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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 6:11-15; Paying Attention

02/13_Daniel 06:11-15; Paying Attention; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220213_dan06_11-15.mp3

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” 6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

No legal battle, no protest, no petitions, no arguing his case or even asking permission.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel, conspired against, facing death, is not controlled by outside influence or circumstance. He continues to do what he loves, what he is committed to. Daniel acts as a truly free man, in contrast to the other high officials, consumed by jealousy and lust for power; in contrast to the king, blinded by flattery and manipulated.

Making Petition and Plea

Daniel 6:11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

They came as a group, as a mob. Remember, Daniel is in his own house, in his upper chamber, down on his knees. Not the most public or conspicuous place to be caught, except by those so consumed by envy that the assembled together to catch him in the act.

We are told they found Daniel ‘making petition and plea before his God.’ What radical rebellion! What a menace to society! What a dangerous man. Daniel is in his 80’s, probably around 83 years old, a threat to public order, praying alone in the privacy of his home.

He was ‘making petition’; this is the very language of their edict, found in verses 7, 12 and 13. Daniel was making petition; he was seeking, he was asking, he was requesting. What his enemies had manipulated the king to outlaw was the very thing they found him doing.

He was making petition and plea; this word ‘plea’ can mean either to seek or to show mercy; to ask or to give favor or grace. This same word was used in 4:27 to encourage the king to show mercy to the poor. Daniel was seeking grace and mercy, maybe even for those who had conspired against him.

Before His God

Daniel was making petition and plea before his God. Not the king. That’s the issue. It doesn’t matter the content of your prayers so much as to whom they are directed. You can make a request and seek mercy and grace from the tree in your back yard, or a special rock you carry around in your pocket, but that’s not going to help you. You can pray to your own conception of God as you imagine him to be, but that is not the same as praying to the God who really is.

Here’s another excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s fictional correspondence from the demon Screwtape:

“But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located—up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.” [C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, IV]

It didn’t matter so much that he was praying, as to whom he was praying. That is the real threat. If he truly has access in prayer to the God who is, if that God actually answers his requests and grants him favor, what does that mean for his enemies?

They recognized the danger of prayer, and attempted to outlaw it, to redirect it. Daniel’s enemies were manipulating the king, and if they could reroute all prayers to go through the king, that would put them in ultimate control.

The God-King Entrapped

Daniel 6:12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.”

The trap is fully set, not only for Daniel, but for the king. Unbeknownst to him, they have the king backed into the corner they contrived. They address him as ‘O king, O king, but they had no regard for him or his position. They merely intend to use him to secure their own desires.

They boldly came near the king with their cornering questions. This is the same word used back in 3:8;

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man …shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They came forward or came near to the king. To come near the king uninvited is presumptuous and dangerous as we learn a bit over 50 year later from Queen Esther when she risked her own life entering the court of Ahasuerus (or Xerxes I), king of Persia.

Esther 5:2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

These men presumptuously draw near to the king and ask him to confirm that he did indeed sign the injunction forbidding the petitioning of anyone but the king, and that the consequence for disobedience was death. The king affirms that it is now law and that it cannot be revoked.

Daniel Defamed

Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Notice how they introduce Daniel. Not Daniel, one of your top three officials, not the Daniel who became distinguished above all the other officials because an excellent spirit was in him, not Daniel whom you intend to set over the whole kingdom, not Daniel the man of integrity that has served under the administrations of multiple kings. No, they introduce him as Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah. That was almost 70 years ago! He has lived through the rise and fall of the Babylonian empire, served multiple kings with integrity, and now is highly favored by the king of the Medo-Persian empire. And his resume? ‘He is one of the exiles from Judah.’ He is basically a slave, a captive, a nobody. He is one of the leftovers of one of the many conquered peoples deported by Babylon from their homes. An exile has the audacity to disregard both the king and his laws. This cannot be tolerated.

No Respecter of Persons

He ‘pays no attention to you, O king’. This assumes that there is a person who ought to be respected. They argue from the king’s priority of position, that he ought to be the one to whom everyone owes attention. This is how they got the injunction signed in the first place. If he pays no attention to you, who is he paying with his attention? To whom do we owe our attention? (Rom.13:7)

There is some truth to the accusation. Daniel is truly no respecter of persons. His allegiance is to no human. God alone deserves our undivided attention, our utmost respect, and this is exactly what Daniel understands. ‘He went to his house… He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ because he knew to whom he was in debt to pay attention. (Mt.22:20-21)

This is exactly what made him the right man for the top job. Allegiances change, empires change, kings and kingdoms fade away. If his allegiance as an exiled Jew was to the Jewish nation, he would do what he could to undermine those currently in power. If his allegiance was to Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonian empire, could he be trusted by subsequent kings or by the conquering empire? If his primary allegiance was to himself and to seeking his own advancement, like these other high officials, could he be trusted to do what was in the best interest of the king and the country, or would he use other people, including the king, to advance his own interests?

His allegiance was to God alone, who transcends all kings and kingdoms, and who is unchanging and unchangeable. This higher allegiance required him to make sacrifices and decisions that were not in his own personal interest, but in the interest of others.

Or To The Law

He pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed. It’s personal. He pays no attention to you. But it’s also official. He disregards the law. If it was only a personal offense, you could choose to let that offense slide; you might be considered gracious. But you can’t let an offense against the law slide, or you would be unjust, and risk the total breakdown of society. That’s why these officials made sure to get it in writing and have the king sign it so it could not be revoked.

But Daniel did pay attention to the king, and he did keep the laws. He would not be trusted by the king if he did not. But he also knew when a law was out of its jurisdiction. Laws are meant to be for the good of society, the protection of people, to maintain proper order. Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit and concludes ‘against such there is no law’. What is more loving than to pray for someone, to bring them before the throne of grace and plead for their good and the blessings of God to be on them? A law that forbade prayer was in effect attempting to outlaw love, and that is no law! Daniel understood, as the apostles understood, that authority is appointed by God and rulers are God’s servants for your good (Rom.13:1,4). They also understood that when government reaches beyond its proper jurisdiction and attempts to regulate or prohibit our obedience to God, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Act.5:29).

Mighty To Save

Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

Notice the contrast between the calculatingly vengeful officials set on destruction, and the distressed laboring king with his mind set on deliverance. These officials should have been the ones laboring to protect the interests of the king; after all, he had appointed them ‘so that the king might suffer no loss’. And losing Daniel would be a great loss to the king. Under ordinary circumstances, the king would give the order for someone serving him to come up with a solution to his problems. But he is realizing he really has no friends in his own administration. Daniel is the accused, and everyone else is a co-conspirator against him. The king himself had fallen into their trap. If there is to be any help, he must see to it himself.

The response of the king demonstrates the depth of his respect for this exile from Judah who ‘pays no attention to you’. He ‘was much distressed’. He ‘set his mind to deliver Daniel.’ ‘He labored …to rescue him.’ His eyes were opened to the conspiracy, their jealousy, and his own folly. So he sought to do whatever was in his power to save Daniel.

But it is God alone who saves (Is.63:1; Zeph,3:17). And we may try, but we can’t help him. The king labored till sundown, but all his labor was in vain. This was out of his hands. It is God who rescues, who delivers.

The Folly of the Wicked

Daniel 6:15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

The audacity of these men! They show up as a group and lecture the king about his own laws. They have the king trapped; they know it and he knows it, and they gloat.

But I don’t think their plan was very well thought through. They were after Daniel’s position. He was in the way and they wanted him gone. But did they actually think, after openly manipulating the king and cornering him to act against his will in executing his most trusted official, that he would then turn around and entrust them with anything? We have to expect in the folly of the wicked, that even if they succeed in destroying Daniel, they inevitably will fall into the trap that they have set. Psalm 7 says:

Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

Psalm 7:14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

***

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

February 18, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:24-28; Weighed and Found…

10/31_Daniel 05:24-28; Weighed and Found…; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211031_dan05_24-28.mp3

The night Babylon fell,

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

The king shouted for the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. But in spite of his offers of reward, ‘all the king’s wise men …could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation.’ So Belshazzar’s color changed again and he was greatly alarmed.

The queen mother entered the panicked party and pointed the king to the disregarded Daniel, who was highly esteemed during the reign of ‘king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king.’

So Daniel was brought. Skeptical Belshazzar put Daniel in his place, reminding him of his position as an exile, a captive of the conquered people of Judah. He extended the same offer of reward to Daniel ‘if’ he could read the writing and make known the interpretation.

Daniel’s Rebuke

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel will interpret the writing on the wall, but first he issues a strong rebuke to the king.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Folly of Idolatry

The king was an idolater, praising ‘the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know.’

In Isaiah 44 the Lord challenges idolaters:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Isaiah goes on to mock the idolater in verse 9

Isaiah 44:9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

Idolatry ends in the idolater being put to shame. The idolater becomes just as blind as the idol he worships. Next Isaiah highlights the ironic folly of the one who makes an idol:

Isaiah 44:12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Daniel rebukes Belshazzar for praising inanimate gods; gods which do not see or hear or know.

Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

The king was an idolater. He may or may not have been an idolater in the sense we often think of it, bowing down before carved images of the deities that he served. What we are told is that he ‘drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.’ He may not have been religious at all; rather his trust was in tangible things like financial security, military strength, and impenetrable defenses. He certainly liked to drink wine with his lords, his wives and his concubines. He was proud, and he pursued his own pleasure. Those were his gods. He was an idolater, and he was a fool.

All Seeing, All Hearing, All Knowing, Living God

At the Exodus of God’s people out of the hand of their captors, God contrasts himself with idols that do not see or hear or know. He says to Moses from the burning bush:

Exodus 3:7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…

Our God is a God who sees, who hears, who knows. He is the God who comes down to deliver.

Belshazzar is a fool to trust in silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone, and to pursue his own pleasures, when he knew that there is a God who sees all, who hears all, who knows all, and who intervenes in the affairs of mankind. He knew there is a living God in whose hand is his breath, and whose are all his ways. But he refused to honor him. The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’ (Ps.14:1; 53:1).

Judgment of Tongues

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN.

Daniel reads the writing as Aramaic, which is what chapters 2 – 7 are written in, the common language of Babylon. We have the Aramaic transliterated as ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN’, so it sounds foreign to us, but to them it would have sounded familiar, like something they would frequently hear from merchants in the market; ‘numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.’ Why none of the wise men of Babylon could read something written in their own language is not explained. But if you are familiar with the history of Babylon (or Babel of Genesis 11) where the people said ‘let us make a name for ourselves’ so God confused their languages; then this confusion of language in judgment on a king who lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven is not surprising. In fact, we see this confusion of languages threatened as a sign of judgment against God’s own people who have gone astray throughout the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 28:47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart… 49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand,

Isaiah 28:11 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, (cf.1Cor.14:21)

Jeremiah 5:15 Behold, I am bringing against you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, declares the LORD. …a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say.

So the Psalmist prays against his enemies:

Psalm 55:9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.

The words to Belshazzar were in his own language, but he could not understand the meaning without someone to interpret them. And we see Daniel not merely reading the words, but communicating the message God was speaking through those words.

Weighed and Found…

Daniel confronts the king; ‘you knew, you were proud, you exalted yourself, you desecrated God’s vessels, you committed idolatry, you dishonored God’

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided. Your days are numbered and brought to an end. You have been weighed in and come up short. Your kingdom is divided and fallen. Just as God gave the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar, now he is giving it to the Medes and Persians.

Weighed and Found Wanting

Belshazzar was evil. He didn’t learn from the experience of others. He knew, but he didn’t act appropriately based on the knowledge he had. He took for granted the good things that were given to him by God. He failed to honor God as God or give thanks to him. He disrespected and disregarded God’s messenger. He even took what belonged to God and acted as if it belonged to him. He was weighed in the balances and found wanting.

We are aghast at the brazen insolence of Belshazzar, but isn’t that us? Doesn’t that describe you? We fail to learn from the experience of others. We don’t live consistent with the knowledge we have. We take for granted the good gifts God gives. How often do we fail to honor God as God or give him the thanks he deserves? How often do we act as if what we have been given is ours to use however we please?

If I were to be weighed in the scales I too would be found wanting. We all come up short. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one.

Weighed and Found Worthy

Well, all but one. Jesus was weighed in the scales and found worthy. On two occasions, at the beginning and end of his ministry his Father declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17;17:5). Jesus

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

Mark 14:55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.

Three times Pilate attested publicly to his accusers ‘I find no guilt in him’ (Jn.18:38;19:4,6).

Jesus was weighed in the scales and found worthy. Jesus said:

John 5:30 …I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:29 …I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

God

Acts 17:31 …will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The Father attested to the perfect righteousness of his only Son Jesus by raising him from the dead.

We are told in 2 Corinthians 5

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

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.

The Father placed my sin on the sinless Jesus, and Jesus paid my price in full.

Clothed in His Worth

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.

Jesus was weighed and found worthy, and when we are found in him, we are made worthy; we become the very righteousness of God!

Isaiah 61:10 … for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, …

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Because I am in Jesus, the Father looks at me and says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”!

***

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

November 6, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:17-23; Revelation Ignored

10/24_Daniel 05:17-23; Revelation Ignored; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211024_dan05_17-23.mp3

The king held a feast the night Babylon fell. His father Nabonidus had been defeated and fled days earlier. Cyrus and his Medo-Persian army were camped outside the city.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

Belshazzar, brazen and bold, with total disregard for what is right and good, desecrates the holy vessels from the temple of the God of Israel and praises the inanimate gods of his own wealth and defenses; gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, stone. The living God sobers the drunk king by writing with living fingers in the plaster of his party room where all could see, and reduces this brash king to a pale and paranoid collapsing puddle of incompetence.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The queen, likely the queen mother, part of the old administration, rebukes her son and points him to the wisdom of the old administration, particularly the aged Hebrew Daniel.

The young Belshazzar, regaining some of his impudence, insults Daniel by questioning his capabilities and putting him in his place, reminding him that he is a mere exile brought captive by the mighty Babylonian empire of which he, Belshazzar, is currently in charge.

Theology Lesson

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel skips the formalities of the court and the ‘O king, live forever’ nonsense, which was clearly not going to happen; the king will be dead before the night is over. He declines the king’s offer of gifts and rewards as useless and unattractive. He is interested in truth, and won’t be compromised by a bribe.

Daniel will read the writing on the wall and give the king the interpretation, but he doesn’t start with that. He starts with God, he is thoroughly God centered, because it really is all about God.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.

Belshazzar is acting as if he were God. He needs a theology lesson. He needs to know that it is the one true God who gave the kingship to his father Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. All this was a gift. It was from the Most High God, the very one whose vessels Belshazzar profaned at his illicit feast. God is the giver of every good gift.

Contrast Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar

There is an implicit contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in what Daniel says to him. Nebuchadnezzar was given the kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. Belshazzar is the acting king, and he can put on a great feast, but that’s about all. He lacks the greatness, the glory, the majesty of his predecessor. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered kingdoms, and was the king of kings. Belshazzar through a series of deaths, coups and assassinations inherited that kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was a builder, fortifying Babylon and making her beautiful, a wonder of the world. Belshazzar was hiding behind Nebuchadnezzar’s walls, throwing a party in one of his palaces. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Belshazzar drank wine from the vessels his father had seized. All peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before Nebuchadnezzar, but now Belshazzar was trembling in fear before all his dinner guests. Nebuchadnezzar killed whom he willed, but Belshazzar is about to be killed. Nebuchadnezzar had much to be proud of, and God Almighty humbled him. Belshazzar stood small in his shadow, and acted even more presumptuously and arrogantly than his father.

His father was great, entrusted by God with godlike power to rule and govern, ‘to kill and to keep alive, to raise up and to humble’ but when ‘his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down.’ In his own words from chapter 4 (:37) “all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

History Lesson

Daniel gives Belshazzar a history lesson. He reminds him of the lesson learned by Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Structure and Symmetry

Daniel chapter 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s own record of that event. There is symmetry to the book of Daniel, and the end of Daniel 4 is the hinge connecting the two halves of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Starting in 2:4 and going through the end of chapter 7 the book is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. This section has a mirror structure:

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance → worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Blasphemous Pride – unrepentant → destroyed

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

Chapter 2 parallels chapter 7, which are both dreams of four kingdoms, one given to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great statue, one given to Daniel in the form of beasts. Chapter 3 parallels chapter 6, where the faithful are persecuted for their faithfulness to God and thrown into a pit, the three into the pit of the furnace in chapter 3 and Daniel into the pit of lions in chapter 6. Both are supernaturally preserved and delivered. At the center of this structure is the pride of pagan kings; Nebuchadnezzar warned, humbled and repentant, acknowledging the Most High God as God; Belshazzar blasphemous, warned and humiliated but unhumbled, whose end is death.

Daniel draws our attention to this comparison and contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened; he was proud but God humbled him. And he came to know ‘that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.’ Nebuchadnezzar repented. He looked to God. His reason returned and he acknowledged the Most High God as sovereign. He praised and extolled and honored the King of heaven. He worshiped.

Without Excuse

Daniel 5:22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

You knew all this. You are responsible for what you know. A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. A smart person makes mistakes and learns from them, but a wise person is able to see the mistakes of others and learn from them. Belshazzar is a fool. He knew that proud Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God, lost his reason, went wild and ate grass like an ox for seven years. He knew all this, and yet he did not humble himself.

We often hear concern over remote unreached people groups; would a loving God really send them to hell when they had no opportunity to hear the gospel? Paul writes in Romans 1

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

God has revealed himself in creation, his eternal power, his divine nature is made plain, is clearly seen, so all are without excuse. Our problem is not that we don’t know there is a God; we do. Our problem is that we refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him. We become futile in our thinking and we would rather give our worship to creation than the Creator. We would like to think that he does not exist, so that we are not accountable to him; so we pretend like he doesn’t exist. We know he’s there, but ‘no one seeks for God …not even one’ (Rom.3:11-12). We all are without excuse.

Belshazzar was without excuse. ‘you …have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.’ His was not a mere passive ignoring the existence of God; his was intentional active rebellion. By taking the vessels of God’s house and drinking wine from them with his lords, his wives and his concubines, he is acting as if he were God, claiming to be more powerful than God. He was exalting himself against the Lord of heaven. He was doing exactly what Romans 1 warns against; he refused to honor God as God; instead he ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (25). He praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know. But God sees. God hears. God knows.

Breath of God

Belshazzar refused to honor the God ‘in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways’. Did you know your every breath is from God? Job challenges the idolater:

Job 12:7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Beasts, birds, plants, fish; all creation knows that our very life and breath are under God’s control.

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

Do you acknowledge that every breath that you have drawn from birth up to this present moment was ordained for you by God? Do you acknowledge your next breath is in the hand of God? You knew all this. You are without excuse. Will you honor God as God and give him thanks, will you use this breath to worship and serve the Creator, who is blessed forever? (Rom.1:21, 25)

***

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

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:7-16; Wisdom Scorned

10/17_Daniel 05:7-16; Wisdom Scorned; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211017_dan05_7-16.mp3

The fifth chapter of Daniel jumps ahead from the death of Nebuchadnezzar 23 years and 4 kings. Nabonidus was king of Babylon, but had entrusted his son Belshazzar with the rule of the kingdom, while he followed his archaeological and building pursuits 500 miles south in the city of Tema in Arabia. He had returned to Babylon toward the end of his reign, and on hearing Cyrus was approaching, had led his troops 40 miles north to meet Cyrus in battle. He was defeated and fled. Daniel 5 picks up the story 2 days later.

Belshazzar’s Confidence

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Belshazzar apparently felt secure behind the massive walls of Babylon, with supplies stored up to outlast any siege (or at least he wanted others to perceive him as confident), so he threw a massive party to display his opulent wealth, military might and strong defenses.

Spitting in the Face of God

But to call for the sacred temple vessels and to drink wine from them at his party his was arrogant and offensive. This was a symbolic act in direct defiance of the gods, saying in effect, I am greater, more powerful than the gods of other nations. My people have conquered the God of Israel, and now I can drink from his cup. We will also defeat the gods of the Persians encamped outside our walls.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

His confidence evaporated as God supernaturally crashed his party by writing something no one could understand in the plaster of his party room.

Incompetence of the Wise Men

Daniel 5:7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Notice that the offer of Belshazzar is to make the interpreter the third, not the second ruler of Babylon. Although he is not mentioned in Daniel, this would account for Nabonidus as first, with Belshazzar as second or co-regent, the successful interpreter being offered the third position, ruling alongside father and son.

By now we chuckle at the mention of the enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because the incompetence of Babylon’s wise men has already been repeatedly demonstrated. Back in chapter 2 ‘the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans’ were summoned to tell the king his dreams, but they proved incapable and their very lives were spared only by the action of Daniel and his friends, with Daniel himself appointed as chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

In chapter 3 when the Chaldeans ‘maliciously accused the Jews’, they became witnesses of God’s ability to preserve his people even through the fire. The result was an edict defending the Jews, with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego promoted in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 4, ‘all the wise men of Babylon …the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers’ were brought before the king to interpret his dream, ‘but they could not make known to me its interpretation.’ ‘At last Daniel came in …in whom is the spirit of the holy gods’ and he was able to make known the interpretation to the king.

Here again in chapter 5,

Daniel 5:8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

It seems the thing that had the king scared at least as much as seeing a supernatural hand writing on his wall was not knowing what the writing meant. The king has lost all control, he is shouting for someone to come help him out. The enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers can’t even read the inscription let alone make known the interpretation. The king’s color had already changed back in verse 6; now it changes again in verse 9. The people who should be able to help him have failed him. Words are written on the wall, and no one understands.

The Wise Queen

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

We don’t know who this woman was, except that she is called the queen. She is not the wife of Belshazzar, because from verse 2 we know his wives and concubines are already drinking with him at his feast. She enters unbidden and with authority and dignity politely rebukes Belshazzar.

She refers repeatedly to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father, which is a general word that is broader than our word ‘father’ and could apply to a grandfather or simply a predecessor. For that matter, we don’t really know what Belshazzar’s lineage was, other than that Nabonidus claims him as his only son. It is likely that this is the queen mother, possibly a daughter of the late Nebuchadnezzar or even his wife Nitocris, possibly married by Nabonidus to secure his position. It is possible that Belshazzar is the literal son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was adopted by Nabonidus. We aren’t told the details.

The Incontinent King

But this wise woman enters the banqueting hall and rebukes the incontinent Belshazzar and points him to Daniel who can untie his knots for him. Back in verse 6, we are told that the knots of the king’s loins were loosed; probably meaning that he lost control of his bodily functions. The queen, wittingly or unwittingly uses a double entendre, telling her son that the wise man Daniel is able to untie his knots for him. The king himself obliviously uses this phrase again in verse 16, where he says to Daniel ‘I hear you are able to untie knots.’ As one commentator notes: ‘from the point of view of an Aramaic speaking Israelite who had suffered much at the hands of the Babylonians …this ignominious spectacle is enough to elicit hoots of derisive laughter on the part of the audience …The unwitting double entendre [of the queen mother] evokes more derisive laughter. Finally, the king himself comes face to face with Daniel …and says, in effect, “I understand that you can untie my knots for me” Again we imagine the audience’s uproarious laughter as the hapless pagan king unwittingly makes a fool of himself before the prophet of the Lord. We see how the story uses burlesque humor to underscore the sovereignty of the Israelite God, before whom the great kings of the earth can at a moment’s notice be reduced to figures of fun, preparatory to being brought to justice.’ [Schwab, p.76 (citing Al Wolters, JBL 110, 1991: 117-122)]

Rebuke of the Queen

The queen mother reminds Belshazzar

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

There seems to be a motherly scolding in her tone; king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king. The man you demoted and won’t even listen to, your father promoted him and put him in charge because of his surpassing wisdom. You should listen to him. This woman enters the chaos boldly and answers the fear with wisdom and confidence.

The queen mother may have observed first hand the abilities of Daniel and his interaction with Nebuchadnezzar. She may have even come to believe in the God of Daniel herself.

Belshazzar has no other options than to comply with the queen’s recommendation.

Lady Wisdom

We are reminded of the lady wisdom in Proverbs 1;

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

…20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

She says again in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.

And Proverbs 9

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

Belshazzar obviously had no fear of the Lord, and terror is striking him like a storm and calamity like a whirlwind; he is about to eat the fruit of his own way and have his fill of his own devices.

Daniel Dishonored

Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The king puts on a face of being in control. Daniel is brought in, and the king addresses Daniel as ‘that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.’ Belshazzar wants to lift himself up and put Daniel in his place, making sure that he knows that it was his father (or predecessor) who conquered Judah and took Daniel captive, and that Daniel is a mere exile from conquered Judah.

Keep in mind, Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel captive at the beginning of his reign, and he reigned for 43 years, so Daniel has now been in Babylon for 66 years. If he was about 15 when he was taken, he would be over 80 years old. And he is being talked down to by this arrogant young king. He seems to have no respect for age or wisdom.

All the positive things he says are prefaced by ‘I have heard of you’. He extends the same offer he made to the other failed wise men, but prefaces it by ‘if’, expressing skepticism about the capabilities Daniel.

The Fool and the Gospel

Belshazzar is the classic fool.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

We can look at Belshazzar and recognize a fool. We might even be tempted to laugh and scorn. But Psalm 14 tells us that we are looking in the mirror. There is none who does good. Not even one. None seek God. Not even me. Romans 3 quotes this Psalm and concludes:

Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Is my mouth stopped, or am I looking down my nose at Belshazzar, amazed at his folly, thinking I am so much wiser than he? Am I able to recognize by God’s grace that I am looking in a mirror, and this is what my pride looks like? Am I willing to acknowledge that

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned [I 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,

I fall short. I am inadequate. I am not enough. I need a gift I don’t deserve. I need grace. I need redemption. My only hope is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. I am the God-belittling fool, and without God’s supernatural intervention, I will eat the fruit of my way, and have my fill of my own devices.

***

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

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence

10/10_Daniel 05:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211010_dan05_1-6.mp3

History of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Babylon for 43 years. He died in 562, and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach; 2Ki.25:27-30). After an arbitrary and licentious reign of only 2 years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, (Nergal-Sharezer; Jer.39:3,13), who reigned for three years eight months. When he died in 556 BC, his son Labashi-Marduk took the throne. He was young and inexperienced, and was assassinated after only a few months, and Nabonidus, part of the coup to overthrow him, was appointed to rule. History tells us that Nabonidus was the final ruler of the Babylonian empire, until it fell in 539 BC to Cyrus the Persian.

Belshazzar and the Nabonidus Cylinder

Daniel chapter 5 records Belshazzar as the final ruler of Babylon at its fall to Cyrus, and critics of the Bible were quick to point out this historical ‘inaccuracy,’ and the fact that a king named Belshazzar was unknown to history outside of the biblical record.

That is, until 1853. The Nabonidus cylinder was discoved in a ziggurat in Ur in, which contains a prayer of Nabonidus to the moon god Sin:

ii 3–16) O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, god of the gods, the one who resides in the great heavens…

ii 18–22) (As for) me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great divinity and grant me a long life (lit. “a life of long days”)

“ii 23–26) Moreover, with regard to Belshazzar, (my) first-born son, my own offspring, have the fear of your great divinity placed in his heart so that he does not commit a(ny) sin. May he be sated with happiness in life.” [RINBE 2, p.163]

Since that time, several other inscriptions on cuneiform cylinders and tablets have been found in the ruins of Ur, Sippar, and Borsippa attesting to the historicity of Belshazzar (or Bēl-šarru-uṣur – Bel protect the king).

Even Babylonian administrative documents recording business transactions naming Belshazzar as the crown prince have been discovered. This clay tablets is dated to the ‘24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon’. It mentions a ‘slave of Bel-sharra-utsur (Belshazzar), son of the king.’ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1898-0514-558]

Things like this are still being found. In July of this year, a 26 line inscription depicting Nabonidus was discovered in northern Saudi Arabia. This inscription has not been published, so we don’t yet know what it says.

No one today can question the existence of Belshazzar son of Nabonidus.

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

We learn from the Verse Account of Nabonidus that:

… -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command.

He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Tema deep in the west.

He started out the expedition on a path leading to a distant region. When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema, slaughtered the flocks of those who dwell in the city as well as in the countryside. And he, himself, took residence in Tema, the forces of Akkad were also stationed there.

He made the town beautiful, built there a palace like the palace in Babylon. He also built walls for the fortification of the town and he surrounded the town with sentinels.

Nabonidus spent most of his 17 year reign in Tema in Arabia, 500 miles south of Babylon, entrusting his son Belshazzar with the responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of Babylon. Although Belshazzar does not refer to himself as king of Babylon in any of the known inscriptions, he was indeed entrusted with the kingship by his father, and it would be natural for Daniel to refer to him as king.

Cyrus’ Siege of Babylon

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon around 543 BC, so he was in the province when Cyrus attacked in 539 BC.

Josephus records for us what the ancient historian Berosus said about the attack of Cyrus on Babylon:

…but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. [Josephus c. Ap. 1:151-153 (1:20)]

This is the historical backdrop of Daniel 5.

Why Feast?

The night was the 16th of Tishri (October 12) 539BC, and the army of Cyrus was camped outside the walls of Babylon. Two days earlier, Belshazzar’s father Nabonidus, had led his troops to battle at Sippar, less than 40 miles north of Babylon on the Euphrates river. Nabonidus was defeated and fled.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

When we put the historical details together, we must ask why? Why was Belshazzar making a feast in Babylon after the defeat of his father two days earlier, and with Cyrus encamped on his doorstep, preparing to lay siege?

It could be that news of his father’s defeat and of the Persian army had not reached him. It could be that he was oblivious to the threat. Or it could be that he was well aware of the imminent demise of Babylon, and he chose to ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ But it seems from his actions that he was proud and defiant, thinking he was safe within the city’s walls. The feast could be a way to rally the leaders and demonstrate to them that they had nothing to fear.

Herodotus in his Histories gives us a possible explanation;

…Cyrus …when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards. [Herodotus Histories 1:190]

The walls of Babylon were massive, impenetrable. The city was built around the river Euphrates, so they had a constant supply of water. If they had stored up many years worth of supplies, they may have been confident that they could outlast any siege.

Belshazzar’s Profanity

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

This is a bold act. Belshazzar is saying that he is greater than the God of Israel. He is greater than his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem temple and placed them in the temple of his god (1:2). There was an understanding that if I conquer you, that means that the gods I serve are greater than the gods you serve, so I take the treasures that belong to your god and put them in the temple of my god, because my god is greater. Nebuchadnezzar was great, and Nebuchadnezzar was proud, but he dared not touch the sacred vessels or use them for any common use. They were dedicated to his god, and they remained in the temples of his god.

In Numbers 18, after the rebellion of Korah, God set aside the Levites to serve alongside Aaron and his sons the priests, but he made a distinction.

Numbers 18:3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. …7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

Not even the Levites were allowed to come near or touch the holy vessels, or they would die. Belshazzar, under the influence of wine, orders that the holy vessels be brought to his immoral feast so they can use them to get drunk. ‘The king, and his lords, his wives, and his concubines’ is repeated to emphasize the audacity of this act.

Saying that they ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’ is a long list declining in value that may be intended to mock the inanimate and worthless gods that the Babylonians worshiped.

But Belshazzar may be saying ‘I don’t believe in any god I can’t see. I put my trust in tangible things like gold and silver; I can buy my way out of any situation. I trust in bronze and iron, tools of war. I trust in wood and stone, physical defenses, walls. I trust in what I can see, in what is real, tangible, solid, strong. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural.’

Divine Graffiti and the Incontinence of the King

This is when God shows up to crash his little party.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

In the excavations of the palace of Babylon, there is ruins of a room 165 feet long by 55 feet wide, and the walls were plastered. There is a recess in the middle of one of the longer walls, opposite the entrance to the room, where the king would have sat on a raised platform, illuminated by the lampstand. In the plastered wall of his party room, the king was confronted by the supernatural. His confidence crumbled in an instant. He went from proud to pale, from cocky to coward, from arrogant to incontinent, from defiant to debilitated. The ruddy color of fine wine drained from his face. The phrase translated ‘his limbs gave way’ can be literally translated ‘the knots of his loins were loosed’; very likely this means that he lost all control of his bodily functions. This one who was so self assured to defy the living God publicly soiled himself in front of his thousand party guests. God has a way of humbling the proud. And God has a sense of humor!

Back in Genesis, when all the people gathered against the Lord on the plains of Shinar to make a name for themselves, and to make a tower whose top reached to heaven, the Lord stooped down to see what it was they were building. This one who asserted his power over YHWH’s bowls lost control of his own bowels (Schwab). As Nebuchadnezzar said at the close of the last chapter, “…all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (4:37).

God will not be mocked (Gal.6:7). Biblical ‘scholars’ who accused Daniel of historical inaccuracy in fabricating a Belshazzar character are now shown to be the fools who disbelieved God’s word. Belshazzar who defied the living God and trusted in the things that were solid and reliable now has the knots of his own loins untied.

Application

What are your idols? What do you praise? What do you treasure? Delight in? What is it you value most?

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

What are your idols? What do you praise? What are you trusting in? Gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone? In what does your confidence lie? Who or what do you rely on, depend on?

1 Peter 1:6 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.

Take a moment to evaluate your affections. What do you love? What do you rejoice in? That which you can see, or the unseen realities? If Jesus is not supreme in your affections, your faith is misplaced.

***

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

October 11, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers

11/15_2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201115_2cor11_16-21.mp3

Paul is confronting the false apostles head on. And he is confronting the church for following them. He’s said (11:4) that they proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel, and the church is bearing with it well! He labels the so-called super-apostles as false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan who disguise themselves as genuine but their works and their future judgment expose them as false. He warns the church that he fears for them, that they are in danger of being deceived by Satan to forfeit a simple relationship with Jesus for a counterfeit.

But some in this church have already been taken. They believe everything the false teachers tell them, which means that they question Paul’s authenticity and doubt his integrity. Paul is willing to ‘become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’ (1Cor.9:22).

A Lamb in Wolves Clothing

The wisdom of Proverbs says:

Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Paul is willing to be thought a fool if that is what it takes to get their attention, to point out their folly and call them back to single-hearted devotion to the real Jesus. The Corinthians are wise in their own eyes, and need a little humbling.

He said in verse 1 of this chapter:

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!

And then (11:7-15) he boasted about humbling himself by serving them free of charge. Here in verse 16, he comes back to ask permission to do some foolish boasting.

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Paul is willing to be considered a fool for Christ’s sake (1Cor.4:10), to let them think they are wise, if that is what it takes to reach them.

Paul has just exposed the false teachers for who they are, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul is now willing to be a lamb in wolves clothing if they will put up with him that way, but he lifts up the disguise and tells them in advance that is what he is doing.

According to the Flesh, Not the Lord

Paul is about to launch into what he considers foolish boasting, and he makes it clear that what he says, he says ‘not according to the Lord’, because many are boasting according to the flesh. Back in 1:17 they were accusing Paul of making his plans according to the flesh, and in 10:2 some suspect him of walking according to the flesh. But, he says

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Here he contrasts boasting according to the flesh with speaking according to the Lord. More often (Rom.8:4-5, 12-13; Gal.4:23, 29) Paul juxtaposes living or walking according to the flesh with living or walking according to the Spirit. But here he contrasts speaking in line with the way the Lord would speak against boasting after the manner of the flesh, after a merely human, worldly pattern. This is the way unbelieving people boast, and it is foolish. It is not the way Jesus taught me to speak. “Our Lord was no boaster, and his Spirit does not lead any one to boast” [Hodge, p.266]. Carson writes: “Although no one ever made higher claims for himself than did Jesus, he uttered those claims not as a mortal vainly striving for equality with God, but as the self-emptied Son bent on the business of bringing salvation to condemned sinners” (Carson, p.109-110]. Jesus taught us wisdom that is not of this world, indeed contrary to the principles of this world.

In chapter 10, Paul refused to boast beyond limits, but only in what the Lord had assigned to him. He says

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (cf. 1Cor.1:31)

Citing Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Speaking according to the Lord is boasting in the Lord. Alone. He is about to boast in verse 22 in his own ethnic heritage, language, culture and religious upbringing. But this is foolish fleshly boasting, and he wants us all to know that it is not speaking as the Lord would speak. It is not boasting only in the cross. It is according to the flesh, and it is folly.

Bearing With Abusive Leadership

Verses 19-20 are in several ways parallel to verse 4. He frames both sections with an ‘if’; if one comes, if someone does these things, as is actually happening, you put up with it. You bear it well, even gladly.

Verse 4 exposes the false teaching of the false apostles. He pulls back the disguise and shows them that they come preaching another Jesus, not the Jesus the apostles proclaimed, a different spirit, one you did not receive, a different gospel which you did not accept.

Verse 19 is a slap in the face, saying sarcastically that you are so wise that you gladly bear with fools. And in verse 20 he exposes the corrosive character of the false apostles. You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours, if someone takes, if someone self-exalts, if someone strikes your face. This is the abuse they were gladly bearing with.

Notice, Paul is not directly rebuking the false apostles. He is rebuking the church for embracing and following and supporting bad leaders. Bad leaders can’t lead if no one will follow them, if no one will support them. He already said in verse 15 ‘Their end will correspond to their deeds’, both the end of the false teachers and those who follow them. God will judge the false apostles. But the Corinthians should know better than to follow them. They should recognize them by their fruits, and their character is rotten to the core. They are enslaving you, devouring, taking, self-exalting, striking you the face. And you are putting up with it!

Enslaving You

No one can serve two masters (Mt.6:24). Paul says in Romans 6 that you are slaves to the one you obey. He said:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul stands in stark contrast to these servants of Satan who are taking them captive to serve themselves. Paul will not bully or domineer them, but instead he pursues their genuine joy as he has betrothed them to one husband, to Christ (11:2). He said:

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Where the false teachers fight for the position of lord over them, Paul is glad to humble himself to serve them for the Lord’s sake.

Devouring

False teachers devour. Fire devours. The satanic birds in Jesus’ parable devour the gospel seed so it can’t take root (Lk.8:5) The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees devour widow’s houses (Lk.20:47), and the prodigal son devoured his father’s property with prostitutes (Lk.15:30). The false teachers make a practice of parasitic violence and exploitation. Sam Storms writes:

“True, godly, Spirit-filled leaders don’t exist for you to serve them. They exist to serve you! This was the precedent set by Jesus who said of himself that he ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Matt.28:20). Leaders aren’t placed in the body of Christ so that their reputation, lifestyle, and bank account can increase at the expense of those who are led. Leaders lead so that those led might be ever more conformed to the image of Christ. And if such comes only at great cost to those in authority, so be it, for Jesus served his own by giving ‘his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.28:20).” [Storms, p.164];

Taking

False teachers take advantage. To take or to receive is a very common word used in lots of positive and neutral contexts. But it can also be used in negative contexts for a violent seizing, as in Jesus’ parable of the tenants who took the master’s servants

Mattthew 21:35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

And when he sent his own son,

Matthew 21:39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Here it is used in the context of the false apostles seizing or laying hands on or taking advantage of. Paul used this word in verse 8 of robbing other churches by taking support from them. In 12:16 it is translated ‘got the better of you’; he is accused of cunning, taking them by deceit.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit.

Self-exalting

The false apostles lift themselves up. They put on airs, they arrogantly boast. In the last chapter (10:5) Paul said he wages spiritual warfare tearing down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

Isaiah 2:11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;

Striking You in the Face

Paul says they even go so far as to strike you in the face. Jesus used this word when one of the officers of the high priest struck him with his hand (Jn.18:23), and those holding Jesus in Jewish custody were mocking and beating him (Lk.22:63).

Most today take this as “almost certainly metaphorical language to refer to any kind of humiliating treatment” [Carson, p.111]. Except we know ‘religious leaders of the day at times punished offenders by slapping them’ [Guthrie, BECNT p.541] (cf. Acts 23:2).

And we see today’s false teachers who have people come forward so they can strike them on the face or push them to knock them down, allegedly ‘slaying them with the spirit’.

This puts what Paul said back in chapter 7 in context;

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

You gladly bear with fools who enslave you, who devour, who seize, who self-exalt, who strike you in the face. This is a ‘stunning disclosure of the aggressive authoritarianism and overbearing leadership tactics of the intruders.’ [Storms, p.163]

Shame and Weakness

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Paul has exposed the corrupt character of the false apostles. The Corinthians should be ashamed that they had been duped and taken advantage of, abused and shamefully treated. But Paul takes the shame on himself. It is his to his shame, he says sarcastically, that he was too weak to take advantage of them in that way. He was too weak to bully them, to lord it over them, to forcefully domineer. He was weak with the meekness and gentleness, the humility of Christ (10:1). He shows by his example that weakness is the way.

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Paul is weak, and he will go on to boast in his weakness, because it is the path of following Jesus.

Fool’s Boldness

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Even in Paul’s weakness and dishonor, he is bold. In whatever someone is bold he is also bold. And he qualifies this; he is speaking foolishness. He said back in

2 Corinthians 10:2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul is weak, he begs that he will not have to show the boldness he fears he will have to show when he visits. He says in 10:12

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

He isn’t bold enough, he doesn’t dare to measure himself by others. Those who do, he says, are without understanding. Here he foolishly dares to boast of whatever another dares to boast of. He is willing to put on the wolf’s clothing in order to show that he is not in the least inferior (11:5), yet in his heart he is harmless as a dove (Mt.10:16).

Paul puts on the wolf’s clothing to caricature the wolves, to expose their character and wake up the sheep to set them free from their clutches.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

***

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

November 18, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18)

06/28 Loving Discipline (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12; Matthew 18); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200628_discipline.mp3

Last time we saw that Jesus teaches us to pray to God as our Father, that he is a good Father who is eager to see us walking in his image, resembling his character, carrying his DNA, and ultimately bringing glory to him. Jesus instructs us to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, and that he is eager to reward us.

The Revelation and Discipline of Jesus Christ

Today I want to look at the flip side of this. If you are familiar with the book of Revelation, you know above all else it is a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Jesus has given to us a high and holy calling. And Jesus is coming back for us. Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus among his churches;

Revelation 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Jesus in all his awesome glory walking among the lampstands, his churches, and he addresses seven of these churches each with a letter. He tells them each something about himself, and he praises them for the things that he sees that please him, and he gives a word of warning and correction to those things that are not as they ought to be; he invites them to listen to what he says, and he promises his reward to those who respond to him. Addressing some problems he sees in the church in Laodicea, he says

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Discipline probably isn’t what we want to hear. Discipline may sound unpleasant, and it is. But understand, discipline is rooted in love. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.’ ‘Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood’ says ‘those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Discipline is an expression of God’s love.

Wisdom Warns

Wisdom cries out:

Proverbs 1:22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.

Wisdom warns the fool, scoffers who hate knowledge, who ignore wise counsel, who despise reproof. They will get what they wanted; they will ‘eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.’ There are natural consequences for rejecting discipline and correction.

Bad Examples

In the Old Testament we find some epic examples of fathers who failed to discipline their sons and the tragic consequences. The two sons of Eli were priests of the Lord at Shiloh.

1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. …17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt. …22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.

It seems Eli had failed to train his sons, and they refused to listen to correction and reproof.

A man of God came to Eli with the word of the Lord:

1 Samuel 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’

The sin of Eli was to honor his sons above the Lord God. How many people today elevate their children above the Lord? How many of us treat our children as kings and queens, princes and princesses? ‘You scorn my sacrifices …and honor your sons above me.’

Here’s what the ancient wisdom book says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

The word of the Lord came to young Samuel about Eli:

1 Samuel 3:13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.

God is holding the father responsible because he knew what his sons were doing, and he failed to restrain them.

In 1 Samuel 4, the two sons of Eli died in battle, the ark of the Lord was captured, and when Eli was given the news, he fell over backward, broke his neck and died.

Withholding discipline when discipline is deserved is hatred not love, and it ends in disaster and death. This is one large contributing factor to what is wrong and broken in our society and in our culture.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Can this be abused and wrongfully applied out of anger and convenience, not out of love? Yes. Should we forsake the clear teaching of God’s word because some use it wrongly? No, we ought to check ourselves and our motives, seek godly counsel and get help.

The wise father says:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Jesus says ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’ Loving discipline is an expression of love.

Illegitimate Children

Look with me at Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus who for joy endured the cross; it tells us to lay aside the sin that trips us up and to run the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

That, my friends, is what is called a rhetorical question. You can probably answer with a long list of names. There’s Johnny and Joey and Bobby and Billy and Betsy and Sue. They are obviously undisciplined. ‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question and the answer is meant to be ‘there is no son whom his father does not discipline!’ Fathers are to love their children, and one of the expressions of a father’s love is loving discipline. Our society is so far out of Biblical bounds that we can’t even recognize this as a rhetorical question and answer it rightly.

Hebrews 12:7 …For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

Your earthly father may have failed you. You may not have had an earthly father who disciplined you out of love for your good. You may not have had an earthly father in your life. The point of this is a contrast. The best of earthly fathers are at best imperfect and inconsistent, flawed and faulted. As I preach this, I am acutely aware of my own failures and shortcomings as a father. I am preaching as much to me as I am to you. But the point is that if we have respect for our imperfect earthly fathers, how much more should we gladly submit ourselves to the perfect Father whose discipline is always perfect, perfectly applied and always for our good?

Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Part of being a son is being disciplined. We don’t like discipline; it is painful, not pleasant. But if the Lord does not discipline us, we might rightly question if we are truly his sons at all. The gospel calls us to come just as we are, but the good Lord will not leave us as we are. He intends for us to reflect his own character. ‘I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!’ (Gal.4:19). The Lord disciplines us ‘for our good, that we may share his holiness.’

Some of the most terrifying words in all of Scripture are those words in Romans 1, that ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’ in that ‘God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts’ (Rom.1:18,24,26,28). God gave them up to do what they wanted to do. God turned them over to the sin they chose. He gave them over; this is not loving discipline but judicial release to run unrestrained into the consequences of their own desires. This is not how God treats his children. If you are sinning and seemingly getting away with it, be terrified that you may be under his wrath. Ask him to adopt you into his family and to apply his loving discipline to you for your good. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

Restorative Discipline in the Church

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his followers that we need to turn and become like children in order to enter his kingdom, and he warns against those who would cause ‘one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.’ He tells us to deal severely with our own sin, and he shares the heart of the Father in leaving the ninety-nine to go out in search of the one sheep who goes astray. And then he says:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Jesus teaches his followers that we are to have the heart of his Father in going after those who go astray, in order to bring them back to safety.

It starts with ‘If your brother sins against you.’ If your brother sins against you, go and tell somebody about it. Go tell lots of people about it, go look for sympathy, go put it on social media. Go ask for prayer. Go tell the church leaders about it. No, no, no. Now you are sinning against your brother who sinned against you. You are a gossip, a slanderer, a backbiter, a busybody, and that is sin.

If your brother sins against somebody you know, stand up for them and go tell him his fault. No, Jesus says ‘If your brother sins against you, you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

And the goal is to heap on the guilt and really make him feel bad about what he did to you, to shame him, to make him pay. No, the goal is that he would listen, and you gain back your brother. The goal is reconciliation in sibling relationships. In love, in private, you and him alone, for restoration. And this passage goes on to command us to keep no record of wrong and forgive our brother who sins against us not seven times but seventy times seven.

Only if he does not respond to your private loving correction do you involve others. And then only one or two others. Keep the circle as small as possible. The goal is to go after the straying sheep, to gain back your brother or sister. The motive must be love and the goal must be safe return and restoration to the safety and care of the Good Shepherd.

Remember, just as in the immediate family so in the church family, discipline and correction is loving. To withhold correction and discipline when it is appropriate is to hate. When necessary, give it that way, and receive it as such.

Did you know that is what the Bible is for?

2 Timothy 3:15 …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is given for reproof, correction, training. The goal is godly maturity and usefulness in Christ. It is for your good. You must acquaint your children with it. You must acquaint yourself with the Scriptures. And you should put them to use in your own family and in the family of God.

Three Applications:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph.6:2-3).

‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph.6:4). Fathers and mothers, do not neglect loving discipline of your children in your home for their good.

Brothers and sisters, when a brother or sister reproves, rebukes, exhorts you, when you receive discipline from the Lord, rejoice, it is an expression of love. He is treating you as his own children. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.’

***

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

June 29, 2020 Posted by | church, discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:35-49; With What Kind of Body?

05/31 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 With What Kind of Body?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150531_1cor15_35-49.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

35 Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις· Πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί, ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; 36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ· 37 καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν· 38 ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα. 39 οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ, ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων. 40 καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια· ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων. 41 ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων, ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ. 42 Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ· 43 σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ· σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει· 44 σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. Εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν. 45 οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται· Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν· ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν. 46 ἀλλ’ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. 47 ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. 48 οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι· 49 καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 2932 he points to the incoherence of baptism and suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the possibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. And in this section, Paul gives us beautiful insights into what the resurrection will be like.

Foolish Questions or Foolish People?

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person!

You may have heard that there are no stupid questions. That may be true, but the person who ask the questions may be a fool. In verse 35, Paul frames two questions, and his response to those questions is ‘Fool!’ You fool! The questions are not foolish, and Paul will answer them. But the motive behind the questions betrays the heart of a fool. The questions are asked not in order to find an answer, not to gain wisdom, but to prove a point. They are asked to make Paul’s belief in the resurrection look foolish. These are those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. They ask ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Are disintegrated, decomposed, rotting corpses really going to come back to life? Is grandma, who is pushing up daisies, really going to one day reclaim her molecules from the person who ate the cow that ate the daisies? The questions are intended to make the belief in the resurrection look absurd, and to ridicule anyone who holds to this belief. But Paul is not intimidated. These people are like the people in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, ‘The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.”’ So Paul says it as it is ‘You fool!’ Your questions stem from an unbelief in God. In the previous verses, Paul pointed to the disastrous moral consequences of unbelief in the resurrection, and the root of this unbelief, that ‘some have no knowledge of God.’ If God is God, if God is omnipotent and sovereign, if God is a God who keeps his promises, then the resurrection will be no trouble for him at all. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees who asked him a similar question to demonstrate the irrationality of the resurrection;

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

In answer to these questions, Paul points them back to God, the sovereign God who does all that he pleases, who accomplishes all that he desires.

Psalm 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

In this section, Paul brings us back to Genesis, to the first chapters of the creation narrative. He quotes Genesis 2:7 in verse 45, but the creation narrative is the background of everything he says.

Consider Seeds

He starts with seeds. (Day 3)

Genesis 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

This is similar to what Jesus said in John 12 about his own death and resurrection, and that of his followers:

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Seeds are not meant to sit on a shelf. They are meant to go into the ground. God made the earth to ‘sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.’ If you had never seen a mighty Midwest oak tree, solid and strong, giving shade, what would you think of an acorn? Could you guess what might come up if you put it in the ground? Or if you happened upon a dry brown whirligig – those little helicopters, would you ever imagine the beautiful maple in its autumn blaze of orange? What about a wrinkly hard pit with a bitter nut inside? If you had never tasted a sweet juicy luscious peach, could you imagine it if someone described it to you? I have a box of garden seeds in my basement. Some of the packets were open and they spilled. There are some flat white discs of various sizes, tiny black specs, various sizes of teardrop shapes, small round spheres in different shades from brown to tan. If I dumped them all out on the table, how well do you think you would do describing the kind of plant and fruit that would come from each of them? Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomato, cucumber, pumpkins, squashes, hot peppers of all different shapes and colors. What if you had never planted a garden? If I put in front of you a flat oblong black seed and asked you to draw me a picture of what you think would come up if you put it in the ground, would you ever imagine a wild green vine with large lobed leaves and large green striped fruit with bright pink watery insides? It’s just a hard black thing. [Fig tree seed illustration]

Sovereign Grace

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Notice Paul’s focus here. His focus is on God who chooses and God who gives. God gives the kind of body to each seed that he has chosen. From creation he ordained peach pits to grow peach trees with peaches, watermelon seeds to sprout vines with watermelons, carrot seeds to grow carrots, fig seeds to grow enormous fig trees with sugary sweet fruit. God gives each a body as he has chosen. There are infinite varieties of shapes and sizes and colors and flavors of plants and flowers and fruits. What a seed will become is unimaginable when looking only at the seed. God gives each a body as he has chosen. He is infinitely creative and wise and good. God is the giver. The resurrection is part of the good news. The good news is a message of grace, a generous God who gives to sinners what we don’t deserve, what we couldn’t earn, what he freely gives. In verses 8-10 Paul held himself up as a trophy of God’s transforming resurrecting grace ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’. God is the giver in creation. God is the giver in resurrection.

Consider Flesh

Paul still has in mind the creation account in Genesis.

On the Fifth Day:

Genesis 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …

On the Sixth Day:

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

Paul is looking at the variety of kinds of flesh, each suited for its own environment, fish to live in the sea, birds to live in the air, animals to live on the land, and man to rule over them all. The amazing diversity and variety we see in the animal kingdom is ample evidence that God is more than capable of designing a body suitable for any kind of environment, from deep sea creatures to salt water to fresh, birds with structures capable of soaring and migrating, land animals suited for jungle and tropical and desert and polar climates. If God in his infinite creativity can imagine bodies suitable for survival in such diverse environments, surely he can design a body suitable for life in the resurrection.

Consider the Glory of the Heavens

Paul moves back to day four of creation

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

He draws a contrast between the heavenly and the earthly. Where God in his all wise creativity can make bodies suitable for land, sea, and air, all different earthly environments, he can also design bodies designed for the heavens or what we would call outer space. Even here we see evidence of variety and creativity. Sun, moon, stars, planets, variety in brightness and size and color and intensity, each designed for its own environment.

Of the Soul / Of the Spirit

Paul has drawn from days 3, 6, 5 and 4 of creation, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He now picks up his illustration from seeds and draws some conclusions. There is continuity with what is sown, but there is also radical discontinuity. The pear seed will not grow tangerines or turnips. The pear seed will grow a pear tree. There is an organic unity between the seed sown and the plant that erupts from the ground. But the appearance and characteristics of the naked seed are nothing at all like the tree that grows from it, or the fruit it produces.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. …

There is continuity between what is sown and what is raised. But there is also radical transformation. The contrasts are laid out here. Our present human bodies are subject to decay, they are subject to shame and dishonor, they are weak, and they are natural or soulish. The resurrection will change all that. What was once subject to decomposition will be incorruptible. What was once subject to shame will be clothed in glory. What was once impotent will be characterized by resurrection power. What was soulish or natural will be spiritual.

What does Paul mean by this last contrast between natural and spiritual? What is a spiritual body? We might think a spiritual body to be an oxymoron, a logical contradiction like immaterial material. A body is the physical manifestation of something. Paul has been talking about different kinds of bodies – stars, fish, birds, plants, beasts, humans. When we hear ‘spiritual’ we might equate that with invisible or immaterial or non-physical, but that is not the case. A spiritual body is not a body made up of spirit any more than a soulish body is a body made up of soul. If we contrast a steel ship with a wooden ship, we are talking about what the ship is made of, but if we talk about a steam ship in contrast to a sailing ship, we are contrasting not what they are made of, but what they are powered or energized by. The natural body is the body that is energized by the soul or natural life, or we might say the psyche, but the spiritual body is the body energized by the spirit. Paul made this distinction back in chapter 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

There, as here, the natural person is the person controlled by the soul, the psyche, or natural life. The spiritual person is the person controlled, empowered and enlightened by the Spirit of God.

This comes again from Genesis.

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

The breath of life made man a living soul or psyche, a living being with natural life. Paul again picks up his contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:44 …If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

But where Adam was given life, Christ became the life-giver. Where Adam was given natural life, Christ gives spiritual life. He gives the Spirit to all who believe in him.

1 Corinthians 15:46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.

There is a clear sequence. The natural life comes first. The bare seed must go into the ground and die before it bursts forth in resurrection life. We are not spiritual beings first. We begin as natural beings. We become spiritual beings, beings empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul now returns to the heaven/earth contrast that he brought up in verse 40.

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Jesus said:

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John contrasted himself with Jesus:

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Jesus came down from heaven, from his Father. Adam was made of dust. We come from dust. We are perishable, shameful, weak, and natural, controlled by the natural life. We have borne the image of the man of dust. Again Paul has Genesis in mind. Genesis 5 tells us that ‘Adam …fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image’. But if we transfer our allegiance to Christ, we are given new spiritual life, we belong to Christ and we will bear his image. Where the first man brought death, the second man brings life. He is imperishable, glorious, powerful, governed by the Spirit.

Because God is God, the resurrection is certain. We will be transformed, we will be raised incorruptible, clothed in glory and power, with the fruit of the Spirit in full bloom. I’ve heard people ask about the resurrection – how old will we be? If we have any disabilities or imperfections, will they be fixed? I think these are the wrong kind of questions. We will be like a bare seed that bursts up out of the ground in a glorious blossom. I will still be me, unique, different from anyone else, identifiable. But I will transformed. Romans 8 tells us that we are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We were created to bear the image of the invisible God. On that day we will bear the image of Jesus. We shall be like him.

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

May 31, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment