Howard Mooney - The Staff of Faith - Osaka, Japan Convention - 1972

Would you like to open your Bibles to the 11th chapter of Hebrews and we will read verse 21, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.” 

 

We would like to talk about the staff that supported Jacob in his dying hour.  This takes on real meaning to us when we remember that this staff is always used in the Bible as a symbol of faith.  Faith is to a child of God what this staff was to a traveling man.  No one would think of taking a journey in that country without a staff.  They used it to help them over the steep climbs.  They used the staff to help them feel the way when momentarily it was too dark to feel the way to take the next step.  They used it to ward off the serpents and beasts in the way.  They used it to beat out grain for their daily bread.  They used the staff for support when their own strength was letting them down.  Can we understand, then, why this staff is used in the Bible as a symbol of faith?  Faith helps us over the steep climbs; faith helps us to go forward when momentarily we cannot see to take the next step; faith protects us from the dangers along the way, and faith helps us to get the daily bread.  This faith supports us when everything in life is letting us down.  The Bible tells us that these wonderful people in Hebrews 11 all died supported by faith.

 

Before we continue with our subject, I would like to mention three staffs that the Lord told His people not to put faith in.  The first one is found in the 105th Psalm verse 16,  “Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.”  God had to brake their staff of bread to make them realize they needed something better to support them.  This staff of bread would just speak of a person's faith in their own ability.  It is nice to see people who have the ability to earn their daily bread.  It is nice to see people that are honestly getting ahead in life.  But God never intended that we should use our own ability for a staff.  There comes a time in all our lives when we need something more than our ability to lean on.  We were speaking a while ago with a man who made his fortune.  When we tried to talk to that man about the things of God, he laughed at us.  He said, “I have never asked God for anything and I need Him less today than ever.”  He continued, “I have more money in the bank than I will ever be able to spend.  I have never found anything yet that money cannot buy.”  But a few months later, that same man found there was something that money could not buy.  His only daughter, age 19, was stricken with an illness and passed from time into eternity.  When I saw that crushed man weeping over that open casket, I thought to myself, "Here is something that money cannot buy."  He still had more money in the bank than he would ever spend, but that money couldn't buy him one ounce of comfort when his heart was breaking.  I say again it is nice to see people who have ability get ahead in life, but we would encourage you not to use your own ability as your staff.  There comes a time in every life when we need something more than our own ability to lean upon.

 

The Lord told His people not to lean upon Egypt as their staff.  We read in Isaiah 36:6, “Lo, thou trusted in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it:  so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.”  Egypt is always used in the Bible as a type of this world, and the world promises people a great deal.  The world makes some golden promises, especially to young people, but the trouble is the world cannot back up its promises.  We read in this verse that Egypt is a broken staff and if you lean upon it, it will pierce your hand.   In other words, if you put your faith in this world, you will find in a time of need that it won't support you, and it will be a painful disappointment.

 

The Lord told His people not to use Moab as their staff.  We read in Jeremiah 48:17, “All ye that are about him, bemoan him; and all ye that know his name, say, 'How is the strong staff broken, and the beautiful rod!'”  Moab was the center of false religion at that time.  The worst part of false religions in Moab was they were speaking in the name of the true God, but the scriptures tell us they were handling the word of God deceitfully.   They had not put to death in their lives the things that were wrong.  It tells us they were taking their own way and not submitting themselves to the will of God.  These scriptures tell us that this is just like a beautiful staff that breaks when you lean upon it.  It might look beautiful and promise you a great deal, but that staff will let you down when you need it the most.

 

These three staffs represent the world, flesh, and devil.  The staff of bread would speak of putting confidence in the flesh.  The staff of Egypt represents the world and the staff of Moab represents false religion which is a product of the devil.

 

Now I want to turn you over to a more pleasant side of this picture.  When the Lord sent out His Ministers, He sent them out with a staff.  Mark 6:8, “And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse.”  This staff was symbolic of their faith in the promise of God that He would care for their needs.  This is one of the proofs to me that He is still working miracles: the fact that His servants can still go forth and freely give the Gospel.  In the religious world, money is their chief worry.  But God assured His servants that they didn't need to worry about their needs.  They are going forth today without collections, tithes or salaries and that is a proof in itself that God is still working miracles.  No servant of God, from that time until now, who have put their faith in God, has ever been let down.

 

When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they left with a staff in their hand.  We read in Exodus 12:11, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste:  it is the Lord's Passover.”  This staff was a symbol of their faith in those two servants of God. They had faith to believe if they obeyed those servants of God and take the steps that they asked us to take that it will bring us into fellowship with God.  Do you remember when the servants of God first came into your community?  The first thing that impressed you was: here are people who know God and are having close fellowship with God. Faith was begotten in your heart; you had faith in the right ministry and that ministry brought you into close fellowship with the God of heaven.  The children of Israel left Egypt with that staff in their hand.  Was that staff justified?  Exodus 19:11, “And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai.”  Inside of three months, the scriptures tell us that Moses led those people outside the camp to meet with God.  I would just like to say the purpose of the Gospel is to bring people to God.  Jesus gave Himself, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.  The reason that Jesus went out to give His life for man was that He wanted to bring people into this sweet relationship with God.  When we see people respond to the Gospel and begin to enjoy this fellowship with God, then we feel that our mission has been accomplished.  Paul wrote of some of his converts, “You have become followers of us and of the Lord.”  We might add: this staff has never let people down.

 

Jacob began his journey with a staff, too.  It tells us in Genesis 32:10, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant: for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.”  The staff was symbolic of God's presence.  Just before this, Jacob had seen that ladder.  It was a vision of God's way leading from earth to heaven. He had seen those angels ascending and descending on that ladder, assuring him God will give you all the help that you need.  He saw God standing at the top of that ladder ready to receive him at the end of life.  God spoke a personal message to that man's heart from the top of the ladder.  He told Jacob, “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean and change your garments.”  And He told Jacob, “The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”  In other words, he told Jacob, “You put your faith in Me and I will never let you down.”  When Jacob started out that night with his staff in his hand, it was a symbol that God's presence would go with him.  When he returned twenty years later to this place, was Jacob lamenting?  Did he feel that this was not what he expected?  He said, “I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant.”  He started out with his staff and now he had become two bands.  God had blessed him twice as much as he expected.  It is impossible for a person beginning in the Way to understand how wonderful this Way will become to them.  When I started out in this Way, I never dreamed how wonderful this fellowship would become to me.  We want to say to you this afternoon, “Put your faith in God and you will find out that it is much, much better than even God promised it would be."

 

Forty-eight years later, in Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying blessed both the sons of Joseph: and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”  Jacob had been following God for about sixty-nine years.  He was an old man and he was dying.  Everything else in life had let him down.  His family was gone, his home was gone, his physical strength was gone, but God, in whom he had placed his faith sixty-nine years before was still supporting him; he was leaning on that same staff in the last moments of his life.  He was worshipping God and to worship God means that Jacob was just giving God thanks.  The basic difference between true worship and false worship is found in this verse.  The false worshippers come to worship on their day of worship to get something.  All week long their lives have been lonely, hungry, and desolate and they come together on their day of worship to "get something."  God's people come together on their day of worship to "thank God."  You had a wonderful week and God has given you daily bread.   He has helped you through every experience during the week.   He has been to you like the shadow of a great Rock in a weary land, and when you come together on your day of worship, you have come to thank God.  David said, “I will magnify the Lord with thanksgiving.” A "testimony of thanks" means more to God on Sunday morning than any sacrifice you could make.

 

Jacob was an old man and he had many reasons to give God thanks as he leaned on the top of his staff.  God had taken care of him far better than he anticipated.  He had lived long enough to see his two sons brought into sweet fellowship with that same caring God.  On this occasion, he blessed the two sons of Joseph.  In other words, he lived long enough to see his two grandchildren get saved.  Is it any wonder that this old man worshipped God as he leaned on top of his staff?

 

The New Testament parallel is found in the story of Timothy.  Paul spoke of the unfeigned faith that was in Lois, his grandmother, and Eunice, his mother. This same unfeigned faith was now in Timothy.  I often think of that old woman, Lois.  Don't you feel that she was also worshipping as she leaned upon the top of her staff?  Every step she took was a step of faith and every word she spoke was a word of faith.  Her daughter, Eunice, was raised in that same godly atmosphere.  She followed in her mother's footsteps, taking steps of faith and speaking words of faith and now we read of Timothy following in his mother's footsteps.  Their home was safe for other children to come and visit in.  Could we ask you parents, “Is it safe for your children to be in the same home with you?” And, “Is it safe for your children to follow in your steps?”  And, “Is your conversation in the home safe for your children to listen to?”  It is a thrill to the servants of God to witness parents putting their faith in God.  And, it is a thrill for us to be in your homes, where there is a safe environment for your children to learn about God and have that same childlike faith in the promises of God.  This was the reason Jacob was thanking God, leaning on the top of his staff worshipping God.  He had a faith that never let him down, and it never let his children down and it never let his grandchildren down.

 

In closing, I would like to tell you about a letter that my mother wrote to me at two o'clock in the morning.  I might mention that my mother was the first one to get saved when two servants of God came into our community.  We had never heard of this wonderful way before.  We never knew that anything like this existed.  As my mother listened to the Gospel, faith was begotten in her heart, and she made her choice not knowing another soul who believed like she did.  My father was just as deeply impressed but he did not have the faith that mother had.  He loved the servants of God as much as mother did.  Dad was deeply touched that two young lives were gladly going out and giving their lives for a perishing world.  He loved their messages and he thought it was wonderful that they could get so much out of the Bible.  But my father was a business man and from a businessman's point of view, this could not work.  These two servants of God had told them they had no organization or registered name.   They had no board of directors or code of rules to follow.  Based on this, my dad felt this faith couldn't possibly work.   He felt sorry for those two servants of God because he knew they were earnest men and he just dreaded the day when they would find out that this thing would not work.

 

Fifteen months after my mother made her choice, my father was convinced that this was working because the miracle of God was in it.  The next opportunity dad had, he made his choice. Do you think my mother regretted putting her faith in God during those fifteen months?  No, now they had something in their home that they had never had before, even though they were religious. There were two of us children in the home at the time and three others were born in the home afterwards.  One by one, when we got old enough, my mother had the joy of seeing us make the choice to follow the same God she was following.  Do you think she was sorry she had put her faith in God in the beginning even though she was standing alone?  Years later she had the joy of seeing two of her children go out into this wonderful work and tell others about this beautiful fellowship.  Down through the years she had the joy of seeing relatives on both sides listening to the gospel and being added to the faith because of her influence and faithfulness through the years.

 

This letter that she wrote to me at two o'clock in the morning was written because she had the joy of seeing her first two grandchildren get saved.  She went to bed that night but she was too excited to sleep.  She got up and wrote this wonderful letter to me.  In that letter, mom relived her whole experience from the time she first put her faith in God and she mentioned all the wonderful things that God had done for her down through the years that followed, far beyond her expectation, and she ended her letter by saying, “To think God allowed me to live long enough to see two of my grandchildren get saved!”  My mother had been walking with God for fifty-three years when God took her home to eternity.  She died, worshipping God and leaning upon the top of her staff.  Everything else in the process of time had let her down, but her faith in God was still supporting her in the dying moment of her need.

 

It is wonderful that we can leave this convention with the staff in our hand.  God has made some wonderful promises to us at this convention.  Those promises can be to us just like a staff and we can put our faith in God and step forth from this convention with that staff in our hand, and we can assure you that this year will be the most wonderful year of your life.  If there is anyone in this meeting that hasn't put your faith in God, we would encourage you to take hold of that staff before you leave this meeting.  We can assure you, from our own experience, that this faith is something that will never let you down. It will mean everything to you personally and it will mean everything to your family.  The farther on you go, the more thankful you will be that you ever reached out and took hold of that staff.  When you come to the end of your days, you will have something to lean on that will not let you down.  You will be numbered amongst those of whom it was said, “These all died in faith.”

 

May God help us to go forward with this staff in our hand and with our faith in God.  We are confident that this coming year will be the best of our lives, and I hope it may be so for His sake.

 

(Incomplete notes - not verbatim)