We took a break from our struggles this weekend, to do something very special. Monty had it in his coat pocket when we slipped into the pew. We were near a little Church on the outskirts of town.
After the Easter service, which was wonderful, Monty handed the Pastor an envelope. He whispered quickly to him, and we left. Each of us couldn’t help smiling on the way to the car.
We read the story in the paper two days later. “Pastor sells rare Stamp, pays off Church mortgage.” When interviewed, they asked the Pastor how he had obtained it. His answer thrilled us.
“It was Easter. God reminded us through this, that He continuously watches over His people. From empty tombs, to unexpected blessings, God always opens a door. No matter the obstacle, He puts His stamp of approval on those who trust in Him!”
We rejoice, not in the pain of Our Savior, but that He willingly gave Himself for us!
The following is a message I was privileged to preach at our church, Point Of Mercy in Nashville.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.
15 But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about a common man. An ordinary laborer. One who knew what it was like to get his hands dirty. A man who knew more about wool than he did witnessing.
To understand him though, you have to first understand what the word common means. Common is a word that can range the spectrum. It’s range is a lot deeper than the surface.
First it can mean profane, or unholy. Common, also means Communion, and joint participation. A gift jointly contributed, the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist in the Body Of Christ. That last description didn’t come from Greek or Hebrew, but an English encyclopedia.
Pastor brought out the early Church last week. They had some things in common. Fellowship was common, faithfulness was common, and doctrine was common. The neat thing is, the word common, can also mean profane. This ordinary word can mean what is unholy, as well as the perfect state of Communion between God, His Church, and the members of the Church.
In the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel 21:4-6, a Hebrew word is translated as the word common, means both ordinary, profane, and it means sand. It’s a perfect picture of the potential of man, to go from the horrors of sin, to the Power Of God.
An Ordinary Man:
Such a man was one of the Prophets in the Old Testament, his name was Amos. Before I tell you what he did, let me share a little about his journey first. To be what we refer to as one of the Minor Prophets, he was an interesting man.
I believe that God attends the birth of every child. We know that He is All Knowing, and All Seeing, and if He, as The Bible says, attends the funeral of every sparrow, then surely He is there every time a baby utters it’s first cry.
I don’t know how it happened, but one day, or night, a baby was born to a herdsman in the village of Tekoa. A lot of children are named something that sounds good, or sounds different. Some children though, are given a name that is a glimpse at their purpose. This was such a baby.
I wonder if anyone had any idea. I wonder if God Himself whispered the suggestion in Amos’ parents ears. You see this child was named burden. Of all the neat meanings of Prophet’s names in the Old Testament, I doubt you could get a better name than that.
The trouble was, this boy wasn’t a Prophet. He was to be a herdsman, or shepherd, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. Many commentators take it to mean his family was poor, with a small produce business on the side.
Jewish commentators say it meant he was rich, and had a vale filled with sycamore trees. Honestly, I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. For one day, rich or poor, he would put down the sheep shearers, he’d leave the fruit baskets behind, to follow God’s purpose for His life.
He probably had the smell of sheep, and fruit stains on his clothes then when God called him. Amos said I was among the herdsmen when He called me.
We know that he was good at his job. God would not have called a man to speak to God’s flock, if Amos had not been faithful to his own. We learn that he gathered sycamore fruit, and you’re thinking what’s so important about sycamore fruit. As it turns out a lot.
You see sycamore fruit isn’t like picking an apple. If an apple isn’t ripe, it’s going to be sour. To eat a sycamore, about four days before you pick it, you have to prick it. That’s what makes it ripen. The wound it receives causes the fruit to be harvested.
Sycamore trees were important, of course in the Bible, they use two names for this tree. It’s called a sycamore in several places, but it’s called a fig tree in others. It’s a specific type of fig tree though, called a sycamore, or mulberry fig. The fruit grows in clusters on the tree, sort of like grapes.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts.
It was one of primary trees of Egypt, that God destroyed before the Exodus. In addition to the fruit, the Egyptians used the wood to make their coffins. I can imagine Amos, before he grows up, climbing those sycamore trees like a lot of kids do.
Racing Jesus Illustration:
They say these trees were throughout the lower parts of Galilee. Aren’t you glad that, even though Nazareth itself, was a city set on a hill, it was in lower Galilee. Jesus lived among the lowly, to give us a seat in the Heavenly. When I think of a kid climbing a tree, and somebody mentions Galilee, I think of Jesus. I wonder if Jesus ever climbed a tree? Just suppose for a minute that Him and James as kids wanted to have a race.
Maybe James said, “I’ll race you to the top of that sycamore Jesus.” Although, I wouldn’t try to beat Jesus at a race, would you? Just maybe it happened, and maybe they got hungry when they got up in that tree. Maybe James, being a kid and not knowing, said He’d eat a sycamore.
We know Jesus liked to eat from trees. Maybe He wanted one too. The difference would have been, James may have found out that you couldn’t eat it yet, and Jesus saved His. He knew you have to prick it, before you pick it.
Calling Of Amos:
Meanwhile, back to Amos. I wonder how God did it. Maybe it was a hot day, maybe Amos heard something that He didn’t recognize at first. Maybe it was a Voice, maybe it was a sign, we don’t know. What we do know is, Amos, the man named burden, was called to carry God’s burden to Israel.
Amos was just a common man. Yet God chose Him to call Israel to repentance. God chose Him to talk to Israel about The Tabernacle Of David. About the harvest of souls. Amos said that one day the harvest and planting seasons would have no gap between them. He described it as the plowman shall overtake the reaper.
If Amos was a gatherer of sycamore figs, maybe he was a planter too. He knew the hot sweaty work of raising sheep, and of harvesting fruit, maybe he knew what it was like to plant. He probably knew what it was like to go to harvest, and to see very little fruit.
A Continual Harvest:
Maybe that’s why it was so exciting to him, the thoughts of a continual season of going from planting, plowing, and reaping, with no gaps in between. You see, he knew first hand how precious that fruit was. It was more than about a livelihood, it was life itself.
This same tree that you invested in, could carry you from childhood to supporting you financially, to even your grave, the Egyptians proved that. He also knew though, there was something more important than what grew on that sycamore tree, it was The Who which caused it to grow.
15 I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
Amos ends his book, the way he started it, talking about planting. He planted The Word Of God as sure as a Master Gardener planted sycamore trees. In the last chapter of his book, Amos gets to do what Isaiah got to do.
A Glimpse Of A Working God/Man:
He catches a glimpse of another working man, although as the old song says, He was more than a man. He looks ahead through time, this shepherd turned Prophet, this fruit picker, and He sees a God Who swung a hammer, a Carpenter.
11 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old,
He sees a God who lifts up Israel, repairs the breaches, raises up its timbers, rebuilds it. He sees what Jesus did spiritually, but is it any wonder after this verse, why Jesus was a Carpenter? A working God, gave a working man, a glimpse, not just of the three and half year Ministry of Jesus, but His purpose, and the occupation which occupied His life.
Jericho And A Certain Sycamore:
As I mentioned, there were sycamores in Jesus’ days. One in particular comes to mind. Jesus was on His way to die for every common man. All had sinned, and come short of The Glory Of God. To do so, He had to pass through a certain place, and that itself was a miracle.
You see, the place Jesus was about to go too, was a place that He had once destroyed. It was the city of Jericho. You all know the song, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, or as the old timers said, He fit the battle.
26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.
“At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.”
27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
1 Kings 16:34
34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.
God had ordered the city destroyed. He told Joshua, “Cursed is the man that rebuilds Jericho. His firstborn will die at the laying of the foundation, and his youngest will die at the hanging of the gates. Every child in between would die in the process.
God wanted Joshua to tell all of Israel this, so no one would ever want to risk their family to rebuild Jericho. Yet someone had been shortsighted enough to do it anyway, and just as God had warned, lost his family in the process.
How many of us have rebuilt things that God once destroyed in our lives? How many of us have cost our family sufferings because of what we wanted to build. I’m not only talking about sin, I’m talking about work.
Work is good, Amos believed in work, so did Jesus. He also said, “What does it profit a man if He gains the whole world, and loses his soul?” Work should be part of our lives, but God’s work should be the focus of our lives. There came a time when God called Amos to a greater work.
10 For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
Jesus could have said I’m not going to Jericho, they wouldn’t listen to Me, but He didn’t do that. He walked into Jericho, and healed a blind man by the name of Bartimaeus. Jesus, that day, spoke the very reason He had called Amos in The Old Testament. He had arrived “To Seek And To Save.”
You see, it’s a two fold process, Seeking and Saving. We know that Salvation is a process, Pastor talked about that last week. To complete the process, we must do our part, to seek, not only for ourselves, but to seek to tell everyone about the transforming power of Jesus. God called us to go out into the highways and the hedges, and compel them to come in.
The word seek there, not only means seek, it means two other things, To Worship God, and to plot against One’s life. In the very act of seeking those who He could make part of His Kingdom, Jesus was plotting against His own life. He knew to save us all, He must do the work of the Cross.
God could call a working man, because He knew was a working God, who would become a working man, a Carpenter, to walk away, like Amos, from His occupation, to give His life for us.
God would never ask Amos to do what He was not willing to do, and more. God ask us, not to walk away from our labors, but to walk into a daily labor for the souls of those around us. We can never forget that, whether we go to an Insurance office, or welding shop, our job is to call others to meet Jesus.
Jesus spoke to a crowd that day, but more specifically, He spoke to one person. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, as the song goes. At Jericho, a place that wasn’t supposed to exist, he received something that he wasn’t supposed to get. Jesus didn’t give Him what he should have gotten, that as Pastor taught us, was Mercy. What He did give him, was Grace.
Jesus looked up, and said, “Zacchaeus you come down, for I’m coming to your house today.” The people didn’t like it that Zacchaeus, being a publican and a tax collector, received mercy. Yet Jesus, brought Him if you will, to the very Point Of Mercy, and extended Grace.
Zacchaeus walked into that Mercy and Grace, and began to learn about Faith. Jesus knew you have to prick them, before you pick them, but there is still a harvest involved. Jesus said that like He was going in the flesh, Salvation moved in to Zacchaeus’ home that day, to begin a process, not to complete it.
That’s why whenever another working man, Simon Peter, was called to speak, did the same. He had been present at the meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus. On the Day Of Pentecost he preached about how the crowd had through wicked hands crucified Jesus, but God was extending Grace and Mercy.
When they heard it, they were pricked in their hearts, and began the picking process, the process that wasn’t just the act of plucking it from the tree, but the ripening that occurs with the sycamore, or mulberry fig over time.
14 And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.
Amos, Jesus, and Simon Peter weren’t the only ordinary working men to be called. Men , who were called to go from the common condition of man, to the Communion of a Common, or mutual relationship as part of the body of Jesus.
Each of us was too, and while I do mean the Church as a whole, in closing, I’d like to talk about our congregation in particular. We’re not called to stop working, but we are called to focus on the greater work. Our jobs are our occupation, but seeking others to tell them about Jesus must be our priority. When we go out into our jobs, we must be concerned with a much greater bottom line than our budget.
A week ago Wednesday, we gathered beside of Pastor, and Pastor Jason, to pray at the new building. All of us were in common clothes, we had came from work, and we stood in a circle.
Each of us was asked to share what was on our heart, and to a man, we independently pledged to our God, and to the Men Of God he placed in our lives, to give our all to God, our family, our Church, and to the souls in the new field that God is calling us too.
There were tears, there was hope, and there was most definitely a burden. Common men, ordinary working men, who stood beside The Men Of God, and said we are with you, and we, and our families, are ready to work. We’re ready to plant, we’re ready to harvest, we’re ready to be Disciples Who Make A Difference.
The next few days were blissfully uneventful. I called my real boss, told them I was in danger, dropping the case I had been hired for, and to fire our client. According to what I was told, it would happen, but I knew it wouldn’t.
I’ll explain why later, right then I didn’t care. I wasn’t a quitter, and the case would get wrapped up, but I couldn’t put the guy in prison while working for him. I had to be free to work against him. He had threatened my family, and thrown my husband and I out of a plane.
It was time to rearrange the pieces. Ironically it would take a stamp to do it, though not the kind I expected. Monty came in after the call, holding a piece of porcelain. He flipped it over, showed me the stamped underside of the piece, and began to smile. When it clicked, I did too.
This whole time, evil men were looking for their own version of Cinderella. Whether it was dominance, power, or a family treasure, they wanted something to slip their ugly foot in. We’d give them something to step into all right, a very beautiful trap.