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Daniel 9:3; The Pursuit of Prayer

06/26_Daniel 09:3; Pursuit of Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220626_dan09_3.mp3

Daniel a Man of Prayer

Daniel was a man of prayer. He was a man who knew his God. His prayers shaped his character. He feared his God more than he feared kings or lions. In fact, when he knew he would be thrown to the lions, he still was able to find things to be thankful for. He prayed three times a day, not because he had to, but because he had to.

Daniel can teach us much about prayer. In chapter 2 we see Daniel encouraging his friends to join him in prayer, seeking mercy from the God of heaven (2:18), and in chapter 6, we see him devoted to prayer, praying three times a day so faithfully and consistently that his enemies could set their clocks by it. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually hear him pray? It is one thing to have someone tell you how important it is to pray; it is another thing altogether to listen to them pray. In Daniel chapter 9, we get in on Daniel’ private prayer life. We get to hear him pray. We get a taste of his emotion, his intensity, his passion, his very heart. We get a glimpse of his theology in action; not just what he said he believed, but his worldview, the truths that shaped how he thought and walked and talked and responded. We sense his tenderness, his sensitivity, his vulnerability. His dependency, his neediness, his desperation, his longings.

I want to learn how to pray from Daniel. So I’d like to camp out here in Daniel 9 for a bit, to soak in whatever we can, and as we listen in, to be shaped in our thinking and feeling, to grow in our intimacy with the Father.

I would encourage you as we work through this prayer together over the coming weeks, to take it home and use it as a template for your prayers. There are of course some things that are specific to Daniel’s time and circumstances, but our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Why Pray?

Today I want to look at the purpose of prayer, or the pursuit of prayer. What are we after in prayer? What do we desire? Why do we pray? Or, to turn the question around, why don’t we pray? Why am I so often prayerless? I think that often I don’t pray because I misunderstand or forget what prayer is pursuing.

Needs

I pray when I have a need. I pray when the problem is bigger than me and I can’t fix the situation. I pray because God is able, and God is good, and he invites us to ask him for help in time of need. Those things are all true, and that is a motive for prayer, but if that is my main pursuit in prayer, then when I’m not aware of any need bigger than me, I won’t pray.

Circumstances do drive us to pray. Daniel’s circumstances drove him to pray. He was an Israelite in captivity in a foreign land. His people were displaced from their homeland. His city and the temple of his God lay in ruins. He was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah, that God had decreed 70 years of desolations for Jerusalem, and Daniel became aware of the fact that those 70 years would soon draw to a close.

But we also know from chapter 6 that Daniel was in a habit of prayer. ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ (6:10). No doubt Daniel had bad days, when all seemed to be against him, when he was acutely aware of his need, when he felt he might be thrown to the lions, so to speak. But Daniel also had good days, when he sensed the smile of God, he was being who he was created to be, when all seemed right with the world, and even on those good days, ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’. What was Daniel pursuing in prayer, that caused such consistency in prayer?

Lists

Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am, and you keep a list of people and things to pray for. Family, friends, finances, missionaries, the lost, our country, our leaders, our church. Again, these are all good things to pray for, and lists can be helpful. Lists can also be things just to check off, making us feel like we have done our duty; we have passed on our list and reminded God of what he needs to do today. Is this the primary pursuit of prayer?

Meals and Mountains

What about meals? Do you all pray before you eat? I was raised to think that if you ate unblessed unsanctified food, you’d end up with a stomach ache or worse. Meals are a good three times a day reminder to be thankful for all the good things God gives us. And there are spontaneous times of thankfulness too, when I’m hiking in the mountains and see a spectacular view, my heart just overflows with thankfulness to the one who spoke it all into existence. When we receive good things from God we ought to thank him. But again, is that the primary pursuit of prayer?

Solomon’s Prayer

When King Solomon built the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem, he acknowledged in his prayer of dedication in 2 Chronicles 6

2 Chronicles 6:18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He understood that God can’t be contained by a building. He also understood our wayward hearts, and he anticipated that God’s people would not remain faithful to their God. So in verse 36 he prayed:

2 Chronicles 6:36 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, 37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 38 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you

In 2 Chronicles 7 YHWH answered his prayer:

2 Chronicles 7:12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

But the Lord goes on to warn:

2 Chronicles 7:19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

God warns against unfaithfulness to him. He warns us not to abandon YHWH our God. He warns us not to lay hold on other gods and worship and serve them. Our God is a jealous God. Do not turn aside from his commandments, the first of which is ‘I am YHWH your God …you shall have no other Gods before me’ (Ex.20:2-3). God’s invitation is ‘if my people …humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land’. In humility turn from other gods to seek my face.

Give Him Your Face

Look with me at Daniel’s pursuit in his prayer.

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying…

Daniel turned his face to the Lord God. Other translations read ‘I set my face unto’ [(KJV) or ‘I gave my attention to’ (NASB). Daniel gave God his face, his undivided attention. He wasn’t looking at his phone, messaging Azariah, scrolling his social media feed. He didn’t have one earbud in. He set all his notifications to ‘do not disturb’ He gave God his face.

We live distracted lives. How often do we ever give anyone our undistracted undivided attention for any period of time? I was taught that it was rude to interrupt another person who was talking, or to barge into a conversation uninvited. But we allow the buzzing in our pocket to interrupt the person in the room. What we are saying is that the notification I received is more important and more urgent and I will allow it to interrupt my conversation with you. There may be times when that is true. But is there anyone more important than the Lord God? Our God is a jealous God. He wants our undivided undistracted attention. Myriad other gods are competing for our attention. He wants our face.

Seeking Him

Daniel says ‘I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him. Daniel wasn’t seeking his gifts, what God could do for him. He wasn’t seeking answers, seeking wisdom, seeking guidance. He was seeking God. He does have requests, but his primary pursuit is not the gift but the Giver. He wants God. Period. He is pursuing the face of God.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. …8 You have said, “Seek my face. ”My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Put down your lists, set aside your needs, and seek him for him. That is the primary pursuit of prayer.

Moses desired to see the face 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.”

Moses desired to see the face of God, and he was denied.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In Jesus, because of the gospel, we now have the awesome privilege of being in the presence of almighty God, of seeing the face of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … 16 and [he] reconcile[d] us …to God in one body through the cross… 18 For through him we …have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Here’s my challenge to you; set aside time this week, maybe just 10 or 15 minutes, eliminate as many distractions as possible, and give God your face. Seek him for him.

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

July 2, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

08/23 Worship (John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200823_worship.mp3

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

Worship is a big deal. It has been said ‘we become like what we worship’. It matters what we worship. God takes worship seriously.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 23 …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

God’s wrath is revealed against those who worship the wrong thing. Worship is a serious issue.

Our English word ‘worship’ comes from the Old English ‘weorthscipe’ from worth or worthy. In worship we are ascribing value or worth to the person or thing we worship. We acknowledge what is worthy of our devotion, our affection, our attention. And our attention is a precious commodity. We have exactly 1,440 minutes in each day, and if sleeping accounts for 480 of those, and assuming you work or go to school another 480 each weekday, that leaves the other 480 waking minutes for you spend as you choose. And everything in this world is competing for those precious minutes. To what do you give your attention? What do you look at? What do you enjoy? What captivates you? What do you worship?

As followers of Jesus, we want to listen carefully to what he tells us about our worship.

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan is competing for our worship. I will give you everything if you will worship me. It is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your god and him only shall you serve.’ God alone is to be worshiped. The Lord alone is worthy of worship. We must value him above all else, and give him the attention he is due.

Notice that Jesus pairs worship with service. The one you worship, you also serve. You live for the thing you value most. Service is an evidence of what we worship. There is some overlap. But service is not the same as worship. We can keep very busy doing things for God, in service to God, and we think we are worshiping God. But notice what Satan requests of Jesus. He doesn’t ask that he do something in service to him, to prove his devotion to him. He asks him to fall down and worship him. The Greek word for worship [προσκυνέω] means to fall face down in adoration, to lower oneself in humble submission, it pictures a dog licking the hand of its master. Several times in the gospels, this word for worship is translated ‘knelt before him’ or ‘fell down before him’. Worship is direct, in the presence of, on your face before, giving full attention to.

Worship Wars

Jesus met a broken and bitter person at a well. When he asked her for a drink, it opened up a conversation where he offered living water, and where he put his finger on some of the brokenness in her life.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Probably in an effort to deflect the conversation in a less personal direction, she asks about a controversial question, a point of dispute between Jews and Samaritans. Where is the proper place for worship? They are at Jacob’s well, near the place where Abraham made an altar to the Lord (Gen.12:6-7), where Jacob made an altar and worshiped (Gen.33:19-20), where the bones of Joseph were buried, where the people under Joshua made an altar and renewed the covenant with the Lord (Joshua 8, 24). ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.’ But you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship. Solomon built and dedicated the temple to the Lord in Jerusalem, and God chose to put his name in that place (Deut.12:5, 11; 1Ki.9:3; 2Chr.7:12). But after Solomon, the kingdom was divided, and Israel established other places of worship (1Ki.12). Her question is a question of place. Where is the appropriate place of worship? There is rich history of worship in many places, not only Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is the one place God authorized a temple to be built to his name. What is the right place for worship?

Place To Worship

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Jesus’ answer is startling. No. Not here, and not in Jerusalem. The temple towered over Jerusalem, and when his disciples were admiring the architecture and the magnificent buildings, Jesus said ‘There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mk.13:2). A day is coming that the place of worship will not be here, in Samaria, and it will not be there, in Jerusalem.

Who To Worship

Notice something else. Jesus is not afraid to tell her she’s wrong. The Samaritans were wrong about worship. He doesn’t question that she is worshiping, but who she is worshiping. We are all worshipers. We are made to worship. But it matters who you worship, and the Jews were seeking to honor the one true God in the way that he instructed his people to worship him. You worship what you do not know. Salvation is of the Jews. It will not stay with the Jews, and it will not only be Jews who are saved, but the Savior comes from the Jewish nation. God’s salvation comes through a Jewish Messiah and flows out as living water to all the nations.

Jesus says it is not about place. It is about a person. It is about who you worship.

Spirit and Truth

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says something very simple but very profound about worship, and about God. God is spirit. His essence is spirit, not physical, not material. God is spirit. In Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, he said:

1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

“Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jer.23:24). Acts 17 says:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God doesn’t have needs. He doesn’t need food, drink, shelter, clothing. He is spirit. He is bigger than place. He cannot be confined, he cannot be contained, he cannot be limited. God is the uncaused cause of all that exists. He alone is the self-existent one.

‘The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’ True worshipers must worship in truth, in line with God’s word, and the time is now here, because as John 1 tells us, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:14). True worshipers must worship in spirit, because as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, ‘You must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5-7). Philippians 3:3 draws a contrast between ‘worship by the Spirit of God’ and putting confidence in the flesh. Those who worship by the Spirit of God ‘glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.’

True worshipers must have both. We can’t choose one or the other. Individuals and churches often pick. We’re all about the Spirit, or we’re all about the truth. We aren’t true worshipers of the true God if we claim to worship in the Spirit, unhitched from Biblical truth. Equally so, we aren’t true worshipers if we claim to worship in truth but are devoid of God’s Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit and we must be bound by God’s word.

The I AM is Here

John 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

This woman is in over her head. Jesus has told her some revolutionary things. She can’t wrap her head around what he is saying let alone attempt to argue her case with him. She defers to the coming Messiah who will make it all clear.

John 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

This is one of the I AM statements of Jesus. He claims directly to be the Christ, the coming Messiah. Beyond that, he claims to be the self-existent one himself, the I AM. ‘The hour is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, because I AM.’ The I AM has come, God with us. The Father will receive true Spirit empowered worship as a result of the work of the Son who will give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus the Temple

Back in John 2, Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers and those that sold sheep and oxen and pigeons out of the temple courtyard. When he was challenged by the religious leaders as to where he got his authority to do this, he answered:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Samaritan woman is asking about the right place for worship. Jesus says ‘Something greater than the temple is here’ (Mt.12:6). ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). My body crucified and risen is the only place to meet with God.

Worship Jesus

When tempted by Satan, Jesus answered “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Mt.4:10). Whenever an angel or a man is offered worship, they urgently decline and demand worship be given to God alone. And yet Jesus receives worship. In Matthew 2, the Magi fall down and worship the child Jesus. In Matthew 8, 9 and 15 those in need come and kneel before Jesus in worship. In Matthew 14, after they saw Jesus walking on the water,

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In Matthew 28 and Luke 24, the risen Jesus is worshiped by his followers. In John 20:28, Thomas responds “My Lord and my God!” Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus receiving worship.

In John 5, Jesus declares that the Father has given all judgment to the Son,

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus receives the worship due only to God, and he demands that we honor him just as we honor the Father.

In John 17 Jesus prays that as he has glorified the Father here on earth, his Father would now glorify him ‘in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’ (Jn.17:4-5).

In Revelation, around the throne of God in heaven, the living creatures and elders fall down before the Lamb and pour out the prayers of the saints and sing ‘Worthy are you …for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev.5:9).

There are people who will come to your door and try to convince you that Jesus is not equal to his Father, and not worthy of your worship. Test what they say against the truth of God’s word.

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

Our worship matters. It matters what we value, what we treasure, what we consider worthy of our affection, our devotion, our attention. It matters what captivates us. The Father, Son and Spirit alone are worthy of our worship.

Are you serving or worshiping? Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, but ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (Lk.10:40). Her sister Mary ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’ (Lk.10:39). When Martha complained,

Luke 10:40 …“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Serving is good and right and necessary. If you’re not serving, you need to be using your gifts through love to serve one another. But if you are so distracted with much serving that you don’t sit at Jesus’ feet, that you don’t just get down on your face in his presence and enjoy him, you are missing the one thing that is necessary.

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

August 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment