PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted By Satan

03/11_2Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted by Satan ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180311_2cor2_10-11.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul is talking about why he did not come as planned, why he wrote them a letter instead. He defends his clear conscience, how he is working with them in everything to pursue their joy. He wrote a letter that caused them sorrow, but even in that he is pursing their joy, and it was an expression of his abundant love for them. The context here is an issue of church discipline. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, he addressed a situation of immorality in the church that rather than dealing with the church was priding itself in. He demanded that the guilty party who refused to receive correction be expelled from the church.

Last time we looked at church discipline for your joy; we looked at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, the process of, the heart behind and the goal of church discipline. Jesus and Paul both teach that church discipline is for joy; for the joy of the one disciplined, for the joy of the church, for the joy of God. He is pursuing our greatest good; so that we will find joy not in the counterfeit pleasures of sin, but in the genuine and eternal enjoyment of God himself.

In this passage we will see that we have an enemy, an enemy to our joy.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This passage tells us some really important things. It tells us that we have an enemy. It tells us that he has an agenda. And it tells us how to defeat him.

We Have an Enemy

Jesus warned of an enemy. He told Peter “behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk.22:31). Jesus warned his disciples to watch and “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk.22.40, cf. Mt.26:41). Later, Peter wrote

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter understood he had an adversary. And this adversary is bent on our destruction. He demanded to have Peter, to thresh him out. Peter knew from first hand experience that he had an enemy, the power of his enemy, the ferocity and intent of his enemy. The name Satan is a Hebrew word that means adversary; and devil means accuser or slanderer. Revelation 12:10 celebrates the day when “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan, the chief prosecuting attorney, stands day and night accusing us before the throne of God. He seeks our eternal destruction. Jesus thought it was important for Peter to know that he had an enemy, and who his enemy was.

We understand from places like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, that Satan was an angel, a personal created being of the highest order, who became proud and rebelled against God, seeking to become equal to God. From places like Revelation 12 we understand that he led a third of God’s angels astray in his rebellion, who are commonly referred to as demons.

It is important to keep in mind that while God is the triune uncreated creator of everything, all powerful and unrestrained by time or place, Satan is a single created being, who is limited by both time and space, and who is limited in knowledge. Charles Simeon, who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years until his death in 1836, put it this way; “It must not be forgotten, that, though we speak of Satan as one, he has millions of other spirits at his command, all cooperating with him with an activity inconceivable, and an energy incessant. …Hence, though Satan is limited both as to space and knowledge, he is, by his agents, in every part of the globe, receiving information from them, and exercising rule by means of them: and hence his devices, founded on such a combination of wisdom, and carried into effect by such an union of power, become so manifold as to exceed what on any other supposition would have been within the power of any finite creature to devise and execute.” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

We have an enemy; an enemy so powerful that even “the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, …did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).

Satan’s Designs

And this enemy is bent on our destruction. Paul’s goal in naming our adversary in this passage is ‘so that we would not be outwitted by Satan’ This word translated ‘outwitted‘ is a verb derived from the noun ‘covetousness‘ or ‘greed.’ This word shows up 4 other times in the New Testament, three in 2 Corinthians (2Cor.7:2; 12:17,18), each translated ‘take advantage of,’ in the sense of financial defrauding or ripping someone off. This word also shows up in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the context of sexual immorality; that we are not to sin against or take advantage of a brother. We are not to use one another as objects to satisfy our cravings. This is what Satan seeks to do; to defraud us, to rip us off, to take advantage of us, to use us at our expense for his own pleasure.

Jesus warned in John 10, in the context of vulnerable sheep and the danger of false shepherds and wolves and thieves, himself being the good shepherd,

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came for our joy, to give us life, abundant life. He came to give us life at the cost of his own. The enemy comes to rip us off, to defraud us, to take advantage of us, to use us and then throw us away.

The word in 1 Peter 5:8 translated ‘devour,’ “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 2:7 “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is a graphic word; literally it means to drink down, to gulp down, to be swallowed up by. We see a vivid illustration of this in Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority.

Numbers 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This is what our enemy is out to do. He is out to swallow us up. And Paul warns that if the congregation doesn’t turn and forgive and comfort the repentant sinner, he might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

Satan is crafty. Later in this book (11:14) we learn that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” He tricks us into thinking we are doing what is best. The church was reluctant to take action on this matter of sin in the church. No doubt they were celebrating God’s amazing grace, which has the power to overcome even the darkest sin. They had been tricked into thinking that by tolerating sin they were highlighting God’s grace. Now finally, they had zealously obeyed. They were displaying God’s justice. And they were looking for Paul’s confirmation or affirmation of their disciplinary action. Rather Paul says ‘confirm’ or ‘reaffirm’ your love for him.

Simeon again says: “whole Churches are often grievously distracted by this powerful adversary. Where Christ is sowing wheat, he will be active in sowing tares. …If we neglect to purge out the old leaven, the whole lump will soon be leavened: and if with too indiscriminate a hand we attempt to pluck up the tares, we may root up also much of the wheat along with it. We are in danger on every side… ” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

How Not to Be Defrauded by Satan

We have an enemy. He is real, he is personal, he is powerful. And he is out to swallow us up, to steal our joy, to destroy us. What do we do? How can we guard against being ripped off and taken advantage of by our accuser and adversary? Look at Paul’s instruction here.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

How are we not outsmarted by Satan? There are two extremes to avoid. The first, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians 5, is to not take sin seriously. He confronts them over their boast of being accepting and non-judgmental; their tolerance of sin; their failure to call sin sin and confront it. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Are we willing to confess, to say what God says about our sin? Are we willing to take it seriously? Sin will send you to hell; sin is why Jesus had to die; sin is what Jesus came to rescue us out of. To say to Jesus, ‘no, we actually like it here’ is to reject his salvation.

The second extreme is what he deals with here in 2 Corinthians. Do we uproot the wheat with the tares? We may come down hard on sin, but is it with the Shepherd’s heart of restoration? Do we know how to forgive? To reaffirm our love?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says to hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan there is instrument of judgment to bring about his ultimate salvation on the day of the Lord.

Here in 2 Corinthians, unforgiveness allows Satan to rip off the body of Christ. The one who is being corrected is in danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow if he is not welcomed back in.

I have to ask here, what does this tell us about the body of Christ? Is this an understanding we have? Would it be devastating for you if you were disconnected from the body of believers? Are you overwhelmed by excessive sorrow if you are unable to gather with the saints for a few Sundays? Is your connection with your brothers and sisters your lifeline? This whole passage seems a bit foreign and obscure to us because of how so many view the church. It’s just a casual take it or leave it acquaintance. ‘I was up a little late last night; I had a busy week; I needed a down day; I just wasn’t feeling it.’

If you were told that because of your persistence in sin and refusal to listen to loving correction that you couldn’t come to church, would you be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow? Or would you say ‘good riddance, I don’t want to be around you judgmental types anyway’ and after a few scathing posts on social media you go find a church that is more ‘accepting’?

Why are we not desperate for fellowship, hungry to hear God’s word, longing to worship together with the saints, eager to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? What are we missing?

There is danger of being defrauded by Satan. There is danger for the one being corrected. The danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

There is danger for the Apostle and each individual in the church. If anyone refuses to forgive, if anyone harbors bitterness, that bitterness will eat you alive, and Satan wins.

There is danger for the entire church body. Satan seeks to divide and conquer. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we make the sinner out to be the enemy, we lose.

And there is danger for our community, that they would miss hearing the message of the gospel. That comes up in the next verses, and I plan to look at that next week.

Forgiveness and Grace

What is Paul’s remedy? How do we avoid being taken advantage of by Satan? Forgive. This is fascinating. There are two main word groups for forgiveness in the New Testament. The most common word group is ἀφίημι (v.) or ἄφεσις (n.). This word group has a range of meanings from ‘release, allow, permit, let’ (35x) to ‘leave’ (58x), even ‘divorce, forsake, abandon’ (5x), and ‘forgive’ (62x). From this range of meanings, we see it carries the meaning of forgiveness in the sense of releasing from a debt or obligation. It is a more passive term; let it go. That is not the term used here.

The word for forgiveness here in 2 Corinthians 2 is the word χαρίζομαι (v.) from the noun χάρις which is the common New Testament word for grace. This word is used 11 times for ‘give, grant, freely give’ and a dozen times for ‘forgive’. It is a much more active, positive term; extend grace, positive favor. One commentator says: “forgiveness must give, not merely take away. God has extended grace toward us, so forgiveness must be a fundamental aspect of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the extension of grace to one another” [Guthrie, BECNT, p.134].

Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he had already passed judgment as if he were present. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he had already forgiven; that he had already extended grace.

How do we escape being ripped off by Satan? Forgive. Extend God’s grace, undeserved grace toward others, even toward those who have wronged you.

Do we have the heart of the Father toward his prodigal son? Are we watching, eagerly looking for, expectantly and prayerfully awaiting his return? Do we run out to meet him and embrace him with forgiveness, with God’s grace? Are we quick to clothe him, restore him, kill the fatted calf and celebrate? When that which is lost is found it is a time for rejoicing!

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

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March 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2; Glory to God in the Highest

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121216_glory-to-god.mp3

12/16 Advent: Luke 2:11-20 Glory to God

Lord willing, we are going to take this week and the next to examine the first hymn celebrating the birth of Jesus that was ever sung. It goes like this:

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This hymn is packed with meaning, and I pray it will help focus our priorities as we seek to worship Jesus.

Let’s get some background to this night. In 63 B.C., the Roman General Pompey conquered Jerusalem and entered the Jewish temple. Jerusalem was now under Roman occupation. By 27 B.C., General Octavian, an adopted son of Julius Caesar, had risen to power in the empire and received the title ‘Augustus’, or ‘the illustrious one’, a title of divinity. The promised land is in the hands of the Gentiles. The emperor is revered as a god. The pax romana or Roman Peace is enforced by military might. Herod the Great, a suspicious and bloody ruler, has been appointed by Rome to rule over Israel. Luke tells us:

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Caesar Augustus decided that the entire Roman world should be registered. It was tax time. This forced Joseph and Mary to travel the 70 or 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When the time came for Mary to give birth, there was no room for them in the guest chamber. Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in an animal’s feed trough.

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Shepherds

Shepherds were not well respected in this day. Because of the nature of their work, they were considered ceremonially unclean and excluded from religious activities. Sheep are stupid helpless animals that need constant supervision and protection. A shepherd’s job would be to lead the sheep to safe places of pasture, to keep them from wandering into danger, to protect them from thieves and predators. Thieves and many of their natural predators would come out at night, so the hours of darkness would be especially critical for keeping careful watch. It is to this unsuspecting audience in the darkness of the Judean countryside that the lights were turned on. The text says

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

An Angel Appeared

An angel appeared. That in itself is a terrifying experience. When messengers of God show up to people, there is reason to be afraid, because we are faced with our own guilt. Sometimes the message of the angel is “Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me” (Num.22:32). There is good reason to be very afraid, because we know that in one night, one angel slaughtered 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (2Ki.19:35). When David sinned in numbering the people, one angel struck down 70,000 men with pestilence (1Chr.21:14-16). The biblical accounts of the appearance of a heavenly messenger in visible form to humans often results in paralyzing fear, and the inclination to worship. This is no different. The shepherds were filled with fear. They were not just a little bit afraid; they were filled with fear. If we translate the language literally, we get ‘they feared with great fear’. But it was not only the presence of the angel (as if that wasn’t enough!) that filled them with fear. The text says that ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’.

The Glory of the Lord

What does this mean? The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. The Old Testament term for glory refers to the weightiness, the heaviness or gravity of the presence of the Lord. Moses longed to behold the glory of God.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Unmediated exposure to the glory of God for even the holiest of humans would mean death. At Mount Sinai,

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.

God’s glory was revealed in cloud and devouring fire. God intended to dwell with his people. He gave instructions for his tent to be constructed, and when it was assembled,

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. …38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

Once Israel was finally in the promised land, when Solomon finished building a permanent place for God’s presence to dwell,

2 Chronicles 7:1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

But the people did not remain faithful to the Lord. Their hearts went after other gods and committed spiritual adultery. As God warned, he sent them into captivity and his glory departed from his temple

Ezekiel 10:4 And the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. …18 Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.

Ezekiel 11:23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.

The glory had departed. Israel went into Babylonian captivity. The Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539BC, and Cyrus the Persian commissioned many Israelites to returned to the land and rebuild the temple in 538 BC, but we are never told that God’s glory returned. For about 600 years of Jewish history, God’s glory was absent. God’s glory had departed.

And then, in the dark of an unknown night in the Judean countryside among a group of unsuspecting shepherds, the glory of the Lord blazed out in radiant splendor! Something awesome is happening!

Good News of Great Joy for All the People

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

An angel shows up and the weightiness an holiness of the glory of the Lord flashes forth, and these shepherds became acutely aware of how far they fall short. But this angel did not come in judgment. He came with good news. The glory of the Lord had returned! Good news of great joy that will be for all the people! Even these dirty shepherds! A savior is born to you! Good news! Your great fear will be turned to great joy. One has been born who will save you from your sins! He is the promised Davidic King, he is the Messiah, the Anointed One, and he is the Lord, YHWH God himself. This is the sign to you shepherds. This is how you will know that he has come even for you. You will find this newborn King, the promised Messiah, YHWH in the flesh, lying in a feeding trough for animals. He has fully immersed himself in your daily existence. He has identified with you shepherds. He is born to you, for you.

Glory to God

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This is unprecedented in all of biblical history, except back before time began, when the Lord laid the foundation of the earth,

Job 38:7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

No man ever before has had this privilege of being the audience for the gathered armies of heaven in worship to their King. This staggers the imagination. When we think of the awesome power of even one of these created beings, and read the biblical descriptions of some of these fantastic creatures in Isaiah and Ezekiel’s visions, to imagine innumerable ranks of angelic creatures breaking into unrestrained praise of their great God is more that we can comprehend. What these simple shepherds experienced was truly out of this world!

It would be wise to pay attention to what the angels said. They gave praise to God, because that is what angels are created to do. Notice where they start. They don’t start with a message of peace among men. That is an important message, and they will get to that. But that is second. It is not first. The salvation of humans takes second place to the glory of God. Humans, like angels and all the rest of creation, were created to bring glory to God. That is the primary purpose of everything. That is why we exist. We were created to glorify God. We have failed miserably. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That was the sin of Satan. He was not content to give glory to God; he wanted to be like God and get glory for himself. That was the lie of Satan to our first parents in the garden, that rather than be content to give glory to God, you can be like God, and get glory for yourself. We failed to give God the glory he deserves. Rather, we dishonored God, robbed him of worship, and treated him with ingratitude and contempt. That is what Jesus came to restore. Jesus came to elevate the glory of God back to its rightful place. Jesus said in John 7:18 that he ‘seeks the glory of him who sent him’.

Even Lazarus’ death was designed to bring glory to God.

John 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Jesus taught us to live in such a way,

Matthew 5:16 … so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus’ goal was to seek the honor of his Father. The Father was seeking to glorify his Son.

John 8:49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. …54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

The angels praised ‘Glory in the highest to God!’ What was this highest glory? In what way would God be magnified in Jesus?

John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus connects his glory with a seed going into the earth and dying in order to bear much fruit. The hour had come for Jesus to be glorified, and to bring glory to his Father. He was looking to the hour of his death by crucifixion, and he says ‘for this purpose I have come’. Jesus came, God the Son took on a body of human flesh, so that he could bring glory to God in his death. After Judas the betrayer left,

John 13:31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

Jesus aim was to bring glory to God.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son are one. Jesus connected the way he would bring glory to the Father with giving eternal life to all the Father gave to him. He defined eternal life in terms of relationship; knowing God and Jesus Christ. Jesus would bear much fruit and so glorify his Father like a seed, by dying. He would secure eternal life for his followers by dying in their place. He would bring them into relationship with him, into the presence of his glory. He would pay the deep debt of dishonor we owe to God, and restore us to a place where we can live lives that bring glory to God.

Philippians 2:3 …in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Glory to God in the highest! The angels sang Glory to God in the highest! You and I and the angels and everything were created to bring him glory. Let us live lives that magnify and put on display our great God!

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

December 16, 2012 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:10-22; Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120304_exodus25_10-22.mp3

3/4 Exodus 25:10-22 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

We are in Exodus 25. We are entering now the holiest place. God has rescued and redeemed his people, brought them to himself, entered into a covenant relationship with them, and now he is giving them the gift of his presence. As King and Commander, he will pitch his tent in the middle of their camp. In God’s instructions for the building of his dwelling place, this replica of what is in heaven, he starts with the things that are closest to him, things that most immediately represent his presence. Today we enter the very throne room of God and look at the first two pieces of furniture; the container and its cover.

Exodus 25:10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

And then in Exodus 37 we see these things built to specification.

Exodus 37:1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 2 And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3 And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. 6 And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.

The Chest

The most important piece of furniture in God’s tent was this box and its lid. The word translated ‘ark’ means simply a chest, a box or a container. In Genesis 50 this same Hebrew word is used to refer to the box or coffin that Joseph’s body was placed in.

This word is also used in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24 of a chest with a hole in its lid used as a collection box for money. The ‘ark’ in the tabernacle also serves as a container; God tells Moses in verse 16 to put into this box ‘the testimony that I shall give you.’ The box was to contain the two tablets of stone inscribed with the requirements of the covenant. It was a testimony or witness of the covenant relationship between God and his people. This chest is referred to as ‘the ark of the testimony’ or ‘the ark of the covenant’. We could think of it as the container or ‘safe’ holding the official documentation of the contract between God and his people laid up in the most holy place.

A ‘cubit’ is the distance from the tip of your fingers to your elbow; about 18” long, so this chest was to be about 3′ 9” long; 2′ 3” wide and 2′ 3” tall. The box was to be overlaid with gold inside and out. It was to have a gold molding around it, and it was to have gold feet with gold rings to receive the two gold covered poles. These would serve as handles by which to carry the box, so that no one would touch the box directly. This was King David’s mistake, when he first attempted to bring the ark into the city of Jerusalem, he put it on a cart pulled by oxen. This cost Uzzah his life; when the oxen stumbled and he touched the ark, God was angry and struck him down for his error (2Sam.6; 1Ch.13). This box was holy, set apart, not to be touched by human hands. Later, (Num.4:5-6) we find that the ark was rarely ever to be seen by human eyes; whenever the tabernacle was packed up and moved, the ark was to be wrapped with the veil, then goatskin, and then a blue cloth.

Numbers 4:5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles.

This box, containing God’s commandments for his people was only part of this piece of furniture. The other part was its lid. Here it is called ‘the mercy seat’. This cover for the box was an elaborate thing, dimensioned to fit on top of the chest, but made of pure gold, with a winged angelic being formed at both ends.

The Cherubim

The angelic beings are called ‘cherubim’. We first meet the cherubs or cherubim in Genesis chapter 3. God had planted a garden, full of every good thing. There he placed the man and the woman he had created. He blessed them and entrusted the garden into their care. This was to be a place where God would manifest his presence, where God would fellowship with his very good creatures. This garden, if you will, was designed by God to be a temple where the man and woman could enjoy his presence, walking with them in the cool of the day. God gave them every good thing for their pleasure. He placed on them only one restriction; one tree was not to be eaten of under consequence of death. The man and the woman rejected God’s authority and chose to follow Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth. They severed their relationship with God. They could no longer enjoy his presence, but hid in fear. Their sin separated them from the holy God (Is.59:2). It says:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cherubim were awesome angelic guardians protecting the presence of God. We find the most detailed description of cherubim in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 1:4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Many scholars think these creatures resemble a sphinx-like composite creature. Depictions have been found from Egypt to Babylon to Israel dating back to the 12th century B.C., giving ideas of how they might have been portrayed.

In several places in scripture God is seen as enthroned on or above the cherubim (2Ki.19:15; Ps.18:10; 80:1; 99:1; Is.37:16; Ezek.9:3; cf. 2Sam.22:11).

Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

This is what we see reflected in the design of the cover for the ark.

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

God is not represented by the cherubim; that would be prohibited by his second commandment. God makes his presence known above and between. The outstretched wings of the cherubim serve as God’s throne.

The Cover

These angelic figures are part of what is translated as the ‘mercy seat’ in the KJV and ESV. The NIV translates ‘atonement cover’; it was translated by Wycliffe as ‘propitiatory’. The Hebrew word כפרת[kapporeth] is derived from כפר[kaphar] which means to cover over, propitiate, or atone. The name comes from the function this cover will play on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. …11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

God made a covenant with his people. He knew they could not perfectly keep the terms of this covenant. So with the covenant, he provided a way for sins to be forgiven. God, enthroned above the cherubim, looks down on the covenant documents that his people promised to obey. They have transgressed his law. The wages of sin is death. Then sacrificial blood is applied to the lid that covers the law. A death has occurred to meet the just conditions of the covenant. God sees that the violated covenant has been covered by the blood and he is satisfied. Their sins are paid for and they are clean. The Hebrew word means to cover. Our English word ‘atonement’ points to the result of sins being covered. It comes from the phrase at – one – ment; harmony, unity, a reconciled relationship. Because our sins are covered, we can enjoy a favorable relationship with our covenant God.

The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used the word ιλαστηριον [hilasterion] to translate the Hebrew word for mercy seat or atonement. This is the Greek word the author of Hebrews uses for the mercy seat.

Hebrews 9:5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

This same word is translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

A closely related word [ιλασμος] appears in 1 John

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus is our atonement cover. His death satisfies God’s just wrath that our sins deserve. His sacrifice opens the way for God to be propitious or favorable toward us. He restores harmony and brings true reconciliation between God and man. This is what the author of Hebrews points us to when he contrasts the high priest of the Old Testament with Jesus, our greater High Priest.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 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. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus death on the cross was the final fulfillment that the sacrificial system was pointing toward. Jesus’ sacrifice of himself once for all covered the law that we violated from God’s sight. No longer do we need a human priest to go in to God’s presence for us. No longer are we excluded from God’s presence because of our sin. Our sin was finally and forever nailed to his cross. Jesus is our great and final High Priest. At his crucifixion, the curtain barring us from the holiest place was ripped from top to bottom.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

No longer is the law written on tablets of stone and laid up in a box in the heart of the sanctuary.

Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are God’s temple, God’s people, his law is written on our hearts.

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

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:10-12

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080928_1peter_1_10-12.mp3

9/28 1 Peter 1:10-12 what prophets and angels long to know

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 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.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1: 10 peri hv swthriav exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan profhtai oi peri thv eiv umav caritov profhteusantev 11 eraunwntev eiv tina h poion kairon edhlou to en autoiv pneuma cristou promarturomenon ta eiv criston payhmata kai tav meta tauta doxav 12 oiv apekalufyh oti ouc eautoiv umin de dihkonoun auta a nun anhggelh umin dia twn euaggelisamenwn umav pneumati agiw apostalenti ap ouranou eiv a epiyumousin aggeloi parakuqai

Peter is addressing Christians who are being persecuted for following Jesus. They are experiencing trials. They have been ostracized in their communities. And Peter is writing them a brief letter

1 Peter 5:12 …exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter wants to see them stand firm in the true grace of God in spite of the trials. So first, he has acknowledged their alien status in their communities. They are exiles, aliens, sojourners. But then he points them to their status in God’s eyes. They are choice, precious, elect. The triune God is at work in them to secure their future hope. And this leads him into doxology – giving praise to God. He says ‘blessed be God’. And his blessing or praise has three parts. In verses 3-5 he finds the foundation for praise in our new birth which God brought about and which brings us into an inheritance that is kept securely for us and we by God’s power are being securely kept for it. Verses 6-9 point to the purpose of our present experiences. In this salvation, our new birth and future hope, we rejoice while at the same time we are grieved by trials, because we know the trials are a necessary part of our salvation. Trials prove our faith to be genuine. Our genuine faith is displayed by our love for Jesus, our trust in Jesus, our inexpressible joy in spite of our struggles. That joy in Jesus is an expression of worship or praise. And now in verses 10-12, we are pointed to the greatness of our salvation in contrast to the experience of prophets, evangelists, and even angels as fuel for our worship.

So in verse 10 he refers us back to ‘this salvation’. This is the salvation he mentioned at the end of verse 9; ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’. Salvation is a word we as Christians throw around a lot. I think it will benefit us greatly to pause and contemplate what we mean by the words we use. Salvation, or being ‘saved’ has two aspects; what we are saved from and what we are saved for. Let me illustrate these two aspects by using the word in different sentences. ‘The firefighter broke through my bedroom window and carried me down the ladder, saving me from the blaze that engulfed my house.’ Or ‘I am saving every extra penny for our vacation to Hawaii’. Or a young woman might say ‘I am saving myself for marriage’. In the first, there is a danger that would destroy us that we are rescued from. In the second, something or someone is being kept for a higher purpose, rather than being wasted. Both of these concepts are carried by the word ‘salvation’. Implicit in the word itself is the concept of being saved from a danger that would destroy us – elsewhere in scripture we find the danger identified as the wrath of God or hell, death, and the power of sin. We deserve to suffer under the fury of the Almighty because of our sins. Salvation means we are rescued from that coming punishment and escape out from under the penalty of our sins. Peter focuses our attention in the context more on the other side of salvation; we are kept from wasting our life because there is something so much better to spend it on. We are being saved from the attraction of the world and from wasting our life serving the devil and and for our great inheritance.

Salvation is at the center of the good news message. The good news answers the cry ‘what must I do to be saved?’ and the good news answer is ‘believe on the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 16:30-31). Salvation is not your own doing – it is something that is done to you. The firefighter came crashing through your window and woke you up and carried you down the ladder. Your money doesn’t save itself up for your vacation. By a conscious act of the will it has to be set aside for that purpose. Salvation is ‘by grace through faith’ (Eph. 2:8). Peter has explained the ‘by grace’ part of salvation when he describes his readers as ‘those who are elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit’. And he points to the ‘through faith’ part when he says ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. He points to the ‘by grace’ part when he says that it was God’s great mercy that caused us to be born again’ and the ‘through faith’ part when he says you ‘are being guarded through faith for a salvation’ and in spite of not seeing Jesus you love and trust and rejoice in him, and obtain ‘the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’.

It is this salvation of his readers that he has talked about in the first nine verses of his letter that he now points to as the topic of inquiry for prophets and angels. This salvation is also called ‘the grace that was to be yours’. We could describe our salvation, our rescue from judgment and for an inheritance simply as God’s grace extended in our direction. Literally he says ‘the to you grace’. It is undeserved kindness intended for you. The grace that you are right now experiencing from God was the topic of careful search and inquiry of all the prophets who prophesied. Peter is looking back over the entire Old Testament revelation and saying that the grace of God you are experiencing today is the focal point of it all. We learn some things about our bible from these verses. We learn how to use it, where it came from, what its central message is, and what it is meant to do.

I take the instruction on how to use the bible from the phrase ‘searched and inquired carefully’. In the Greek original, the phrase is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘, two words that sound similar and have very similar meanings to give emphasis to the intensity of their search. ‘exezhthsan‘ indicates an intensive search or investigation that considers the matter from every point of view. ‘exhraunhsan‘ indicates a search for something that is hidden. These words are not passive. They indicate strenuous effort and persistent mental exertion. The prefix of both words is ‘ek‘ which means ‘out of’. There are treasures buried in scripture that are waiting for us to exert the effort to get them out. We don’t come to the text bringing our treasures and ideas and try to plant them there. Instead we come with our tools and try to uncover what is really there, waiting to be discovered. If the prophets themselves made such careful search and inquiry into their own prophecies, should we not do the same? Some people might ask why we have spent five weeks on only 12 verses of 1 Peter, examining each phrase and looking behind the English translation to the Greek original. My reply is ‘exezhthsan kai exhraunhsan‘! God spoke to us. He preserved his word for us. He gave us the tools we need. He gave us a brain and the capacity for curiosity and investigation. Doesn’t God’s word deserve our careful attention?

I take the source and character of the bible from the phrase in verse 11 ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. The Spirit of the Messiah, or the Holy Spirit, was revealing or indicating or making known. ‘Prophets who prophesied’ is explained and expanded by ‘the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating’. What the prophets wrote was not mere opinion or political commentary on life in ancient Israel. It was God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, making truth known to them. Peter describes the source of prophecy in 2 Peter 1:21:

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul describes it this way:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God…

The author of Hebrews quoted the Old Testament by saying:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, …

Hebrews 9:8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that …

So scripture is God’s Holy Spirit through the prophet communicating to us. But what is he communicating?

I see the central message or content of the bible indicated by what the prophets were making careful search and inquiry about. It was ‘concerning this salvation’, and they ‘prophesied about the grace that was to be yours’. But what was it that they wanted to know? It says in verse 11 ‘inquiring what person or time’; they understood salvation by grace through faith. They wanted to know when. What would be the time and circumstances of the Christ? Or who would fulfill the office of Messiah? Later in the verse, it says that ‘he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories’. The central theme of all of revelation is God’s grace in our salvation; displayed in the sufferings of Christ and his glories. This is what Jesus pointed out to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

By the example of the prophets, we are encouraged to search and inquire diligently into the biblical text; we understand that the bible is God’s Holy Spirit communicating to us; we see that the central theme and the unifying message of the entire bible is God’s grace in our salvation displayed by the suffering and subsequent glories of Jesus, and in verse 12 we see the purpose of prophecy. Prophecy was not primarily for the prophets. Prophecy was not even primarily for the people to whom the prophets prophesied. Prophecy’s primary purpose was for you! ‘It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you’. The Old Testament was written with you in mind!

Romans 4:23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also…

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 9:10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake…

Listen to how the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament heroes and prophets:

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–– 38 of whom the world was not worthy––wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

We get a glimpse into this wrestling and struggling of the prophets to understand their prophecies when we look at Daniel:

Daniel 7:15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things.

Daniel 8:15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” …19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. …26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” 27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 12:8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

So be encouraged, Christian reader, as you stand in awe of the faithful saints of the bible, that they were serving not themselves but you! The prophets of old served you with their prophecy and now Peter brings it up to date and says that the apostles and evangelists also serve you ‘in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’. The things the prophets diligently searched and inquired into but could not understand, have now been declared to you through those who preached the gospel. This sheds some light on the role of the evangelist. God is announcing his good news through the preacher. And the preacher is not preaching in his own power. He preaches ‘by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

Suffering Christian, be encouraged. You are the focal point of God’s redemptive plan. The prophets desperately wanted to know what you now understand. God has hidden it from them and revealed it to you. He has empowered apostles and evangelists to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to you. And not only prophets and evangelists, but also the angels. Peter throws in this provocative phrase at the end of his doxology: ‘things into which angels long to look.’ I wish we had more time to talk about angels. We learn from texts like Psalm 148:2-5, Nehemiah 9:6 and Colossians 1:16 that angels are created beings. They were created as angels and always will remain angels. They are spirit beings who are a different class of being from humans and animals and plants. Hebrews 1:13-14 tells us that angels serve God by ministering to us for our benefit.

Hebrews 1:13-14 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Angels are similar to us in that they are personal moral beings that were created with the capacity to love and serve God or to rebel and disobey. Jude verse 6 tells us that some rebelled against God. Peter tells us

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

God apparently did not give fallen angels a second chance. They were not spared. They are being kept until the judgment. The author of Hebrews contrasts our situation with that of angels. We too rejected God’s authority and rebelled against him and we too deserve judgment. Jesus did not become an angel. Jesus became for a little while lower than the angels so that he could taste death for mankind (Heb.2:9)

Hebrews 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Understanding the situation of angels, it is interesting to hear that angels are intensely interested in the grace of God that is extended to us. Angels only know justice. They have never experienced forgiveness. The holy angels have never sinned. They have no need of redemption. But God’s plan of salvation for human kind reveals a new facet of the glory of God’s grace. That’s why Jesus told us:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Look Michael, he took another one who was on his way to hell and made him an heir of heaven! What marvelous grace! What free and undeserved love! Angels have a holy passion to see the grace of God unfold in your life! This should cause us to treasure our salvation all the more – salvation by grace through faith in Jesus – a salvation that was prophesied by the prophets, proclaimed by preachers and displayed before angels

September 29, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment