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Exodus 13:17-14:12; The Mysterious Purposes and Presence of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110227_exodus13_17-14_12.mp3

02/27 Exodus 13:17-14:12 The Mysterious Purposes of God and his Presence with Us

Introduction

Throughout the narrative of the mighty acts of God against the Egyptians and for the deliverance of his people, God declares well in advance what he will do, and then at the proper time he does it. God said to Moses

Exodus 3:10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Even after all Moses’ excuse-making, God sent Moses. God said:

Exodus 12:12 …on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

And he did just that. God said:

Exodus 4:22 … Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

And that is exactly what God did. God has his good and wise purposes for every single thing he does. God declares in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We might say, from our perspective, ‘there is a method to his madness’. We can stand back with Paul in amazement and say:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

But we often don’t see it that way at the outset. God is in control. We believe that. But often we look at our circumstances and feel in our hearts (although we would never articulate in our out-loud voice) God, that’s not inscrutable; that’s just stupid. That so doesn’t make any sense. I know your promise that you work all things together for good to those who love you (Rom.8:28), but how can this possibly work out for anyone’s good? I really think you messed up this time.

The Lord answers out of the whirlwind:

Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Job 40:2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Job 40:8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury,…

Isaiah 46:9 … for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

In spite of what it looks like from our perspective, God is wise, his ways are perfect, he is always in complete control and he does all that he pleases (Ps.115:3) If we get a grasp on this, it will give us a rock solid unshakeable confidence to follow him everywhere he leads, even if that is right into the lion’s den and right into the fiery furnace. Or in Israel’s case right in between a rock and a hard place or out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The Text

13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

14:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi–hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal–zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi–hahiroth, in front of Baal–zephon.

The Promise

It is interesting that one of the things the Israelites took with them when the left Egypt was the remains of Joseph. It says:

13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

The book of Genesis closes with this oath, Joseph being embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. Now, four centuries later, the descendants of Joseph’s siblings were keeping their word. What a witness to the faithfulness of God! God will surely visit you. God will keep his promises. Joseph surely knew of the promise God made to his great grandfather Abraham

Genesis 15:12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. Jacob was counting on this and he made his sons swear to bury him with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and his wife Leah. Jacob and Joseph were proclaiming their faith in the promises of God

Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

The people made good on their word to Joseph in Joshua 24. Imagine the testimony to this generation of God’s faithfulness. God will surely visit you. God has visited us. Now we carry the 400 year old mummified remains of our ancestor who hoped in God and believed that God would give him his inheritance. They carried a testimony to the faithfulness of a God who visits his people.

God Leads

God is leading his people. We see that in verse 17 and 18.

13:17 … God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.

God was leading his people. He even reveals why he led them in the way that he led them. There was a direct route from Egypt to the promised land following the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was called by the Egyptians ‘the Horus Way’. There were 23 Egyptian military outposts along this road (biblearchaeology.org 8/19/08 Gary Byers). Had the Israelites traveled this way, they would have met armed resistance that they were entirely unprepared for. What is interesting is that the way the Lord did lead them was not a way that would avoid war altogether. As we will see, God led them right into full-on confrontation with the special forces of Egypt. The reason God gives for the route he chose was ‘lest the people change their minds… and return to Egypt. The difference between the direct and indirect routes was not an effort to avoid confrontation, but with the purpose of removing the avenue of escape from God’s deliverance back into slavery. God knew the weakness of his people and their inclination when things get tense to run back to their old slave-master. So God leads them in a way that cuts off their back door of escape from his will. God literally corners his people in a place where there is no way out but to surrender to him and trust him as he carries out their supernatural deliverance. God is demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the weakness of his people, and he is demonstrating his tender care for them even in his choice of their route out of Egypt.

Even Enemies

Not only is God leading his people to exactly where they need to be for their own good, he is even working in the hearts of their enemies so that they play their part in the plan perfectly. The erratic path in which God was leading his people was designed to cause the Egyptians to think ‘they are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in’. In chapter 14 verse 4, God says ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them’; and in verse 5 it says that ‘the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people’; and verse 8 says ‘the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel. Again in verse 17 we will see God say ‘I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them’. God is working even in the hearts of the enemies of his people, not to do harm to his people, but ultimately to do them good. This is awesome! God is wielding the weapons of Hell according to his own purposes to bring good to his people and glory to his name. He says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; 17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that a messenger of Satan was given him to harass him to keep him humble. (2Cor.12:7; cf. 1Sam.16:14; 1Ki.22:23, et.al.). If God is sovereignly wielding even the weapons of Hell for our own good, then what could possibly harm us? As Paul says:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great confidence we have! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31)

The Presence

God in his providence was leading his people in the perfect way for their good. He was even at work in their enemies to incite them to fight against them, but this too was for the ultimate good of his people. Let’s look at how he led them in chapter 13, verses 21-22.

13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

YHWH went before them! Physically, visibly, God’s presence with his people, going ahead of his people, leading his people.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

God’s own presence, shepherding his people, guiding his people, sheltering his people, protecting his people, lighting their path. God is spirit, invisible, but he manifests himself or makes himself known with visible symbols. ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ (Deut.4:24; Is.33:14; Heb.12:29). God is holy and pure and will consume sin and purify us. Listen to these descriptions from the Psalms:

Psalm 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. 9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 4 His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

Paul describes God this way in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:15 …––he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Something Better

God manifested his presence with his people in a column of fire and cloud. That must have been amazing! Do you ever wish God would manifest himself in some visible form for you to follow? Wouldn’t that make the Christian life so much easier? Friends, we have something better! After listing the faithful men and women from the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews concludes:

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Better than a visible manifestation of God to follow? Yes! Jesus spoke of:

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, … You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We enjoy the new covenant promises of God’s Spirit not only with us but in us! In fact, Jesus said that he and the Father would come and make their home with us! God the Father, Son and Spirit have taken up residence in us!

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Better than an outward symbol, we have the inward reality! The living God, the triune One has come to live in us!

2 Corinthians 13:5 … Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?––…

2 Corinthians 6:16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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February 27, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12:14-20 and 13:3-10; Feast of Unleavened Bread

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110220_exodus12_14-20and13_3-10.mp3

02/20 Exodus 12:14-20; 13:3-10 Feast of Unleavened Bread

Context:

Last week we looked at God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt by a strong hand. God’s final blow against Egypt was the death of all their firstborn. Pharaoh had refused to free Israel, God’s firstborn. So God promised to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn. But God provided a way of escape. Come under the blood of the lamb and you are safe. The lamb died in the place of the firstborn. So every firstborn that survived the exodus belonged to God because God provided a substitute. We are doubly his; his by creation and we were bought with a price. God gives a reminder of his ownership of all of life by demanding that every firstborn be given to him. Every firstborn that was fit to be eaten or offered was to be sacrificed to him. All that were unclean or unfit were either to be redeemed by the substitute sacrifice of a clean animal, or destroyed. God demands that we acknowledge his right of ownership over everything by surrendering part of what he has given us back to him.

Unleavened Bread

Exodus chapter 13 begins (v.1-2) with God’s requirement of the firstborn and concludes (v.11-16) with more detailed instructions about the firstborn, but sandwiched in the middle (v.3-10) is a section about the feast of unleavened bread. How does this all fit together?

13:3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

What can we learn from this? Connected with paragraphs about the redemption of the firstborn by a substitute sacrifice, there is instruction about a period of time that no leavened bread is allowed.

In chapter 12, instructions for the feast of unleavened bread come sandwiched between God’s promise of deliverance for all who come under the blood, and instructions to go select and kill the passover lamb and apply its blood. Look back at chapter 12:

12:14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty–first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

So we have in chapter 12, ‘when I see the blood I will pass over you and no plague will befall you to destroy you … observe the feast of unleavened bread … Go and select lambs for yourselves … kill the passover lamb, dip it in the blood … touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood.’

And in chapter 13, we have ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine. …Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you , and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. … you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. … Every firstborn of man among yours sons you shall redeem.’

Consequences are Severe

What is the connection between the passover sacrifice and the feast of unleavened bread? What is the connection between God’s right to the firstborn and the feast of unleavened bread? Notice also that the consequences for eating leavened bread are severe:

12:15 …On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

12:19 …If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land.

The consequences are severe – cut off from the community. The connections are interesting – the blood of the lamb and God’s ownership of us.

The feast of unleavened bread is a memorial – a sign and a memorial – that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. It is to be a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. We are commanded to remember. Remember the day in which you were brought out of the house of slavery by the strong hand of the Lord. It is also a teaching opportunity. Remember what the Lord did for you, and tell your son on that day ‘it is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’. It is a memorial for you and a teaching opportunity to pass this truth on to the coming generation.

What is Leaven?

But why unleavened bread? Why is no leaven allowed? Why such sever consequences for eating anything leavened? Initially, it was a practical necessity in the hurried expulsion from Egypt – they didn’t have time for the extended process of making leavened bread and letting it rise before baking. That’s the practical and historical reason. But leaven has a symbolic significance in Scripture. Let’s first look at the significance of leaven in the Scriptures. Then we may see the connection with the passover sacrifice and the consecration of the firstborn.

In the sacrificial system that God gave Israel to make atonement for their sins, no leaven was allowed.

Exodus 23:18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.

In Matthew 13 (cf. Lk.13) Jesus told three parables; about birds and weeds and leaven – all bad. His point was that in this age, there will be genuine children of the kingdom and there will be sons of the evil one – causes of sin and law-breakers – all mixed together until the final separation at the end of the age. In Matthew 16, he warns his disciples to be ware of the leaven, or teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Luke 12, he says this leaven is hypocrisy.

Leavened bread was made by mixing a starter or a fermented piece of dough saved from the last batch of bread into the new dough. ***Funk&Wagnall’s dictionary defines fermentation as “The gradual decomposition of organic compounds induced by the action of living organisms…” The bacteria that cause fermentation actually eat away at the sugars in the dough and give off a gas that inflates or puffs up the dough. So leaven in bread introduces fermentation, which is a process of decomposition or decay and death.

Leaven in Corinth

Six times in 1 Corinthians Paul warns against being ‘puffed up’ (fussiow; only 7 times in NT: 1Cor.4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Col.2:18). This is literally what leaven does – it inflates the dough to several times its actual size. The danger he is warning against is being puffed up with pride. In chapter 5, Paul is confronting blatant sin among members that is being allowed and even embraced by the church. In verse 2, Paul says that they are arrogant or puffed up:

1 Corinthians 5:2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

He goes on to confront their boasting and likens it to leaven:

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So there is leavening influence of sin in the church that will permeate the whole church if not dealt with. We are being instructed that since Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, we really are a new, unleavened lump. The transformation has happened through what Jesus did for us. We must act like what we already are in Christ. We are transformed, not as a result of our own efforts, but as a result of Christ’s efforts for us. We are given a new nature. We are exhorted to live consistently with that new nature.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

This helps us make the connection in Exodus between us being set apart to God, belonging to God, because we have been purchased by God with the blood of the lamb, and celebrating and remembering with unleavened bread. God brought us out from the house of slavery by a strong hand – I remember what the Lord did for me. I have been set free from sin. Having been set free I must live consistently with my freedom. This is not how to gain your freedom. This is how to be who you are now that you have been bought by Christ.

The passover lamb was to be selected on the 10th day of the month. The lamb was to be observed from the 10th to the 14th. The lamb was to be killed at twilight on the 14th and on the 15th began the seven day feast of unleavened bread. This symbolic cleansing out of sin was to be in response to the completed sacrifice and the provided deliverance. Because we have escaped God’s just wrath by coming under the blood, we respond by purging out the elements of decay.

We belong to God as his creation, and we have been redeemed, or bought with the price of a substitute sacrificed in our place, so because we are doubly owned by God, we get rid of that which causes decomposition.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

This is the fruit of holiness is produced by Christ’s finished work of redeeming love.

Why call it a Feast?

Why call it a feast? Going without something you normally enjoy is usually called a fast, not a feast. And the severity of the consequences – we’re going to have a party, but if you eat the wrong thing, we will cut you off and throw you out. That seems a bit harsh for a feast. Again, I think we can get some help here from Paul’s use of this in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So the old leaven, he defines, as the leaven of boasting, malice and evil. Who wants that at the party? Get rid of pride, the disposition to do evil and the active participation in evil. Get rid of what causes decay and decomposition. That will affect and infect the whole thing. We can truly celebrate with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. There is freedom in authenticity and a genuine desire to do what is good and right.

Freedom

We often have a distorted conception of freedom. We think we’re not free unless all the options are open to us. Let’s say you have a nice new ¾ ton four wheel drive diesel pickup truck. This thing will give you the freedom to go off-road into places you never would have dreamed of taking the family mini-van. Freedom! But there’s this tiny little sticker on the dash that is trying to steal your freedom and kill your joy. It says “diesel fuel only”. That’s so limiting! Especially when unleaded is cheaper and available at so many more places. I’m just gonna peel that little freedom-crushing sticker right off and start pumping in the unleaded. In fact, I’m just going to throw off all restraint and get out the garden hose and pump some good old H2O into my gas tank. Now that’s freedom. Freedom to do whatever I feel like doing. Freedom to wreck your investment. Freedom to sit by the side of the road and wait for the tow-truck. Freedom to be called a fool by anyone who knows anything about trucks. You see, that little sticker was intended by the one who designed the vehicle to give you the parameters inside which the truck will operate correctly. Violating the design engineer’s instructions is not freedom; it is catastrophic.

We want the freedom to do the things that are off limits to us. We need a change in perspective. What we should want is freedom from the things that cause decay and decomposition. Freedom from the things that will cause our engine to seize up so that we can live the human life to the full, so that we can get the maximum pleasure we were designed to enjoy. The author of Hebrews urges us:

Hebrews 12:1 … let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, ….

Peter warns us of false teachers promising phony freedom:

2 Peter 2:18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

Sin is slavery, not freedom. Holiness is true freedom to live the abundant life. Holiness, being set apart from sin and to God is the way to extract the maximum capacity of joy and true pleasure out of this life. Eternal life that Jesus promises is not merely a definition of length, but of quality. Paul gives us detailed instructions on how to walk in this blood-bought newness of life in Romans 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. …22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Remember, freedom from sin comes as a result of the once-for-all sin-bearing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as our substitute. As a result and because of what he has done, we can enjoy the feast of freedom.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Because Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us, we can celebrate true freedom – freedom from death and decay, freedom to be what God created us to be, freedom to run the race, freedom to really live, freedom to seize the maximum pleasures and joy offered to us by our Creator who invented all the good things he longs for us to enjoy.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 20, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12:37-13:16; Redemption; the Firstborn Belong to God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110213_exodus_12_37-13_16.mp3

02/13 Exodus 12:37-13:16 Redemption; Firstborn Belong to the LORD

Recap:

We’ve been away from the book of Exodus for some time now, so before we jump back in to chapters 12 and 13, I’ll try to give a very sweeping summary of the first 12 chapters of the book and sketch out where we are going from here.

Exodus is a book about redemption and the presence of God among his people. Exodus is the focal point of the Torah, or the five books of Moses, as it describes the founding of Israel as God’s chosen nation. Exodus is about a God who acts on behalf of his people, in response to their prayers, a God who always keeps his promises and uses weak and foolish things to shame the wise and the strong. God hears the cries for help from his people, and he triumphs over the Pharaoh using a handful of women who determine to obey God rather than man, whatever the cost. He raises up his deliverer, who is misunderstood and rejected by his own people, exiled into the wilderness. He becomes savior to the gentiles, and learns shepherding in the desert. God reveals himself unexpectedly as the self-existent one, and reveals what he will do to rescue his people. The news is received initially with worship, but as the realization sets in that things will get worse before they get better, the people run back to their old slave-master for help and call down curses on God’s chosen deliverer. God, in his great mercy toward a sinful and rebellious people, unleashes his mighty acts of judgment against Egypt to deliver his people. In these, he demonstrated decisively his sovereign superiority over all the gods the Egyptians worshiped. God points us to Christ our passover sacrificed for us; to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as he establishes the means for deliverance from his own justice on the firstborn.

In chapter 12, we have instructions for the passover ritual, we see the Egyptians ejecting the people from the land in response to God’s final decisive blow, and we see Israel plundering the Egyptians of their valuables. In chapter 13, God asserts his ownership over everyone and everything, and demands holiness in his people. In chapter 14 God leads his people through the Red Sea and crushes the pursuing Egyptian army.

To help orient ourselves as to where we are in the book, let’s review a basic outline of God’s action in Exodus: (Longman, p.34):

Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law; where he formally takes them to be his people and defines for them his covenant relationship with them.

Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle; the place where he will once again dwell with his people.

Prayer:

My prayer as we study the book of Exodus together is that we enjoy the presence of almighty God with us, that we acknowledge ourselves as undeserving recipients of his love and grace, that we embrace Jesus as our passover lamb slaughtered in our place, that we experience Jesus who shepherds us through the wilderness, that we are brought out from under the cruel bondage of sin and into the glorious freedom of joyfully serving the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ethnic diversity; theological unity

Exodus 12:37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

In verse 38 we are told that a mixed multitude accompanied the Israelites as they went out of Egypt. This is a crowd of diverse ethnic background, apparently convinced by God’s mighty acts that YHWH really is the only true God, and they would be better off siding with the Israelites and their God than remaining behind in devastated Egypt. Remember God’s promise to Abraham that he would bless the nations through his offspring (Gen.18:18; 22:18)? Even an Egyptian could escape God’s wrath by following God’s instructions and coming under the blood. Because of this mixed multitude accompanying Israel in the exodus, parameters had to be established. The meal commemorating the redemption from slavery was an exclusive meal. Not all were welcome. But this exclusivity was not based on ethnicity. People from every tribe and tongue and people and nation were welcome to participate, but only those who had embraced YHWH as their God and submitted to the sign of covenant relationship with him.

12:43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

There was to be one standard, one law for natives and aliens alike. Acceptance of the terms of the covenant relationship with this rescuing God. Those who rejected the covenant relationship with YHWH were to be excluded. There was room for ethnic diversity, but there must be theological unity.

The Firstborn

The final blow against Egypt was the death of the firstborn. God has exclusive rights over his creation, to do with it as he pleases. Life and death are in the hands of no one but God. There are no accidents in God’s universe. God says:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Back in Exodus 4, Moses was instructed by God:

Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

God had demanded the release of his firstborn son. If Pharaoh refused, the consequences would be the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son. This is exactly what happened. God kept his word. This Pharaoh’s predecessor had ordered the execution of all male infants born to Israel. Now God personally saw to the execution of all the firstborn males of Egypt. This was the price God paid to set his people free. God as Creator has sovereign rights over his creation. God as Redeemer has double authority over his people. We must be reminded of his sovereign rights over us.

Exodus 13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

… 11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

God demanded that all firstborn be consecrated to him. To consecrate was to dedicate, to sanctify, or set apart as holy, to be offered to the Lord. The consecration of the firstborn was similar to the tithe, where part was given as a recognition and reminder that God owned the whole. It is clear in scripture that not just the firstborn, but everyone and everything belong to God.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Psalm 50:12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

God owns all things. He can do with his possessions whatever he wills. He demanded that the firstborn of anything that was considered clean – fit for eating or offering – would be sacrificed to him. All the firstborn of unclean animals must either be redeemed – by a substitute clean animal sacrificed in its place, or it was to be destroyed. Isn’t it interesting that man is placed in the same category as unclean animals unfit for sacrifice – humans must be redeemed. This is a pattern we have seen throughout Genesis. In Genesis 22, God had demanded that Abraham sacrifice his promised son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham was obediently following God’s instructions, when at the last minute God stopped him and provided a substitute ram to be sacrificed in his place. But that was not the first time. All the way back in Genesis 3, our first parents rebelled against God and then hid from God because they knew that the wages of sin is death. But God did not put them to death. Instead, he clothed them with skins of animals, sacrificed in their place as a substitute. All this points to Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). Verse 16 tells us that the awareness of God’s right and our redemption is to be taught by fathers to their sons, and we are to be constantly reminded that we were bought with a price.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying; Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. We need to be constantly reminded of this. It is our responsibility to pass this truth on to the next generation. We no longer sacrifice animals because the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for all time to cover all our sins (Rom.6:10; Heb.7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10).

Romans 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

We need to be reminded of how the Lord by his strong hand brought us out from the house of slavery. We need to be reminded that we were bought with the once for all blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. Today we have a different reminder. ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19).

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org


February 13, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disciple-Making Disciples; the Character and Conduct of a Disciple

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110206_character_of_disciples.mp3

02/06 What did Jesus teach – about the character and conduct of a disciple?

Summary:

We claim to be disciples of Jesus, followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be disciple-making disciples of Jesus. So we spent some time looking at what a disciple believes. What we believe about God, about the Scriptures, about mankind, about sin and its consequences, and about the good news that Jesus preached. Jesus taught and we believe that the bible, Old and New Testaments, are God breathed authoritative truth that we must build our lives on. Jesus taught and we believe that there is only one God who has always existed in the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that God is good, and that he created us in his very image and for his pleasure. But we disobeyed, we rebelled against him and we have earned his eternal punishment. We deserve his wrath, and there is nothing we can do to remedy our hopeless situation. But we believe that Jesus took on human nature to die in our place to pay for our sins and give us eternal life. This momentous event demands a response from us; namely repentance and belief in the good news. Repentance, we saw, is mind and heart transformation as we embrace the forgiveness that he brings. This is the truth Jesus taught and the truth we believe. If we claim to be disciples then we will believe and teach these things.

Introduction:

But Jesus taught us more than how to think. He taught more than what to believe. He taught us how to behave. He taught us what our lives should look like. He told us what to do. That’s what I want to look at this morning. As disciples of Jesus, as followers of Jesus, what should our conduct, our character look like? Making disciples is more than simply persuading people to subscribe to some facts. Jesus said:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice it says making disciples means ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’.

Jesus Demands Obedience

Jesus clearly calls us to a life of obedience. He says in Luke 6:46:

Luke 6:46 Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

If you say I am your Master, Jesus says, then obedience would demonstrate the truth of your claim. Otherwise, you speak empty words. Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn.8:31); “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, … the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (Jn.12:47-48); “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn.14:15); “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” (Jn.14:21); “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” (Jn.14:23); “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn.14:24); “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (Jn.15:10); “You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Jn.15:14).

Jesus goes on to say in Luke 6:

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus demands our obedience as evidence of our love for him. Anything else is mere lip-service. Following Jesus is hearing his words and doing them. It is the path of wisdom and provides a solid foundation that will weather the storms of life. Genuine disciple-making is about transforming life and character and desires so that we live the way Jesus lived and prioritize the way Jesus prioritized and feel the way Jesus felt and do the things Jesus did.

Christ Formed in You

Genuine discipleship is about, as the New Testament writers put it, being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom.8:29); about being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom.12:2); that “we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom.6:4); “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom.13:14); “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor.15:57); “you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2Cor.3:3); “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2Cor.5:17); “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20); “you… have put on Christ.” (Gal.3:26); “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal.5:24); “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:10); “for to me to live is Christ” (Phil.1:21); “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil.2:5); “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:27); “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3); “Christ, who is your life” (Col.3:4); “I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal.4:19); “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1Cor.11:1).

Bearing Fruit

As disciples, we are to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. We are to be imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ. There must be an organic connection between the truth we believe and the life that grows out of it. Jesus talked much about a healthy root producing good fruit.

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.

In the parable describing the different soil conditions, only one soil was considered ‘good’ and produced fruit. Jesus explained it this way:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

Jesus taught about a life of freedom being rooted in his word.

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

A life of freedom grows out of the truth Jesus spoke. The freedom Jesus is talking about in this context is freedom from slavery to sin.

Genuine disciples bear fruit. True followers of Jesus live a transformed life characterized by radical obedience. How does this happen, and what does this look like? We’ll start with what this transformed life of radical obedience to Jesus Christ looks like, and then we’ll look at how this can happen to us.

What? The Life of Love

We’ll start with the broad commands and move down to the details. Jesus gave us what he believed to be the first and greatest commandment:

Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

First, love of God. Second, love of neighbor. The life of a disciple is a life of love. A definition will be helpful here. Love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. Sometimes it is helpful to distinguish biblical love from some common misconceptions. Biblical love is not that ooshy-gooshy feeling of twitterpation that you had in junior high when the object of your affections walked by. Love is not primarily a feeling or emotion. Love is primarily a verb – an action word. There is certainly a necessary emotional aspect to love. I don’t think simply working hard to do good to someone out of mere obligation and a disgruntled sense of duty can rightly be called love. That’s why I say love is a deep desire and pursuit of the highest good for the object of your affections. So, love of God means a deep desire to see him glorified and a life lived in active pursuit of his glory in all things. Love God with all heart and soul and mind and strength.

And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. We are never commanded to love ourselves. It is assumed that we all do that already. Paul says “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,” (Eph.5:29). We all always (rightly or wrongly) deeply desire and pursue our own best interest. Jesus tells us that naturally and that deeply to desire and pursue the highest good of others. In John chapters 13-15 he even raises the standard:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. …17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Love God by Loving Neighbor

The standard is high. Jesus, in his lay-down-your-life-for-your-enemies love, set the standard for us. So we are to Love God with all heart and soul and strength and mind, and we are to love our neighbor, including our enemies, as ourselves. What does this look like? It is interesting that in Matthew (22:39) and Mark (12:31)’s accounts of the greatest commandment, Jesus says “the second is like it”. The second commandment is of the same nature as the first or corresponds to the first. As we look at more of Jesus’ teaching, we find that the two can become one. We can love God by loving our neighbor. Jesus said:

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So, according to Jesus, we can love God by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and prisoners. He says “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”.

The Beatitudes

When we combine the description Jesus gives of who is blessed in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, we find things like this: blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn or weep, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, those who are hated, excluded, reviled, spurned, and spoken evil of on account of Jesus.

In Luke’s Gospel, these blessings are followed up by several woes. Jesus pronounces woe on those who are rich, those who are full, those who laugh, those who are well spoken of. I wonder which category we fall in more comfortably.

He goes on to tell us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to let our light so shine that people see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Mt.5:16). Our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees; we are to do and teach God’s commandments. We are not to be angry or insult our brother, but to seek reconciliation. We are not to look with lust, but honor the marriage covenant. We are to be men of our word. We are to return good for evil, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, we are to forgive and not condemn. We are to give to those who ask, without looking for the praise of men. We are to pray and fast privately and lay up our treasures in heaven. We are not to be anxious about the future. We are to judge ourselves before we seek to correct others. We are invited to ask, to seek, to knock and we are taught how to pray.

This is the way of obedience. Doing these things, Jesus concludes, is like digging down deep and anchoring your life on an unshakeable foundation. When the storms come, you will not be shaken.

How? Come to Jesus

That all sounds well and good and might even get an ‘amen’. But I can’t even remember all that stuff, and the stuff I can remember, I’m not sure I want to live like that. It sounds risky and dangerous and hard. Remember, we said that being a disciple requires an inward transformation of mind and heart? This is a result of the good news. Jesus says we must come to him to have life.

John 5:40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The life Jesus offers when we come to him is this transformed life of love. Listen to how Jesus invites us to come:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So as we look at Jesus’ description of the life of selfless love, we should not view it as a long list of do’s and don’ts that we need to carefully follow. That would be to burden us with a heavy load. Jesus says that when we come to him, we find rest for our souls. Not turmoil, wondering if we have done enough and measure up, but rest. Rest, because we believe in the good news that Jesus came to bear all our sins and failings and shortcomings on the cross. Because of the cross, we stand on a firm foundation of forgiven sin. We are not endlessly climbing a ladder in hopes that we can earn God’s favor. God has freely given us his favor in Jesus. This is not a religion of measured performance, but a relationship that transforms our hearts. Following Jesus is easy and light, because it flows naturally, out of a transformed heart.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

Abide in Me

Jesus describes our continuing relationship with him in terms of abiding:

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

The power for living the transformed life of selfless love flows from Jesus to us through our intimacy with him. When we stay connected to him, plugged in to him, his life flows through our veins. When we are abiding in Jesus we bear much fruit. We can do nothing apart from him. This is very practical. The evidence of a genuine disciple is the fruit of a transformed life. I must stay connected to Jesus if I hope to bear any fruit. How do I stay connected?

How to Abide

-Acknowledge total dependence on him. The branch dies when severed from the vine.

-Let Jesus’ words abide in you (v.7, 10). Knowing, memorizing, meditating and acting on the words of Jesus is a way to abide.

-Abide in Jesus’ love (v.9-10). How does the Father love Jesus? Meditate on that for an hour. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love’ Remain under the fountain.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 6, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment