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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption

05/12_2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190512_2cor6_16-18.mp3

Paul in chapter 6 is addressing the Corinthians head on in their lack of affections for him, and ultimately for the Lord. In chapter 5 he implored them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (5:20). In chapter 6 he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1).

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

He continues by directly addressing the problem; they were constricted in their affections because of their partnership with false teachers, who at root are unbelievers. They are to sever their connection with these unbelievers.

Then he asks five rhetorical questions, the obvious answer to each being an emphatic ‘nothing!’

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

And then he makes this bold assertion at the end of verse 16:

…For we are the temple of the living God;

We are counted righteous in Christ. We are the children of light. We are new creation in Christ. We are believers, trusting in Jesus; dependent on Jesus. We are the temple of the living God.

This is not the first time the Corinthians have heard this stunning affirmation. Back in 1 Corinthians 3 he said:

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. …16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This is stunning language. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you! It is even more staggering when you understand that there are two different Greek words for ‘temple’ in the New Testament. The more common word [ἱερόν] is the word that is used when we read that Jesus overturned tables, healed, and taught in the temple. ἱερόν refers to the whole temple grounds, including the courtyard. But this word [ναὸς] is more specific; it is the word for the sanctuary itself. This is the word where Zechariah was confronted by the angel while offering incense in the temple, where the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, when Jesus, referring to his own body, said:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

You are the temple sanctuary! Where none but set apart and properly purified priests could enter; you are now the temple sanctuary.

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul said

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses the temple imagery to argue against divisions in the church; in 1 Corinthians 6, he urges personal moral purity, because God dwells in each believer individually. Here in 2 Corinthians 6 Paul points to the church as the end-times fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, an identity which demands holiness.

For: Identity Transforms Association

Paul says ‘for,’ because. Separation is demanded because of what we are. This is the foundation for not being unequally yoked. Notice, the foundation for what we do is who we are in Christ. It is not the other way around; we do not become the temple because we live holy lives. We live separated lives because we are the temple.

We are the temple of the living God. This is no false God of the pagans; this is the living God of the Bible! He is the one who has never not existed. He is the author and origin of all life, the life giver, the living one.

Notice also, Paul says ‘we.’ He places himself alongside us, his readers, and says ‘we’. This is not ‘I’ have it all figured out and ‘you’ need to get your act together. Paul and the believers in Corinth are together, they are on the same side of the equation. They are fundamentally the same. They are righteousness, they are light, they are in Christ. They are believers – those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Paul is pursuing reconciliation, both reconciliation of the Corinthians to God, and to himself as apostle. They need to live out the truth of the gospel; they are one in Christ. They together are the temple of God. They need to act like it!

As God Said: Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37

Paul stitches together a patchwork of Old Testament promises to paint a composite of who we are, intermixed with the appropriate response of separation.

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is a mashup of verses from as diverse places as Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, 2 Samuel together with some other Scriptural echoes. Some are exact quotations from the Greek Old Testament, some are paraphrases, reworded to fit the context here.

Indwelling and Covenant Identity

2 Corinthians 6:16 …“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is an overlay of Leviticus 26:11-12 with Ezekiel 37:27. Rather than following the Greek translation, it seems Paul made his own translation of the Hebrew. Literally, we could translate Paul’s Greek as ‘I will indwell in them’. He is emphatic, duplicating the prefix ‘in’ with the preposition ‘in’.

God says ‘I will indwell in them, and walk among them.’ This echoes Eden where God walked with man in the garden, but so much better! The Lord told his disciples that the Holy Spirit is with you and will be in you. He walks with us, among us, but he lives in us! He will never leave us! Stop for a moment and just let this soak in. We, you and I, the church, we are the temple of the living God.

‘I will be their God and they shall be my people.’ This is the language of the covenant. God redeemed his people out of Egypt to be in relationship with him. He literally would pitch his tent in the middle of their camp and live with them. He entered into covenant relationship with them. He would be to them their God, and he would take them to be his people.

Leviticus 26 begins by reiterating the prohibition against idolatry and promises blessings on those who walk in his ways. God says

Leviticus 26:11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In a passage where he commands that they be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, he quotes a passage which reminds them that God has shattered their yoke of slavery.

Ezekiel 37 comes in the context of the new covenant promises of Ezekiel 36 where God says:

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 37 is the vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s Spirit is able to give life to the dead and make their dry bones live. The second half of Ezekiel 37 points to the re-uniting of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah under one King. God will cleanse them of their idolatry (v.23), and

Ezekiel 37:26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Paul takes this text from Leviticus 26, immediately after leaving Egypt, promising blessing to those who walk in his ways, and stitches it together with Ezekiel 37, written from the despair of Babylonian captivity after centuries of disobedience, but pointing to a future hope of God again dwelling with his people. Paul addresses the Gentile church in Corinth and uses these texts to support his assertion ‘we are the temple of the living God.’

Therefore: Response of Separation; Isaiah 52

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,

Paul adds an introductory ‘therefore’ to Isaiah 52:11. This added ‘therefore’ is critical to understanding what Paul is doing here.

Notice, everything in the quotations in verse 16 consists of promises of what God will do.

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

This is extremely one-sided. God indwells in us. God walks among us. God will be our God and take us to be his people. This is all God. That’s where Paul starts. Then he connects it to an exhortation to us with ‘therefore.’ Because this is true. Because you are already the temple of the living God. Because God has made his dwelling in you, because God walks among you, because God is your God and has taken you as his own people, because all this is already true, therefore. There is an appropriate response on our side. We must respond to what God has done. God is the initiator. We are always only the responders. Because of what God has done, therefore, we must reciprocate.

Isaiah 52 looks forward to the exiles at the end of the Babylonian captivity. God demonstrates that he is present, he reigns, he returns, he has comforted, he has redeemed, he alone saves. He says in verse 2 ‘loose the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion’; This is God who sets his people free from an oppressive yoke of bondage.

Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

In this context it is clear that this is not a pride thing, as if we are above others, better than others. God’s people were in captivity to a foreign nation because of their sin, their idolatry, their disobedience. It is in spite of their rebellion, in order to display the glory of his own glorious name, that he saves, at great personal cost to himself (see Isaiah 52-53).

We also see that this is not a burdensome command, as if we reluctantly have to deny ourselves and part with our treasured pleasures. Think of a slave finally freed from oppressive bondage. They are eager to take a bath, to wash away any residue of their slavery and be finally rid of it all. This is the absurdity of Lot and his wife; they are being rescued from a wicked place and from the Lord’s judgment, and they don’t really want to leave.

Adopted by the Almighty; Ezekiel 20; 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 43

Paul goes on,

2 Corinthians 6:17 …then I will welcome you,

This phrase seems to be lifted from Ezekiel 20:34

Ezekiel 20:34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.

Gather in the Greek is this word welcome; literally ‘receive into’. This too comes from a context of God’s people rescued from their enemies, brought in, brought home.

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is simply stunning! Paul takes the Eden and temple metaphor, that God walks with us and dwells in us, and turns it to a family metaphor; adoption. We are welcomed, not only as created beings, not only as servants, but as loved children.

This comes from 2 Samuel 7, where David desires to build God a permanent house in Jerusalem, and God reverses this and promises that he will build David a house.

2 Samuel 7:11 …Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

This points beyond Solomon to David’s greater Son, whose throne will be established forever, who is indeed the Son of God. Because we are in Christ, we are sons of God through faith (Gal.3:26). Paul changes this to plural and even adds daughters, likely an echo of Isaiah 43:6 where both sons and daughters appear together.

His closing phrase, the third different way he states that this is what God said, likely comes from the context of 2 Samuel 7:8

2 Corinthians 6:18 …says the Lord Almighty.”

This is the typical LXX translation of ‘the Lord of hosts’ or ‘Lord of armies’; YHWH Tsabaoth’ (Rom.9:28, Jam.5:4)

Conclusion

This is a staggering passage. Paul calls us, Gentiles, the church ‘the temple of the living God.’ And he backs this up with God’s word; God’s promises to ‘indwell in us’ to walk among us, to be our God and take us in covenant relationship to be his people.

Because of these staggering promises he exhorts us to throw off the yoke and walk in freedom; go out from their midst, be separate from them, touch no unclean thing.

And he sandwiches this exhortation with more astounding promises; And I will welcome you, I will be a Father to you, You shall be sons and daughters to me.

Stand in awe of God’s promises. Look at who you are, who he has called you to be. And be who you are. Live free. Don’t be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

***

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

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May 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion With The Father; John, 1 John

11/01 Communion With The Father; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151101_communion-with-father.mp3

We have seen that the clear teaching of the Bible is that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct someones, that Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet there is only one true God. This is what we mean when we use the word ‘trinity’ or tri-unity. The one God eternally exists in three distinct someones in relationship with one another. The amazing thing for us is that through Christ we are invited in to this eternal fellowship! We can have fellowship with this triune God! Listen to the opening of John’s first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John tells us that we as followers of Jesus have fellowship with one another, and fellowship with the Father and fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ. We are invited in to communion, fellowship, intimacy of relationship with the Father and with his Son, and in this is fullness of joy! Jesus said as much in his prayer to his Father in John 17

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and his Son. These are distinct relationships; we know the Father, we have fellowship with the Father, and we have fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, we know Jesus. We know Jesus in a different way than we know the Father. We have fellowship separately with the Father and with his Son.

In the benediction or pronouncement of blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians we see we have fellowship also with the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This is a fascinating passage. Separate activities are ascribed to the separate persons of the Godhead. Grace is ascribed to Jesus, love to the Father and fellowship to the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that the Jesus and the Spirit do not love or that the Father and the Spirit are not gracious, because there is one God and the three persons each fully share the divine essence, so when we are told that God is love, this characteristic of love equally applies to the Father, Son and Spirit. But love comes from the Father in a particular way, and grace flows particularly through our Lord Jesus Christ. If this blessing is modeled after the Old Testament blessing found in Numbers 6:24, some interesting parallels emerge:

Numbers 6:24-27   –  2 Corinthians 13:14

The LORD bless you and keep you – The love of God

 

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace – The fellowship of the Holy Spirit

 

The Father’s love is seen in his blessing and keeping; God’s grace is seen in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit brings peace as God turns his countenance toward us in reconciled fellowship.

The old creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.” [Athanasian Creed]

We as Christians worship God in trinity and trinity in unity. We do not want to divide the essence; there is only one God; his essential nature is indivisible. Neither do we want to confuse the persons. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Spirit or the Father. Our worship is directed to the triune God, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

I would like to take these each in turn. Today we will examine our fellowship with the Father. In what way or ways is he Father? Why does he carry that title? What is his primary role in distinction from the Son and the Spirit? What does it mean to have communion with the Father? Then, in the coming weeks we will turn our attention to the Son and the Spirit.

The Father of Creation

What do we mean when we call God ‘Father’? Jesus frequently addressed God as ‘Father’. He taught his followers to pray to God as ‘Our Father’ (Matt.6:9).

In a sense, because God as Creator brought all things into existence, he can be referred to as ‘Father’. Paul teaches in Acts 17:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, … 25 … he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, … 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

God is the Father of all mankind in the sense that he brought mankind into existence. Paul seems to be speaking in this sense in Ephesians 3:

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

So there is a sense in which all creation can look to God as Father.

The Father of the Son

But Jesus indicates that his relation to the Father is different from all others. In John 3, in his conversation with Nicodemus, he says:

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus is the only Son of God, the only one who descended from heaven, sent by the Father to save the world. Jesus is the only Son of God in a way that sets him apart from the rest of creation.
Later in John 3, John the Baptist is pointing to Jesus as one who in every way is so much greater than himself. He says:

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. …34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John is from the earth. Jesus is from heaven. Jesus is sent by God. The Father loves the Son in a unique way. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” Two chapters later, Jesus says:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

The Father loves the Son. There is a unique inter-trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. But someone may say that the Father became the Father and the Son became the Son at the incarnation, when Jesus was born of a virgin. But if we look at Jesus’ prayer to his Father in John 17, we see that this relationship between the Father and his only Son predates the incarnation. Jesus says:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. Before anything existed there was the eternal relationship of the Father loving the Son and the Son loving his Father. Isaiah 9:6 hints at this. The one who is called ‘Mighty God’ is ‘a child born’. That refers to the incarnation, when Jesus became human and was born of a virgin. But he is also said to be ‘a son given’. He was already the Son, and he was given by his Father to rescue sinners.

I was not always a father. I became a father when I was 27 years old, when I fathered my first child. Before God created anything, he was the Father. He has always existed as Father. His role as Father did not come about when he created. The Father is the Father because of his relationship with his Son. God is unchanging, so there is no time before he was Father, and there is no time before the existence of the Son. This is an eternal relationship. Theologians refer to this as the eternal generation of the Son. By this they do not mean that the Son is eternally being generated by the Father, but that the relationship between the Father and the Son has always existed.

God’s Fatherhood is different from ours in at least four ways. God the Father’s Fatherhood is absolute. I was a son before I became a father. The Father was never a son. The Father is always and only ever Father. God’s fatherhood is efficient. To become a father, I needed the participation of my firstborn’s mother. I could not have become a father without her. The bible says nothing of a heavenly mother (other than to condemn this idea as a particularly detestable form of pagan idolatry, cf. Jer.44:17-25). The Son is generated of and by the Father alone. God’s fatherhood is an essential relationship. I was by nature human before I became a Father. God in his very nature or essence eternally existed as Father, Son and Spirit. We cannot think of the true God without thinking in terms of Father, Son and Spirit. And it is an eternal relationship. There was never a time before this relationship existed. There was never a time when this relationship between Father and Son came into being (Bavinck, p.305 ff.).

The Father of Adopted Heirs

There is one other sense in which God is Father, and this leads us in to how we have communion specifically with the Father. Galatians 4 tells us:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

God sent his Son and gave us his Spirit so that we could relate to him not as slaves but as adopted sons. By the Spirit, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, we can call God “Abba! Father!”. Romans 8 says:

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We who have been justified by faith as a gift through the propitiation of Jesus Christ have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. We are adopted children of God. We no longer have the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Our relationship to the Father should not be one characterized by fear.

It was the purpose of Jesus not only to bring us into a relationship with himself, but also into a right relationship with the Father.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The goal of the gospel is to bring us to God. Peter tells us:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God

Many people falsely caricature God the Father as a grumpy irritable old man who is angry and frequently flies into a rage. But thanks be to Jesus, a much kinder and gentler personality, who persuades his Father, against his will and better judgment, to accept his sacrifice, so the Father is forced to begrudgingly extend mercy to irritating sinners. This caricature is totally contrary to the biblical teaching on the Father, it violates the essential unity of the distinct persons of the Godhead who have one will and purpose, and it is certainly offensive to the Father. Notice who is said to initiate the salvation of sinful mankind. God so love the world that he gave his only Son. God sent forth his Son …to redeem those who were under the law. Ephesians 1 shows us how we are to think of the Father.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

God the Father blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. This was according to the purpose of the Father’s will. It was to the praise of the Father’s glorious grace. The Father has blessed us in his Beloved Son. Our response should be ‘blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has chosen us and predestined our adoption and purposed our salvation and carried it out by sending his only Son! He did it all in love. What amazing grace the Father has for us!

Listen to what Jesus says in John 16 about his Father:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. … 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

The Father himself loves you! You can ask the Father directly in my name. The situation is not that you ask me and I pick the best time when the Father is in a good mood and is more apt to respond favorably. No, I do not need to ask the Father on your behalf. The Father himself loves you! The Father loves to give good gifts to his children. Oh how we need to get this. Our fellowship with the Father should be sweet! We come to him as one who of his own free will chose us! He adopted us! He was under no obligation, no compulsion, but he loved us!

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Whose love is demonstrated in the death of Christ? God shows his love for us!

Look at a sampling of some other passages that distinguish between the persons of the triune God and their role in our salvation. We already looked at the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Look also at 2 Thessalonians 2:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God chose you to be saved. He called you to belief through our gospel. He destines you for glory. Look also at verses 16-17.

2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

God our Father loved us. He gave us eternal comfort and good hope. Look at the opening of 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1 … To those who are elect exiles … 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is his purpose and plan to set us apart by the Spirit and save us through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. Or look at Jude’s short letter.

Jude :1 … To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

Called, beloved, kept in God the Father. Jude closes his letter this way:

Jude :20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. The Father himself loves you! We will close where we began, in 1 John:

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In this fellowship, in this communion with the triune God our joy will be complete. Behold the love of the Father!

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are….

Now may the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead… (Ephesians 1:17-20)

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

November 1, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What did Jesus Teach about Us?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110123_teach_about_man.mp3

01/23 What did Jesus teach – about humanity?

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ final command to his followers before he ascended into heaven. He commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples.

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

We are to follow Jesus.

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We are to abide in the truth that Jesus spoke, and to be set free by it. We are to pass on information, character and passion that results in a transformed life. We are to have content, character and conviction that is contagious to those around us. We’ve been looking at what that means. We looked at what Jesus taught about God. We looked at how Jesus taught – and his view of the Scriptures.

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about humanity, where we came from, what we are like, and where we are going.

Where we came from

Jesus is very clear about where we came from. We are the special creation of God, unique and distinct from all his other creation, created with dignity and worth in the sight of God, made in the very image of God.

-created by God:

In Jesus’ teaching against divorce, Jesus points us back to the created order.

Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

Jesus is very clear that we are the creation of God. We were formed or made or created by God. From the very beginning of creation God has made mankind as distinctly male or distinctly female.

Look at how Jesus talks to the hypocritical Pharisees:

Luke 11:39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and he calls them fools, but he argues from the fact that even they were made by God inside and out. Jesus believed and taught that each of us are the special creation of God. As the Psalmist says:

Psalms 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (c.f. Job 10:11)

-most valuable of creation:

Jesus teaches not only that we are the special creation of God, but that we are the most valuable of his creation. Jesus says:

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 10:31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 12:12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! …

Luke 12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

So according to Jesus, we are the special creation of God, unique and distinct from the rest of his creation, and we are of greater worth to God than his other creatures.

-the image of God

Jesus gives us another clue as to what he believed about the nature of man when he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar. The Pharisees and Herodians were attempting to entangle him in his talk by asking him a question about Jews paying taxes to the Roman government. They thought they had him no matter which way he answered. But his answer amazed them all. He said:

Luke 20:24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness (eikwna) and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus careful answer is using the language of Genesis:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Jesus is saying that the coins that bear Caesar’s image can be given to Caesar, but because you bear the image of God, you must give yourselves to God.

-children of God?

Does it follow from this unique place we hold among God’s creatures, as bearing the very image of God, that we are by default God’s children? This is a more complex question. When we studied what Jesus taught about himself, we saw that he claimed a totally unique position as the only Son of the Father. Consider John 3:16

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (cf. Mt.10:32; 11:27; Jn.1:14; 3:35; 5:18, 22-23; 10:30; 17:5; et al.)

Jesus claimed to have a totally unique and distinct relationship to his Father. He claimed to be the only Son of God. But he also taught his followers to pray “Our Father in heaven” (Mt.6:9). Over and over in his teaching in Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus refers to God as ‘your Father’ or ‘your heavenly Father’. So how do we put this together? How does Jesus claim to be the only son of God and then tell us to call God ‘Our Father’?

-who is your father?

In John 8, Jesus had a dispute with the religious leaders of his day over the issue of ancestry and descent.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father––even God.”

(Here they stoop to slinging mud. It was common knowledge that Mary was pregnant with Jesus before the relationship between her and Joseph was consummated. Of course the religious leaders didn’t buy the ‘Holy Spirit conception in the womb of the virgin’ story, so they implied that Jesus was a bastard – an illegitimate child – born of sexual immorality. Look at how Jesus answers them – full of grace and truth)

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

So in this passage Jesus flatly denies the claim of the religious leaders that they were children of God. He says, no, God is not your Father. I came from God. You are of your father the devil.

Jesus tells the religious leaders who rejected him that they cannot call themselves children of God, but instead they are children of the devil. Jesus claims to be the only Son of God, and then he invites us, his followers, to address God as Father. How do we put this all together?

-becoming children of God

If we go back to the context of John 3, where Jesus makes the clear statement that he is the only Son of God, we find some help. John 3:16 is toward the end of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, also a Pharisee. Nicodemus has concluded that Jesus must be from God because of the signs he had done.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus points Nicodemus to his need for the new birth. He had been born of flesh. He needed to be born of the Spirit – born from above – in order to have spiritual or eternal life. This, Jesus said, comes from believing in Jesus crucified for sinners. John has already pointed to this at the prologue to his gospel.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus gives believers in him the right to become children of God. So we are not naturally children of God, but whoever believes in Jesus becomes a child of God by virtue of being born of God.

Paul appropriately uses the concept of adoption to describe our status as sons of God.

Galatians 4:4 …God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (cf. Romans 8:15)

So in Jesus’ teaching, we see that we are created by God, created as distinct from the rest of creation with great value in God’s sight, made in the very image of God. We are created image-bearers by nature, but not sons. We become God’s children only through the new birth.

What We are Like

What does Jesus say about our present condition?

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

That doesn’t sound very good. People were believing in Jesus but he wouldn’t entrust himself to them, because he knew what was in man. What was that? Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus here flat out assumes that we are all evil. He gets fired up when he sees people who he knows are evil putting on airs that they are good and righteous and holy. Jesus says:

Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I don’t know about you, but that settles it for me. If our hearts are judged by what comes out of our mouths, specifically every careless word, then I’m in trouble. Now don’t sit there thinking ‘I don’t use profanity, so I must be pretty good’. What do you talk about most? Imagine seeing a pie chart that details everything that comes out of your mouth in a week. How much of that pie would be giving glory and thanks to God? [pie chart] Jesus describes it pretty well:

Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person…

When a rich young man came to Jesus thinking he was pretty good, but feeling that he still lacked something, Jesus made it clear:

Mark 10:18 …No one is good except God alone. (cf. Mt.19:17; Lk.18:19)

No one is good except God alone. The question is not if you are better than… The question is if you are in the good category or the evil category. We all find ourselves in the evil category. God alone is in the good category. Jesus said

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

You don’t hunger and thirst for something you have. Jesus calls those blessed who acknowledge they have a need and long for it to be filled.

So Jesus says that although we are the special creation of God, with great worth in his sight, bearing his image, we are basically evil, rotten to the core and empty.

Where We are Going

We’ve looked at who we are according to Jesus – where we come from and what we are like. Now let’s look at what Jesus says about where we are headed. If we look through John 3:16 and following, we see two options. There is either perishing or eternal life; being condemned or being saved; either loving darkness or coming to the light. At the end of John 3, we hear John the baptizer saying this:

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

So there is eternal life or the wrath of God. Lets look at how Jesus describes each of these.

-the wrath of God

-worse than non-existence or maiming or drowning

Jesus says of his betrayer

Matthew 26:24 …woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (cf. Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22)

So according to Jesus, his punishment is worse than non-existence. But is he a special case? In Matthew 5, Jesus deals with the sins of lust and anger.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus feels that it would be better to experience life maimed than to be thrown into hell. In Matthew 18 he uses similar language when he describes the danger of causing a young person to sin. He says

Matthew 18:6 … it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

-eternal fire, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth

And he warns of being ‘thrown into the eternal fire’ (18:8) and ‘into the hell of fire’ (18:9); ‘to hell, to the unquenchable fire (Mk.9:43). He describes hell as a place ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mk.9:48). He describes a tree that does not bear good fruit being cut down and thrown into the fire (Mt.7:19). He speaks of tasteless salt being thrown out and trampled under people’s feet (Mt.5:13). Six times he describes it as a place where ‘there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Mt.8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). He describes it as ‘the outer darkness (Mt.8:12; 22:13; 25:20), and ‘the fiery furnace (Mt.13:42, 50). He says they

Matthew 24:51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He says it is a place of torment, anguish, and unquenchable thirst (Lk.16:23-25). Much of what Jesus says about condemnation or perishing or the wrath of God is in parables or stories. Jesus is quite graphic and vivid in his description of the horrors of hell.

-the final judgment

Jesus describes the final judgment in Matthew 25:

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. … 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

According to Jesus, he will separate all people into two categories. There will be separation; ‘depart from me’, they will go into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, it will last as long as the reward for the righteous; ‘eternal punishment’ or ‘eternal life’.

-eternal life

Let’s look for a minute at what Jesus says about the alternative. It is interesting that Jesus is not as graphic and vivid with his description of eternal life.

He describes it as entering into the joy of your Master

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ … 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

It is described as fullness of joy and unquenchable joy.

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Jn.16:20-24; 17:13)

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

It is described as a satisfying of our deepest longings

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.”

It is described as incomparable treasure (Mt.13:44-46), a wedding feast (Mt.22:2-4; 25:10), reward (Mt.5:12; 6:4,6,18,20; 10:42; 19:21 ), honor (Mt.24:45-47), ‘inherit[ing] the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Mt.25:34); we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Mt.13:43). It is permanent (Jn.10:28). It is described in terms of fellowship (Mt.8:11).

Most often Jesus describes it as eternal life or simply life.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Eternal life is defined in terms of relationship.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We will be with Jesus and we will see his glory! Jesus prayed:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

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

January 23, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 4:18-23; My Firstborn Son

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100801_exodus04_18-23.mp3

8/1 Exodus 4:18-23 My Firstborn Son

4: 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” 18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

God is sending Moses to be his instrument to deliver his people Israel from Egypt. Moses is a reluctant prophet. He doesn’t want to go. He is full of excuses. Five times now he has raised various objections or excuses to God’s call. Moses asked ‘who am I that I should deliver your people?’ And God answered Moses that it’s not about who you are. This is all about who I am. Who you are is irrelevant to the task at hand. The exodus of Israel from Egypt is not about Moses. It’s all about God displaying who he is and how awesome and glorious and powerful he is. Moses, it’s not about who you are, it’s who I AM that matters. Let’s get that straight right from the start. So Moses responds, ‘then who are you? If the people ask your name, who should I say sent me? God says ‘I am YHWH, the I AM, the self existent uncaused cause of all things. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Tell them I AM has sent you, and tell them what I am about to do. Tell them I have been watching and I promise to bring them up out of the land of affliction into a good land. Moses, tell them and they will listen to you.’ Moses’ next question is a direct contradiction to this. ‘No, they will not believe me or listen to my voice. They will say ‘the Lord did not appear to you.”. So God gave Moses three signs to display that the power of God was at work with him, signs of God’s authority over the enemy, over disease, and over the gods of Egypt. Moses is amazed by the signs, but complains that he is not eloquent and blames God for not equipping him with the necessary skills to complete the task. God answers that he designs even disabilities for his good purposes to display his glory by using weak things to shame the strong. ‘I made you exactly the way you are for a good purpose.’ Moses’ final complaint gets down underneath all the excuses. He simply doesn’t want to go. O Lord, please send someone else. The anger of the Lord is aroused by his unbelief and disobedience, but even in this he supports the weakness of his servant. He offers Moses’ brother Aaron as a mouthpiece for Moses. This is the end of God’s encounter with Moses. He sends him away with the staff in his hand.

Moses, remember, is on the back side of the desert tending his father-in-law’s sheep. The back side, or the west side of the desert is in the direction of Egypt. But Moses doesn’t abandon the sheep and head for Egypt saying ‘God called me to go – I must obey God rather than man’. Instead, he responsibly returns the flocks to his father-in-law in Midian and honors him by asking his leave to go to Egypt.

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”

Now Moses had his call from God. He didn’t need Jethro’s permission. He needed to go because God had called him. But God doesn’t call a person to ditch their responsibilities. Maybe Moses had been recalling the history of his people and remembered how Jacob left his uncle Laban. Jacob took the women and the kids and the sheep and ran. Laban pursued him and confronted him over his shady departure. Moses showed maturity by honoring his father-in-law and keeping family relationships good.

But I wonder what is between the lines in the narrative. God tells Moses to go, and Moses comes up with all kinds of excuses because he doesn’t want to go. Moses goes to his father-in-law to ask his permission. Was Moses hoping that he would say no? Jethro gives Moses his blessing. He says ‘go in peace.’ The next thing the text says is God shows up to Moses who is still in Midian and again tells him to go back to Egypt. Was Moses stalling again? For how long? I could hear Jethro saying ‘Moses, didn’t you ask my permission to go back to Egypt? Did you change your mind? Are you still planning to go?’ Moses might answer ‘yes, but, uh, Egypt is a long way. I’ve got to make preparations for the journey. Maybe we’ll leave next week. Or next month. Next year…’

19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

Moses left Egypt as a wanted fugitive because he had killed an Egyptian. This sounds like a confirmation to Moses that the coast is clear. It is that, but it is more. God is not saying that Moses will have a warm reception in the courts of Egypt. The new Pharaoh will also want to kill Moses. God did not have to wait until the Pharaoh was dead. God could have protected Moses from the previous Pharaoh just as he will protect him from this Pharaoh as things heat up. God is not saying ‘go, because now it is safe.’ What God is saying to Moses is ‘It has already begun. I have already begun to execute judgment on Egypt. The Pharaoh that ordered the male children thrown in the river is dead. The men who wanted to kill you are dead. I have already begun to punish the Egyptians for their crimes. Go, because I have already begun to act.’

Moses is finally obeying. Moses packs up his sons and his wife and heads to Egypt. Notice it says ‘sons’. We have heard about Gershom, because his name means ‘stranger’ or ‘sojourner’. We won’t hear about Eliezer until chapter 18:4. The biblical narrative is focused on a point, so often details that we are curious about are left out because they don’t contribute to the theological message. What is important is that Moses took the staff of God in his hand. The shepherd’s staff that was in his hand when he met God in the wilderness has now become God’s staff. God told Moses to throw it on the ground, and the power of God performed a mighty sign with it. Moses is now going with the authority of another. If the Pharaoh of Egypt asked you to deliver a message and gave you his staff, you carry his authority on your errand. Moses is carrying a shepherd’s staff, which has become a symbol of God’s authority. He now carries God’s divine signature and acts as his representative. We too, carry God’s authority and represent him to the world we live in.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

God gives Moses some final instructions and prepares him in advance for what is going to happen.

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

God had already told Moses that the Israelites would listen to him, but the Pharaoh would not listen.

3:18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

Now God gives Moses the explicit instruction that he must do the miracles before unbelieving Pharaoh as well as the believing Israelites. Why? Why do miracles that we already know ahead of time will not be listened to? Why waste the effort? God here tells us how he knows that the king of Egypt will not let the people go. God claims responsibility. God says ‘I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’ God is demonstrating his absolute control over this situation. The Pharaoh will resist for as long as I want him to resist, and when the time comes, I will break down his resistance and cause him to let the people go. The mighty king of Egypt is reduced to a plaything in the hands of Almighty God.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

God will increase the resistance of this king so that he can increase the display of his might. God will cause the unreasonable stubbornness in the Pharaoh so that he can demonstrate the supremacy of his glory over all the gods of the Egyptians. God, not Pharaoh is in control of every detail of this situation. God is announcing ahead of time that none of this is an afterthought. The ten plagues were not increasing attempts to convince the Pharaoh. It is not as if God is saying ‘Well, that didn’t work. Why don’t we try this? Maybe this will be enough to convince him.’ In chapter 3, God said “I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go” [3:20]. In chapter 4, God is telling Moses how he can predict that the Pharaoh won’t give in after the first 3 or 4 plagues. He won’t give in because I will make him stubborn. I control how long he will resist.

We might at this point be inclined to utter the ‘F’ word: That’s not fair! God shouldn’t violate the poor little Pharaoh’s will like that! It just doesn’t seem fair! Who are you O sinner to cry out to the Almighty for justice? Do you know what you are asking for? This is not a case of God unfairly manipulating a neutral and innocent party. Pharaoh is a sinner who has rebelled against God and his ways. He worships idols and demons in place of the one true God; he even believes himself to be the incarnation of the gods, he expects the worship of his subjects, and he is richly deserving of God’s just wrath. The fact that he is still allowed to breathe God’s air is evidence of God’s patient mercy on him.

19 times in the narrative Pharaoh’s heart is described as being hardened. 10 times God takes responsibility and says that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. 3 times it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. 6 times it simply describes Pharaoh’s heart as being hardened. Which is true? God claims to be the cause of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart. But we do not have an innocent neutral party who is supernaturally strong-armed against his own will to do and be something he would never on his own do or be. Even the language of ‘hardening’ implies a prior inclination or disposition that is sovereignly made resolute. Pharaoh is morally responsible for his own choices and actions, and he will be held accountable. God is accountable to his own nature and character for his decision to give or withhold mercy from a sinner deserving of wrath.

Paul uses God’s hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart in Romans 9 as an illustration of his sovereign freedom over his creation to do with it what pleases him. God has every right to exercise his justice on unrepentant sinners and display his wrath and power, so that he can display the riches of his glory in his mercy on sinners.

We asked ‘why perform miracles in front of someone who we already know will not believe?’ At least part of the answer to this question is in the dual purpose of the gospel message. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Part of the effect of the proclamation of truth is to increase the level of accountability of those who have heard and rejected the message. To some the good news brings life; to others it is the fragrance of death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

God is being explicitly up front and clear with Pharaoh where the consequences of his choices will carry him.

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

This is the first time in the bible that Israel is referred to as God’s son. Up front, God is declaring exactly where this contest will climax. The issue in the exodus is to whom does Israel belong. Israel has been serving the Pharaoh. God says ‘let my son go that he may serve me’. God is declaring his relationship to Israel. Up to this point, God had promised to bless them, to make them into a great nation, to bless all nations through them, even to have his presence be with them. But now he is saying something more. God is declaring his relationship with his people. He says ‘they are my firstborn son.’ They have all the rights and privileges and responsibilities that a firstborn son has. This concept carries the idea of intimate relationship, love, nurture, care, commitment, protection, affection, friendship; there would be an expectation of training, of discipline, an expectation of honor and respect, obedience, service. Hosea points us to this intimacy of relationship between God and his people.

Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew sees Jesus as the perfect fulfillment of this ideal father-son relationship.

Matthew 2: 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

This is what God said about Jesus in Matthew 3:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (c.f. Matthew 17:5)

God is saying to Pharaoh, ‘you are messing with someone that is very dear to me.’ What I find very informative is the justice of the consequence that God declares. He does not say ‘if you keep my firstborn as your servant I will take your firstborn as my servant.’ Why doesn’t he say that? That would seem just. If I take your son, you can take my son. But the nearness of God is the reward. Separation from God is equivalent to death. To prevent Israel from worshiping God is equivalent to taking their life. God is real life. Worship is what we were designed for. To be in the presence of God is genuine fulfillment and joy.

The meaning of the exodus is not the liberation of slaves. Freedom is not the ultimate goal of the exodus. The purpose of the exodus is transfer of a possession to its rightful owner. The question is a question of masters – who does Israel belong to? Whom should Israel serve? God says ‘let my son go that he may serve me.’ Service or worship of God is the goal. Autonomy is not the goal. I am not set free to be my own god. Christ redeemed us so that we would be included in his relationship to God as obedient sons to a gracious father.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Galatians 4: 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

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

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment