PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 ​For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

Proverbs 9:10 ​The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

Proverbs 16:33 ​The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

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.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

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.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

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. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Alone; Deuteronomy 4-6, 32

10/11 God Alone; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151011_god-alone.mp3

We have been studying what God says about himself in his word. God wants to make himself known to us. He wants us to enjoy him, to enjoy relationship with him. He knows the one thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart and that is himself. Because he loves us he wants what is best for us, and he is pursuing our happiness in him.

~ Prayer ~

Other Attributes Indicate Uniqueness

Today we will look at the uniqueness of God, at the fact that there is exactly one God. The things we have looked at this far all point us in that direction. That God is self-existent, that he is dependent on nothing outside of himself, that he is independent of everything outside of himself points us to his uniqueness. There is no other being that exists that was not created by this God. There is no other being that is truly independent, that has being in himself. God alone can say ‘I AM.’

The absolute perfection of God, the fact that he cannot improve and that he will never decline in his perfections, that he is unchanging and unchangeable is utterly unique. There is no other being that is not either growing or declining. God is the only one who can say ‘I am the same yesterday and today and forever.’

This being who created time, who is himself outside of and independent of time, is absolutely unlike any other being. Of everything else, we can think back to a time before it existed and think forward to a time when it will pass away and be no more. Of none other can it be said ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’

God, the infinite Creator of all space, who spoke the universe into existence, who is outside of space, who contains all space within himself, who is fully present at every point of the space he created, excludes the possibility of any other being who is present everywhere.

The one who spoke matter into existence, who created all things visible and invisible, who is himself invisible; there is no material being or spirit being that exist that he did not bring into existence. He is unique in that he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These and many of his other attributes indicate that there is no one like him. He is utterly unique, separate, distinct, alone in his absolute perfections.

I Am God Alone

The Bible is explicitly clear on this issue. God is passionate about this issue, we could say even jealous. In the passage in Deuteronomy 4, where Moses speaks of the invisible, immaterial nature of God,

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

And where Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, …

He goes on to say:

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

YHWH is God, there is no other besides him. Absolutely, comprehensively, there is no other God. In heaven above, on the earth beneath, anywhere you can imagine, there is no other.

In Deuteronomy 5 the commandments are rehearsed, the first of which is:

Deuteronomy 5:6 “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

No other gods are to be tolerated in the presence of the one true God, whose presence is everywhere. Then in chapter 6 we are told:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

YHWH is God alone. Therefore your love and affections must go to YHWH alone. No other god is worthy of your affections.

No Other God But One

The whole of scripture concurs that there is only one God.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

From the very beginning, there is only one God. As we have seen, this is clear throughout the Torah. We see the same when we get to the time of the kings.

1 Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

2 Samuel 22:32 “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Solomon concludes his prayer dedicating the temple

1 Kings 8:60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.

When we get to the Psalms we see

Psalm 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. …10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

The point is hammered home most persistently by the prophet Isaiah, who is warning God’s people, because their hearts are going astray after false gods.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

God is the I AM, the self-existent one. He has no competitors. There is no god before him, and there will be no god after him.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.

There is no God besides the LORD. God asks ‘who is like me?’ There is no other being who shares his characteristics, who comes close to his perfections, who compares with his attributes. Who is like the LORD our God?

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

…21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

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,

Even the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar recognized the uniqueness of Israel’s God.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

The prophet Zechariah looks forward to the final days when:

Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

Our God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and no one compares to him.

One God in the New Testament

This is also the clear teaching of the New Testament. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest command, he responded:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

God is God alone, and the one God must be adored. Jesus said:

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

There is only one true God. There is exactly one God.

Paul teaches in Romans 3 that both Jews and non-Jews will be saved in exactly the same way. He argues from the universality of God.

Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Galatians 3 he says;

Galatians 3:20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 Timothy 6:15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Jude :25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

There is exactly one God. No more, no less.

Other Gods?

Look back at Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

God says it often, that he alone is God. This is eminently practical, because it affects the way we live. We are warned in verse 12:

Deuteronomy 6:12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

No other gods are to be feared. No other gods are to be served. No other gods are to be followed. No other gods are worthy of any respect. YHWH is a jealous God. He will not tolerate divided allegiance. He alone must have our undivided devotion.

But what of these other gods? Isn’t there only one God? Why does it mention other gods if no other gods exist but one? What is there to be jealous of if there are no competitors?

Toward the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 32, we are told

Deuteronomy 32:12 the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.

…15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

…21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

…39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Here God contrasts himself with foreign gods, strange gods, which he calls ‘abominations’, ‘idols’ and ‘demons that were no gods’. Here we gain some insight that clears up the confusion of saying that there is no other God and yet referring to other gods. Those other gods are false gods, empowered by demons. With this Paul agrees. In 1 Corinthians 8-10, where he wrestles through the complex issue of whether it is permissible for a believer to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols.

1 Corinthians 8:4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Idols are so-called gods. There is no God but one. Other gods have no real existence. But in chapter 10, at the conclusion of his argument, he says:

1 Corinthians 10:19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

When people worship anyone or anything other than the one true God, they are participating with demons.

God is not jealous in the sense that he feels threatened. He is not afraid that another god will prove to be better that he and so he will lose his followers. God is jealous in that he loves us and knows what is best for us. If we are led astray to give our affections to another god who proves in the end to be a false god, our hopes are misplaced, and we will lose out in the end. God is jealous for us. He wants to protect us. This passage in Deuteronomy closes with this:

Deuteronomy 32:47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

This issue is not merely academic. This is not an irrelevant piece of theology. This is intensely practical. This has implications for all of life, for what we do, for how we spend our time, for how we spend our money. We are worshiping beings. We were made to worship, and we worship all the time. Not merely Sunday mornings, but every day. The question is not if we will worship, but what we will worship, who we will worship. Is our worship directed toward the one true God, the eternal, immortal, invisible, self-existent one, or is it toward an image that we have created in our imagination, is it toward a created thing rather than the Creator of all things, who is blessed forever? That we understand God properly, that we recognize him for who he says he is, that we worship him alone, is no empty word, but our very life.

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

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

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible God; John 4:19-24

10/04 Invisible God Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151004_invisible-god.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, digging in to his word to see what he says about himself. We want to worship him as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We want to offer him true worship.

We have learned that God is incomprehensible – a being beyond our ability to fully understand, yet we can know true things about him, the things he has revealed to us. Indeed, he intends to be known and worshiped as he really is. We have learned that God is, that he exists, independent of anything outside of himself. He is the uncaused cause of everything that is. He is unchanging and unchangeable. He is a God who is beyond all time and space but fills all time and space with his immediate presence. He is eternal, inescapable, uncontainable.

Sadducees and Materialism

We live in a materialistic society. Most people live as if what we see is all there is. We store up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. But the Bible opens our eyes to a greater reality, an unseen reality. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Christians have hope beyond the grave. In Philippians 1, Paul, in prison, is wondering what will happen to him. Will he remain in the flesh, or will he depart and be with Christ? Paul is confident that when his body dies, he will be in the presence of God. In 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about the earthly body as a tent that will be destroyed, and that we will put on a heavenly dwelling. There is part of us that lives on even when our material bodies wear out and decay. In Acts 23, when Paul was on trial before the Jewish council, he nearly started a riot between the Pharisees and Sadducees when he cried out that he was on trial because of the hope and the resurrection of the dead, because, we are told,

Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

It appears the Sadducees were materialists. Don’t tell me all this nonsense about things I can’t see or touch or smell. No resurrection. No angel. No spirit. Paul would say ‘no hope!’

Spirit and Matter

Jesus clearly believed in spirits and the resurrection. Jesus said:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In Mark 5, Jesus commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a man. When Jesus asked his name, the response was ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’. A Roman legion was 3,000 – 6,000 men. When Jesus gave his permission, the unclean spirits came out of the man and entered into about 2,000 pigs who rushed into the sea and were drowned. A spirit is not made up of matter, and therefore takes up no space. We aren’t told exactly how many demons tormented this man, but somehow there were many who were able to inhabit the same space.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, they were terrified.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

The disciples thought they saw a spirit. Jesus invites them to touch him to prove that he is not an apparition, but is indeed a material being. He even eats something in front of them, and he says ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’. Jesus tells us that spirits are not material. Jesus demonstrates that his resurrected body is a real physical material body and not a ghostly apparition.

In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6, when the Syrian king’s military plans were repeatedly foiled, he assumed he had a spy who was leaking information to the king of Israel

2 Kings 6:11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 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.

Elisha and Gehazi are surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots and a great army. Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because the Syrian army is greatly outnumbered. The unseen angelic legions were on their side. They were unseen, unheard, unfelt, but they were real. God opened his eyes so that he could see his invisible armies.

Note, by the way, that while we learned last time that God is unlimited by space or time, angels, although they are spirit, are spatially limited. In Daniel 9 and 10, we see Gabriel being sent and coming in swift flight, even being delayed by demonic forces. God is a spirit who is everywhere present, angels are spirits who can only be in one place at a time.

God is Spirit

In Isaiah 31, God is rebuking those who run to Egypt and rely on horses and chariots but do not look to the Holy One of Israel. He draws this contrast:

Isaiah 31:3 The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

God is not a man. Both man and horses are flesh. God is spirit. God is immaterial. God is invisible. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God’s divine nature is invisible, yet is clearly evident in the things he has made.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

God is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All created things, all created beings, whether physical or spiritual were created by Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God is King of eternity, immortal, invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

God dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen God. No one can see God.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

God is invisible.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

God has not been seen. No one has ever seen God.

No One Has Ever Seen God?

But wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible talk about people who saw God? The LORD God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The LORD appeared to Abram by the oaks of Mamre. Three strangers came to visit Abraham’s tent. The men departed, but Abraham still stood before the presence of the LORD (Gen.18). The LORD appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. He made his presence known to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He appeared to 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, who ate and drank in his presence. They describe what they saw as

Exodus 24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

They saw the God of Israel. But all that they describe is the pavement under his feet.

When Moses requested to see the glory of God, God replied:

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.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God says ‘you cannot see my face. Man shall not see me and live.’ In the next chapter God makes his presence known to Moses.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

It seems what Moses saw was cloud. The way God revealed himself was verbal. He described his character.

When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, what he describes is that the train of his robe filled the temple. And he describes the seraphim above him, and he says that the house was filled with smoke.

The closest we get to an actual physical description of God is in Daniel 7, where he describes Ancient of Days taking his seat with clothing white as snow and hair like pure wool.

How do we fit these statements that Old Testament people saw God with the clear New Testament teaching that God is invisible and ‘no one has ever seen God’?

God cannot be seen in his essence, because he is spirit, he is immaterial; being immaterial there is nothing physical to see. However God, being Creator of all things visible and invisible, is fully able to manifest himself and make his presence known in different ways to different people.

Spirit and Idolatry

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses reminds the generation who would enter the promised land

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 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.

Since you saw no form but heard only a voice, make no form, no image. Because God is spirit, immaterial, no created thing can adequately represent him. Every form will grossly misrepresent him. There is only one image God approves of.

Jesus the Image of God

John’s gospel opens:

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. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word exists before the beginning. The Word IS. The Word was with God, a distinct personality, but the Word was God, fully divine. He is personal, and he is the Creator of all that is. Verse 14 tells us

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.

The Word became flesh. The Word, who always existed as God, the only Son from the Father, became something that he was not. He became flesh. He dwelt among us. He became man. Verse 18 says:

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

God’s essential essence has never been seen. God has made his presence known in different visible manifestations, but no one has ever seen God. God the Son has made him known. The only image of God that God approves of is Jesus.

Jesus taught:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 12:45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Colossians calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God’. Hebrews calls him “the exact imprint of his nature”. Not that we should make pictures of Jesus. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. It is not about what he looked like. The apostles who knew what he looked like left us no physical descriptions. What they handed down to us are his teachings, his interactions with people, his character, his identity.

Spiritual Worship

Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. He revealed that he knew some uncomfortable details about her personal life, so she asked him a question about the proper place of worship.

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.” 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. 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.”

In answer to her question about the proper place of worship, Jesus’ answer is no, it is not about place, not about here or there. It is about worship in spirit and truth, because God is spirit. The nature of God has implications on how we are to worship him. He is not material, so the externals of worship are of little importance. Because God is spirit worship of him must be spiritual. God is most interested in our heart, in what nobody can see. Spiritual worship is worship that is brought about by the Spirit. We must come to the Father through the finished work of the Son, having been transformed and made new by the Spirit. He is pleased when we stand in awe of him as he really is, not as we imagine him to be. He must be worshiped in truth. We must embrace the truth of what he says about himself. Our spirits must engage him. The Spirit gives us a new taste for the goodness of God. He must be enjoyed, delighted in, savored. He is our greatest pleasure, our greatest treasure.

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

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Everywhere and Nowhere; Psalm 139

09/27 God Everywhere and Nowhere; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150927_god-everywhere.mp3

We are studying God, what he says about himself in his word. We are seeking to know him, to enjoy the relationship with him that he purchased for us with the blood of his only Son our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

…11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

…19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Isaiah 64

1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— 2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

We want to know you God. We long to be near you, to enjoy your presence, to be with you. We want to believe truth about you and flee from the idolatry of imagining that you are like us, from the sin of bringing you down to our level. We want to listen to what you say about yourself. To believe you. To stand in awe and wonder at a being so supreme, so awesome, so uniquely other. We were made to worship. To worship you alone. Guide our thoughts. Stir our hearts. Capture our affections. In Jesus’ name and for his glory we ask, Amen.

Do you sometimes feel like God is far off, he is not listening, like he is not even there? Do you sometimes experience the nearness of God, and other times feel abandoned?

God Unlimited by Time or Space

Last time we looked at the infinity of God in relation to time. God is unlimited, unconstrained by time, or by the sequence of events. He is not a temporal being, he has no beginning and no end, he is, he exists independent of anything outside of himself. Yet he interacts with us, his creatures, in time.

Today we will look at God’s infinity as it relates to space. Just as God is not limited or constrained by time as we understand it, so God is not limited by the material universe, by space or distance or size. Sometimes this is referred to as the immensity of God, the ubiquity of God, or the omnipresence of God.

If we ask ‘What is God like?’ we could look to the tabernacle. God gave Moses specific instructions on building him a sanctuary.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. 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.

If we understand the ark to be a kind of a throne, it is a box about 27 inches high by 27 inches deep by 45 inches wide. You would have to be a bit taller than me to sit on a throne that tall without your feet dangling awkwardly. If we keep reading, we see that the cover of this golden throne is complete with angelic figures ;

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 would meet with his people in most holy place, which was about a 15 foot cube. If God were 10 feet tall, he could safely hover above the cherubim without bumping his head on the ceiling. Is this how we are to think about God?

God Uncontainable

If we jump ahead to the time of the kings, David made preparations for his son Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem to replace the portable tabernacle, now that God had given them the land. In 2 Chronicles 2, Solomon wrote to make arrangements with the king of Tyre, who would supply skilled laborers and materials. He said:

2 Chronicles 2:4 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel. 5 The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

Listen to parts of Solomon’s prayer of dedication in chapter 6.

2 Chronicles 6:14 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart,

…17 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David. 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 understood that heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God. So just how big is God? Solomon speaks as large as he can. Heaven cannot contain him; the sky above cannot contain him. The highest heaven cannot contain him – what we think of as outer space cannot contain him. The biggest space you can imagine cannot contain him. God is uncontainable. The God who made the universe cannot be contained in the universe. Some scientists conjecture this universe is at least 28 billion light years in diameter. Remember that one light year is the distance that light can travel in one year, which is about 5.8 x 1012 miles (that’s twelve zero’s), or 5.8 trillion miles. And then times that by 28 billion light years. Heaven, even the highest heaven cannot contain him. God existed before the universe existed. God spoke the universe into existence. God created space, and space cannot contain God.

The Lord asks Isaiah’s generation in Isaiah 66:

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. …

Heaven is what I sit on. Planet Earth is the little thing I pull up to rest my feet on. Heaven and Earth exist because I brought them into existence. I am not contained by them. Paul says in Acts 17:

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 made everything and cannot be contained by anything he has made. This is the danger of sacred places. They tend to give us the impression that there are places we can go to be in God’s presence, and there are other places that are exempt from God’s presence. We come to church to meet with God, and then we leave God in the church building and go do other things.

God in Heaven and Hell

Look with me at Psalm 139. The Psalmist cries out in amazed worship:

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. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 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.

You Lord know everything about me. You are ahead of me, behind me, all around me. Your hand is always on me. The Psalmist asks ‘where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?’ Is there anywhere that God is not? Of course, we expect we would find God in heaven. That is what makes heaven heaven. ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ says the Psalmist (16:11). But what about hell? Isn’t hell the absence of God? Isn’t that what makes hell hell? Isaiah says

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

But the Psalmist says ‘If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!’ No one can hide from the presence of God, not even in hell. Sin separates us from God, not spatially, not by distance, because God is everywhere. Sin separates us relationally from God’s favor. I might be in the same room, looking one of my daughters in the eye and say ‘I feel like there is a huge distance between us’. I don’t mean that she is on a different continent. I mean that there is something that has driven a wedge in our relationship. Heaven is not so much a location as an experience of God’s pleasure, God’s favor, enjoying the intimacy of relationship. Hell is not so much a place as the experience of a relationship with our good Creator broken, the experience of his displeasure, his anger. God is eternally present in hell to ensure every sin is justly and fairly punished.

If I fly across the sea, if I attempt to hide in darkness, you are there. There is no place we can go that God is not already there.

God Filling Space

God says to the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?

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.

God is both near and far. There is no place that he is not. He fills heaven and earth. How does he fill all space? Is he like that expanding foam that when you spray it in a crack it expands to fill whatever space is there? Or should we think of him as so incredibly huge that his big toe is in Canada and his heel is in South America? He is present here in Utah, but only by the sole of his foot? These are all flawed ways of thinking about God that are limited to the material universe. God is not a man. God is not like us. God is spirit. He is immaterial. He is. And there is nowhere that he is not. His being is fully present everywhere. He is fully present in this room with us today, giving us his undivided attention, and he is fully present in Provo and Payson and Salt Lake City. He is fully present in Thailand and Azerbaijan and South Africa, and he is fully present with the believer praying in secret in Iraq. He is not more present in one place than another, he is not limited to being in one place at one time. His being is unlimited by space or time. It would be just as correct to say that God is everywhere as to say that God is nowhere, because where is the wrong question. In asking about the whereness of God, we are looking for physical boundaries. God has no physical boundaries. He is not physical or material. Just as God is not a creature of time but the Creator of time, independent of time and outside of time, God is not a creature in space but the Creator of space, independent of space and outside of space. He contains all space and yet is fully present in every point of space.

Immensity and Incarnation

What do we do with this when we look to Jesus and the incarnation? Jesus, eternal God, who possesses all the characteristics of God, took on flesh and became human. Did God the Son become confined in time and space to a limited human body? Did he cease to be unlimited during his time on this planet? And we believe that his humanity continues on forever, so is he still limited now? There are many hints throughout the Gospels that although Jesus really and truly took on a real human nature, and in that human nature he was confined to be in one place at each moment, that he never ceased to be fully God, and as God he continued to fill heaven and earth. Speaking of the incarnation, one of the old theologians said ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. Continuing as infinite eternal measureless God, he took on an additional nature, a human nature. In his humanity he is limited; in his divinity he is unconfined.

Speaking of the Son of God in his incarnation, the author of Hebrews writes:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Jesus, while in his humanity he was confined to his mother’s womb, was all the while upholding the universe. Colossians tells us:

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

While asleep in a boat from exhaustion on the sea of Galilee, he was holding every molecule of the universe together. Jesus said to his disciples, before his human body ascended into heaven,

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus, physically, bodily, is seated at the right hand of his Father’s throne, as eternal God Jesus is ever present with every one of his followers to bless and care for us. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Use of Doctrine

What are the implications of this truth for us? What does it matter? All biblical truth is intensely practical. It affects how we live, it affects our attitudes, our actions, our responses to difficult circumstances.

The truth of God’s omnipresence is a great comfort to believers. This means we are never alone. God is always with us. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. Whatever we are going through, whatever trials we face, God is with us. He is for us. He will see us through.

This truth has implications on how we pray. We don’t have to take a number and wait in line for someone else to finish before we can talk to God. We don’t have to wait for God to make the rounds to our neighborhood before we can talk to him. Whenever we want, as often as we like, for as long as we desire, we have God’s full and undivided attention. Take a moment for that to sink in. The God of the universe, the God who spoke all creation into existence, the God who governs every king and president and ruler, the God who is sovereign and supreme over all spiritual forces good and evil, is eager to listen to you. He counts your prayers as significant.

This gives us great confidence when we pray for others. God is fully present with us to hear our prayers here for our brothers and sisters who are in a different town or on the other side of the planet, and at the same time (or even before we ask) is fully present there to answer that prayer wherever they are.

The infinite presence of God is a great comfort to believers, but a great terror to unbelievers. In Revelation 6, we are told:

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

There is no place we can flee from his presence. Not heaven, not hell, not the depths of the sea, not the farthest reaches of space. Augustine writes “there is no place whither thou mayest flee from God angry but to God reconciled. There is no place at all whither thou mayest flee. Wilt thou flee from him? Flee unto him.” The only safe place to flee from the wrath of God is to flee into the outstretched arms of Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me” Jesus said (Jn.14:6). Herman Bavinck writes “approaching God and seeking his countenance does not require pilgrimage but penitence and humiliation.” [Bavinck, p.163]

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

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.

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

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eternal God; Psalm 90

09/20 Eternal God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150920_eternal-god.mp3

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

-Shakespeare, Sonnet 60

Time marches steadily forward. Time devours. We are creatures at the mercy of the ravages of time. Our lives are temporary. Fleeting. Momentary. Finite. We can think back in history to a time before we existed, before we were born. We had a starting point. And we will just as certainly have an ending point. We will pass away. We will return to dust. And given enough time, we will most likely be forgotten. We seek for permanence, something that will endure, a name that will last, something that will be established. But even the things we seek to leave behind soon fade away.

God is not like us. God is not subject to our limitations. God is infinite. He is not subject to the things we are subject to. God is not subject to the effects of time. God is without beginning and without end. He Is. He is eternal.

Prayer: The Infinite and the Finite (Valley of Vision)

Thou great I Am,

Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being

with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,

A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that, while all creatures are broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness;

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer.

Everlasting God

In Genesis 21, after the birth of Isaac, after Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, after he settled a dispute over rights to a well of water, we are told:

Genesis 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

YHWH El Owlam; The LORD the Everlasting God. He is perpetual. Think back before the first event you can conceive of; God was there. Think forward into the future as far as your mind can imagine; God is there. Extend a timeline infinitely in both directions and God encompasses it all. But a timeline does not extend infinitely. Time is not infinite. Time and matter and motion were brought into existence by God. Before time existed, God is.

At the end of Moses’ life, as he blesses Israel, he says:

Deuteronomy 33:26 There is none like God,… 27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

There is none like God, the eternal God is your dwelling place, the everlasting God is your support.

Moses’ prayer is recorded in Psalm 90.

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

Life is short. Life is fleeting. It is here and then it is gone. Days fly away. The number of our years is limited. We are dust. In contrast to man, God is timeless. God is a safe harbor across all generations. God is God from everlasting to everlasting. All the way back before the birth of the mountains, before God formed land, before he spoke the globe into existence, from everlasting, you are God. And on beyond the distant future, you are God. From eternity past to eternity future, you are.

Eternity and Time

God is not limited by time, by dates, by sequences of events. For us it is often challenging to fit the necessary events into the allotted time. Time quickly slips away. We run out of time. Some things get done, and others have to wait. But from our experience we learn that time is relative. If there is something on the calendar that we are looking forward to, eagerly anticipating, it seems that time slows to a painful crawl. The anticipated event may never come. God is not constrained by the clock or the calendar. He never runs out of time. He never has things he wishes he could do that he simply doesn’t have time to get done. His perception of time is different than ours. Verse 4 says:

Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

God’s perception of a thousand years is compared to our perception of yesterday, of a short period of time, of a dream, of grass that lasts a day. What seems to us an unimaginably long period of time, to the eternal God is like a few hours in the night.

Peter encourages believers in the face of scoffers who mock the promise of the soon coming of our Lord:

2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

He takes the truth of Psalm 90, that a thousand years is as yesterday, and mirrors it with the parallel truth that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years; where we feel limited in what can be accomplished in 24 hours, to God it is as if he had a thousand years.

God is able to operate within time, but he is not constrained by time. He is not limited by time in the ways that we are limited by time. He existed before time, he created time, and he encompasses time.

Inhabiting Eternity

Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus Mighty God and Everlasting Father, or Father of Eternity. We will come back to this later.

Isaiah 40 calls God everlasting.

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Elohim Owlam YHWH. YHWH is eternal. He does not get fatigued by doing work in time, he brought the earth out of nothing, but he doesn’t have to gasp to catch his breath.

Isaiah 57 calls God the one who inhabits eternity.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Where God dwells is outside of time. He inhabits eternity. He is holy, set apart, totally other than us. He dwells in eternity, but he also enters time and dwells with those who humbly turn to him.

Eternal Dominion

In Daniel 4, after the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar is humbled, he praises God.

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

The God of Daniel, the Most High God, higher than any of the gods of the Babylonians, is a God who lives forever. He has eternal life in himself. His rule is an everlasting rule, and his kingdom endures throughout time.

Jeremiah calls YHWH the true God, the living God, the everlasting King.

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

For his dominion, his rule, his kingship to be everlasting, he must be an eternal being.

In the New Testament letter of Jude, he says in his closing doxology:

Jude :25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

If God is to have glory, majesty, dominion and authority eternally, he must exist eternally. Jude defines this with the three categories of eternity past, ‘before all time’; the present ‘now’; and eternity future, ‘forever’.

Immortal

Timothy in his opening doxology calls God the King of the ages or the King of eternity.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

He calls God immortal, not subject to death or decay, and he attributes honor and glory to him eternally. In his closing doxology in chapter 6 he says

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

He attributes to him immortality and eternal rule.

In Romans 1:23, the immortality of God is contrasted with mortal man and animals, who are subject to death and decay.

In Romans 16:26, Paul refers to God as ‘the eternal God’.

Revelation 4 describes the worship around the throne of God.

Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne,…

God is described as the one who was and is and is to come, the one who lives forever and ever. Past, present and future, the eternally living one.

Jesus the Eternal Word

John begins his gospel by describing Jesus as the eternally existent Word.

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.

Jesus eternally existed with his Father from before the beginning. John begins his first letter, 1 John, this way:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

He describes Jesus, whom the apostles heard and saw and touched as “that which was from the beginning”; he eternally existed. The life was made manifest, his eternal life who existed eternally with the Father. He was revealed to them in time. He says in chapter 5:

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus, the Son of God, who is the true God and eternal life, came to give us understanding. Jesus who is eternal life came so that we may know him. Jesus said in John 17:

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

Jesus innately possesses eternal life with his Father. Jesus offers eternal life to all who believe in him as a gift. This does not mean that we can become eternal beings; it would be impossible for us who had a beginning to become without beginning. We are invited to participate in God’s eternal life by knowing him, by entering into relationship with him, by enjoying him forever.

Eternal Joy

Psalm 106 points us to this aspect of eternal joy. Psalm 106:48 praises the blessedness of the eternal God.

Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

God not only exists from eternity past to eternity future, but he is blessed or happy from everlasting to everlasting. He is delighted to be who he is.

If we look back to Psalm 90, where we started, we see this aspect of joy. Psalm 90 begins with a recognition of the eternal nature of God. He is our dwelling place throughout generations and he is God from eternity past to eternity future. Psalm 90 ends with a prayer. The prayer of Psalm 90 is that the Lord bring satisfaction and the joy of his presence to our days. That he would exchange the days and years of evil and affliction with days of gladness in God. That he would establish and make permanent and lasting the work or our hands.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

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

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Unchanging; Psalm 102

09/13 God Unchanging; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150913_god-unchanging.mp3

Prayer

O Lord, we desire to know you. We long to enjoy your intimate fellowship as Enoch, who walked with you and was not, for you took him. We want to love and fear you like Abraham, so much that no sacrifice is considered too great. We desire to count our time with you so valuable that like Daniel we would risk being eaten by lions just to spend a few precious moments with you. We want, like Job, to bless your name and worship you, whether you give good gifts, or take those gifts away. Help us to say with the Psalmist, that we seek you, we thirst for you, we faint for you, ‘because your steadfast love is better than life’ (Ps.63:3).

Everything Changes

Today we will look at the immutability of God, the unchangeable nature of his being and attributes.

When we travel to visit family in Minnesota, it is a 22 hour drive, so we usually stop somewhere in the middle to spend the night. One of our early trips, Deanna found a great deal on a motel. It was an older motel, and they rented us what must have been the caretaker’s apartment. It had several rooms, a small kitchen, and the pool was right outside the door. It looked like it had been furnished in the ’70’s, but it was comfortable, it fit our family well, and it was cheap! We made some great memories there with our little family. On a later trip, we tried to look this place up so we could make reservations. We couldn’t find it online. We made some calls, but came up with nothing. We tried to remember where exactly it was. We took the exit and drove around, but we couldn’t find it. Finally, we narrowed it down to where it was, and it was a construction zone. The property was surrounded by chain link fence, and there was nothing there but dirt. No motel, no apartment, no pool, no parking lot, no sign, nothing. It was gone. Erased. No trace. Obviously we had to find a different place to stay.

Everything changes. Our culture has changed. Our country has changed. What not too long ago was considered deviant behavior is now celebrated and protected. What would have been considered standing up for what is right and good and true is now considered hate speech. What was wrong is now right. What was right is now wrong.

In a world that is so rapidly changing we look for something stable, something solid, something permanent, something that we can hold on to, something we can trust.

Consider our brothers and sisters fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritria seeking a place to live where they will not be killed for their faith in Christ. Last year nearly 200,000 Assyrian Christians were forced to flee their homes around the Mosul area in Iraq, near the site of ancient Nineveh, after ISIS took control of the city and destroyed historic Christian churches. Imagine, the stability of an 1800 year old church building demolished and the Christian community forced to flee, be killed, or convert to Islam. What is there to hold on to? What doesn’t change?

Psalm 102

Listen to the words of Psalm 102

Psalm 102

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!

2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!

3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.

6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;

7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

8 All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.

9 For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink,

10 because of your indignation and anger;

for you have taken me up and thrown me down.

11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Listen to the descriptions the afflicted one uses of himself; my days pass away like smoke; grass that has withered, alone, my days are like an evening shadow, I wither away like grass. Temporary, transient, fading, impermanent, unstable, momentary, fleeting.

Now listen to the permanence and stability of the rest of the Psalm:

Psalm 102:12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.

13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;

it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come.

14 For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.

15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,

and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.

16 For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;

17 he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,

so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:

19 that he looked down from his holy height;

from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,

21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,

and in Jerusalem his praise,

22 when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days.

24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—

you whose years endure throughout all generations!”

You are enthroned forever; throughout all generations; generations to come; you whose years endure throughout all generations.

Listen to the closing verses:

Psalm 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;

their offspring shall be established before you.

What is more permanent than the foundation of the earth and the regularity of the heavens? And yet compared to God, they were brought into existence by him, they will perish, they will wear out, they will be changed and pass away, but the LORD will remain. You are the same. Listen to the comfort in those words. You are the same! Something stable. Something unchangeable. Something solid and consistent. Something to hold on to when everything else is in upheaval and turmoil. You remain. You are the same. Everything else changes. The heavens and the earth change, all created things change, but you are the same. The immutability of God is a strong comfort in troubled times.

Unchangeable and Impassible

What does it mean that God is unchanging? It means both that he will not change and that he cannot change. He is who he is. His being, his essence, his character is always the same. What he is he always is. He cannot be other than he is. He is consistent.

Did you ever have something important you wanted to ask your parents? You learn to pay attention to what is going on and be sure to ask at the right time. Is mom in a good mood? Did dad have a good day at work today? If you ask at the wrong time, the answer is automatically ‘no’. So you learn to pick up on cues, to find the most agreeable time to ask. God is not like that. God is always in a good mood. I think that is what the Westminster divines were getting at when they wrote their description of God who is ‘without body, parts, or passions, immutable’ [Westminster Confession, 2, I]. They did not mean that God is not passionate about anything, or that he is emotionless. It is clear that God has a red-hot hatred of sin and evil, and that he delights to show mercy and extend grace to undeserving sinners. But he is not passively affected from something outside himself. God is never grumpy and frustrated because he had a bad day and things didn’t go his way.

Unchangeable in His Character and Nature

God says to his disobedient people:

Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

I YHWH do not change. This is a passage of judgment. He is rebuking them for their unrighteousness, for their sorcery, adultery, lies, oppression, lack of love and care for the hurting and downcast, lack of fear of the Lord. The fact that they are not consumed is not because of them. They fully deserve to be consumed. They have earned the fires of hell. The fact that they are not consumed has nothing to do with them. They are not consumed because of the character of God. God is an unchanging God. God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. He is always that way. You are not consumed because I am God and I have made promises to you, children of Jacob. The day of judgment is coming. God is just and he will punish all the arrogant and all evildoers. But he is patient and merciful. He sends his messenger to turn the hearts of his people back to him.

James tells us:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

God is the Father of lights. There is no fickleness, no variability in him. There is no shadow from turning. There is absolute consistency. Rock solid reliability. No dark spots on his character. God cannot be tempted with evil and he tempts no one. All good gifts come from him. The greatest gift is new birth. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth. He caused us to be born again through the transforming power of his word.

Unchangeable in his Purposes and Promises

What a glorious truth that God is unchangeable. He is ever the same. He is unchangeable in his being and essence; he cannot become more God than he is; he cannot become less God. He is God. He always has been God. He always will be God. He is unchanging in his perfections or his attributes. Every characteristic that describes God has always been true of him and will always be true of him. He has always been just and will forever be just. He has always been love and will for eternity be love. God is unchanging in his purposes and his promises. He does not set out to do something and then change his mind.

Numbers 23 says:

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

God is contrasted with man. Man is characterized by changeability. We change our minds. We lie. We speak and don’t follow through. God is not a man. He never was a man. He is not a son of man. God is not like man. He cannot lie. He cannot change his mind. He does not promise and then fail to make good on his promise. We change our minds because we don’t have all the facts up front. We make a decision based on limited information, and then when more information comes, we see a better way. We change our minds because we are subject to circumstances that are beyond our control. Something happens and now we can’t follow through with what we had planned. But there is nothing God does not know. He has all the facts in front of him, so he always makes the best possible decision. To change his mind would be to move from the best decision to a worse alternative, and God will not do that. There are no circumstances unforeseen or beyond God’s control. Nothing will ever come up that forces God to change his plans.

God Changes His Mind

1 Samuel 15 says:

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

God is not a man. He will not have regret. We regret when we make a bad decision and have to suffer the consequences. We didn’t have all the facts, and couldn’t see the outcome, and knowing what we now know, if we had it to do over again, we would choose differently. God is not a man to regret or repent or change his mind that way. But doesn’t the Bible say that God changed his mind on occasion? One of those occasions is right here in 1 Samuel 15. It will help us to look at it. Back in verse 11, God tells Samuel:

1 Samuel 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

And then in verse 35, we are told:

1 Samuel 15:35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

And in between these two verses that tell us that God regretted or repented or changed his mind, we have the statement that

1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

So what do we make of this? God regretted that he made Saul king, because Saul turned back from following the Lord. He disobeyed the Lord, he rejected the word of the Lord, and so the Lord rejected him as king. God was sorry that he made Saul king, not in the sense that he wished he had more information on which to base his decision, not in the sense that he wished he could have known what was going to happen, not in the sense that he would choose differently if he had it to do over again. God is not a man that he regrets that way. God new exactly what Saul would do. God knew that he would turn away and disobey. God knew Saul’s character and the outcome of what would happen, and knowing all this, he chose to make Saul king for a time according to his good and wise purposes. When Saul chose to disobey, God responded the way he always responds to sin and disobedience; with judgment. Sin has consequences. God did not change. Saul changed. And although God knew it all along and saw it coming, he is grieved by sin. He has an emotional response to our sin. But even in Saul’s rebellion, God had good purposes that were bigger than this isolated event, that he was bringing about, bigger purposes for the nation of Israel, bigger purposes for David, and if he had it to do over again, he would make the exact same choice, knowing that it is the best possible choice, even though he will grieve over Saul’s rebellion. He regretted or repented or changed his mind, but not in the same way that we as finite creatures with limited foresight and understanding regret or change our minds. God is not a man that he should have that kind of regret.

Unchangeable Word

Isaiah 46 says:

Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 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,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God accomplishes all his purpose. His counsel stands. When he speaks he brings it to pass. His purpose is unchangeable. He is absolutely unique in knowing the end from the beginning and never having to change his mind. In Isaiah 40 he says:

Isaiah 40:6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Again the contrast is drawn between the changeability of people who wither and fade like grass and flowers, but God’s word stands forever. The confidence we have in God’s word, the Bible, is rooted in the character and nature of God. Because God is unchangeable his word is unchangeable. When he speaks he never has to take it back, because he is not subject to limited knowledge or outside forces beyond his control. His word stands forever because he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb.13:8).

We can take great confidence in the unchangeable character of God.

Hebrews 6:17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone …

God’s purpose is unchangeable. His word is unchangeable. His promise is unchangeable. It is impossible for God to lie. This is strong encouragement. This is a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. This is an unwavering hope that enters in to the very presence of God, that flees for refuge to Jesus.

The Rock

God is referred to as a rock repeatedly in scripture because a rock is the nearest thing we can think of that seems solid and permanent and unchanging. Deuteronomy 32 says

Deuteronomy 32:3 For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

God is perfect, just, faithful, upright. He will never change. He is solid, reliable, enduring. Psalm 31 says:

Psalm 31:1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; 4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

God is a rock of refuge, a strong fortress. We can run to him with absolute confidence because of his unchangeable in his being, his perfections, his purposes. He will never go back on his word. And he has promised to rescue all who run to Jesus for refuge!

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

September 13, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing the Incomprehensible

08/23 Knowing the Incomprehensible; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150823_knowing-the-incomprehensible.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, to see what the Bible has to say about who God is, what he is like. As we seek his face, see him for who he is, we must learn to respond to him in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Last time we ended with a prayer of longing for God from Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

We long to know God, but we need to ask the question, is this even possible? If God is the all satisfying source of every good thing, if to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment, can we know him? Is he knowable?

Meant to Know God

As we saw last time, the answer to this must be yes, at least in some sense. According to Romans 1, we are expected to know him, and held accountable for how we respond to what we know of him. We are under God’s wrath because we have irreverently and falsely suppressed the truth about God.

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … 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. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, …

God can be known, indeed he is known, because he has made himself known. Here is a key principle that will help us throughout our endeavor to know God. What we know of God is what God has made known to us. What can be known is plain because God has shown it to us. What we know, we know because of the self-revelation of God. Romans 1 is specifically talking about what we can know about the Creator from looking at his creation. His invisible attributes, his eternal power, his divine nature are clearly perceived in the things that have been made. How much clearer will our perception be if God has communicated directly, in words, telling us what he is like! This is an amazing truth, as Francis Schaeffer reminded us, ‘he is there and he is not silent. God has spoken. He wants to be known. He is a God who communicates, who makes himself known.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God says in the new covenant

Jeremiah 31:33 For 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God intends for a relationship with his people. I will be there God and they will be my people. They will know me. Paul prays for the church in Colossae.

Colossians1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We were meant to know God, to be in relationship with God. From creation we were intended to walk with God, to enjoy fellowship with him. That relationship was severed when we rebelled against his good rule. But now, because of the cross of Jesus, we can be always increasing in the knowledge of God.

Obstacles to Knowing God

We are meant to know God, but there are some obstacles to knowing him. Some of those obstacles are on our side, and some are on his.

Sin

On our side, we have a sin problem. Sin has damaged everything.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Our sin has severed our relationship with God. If God seems distant, it is because we have pushed him away. We were meant to know God, but we rejected his rule and questioned his goodness and love. We usurped his authority and attempt to rule in his place, to run our own lives. Our sin has hidden his face from us. The good news is that through Jesus Christ, our sin can be taken away so that we can be reconciled to God. But sin has left its mark on every part of our being. Humanity is twisted, distorted because of the fall. We are not as God intended us to be.

Romans 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Sin has tainted our thinking and our feeling. We do not think as we ought to think. Our ability to reason correctly has been affected.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

What seems right and reasonable to us may be very distant from what is truly right. We need to maintain a healthy distrust of our own ability to think clearly, especially when it comes to such a high subject as God. Romans 1 tells us that we have a tendency to suppress the truth. Our desires influence our perception. What we want God to be like influences what we think of him. We need to remember that what can be known about God is plain because God has made it known. The only safe path is to let God define himself, and allow him to critique and correct our inadequate views of him.

Our thinking is distorted by sin, but also our desires.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Our hearts are twisted and sick. We cannot trust our own desires. Our desires are deceitful, they lie to us. The things we want the most are not the things that will truly satisfy. There is in our world a desperate lack of desire to know God. If you look around at the people you know, very few of them are interested in God at all. Very few are interested in really knowing him. Some are interested in going to heaven, or in doing something to gain his favor so that he will give them some good thing, but very few are interested in knowing God. In fact, the bible says that no one seeks God. No, not one (Rom.3:11). If you find in your heart a hunger to know God, thank him for that! God placed that desire for him in you. God is the author of that desire.

Many people want God to be different than he is. They want to re-define God in a way that suits their fancy. They hold self up as the ultimate good, and require God to submit to their ideas. They want to conform God to their own image.

Our hearts and our minds are distorted by sin. The gospel is the remedy!

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Our hearts are softened and our minds are renewed as we are taught the truth that is in Jesus. Sin is a major obstacle to knowing God. It is an obstacle that has been overcome by the sacrifice of Jesus, but its effect lingers, and we must continue to battle against it. But this is all on our side. There are obstacles to knowing God that come from God’s side.

Incomprehensibility

Even if we had no sin, there would still be an enormous obstacle to knowing God. Even when we are ultimately set free from our sin and see him face to face, this obstacle will remain. And it is an obstacle rooted in the very nature of God. It is the difficulty of the creature attempting to understand the Creator; of the finite attempting to grasp the Infinite; the temporal grappling with the Eternal; the eye attempting to perceive the Invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Immortal, invisible, unapproachable. That certainly does put a damper on our relationship!

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Deep, unsearchable, inscrutable. Who has known his mind? It is past finding out.

Psalm 145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. …5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Beyond measure. Abundant. Words fall short to describe him. Moses described his appearance on Mount Sinai.

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Fire wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. No visible form. Unapproachable light. We have a big word to describe an even bigger concept. Incomprehensibility. How many other 8 syllable words do you know? God is incomprehensible. He is far beyond our ability to understand.

A.W. Tozer in his book ‘Knowledge of the Holy’ points to our difficulty in grasping God.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. …

The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood. When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back upon the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it…. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.7-8)

The other way we seek to describe what God is like is by way of negation. We can only describe what he is by comparing him with things we are familiar with, and he is utterly unlike anything else. So we must resort to using negatives to trim away the things that he is not, leaving what he is somewhat undefined. We have a number of words that begin with ‘in-‘ or ‘im-‘ or ‘un-‘ to narrow down what God is not. When we say he is uncreated, we mean that he was not brought into being by something else. Immortal means that he is not subject to death. When we say he is ‘invisible’ we mean he is something that is not visible, but he is still something. What it is exactly, we can’t be sure. Infinite means that he has no limit.

A poem might help us feel the weight of our difficulty.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he:

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

Incomprehensible yet Knowable

To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is unknowable. We can know true things about him. Real things about him. But we must recognize that we cannot know everything about him. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of God. I don’t fully understand everything about myself, and I certainly don’t understand a lot of things about my wife. But I do know some things about her. And I can enjoy a relationship with her. I can do things that I know will make her angry. And I can do things that I know will make her smile. And I know I ought to do more of the one and less of the other. The fact that God is incomprehensible yet knowable allows us to enjoy our relationship with him, yet continually long for more of him. We can continually behold him – we can perceive true things about him, what he has made known to us, and respond in worshipful reverence and awe.

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.

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

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

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:4c; Not Promoting or Puffing Up Self

11/16 1 Corinthians 13:4c Not Promoting or Puffing Up Self ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141116_1cor13_4c.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Brace yourselves. This will be painful. Paul’s masterful prose in 1 Corinthians 13 is a scathing rebuke to everything that is wrong in us. It is a sharp scalpel that lays open the superficial appearance that we have it all together to show us the disease that lurks just under the surface.

So far, Paul has told us that love, God’s kind of love, the love without which we are worthless and will not enter God’s kingdom, love that we have because we have been loved this way by God, love that is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, this love is patient. It is long-tempered; it puts up with repeated wrongs done to it without becoming angry or hardened. Love is kind; it is genuinely and generously good hearted to others, even to the ungrateful and evil. Love does not envy; it is not unhappy at the success of others, it is not displeased when good comes to others. It is not jealous, even when others are favored above self.

Next, Paul comes to the root of the matter. Paul says love does not boast, and it is not arrogant. C. S. Lewis writes “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.94)

Pride is insidious. Pride is sneaky. I spent most of this week reading about humility, studying humility, what it means to be humble, how we can love others with humility. Last night as I sat in my office putting together this message, I thought to myself, ‘this might well be the best message ever preached on humility’ …

To be clear, anything good in this message was probably stolen. I owe Andrew Murray, C.S Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, and many others a great debt in thinking through and clarifying the issues, especially Tim Keller in his insightful little book ‘The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’.

These two words, boasting and arrogance, along with the previous word envy all go together. Envy is what we do when we feel less than someone else and desire what they have. Boasting is what we do to attempt to make others think we are more than we are. Arrogance is when we think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

περπερεύομαι

This word translated ‘boast’ is a very rare word. It is used only here in the entire New Testament, and it is rarely found in any other contemporary literature. It means to play the part of a braggart or windbag. Do you know anyone who is the hero of all his own stories, or who always has a bigger or better story than the next guy to tell? This is often a person who is either insecure or overly sure of himself. They are looking to others to satisfy a need for affirmation and admiration. Or they are so delighted with themselves that they assume you will be delighted with them too.

It seems that eloquent words and boasting were big problems among the Corinthian believers. Paul thanks God in chapter 1:

1 Corinthians 1:5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

Then down in verse 17, he has to confront their enthusiasm for eloquence.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

…20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

The Corinthians were into high sounding speech, and they were into bragging rights. We could hear the conversation around a Corinthian dinner table: ‘Did you know, I was discipled by the eloquent Apollos. Oh yeah, well the apostle Paul led me to Christ. Oh yeah, well Peter, you know, the one Jesus called the rock? He baptized me. Oh, that’s nice. Too bad they are out of town at the moment. You see, I commune daily with the living risen Christ.’

This is one way to boast, to speak large about oneself. But this is not the only way to boast. A more insidious form of boasting takes its shape in a false humility. This is a self-abasing self-deprecating boasting. It can take the form of a pity party, where I am seeking affirmation by portraying how wretched and miserable and unfortunate and left out I am. Whether the boasting is self promoting or self defacing, the focus is on the self and attention is drawn to the self.

Love vaunteth not itself; it is not a braggart; it is not vainglorious, it does not sound its own praises, it is not a windbag, it does not seek to gain the applause or admiration or approval of others.

φυσιόω

The word translated ‘arrogant’ or ‘proud’ is also a unique word. It shows up six times in 1 Corinthians, and only one other time in the entire New Testament. It is a word that literally means to inflate or puff up.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

The Corinthians clearly had over-inflated opinions of themselves. They had ballooned themselves out to be larger than life. They made themselves out to be bigger than they really were.

When is the last time you were walking down the street and you became aware of how well your left ankle was working? My, that ankle is working so smoothly and effortlessly, it bends and flexes in just the right way at just the right time. Left ankle, I am so pleased with how well you are functioning today! It amazes me how you can bear the entire weight of my body with every other step. You help me keep my balance so I don’t fall. You can adjust so readily to so many different angles and types of terrain. I have just become aware of how well you are doing your job and wanted to praise you for it.

The ankle asks for no attention. It simply does what it was created to do without applause, without fanfare. But have you ever had a body part that became infected or inflamed? You are only acutely aware of a body part when there is something wrong with it. Then it demands the attention of the entire body. Look, that ankle is swollen to twice the size of the other one. Paul used the metaphor of the different parts of the body working together in the last chapter. A part that is puffed up is unhealthy, it is much more sensitive and tender, and it cannot carry out its intended purpose well. It needs special treatment, special attention special care. The whole rest of the body has to compensate for that swollen inflamed ankle. It demands attention because it has a problem, something is wrong with it.

Lucifer’s Pride

Pride was the original sin. Isaiah tells us of Lucifer:

Isaiah 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

He set his heart on ascending, being above the other angels, on being recognized as great, to be like the Most High. He, a mere created being, puffed himself up and desired the recognition and applause that was due only to the Most High God. In Ezekiel 28 we are told that his “heart was proud” (28:17). He wanted to be the center of attention.

When he tempted Eve, his temptation was centered around the inflated desire to be like God.

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Andrew Murray writes “When the Old Serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride, whose whole nature as devil was pride, spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. And when she listened, and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying forever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness. And instead of this, her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its very root with that most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan’s own pride. …And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend upon our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being.” (Andrew Murray, Humility, p.19-20)

God is Not Proud

When we turn to look at the God who is love, we might wonder how these attributes of love fit. Is God proud? Can we really say that God does not boast, that he is not arrogant? We could argue that God is the most self-promoting being in the universe, and that he actively and unashamedly seeks his own glory.

Psalm 106:8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Isaiah 48:9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. … 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. 12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

Ezekiel 20:9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. …14 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. …22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. …44 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.

We could look at Ephesians 1 in the New Testament and see that our salvation, from beginning to end, is “to the praise of his glory” (1:6, 12, 14).

How can God act for the sake of his own reputation and pursue his own praise and not be considered an arrogant boaster? The difference between God’s self-seeking and ours is that our self-seeking is puffed up or inflated, which means it is empty, and his is not one bit overstated. His claims are not inflated and empty, they are solid and substantial. He is exactly what he claims to be.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

Paul says in Romans 12:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, …

We are not to think of self more highly than we ought. We often do. God does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think. He ought to recognize himself as the supreme being that is. For him to do anything less, for him to speak or act in a way that does not communicate that he is the supreme all satisfying end-all and be-all would be idolatry.

God is not insecure or in need of our affirmation. He loves us and wants us to affirm that which is most valuable, namely himself.

Christ is Not Proud

When we look to Jesus, we see the perfectly honest humility of God on display.

John 13:3 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, 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.

Jesus knew who he was. Yet that did not prevent him from acting in a humiliating way out of love and service toward others.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but 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 emptied himself, by 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.

Jesus was in very nature God from all eternity. And while he was here, he clearly communicated that he was equal to and one with his Father. But while man could never puff himself up to become like God, God emptied himself by becoming like man and taking on our nature. He humbled himself by taking on our sin and dying in our place on the cross. Being undiminished deity, he aimed not at his own interest but the interest of others; he used his ability for the good of others. Jesus showed us what truly humble greatness looked like.

A God-Focused Gospel Humility

What might this not puffed up not boasting love look like in us? I’ve heard it said that true humility is not thinking less of self, but thinking of self less. Love is so focused on others that it simply free from that painful self-focus. Our culture is obsessed with self-esteem; we think all our problems stem from an unhealthy self-esteem. But in the bible, we are never commanded to love ourselves; that is taken for granted. We are commanded to love God and others; that is our problem. If our focus shifts from ourselves to others and to God, we will be more satisfied than we could ever be in seeking to improve our self-esteem. Jesus said:

Mark 8:34 … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Deny self, follow Jesus, lose your life for his sake, and you will find you are truly living. The Psalmist tells us:

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Stop boasting in self, stop focusing on self, instead delight yourself in the Lord. Desire above all that God be rightly esteemed for who he is. Take absolute joy in God being God. Delight that he is who he is. Take pleasure in admiring his attributes. Free yourself from the bondage of comparing and simply admire. Enjoy God for who he is. Humility is not measuring yourself in comparison with God and seeing the vast difference. Humility is being so lost in admiration that you forget to look at yourself at all.

Then take that self-forgetful love for God and turn it toward your neighbor. Stop measuring yourself and comparing yourself. When you

see a person who is beautiful or handsome or strong or gifted or well liked or has accomplished great things, simply delight in them as a person. Praise God for them. Find joy in their ability to be who God created them to be. And when you see someone who is ugly or irritating or struggling or hurting, don’t measure yourself and compare yourself to them. Humbly love them. Seek their good.

And when you do become aware of yourself, don’t worry too much about what others think of you; don’t worry too much about how you esteem yourself; the only opinion of you that holds any weight is what God thinks of you. In spite of who you were, God chose you. He pursued you. He loved you. He bought you. He washed you and cleansed you and made you beautiful. He clothed you in his own perfect righteousness. He calls you a son. He is well pleased with you. He delights in you.

1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Love does not promote itself. Love does not inflate itself. Boast in the Lord. Delight in the Lord. Let your joy be rooted in the rock solid reality of who God is and how he loves you. Let that joy in God spill over in humble love to others.

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

November 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:4b; A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love

11/09 1 Corinthians 13:4b A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141109_1cor13_4b.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul swings the wrecking ball of God’s love toward the Corinthians. Their attitudes and conduct toward one another were incongruent with love, inconsistent with the God who is love, out of step with the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of love in the heart of the believer. He intends to hold up a mirror so that we can see how far short we fall of the divine standard, and in broken-hearted humility cry out to God for his transforming work in us.

The love that Paul is talking about is a distinctly Christian sort of love, a response in the heart of the believer to having been perfectly and completely loved by God. We love (says 1 John 4:19) because he first loved us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved by God. Many people do many good things, many charitable deeds, but Paul says in the opening verses, without this distinctly Christian love, those who do these things become nothing, are nothing, and attain nothing. Even someone who in self-sacrificial generosity to the poor gives away literally every possession, even health, even life itself without this love that is rooted in God’s love for us, gains zero.

Paul gives us 15 verbs to describe this love; 2 positive, 8 negative, one contrast; and 4 always, actions that love either does or does not do. Love is patient, or long-tempered like our God who is slow to anger. Thank God he is slow to anger! Love is kind, generously good to the ungrateful and evil. God’s patience delays justice to make room for his kindness to lead us to repentance.

The first negative in the string of 8 is ‘love envieth not, or is not jealous. This is curious, because at the very last verse of chapter 12 was a command that we be jealous, and in the first verse of chapter 14 we are again commanded to be jealous. We have noted that these characteristics of love can be most clearly seen in God, but when we look at jealousy, God repeatedly in the Old Testament claims to be a jealous God, even claiming that his very name is ‘Jealous’, and in the New Testament we see Jesus acting jealously. What do we make of this assertion that love is not jealous, framed by two commands to be jealous on the backdrop of a God whose name is Jealous?

ζηλόω

Let’s begin with a definition. The word is [ζηλόω] zelo-o. It is where we get our English word ‘zeal’. Literally it means to be heated or to boil. It means to desire earnestly, to strive after or pursue something or someone. This word is used in both positive and negative ways. The context determines whether zeal is a good thing or a bad thing.

Evil Jealousy

For instance, 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not being spiritual but of the flesh, mere infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

In this context the burning zeal is a typically human zeal for this or that favorite leader, pitting one against another and causing contention between the differing groups.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Galatians 5 lists zeal or jealousy among the works of the flesh, contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In Stephen’s sermon in Acts, the patriarchs are accused of jealousy toward Joseph.

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Back in Genesis 37, we are told that Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons (v.3). Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and that his mother and father and all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers were jealous of him (v.11). They hated him because his father treated him with special favor. They attempted to do away with him in a vain attempt to thwart his God given prophetic dreams. They didn’t want to bow down to their little brother; they wanted to be the one in charge to whom others would bow down. His dreams were a threat to their own self-importance.

In Acts 5, we are told that many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles (v.12), that the people held them in high esteem (v.13), that more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (v.14), and that people were gathering from the towns around Jerusalem (v.16), and we are told that the high priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and arrested the apostles. They were threatened by their power, their respect, and their popularity. They wanted the power the respect, the popularity for themselves.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are invited by the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preaching the gospel. They said things like “God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (v.23). They accused the rulers of the Jews in Jerusalem of “not understanding the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” and “not recognizing him” (v.27). They accused the leaders of fulfilling the prophecies by condemning him (v.26-29). They proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead (v.30). They proclaimed Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (v.33). They proclaimed the impotency of the law of Moses to free anyone from their sins, and they proclaimed forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus (v.38-39). They warned against the danger of unbelief (v.41). They preached all this in the Jewish synagogue, and there was no opposition! They were not kicked out. No one complained. No on argued. Instead people begged them to teach again the next Sabbath. There was no opposition for the whole week.

Acts 13:44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Notice, the leaders of the synagogue did not dispute the doctrine of the apostles. Not until they saw the crowds did they begin to contradict what was spoken by Paul. They were filled with jealousy because they saw the crowds. Imagine, religious leaders upset at a whole city gathering to listen to the word of the Lord! They should be rejoicing! Instead, they are jealous. They want the attention, they want the popularity, they want the crowds for themselves.

The same thing happened in Acts 17, where Paul and Silas came to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica,

Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

For three weeks Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah, and proclaimed the cross and the resurrection in a Jewish synagogue, and he was unchallenged! It wasn’t until some of the Jews were persuaded, a great many of the devout Greeks, and many prominent women, that the Jews became jealous. They perceived they were losing something that belonged to them, and so they incited a mob to riot. In their jealousy, they even followed Paul to the next town and stirred up the crowds there.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20 about a master who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. He agreed with them for a fair day’s wage. He hired more workers at 9am, more at noon, more at 3pm, and more at 5pm, and when evening came he paid all of them a full day’s wages. Those who were hired first grumbled,

Matthew 20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

They were jealous of those who worked only one hour and received a full day’s wage. That’s not fair! The master responded:

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, is your eye evil because I am good? They grumbled because they were treated differently than others. They looked with an evil eye on the generosity of the master, rather than celebrating his generosity toward others. We see the same in the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother hears the music and dancing from the celebration and “he was angry and refused to go in” (Lk.15:28). He compared himself and his performance with his brother and was envious of the extravagant love and generosity shown by his father toward his repentant brother. These are examples of a passionate response to something good being given to someone else, wanting it for self. This is the evil kind of zeal, and love is not jealous.

God’s Jealousy

There is a jealousy or zeal that is attributed to God. In Exodus 20, God warns:

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

God demands first place. God demands that we bow down to and serve him alone. In Exodus 34 he says:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

God identifies himself with jealousy as a name, demanding that our worship go exclusively to him.

In Ezekiel 16, God describes in graphic terms how he took Israel to be his own when there was nothing desirable in her. He took her in, cared for her, entered into a marriage covenant with her, cleansed her, made her beautiful, and blessed her with everything good. But she was unfaithful to him. He calls her:

Ezekiel 16:32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

…35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:

He accuses her of slaughtering his own children as offering to false gods. And then he says:

Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. …41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.

God’s jealousy is the jealousy that a husband ought to have for his own wife, demanding the exclusive faithfulness from her that she promised in her covenant vows. Song of Solomon brings together love and jealousy.

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy of Jesus

Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, showed his jealousy.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The religious leaders had prostituted the purpose of the temple. It was meant to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Instead they used it as an opportunity to oppress the poor and make a profit. Jesus passionately defended the honor of his Father’s house.

Clarifying the Difference

God is jealous, and God is love, but love is not jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a loving jealousy, where our jealousy would be contrary to love? What is the difference between the good kind of jealousy and the evil kind of jealousy? In the examples we looked at, human jealousy was a heated response to something good that we desire being given to someone else. We could look at God’s jealousy and say that it too is a heated response to something good that he desired being given to someone else. God demands the undivided affection, devotion, worship and love of his people. When we give that to someone else it is considered adultery. But if we jealously desire equal respect, honor, attention, popularity, and praise to be given to us, it is sin. What makes the difference? We could add one phrase that makes the difference. God demands the affection, love and worship that rightfully belongs to him. When we are jealous, we make demands for things that do not rightfully belong to us. We demand of God’s generosity, that he not extend more generosity to others than he has to us. God is not obligated to extend any generosity to anyone. When we are jealous, we are looking sideways at others and asking ‘how come he got treated better than I did?’

This points us to an element in our jealous that distinguishes it from God’s jealousy. Our jealousy comes from our lack and our need. We desperately want to feel loved. We are jealous of others we perceive are being loved more than us, because we feel that takes away love from us. God’s jealousy has no connection to any need he feels. He makes it explicitly clear that he has no need that we could meet. He is complete in himself, lacking nothing.

Psalm 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 ​I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

There is another difference. God’s jealousy is loving because it passionately pursues the good of the beloved. When a loving husband goes after his wayward wife to bring her home, and demands that she give her affection exclusively to him, he is doing a very loving thing. He is seeking her happiness, even at great cost to himself. Genuine happiness comes within the covenant relationship, not by violating the covenant relationship. God demands that we ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ because that is what will bring us true joy. He seeks our best, and he is our best.

My jealousy is not loving because it passionately pursues my own good, often to the harm of the other. And in my jealousy I am turning my affections away from God and toward other people or things, hoping to find satisfaction in them and outside of God, so my jealousy is adulterous and self destructive.

Commendable Jealousy

When we jealously defend the honor of God and point others toward him as the only source of true satisfaction, we act lovingly. Paul has the good kind of jealousy for the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

He is jealous with the jealousy of God. He is passionately fired up that they not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is no hint of self-seeking in this. He passionately pursues their purity to present them as a pure virgin to Christ.

John the baptizer spoke in the same kind of way.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

This is an opportunity for human jealousy. John, you are losing popularity. You are losing followers. You are losing attention. The crowds are going to someone else.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

None of the attention, none of the praise, none of the respect, none of the followers belong to me. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The joy of the friend is to step out of the way and see the bride united with her bridegroom.

This helps us understand how Paul can say that love is not jealous, but then command the Corinthians to be jealous of the higher gifts. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians had been jealous of the more spectacular gifts, because those gifts brought status and attention and praise and applause. Paul rebukes their selfish status seeking and points them to the higher way of love. Out of the more excellent way of love, without an evil jealousy of wanting something for myself that you have been given, in the pursuit of love, we are to be zealous for the higher gifts, gifts that build others up. I am to passionately eagerly pursue being of service to you. I am to zealously desire to be poured out as a blessing to you. I am to find my joy in becoming more useful to you, not because I want the attention, but because my joy is complete as I fade into the background and your sincere and pure devotion to Christ increases.

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

November 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment