PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

God All Knowing and Wise

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

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

The Good News of Omniscience

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

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

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

The author of Hebrews says:

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

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

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

God who Cannot Learn

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

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

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

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

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

God and ‘Chance’

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Aloof or Involved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

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

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

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

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

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

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

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

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

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

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

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

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

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 3:16-22; God Knows

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100704_exodus03_16-22.mp3

7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows

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, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God made himself known to Moses. He told him that he has compassion on his people. He has seen, he has heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver them. He is sending Moses to deliver them. Moses asks the question ‘Who am I?’ God clarifies that it is not who you are, Moses, that makes a difference, but who I am. So Moses asks God ‘Then who are you? Tell me your name. What are your credentials?’ God gives him the verb ‘to be’, He says I AM THAT I AM; I am the uncaused cause; I am the only independent being in existence, the self existent source and ground of all that is. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I am the same God now that I was then. I am the same God who made the magnificent promises to the patriarchs, and I will keep those promises because I AM. I am that I am, and I am to be remembered in this way throughout all generations.

Now that God has revealed something of who he is to Moses, he clarifies his instructions. He had told Moses

10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Now he tells Moses to go and gather the elders of Israel. this is the first time in the bible that we hear of the elders of Israel. Genesis 50:7 talks about the elders of Egypt, but Israel had no need for structured leadership. Up to this point in their history, Israel was merely a family with promises that God would make them into a great nation. Now, during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had taken them from an extended family of 70 people, to a nation that is a national threat to Egypt, organized with elders. Moses is to go to these elders, gather them as a group, and declare these words to them:

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

Moses is to reiterate what is said of God in 2:23-24 and what he said to him in 3:7-9 that he has seen and heard, he knows, he cares, he remembers his covenant, and he is doing something about it. Moses is to introduce God as ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ God wants the people to be reminded that he is the same God who made promises to the patriarchs and is now fulfilling those promises.

God tells Moses to tell them this: “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” This would be a mixed message to anyone. Imagine you are having a hard time with someone at work and God says to you “I have observed you and what has been done to you.” God knows what has been done to me – that’s good! But he’s also observed me. He knows how I’ve responded to the pressure. He’s seen me at my absolute worst. He knows every thought I’ve thunk and every motive of my heart. That is a sobering thought, is it not? It’s a sobering thought, but it is also a freeing thought. I have nothing to hide because I can hide nothing. God knows everything I’ve done, he knows all my sin. He sees my heart even more clearly than I do myself. He knows me more intimately than anyone else, and he loves me! Do you realize how freeing that is? I don’t have to put on pretensions or wear a mask and pretend to be someone I’m not. We have one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he still pursues us in relationship. This does not mean that God doesn’t care how we think or feel or act, or that we can continue to sin that grace may increase. No. God is a holy God. But he knows that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) and we cannot improve ourselves. He knows he is buying ‘damaged merchandise – used – as is’ and he has counted the cost that he will expend in time and labor and most importantly the blood of his own dear Son to wash us and heal us and restore us to mint condition and present us to himself as a people for his own possession, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

God says to Moses, tell the elders:

16… “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God is making a promise to his people. The word translated ‘promise’ is simply the word ‘said’, the same word that is found throughout the creation narrative; ‘and God said let there be… and there was’. For God to speak is to promise. If God said, then what he said is as good as done. Tell them “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt”. In verse 7, God said that he had seen their affliction. Now he says he is going to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt. Affliction has its purpose in the plan of God. Joseph named his son Ephraim, because, he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen.41:52). Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God does not promise his people a trouble free existence from this point on. He does not promise them exemption from all affliction. They will continue to have their share of affliction. But the affliction of Egypt has served its purpose, and God will now bring the people up out of the affliction of Egypt. He will bring them to the land. God had promised to give his people the land:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 13:14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 15:18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

[to Isaac] Genesis 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

[to Jacob] Genesis 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 35: 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ …21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.

Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God is promising to bring his people out of the land of affliction and to the land of six enemy nations. This would not be easy. God was preparing his people from the very beginning for what they would face. There would be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but God promised to accomplish what he had promised if they relied on him. This was a good land, described as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’, a land abundantly overflowing with blessing.

What comes next is an amazing promise that God gives to encourage Moses. Moses has questioned his qualifications for the responsibility of representing God to the people. Then he questioned who it was that he was representing. If I go to the people and they ask who it was that sent me, what should I tell them that your name is? Moses has gone out to the people once before, thinking they would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand (Acts 7:25). Now, 40 years later, Moses is apprehensive about going back. Moses doubts the reception he will receive with the people who rejected him before. God gives Moses a staggering promise. Verse 18 says “And they will listen to your voice.” How can God say that? How can God know how the people will respond? This God, this one who says I AM, I am the ground and source of existence, I cause to be all that is, this God guarantees to Moses the future actions of free moral agents. God says to Moses, I am sending you, and I can tell you exactly how the elders of Israel will respond. How can he say that? This same God who is acting in Moses life to send him is also moving in the lives of the elders of Israel to prepare them to hear Moses and his message.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Not only will they listen, but they will go with you to Pharaoh. God gives Moses the script. When you and the elders of Israel go to the king of Egypt, this is what you are to say:

The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’

Moses and the elders of Israel are to ask politely for a week off. We’ve been slaving for you for 400 years. Can we please have time off for religious reasons? YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Adam and Abel and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob sacrificed to YHWH. We have neglected to sacrifice to our God for the last 400 years. We will go out into the wilderness where we won’t offend your people or your gods to sacrifice to YHWH our God. This is a very reasonable request. According to ancient Near Eastern customs, the Pharaoh should have respected their request and allowed them to perform their required religious duties (Enns, p.107, fn.34). But God is seeking an occasion against this king of Egypt, as he makes clear by his prediction of what will happen, again another stunning statement of his sovereignty, and a gracious preparation for his people to brace themselves for what is coming.

19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

I am asking him to do something so reasonable and so modest that his rejection will demonstrate the depth of the hardness of his heart. God knows the future response of this pagan king to a question that hasn’t been asked yet. God knows exactly what it will take to break him and cause him to surrender. It will take more than military might or political power to move this king. It will take the divine intervention of a sovereign God. Moses, remember when you went out and saw the Egyptian striking down the Hebrew and you had compassion and were moved to intervene and strike down the Egyptian? I have compassion on my people, and I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt. It will take a mighty hand, and I am that hand. I will strike Egypt with all the wonders I will do in it. After that, he will let you go. I will work marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary things, things that are beyond anyone’s power to do. This word was used only once before, in Genesis 18:14 when God is answering the doubts of Abraham and Sarah over the promise of a son in their old age. “Is anything too hard (wonderful) for the LORD?” God is setting the stage for an epic display of his awesome power through the ten plagues. The Exodus is all about God and his glory. Listen to the first person pronouns: I know… so I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.

And there’s the promise. Then he will let you go. You go to Pharaoh. He will not listen. I will strike Egypt with all (not some but all) of the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. What precision of prediction! What clarity of purpose! What encouragement of ultimate victory in spite of repeated setbacks! After that he will let you go. Rescue! Salvation! Deliverance at last! The Pharaoh will let you go. But that’s not all. God does exceeding, abundant, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

God is not merely going to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. He says “you shall not go empty”. God has a perfect plan. For shortsighted me, it would be good enough just to escape. Then I’d have to figure out how to make it out there. But God is going to provide for the needs of his people. He is going to bless them beyond what they could possibly conceive. And he promises this up front, so that when it happens, they can marvel at how awesome this God is. God says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. That’s a remarkable statement. This is a people who is so fearful and resentful that their government could tell them to throw the Hebrew babies in the river and they would obey. Now God says ‘I will give you favor in their sight’. They’ll give you anything you ask for. God’s sense of humor is beautiful. The mighty Pharaoh’s plan was frustrated by a handful women. Two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who feared God. Moses’ mother, who creatively obeyed the king’s command by placing her baby in the Nile in an ark, and the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised his arch-enemy under his own roof. Now, God says you are going to plunder the Egyptians. But not because you were victorious in battle. I will get the victory and your Hebrew women will plunder the spoil. The most powerful nation of the world willingly, voluntarily plundered by women and children!

Paul prays for us that we would understand how lavish God is:

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

God is awesome beyond our capacity to comprehend, he knows the end from the beginning, he holds the future in his hand, and he blesses his people far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! God has given us everything in Jesus.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

21 And I will give this people favor …you shall not go empty,

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

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:1-2

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080907_1peter_1_1-2.mp3

9/07 1 Peter 1:1-2 Christians in Tension

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 petrov apostolov ihsou cristou eklektoiv parepidhmoiv diasporav pontou galatiav kappadokiav asiav kai biyuniav 2 kata prognwsin yeou patrov en agiasmw pneumatov eiv upakohn kai rantismon aimatov ihsou cristou cariv umin kai eirhnh plhyunyeih

Peter introduces himself simply as ‘apostle’. In many of Paul’s writings, he expands this part of the greeting by adding a phrase like ‘by the will of God’ to defend his apostleship. Peter has no need to defend his apostolic authority. He was commissioned by Jesus Christ to speak on his behalf and with his authority. So this letter is to be received as if it came from Jesus and with his authority. If you don’t like what it says, take it up with Jesus. Jesus charged Peter to ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’ (Jn.21); and in this letter Peter, as a shepherd, is tending to the needs of the suffering sheep that are scattered across Asia Minor. Peter is buttressing the belief of his readers by pointing them to God and to strong truths about God. They can stand firm in the fiery trial because of who God is and what he is doing for them and in them. They need an unshakable theological understanding under their feet so that they can stand as Christians in the middle of a hostile society. He declares his purpose in 5:12

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter is coming alongside the believers, encouraging them and testifying to them of the truth about God. He wants to see holiness developed in them. He wants to see them stand firm in the grace of God. He wants to strengthen their hope that God, Father, Son and Spirit, is working for their good to secure their salvation.

It’s a bit peculiar that in a letter to people Peter has probably never met, he says hardly anything about his own identity, but he spends a lot of time telling the readers who they are. We would say ‘Hi, you don’t know me, so let me tell you about myself’. Instead Peter says ‘you don’t know me, so let me tell you who you are.’ That seems odd for a stranger to say ‘I don’t know you very well, but let me tell you about yourself’. He is telling them things that are true about them that they either don’t know, or that they know but need to be reminded of. Peter wants them to understand their identity in Christ. They need to know who they are.

He addresses them as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He uses the Jewish metaphor of ‘diaspora’ or ‘dispersion’. In 722 B.C. The Assyrians under Shalmaneser V conquered and carried off many from the northern kingdom of Israel and then in 588 B.C. under Nebuchadnezzar II the southern kingdom of Judah was carried off into Babylon. The nations into which they went did their best to assimilate them and integrate them into their society, culture and religion. The Jews had to struggle to retain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Because they maintain their unique identity, they are ‘exiles’ or sojourners, resident aliens in a place that is not their home.

This was the experience of Abraham. God had called Abram the idol worshiper of Ur of the Chaldeans to:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …

Abraham went to the land and he described himself to the Hittites as:

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you;…”

The author of Hebrews uses the same wording that Peter does to describe the situation of the Old Testament saints:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer belong to the culture in which they live. They have become sojourners. But he describes them as ‘elect exiles’ or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘ the selected rejected’. These are Christians in tension. In relation to the culture in which they reside, they are outside the group. They are different. They don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They don’t think and feel and act the way the rest of society thinks and feels and acts. And because of that, they are rejected and persecuted. But in relation to God they are elect. They have been chosen, hand picked. They have been called out by name. They are loved by God. The word ‘elect’ eklektov means those who have been selected as a subset of a larger group. ISBE says “…prevalently in the New Testament, it denotes a human community, also described as believers, saints, the Israel of God; regarded as in some sense selected by Him from among men, objects of His special favor, and correspondingly called to special holiness and service.” This is a common name for Christians in the New Testament, and often they are described as ‘God’s elect’ or ‘his elect’.

Mark 13:20 …But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose,…

Mark 13:22 … signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Mark 13:27 …gather his elect from the four winds…

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones,…

Titus 1:1 …for the sake of the faith of God’s elect

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race… a people for his own possession…

This term points to the safety and security of the believer’s position with God. We cannot lose our position because we didn’t attain it by climbing the ladder of accomplishment. God picked us out and placed us here, and he will also preserve and protect us. It is a position of privilege to be picked to be on God’s team. But this choice of God is also the source of our trouble here on earth. When you get picked for the team, your friends who didn’t get picked get jealous and hostile and angry. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples would happen:

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Because God chose you to be his own, the world hates you. So don’t cry when you look around and see that the world hates you. Remember, it’s because you were picked out by God. The world hates you because you’re on God’s team now and you are different from them. Because we are elect, we are exiles, sojourners. We no longer belong. Paul describes our alien status this way:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Peter uses three prepositional phrases to further describe his readers, the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He says they are ‘according to’, ‘in’ and ‘for’. And he describes the work of the triune God in their lives; God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. He says in verse 2:

2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

First, he says they are elect exiles of the dispersion ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. The word foreknowledge ‘prognwsiv‘ is a compound of ‘pro‘ before and ‘ginwskw‘ to know. It means ‘to know before’. This is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’, which the dictionary defines as ‘A prediction of the probable course and outcome’ But with God, it is not merely the probable course and outcome that he knows, but he knows and can predict with absolute certainty the course and outcome. But the use of the word ‘foreknowledge’ in the bible means more than simply God’s omniscience and his ability to know the future ahead of time. That is certainly true, and that is what the word means when it is used with and event or an object. But the concept of knowing when it is used with a person as its object carries with it the idea of relationship. All the way back in the beginning, it says:

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…

There is clearly more than intellectual comprehension involved in this kind of ‘knowing’. God uses this word of Abraham:

Genesis 18:18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Of the prophet Jeremiah, God says:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Notice the parallels between ‘knew’, ‘consecrated’, and ‘appointed’. In Amos, God says to Israel:

Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…

The context is that God is about to punish Israel and their sins are especially grievous because he has a special relationship with them. That can’t possibly mean that God was unaware that there were other people on the planet besides Israel.

The only other place in the New Testament that this word occurs is in Acts 2:23 where it is coupled with the ordained will of God:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

The verb form appears in:

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,

The concept of foreknowledge carries not only the idea of comprehension of future events, but when the word is used of people, it carries the idea of a purpose of relationship. The readers of Peter’s letter are elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. They are chosen according to the Father’s purpose to enter into relationship with them. They are picked for intimacy with the Father. And Peter tells them this right up front in his letter; before he even says ‘hello’. He urgently wants them to hear this truth so that they would be encouraged in their suffering by it and take hope. Yes, you are an outcast in your family and in society, but God the Father chose to place his love on you! So he describes them as elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Then he describes them as elect exiles ‘in or by means of the sanctification of the Spirit’. Sanctification ‘agiasmov‘ means ‘consecration, purification, or holiness’. Something that is sanctified is set apart for a specific use. Paul talks about vessels set apart for a specific use:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

In that day there were specific vessels that were set apart for the preparation and serving of food. There were other vessels used in the bedchamber as a commode. They were set apart for that use. In a pinch, you might take a vessel set apart for kitchen use and use it as a commode, but that vessel would never be fit for kitchen service again. That’s the concept of being ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart’; you’re the dirty clay pot, but you’ve been cleansed and purified and made holy, made fit for honorable use. And this is specifically said to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cleans you and sets you apart for a good use.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

And these elect exiles had a purpose. They were elect exiles ‘for or into obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. Their purpose is to be brought into obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus. Obedience (upakoh) comes from the root ‘to hear’ and ‘under’; it means to be under authority, to hear and obey. Several times in the New Testament this word is used to describe people’s response to the gospel message:

Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience––by word and deed,

Romans 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

So where we would say things like ‘they got saved’ or ‘trusted Jesus’ or ‘believed the gospel’, the New Testament writers also described this as ‘they obeyed the gospel’ or ‘became obedient to the faith’ or ‘they obeyed Jesus’. Jesus said when he was asked:

John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Obedience is one side of the picture of our purpose. The other side is ‘into the sprinkling blood of Jesus Christ’. The picture of sprinkling blood comes from the covenant God made with the people in Exodus:

Exodus 24:5-8 …offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Upon their declaration of submission to God and obedience to him, they were sprinkled with his blood. And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant

Hebrews 9:13-15 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…

So we have the elected rejected, according to the Father’s purpose to set his love on us; by the Holy Spirit’s work of setting us apart for honorable use, and into the obedience to the truth and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. We see this same sequence in 2 Thessalonians as a grounds for thanksgiving:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

And now, after Peter has poured out this theological foundation for the faith of these suffering saints and pointed them to the Triune God who is at work in them to secure for them their eternal salvation, now he says ‘hi’. He says ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you’. Grace, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense; God’s goodness poured out on undeserving sinners; blessings and kindness that we didn’t earn and couldn’t deserve.

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

And because God is gracious toward us, we can

Romans 5:1 …we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

So Peter takes his readers who are feeling like aliens without any sense of belonging, and he lifts their eyes (and ours) up from the dirt and points to a God who is for us, who chose us, to the Father who set his love upon us, the Spirit who is at work in us to set us apart and to make us holy; to Jesus, who upon our obedience to the good news, sprinkles us clean with his precious blood. And he asks that this undeserved grace of God and this blood-bought peace with God be exaggerated to us, that God’s grace and peace would flood over us and overwhelm us and surround us and hold us.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

elect exiles of the dispersion…

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

in the sanctification of the Spirit

for obedience

and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ

September 7, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment