I SHALL SUPPORT YOU UPON MY SHOULDERS...I SHALL CARRY YOU UPON MY HEART
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
11 AUGUST 1996
By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Genesis 1:26, 28
1 John 2:9
There is a very interesting thing that happens when we read our Bible, no matter how many times we read it; a passage will seem to jump off the page at us.
Such a thing happened to me this past Monday morning, as I was reading in the Book of Exodus, in particular 28:9-30.
Itís the portion of Scripture that describes the priestís garments, and specifically, two of the attachments upon these garments.
I must have read this passage at least 15 times before, but this time it spoke to my heart in a way it never had before, and it answered why I feel as I do.
Letís look at Exodus 28:9-30 together:
9. "And you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel,
10. six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth.
And I was thinking:
Onyx is black, and the people are in the darkness of this world.
Because people donít listen to God, they grope in darkness (Deuteronomy 28:29).
And since the names are on the surface of the darkness, they are being exposed to the light (Isaiah 9:2).
And as I read on, there was even more:
11. "As a jeweler engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold.
12. "And you shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial.
And I understood why I feel the "load" of the ministry upon me; and why everyone who is called to minister to others should feel this "load."
These onyx stones which the priest wore upon his shoulders were symbolic of the people, all of the people, and he had the responsibility of supporting them by his faith.
And since they are a memorial, there is no time when he cannot do so.
The responsibility goes even further, for humans were given dominion and rule over the earth (Genesis 1:26, 28), and in their darkness they turned God's gift into domination and destructive abuse.
Even when people hate others and God's creation, and live in darkness (1 John 2:9), I, and others like me, still must support them upon our shoulders.
And even though they are in darkness, they are still set in gold, to show that they are precious to the Lord; not because of their evil deeds, but because of who God created them to be.
And there is more:
13. "And you shall make filigree settings of gold,
14. and two chains of pure gold; you shall make them of twisted cordage work, and you shall put the corded chains on the filigree settings.
15. "And you shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it.
Even though I do not judge anyone, I do expose what is upon my heart to the Lord for His judgment.
16. "It [the breastpiece] shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width.
17. "And you shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald;
18. and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond;
19. and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst;
20. and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree.
Everyone was created as a precious gemstone, to be highlighted by the golden presence of the Lord.
Every creation of God is precious in His sight.
And symbolically as precious stones, note how we are to be presented before the Lord and before each other:
21. "And the stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.
22. "And you shall make on the breastpiece chains of twisted cordage work in pure gold.
23. "And you shall make on the breastpiece two rings of gold, and shall put the two rings on the two ends of the breastpiece.
24. "And you shall put the two cords of gold on the two rings at the ends of the breastpiece.
25. "And you shall put the other two ends of the two cords on the two filigree settings, and put them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, at the front of it.
26. "And you shall make two rings of gold and shall place them on the two ends of the breastpiece, on the edge of it, which is toward the inner side of the ephod.
27. "And you shall make two rings of gold and put them on the bottom of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, on the front of it close to the place where it is joined, above the skillfully woven band of the ephod.
28. "And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, that it may be on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, and that the breastpiece may not come loose from the ephod.
29. "And Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.
Just as Aaron had the twelve tribes of Israel bound upon his heart, so do I carry you upon my heart.
You are there: your goodness and those things that are not so good; itís all there, bound upon my heart.
I cannot let it go, even when at times I may wish to let go of some of it.
Youíre always there.
30. "And you shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaronís heart when he goes in before the Lord; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually.
And between you and my heart are the light and the presence of God, which is the meaning of Urim and Thummim.
But God didnít just set you upon my shoulders and upon my breastpiece; He also set upon me the whole of His creation.
I mourn over the extent of the darkness it contains and at the hardness of heart that wonít accept the light, even when it shines upon them.
And, I suppose, that is what God intended every priest to feel, and to support, and to carry.
Do you understand how much it hurts when I know what will solve a problem in someoneís life, and they dismiss it as not meant for them, and continue to wallow in the darkness?
Do you know how much it hurts when someone has an illness, and I show them the things that God has shown me, and they reject the very gifts of God that will heal them, and they continue to live in darkness?
And do you know how much it hurts, when I donít have the time to do everything, visit everyone, and heal the suffering in this world, when they are in need?
But God also says something about all of us, too, in Exodus 19:5-6:
5. ĎNow then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.í These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
Have you ever thought why God saw fit to send you only a part-time pastor?
Perhaps itís because He wants each of you to assume your duties of priesthood.
We should be a whole church of priests.
None of us has to do it all, but all of us can do a little more; and some of us are well aware of God calling them to do a whole lot more.
Who are you supporting upon your shoulders and carrying upon your heart?
Are there only a few, or are there many?
Are they people only, or are you carrying others?
How far does your circle of love and compassion extend?
The answers to these questions will tell you what kind of a priest you are, and what you need to do.
We are all to be Godís people.
We are all to be His priests.
Your Comments are welcome
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