This is Part 7 in our Sermon Series “Small Matters.” We have looked at little known characters in the Bible who don’t make most “Who’s Who” lists of the Bible, but who’s contribution to the story of Mankind & God is significant.
This week’s “Small Matters” people aren’t even mentioned in the Bible, but their part in the Story of Mankind & God is significant, if not of ultimate importance. Who are we talking about? The Blacksmiths who made the nails used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Why do these people warrant a place in this Sermon Series, especially at the beginning of the Lenten period? Let’s un-pack it all and see!
Nail (Noun) - a slender, typically rodshaped rigid piece of metal, usually in any ofnumerous standard lengths from a fraction of an inch to severalinches and having one end pointed and the other enlarged andflattened, for hammering into or through wood, other building materials, etc.
Nail (Verb) –
to fasten with a nail or nails, to make fast or keep firmly in one place or position.
Nailed (Expression) – often followed by the word “it”
is a phrase used to express success after achieving something seemingly difficult with relative ease or even as much to accomplish perfectly.
The phrase “nailed it” is often used when describing something with amazing accuracy or defining something perfectly using a picture, demonstrative expression imitating something, etc.
Considering the action of nailing Christ to the cross – it did indeed require all the tenses of this key word to accomplish the purpose of God.
First of all, let’s consider the blacksmiths. These were men who created objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. It was their job to make all things metal, it was their job to make spears, swords – instruments of danger, destruction and war. This was how they supported their families. How they fed and clothed their wives and children – how they purchased soft clothes to swaddle their newborn babies!
And… These were the men who hammered metal into the shape of a nail – so that our Savior, Jesus Christ could be nailed to the cross. These were the men whom God the Father gave the gift of craftsmanship to – so that God could “nail” His plan for redemption, thereby providing atonement for mankind through the sacrifice of His only Son. How did His plan work out? God literally “nailed it”!
Then… Because the Blacksmiths had done their job well – the soldiers were capable of accomplishing the rest of the process.
“After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice”. - Matthew 27:35
“Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice[a] to decide who would get each piece.” - Mark 15:24
“When they came to a place called The Skull,[a] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.” - Luke 23:33
“There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them.” - John 19:18
They nailed Jesus to the cross – and God let it happen! And that action, nailed, secured, our redemption once and for all.
Mr. Blacksmith, sir… Did you know that your sins made the nails needed for your redemption? Did you know that there was one more element needed for these nails beyond your tools of your trade and the hot fire you worked over almost every day? Mr. Blacksmith, sir… did you know the nails you hammered into shape had your name on them? Did you know that as the nails you made were hammered through the flesh of the Son of Man that your eternal destiny was “nailed” once and for all? Are you sad about your sins? Do you hate your sins? Your nails were used – in a most cruel fashion – are you horrified? Are you happy? Are you horrified and happy and the same time?
Many years ago, in a missions school a little girl was sitting on the front seat when the Superintendent was telling about how they hanged Jesus on the cross. Tears came to her eyes, and she had to get up and go out. In the afternoon she came back smiling; and the superintendent asked her, “Mary, where did you go this morning?” And she said, “Oh, teacher! I could not stand it when you spoke to us about Jesus being nailed on the cross; for I felt just as if I helped to pound the nails in; and I went off a little piece from the school, and got down on my knees, and told Jesus that my sins helped to hang Him on the cross; and I asked Him to please forgive me for helping to kill Him; that I was sorry… and now I am happy.”
My Friends… Do you feel what that little girl felt? Do you realize, you too, are a Blacksmith?
Romans 5:6 – “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
God “Nailed It!”
This week is Number 6 in our “Small Matters” Sermon Series. For the past 5 weeks, we have focused on characters in the Bible who had a very small footprint, but gave us some very important lessons! Last week, our “Small Matters” character was a young servant girl, Rhoda who inspired us with her faith and belief in a God who most certainly answers all our prayers!
This week’s “Small Matters” character is a man named Bezalel! Bezalel is especially significant because of the powerful reference of God’s empowerment by the Holy Spirit for specific skill to complete the necessary tasks at hand. In fact this is one of the earliest references to being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Bezaleel joins the ranks of our “Small Matters” lineup because his contribution to the history of God’s people is principally because of a physical talent – as a skilled craftsman! Often and mistakenly so, we might assume that being filled with the Holy Spirit would most certainly result in a magnificent sermon, or spiritual poetry or profound prose. Bezaleel’s skills, accentuated by the Spirit of God, gives him an important place in Biblical history.
Let’s take a look!
Exodus 31:1-11: Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. 4 He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. 5 He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft! 6 “And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make:
7 the Tabernacle;[a]
the Ark of the Covenant;[b]
the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement;
all the furnishings of the Tabernacle;
8 the table and its utensils;
the pure gold lampstand with all its accessories;
the incense altar;
9 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils;
the washbasin with its stand;
10 the beautifully stitched garments—the sacred garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments for his sons to wear as they minister as priests;
11 the anointing oil; the fragrant incense for the Holy Place.
The craftsmen must make everything as I have commanded you.”
Look at the lineup of what these skilled craftsmen were tasked to make! Their incredible contribution certainly challenges our tendency to think that only those up front and/or in leadership positions are the most important. Without fulfilling God’s specific commands on how to construct all of the parts of temple and it’s furnishings, the rest of his commands concerning the usage of the temple would have been unnecessary.
You have all been given gifts by God – you, like Bezalel have been chosen! Chosen to use your gifts for God and the building of His Kingdom. Are you ready, willing and able to allow the Holy Spirit to use your gifts for God’s use?
Let’s look at Paul’s take on each person being used and necessary in the King of God!
I Corinthians 12:12-26:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
Three important traits mark Bezalel and these traits are also present in us!
1. In our earlier text we read of Bezalel’s incredibly skill as a craftsman. Let’s read Exodus 35:31-35 - The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. 32 He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. 33 He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. 34 And the Lord has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach their skills to others. 35 The Lord has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers. No matter your talent, it’s been given to you by God!
2. Trait #2, He had the ability to teach others his skills. The important thing is that you can also use your gift(s) to teach and inspire others (vs. 34). Will you
3. He had a great attitude and was eager and willing to use his gifts! Exodus 36:1-2 “The Lord has gifted Bezalel, Oholiab, and the other skilled craftsmen with wisdom and ability to perform any task involved in building the sanctuary. Let them construct and furnish the Tabernacle, just as the Lord has commanded.” So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others who were specially gifted by the Lord and were eager to get to work. He was eager to get to work! He had the right attitude – and because it was not about him and all about God – it showed – in an eagerness to get to work!
Challenge for us today!
1. How about you? Do recognize that you have skills the Lord can use? What are some of them? He’s given us all skills, abilities, talents and gifts.
2. Are you willing to share your gifts with others?
3. How’s your attitude about giving time to God to be a part of His team? Are you “eager” to use your gifts for God?
When you discover your talents God has given you, you will experience a fullness in Christ like never before. Why? Let’s look at Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
You are God’s Masterpiece!!!! Just like Bezaleel! God wants you to be a Bezaleel!
Give Him your whole life and see what happens! Get ready to be used!
Give Him what you are able to give - what He's given you!
From a sermon by Rev. Dr. Marc Axelrod, Pastor, Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, Potter, Wisconsin: There’s a great story about a California lady named Francis Green. She was 83 years old. She lived on Social Security. She had little money, but for eight years she’d been sending one dollar a year to the Republican National Convention. Then one day Frances got an RNC fund-raising letter in the mail inviting her to the White House to meet President Reagan. She never noticed the little RSVP card that suggested a positive reply needed to be accompanied by a generous donation. She thought she'd been invited because they appreciated her dollar-a year support. She took a train and rode for four days across the country in coach seating to meet the President. But when she got to the White House gate, her name was not on the list. She was heartbroken. But a Ford Motor Company executive was nearby. He talked to the guard. He spoke with a White House Presidential aide. And he said to Francis Green, "Come back here tomorrow at 9 a.m." The next day was anything but calm and easy at the White House. Ed Meese had just resigned. There had been a military uprising abroad. Reagan was in and out of high-level secret sessions. But Frances Green showed up at nine o'clock, full of expectation and enthusiasm. The executive met her, gave her a wonderful tour of the White House, then quietly led her by the Oval Office, thinking maybe, at best, she might get a quick glimpse of the president on her way out. Members of the National Security Council came out. High-ranking generals were coming and going. In the midst of all the hubbub, President Reagan glanced out and saw Frances Green. With a smile, he gestured her into his office. As she entered, he rose from his desk and called out, "Frances! Those lousy computers, they messed up again! If I'd known you were coming I would have come out there to get you myself." He then invited her to sit down, and they talked leisurely about California, her town, her life and family. The president of the United States gave Frances Green a lot of time that day- more time than he had. He knew this woman had nothing to give him, but she needed something he could give her. And so the Ford executive and the President took time to be kind and compassionate.
The President of the Universe wants to do the same thing for you! He has time for that, and He has time for you!
Give Him your gifts and your talents, not matter how small you think they might be, talk to Him about anything that's on your mind, and He will listen and respond in His sovereign timing – and… he will use your gifts for His glory – but you must willingly give!
Number 5 in our current Sermon Series, “Small Matters” – we look today at a young servant girl named Rhoda and the circumstances surrounding her being mentioned in Acts 12. While Rhoda is only mentioned one time in this passage, we have much to glean from her. Indeed, her small contribution teaches us in a most amusing way.
Let me ask you some questions:
Acts 12:1-19 – 12: About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. 3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. 6 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 7 Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists.8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. 9 So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. 10 They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. 11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders[c] had planned to do to me!” 12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13 He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it.14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” 16 Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17 He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place. 18 At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
What happens in today’s story is incredibly serious and profound, but with some supreme comedic moments as well. Rhoda is at the center of one of those moments.
King Herod was persecuting believers. He had also killed James, the brother of John. He was all about politicking for his own personal positioning. He imprisoned Peter because he thought it would please the people – and because of this situation the Church was praying earnestly for him!
To ensure he would not escape he placed him under ridiculously unnecessary guard (four squads of four soldiers each). That many soldiers were no needed for one man, unless… God were to intervene (then 10,000 soldiers would not be enough).
In his book “Connecting with God,” author Herb Miller tells the story of a nightclub opening on Main Street in a small town. Upon hearing the news, the only church in that town organized an all-night prayer meeting. The members asked God to burn down the club. Within a few minutes lightning struck the club, and it burned to the ground. The club owner sued the church, which denied responsibility for the destruction of the club. After hearing both sides, the judge said, “It seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the nightclub owner believes in prayer, while the church doesn’t.”
Do we really believe in prayer?
Do we really believe that God answers every prayer?
How do we respond to His answers?
Because I love humor – and I love this story – let me highlight four instances in this story – moments while incredibly impactful, are interesting and perhaps even comical.
Comedic moment #1 – Peter was to go on trial the next morning – possibly incurring a death sentence, yet he was still asleep. Are you secure enough with your relationship with God you could fall asleep the last night of your life?
Comedic moment #2 – Peter was asleep so hard, the angel had to whack him on the side to wake him up. His chains fell off and the angel said – follow me! How would you like to wake up that way?
Comedic moment #3 – Peter was up and following the angel, but he thought he was just dreaming – I mean, why wouldn’t he think that? An angel leading him, past the guard posts and the city gate opening all by itself? Finally, when the angel left him, he came to his senses and realized he really was out of prison!
Comedic moment #4 – When Peter realized he was free, he went to a familiar home – the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer! Peter knocked on the door and Rhoda answers! She was so overjoyed when she heard his voice, she didn’t even open the door but ran back to the group and told them Peter was at the door. They thought she was crazy – and didn’t go to the door – and Peter kept knocking… Finally, they opened the door!
Let’s unpack this story a bit more.
Rhoda, our “Small Matters” character for today is a “celebrity!” If, even for a moment, she had a part in a story of an incredible, miraculous answer to prayer. Dr. Alexander Maclaren, a noted pastor and Greek & Hebrew Biblical scholar in his commentary on this passage, mentions that “Men will give their lives for fame, and this servant girl got it by one little act, and never knew that she had it.
Rhoda was basically a female slave in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where the prayer team had gathered for the evening, had likely brought her from the island of Cyprus to work in her house. Mary was likely a “well-to-do” women with a large house, thus having room to effectively house a large prayer meeting. John Mark, incidentally was often referred to as just “Mark” wrote the gospel of Mark. He not only was the gospel writer, he was a companion of Paul & Paul’s traveling partner Barnabas (who was also John Mark’s cousin.” It was in this house, the house of strong believers who understood the power of prayer that “Rhoda” (whose name mean “a rose”) served.
While Rhoda was Mary’s servant, her position had not taken away Mary’s influence in her life. Rhoda was well acquainted with Peter – noted by her “recognizing his voice!”
It was Rhonda’s job – to answer the door. One might ask why then, upon recognizing Peter’s voice, did she not simply open the door – we must consider her conditioning. The Church was meeting behind closed doors because they were afraid of Herod’s soldiers. The irony here is… The Church also knew that Peter was in prison under ridiculously heavy guard and while praying in earnest, more than likely, did not expect God to answer their prayers so incredibly – let alone hear about his miraculous release by a personal visit from Peter – and the news being delivered by a servant girl, none-the-less!
Rhoda, a non-Jewess, a servant girl, the least in the house interrupting a prayer meeting of spiritual leaders…. How awesome is that?
Parallels anyone? Who found out about the Jesus the Messiah coming first? Who got to see Him first? The shepherds! In Christ’s day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers. Only Luke mentions them.
Lesson #1 from Rhoda: Even if you feel you are a societal nobody, when you are a child of God, you join nobility – a partaker of the Divine – a child of the King, with full rights of His inheritance. Mary, while participating in the societal system of the day, was also a child of God – who taught and encouraged even her servant girl about Jesus, let her associate with the Church – even Peter! Mary more than likely had her servant girl Rhoda, kneeling beside her as the church prayed earnestly for Peter.
Lesson #2 from Rhoda: If your job is to open the door, then go open it. However, make sure you’re opening it for the right person to enter. Upon answering the knock, Rhoda first quietly asked through the keyhole, “who’s there?” When opening the door to anyone, make sure you know who’s knocking! Jesus gains entrance into our heart by knocking. But there are others that will come knocking, for your attention, for your support, for your life – make sure you open the door for the right person!
Rev. 3:20-22 (The Message) “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”
Lesson #3 from Rhoda: Rhoda’s first duty was to open the door. Her second was to go tell the good news. We have that same duty! We must tell others the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must tell others that God answers prayers.
Conclusion: God answers prayers. Every time. Many of us love to share when God answers our prayer with a yes. We say, “God answered my prayer!” The reality is, God always answers your prayer with three answers: Yes, Wait, No.
When His answer is yes:
When His answer is wait:
When His answer is no:
In our story today, Rhoda, a servant, away from her home, in a foreign land, has embraced her new life – serving faithfully her mistress and most importantly, serving the King of Kings interrupted a prayer meeting of spiritual leaders and delivered the good news. She endured being called “out of her mind” but insisted the good news was true!
On “Super Bowl Sunday” it seems like we at least need one quote from a football movie. Drawing on Father Cavanaugh from the classic movie “Rudy,” – “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and… I am not Him.”
As our story today indicates, God can do whatever He wants to do – when He decides, and… He can use incredible supernatural means! He can use anyone he chooses and… He does! Thank you, Rhoda, for your example, thank you Rhoda for your faith and thank you Rhoda for embracing the God of your mistress and inspiring us to answer the door when Christ knocks – and be incredibly excited.