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Daniel 3:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head

08/29_Daniel 03:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210829_dan03_26-30.mp3

We left Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace last time. You would think that’s not a great place to leave them, but we did see that although their executioners died, they survived. In fact, it seems they were thriving; the fire freed them from their bonds, and they were walking, enjoying fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. So all in all it was not a bad place to leave them.

Let’s pick back up in verse 15 for context with the king’s threatening:

Daniel 3:15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made… But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Challenging God

Remember, Nebuchadnezzar was in a furious rage that they refused to serve his gods or worship his image. In pride, he challenged the gods; ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’

Nebuchadnezzar is king of kings; he had made a 90 foot god of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He forgot the lesson learned in chapter 2, that although he was king of kings, it was the God of heaven who gave him the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory. It was God who placed in his hands authority over all the children of man, the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens (2:37-38). The power was not inherent in him; it was a gift, given to him by the God of heaven.

It seems he was challenging this God, shaking his fist in defiance; ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Now, in the seven times superheated fiery furnace that killed his strongest soldiers, he saw the three he had thrown in the furnace, now freed of their bonds, and walking in the midst of the fire apparently unharmed, and a fourth man with them, a divine being, like a son of the gods.

Safe In The Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

Nebuchadnezzar came near (but not too near; he could feel the heat of his superheated fiery furnace; he had seen what it did to his strongest warriors), and he commanded the three to come out. In the fire, they were safe. Neither Nebuchadnezzar the king nor his next strongest soldiers (he had already lost his strongest) could reach them. They were safe in the fire, with their Lord. They did not come out until they were summoned. It seems they were in no hurry to come out; they were content to stay in the midst of the fire, enjoying fellowship with their God. But when the king summoned them, they obediently came out.

Ready to Meet God?

It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar calls the three by name. He saw four men walking in the midst of the fire. But he only asks Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out. He did not dare to command the fourth man, the divine being to come out. He knew he had no authority over him, nor was he ready to meet face to face the God he had so arrogantly defied; a God who obviously was more powerful than his hottest fire. Nebuchadnezzar had seen God’s wisdom in chapter 2 in interpreting his dream, and he had acknowledged him as God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries’ (Dan.2:47). Now he perceived this God’s power greater than the hottest flames. But he is not yet ready to encounter this Most High God. He is comfortable speaking with the servants of this God, but he is not yet ready to face God directly.

The Pervasive Power of Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

I’ve been in the middle of fire. It was an elementary age science experiment gone wrong that involved a small enclosed space, a highly flammable aerosol can and matches. Don’t try this at home! My friend and I were momentarily engulfed in flames, and after the split second flash, the hardest thing to conceal from mom was our singed hair; head hair, arm hair, eyebrows, all singed, curled up on the ends from an instantaneous flash of the flames. And the smell. There is nothing like the smell of burnt hair. Hair burns fast. We had some friends over for dinner; this was the early 90’s with way too much hairspray, and a candle in the window sill of the dining room. Our friend leaned back a little too far, and vooom! Her hair was literally on fire.

I like fire. I enjoy a good roaring campfire. I like to cook over fire. But it is amazing how much the smell of smoke permeates clothing and lingers. You can’t hide that you’ve been around a fire.

When these three came out of Nebuchadnezzar’s superheated furnace, all those who had conspired to get these three thrown into the fire, who had witnessed them being thrown into the fire, came around them to examine the lack of effect the fire had on them. The smell of charred flesh still hung in the air from the soldiers who had thrown them in. But on these three, they all observed that the fire had not had any power over their bodies. Not a hair singed, no damage to their clothing, not even the smell of fire on them.

This fire was real fire; it was lethal, demonstrated graphically by those that threw them in. But these that had been thrown down into the burning fiery furnace were unharmed. The fire was powerful; it incinerated the ropes that tied them. But supernaturally the fire had no power over their bodies.

Not A Hair Of Your Head

Jesus told his followers that they would be persecuted, some even to death. But then he said something very strange.

Luke 21:16 You will be delivered up …and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

I’ve scratched my head over this. ‘Some of you they will put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish.’ What does this mean? How does it make sense that they will be killed, but not even one hair will perish? What does it matter if my hair remains intact if I am dead?

Jesus said earlier in Luke:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Fear God alone. God alone has power to destroy both body and soul in hell (Mt.10:28). God has every hair of your head numbered. And although many Jesus followers have been burned to death, yet not a hair of their heads have perished eternally. You see, we believe in a physical bodily resurrection. Not an immaterial ghost-like existence; Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that our hope is bodily resurrection.

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

He says in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Fear not! Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. They may put you to death, but not a hair of your head will perish! Our God promises to be with you in the flame, he is able to preserve you through the flame, and he promises that although they may kill the body, not a hair of your head will perish for eternity!

Repent or Legislate?

The satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors all witnessed something. They were eye witnesses of the impotence of the king before the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He had been respectfully resisted by them, and his most furious efforts were powerless to bring about their execution.

What do you do when you are the most powerful man on the earth, and you have been disregarded, disobeyed, with a flat out refusal to bow to your authority? When in a rage you order the execution of the rebels, but the execution backfires and you loose some of your best soldiers, the fire serves only to free the exiles you are angry with, and God himself walks in the fire with those you sought to destroy? What do you do?

Here’s what you ought to do. Repent. Acknowledge you were wrong to demand absolute allegiance; only God has that right. Acknowledge that you were wrong to set up an image and demand worship; only God deserves the worship of all peoples, languages and nations. Cry out for mercy from that God whom you have offended by your arrogance and pride. Repent. You ought to repent.

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

In response to Daniel revealing both the king’s dream and its interpretation, the king fell on his face and commanded an offering and incense be offered. He acknowledged God as God of gods and Lord of kings, revealer of mysteries.

Here, in response to God’s thwarting of his execution, of God’s own presence, visible, protecting in the fire, of the three brought safely through the fire, the king didn’t bow, didn’t offer offerings. He didn’t repent. He didn’t confess his sins or acknowledge that what he had done was wrong. He blessed God and he made a decree. He legislated protection for the religious freedom of these three. He rewarded their civil disobedience. He acknowledged that their God is unique in his ability to rescue in this way. He didn’t repent, he issued a decree!

This would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic! Nebuchadnezzar who defied God and was publicly defeated by God still is deluded to believe he has power. How difficult it is for a rich man, or a man with power or authority, to enter the kingdom of God (Mk.10:23). Nebuchadnezzar, who had publicly failed in his attempt to execute those who defied him, now issues another death threat, this time to defend the God who proved himself more powerful! But the burning fiery furnace thing didn’t work out so well, so we’ll revert back to the tearing limb from limb. God defeated him publicly, in front of his satraps, prefects, governors, and counselors, and he tries to save face by passing legislation, promoting to power, and making more death threats.

Application

I said this would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic. We want to laugh at the foolishness of Nebuchadnezzar, but we need to look in the mirror. How often are we deluded by our own grandeur, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think? How often are we confronted by God? He is pursuing us, he is pursuing a relationship with us; but we refuse to deal with him, to fall on our faces in repentance and faith. Instead we do the thing we’ve always done, we pretend to have power, we pass resolutions, we make decrees. We try to save face in front of those we so desperately want to impress. We’ll talk to other people, but we won’t face him, we won’t deal with him.

Here’s the good news. He knows what you’ve done. He knows who you are. He already knows. And he is pursuing you. Surrender. Lay down your pride, turn, face him. Run to him. Find forgiveness. Find freedom. Jesus paid your price at the cross. Let go whatever you are clinging to, and turn to him.

***

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

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45; The Kingdom Crushing Stone

06/27_Daniel 02:34-35, 44-45; The Kingdom Crushing Rock; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210627_dan02_44-45.mp3

Gentile Dominion

God, the revealer of mysteries, revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream things that will be in the latter days. The God who removes kings and establishes kings transferred his mandate to exercise dominion over his creation from the Jews to the Gentiles, to king Nebuchadnezzar. The times of Gentile dominion had begun. The Lord gave the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon The God of heaven had given the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory over to Nebuchadnezzar. He had given him authority over all the children of mankind, over the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens. God’s creation mandate to exercise dominion passed from God’s people to the nations.

But the kingdoms of this world don’t last forever. And they aren’t improving, getting better. The dream outlines four kingdoms of descending value but increasing strength, except the final form of the final kingdom is not only less valuable, but also divided, a marriage of strength and fragility. The image is top-heavy and precarious, with feet of clay.

Daniel 2:31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

…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. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.

Catastrophic End

And it all comes crashing down. It comes to an abrupt and catastrophic end. The kingdoms of this world are comprehensively destroyed, removed, cleared away and replaced by something completely different.

Daniel 2:34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

…Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

Jesus the Cornerstone and Crushing Stone

Today our focus will be where it ought to be; on the kingdom crushing stone. Almost everyone recognizes that this stone is a picture of Jesus. Jesus himself connects this stone to himself in Matthew 21.

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Jesus is the cornerstone. That idea comes from Psalm 118:22-23. Jesus is the rejected stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious to God, a sure foundation (Is.28:16). Jesus applies the cornerstone from Psalm 118 to himself, and the kingdom crushing stone from Daniel 2 that grinds the nations to powder also to himself.

Matthew 21:44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Jesus is the stone that comes against empires and kings raised up in proud rebellion against him and grinds them like chaff that is blown away by the wind and not a trace will be found.

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

The Lord alone will be glorified on that day.

By No Human Hand

This stone, we are told, is cut out ‘by no human hand’. Throughout the Old Testament, a contrast is drawn between idols, which are the work of human hands, and the one true God, the self-existent uncreated creator of all that exists.

Isaiah 2:8 Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.

When Israel made an altar, they were to make it of uncut stones, because their works would defile it (Ex.20:25).

In Isaiah 44, after displaying the foolishness people who form idols out of inanimate objects with their own hands and then worship them; he says:

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Things not made with hands are things made by the powerful word of God, who breathed all things into existence.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

This rock not made with hands is of divine origin. Jesus is not of human origin.

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Kingdom; Slow or Sudden?

Almost everyone connects the stone with Jesus and the establishment of his kingdom. But many want to see this in connection with his first coming, as a baby in Bethlehem, and teaching disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples and eventually his kingdom will grow in our hearts and fill the whole earth.

But this dream does not describe a slow gradual increase. It describes a rock hurtling through space, impacting the image with great force and utterly obliterating it. This is a catastrophic cataclysmic crushing, a complete demolition; there is nothing at all left of all the kingdoms of the world. They are blown away like chaff; not a trace of them could be found.

The empires of the world that are opposed to God seem to be quite alive and well today, not utterly obliterated. Jesus didn’t annihilate Rome; he died at the hands of Rome. The Roman empire continued long after Jesus ascended to the right hand of his Father. Gentile nations still hold power on this earth today.

If someone wants to connect the rock being cut out without hands to Jesus’ first coming and his divine origin and the virgin birth, that makes sense, but the rock impacting the image on its feet of iron mixed with clay and utterly obliterating all the kingdoms of the world sounds a lot more like what the Bible says about his second coming.

Last time we looked at Psalm 2, where the nations, peoples, kings and rulers set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed, but God answers in wrath and establishes his Son as King on Mount Zion. He says he will give him the nations as an inheritance.

Psalm 2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

I would like to read all of Zechariah 14, which describes in detail the defeat of the nations that God gathers against Jerusalem for battle, but a few verses will have to suffice:

Zechariah 14:3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.

5 …Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. …9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

Here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 24:

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Here’s how Revelation describes it:

Revelation 1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Jesus came the first time humble and lowly, to be rejected and die for our sins. But he will come again as the crushing stone, with power and great glory! Revelation 19 describes it like this:

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

This sounds like the cataclysmic catastrophic kingdom crushing stone obliterating all the kingdoms of the world who are united against the Lord and his anointed in a moment.

In The Days of Those Kings

Daniel says

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, …

The question is, who are ‘those kings’? It could refer to Nebuchadnezzar and the following three kings and their kingdoms, but the dream lists those as successive, not contemporaneous; and clearly Nebuchadnezzar is long gone before the kingdom crushing stone destroys the image.

The nearest antecedent to the ‘those’ of verse 44 would be in verses 41-43.

Daniel 2:41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.

The days of those kings would most naturally refer to the ‘they’ who will mix in marriage but who will not hold together, which seems to be referring to the divided kingdom of the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. This seems most naturally to refer to a future final form of the final kingdom that will be in existence at the return of Jesus to rule and reign.

The Mountain That Will Stand Forever

Daniel 2:35 …But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Jesus will one day completely crush and blow away every trace of the kingdoms of this world, and establish his own kingdom that will never pass away. His kingdom ‘shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.’ This would be great comfort to the Jews in Babylon, who had witnessed the disobedience of God’s chosen people result in the transfer of world dominion from the Jews to the Gentile Nations. This won’t happen to Christ’s kingdom. It will not be transferred again because of sin and disobedience. Although everything in this world is temporary and uncertain, our hope is in a kingdom that will not be shaken (Heb.12:26-29), will not be forfeit, will not be conquered, will not pass away.

Nebuchadnezzar was asking questions about the future, about the endurance and perseverance and longevity of his kingdom. God gave him a vision that was meant to turn his eyes away from him and the works of his hands and to the coming Christ who will bring all opposing kingdoms to an end and whose kingdom shall stand forever.

The kingdom of Jesus Christ is an unshakeable rock that will become a great mountain that will fill the whole earth. (Lk.1:32-33; Rev.11:15)

Fall On Jesus Today!

The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces. Fall on Jesus. You will be broken, undone, but you will be remade, reborn. You will become part of his new creation (2Cor.5:17).

Do not be found on that day standing in opposition to Jesus, in independence, in self-centered rebellion. Jesus will fall on you and crush you to powder. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1Pet.5:5-7). Run to the Son. Fall on him. Find refuge in him.

Matthew 21:44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

***

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

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

Daniel 2:24-30; The Humility of the Messenger

06/13_Daniel 02:24-30 The Humility of the Messenger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210613_dan02_24-30.mp3

Daniel and his friends are on death row, because king Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans that they give him not only the interpretation of his dream, but he would test their authenticity by demanding they tell him the dream that he dreamed. Their response? “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand …no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (v.10-11).

Dependence

But Daniel knows the God who is Immanuel, God with us.

Daniel 2:16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel received what the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. Daniel was granted time to give the interpretation to the king. But Daniel didn’t depend on his own abilities and gifting. He sought mercy from the God of heaven. And he didn’t go it alone. He asked his friends to join him 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. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

Grace and Gratitude

But Daniel doesn’t rush off to Arioch with the good news. He sought mercy, because he knew what he deserved. As a sinner before God he deserved hell. God doesn’t owe us anything but justice, and we don’t want that. We want mercy and we want grace. We don’t want what we deserve; instead we want what we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Daniel understood God’s mercy, so he pursued mercy with his friends in prayer. And because he really had a grasp on grace and mercy, because he really understood what he deserved, he responds to grace with gratitude. Those that think themselves entitled to good things in this life are more prone to take for granted God’s blessings and fail to give him thanks. But Daniel had a firm grasp on grace, and so his heart overflowed with gratitude.

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.”

Daniel worships. Daniel received a gift he didn’t deserve, and he doesn’t fail to give God thanks and praise. He worships God for his character, and he gives him thanks for specifically answering his prayer.

Confidence and Compassion

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

Daniel showed great confidence. But he also showed great compassion. He was confident in his God, in God’s answer to his prayer. He was bold to go before the angry and very furious king rather than run away from him, because he knew God had given him what the king required. But he was also compassionate. Remember what he prayed for? ‘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’ (v.18). Now he asks; rather he commands the executioner not to destroy any of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel could have played his cards differently here. He could have anticipated that his access to the one true God through prayer would arouse jealousy in the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans, and that jealousy could get he and his friends in trouble; maybe thrown in a lion’s den or into a fiery furnace. Daniel could have seized this opportunity to secure his unrivaled position. God had proved the wisdom of the wise men of Babylon bankrupt, and Daniel could have used this situation to secure the destruction of all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. He could have encouraged Arioch and the king to follow through with the threat; tear them all limb from limb and bury their houses in excrement. The God of the Hebrews is the one true God and all others are false deceivers.

But instead, Daniel shows compassion. He understands the character of God, that he is ‘slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). He is ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9).

Daniel reflects the character of God here. The wise men of Babylon don’t deserve to be spared, but Daniel seeks to protect them, to extend mercy to them, to give them time to repent and turn to the one true God. He seeks to protect those who under Old Testament law deserve death.

Deuteronomy 18:10 There shall not be found among you …anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD….

Daniel understands that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:23); that he is really no better, that he too deserves the wrath of God. And this gives him compassion toward other sinners.

The Triumph of True Wisdom

Daniel actually commands the captain of the king’s guard to disobey the orders of the king. Nebuchadnezzar had given the order ‘and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed’ (v.12). Here in verse 24, Daniel commands Arioch ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.’ Daniel is the one with true wisdom, who is really in charge, even overriding the edict of the king.

We see the king whose spirit was troubled, who can’t sleep, who is angry and very furious, making unreasonable demands and reacting in irrational extremes. We see all the wise men of Babylon at a loss, confessing their own incompetence. We see Arioch flip-flopping, going to carry out the king’s command, but then taking orders from a captive of Israel in direct disobedience to the king.

And we see Daniel on death row, yet calm, cool and collected, answering with prudence and discretion, seeking and gaining audience with the king. Then in humble dependence, seeking God in prayer together with other believers, responding to God’s gracious answer first with worship and praise, then confident and bold, overriding the rash command of the king, requesting audience with the king to meet his demands with wisdom that can only come from the God of heaven.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

Arioch’s Power Grab

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”

This was a risk for Arioch; if Daniel failed, he would be putting his own neck on the line. He was himself persuaded by the confidence and compassion of Daniel.

Notice how Arioch seeks to promote himself. In haste he goes before the king and claims credit; ‘I have found a man…’ Really it was Daniel who had questioned the urgency, interrupted the executions, and offered to interpret. But such is the nature of humanity, that we seek credit when no credit is due.

The King’s Demand Re-stated

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”

The king wants to be sure that Daniel is not just going to feed him a standard textbook interpretation from some dream manual. He wants to know if Daniel can meet his demand that all his wise men claimed ‘no man on earth could meet …only the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.’ ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?’

Impossibility Affirmed

Daniel’s answer is shocking, and I imagine Arioch went deathly pale as he heard Daniel begin by answering ‘No.’ His jaw must have hung open as he saw the king’s rage begin to return.

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,

Daniel affirms that what the wise men said was true.

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, 11 …The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

The king must have begun to seethe. ‘You delay my executions, you ask for time, and you come back with the same line that the rest of the wise men gave me?’ He may have shot a sideways glare toward Arioch who had just confidently presented Daniel as the answer to the king’s demand. Daniel admits his own incompetence, along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

But God

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

But God… When there is no human hope, God steps in.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, … 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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—

We need to feel the hopelessness of our situation before we are ready to hear where hope can be found. None is righteous, no not one. Every mouth must be stopped (Rom.3:10, 19).

The Humility of the Messenger

Daniel wanted Nebuchadnezzar to recognize his hopelessness outside of God. There is no hope outside of God. Nebuchadnezzar was looking to his wise men, enchanters, magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers to give him what he needed. His focus now turned to Daniel, and Daniel deflected the king’s gaze from himself to God. No wise man can do this, but there is a God in heaven. He is the one to whom you must look. Don’t look at me. Look instead to God.

Where Arioch sought to grab some of the credit, Daniel refused to take any. He knew where hope was to be found, and it wasn’t in him. Daniel together with his friends sought mercy from the God of heaven, and when mercy came from the God of heaven, Daniel wasn’t about to interpose himself, as if he were the source of anything.

Daniel understood mercy. Daniel had received an undeserved gift, so Daniel first gave thanks back to God, and then Daniel showed appropriate humility before the king.

God in Heaven who Reveals Mysteries [Elah Shamayin Gelah Raz]

Daniel 2:27 …“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.

God is the mystery revealer. God is the one who made known to the king what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be. God is history writer;

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 …I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God can say with absolute certainty what will happen, even in the far distant future, because he is sovereign over history. He accomplishes his purpose; what he says he himself will bring about.

Liberal scholarship wants to attribute the accurate world history unfolded in Daniel to a nameless writer after the fact, at the time of the Maccabees, pretending to be Daniel and writing already completed history as if it were prophecy. But this is to deny the very character of the God who Reveals Secrets.

This is one way God shows us who he is.

Jesus gave this authentication to his disciples:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am [he].

Authentication. Believe that I AM, I am God and there is no other, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done. I am telling you now, before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe that I AM.

We need to sit up and listen, because God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar (and to Daniel, and through Daniel to us) ‘what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be.’ God is revealing something that spans history, up to the very end of time. The book of Revelation in the New Testament expands this vision;

Revelation 4:1 … I will show you what must take place after this.”

Not Anything in Me; Conduits of Glory

We are going to have to wait to get into the content of this dream.

Daniel 2:30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel wants to be clear; this is not about me. It is not my wisdom. It is not that I have more wisdom than anyone else. It is not that I am better than all your wise men. Listen to his tender hearted humility! God is simply using me as a conduit through which he can bring his truth to the world. We are nothing more than anyone else; mere conduits of God’s grace. May we always remember that we are only ever recipients of mercy, may he fill us with humble gratitude, and may he see fit to use us as conduits to bring his grace to a hurting and broken world.

***

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

June 19, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 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 great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand… 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

***

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

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Resurrection Realities – Romans 6

03/28 Resurrection Realities – Romans 6; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210404_resurrection-realities.mp3

Resurrection Realities

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s the cool thing about Christian holidays; they are not merely commemorative; they don’t merely look back and remember some event in the past. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter; they don’t merely look back with fondness and sentiment on an historical event. No, they powerfully change our present reality! If we merely look back at the incarnation, the cross and the empty tomb as facts of history, we are missing out! These are present realities we as believers live in.

Christmas means that the God who is, the God who created everything, so loved us that he came down, he became one of us, so as one of us he could die in our place. That’s what Good Friday is about, that he took my sins on himself, that he died the death I deserve, that he paid my price in full. Easter Sunday is the Father’s seal that the finished work of Christ on the cross was accepted, that what he did was sufficient.

Romans 6:4 tells us that ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father’, and the rest of Romans 6 tells us that the resurrection of Jesus has implications for us today in how we live our lives. Romans 6 also connects Christian baptism (which we are going to witness today) with Christ’s death and resurrection. Listen to Romans 6:4-5

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The resurrection of Jesus is where we as followers of Jesus find the power to live for the glory of God. Let’s look at this passage, at the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and at what this means for us today.

Raised by the Glory of the Father

Romans 6:4 says that Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This is a unique expression, probably not what we would expect. We might expect him to say that Jesus was raised by the power of the Father, but what does it mean to say that Jesus was raised by means of or through the glory of the Father? The glory of God is the outward manifestation of who God is; his splendor and power and greatness that causes us to be in awe and wonder. And Romans is all about God’s glory.

The Glory of God in Romans

Romans begins by condemning us, who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature (1:18-20). We did not honor God as God or give him thanks, but instead exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:21-23). We were meant to reflect the glory of God, to bear his image, to put on display his invisible attributes, in the way that Jesus described:

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.

But we all fail to do this properly. We fail to live for the glory of God.

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

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

We don’t naturally give God glory; we are inclined to steal glory for ourselves or to glorify lesser things.

In Romans 4 Abraham’s faith is held up as an example of a life that brings glory to God. We are told that Abraham ‘believed God’ (4:3); he did not work.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

If he worked, if he earned something, he would have ‘something to boast about’ (4:2). But depending on the finished work of another gives glory to the one who does the work for him.

In Romans 5, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

In Romans 8, we look forward to being restored to the glory for which we were created, the glory of properly reflecting God’s image in such a way that he gets all the glory (Rom.8:17-30).

In Romans 11, Paul interjects this doxology:

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In Romans 15, he points to practical ways to live life to bring glory to God (Rom.15:5-9), and he closes the book with this doxology:

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

We were created to reflect God’s glory. In our self-seeking, we failed to glorify God with our lives. Jesus came to defend the honor of his Father and restore us to our proper place in his creation, to bring glory to God. Jesus took our sins, paid the ultimate price to demonstrate the magnitude of our dishonor toward God and the infinite worth of God, and God’s glory was put on display in raising Jesus from the dead.

Romans 6 in the Argument of Romans

In order to understand these verses in Romans 6, we need to locate them in the flow of thought of the book of Romans. Paul has demonstrated in chapters 1 and 2 that although we were designed to reflect God’s glory, we have miserably failed. Both Jews and non-Jews have failed to live up to the standard they had been given. No one is righteous; all fall short of giving God the glory that is his due.

In the middle of chapter 3, we are introduced to a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness not our own,

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

This is a righteousness that comes to sinners as a free gift from God, paid for in full by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

Chapter 4 shows that this gift of God’s own righteousness given to all who believe is not contrary to, but connected with the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David. Righteousness does not come from keeping the law, but even the law points us to this alien righteousness that is graciously credited to our account.

Chapter 5 revels in the fact that the peace we have with God by God’s grace is so unshakable that no trial, no sin, not even death can now separate us from God. Chapter 5 concludes by pointing to the fact that the law was intended to demonstrate our sinfulness by increasing our trespasses, and this dark soil of our sinfulness was the very place where God’s free grace could thrive.

Romans 6

So the question we find at the beginning of chapter 6 flows out of this truth.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

If God’s grace is magnified by the black backdrop of my sin, if an increase in sin causes grace to abound, then should I continue in my sinning to increase the glory of God? Paul’s answer to this is the strongest possible negative.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Choosing to continue in sin would actually detract from the transforming power of God’s grace. That is the truth he takes us to in Romans 6.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The fact that Paul points us to is that we who are believing in Jesus and receiving the free gift of his righteousness are not only forgiven of all our sins and declared righteous before God (we are justified by faith) but also that the power of God’s free grace in our lives actually changes the way we live. When we believe, we are united with Christ, and that extends to his death and resurrection.

The Greek word ‘baptizo’ means ‘to immerse.’ When we believe in Jesus, we are immersed into his death. That’s the spiritual reality. Water baptism is a picture of what has happened to us spiritually. We were baptized into Christ Jesus, or immersed into Christ Jesus. We become connected with Jesus, united with Jesus, saturated with Jesus. We are united with him in his death. What this means for us right now is that we have died to sin, so we cannot be at home with it. We were buried with him in his death. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we are given the power to walk in a new kind of life. Since we have died to sin, and since we have been raised with Christ, we today can live different. Christ Jesus is alive in us. He continues in verse 6:

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

God’s grace has broken the power of sin in my life. The me who did the sinning is dead and buried. I am no longer enslaved; I have been set free from sin. Because I am united with Christ, the me I used to be is crucified and gone. If we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. We look forward to the day when we will be raised from the dead and live with him for eternity. His death killed our sin. His resurrection promises our resurrection. This truth breaks the power of sin in our lives.

Imperative follows Indicative

His question was ‘should we continue in sin’, and his answer was an emphatic no, and he gave solid theological reasons; our union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

So far this is all theological truth. Paul is telling us what has happened to us when we believed in Jesus. He hasn’t told us to do anything yet. That comes next. But it is essential to see that everywhere in the Bible our action is the fruit of theological truth. The imperative always flows out of the indicative. The Bible lays out the indicative, the facts, the truth of who we are in Christ, of what Jesus has done for us, and then, in response to that we are given the imperatives, the commands, how we are to live our lives. All Christian action is rooted in and flows out of the theological truth of what God has done for us. Here is our action that flows out of the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and our being united to him by faith.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

First, we are commanded to believe the theological truth. I don’t feel very dead to sin. Most days, I feel that sin still has a lot of power over me. But that is not the gospel truth. The good news is that Jesus died for me, and the sinful me died with Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and because I am united with him by faith, I too will certainly be resurrected to be with him forever. First, I must believe the gospel truth, that in Christ I am dead to sin and alive to God. And because this is true of me, I can begin to live out this truth. Because this is true, I can rebel against sin. I can reject its authority. I can refuse to obey sin’s passions. I can refuse to use my body to do evil; instead I can take this body that has been given new life as a free gift from God, and present my body back to God as a tool to do what is right. I can do this because of my union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Through the power of the resurrection, I am now alive to God.

Romans 7 says:

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Because of my death and resurrection, I am under new ownership. I am free from my old master – free to bear fruit for God.

Romans 8 says:

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.

This is life-transforming truth. The resurrection life giving Spirit of God lives in me. He gives life to this body of death. I am animated by the Spirit of God. The resurrection is not just an historical fact; it is a present reality. I have resurrection power at work in me. The Spirit of God gives life to me right now to live a transformed life.

If

As we close, I want to draw your attention back to a very important little word that shows up in 6:5 and 8 and 8:10 and 1l. That word is ‘if’.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his… 8 Now if we have died with Christ…

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you,… 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…

This ‘if’ is crucial. ‘If’ asks a question. Is this true of you? If you have not been united with Jesus in his death, you will not be united with him in resurrection. If you have not died with Christ, you have no reason to believe that you will ever live with him. You only have a fearful expectation of the judgment and wrath of Almighty God against your sin. Have you received his free and gracious gift by faith? Have you stopped working, stopped trying to earn and started trusting in the finished work of Jesus? Have you been united to Christ by faith?

***

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

April 7, 2021 Posted by | occasional, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn

02/14_2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210214_2cor12_7.mp3

It’s valentines day, and providentially we’re in 2 Corinthians 12, the passage about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. So to make the connection I thought I’d use a corny cliché to title this message; every rose has its thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul’s Parody of Boasting

Paul is engaged in foolish boasting to combat the dangerous servants of Satan that were promoting a kind of celebrity leadership based on alleged private (and hence unverifiable) spiritual experiences. God appeared to me, God told me, I had a dream, I experienced a vision, I’ve been entrusted with a word from the Lord; therefore you need to listen to what I have to say, you need to follow me, do what I say.

Private visions, private revelations may benefit the one who experienced them, but they do not establish spiritual authority. Paul does everything he does to be beneficial, useful, to build up the church. He says there is nothing to be gained from boasting in visions and revelations. No benefit to the church. It might sell a book or pack out a room, but it won’t build anyone up.

In this mock parody of the false apostles false boasting, he starts in 11:16-22 by boasting in his own heritage, but then he quickly moves to say that he is a greater servant of Christ, because he suffered more than others in his service to his Lord.

They expect divine supernatural authentication, so he brings up his Damascus experience, but instead of recounting his Damascus road vision of the risen Christ, he recounts his disgraceful and laughable escape from the city, being let down under cover of night through the wall in a basket.

In chapter 12 he lifts our expectations by saying that he will go on to visions and revelations. He gives us his experience, but in the third person; it’s not Paul the great apostle, but simply a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, who heard inexpressible words that he is not allowed to speak. He doesn’t give any description of what he saw, he can’t tell us what he heard. He doesn’t claim that in any way it authenticates his ministry; rather it is an experience that belongs ultimately to anyone who is in Christ.

Paul’s Fear

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul’s fear is that if he were to boast of his supernatural experience, someone might think more highly of him that is warranted. They might think of him as larger than life, more than an ordinary Christian, more than a man in Christ. Paul is afraid that someone might attribute to him some unattainable celebrity status, lift him up because of his exceptional experience as more spiritual than others who are in Christ. Paul insists the criteria of faithful ministry must not be unverifiable visions and revelations; ministry must be judged by the objective criteria of life and teaching. What do you hear taught? What do you see in my life?

Paul’s concern is that they evaluate ministry by the wrong standards and listen to the wrong kind of leaders, who, based on their life and teaching, he calls servants of Satan. He’s concerned, because of his own surpassing revelations, that they will listen to him for the wrong reasons.

Paul’s Danger

Paul is concerned for the church. But he is also aware of another threat. He himself is in grave danger.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was in great danger. The surpassingly great revelations given to Paul created a great threat to Paul. What he saw, what he heard, was so far beyond, so great, so intimate, that he can’t help but conclude that he is special. No one else had this privileged vision. He was lifted up by the Lord to such incomparable heights that he was in danger of being lifted up with pride in his own heart. It would be all too easy for him to think too much of himself. You hear his concern, repeated both at the beginning and at the end of verse 7; ‘to keep me from being conceited.’ This was a real danger for the apostle, and he recognized it.

This word ‘conceited’ is a compound word ‘surpassingly lifted up’ that connects it with the ‘surpassing greatness’ of the revelations he was given.

The only other place this word ‘conceited’ or ‘surpassingly exalted’ appears in the New Testament is 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 …the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

This is a real danger. Charles Spurgeon says of Paul,

“He had entered into the nearest communion with God, possible to a man while yet in this life. Should he not feel somewhat exalted? Surely exultation must fill that man’s bosom who has been brought within the veil to see his God, and to hear the unutterable harmonies! It was natural that he should be exalted, and it was not unnatural that he should stand in danger of being exalted above measure. Devout exaltation very rapidly degenerates into self-exaltation. When God lifts us up, there is only one step further— namely, our lifting up ourselves; and then we fall into serious mischief indeed. I wonder how many among us could bear to receive such revelations as Paul had? O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours! We have neither head nor heart to sustain so vast a load of blessing. Our little plant needs not a river to water its root: the gentle dew suffices— the flood might wash it away.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

Pride is the sin that damned the devil. It is dangerous. ‘O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours!’

God’s Good Gift

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

To prevent Paul from falling into this deadly devilish danger, he was given a gift. He doesn’t say who gave this gift, but it is clear from the context. This word ‘given’ speaks specifically of God’s favor bestowed; in Eph.3:8 and 4:7 it speaks of God’s grace given; in 1Tim.4:14 of God’s grace-gifts. God is the giver of every good gift, and if this gift prevents Paul from pride, it is a good gift.

Thorns

What might startle us is what God’s good gift is. Paul says he was given a thorn in the flesh. That doesn’t sound good, and it is certainly not pleasant. Have you had a thorn in your flesh? Inevitably, when pulling weeds, I’ll get a little tiny thorn in my hand. Some of these thorns are so small, so insignificant, I can’t even see them. I can’t see them, but I certainly can feel them! I might not notice it for a while, until I go to pick something up and it irritates the thorn and reminds me that it’s still there. I’ve used a needle or a blade to literally dig a hole in my finger where I think the invisible source of my torment is, trying to root it out.

Thorns aren’t very impressive either. If you ask for my help and I say I can’t help because I was on the battlefield and suffered a gunshot wound to my arm that hasn’t fully healed yet, you might be impressed. But if I say I have this little thorn in my hand, so it hurts me when I pick anything up, you might roll your eyes and come at me with tweezers. And if I tell you it’s no use, it is too small even to see, I’m sure you will be very impressed with my undaunted bravery.

Everyone wants to know what Paul’s thorn was. About every malady, physical or spiritual, every form of persecution or opposition has been suggested. The fact is he doesn’t tell us. We aren’t meant to know. Whatever it was, it was given in response to the heavenly rapture experience 14 years earlier, and it was meant to keep Paul humbly trusting. Spurgeon again has a helpful word:

“we have unveiled before us a portion of the secret life of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. We may not only see his bed-chamber, but learn the apostle’s visions; we may not only see his private infirmities, but learn the cause of them. Let us not, however, be actuated by so low a motive as mere curiosity, while we gaze upon the open secret; let us remember that the apostle never intended to amuse the curious, when he penned these words, but he wrote them for a practical purpose. Let us read them with a desire to be instructed by them, and may the Holy Spirit teach us to profit. This record was not sent to us merely that we should know that this eminent servant of Christ had abundant revelations, or that he suffered a thorn in the flesh, but it was written for our profit.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

We learn from this that pride is more dangerous than thorns, and God may give us the good gift of a thorn to keep us trusting in him alone and not in ourselves or our past experiences.

Satan’s Angel

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul parallels his description of the thorn in the flesh with ‘an angel of Satan to harass him’. The word here is the same one used of our Lord in his treatment at the hands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,

A demonic messenger was sent to strike him, to buffet him. This too is startling; that God’s good gift to him is Satan’s emissary. So who sent this Satanic thorn to pummel Paul? Was it Satan or God? Paul’s answer is ‘yes’. The thorn was sent by Satan, and it was a gift from God. We must remember that Satan is a created being, part of God’s creation, over whom God is omnipotent and sovereign.

We could think of the evil action of Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery,

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The brothers intended evil, but God intended good. We could think of the first chapters of Job, when God instigated Satan to test him. We could even think of Judas; when Satan himself entered Judas, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas, under control of Satan, sold Jesus out to be executed. And we know from Colossians that Jesus death [canceled…]

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Satan incited Judas to betray Jesus to the cross, the very thing that secured our forgiveness and disarmed and conquered the powers of darkness. This is clearly a case, as Jesus predicted:

Matthew 12:26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Satan, in seeking to destroy Jesus, brought about the even that set us free from his power and sealed his own fate.

The early church understood:

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This proved to be the case for Paul. Satan’s angel no doubt intending to discourage and destroy Paul, actually was a gift of God that crushed Paul’s pride and secured his utter weak dependence on the Lord alone. God wields circumstances, sufferings, even Satan himself to bring about his good ends. As Paul said in the beginning of this book, about his affliction in Asia,

2 Corinthians 1:8 …we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

The devil is a tool in the hand of the sovereign Lord to wean us away from our self sufficiency and trust him completely.

Our self-exaltation is more deadly even than demonic oppression.

Persistent Prayer for Deliverance

Don’t misunderstand; Paul didn’t look for this thorn; Paul wasn’t asking to be abused by a satanic emissary. Quite the contrary.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Here again the apostle demonstrates that authentic ministry is ministry shaped by the cross. Genuine ministry follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, in dread of the cross, three times

Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Paul pleaded with the Lord Jesus three times about this that it should leave him. This is one of the few places we see prayer directed to Jesus rather than the Father, because Paul found in him a high priest who is able to sympathize with his weakness (Heb.4:15-16). He desired that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken away. Like his Lord, he did not receive the answer he hoped for. Rather, like his Lord, he was strengthened to endure what was necessary for him to endure. Like his Lord Jesus, he would bring glory to God not by escaping the unwanted trial, but by persevering through it. He was promised sufficient grace to meet the trial.

Do we underestimate the danger of our own hearts, of our self-important thoughts? Do we rightly estimate the deadly disease of pride? Likely none of us have had the rapturous experience that Paul had, and yet we allow ourselves to be puffed up beyond measure. It is God’s grace that uses a thorn to deflate our self-obsession so that we embrace weakness as the way to glorify God.

***

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

February 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are You Afraid Of? (Matthew 10:28)

01/24 Jesus; What to Fear; Fear God (Mt.10:28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210124_jesus-what-to-fear.mp3

What Do You Fear?

What are you afraid of? Many fear disease, fear danger, fear loss, fear failure, fear rejection, fear people, fear disappointing others, fear being alone… the list could go on and on.

What are you afraid of? Fear is a natural and normal part of our human existence. Some fears help keep us safe. A healthy fear of heights may keep you from getting to close to the edge and falling. Fear of the dark may keep you from stubbing your toe. Fear of snakes might prevent you from getting bit.

In Mark 4,

Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Fear of drowning is a legitimate fear. Fear of death, fear of violent storms and shipwreck are all reasonable things to be afraid of.

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

The disciples had something real to fear. But Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and tells them not to be afraid.

In Mark 6, Jesus was not in the boat. They were again out on the sea, again facing a storm, this time in the dark, this time alone.

Mark 6:47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. …

The disciples, in the boat battling the storm see a figure approaching them across the water. We already know the story, but put yourself in their boat. That’s terrifying. They thought it was a ghost, a phantasm, a spectre, a spirit. Something unnatural, spiritual, other-worldly. They were rightly afraid.

Mark 6:50 …But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,

Do Not Fear What Is Frightening

Do not be afraid. In John 14, when Jesus tells them that he is leaving and they cannot follow, he says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jesus commands us ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not fear.’ How? How do we not fear things that are legitimately frightening?

Sheep Among Wolves (Matthew 10)

Look with me to Matthew 10. Jesus tells us what’s coming. He says in verse 16,

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

If there is one wolf that gets in to the sheep pen, the sheep have much to be afraid of. But here Jesus says he is sending each of us as sheep into the midst of a pack of wolves. One wolf in the sheep pen and one sheep is likely to be torn and carried off, but the rest may hope to escape. But one sheep sent into a pack of hungry wolves has no chance. That’s what Jesus prepares us, his followers for.

Matthew 10:17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

You will be arrested. You will be beaten. You will be put on trial and testify. But do not be anxious. Don’t be afraid.

Matthew 10:21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

You can really trust no one. You will be hated. You will be persecuted. You may have to flee. You may be betrayed and even put to death. Endure to the end.

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Jesus is the teacher, we are his learners. Jesus is the Master, we are his slaves. Jesus was misunderstood, maligned, mistreated, betrayed, taken into custody, falsely accused, beaten, executed. If you follow Jesus, you can expect the same. Encouraging? Frightening? Listen to Jesus’ conclusion:

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

Jesus prepares us for the worst, and our response is to not be afraid. There will be a tendency when under pressure to be silent, to go into hiding, to lay low. Jesus tells us that we should have no fear, that we should not be afraid, but rather boldly and openly proclaim. ‘So have no fear of them.’

The Freedom of a Greater Fear

In verse 28, Jesus gives us the ground for our freedom from fear in the face of mortal danger.

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Jesus tells us both what not to fear, and whom to fear. Freedom from fear comes from a greater fear.

You understand how this works? Fear can be overcome by a greater fear. The Princess Bride throws herself into the water and begins to frantically swim, seeking to escape from her kidnappers. But when she discovers these are eel infested waters, she is willing to be brought back on board and risk her fate with Vincini’s band rather than be eaten by the shrieking eels. The greater and more certain threat makes her willing to endure the lesser threat.

Consider this; if you are deathly afraid of skydiving, your fear may prevent you from jumping out of the plane. But if you have a greater fear of snakes, and you discover that the plane is teeming with the slithering creatures, you may gladly take leave of the plane and entrust yourself to your parachute. Our fears can be overcome by a greater fear.

How many of you would jump out of the plane? How many of you would stay on board and face the snakes? Much of this is subjective, based on perceived danger. People perceive danger differently. But there is real objective danger.

Luke records Jesus’ words in Luke 12:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

The fear of being killed is real. This is sobering when we consider the various ways the apostles were tortured and executed. But legitimate fears are overshadowed, overturned, overthrown by a greater fear. Those who can kill the body is high up the list of things to fear. But the fear of God should be greater. In fact, Jesus says we should not fear death, but we should only fear God.

Fear God the Judge

Our greatest threat is not disease, disaster, poverty, famine, or war. God is our greatest threat, the real, objective, all powerful and eternal danger. God has the authority to cast our souls into hell, and it would be right for him to do it! As the Judge of all the earth, it is what we deserve. We all have sinned and fail to give God glory. We were dead in our sins, in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, …by nature children of wrath. We deserve hell. It’s what we have earned by our God rejecting, God ignoring, God belittling hearts.

It is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that he took our punishment on the cross, that offers any hope of escape from what we rightly deserve. And if we would look to Jesus on the cross, God forsaken, crushed, shamed, abandoned, our jaws would drop in stunned horror at he price that was paid for us. A look to the cross should remind us to fear the Lord.

Re-Calibrating Our Fears

Throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to fear the Lord, and the wisdom literature tell us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Ps.111:10; Pr.1:7; 9:10; 15:33). We are commanded and instructed to fear God because our perception of danger is skewed and needs to be corrected. We naturally fear the wrong things. We must continually re-calibrate our fears by the truth of God’s word.

Fear Self-Deception

Jesus goes on in Matthew 10 to say:

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

We ought to fear the real possibility of deceiving ourselves, and one day hearing those terrible words ‘I never knew you, depart from me’ (Mt.7:23).

Flee to Jesus for Refuge

Jesus is coming back. He will judge the living and the dead (Acts.10:42). He will give to each person according to what they have done (Mt.16:27). As 2 Thessalonians predicts;

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

The Lord Jesus is to be worshiped, and he is to be feared. Recognize that he will surely punish every evildoer, and you are an evildoer. Run to him for forgiveness, for cleansing, for refuge. Hide yourself in him. Be found in him, not having a righteousness of your own that comes from the law, but the righteousness from God which comes through faith in Christ (Phil.3:9). Obey the gospel and be safe.

Back in Mark 4, where Jesus was asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm, when the disciples feared for their lives, when Jesus awoke and calmed the wind and the waves with his word, it says:

Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They had been afraid of the storm. But they began to realize the one in the boat with them was more powerful, more to be feared than the raging sea. The sea was now calm, and they were filled with great fear. ‘Who then is this?’

Exhortation

Hear this exhortation from the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

***

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

January 25, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From

12/20 Jesus in His Own Words; Where He Came From; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201220_where-jesus-came-from.mp3

This week is Christmas! We remember, we celebrate, we wonder at the coming of Jesus. We are looking at Jesus in his own words; what he said about himself, about his coming. Last week we looked at why he came. Jesus said that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mk.2:17). He came to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk.10:45). He came to lay down his life for his sheep (Jn.10:10-11). Jesus came because we had gone astray; we were sick, lost, hopeless sinners. He came because we were that bad; to pursue us and rescue us, to redeem us and forgive our sins, he had to die in our place. That’s why he came.

Jesus came. But what does it mean to say that Jesus came? Where did he come from? Who really is this Jesus?

John was Sent and Came

In the beginning of John’s gospel we are told

John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John the baptist came. John was sent by God. But was he sent in the same way that Jesus was sent? Did John come in the same way that Jesus came?

John was the son of the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

Luke begins his gospel by telling us their story. Elizabeth was barren; she was unable to have children. They were both ‘advanced in years;’ they were getting old. Zechariah was chosen to burn incense in the temple in Jerusalem. In the temple, he saw an angel, and he was terrified. The angel told him that his prayer had been heard and his wife Elizabeth would bear him a son, and they were to name him John.

He was told that the boy would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. He would go before the Lord God ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah …to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’ (Lk.1:15-17).

Luke tells us

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

Zechariah went home to his wife, and she became pregnant. John was sent by God with a task. He was sent to ‘prepare the way for the Lord’ He was empowered by the Spirit of God for this task. He came into this world in a supernatural way; he was born to a woman who was barren. He was born to parents who were ‘advanced in years;’ beyond the typical age of childbearing. In much the same way as Isaac to Abraham and Sarah some 2000 years earlier, John was born in a supernatural way.

But in another sense he, like Isaac, was born in the natural normal way. His parents came together and he was conceived.

Uniqueness of Jesus

But Jesus came differently. Luke records the angel came also to Mary and announced:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. …

But Mary’s question to the angel:

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Jesus was different. Jesus would not be born in the natural normal way. Matthew records:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

John himself said:

John 1:15 …“This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John, who is 6 months older than Jesus (Lk.1:36), born 6 months before Jesus, tells us that Jesus, who comes after him existed before him. John was sent by God with a mission and empowered by God. The circumstances of his birth were supernatural, but he was conceived in the natural way. But John claims that his younger cousin who came after him existed before him. John didn’t exist before he was conceived. But John believed that Jesus did.

Angel Gabriel was Sent and Came

The text also tells us that the angel Gabriel was sent from God; he came. Gabriel said to Zechariah:

Luke 1:19 …“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

And to Mary:

Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

Gabriel was sent from God, but in a different sense than John was sent. We understand from Scripture that angels are supernatural beings created by God to serve God. Gabriel was in the presence of God; unlike John, he existed before he was sent. He was sent to deliver a message. He appeared, he delivered the good news, and then he left.

Both John and Gabriel were said to have been sent by God, they were said to have come. But in very different ways.

Jesus was Sent and Came

But what does Jesus have to say about himself? Last time we looked at John 3, a conversation between the teacher of Israel and Jesus. Nicodemus comes to him by night, seeking to understand who Jesus really is. He has concluded that Jesus is ‘a teacher come from God’ and that God is with him. Jesus points him to his own need; he is in need of total transformation, he needs to be born anew, born from above, born of the Spirit. Nicodemus is confused. Jesus says it is an issue not of understanding, but of belief. He says:

John 3:12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus is claiming to be telling Nicodemus heavenly things. He claims to tell him heavenly things because he claims to have been there. Jesus is claiming to be the one who descended from heaven.

And Jesus goes on to say:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Jesus claims to be God’s unique one-and-only Son, given by the Father. Jesus claims to have been sent into the world on a rescue mission.

Bread From Heaven

We looked at John 6, where Jesus compares himself to the manna in the wilderness, the bread God gave his people to sustain them those 40 years.

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus claims that the bread from God is a person.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus said:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Here Jesus again claims to have been given by the Father, to have come down from heaven. He claims to give up his own life to give eternal life to his followers.

I Am From Above

In John 8, where Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the Pharisees are questioning the validity of his testimony.

John 8:14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. …16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

Jesus claims to have been sent by the Father and with his Father’s authority to judge. Jesus tells them rather cryptically that they don’t know where he comes from and where he is going, but he knows where he came from and where he is going. He clarifies in verse 23.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus claims to have an origin different from the rest of mankind. I am from above. I am not of this world. In fact, Jesus here claims to be God the I Am, and that they must believe this or they will die in their sins.

Jesus promises that ‘if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death’ (Jn.8:51). The Jews begin to catch on to what he is saying. They ask:

John 8:53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

Jesus claims that the God of the Jews is his Father, and God the Father is glorifying Jesus.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham existed. Even more than that, he claims to be the I AM, the self-existent God. The Jews understood what he was claiming. He was claiming to be God come in the flesh.

John 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him…

Come From and Going Back to God

In John 13, in the upper room,

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. …3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

Jesus was preparing to die. He was preparing to depart out of this world to the Father. Jesus, knowing that he had come from God and was going back to God,

John 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It was Jesus’ self awareness of who he was, where he had come from and where he was going that motivated him as their Lord and Master to set an example for them of loving self-sacrificial service.

In John 16, Jesus told his disciples:

John 16:27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Jesus came into the world from the Father. His disciples were coming to believe in him, who he is, that he came from God.

Before the World Existed

In John 17,

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus prays and asks that his Father would glorify him. Jesus is the one who has authority to give eternal life, and eternal life consists in knowing God, being in relation with the Father and the Son whom the Father sent. Jesus asks that his Father would glorify him with the glory he had with his Father before the world existed. This goes back long before Abraham, even before Adam, before creation. Jesus is claiming to have existed with the Father before the world existed.

And Jesus prays for us:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Eternal life consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is being with Jesus, seeing his glory, participating in the eternal inter-trinitarian love between the Father and the Son.

My Lord and My God

In John 21, when Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus, Jesus says to him:

John 21:27 …Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Even doubting Thomas came to believe that Jesus is both Lord and God. John goes on to tell us why he wrote what he wrote.

John 21:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus eternally existed as God, enjoying relationship with his Father. And God gave us his only Son. The Father sent his Son into the world. Jesus came into the world to rescue us.

The Word Who Was God

If we jump back to the beginning of John, the Apostle gives us his understanding of what Jesus meant when he said that he was sent, and that he came.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

In verse 14, we see

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.

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

So Jesus, the Word, the only Son from the Father, was in the beginning. He didn’t begin, he simply was. He existed eternally with God, and he was himself God. And he came. He came to make God known. He came to make God knowable. He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to seek you! Let this sink in. Let this fill your heart with wonder and worship.

***

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

December 22, 2020 Posted by | advent | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Peace Among Men of Good Pleasure

12/15 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191215_peace-among-men.mp3

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift, the gift beyond fully telling, the gift that must be told over and over and over again, the gift we must remind ourselves and our families and one another to take time to treasure, to ponder and take pleasure in. The inexpressible, the indescribable, beyond words greatest gift of all time.

God’s Glory Primary

We are looking at the chorus of the angelic multitude as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We saw last time that what is primary is the glory of God. It matters that the first thing the angels said was ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ The highest goal of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Another way to say this is that the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus in his coming, in his life and in his death and resurrection was pursuing above all else the glory of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our insistence on glorifying created things rather than the Creator, who is worthy of all glory, to free us from being glory thieves who pursue our own glory, to restore us to our purpose of living all of life to the glory of God. This is primary. It’s important that we keep first things first.

Second Place

The thing the angel choir put in second place was peace on earth among men of good will. Peace is important. But only when God’s glory gets first place will we be able to enjoy genuine peace that endures.

What is this peace? And who does this peace come to? The King James version has this verse as

Luke 2:14 (KJV) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Songs like ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ and ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ have memorialized the words of the angels as ‘peace on earth, good-will to men’ That sounds global, like a declaration of peace to all mankind. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his poem on Christmas day 1863, during the American Civil War, the year his son had joined the Union army without his permission, and had been severely wounded in battle. You can hear him wrestling with these words in this verse:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Where is this peace the angels sang of? Is that what it actually means? Does the angelic declaration announce peace and goodwill to all mankind? What kind of peace is this?

The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. It answers the questions ‘what, where, and to whom?’ Glory or peace, in the heavens or on earth, to God or to men of good pleasure. God is glorified in the highest. To us is announced peace on this earth.

Peace

Let’s back up and take in this staggering scene:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

A multitude of the heavenly host. These are military terms. The multiplied hosts of heaven; the armies of heaven appearing in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear in battle array bearing a declaration of peace.

Peace. What is this peace they declare? We need to understand what this peace is. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:

Mark 13:7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. (cf. Mt.24:6; Lk.21:9)

So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace, not the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming.

Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Just ten chapters after the angelic declaration, Luke records Jesus saying:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (cf. Mt.10:34)

And he goes on to describe the conflicts he will create within families.

In John 16, Jesus talked of a time when all his followers would be scattered, a time ‘when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (v.2). Then he promised his followers:

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

So Jesus does bring peace to his people, but the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not international peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), not even personal peace and safety, but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace, peace that passes understanding.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This is otherworldly peace, not peace that changes our circumstances, but peace that conquers our fears. The apostles heralded this peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened…

And then he went on to recount the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of sins through his name. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus.

In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, that severed relationship is made whole; we can have peace with God. And this reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Good news of great joy!

Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]

To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise actually qualifies the peace. This is translated in the King James as.

KJV: …and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The comma makes it seem like there are two distinct things here, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And this should cause us to ask ‘What does that even mean? Whose good will?’ Is this the good will of man toward man; nothing more than the warm sentiment ‘I wish you well’ toward our fellow man?

The ESV and NASB both translate this phrase ‘peace among men (or among those) with whom he is pleased.’ Rather than two things, the good will defines to whom this peace comes. The NIV renders this ‘peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ Wycliffe gave us a very literal translation ‘in earth peace be to men of good will’

This word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ modifies and defines the ‘men’ in the sentence. Literally, it says ‘to men of good pleasure’ What does it mean to be a person ‘of good will’ or ‘good pleasure’? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (cf. Mt.12:18; 17:5; Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22; 2Pet.1:17)

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don’t deserve it, who didn’t earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.

Looking at other places this word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (cf. Mt.11:26)

Jesus rejoices in the gracious will, the good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The verb form shows up again in Luke 12:32

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God’s will. It is God’s gracious purpose, what God is pleased to do, what God wants to do and chooses to do. On earth peace to men who are objects of God’s good pleasure. This is not the well-wishing of man toward man. This is not that God is impressed with the performance of some or responds to the initiative of some. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to unexpecting ordinary shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night.

Luke 10:21 …“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God’s grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners. It was his good pleasure, his gracious will to reveal this to shepherds.

This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.

Response

Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another about it. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They went and found things exactly as the angel had promised; the message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! Good news of a birth, good news of a person. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.

Good news has been proclaimed to you. Jesus came for you. The shepherds provide us with a great example of how to respond to the good news. Be like the simple shepherds. Hear the gospel. Believe the gospel. Make the gospel known. Give glory and praise to God for the gospel. Give him thanks for his greatest gift. This is the sure path to lasting peace, to genuine joy.

***

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

December 17, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment