District Council Sermon:  Ordination Service Tuesday pm (May 5, 2015)

[Dennis Marquardt]




TEXTS:       Heb. 11:21; Gen. 32:24-32; 38:13-26; Psm. 23:4; Ex. 4:2; Num. 17:1-12; 2 Kgs. 4:29


INTRO:       Symbols can be powerful – and they can produce powerful and meaningful commitments in our lives even when the symbol itself is a simple one.  Take for example the American flag, it is only a piece of cloth with 3 colors on it, but when that flag is flown it has powerful meaning, and produces a powerful commitment for those who have embraced the meaning of the symbol.


ILLUS:      In the final years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese moved us from small cells with one or two prisoners to large rooms with as many as 30-40 men to a room. We preferred this situation for the companionship and strength we could draw from our fellow prisoners. In addition to moving us to new quarters, out captors also let us receive packages and letters from home. Many men received word from their families for the first time in several years. The improved ...conditions were a result of public pressure put on the North Vietnamese by the American public.

In our cell was one Navy officer, Lt. Commander Mike Christian. Over a period of time Mike had gathered bits and pieces of red and white cloth from various packages. Using a piece of bamboo he had fashioned into a needle, Mike sewed a United States flag on the inside of his shirt, one of the blue pajama tops we all wore.

Every night in our cell, Mike would put his shirt on the wall, and we would say the pledge of allegiance. I know that the pledge of allegiance may not be the most important aspect of our day now, but I can tell you that at the time it was the most important aspect of our lives.

This had been going on for some time until one of the guards came in as we were reciting our pledge. They ripped the flag off the wall and dragged Mike out. He was beaten for several hours and then thrown back into the cell.

Later that night, as we were settling down to sleep on the concrete slabs that were our beds, I looked over to the spot where the guards had thrown Mike. There, under the solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling, I saw Mike. Still bloody and his face swollen beyond recognition, Mike was gathering bits and pieces of cloth together. He was sewing a new American flag. -- John McCain. From the files of Leadership.


The ministry, and living for God doesn’t always make sense!  The truth is that we cannot live out our faith or our ministry by just rational and practical realities.  There are powerful symbols of ministry in history that allowed men to live BY FAITH and minister BY FAITH!


We are about to look at a passage of Scripture that sums up a man’s life and ministry in the New Testament, and the opening salvo starts the sum up this way, “BY FAITH…”  This statement starts all the summation verses on various people’s lives in Hebrews chapter 11.  At the end of your life all the moments that are significant moments will have attached to them “faith.”


In Ephesians it states that we are not saved by our works, but by faith!  It is God’s gift, because it doesn’t come naturally to us!


All the training in the world for you to be a good pastor will not provide the strength you will need in ministry, only faith can do that!  It would be great if we could teach you how to be a successful pastor, but the truth is that only FAITH will carry you through the toughest moments of ministry and life.


PROP. SENT    The Bible teaches us that successful ministry, along with successful living can only be achieved by faith, an absolute trust in the Will of God for your life and a confidence that He is working out His will according to His good pleasure. 


I.   THE STAFF   Heb. 11:21;  Gen. 32:24-32


A.   Leaning On The Staff    Heb. 11:21

1.   Jacob was at the end of his life, a long career of ministry and walk with God.

a.   At the end of his life he gathers his family, blesses them all – and “worships God leaning on the top of his staff!”

b.   For Jacob this staff had great significance, it was a reminder of his moment with God many years earlier: Genesis 32:24-32 (NKJV)
24  Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
25  Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
26  And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"
27  So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob."
28  And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
29  Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.
30  And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
31  Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.
32  Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank.

c.   Jacob’s staff was a constant reminder of his wrestling with God many years earlier, and his limp and need of a staff throughout his lifetime.  It became a symbol of his life journey with God and not quitting.

d.   And now as he is preparing to die “he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”  This was indicating that he was standing with the reminder of that which brought him close to God, an encounter that caused him to have to rely on help from God the rest of his life.

2.   What a scene for his family, his last act is to lean for support on the very symbol of his life’s journey; it is what gives him strength to stand at the end and worship God.


B.   Lessons Of The Staff!    Psalm 23:4

1.   What did this actually mean?

a.   A Staff was often stylized with personal markers, to identify the person who has the staff.

b.   It may also have had other items attached which were life events of importance.

c.   David said that when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death he feared no evil for God was with him, the ROD and STAFF comforted him!

2.   The staff was a crooked instrument or straight that became the symbol of God’s authority and power, and was used to draw sheep close to the shepherd when in use by a shepherd.

a.   It was at a man’s side his entire journey as an adult.

b.   It became an important part of a man’s possessions.


II.  THE STORY!   Gen. 38:13-26;  Ex. 4:2;  Num. 17:1-12;


A.   Life Of The Staff   Gen. 38:13-26

1.   Engraved with personal markings and possibly significant life experiences.   Gen. 38:13-26

a.   Judah’s son dies leaving Tamar a widow with no heir.  Judah gives his daughter in law to his next son Onan, but he too is wicked and does not produce a son and dies like his brother Er.  Judah promises Tamar that when the last son Shelah grows up he will produce an heir with her.  Judah however never follows through with this promise to Tamar with Shelah after he is grown.

b.   Tamar takes it upon herself to have an heir in the family and secretly poses as a prostitute to sleep with Judah after his wife dies, and during his time of sorrow he sleeps with her.

c.   Tamar requires payment by a goat and Judah’s staff as pledge of payment.

d.   Tamar becomes pregnant with twins, and when Judah finds out she is pregnant but not from his other son Shelah he attempts to have her burned to death for her sin of prostitution!

e.   She however says that she is pregnant by the man whose staff she had as pledge for payment – and clearly the staff belonged to Judah, it was his personal staff with all his identifiers on it, there was no question who the guiltier party was!

f.    His response is that she was more righteous than he had been!

2.   There was no mistaken Judah’s sin; everyone clearly could see who the owner of the staff was.

a.   In that day the staff contained the personal identity of the owner, like a credit card of today.

b.   They were considered so important that they could be used as collateral on deals.


B.   The Leverage Of The Staff    Ex. 4:2; Num. 17:1-12; 20:7-12; Judges 6:21

1.   The staff was used by God for AUTHORITY.  Ex. 4:2

a.   God calls Moses and Moses is concerned about going to Egypt and being believed or listened to.

b.   God asks Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  Moses answers, “A staff.”

c.   God asks Moses to throw it to the ground!  Moses had to give up his own authority and pick up God’s authority, the staff is changed back by God and He tells Moses to pick it up after He had transformed it.  Now it was no longer Moses’ authority or staff, it was God’s.

d.   From this point on Moses’ staff is center stage for most of the things he does in the name of God.

(1.   Ex. 7:17  Moses stretches out his staff to the Nile, it becomes blood.

(2.   Ex. 8:5  Moses stretches out his staff over the streams and canals and frogs appear.

(3.   Ex. 8:16  Moses stretches out his staff to strike the ground and it brings forth gnats.

(4.   Ex. 9:23  Moses stretches out his staff to the sky and hail and fire fall.

(5.   Ex. 10:13  Moses stretches out his staff and locusts appear.

(6.   Ex. 12:11  Moses gives instructions about the Passover telling the men to take their staffs in hand and be ready to go.

(7.   Ex. 14:16  Moses stretches out his staff to divide the Red Sea.

(8.   Ex. 17:5  Moses strikes a rock with the staff to bring forth water

2.   It became the symbol of ANOINTING!  Num. 17:1-12

a.   Moses commands all the leaders of the 12 tribes to submit their personal staffs and places them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting; the one God chose to be high priest would be the one whose staff budded in the morning.

b.   Aaron’s staff budded and produced ripe almonds as well; his was the only staff to do so!

c.   It was clear who the owner was of that staff, it was stylized with Aaron’s personal insignia and experiences – each man’s staff was.

d.   God was anointing Aaron symbolized by the budding and fruitful staff.

e.   By the way, it remained fresh, and with fresh flowers and ripe almonds on it throughout time!  It was kept in the Ark of the Covenant!  God’s anointing is always fresh!

3.   It was also a symbol of ACCOUNTABILITY!  1 Sam. 17:40; Num. 20:7-12; Judges 6:21

a.   1 Sam. 17:40  David threw off Saul’s armor and instead took his staff and gathered 5 stones to fight Goliath, he trusted in God’s authority to confront the enemy, symbolized in the staff he took!

b.   Num. 20:7-12  Moses was asked the 2nd time to simply speak to the rock to bring water forth again, but Moses in anger strikes the rock twice – abusing the authority of God’s staff, it cost him the Promised land.

c.  Judges 6:21  Gideon is visited by an “angel” who uses a staff to touch the meat and unleavened bread Gideon had brought and fire came forth from the rock to cook the meal.  The staff had power!


C.   Legacy Of The Staff!   2 Kings 4:29; 18:21;  Heb. 11:21

1.   In 2 Kings 4:29 The Shunammite woman was in distress over her son’s death, the promised son by the prophet Elisha and God’s Word.  In her distress she runs after Elisha and his servant Gehazi, and when she catches up to them Gehazi pushes her away.  Elisha however tells him to let her come to him, that he didn’t know why she was so distressed.  She tells God’s servant her son has died – and he does an odd thing, he tells Gehazi to take his staff and return to the house and lay it on the dead boy.

a.   She however wants Elisha to come; perhaps she already sensed that Gehazi wasn’t anointed like Elisha – the woman and Elisha follow Gehazi who gets there first.  Nothing happens when he lays Elish’a staff on the boy’s face however.  It isn’t a magical thing, and Gehazi’s later greed for profiting financially from ministry brought him leprosy and may have caused this miracle to fail, so it wouldn’t appear to come from the hand of a coveting servant.

b.   Instead, Elisha shows up and the miracle finally happens.  The staff and the servant have to both be in touch with God!

2.   No one else could use Elisha’s staff effectively; it had to be used by him alone!  Gehazi could not use Elisha’s anointing to do the same ministry – in fact, his own greed to make money from ministry cost him the ability to be used at all by God!

3.   The staff and servant have to both be in sync before God; our staff must be aligned to His character and not ours.  This was likely why God became so angry with Moses when he struck the rock twice with the staff of God, Moses was no longer using God’s staff to minister, he was using his own, and it was full of anger!

4.   In 2 Kings 18:21 God warns against leaning on any other staff other than God’s own staff!

a.   2 Kings 18:21 contain a warning to King Hezekiah to not turn to Egypt and the Pharaoh as an alliance against the Assyrians and their king Sennacherib.  If they “leaned on that staff it would pierce their hand!”  2 Kings 18:21 “Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man's hand and wounds him if he leans on it!  Such is Pharaoh King of Egypt to all who depend on him.”  This is very different from Jacob’s experience of leaning on his staff and worshipping God at the end of his life, that staff was safe and secure!

b.   This brings us full circle to the text we started with, if you lean on a staff that trusts in the things of this world to carry you through life and to face death you will be badly pierced through the hand when you lean against it for strength.

c.   However, like Jacob who worshipped God leaning up his staff at the end of his life, he found courage, strength, and support as he faced his death.

5.   How’s your staff coming along?  Are there markers on it for your life’s journey that show the power of God?  Can you worship God at the end of your life leaning on all the events of your life, and still be standing strong?

6.   Be sure you staff comforts you and supports you!


CONCLUSION:   The shepherd’s staff was more than wooden stick; it became the instrument of ministry, and also the symbol of God’s power in our life journey.  So much so that Jacob at the end of his life could worship God leaning on it, a staff that contained his identity and experiences through life.  Will you come to the end of your journey and be able to worship God leaning upon your entire life journey?