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Exodus 32:30-35; Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120729_exodus32_30-35.mp3

07/29 Exodus 32:30-35 Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

We are looking at Exodus 32, where Moses seeks to make atonement with God for the sin of the people. As we study this out, I believe it will give us greater insight into the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross for sinners like us.

The people have sinned a great sin. While Moses, the covenant mediator is on the mountain in the presence of God receiving the terms of this covenant relationship, the people, who had vowed their faithfulness to YHWH alone, have now corrupted themselves. They have quickly abandoned the commands that God had given them to have no God beside him, to worship no created thing but the unseen Creator only. They have abandoned strict monotheism (the belief that only one supreme God exists) and embraced polytheism (the belief that there are many gods). They have turned their worship toward the work of their own hands, rather than the God who created all things, and for whom all things exist. They have committed spiritual adultery, violating their exclusive covenant commitment to the one true God by giving themselves in worship to a false fabricated god. Moses interceded for the people, pleading with God that for the sake of his own reputation he not wipe them out completely.

When Moses returned to the camp, he shattered the tablets containing the terms of the covenant, demonstrating what the people by their actions had done to their relationship with God. He destroyed and desecrated their idol, making it unfit to ever be worshiped again. He confronted the leader who failed in his responsibility to care for the people, and he began to clean up the mess. He called for those who would repent from their sins and align themselves with the Lord to purify the camp and put to death those who refused to confess their sin and turn from their idolatry. 3,000 men died that day, a small fraction of the total population, demonstrating the great mercy of God. This is where we pick up the story.

Atonement

Exodus 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Moses as leader had done what was in his power to set the people back on the right path. Now, he tells the people that he, as mediator, will attempt to make atonement for their sin. Aaron had downplayed the sin, passing the blame to others, implying it was really no big deal, excusable because of the sinful inclination of the people. Moses takes the sin very seriously. He calls it a great sin – language often used for adultery. He says ‘perhaps I can make atonement for your sin’. He does not say ‘now I have to go make atonement for your sin’; he says ‘perhaps’. God is free to forgive or not forgive as he freely chooses. Moses can give no guarantee of the success of his intercession. Perhaps he can make atonement, but perhaps not. There is no presuming here on the mercy of God, as we so often do. We often take the attitude of Aaron – that our sin is no big deal, and that it is God’s job to forgive. Moses takes sin seriously. He sees that atonement needs to be made.

This word ‘atonement’ is interesting, because we have seen this word before. In the instructions for the tabernacle that Moses received from the LORD, he was told to build a box that would contain the tablets of the covenant agreement. The lid of this box was called the mercy seat, or atonement cover, or propitiatory. This was the place where God would meet with his people, and where their sins would be covered through the blood of a sacrifice. Now the tablets are broken, the covenant has been broken, the tabernacle is not built, there is no atonement cover, there is no sacrificial system in place by which atonement can be made. But remember, the tabernacle, as we have seen in the New Testament book of Hebrews (8:5), was a shadow of the heavenly reality. Moses says that he will go up to the LORD and attempt to make atonement.

Confession

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

This is a great example of what true confession should look like. Remember Aaron, when confronted with his sin tried to downplay the sin, asking Moses not to be angry, he tried to deflect blame, he tried to excuse himself and the people based on their natural propensity toward evil. We find none of that here. Moses starts his prayer with the word ‘Alas’. He is pleading, crying out to the Lord, begging. He acknowledges that it is a serious offense; ‘they have sinned a great sin’. This is no light matter, and he takes it seriously. He openly confesses the truth that God already knew – ‘they have made for themselves gods of gold’, unlike Aaron who said ‘I threw it into the fire and out came this calf’. He gets to the heart of the issue. They have violated the core of the covenant relationship, to have no other gods but the one true God, to not represent even the one true God with images. ‘They have made for themselves gods of gold’. He does not try to sugar coat their sin. He tells it like it is. And then he pleads for forgiveness. This is a broken sentence, difficult to translate because it is incomplete, expressing deep emotion, inability to put into words even the request. ‘if you will forgive their sins…’ If you will carry off, bear, take away their sins… He can’t complete the sentence.

Substitution Offered

‘But if not, please blot me out of the book that you have written.’ What a difference between Aaron and Moses! Aaron tries to save his own skin – you know what these people are like. Blame, excuse, blame, excuse, not my fault. Moses, who not too long ago felt inadequate to the task, Moses, who said ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Ex.3:11), Moses who was reluctant to take on the responsibilities of leadership, has now grown into this role that God placed him in, and he pleads with God ‘if you will, forgiven their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written’. God had suggested that he wipe out Israel and start over with Moses. Moses so identifies himself with the people that he offers up himself. He is attempting to make atonement for the people, and he is offering his own life; ‘please blot me out of the book that you have written’. Moses has truly matured as a leader who sacrificially loves the people who have been entrusted to his care

Substitute Rejected

But notice God’s response.

Exodus 32:33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Moses says ‘take me as a substitute – blot me out of your book’. God says ‘no, whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book… I will visit their sin upon them’. Moses attempts to atone for the people, attempts to cover their sin, even offering himself, and God says no, the people will die for their own sin. God is passionate about justice. This is a principle we find in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

God’s love for justice demands that only the righteous be justified, and only the wicked be condemned. People are judged for their own sins. You won’t be judged for another person’s sins, and you cannot pass your righteousness on to someone else. You are directly accountable to God for what you do. You cannot blame someone else for your sins, and you cannot say you are being punished for someone else’s sins. Many misunderstand what God says in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:5 …for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This is sometimes misconstrued to mean that God punishes the innocent children of wicked parents or that we might be under some kind of generational curse. That is not what it says. The point is that parents do train their children by their actions; often by their own sinful behavior. And when those children follow in their parent’s sinful footsteps, God does not give them a free pass to sin and say, ‘it’s okay, they are just repeating what they have been taught at home’. No, God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Ex.34:7; Num.14:18). The flip side of this is that God loves to extend forgiveness, and godly parents can set the example for thousands of generations to love God and keep his commandments. This is made explicitly clear in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

And Ezekiel chapter 18 lays out several scenarios to demonstrate the principle that:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

So Moses’ attempt to make atonement and be blotted out of God’s book must be rejected. ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book’.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

Our Problem

The problem, our problem is that ‘all have sinned and fall short’ (Rom.3:23), and ‘no one living is righteous before you’ (Ps.143:2), and ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23).

Romans 5:12 …sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–

This is our problem – we all have sinned, and so we all deserve to die. This is one of the problems with Moses’ offer. He could not die for the sins of Israel, because he himself was a sinner and worthy of death.

A Prophet Like Me

We have drawn a contrast between Aaron and Moses; now I’d like to draw a contrast between Moses and Jesus. Moses himself knew he was pointing ahead to someone greater. He said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen–

…18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The New Testament authors confirm that the ‘prophet like Moses’ that this pointed forward to is Jesus (Acts3:22; 7:27), so let’s look from Moses to Jesus.

Moses and Jesus

Moses went up to God to receive instructions from him for the people; Jesus is the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Jn.1:18). Moses came down to see the extent of the people’s sin; Jesus had perfect knowledge of the desperate condition of the people he came to save (Jn.2:25; Lk.19:10). The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn.1:17). Moses came down the mountain with tablets of stone that were broken before they were received; Jesus writes the law on our hearts (Jer.31:33). Moses’ ministry was a ministry of death that brought condemnation; Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of new life in the Spirit (2Cor.3). Moses destroyed the tablets of the law and executed judgment on the people; Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save us (Jn.3:17; 12:47). Moses was a sinner like us; Jesus had no sin of his own (1Pet.2:22; 1Jo.3:5). Moses offered himself to make atonement and he was rejected; Jesus offered himself as a substitute for our sins and he was accepted by his Father (2Pet.1:17; Acts 17:31). Moses could not be punished for sins that he did not commit; Jesus became sin for us, took on himself our guilt, and bore in his own body our sins, so he could be justly punished in our place.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; …

Isaiah 53:6 …and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Moses went up to the Lord to see if perhaps he could make atonement for their sin;

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, …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. …24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. …26 … he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King, did what Moses could not do. Jesus, God in human flesh, bore our guilt and paid our price in full and cried out ‘it is finished!’ (Jn.19:30)

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

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July 29, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:15-29; Wages of Sin and the Mercy of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120722_exodus32_15-29.mp3

07/22 Exodus 32:15-29 The Wages of Sin

We pick up the narrative of the covenant treason of God’s people in Exodus 32:15. God had spoken to the people, and they had vowed ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (19:8; 24:3, 7). The leadership of Israel ate a covenant meal in the presence of God, and then Moses was called up to receive God’s instruction.

Exodus 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

Moses has been up on mount Sinai for 40 days, receiving God’s instructions for life in his community, and instructions for building a tent where God would dwell with his people, chapters 25-31 of Exodus.

The Greatest Treasure

Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

These were two duplicate copies, permanent reminders of the terms of this covenant agreement. When a covenant was made between a conquering king and his subjects, two duplicate copies of the covenant would be made. The king would be given a copy of the agreement, and a copy would be given to his subjects. Because God is going to pitch his tent with his people, both copies would be kept in his tent. These were the most precious artifacts in existence; that the God of the universe would bind himself in covenant agreement with a people, and that he would personally etch the terms of the agreement into stone is an unspeakable treasure. These tablets of stone were the embodiment of the relationship between God and his people. This sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Joshua’s Misunderstanding

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.”

Remember, Joshua had accompanied Moses partway up the mountain after the covenant meal in chapter 24; Joshua was the military commander in the battle with Amalek and his people from chapter 17. Joshua, familiar with battle, hears the sound of war – adrenalin filled shouts of warriors in triumph; horrified screams of women and children; desperate cries of panic and pain; clash of sword and shield. Joshua fears that the Israelites are under attack, and they are, but the enemy is not a physical foe.

Moses had been told by God what is going on in the camp.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

Moses, having been told by God what is happening, responds to Joshua; this is not the joyous singing of victory; nor is it the lamentable singing of defeat, but the sound of singing. This reminds us of the song Moses in chapter 15 after the display of God’s power at the Red Sea. There they sang the triumph of YHWH who had conquered his enemies. There is nothing inherently wrong with singing – it was an expression of worship to God, but now their singing is directed toward the wrong object; a false god, an idol that did not save them. They turned from worshiping God to worshiping the works of their own hands.

His Anger Burned Hot

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

We are told that ‘Moses’ anger burned hot’. We think of anger as sin, and it often is that. We might read this episode as a temper tantrum where Moses lost control and acted irrationally. But anger is not always sin.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

This verse tells us that it can be right to be angry. But we must be on guard that our anger not lead to sinful attitudes or actions. Jesus was angry. Passionate zeal for the house of the Lord consumed Jesus (Jn.2:14-17) and he drove people out of the temple courts with a whip. That was not a sinful act that Jesus did. This exact phrase ‘anger burned hot’ is found over 50 times in the Old Testament, and in the majority of them, God is the one who is angry. This is not a lost temper but the righteous response to sin. Moses is reflecting God’s own character here. His action was not a spontaneous outburst of misdirected emotion, but a passionate acting out of what had already happened. God had entered into a covenant relationship with his people, given the gift of himself to his people. This – a relationship with the living God – is the greatest treasure a person could possess. This greatest treasure had been trampled and treated as worthless. It had been shattered, and now the formal documentation of the relationship was destroyed as a demonstration that the relationship had been destroyed. We are at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been taken, the groom has turned with the minister to sign the wedding certificate, and behind them they hear the sounds of the bride giving herself to one of the guests. No wonder the minister turns and rips the wedding certificate to shreds.

Now that the covenant document is destroyed, a graphic illustration of what the people have done by their actions, Moses as God’s representative begins to clean up the mess. He deals with the idol, he deals with the leader he left in charge, and he deals with the people who have brought dishonor on God’s reputation.

Desecrating the Idol

What Moses does with their idol is to permanently and completely desecrate it so that it can never again become an object of worship. He is demonstrating in an unforgettable way that this so-called god is no god at all. The people directed their worship toward this image saying ‘these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt’ (32:8). Moses is showing that this so-called god cannot even save itself. He burns it with fire, he pulverizes it to powder, and he scatters it in the water supply of the camp of Israel, so that anything that is left of this false god is ingested, digested and passed out in a pile of excrement. There will be no recovery of this idol. The people had worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and in this way Moses demonstrates just how unworthy this inanimate idol was of their worship.

A Leader Rebuked

Moses now addresses his older brother Aaron. Back in chapter 24, before Moses and Joshua ascended the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, Moses charged the leaders of Israel to wait for his return and he appointed Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he was away. Now he is calling Aaron to give an account of himself.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

The language Moses employs here is strong. The words translated ‘great sin’ can be used to describe the sin of adultery or marital unfaithfulness (Gen.20:9). The people have broken their covenant relationship with God. They have been unfaithful. They have turned from their vows and committed spiritual adultery with an idol. And Moses is holding the leader he left in charge responsible for bringing this great sin upon them.

Excuses

22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The excuses of Aaron remind us of the garden of Eden. This is a great example of how not to confess your sin. Fingers are pointing in every direction. There is no honest taking of responsibility or open confession of wrong done. Aaron first asks Moses not to be angry. Ultimately, he is asking Moses not to be righteous. He is asking that Moses let this sin slide and not be zealous for the reputation of the LORD. This is something a true leader cannot do. Then he shifts blame to the people and appeals to Moses’ prior experience with the people. ‘You know the people, that they are set on evil.’ For a leader to know this should stir him to be all the more vigilant and stand for truth and intercede for them, not cave in and give them what they want and then shift the blame on them. Aaron then repeats to Moses what the people said to him at the beginning of chapter 32, implying that it was Moses’ own fault for not coming back sooner. But his description of how the calf came to be; ‘I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf’ is a less than truthful account of his ‘receiving the gold from their hand, fashioning it with a graving tool, and making a golden calf’ (32:4). Moses doesn’t even honor these excuses with a response.

Consequences of Sin

Moses takes decisive action to put a stop to the situation.

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

This is a grisly, bloody scene. When we read this, we tend to be more shocked at the cure than the disease. If so, we fail to see the seriousness of sin. The people had broken loose. They were out of control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God is a God of order and design. This chaos in the camp of God’s people opened them up to the whispers of their enemies. ‘So this is how God’s chosen people act?!’ Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations by pointing them to the truth about God. They were to be an example to everyone of what life lived in relationship with God should look like, and they were to invite others in to that relationship. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was designed to put the glory of God on display for the world to see (14:17-18). Here, they are failing miserably at their calling, and opening God’s name to reproach and dishonor among the nations. They sinned by falling short of giving to God the glory that is his due, and the wages of sin is death.

Evidence of Mercy

This passage, seen in its proper perspective, is a loud testimony to the far reaching mercy of God. Remember, God told Moses to stand aside so that he could wipe out every last one of the Israelites and start fresh with Moses. That would have been righteous. They deserved it. But Moses interceded, and now only 3,000 died. That sounds like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. In Numbers 1:46 we are told the able bodied males 20 years old and up were numbered at 603,550 men, and that does not include the tribe of Levi. The 3,000 who died was less than half of one percent of the able bodied males from the other 11 tribes; only one out of every 200 men, and they all deserved to die. This is astounding mercy of God. To put this in perspective for us today, in the overall U.S. population, one out of every 2 males risk developing some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 males risk dying from cancer. Here in Exodus, one out of 200 die. We are not told how the Levites knew who deserved to die, but in a similar event in Numbers 25, it was those that were blatantly unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry and immorality. They were to show no favoritism, not to brother, son, friend or neighbor. They were to show a passion for the glory of God that ran deeper than the closest human bonds. Jesus requires this kind of allegiance from his followers too. He said

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus demands that our love for him take priority over every other relationship. We must be zealous for the glory of Jesus, not by taking up the sword to kill, but by a willingness to even lay down our own lives for the glory of God.

More Evidence of Mercy

One thing to note that the text does not say; the text does not say that the Levites were more righteous than the rest. It does not say that they had not been involved in the idolatry. We are told that all the people, including the Levites were involved to one degree or another in the sin and were guilty. But there was an opportunity to repent. Moses asked ‘who is on the LORD’s side?’ The Levites turned from their wicked ways and responded to the invitation. And they were blessed by the Lord. This is the good news, that sinners who deserve to die are spared by the mercy of God and invited to turn back to God and actually be used in his service. Aaron himself, who was left in charge, the one whose idea it was to collect earrings and make an idol, the one who actually formed the idol, the one who shifted blame and made excuses, this Aaron, in chapter 39 is clothed in the garments of the high priest, and wears on his head the inscription ‘holy to the LORD’. That is amazing grace and undeserved kindness!

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

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.

God, you said in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

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

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:1-10; Covenant Treason

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120708_exodus32_1-10.mp3

07/08 Exodus 32:1-10 Covenant Treason

We come now to a terrifying, terrible and tragic portion of Exodus. If it were possible, we could delete chapters 32, 33, and 34 from the book of Exodus, the book would still make perfect sense and flow quite nicely. As we have been studying chapters 25-31, God’s instructions for building a tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people, a central place for worship, we have also looked at chapters 35-39, which mirror the earlier chapters and record quite repetitiously the careful exact obedience of God’s people in following his instructions down to every detail. The structure of God’s commands and the people’s fulfillment of God’s commands are roughly parallel, with the command section concluding and then the fulfillment section beginning with God’s requirement to rest. But if these chapters were missing it would change the whole tone of the book. We could look at God’s instructions and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, they performed God’s instructions so carefully and precisely, displaying flawless obedience.’ But with these chapters in place, our response is much different. We look God’s command and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, God is truly merciful and gracious, generous to forgive, patient and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, faithful to his promises, able to conquer hard rebellious hearts and use flawed fallen people for his glory.’

You see, chapters 32-34 record the covenant treason of God’s chosen people. God had rescued them from slavery so that they would be a people who would worship him exclusively. He saved them when they had no hope. He conquered their enemies. He provided for their needs. He spoke to them audibly from the mountain and entered into a covenant agreement with them, and they promised ‘everything that the LORD has said we will do’ (19:8). They requested that Moses act as a buffer between them and God, because they were terrified at God’s presence. And for the next 40 days, from 19:21 to the end of chapter 31, Moses is up the mountain, in the presence of God, receiving God’s instructions on what life lived in relationship with a holy God should look like, and instructions for the tent where God would dwell with his covenant people.

Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Then chapter 32 switches settings, kind of a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch…’

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

A few comments about the text here. When it says that ‘the people gathered together to Aaron’ the language used is not that of a friendly gathering. Maybe we could translate it ‘the people ganged up on Aaron’. This was a hostile gathering. They were threatening, making demands, and not in polite terms. They said ‘up, make us gods who shall go before us’ – not exactly a polite way to address the one who was left in charge. This was not a request; it was a demand. And the way they refer to ‘this Moses’ is less that courteous as well. ‘As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt’ whoa! Moses the man brought you up out of Egypt? If I remember correctly, God takes credit for the exodus. In 3:8 he says ‘I have come down to deliver them’; in 3:17 he said ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt’; in 13:8 they are to teach their children ‘it is because of what the LORD did for me’; in 14:30 it says ‘thus the LORD saved Israel that day’; in 15:1 the people ‘sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously’; at the beginning of God’s ten words, he reiterates ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’ (20:2). So quickly they forget that not long ago they were groaning and crying out because of their cruel slavery. Now they seem to want to go back. This rings back to Exodus 14, where they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?

Or chapters 16 and 17, where they were hungry and thirsty.

Exodus 16:3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 17:3 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?”

Here again their tone is discontent. They are not satisfied with where God has them. We don’t know what has happened to ‘that guy’. Stephen, recounting this event in Acts 7

Acts 7:39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

In their hearts they turned to Egypt. They thrust Moses aside. Now let’s think this through. The people cried out because of their slavery and God saved them. He brought them safely to the foot of Mount Sinai and spoke to them audibly there. They had heard God’s ten words to them, words that began this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

They responded by saying ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Ex.19:8; 24:3, 7). But they were terrified and pleaded that Moses go between and tell them what God said because they couldn’t endure hearing God’s voice directly again. Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed, they said ‘as for this Moses …we do not know what has become of him. From the people’s perspective, Moses was delaying. But we hear God’s perspective in verse 8; ‘they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them’. From Exodus 24:18, we learn that Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. That’s just shy of six weeks. Let’s put that time period in perspective. It was about seven weeks or 50 days from their exodus out of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. A lot can happen in six or seven weeks. But think of this; they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. It had been some 700 years since God had first promised to Abraham that he would bless the world through his descendants. Now God had shown up in power and glory and they had entered into a covenant with God. We are told at the beginning of this narrative:

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

So there is a visible manifestation of God’s glory on the mountain during these 40 days of waiting, and still the people turn their backs on God and worship the work of their hands. Consider another time comparison.

Genesis 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” …20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Imagine this. Your prince charming comes, sweeps you off your feet, gets down on one knee and asks ‘will you marry me?’ to which you reply ‘yes, I will’. He says ‘wait for me’ and rides off on his white horse to make preparations for the wedding day. Forty days later he returns, only to find you shacked up with the loathsome lug from the other side of town. You broke your promise, you violated your covenant, you couldn’t endure a forty day engagement! God is making preparations to dwell with his people and they eagerly turn and break his first two commands and prostitute themselves with other gods.

This reads like a replay of another event much earlier. God had fashioned and formed the first beautiful place where he intended to enjoy fellowship with his creation. He had communicated clearly his requirements for their obedience. And it seems before you could turn around, they were questioning the goodness of God, doubting the truth of God, impatient and dissatisfied with all the good God had lavishly poured out on them, bowing to the serpent, eating the fruit.

Romans chapter 1 reads like a play by play on the golden calf event.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They knew the only invisible God, but they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the image of a bull. The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. We need to take God’s diagnosis seriously. He disowns them.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. They had taken an offering, used their skill in working gold, they had made an altar, they proclaimed a feast day, they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are all things that God had given them to do in relationship with him. But now they are using all these things to worship an image, the works of their hands. God says ‘they have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside. They have worshiped and sacrificed to a false God. God says they are a stiff-necked people. And he says they deserve death. ‘Let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you’. God sees their response to his kindness and grace, and he is ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is not an account of God throwing a divine temper tantrum. They deserve it! They had experienced more direct supernatural revelation of God than any other generation. They watched the ten plagues bring the mighty nation of Egypt to its knees. They walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They ate bread from heaven. They were overshadowed by the pillar of cloud and fire. They drank the living water that poured out of a rock. They heard the voice of God thunder his truth from the mountain. They felt the earth shake at his words. They had promised that everything he had said they would do. And now, a mere 40 days later, they are out of control in worship of an idol that they have made. God would be more than just to wipe them out and start over. In the days of Noah, God regretted making man because of their wickedness and rebellion against him (Gen.6:5-7), and he chose to blot them off the face of the land that he made and start over with Noah. He was right to do so, and he would be justified to do it again here with the exodus generation. The amazing thing, the stunning thing in this story, the astounding shocking staggering unexpected surprise ending to this event is that it is followed by five chapters that describe in detail the careful obedience of the people to build what God had commanded and then God himself comes in his glory to live in the midst of this people! These people shouldn’t exist! They don’t deserve to live! What great mercy is this, what long-suffering, what patience and overwhelming undeserved love extended to the most ungrateful unworthy wretches that have ever tainted this planet. And we can see so much of ourselves in these people. We are impatient, dissatisfied, ungrateful, unfaithful, quick to turn aside from following our great God. We have received great grace. We have been shown much light. And we deserve his wrath.

This is the good news – that this is the kind of God we worship; a God who is just to punish us because we deserve it, yet a God who so loves wretches like us, that he gave his only Son Jesus to bear in his body the wrath that I deserve, so that I can now walk in Spirit empowered obedience, transformed to live a life pleasing to him, and enjoy his presence forever!

Ephesians 2:3 …and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 … made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–

Amazing love, how can it be! 

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

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel for Believers

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120701_gospel-for-believers.mp3

07/01 Power of God for Salvation (Rom.1:16; 1Cor.1:18)

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That he was buried. That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. That he appeared. I am not ashamed of this good news, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

My first inclination is to think of this verse evangelistically; that the gospel is the power of God which saves unbelievers and makes them believers. That is true. And if you are here today and don’t yet have a forgiven, intimate, love relationship with the God of the universe, I pray that God’s power through the gospel would penetrate your heart today. But I’m assuming that most of you here today are believers in Jesus, so I want to talk specifically to you. Have you considered that the gospel is good news for those who are already believing in Jesus?

Consider who is addressed in the book of Romans.

Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel and he is eager to preach the gospel to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, those whose faith is being proclaimed in the world, those whose faith is capable of encouraging the apostle. Paul intends to benefit the saints, to impart some spiritual gift by preaching the gospel to believers. And then Paul writes out his most lengthy, systematic, carefully reasoned defense and explanation of the gospel to the believers there in Rome.

So I want to ask some questions this morning to help us as believers better understand and appreciate the gospel. The gospel of Christ crucified is indeed the only message by which the lost can enter into a relationship with their Creator, and we must be passionate and intentional about the work of missions and evangelism.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

But the power of the gospel doesn’t end at conversion. The power of the gospel is at work in believers, and the power of the gospel will be effective for eternity.

Why Not Ashamed?

The first question I want to ask is why would Paul say that he is not ashamed of the gospel? This would imply that some might think he has reason to be ashamed of this message. Some may have been concerned that the reason he hadn’t yet preached in the capital city of Rome was because he didn’t think his message was good enough – he was embarrassed of the gospel. Paul emphatically states that he is eager to preach the gospel also in Rome. Another reason to be ashamed may have been Paul’s prison ministry – from the inside. What kind of a message would get a person repeatedly beaten, stoned, left for dead, and locked up? It must be a weak message if it offers so little protection for the messenger. Paul says no, it is the power of God for salvation. For another potential cause for shame, we turn to 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

This gives us further clarification on just what exactly the gospel message consisted of. Paul here calls it ‘the word of the cross’. The good news is good news about the cross. The death of Messiah on the cross for our sins is the content of the gospel message. So the shameful objection is this: this message is folly. It is foolishness. How can it be good news that the founder of your movement got himself crucified? Jesus throughout his earthly ministry pointed to the necessity of his crucifixion. He came with the intent to die. Not only that, but he required of his followers that they also take up their own crosses. This does not sound like an attractive message. How can a crucified King inviting his subjects to follow him in crucifixion be good news? Paul is undaunted; the cross is powerful! God chooses destroy the wisdom of the wise with this shameful message.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

The apostle was not ashamed of this scandalous message, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Who Are Being Saved

Notice how he says it in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – the word of the cross is the power of God to us who are being saved. That is a present passive participle. The present tense points to something that is going on right now. The passive voice means that it is something that is happening to us – we are not performing the action; we are being acted upon by another. We are being saved. Is Paul pointing to those who are this moment entering into a relationship with Christ? I don’t think so, because he doesn’t say ‘to those who are being saved’ but ‘to us who are being saved’. The apostle said at the moment of writing that he was currently in the process of being saved by the power of God in the message of the cross. Do you have a category in your theology for this? Can you say that you are right now being saved by the power of God at work in you through the good news?

We often focus on the once-for-all past completed aspect of salvation, and rightly so, for that is a precious truth, but if it is to the neglect of our ongoing present salvation, then it is to our own harm. We must have our feet firmly planted on the past tense final and unchangeable foundation of our salvation.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have placed our trust only and completely in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for our sins, and we have been finally and forever justified, or declared not guilty in the law-court of the most high God. Nothing can revoke that decision. The author of Hebrews points back to that past action and on to this present process.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected for all time. Past tense. Completed. And now we are being sanctified. Present tense. Ongoing process. But we are not done being saved yet. Romans tells us:

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (cf. Rom.8:17,30)

We who have past tense been justified and reconciled, will in the future be saved by Jesus. This points forward to the final culmination of our salvation. Our salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified; we are being sanctified; we will one day be glorified. We, believers in Jesus, are today being saved by the power of God in the word of the cross.

The Message of Galatians

This is the message of Galatians. Paul says:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–

So the message of the gospel is not something that Christians are saved by and then move on from in their Christian life. We as believers must never turn away from the gospel. The message of the cross must remain central to the Christian life, or we would be categorized as those who are deserting God. This is such a big deal that Paul publicly confronted Peter over an issue in his life that was contrary to the gospel.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. …14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Peter’s conduct of separating himself from table fellowship with Gentile believers sent a message that was contrary to the good news that the wall of separation had been broken down by the cross, contrary to the good news that we are being saved by simple trust in Jesus alone and not works. Paul cries out in chapter 3:

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–

The gospel was preached. Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified. The past tense salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This was a work of the Holy Spirit in you. He urges that the present tense salvation, the daily Christian walk, our sanctification is also not a result of our own efforts. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that continues by hearing the gospel with faith. The gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is the power of God for our present process of salvation.

Summary of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

Look at Paul’s concise summary of the gospel he preached in 1 Corinthians 15, and notice again the present value he sees in preaching the gospel to believers.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…

The good news was preached. They received it. They believed it. They are standing in it. They are presently being saved by the gospel as they hold fast to it. It is of primary importance. The gospel message we as believers are to cling to is that the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared. This is the good news that we as believers need to be reminded of. This is the message that we must stand in. The message by which we are being saved. The message of the cross, that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), this is the power of God for our present salvation.

How the Gospel Saves Believers

But how? How does the gospel save believers? In what way is the gospel the power of God for my sanctification? How do I put this into practice in my life today? Listen to what Paul says in Romans 12

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Transformation comes by the renewing your mind with gospel truth. The good news is contrary to our natural inclinations. Actions flow out of how we think and feel. So in order for our actions to be shaped in a God-glorifying way, we must have our minds renewed by constant meditation on gospel truths.

Here’s just a few examples: in order to think correctly about God and relate to him properly, I must know that the gospel is first of all good news about our awesome God. The ultimate goal and purpose of the gospel is the glory of God. If I understand the gospel, I will be moved to humble worship. In order to think correctly about myself, I must know that I was a rebel against God, unfit for his presence and incapable of any good work. God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for me, rescued me at great personal cost to himself, paid the price I could never pay, and gives me the gift of eternal life. Now I am his prized possession, a trophy of his undeserved grace. In order to relate to others in a way that is in step with the gospel, I must know and believe that all people were created in the image of God, and that God so loved them that he gave his own Son to die for them. Because God treated me with grace and mercy when I did not deserve it, I must extend grace and mercy to those around me who do not deserve it. Since I have been freely forgiven, I must extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me.

The power for a transformed life is the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in us when we meditation on the truth of the good news.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We are transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. The transforming glory of God is seen in ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2Cor.4:4)

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,…

Paul closes his letter to the Romans this way:

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …

Brothers and Sisters, run to the cross, meditate on the cross, cling to the message of the cross, for the power of God to us who are being saved is the word of the cross, the good news of Christ crucified for sinners.

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

July 1, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment