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Reverently: As though you were coming to God himself, for in a sense you are, since in and through these words, and these alone, God is pleased to speak to his people (1 Thess. 2, John Calvin)

Prayerfully: Recognizing that we can do nothing—including understanding, enjoying, and rightly responding to Scripture—apart from him (John 15, Eph. 1)

Slowly: As though you were walking arm in arm with your beloved down a beautiful country lane, having a deep heart-to-heart talk; and stopping to linger over any word, phrase, verse, or thought to which the Spirit of your Beloved seems to be pointing (Luke 24)

Meditatively: Scanning the sky of your mind for the sudden appearance of biblical cross-references, memories, quotes, or images of everyday objects and events—anything that seems to illuminate the word, phrase, or verse you are reading (Psalm 1)

Expectantly: Waiting on spiritual tip-toe for new insights—or a holy rekindling of old insights—as though a storm were on the horizon, and you were watching for lightning and listening for thunder (1 Kings 18)

Believingly: Remembering that he is still teaching in the temple daily, that he has declared himself the Rewarder of all who diligently seek him, and that it is actually a mark of healthy faith to let him know, respectfully, that you are counting on it! (Luke 19, Hebrews 11)

Responsively: Praying, thanking, singing, dancing, kneeling, repenting, re-committing, delighting, calling, writing, going, or otherwise responding to the specific move of the Spirit in your heart as you read (Acts 2)

Joyfully: Choosing at all times—even in a seemingly dry Quiet Time—to celebrate the fact that he is eternally and immutably rejoicing over all who are in Christ; and cheerfully expressing confidence that if the promised blessing has not yet reached your heart, it surely will, in a time that Wisdom and Love have specially chosen for you (Zephaniah 3, Luke 15)

Wisely: Knowing that ours is a God who tests his people, to see if they will love him for who he is, and not simply for the good feelings he can give them; and that he is pleased to train them, sometimes with tough love, in this higher form of love for him (John 6)

Faithfully: Going out early every morning onto the broad plain of Scripture to gather up your meal of Manna, confident that it—and he—is waiting for you there (Exodus16)

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb. 11:1

 

It’s midnight in the mountains, and you’re sound asleep in your cabin. Suddenly you’re awakened by a strong desire to get up, go outside, and look at the sky. You do, and to your amazement it’s pitch black. All around you is inky darkness; you are adrift, dizzy, almost nauseated in a sea of nothingness. You rush back into the cabin, turn on the light, and anxiously wait for the dawn, wondering if you’ve gone mad.

The next night, the same thing happens. But fearful though you are, when the impulse to go outside comes upon you, you obey it. Once again the sky overhead is a sea of darkness. This time, however, something is different. This time you notice a single star, twinkling in the heights above. Though you are still afraid and shaken by the strangeness of the sky, the tiny star brings a measure of comfort, even joy. “Strange,” you say to yourself, “how such a small a thing can dominate such big a thing, and calm my fears in the process.” Fascinated, you stay outside for half an hour, gazing at that one little star.

In the weeks ahead, this scenario repeats itself, but with an important difference: Each time you go outside there are new stars. Eagerly you scan the heavens to find them. Appreciatively, you notice the slight variations in their size, shape, and color. Delightfully, you discover that with each new addition, constellations are taking shape before your eyes; that the various shapes in the heavens—objects, animals, men, women, events—seem to be speaking to one another, and to you as well; that they seem to be telling a great story, the gist of which is slowly—all too slowly—coming into focus in your mind.

And something else is happening. Each time you go outside, you realize the stars are now casting a heavenly light on earthly things; earthly things you thought you saw clearly beneath the light of the sun, but which now, beneath the light of the stars, are quietly, willingly, even joyfully disclosing to you new forms and features you had failed to see before. Indeed, it is now becoming a passion with you to see how the old world is touched and unveiled by this new light. Not that you no longer enjoy the daytime; to the contrary, now you look for it more expectantly than ever, eager to examine in the light of day what you previously beheld in the light of night. Nevertheless, something mysterious and something profoundly important is happening; for as much as you still love the day, it is the call of the night that has captured your imagination. Now your spirit hungers and thirsts to rise and go in search of new stars and new constellations, even as you pause over and again to see how the earth is reflecting and echoing the unfolding story of heaven.

Finally, it all becomes clear: There is a heavenly Someone, a divine Awakener whose loving purpose is to introduce you to a whole new world; indeed, his loving purpose is actually to change your very place of residence, spiritually speaking. Yes, day by day you still walk the earth beneath the light of the sun. But henceforth, because of the super-added light of the stars, you realize that from now on your true home is in the sky.

____

Such, I think, is the message of Hebrews 11:1, a verse of Scripture that sets the stage for a roll call of the saints of old, men and women who obtained a glowing testimony from God because of their tenacious faith in unseen things that the invisible God was pleased to reveal to them. Indeed, whether we think of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, the Sons of Thunder, Peter, Paul, or any other saints of the times before our own, it is always the same story:

The Lord Himself came to them in the pitch darkness of their spiritual night. He placed a single star—a single truth, a single revelation, a single promise—in the sky of their mind. In so doing, He assured them of something devoutly to be hoped for; He convinced them of something altogether unseen by the eye of flesh, yet utterly real to the eye of faith. So day by day (and night by night) they steadily gazed, through the window of Scripture, upon that star. And as they did, more such stars began to appear, and constellations as well, until at last they found themselves dwelling beneath a mighty tapestry of divine revelation comprised of story, teaching, law, warning, promise, proverb, poetry, letter, faith, hope, and love; a vast tapestry of heavenly truth that overshadowed, bathed, and illuminated the things of earth, disclosing the ultimate meanings buried deep within them all. Finally, these saints realized that they were no longer at home in the earth, but at home in the sky; that from now on their pilgrim bodies were simply making their way to a world where their hearts and minds already lived; and that one day soon, the Lord himself, descending from above, would fully drape the great tapestry of heavenly light over a whole new earth, so that heaven, earth, sky, and light will all at last be one.

 

So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds;

and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock!”

Exodus 1:19

 

If pressed, I might well identify John 5:39 as my life verse: “You search the (Old Testament) Scriptures, because in them you think you possess eternal life. But these very writings testify of Me!” No, I never tire of meandering through the OT, looking for, and finding, the Person and Work of Christ at every turn!

So it is with today’s text. Moses, recently escaped from Egypt, has made his way to the deserts of Midian, where he rescues the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian, from some decidedly unchivalrous shepherds who are trying to drive the girls and their flocks from the village well. The shepherds should have thought twice about that! More importantly, we ourselves should think twice about what happened, for here we learn some precious truths about Moses’ anti-type: the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, he is a strong deliverer. You don’t scatter a gang of rough shepherds unless you are built for it. In film versions of the Exodus, I have seen Moses portrayed both by Ben Kingsley and Charlton Heston. Today’s text tells me Charlton filled the role far better than Ben! Despite appearances to the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ—through whom are all things, for whom are all things, and by whom all things are held together and make their way to the Consummation—is way strong! The seven daughters of Reuel need always to believe and take comfort in that fact; and fake shepherds everywhere would be wise to discover it before it’s too late.

Secondly, he delivers from false shepherds. Now I rejoice in the many good shepherds who serve under Christ around the world; indeed, I suspect that the vast majority of them are godly men, trying to do their best for the Lord and his flock. But I’ve also lived long enough to know there are plenty of fake shepherds out there, and that part of the long, winding course of our sanctification is that we should come upon them from time to time, and perhaps even be taken in and wounded by them. Nevertheless, sooner or later all of God’s daughters, and all of God’s flock, will come to their senses and will behold the falseness in the false shepherds. Moreover, when they do, they will be united as never before with the one Great Shepherd of the sheep. Henceforth, they will appreciate and submit to good under-shepherds whenever they find them; but they will adore and cling to only one. And in this, all true under-shepherds will rejoice.

Thirdly, he draws water for the flock. When you read this phrase, can you not hear the Lord saying, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water”? Think of it: Christ himself, the very well of God, drawing from himself to give of himself (and the Father and the Holy Spirit) to us! Are we spending meaningful time every day beside this well, drinking in the truth, life, and love of Christ? I certainly hope so, for the deserts of Midian are terribly dry, and it is terribly easy to perish therein.

Finally, and most intriguingly of all, Christ is to his people, if only for a brief season, an Egyptian Shepherd. But how so? Well, it is certainly not because he really is an Egyptian—a mere man, a man of the flesh and a man of the world at heart. No, it is simply because we, like the seven daughters of Reuel, do not really know or recognize him. Yes, at our new birth we caught a glimpse of him as he truly is. But being Egyptians from our old birth, and dealing with Egyptians all day every day, we tend to see our Lord through Egyptian eyes. We do not readily see that he—like all Hebrews—is a shepherd at heart; that he is the Promised and Chosen Shepherd of the Israel of God, whose heart so burned with divine purpose and love that he was willing to enter the deserted hell-hole of this fallen world system in order to live for, die for, rise for, find, rescue, and eternally water his perfect, seven-fold Bride and her flock.

And this, beloveds, is why we must keep on reading the OT, and all of Scripture. We do so because we hope and trust that our gracious heavenly Father, by his Spirit and in his mercy, will be pleased to open our eyes more and more, to see more and more of his Christ; to see him, not as a mere Egyptian, but as the Hebrew of all Hebrews—as that strong, brave, loving, and divine Shepherd who infallibly rescues his Bride and her flock from every false shepherd, and grants that they should rest and drink with him at the eternal well of God.

“And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream.”

Genesis 28:11-12

 

At this stage in his life, Jacob was not only a restless man, but a godless one. Though he valued spiritual things–the birthright of the family, and the blessing of his father–he used wicked means to attain a good end. He had not yet met his God, or received promises from him, or called upon his name. He had been a man run by lies and cunning; now he was a man on the run, pursued to the death by his murder-minded brother, Esau.

But here at Bethel–hungry, exhausted, and scared–Jacob lay his head down. The Hebrew says, “And he put a rock at his head place.” What a picture this is, and what a comfort, not only to Jacob, but to all his seed!

For the rock is Christ. And the great promise of our text is that for those who put him at their head place and rest their head upon him, they will dream. They will see God.

But how, exactly, does one rest his head upon Christ?

My answer is three-fold.

First, he rests completely upon the finished work of Christ–his righteous life and atoning death–for his justification and salvation, putting no trust whatsoever in his own works.

Secondly, he rests upon the Word of God, and especially the New Testament, saturating himself with its promises and commandments, so that he might every-increasingly live according to them.

Finally, he rests upon the Spirit of God, who brings the Word to life, enabling him not only to live by it, but even more importantly, to behold and delight in the One who is the great Ladder joining heaven and earth, the divine Head of all the angels, the very House of God, and the Gateway to our Father in heaven.

Yes, saints who know to rest their heads upon Christ will become what they so deeply desire to be, and what God created them to be: Dreamers, seers, and worshipers; men and women who know that, of a truth, God is in this place.


Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there were four horns. So I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these?” And he answered me, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I said, “What are these coming to do?” And he said, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah so that no man lifts up his head; but these craftsmen have come to terrify them, to throw down the horns of the nations who have lifted up their horns against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.” — Zech. 1:18ff

 

God’s Judah is still out there, scattered from Eden, scattered from Babel, languishing in the whole wide world. Day after day they are butted about by the four horns of the evil one, whose army of demonic bullies fills the air the globe over, casting down, casting down, always casting down.

But here Zechariah gives us good news. God has a plan for his Judah, a people predestined for the praise of His glory and the glory of His grace. The implementation of the plan is well under way. Already, He has sent them THE Master Craftsmen, the One who skillfully fashioned a perfectly righteous life and a perfect atoning death for Himself, so that He mighty skillfully fashion a perfect people for His possession, and the possession of His God.

But there is more to the plan. As we see here and elsewhere in Scripture, the LORD has posted a Help Wanted flyer. More master-craftsmen are needed, and lots of them; for again, there are still lots and lots of languishing sons of Judah out there, men and women who are still bruised and buffeted, with heads hanging down.

What will lift them up? Zechariah replies: A great host of master craftsmen, all trained by THE Master Craftsmen, fanning out into the four corners of the earth, arriving on the scene with big, heavy tool belts slung over their hips, and ready and able to use those tools swiftly and powerfully.

But herein lies their true mastery: Just like their Master, they will only work at the word of the Master, for they know that in His word alone is all speed, all power, and all skill for all true lifting of the head.

How good to know that the four horns of hell cringe in terror when a team of master-craftsmen shows up on the job site, ready to go to work!

But how much better to know that when day is done, there will be even more of the sons of Judah, men and women from every nation praising The Master Craftsman with uplifted heads and eagerly equipping themselves for a new and glorious trade.