Zelophehad’s Daughters Part 2
Reflections on the Jubilee in Biblical Economics
Bible Characters Part 57

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Below is a transcript of the second Sunday morning service.  You can listen to it on-line either by going to Sermonaudio or to the teachings page.


We look here again at the situation of the Jubilee as we have been preaching through these characters in the Old Testament that never made it into Hebrews 11. And, of course, you know, because you have never read about Hoglah or Zelophehad in the New Testament (much less in Hebrews 11) that these are among those Bible characters.

Last week we looked at the two issues that are involved here. One we touched on slightly and the triplet, to be delivered next Sunday morning, God willing, has to do with the marriage aspect. These young women who were going to inherit their father’s property were allowed to marry whom they wanted, but it had to be within the tribe of Manasseh. So there are limitations on our freedom with regard to marriage. We touched on it last week.  We are going to deal with it in much more thoroughness, God willing, next week.  You need to be here. You need to hear it. You don’t need to be getting your ideas from television and radio and popular culture. You need to get your ideas from the Word of God because, “My people,” said the Lord, “are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

One of the reasons that I preach longer than other preachers do is because God almighty told me to do that.  And I answer to him. And so, you know, I am sorry that I have to take time to preach, but I have to, dear ones.  And if you give that to God, give God that time. 

Let me ask you right now in the name of Jesus. Give God that time. God will bless you with time this week. Let me tell you it is about... it is like giving money. When you give up money to God he will always give you much more than you give to him. I have learned this over the years.  When I am penurious and stingy, I suffer. When I am bold and generous and open my hand, I am blessed. And I am an extraordinarily blessed man financially. I praise God for it.  God meets all my needs according to his riches in glory.

And so give God the time. You are going to be here a while this morning. Just give it to God and time will fly.  Time will fly and you will be blessed when you leave.

And do you know what?  The most important thing in your whole week is about what is about to happen. Why?  Because it is through the foolishness of preaching that God has ordained to save people.  And preaching gives us faith.

And let me tell you. Without the preaching of the Word, the Lord’s Supper is just crackers and juice. And without the preaching of the Word, baptism is just getting wet. In other words, all of the ordinances are summed up and are critical on one ordinance and that is the proclamation of the Word. 

And in our understanding of Scripture as in our catechisms, God says that it is not the reading of the Bible that is the most important thing you can do. It is listening to it being proclaimed. And so bear with me and please give me your attention.

You know, the Bible is a book that is clear, but it is not a lazy man’s book. And so I know that my preaching sometimes demands of people to give me attention and I will do whatever it takes to keep you alert. If I have to imitate the Blues Brothers going down the aisle in cartwheels it would be amazing. You might see.  So bear with me.

Now what is involved here is the Jubilee and that seems so obscure and strange to us, the Jubilee. But let me sum up from last week.  Summing up from last week about the Jubilee which we will look at in a little different angle this morning, the Jubilee said this, if you turn to Leviticus 25.  Let’s just turn there because that is what this is all about. It is about the Jubilee.

Leviticus chapter 25, let’s look at verse 23. Leviticus 25 and verse 23. And you want to follow along.  My ideas are worthless. They are as worthless as Oprah’s. They are as worthless as Washington’s.  God’s words are the words that really count, dear ones. That is where truth is, the Word of God, God’s written word.  So follow along. Make sure that I am not making stuff up.  Follow along and the Holy Spirit will quicken it to you, Leviticus 25 looking at verse 23.

“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine.”

You see, that is a fundamental truth.  “Don’t sell the land. It belongs to me.”

Look at what he says.  He says, “For you are strangers and sojourners with Me.” “You don’t own it.  I own it,” he says.

And then he goes on and he says, “And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.”

And so he goes into the details about it.  Summing up, the deal is this, is that God allows the land to be redeemed.  Look at verse 13 up above.

Leviticus 25:13, “In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession.”

Do you understand what he is laying out here?  Do you understand under God’s law—and we are not bound by it—but dear ones, we are fools if we ignore the general precepts of the Old Testament.  In other words, we are not bound that we have got to do it this way. But what I want you to understand is that the Old Testament law lays out principles of justice and fairness and equity and we need to be informed by those principles, because we ignore those principles at our peril.

So what is the principle of the Jubilee?  Never forget you don’t own a house.  You don’t own a car. God owns it. You are the caretaker.  You are the steward.  The Bible does not teach the private ownership of property. The Bible teaches the private stewardship of property.

Karl Marx said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Government owns the property. 

God says, “No, the government doesn’t own anything. I own it.”

It is arrogance when the government says it owns it. 

And the Bible doesn’t teach the private ownership of property, nor does it teach the public ownership of property. It teaches that God owns the property and we are the private administrators or stewardships of his property. And in the Jubilee is this principle. 

At the end of a cycle of seven Sabbath years is the year of Jubilee.  Liberty is proclaimed in the land. Everybody goes bankrupt.  Everybody goes bankrupt without a stigma and everybody gets his land back.  You get the house back.  You get the land back. You get a fresh start and you are debt free. 

Wow. Isn’t that wonderful?  You are debt free.

How many here today would like to be debt free?  Amen.  How many people would like to be debt free? In the Jubilee everybody was declared debt free.

What could you pass on as an inheritance to your children? The silver and gold you accumulated.  You could pass on the food that you might have been able to store up. If it was on your hereditary land, whatever changes to the house or houses you built you could pass on. But you couldn’t pass on any more real estate.

And so we saw last week in light of the principles of Proverbs chapter 30 verses seven through nine, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30:8).  The Jubilee protects the poor. There is no generational poverty. The kind of stuff that we tried to cure with the great society that was the great debacle, God cured in the principles of the Jubilee.  No generational poverty. It is impossible.

If you follow the principles of the Jubilee in your economic system, there is never generational poverty, never, never, never, because everybody gets a fresh start. Everybody gets his house back, his land back, the means of making a living, back. And if you don’t prosper with a fresh start it is because you are lazy, unless God withholds the rain which he sometimes did when his people were disobedient.

But the key thing that we said last week was that great truth that reflects the truth of Proverbs chapter 30 verses seven to nine. The Jubilee doesn’t just protect the poor, it protects the rich. There is nothing worse for children than to receive a ton of money.  You don’t believe that.  I am grateful for people who have left me money. I would have never been able to afford a house.  But in the mercy of God a will that was established in the 1960s provided me with a huge down payment for a house. I pay less in a month on my monthly note than most people pay in rent. It is very affordable. It was affordable by an inheritance. But that is silver and gold, isn’t it?

The important truth here is this. To inherit a bunch of money that you haven’t worked for, to have life easy is a curse to you.  See, we don’t really believe it because most of us—when it comes to money, think the Bible is a lie.  Come on, now.  Most of us believe that a lot of money would do us a lot of good and it wouldn’t hurt us at all, whereas the Bible’s basic teaching about money is that it is more enticing than heroine, that money has a power of its own to seduce and snare and entice.

When you pass on mammoth, growing, gargantuan properties to your descendants you are cursing them.   Look at the legacy of the Rockefellers and the Kennedys.  Just look at it. The Jubilee absolutely made it impossible for there to be Rockefellers and Kennedys.  Why?  Because there is virtue in work.  There is virtue in sweat. 

You need to understand that the Fourth Commandment is not only about honoring God with one day.  It is about working hard six days a week.

We often forget it.  We quote it as if it says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).  But how does it begin?  It says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9).

You know, it is hard to work, isn’t it?  It is a drudgery at times because a principle of futility has been built into our labor since the fall.  But it is a blessing, dear ones.  Do you know the book of Proverbs says that the sleep of the working man is sweet (Ecclesiastes 5:12)?

Hear what happens when you don’t have to work anymore.  You become depressed. You become lethargic.  Your emotions go downhill. You have no interest in things.  Let me tell you.  The best thing in the world for you is for you to have to work till the day you die. 

Is there anything wrong with retirement?   Retirement can be a very evil thing unless you determine when you retire, “I am going to go to work as a volunteer in the kingdom of God.”

Go down there and help Leann Murphy at Red Cross.  Go down to the Salvation Army and help people. Help at the Shepherd’s Center. Help at the church.  We can use volunteers.  We need people to help with the Barham situation, as Ham is lying in the hospital in agonizing pain with herniated discs and Nancy needing help.

Listen. I am all for volunteers.  And retired people have the blessing of being able to volunteer in a way that others don’t.  The important truth is when you can no longer do or no longer will do it is bad for you.  In a fallen world, work is redemptive. It is. It is redemptive. It is noble. It is good.

And so, you see, the principle of the Jubilee prevents generational poverty and it also prevents the generational building up of wealth to the point that people become fat and sassy.

Now, you will say, “Well, Okay, Bob.  We see that.  But, you know, Israel never practiced it. It is so impractical. How would we ever do that?”

Do you know that Israel did practice it?  Do you know that Israel kept the Jubilee to the day?

You say, “Where did they do that?  I don’t read anywhere in the Old Testament where we observe that every seven years they let the land grow fallow and just trusted God in the seventh year. And I don’t read anywhere that at the end of seven cycles of seven years they decided to declare liberty and everybody got the land back. I don’t read that.”

Well, let’s look at the Word of God for a surprise today. 

Turn with me, if you will, to Leviticus chapter 26, just over one chapter, and let’s look here at verse 27.

Maybe you are like me and sometimes when you read Bible verses you think, “Well, that’s not really, really important. Like, I know that not killing people is important and I think that while it is not as important, it is not murdering people, that not committing adultery is important and I know that lying isn’t good and that is not as important as not killing and not committing adultery.”

In other words, we get a hierarchy, don’t we?  Well, what about the Sabbath? What about the Sabbath years?  What I am about to read to you describes God’s reaction when Israel failed to observe the Jubilee.

Let’s look at it here with me, if you will, starting at verse 27, Leviticus 26:27.  “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in...” What? 

Whose fury is that?  God’s fury.  You mean God gets furious?  Have you ever seen anybody get furious?  You mean that God has fury?  I don’t believe he gets furious.

All right, well, let’s read further. Let’s see what fury in God’s part can be.  He says, “And I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.”

Look at verse 29.  “You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.”

What?  You mean that is an expression of the fury of God?  Surely that is not literal. 

Listen. In 722 BC what led up to the fall of Samaria under the Assyrian Empire, the people in the city of Samaria were so desperate, they killed and ate their own children in fulfillment of this curse and in fulfillment of the curse in Deuteronomy 28 which is parallel to Leviticus 26.

And then in the months that led up to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, once again the people were used to such abject poverty, they were insane with hunger to the point they killed and ate their own children. And then in the only eye witness account of Jewish history outside of the Bible in the first century of the Christian era, Josephus who was a Jewish general but surrendered to Vespasian the Roman general in the Galilee and then decided to try to persuade his countrymen to give up because he knew the Roman war machine would crush them and then he began to record all the event including the Jonestown event that occurred at Masada when there was mass suicide.  Do you know that when the city of Jerusalem fell the people were so insane with hunger they killed and ate their own children.  At least three times—and there are more in the Bible—at least three times in the history of Israel, this Levitical curse, this curse that is also recorded in Deuteronomy was fulfilled.

Now why was this? Why was this?  You can read on down how you will destroy the high places and so on and so forth, laying the cities waste, verse 31. And coming down look at verse 33. 

“I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you,” he says, “Your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.”

Verse 34.  Look at verse 34, a key verse.  “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths.”

The Sabbath, the Sabbath, the Sabbath, it is so important. One day in seven belongs to God. It doesn’t belong to you.  One year in seen belongs to God.  It doesn’t belong to you, God says to Israel.  And every seventh Sabbath year, that is two in a row, it doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to God. And God says, “I am getting back. I am getting back what you stole from me.  Everyone of those years that you failed to observe the Sabbath system, I am getting it.”

God will always get his due.  Look at what he says, verse 34.  “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it.”

Now, we are going to come back there in a moment, but I want you to hold your hand there.  We have got a couple of other places to go.  And the first place we are going to go is to the book of Daniel, the book of Daniel chapter nine.  So we are going to be going back and forth.

And listen. The thing that pleases me most of all the sounds that I listen to, more than the sounds of Mussorgsky, more than the sound of Simon and Garfunkel, more than the sound of the Eagles (Boy, that guy has diverse tastes!), is the sound of rustling pages when I preach, rustling pages.

Turn with me in God’s Word to the book of Daniel, the book of Daniel chapter nine.  And I want you to see what happens here. We are going to come back here in a moment.  The book of Daniel chapter nine.

You know, this happens to be the chapter of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks.  And, you know, I have never heard a preacher on radio or television who understood Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks.  Do you know why?  Do you know why they all get it wrong?  Do you know why they get it wrong? They fail to read the first part of Daniel nine. Here it is, right here.

Daniel chapter nine verse one: 

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes...”

Stop right there.  The lineage of the Medes. That empire that conquered Babylon was originally the empire of the Medes with the Persians as secondary, but in the course of time the Persians became the dominant factor. Never forget. History is written by the winners.  And so you always see it as the Persian Empire. And the first great ruler was the Shah of Iran. The Shah of Iran at that time was a man by the name of Cyrus.  But under Cyrus the man who was appointed as vice regent to rule over Babylon was a man named Darius the Mede.

And so the year we are at right now in verse one of chapter nine of Daniel is the year 539 BC.  Now it so happens that 539 BC is exactly 70 years from the time that Israel came under foreign rule.  In the year 609 BC one of the godliest kings who ever ruled, Josiah, ignored the Word of the Lord in his pride and went out against Pharaoh Necho and he was killed in battle. And at that point Israel lost its independence permanently. Israel came to be a vassal state of the Egyptian empire in 609.

Four years later the Egyptians yielded to the Babylonians. It became a vassal state of the Babylonian Empire. And at that point, in fulfillment of prophecy, Hezekiah’s children, descendants, were taken to Babylon where some of them were castrated and became eunuchs and Daniel was one of those royal children who became a eunuch in the palace of the king of Babylon.  So Daniel was a man of God even though he had been abused. And Daniel was a student of the Word of God. And here Daniel is reflecting to, “Look, Lord, wait a minute here.  It is now...”  And they didn’t have a Gregorian calendar. “It is now 539 BC. We lost our independence as a nation in 609 BC.  Lord, that’s 70 years.”

Why is that significant?  We’ll see in a moment. 

“...who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.”

Now, verse two.

“In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

We are going to hold our hand right there or actually we can’t. We are running out of hands, not being... what was that crazy Hindu goddess that had all those hands?  Anyhow, not having all those hands we just have to let this one fly for a moment. Let’s look.  Notice there in verse two if you are using the pew Bible, there is a marginal reference there to Jeremiah 25 verses 11 to two.  Let’s turn there for a moment, Jeremiah chapter 25.

I hope that you are being blessed by this, because, you know, God gives the power to get wealth.  Did you know that? I don’t preach the prosperity gospel, but I don’t preach the anti prosperity gospel either.  Sad thing is you either hear one or the other. And that... and God’s way is kind of both and.  And God want to bless you, but if you want to be blessed financially God’s way you need to know the Word of God.

So here we are, Leviticus chapter... excuse me Jeremiah chapter 25. Look at verse 11:

“And this whole land,” Jeremiah is prophesying, “’shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the LORD; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.’”

Now, that is what Jeremiah... excuse me. That is what Daniel was reading. Daniel realizes that 70 years of captivity has been on the people of God.  And he is pondering it. He is going to the Word of God.

When you have got a problem, you need to go to the Word of God and to prayer.  Most people go to somebody else. Get the Word out and begin to pray.  God will speak to you from Scripture. And so that is what Daniel is doing. There is a time of national calamity and God doesn’t seem to be hearing the prayers of his people.

What is wrong?

Let me go to Scripture and find out. And that is what he is doing. And so he finds Jeremiah’s prophecy about 70 years.

Why 70 years?

Turn with me to the end of 2 Chronicles for a moment which is the last chapter in the Hebrew Bible.  Even though they have the same books, they have them in different order. So the very last chapter of the Hebrew Bible, listen to what it says. 

2 Chronicles 36, and let’s look at verse 16.  And it is a summary of how God kept sending preachers to the people and they kept turning a deaf ear. And in the end they just started mocking their preachers. So there it goes on.  He says in verse 16, “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no...”

What? No remedy.

Boy, you don’t want to be in a country when that happens.  Man, when you are in a country where God says, “Well, there is no remedy left here,” Wow!  It is time to take “the last train for the coast” (American Pie).

“Till there was no remedy.”

Look at verse 17. 

“Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans.”

Who brought the king of the Chaldeans? That is the Babylonians.  Who brought those people who practiced state terrorism to come and do such terrible things to the people of Judah?  There it is the Lord.

“Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand.  And all the articles...”

How they burned the temple down on the ninth of Av and they... we read on further.  And look at verses 20 and 21.

“And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia.”

Look at verse 21, a key verse.  Remember 2 Chronicles is written after the time of Daniel.  2 Chronicles is probably written by the priest Ezra after Israel has returned from exile. And listen to what he says, verse 21, key verse.

“To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”

Do you see that?  So did God regard the principle of the Sabbath year and the principle of the Sabbath of Sabbath years as being very special?  Well, yes.  People ended up cooking and eating their own kids because they didn’t observe it, because the fury of God was poured out on Israel because she did not observe the Jubilee, the economic system that God put in place to prevent generational poverty. And, just as importantly, and some of you don’t believe this because you are so steeped in worldly thinking. And to prevent generational massive wealth transfer.

I am not saying there is something wrong with passing on an inheritance. You ought to do that. You ought to do it. Saint Paul says children shouldn’t have to lay up for their parents. Parent ought to lay up for their children, but not massive, massive amounts of land that enable people to be fat and sassy.

Because what are the dangers of being rich? Forgetting God, being bloated with pride and trusting in your wealth. That is what 1 Timothy six says. It is very dangerous stuff. 

“The love of money,” literally in Greek, “is a root of all—evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) “of all evil.” 

So it is dangerous stuff and Israel didn’t observe it. And so there are people like King Ahab who had a man killed.  Well, actually, Jezebel had him killed so he could get Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth wouldn’t sell it. Why wouldn’t Naboth sell it?  Because Naboth believed in the Jubilee, dear ones. He believed he couldn’t sell his hereditary property in perpetuity to the king (1 Kings 21:3). 

So you understand, then, what?  God valued the Sabbath year system. God valued the Jubilee system. God values the poor and God values the rich.   And God wants to keep us from being ruined either by poverty or by wealth.

Now let’s turn back to Daniel again for a moment, Daniel 9:2.  Daniel has been looking at the calendar.  Daniel has been looking at Leviticus. Daniel has been looking at Deuteronomy 28 and Daniel has been looking at Jeremiah the prophet and Daniel has been scratching his head and pulling his whiskers—such that he may have had—and he has been getting on his knees and he has been crying out, “Lord, show me.  Lord, show me.”

Do you do that when you get in trouble?  When you get sick before you call the doctor you ought to call the Lord.

“Lord, what are you saying to me in this?”

Is all sickness due to sin? No.  But I will tell you this. Nothing happens in your life or mine by chance.  Everything should prompt us to heart searching and prayer. Everything should prompt us to heart searching and prayer.  When you get sick, when you have financial adversity, when you have trouble with your children, when you have trouble with your spouse, when you have trouble at work, whatever it is, it always ought to prompt you to prayer and heart searching and Bible searching. And that is what Daniel is doing. 

And he discovers in the book of Jeremiah it is going to take 70 years. But then he says, “Wait a minute, Lord. Wait a minute, Lord. It is 70 years.  Where is your promise?  We are still here stuck here in Iraq and some of us are in Iran and we shouldn’t be in either country. We need to be back in Israel.  Lord, we need to be back home.  Why aren’t we back home. Why are we stuck here in Iraq and Iran. We need to be back home, Lord.  We want to be back. We want to have our temple again. We want to worship you, Lord.  What’s wrong?  You said 70 years in Jeremiah. You told us it is because of the failure to keep Sabbath.”

And then look what he does next, verse three. Or, actually, I have summed up verse three.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”

So he is asking. I mean, he took it seriously. Do you ever take it seriously? 

I never will forget one of my preacher friend told me. He said he had a man come to see him and he said the man said, “Pastor, I have just got terrible trouble. I am going to have to go bankrupt. I don’t know what to do.”

The preacher said, “Well, I tell you what you need to do. You need to always do this. Go in that sanctuary and get the Bible out and just open it up and pray for God to show you something in the Word of God.”

Now, that is not the good way to do it. 

But the man came back about two minutes later. And he said, “I got my answer.”

He said, “What’s your answer.”

He said, “I opened it up.  It said, ‘Chapter 13.’”

That is not how to get your answer from God. Okay.

But Daniel is going to the Word of God. I want to know, Lord, what?  What is it, Lord?  Show me. What is it, Lord? Show me, Lord. 

And look at what he does next.  After he has been praying that way look at verse four.  It is very technical. In verse three he is not being technical. In verse four he is being very technical and you will see in a moment what I mean. 

Verse four he says, “I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession.”

Turn with me back to Leviticus 26.  What did he do?  He followed the precepts, principles and prescriptions for the remedy for Jubilee violation. Here it is, Leviticus chapter 26 verse 40. 

Do you know why people doubt the Bible is the Word of God?  Because they never sit under good Bible preaching that has them turn from here to there. When you sit under Bible preaching or if you sat about on a daily basis, systematically to read and study the Word of God you will never have trouble with doubts about Scripture because as you study the Word, as you sit under the Word and you see how it all is woven together so beautifully and perfectly, do you understand it is the Word of God, Leviticus 26 verse 40. 

So here they are in exile. They have had baby barbecue. They lost their property. They have lost their wealth. They have lost their health. They are in slavery and God says, “This is what you are going to have to do.”

Verse 40. 

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt...28

I want you to reflect with me for a moment. That is exactly what Daniel is doing. We will see it when we go back to Daniel.  He is following the prescription. Daniel finds the answer to his prayer is in the Word of God.  Do you see that?

And I want to... Do you see that? Do you see that Daniel in his desperation, in searching the Scripture finally found that the answer he was looking for was there all along in the Word of God?  Do you see that? Does anybody not see it? Because I will need to start over part of this. Does anybody not see it?  I need to look and I always read eyes.  That is why when people go to sleep I have to do something and that holds up the rest of you. So let’s see those bright eyes and bushy tails and, well, just the bright eyes.

All right. We see it.  Daniel looks for a solution to the problem and he finds it and then he begins to do it.

Now I want to see a key verse.  It is so important that I have to—speaking of bushy tails—take a rabbit trail for a moment with you, because if I don’t, we will miss a very important principle.  Worry about rabbit trails. Read the epistles of Paul.  If it weren’t for the rabbit trails they would hardly be any length at all.

So look at this with me for a moment in verse 41.  Part of the confession involves what? 

“If their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt...”

Do you see the last full clause there after the semicolon in verse 41?  How do you know when you are circumcised? You say, “Ouch.” You say, “Ouch.” How do you know your heart is circumcised? You say, “Ouch.”

A circumcised heart is a heart that owns its guilt. That is what it is.  A circumcised heart is a heart that owns its guilt.  You see what he is saying and you look at the parallelism?  He says, “If their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt...”

See, there it is, sitting on your back, your guilt. Just like a monkey on your back.

Now, I am probably the only person in your life that has done a few things.  One is I attended the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King on April the 9th, 1968.  So, you know, I am probably the only person around here in central Louisiana of either race. There may have been some of my African American friends who went there, but I was there at that funeral.  I went to his funeral. 

Now, if that is not enough, I am probably the only person that you have ever met who had a monkey on his back literally. This is not a joke.  In the summers of 65, 67 and 70 I worked at a place called Pirate Land. 

Hey, I... not counting this past several years (that my wife told me about two weeks ago, it shaved five years off my life...  Gee, Sandy, Wow! Thanks a lot!)... not counting the past several years of working on the doctorate, I had to go to school, not counting kindergarten, for 20 years.  After college I had four years in grad school. Well, when you do that, you work odd jobs.  I worked as an assistant to an undertaker.  What is an assistant undertaker?  I was a “Pick-up Man.”  And I mean, I picked up people, the clients.  Yeah. I didn’t like that. 

I sold insurance. I was a licensed insurance salesman in South Carolina. Since I knew how to take tests, I was a professional test taker by that time. I scanned over their rules and passed their test, became a licensed insurance agent and made a grand total of less than a dollar.

In all the months I kept knocking on doors.  I just couldn’t sell any.  Like when I tried to sell Bibles I ended up giving my two samples away. 

So, anyhow, I had to finally find something anyhow. 

So I am working this place. It is an adventure park. And I am sorry.  I have been to Marine Land once.  I probably will never go again.  But among the people that worked at Pirate Land where I worked as an announcer and oversaw the pirates, was a trained animal act and they had a tank full of marine animals, mainly porpoises. And so during my break, I have always had an insatiable curiosity about everything, literally everything.  And so I would sit with these guys on the break.

I mean, have you ever had time to talk to a trained animal trainer?  A trained animal trainer who trains whom?

Anyhow and so there... and explained to me one day.  Listen, I am sorry. You will never go to Marine Land again. 

He said, “Bob, do you think these porpoises jump through those hoops and bounce those balls on their noses because we throw them mackerel?  Are you kidding me?  Do you think they do it just for that?”  He said, “When they don’t do what we tell them to do and have trained them to do, we get in there and beat them with baseball bats.”

Jane... not Jane Fonda, Bridget Bardot and PETA where are you?  They weren’t around then. Well, Bridget was around, she just wasn’t clothed well enough to go interfere.  They beat them with baseball bats.  Are you kidding? Well, contrary to Dr. Spock and his legacy for American kids, it takes negative and positive reinforcement to train animals. And we are, though we are the ones that are created in the image of God, animals, positive and negative reinforcement.

I am not in favor of abuse and I don’t believe in abusing porpoises. I don’t.  But that is what they told me.

And so I am there talking to them one afternoon during my break and all of the sudden here is a grown chimp. I am not talking about the little cute little monkeys that like monkey looking chimps.  I know they are chimps, not monkeys, but anyway. I am not talking about the little ones that do the tricks. This is a big chimp.  The testosterone has kicked in.  Washed over his brain and two things about testosterone one of which makes you mean. 

All right.  So all of a sudden for whatever reason he took a look at me and he leapt off his perch and landed on my shoulders.  I am not kidding you. I have these crazy stories and people think, “Oh, Bob, oh, Bob, you must be exaggerating.”

I swear.  I swear to you. I don’t want to say I swear to God. That is not good to do, but I promise you before the Lord I am not exaggerating here. This chimp, this grown chimp jumped on my shoulders and proceeded to attempt to delouse me and it was a lousy experience. He was looking for an afternoon snack in my hair.

And the guy says to me, he says, “Bob, don’t move. Don’t move, man.” He said, “That is not a baby chimp.”  He said, “He is an old chimp and we should have a shock collar on him because you can’t control an old chimp without a shock collar.”

And I said, “Okay.”

And so there he is. He has got his feet on my shoulders. I had a monkey on my back. Not a monkey, a chimp.  Give me a spider monkey any day.  I mean, a grown chimp.

He said, “Bob, don’t move.  He’ll interpret it as aggression.”  He said, “One blow of one of his hands is enough to break your neck.”

So, Okay, Okay.

He said, “Well, get him down.”

So thank goodness they had some bananas.  And they baited the chimp.  Fortunately because I have been washing my hair every day. Every day I have been washing it since high school when I gave up Brill Cream.  And he found no lice and he saw the bananas and he jumped down.

But honestly, I mean, I really am. I am probably the only person you will ever meet who has had an adult unchained, unfettered, free, roaming adult male chimp on his shoulders. 

Now what is that like?  Do you know what that is like?  It is like guilt.  It is like guilt. Have you ever had guilt on you?  Till your heart gets circumcised in the words here of Leviticus verse 41 and humbled and you accept your guilt, you are going to wear it like a monkey on your back.  And all the psychotropic drugs in the world and all the psychoanalysis and meeting with counselors in the world and all of that which that adopted son of a Lutheran minister or that Baptist minister produced, bourbon—well, actually the adopted son of a Lutheran minister was Tennessee whiskey, Jack Daniel—but bourbon was invented by a Southern Baptist preacher, Elijah Craig.  It will never remove your guilt.   It will never remove your guilt.

You can reason and you never reason guilt away, because until you own your guilt, until your heart is crushed with your own sense of sin and responsibility and you stop saying, “It’s his fault, it’s her fault,” sounding like the state of the union address or something. I mean, until you begin to say, “It is my fault,” you are going to have that chimp on your back. It is going to be on your back, giant chimp.  There he is. You wake up with him. You go to sleep with him.  Guilt is like that.  But as long as you are blame shifting, there it is. You will never get rid of it. No matter how much you dope yourself up you will never get rid of it.

I could have never gotten that chimp off my back.  It took the trainer to get him off. And here is what happens. The moment that you acknowledge your sin and say, “It is not my brother, not my sister, but it is me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer,” you get relief.  And here is how guilt is gone.   Guilt is gone when you own it and you confess it.  It is mine, Lord.

Even if you are only one percent of the problem instead of 99 percent, you got to take responsibility for your one percent and forget the 99 percent that somebody else is.  You have got to own your guilt because when you do, you can give it to Jesus. And when you give it to Jesus it is like that chimp gone. You want to talk about a happy day. There were happy days in my life when I got diplomas. I have gotten diplomas three times and my goal is to get another one in May. Though I have three more years, I can’t retain all the information that is up here another three years to finish writing this dissertation. So my goal is to get another diploma in May.  Please pray for me. I know it didn’t work last week, but God had better plans. Please pray for me.

Getting a diploma is like getting a chimp off your back.  No, it isn’t.  Nothing is like getting a chimp off your back except this. When you get your guilt gone it is better than a chimp getting off your shoulders. And the only one that can take it away is Jesus. So you own your guilt and you confess. And that is what he says to do to Daniel.

Now I am going to have to confess to you something.  And I was struck because I forgot the sequence of events in the first sermon and I went and checked them out.  I have often told you the story of how God showed me how dramatically he answers prayer. I have told you the story a number of times that back in 1996 I put a check for 110 dollars in the collection plate and I said, “Lord, I am really hurting.” And I remembered what God had done for Isaac and I said, “Lord, I am asking you in the name of Jesus to give me 100 fold return on that money.”

And I actually had the faith to believe that.  I have never had it before or since. 

And two months and one day later I received in the mail 200 shares of Wachovia bank stock. And when I went on line it had closed that Friday—this was Saturday—for 55 dollars a share.  How much is a 100 fold increase on 110 dollars?  It is exactly to the penny 200 shares of Wachovia bank stock, 11,000 dollars just came in the blue, came in the blue.  I needed some money in early January. I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I called my wife. I said, “I don’t know what I am going to do,” because I did not feel that I should cash in stuff.  I needed some cash flow, about five grand behind and I, you know, it is expensive taking care of a bunch of children some times. 

And so I cried out to God and my wife called me back.  And I had gotten a check in the mail out of the blue, not from a relative, out of the blue.

See, I learned something about God meeting needs. 

Now, I used to always think—until this morning—when God connected the dots for me between the first service and the second service, that he gave me that money not just because he wanted me to have 11,000 dollars, which he did. And he did want me to have it.  But until this morning I never understood the significance of it and here was the significance of it.  Less than a year later four guys from Central Louisiana were flown by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association from Central Louisiana to Wichita, Kansas.  And one of those four guys was John Alley, the pastor who moved Calvary from downtown to across the street. And one of those guys was me. And John and I became very close friends during that time. And John shared a lot with me and he taught me a lot. I wish that I had been willing to be discipled early on because I needed a lot of practical information and practical insight.

So John began to badger me. This is around a year after getting that 11,000 dollars. I mean, dear ones, if you pray for a hundred-fold increase and God does it to the penny as $11,000 to the penny, I mean, is that like saying, “God, show me you exist.” And he went Wow! “Here I am.”

“Oh, Okay, Lord.”

Not that I doubted the existence of God. 

John Alley and I have got to confess my sin. John Alley said to me, “Bob, there are some houses on Jackson Street next door to your church, across Ida Street.”  And he said, “Those houses are going to go up for sale soon.” And he said, “You know what?  Somebody will probably buy it and turn it into a strip mall. And I believe that God wants Grace Church to buy those two houses so you will have a piece of prime real estate to expand your church on.”

And, dear ones, I never got the connection until I shared that part of the story in the first service because it makes my sin all the more serious. I just said to John, I said, “Well, John, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

“Bob,” he said, “You got to have faith.” He said, “If you build it, they will come.” And he said, “That’s the only place you can really do an expansion. If you lose that, you lose the ability to build on the front of a main highway which you have got to have.  You have got to have high traffic visibility.  I want you to be prospered, Bob.”

I mean, John really pumped me. We flew all the way to Wichita.  We spent three days there and we came back and John was pumping me.  He said, “You have got to do it.” He said, “Bob, you need to understand something. When Calvary was located at the corner of Jackson and Bolton, we created our own real estate market.  People that had worthless pieces of property for sale were gouging us for money.”  And he said, “I realized that I needed to do something.”

And so after a lot of prayer and talking to people we found that farmland across the street from your church and so in the early 80s Calvary abandoned their property on Jackson and Bolton and moved out across the street and look what they have done. They are getting ready to do a third sanctuary expansion.  If you build it they will come.

He said, “Your building says something about you.  Your building says something about you.”

here it is except for the two wings that cause the air conditioning not to work well.  This building that we have been in since 1955 is unchanged and it says something to people that drive by.  What it says is, “We don’t care.” 

I had somebody who recently... who joined the church a few years ago tell me, “For years I used to drive by Jackson Street and see a few cars in the front parking lot and I would say to my wife, ‘How do they stay open?’”  And he said, “Then one day I realized there was a school there and I realized all that property back there and then I one day visited and I decided I wanted to come back because I wanted to hear the Word of God.  But your building says that you are old people who don’t care and not interested in visitors.  They don’t care how you appear.”

The guy really worked on me, Okay?

And I have to confess my sin to you. My sin was I guess it was because it was about a decade after we had a church split and that hurt me so deeply. It hurt me worse than when I buried my only sibling. It hurt me worse than when I buried my father and mother because I love the people that left. I love the people that left.  It tore me apart when we had a church split.  And as I prayed and agonized before I God I knew no way to stop it.  No matter what I tried, no matter how much I prayed, I knew no way to stop it. It tore me up and I was determined I will never let it happen again. I will never let it happen again.

So I backed off.  So here was the amazing thing. John challenged me.  “Buy that land. Buy it. Do it. Do whatever you have got to do, Bob. You have got to get that land.”

And I didn’t because I didn’t have faith.

And here is the amazing thing and I am rebuked by it today. I am rebuked by it because God showed me just one year before that if I would trust him, he could take 110 dollars and turn it into 11,000 dollars.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in all the mines of the earth (Psalm 50:10-12). 

Do you believe that?  Do you believe that? 

I have never lacked for money personally because I have been bold to ask God for money personally, not people. I have this very, very deep concern about not pressing people to give me money. But I have no problem talking to Father about it.  And he has always met my needs, incredibly, abundantly.  But I have got to confess my lack of faith.  My lack of faith. I lacked the faith in 1997 to do what John Alley said.

“Bob, this is God’s will.  I don’t want to see a strip mall there. I want to see Grace Church grow. It will bless Calvary if you grow.”

So I lack my faith and I am confessing it to you today. I confess it to God. I will never do that again.  I will never do that again.

Turn with me as we close to Daniel chapter nine.  God promised in Leviticus 26 that if people would confess their sins he would bring the restoration, he would bring the restoration. Look at what you have here in Daniel chapter nine. That is exactly what he does.

Verse four:  “And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned.’”

Wow.  Do you see what he says there? 

Daniel is one of the most righteous men in the entirety of the Word of God.  But yet he prayers a prayer Jesus could never pray.  Jesus could never say, “We have sinned.”  But Daniel, godly man that he was, has solidarity with the people of God. And in that solidarity with the people of God he is going to stick with them and he is going to own them and he is going to pray for them and he is going to stand in the gap for them.

We have sinned. We have sinned.  He said, “We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.  Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets.”

This is Daniel praying. Had he personally done this?  No.  But he sees solidarity with the people of God.

“Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name,” and so on.

And you read this. And I would encourage you to read this afternoon until you get to the conclusion, verse 20, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel,” that is the archangel Gabriel, came.

Do you see what happened?  Why doesn’t God answer your prayers?  You don’t confess your sin.  Do you realize that sin hinders your prayers?  We’ll talk to you.  You know, I am the father, in a sense, of this church.  You are my children.   Even the elders are my children and the deacons are my children.  The women and the men.  I don’t care if you are in your 90s. You are my children in the sense that a pastor bears on his heart the people of God.

I can’t tell you at times the burden. It is a crushing burden to bear the burden of the children. I regard many of you like I regard my adult children. I value the counsel of my adult children. I seek their wisdom. I seek their insight.

But finally as a pastor, as I am with a father, I have to answer to God for myself. I can’t blame my adult children for their advice. I can’t blame my elders for their advice. I can’t blame my deacons for their advice. I can’t blame the people of the church. I look for wisdom. But I am telling you and I think Richie understands this. There is a burden on a man that God has called to be a pastor teacher that is different from the burden of a man who earns his living another way and then serves in a pastoral way part time.  It is a sense here, dear ones, if I may share my heart with you before I die, there is a deep burden in my life that you be prepared to go forward when I die.  And that is that you be equipped, that you stand strong in the faith and go forward.

I don’t always know what God’s will is in a matter. Had I known back years ago in 97 or that trip to Wichita that John Alley was really telling me what he truly believed as he had prayed for me... Isn’t that wonderful that another pastor prays for you?  Isn’t that wonderful?

I didn’t know that that was the Lord challenging me to faith.  But I responded in unbelief because I didn’t want to rock the boat.

I don’t know where God is leading us, but I am convinced of this. We cannot stay here on this piece of property in this sanctuary a long, long time. I believe that with all my heart.  And I am going to tell you something that I recently told to someone who wrote to me.

Several years ago we had a little beautification study and I became aware for the first time that that big oak tree blocked people’s vision of this church. They couldn’t see it.  So I did something that some of you might find strange, but I do this from time to time and I have always seen results.  I went out there one afternoon by myself, put my hand on it and I cursed it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I spoke death into it. 

Now, it didn’t happen the way I thought it was going to happen which was withering from the roots and the next day I would walk up, drive up and there it was withered.  God moved the city who said, “Look, that thing is growing in our power lines. It is a problem for us.  We will cut it down for free.”

But you need to understand it is because I cursed it. I cursed it. I wasn’t even in town when the decision was made by the people who oversee our property, the deacons, to let the city cut it. 

But you need to understand I cursed it.  I haven’t yet done that here.  But, dear ones, it is time to move. I don’t know where.  Maybe it is over there. And maybe Jackson 5000 will sell.  Maybe it is that property that they offered a land swap for us that one of you asked.  This all got stirred up with a congregational meeting when somebody had been praying for us to be able to acquire that green strip of land, brought it up to me. 

So what is the progress? 

And then I decided, you know, we have been sitting on this. They told us that we are on their property and we have known that since July. Maybe it is time to tell... to be honest and I realize I have not been honest with the congregation. So I confessed that that night.

But I don’t know what it is. I can’t tell you what it is. But I can tell you, you need to pray.  You need to pray.  You need to pray.

I am a man who has never cared much about money. I mean, when you have an unending purse at your disposal that your Father gives you whatever you need, you don’t worry about money.  But I will tell you this.  There is no joy in pasturing a group of people who are complacent and just want to sit on their butts.  It robs a minister of his heart. 

May I share with you the truth? Would you hear my heart? I have served you all for 35 years.  And I have encountered resistance and resistance and resistance. We want to be debt free. 

Well, we live in modern America.  And the entire economy of America is fueled by debt. I am not encouraging you to go into debt, but if fear of debt is what keeps us in a building that is terrible for us now, terrible for us now.  Then, dear ones, one day or one night I will come in here and I will curse it and it will come down.  I don’t want to do that. I just want to share my heart. 

I have given you my life.  I have given you my life. I have given you the best years of my life. I have taken the gifts that I have and I have honed them and used them for you.  I have poured my life into you because I love you. But I have to tell you.  It steals my heart when all I get is inertia. 

I shared with my wife years ago when it began to hit me over a decade ago. Every time I would go on vacation I would start to drive back. I would get a knot in my stomach. Why?  Because I didn’t make enough money? I don’t worry about money. I never worry about money.  I’ve got the money. I just need it now for you, not for me. 

I get a knot in my stomach for one reason only. Because I don’t love you? No, I love you.  I love you.  You are my family.  Daddy and Mama are buried across the river.  My brother is buried in Georgia. I love you.  You are my family.  You know I will come when you call me. If it is two in the morning then I will get up out of bed and I will drive there. I will be with you.  I will stay with you as long as you need me.

What I am asking of you is:  would you pray and ask God what he wants you to do?  Because it is like getting kicked in the solar plexus. When you share ideas and you share dreams and you get no response at all... and I am pleading with you. I am an old man and I don’t know how much longer I have got. I want you all to live and survive as a monument to me?  God almighty deliver me from such a thought.  I want you to be healthy and prosperous and do the will of God.  And the vision that God gave one of our men years ago was of an island of ministries that stretched out. And I am hoping that vision really is true because it means I will live into my 70s to be part of it. But right now we are frozen with a sense of unbelief and doubt.  And I saw it so profoundly this morning between the first service and the second service when I realized John Alley talked to me about exactly one year.... it was the fall of 97 after the fall of 96 I got the 11 grand. And there was all the proof I needed that God would meet every need.  But I was so afraid to push because the church had split and it tore me up like nothing I have ever had happen before because I love the congregation. 

So pray for me and pray for yourselves.  What does God want us to do?  To buy that land from those people across the way, our strip mall here, to buy that?  There is no point in building behind there. You have got to be in high visibility. 

What does he want?  I believe he wants this building to be put to another use. I believe that when people look at the school... bear with me. I have already gone over, so bear with me.

If your daddy asked you would you bear with him for a moment and you didn’t know whether he was going to see you again or not, would you bear with him? Would you bear with your spiritual father for a moment? 

I am convinced that Grace Christian School is the finest school in central Louisiana.  It gives an incredible quality education that is inexpensive, but our buildings look like the set of Sanford and Son.  We don’t see it that way because we love it and we see it all the time.  But I want you to understand that when people fail to see brick buildings they look at something that is flimsy and fly by night.  Not parents who have tried it and experienced it and worked in it and so on. They say, “Wow, this is great. This is a great, undiscovered thing.”

Could God possibly stretch our faith to have a plant with brick buildings for the school and brick buildings for the sanctuary?  Could he do that?  No, God can’t do stuff like that today. That was back then. 

When John Alley spoke to me, I have to confess my unbelief, even though God proved it. 

Will you pray for me?

Why don’t we just have a season of prayer and then we will go home?

Bob Vincent