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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 2:14-16; The Aroma of Christ to God

04/15_2Corinthians 2:14-16; The Aroma of Christ to God ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180415_2cor2_14-16.mp3

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Paul’s spirit had no rest in Troas because of the unresolved tension in his relationship with the Corinthian church, so he said goodbye and headed to Macedonia, leaving behind an open door of gospel ministry.
Yet instead of expressing his frustration, or rebuking them, he thanks God who always triumphs over us in Christ, and who displays the odor of the knowledge of Christ through us in every place.

The triumph put on display the military might of Rome. A triumphing general in a display of his victory would parade the spoils of war through the streets of Rome, along with the chief enemies he conquered and any Roman citizens he had freed. This parade would appeal to all the senses, with blasts of trumpets, the clanking of weapons, the rumble of horses and chariot wheels, and songs of soldiers, with gold and silver and jewels, with colorful banners and garments, even with clouds of fragrant incense wafting through the streets.

Paul sees himself as a conquered enemy of Christ, but now a glad participant in the parade. The triumph had a political aspect, increasing the fame and promoting the popularity of the triumphing general. And Paul is glad to promote and display the fame of his new Lord.

Spreading the Knowledge of Jesus in Every Place

God is displaying the odor of the knowledge of Christ through the apostles in every place. God is triumphing and God is spreading. These are the two main verbs in the sentence; triumphing and spreading. ‘Spreading’ translates a word that at its root means to show or shine out, to make manifest, to cause to appear, to display. But what is put on display is something invisible; a smell, the odor of the knowledge of him; hence the translation ‘spread.’ The odor of knowing Jesus is made perceptible through them. The scent of knowing him is being sensed everywhere through the ministry, especially through the suffering of the apostles.

And this speaks to Paul’s itinerary. The Corinthians accuse Paul of changing his plans on a whim. God is marching Paul around in triumph. God is the one ultimately dictating where the apostle goes and when and for how long. God through the apostles is spreading the aroma of the knowledge of Christ in every place. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. God intends that the scent of knowing Jesus be smelled in every place through the lives of his people. Paul makes his decisions as best he can, with a view to the advance of the gospel and the good of God’s people. And I’m sure he questioned; ‘should I have walked away from an open door for the gospel? Should I have toughed it out and stayed?’ And yet he can sleep at night thanking God that God is spreading the fragrance of Jesus in every place though him.

The Aroma of Christ to God

Notice what kind of smell this is, where it comes from, and who smells it. In verse 14 and again twice in verse 16 he uses a neutral word for smell; an odor. As we will see in verse 16, this could be a pleasant odor or a foul one. But in verse 15 he uses a distinctly positive term, with the prefix ‘good.’ This is a pleasing smell.

And the source of this pleasing aroma is Christ. The apostles are not going around spreading the knowledge of themselves everywhere. They are spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus. They are making him known. They are spreading his fame. Everywhere they go, they smell like Jesus, and Jesus smells like sacrificial service for the good of others.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The apostles are being crushed and poured out as the fragrant aroma of Christ. When the saints of Caesarea urged Paul to avoid the dangers that awaited him,

Acts 21:13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

He tells the Philippians:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

The smell of genuine Jesus shaped ministry is a life broken and crushed and poured out for the sake of others.

And notice who is smelling this pleasing aroma.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God…

The smell is the smell of Christ, and it is a pleasing fragrance to God. In the Roman triumph, incense was burned creating a fragrance to attempt to please the Roman gods. In the Old Testament, sacrificial animals offered in faith on the altar were said to be a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2 uses this sacrificial imagery when it says that Jesus “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

God is smelling the life of the apostles, and to him it is a pleasing aroma. Their weakness, their suffering, their afflictions, their ‘not my will but yours be done’ smell like Jesus to the Father. And this is well pleasing to the Father.

Remember in Genesis 27, when Isaac thought he was going to die, so he sent his firstborn son Esau to hunt and bring him game so that he could bless him, and Isaac’s wife and his other son Jacob schemed to deceive him? Rebekah dressed him up in Esau’s clothes, and put goat skin on his hands and neck. Isaac was suspicious; he said “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” It wasn’t until “he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of this garments and blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!”” It was the aroma of Esau that pleased his father, and caused him to bless him. It is the same with us, although there is no deceit. We are clothed with the clothes of our older brother, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and we have the smell of Christ about us, and when the Father smells the pleasing aroma of his only Son on us, we are included in the inheritance that belongs to Jesus.

Two Kinds of Noses

The sense of smell is a powerful sense. I was driving through town the other day, and someone somewhere was barbecuing. I don’t know who or where or how far away, but I smelled it through the rolled up windows of the car. And it smelled wonderful. I thought about trying to locate the source and inviting myself over for dinner. Just last week my nose woke me up. The savory smell of sausage and bacon was wafting from the kitchen all the way up the stairs to our bedroom.

The sense of smell is an interesting one. Smells are perceived differently by different people. There are these little glass plug-in fragrance things that are supposed to make your house smell nice. And some of them I like. But I have noticed that certain aromas I can’t handle. It’s not just that I don’t like the smell. It’s that when I walk into the room, I feel like my throat is closing off and I can’t breathe anymore. To other people it smells pleasant. But I have to leave the room.

This aroma of Christ is one kind of aroma, and it is always pleasing to the Father. But there are two kinds of noses in the world.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. …

This is the same dividing of humankind Paul pointed out in the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:18 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.

There are those who are perishing, and those who are being saved. There is no third group, no neutral category. The word of the cross divides humanity into two groups.

1 Corinthians 1:23 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.

Christ crucified divides humanity. There are those who are perishing, to whom Christ crucified is foolishness, a stumbling block, an offensive aroma of death. And there are those who are called, those who are being saved, to whom the word of the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God, a sweet fragrance from life to life. In 1 Corinthians he contrasts wisdom with foolishness, power with weakness. Here in 2 Corinthians he compares this to the sense of smell.

He is talking about how things are perceived. It is the same word of the cross that is perceived by some as foolishness, which is perceived by others as wisdom and power. It is the same smell of the knowledge of Christ that is perceived among some as the smell of death to death, and by others as the smell of life to life.

In the Roman triumph, there were often two groups. There was the conquered enemy led captive and put to open shame, and the smells of the triumph would be for them the smells of death to death. They had been conquered in battle, and now they were being marched as slaves, likely to their deaths. And then there were the Roman citizens who had been living as slaves to the enemy. They too were led in the triumph, but the sights and sounds and smells would mean something entirely different to them. To them, this was the smell of an end of slavery; it meant liberty, freedom, victory. They owed their freedom and their allegiance to the conquering general. This was the smell of life to life. They had been rescued, saved out of slavery to the enemy, and were now being restored to their homeland as freed men. Same fragrance. Same odor. Two very different perceptions, depending on which side of the battle you were on.

What Nose Have You?

How Jesus smells to you, how the word of the cross sounds to you is a good test of what category you are in. Do you hear the gospel message, the word of the cross; that the Omnipotent God became human to die a shameful death that we deserved in order to rescue us; does that sound like foolishness, a fairy tale, nonsense? Do you take offense at the implication that you are so bad a sinner that you deserve to die? That you are utterly incapable of contributing to your own rescue? Does all the talk of death and blood and crucifixion seem like a morbid fascination?

Or does the message of Immanuel, God with us, come to rescue us from our sins, not only make sense, but fill your heart with joy? Do you, as the old hymn goes, ‘cling to the old rugged cross?’ How do the words of this old hymn, penned in 1771 by William Cowper smell to you?

1 There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains…

2 The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away…

3 Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved, to sin no more…

4 E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die…

[William Cowper, 1772]

There is a fountain filled with blood; Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood; Lose all their guilty stains. Is that the sweet aroma of life and hope? Does your soul resonate with those words, or is that distasteful and offensive imagery to you?

Here is just one verse of another hymn written just over 100 years later; ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus’

2 O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
just to trust his cleansing blood;
and in simple faith to plunge me
neath the healing, cleansing flood!

[Louisa M. R. Stead, 1882]

Is it sweet to you to be plunged beneath the cleansing blood of Jesus, to trust him, to depend on him completely? Is the blood precious to you? Is the cross to you a symbol of foolishness and death, or a symbol of life and power?

Gospel Call

This is one way to diagnose where you stand with God. The fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus, who he is, why he came, what he did, the message of the cross, smells different to different people. To some it is the stench of death and it results in death, to those who are perishing. To others, to those who are being saved, it is the sweet fragrance of life and it results in eternal life.

Which is it to you? If it is sweet to you, thank God! He has given you the ability to savor the knowledge of Jesus rightly. And if you are in the other category, if you can’t honestly say that the cross is precious to you, that would seem to indicate that you are perishing.

But here is some good news for you. God loves to take those who are perishing and rescue them. Ask God to give you a heart to receive the word of the cross as wisdom and power for salvation. Ask God to give you a nose to smell the fragrance of the sufferings of Christ as the sweet aroma of life to life. Ask God to save you. Ask God to grant you to perceive Jesus as life, and receive his free gift of life.

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

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April 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 5-6)

01/21 Re-Oreinet; Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180121_prayer-unity.mp3

2 weeks ago we looked at prayer as intimacy; enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God, listening to his word, talking with him, enjoying his presence.

Today I want to look at Ephesians 5 and 6, being filled with the Spirit and spiritual warfare and prayer in the Spirit.

Being Filled with the Spirit

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? We tend to import into the passage ideas about some supernatural religious experience, some ecstatic feeling. We might think of casting out demons and prophesying and doing mighty works, forgetting that Jesus said that some who did these things in his name had no relationship with him, and therefore were not filled with the Spirit (Mt.7:21-23). Instead of importing ideas from outside, we ought to start with what the passage itself actually says.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

…15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine. When you are drunk, enough of the alcohol has gotten into your bloodstream that it begins to affect the way you think and the way you act. Being filled with the Spirit must mean that enough of the Spirit has gotten into us that our actions and our thinking begins to be affected by the Spirit.

In the immediate context of this passage, being filled with the Spirit is walking in wisdom, making the best use of the time, knowing the will of the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with how we address one another, and how we address the Lord. Is there a song in your heart? Is there a nautral overflow of joy that just must express itself? Are you thankful? Always and for everything? Being filled with the Spirit will be seen in our interaction with other people. This passage goes on to give instructions to wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. How we interact with the people in our lives will show if we are filled with the Spirit.

John’s letters make this really clear. His language for a Spirit controlled life is ‘walking in the light’. You can’t claim to be a Spirit filled person walking in the light if you hate your brother (1Jn.2:9,11).

In Galatians 5 Paul tells us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (5:16) and be ‘led by the Spirit’ (5:18) and contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit look like not gratifying fleshly desires, but instead walking in love and the other things that are characteristic of the Spirit. This life of love and joy and peace, this walking by and being led by the Spirit in Galatians 5 must at least overlap with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 about being filled with the Spirit.

Spiritual Warfare

We have these instructions in Ephesians 5-6 on the relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, and then this passage on spiritual warfare. Again, we are inclined to import into this passage a bunch of what we think spiritual warfare is. We tend to think it has to do with demonic activity and a sense of spiritual oppression and doing battle with the enemy. We may tend to romanticize it and imagine ourselves dressed in armor, sword in hand, skillfully swinging and dismembering the demonic hordes. It may be all that, and the text does invite us into the imagery, but we tend to divorce it from its context. This passage is a reminder that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood’ (6:12). Connected with the context, that means that your wife is not the enemy. Your husband is not the enemy. Your children or your parents are not the enemy. Your employer or your employees are not the enemy. The other people in church are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our flesh and blood relationships are not the enemy. In our relationships, especially in the midst of relational conflict and tension (and by the way, it is normal to have conflict in relationships), we need to be reminded who the real enemy is, and that the enemy seeks to control how you respond to all these people in your life.

Instead, we must be Spirit controlled in all these relationships. We need to stand firm in gospel truth, in our blood bought righteousness, in gospel readiness to be at peace, forgiving as we have been forgiven, in believing Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy, in in our salvation that is undeserved, all of grace, fighting the lies with the truth of the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Praying in The Spirit

But the passage doesn’t end there. In fact there is another part of the weaponry that is essential. Or maybe this is what all the armaments are for, this is the field on which the battle is fought. This is the battle. All the armor is equipment to get ready for this battle. Take up the armor that you may withstand and stand firm. Stand therefore …praying.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Through all prayer and petition, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Again, we could import our own ideas of what this means, that it is some super-spiritual supernatural state. But the text says that we are to pray in all times in the Spirit. So this can’t be some special state state of prayer that wouldn’t be safe to do while we were driving our chariot to work in the moring. This text indicates that our every prayer is to be an ‘in the Spirit’ prayer.

Access through Jesus in the Spirit to the Father

So what does it mean to pray in the Spirit in Ephesians? First, we must remember that all the practical exhortations in the second half of Ephesians (4-6) are built on the gospel truth laid down in the first half of Ephesians (1-3). All the imperatives (or commands) are built on and grow out of the gospel indicatives (or statements of truth). So this command to pray at all times in the Spirit must be built on a foundation of gospel truth.

Ephesians 2 lays out the good news of God’s resurrecting power at work in dead sinners to make us alive as a gracious gift (2:1-9). We who were separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12-13).

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus, through his once for all sacrifice, through his grace, we now have access to the Father. Our access is in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit can only begin with blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6).

Into One Body In One Spirit

So praying in the Spirit means access; that through Jesus we have access to the Father in the Spirit. And praying in the Spirit connects us horizontally with other believers.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

We are all baptized into one body in the one Spirit. And our access to the Father is in this one Spirit.

Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is a blood-bought unity of the Spirit with other believers, a unity that frees us to bear with one another in love, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. It is in this unity of the Spirit that we must come to the Father in prayer.

So praying in the Spirit is both a vertical and a horizontal thing. We have access to the Father through Jesus in the one Spirit. And we have a horizontal unity with all other believers in the one body in this one Spirit. So together, in unity with every other believer in the Spirit, because of what Jesus did, we have access to the Father.

So prayer is never a solo activity. It is never just you and God. Of course you can pray alone. You should, as Jesus said, go into your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret (Mt.6:6). You can pray alone, but when you pray, you are never alone. The triune God is with you. That is the only way prayer works. You pray to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. And in the Spirit you are united with every other believer. There is a connection, in the Holy Spirit, with all believers. As Hebrews says, ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Heb.12:1).

For All the Saints

So there is an aspect of praying in the Spirit that connects us with all other believers. But Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to pray ‘for all the saints.’ Praying in the Spirit is both praying with all the saints and for all the saints. Let me ask you, what believers does this leave out? Is there anyone that you shouldn’t be praying for? Is there anyone you find it difficult to pray for? Someone you disagree with? What about brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations? Maybe they believe differently than you on some secondary issues. Maybe they worship differently. Maybe they are wrong. Do you confront them or speak out against them? Are you praying for them? Maybe they don’t even recognize you as a believer. Can you still pray for them?

What about someone who has offended you or wronged you? Someone who has hurt you deeply. And they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything. Can you pray for them? And I don’t mean you should pray Psalm 35 over them:

Psalm 35:4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor… 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

Can you sincerely ask God to bless them?

Are there people you think are doing just fine and don’t need your prayers? Paul the apostle makes it explicit in verses 19-20 ‘pray also for me.’ Paul needs their prayers. We all need prayer. We need each other. Pray for all the saints.

Always,

Note how we are to pray. It is to be full-time prayer. At all times. That means all kinds of times. When things seem to be going smoothly, pray. When things are difficult and messy and broken, when things seem hopeless, pray.

It is to be alert prayer. Attentive, Watchful. Pay attention. Pay attention to the needs of others. Be aware that the enemy is seeking to divide and to destroy. Be on guard, and pray.

It is to be persevering prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on knocking, keep on asking, keep on seeking. Don’t give up. Persevere in prayer for all the saints.

But I Can’t

You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can pray like that. There’s people I don’t think I can honestly pray for. I don’t think I can be alert and persevere in prayer. I can’t pray at all times. You are right. You can’t. There is no way you can. And that too is part of what it means to pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Be strong in the Lord. It is not your strength, not your ability, not your watchfulness, not your perseverance. It is the strength of his might that is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil.2:13). You can’t. But in his strength, in his Spirit, you can.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

…18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Remember, you have been invited in. You have access, blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. You are in a battle, and it is not against flesh and blood. So stand your ground. Stand firm, praying.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by The Blood

10/16 Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by Blood; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161016_leviticus-17_10-16.mp3

Leviticus chapter 17 is a chapter dealing with blood. Leviticus is a bloody book. All this focus on blood is a reminder that I am a sinner, and that the wages of my sin is death. Central to chapter 17 is verse 11, which gives one of the clearest statements of the reason behind the whole sacrificial system. Looking at an outline of this chapter we see that verse 11 is the central statement about God’s gift of blood to make atonement for life. The beginning of the chapter prohibits sacrificial bloodshed to other gods or away from God’s one sanctuary. The end of the chapter prohibits eating meat not properly drained of blood. The center section gives the purpose of blood to make atonement

17:1-7 no blood sacrifices to false gods

-17:8-9 no blood sacrifices away from the sanctuary

—17:10 no blood consumption

—->17:11 blood given for atonement

—17:12 no blood consumption

-17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

Last week we looked at the first section of this chapter; the dangerous draw of idolatry, and the exclusive nature of God; that he alone is to be worshiped and only in the way he has proscribed. Today we will look at the rest of the chapter.

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. 13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

Blood is a Big Deal

This prohibition against eating blood is not new. This came all the way back in Genesis 9, where God first gave man permission to eat meat from animals. After Noah and his family left the ark and offered burnt offerings to the Lord,

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

All the way back in Genesis, life is equated with blood. The shedding of blood is the taking of a life. Verse 10 gives the penalty for eating blood, and it is severe. That person shall be cut off from his people. This applies to both the native Israelite and the sojourner dwelling among them. This is the same penalty attached in verse 4 to offering peace offerings outside the tabernacle. Verse 4 credits the person with bloodguilt who has shed sacrificial animal blood to another deity away from the tabernacle. God considers idolatry as serious as murder. Verse 9 attaches the same penalty to offering burnt offerings or any other sacrifice outside the tabernacle. Here in verse 10, God makes it personal.

Leviticus 17:10 …I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.

God says he personally will set his face against that person, he will do the cutting off. There’s a lot of things I would like to avoid in life, lots of things that don’t sound very pleasant, but I can think of nothing worse than having the sovereign, omnipotent, everywhere present, all wise, all good, loving God set his face against me. God takes the handling of blood very seriously. He personally will see to it that disregard of the value of blood will be punished.

Verses 13-14 extend this penalty to the blood of non-sacrificial wild game. The Israelite may hunt and eat game, but he may not eat the blood. It must be poured out on the ground and covered with earth. Verses 15-16 warn of the danger of eating animals that have not been killed in the proper way so as to drain the blood. Meat that has not been properly butchered is likely to retain more of the blood in it, and thus makes the person who eats it unclean until evening. This is not as blatant or willful an act of disobedience as that of eating blood, so it carries a lesser penalty.

Why such a big deal about blood? Why such severe penalties attached to blood consumption and misappropriation of blood? Genesis 9 makes the connection between life and blood, and issues the death penalty for anyone who sheds the lifeblood of another. The penalty is life for life, because man is made in the image of God, and God cares about his creation. God is the living God, the eternal God, and the death of his image bearer misrepresents him. God takes our lives seriously, because he takes himself seriously. He takes the life he gave seriously. In Genesis 2 he ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature’ (v.7).

Life in Hebrew thought is tied to breath, spirit, wind – that invisible, immaterial essence that animates; and blood – the physical, tangible, visible thing that sustains life. Medically we understand something about how these two are related, and if you’ve ever taken CPR or first aid, you know that the most basic signs of life are pulse and breathing.

Atonement and Substitution; Life for Life

Here in Leviticus life is connected with blood as the visible tangible gift that makes atonement.

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

There is a symmetry in these verses that is clouded by our English translation. The same Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ can be translated ‘life, soul, or person’ depending on the context. This word shows up three times in verse 11, and also once each in verses 10 and 12.

10 …I will set my face against that person [nephesh]who eats blood…

-11 For the life [nephesh]of the flesh is in the blood,

–and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls [nephesh]

-for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life [nephesh]

12 …No person [nephesh] among you shall eat blood…

The pivotal statement in verse 11 is God’s gift of blood on the altar to make atonement for your person, your soul, your life. That statement is bracketed on either side by a statement about the ‘nephesh’ being connected to the blood, and bracketed again in verses 10 and 12 by statements about the ‘nephesh’ who eats blood. In the very structure of the passage, we see that the person who sins is atoned for by the ‘nephesh’ of another. A life for a life; a life poured out is substituted for a life that has sinned. This transaction is a transaction in blood.

It would serve us well to meditate on each phrase of this central statement.

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

Blood sacrifice is first of all a gift. It is a gift of God. God says in the first person “I have given it.” God takes the initiative. God is the giver. This is grace; a gift freely given by a gracious God. A gift by definition is undeserved, unmerited. We are sinners, and what we deserve, what we can justly demand, what we have right to is death. The wages of sin is death. Anything else is purely a gift of God, far beyond, in fact contrary to, what we deserve or can justly lay claim to. This is a gracious gift from God.

I have given it for you.” This gift has an intended recipient. This is not a gift, neatly wrapped, left on a park bench for no one in particular. It is a gift from someone, and it is a gift to someone. To you! God has you, by name, in mind. This is a personal gift to you.

It is given “on the altar.” There is a specific place where this gift is given. There is one way. This gift does not come any way we like. Not just anything anywhere. This is narrow and specific. It is not up to us to determine. We are not at liberty to say ‘I don’t like blood – it makes me squeamish. How about whipped cream?’ God has divinely decreed how atonement will be made. We can accept or reject his gift, but we cannot make up different terms for the agreement. God is the offended party, and it is his to determine what he will accept and in what way he will accept it.

It is given “to make atonement.” It is not given to make us feel better. A relationship has been severed that must be restored. Our sins have offended a holy God and they must be covered. God is a just judge, and his justice must be satisfied. The wages of sin is death and a death must occur.

It is given “for your souls.” Blood is given to make atonement for your life, for your person. What a gift! You have sinned and you deserve to die. But the blood of a substitute is given to take your place! A life is laid down to save your life!

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

The Blood Of Jesus

Of course this points beyond the animal sacrifice of the Levitical system to the fulfillment in Jesus, the ultimate, final, infinitely valuable, once for all sacrifice.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus is God the Father’s ultimate gift to us. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus “gave himself for our sins.” Galatians 2:20 says that “the Son of God …loved me and gave himself for me.” The context makes it clear that this giving himself refers to the crucifixion. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” What a gift! What grace!

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Sinners justified, redeemed, propitiated; declared not guilty but righteous, purchased out of the slave market, God’s righteous hatred of sin appeased. How? By his blood.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Justified, saved from God’s wrath by his blood.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Redemption, forgiveness, through Jesus’ blood; rich, extravagant grace! Ephesians 2:13 says that we were “brought near by the blood of Christ.” Colossians 1:20 says that he reconciled us to himself “making peace by the blood of his cross.” Hebrews 10:19 says “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” Hebrews 13:12 says that Jesus sanctifies us “through his own blood.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us we “were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 John 1:7 declares that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Revelation 7:14 says that the saints “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

So what’s the big deal about blood? Why so much talk about blood? Why such a focus on the cross? “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls.” Blood is sacred. It is a gift. It is to be treated with care. It is not to be put to common use.

Leviticus 17 and Acts 15

It is interesting, at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, where circumcision of Gentile converts was the big issue, this issue of blood comes up. The conclusion of the debate was:

Acts 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Is this a requirement for us to eat Kosher today? It certainly does underline the value of blood. But the reason given is:

Acts 15:21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

This seems to be a Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 10 reason; not to put us under specific parts of the law as an obligation, but rather to avoid giving unnecessary offense to those of Jewish background. There’s a lot of sin forbidden elsewhere in the New Testament that’s not on this list. But all the things listed would specifically be connected to idolatrous worship practices that were common in that day.

Drink My Blood

Leviticus 17 for the Jew would make consumption of any blood utterly repulsive and offensive. This would make Jesus’ teaching after feeding the five thousand so startling.

John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Jesus came to be the life giving bread from heaven. He invites us to feed on him. To drink his blood. Jesus is taking Leviticus 17 and transforming it and making it new. On the one hand, do not treat my blood as common or ordinary; on the other hand, connect with me, take me in, draw life from my sacrifice. In Leviticus, blood was applied to the altar in the tabernacle. In the New Covenant, the blood is applied inside us, the new temple, making holy the dwelling place of God.

At his final meal with his disciples,

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus’ blood, the blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls. Freely given. For you. Grace that was greater than all our sin. Drink of it, all of you! Take it in! Live! Jesus died so you might live!

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

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:4-7:10; The Priests Portion and The Blood

06/26 Leviticus 6:24-7:10; The Priests Portion and The Blood Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160626_leviticus-6_24-7_10.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6-7, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People      B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)                  The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)                 The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                         The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)               The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)            The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                            The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                   Summary (7:37-38)

Chapter 1 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ Chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’ Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 give instructions to the priest who must handle the offerings properly.

The Sin Offering

Leviticus 6:24 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 25 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD; it is most holy. 26 The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting. 27 Whatever touches its flesh shall be holy, and when any of its blood is splashed on a garment, you shall wash that on which it was splashed in a holy place. 28 And the earthenware vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. But if it is boiled in a bronze vessel, that shall be scoured and rinsed in water. 29 Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy. 30 But no sin offering shall be eaten from which any blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place; it shall be burned up with fire.

As we studied in chapters 4 and 5, the sin offering was the offering that was made by an individual or group when they realized they had sinned. Chapter 4 deals with unintentional sins of commission; something was done that ought not to be done, and he incurred guilt, even if the sinner didn’t realize that what he had done was wrong. The first part of chapter 5 deals with unintentional sins of omission; neglecting to do what ought to be done. Even though the these are not willful sins, they incur guilt, and must be atoned for by sacrifice.

Chapter 4 gave instructions for who needed to offer what, and whose sin was more serious.

Eating the Offering

If it was a common person or even a leader, blood from their sacrifice was to be smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. The choice inward parts, the fat and the organs associated with deep emotion, were to be burned on the altar. Here in chapter 6, we learn what is to be done with the rest of the animal. It is most holy. It is given to the priest who offered it for him to eat, and to share with other priests. Only those who were holy, set apart to God and ritually clean were permitted to touch it. It was not to leave the tabernacle courtyard; it must be eaten only there.

Too Holy To Eat

If it was the high priest, or the whole assembly who sinned, blood from their sacrifice was brought inside the tent to the holy place and sprinkled 7 times in front of the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place, and some of the blood was smeared on the altar of incense in that holy place. In that case, because the blood of that animal was presented before the Lord in the holy place, it was too holy even for the priests to eat. It was to be burned outside the camp. This is the offering that the author of Hebrews tells us points to Jesus, who suffered outside of Jerusalem.

Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

The priests of the Old Testament had no right to eat of the sacrifices whose blood was brought into the holy place. Jesus fulfilled this picture as our great High Priest by sacrificing himself as an offering for sin outside the camp. In Jesus we have rights beyond what the Old Testament priests had. We have access to Jesus, the most holy sacrifice of all. He invites us to come, come and feast; ‘this is my body given for you; this is my blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Lk.22:19-20; Mt.26:26-28)

The Blood

This passage reminds us how messy the sacrificial system was. There are instructions on what to do with things that come in contact with sacrificial blood. Blood is holy; it is set apart for a very specific use. God says in Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Blood symbolizes a life taken, and it was given for the exclusive purpose of making atonement on the altar. Blood was never to be consumed. It was always to be carefully disposed of properly. But remember, the tabernacle, and later the temple was a slaughterhouse. Literally hundreds of animals entered the courtyard alive, and were butchered and processed there. This was a bloody operation. Why? Why all the blood? Because my sin is that bad. The wages of sin is death, and the Levitical system is a sobering reminder of what even unintentional sins cost. This passage deals with what to do if blood is splashed on a priests garment. I imagine that this would be an almost unavoidable occurrence. But that blood is holy. It is given to make atonement. So it is not to be handled lightly. The garment is not to leave the temple courtyard. It is to be washed in a holy place. Now we begin to understand the purpose of the large bronze laver or wash basin near the altar in the courtyard. The priests garments, which were white, must be washed in this holy place.

Remember what Pilate did when he was about to hand Jesus over to be crucified?

Matthew 27:24 …he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

He knew he had blood on his hands, blood of an innocent man. He was trying in vain to wash away the guilty stain.

Here we have priests who become splattered with sacrificial blood, who must remove the blood in a holy place. This is the background for some striking imagery in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7, a great multitude from every nation and tribe and people and language are standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes, worshiping God and the Lamb. The question is posed ‘who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’

Revelation 7:14 … And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Robes washed white in blood! The blood of Jesus the Lamb washes all our stains away!

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

[Words & Music: Elisha A. Hoffman, Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and the Sunday School (Cleveland, Ohio: Barker & Smellie, 1878)]

Blood is given to make atonement. It is powerful, and to be handled with care. If the sacrifice comes in contact with a bronze container, it must be scoured and rinsed. But if it comes in contact with a clay pot, the pot must be broken. Earthenware containers, which are porous, could not satisfactorily be cleansed to remove all traces of blood. They must be destroyed. It is interesting that we are likened to earthenware pots in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, …has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Earthenware pots must be destroyed if they come in contact with sacrificial blood.; Have you been broken? Have you been wrecked and undone because you have come in contact with the blood?

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Have you been cleansed by the blood? As earthenware vessels, we must be broken. We must realize what we deserve. We must realize that we are unworthy, and that is what it means to experience grace, because grace is undeserved. We must come to the end of ourselves, be broken before him, to demonstrate that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. And the amazing thing is that when we are broken, he will use us!

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

We now hold the treasure of the gospel shining out from our broken hearts!

The Guilt Offering

Leviticus 7:1 “This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. 2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. 3 And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, 4 the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the LORD; it is a guilt offering. 6 Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. 7 The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it.

The guilt offering was for sins of robbing God our our neighbor. There are specific details of the instruction here that were not listed in the section on the guilt offering in chapters 5-6. Like the sin offering, the inward parts are offered to God. The guilt offering makes atonement, bringing reconciliation with God and man. This offering, like the sin offering, is to be holy food for the priests.

Miscellaneous Possessions of the Priests

Verses 8-10 address miscellaneous possessions which belong to the priests.

Leviticus 7:8 And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. 9 And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. 10 And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.

The language here is language of possession. These are the things that by God’s design are offered to him and they become the possession of those who serve him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He also tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

This indicates that the priests who served in the temple didn’t pack a lunch. They showed up in faith, depending on the goodness of God to provide for their needs. Those who served were those who first benefited from the offering. The priests portion was not stored up. It needed to be eaten right away. Day by day they were relying on God to provide for their needs.

Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,

He went on to say:

Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

May we be satisfied as we serve him to lean on him every day in total helpless dependence.

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

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

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:11-16; Ransom Money

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120513_exodus30_11-16.mp3

05/13 Exodus 30:11-16 Ransom Money (38:25-28; Numbers 1)

Today we are in Exodus 30:11-16. This is a curious instruction for a ransom price to be collected whenever God’s people are numbered, placed in the middle of God’s instructions for building his tabernacle. At first glance this seems out of place, inserted here between the altar of incense and the bronze wash basin.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

We see God commanding this census to be taken in Numbers chapter 1; this is what gives the book of Numbers its name.

Numbers 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

Reuben: 46,500

Simeon: 59,300

Gad: 45,650

Judah: 74,600

Issachar: 54,400

Zebulun: 57,400

Ephraim: 40,500

Manasseh: 32,200

Benjamin: 35,400

Dan: 62,700

Asher: 41,500

Naphtali: 53,400

44 These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house. 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel–– 46 all those listed were 603,550.

There were 603,550 men 20 years old and up able to fight in battle. This did not include the men in the tribe of Levi.

47 But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. 48 For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. 50 But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. 51 When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. 52 The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. 53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” 54 Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.

How Much Silver?

Scholars believe the half-shekel was a unit of weight that measured about 5.7 grams. If we do the math, 603,550 men giving a half shekel each would equal about 7,584 lbs or over 3 ¾ tons of silver. We find out what this silver was used for in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. 28 And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them.

So, this ransom price was used for the foundation of the tabernacle. One hundred blocks of cast silver weighing about 75 pounds each were used as the bases for the frames of the tabernacle. The remaining 11 pounds of silver was made into hooks and overlay for the tops of the pillars.

Why The Census Tax?

This helps us to understand what the silver was used for, where it came from, and how much there was. But what did this offering mean? Why was each man numbered to give a half-shekel each? Look back at the text in Exodus 30.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.

This payment was a ransom for the life of each fighting man given to the LORD to prevent a plague. In verses 15 and 16, we are told that it is

15 …the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 … the atonement money from the people of Israel … that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This half-shekel was ransom money or atonement money. These Hebrew words are related. Atonement is to cover over sins, or to pacify or propitiate. We saw this term when we looked at the atonement cover, or the mercy seat – the lid that covered the violated covenant from God’s sight; the place where blood was applied once a year on the Day of Atonement. A ransom is the price of a life. It is the price paid to cover a person from the consequences of their actions. If someone had acted foolishly and gotten into debt that they could not pay, they would be sold into slavery in order to pay back the debt. If they had a relative that was willing to rescue them, he would pay the ransom price and redeem them from slavery. We were introduced to this concept of redemption in Exodus 13, where God claimed all firstborn as his property, all firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to him, and all firstborn sons had to be bought back or redeemed by paying the ransom price. In the final plague, God killed all the firstborn in Egypt, but in any house that was covered by the blood of the lamb, the firstborn was spared.

This ransom or atonement price is to cover sin so that you will not die, ‘that there be no plague among them when you number them.’ God is saying that he will treat you like he treated the Egyptians, his enemies, if you do not do this. What was the sin, and why did a price have to be paid? We see a graphic illustration of this in 1 Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). King David, in his later years, was incited to number the people of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”

When David was young, he recognized that it is not numbers or weapons that win the battle. He said to the Philistine champion:

1 Samuel 17:45 …“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

Throughout his military career, David had seen the LORD give victory to his people even when they were severely outnumbered and disadvantaged. Now, later in life, David had conquered much land and wanted to know how many troops he had. David’s military commander Joab knew that this was a dangerous move.

1 Chronicles 21:3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?”

In spite of Joab’s warning, David persisted. David wanted to know how many men he had. God sent a plague and it cost him 70,000 men.

Sin Against God

Why was this so serious? We are told:

1 Chronicles 21:7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”

First, to number the people without collecting the ransom money was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions recorded in Exodus 30. We sometimes feel that it’s no big deal. We want to know why God said what he said before we are willing to obey. But God is God. He doesn’t have to tell us why. It is ours to obey.

But I think we can see why this was so serious. It was demonstrating distrust in God. Counting men was a way to see how much military might you had. It showed a leaning on human strength rather than on God who himself gives the victory. At root, David’s foolishness and great sin was unbelief.

David’s sin was also a violation of ownership. You only take inventory of your own belongings. I don’t have any right to go into my neighbor’s house and count his belongings without his permission. I have no right to access my neighbor’s bank account and check his balance. David, by counting the people without having them pay the ransom price, was saying ‘these are my men. This is how many I have to work with’. He is not acknowledging God’s ownership of his people. He is counting God’s property as if it were his own.

What Are You Worth?

The ransom price was a way to say that these people are God’s people, and to acknowledge that God is the one who holds their lives in his hand. The atonement money was a covering for sin, owning the fact that we are all sinners before God and deserve to die. The ransom price was the price of your life. What are you worth? A half-shekel was the set price; no more for the rich and no less for the poor. We are all on equal footing before God. What are you worth? A half-shekel was about 5.7 grams of silver. I don’t know how much buying power that had then, but today you can cash in 5.7 grams of silver for about $2 – $5, depending on its purity. That’s humbling. You are kidnapped and held for ransom – for two dollars. That’s humiliating. I like to think I’m more valuable than that. And although I can think of lots of people who are worth more than me, I also think I’m more valuable than a lot of other people I know. God says no. If you are a human, you are of equal value. None more, none less. And think about this for a minute. Where did the Israelites get the silver? They were slaves in Egypt. God said “I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and when you go you shall not go empty …you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Ex.3:21-22; cf.Ex.12:36). So even this half-shekel was given to them by God. Everything they had was a gift. The only proper attitude to have before God is humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5). God said to Pharaoh “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Ex.10:3), and that was also a question of ownership; God said “let my people go that they may serve me.” Pharaoh was proud. God humbled him. God owns us. God is the one who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

It is right that we humble ourselves before God. It is also right to understand who we are as God’s people. This silver was to be given:

16 … for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This atonement money became the foundation of the tabernacle. This silver was in the presence of God. It was designed to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. In chapter 28, we saw that the high priest would bear the names of Israel on his shoulders on stones of remembrance (v.12). And he would also “bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece …on his heart when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (v.29). Now, this silver, constantly in God’s presence, is to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. Do you ever feel forgotten? Do you ever doubt your worth before God? Do you feel valueless?

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Ultimate Price

You are called by name, precious, remembered, ransomed. Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 1:18 …that you were ransomed …not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We have been ransomed, not with a half-shekel of silver, but with the precious blood of the Messiah. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf.Mt 20:28)

We get a glimpse of our High Priest in the tabernacle in heaven:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

In heaven Jesus is worshiped because he paid the ultimate price for us. The ransom price was infinite, the blood of God the Son. Jesus ransomed us by substituting himself in our place, dying the death we deserved, so that we can be his priests and reign with him. Paul reminds us:

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

You are not your own. You are owned by God. He paid the ultimate ransom price. You are his. You are his temple. So, live your life to the glory of God. Glorify God in your body.

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

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exodus 24:1-8; The Blood of the Covenant

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120212_exodus24_1-8.mp3

2/12 Exodus 24:1-8 The Blood of the Covenant

We are in Exodus chapter 24. This is the hinge pin of the book, linking the two halves of Exodus together. The first half of Exodus is the narrative of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt, bringing them into relationship with him. The second half of the book is primarily taken up with God’s instructions for the construction of a portable worship center for his people, known as the Tabernacle. This chapter brings to a climax the giving of the Law and the people’s response to God’s revelation, formally entering into a covenant relationship with him.

Foreshadow of the Tabernacle

Exodus 24:1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”

This three-tiered arrangement, that we will see unfold in greater detail, foreshadows the Tabernacle, with its outer court, holy place, and most holy place. Or, more accurately, the Tabernacle was intended to replicate what God’s presence, as experienced here on the mountain, was like. The author of Hebrews makes this clear to us:

Hebrews 8:5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

…23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

This is why the construction of the Tabernacle is so significant that it takes up the majority of the remainder of Exodus. This structure was patterned after God’s presence, and was designed to communicate what he is like to his people. What is happening here on the mountain will be memorialized in the design of the tabernacle, showing that God is holy, and is to be approached only by those who are authorized by him, and only when and in the way that he defines. More on this later.

Covenant Commitment

In the next verses we see the formal covenant ceremony unfold. Lets step back and take in the big picture. God rescued his people out of slavery. He has demonstrated his love toward them. He chose them, he has cared for them, and he is forming them into a community of people who will be what they were created to be, to live in relationship with him, to be in his presence, to follow him and obey him and enjoy him forever. He put his fear in them as he thundered out his ten words to them from the mountain. He has given clear and practical instructions on what life lived in the community of faith should look like. God has given his people promises, promises to be with them, to lead them and provide for them, promises to fight their battles, promises of abundant blessings. And he has warned them of the dangers of straying from him, the dangers of rebelling against him, the dangers of neglecting to follow him.

Chapter 24 is the culmination of this covenant relationship between God and his people. Back in chapter 19, God brought his people to the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:2 …There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

That was before God had laid out all the details of what this relationship would look like. After this God revealed himself to the people directly when he thundered out his ten words, and they were terrified and requested that Moses mediate for them so that they would not die in God’s presence. God then communicated the book of the covenant to Moses, and now in chapter 24, Moses is relaying its contents to the people.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

The initial response of the people, when God had invited them into a covenant relationship with himself, before they knew all the details of this agreement, was:

Exodus 19:8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Now, having heard 5 chapters worth of detail spelling out exactly what this covenant would look like and what was expected of them,

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Covenant Ratified in Blood

And now the covenant ratification ceremony began. God had initiated and offered to enter in to relationship with them. They responded positively. God then communicated to them all the details of the relationship, and they reaffirm their commitment to this relationship. Now, it is put in writing. Verse 4 says:

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. …

A verbal agreement leaves room for dispute over what exactly was agreed to. A written contract removes much of this.

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Now, having heard the written copy read to all the people, for the third time the people respond by saying “all that the LORD has spoken we will do, and be obedient.” Three times God’s people respond with their commitment to obedience.

But this is not just a covenant entered with a handshake or by signing on the dotted line. Moses built an altar, a place to interact with God. He erected 12 pillars, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. He had a bunch of animals slaughtered. He got the young men involved. They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings. They caught the blood in basins. They splattered it all over. This was a bloody scene. All this bloody mess is because the people God is entering into a relationship with are sinners who have rebelled against their Creator. God is holy. He hates sin. His response to sinful people is holy hatred (Ps.5:5; 11:5; 139:21-22) and just punishment. So their sin must be addressed. First, burnt offerings were offered, then peace offerings were sacrificed. The burnt offering (Lev.1:4) was given to atone for or to cover sin. The offerer would lay his hand on the head of the animal, symbolically transferring guilt to the animal, and the animal would die in his place, because the wages of sin is death. The whole animal would then be burnt on the altar to appease God’s wrath against sin. The peace offering (Deut.27:7), or fellowship offering, was a celebration of reconciliation with God, produced by having sins atoned for. Hebrews highlights the importance of the blood.

Hebrews 9:18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

In order for a holy God to enter into any kind of relationship with sinful people other than judgment, the blood of a substitute had to be shed. Moses’ words are “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” The blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you. The blood was applied to the people, splattered on the people. They had entered into a covenant with God. The people promised, but they did not follow through. A mere 40 days later, as we will see in chapter 32, the people are already violating their covenant, turning away from God and his commands, running after other gods. They promised obedience, but their hearts were not changed. They broke this covenant. This makes room for a new covenant. In Hebrews 8, the author quotes Jeremiah 31 and compares these covenants.

Hebrews 8:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The New Covenant

The old covenant was broken. The people promised, but they could not follow through. God promises a new covenant, and he says “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts.” No longer written externally in a book or on tablets of stone, but now inscribed in the transformed hearts of his people. Ezekiel puts it this way:

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This is the promise of the New Covenant; inward transformation by the Spirit of God. We hear Moses’ words “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you” taken up on the lips of another.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (cf. Mk.14:24; Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25)

Luke records “this …is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:20). Moses said “this is the blood of the covenant”; Jesus said “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The blood Moses sprinkled on the people was the blood of animals. Hebrews tells us “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). Jesus said “this is my blood”; the blood of the only Son of God, the God-man. The blood of Jesus, poured out once for all is infinitely precious and does indeed take away sin.

God had said:

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

God had given the blood of animals as a substitution; life for life. But the life blood of animals applied externally was never sufficient to cleanse the conscience. Moses put the blood in basins and sprinkled it on the people, but Jesus said “Drink of it, all of you.” Under the old covenant, the blood was applied externally. In the new covenant, the life of Jesus is transferred inside of his people. Paul says:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is the new covenant! It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! This is limitless power for a life of obedience! The book of Hebrews concludes with this blessing:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12; The Passover – Behold The Lamb!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101212_exodus_12.mp3

12/12 Exodus 12 Behold The Lamb!

Introduction

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” These are the words John used to introduce the Messiah when he made himself known to the world. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, it is appropriate that we reflect on why it was that he was born. The prime reason for the incarnation – infinite God became mortal man – was to be our sin-bearing substitute.

Last time we looked at the institution of the Passover celebration – that it was a forward-looking feast, to be celebrated throughout all generations as a means of passing on the memory of God’s might acts of deliverance and judgment. All future generations were to personally participate in the feast and experience God’s presence for themselves; I am to remember the great things the LORD did for me; how he brought me out of slavery and into his service.

Today I want to look at the fullness and fulfillment of the passover celebration. As a forward-looking feast, what does it look forward to? Last time we hinted at the answer, when we saw that the final celebration of passover recorded in detail in the bible was the passover that Jesus earnestly desired to eat with his disciples. We saw that Jesus transformed this feast by revealing that it was all about him. “Take, eat; this is my body. …Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28).

Paul said:

1 Corinthians 5:7 … For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Every detail, every part of the passover lamb points to Jesus. The sharing of the lamb, the specifications of the lamb, the inspection of the lamb, the slaughter and the application of the blood, the consumption of the lamb, the protection provided all point to Jesus, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, to ‘Christ our Passover lamb’ who has been sacrificed. Today I want to look at these seven aspects of the Passover celebration as pointers to Jesus.

 

The Sharing of the Lamb

First of all, the lamb was to be shared.

Exodus 12:3 …every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.

Josephus tells us that a lamb would typically feed about 14 people. Preparation was to be made to share this feast with the family first, and then neighbors were to be invited. Now when we are preparing for a Thanksgiving day meal, we usually look at how many mouths we will be feeding, and then we buy the right size turkey to feed everyone. The size of the gathering determines the size of the bird. Here, the lamb is the defining factor. The lamb was to define the number of people invited to the feast.

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. …54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The lamb was to be shared – shared among family and neighbors. There was to be fellowship around the lamb. And there were to be no left-overs. We will talk more about this when we come to the consumption of the lamb.

 

The Specifications of the Lamb

The lamb selected to be the sacrifice was to be a male in the prime of life and without blemish.

Exodus 12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,

Jesus met all the requirements perfectly. He was in the prime of life, a male, and without blemish. People were coming to his cousin John confessing their sins and being baptized by him.

Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

John recognized that Jesus had no sin to confess. John confessed that he was not even worthy to take the sandals off Jesus’ feet.

The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who … offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Peter says;

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

The Apostle John says:

1 John 3:5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Jesus was the perfect spotless Lamb of God.

The Inspection of the Lamb

To ensure that the lamb was without blemish, it was to be kept in the house for four days to be monitored and inspected.

Exodus 12:6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, …

Jesus was observed, examined, scrutinized throughout his life. At the beginning of his public ministry, he was tempted by Satan:

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came… 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”’ 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

The last four days of Jesus’ life he was intensely scrutinized by the Scribes and Chief Priests and Elders, the Sadducees, Pharisees and Herodians. They purposely attempted to set him up, trip him up and catch him in a fault.

Luke 20:20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. …26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. … 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

Those that most wanted to destroy his credibility were amazed and silenced by his spotless integrity. When they arrested him, they could not even bring one accusation that would stand up in court.

Mark 14:56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him,… 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.

When he was brought to trial, Pilate three times publicly attested to his innocence.

Luke 23:4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” …14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.” …22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”

Even the thief who was crucified along side Jesus declared his blamelessness:

Luke 23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

The Centurion who oversaw the crucifixion declared his innocence.

Luke 23:47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

God himself on two separate occasions attested to the blameless character of his Son.

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

Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, was inspected thoroughly by God, by Satan, by his friends and by his fiercest enemies, and he perfectly passed the test.

The Slaughter of the Lamb

So the perfect lamb was to be killed. The whole point of the careful inspection was to ensure that the lamb was adequately qualified to serve as a substitutionary sacrifice.

Exodus 12:6…when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

Death of the victim was required. It was not enough that the lamb was perfect; it had to be killed.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,…

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

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

Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God‘s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is just. He is holy and righteous. Sin must be punished. The wages of sin is death. But God is merciful. He has provided a substitute.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

1 Corinthians 5:7 … For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, …

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

The Application of the Blood of the Lamb

The wages of sin is death. The lamb was killed and righteous blood was shed, but that was not enough. The blood must be applied.

Exodus 12:7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

Exodus 12:22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin…

Why? Why put blood on your door frame? That sounds messy and it would be hard to clean up. Your door is your interface with the outside world. We decorate our doors with thing like ‘welcome’ or ‘bless this house’ or ‘no soliciting’; ‘insured by Smith & Wesson’ or ‘beware of cat’. We may hang our family name over the door to display our identity. What we put on our door says something about the person who lives there. Splattering blood on the door frame was not something Moses or Aaron or the Israelites came up with. ‘Honey, I was just coming home from the grocery store and noticed that Mr. Schwartskopf killed a lamb and smeared blood all over their door. It just looks so… cozy and inviting. Do you think we could afford to do that to our door too?’ No, God instructed the Israelites to do this. God had threatened every firstborn son with death, and promised protection if they would put the blood of a perfect lamb on their door. This was an act of obedience, an outward expression of trust in the word of God. This was an act of faith – believing they were in danger; believing that God has the right to execute judgment on sinners; believing there was a way to be protected from the coming danger. This is taking God at his word.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Friend, have you obeyed Jesus? Have you received him? Have you believed God’s word about salvation? Is the precious blood of Jesus splashed over your life? Are your sins covered by the blood of the Lamb? All you need do is acknowledge ‘yes, I am a sinner deserving of God’s just judgment. I need Christ’s blood applied to my account’.

The Consumption of the Lamb

But this is not the end of the story. Once the blood is applied outside, there can be peace inside. The blood is applied for protection, but the lamb is brought inside for fellowship.

Exodus 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

Exodus 12:46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.

The lamb is to be properly prepared. Even the method of cooking is proscribed. The lamb is to be roasted with fire. The lamb is not to be watered down by boiling. It is not to be uncooked, but it is to go through the fire. Fire is a picture of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus, the Lamb of God, endured the fire of the wrath of his Father toward our sin. Many people want to water Jesus down and add their own ingredients and make him into a stew, but this is not God’s way. ‘Jesus is the main ingredient, but I’ve added my good works to the pot to make it taste better.’ You have diluted the Lamb and watered down the gospel. Many others will take part of Christ but not all of him. Many feel he is a good example to follow and a role model to aspire after, but when he claims to be the unique divine Son of God, equal with the Father, co-eternal with the Father, that is too much to swallow. Many feel that he was a great moral teacher but they become offended when he claims to be the only way to God. Many applaud when he takes the children on his knee, but cringe when he drives the moneychangers from the temple with a whip. Many appreciate his life and teachings, but would turn away in horror at his bloody crucifixion. Some would like him as a political leader but are not willing to admit that they are sinners in need of a substitute. Some would take him as a Savior who forgives but not as a King who commands. Some would honor him on one day but not allow him into their homes as Friend. We must have the whole Christ! Not a bone of him is to be broken. He is not to be dismembered and torn apart in a way that suits us! We are not at liberty to pick and choose which parts of Jesus are most palatable to us. Jesus must be kept intact. We must have all of him or none at all.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” … 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? … 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

We do not get to define Jesus as we like. We come to him as he is or not at all. Peter understood that, although many things Jesus said were hard to swallow, there was no other place to turn for eternal life. We must feed on him, and all of him. There are to be no left-overs.

The Manner of Eating the Lamb

The manner of eating the lamb is specified:

Exodus 12:11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.

God had promised deliverance from slavery. We are to eat expectantly. Eat in faith. Believe that God will do what he said he would do. Be ready to go. Be ready to be set free from sin. There is a sense of urgency here.

The Protection Provided by the Blood of the Lamb

The purpose of the passover is protection:

Exodus 12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 12:22 …none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

God is providing a way for all who would hear his voice and obey him to be spared. All are sinners and all deserve to die. But God himself provides a substitute. The blood is a sign that those inside have believed what he said and acted in faith. The blood of the lamb shielded those who were under the blood from the hand of judgment. God looks on the blood and his justice is satisfied. A substitute has been slaughtered. There can be safety and peace and sweet fellowship within.

Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.

Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion:

Jesus Christ is our Passover sacrificed for us! Jesus is to be shared with those around us. Jesus meets all the requirements to be a sufficient substitute. Jesus was thoroughly inspected and passed the test perfectly. Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree. He took our place. Is the blood applied to you personally? Have you taken all of Christ? Are you enjoying the whole Jesus as he is in his glory? Are you enjoying the protection he provides? Are you enjoying sweet fellowship in him?

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn.1:29). Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed (1Cor.5:7). You were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1Pet.1:18-19).

Revelation 5: 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, … 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” …12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

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

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:17-21

10/26 1 Peter 1:17-21 Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Peter has spent the first 12 verses celebrating what God has done to make us his forever. He chose us and caused us to be born again. He is guarding us by his power for our salvation through our faith. He is testing our faith by the fire of trials so that it is proved genuine. He points to our joy in Jesus as evidence of our genuine belief. He encourages us that prophets and angels and evangelists, through the Holy Spirit were all working together to bring us salvation. Then in verse 13 he inserts a critical ‘therefore’ to give us commands; because of what God has done to make you his forever, this is how you should respond. And he gives three commands. Set your hope on future grace, be holy (wholly devoted to God), and live in fear.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

We will take up this third command today. Because of what God has done for you to secure your eternal inheritance, set your hope completely on God’s grace that will be brought to you in the future. Don’t act like you’re still stupid but be holy like God is holy – have your value system transformed by what is most valuable: God. Be wholly devoted to God. Be hopeful, be holy, and be afraid. Be very afraid. So today’s message is on how to be afraid in a way that honors God. There is a way to be afraid that disbelieves God’s promises and dishonors God and there is a way to fear that promotes your holiness and your hope and brings honor to God. I hope today we can see the difference and fear in a way that brings glory to God and brings progress in our sanctification.

Jesus commanded us to fear and not to fear. There is appropriate and inappropriate fear for the believer. Jesus was telling us to have our fear in the right place. And what Jesus tells us runs contrary to everything we naturally think and feel. Do not fear those who can kill you. That would put your fear in the wrong place. Do not fear evil men with machine guns and machetes. Do not fear the earthquake and the tsunami. Do not fear the firing squad and the electric chair. Do not fear the terrorist threats. That would be fearing the wrong thing and demonstrate your lack of faith in God. Listen to the words of Jesus:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to stop being afraid. He tells us to get our fear gland trained to respond to the right stimulus. Do not fear the bullet; fear the one you will stand before a millisecond after the bullet goes through your brain.

But doesn’t the bible says that we should not be afraid because perfect love casts out fear? Yes – in 1 John 4 it says

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

So if you have been perfected in love you can go home right now – the rest of this message does not apply to you. This same John that wrote these words was the one at the Revelation of Jesus Christ was terrified.

Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, …

Jesus commanded us to fear God; John was terrified when he saw Jesus. In Acts 9:31 it says:

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Fear of God is a characteristic of a healthy church. 2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us:

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

We are told in the proverbs:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

And in the Psalms:

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

The fear of the Lord is something we can practice. In Psalm 147, fear of the Lord and hope in his steadfast love are not incompatible but parallel ideas:

Psalms 147:11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

God’s holy presence elicits a response of terror. Last week we saw the holiness of God on display as we saw Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God. Remember his response? ‘woe to me for I am undone’.

Isaiah 6: 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah was terrified in the presence of holy God. He pronounced a curse on himself. Peter had this same experience when he was in the boat with Jesus after the catch of fish:

Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Fear of God is commended to us and modeled for us in throughout scripture. So let’s look at what Peter has to tell us about fearing God.

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

The main command is ‘conduct yourselves with fear’. He starts by pointing them to their relationship with God. You call on him who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. The one you call on is the Judge of the living and the dead, the one before whom everyone will stand and give an account. And this judge is impartial – he plays no favorites. Absolute justice will be done. Peter began to understand this when he was called by God to go to a Gentile’s house and proclaim the good news:

Acts 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,

In this letter, Peter tells us that God’s judgment will start with believers:

I Peter 4:17-18 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

And this is the one you call on as ‘Father’. You call on him as Father because he caused you to be born again. God stands as just judge over every man. But you have a unique relationship with him because you have been born into his family. God is judge of every man; he is judge and father to believers. But he is still your judge and he is just.

Ezekiel 33:18-20 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by them. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”

If we say ‘yes, I committed the crime, but I’m not worried – I know the judge’, that would indicate either we are naive or the judge is unjust. A just judge doesn’t let crime go unpunished because he has a relationship with the defendant. That would not be impartial. No, if your dad is the judge and if he cares about justice and righteousness, you’re going to get it in the courtroom and you’re going to get it at home. If you call the judge ‘Father’ then live in fear. Fear messing up and being called into his courtroom. Fear displeasing and disappointing him. Don’t think you can live like hell and get away with it because your father is the judge and he will let it slide. If you call on the judge of the universe as your father, conduct yourselves in fear.

And he reminds them of their sojourner status. This is the time of exile. This is not your permanent position. You don’t belong. Expect to be treated badly by those around you who don’t know Jesus – but don’t fear them. Fear your father who is your judge.

In verses 18-21, Peter gives the reasons why we should fear God. Fear, knowing; because you know, conduct yourselves in fear. Something you know about God fuels your fearful attitude toward him. What is it?

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

If we compress this sentence down, it reads ‘fear God knowing you were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ’. How is knowing you were ransomed by Christ a grounds for fear? Isn’t that a reason to rest and rejoice? I would expect the opposite: ‘you no longer have reason to fear God because you have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ’. Instead Peter gives it as a reason for fearing. How can this be? I think he means ‘because you have been redeemed with something so precious, fear living in a way that indicates Jesus’ blood is not precious to you’. Because of the infinite value of the gift, beware of treating it with contempt and offending the giver. The sentence builds, giving first what we were ransomed from, then what was inadequate to ransom us, then a picture of the ransom, and finally climaxes with who ransomed us.

‘You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers’.

We are naturally proud of our heritage. I am a criminal and I come from a long line of criminals. We’ve spent generations perfecting crime. We are good at what we do, and I am proud to carry on the family tradition. Heritage is a powerful thing. Peter calls it worthless. In fact it is so bad, it was holding you hostage – you needed to be ransomed from the worthless heritage that your ancestors passed on to you. You were enslaved by your forefathers and you needed to be set free. This picture begins in Egypt. Joseph brought the nation of Israel down to Egypt. 400 years later, they were in bondage and needed to be rescued. God paid the ransom price. Sometimes you pay a large sum and satisfy the demands of the kidnapper. Other times you track down the kidnapper and take his firstborn son and take back what is yours. That’s what God did. He flexed his strong right arm and displayed his power and destroyed Egypt while he set his captives free. The ransom price paid for you was not something of fading value like silver or gold. Peter again points out that in his frame of reference, silver and gold are perishable. It was not perishable gold but precious blood. The price paid for us was innocent life. The blood came from an innocent victim – like a lamb. In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, they would choose a perfect lamb – one with no defects, and they would observe it to be sure that it was in perfect health. The lamb had done nothing wrong. You would place your hands on the head of the lamb and confess your sins and transfer your guilt to that innocent animal. Then they would slit the throat of the unsuspecting animal and its blood would pour out. The lamb had done nothing to deserve punishment – it was innocent. So the blood that is the cost of our ransom is that of an innocent victim – he has neither blemish nor spot. There is no defect in your ransom price. It was the precious blood, as a lamb without blemish or spot – Christ. Christ comes climactically as the very last word of the verse.

Peter picks up the name of Christ, and gives us a list of things that make Christ abundantly precious.

20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

First, he was foreknow before the foundation of the word. This is the same word Peter used in verse 2 of our elect status which is according to the foreknowledge of God. This is staggering if we pause for a moment to consider what it means. Jesus, the lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world was foreknown before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. He was foreknown before there was even a garden or lambs or a world. God had purposed to give Jesus’ blood as a ransom for sinners before God even made people with a capacity for sinning. Before sin entered into the world, God had a plan in place to ransom sinful people. The fall was not an unexpected event in the history of earth. Your ransom with the precious blood of Jesus was God’s original plan – before there was a ‘you’. Christ was made manifest in the last times for your sake. Jesus was made known in the last times for us. The plan was always in place, but the plan has now been unfurled before our very eyes! How precious is this? Christ was manifest for our sake. And we are believers in God through Christ.

This is what Jesus told us:

John 14:1,6 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Peter said in:

Acts 3:16 And his name––by faith in his name––has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

God raised Christ from the dead. We fear death, but there’s more to death than being dead. God raised Jesus from the dead! Death is not the final end. What God did for Jesus, he can do for us. And God gave Christ glory. This is what Jesus prayed

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

And the last phrase brings it full circle back to the beginning again; so that your faith and hope are in God. God knew and chose his Son; he sent his Son; he put his Son to death; he raised his Son from the dead; he gave his Son glory; all for your sake – so that you would hope in God. So that you would believe in God. So that you would believe what God says about sin and that you will be more satisfied in pursuit of a life of holiness; that you will live with a healthy fear of treating God’s gift as if it were not precious. Fear putting your hope in other things. Hope in God for God alone is precious and God alone can satisfy. Hope in God’s future grace! Be holy! Be afraid! Hope in God!

October 26, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment