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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 10:12-21; Not Against Flesh and Blood

10/30_Daniel 10:12-21; Not Against Flesh and Blood; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20221030_dan10_12-21.mp3

A Glimpse of the Unseen Realm

Daniel gives us a glimpse into the unseen realm. Like Balaam in Numbers 22, hired by the king of Moab to pronounce a curse over Israel; his donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the path with drawn sword. Each time the donkey turned aside, Balaam struck it. So the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and Balaam began to argue with his donkey.

Numbers 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.”

Balaam, and his donkey, are given a glimpse into the unseen realm. Like Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6, when the king of Syria discovered their location and by night surrounded them in the city of Dothan.

2 Kings 6:15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

There is more going on in our world than meets the eye. There is an unseen heavenly realm that is very real, very active, and like Balaam, like Elisha’s servant, often we are completely oblivious to what is going on right around us.

God’s Omnipresence

We believe God is omnipresent; that there is nowhere that he is not; that he is present everywhere and sees everything. David says in Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

The Lord told Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.

The Bible tells us that God is omnipresent, yet most of the time we act as if he did not even exist.

Heavenly Warrior

Daniel 10 is the introduction to the final vision of the book, chapter 11 is the main content of the revelation, and chapter 12 concludes the vision and the book. Daniel is given a glimpse of a heavenly warrior standing above the waters of the Tigris river, possibly the pre-incarnate Son of God, as his description matches many of the details of John’s vision of the resurrected Jesus in Revelation 1.

Daniel 10:5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground. 10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.

Daniel is weak, undone, utterly unable even to kneel in the presence of this heavenly warrior. He is strengthened by a touch, reminded that he is greatly loved, enabled to kneel, enabled to hear.

Michael and the Prince of Persia;

Daniel 10:12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

Fear not Daniel, God heard your words. Fear not Daniel, I have come because of your words. God sent an answer. 21 days ago God sent an answer, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood the heavenly messenger 21 days. Michael, one of the chief princes came to assist the heavenly messenger.

Who is this prince of Persia? In verse 1, Cyrus is named as king of Persia, but this one not named is called prince of Persia.

Michael is called ‘one of the chief princes’; in verse 21 he is called ‘Michael your prince’; in chapter 12:1 Michael is called ‘the great prince who has charge of your people’. In Jude v.9 he is called ‘the archangel Michael’; in Revelation 12:7 it is ‘Michael and his angels’ who fight against the dragon. So if Michael is one of the chief princes, the great prince who has charge over your people, the archangel or a chief angel, then it follows that the prince of Persia who opposed him is also an angelic authority.

Allotted to the Sons of God

In Deuteronomy we get just a hint of what might be going on. In Deuteronomy 4, God’s people are warned:

Deuteronomy 4:19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

God’s people are warned not to worship angels, the starry host of heaven. God says he has made a distinction between his people and the rest of the peoples under the whole heaven. He had allotted the host of heaven to the rest of the peoples, but Israel was to be a people of God’s own inheritance. There is some clarification in Deuteronomy 32, which speaks of:

Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

God divided mankind; it says he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. Sons of God is another description of angelic beings. Could it be that God assigned angelic beings, or ‘princes’ to rule the nations? God’s heritage, God’s own portion is the descendants of Jacob.

We know that Satan is called ‘the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience’ in Ephesians 2:2, and he offered to give Jesus all the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms of the world ‘for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will’ (Lk.4:5-6). Jesus talks of ‘the ruler of this world’ who will be cast out, who has no claim on me, who is judged (Jn.12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

It seems likely that the prince of Persia is a heavenly being given authority over Persia.

Ezekiel 28 is a lamentation over the king of Tyre, but the language seems to go far beyond what could legitimately describe any earthly king.

Ezekiel 28:12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 ​Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever.”

Not Against Flesh and Blood

We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Paul writes in Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, … 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

In Ephesians 4-6 he talks about bearing with one another, walking in unity in the church, not giving the devil opportunity in our anger, wife submitting to her own husband and husband sacrificially loving his own wife, children obeying parents, slave sincerely serving earthly master and master doing good to slaves. In our relationships in the church, in the family, in society, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Omnipotent God and 21 Days of Warfare

Here in Daniel we are given a glimpse into that unseen realm, where Jesus and his angel hosts contend against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Daniel 10:13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,

For three sevens of days Daniel set his heart to understand and humble himself before his God. Although from Daniel’s perspective it seemed like nothing was happening and no answer was coming, much was happening in the heavenly realms in answer to his prayer.

The fact that ‘the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days’ should not cause us to doubt the omnipotence of God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

God is able to do all that he pleases. No purpose of his can be thwarted (Job42:2). The messenger in Daniel 9 showed up before Daniel was done praying. So if the heavenly messenger is delayed 21 days, it is because the Lord allows it for his good and wise purposes.

Even during Jesus’ earthly ministry, he tolerated some push back from the enemy. As in Mark 9,

Mark 9:20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” … 25 …Jesus …rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Jesus was not surprised or worried or wondering what the outcome would be. He was fully in control of the situation. One day the Lord Jesus ‘will kill’ the lawless one ‘with the breath of his mouth and bring [him] to nothing by the appearance of his coming.’ (2Thes.2:8). His timing is perfect.

Strengthened for Spiritual Warfare

Daniel is undone by this encounter with the supernatural. He needed spiritual strengthening.

Daniel 10:15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” 18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on. Daniel is not seeking to identify the spiritual forces of evil. He is simply humbling himself before his God. Daniel wasn’t praying against the prince of Persia, he was praying to his God. The messenger says ‘I will fight the prince of Persia, and the prince of Greece will come. Only Michael contends by my side. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth.’ There is a great conflict, but the outcome is not uncertain. The fall of Babylon and the rise of Persia was no surprise, nor will be the fall of Persia and the rise of Greece. It is all inscribed in the book of truth. God is sovereign over the nations. God is sovereign over history. He is sovereign over the future. And you are greatly loved, so be strong and of good courage,

Victory in the Gospel:

Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. … 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

There is a spiritual battle going on in the unseen realm, but you have already been delivered from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son. Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities, he cancelled the record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the cross. Peace, do not be afraid. The victory has been won!

***

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

November 1, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 10:1-7; Mourning and a Vision of Glory

10/16_Daniel 10:1-7; Mourning and a Vision of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20221016_dan10_1-7.mp3

Context of the Book

We are in Daniel chapter 10 today.

Chapters 10-12 are a record of one final and extensive revelation given to Daniel. Chapter 10 is an introduction to the prophecy, chapter 11 includes the word itself, and chapter 12 is a conclusion to the prophecy. This is the fourth prophecy given to Daniel.

In Daniel 7, in the first year of Belshazzar, Daniel was given a dream of four fearful beasts arising from the sea. In chapter 8, in the third year of Belshazzar, Daniel was given a vision of a powerful ram, a goat and a little horn. Chapter 9, in the first year of Darius, records Daniel’s prayer and the message of the seventy sevens given to Daniel. Chapters 10-12 record the final revelation given in the third year of Cyrus (likely another name of Darius).

Daniel says:

Daniel 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

The word of revelation given to Daniel in these chapters is trustworthy. And it was a great conflict. This word can speak of great warfare or great suffering. This word has to do with great conflict, great affliction, great warfare, both on earth and in heaven.

Daniel claims to understand this vision in contrast to previous visions. In chapter 8 he sought to understand the vision, and even though he was given some understanding, by the end of the chapter he says ‘I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.’ But this doesn’t mean he understood every detail; in chapter 12 he heard but did not understand, and he is told ‘go your way, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end’ (12:8-9).

Historical Context

Daniel 10:2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river ( that is, the Tigris)

Daniel says he was mourning literally ‘for three sevens of days’ in contrast to the sevens or weeks of years in the prophecy of chapter 9. He dates this period as ending on the 24th day of the first month, which counting back 21 days would have begun on the 3rd day of the first month. The first month of the religious year was counted at the time of the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish month of Nisan or Abib (Ex.12:2-3, 6). Families were instructed to select a lamb on the 10th of the month, and sacrifice it on the 14th of the month at passover. The 14th through the 21st of the month they were to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread. So Daniel’s time of mourning went right through the passover celebration.

To put this into its historical context, Daniel and his friends were deported to Babylon in 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar returned to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in 586 BC. It was 539 BC, during the blasphemous feast in chapter 5 of the wicked Belshazzar, that Babylon fell to Cyrus the Persian (also named Darius the Mede; Dan.6:28). In the first year of Cyrus (538 BC), he issued an edict allowing return of the people of Israel to their land to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:2). It was also around this time that Daniel was thrown to the lions for praying. The following year (537), only 42,360 Jews returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64). They eagerly dedicated the altar and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in October of that year. But by the next year, 536 BC, the third year of Cyrus, the foundation of temple had still not been built. It seemed the work on the temple had come to a standstill. Now it was time to celebrate the first passover back in the land in 50 years, a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from captivity. But although they were now officially free, many preferred to remain in the comforts of Babylon.

Fasting and Mourning

So Daniel was mourning.

Daniel 10:2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

Daniel was mourning, and a common expression of grief was fasting. This was apparently not a complete fast; he abstained from delicacies, meat and wine. If he abstained from these for three weeks, it implies that his normal practice was to enjoy these good gifts from God. We saw back in chapter 1, that upon being brought to Babylon to be assimilated into Babylonian culture and religion, he had resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine. Now close to 70 years later, he was free to enjoy these good things, but for a set time he went without.

Fasting is a way to remind ourselves that God is more essential and more satisfying than food. Not much is said in the New Testament about fasting, and fasting is never commanded. Jesus fasted forty days before his temptation. When asked why his disciples did not fast, he said:

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

He was saying that the time for mourning would come, but not while he was present with them. In Matthew 6, he assumes that his followers would fast, and gives instructions on what that should and should not look like;

Matthew 6:16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

When you fast, do not do it to impress people. In Luke 18, Jesus makes a negative example of a Pharisee who boasts to God that he fasts twice a week as if that made him better than others. Jesus said ‘everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself witll be exalted.’

In Acts 13 we see the early church fasting and worshiping the Lord when they were directed to appoint Barnabas and Saul for ministry, and in Acts 14 they appointed elders in every church with prayer and fasting.

In Daniel 9, Daniel ‘turned his face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes’ as he confesses his sins and the sins of his people. And here in Daniel 10, he goes without delicacies, meat or wine, and he does not anoint himself with the usual daily hygeine as a way of mourning, humbling himself before God in prayer (v.12).

The Man Clothed in Linen?

Daniel 10:4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river ( that is, the Tigris) 5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves.

Daniel is on the bank of the Tigris river, outside of Babylon. The Euphrates flowed right through Babylon, but the Tigris came within about 20 miles of the city. Daniel is not alone, but he alone sees the vision, and those who were with him flee in fear.

What he sees is a supernatural being above the river. This one is not named, although we know it is not Michael, as he is named later in the chapter. It is likely not Gabriel, as he is introduced in chapter 8, and then when he appears again in chapter 9, he is identified as the same one Daniel had seen in the earlier vision.

He is simply described as a man clothed in linen. Gabriel is described as a man, implying human form in chapter 9, but the divine cloud rider from chapter 7 is also described as ‘one like a Son of Man.’

Linen was the clothing of priests, and it pictured holiness. White linen was the typical clothing of angels. At the transfiguration, Jesus’ clothing became white as light (Mt.17:2).

This one had a belt of fine gold around his waist. Gold is a symbol of royalty and sovereignty. Angels in Revelation 15 were clothed in pure bright linen with golden sashes.

His body was like beryl, a semi-transparent precious gem shining with glory. His face was like lightning, flashing with power. His eyes were like flaming torches, demonstrating piercing knowledge. His arms and legs gleamed like burnished bronze, symbolic of fiery judgment, like the bronze altar of burnt offering. The sound of his words was like the sound of a multitude.

This could be a description of a great unnamed angel. We have a similar description of an angel in Revelation 10;

Revelation 10:1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.

A Vision of God?

But there are also many similarities with Ezekiel’s vison of God who rides on the cherubim in Ezekiel 1.

Ezekiel 1:25 And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

But there are even more similarities with the vision given to John in Revelation 1.

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

A man / one like a son of man; clothed in linen / clothed with a long robe; with a belt of fine gold / with a golden sash; his eyes like flaming torches / his eyes like a flame of fire; his face like lightning / his face like the sun shining in full strength; his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze / his feet like burnished bronze; the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude / his voice like the roar of many waters. When Daniel saw this one, ‘no strength was left in me; I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.’ When John saw Jesus, he says ‘I fell at his feet as though dead.’

We can’t say for sure, but the imagery seems like an almost one to one match. This could be a mighty angel, but he is presented with a more graphic and symbolic description than any of the other angels in Daniel. Quite possibly this is an appearance of God the Son hundreds of years before his incarnation.

Omnipotence Receiving Help

The main objection to this is that he was detained for 21 days by the prince of Persia, and required the assistant of Michael the Archangel. If this were God himself, it seems to deny his omnipotence to say he was detained and in need of help.

Some have suggested that the one who touched Daniel and then spoke beginning in verse 10 is different from the one who was seen above the waters; that Daniel saw a vision of God, and then an angel was the one who spoke. This is possible, but there is no clear indication in the text that the one who is seen is not also the one who speaks in the rest of the chapter.

Based on this some conclude that this cannot be God appearing, but must be a great angel. But does it deny the omnipotence of God to say that Jacob wrestled with God and was allowed to prevail against him (Gen.32:24-30)? Satan is already defeated at the cross, he will be one day finally thrown down, but he is still allowed before the throne of God to accuse us day and night (Rev.12:10). But ‘we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1Jn.2:10), ‘who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us’ (Rom.8:34; Heb.7:25). Jesus is omnipotent God, he has already conquered, but he has not yet fully exercised his right. He is also patient.

Jesus in his incarnation remained fully God, retaining all the attributes of God. He was fully omnipotent, yet he refrained from turning stones to bread to satisfy himself. He became hungry, thirsty, tired and weary. He slept. He asked for a drink. He allowed others to provide for his needs.

Is it a surprise if we see Jesus, YHWH of hosts, the Captian of the Lord’s armies, personally leading his heavenly army on the offensive into enemy territory in answer to a prayer? As God, he does not need help, but would it be wrong for him to restrain his own power and accept help? God is sovereign, he does not need us, but often he chooses to work in response to our prayers. God does not need our help in evangelism, but he says:

Romans 10:14 …And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

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 does not need our help, but he chooses to allow us to participate in bringing about his purposes.

***

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

October 20, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 9:20-23; Prayer Interrupted

08/21_Daniel 09:20-23; Prayer Interrupted; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220821_dan09_20-23.mp3

A Pattern of Prayer

We’ve been listening in to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel chapter 9, learning how he prays.

Daniel 9 is a Jewish prayer from an exile in Babylon asking for the restoration of Jerusalem and God’s holy temple. We are not under the same circumstances, so we can’t pray this prayer directly, but there is much we can pattern our prayers after. Prayer ought to be born out of meditation on God’s word. Our prayers ought to be pursuing God himself, intimacy with him, not just gifts from him. Prayer ought to be directed toward the God who is, as he has revealed himself to be, not God as we imagine him to be. Our posture in prayer ought to be one of humility, acknowledging that we don’t deserve anything from God, but that he is a gracious God and delights to give good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. Daniel spends the bulk of his time confessing his sins and the sins of his nation, and affirming the righteous character of God. Yet he comes boldly, imploring God to act. We can learn to enlarge our prayers by rooting them in a pursuit of the fame of God’s name throughout the nations. When we ask that God do something for the sake of his own name, his reputation, his glory, we can be confident that we are praying according to the will of God.

Prayer Interrupted

In verses 1-3, Daniel gives the background setting of his prayer, and he starts praying in the middle of verse 4 through the end of verse 19. In verses 20-23, his prayer gets interrupted by an angelic messenger sent to give him insight and understanding.

Daniel 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Speaking in Prayer

Daniel says that it was while he was speaking and praying, while he was speaking in prayer. Do you ever struggle with losing your train of thought in prayer? Your mind wanders, you even forget altogether that you had set out to pray, and you find yourself thinking about something completely different? A simple tool that will help to maintain focus is simply to pray out loud. Or even silently mouth the words if the situation is not one where you can pray out loud. It seems that Daniel prayed aloud. How else could his adversaries prove he was praying, and to whom he was praying, if he was silently praying in his heart to the Lord? Of course the Lord knows our thoughts and can hear the cry of our hearts, but it can be helpful to us to actually verbalize our prayers. It can help immensely to keep our minds from wandering.

We also learn that Daniel wrote out his prayers. At least someone recorded this prayer because we now have it written down in our Bibles. Writing out your prayers can be another way to keep your focus and sort out your thoughts. It can also be a check on what you are asking for in prayer. Some things that I might think in my head I would think twice about if I said them out loud or wrote them down on paper.

The Angelic Interruption:

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

He Answers Before We Ask

Daniel’s prayer gets interrupted. It was while Daniel was speaking in prayer that Gabriel, the angel from the vision in chapter 8 came and interrupted his prayer. The word translated ‘came to me’ in verse 21 could also be translated ‘touched me’ as it is in similar contexts in 8:18 and in chapter 10:10 and 18. Gabriel may have actually had to touch Daniel to get his attention, like the angel struck Peter in the prison cell in Acts 12.

We saw in our study of Daniel 6 that at least two of Daniel’s praying three times a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem probably corresponded with the times of the morning and evening sacrifices that would have been offered to God if the temple would have been functioning. Here we are told that Gabriel came in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Daniel’s request was that God would turn away his wrath and anger from his city Jerusalem, and that God would make his face shine on his sanctuary. Gabriel was sent to give Daniel insight and understanding, and he was sent out ‘at the beginning of your pleas for mercy’.

We normally think of God responding to our prayers as in ordinary communication, where we ask something of someone, and we give them time to hear the request, think it through, and then respond. But here we see God responding to the request at the beginning of the prayer. Daniel doesn’t even get to his request until verse 16.

Daniel prepared himself for this prayer with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. This could mean that at the beginning of the day or whenever it was that Daniel began his preparation to pray, the angelic messenger was sent. Daniel doesn’t even get to finish his prayer before he gets interrupted.

This should be a great encouragement to us to pray. God’s answer was not contingent on the length or eloquence or passion or power of his prayer. The outcome was not affected by his following through with his intention to fast and pray. God sovereignly answered at the beginning of his prayer, not at the end of it. Isaiah 65:24 says:

Isaiah 65:24 ​Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.

God is sovereign. He does not need us to pray. He isn’t waiting, wondering what we are thinking, waiting for us to communicate what we need. Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

The Lord knows what we are going to say even before we do! He is not waiting in ignorance, wondering what we need. He is expectantly waiting, having everything we need ready to bless us even better than we know how to ask, just waiting for us to come to him to receive. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Invited to Ask

God already knows what we need before we ask, but he invites us to ask. He delights to answer when we seek him, when we ask him.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 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 said in John 16

John 16:23 …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.

God often works in response to our prayers. James says ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (4:2). But God is not dependent on our prayers, as if his hands were tied until we pray. God is entirely free to do what he wants when he wants. It is for our benefit that he waits to do some things until we ask. We need to know our dependence on him, we need to see his working in answer to our prayers. We need to know that it is him and not just chance or coincidence.

Greatly Loved

Gabriel addresses Daniel as one who is greatly loved. In the whole Bible, only Daniel is called this, and he is addressed this way three times (9:23; 10:11, 19). We might think ‘well, of course; he refused to defile himself with the king’s food, no fault could be found in him even by his enemies, he would rather end up fed to the lions than to give up his time in prayer. Of course he was greatly loved; he was worthy.’ But that is not how love works. Real love is not a response to performance; the one who loves takes the initiative. The one who loves chooses an object of his affection to set his love upon. To be beloved is not a title earned, but a foundational identity. Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father. That was his intrinsic identity, not a title he earned by performance. In his parable in Luke 20, the Son is beloved before he is sent. In John 17 Jesus affirms that the Father loved him before the foundation of the world. Jesus’ obedience was rooted in his being beloved by the Father and in his love for the Father; his obedience was not the reason the Father loved him. Jesus was not loved because he obeyed; he obeyed because he was already loved.

Here’s the amazing thing; Jesus is the beloved Son. But he includes us in that love. It says in John 13:

John 13:1 …when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem, where he would lay down his life for his sheep. He is resolutely marching toward the cross, where he will give his life to rescue hiss own.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

He doesn’t say ‘here is how to earn my love; if you love one another, then I will love you’. No, he says ‘I have loved you. Therefore, love one another.’ Your love for others flows out of my love for you. Love for others flows out of yor identity as beloved.

First John says this:

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….19 We love because he first loved us.

How much? Daniel was told he was greatly loved. Just how much are we loved? Jesus said:

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

I don’t think it’s even possible to imagine a greater love than the love the Father has for his only Son. Just soak that in for a moment. You are loved as much as the Father loves Jesus.

In Romans we are addressed as those who are ‘loved by God and called to be saints’ (1:7). In Romans 5:

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

And in Romans 8, speaking of the unquenchable love of God toward us:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

You are loved that much. You are greatly loved by God.

***

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

August 23, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 8:1-8, 15-22; The Wisdom of God

05/15_Daniel 08:1-8, 15-22; The Wisdom of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220515_dan08.mp3

Daniel chapter 8 switches back to the Hebrew language, the language of God’s chosen people. Daniel 2-7 was written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, the language of the nations. Chapters 2 – 7 focus on God’s people sent into captivity, serving as ambassadors to bring the good news of who God is to the nations. Chapters 8 – 12 are written in Hebrew, the language of God’s people, preparing his people for suffering, reminding them of the sovereignty of God, encouraging them that although it may be hard, remaining faithful to the Lord will be worth it in the end.

Peter tells us:

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. …17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

We should not be surprised at fiery trials, because Jesus said ‘if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’ (Jn.15:20). Israel should not be surprised at the fiery trials, because God told them long before exactly what was coming.

The Date and Setting

Let’s look at what it says.

Daniel 8:1 In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal.

Daniel tells us when and where this vision took place. This is essential for us to get the importance of the vision. It is in the third year of Belshazzar, two years after the vision he was given in chapter 7. Remember, Belshazzar was unknown to history until 1853 when the Nabonidus cylinder was discovered in a ziggurat in Ur that named Belshazzar as the son of Nabonidus. The verse account of Nabonidus says that in his third year, he entrusted the kingdom to his son, and left on a long journey. If Nabonidus began his reign 556 BC then Belshazzar became co-regent of Babylon in 553BC (which is when chapter 7 was written); Belshazzar’s third year would then be 550 or 551 BC, 11 or 12 yrs before the events of chapter 5, when Babylon fell to the Persians in October of 539 BC.

The setting for the book of Daniel is Babylon, but in this vision, Daniel finds himself in the citadel of Susa, some 230 miles east of Babylon. These are real places. Susa had been completely destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal about 90 years earlier. It had been rebuilt, but it was again conquered by Cyrus the Great in 540 BC, on his way to conquer Babylon. It did not become the capital of the Persian empire until the reign of Cambyses II (529-522 BC), over 20 years after this vision. Later in history both Esther and Nehemiah would find themselves in the citadel at Susa.

At the time of this vision, Susa was the capital of the Elamites. It may have surprised Daniel to find himself in a city which at the time seemed to have no major significance, so much so that he felt it necessary to describe its location.

This Vision and Chapters 2 and 7

This chapter divides into two halves, Daniel’s vision is given in verses 1-14 and the interpretation is given to him in verses 15-26. We are going to go back and forth between the vision and its interpretation as we work our way through understanding what was revealed to Daniel.

Daniel 8:3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.

In chapter 7, Daniel had seen a vision of four great beasts coming up out of the sea; a lion with eagle’s wings, a bear raised on one side, a four headed leopard with four wings, and a terrifying beast with iron teeth and claws of bronze and ten horns. He was told that the four beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.

Back in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a colossal image with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay. Daniel was given the interpretation; Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, and another inferior kingdom would arise after him, and a third kingdom shall rule over all the earth, and there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron.

If Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar was the first kingdom, then the second kingdom was the Medo-Persian empire who conquered Babylon under Cyrus the Great in 539 BC.

Gabriel and Revelation

What was this ram with two horns? We are not left guessing. Jump down to verse 15.

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.” 18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 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.

Daniel seeks to understand the vision, and a voice commands Gabriel to make him understand. This is the first time in Scripture that an angel is named, and one of only two angels named in all the Bible. Gabriel shows up again in chapter 9, and again in Luke (1:19, 26) announcing the birth of John to Zechariah and the birth of Jesus to Mary.

Notice the response of Daniel to this angel. He was afraid and fell on his face. The experience overwhelmed him so much that he passed out. He had to be strengthened to be able to receive the revelation. If you look down at the last verse, in response to this vision, Daniel was overcome and sick for several days, appalled by the vision. This was a traumatic experience, both physically and emotionally draining.

Cyrus the Great; Medo-Persia (Achaemenid Dynasty)

After strengthening him, Gabriel gives him the interpretation of his vision.

Daniel 2:20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia.

Cyrus the Great, according to Herodotus, was son of Cambyses I, King of Anshan (in Persia), and Mandane, daughter of Astyages, king of Media. Cyrus succeeded the throne in 559 BC following his father’s death. But Anshan was under Median control until Cyrus defeated the Medes and captured Ecbatana around 550 BC. He spared Astyages and married his daughter Amytis, successfully merging the Median and Persian empires. Cyrus pushed north and west to defeat Lydia and captured the capital city of Sardis. In 540 he defeated the Elamites and captured Susa, and then took Babylon in 539. The Medo-Persian empire controlled the area of Babylon for the next 200 years.

This fits the description of the chest and arms of silver, the bear raised up on one side, the ram with two horns, the later horn higher than the first, pushing west and north and south. The Persians rose to power after the Medes, but became much greater.

Alexander the Great and Greece (Macedon)

Daniel 8:5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

Again, we are not left wondering what this might mean. Gabriel gives the interpretation in verse 21.

Daniel 8:21 And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.

Alexander the Great conquered Susa in 331 BC. Alexander was son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, although he believed himself divine, his mother claiming that he was virgin born, miraculously impregnated by the god Zeus. Already and accomplished military leader, he took the throne at the age of 20, after his father was assassinated. After crushing a revolt in Thrace and Illyria, he asserted his authority in Greece, and then mobilized his army to realize his father’s dream of conquering Persia. Alexander held much resentment toward Persia due to constant tension between Persia and Greece. In 490 BC Darius I had invaded at the famous battle of Marathon, where the Persians were soundly defeated. Ten years later his son Xerxes I launched a full scale attack on Greece, defeating the Spartans at Thermopylae, burning Athens, and finally being defeated in a naval battle in the strait of Salamis, and by the Spartans near Plataea.

Alexander first defeated the Persians at Granicus in 334, and advancing across Asia Minor, he defeated them again at Issus in 333. After taking Egypt he returned to Mesopotamia, decisively defeating the Persians at Gaugamela in 331 BC. He continued on to take Babylon and then Susa. After pushing all the way to the borders of Indai, he returned to Babylon, intending to make it his capitol. He died there in 323 BC at the age of 33, having conquered the known world.

Alexander had become ill after a prolonged banquet and drinking bout and he never recovered. When asked who his successor should be, he reportedly said ‘the strongest’. After his death, and after much intrigue, the newly conquered Macedonian empire was divided up into satrapies governed by Alexander’s generals and officers, referred to as the Diadochi or successors. After 22 years of disagreement and fighting among them, when the dust settled, there were four prominent dynasties that ruled the major territories conquered by Alexander; Cassander ruling Macedonia and Greece, Lysimachus ruling Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Seleucus ruling Syria and the east; and Ptolemy ruling Egypt.

With lightning speed and fury, Alexander threw down Persian ram. But he died at the zenith of his glory. So when the great horn was broken, four conspicuous horns divided his empire to the four winds.

God who Knows the Future

We’re going to pick up this story and the rest of the chapter next time, but here’s what I want us to take away from this today. Daniel was given this vision at at the time Cyrus the Persian was defeating the Medes at Ecbatana, some 10 years before he came and took Susa and then Babylon. The setting of the vision was Susa, a city in the province of Elam, unimportant at the time, but destined to become the capital of the Medo-Persian empire for the next 200 years. But that empire would fall to the Macedonian/Greek forces under Alexander. But Alexander’s time would be brief, his empire divided up among his successors. Daniel was given more than he could understand, events from his perspective in the far distant future, but he wrote it down to preserve it for us, so that we can look back and see that we serve a God who knows the future.

Daniel 8 is amazing prophecy. God says in Isaiah 46

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

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

***

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

May 19, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1)

12/05_2nd Sunday of Advent; Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211205_advent-zechariah-elizabeth.mp3

Wonder

We were meant to wonder and worship. This season especially is a time when we ought to be filled with wonder and awe at what God has done.

The gospel – the good news – that Jesus came; that Immanuel, God, became human; God with us. And that he came not because we were so good, but because we were so bad, because we were without hope and without God, because we needed rescuing. Jesus came to take our place, to die as our substitute, to bear the penalty we deserve. He came to reconcile our broken relationship with God, to bring us near to God. All of this ought to stop us in our tracks with our jaws dropped and our hearts filled with awe and wonder.

But so often we are distracted; last time we looked at what Jesus told us in his parable about the sower and the soils, ‘the cares and riches and pleasures of life’ (Lk.8:14) grow up and choke out the truth of God’s word in our lives, and we fail to wonder, we fail to worship. Our wonderers are broken.

My goal is not to fill your head with more information or teach you something you don’t already know. My goal in these advent weeks leading up to Christmas is for us to stop, to look, to pause, to behold, to let our jaws drop in wonder, and to worship.

Childless and Godly

Today I want to look at Luke 1, where we find the account of Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older relative of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

We are introduced to this godly Israelite couple. They were both of priestly lineage, descended from Aaron. They were not sinless, as this story demonstrates (no one is), but they were seeking to obey God, to be faithful, to do what is right. We are told this to remove a question we might have about their childlessness. Children are a blessing from God, and to be childless was sometimes viewed as punishment from God. This couple was old, post-menopausal, past they age of being able to bear children, and they had no child, but this was not punishment or a sign of God’s displeasure. They were both righteous before God.

Temple and Priests and Incense

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.

Zechariah was one of around 18,000 priests, serving the Jerusalem temple in rotation. King David had organized the priests into 24 divisions according to 1 Chronicles 24, each to serve for one week, twice a year. Incense was to be burned on the altar of incense that stood just outside curtain of the most holy place every day, both morning and evening when the golden lampstand was tended (Ex.30:7-8). Zechariah was on duty at the temple and was chosen to enter the holy place and offer the incense on the altar of incense, a once in a lifetime honor.

Angels

Luke 1:11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.

Zechariah was troubled. This is a classic understatement. Remember, the destroying angel killed all the firstborn of Egypt in one night (Ex.12:29; Ps.78:49-51). An angel killed 70,000 Israelites in a day (1Chr.21:12-15) One angel slaughtered 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2Ki.19:35). When angels are described in detail the Bible, they have four or six wings and four faces and are full of eyes (Is.6:2; Rev.4:8; Ezek.1:5-14). The typical human response is to fall on your face in fear and worship (Rev.19:10;22:8).

What Prayer?

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Your prayer has been heard. What prayer? I always assumed it was his desire for a child, but his response to the angel’s promise of a son shows that that was probably the furthest thing from his mind, and something he had long since given up on. More likely it would be the prayer he was offering in the temple as he offered the burnt offerings, a prayer for God to redeem his people Israel (Ps.25:22). We will see more of what was on the heart of Zechariah toward the end of this chapter. Jerusalem was under Roman rule. The hated Herod the Great had been appointed by Rome as king of Judea. This was the Herod who was soon to order the execution of every male child two years old and under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Israel needed a redeemer, and the very appearance of this angel in the temple was indicating that God was answering this prayer.

This is not merely the answer to the longing of a childless couple. Many would rejoice at his birth. The child’s name was to be John – YHWH is gracious. The Spirit of God would empower him to turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. This was the root of the problem. The problem wasn’t the Roman occupation. The Roman occupation was a symptom. God’s people had turned away from him. This promised child would be used by God to turn the hearts of many back to God.

Who is ‘Him’?

The next phrase is interesting – look at verse 17; ‘he will go before him’. This is where grammar gets really important. Who is the ‘he’ and who is the ‘him’ that ‘he’ is going before? The ‘he’ and ‘his’ throughout this passage refers to John. But who is John going before? The nearest antecedent to ‘him’ comes at the end of verse 16 ‘the Lord their God’. He will go before him. John will go before the Lord their God. Pause and let that sink in. John is to prepare the way for the coming of Israel’s God. John will be filled with the Spirit of God to turn people’s hearts to the Lord their God, and John will go before the Lord their God. The Lord God is coming! Coming to Israel! God is going to visit and redeem his people! God is coming down, and John is to prepare the way for him!

The rest of this verse confirms that we are on the right track.

Luke 1:17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

The closing words of Malachi prophesied:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The great and awesome day of the Lord is coming, and God is sending an Elijah to turn the hearts of the people so that when he comes, he does not have to come with complete destruction. God is coming, and John’s role is to ‘make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’

Disbelief

Luke 1:18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

This is the wrong kind of wonder. This is the wrong kind of stunned disbelief. Zechariah wasn’t standing in stunned disbelief, in awestruck wonder, reveling at the revelation of the angel. He was actually disbelieving, doubting, wondering how this could be possible. He was calculating, and his calculations added up to the fact that what the angel said was impossible. He was old and his wife was old – too old to have children.

His ‘I am’ is emphatic. I am an old man. Here’s a big part of our problem. Zechariah was righteous before God; he wanted to honor God, but he was way too focused on himself, what he brought to the table, his own inability; the impossiblity. If he had been thinking less of himself and more of God, he might have remembered another couple, a barren couple, a couple likely much older than he was (Abraham and Sarah were pushing 100), and God said to them in their disbelief ‘Is anything too hard for the LORD?’ (Gen.18:14).

Perspective in the Presence of God

The angel confronts Zechariah’s ‘I am’ with an ‘I am’ of his own.

Luke 1:19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Gabriel had his focus right. He was one who stood in the presence of God. If you spend your time in the presence of God, you get your focus right. Remember, this interchange was happening in the temple in Jerusalem, the place of God’s presence. Zechariah had this once in a lifetime opportunity to offer prayers in the very presence of God, but his focus on himself eclipsed the presence of God from his view. He was being told good news; the best news ever, from an angel sent to him by God, and he couldn’t believe it.

Word leads to Wonder Leads to Words and Witness

Here’s the thing. The good news, the gospel message, the word of God is meant to lead us to wonder. And our wonder is to be expressed with words. Our wonder at the word of God is meant to be expressed in words and witness. Because of Zechariah’s disbelief, because he was unwilling to receive the word, he would be unable to speak a word. He was given good news – great news – but because he didn’t believe it, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about it.

If we receive the gospel, the good news as truly good and truly true, if we wonder at the gospel with awe and amazement at the goodness of God toward sinners like us, it will be just natural for that wonder to overflow with words. We will want to tell people – everyone – what God has done. We won’t be able to help ourselves – we just have to gossip the gospel. If we are hesitant to speak, it might be because deep down we really doubt. It could be that we have failed to stop and take it in, to catch our breath in wonder at the greatness of the good news.

Luke 1:21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

Something wonderful was happening, they didn’t know what, but they sensed it, and they were filled with wonder.

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

We’re going to skip ahead nine months in the story, to verse 57

Luke 1:57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.

Here’s some more wondering going on; YHWH is gracious. Why name him that?

Luke 1:64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

After nine months of silent frustration bottled up because of unbelief, he finally burst forth with worship. How frustrating it must have been to have such good news and to be unable to share it. But he learned his lesson, now he believed, and he was brought to worship. And his words created more wonder, and more words. There was fear, there was good gossip, and all who heard laid these things up in their hearts with wonder.

Visited and Redeemed; as Good as Done!

Luke 1:67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 ​as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 ​that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 ​to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 ​the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 ​in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

This reveals some of the things that were on Zechariah’s heart, things he was praying about in the temple that day. God, you made promises to your people. You made a covenant. People hate us. Show us mercy! Save us from our enemies! Remember your covenant! Bring us back to you; bring our hearts back to worship and serve only you.

The Lord God of Israel has visited and redeemed his people. Was this true? Had God visited and redeemed his people? Nine months earlier, God had sent a message by an angel to a priest in temple, bringing good news; good news that God was coming to visit his people. Three months earlier, God had sent an angel to a virgin and told her that she would conceive and bear a son – the Son of the Most High. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, had visited Elizabeth, and by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognized ‘why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (v.43). The Lord had visited his people. Immanuel, God with us, was growing in the womb of the virgin. He would be born to be the redeemer, the one who would save his people from their sins, the one who would be obedient to death, even death on a cross, to save us from our sins. Zechariah was beginning to understand that when God gave a promise it was as good as done. God was good for his word. The act of redemption would take place on a hill outside Jerusalem some 30 years later, but God had

visited and redeemed his people.

Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

You will go before the Lord. The sunrise shall visit us from on high. The Lord God of Israel is coming! God with us. Immanuel. Prepare the way for YHWH! Wonder and worship!

***

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

December 7, 2021 Posted by | advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From

12/20 Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201220_where-jesus-came-from.mp3

This week is Christmas! We remember, we celebrate, we wonder at the coming of Jesus. We are looking at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming. Last week we looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray; we were sick, lost, hopeless sinners. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to redeem us and forgive our sins, he had to die in our place. That’s why he came.

Jesus came. But what does it mean to say that Jesus came? Where did he come from? Who really is this Jesus?

John was Sent and Came

In the beginning of John’s gospel we are told

John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John the baptist came. John was sent by God. But was he sent in the same way that Jesus was sent? Did John come in the same way that Jesus came?

John was the son of the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

Luke begins his gospel by telling us their story. Elizabeth was barren; she was unable to have children. They were both ‘advanced in years;’ they were getting old. Zechariah was chosen to burn incense in the temple in Jerusalem. In the temple, he saw an angel, and he was terrified. The angel told him that his prayer had been heard and his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son, and they were to name him John.

He was told that the boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. He would go before the Lord God ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah …to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’ (Lk.1:15-17).

Luke tells us

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

Zechariah went home to his wife, and she became pregnant. John was sent by God with a task. He was sent to ‘prepare the way for the Lord’ He was empowered by the Spirit of God for this task. He came into this world in a supernatural way; he was born to a woman who was barren. He was born to parents who were ‘advanced in years;’ beyond the typical age of childbearing. In much the same way as Isaac to Abraham and Sarah some 2000 years earlier, John was born in a supernatural way.

But in another sense he, like Isaac, was born in the natural normal way. His parents came together and he was conceived.

Uniqueness of Jesus

But Jesus came differently. Luke records the angel came also to Mary and announced:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. …

But Mary’s question to the angel:

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Jesus was different. Jesus would not be born in the natural normal way. Matthew records:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

John himself said:

John 1:15 …“This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John, who is 6 months older than Jesus (Lk.1:36), born 6 months before Jesus, tells us that Jesus, who comes after him existed before him. John was sent by God with a mission and empowered by God. The circumstances of his birth were supernatural, but he was conceived in the natural way. But John claims that his younger cousin who came after him existed before him. John didn’t exist before he was conceived. But John believed that Jesus did.

Angel Gabriel was Sent and Came

The text also tells us that the angel Gabriel was sent from God; he came. Gabriel said to Zechariah:

Luke 1:19 …“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

And to Mary:

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Gabriel was sent from God, but in a different sense than John was sent. We understand from Scripture that angels are supernatural beings created by God to serve God. Gabriel was in the presence of God; unlike John, he existed before he was sent. He was sent to deliver a message. He appeared, he delivered the good news, and then he left.

Both John and Gabriel were said to have been sent by God, they were said to have come. But in very different ways.

Jesus was Sent and Came

But what does Jesus have to say about himself? Last time we looked at John 3, a conversation between the teacher of Israel and Jesus. Nicodemus comes to him by night, seeking to understand who Jesus really is. He has concluded that Jesus is ‘a teacher come from God’ and that God is with him. Jesus points him to his own need; he is in need of total transformation, he needs to be born anew, born from above, born of the Spirit. Nicodemus is confused. Jesus says it is an issue not of understanding, but of belief. He says:

John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus is claiming to be telling Nicodemus heavenly things. He claims to tell him heavenly things because he claims to have been there. Jesus is claiming to be the one who descended from heaven.

And Jesus goes on to say:

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.

Jesus claims to be God’s unique one-and-only Son, given by the Father. Jesus claims to have been sent into the world on a rescue mission.

Bread From Heaven

We looked at John 6, where Jesus compares himself to the manna in the wilderness, the bread God gave his people to sustain them those 40 years.

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus claims that the bread from God is a person.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus said:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Here Jesus again claims to have been given by the Father, to have come down from heaven. He claims to give up his own life to give eternal life to his followers.

I Am From Above

In John 8, where Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the Pharisees are questioning the validity of his testimony.

John 8:14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. …16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

Jesus claims to have been sent by the Father and with his Father’s authority to judge. Jesus tells them rather cryptically that they don’t know where he comes from and where he is going, but he knows where he came from and where he is going. He clarifies in verse 23.

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. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus claims to have an origin different from the rest of mankind. I am from above. I am not of this world. In fact, Jesus here claims to be God the I Am, and that they must believe this or they will die in their sins.

Jesus promises that ‘if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death’ (Jn.8:51). The Jews begin to catch on to what he is saying. They ask:

John 8:53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 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.’

Jesus claims that the God of the Jews is his Father, and God the Father is glorifying Jesus.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham existed. Even more than that, he claims to be the I AM, the self-existent God. The Jews understood what he was claiming. He was claiming to be God come in the flesh.

John 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him…

Come From and Going Back to God

In John 13, in the upper room,

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. …3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

Jesus was preparing to die. He was preparing to depart out of this world to the Father. Jesus, knowing that he had come from God and was going back to God,

John 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It was Jesus’ self awareness of who he was, where he had come from and where he was going that motivated him as their Lord and Master to set an example for them of loving self-sacrificial service.

In John 16, Jesus told his disciples:

John 16:27 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.”

Jesus came into the world from the Father. His disciples were coming to believe in him, who he is, that he came from God.

Before the World Existed

In John 17,

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.

Jesus prays and asks that his Father would glorify him. Jesus is the one who has authority to give eternal life, and eternal life consists in knowing God, being in relation with the Father and the Son whom the Father sent. Jesus asks that his Father would glorify him with the glory he had with his Father before the world existed. This goes back long before Abraham, even before Adam, before creation. Jesus is claiming to have existed with the Father before the world existed.

And Jesus prays for us:

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.

Eternal life consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is being with Jesus, seeing his glory, participating in the eternal inter-trinitarian love between the Father and the Son.

My Lord and My God

In John 21, when Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus, Jesus says to him:

John 21:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Even doubting Thomas came to believe that Jesus is both Lord and God. John goes on to tell us why he wrote what he wrote.

John 21:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus eternally existed as God, enjoying relationship with his Father. And God gave us his only Son. The Father sent his Son into the world. Jesus came into the world to rescue us.

The Word Who Was God

If we jump back to the beginning of John, the Apostle gives us his understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that he was sent, and that he came.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

In verse 14, we see

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

…18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

So Jesus, the Word, the only Son from the Father, was in the beginning. He didn’t begin, he simply was. He existed eternally with God, and he was himself God. And he came. He came to make God known. He came to make God knowable. He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to seek you! Let this sink in. Let this fill your heart with wonder and worship.

***

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

December 22, 2020 Posted by | advent | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Glory to God in the Highest

12/08 Glory to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191208_glory-to-god.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift is beyond fully telling, so we must tell of it over and over at different times and in different ways. We owe him our thanks and worship and praise, because he is the giver of every good gift. We must look at different aspects of his most glorious gift, and encourage each other to treasure and cherish and savor his good gift, and continually come to him with thanks.

The Christmas story is a familiar story to most of us, so we need to guard ourselves from becoming numb to its glory and taking it for granted. It’s easy to yawn and say ‘yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.’ The gift we received that very first Christmas is glorious beyond expression, so we must continually seek to give fresh expression to its glories and encourage one another to taste and enjoy and worship.

Today and next week, I want to take the very first Christmas carol sung by the angelic choir announcing the birth of our Lord and listen carefully to what it declares. Songs mean things, and it is good to stop and listen to what we are saying in our singing.

Listen to the familiar story once again from Luke 2:

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. 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 great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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.

The Announcement

This story is full of wonder. There is so much here. We can’t take it all in. First, listen to the angel’s announcement:

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

The angel brought good news. News of great joy. And not just for the shepherds. Not even just for the Jewish nation. This good news of great joy is for all the people. For the world! For you and me, today! What was that good news?

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Born in Bethlehem, today, is a Savior. A rescuer. A deliverer. One who will rescue you from the greatest threat to your peace and happiness.

The identity of this rescuer is the Christ, the promised one, the long awaited anointed Son of David.

And the identity of this one is staggering. Christ, the Lord. No mere human king, not only a physical descendant of David the king. He is that, but he is more. Christ the Lord. King of kings and Lord of lords, YHWH God of the Old Testament, himself come down. God with us. Immanuel. The Rescuer born is God himself.

This one is born to you, for you, for your benefit. Good news of great joy. For you, personally, and for all the people.

This next line is almost as startling. God himself born to rescue you, what will that look like?

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

A baby? God with us as a helpless newborn? God swaddled? Omnipotent God wrapped up tightly in strips of cloth so he feels secure and can’t roll around and wiggle too much?

The long anticipated King of the line of David, God with us, placed in a cold and slobbery stone trough that farm animals eat from?

The Angel’s Priority

As if this announcement is not stunning enough, suddenly the sky is ripped open to reveal the vast multitude of angel armies worshiping.

Luke 2:13 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!”

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 humankind 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.

Our Failure to Glorify

We have failed miserably. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23) 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 (Rom.1:21-23). We fail to honor God as God, we rob him of worship, and treat him with ingratitude, we ignore him, act as if he doesn’t even exist.

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’.

The Story of the Glory of the LORD

Look back at verse 9.

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

The angels sing glory to God in the highest. When the angel appeared, the glory of the Lord shone around them. This is a magnificent event.

Tracing this theme of God’s glory back to the Exodus, God said that he would get glory over Pharaoh and his hosts. (Ex.14:4, 17-18). After the people were safely outside of Egypt,

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.

The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature. Our God is a consuming fire! (Deut.4:24; 9:3; Is.33:14; Lam.2:3; Heb.12:29)

God gave his people instructions to construct a special tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people and a weighty process by which he could be approached by sinful people. After the tabernacle was constructed,

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

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.

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 the prophet Ezekiel (10:4, 18; 11:23) records his glory departing from his temple. Israel was sent into captivity. 70 years later, some of the exiles returned, and rebuilt the temple, 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, on one dark 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! The glory of the Lord had returned to Israel! Glory to God!

Glory to God in the Highest

If the glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature, then God gets glory when his nature is acknowledged and worshiped. God is glorified when he is seen for who he is, when we tremble at him and treasure him.

God is constantly glorified among angel hosts. In Isaiah 6, we get a glimpse of worship around God’s throne where the six winged beings continually cry out:

Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (cf. Revelation 4:8)

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s name would be revered, glorified on earth as it is in heaven (Mt.6:9-10). Jesus taught us to live in the world in such a way that we bring glory to God.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The Chief End of Jesus

The angels announcing the birth of God the Son cried out ‘Glory to God in the highest. That takes priority. God’s glory comes first. The primary purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Let me say that another way; the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Jesus displayed the glory of God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus explained, displayed, exegeted the Father’s glory. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). He put the glory of God on display.

John 17:4 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.

It was at the cross that Jesus most fully displayed the glory of God.

John 12:23 …“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. … 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.”

It was on the cross that Jesus displayed both the absolute justice and the unstoppable love of God. He put on display both the terrible wrath and the free and undeserved grace of God. He taught us to tremble and to treasure. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18), and it fell on Jesus on the cross.

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. …

Purpose Restored

Jesus gave us an amazing gift. He restored to us that for which we were created.

Luke 2:10 …good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…

Jesus rescued us from our own futility. From the futility of worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. He restored to us the great joy that comes only in right relation, in worshipful relation to our glorious God.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thank God for the gift of bringing glory to God as we were created to do. We have been restored to our primary purpose. We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus lived and died for the glory of his Father, and he gave us back the ability to live to the glory of God. He gave us the ability to live for something bigger than ourselves. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Glory to God in the highest!

***

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

December 9, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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