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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Psalm 95; Worship and Warning

05/22 Psalm 95 – Worship and Warning

Psalm, 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

This Psalm is a Psalm of worship and warning; it is a call to worship and caution against unbelief. It looks back to the God who created all things and is worthy of our worship, back to the God who saves us, and back to the Exodus account of the grumbling at Massah and Meribah and the consequences of unbelief, and it looks forward to the joy of entering into the presence of God. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament picks up this Psalm and warns and encourages us to take a sober look at our own hearts to be sure that we don’t miss out.

Corporate Worship

This is a corporate call to worship. It is an invitation to the group to sing, to make a joyful noise, to come into God’s presence, to offer thanksgiving and songs of praise to him together. There is such a thing as private worship. In your car or in your closet, you can get alone with God and speak to him, sing to him, give thanks and praise to him. That is good. Private worship is necessary. You can worship God as a family. Husbands, we need to lead our wives to know Jesus better. Fathers and mothers, we need to teach our children to follow the Lord. God must be the center of our homes. We should sing together and pray together and read the bible together as families in our homes. The responsibility for the Christian education of children falls primarily to families. Whatever the church does to instruct children is only intended to supplement what families do at home.

The Church

But this is a public call to worship. This is an invitation to join the assembly of believers in corporate worship. Private worship is critical. family worship is essential. But neglect of corporate worship is also forbidden in scripture.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

It is true that Jesus loves each of us individually, specifically. ‘The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20) It is also true that:

Ephesians 5:25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

The church is the collective group of believers. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The church Jesus builds is not a structure with walls and roof. What Jesus builds is a living organism made up of people.

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The bible does not talk about when you come to the church (building), but rather:

1 Corinthians 11:18 …when you come together as a church, …

The church is the group of believers meeting together to worship God. This Psalm is a call to public worship.


Psalm, 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

As a group, we are invited to sing to the LORD. Singing is one primary expression of worship that we do as a group. We sing to YHWH, the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Singing is making a joyful noise. Worship is an expression of joy. We have much to be joyful about. We will get to some of that as we go through this Psalm. The Rock smitten for us, out of which life-giving water flows, is Christ Jesus. We are invited to make a joyful noise to Jesus, the rock of our salvation.

The Presence of God

We are invited into his presence. That is staggering if we stop to think about it – the presence of God himself, absolute holiness and righteousness. The most righteous men we know were undone and loathed themselves when confronted with the absolute holiness of the presence of the living God. At the end of time, the kings of the earth flee from the presence of the Lamb.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”.

It is because sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy God without justice being done to them. When we are around people that are worse sinners than we are, we can feel pretty good about ourselves. When we are in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God, that all goes away and we recognize how desperately far we fall short.

Psalm 90:7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

The presence of God for a sinner is the most terrifying place imaginable. But the presence of God is also the most desirable thing. The pornography industry plays on our desire to look on perfect beauty, a beauty that will satisfy our deepest longings. We always come up empty wanting more because only God can satisfy the human soul. The human soul is hungry for God.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

That which only will satisfy is out of reach for us because to be in the presence of God means judgment for sinners. That is why we make a joyful noise to Jesus, the Rock of our salvation. We are in a hopeless situation, and Jesus, the perfect God-man comes to our rescue by bearing our sin and enduring the wrath of God in our place, washing us clean so that we can enjoy his perfect presence forever. That is something to make noise about! That calls for songs of loudest praise! We approach with deep thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us.

More Grounds for Worship

This Psalm goes on to give us more grounds for praising him:

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, is a great God. In a pluralistic polytheistic society where the Egyptians have their gods and the Canaanites have their gods and the Midianites have their gods, the God of Israel is not merely one God among many. He is great, he is greater in magnitude, he is greater in importance, he is greater in age – he comes before all other gods. He is the king or sovereign over all other so-called gods. They are under him and answer to him and serve him.

Psalm 95;4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

This God owns all things. The deepest mines in the earth are in his hand. He owns the highest peaks. The sea was a terrifying unknown when this was written, dangerous uncontrollable unpredictable chaos, and he owns it because he made it. His hands formed the land. Everything belongs to him. Everything, including us:

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

We are called to corporate worship because we are owned by our Creator. It is what we are made for. He has creative rights over us. He is our Maker. We worship, we bow down, we kneel and pay homage to him. He is our God. This, too, is an amazing statement. Not only is he Creator God, but we have a relationship with him. He is our God. We are his people. He is our shepherd. He cares for us. We are the sheep of his hand. This is personal, intimate, tender.

Now comes the warning:

Psalm 95:7 …Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

There is a danger to be avoided. Today! Today! Today! Right now, right here, pay attention! This is urgent. This demands an immediate response from us. Do not procrastinate. Do not put this off. The voice of the Shepherd is calling. Will you listen? Will you heed? Will you obey? There is a tendency, a historical tendency to harden our hearts against the voice of the Lord. There is a tendency to harden against the call to worship.

Massah and Meribah

We are pointed back to the history of the Exodus as a warning. Remember Meribah? The word means strife, contention, complaining, quarreling. The people grumbled against their leader. They quarreled. They had a need that wasn’t getting met in their time and in their way and so they complained. It was a legitimate need. But there was an undercurrent of discontent primarily directed at the leadership, and God took it personally. Massah means testing. God said ‘you are testing me.’ All complaining, all grumbling is ultimately directed at God. If God is in control of all things and orchestrates all circumstances, and he promises to work them for our good, then when we are discontented with our situation, it is an arrogant affront to his wisdom and goodness. We are demonstrating a lack of faith, a lack of trust in him as our sovereign provider. This is why the New Testament has so much to say about grumbling and complaining.

1 Corinthians 10:9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life…

James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Words come from the Heart

God takes our words so seriously because they indicate our heart condition. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

God is not interested in mere external conformity to his standards. He wants our hearts. He wants to capture our wills. He wants to consume our thoughts. He wants to be the center of our affections. In the Psalm his accusation is “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” God uses very strong language against this; ‘I loathed them,’ ‘I swore in my wrath.’ Grumbling, complaining, quarreling is evidence of a deeper sin. These sheep had gone astray in their hearts. They had abandoned God. They had hardened their hearts toward the voice of their Shepherd. James, who has a lot to say about what comes out of our mouths, also makes the connection between heart and tongue:

James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Paul addresses the heart issue positively:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

We were created to worship. We are invited to come into the presence of God united in praise to his great name. But we have an awful tendency to become callous toward God and contentious with each other. Today, we must be on our guard. Today we must guard our hearts from going astray. Today, we must choose to worship. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

May 22, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 18; Humble Testimony

05/15 Exodus 18:1-27 Humble Testimony


We’ve come to a crossroad in the book of Exodus. God has been about the business of rescuing his people from Egypt, intervening to save them from slavery. But his purpose was never to turn them loose to do whatever they wanted to do. His stated purpose to Pharaoh was ‘let my people go that they may serve me’ or ‘that they may worship me’. God is rescuing his people from futility to a life of purpose and meaning. He is bringing them into relationship with himself. He is bringing them to Mt. Sinai to teach them his ways. They are almost there.

God chose an unlikely candidate to be his tool to set his people free. Moses rose up to defend his people, but was rejected and exiled for forty years. There he was given a Midianite wife, became a shepherd, and had sons. When he was on the back side of the desert, God interrupted him and called him to ‘set my people free’. He reluctantly returned to Egypt, but not before God showed him how deadly serious a thing it is to have his own house in order and obey God’s commands. God confronted him over his negligence of the covenant sign of circumcision in his family.

Now, God has triumphed over the gods of the Egyptians, Moses has led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through the midst of the Red Sea, they have seen God’s gracious and miraculous provision in the wilderness, they have seen that God will give them victory over their enemies. Israel is encamped at the Mountain of God.

We now see Moses’ family reunited, we see Gentiles entering into worship of the God of Israel, and the establishment of a leadership structure that spreads the burden of responsibility among godly men.


Exodus 18:1 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, 3 along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), 4 and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” 7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. 9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.


The Midianites were historically no friend of Israel. It was Midianite traders who sold Joseph as a slave in Egypt (Gen.37:28,36). The Midianites would conspire with the Moabites to hire Balaam to curse Israel (Num.22:7ff). The intermarrying of Israel with Midian with the consequent worship of Baal incited the LORD to wrath (Num.25). But in this passage, we see a Midianite priest converted to the true worship of YHWH.

This is amazing in light of the context. We have just seen another branch of Abraham’s family (Gen.25:2), the Amalekites, war against God’s people and be defeated by God’s power. Even God’s own people have been so far grumbling and complaining, putting the LORD to the test. They have not shown a great deal of faith in their deliverer. This priest of Midian, it says ‘heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. (18:1)’ God’s own people seem to continually be blaming Moses for leading them out to die rather than praising God for bringing them out of slavery. This Midianite priest seems to be one of the first to get it.

God-Centered Witness

8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. 9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”

Listen to what Moses tells his father-in-law. “Dad, you should have been there. The Pharaoh of Egypt was terrified every time I showed up. Remember when you sent me out in the desert with your sheep? You had no idea what I was capable of. I raised my staff, and you should have seen it! All Egypt was in mayhem. They were begging us to leave. All these people are following me, they’re looking to me for leadership. Can you believe it? I struck the rock with my staff and water came out!” No, Moses doesn’t draw attention to himself. He points to the LORD. He told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done. The LORD did this! This was a God-centered witness. And he didn’t edit out the struggles either. He told him about ‘all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.’ We’ve had some rocky times. No food, poisoned water, no water, grumbling people, enemies attacking, The LORD delivered us. We would have had no hope unless God had intervened. He gave all credit to God. This is a faithful witness. This is a real testimony. It’s not about me. It’s all about God. Look at what God has done!

Joyful Believing

Jethro’s response is joy. He rejoiced. He recognized the goodness of God in all of this. Jethro, priest of Midian, does not use the generic title of deity, he does not name the god of the Midianites, he does not assume that his god and Israel’s God are the same. He uses God’s revealed covenant name in distinction from all other pagan gods. The LORD – YHWH is good! This is the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Israel’s God, the great I AM. Jethro has heard all that God did for his people Israel. He heard that YHWH had brought them out of Egypt. He rejoiced for all the good that YHWH had done for Israel in that he delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. He blesses YHWH: “blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.” Jethro knew his son-in-law Moses was in trouble with Egypt. It was evident that something supernatural happened to preserve Moses’ life from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and seeing that the 400 years of slavery for the Hebrew people in Egypt had been sovereignly ended stirred his heart to worship this God of the Hebrews.

We are seeing the beginnings of a fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham.

Genesis 22:18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

God had declared:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

Exodus 7:5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

Now, a Midianite priest is converted to worship the one true God. He says:

11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”

He had seen the evidence, and he was convinced. He worshiped.

12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

What an amazing scene! Jew and Gentile together worshiping the one true God, breaking bread together in the presence of God!

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

In heaven they sing this about the Lamb:

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,

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

This is what Jesus commanded that we do:

Matthew 28:19 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.”

God has from the beginning intended to bring some from every nation together in worship of the one true God.

Moses The Judge

The next scene is a scene of Moses carrying out his responsibilities as leader of the people God has entrusted to his care.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”

Moses is filling the role of teacher/counselor/arbiter of disputes. He is teaching the people God’s standards, settling disputes and making peace, and seeking God’s direction for the people. All these things are good and necessary and important. But Jethro sees a problem in the system. This is an insurmountable task for one man. Justice delayed is no justice. He offers some advice.

Burdens of Leadership Shared

17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Jethro’s instruction is for Moses to continue in the role of teacher and intercessor. He is to take their cases before God and seek God’s direction. He is to fulfill the role of teacher, communicating God’s truth to God’s people. He is to warn and make them know the way in which them must walk, to help them understand their relationship with God, and what their responsibilities are. But he is to choose able men to come along side him and share the load of leadership. These men are to have specific qualities. They are to be men of character. First on the list is a fear of God. Their relationship with God must be healthy. They must have proper awe and respect for the Most High. They must be God-fearers and not men-pleasers. They must be trustworthy, reliable, faithful men. They are to be men who cannot be bought. Men of character are to be chosen to share the counseling/arbitrating responsibilities.

The picture we have here illustrates the problem. God’s law has not yet been codified. All the people are coming to Moses with their questions and grievances. They wait in line all day and get no answers.

They go home discouraged and frustrated. Everyone has to go through this one man who goes to God to get their answers.

According to Jethro’s advice, the majority of cases would be settled at the local level, with only the difficult or new issues being brought to Moses. This will serve to alleviate the backlog of cases so that justice can be served in a timely manner, and frees Moses up to focus on his primary leadership responsibilities. Jethro’s advice is given not just as good practical common sense, but as guidance from God.

Moses’ Humble Response

Moses responds as any good leader today would. “Don’t you know who I am? God chose me to lead his people. Who do you think you are to give me advice in my job anyway? It was my staff that brought the plagues and parted the Red Sea and brought water from the rock. I spoke to God and he sent manna. I’m the one who intercedes with God for all the people. Don’t you think if God wanted me to do things differently, he would have told me himself?” No, again, Moses lays aside his natural pride and demonstrates amazing humility.

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Moses listened. Moses obeyed the instruction from his father-in-law. He was wise enough to take advice, no matter the source.

There are some interesting connections between this chapter and the one before. In both, foreigners come to Israel; the Amalekites came to attack; the Midianites came to greet. In both, some men are chosen for a specific task – to fight or to judge. In both, Moses takes a seat on the second day and remains seated for the entire day. In both, Moses is said to be tired or weary, and is provided assistance by others. In both, Moses humbly and willingly receives help from others. He knows his own weakness and is vulnerable. Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

In the New Testament, we are told:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

We are in humility to consider others as more significant than ourselves. More significant! That is contrary to every natural instinct we have. This kind of humility takes gospel transformation to carry out. This takes crucifixion of self to put others first.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. This is against our inclination, but we are now equipped to fight the fight against our flesh. We now have God’s law written on our hearts (Jer.31:33). We have God’s Spirit in us to cause us to walk in his ways (Ezek.36:27). There is now one mediator between God and men; the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim.2:5). Every good gift comes from above, so whatever I have that is praiseworthy, the one who is worthy of praise is my Lord Jesus Christ, not me. Look at what the LORD has done for our sake. Rejoice in all the good that the LORD has done to us. Bless the LORD for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Col.1:13).  

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 17:8-16; Fight the Good Fight – Battle with Amalek

05/08 Exodus 17:8-16 Fight the Good Fight


God has redeemed his people. He has delivered them from bondage. He is daily providing for their needs. He continually proves himself gracious even in the face of grumbling ungrateful demanding impatient rebellious people. So far, he has left Egypt in ruins, brought his people safely through the middle of the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptian army, made bitter water sweet, rained bread from heaven for daily needs, and brought water from a rock to refresh his people. Now, his people are faced with the first battle they must fight.

17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”


Let’s start with some background information so we get a big-picture understanding of this passage in its historical setting, and then we’ll look at what we can learn from it that will encourage us in our battle.

Who were the Amalekites?

According to Genesis 36, Amalek was the grandson of Esau. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (or Israel); Esau was Jacob’s older twin brother. Jacob bought the birthright and stole the blessing from his older brother. In the stolen blessing, Isaac made Jacob lord over his brother. When Esau demanded some blessing from his father, Isaac said this:

Genesis 27:40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

The blessing God gave to Abraham was to come through Jacob and his twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau’s descendants, also known as Edom or Edomites, were a problem for Israel throughout their history. The descendants of Amalek, grandson of Esau, were the first to attack Israel in the wilderness after they left Egypt.

What did Amalek do that was so bad?

God pronounces a severe curse on these people. He says he will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven, and he instructs that this be passed on to Joshua and recorded in a book. This passage closes with the words “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” What did they do that would deserve this kind of severity? This passage simply states that they instigated the battle with Israel at Rephidim. If we look at the instructions Moses left for future generations in Deuteronomy, we get some more details:

Deuteronomy 25:17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

So Amalek did not fear God. When they attacked, they went after the weak and the sick, the defenseless, the elderly and the young. They attacked from behind. They fought dirty and kicked them while they were down. They didn’t play fair. God wanted generations to come to remember the sin of Amalek and its consequences. The LORD himself will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

In the generation when Saul was king over Israel, the prophet Samuel charged Saul with this:

1Samuel 15:2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”’

Saul disobeyed, and as a result of his disobedience to the LORD’s command, he was rejected as king over Israel. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites.

What happened to the Amalekites?

We see Israel up through Saul and David battling the Amalekites. At the end of 1 Samuel, we see them pulling a similar stunt. When everyone has left their cities undefended because they are off to war, the Amalekites swoop in and make off with the women and children and goods. David returns home to find his city on fire and his wives gone. He pursues them and reclaims what is his and not a man escaped, except 400 young men who fled on camels. (1Sam.30:17).
We don’t hear much from the Amalekites until we get to the book of Esther, at the time of the Babylonian captivity, around 480 BC. The enemy of the Jews is Haman the Agagite, descendant of the royal line of Amalekites through king Agag.

The Battle

Let’s examine this first battle that the Israelites engage in after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. There are some very intriguing firsts in this battle. Joshua shows up in the biblical narrative first here. There is no introduction, he just shows up in the narrative as the one Moses entrusts to be in charge of the military. Hur also shows up for the first time here, accompanying Moses at the top of the hill. The instructions he gives are interesting. Joshua is to choose men capable of fighting- remember, these are former slaves with no military training. They have been attacked, and Moses says ‘tomorrow’. ‘Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand. Several times during the plague narrative, a great act of God is said to be coming ‘tomorrow’. This would be a hint. The staff of God. The staff that brought water from the rock. The staff that God used to bring devastation to Egypt was once again going to be lifted up. Moses stretched out the staff and the Red Sea opened up. He stretched it out again, and God crushed their enemies. Tomorrow the staff of God will be lifted up. Something big is about to happen.

But there is a very significant difference between this battle and the defeat of the Egyptian army just three chapters earlier. Here the Israelites fight. Back in Chapter 14:

Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

In the battle at the Red Sea, only the LORD was fighting. The people were explicitly instructed not to do anything. They were to stand still and observe the salvation that God would work for them. Then they were slaves, and God was fighting the battle for their freedom against their old slave master. Now they are free, their slave master is dead, and they have a new battle to fight. And this time they are expected to fight.

If the Israelites thought that they would have no more conflict now that they were free of Egypt, they were sorely mistaken.

But it is still clearly the LORD who fights the battle. The staff on the hill makes that abundantly clear. The Israelites are no match for the Amalekites. The only time they enjoy any success is when Moses raises his hands with the staff toward heaven. The focal point of the story is not what is happening on the field of battle. The focus of the story is what is happening on the hill. And even on the hill, the picture we have is a picture of weakness. Moses can’t even hold his own hands up by himself. He has to sit on a rock and have assistance from two helpers. As Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

The victory belongs to the LORD. We have our part to play, but the decisive element is not our strength or skill or determination. The LORD is fighting this battle.

The difference between the battles is that in the first, God is fighting for his people. In this battle, God is fighting in and through his people. In the first, he is securing their freedom, and he does not need their assistance, in fact he will not allow them to do anything. He fights exclusively by himself. In this battle, having already been set free, they are required to fight, but not in their own strength. The Psalmist calls God his strength:

Psalm 59:17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

Over and over and over again in the scriptures, God is praised by his people for being their strength. God even says in Jeremiah 17:5

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

It is such a serious issue that God pronounces a curse on those who are self-dependent.

Do you see how this relates to our battle? God has fought for us and won the victory all by himself. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship…

Jesus decisively won the victory on the cross without any help from us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Peter 2:24). Anything we offer in the way of help or payment for that battle is nothing but insult and brings us under the curse. But if we think that now that we are free, the Christian life will be trouble free, we have a harsh reality to face. We are in a fight. Paul charges us to “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). We have a cruel enemy. He doesn’t play fair.

Paul describes our battle as a serious call to arms in Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

You be strong. But not in your own strength. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. You prepare for battle. You will have to stand against the schemes of the devil. You are in way over your head. You are up against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is no way you can win this battle. The enemy is much stronger than you. But you be strong in God’s strength. You have to put on the armor – but it is God’s armor. You wrestle, you withstand, you stand firm. You will be victorious in this battle because it is not your strength but God’s strength in you.

This is consistently the way the New Testament describes the Christian’s warfare.

1Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

2Timothy 4:17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

1Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies––in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1Corinthians 15:10 … I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Do you hear that? Through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear – but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. Serve in the strength that God supplies so that God gets all the glory. I worked hard – but it was not I; it was God’s grace working. I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. I am weak. I can’t even hold up my own hands. But this is why there is strength even in weakness; especially in weakness. If I feel confident in my abilities, if I think I can handle this battle, I will fail miserably, because “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). An acute awareness of my own weakness and inability forces me to depend on him who is strength. This is why Jesus says to Paul:

2Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When I am weak, then I am strong, because in my weakness, the power of Christ is able to rest on me.

Charles Spurgeon said this:

Now that we are alive from the dead we must wrestle with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness if we are to overcome. “Go fight,” is the command. Do not many Christians act as if the sin would be driven out of them through their sleeping soundly? Let them be sure that a slumbering spirit is the best friend that sin, can find. If your lusts are to be destroyed, they must be cut up root and branch by sheer force of personal exertion through divine grace, they are not to be blown away by languid wishes and sleepy desires. God will not relieve us of our sins as sometimes persons have diseased limbs removed while under the influence of chloroform: we shall see our sins die while our minds are thoroughly active against them, and resolutely bent upon their destruction. “Go, fight with Amalek.” Greatly to be deplored is the way in which some Christians say, “Ah, well! it is my besetting sin,” or “It is my natural temperament,” or “It is my constitution.” Shame on you, Christian. What if it be so! Do you mean to say to your Father’s face that you have so great a love for the sin which he hates, that you will harbour it and invent hiding-places for it? Why, when a sin does so easily beset you, you must muster your whole force and cry to Heaven for strength that the dangerous foe may be overcome, for one sin harboured in the soul will ruin you; one sin really loved and indulged will become damnatory evidence against you, and prove that you really do not love the Savior, for if you did you would hate every false way. We must fight if we would overcome our sins. (C.H.Spurgeon, sermon #712, Sept.23, 1866)

Christ our Intercessor

Here is something very encouraging. The intercession of Moses was decisive in the battle. All Moses had to do was keep the staff of God lifted high. But Moses’ hands grew weary. Whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. Friends, we have one greater than Moses who is seated on high.

Hebrews 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. …24 …he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died––more than that, who was raised––who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Jesus never gets weary. He never lets his hands down. He doesn’t need help in his ministry of intercession. Jesus, moment by moment day and night is ever vigilant to supply us with the strength from on high.

Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

YHWH Nissi or Jehovah Nissi (yon hwhy) – the LORD is my banner

Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Moses memorializes this event with an altar. He names it ‘YHWH Nissi – YHWH is my banner, my battle standard, my signal pole, my rallying point. Jesus claimed to be our battle standard:

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exodus 17:1-7; Testing and Being Tested

05/01 Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the Rock


God has come to the rescue of his people. They groaned and cried out because of their slavery in Egypt. God promised to bring them out from under their burdens, to deliver them from slavery, to redeem them with mighty acts of judgment, and to take them to be his own people. God ruined Egypt and laid the pride of the Egyptians low, but he preserved and cared for his people. The presence of the invisible God was demonstrated to them in the visible form of a column of fire and cloud. He caused the army to pursue, and when there was no possible escape, he made a path for his people in the middle of the sea. He emboldened their enemies to follow, and he crushed them under the waters. Three days into the wilderness, and there was no water to drink. God tested his people, and when they came to Marah, the water was bitter. The people grumbled, and God made bitter waters sweet by the application of a tree. One month into the wilderness, and they were running out of food. The whole congregation grumbled, wishing to be back enjoying the good life of Egypt, rather than starving to death in the wilderness. God responded to their grumbling with abundant provision; quail for meat and bread for each day covering the ground. He gave them a day of rest each week, where their souls could be refreshed in God. God is testing his people to see if they would be obedient or not.

Here in chapter 17, we see God again testing and training his people, teaching them about himself, and they respond by putting God to the test.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

My Perceived Needs

The people are following the cloud-fire manifestation of God as he leads them in the wilderness. Each day they are gathering and eating bread from heaven that God supernaturally provides. God again guides them to a place where there was no water. They have seen God turn water to blood, part the sea and cause dry land to appear; God has turned bitter water sweet, and he has created bread for them out of nothing in the desert. Now they are thirsty. They can’t see any water. So they protest against their leaders. Again they grumble. They are controlled by their own perceived needs. They are entirely self-centered. The world should revolve around me, even God should revolve around me. God should hurry to respond to my every demand. Doesn’t he love me? Everything else takes second place to what I feel that I need right now. Good is defined by what I think I need, when I think I need it.

God has already stated that he is testing his people. He is proving them. He has shown decisively that he is for them, on their side, fully capable of defeating their enemies and providing for their every need. God has good in mind for his people, but the good God has in mind is sometimes different than the good we think we need. ‘I’m thirsty and I want a drink.’ God says ‘I can use your thirst to create character in you, character that is much more valuable than what you think you need right now. You have a physical need that is real and it is urgent. But you have a spiritual need that is just as real and even more urgent that I want to address. Do you trust me?’

Instead of trusting God, the people make their demand. “Give us water to drink. Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?” They are not walking by faith in a God who has over and over and over proven himself faithful. They are not trusting God to provide for them. They are not willing to allow God to refine them and develop character in them. They are not willing to allow God to be God and determine what is best for them. They are not loving God more than their own needs. They lack faith and patience and joy. They are not humbly making their request to God. They refuse to depend on God and instead make demands of God.

Putting the LORD to the Test

Moses asks the people “why do you test the LORD” and verse 7 concludes by Moses naming the place ‘quarreling and testing’ because they tested the LORD by saying “Is the LORD among us or not?” The people need to be tested by the LORD because testing demonstrates the areas in which they need to grow and change and be transformed. Testing reveals the character flaws that desperately need attention. But God is perfect. He has no character flaws. He cannot improve. God does not need to be tested. By their complaining and grumbling, the people are implying that God is failing to take good enough care of them. He must not be loving, or he would provide for their thirst. Maybe he is not powerful enough to give them water to drink. He is not faithful to meet their needs today like he did yesterday. He is not wise enough to lead them to the right places. By their grumbling they are putting God on trial, forcing him to prove himself to them. God’s character is being questioned, and they sit as judge to see if God will live up to their expectations or not. They are attempting to manipulate God to get him to perform for them, to blackmail him into doing whatever they ask.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is giving God’s commands to his people. Love God with all heart and soul and might. Do not forget the LORD who has delivered you. Fear the LORD your God and serve him only. Do not go after other gods. Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah (v.16). Jesus quotes this passage from Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil to force his Father’s hand and make him prove himself (Mt.4; Lk.4). We are not to put the LORD to the test, because he does not need to be tested. He needs to be trusted. We need to be tested. We can put our confidence in his proven character and promises that when he tests us it is for our good.

Moses’ Self-Interest

Moses doesn’t do much better than the people he is supposed to be leading.

Exodus 17:4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Moses is demonstrating that he is also looking out for his own interests. He is afraid for his life. He is not trusting the LORD. God tells him to stop following the people and start leading them.

Exodus 17:5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Moses Strikes the Rock

Moses is instructed to take the staff of God with which he had struck the Nile river and caused it to flow with blood, and he is to strike the rock, and water will come out of it. Moses follows the instructions. Numbers 20 records a very similar event, but toward the end of the wilderness wanderings. In that event, Moses is told to speak to the rock and it will bring forth water. Moses arrogantly disobeys and strikes the rock twice, and disqualifies himself from entering the promised land. What is the big deal? God said that Moses and Aaron rebelled against his command, that they did not believe in him or uphold him as holy in the eyes of the people. The big deal is that the rock was only to be struck once. Paul gives us a hint on the bigger picture in 1 Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, (Ex.16) 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. (Ex.17; Num.20); For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Rock was Christ

They drank from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ. Moses is an actor pointing to a bigger reality, and when he strays from the script and makes up his own lines, he does violence to the message that the drama is meant to communicate. The Rock was Christ. The Rock was to be struck once, but only once. The word here translated ‘strike’ in the majority of its uses in the bible means to kill. It shows up a couple times in Isaiah, clearly talking about Jesus:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all.

Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Moses is to take the same staff that brought judgment on Egypt, the same staff that made the river Nile flow with blood. In Exodus 4:20 and again in verse 9 of this chapter, it is called ‘the staff of God.’ God says ‘I will present myself on the rock and you shall strike the rock.’ The staff of God’s judgment coming down on God the Son, the sin-bearer. This was to be done in the presence of the elders of Israel. In Matthew’s account of Jesus on the cross, he records:

Matthew 27:41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him

The elders of Israel were witnesses of the Rock being struck to give life to the people.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Living Water

When Jesus spoke to a sinful Samaritan woman beside a well, he said

John 4:10 … “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John records:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus said:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Is the LORD among us or not?

God knows our true need. He hears our self-centered grumbling and diagnoses our heart condition and provides himself as the cure. Jesus addresses our true need, our need for our sins to be forgiven.

In the face of irrefutable evidence, God’s people put God to the test. Supernatural rescue from Egypt, the visible pillar of fire to guide, bread from heaven that was at that very moment meeting their needs, and the people question “is the LORD among us or not?”

John sent his disciples from prison with a similar question for Jesus:

Matthew 11:3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Is the LORD among us or not? Is there evidence? Is Jesus Emmanuel, God with us?

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all. Believe and have life in his name.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment