The Scattered Condition of the Church – mp3 audio
BY HAROLD LEE
December 5, 2009
Jason was talking about the temperature and being the difference in Portland, of course, the humidity there. Most of you know we originally lived in Arizona and we were used to saying, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” And I was over there going, “It’s cold, but it’s a dry cold” (laughter)! So I guess you can both ways with that. The lack of humidity makes heat more bearable and perhaps it even makes cold more bearable because I do know that with cold and a lot of humidity it just soaks right through you.
I’d like to thank everyone for inviting us up here and allowing us to be part of this. It’s certainly good to be among you.
As was mentioned, we—I guess after the Feast, most of you know that we have gone through some very trying times as well. In fact, I’d like to start the sermon by asking a question. And this is a question that was asked right here about three weeks ago and it was used to introduce the sermon as well. And the question was:
How many of you a year ago thought that you’d be where you are today?
I can even ask myself:
How many of you at the Feast thought you would be where you are today?
It almost seems like the only constant anymore is change, is uncertainty. And, of course, we can, if we’re not careful, we can allow ourselves to become distracted. We can allow ourselves to become confused and even lose sight, I believe, of what God is doing.
If you’ve been in God’s Church since the—perhaps and I’m sure there’s some here—in the fifties, or sixties, you watched the Church as it got larger. It got more pervasive. And then into the seventies, if you came into the Church then, you saw the Church at its zenith—the early seventies. And you saw a decline. And anytime since then, you witnessed the Church becoming more decentralized and scattered. Perhaps there are some in some areas that are so scattered and isolated that they are alone trying to cling to the Truth as they understand it. And they’re forced into keeping it alone or in small groups.
If we think about our past and I think it’s good at times to sit and take stock of it. And I will just relate mine, but I’m sure it mirrors everyone else.
In the late sixties and I think in 1970 when I first attended Church services in Tucson, there was almost a hundred people attending from the Southern Arizona area. The First Holy Day, we went to Phoenix. There were a thousand people! And for someone who was relatively new at that time, to sit and see a thousand people at a Holy Day Service! The first Feast, I walked in—I was discharged from the military on the very day the Feast started in 1972—and walked in, got on a plane, flew to Love Field in Dallas, rented a car, drove to Big Sandy and walked into that metal building just as they were singing. And it was deafening! Walking in there and hearing all of those voices, it was just incredible! And it was deafening and you just had this sense that you were part of something that was very large and very substantial.
1973 Tucson became a Feast Site. And over the next few years, we had fourteen thousand people in that one Feast Site. And, of course, as you know, they were scattered around, if I recall correctly.
That same year something happened that was unprecedented in the Radio Church of God/Worldwide Church of God history. Walter Sharp, David Antion, Ken Westby and others left and there was a split in the Church—1973. A number of others, and again I don’t remember all the names, but they left and formed another corporation. And, as we as know now looking back, that was the first among many splits. And they have divided and they have separated and they’ve isolated God’s people with increasing frequency.
Since then Feasts have gone from thousands to hundreds, to dozens and in some cases, just to families.
Brethren, what do we in God’s Church have before us? What are we facing? Is the situation that we find ourselves in an anomaly? Did God just in His wrath just smash the group that called themselves by His name? We are certainly living in the very end times. How do we make sense of this? And more importantly, and I think this is what we need to ask ourselves as we experience this, what does God want us to learn from the experience that we’re all going through?
I’d like to examine this subject today because, again, it’s a situation and let’s see what the Bible has to say.
Before we do, let’s fast-forward to some prophecies regarding the end time. Look over in Ezekiel 34. And I’ve turned to these just to give us a view of the Church right at the very end time. And Ezekiel 34 let’s start in verse 1, it says:
Ezekiel 34:1. And the word of the [Eternal] came unto me, saying, 2) Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus [says] the [Eternal] God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! [And do] not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3) [You shall] eat the fat, and [you] clothe you with the wool, [you] kill them that are fed: but [you] feed not the flock. 4) The diseased [you’ve] not strengthened, neither have [you] healed that which was sick, neither have [you] bound up that which was broken, neither have [you] brought again that which was driven away, neither have [you] sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty [you’ve] ruled them. 5) And they were scattered, (KJV)
Ezekiel 34:5. And they were scattered, because there [was] no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6) My sheep wandered through all the mountains, (KJV)
And, of course, prophetically mountains are governments. They are societies.
Ezekiel 34:6. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: [yes], my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. (KJV)
The historic setting of the book of Ezekiel was written after the siege of Jerusalem in BC 597 and it was written to the Jewish captives that were scattered throughout Babylon. And remember the captivity took them to Babylon and to Persia where they remained and, in fact, had set up their own societies.
And yet because they were decentralized, part of the book, if you go and look at Ezekiel and even the book of Daniel, was the fact that even in that condition there was still hope and God still expected them to function with what He had given them. Long after and remember this was long after the ten tribes had separated and for all practical purposes had vanished from the face of the earth.
Just skip down to verse 11:
Ezekiel 34:11. For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, (KJV)
And notice this! Here’s how that’s going to coalesce again.
Ezekiel 34:11b. Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12) As a shepherd [seeks] out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. (KJV)
So again, He is going to bring them back together.
As I mentioned, Ezekiel was written to the Jews in Babylon. Daniel was among the captives in Persia.
Interesting, I spent some time over in the Middle East—spent a good bit of time over a year in Iran and was able to actually visit the ruins of Shushan and there is a place right within about five miles of Shushan called Shush Daniel. And it is the resting place, and to this day, he is still looked up to and highly respected in that area and still remembered.
But let’s look over in Daniel 12 because Daniel ends in a similar tone as Ezekiel. And let’s notice Daniel 12 and we’ll pick it up in verse 7. It says:
Daniel 12:7. And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, (KJV)
So he had both arms raised.
Daniel 12:7b. and [swear] by him that [lives] for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half [a time]; and when he shall have accomplished (KJV)
Daniel 12:7 continued. to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. (KJV)
The New King James says, “completely shattered.”
The American Standard and The Jewish Publication translations say, “breaking in pieces.”
Daniel 12:8. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9) And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10) Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. (KJV)
In other words, there are two groups of people: those that continue on in their wickedness and those that God is dealing with. Those and they will continue on. They will be purified. They will continue to be tried, but they’re going to be given understanding.
Daniel 12:13. But go [you your] way till the end be: for [you shall] rest, and stand in [your] lot at the end of the days. (KJV)
While we look at these books as prophetic and they are, they were written to the remnant of Israel while they were dispersed. They were already scattered. And actually if you look at when they were written, they were very contemporary books. And again to encourage the Jews in the current situation that they found them to not forget God, to not forget the ways that they had been taught.
We’re going to look at that. We’re going to revisit that in the New Testament. But I just wanted to sort of look at the end of what this is before God’s government comes back and we find the conditions of God’s people to be scattered! To be scattered over the earth!
Now, if we look in the Bible and I want to first examine the Old Testament. Be turning over to Leviticus chapter 26. Remember God does scatter. And one of the primary reasons that we see when He was working with a physical nation—and the reason I bring this out is I want, as we look at this scattering that God did in the Old Testament, it was only after many, many warnings, much mercy; there was a lot of chance given for repentance and for change. But I want to read this, Leviticus 26 and let’s start in verse 12 because God was saying:
Leviticus 26:12. And I will walk among you, and [I] will be your God, and [you] shall be my people. (KJV)
In other words, there’s a relationship there.
Leviticus 26:13. I am the [Eternal] your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that [you] should not be their bondmen; (KJV)
In other words, He said, “I set you free. I redeemed you.”
Leviticus 26:13b. and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you [to] go upright. (KJV)
It’s interesting because the burden, they were stooped over. And God says, “I relieved that from you. And you stood up and you moved.”
Leviticus 26:14. But if [you] will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; (KJV)
So He’s saying, “Look, I was the One that released you. I was the One that was with you. But if you won’t listen to Me and you won’t obey Me”:
Leviticus 26:15. And if [you] shall despise my statutes, (KJV)
Leviticus 26:15b. or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that [you] will not do all my commandments, but that [you] break my covenant: (KJV)
Now you’d say, “That’s horrible!” And it is. God would just smash them—but He doesn’t! Notice, He says:
Leviticus 26:16. I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of [the] heart: and [you] shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. (KJV)
So God was going to chastise them for this.
Leviticus 26:17. And I will set my face against you, and [you] shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and [you] shall flee when none [pursues] you. (KJV)
But notice this! It was for the purpose of getting them to repent because:
Leviticus 26:18. And if [you] will not yet for all this hearken unto me, (KJV)
He said, “Look, I’m going to do this, but the purpose is so that you will listen to Me.”
Leviticus 26:18b. then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. (KJV)
So here was chastisement, but He said, “Okay, if that doesn’t do it”. Then He continues on:
Leviticus 26:19. And I will break the pride of your power [verse 19]; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: 20) And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. (KJV)
So even more chastisement!
Leviticus 26:21. And if [you] walk contrary unto me, (KJV)
In other words, if you still won’t come.
Leviticus 26:21b. and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. 22) I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. 23) And if [you] will not be reformed by me by these things, (KJV)
So, in other words, again this was another one. And He’s hoping for repentance.
Leviticus 26:23b. but will walk contrary unto me; 24) Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and [I] will punish you yet seven times [more] for your sins. (KJV)
Notice, this was not just they did one thing and God just got them out of His sight. He gave them warning and He brought chastisement on them for the purpose of them repenting and changing.
Leviticus 26:25. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when [you] are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and [you] shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (KJV)
I think for the sake of time, continue to read it on your own. Verse 28 after that:
Leviticus 26:28. Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times [more] for your sins. (KJV)
Now He says “If that still doesn’t do it” then He talks about the very harshest in verse 33. Notice after all of this, after all of these warnings and after all of His chastisement with the hope of repentance, then He says:
Leviticus 26:33. And I will scatter you [verse 33] among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. (KJV)
But notice the scattering that took place in physical Israel was after a long period of time and it was after warning, after warning, and a chance to repent, and chastisement. And finally God says, “As a nation, I’m going to remove you from My sight.” God told them that their rejection of Him would result in His blessings and protection being removed. And ultimately, the end of that, after all of that, He was going to scatter them. He was going to remove them.
Deuteronomy 28 and verse 58, it says:
Deuteronomy 28:58. If [you will] not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that [you may] fear this glorious and fearful name, THE [ETERNAL YOUR] GOD; 59) Then the [Eternal] will make [your] plagues wonderful, (NKJ)
In other words, it means: It was horrific. It was mighty.
Deuteronomy 28:59b. and the plagues of [your] seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. 60) Moreover he will bring upon [you] all the diseases of Egypt, which [you are] afraid of; and they shall cleave unto [you]. 61) Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the [Eternal] bring upon [you], until [you] be destroyed. 62) And [you] shall be left few in number, whereas [you] were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because [you would] not obey the voice of the [Eternal] [your] God. 63) And it shall come to pass, that as the [Eternal] rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the [Eternal] will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to [naught]; and [you] shall be plucked from off the land whither [you go] to possess it. (KJV)
And verse 64:
Deuteronomy 28:64. And the [Eternal] shall scatter [you] among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there [you shall] serve other gods, which neither [you knew] nor [your] fathers have known, even wood and stone. (KJV)
Brethren, we all understand very well the Old Testament is a chronicle of God calling and dealing with a nation, which was descended from single family—the nation of Israel descended from Abraham. And He entered into a covenant with them and that covenant was for that physical nation to receive His protection, to receive the bounty, His blessings, and it was physical. The promises for obedience were wealth, security, plenty, a lack of being fearful. Blessings were given for their obedience. And the penalties for their disobedience were curses and death and want and sorrow and finally scattering of them among the rest of the nations.
In the Old Testament that’s played out over and over. The covenant that was made was broken. You can actually go through the book of Judges and you can see. It seems like they would fall into disrepair. They would be very sorrowful. And God would raise up a judge. And there would be a forty year period where they would rebuild. And the same thing would happen. And the cycle just continues to repeat itself almost every forty years. But it was only after a very long period of time that God finally removed Israel from His sight, that He allowed the temple to be sacked, to be destroyed, for them to be carried off.
In the New Testament and that’s where I want to draw a—let’s say not an analogy—but to compare. Remember the covenant was not offered to a physical nation, to a physical people. It was rather offered to individuals one-on-one. It was not a nation, but it was to individuals which were from all the nations of the earth. And they were called to make up a spiritual nation of Israel, the firstfruits, and, as we know, the soon to be Bride of Jesus Christ.
They were also scattered! We know that, but it was—and I hope you understand this—it was for a very different reason and for a very different outcome.
Look over to 1 Peter chapter 1. I want to bring this just to show the condition of the New Testament Church within twenty or thirty years of it being formed. And here’s Peter writing. And notice it says in 1 Peter 1 verse 1, it says:
1 Peter 1:1. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, [Notice!] to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (KJV)
It’s interesting that here they were scattered, but there were blessings. They were not criticized. They were not looked down upon.
The ancient physical nation was a nation among nations. They were to be a showcase nation that God wanted the other nations to notice and to come to respect Him through the blessings that He gave.
Spiritual Israel, quite the opposite, were strangers among the nations. There was one here and there was one there, small, scattered, isolated in their beliefs and their practices, ostracized, despised—and you can go read Hebrews 11 to see that—because they were different! Even at the best, they were scattered.
I just want to read this and a couple of other translations.
The King James says, “to the strangers scattered throughout.”
The New American Bible says, “to the chosen sojourners of the dispersion.”
The New American Standard, “to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout.”
The NIV, “to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout.”
The New Jerusalem Bible, “to all those living as aliens in the Dispersion.”
The New King James, “To the pilgrims in the Dispersion.”
The New Living Translation, “I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners.”
The Revised Standard, “To the exiles of the Dispersion.”
Young’s Living Translation, “to the choice sojourners of the dispersion.”
It’s interesting that you can read the greeting in James 1 and it was written to “the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad.” Now keep in mind that most of the epistles were written about 50 to 60 AD, which the Church it was only twenty to thirty years into being formed. And also remember this was ten to twenty years before the sacking of the temple in Jerusalem again, which happened in 70 AD. So even before that period when the temple was sacked—which if you look at the Old Testament, that’s when they were finally carried off—here the New Testament Church was already scattered a full ten to twenty to thirty years before that happened. It’s interesting because the mechanism that caused their scattering was much different in the New Testament. What scattered them? Was it because they greatly sinned against God and He removed them from His sight?
Look over in Matthew 26. I think it’s important that we understand that all scattering is not because of the fact that God was just disgusted with them after time and time of warnings, of, even as one of the Scriptures says, of sending them prophets and they killed them. It was after along time, but that’s not in every case because the New Testament, the New Covenant Church that was formed was different. Matthew 26 verse 31, it says:
Matthew 26:31. Then Jesus [said] unto them, (KJV)
And remember this was just before that final Passover.
Matthew 26:31b. All [you] shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I [shall] smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. (KJV)
Jesus was telling them right at the start that they were going to be scattered. He knew it, Brethren, because it was part of the plan.
Notice He was quoting from the Old Testament, which was a prophecy. Turn over to Zechariah 13 just before Malachi. Zechariah 13 and verse 7 and this is actually where this was quoted from. It says:
Zechariah 13:7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, [says] the [Eternal] of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: (KJV)
Zechariah 13:7. and I will turn [my] hand upon the little ones. (KJV)
He was telling them this because He wanted to prepare them for what was about to happen in the very next few hours. They’d just completed the Passover meal and they were on their way to the Mount of Olives. They were scattered. But He told them—remember, He told them—He was going to return to them and that they should go to Galilee to meet Him. We also know that the scattering was not just the original few. The New Testament Church was also scattered. We read that previously.
So what scattered them? Again it wasn’t that God was angry with them as He was with the Israelites as a physical nation. It wasn’t that He scattered them because of that spiritual nation. Because remember this was the infancy of the Church.
Look over in Acts chapter 7 and I want to break into the sermon that Stephen was delivering. I think Stephen was mentioned in the sermonette about fear. Acts 7, this is, I believe, the key to the New Testament Church being scattered. Acts 7 verse 52, Stephen was delivering this sermon. It says:
Acts 7:52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which [showed] before of the coming of the Just One; of whom [you] have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53) Who have received the law by the disposition of angels [or messengers], and have not kept it. 54) When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55) But he, being full of the Holy [spirit], looked up [steadfastly] into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56) And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57) Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58) And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. 59) And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60) And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (KJV)
He died. He perished.
Chapter 8 verse 1:
Acts 8:1. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (KJV)
Brethren, the Church was scattered due to persecution. The initial persecution came from outside the Church. It started with those that wanted to exercise dominion over others and over their faith. In other words, they wanted to control the Church. And when they perceived that that was being taken away from them, they wanted to destroy the threat.
Look over in Acts chapter 20. Because this scattering again initially started outside the Church and it did indeed scatter them except for the apostles. And I want to make a point of that here in just a minute. But just remember everybody was scattered but the apostles. Acts 20 verse 28. It says:
Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy [spirit] [has] made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he [has] purchased with his own blood. 29) For I know this, that after my departing (KJV)
And remember this is written to the Church of God.
Acts 20:29b. shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (KJV)
The New Testament Church was scattered not because they displeased God and He removed them from His sight. They were scattered so they could continue to worship God in the way that they had been called—their conscience, their training, God’s spirit, in order to be able to continue that, they had to leave, they had to scatter, they had to move away.
As we look back through history trying to locate the Church of God, it’s always been very difficult because for the most part throughout the ages, the Church of God has been below the radar screen. And there’s a few times that we feel we can see where it will just kind of raise above it and we can pinpoint, “Ah, there’s a brief moment in history that we can perhaps spot them.” But it’s always been very small and very scattered.
The Church, as we understand it, the twentieth century—and again The Radio Church of God/The Worldwide Church of God—seems to be an anomaly in Church history. As we look back at it, from the very beginning they were scattered and persecuted, always very small, very scattered except for this one time when it seems to be grown very visible, very large.
And I’m not going to go into the depths, but the original Church, again, was small and scattered. You can go back and read some of the epistles and all of that and people were meeting in people’s homes. There were, in many cases, there were families and many cases, if you go through, every person was named. You know, “the Church that met at Chloe’s house.” And “Say, ‘Hi'” to so-and-so and so-and-so. And they knew all of the congregation by name. And again, in many cases, they were family members or close kin.
Let’s go over to Revelation chapter 2. If we understand the Church Eras—and I do believe that they were successive eras—the very first one at the beginning was the Church of Ephesus. And let’s just read what was said about that in Revelation 2 and we’ll start in verse 1. It says:
Revelation 2:1. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things [says] he that [holds] the seven stars in his right hand, who [walks] in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; (KJV)
And again this is talking about Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:2. I know [your] works, and [your labor], and [your] patience, and how [you cannot] bear them which are evil: and [you have] tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and [have] found them liars: 3) And [have] borne, and [have] patience, and for my name’s sake [have you labored], and [have] not fainted. 4) [He says,] Nevertheless I have somewhat against [you], because [you have] left [your] first love. 5) [He said,] Remember therefore from whence [you are] fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto [you] quickly, and [I] will remove [your] candlestick (KJV)
So He said, “Look, here’s all your good works. And here’s something that you need to work on and it’s important.” But here’s the point I want you to get out of this is: This was the First Era of the Church. This was after it was formed. And this was the Era that was scattered! Now contrast this to the Old Testament where God warned them and warned them and said, “If you don’t do this” and “I’ll give you a chance to repent.” Obviously the scattering, which took place in the Ephesian Era—which was the First Era I believe—was not because they were so horrible. He says, “Look at all these good things that you’re doing. So again the scattering which took place in this Era was not because they had so displeased God. They were scattered because they needed, wanted to continue to worship God and were not allowed to because of the persecution.
If you look back at what we experienced and what started the latest scattering, it was persecution. Unlike much of the previous physical persecution, our lives were not in danger and we weren’t subjected to physical harm, but we had to scatter in order to continue to live our beliefs. It seems to me, at least, the scattering of the people in the past fifteen or twenty years followed the New Testament model of being scattered due to persecution not being allowed. Rather than the Old Testament model that God scattered the people after many, many, many warnings and finally just rejecting them and sending them off. At least from our perspective, we want to continue in what we feel we’re called and in what we have proven with God’s Word and with His spirit.
Now with that in mind, how should we feel about being scattered?
Humanly speaking, I think every one of us would like to be back together as one big happy family. There are some that feel “If only we were all physically together in one organization under one human ruler, we would be one with each other.” Brethren, just think back twenty years ago when that was the truth. Think back when we all were in one organization. And what did we find out? We were all over the map. So to physically try to gather back in a physical organization is not the answer. That is not what will cause God’s people to be unified. It doesn’t guarantee unity and again, the recent history shows us just the opposite. You see, Brethren, unity and being at one on a spiritual level is much different than being at one on a physical level.
Now let’s ask and answer two questions.
How should we feel about being scattered?
And is there any possibility that good can come from it?
First, how should we feel about being scattered? Look over in Matthew 10. Is our relationship with God negatively affected by this scattering?
I’m going to read some Scriptures that were read in the sermonette. Again, we didn’t share Scriptures. We actually didn’t go into any detail about it, but I just find it interesting. We’ve plowed this ground here just in the sermonette.
Matthew 10 verse 28, it says:
Matthew 10:28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29) Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. (KJV)
And it means that word without is Strong’s 427, aneu. And it means apart from the knowledge or the will of.
Notice even to the point of physical death, God is very aware. And He allows certain things to occur. With Stephen—did God allow Stephen to die because he displeased God? There was Stephen and God opened the heavens to give Stephen encouragement so he could see He was there. And there was Christ standing at His right hand very focused intently on what was going on. And They both stood there and allowed Stephen to be stoned.
Verse 30, God is very aware.
Matthew 10:30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (KJV)
A hundred and twenty thousand! That’s what the average person has. Now I don’t want to pick on John Pollock and I don’t want to pick on (laughter) Dale Roecks or any of that. And you know what? Brethren, I don’t even know how many of mine fell out this morning much less how many I have!
And I’ll tell you this. You know we hear that, “The very hairs of your head are numbered,” and we think, “Well, that’s just a saying.” I don’t believe that. I believe that my Dad knows that. He knows me that intimately because I don’t think Christ was speaking in hyperbole. I think He said, “The very hairs of our heads are numbered.”
Matthew 10:31. Fear [you] not therefore, [you] are of more value than many sparrows. (KJV)
One of the things that I think is most comforting is the fact that God is aware of us. He knows our situation. Brethren, He knows when we’re sick, when we need His intervention. He knows when we’re hurting. He knows that we need jobs when we are unemployed. God didn’t just go off and all of this stuff’s happening apart from Him.
And, Brethren, if we remember nothing else, our relationship with God does not depend on any other human being! David understood this and the closeness and was inspired to write. Look over in Psalm 139 and I’ll start in verse 1. It says:
Psalm 139:1. O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2) You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. 3) You comprehend my path and my lying down, [You] are acquainted with all my ways. 4) For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 5) You have hedged me behind and before, (NKJ)
In other words, “You’ve protected me. You have blocked me in.”
Psalm 139:5b. and laid Your hand upon me. 6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. (NKJ)
“I can’t comprehend just how intimately involved You are with me!” That’s what he’s saying. “You know what I’m about to say. You know when I get up. You know when I lay down. You are there with me.”
Psalm 139:7. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8) If I ascend into heaven, You are there; (NKJ)
People that are flying somewhere, you pilots, did He leave you behind?
Psalm 139:8b. if I make my bed in hell, (NKJ)
In other words, “I die.”
Psalm 139:8 continued: behold, You are there. (NKJ)
In other words, “God is with me.”
Psalm 139:9. If I take the wings of the morning, [or] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10) Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (NKJ)
Psalm 139:11. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. (KJV)
In other words, there’s no dark moment in my life that God is not there. That’s what he’s saying. “No matter how bad it is, You’re there with me.”
Psalm 139:12. Yea, the darkness [hides] not from [You]; but the night [shines] as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to [You]. (KJV)
God is not affected whatever we go through—good or bad—but God is there.
The last recorded—just turn over to Matthew 28—the last recorded words that were spoke—probably don’t even have to turn there. You can quote them. The last part of Matthew 28 and verse 20:
Matthew 28:20b. and, lo, I am with you [always], even unto the end of the world. Amen. (KJV)
“I’m perpetually with you.” That’s what that means. “I’m always there.”
Brethren, we should live our lives with these thoughts in mind. God and Jesus Christ are part of us. We asked Them to come and make Their home with us, to be a part of us, to be a part of our lives. And we asked Them to have a close relationship. When we pray, do we say, “Father, give me Your mind. I want to love the things you love. I want to hate the things you hate”?
I have these wonderful grandchildren. And you know grandchildren; children want to mimic their dad, their mom. We were talking about the dolls going around. Where do they get that? Where do the boys get they want to do what dad does? A grandchild.
We should be that way with God. “I want to think like You think. I want to be like You when I grow up. I want to hate what You hate and love what You love. Please change that in me!” We desire and we should desire to have a very close relationship. And, Brethren, again, that doesn’t depend on any other human being. There’s no one that can come between us and God. David very clearly pointed that out. He said in the end He wouldn’t fail us or forsake us.”
Look over in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and I’ll just pick it up in verse 6.
2 Corinthians 4:6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, [has] shined in our hearts, (KJV)
Think back to what we just read over in Psalms.
2 Corinthians 4:6b. to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, (KJV)
They’re living in us! They’re part of us! We’re just dust. We’re just clay. We were fashioned out of clay. And yet that treasure—not us, not what we have, not what we can generate—but God living in us! And that’s priceless!
2 Corinthians 4:8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9) Persecuted, [Notice this!] but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (KJV)
Brethren, we’re scattered, but God didn’t leave us! We find ourselves in this situation. We didn’t create it. We’re affected by it.
Remember what Paul wrote in his epistle? Look over in Philippians chapter 4—what he was doing to try to encourage them through the persecutions that they were facing. Philippians 4 and verse 11, notice how he viewed his life through what he experienced. And, of course, you don’t have to read very much with Paul to know after he was converted, it was not a bed of roses—shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, you name it! Philippians 4:11, it says,
Philippians 4:11. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, (KJV)
Philippians 4:11b. for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (KJV)
If we could only do that! If I could only do this!
Philippians 4:12. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound (NKJ)
Philippians 4:12b. and to suffer need. (KJV)
In other words, this is the continuum: tremendous blessings and nothing, to be on the top of the world and at the depths of everything. He said, “I’ve been there. I know how to do it.” And notice the conclusion:
Philippians 4:13. I can do all things (KJV)
“Not because I’m strong, not because I’m smart, not because I’m wealthy.” He says:
Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ which [strengthens] me. (KJV)
You see we are scattered and there’s a purpose to it. It’s not because God has kicked us out His sight. We are scattered because of the fact that our conscience and our beliefs say we have to live a certain way.
Now I want to say something because I think one of the greatest mistakes that we can make is to think that me and this small group are sort of the locus of God’s attention and love. The light shines on us and we are the apple of His eye. I think that’s a tremendous mistake that we can make because once we start looking at ourselves and thinking that, I believe we jump the track.
There’s scattering. There are groups. But here’s what I believe—my opinion:
God is working with every one of us as an individual.
The lessons that Harold needs to learn are unique to my personality, my past, God’s spirit working with me, my spiritual maturity and all of those things.
And, Brethren, that’s different than every other person that God is dealing with.
And God has placed me where I can learn the lessons that God sees that I need to learn.
There are other people that are not that way.
In other words, I personally believe—and you can stone me if you would like—God’s people are scattered throughout the earth.
They’re scattered throughout congregations.
And it’s not “I’m right and everybody else is wrong.”
It is what God is doing with Harold.
This is the place that I can learn those lessons.
And there is another environment, if you will, another situation where lessons that someone else needs to learn that is the perfect environment for them.
See God’s responsible for our development. God is responsible for the outcome, as long as we submit to it, as long as we don’t demand our way.
And I think—again, this is my opinion but I believe and I think I can prove it from the Bible—but where I’m at and what I’m doing is not for everybody because I need to learn lessons that someone else perhaps somewhere else has already learned. And they perhaps need to learn lessons that I’ve already learned. And we don’t need to go back and repeat those.
Are they right? And I’m wrong? Or am I right? And they are wrong?
Again, we’re God’s and we’re His responsibility. And He’s building us as building blocks. And my particular personality and what I need to learn I believe God guides. That’s certainly my prayer.
But for me to say “The path that I’ve taken is the only right path and God is somehow shining down on me. And everybody else—they’re in trouble!” I think would be a fairly arrogant statement for me to make. And I would not make that.
Romans 8 and verse 28.
People are always going to make decisions that we don’t necessarily agree with, wouldn’t be decisions that we make. But, Brethren, the reason we make different decisions is our experiences, what we’ve experienced up to the— We are a summation of our life’s experience, a summation of all of that plus God’s spirit. And we’ve seen that in our conscience. And our conscience, of course, is guided by hopefully God’s spirit, but those experiences. And if we’re lacking something in that experience, we have to depend on God that He’s going to put us through that that will allow it to fill that in to His pleasure, to what He wants to make out of us.
Romans 8 verse 28:
Romans 8:28. And we know all things (KJV)
And, Brethren, if we really believe this, we can be at peace with it all.
Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for [the] good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. (KJV)
And skip down to verse 31:
Romans 8:31. What shall we say [then of] these things? (KJV)
And it answers that.
Romans 8:31b. If God [is] for us, who can be against us? (KJV)
Brethren, we don’t have God’s perspective on everything. But I believe that God doesn’t put us through things for no reason. God doesn’t—He’s not the Being that would pull the wings off the flies just to watch it spin. He doesn’t stick the needle through it. I personally believe when God gives me a trial, He has an outcome in mind and it’s working toward that outcome. Which means: whatever happens to us, there’s a positive outcome from it!
It’s interesting that the terrible persecution that the early Church had had a positive— Look over in Acts chapter 8 and verse 1. I’ll reread this. I told you we wanted to get back to that. Acts 8 verse 1:
Acts 8:1. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered [Notice this!] throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2) And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3) As for Saul, he made [havoc] of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (KJV)
Notice this! Now remember the apostles weren’t scattered. It was the people. It was the flock. They were separated from the apostles, but listen to this:
Acts 8:4. Therefore [verse 4] they that were scattered abroad [Notice!] went every where preaching the word. (KJV)
This was the people! These were not the apostles. Remember they stayed. They had shepherded. And then the Church was scattered. And what was the outcome of it? God’s Word was scattered and spread! That example was spread. There was a positive outcome. They weren’t crushed. They weren’t snuffed out. The scattering actually helped spread the Word to the world.
I have, in the fall, I have my lawn seeded. And they take this fifty pound bag of seed. And they put it in something called a spreader. And they run it up and down and this seed gets scattered. And because it’s scattered, the moisture hits it; the sunlight hits it; and it germinates; and it takes root; and it grows. And in the spring, I have a beautiful lawn. Now if they took that fifty pound bag and dumped it in a pile, it’d rot. If it wasn’t scattered, it would get wet; it would mildew and mold and rot and stink and make a mess. It’s only by the scattering of the seed that it’ll germinate and it will take and eventually bear fruit.
We’re likened to a seed. And for the sake of time I won’t turn there. But Revelation 12, it talks about when Satan went after the Church and then went after the remnant of Her seed. You know we’re seed.
Look over in Psalm 112 verse 5. It says:
Psalm 112:5. A good man [shows favor], and [lends]: he will guide his affairs with discretion. 6) Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. 7) He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. 8) His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. (KJV)
Verse 9 and I’ll read this out of the Jewish Publication:
Psalm 112:9. He [has] scattered abroad, he [has] given to the needy; his righteousness [endures] for ever; his horn shall be exalted in [honor]. (JPS)
This good man that it’s talking about, the scattering, and the JFB (Jamieson Fausset and Brown) indicated the use meant “to sow generously, to broadcast with a wide open hand.” This word where it talks about scattered or The King James says dispersed and that Strong’s 6340 and you can look at it. But it means bountifully, richly to scatter abroad.
Who is this good man that it’s referring to—the one that is righteous? Look over in 2 Corinthians chapter 9 because if this scattering and we are the seed, then who did this scattering? 2 Corinthians 9, notice this in verse 8:
2 Corinthians 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that [you], always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9) (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad [It’s talking about God!]; he hath given to the poor: (KJV)
And remember that doesn’t mean economically poor. It means to the humble.
2 Corinthians 9:9b. his righteousness [remains] for ever. 10) Now he that [ministers] seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase [What?] the fruits of your righteousness;) (KJV)
See God scatters. He sowed with a wide open hand. This is clearly talking—this righteous man—is talking about Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament. And we were scattered. We were spread abroad. Why? To increase the fruits of your righteousness!
2 Corinthians 9:11. Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which [causes] through us thanksgiving to God. (KJV)
Brethren, being scattered doesn’t necessarily mean we’re under a curse. God can and has used it for our growth and to His glory.
When I think back twenty or thirty years, our only job was on no uncertain terms “to pay and pray.” Everything was done for us! We were only called as part of the grist mill. Right? You just turn the crank and money comes out. And you pray and everything else is done. In a way, we were observers and not participants.
We would go to the Feast—fourteen thousand! Everything was done for you. They even told you where to park your car, whether you wanted them to or not (laughter)! And if you talked to one of them, they could tell you want kind of car to buy and what color it should be, whether you wanted them to or not! Again, we just became part of a herd and everything was done for us. Went in, sat down and just got on the ride.
What about now? Now when we have a hundred or two hundred at the Feast, everybody that wants to be involved can. You did need to sit around and wait for permission. Look at it here. When there is someone and you want to serve, Brethren, every one of us has an opportunity to serve! There’s lots of chance. This could not have happened when we were all clumped together and it was all being done for us.
It’s another phenomena that happens when you’re part of a large group. I’m going to read this from Wikipedia. (I’ll tell you, Wikipedia and Google, what else does anybody need? That just does it all for you!) They’re talking about what’s called Herd Behavior. It says:
Herd behavior describes how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. The term pertains to the behavior of animals in herds, flocks, and schools and to human conduct during activities such as stock market bubbles, crashes, street demonstrations, sporting events, religious gatherings, episodes of mob violence and even every day decision making, judgment, and opinion. Large numbers of people cause individuals to lose their sense of accountability.
Now what does this mean? It means that when you’re part of a large group, you lose your personal accountability. You just follow the herd. You just follow the group. And, Brethren, when that happens, there’s no personal growth! There’s no personal responsibility.
We once thought all a person needed to do to make it was just to do what they’re told. Brethren, that’s not the way it is! God doesn’t want us to be part of a herd. He wants Harold Lee to be His son and to have a relationship with Him. And you can put your own name there. It’s a one-on-one. God is developing us individually. And, Brethren, we have to be scattered even the way we’re wired to have that personal responsibility and feel that on ourselves. We have to be scattered to do that. We cannot give that responsibility to another person. And when you’re part of a herd, it’s easy to do and it’s natural to do.
Look over in Philippians chapter 2. Remember the early Church, the apostles came in and set up the Churches and then they weren’t there! They came to visit, but notice Philippians 2 verse 12. It says:
Philippians 2:12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJ)
And that doesn’t mean I have to sit down and say, “Okay, I want salvation and this.” It means I have to bond with God, with Jesus Christ. And it’s Us that’s working on this, not me and everybody else in some hierarchical chain.
Philippians 2:13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (NKJ)
I’m going to try to bring one last point in and I hope it will work out. Look over in Hebrews the fifth chapter. One of the most important lessons in this prolonged closing is that we’re to learn from this experience. And what is that? Hebrews 5 verse 7, remember Christ came to set us an example? He came to blaze a path for us. Notice even God in the flesh, Hebrews 5:7 is talking:
Hebrews 5:7. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him [who] was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8) Though he were a Son, yet [He] [And it’s talking about Jesus Christ in the flesh.] learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all (KJV)
And that suffering was not just that last final part. Can you imagine God becoming a human? And then having to go through, He was acquainted with grief? Christ suffered in this life. He never sinned, but He suffered. To be God and when He looked at Jerusalem and cried over it, He said, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered you together!” His entire life was suffering!
Go over to Matthew chapter 4. Show you one of the things that He learned—perhaps the most important thing that He learned. Matthew 4 verse 1. Remember after He was baptized and He fasted, then He was brought to the wilderness to be tempted. Matthew 4 verse 1:
Matthew 4:1. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward [hungry]. (KJV)
And remember that, He was hungry.
Matthew 4:3. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If [you] be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every (KJV)
And underline that!
Matthew 4:4b. Every word that [proceeds] out of the mouth of God. (KJV)
In other words Christ through His suffering learned that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word.”
Go over to Deuteronomy 8. See just before the children of Israel finished their journey, this same Being, the God of the Old Testament, said some things to them. Let’s read that. Deuteronomy 8 verse 1, He said:
Deuteronomy 8:1. All the commandments which I command [you] this day shall [you] observe to do, that [you] may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the [Eternal swore] unto your fathers. 2) And [you shall] remember all the way which the [Eternal your] God led [you] these forty years in the wilderness, (KJV)
Deuteronomy 8:2b. to humble [you], and to prove [you], [and] to know what was in [your] heart, (KJV)
See it wasn’t a picnic, but there was a purpose to it. It wasn’t just, “Look. Let’s just go out and wear them out and let the rebellious ones die.” There was a purpose to that forty years—that time of testing–and that was:
Deuteronomy 8:2 continued. to humble and to prove whether [you would] keep his commandments, or no. 3) And he [humbled you], (KJV)
Deuteronomy 8:3b. and [he] suffered [he allowed you] to hunger, (KJV)
Here was God and they were hungry. And God knew it and He had an outcome in mind. And let’s continue on.
Deuteronomy 8:3 continued. and fed [you] with manna, which [you knew] not, neither did [your] fathers know; [Why?] that he might make [you] know that man [does] not live by bread only, but by every word that [proceeds] out of the mouth of the [Eternal does] man live. (KJV)
Deuteronomy 8:4. [Your] raiment waxed not old upon [you], (KJV)
He took care of all their physical needs
Deuteronomy 8:4b. neither did [your] foot swell, these forty years. 5) [You shall] also consider in [your] heart, that, as a man [chastises] his son, so the [Eternal your] God [chastises you]. (KJV)
There was a positive outcome to it.
Deuteronomy 8:6. Therefore [you shall] keep the commandments of the [Eternal your] God, to walk in his ways, and fear him. (KJV)
Brethren, we’re scattered! We’re being tested—sore testing! And God knows it and there’s a positive outcome! And God has the end in mind that we will learn to look to Him to trust Him, that He will supply our needs. And in that process, we’re going to be hungry and we’re going to suffer want and need. But, Brethren, God is with us!
We find ourselves today in a scattered condition. Let’s realize that our Father allows everything for our ultimate good and for our spiritual growth. Let’s not shirk our responsibilities at this time and start to disdain our brothers and let down in developing the close bond with our Father and our Brother and our future Husband.
Whether we as a group will be brought back together, prophecy indicates probably not. But I want you to understand this, that is we use this time properly to grow and to overcome and to form that close bond, we’ll all be together at the return of our Savior, at the return our Husband at the marriage supper.
Transcribed by kb March 15, 2010.