Tuesday, June 25, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

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Throw your bread onto the water
Sermon by Duurt Sikkens
 
 
 
I want to share some thoughts with you based on a passage, - a very fascinating passage at that – from Ecclesiates chapter eleven verses one to six:  “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what evil may happen on earth. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls there it will lie. He who observes the wind, will not sow; and he who regards the clouds, will not reap”.
And then the key verse: “Just as you do not know the ways of the wind or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
 
Well, there’s a lot to consider in those few verses, so let’s start at the beginning and go through it together.
 
“Throw your bread onto the water”. Well I do that sometimes, for the ducks, but the bread is really meant for the fish. And fish are always an image of people who do not know God. That’s why people who spread the gospel are known as fishers of men. So you have bread. You have it in abundance. And it is yours to do with as you want. So share it with others. Give some away to other people.
Jesuswould say; “There is alwayssomeone in need, always someone who is poor of spirit”.
Be generous to people who have absolutely nothing.
 
And consider the parable of the dishonest steward.  Do you remember that story? This man, this steward, hadn’t been managing his business very well, and was worried what would happen if he lost his job, so he proceeded to waive part of the debts of the debtors. Have you ever read this story? I could never understand what was meant by it.  Lets have a look at it. You can find it in Luke chapter sixteen. I won’t read the whole story, but at one point the steward says, when considering what else he could do if hedid lose his job: “I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship”. So what does he do? He waives the debts that lots of people owe to the rich man. And what does it say in verse eight? The rich man praises the man! What do you think of that?
The steward had thought long and hard about his precarious situation, and what best to do about it. I have changed the title in my Bible from the dishonest steward to the cunning steward. “For the sons of this world”, the rich man says, “are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light”, so, more shrewd than us, because we call ourselves the sons of light.  “And I  tell you”, this rich man says, “make friends by means of this bread, this unrighteous mammon”, and then comes the important part, “so that when it fails, when that money, that worldly sense of security fails you, they may receive you into the eternal habitations.
 
They,who is meant by they? They are the same people as in verse four, who will take you into their house. That is the Father house. Then when the steward stands before the heavenly council and is asked: Well, what have you done with your life?” Well then there are a lot of people who will say: “He helped me out of my problems of debt. He lightened my burden when I was poor. Reward?  “Eternal habitations”, we read. Because that’s what it is. Don’t you think that’s wonderful? We can’t begin to fathom just how good God is.
 
“Blessed are the merciful” He says, and what this man does is an expression of mercy. The steward is very shrewd. He thinks: ‘Mercy, that works. I will show mercy’.
We’re talking about non Christians here. “Blessed are the merciful, because…”, what does it say, “they will receive mercy”. And that means they will be accepted into the eternal habitations. We as christians are already merciful and do not need to be rewarded.
 
And now back to Ecclesiastes chapter eleven verses one and two, where we read: “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight”. This refers to you. You canshare your knowledge, your food, and still keep enough for yourself. Yes, you can stock up for bad times, whatever bad times may come on earth. Think for example of the seven good years and the seven bad years that Joseph spoke of in Genesis chapter forty one. Lots of animals store away a food supply for the winter,  magpies, for example, and even the tiniest of ants. So why shouldn’t we?
 
And what does it mean, to store away a supply for the winter? Well, think of the parable of the wise maidens and the foolish maidens in Matthew chapter twenty five. The difference between  wise and foolish. They were all baptised with the Spirit. They all had a lamp that was burning. But it took longer than they expected for the bridegroom to arrive, and not all of them had enough oil.
 
In the original text the word that is translated as wise actually means, ‘having insight’, and the word that is translated as foolish is “dulled”. So you can live for forty, fifty or sixty years thinking that you are spiritually very wise and know it all, and you can sing, and shout and rejoice and dance, but what do you have insight’ ? What does that mean, “insight” .
 
Well it is insight into God’s plan, understanding God, how He thinks, and how He is restoring creation, and eventually will finish restoring it. That doesn’t mean that you have to learn the book of Revelation off by heart. It means you must get to know the Father. Then you will understand how his mind works.
 
There is a chorus we sing: “Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning”. Well the foolish maidens, the ones whose insight was dulled, didn’t have enough of this oil. So what is this oil then? Well we all know the answer to that. The oil is the Holy Spirit. Okay, but what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit? To show us what the Father is like. That is the ultimate purpose of the Spirit. So that we, in turn, can show other people what the Father is like. That’s how easy it is. You, convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment, through God’s spirit in you. That is your task as priest: to teach people about the Father, what He’s like, how He thinks. That is the most important thing that Jesus did.
I think the last supper is such a moving scene. Whenever I read the words, tears spring into my eyes.  He says to a little group of people that he will show them what the Father is like, manifest the Father to them. And “they believe me”, He says, ”they believe that I came from you. They believe me when I tell them that You are good”. (John chapter seventeen). He was so moved by the fact that they believed what He said. And when people believe me when I tell them that God is good, Well, nothing can make me any happier either.
 
But what about the foolish maidens. They were baptised with the Spirit too, but they had no insight, no knowledge and they didn’t know what God is really like, and so their minds were dulled. And what happens then? Then the light goes out. That is terrible.
 
Ecclesiastes chapter eleven verse three: “If the clouds are full of rain” … Clouds, they are a wonderful image of the church.
Do you know what keeps all the drops together in the cloud? A cloud is a wonderful compact mass. So what holds it together, all these raindrops? Someone once told me: “It is the force of mutual attraction”.  What a beautiful description. The force of mutual attraction. So it is love that binds us.
 
Then it says: “if the clouds are full of rain“… Clouds float above the earth. We form the clouds, we are from above, and we cast a shadow over the earth. A beautiful image. You give shade to the nations. And we are full of rain, full of God’s spirit, and we know God personally. That’s what it means, to be full of rain. To be ‘filled with Gods spirit’ means that you understand God’s way of thinking. His ideas. His plan. You are part of it. Otherwise, it is just a meaningless expression. An empty lamp. But YOU are filled with rain, the latter rain. And that is the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, that Jesus was always talking about. He explained that daily in the temple. Yes, Jesus was always talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, trying to explain what it is. What His Father is like.
 
And then we read something beautiful: “when the clouds are full they empty themselves”. Other translations say “pour out”. They empty themselves onto the earth. Rain pours out of the clouds onto the earth.  We are full, and we can pour out from ourselves. From above to below. The early and the latter rain, that they were always waiting for in the Middle East.
 
The early rain is to germinate the seeds and make them grow. It happens, but you can’t see it happening. The process begins when the rain falls on the seeds. That is the‘early’ rain.
And then the ‘latter’  rain comes, and that is when the fruit is formed. And then comes a period of sunshine, and that is a time of oppression, because the sun can sometimes be very hot, and in this heat you mature, and the fruit ripens.
 
And then suddenly in verse three we read something about a fallen tree. What has that got to do with it? Well, it is a warning. If you are a tree, wonderful, let your roots be firmly planted in God’s love; in whatHe feels for you, in whatyou mean to Him as His child. He loves you so much. Be rooted in that. In Ephesians chapter three verse seventeen Paul says to us: ‘through your faith Jesus can dwell in your hearts, so that you may remain grounded and rooted in love’.
So you see, love is the foundation of your existence. Gradually you will come to understand that more and more, and the more aware you are of this love, the more you will grow.
 
Paul says to the church at Corinth, to the people who thought they knew it all, in one Corinthians chapter 10 verse twelve: ”Let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” There are people who think they are important. “Let anyone who thinks to stand…….” Be careful he says that you don’t fall. And he is warning them about other gods and idol worship. The Corinthians had let themselves be influenced by all sorts of travelling preachers and their religious ideas.
False apostles Paul calls them, these people who have such big ideas about themselves because they think they have a very special calling and that this makes them very important. And these travelling apostles put on a big show, and the Corinthians let themselves be swept along by their ideas. And the so-called apostles became richer and richer from it all……………..   I say again: They make the Lamb of God into a golden calf.
 
Ecclesiastes chapter eleven verse four: “He who observes the wind….”  If you are forever waiting for a favourable opportunity to proclaim the gospel, then you could wait for ever. That happens to people who don’t have the courage to talk about the gospel. They don’t feel able to speak their minds. And now read verse six: “Sow in the morning and sow in the evening, because you never know…………….” 
 
And that’s how Jesus works. Wonderful isn’t it? You have plenty of seed. So cast it out. Don’t let yourself be held back, tell them. If they don’t appreciate it, then that is their problem, their responsibility. So whether you cast it on well trodden paths…., they are the people who think they know it all….., or between thorns and thistles,….. there are  always some seeds that fall ongood earth. And that’s how Jesus worked. The word comes from his hand and is cast out. What a lovely gesture. Just do it. Wherever it falls, the people themselves are responsible for what they do with it.
Myresponsibility is that it is good seed. Not a long sermon of empty words, but words that are meaningful, and bring life.
 
There is a beach tree next to my house. How many seeds do you think fall from that tree in a season? Hundreds of thousands. But how many new beach trees have I seen growing? One, in all those years. But nature casts its seeds everywhere the wind takes them. But they have to be good seeds. That’s the important thing.
 
And now I come to the most important part, in verse five.  “Just as you don’t know the ways of the wind, and you can’t understand how life begins in a baby in the womb, in the same way you can’t comprehend the works of God who made everything”.
 
Strange isn’t it, that the wind is combined with a pregnancy, a new life in a woman’s womb. Remarkable. Do you know who else mentioned this in the New Testament? Jesus, in John chapter three verse eight, when He is talking to Nicodemus. Read these words very carefully. “The wind The same Greek word (pneuma) means wind, breath, and spirit.
blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
 
I used to think this was the most fascinating part of the gospel of John. Wind and birth. Do you see the connection? I think that when Jesus said this he must have been thinking about the words in Ecclesiastes, because the same connection is there too.
 
The wind blows. I am so glad that the active form of the word ‘blow’ is used here, because that means there is someone blowing. Who? The wind is God’s breath, it is His spirit. The wind blows where it will and you hear the sound of it.
 
Who is meant here by you.  That is the earth, the people of this world whohear the sound, because it is you who makes that sound. That’s what it says there. ‘So it is with every one who is born of the spirit’. How? Well just like the wind that we have just read about, someone who knows where he comes from, and knows where he is going. You know where you come from don’t you? If you go looking for your roots, then you have to begin by God, AND you know where you are going, the ultimate purpose of your life.
 
But the wind blows where it will, you hear the sound but you do not know…. Nicodemus, YOU do not know where it comes from or where it is going. Well, Jesus says: “to understand that you have to be like those who are born of the Spirit”. Of course Nicodemus was rather puzzled about all this.
“What does this mean then, Do I have to be born again, do you have to go into the womb for a second time?” And people used to say to me, silly Nicodemus. He must know that’s not possible. But it wasn’t so silly as it sounds. He had thought about all this deeply. And he says, into the womb for a second time? Yes, Nicodemus, you are right. You do understand. Because later on we read that he became a disciple of Jesus. He understood. He had to be born again spiritually. He had to grow and develop spiritually in a spiritual womb, in the heavenly Jerusalem, “because that is our mother” says Paul. And you can find it prophesied in Psalm eighty seven too. What seems impossible to people is possible with God.
 
So back to this word ‘blow’. Someone is blowing. So what it really says is : you are as the wind. You came forth from God’s mouth. It begins in Him. You are from Him, that is your source, your beginning. ‘When he spoke there we were”. When He called your name, when He called you by your name, there you were. Isn’t that wonderful? That still has the power to move me.
 
He called you into being. Yes, He called you by your name, ………and there you were, all of a sudden, a small person. You are like the wind, brought to life through the breath of your heavenly Father.
 
I read in an encyclopaedia that winds, especially those in the biblical countries, determine the climate and the seasons. So that leads us to the following question: which wind is blowing in your life? In your family and in your church, and the church worldwide.
The northerly and easterly winds were extremely unpleasant for Palestine and the other countries in the area. Scorching hot sometimes. Horrible. So if a scorching wind blows in your life,in you, from you, then everything will wither. That’s obvious isn’t it.
 
There are also sandstorms caused by these winds. And in a sandstorm you can’t see anything. You can’t see who your brother or sister is. And it is very difficult to breathe. How do you survive a sand storm?
 
The westerly wind was seen as a good wind, as it brought dew and rain. That is wonderful for the crops growing on the land. So it would be wonderful if your life was like that, bringing dew and rain. Then there would be a beautiful wind blowing in your life. You would revive everything around you.
 
And the southerly wind? Well, that is very fragile. In the Song of Solomon chapter four verse sixteen, the girl who is in love, says: “O south wind, blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad”.  She compares herself with a garden. We do that too.
The paradise of God where we live in the spirit. The south wind does not blow hard. It is a very fragile and cool breeze which carries fragrances on it. And so what fragrances are there in our life? The fragrances of all the wonderful flowers in the garden. And what do all these fragrances do? They heal the soul, they are as balm for your soul, and do you so much good. So if your words are fragrant, they act as balm to the soul. What do you think of that? And moreover: You will smell nice too. Paul calls that, in two Corinthians two verse fifteen “the fragrance of Christ”, a fragrance that brings life.
 
And in John chapter twelve verse three we read another beautiful description. It is a ‘tender and cooling breeze’. We read about it in Genesis chapter three as well. ‘’The sound of God walking in the garden”. Also in the first book of Kings chapter nineteen, where Elijah meets God in a ‘quiet stillness’. Just a cool breeze. That is so good for your soul.
 
Did you know that this word ‘sound’ can also be translated in Hebrew as ‘a still, small voice’. That is the voice of the Spirit. If you speak about things of the spirit, then you do that with a small, quiet voice. The sound of God who is looking for someone to speak to. Someone to talk to about something or other. Share your bread, drink the wine of the life of Jesus together. You hear His sound, His voice.
You give – and that’s what I am trying to say today – you give voice to God’s thoughts. Because God is looking for voices. God seeks voices, that form the sound of the wind. And the wind doesn’t screech or shout. It is a cool breeze, which feels so wonderful after all the heat.
 
Who reacts to this breeze? The people who are sensitive to it. A stone doesn’t react to a breeze. If you are a cold hard person then you lack sensitivity. If you have the faith of a cement block, then you will not feel that breeze either. Who does? The sensitive crops: the grass, swaying in the wind; the corn, and even the great trees. The sound of the wind blowing the leaves of these huge trees is so beautiful.
 
You too are moved by the wind, you are moved by each other.  And the wind blows where it wants. And if I am like the wind, then I have to know whereI want to go, which direction I am going, which wind I am going to be. The purpose of my life.
 
Jesus calls himself “Word”. He says, I always do what pleases my Father. The Word does whatever pleases God, because Word and Spirit belong together. I have never found the expression ‘through His Word and Spirit’ as meaning two separate things in the Bible. 
No, wherever his word is preached His Spirit is there also; wherever His spirit is, you hear His words. They can’t be separated. You can’t separate life from a seed. Try it with a hammer. You will damage it and it will die. Word and Spirit form a whole, just as the Father and the Son. You can name them both in one breath. And in that same breath we too are named. And Genesis chapter one speaks of the sun, the moon and the stars. Sun, an image of God; moon an image of the Son, and the stars, that’s us. Not superstars, but bearers of light.
 
And what did Jesus do? He said: “I want to do His will”.
 
I have given that a lot of thought. What doI want? What do you think free will is? Well, that I can do whatI want. So the next question is: “What doI want?”  ‘Free will’ comes from a word that means “walk”, or ”freedom of movement”. And so I answered the question with: “I want what God wants”. So here’s the next question. “What do you want?”
 
You can think and philosophise about free will – but, and this is my personal experience, - I became free the day I committed my life to Jesus. Because He said, “I am free”. So I thought, well then I will unite my life with yours, then I will be free too. Real freedom comes forth from a commitment. Isn’t that wonderful.
And secondly, What do YOU want Jesus”, “Well”, Jesus says, “I am fulfilling the scriptures. I could have chosen NOT to, but I didn’t. I chose to fulfil the scriptures. I mean, I didn’t want to die on the cross, I can assure you of that. ” So there must have been something that convinced him to do it. He says quite clearly: “Not My will”. So HIS will must have been a little different. I’d rather not. But then God convinced Him, and so He said: “Yes, Your will be done. I do it out of love for mankind”.
 
So Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, but there are many prophecies still waiting to be fulfilled, and that’s what we’re doing now. There is still a lot to be fulfilled. Do you want to have an active part in that? Or do you just think: “Well, God is with me and that’s it”.  For example, you have gradually been delivered from the servile way of thinking. Out of Egypt, out of slavery. No longer having to ask all the time “God what do you want, what do you want me to do”. You can start thinking for yourself, start learning to walk on your own two feet.
 
And then at last you are set free, and where are you? In a wilderness. “Well” the Israelites said, “This is not what we expected”. We thought we would go straight into the promised land. “Hallelujah” we thought. We’ve been set free. And then we are confronted with a wilderness!
When Jesus was baptised with the Holy spirit the first thing that the Spirit said to Him was: “Go into the wilderness”. It was a trial period for Him, where he had to learn to endure all sorts of trials and temptations. Do you know what the greatest trial is? That you are a trial to God.  “What a nation” God says somewhere. They have caused me pain and sorrow for forty years. They have tempted me more than ten times”.
 
And then Paul comes with the warning in one Corinthians chapter ten: “these things were an example for us. So we should be careful that we do not drift away”. “Exactly”, Jesus says. “Be careful that you are not brought into temptation, and beware of people, and be on your guard, and keep your faith in me. Because I keep My faith in you”. 
So first I have to go through the wilderness?? Yes, otherwise you won’t make it. It’ all part of your spiritual education. When Jesus had endured all the trials and temptations, then He was able to endure them later on too, and what a lot HE had to cope with!!
 
I found a lovely word in the dictionary. “Inherent”. Literally it means naturally closely bound. That is a wonderful idea. God is naturally closely bound to the Son, and vice versa. And if we become inherent to each other, and it doesn’t mean emotionally but spiritually, then we will be closely bound together, committed to one another, for ever.
In verse five it says: “the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman”. In the original Hebrew however, it doesn’t say a pregnant woman. It says a full person. But of course, that will be a woman. The bones in the womb of a full person. So I have a question: What are you full of? Because usually whatever it is that you are full of, you talk about. Matthew chapter twelve verse thirty four says; ‘the mouth speaks of what the heart is full of’. So fill in for yourself what you are full of. What do you talk about all the time? Family? Disasters of this day and age. How awful things are in the world? No? what are you full of then?
 
And for ‘bones’ the Hebrew says, - you won’t believe it – bodies. So it actually says, You don’t know how the bodies get into the womb of a pregnant woman……..So, that’s a lot more than twins or triplets. Can you imagine being pregnant with thousands of bodies!! That would take a VERY big woman.
 
But don’t you think that’s a wonderful idea?  bodies. All the christians, just like us, in the womb together. Because together we form a mother too, a womb. And we are brought up in the womb until we become fully grown. That all happens in the womb. Because the woman in Revelation chapter twelve verse five gives birth to a fully grown person. That’s what it says in the original Greek.
Whether you are a man or a woman, we are all expecting. If you don’t believe me look it up in Psalm 110. ‘From the womb of the morning comes the dew of your youth, of your young people’. Just imagine. You come from the womb of the dawn, the womb of light. So, if her womb is light, then the woman is also light. And the wonderful Hebrew word for used for womb is ‘loveliness’.  You are born out of loveliness, loving kindness. You are loved so much that you become fully grown in love. What a wonderful process. Children of the light, His light. Children of the day, they are ‘the day’. And that is what is meant by the ‘day of the Lord’. The light of dawn. Because creation also began at dawn. Because as soon as God says: and there is light, then it is dawn, the break of day. We are children of the morning, of the new day, of the dawn of the restoration of creation.
 
You are formed in the womb. We have talked about that before. In Psalm 139. But the question is: Will youallow yourself to be formed?
Will you change? Can you see the change? Gradually, that divine being within you develops hands and feet, eyes and ears. It begins to take on a form. It begins to resemble it’s father and mother. The Christ begins to take shape. And that is the kingdom on God, within you. That is the greatest miracle that all the prophets of the Old Testament were looking forward to. God’s kingdom coming. What God started with his promise in Genesis chapter three verse fifteen. The seed of the woman is growing at last.
And thus the words of God become flesh. Compassion and humility become visible in your life. The power of God to make people happy again, that is His greatest strength, and that can be seen in your life. Tell others about it in your own simple way. The woman is expecting. The child is there. It is growing, but it still has to come out, to be born. But God had planned all this long before. And so now you can understand the expression; Who was, and is and shall come. It WAS conceived, it IS in the believers and it WILL appear. The Greek word for this process is Parousia. A lovely word. Do you see this happening in your life? So not just the first son will be born – because at a birth the head always comes first – but also all those inherent to him. Who are closely joined with Him. We are really one, all part of one body.
 
I had a really lovely thought. It is almost a mystery, and he who understands it, let him understand it. The spirit showed me – and it is nothing sensational – it boils down to this, that I hear him say: “It is no longer I but we. That’s the process we are in. Jesus says: He who hears Me hears the Father. We are slowly approaching the moment that we can say ‘’He who hears us, hears the Son and he who hears the Son, hears the Father’. These three are the same. Do you understand? That is such a wonderful thought. I want to think more about that. No longer I but we.
When Jesus prays: “Our Father” then He is talking about His Father, but also our Father.  Ours. He is so much part of us, and we of Him. It is incredible.
 
I will close with a question based on Psalm 110. There we read: “Thy people shall be willing”. So, am I willing? Do I want to God’s will. Do I want to do what God sent me to do? Well, these are questions to ponder on. Am I willing?
 
Amen.
 
 
Let us pray.
 
Father, we pray that we may be aware of our origin. That we may know that we are born of you. That we are carried on the wings of Your breath and fly to Your destination. I pray that we will continue to believe what You believe, and that we will allow ourselves to be formed into Your image, through Your mercy, so that slowly but surely we may begin to resemble you. We love you so much Father, because You love us.
 
Amen