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Daniel 4:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise

09/26_Daniel 04:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210926_dan04_28-37.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made him afraid and alarmed. All his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers were unable (or unwilling) to give him the interpretation to his dream. Finally Daniel appeared before him. The king knew there was something different about Daniel. In fact, 3 times he repeats (in verses 8, 9 and 18) that ‘the spirit of the holy gods is in you’. He expressed confidence that Daniel, unlike his other wise men, would be able to tell him his dream.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Daniel understood that the dream was God’s warning, indicating bad news was coming, and Daniel was concerned for the well being of the king. He genuinely cared about this wicked king, and didn’t want to see him humiliated.

God’s Gift of Authority

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness had grown to heaven and his dominion to the ends of the earth, but all this was a gift of God to him. In chapter 2, Daniel made clear that

Daniel 2:37 …the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…

Glory and Thanks Owed to the Giver

God had given power, might, and glory to Nebuchadnezzar. God had given to him authority over all living. This was a great gift, great responsibility, and a great gift deserves a great response. Romans 1 (18,21) tells us that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness and ungodliness of unthankfulness. Daniel encouraged the king to practice righteousness; the right thing when given a great gift, is to acknowledge the giver. But we tend toward stealing glory for ourselves as if there were no God and we deserve it all. Romans 1:21 could have been written directly for Nebuchadnezzar.

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man…

Nebuchadnezzar had been given authority and power by God. He knew this, but he refused to honor God as God or give him thanks. Instead, in his folly, he built a 90 foot image of gold and demanded worship of the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He was a glory stealer. Daniel here calls the king to repent and practice righteousness, giving glory to God. But he would not. His response to Daniel’s rebuke is not given. If he did listen, it was short lived and didn’t last. In verse 28 the story jumps ahead one year.

Pride and Fulfillment of the Vision

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

Do you hear the first person singular ‘I, me, my’? ‘I have built by my mighty power …for the glory of my majesty’. Understand, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was expansive and his rule was glorious. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the massive walls of Babylon and the famous hanging gardens.

Josephus [Against Apion; 1:19:(141)], quotes Berosus’ History of Ancient Times. [Berosus was a Chaldean priest of Bel Marduk in Babylon at the beginning of the 3rd century BC]. He writes of Nebuchadnezzar:

“but for himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently [slide: Ishtar gate], he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile [or hanging] Paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

S. R. Driver writes: “Nebuchadnezzar was emphatically a builder; and ‘nearly every cuneiform document now extant dating form his reign treats, not of conquest and warfare, like those of his Assyrian predecessors, but of the building and restoration of the walls, temples, and palaces of his beloved city of Babylon’ (Prince, p.31).”

Here are some extracts from the East India House Inscription [slide]: Nebuchadnezzar writes of his palace in Babylon:

‘That house, for admiration I made it, for the beholding of the hosts of men I filled it with magnificence. Awe-inspiring glory, and dread of the splendour of my sovereignty, encompass it round about; the evil, unrighteous man cometh not within it. I kept far from the wall of Babylon the hostile approach of the foe; the city of Babylon I made strong as the wooded hills’ (ix. 29-44).’ [Driver, xxiv – xxvi]

He records his prayer to Marduk, offered at the dedication of a temple:

‘I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the exalted prince, the favourite of the god Marduk, the beloved of the god Nabu, the arbiter, the possessor of wisdom, who reverences their lordship, the untiring governor who is constantly anxious for the maintenance of the shrines of Babylonia and Borsippa, the wise, the pious, the son of Nabopolasser, king of Babylon’,’To Marduk, my lord I make supplication; Oh eternal prince, lord of all being, guide in a straight path the king whom thou lovest and whose name thou hast proclaimed as was pleasing to thee. I am the prince, the favourite, the creature of thy hand. Thou hast created me and entrusted me with dominion over all people. According to thy favour lord, which thou dost bestow on all people, cause me to love thy exalted lordship. Create in my heart, the worship of your divinity, and grant whatever is pleasing to thee because thou hast my life’, ‘By thy command, merciful Marduk, may the temple I have built endure for all time and may I be satisfied with its splendour; in its midst may I attain old age, may I be sated with offspring; therein may I receive the heavy tribute of all mankind; from the horizon of heaven to the zenith, may I have no enemies; may my descendents live therein forever and rule over the people’.

This is just some of what history and archaeology tell us about the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar. In this prayer, he gives his god Marduk credit for his authority rather than God Most High. He believes that the gods exist to make him great.

Ungratefulness Leads to Bestiality (Rom.1)

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man… 28 And since [he] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [him] up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Ungratefulness leads to a debased mind, to bestiality.

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar became a graphic picture of the decline of humanity from dignity as the image bearer of God, meant to reflect God’s glory and to point to him, to the insanity of seeking that glory for oneself. He became a fool, his foolish heart was darkened; God gave him up to a debased mind.

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

But even for Nebuchadnezzar, the epitome of arrogance and pride, there was hope. There is hope in the promise of God. Until. ‘Until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God set a time limit for his humiliation. God was in control, and God was bringing about his purposes. God was extending grace to Nebuchadnezzar. Repentance is a gift, and Nebuchadnezzar would not repent until God humbled him. God was giving him the gift of repentance.

Reasonable Worship

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.

My reason returned to me. His first sane act was to bless, praise and honor the most High. Worship is what we were made for, and it is reasonable that we give worship to whom alone worship is due. It is unreasonable to refuse to worship God; it is insane to think we are worthy of worship.

Nebuchadnezzar learned some things about God. God is the Most High, worthy of praise and honor; he is eternal, and he is the sovereign king.

Nebuchadnezzar learned something about himself. ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.’ He learned his own insignificance. He thought he was somebody. He learned he was nothing, so that he could enjoy relationship with the one who is everything.

He learned that God is free and God is sovereign. God does whatever he wants, in heaven and on earth. He gets to do whatever he wants because he is God and everything he wants is right and good. He is unstoppable; ‘none can stay his hand’. He is always able to accomplish his will. No one can thwart his purposes.

And no one can question his character; as if he did something wrong, because all he does is right. Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated, and he came out of the experience recognizing the righteousness, the rightness of all that God did to him. He did whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was right and good, because he is God.

Nebuchadnezzar finally understood his purpose. He was made to worship. He was meant to live for the glory of another. He was a builder, and he was meant to build, but not for his own glory, but for the glory of God. As Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Nebuchadnezzar finally learned his purpose, what he was meant for. Remember, this is a letter that Nebuchadnezzar wrote ‘to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth’ showing ‘the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me;’ telling the world the story of his humiliation and exaltation.

He closes his letter this way:

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

***

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

September 28, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy

09/19_Daniel 04:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210919_dan04_20-27.mp3

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

This is Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony of what God had done for him.

Truth or Tickled Ears

Daniel 4:5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.

Daniel was brought before the king after all the other magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers because although the king respected Daniel and knew Daniel was able to interpret his dream, he did not really want to hear what Daniel had to say. He knew that Daniel would speak the truth, but he would rather have his ears tickled than to be held accountable. He was not yet ready to listen to the one man who spoke on behalf of the Most High God, and he was not yet ready to come to terms with Daniel’s God.

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

True Forgiveness

We saw last time, that although Daniel had every reason to be hateful and bitter toward this wicked king, he genuinely cared for him. For what he had done to his nation, his family, his friends, himself, he had forgiven him from the heart. He wished nothing but good for him.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

One commentator writes:

“Daniel encourages us here to long for God to have compassion on world rulers, specifically the wicked ones, and he encourages the world to assume that judgment is never inevitable. If we bait the tyrants and dare them do their worst, they may. Daniel invites us to care about people in power, even people who abuse power, to appeal to their humanness not their sinfulness, and to treat them as people given a responsibility by God and people who may respond to an appeal to right and wrong.” [Goldingay, p.94]

Beastly King of Beasts

Daniel treats the king with compassion, and he tells him what others feared to tell him; he told him the truth

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.

The tree is you. Daniel confirms the king’s fear. This dream, like the king’s dream in chapter 2, had good news and bad news. That dream affirmed the greatness of the king.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

By the time of chapter 4 (around 30 years later) the glory of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had been established. The tree whose top reached to heaven reminds us of the tower being built in Babylon back in Genesis 11

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Nebuchadnezzar had been given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory. It had been given to him to rule over and provide for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and all the children of man.

But the dream of chapter 2 also communicated that there would be an end to his kingdom. It would be succeeded by another, and ultimately crushed by the kingdom crushing stone, God’s kingdom that will endure forever. Here in chapter 4 the consequences are more immediate and personal.

Daniel 4:23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.

Nebuchadnezzar, who provided for the beasts of the field, would live among the beasts of the field and be provided for by heaven. The one to whom it was given by God to provide for others would himself become dependent on God to provide for him.

Promised Restoration

But the most surprising part of this prediction was that there would be a positive outcome. This is simply unprecedented! Any sign of weakness in a powerful king and those around see it as an opportunity to seize power. David was on his death bed when his son Adonijah with the support of Joab and Abiathar sought to establish himself as king (1Ki.1). Ben Hadad king of Syria had fallen sick, and his servant Hazael smothered him with the bed cloth dipped in water, and became king in his place (2Ki.8). For a ruler like Nebuchadnezzar to go insane and leave a leadership vacuum for 7 years and then have his leadership restored is nothing short of miraculous. Nebuchadnezzar would be humbled, but through the experience he would come to know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ And ‘your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.’ This is an amazing promise.

The Gift of Repentance

But even more amazing than the fact that God removes kings and sets up kings (2:21) is the fact that God gives the gift of repentance to those who don’t deserve it. In Acts we read

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25)

Repentance is a gift from God. And Daniel assures the king that God will give him this gift. The purpose of his humbling is ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ God gives his word that Nebuchadnezzar will know and that after 7 years his kingdom will be restored.

This sounds similar to what Jesus tells Peter, predicting that proud Peter is about to deny him three times.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus doesn’t leave a shadow of doubt as to what will happen. Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail. When Jesus prays, the Father answers. There is complete confidence; it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’. Peter’s self confidence will be destroyed. Jesus even gives him the time it will happen. But Peter will turn again because God is the one who gives repentance to whom he will.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Nebuchadnezzar’s pride will be crushed. But it is for a redemptive purpose. It is so that he would come to know the Most High God.

Call to Repentance

Here Daniel stops interpreting and starts meddling. We saw in verse 19 how much Daniel cared for the king. He must have built a great amount of trust to be able to say what he says next, and even then, this must have required great courage. This verse, even more than verse 19 displays the selfless care Daniel had for the king, for confronting an absolute monarch over his sin would come at great personal risk.

Daniel 4:27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is a guilty sinner, and he needs to repent. But he tells him this in a way that demonstrates both his personal concern for the king, and his confident hope in his merciful God. It is counsel meant for the king’s good, to prolong his prosperity. Daniel knows his God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). God often communicates the threat of his judgment to persuade us to turn from our sins and experience his compassion.

Sins of Omission

Daniel doesn’t confront the king over sins of lust or immorality or selfishness or greed. In fact he doesn’t confront him over anything he has done. Rather it is what he has left undone that is the subject of his rebuke. The way to break off his sins and iniquities is by beginning to do the good that is expected of him. As king, he had been entrusted by God with great responsibility. And ‘to whom much was given, of him much will be required’ (Lk.12:48). Nebuchadnezzar was made abundantly fruitful, and he was given the responsibility of caring for the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the children of man. Daniel instructs him to practice righteousness and show mercy.

Do Righteousness and Show Mercy

Four short years before Daniel and his friends were exiled to Babylon, the Lord sent Jeremiah to confront the king of Judah over his sins. He says in Jeremiah 22

Jeremiah 22:2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

God’s judgment is on his people

Jeremiah 22:9 …“Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’”

This failure to do justice and righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed is ultimately a worship problem. They failed to do righteousness and show mercy because they were worshiping the wrong things. He goes on:

Jeremiah 22:13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, 14 who says, ‘I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion. 15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD. 17 But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

Josiah’s son Jehoahaz only reigned for three months, because he was worshiping and serving the wrong things. He was given authority to do what was right in God’s eyes and to extend mercy to the oppressed. But instead he oppressed the poor and did what was evil for his own personal gain.

Jesus is held up as the ideal ruler, he fulfills the role all kings were meant to serve.

Isaiah 11:3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The king was to use his position, power, and strength to defend the poor and needy, to protect the vulnerable, to do what is right. He is not to use people to achieve his own ends.

Jesus is the king who comes both to practice righteousness and to show mercy. It is easy to point the finger at leaders who fail to do what is right, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our righteous deeds are as a polluted garment; our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is.64:6). We are the ones who are in need of mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

***

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

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:1-5; God’s Good Purpose

09/05_Daniel 04:1-5; God’s Good Purpose; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210905_dan04_1-5.mp3

We are in Daniel chapter 4. Daniel and his friends, exiled to Babylon in 605 BC, refused to compromise their convictions by eating the king’s food. God gave them favor with their captors, and God gave them learning and skill in all wisdom. They proved ten times better than all the others in the kingdom.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year, he had a dream which none of his wise men could reveal, but God revealed to Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, but his empire would be followed by other empires of increasing strength but decreasing value, ultimately all destroyed by the divine kingdom crushing stone. Nebuchadnezzar recognized Daniel’s God as God of gods, Lord of kings, and reveler of secrets, and Daniel and his friends were promoted to positions of leadership.

In chapter 3, rebelling against the vision he was given in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar asserted his authority with a 90 foot image of gold, and demanded the worship of all peoples, nations and languages. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow, so they were thrown into his superheated furnace. But the flame had no affect on them; indeed, they enjoyed fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. When they came out of the fire unharmed, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged their willingness to ‘set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.’ So he issued another death decree, this time against ‘any people, nation or language that speaks anything against’ their God, ‘for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’

Now in chapter 4 we fast forward ahead maybe close to 30 years. Daniel is probably approaching 50 years old. This chapter contains the last words we have recorded from Nebuchadnezzar, and it is his own account of his experience. It takes the form of an official edict, a letter to all his subjects, to all peoples, nations and languages. It communicates his experience with another dream that made him afraid, of the failure of his religious experts to make known the interpretation, of Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, of the fulfillment of the dream a year later, and after a seven year humiliation of the king, he now writes this letter as an expression of worship to God.

A Different King

This letter from Nebuchadnezzar stands in stark contrast to the last chapter, where he ‘sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of … every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.’

Look at what he writes here in chapter 4.

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Imagine yourself years earlier as having been one of the officials from the many peoples, languages and nations in attendance at the dedication of the image, having been required to demonstrate your allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar the king of kings, having bowed to worship his image of gold. Imagine now receiving this official letter from the king. ‘Here we go again!’ But you notice the dramatic change both in tone and in focus. He begins by wishing peace on all peoples, nations and languages. He does not make one single demand on the peoples, nations, and languages that he addresses this edict to. And his focus is no longer on himself; it is all on God. It seems as if this is a different king altogether! What happened?

Signs and Wonders

‘It seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Signs and wonders is a phrase that throughout the rest of the Old Testament refers to what God did in Egypt, specifically what God did against Egypt and against Pharaoh. Here’s one example:

Deuteronomy 6:22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes.

Signs and wonders were done to Pharaoh or against Pharaoh and against Egypt, they were great and grievous acts of God, they were trials and great deeds of terror to demonstrate the mighty hand and outstretched arm of the Lord (Deut.4:34). And they were acts of judgment, meant to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex.7:3-5).

This is basically what God is doing to Nebuchadnezzar. If you’ve read ahead, you know that Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a great tree, and the tree is cut down and stripped of its branches, leaves and fruit; the kingdom would be taken from him, and Nebuchadnezzar himself would be driven away from people and go insane, behaving like an animal for seven periods of time, likely seven years.

But notice Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective. He writes to ‘show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Not against me or to me, but for me. This is not the response of resentment or hostility; Nebuchadnezzar considered it a gift.

What is your perspective? Think of the worst thing, the most humiliating thing that has happened to you. How do you think about it? Do you feel that God is against you, do you question what kind of a God would let that happen to you or do that to you?

We are not told what he thought or even if he could think at the time, but looking back Nebuchadnezzar viewed it as God’s grace toward him, as the greatest gift, the greatest kindness God could have shown him.

Daniel 4:2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!

God’s signs are great and his wonders are mighty. Remember, he is talking about being cut down, destroyed, turned into an animal. Do you like to talk about your most humiliating experience? Is that the first thing you share with strangers? Remember, Nebuchadnezzar is writing to ‘all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth.’ God humiliated me; he is great and mighty.

God’s Good Purpose

Nebuchadnezzar understood that what happened to him had a purpose. A good purpose. This purpose is given in verse 17.

Daniel 4:17 …to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

That the living may know. This letter is his attempt to fulfill that purpose, to communicate to all the living that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God Most High is in control. He is in control of kings and leaders. God gives authority to whom he will. He establishes rulers and he removes rulers. He sets over the kingdom of men the lowliest of men, the basest of men. It doesn’t mean, if you have been entrusted with authority, that you are somebody great. It might actually mean that you’re the bottom of the barrel.

The purpose is restated in verse 25:

Daniel 4:25 …till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.

And again in verse 32:

Daniel 4:32 …until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

God is in control. The Most High rules the kingdom of men. He possesses all authority. And he chooses to give authority to whomever he wishes.

If you recall, Nebuchadnezzar was told this by Daniel back in chapter 2.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

God gave you the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. God gave the authority over all his creation into your hand. It is a gift. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, it’s not a reward for your abilities or performance; it’s a gift. God owns all authority, and he chooses to freely entrust it to you. Daniel said it, Nebuchadnezzar heard it, but he didn’t know it.

He asked Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?’ Nebuchadnezzar found out that ‘there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way,’ but he still didn’t really know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ He had been given it, and he thought he somehow earned it or deserved it.

He needed to be shown, and that meant God had to take it all away. He had to be cut down. He thought himself a god, and he had to live for a time like a beast so that he could learn what it meant to be truly human.

Kind Cutting

Remember Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the tax collector:

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The most kind and gracious thing God could do for us would be to humble us, to cut us down, to show us our need for him.

Nebuchadnezzar was told that his kingdom would not last forever. He was shown the kingdom crushing stone that would fill the whole earth and stand forever. So he made a 90 foot image of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he had made.

Here he acknowledges that there is a Most High God, and that God is at work in his life. He acknowledges that it is God’s kingdom that is an everlasting kingdom. It is God’s rule that will outlast every generation.

Daniel 4:2 …His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Prosperous Ease

Nebuchadnezzar gives us the setting for the dream.

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.

I was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. He was doing well. He had what he needed. He was experiencing a measure of peace and security. He had worked hard, he had built much, and now he was finally was able to relax and enjoy it all. Isn’t that what we’re all after? Prosperous ease? We don’t necessarily want to become billionaires, but if we could just make enough to be comfortable and enjoy a measure of security… The American dream is dangerous! This is what Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed, and it was into this context that he was confronted by a dream to warn him of what was coming.

You remember what the sin of Sodom was? In Ezekiel 16, God is rebuking Jerusalem for her unfaithfulness, and he compares her with Sodom and says this:

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. Prosperous ease sounds so appealing, but it is dangerous! It is dangerous, because we so easily slip into complacency and forget that it was all a gift and who it came from. We forget to honor God as God or give thanks to him. We want to relax and enjoy what we worked so hard to get, forgetting who gave us the ability to work so hard. We so naturally inflate our expenses to absorb any extra, rather than recognizing it as a gift entrusted to us with which to bless others.

It was when king David was enjoying some well earned rest, taking a break from the war, walking on the roof of his house, when he got himself into so much trouble.

We pursue prosperous ease, but Nebuchadnezzar had it, and he considered it a great sign and mighty wonder when God stripped it all away. He worshiped the Most High God for his sovereign ability to humble the proud.

Let’s close today with the words of Agur:

Proverbs 30:7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

***

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

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction

05/23_Daniel 01:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210523_dan01_8-21.mp3

Last time we looked at Daniel’s resolve. He, along with maybe 50 other Hebrew youth of the nobility had been taken captive, deported to Babylon, enrolled in a re-programming regimen to erase their identity and make Babylonians of them. The name of their God was replaced with the names of the Babylonian deities. They were to be indoctrinated with the culture, the belief system, the world view of Babylon, this great city opposed to God.

Daniel and his friends answered to their new names, submitted to learning the Chaldean material, but Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. He would not break the law of God, he would not risk betraying his allegiance to God alone, who is the provider of every good thing. He recognized the danger of appetite, the danger of compromise in seemingly trivial matters like food and drink.

This was risky. To refuse the king’s food would show great ingratitude toward the kindness and generosity of the king. These boys were royalty, and they were being treated royally. The king was extending and expending great hospitality to these young men. To say that the kings food would defile him would be quite offensive. We find out in chapter 2 that Nebuchadnezzar was the kind of king who liked to tear people limb from limb and make their houses a dung heap. So Daniel was taking a great risk with this request.

Daniel’s Tactful Request

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

This was risky, but notice also Daniel’s tact. He has resolved in his heart not to defile himself, and he could have made demands out of national pride and arrogance; ‘we Jews won’t lower ourselves to eat your unclean Gentile food; what you pagans eat is loathsome and foul. I would rather die than defile myself.’ Rather he uses tact; he graciously asks for permission. He makes a humble request.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

We are commanded to use gracious speech. We are called to use respect, gentleness, appropriate tact.

1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

God’s Grace in Adversity

Daniel 1:8 …Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,

This is the second of three acts of God in this chapter. In verse 2, God gave the king of Judah and the temple vessels into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Here in verse 9, God gave Daniel grace and compassion in the sight of the one who was entrusted with their care.

Grace. Undeserved favor and kindness. The chief of the eunuchs didn’t owe them anything. He didn’t have to be nice to them. He was under no obligation to entertain any requests from them. But God gave them grace – favor, and compassion – tender love in his sight. This grace came from God. We read in John 1

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is full of grace, and he gives gives grace to his people to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God is the giver of grace, Daniel sought to honor God. Daniel asked, and God gave him grace to help in his time of adversity, when everything seemed against him. Do you look for glimmers of God’s grace in your affliction? Or do your circumstances loom so large that they obstruct your view even of the good God who loves you and shows himself even in the midst of adversity? God gave grace.

Grace to Persevere

Don’t you almost wish that Daniel’s request would have been denied, so that we could learn how Daniel’s resolve would have held up in the face of rejection? Read on! That is exactly what happens.

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

This doesn’t seem to follow. God gave grace and compassion, and the official refused his request. How is this evidence of God’s grace at work? He basically says, ‘I’m sorry, I like you and all (and I don’t know why) – I want to be gracious and compassionate, but I’m scared for my life. I cannot grant your request without endangering my own head with the king.’ So God’s gift of favor with this official doesn’t really seem to get Daniel any help.

Daniel easily could have walked away with a relieved conscience, saying ‘well, I tried. I asked. I got shut down. What more could I do?’

In 1 Corinthians 10, in the context of strong cultural pressure to compromise and eat food sacrificed idols, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. But God’s grace does not mean giving us what we want. It may not even be giving us what we think we need. We might imagine the escape we think he ought to provide, but his way may be a different way. The way of escape, as in 1 Corinthians, might be that he gives you the grace to be able to endure the temptation. He gives the strength to stand firm, come what may.

Persistence in the Face of Rejection

What does Daniel do in the face of a seemingly closed door? What would you do?

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.

Daniel doesn’t argue with the chief of the eunuchs. He doesn’t become obstinate and say ‘let the king take your head, I don’t care! I won’t eat the food!’ He is sensitive to the fears of this man. He genuinely cares for his captors. But he doesn’t give up either.

The chief of the eunuchs didn’t grant his request, but he didn’t say ‘no’ either. He expressed his concern. This was favor. Daniel didn’t deserve an explanation. He wasn’t obligated to give any more than a flat ‘no’. But he gave a reason. So Daniel went down the chain of command to a lower official, and proposes a test. He shows sensitivity to the concern, so he keeps the trial short enough to lower their risk, to give time to change course if things don’t go well.

Grace on Display

Daniel 1:14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

This is God’s grace on display! The steward listened. He was willing to carry out their proposed test. For this steward, lower in the ranks, this may have been a win-win. He got to ‘dispose of’ the king’s food and wine, while he gave up his own vegetable and water diet.

Some have sold books and made a big deal about Daniel’s diet plan. I haven’t read those books, so I can’t comment, but if the focus is the praise of a vegetarian diet, they completely miss the point. This has nothing to do with the health benefits of vegetables and grains; if anything it is the opposite. The the outcome was surprising. The text doesn’t say they were leaner and more physically fit. It says they were ‘better in appearance and fatter in flesh.’ That is the same word that is used in Pharaoh’s dream, where the ugly thin cows ate up the attractive plump cows, and the thin and blighted ears of grain ate up the plump and good ears (Gen.41). Today we might opt for the gaunt thin cows over the plump cows; how fickle is fashion!

When the prodigal’s father commanded a celebration, he didn’t order vegetables; the fattened calf was to be killed (Lk.15:16,23; cf. Prov.15:17). The wayward son had had enough of husks and pods. The point is you don’t get fatter eating vegetables and water. This is God’s grace. This is not natural, this is supernatural. It’s quite possible the steward who ‘took away’ their food and wine was getting fatter too.

God’s Gift of Learning

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

Here is the third of the acts of God in this chapter. God gave them the gift of learning, skill in literature and wisdom. These are gifts that Solomon asked for and was given by God (2Chr.1:10-12). The wisdom and learning necessary to rule well are gifts of God. This sets up the rest of the book. Remember, the book of Daniel is not about Daniel and his three friends. The book is about God, who gives good and gracious gifts, God who is greater than all rulers and kings and nations.

Daniel and his three friends display wisdom because God made them wise. They show resolve in the face of adversity, because God was at work in them, taking care of them even in exile, hundreds of miles from home.

Understand, this was not limited to Bible knowledge and theology. I doubt Nebuchadnezzar quizzed them on their monotheistic theology or Bible history or how many Torah verses they had memorized. This was the language and literature of the Chaldeans. God gave them the ability to excel in their pagan education beyond their peers.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

They had a God-centered world view, and keeping God at the center gave them categories to catalog the information they were exposed to. They knew what to do with what they were taught. And when tested, they proved exponentially better not only compared to their classmates, but compared to their teachers.

Again, this sets us up for the rest of the book. This is not about the wisdom of ‘God is judge’, ‘Yahweh is gracious,’ ‘who is what God is?’ and ‘Yahweh will help’ against the Chaldean magicians and enchanters. This is about God supreme over all the false gods of Babylon. The false world systems are proved incompetent in the presence of the one true God working through his people. Babylon may have conquered Jerusalem, but only because God gave Jerusalem into their hand.

Outlasting an Empire

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

What is this about? The chapter begins and ends with a historical note. It begins with the third year of Jehoiachim king of Judah, when Jerusalem and the temple treasures were given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC. It ends with the first year of King Cyrus, 539BC, who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and the treasures that had been kept in the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god he sent back to Jerusalem.

Daniel was taken captive. But this humble servant outlived his conqueror. He outlived the sons of his conqueror. He outlasted an empire. He saw the rise and the fall of Babylonian empire to the Medo-Persians. Daniel literally lived through the exile to see the treasures that were taken from the temple returned, and the temple begin to be rebuilt.

Questions were raised at the beginning of the chapter, ‘Is Israel’s God really sovereign, is he faithful, is he good? Has he abandoned his people?’

2 Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”

Ezra 1:7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

***

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

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rest, Recharge, Worship

07/12 Rest and Worship (Exodus 20:8-11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200712_rest.mp3

I spent last week at Grace Haven Bible Camp with 50 of your teens, and teens from several other churches, and I want to let you in on some of what we talked about. Lincoln, the youth leader from Alpine, and I went through the Ten Commandments together. When Lincoln first suggested the topic to me, I was hesitant. I texted him back ‘we are not under law…’ But the more I thought and studied, the more excited I got about the topic, and today I want to include you, because, Lord willing, some of what we talked about at camp will spill over into your homes. And I believe this fits well with what we have been studying the last few weeks about families and raising children. Today I want to look with you at the purpose of the law, and the fourth commandment specifically.

Jesus and the Law

Here are some things Jesus said about the Old Testament law.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law. When Jesus addressed God’s law, he lifted it up. He never tossed it aside. He raised the standard, he never lowered it. In fact he continues:

Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t want to be one who relaxes one of the least of these commandments, or one who teaches others to do the same. In Jesus’ teaching on the law, he always drove it deeper, to a heart level, dealing with inward desire, not merely external conformity. Not just the outward act of murder, but what about the hatred in your heart? Not just the outward act of adultery, but what about the lust in your heart? Jesus lifts up the law to show us the spiritual intent, to show us (using Paul’s language from Romans 7) ‘the law is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom.7:12).

Use the Law Lawfully

Paul writes:

1 Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

Paul, writing to a young pastor in the New Testament, says that the law is good. But he clarifies, you must use the law lawfully, which implies that there is an unlawful use of the law, a misuse of the law that we must guard against.

Paul is warning against false teachers who teach the law but they don’t know what they are talking about. We must understand the purpose of the law in order to not misuse the law. He clarifies in the following verses:

1 Timothy 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law was given for sinners, not righteous people. People that drive slow don’t need the speed limit sign. The guy driving the farm equipment down the highway going 12 is not concerned when he sees the state trooper hiding behind the 65 mile an hour sign. The sign is posted for those who like to drive too fast. It holds up the standard and holds them accountable.

To misuse the law is to rely on it to establish your righteousness before God. Our inclination is to use the law as a checklist. 8 out of 10 ain’t bad, right? 80%, that’s a passing grade! When we use it as a checklist to attempt to show how good we are we misuse the law. We use it unlawfully.

The first use of the law is to show us the perfect standard, a mirror to show us how far we fall short, and to drive us to Christ who is merciful and eager to extend grace to lawbreakers who run to him for rescue.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

If you keep God’s law perfectly, except for just one thing, you are a lawbreaker and you are guilty. You are a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. Paul sums it up in Galatians:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

If you rely on the law as a checklist by which you seek to impress God, then you have to abide by all of it perfectly. No one ever has, so that makes us all lawbreakers and places us under the just punishment for lawbreakers. The law was never intended to make anyone righteous. By nature it cannot make anyone righteous any more than a speed limit sign can make your car stay within the posted limit. It simply points out where you are in violation of the standard.

That is the first use of the law, to make clear God’s perfect standard, to hold up a mirror to show us our sin, and thus drive us as guilty sinners to Christ to seek a gift we don’t deserve.

The Third Use

But there is another use of the law. The reformers referred to this as the third use of the law. The first use is to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God (Rom.3:19). The second use is the civil use; that God’s law is an objective standard by which we can discern right and wrong, and it is a good foundation on which to build any society. The third use is the primary use for followers of Jesus. Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3.

2 Timothy 3:15 …you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

That’s the first use; to drive us to Christ, trusting him alone for salvation. Then he goes on.

2 Timothy 3:16 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.

That’s the third use of the law. God’s law has a training and equipping function for the one who has been saved by grace from the consequences of the law. We are no longer under law, as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ; now that we are justified by grace, now that we have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us as a gift, now we can be trained by the law for righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

The First and Second Table

The Ten can be divided into the first and second table, summarized by Jesus as loving God and loving neighbor (Mt.22:36-40), the vertical and the horizontal. Loving God looks like worshiping God alone and having no other gods, worshiping God rightly by making no images to worship or serve, honoring God’s name by not using it worthlessly, remembering God’s day with worship and rest. The fifth command is a hinge that connects the two tables. We honor God’s authority by submitting to God given authority – honor father and mother. We love our neighbor by not taking a life wrongfully, by not taking someone’s wife, by not taking someone’s possessions, by not bearing false witness, by not desiring that which belongs to another.

With this third use of the law in mind, training in righteousness, to learn what love for God and love for neighbor looks like, let’s look together at the fourth commandment.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. What does this mean for the follower of Jesus? How can this commandment train us in godliness?

Sabbath Shadow

First, it is important to keep the gospel clear. We cannot impress God by any religious observance. Galatians is clear that ‘no one is justified before God by observing the law’ (3:11), and observing days as a way to be justified by God is deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel, going back into slavery (1:6; 4:10-11).

Romans 14 is clear that esteeming one day above another or esteeming all days alike is a matter of conscience for the believer, and ‘each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.’ We are not to pass judgment on a brother, and we are not to despise a brother (Rom.14:1-19).

Colossians 2 makes it clear that ‘the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands’ has been canceled, nailed to the cross (2:14).

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Sabbath is a shadow pointing us to Christ. The substance belongs to Christ.

The Fourth Commandment

So what do we do with the fourth commandment? The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, what we call Saturday, technically from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. But Christians distinctively gather on the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day. This seems to have been the practice of the church from earliest times. Some are legalistic about what you can and can’t do on the Lord’s day. Many treat it no differently than any other day, a common work day; a day to catch up on projects, or as merely another day off, part of the weekend that belongs to us for recreation and pursuit of our own pleasure. Some say Jesus did away with the Sabbath and now every day is holy, but holy means set apart for God, and very few people actually live like that.

Burden or Blessing?

Let’s attempt to listen as if we were in the sandals of a Hebrew slave who had just come out of Egypt. My people have been in bondage for 400 years. Forced labor for a cruel taskmaster. No relief. They ruthlessly made us to work as slaves and made our lives bitter with hard service (Ex.1:13-14). God heard our cry for rescue from slavery and he came to our rescue. He crushed our oppressors and brought us out by mighty demonstrations of his sovereign power. He fed us and cared for us in the wilderness, and then he gives us his law.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means ‘stop’ or ‘cessation’. Memorialize the stop-work day. God set us free from Egyptian bondage and says ‘I’m your new boss now, and I demand that you take a mandatory day off every week’. Imagine their response: ‘Do we have to? We like working 24/7, 365 days a year. Rest? What kind of a master are you, demanding that we rest?!! We want to neglect our families, abuse our bodies, ignore our God, we just want to work work work!

Why is it that God offers us a blessing, he invites us to a holiday, and we bring our excuses and look for a way out? God frees us from slavery and offers us rest, and we find reasons to justify our desire to keep right on in our everyday busyness. Wouldn’t you think that we as Christians would come to God and say “I know that we are not under law but under grace, and I know that in Christ Jesus we are set free from the demands of the law, and that we cannot possibly earn your favor by any kind of law-keeping, that the Sabbath was a shadow that points us to rest in Christ, but would it be okay if in that freedom, we still took a day off to enjoy rest from our labors and focus our hearts toward you in worship? Can we use our blood-bought freedom that way?”

Rooted in Creation and Redemption

This idea of stopping to enjoy, as the fourth commandment tells us, is rooted all the way back to creation:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

God rested. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t tired. He stopped to enjoy what he had made. By his own example, he built that in to our seven day weekly rhythm.

And this idea of stopping to enjoy is also rooted in redemption. In Deuteronomy, when Moses retells God’s law to the next generation before they enter the promised land, he says it this way:

Deuteronomy 5:12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Rest, remember God’s awesome power in the six day creation. Remember his awesome power demonstrated in your salvation. As God graciously has extended to you rest and enjoyment, you in turn extend it to those God has entrusted to your care. The Lord invites us to delight in the day because we delight in him. Set aside time to enjoy your blood-bought relationship with him. (Is.58:13-14).

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 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 invites us to rest. Jesus completed the work his Father sent him to do, and from the cross he cried out ‘Tetelestai’; ‘It is finished!’ Do you long for rest? Do you need a break? Are you weary? Jesus calls us to come. Come to me and rest. You will find rest for your souls.

Honor God With His Time

So often I hear (or I say) I just don’t have enough time. I have a list of all these good things I want to do, but I just don’t have enough time. I want to read my Bible more, I want to pray more, I want to get well grounded in theology, I want to reach out and serve. But I just can’t seem to fit it all in. Let me pitch to you a radical crazy idea. Not to put you under law, but to invite you in to rest.

What if you set aside one day out of seven to meditate on, to memorize God’s word, to dig deep, to study theology, to read a Christian classic? What if you set aside a whole day to seek the Lord in prayer and feed your own soul?

What if you set aside one day out of seven to train up your children, to get together with other believers, to practice hospitality, to share a meal, to listen to one another and encourage one another, to disciple and to be discipled, to pray with one another and worship together? Not just an hour or two, but a whole day?

What if you took one day a week to serve others, to extend Christian love to the needy, to the least, to bind up the broken hearted, to pursue justice for the oppressed, to set captives free? What would it look like if you built those Christian disciplines into your weekly rhythm?

Something radical happened at the resurrection. Believers began to gather together on the first day of the week instead of the last (Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2). They called it ‘the Lord’s day’ (Rev.1:10). The day is not yours, it belongs to the Lord. Not the Lord’s hour; the Lord’s day. We in America are so crazy blessed and spoiled by our historic Judaeo-Christian heritage; many of us get two days off; Saturday and Sunday. Remember, every breath you breathe is a gift. God owns all time. He asks you to give him back some of it for your good and for his glory. Ask him how he would have you spend it. It is holy, set apart, and it is meant to be a blessing to you and to those around you.

***

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

July 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentecost: You Need the Holy Spirit

05/31 [Pentecost: Sunday] Obey Jesus; You Need the Holy Spirit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200531_holy-spirit.mp3

We have been looking at discipleship, being disciples or learners or followers, disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded.

Impossible Obedience

One of the things we have seen throughout this study is that what Jesus commands is impossible. It is humanly impossible to obey Jesus. We simply can’t. We can’t believe in him, we can’t see that all the Scriptures point us to him, we can’t abide in him, we can’t give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, put the needs of others above our own. We can’t. We can’t do this consistently, with a whole heart. We need help. Actually, we need more than help, we need a new heart. We need God himself to come live inside us and obey the commands of Jesus through us.

Pentecost [Shavuot] (Lev.23:15; Deut.16.9)

40 days after his resurrection, after appearing repeatedly to his disciples and teaching them, Jesus ascended to the right hand of his Father. At the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus will send the promise of his Father, and he commands them to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high. In Acts, Luke resumes the story where he left off.

Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

You will be baptized with, immersed with the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father.

At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, Luke 3 records John’s response to questions of whether he might be the Christ.

Luke 3:16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

In Acts 2,

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks [Hebrew: Shavuot] comes 7 weeks (or 50 days) after Passover, and commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, where Israel entered into a covenant and became a nation under God.

New Covenant Glory

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The law was given 7 weeks after the Exodus where God freed his people from Egypt, but the people immediately and persistently failed to obey his commands.

50 days after Jesus accomplished his Exodus, freeing us by the Passover sacrifice of himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn, 1:29; 1Cor.5:7), leading us out of our slavery to sin, he gave us his Holy Spirit, to live inside.

Paul draws this contrast in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

He draws a contrast between the letter that kills and the Spirit who gives life, the ministry of death and the much more glorious ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of condemnation and the ministry of righteousness, the veiled temporary and fading with the unveiled permanent glory of Christ, the hardened minds and the transforming work of the Spirit.

Pentecost changes everything! The God whose Spirit brooded over the face of the deep at creation,

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

By his Spirit and his Word he brought life and light out of darkness and chaos.

Heart Waters Flowing

This is what Jesus was talking about in John 7.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Rivers of life giving water pouring out of the hearts of believers. The Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.

Do you have life giving rivers flowing out of your heart? What is flowing out of your heart? ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Lk.6:45).

Out of the hearts of his believers will flow rivers of living water. ‘This he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given.’ Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh’ (Acts2:17; Joel 2:28-29).

When the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, and the crowds, gathered for the pilgrim festival, rushed together, amazed, perplexed, some mocking, Peter (who had self confidently asserted that he was willing to die with Jesus, and then denied even knowing him three times) now addresses the crowd:

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Peter preached Jesus, the cross and the resurrection. He pointed out their sin and guilt.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

This is the fulfillment of the promised Spirit, whom those who believe in Jesus would receive.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart,

That is the work of the Spirit of God! When the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8)

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent. Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That promise is for you! For everyone the Lord our God calls to himself. Notice carefully, the Holy Spirit is given by God, a gift received, he is poured out on all who believe.

You Must Be Born of the Spirit

We looked at the gift of the Spirit in John 7, whom those who believed in Jesus were to receive. If we look back in John 3, Jesus referred to this as being born of the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus’ teaching comes from the New Covenant promise in Ezekiel 36,

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

You must be born of the Spirit. In order to obey Jesus, you must be born again. Jesus goes on to describe how this takes place:

John 3:14 …so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Whoever looks to the Son lifted up, crucified, as his only hope, whoever believes has eternal life. God gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him is born of the Spirit.

Ask

Jesus promised in Luke 11

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Asking, seeking, knocking are other ways of describing believing. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks. The Spirit will be poured out on every believer.

Every Believer Has the Spirit

Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away from their simple belief in Jesus.

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Paul assumes that upon hearing the preaching of the cross, the Galatians trusted Jesus, they believed in him, they had faith, and they received the Spirit. They didn’t do anything to earn this free gift. They received the Spirit by hearing with faith. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus who does not have the Spirit of God living in them.

Paul commands the wayward Corinthian church to flee sexual immorality.

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

He doesn’t question if the foolish Galatians or the sinful Corinthians have the Spirit. He bases his argument with one for living by faith, with the other for God glorifying holy living on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In Romans, it is abundantly clear that everyone who belongs to Christ has the Spirit living in them.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. …11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

You, right now, if you are a believer in Jesus, have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in you! Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God!

We Need Help to Love, Obey

In John 14 Jesus connects loving and obeying him with the Helper, Counselor or Comforter, the coming Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Jesus has just told his disciples to ask him for anything in his name and he will do it, and he had promised that they would do the works that he does, and greater works than these because he goes to the Father. To do greater works than Jesus we need help, supernatural, divine enablement, and this is exactly what he promises; Jesus will ask his Father to send the Holy Spirit to live in us. Loving Jesus, keeping his commands requires divine power from the Holy Spirit living inside. Jesus ordered them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. And then,

Luke 24:47 …repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

You must be born again. To love him, to obey him, to be his witnesses, you need the Holy Spirit. Wait for the promise of the Father, stay until you are clothed with power from on high. Believe in Jesus and out of your heart will flow rivers of living water, and you will ask Jesus according to his will and through you by the Spirit in you he will do greater works than even he did when he was here physically.

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

May 31, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday; Sin and Repentance

4/05 Palm Sunday; The Sinfulness of Sin; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200405_sin.mp3

Palm Sunday vs. Good Friday

This is Palm Sunday, 5 days before Good Friday, one week before Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we celebrate Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as king by the crowds who spread their cloaks and branches cut from the trees in the road before him, shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”(Mt.21:8-9).

But a few short days later, when the Roman governor offered to release to them the ‘King of the Jews’, the crowds shouted out “Crucify him!” When Pilate asked them “Why? What evil has he done?” …they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Mk.15:9-14).

What happened that the crowds who received Jesus with joy only a few days earlier were now shouting out demanding his execution? And how can we avoid the same tragic mistake?

Crowd Dynamics

One thing we see going on here is a crowd dynamic. When a crowd gathers, people join in and they don’t always know why. It says in Matthew 21,

Matthew 21:10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

There was a buzz in the air. Something significant was happening. And nobody fully understood what. They sense the excitement and ask, who is this? The prophet Jesus. That is true, Jesus spoke on behalf of God, he spoke God’s words; he was a prophet, but he was so much more. They didn’t fully understand who he really was. They didn’t understand that he was God come in the flesh to save us.

We see this same kind of crowd dynamic in Acts 19, where Demetrius, a silversmith, perceived his business was being hurt by Paul’s preaching against idolatry and gathered a group and stirred up a crowd. It says ‘the city was filled with confusion’ (19:29) and when they gathered in the theater, it says ‘the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together’ (19:32). This is often the case; enthusiasm without understanding.

There is a danger in the enthusiasm of the crowds, because enthusiastic responses to Jesus are often short lived. John records at the beginning of his gospel that in the large crowds in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast ‘many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people’ (Jn.2:23-24). Jesus was wary of the enthusiastic response of people. Jesus taught multitudes, but he also said hard things that challenged them to think, and even caused many to be offended and leave.

The excitement that caused the crowds to cry out ‘Hosanna’ can quickly turn to ‘Crucify him!’

Save… From What?

What the crowds said was true, but they failed to grasp the full meaning of what they said. Jesus was indeed the much anticipated promised Messiah, King of the Jews. They shouted out “Hosanna!” which means “Save Now!” and Jesus was indeed the one who had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk.19:10). But when the crowds cried Hosanna, what were they asking to be saved from?

Even Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood his mission. In Mark 10, on the way to Jerusalem, immediately after Jesus told his disciples clearly and graphically how he would be executed, James and John come with this request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They want seats of prominence in his kingdom. They weren’t listening.

They thought he was about to save them from Roman oppression, and rule as their Jewish king. Luke 19:11 says ‘they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’ Their hopes were temporary, earthly, physical. Save us from this oppression. Save us from the danger we can see. Save us from the enemy that is right there in front of us.

Saving the Lost

But Jesus was marching in battle toward a different enemy. Jesus was about to conquer a different foe. And this enemy is within. Jesus described his rescue this way:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said this in the context of a man who was lost in his greed, his pursuit of worldly possessions and pleasures. A tax collector, a Jew who had sold out to the Romans and was getting rich by extorting his own people. The people grumbled “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Lk.19:7). Zacchaeus wasn’t being oppressed by the Romans; he had sided with the Romans in oppressing his own people. What happened? This greedy man’s heart was changed by and encounter with Jesus. He became generous that day. Salvation came to his house. He was rescued, not from the Romans, but from himself.

On another occasion, eating with another tax collector,

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He came to call sinners to repentance. He described himself as a doctor. A good doctor doesn’t go around giving out medicine to healthy people. His rescue is not for righteous people, people who think they are righteous, who think they are OK.

Jesus came for sinners. He came for the lost. Hosanna; save now. So many have a superficial understanding of what they needed saving from. Many people call out to Jesus in times of crisis asking for his help. They are asking for rescue from a difficult situation. Heal my sick relative, help me get a better job, get me out of financial trouble, fix my relationship mess. Fix my circumstances.

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You see, Jesus is more concerned about fixing you than he is about fixing your circumstances. He may be using your difficult circumstances to get your attention, to show you that the real problem is you.

What Do You Mean I’m Lost?

You might be saying, what do you mean, I’m the real problem? You don’t know what I’m dealing with. People who know they are lost don’t take offense at someone offering directions, but in Jesus’ day, and today, people resent being told they are lost. If your defenses are rising up against what I am saying, it indicates that you have an even more serious problem. Not only are you lost, you don’t even know you are lost. Most people think they are OK. But are you OK with God? Are you OK according to his standards?

The Greatest Command

When the religious leaders asked Jesus:

Mark 12:28 … “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus said the greatest command is to love the one true God. Our greatest sin is distorting and misrepresenting God. We want to be able to define God, to say what he can and cannot do, what he can and cannot be like, what he can and cannot require of us. In our arrogance, we have the audacity to set the parameters for what God can require or do or even be like.

Jesus tells us that we must love the God who is, not the god we imagine to be. And we are to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. All our energy, all our thoughts, all our affections, our very existence is to be characterized by love for God. God is to have first place in every waking thought, he is to be desired above every other good, all our actions pursuing his pleasure.

And love neighbor as yourself; putting his needs at least equal to if not above your own.

So friend, how are you? The Rev. Edward Payson in the early 1800’s wrote:

Every moment of our waking existence in which we do not love God with all our hearts, we sin; for this constant and perfect love to God His Law requires. Every moment in which we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, we sin; for this also we are commanded to do. Every moment in which we do not exercise repentance, we sin; or repentance is one of the first duties required of us. Every moment in which we do not exercise faith in Christ, we sin; for the constant exercise of faith the gospel everywhere requires. When we do not set our affections on things above, we sin; for on these we are required to place them. When we are not constantly influenced by the fear of God, we sin; for we are commanded to be in the fear of the Lord all day long. When we do not rejoice in God, we sin; for the precept is, “rejoice in the Lord alway” (Phi 4:4). When the contents of God’s Word [do] not properly affect us, we sin; for this [lack] of feeling indicates hardness of heart – one of the worst of sins. When we do not forgive and love our enemies, we sin; for this Christ requires of us. [Rev. Edward Payson 1783-1827]

Be Appalled, O Heavens!

Listen to God’s opinion of his people.

Jeremiah 2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

We have God belittling God neglecting, God forsaking thoughts. This is something to be appalled at, to be shocked over. This is evil. God is the all satisfying source of all good. And we forsake him and turn away to empty worthless things that cannot satisfy.

We ought to look at our own hearts and be appalled and horrified at our tendency to seek satisfaction in things other than the true source of all good.

Listen to what John says:

1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Are you in the habit of ignoring God? John says ‘you are of the devil.’ The work of the devil is to undermine God, to defame God, to question his word, his goodness, his love, to cause us to turn away from God.

Paul says in Romans 7 that the purpose of the law, and my rebellion against it, is

Romans 7:13 …in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

As you look at your own heart, do you see your sin as sin, a rebellion against a good and loving God, is it to you sinful beyond measure?

Repentance

Jesus said:

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to save sick sinners. What does it mean to repent?

Jesus proclaimed the good news of God,

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus charged his disciples:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Paul was sent with his gospel both to Jews and Gentiles,

Acts 26:20 …that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Repentance is a change of mind or heart. To repent is to have a change of heart and mind about your sin, to come to see it as God sees it. It is to be appalled, to see it as sinful beyond measure. To turn away from sin as abhorrent and turn to God in faith. Confession means to say the same thing. To confess your sin is to say the same thing about your sin as God says about it. Confession is the opposite of excusing. Our tendency is to make excuses, to make allowances for our sin.

Repent of dead works

But what are we to turn from, to have a change of mind and heart about? This may be a surprise, but Hebrews 6 lays the foundation.

Hebrews 6:1 …a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Repent of your dead works. When our works are dead works, they don’t please God, rather they defile us. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness and our deeds do not profit, they are offensive in God’s sight. (57:12; 64:6) When we do good things to impress God or earn his favor, we offend him. We must change our mind and see our human effort to please God as God sees it, as an offense against his grace.

Repentance is a Gift

What if we don’t feel this way about our sins? Naturally, I am pleased with myself and my good works. Naturally I am appalled at your sins, but I tend to make allowance for my sins. In fact, I take great pleasure in some of my sins. How do I change how I think and feel about my sins?

True repentance is a gift. In Acts 11, Peter described the gift of the Spirit poured out on the Gentiles, and

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 5:32; 2 Tim.2:25)

God is glorified because it is God’s gift. If you don’t feel the way God feels about your sin, ask God to give you his gift of repentance. God loves to give good gifts to all who ask. Ask God to allow you to see your sin as he sees it. Ask God to give you the faith to trust Jesus completely.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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

April 5, 2020 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift

12/01_2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191201_2cor9_15.mp3

What are you frustrated with? Are there some things you’d like to change? What needs to be different? What needs to be fixed? What circumstances would you change if you could? Would you like to issue a complaint?

Complain

Deanna asked me if I could run to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things she had forgotten for thanksgiving. I had barely returned home, when she came up with something else we needed. Back to Wal-Mart, the lines were long, and I was in a hurry, so I decided to try one of the scan-and-go self check out lines. I never use self-check out. I’d much rather have a real human to talk to. Somebody who knows what they are doing. But I was in a hurry, so I thought I’d give it a try. There was a guy with only two items in a line, so I figured that would be pretty quick. But since he was buying a case of beer, someone had to come over and check his ID before he could complete his purchase. When I got up to the check out, there was an error message on the display. So the supervisor had to come over and clear that. The check-out wasn’t cooperating, so it took her a few tries to clear the error, and then I got to scan my first item. Of course you have to find where they hide the UPC label, but that went OK. Then I went to scan the second item, and it didn’t read it. So I tried again, and then it showed up twice. Supervisor to the rescue. She cleared the duplicate item for me. I was buying 8 of the last item, so while she was there, I asked if there was an easier way than to scan all 8 individually. She tried to scan one and enter a multiple of 7 more, but it didn’t work. She tried again, still no luck. So I just scanned the remaining 7 and I was on my way. But only after the machine tried to reject my card 3 times. Supervisor? Finally it worked. I was almost out the door, when I glanced at the receipt, only to find that I had been charged for that last item once, then 7 times, then 7 times again, then seven more times individually. So I went back to the supervisor, waited until she was done helping the next unsuspecting victim who was trying to use that self-check station, and showed her my receipt. She sent me off to the customer service desk, where they looked over my receipt and refunded my money. As I waited there, I commented to the workers that I never use the self check and won’t use it again. She responded ‘they’re going to make you. They’ve already reduced the number of cashiers working a regular check-out line, and they are going to continue until self-check out is your only option.’ I asked who I could call or write to to complain.

So often life doesn’t go our way. We can always find something to complain about. I think the lady with two shopping carts overflowing with thanksgiving fixings in the regular check-out line with a real human cashier made it out of the store ahead of me.

It is easy to find fault. Do you read the product reviews when you shop online? I’m looking at a product that has 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I start scrolling through the customer reviews, and I start reading this didn’t work and I didn’t get what was pictured, and it worked great for a month until it was just out of warranty and then it stopped working and it’s junk and don’t waste your money and buyer beware and this company doesn’t stand behind their product and you get what you pay for. Complain, complain, complain. We live in a culture of complaining.

Re-Frame

Now, I could look at my trip(s) to Wal-Mart through a different lens. I could count my blessings. When I got there, they had all 8 of what I needed right there on the shelf, in stock, plus some things I didn’t really need that I decided I wanted. The supervisor was friendly and was right there to help me when I needed help. Multiple times. Instead of just talking to one cashier, I got to talk to the supervisor, multiple times, plus the two workers at the customer service desk. And because I was delayed a few minutes, I was able to avoid all the traffic congestion when I picked up my daughter from middle school.

In fact I drove to the store. In a car. With enough gas to get there and get home again. The car didn’t break down. Of course, I could have walked. I am able, and I live close enough. I have a body that is capable of walking to the store. I had enough money to make the purchase(s). I have an amazing wife that happens to be an amazing cook and she (with the help of my amazing daughters) prepared some exceptionally tasty dishes for our thanksgiving meal.

I could look at my circumstances and inconveniences and complain, or I could look at my circumstances in a positive light and count my blessings. But there is nothing overtly Christian about just being positive rather than negative. And some of us have real legitimate things to complain about. Many people are positive, not just believers, some nauseatingly so. I think that it is better to be positive than to be negative and complaining, but we as followers of Jesus are called to something more, something higher than simply having a positive outlook.

Grace and Thanksgiving

Paul gives us something outside ourselves, beyond our circumstances to be thankful for. Paul writes two chapters encouraging us to generosity, to single-hearted openness, love for God and neighbor, and he concludes by saying:

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift. This is the 10th time he uses the word ‘grace’ in these two chapters, an undeserved, freely given gift. In 8:1 he pointed them to God’s grace given in the churches of Macedonia. In 8:4 they responded by begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. In 8:6 Titus is urged to complete this act of grace among the Corinthians. 8:7 exhorts them that as they excel in so many of God’s gifts, they abound in this grace also. 8:9 centers us on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in giving himself for us. 8:16 uses the word grace like it is here in 9:15 in the sense of thanksgiving; grace or gratitude back to God for what he has freely given. 8:19 describes the collection for the saints as a grace. 9:8 points us back to God as the source of all grace that enables us to overflow in good works. In 9:14 the Jerusalem saints will give thanks for the exceeding grace of God shown to the Corinthians. Grace to God for his inexpressible gift!

This word grace is the root of the word for thanksgiving in 9:11-12.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

We see the combination of these words back at 4:15

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

God’s gracious giving produces thanksgiving. As we experience God’s undeserved grace in our own lives, we extend grace to others, and God is glorified. Grace overflows into gratitude. Chapter 8 began with the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia. Chapter 9 concludes with God being glorified and receiving thanks because of his surpassing grace given to the Corinthians.

God the Ultimate Giver

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

The one who gives the gift deserves the thanks. In a section exhorting believers toward generosity to those in need, God gets the thanks because God is the ultimate giver. Although Christians are giving to other Christians, it is God who gets the thanks, because God is the source of all things. He is the one who supplies and multiplies seed for the sower and bread for food (9:10). He is the one who is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all, always, having all sufficiency, you may abound in all good work (9:8). Your abundance is God given, and it is meant for supplying the lack in others (8:14).

When on Christmas morning Ebenezer Scrooge shouted from his window and hired a boy to run and buy the prize turkey, and have it delivered to Bob Cratchit’s, it would not have been right for Bob to thank only the one who delivered the enormous bird. He was only the delivery boy. It would be right for him to try to find out who sent the most generous gift. It would be even more right for Bob Cratchit to thank the Lord for changing the heart of Scrooge. God is the ultimate giver. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver. All thanksgiving belongs to God.

Gift Inexpressible

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Inexpressible gift. This word to our knowledge is found nowhere else in Greek literature until Paul, and only found here. It is a compound that Paul probably made up to express his thought here. Unspeakable, inexpressible, indescribable; it is unable to be thoroughly told. God’s gift is beyond our capacity to comprehend, much less describe. Paul in Ephesians 3 prays for the believers to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, that they would have strength to comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. We need supernatural help to comprehend the love of God for us.

Here is irony. The gift of God is inexpressible, and Paul writes to tell us about it. Language fails, so he makes up new words to attempt to communicate the inexpressible. The fact that God’s gift is unable to be fully told does not stop Paul and the other biblical authors from preaching and declaring and writing to communicate God’s gift. In fact, the truth that God’s gift is inexpressible mandates that we talk about it and keep talking about it, keep pursuing creative new ways to communicate the truth and wonder of the gospel.

Paul expressed the inexpressible back in 8:9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Inexpressible grace! Inexpressible gift! That our Lord Jesus Christ, being eternally rich in relationship with his Father throughout all eternity, who being equal with his Father, existing in the very form of God (Phil.2:6). He didn’t cling to his equality with his Father, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8). Being rich, for your sake he became poor.

The gift that can’t be fully expressed, must be expressed. That which is beyond words must be put into words. The Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and set up his tent among us (Jn.1:1, 14). This is too wonderful for words, yet we must use words to communicate it.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Eternal God became man for my sake, for my good; that you by his poverty might become rich. He humbled himself to make me eternally blessed. He came to rescue me from sin and death and hell forever. He came to rescue me from myself. He came to give me the gift I don’t deserve. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation. He came to take what was broken and make it whole. He came to restore, to make all things new. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for me, for my sake. He came for sinners.

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!

We are called to wonder. God intends for us to stop and look, to put our hand over our mouth and be amazed. To be in awe. To be stunned and staggered by the sheer magnitude of God’s goodness and grace. Be still and know that I am God (Ps.46:10).

We are to be like the demon possessed man who was still, seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, eager to be with Jesus. Jesus told him:

Mark 5:19 …“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

We are meant to experience the indescribable grace of God to us, to marvel. And then to express the inexpressible to others so that they can marvel with us.

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

December 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire

09/22_2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190922_2cor8_16-17.mp3

Grace

This passage is about giving, and it is about grace; ultimately it is about the grace of God freely given. The word ‘grace’ appears 10 times in these two chapters, and it centers around the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9 [lit trans] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on account of you became poor, being rich; in order that you by that poverty might become rich

Grace is God’s freely given kindness. Verse 9 reminds us of the fountain of all grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became sin for us, who gave himself up for us.

8:1 talks about grace as the enabling grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that overflowed in their simplicity of heart toward God and joyful eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. There in verse 4, grace is the extending of grace received from God out horizontally to others. It is a freely given gift of God to be able to give to others. Verses 6 and 7 exhort the Corinthians also to participate in this grace; the gift of freely extending what they had received out to others in need. Verse 19 also points to this grace, the gift of giving. Then in 9:8 and 9:14, he uses ‘grace’ again to point to the enabling grace of God which gives freely to us so that we can overflow in freely giving to others.

Here in 8:16, as in 9:15, he uses the word ‘grace’ in the sense of thanksgiving, grace received from God now reflected back toward God in the form of thanksgiving, recognition of his grace freely given. Grace to God; gratitude to God.

Grace comes down from God to us in the person of our Lord Jesus to make us rich in him. Grace comes down from God to enable and ignite us to freely extend the grace we have received to others, and we become a conduit through which his grace flows through us out horizontally to others. And finally, grace is reflected back up to God in the form of gratitude for all that he has given.

God’s Gift

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Here we see Paul giving thanks for God’s gift given to Titus. This is the fourth time the word ‘give’ shows up in this chapter on giving. In verse 1 the grace of God was given; in verse 5 in response the Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord. In verse 10 Paul gives his advice on what would benefit them, and here in 16 God ‘puts’ or literally gives the same earnestness for you in the heart of Titus.

Earnestness is another word we have seen several times in this letter. In 7:11-12, Paul is encouraged that the Corinthians responded to his tearful letter with a renewed earnestness for him. In 8:7-8 he praises their excelling in earnestness and uses the earnestness of others to prove their own genuineness.

This word means an eagerness, willingness, diligence, or earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation [BDAG, 939]. Titus had a willing eagerness in his heart for the good of the Corinthians, and we are told that God put it there. God gave him his earnestness for them. Just as the source of the Macedonians’ abundance of joy in the midst of their deep poverty was God’s grace given, which then overflowed in a richness of single-heartedness, and an insistence on the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. Now God is the Author of the eager willingness in the heart of Titus on behalf of the Corinthians.

For Their Good

It was on behalf of the Corinthians. It was for their good. They needed him. They needed his help. This was not a vacation. ‘Titus do you want to travel? Oh yeah, I love to travel, see new sites, explore new places, meet new people, all the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.’ No, travel meant hardship and danger. As Paul describes later in this letter:

2 Corinthians 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

That’s what Titus was signing up for. And he was going to a church that was difficult. To people who were difficult. He had just returned from carrying a severe letter to this volatile church, and now Paul was asking him to retrace his steps with another letter asking them to give generously. This was no easy task. This was no pleasure cruise. This was self-sacrificial service for their good, for their benefit. But part of the difficulty was to convince them that it really was for their benefit, because they didn’t know what was good for them.

Desires

God gave Titus an earnestness for them. We have seen in this section the importance of right desires. Paul seeks to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He commends their desiring even above the doing of this act of grace. He wants the doing to match their desires. He is glad that they wanted the right things, and now wants them to do what they wanted to do. He highlights not only the depth of sacrifice on the part of the Macedonians, but especially their joy and single-hearted simplicity, their giving of themselves to the Lord. Paul said back in chapter 1

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.

We work with you for your joy. What brings you joy matters. Desires matter. What we are eager for matters. What we want matters. And here we learn that God gives earnestness. He is to be thanked, because he is the giver. He gave it in the heart of Titus.

Encouragement

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put earnestness in the heart of Titus. But we also see that Paul encouraged Titus toward this, and Titus received his encouragement. Just in verse 6 he said:

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.

Paul urged or encouraged Titus. It was not a command, but it was an encouragement. Paul urged him to go, to bring to completion what he had started. ‘He accepted our appeal.’ Paul and Titus were close. And Paul urged Titus. This would be significant pressure. He was not obligated. He was not coerced. But he was encouraged. There was human encouragement.

Paul said back at the end of 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

With Apollos there was strong urging from the apostle, but it was not his will to come. He felt the urging, and he was free to choose not to go. Titus was similarly urged and encouraged, and he also had the freedom to choose to go or not to go. Paul encouraged him, but he left it up to him. Titus accepted the encouragement to go. He responded to the external human encouragement.

Freedom

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus, and Paul encouraged Titus, and yet Titus had his own earnestness and is going of his own accord. He was free to do what he wanted to do. He was eager of his own accord. He chose. He was willing. He was free.

God’s Grace Creates Freedom

God put it in the heart of Titus. Paul encouraged Titus, and Titus accepted our encouragement. Titus was himself very earnest; he is going of his own free will. These verses put all these different factors together. Paul encouraged it. Titus freely chose to do it. But God put it in his heart to desire it.

These different factors do not appear as cross-purposes in tension in these verses, fighting to see which one will win out. Rather they are seen in unison, in tandem, working together to bring about the desired end. Very naturally and practically, God used Titus’ prior experience in Corinth to help shape his desires.

Back in chapter 7, when Paul was finally reunited with Titus, he spoke of the comfort he received from Titus, and the comfort Titus received from the Corinthians, and the exceeding joy he had over the right desires of the Corinthians. Titus’ spirit was refreshed and he rejoiced.

2 Corinthians 7:15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.

God used the experience he had in Corinth to shape his affections and his desire to return. God also used the encouragement of the apostle in the heart of Titus to solidify his resolve to go. But God put the earnestness in his heart.

We saw the same thing with the Macedonians. It was willingly, freely, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. But that was evidence of the grace of God given. God gave his grace; he put it in their hearts. God’s grace was the underlying motive for their joyful eagerness. God’s grace was the underlying motive for Titus’ willing earnestness.

We could say that God’s grace created the freedom. God’s grace created the freedom to give joyfully beyond their means out of deep poverty. God’s grace created the freedom to want to go back to a difficult circumstance to serve difficult people and encourage them to give generously.

I was a guy who grew up in Minnesota and chased the love of my life out to Washington State, and I loved it there. I had no desire to live anywhere else. I didn’t even want to visit Utah. Some friends of ours moved from Washington to Utah, and we thought they were crazy. Later, I had a co-worker who invited me to come with him to mountain bike in Utah, and I had no desire. I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t want to go. It just wasn’t in me. Almost like my wife can’t want to hold a snake. It’s not in her. She has no freedom to want to hold a snake. We had no freedom to want to move to Utah, until God by his grace put it in our hearts. God created in us that freedom. Then we were free to stay and continue to live and serve in Washington, and we were free to move to Utah to live and serve here. And we wanted to come. There were external factors; there were people and circumstances that God used to encourage us toward Utah, but God put it in our hearts. And we were eager to come.

The Grace of God [Philippians 2]

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

This is God’s grace that he puts in our hearts. This is rooted in God’s grace as expressed in verse 9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus freely stooped to serve others sacrificially for their good, and he invites us into fellowship with him in extending his grace to others. We see almost the exact same sequence in Philippians 2 that we see here.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. …

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything— …see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this …to prove …that your love also is genuine.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do, because God is working in you. He is creating both the willing, the desire, and the working, the energy to do it.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus. God gave grace to the Macedonians. God created the desire.

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

God entered into our poverty in Jesus, he took our nature, he died our death and gives us his life. He invites us to join him in extending his grace to others. To enter in, to share in the sufferings of others, to show people Jesus.

Response

This eagerness; this freedom to want to sacrificially serve is a gift, it is grace. Ask God freely to put this desire in your heart. Receive his gift so that you can be freed to give.

Thank God who gives this desire. Give God the credit and thank him when you see this earnestness in others. Thank God when he begins to create this desire in you.

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

September 22, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment