power of Pharaoh. I don't want to go do this. I'll get canceled. I barely got out of it the last time I was there. It was nip and tuck. This is not a contest, God. You don't understand". He has a revelation of the glory of God.
You're talking about vision, and insight, and understanding. David, we know him as the greatest king of the Hebrew people. But David saw God as a deliverer long before he heard Goliath's name. He understood that God would deliver a lion or a bear into his hands, not because he was a good shot, but because God that he worshiped was powerful. He had a vision of God. I would've had a vision of just breeding more sheep. I mean, they multiply. My father was a veterinarian. I know how that works. It happened all the time. But David had a vision of God that said no! There's a greater power than the power of that predator. So that when David heard Goliath's challenge, he saw his vulnerabilities. Nobody in the entire Israelite army saw that, not even King Saul, who's the most imposing physical presence in the entire Israelite camp.
David saw Jerusalem as the city of God. It was a Jebusite city. It wasn't even under the control of one of the 12 tribes. And he said, "God has chosen that city for himself". Daniel, Daniel is a slave. His life circumstances are miserable. We've talked about that. He had every reason to be bitter and angry and frustrated, to hate God, to withdraw from God. But he had a revelation of God. It enabled Daniel to see the dreams of the king, when the king couldn't even see his own dreams. Daniel saw the end of the exile. The Jewish people aren't living in Israel. They're not allowed to live in Israel. They're slaves in a foreign land, and Daniel saw the end of the exile. He said, "It's time for us to go home".
It's Daniel 9. Read it. And he begins to pray a prayer of repentance, not for the forgiveness of the sins of the wicked people that preceded him. He said, "God, we have this this way". Daniel had an insight, an understanding, a vision. He saw the end of the exile. He saw the return to Jerusalem, and he saw the end of the age. We still read the book of Daniel to see what is in front of us. A Babylonian slave. Daniel had a revelation of God. This isn't unique to Abraham. We're talking about Samuel, and Joseph, and Moses, and David, and Daniel. Some prefer the New Testament. Paul, the great advocate for the gospel. God in his wisdom chose the rabbi of the rabbis to give the message to the non-Jews, because he did it in such a way that the rabbis and the Jewish orthodox community couldn't combat the wisdom of the truth he was giving to the non-Jewish people.
Scripture says of Paul that he was obedient to the vision from heaven. Paul saw Jesus as king. He saw him as king of both the Jew and the non-Jew. He had a revelation. He said it of himself. He said, "What I've learned about Jesus, I didn't learn at the feet of the apostles. The Lord gave it to me". Paul saw the church. He saw that in all of those Roman pagan cities, those cities filled with idols and idol worshipers and idolatry, there were synagogues in those cities. In city after city, Paul began his messaging in the synagogues. And in city after city, they drove him out. He saw there was potential beyond what was happening in the synagogue. He saw that there were people that would receive the Jesus message. The synagogues were filled with devout people, biblically aware people, students of Scripture, covenant people of God with no vision, with no hearing.
In fact, they are angered and furious with Paul when he visits their city with a vision from God. In city after city, they drive him out of the synagogue. "We want nothing to do with you". They will stir up the political authorities. To try to cancel Paul. They will follow him to other cities to disrupt his message. Paul saw the potential of the church. We get to 2 Timothy and he's in a Roman prison, and he understands that his execution is very likely next on his agenda. He writes to Timothy, and he said, "I'm persuaded that what I've committed to God, he is well able to guard against that day when I will see him". If you're just analyzing his life work at that point, if you didn't have any spiritual vision, if you didn't have a revelation of God, you'd think he was a horrible failure. His churches are struggling.
The Corinthian church is immoral. I mean, they're immoral, they're drunkards, they're gluttons, they're sexually immoral. The Galatian church stepped away from the gospel, adopted another gospel under the influence of witchcraft. I mean, the churches that he spent his life planting are just teetering on the brink of destruction, and Paul sees them, and he said, "There's a crown of righteousness for me. What I've done in those cities is going to change the world". Within three centuries, Christianity is the official religion of the empire. It grew from that vision in Paul's heart.
In Acts 26, in verse 15, Paul was telling his story. He's reciting what happened to him on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him. "Who are you, Lord"? "I'm Jesus whom you're persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet. I've appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you". Don't miss that. Paul's in the dust. He's very educated, very successful, very celebrated. He's been entrusted to take what he's been doing in Jerusalem and to take it to other cities. And Jesus steps in. He sees Jesus, and he said, "Now stop doing what you've been doing and take up what I'm going to show you". Are you willing to let Jesus do that in your life? Or are you just gonna keep telling us you're born again? Are we willing to accept the vision for a church that impacts our world?
I'll be honest with you. I've sat working through this in preparation with tears running down my face from my own life. We have a routine, but I'm grateful for it. There are some good things in routines, but God is bigger than our routine. I didn't come to chastise you. I don't want to scold you. I don't feel that in my heart. I want to invite you to begin to say to the Lord, "I need to see you in a new way. I need to see you in a new way". Jesus said, "Get up and stand on your feet". I think it's what he would say to us. I have some things I want to show you. That happens in the early part of Acts. This is Acts 26. Years have intervened between when that happened and what Paul is recording here.
There are years in between that original meeting on the Damascus road and this presentation before King Agrippa. And he says, "So, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. I've chased it from that day until this. I started that journey that day with one objective, and it got interrupted, and I've never turned loose of what Jesus asked me to do". He gives you the description. "I wasn't disobedient to the first, to those in Damascus". That was where he was headed. "And then to those in Jerusalem and all Judea". Judea is the region that surrounds Jerusalem, in the way that Rutherford County would surround Murfreesboro. And then to the Gentiles also, then to all the non-Jews, everybody else.
"I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds". He'd never seen that. That was completely outside of his experience portfolio. He couldn't go watch a YouTube video on how to do that. The only way he saw that was he had a vision from Jesus. He had an awareness, an insight. He could hear. It doesn't stop there. The other disciples, Nathaniel, Phillip, and the others, they saw heaven open and angels ascending and descending upon Jesus. The priests didn't, the synagogue leaders didn't, the Sadducees didn't, the Roman centurions and all of their power, most of them didn't. One or two did. The governor missed it.
In John chapter 1 and verse 50, Jesus said, he's talking to Nathaniel, he said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under a fig tree"? Jesus is like, "Really? You thought that was something"? But he flips the script. He tells Nathaniel what he's going to see, what he's going to see. "You'll see greater things than that," he added. "I tell you the truth. You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man". John, the closest of all the disciples to Jesus, when he's an old man, Jesus has been gone for decades. It's not recorded anywhere in Scripture, but I have a feeling John interviewed Paul. "When you saw Jesus, what did he look like"? Paul's the enemy. He kills Christians. And he rolls into town and said, "I saw Jesus". I bet John took him aside and said, "Tell me about this Jesus. You'd better get the answer right".
Now John's an old man. It's been decades since he's seen Jesus. And the first chapter of Revelation, it says, "On the Lord's Day he was in the Spirit. And he heard a voice behind him. And when he turned to see who was speaking, it was the Lord". And he said, "I fell at his feet like I was dead. And he put his hand on me and he said, 'I'm the living one. I was alive, and I was dead, and I'm alive forever, and I have the keys of death and hell.'" I want to give you an invitation. I know it's a bit awkward, but if you'd be willing to say, "Lord, I want to be obedient to you, I mean in a new way". 'Cause most of us have some places we've been holding out. And I believe that obedience will yield to a new kind of vision, insight, understanding, but the first step is we've got to be willing.
If you will say that to the Lord, "Lord, I will acknowledge I have not always been willing to be obedient. In fact, I have practiced disobedience. But I want to be obedient to you in a new way". If that's you, maybe just stand where you are, okay? We're not going to turn the cameras on the room, so don't worry about it. If you're good to go with the Lord, you sit right there. Don't stand up on my say. I'm done. You're not gonna sit much longer, I promise. I believe God takes note. If you didn't stand, then go ahead and stand with the rest of us. I want to pray for you. Do you know what would happen if thousands of us truly walked into Holy Week saying, "God, we want to be obedient"? I thank God for your lives. I do. You're precious to the Lord. You matter to him so much.
Father, I thank you for your people. Lord, it's Holy Week. We're reminded of what Jesus was willing to do on our behalf, because he loved us. He could see past the suffering. He could see past the humiliation. He could see past what he was being asked to endure. He could see us. Lord, we ask you today for a vision, for understanding, for hearing and insight, far beyond our minds, our training, our educations. May we see the glory of the Lord. Lord, we stand in humility to repent of our stubbornness, for the hardness of our hearts, without reluctance to be obedient. Forgive us, Father. We stand today to say we will follow you one step at a time, one response at a time. And I ask you now to give us tender hearts, receptive hearts, listening ears and eyes that can see. Give us understanding, give us a spirit of boldness and a fear of the Lord that will enable us to stand in whatever place you call us to. I thank you for it, in Jesus' name, amen.