There was an Israeli town named Shiloh. For a while, after Israel was settled in the Promised Land, the tabernacle was headquartered there. But the real significance of the name for us today hails back to a promise in Genesis 49:10. Old man Jacob was dying and (mostly) blessing his sons. He says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes.” Your Bible has a footnote in the margin, I’m guessing, that reads, “Shiloh means ‘he whose right it is.'” Ezekiel 21:27 is the other place that mentions the word in this context.
It’s talking about the Messiah. The scepter–that would be “the rule,” “the leading position”–and “He whose right it is” can only mean the One who is worthy of picking up the scepter and reigning. Worthy is the Lamb.
When Jesus was born in Nazareth, only one of the 12 tribes still had a spot of ground with their name on it. Judea. Judah, get it? Then, in A.D. 70, when the Romans beseiged Jerusalem, they demolished the city and erased Judea from the map. Present-day Israel came into being only in 1948.
Shiloh Christian Fellowship is back. This wonderful little congregation filled up their newly rebuilt sanctuary at 2441 North Claiborne Street in New Orleans Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Pastor Michael Raymond was all aglow, and we were for him. There must have been 200-300 people filling the building with joy and love. Freddie Arnold was there, returned from two weeks of house-building at his place in Walker, Louisiana. We both agreed we have been to quite a number of these first-time-back-since-Katrina worship services, but this one was unique in one respect: Pastor Michael baptized eight people. Great beginning!
In the printed bulletin, the pastor is thanking Operation NOAH Rebuild, Baptist Builders, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, two Oklahoma churches in particular–the FBC of Watonga and FBC of Pryor, and Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of our city.
My guess is that the street on which Shiloh is situated–North Claiborne–wins the prize as the longest traffic artery in metro New Orleans. It begins down in Lower St. Bernard Parish as Judge Perez Boulevard, continues into Orleans Parish as North Claiborne. Crosses Canal Street downtown and becomes South Claiborne. When it arrives in Jefferson Parish it becomes the historic Jefferson Highway. In River Ridge, it runs one block from where I live. As it enters Kenner, it becomes Third Street, don’t ask me why. In St. Charles Parish, it’s now River Road. It ends at the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway. That must be forty miles or more of winding, snaking, twisting, following-the-bends-of-the-river pavement.
The portion of the city where Shiloh Christian Fellowship is located took lots of floodwaters and is still in the rebuilding mode. But they are coming back. The area desperately needs the active ministry of this congregation. (Someone asks, “If they are Southern Baptist, why don’t they call themselves Baptist?” Answer: I have no idea why they chose this name, but we have Celebration Church that is one of our strongest SBC churches in the state, but the name ‘Baptist’ is nowhere to be found in its title. Suits me. Whatever works for them.)
I preached Sunday morning at Calvary Baptist Church of New Orleans for their annual “missions fair” day. Sunday School was dismissed so people could visit the various mission-work displays in the fellowship hall, then have lunch. I walked into the room, saw an 8-year-old sitting by herself, pulled out my sketch pad and drew her. That was about 11 o’clock. When I got to the car, the time was 12:25 pm, and I must have drawn 25 or 30 children and adults. If you get the impression no one has to ask me to do this, that I love it and would rather do this than eat, you would be right.
Calvary is one of our finest churches in many respects. They’ve been pastorless since Keith Manuel joined the evangelism staff of the Louisiana Baptist Convention a year ago. Norris Grubbs, professor at NOBTS, served as their interim pastor until recently. Last Sunday, their remaining three staff members–Doug, Matt, and Mike–all announced their resignations as they move to other churches (Baton Rouge, Haughton, LA, and Savannah, GA). We wish these guys (and their families) well and thank them for their faithful work here.
Pray for Calvary please. And mention Shiloh in the same breath if you will.
Gary Lewis preceded me in the order of service at Calvary. He’s the state secretary of the Gideons International and brought a fine report on their work. Gary just returned from Malaysia where he and his colleagues handed out over 40,000 Bibles. I’ve said it here before, that there is no finer Christian men’s ministry on the planet than the Gideons. A church is blessed by having its men involved.
I take a special pride in Gary. Some 10 years or more, I performed his marriage to Dr. Karen Graci, a veterinarian. They are parents of the smartest child in the parish, Matthew. Some time back yonder, I recommended Gary as a Gideon, and what a life-changing act that was. (No man can become a Gideon without his pastor’s recommendation and approval, in case you’re wondering. They are the most church-supportive organization anywhere.)
Sometime in the early 1980s Margaret and I visited the Shiloh Military Park in Southern Tennessee. We did it in a way I highly recommend. We drove up in the dead of winter, January as I recall, and arrived in the general area just about dinner time. After finding a motel–not a simple matter back then–we studied a history book we brought along on the battle of Shiloh, trying to figure out what took place and where. The next morning, with the temperature in the 20s, it seemed we were the only visitors to be seen in the entire park. We had gone prepared with warm clothing and spent the day, walking all over the site, consulting our maps, studying the book, and “feeling” Shiloh. We spotted one of our sons–then about 16 years old–in a state monument honoring its fallen soldiers. (Translation: it looked just like Marty. That shook us.)
The Civil War battle of Shiloh took place 100 years and one week prior to Margaret’s and my wedding. That would be April 6-7, 1862. Easy to remember that way. The Battle of Shiloh received its name from the small church toward the back of the battlefield where some of the Confederate soldiers were hiding, and which thus saw a lot of action. (The Yankees, incidentally, named the fight “The Battle of Pittsburgh Landing,” for the spot on the Tennessee River where the fight commenced. There is no romance to that title, so only a few historians know it other than as Shiloh.)
Over the years, we’ve read Shelby Foote’s book on Shiloh and a number of others, fiction and non-fiction. The place will forever be real in our minds.
“He whose right it is.” Shiloh has been an obscure Israeli town that boasted the presence of the Tabernacle, was the scene of two days of bloodletting as brother fought brother early in this nation’s Civil War, and now adorns a lovely rebuilt church in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
May that name Shiloh always provoke worship in the hearts of all who hear it. It speaks of Jesus Christ, who alone is worthy of worship and praise.