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Daniel 5:7-16; Wisdom Scorned

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

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

Belshazzar’s Confidence

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

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

Spitting in the Face of God

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

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

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

Incompetence of the Wise Men

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

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

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

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

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

Here again in chapter 5,

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

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

The Wise Queen

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

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

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

The Incontinent King

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

Rebuke of the Queen

The queen mother reminds Belshazzar

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

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

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

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

Lady Wisdom

We are reminded of the lady wisdom in Proverbs 1;

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

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

She says again in Proverbs 8

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

And Proverbs 9

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

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

Daniel Dishonored

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

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

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

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

The Fool and the Gospel

Belshazzar is the classic fool.

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

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

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

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

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned [I have sinned] and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

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

***

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

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

Daniel 4; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar

10/03_Daniel 04; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211003_dan04.mp3

Lessons From Nebuchadnezzar

We’ve been looking for several weeks at Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar’s own account of God’s humbling him. We’ve seen that God is sovereign, that God is able to humble the proud, even a proud dictator like Nebuchadnezzar, and that that is a good and gracious gift. Repentance is a good gift that God gives to those who don’t deserve it. God brought king Nebuchadnezzar to his knees, and Nebuchadnezzar responded with worship.

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

We saw in Daniel a picture of Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies; that although Daniel had every reason to be bitter and resentful toward this arrogant and evil king, he had genuine care and compassion for him; he desired blessing and prosperity for him. He was grieved at the prospect of seeing the consequences of his sins poured out on him.

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

We saw that it is the responsibility of rulers to practice righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed. Failure to do what is right and protect the vulnerable is to sin against God. It is evidence of idolatry, that we believe others exist to be used to serve our own self interests. It seems Nebuchadnezzar was more interested in building monuments for himself than he was in doing righteousness and showing mercy.

Daniel 4:29 …he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

We’ve seen that his refusal to acknowledge God as God or give thanks to him was an offense against God, and that this kind of pride is insane, a loss of reason. Worship of God is the truly rational thing human beings were made for.

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…

It’s All About Jesus!

Today I want to look back over this account of Nebuchadnezzar, and see how Nebuchadnezzar points us to Jesus, because the Bible is really all about Jesus. I wonder if on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught his two disciples about Nebuchadnezzar. We are told in Luke 24:27

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

All the prophets, including Daniel, point us to Jesus.

How Nebuchadnezzar points to Jesus; Image of God; Dominion

But how does this evil and arrogant king point us to Jesus? Look at Daniel 4:20-22;

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

When we read that kind of description applied to the wicked tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, conqueror of Jerusalem, plunderer of God’s holy temple, the one who took God’s people captive, the one who heated the furnace seven times hotter and threw the three obedient Hebrews in, it makes us uncomfortable. When we read that his greatness reaches to heaven, and his dominion to the ends of the earth, we rightly feel that this greatness and this dominion does not belong to a mere man, much less a proud idolater, a man of Nebuchadnezzar’s character. Only God is the rightful ruler of all. Daniel rebukes this proud king for failing to do righteousness or to show mercy.

Nebuchadnezzar was given dominion over birds and beasts, to the ends of the earth. This is a clear connection to the creation mandate in Genesis 1; humankind, made in the image of God to reflect the glory of God, blessed to be fruitful and given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen.1:26-28). Psalm 8 says of mankind:

Psalm 8:6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

This is what man was meant to be, reflections of the glory of God ruling his creation under him, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23).

One way the Old Testament points us to Jesus is to recount history in a way that leaves us longing for something more, something better. We have a sense of how things ought to be, and what we see falls so far short. That lack creates in us a hunger for the ideal, the way things were meant to be.

Provider and Protector

King Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a beautiful tree, an abundant tree, that provides food and shelter for all living creatures. He is the source and supply, the provider and protector of all creation.

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, was given a vision of a new and glorious temple in chapters 40-48. In chapter 47, he sees water flowing out of the temple that becomes a great river that flows into the dead sea and makes the water fresh.

Ezekiel 47:12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

The Revelation of Jesus given to John picks up this theme

Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus the Lamb is the one who is to be seated with his Father on the throne. He is the true source of life and protection. Nebuchadnezzar is a dark shadow pointing to Jesus, the greater king.

King of kings

Daniel even addresses Nebuchadnezzar as the king of kings in chapter 2.

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

Only God deserves the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. We hear the title ‘king of kings’ applied to a man like Nebuchadnezzar and we shudder. But as conqueror of the world, with kings of other nations subjected to his rule, the title is accurate. This title is used three times in the Old Testament, twice of Nebuchadnezzar, (Ezek.26:7; Dan.2:37) and once of Artaxerxes (Ezra7:12). But in the New Testament, this title is reserved exclusively for Jesus who is both King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim.6:15; Rev.17:14; 19:16). After the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19,

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.

Jesus is the true and holy King of kings. Keep in mind, some of the kings that Jesus rules over will not willingly bow to his authority, but all will bow. If you have a view of Jesus that is exclusively nice, then your view of Jesus is wrong. He is indeed merciful, gentle and kind;

Isaiah 42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

But he is also just, and he will judge and make war. His eyes are like a flame of fire. He will strike down the rebellious nations with a sword and rule with a rod of iron. He is the coming King who will right all wrongs and vindicate the oppressed and defenseless. We need a king who is strong, and who uses his strength to protect those in his care and to crush those who do evil. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Exalted and Humbled

Daniel 4:29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,

King Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself. He built great Babylon as a royal residence for the glory of his majesty. His heart was lifted up; he was full of himself. And he learned that ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing (4:35); and those who walk in pride he is able to humble (4:37). Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride, selfish ambition, he was conceited and considered himself more significant than everyone else.

Contrast this with Jesus. Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Nebuchadnezzar through selfish ambition lifted himself up, made a name for himself, made himself great. He refused to humble himself before God, and God humbled him.

Jesus, being eternally equal with his Father, did not cling to the glory of his position, but willingly became nothing. Nebuchadnezzar went from king of the world to a beast eating grass. But Jesus stooped infinitely lower; being Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, being one with his Father, he became human. He entered his own creation as a servant, ‘despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Is.53:3). He was rejected by his own people, abandoned by his friends, falsely accused and executed as a criminal.

Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself; but Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

God humiliated proud Nebuchadnezzar, but God exalted his Son high above every other name.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Worship of the Nations

Back in chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship his golden image (3:4-7). But in chapter 7, Daniel is given a vision of

Daniel 7:13 …one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In Revelation 5, we see the Lamb who had been slain standing, and all in heaven fell down before him:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

And in Revelation 7,

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29), the Lamb who was slain to ransom people for God, Jesus, the one who is God and who became man, Jesus the Lamb who died and is now alive is worthy of worship from every angel, every seraph, from all peoples, nations and languages. Jesus is worthy! Jesus is worthy of our worship!

***

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

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:6-19; Love Your Enemies

09/12_Daniel 04:6-19; Love Your Enemies; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210912_dan04_6-19.mp3

We saw last time a dramatic change had happened in the heart of this monarch. God did great signs and mighty wonders for him, God extended grace to him, to humble him, to bring him to acknowledge his need, to show to him and to all the living ‘that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’ (v.17).

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

Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

Nebuchadnezzar wrote to all peoples, nations, and languages to give all glory to God Most High. He sent out his testimony, his personal story of what God had done for him.

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

This sounds like a repeat of chapter 2. Except that in chapter 2 the king tested them by demanding that his magicians, the enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans reveal both the dream and its interpretation. And he threatened to tear them limb from limb if they failed to meet his demand. Here he tells them the dream, but they did not interpret it. With the dream and all their dream manuals, they ought to have been able to look up the symbols and give him an interpretation to his dream. It is unclear if this means they could not or they would not. It may be that they understood enough of the dream to realize that this was not good news for the king, and to be the bearer of bad news to a king like this was dangerous business – remember the tearing limb from limb and the superheated fiery furnace? They were out for self-promotion, or at least self-preservation, and they knew what communicating the contents of a dream like this might get them, so they could not bring themselves to tell him the truth. Whatever the reason, they again demonstrated the bankruptcy of their occult practices.

Why Not Daniel?

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.

Here the king confesses that the god he worshiped (among others) was Bel, after whom Daniel was renamed. He had been confronted with the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but as yet he had refused to repent, refused to turn from his own gods, refused to face the Most High God on his terms.

‘At last Daniel came in before me.’ The question we are compelled to ask is why?

Why did Nebuchadnezzar bring in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers? Had he forgotten what he learned back in chapter 2 that their wisdom was powerless and bankrupt? Remember, he had tested them by demanding they give him not only the interpretation, but also the dream. Now he returns to them and even concedes to tell them the dream if perhaps they can provide him with an interpretation. Given his experience in chapter 2, why did the king not summon Daniel alone? He alone had proved able to interpret dreams, and at the end of chapter 2, the king acknowledged that Daniel’s ‘God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery’ (2:47).

We saw in chapter 3, that although Nebuchadnezzar saw four in the fiery furnace, and the fourth was like a son of the gods, Nebuchadnezzar was careful to summon only the three to ‘come out and come here’. He was not yet ready to meet God. He was not yet willing to repent.

Young writes: “With this God, Nebuchadnezzar as yet, wanted no dealings. If others can interpret the dream, he will go to them rather than to Daniel. As Calvin says, it is ‘extreme necessity’ which compels the ruler to turn to Daniel ‘and hence we gather that no one comes to the true God, unless impelled by necessity.’”

Nebuchadnezzar understood that to acknowledge Daniel’s God as the Most High God meant that he was under this God, that this God has the right to make moral demands on his life. He was willing to acknowledge him from a distance, to recognize him as a god, but he was not yet willing to deal with him directly, he was not willing to surrender to him, turn to him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar obviously remembered Daniel. He held the title ‘chief of the magicians’. He confesses ‘I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.’ So either Daniel didn’t come immediately when summoned, or Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the other magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers, all except Daniel.

Daniel was a man of integrity, a man of character, a man of prayer. This kind of man made the pagan king uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised if you are a person of character and other people find it uncomfortable to be around you. You may not get invited to the thing that others are invited to. It might not mean that you are doing something wrong or have a holier-than-thou attitude. Someone who lives in the presence of God is a reminder of what we were made for, and our mere presence can bring conviction to unbelievers. Daniel may have been summoned out of desperation, as a last resort, after all the other wise men again proved incompetent. ‘He would never have given glory to God, unless when compelled by extreme necessity’ [Calvin].

The Dream

Daniel 4:9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

We could easily see the connection with the dream in chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was told

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

But here is where the dream gets troubling.

Daniel 4:13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

Notice in verse 15 the shift between the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, referring to the tree, to the personal pronoun ‘him’. The tree is a metaphor for a man, and he will be cut down, reduced to a stump, shackled, driven insane.

No wonder the wise men of Babylon hesitated to interpret the dream!

Daniel 4:18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.

Daniel also hesitated, but for a very different reason. He was not concerned for himself, but for the king. The wise men were seeking self-promotion, self-preservation. Daniel’s eyes were not on himself. He was dismayed and alarmed by what this dream meant for the king.

Compassion for a Proud Enemy

Daniel 4:19 …The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Nebuchadnezzar could see the grief this dream brought to Daniel. He had complete confidence that Daniel could tell him what the dream meant, and he encouraged him to do so without fear. Daniel’s answer? “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!” Daniel evidently cared deeply for the king, and he wished the dream applied to the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar.

Let’s put this in context; Nebuchadnezzar was the king who crushed Jerusalem, who was responsible for uprooting Daniel and his friends and transplanting them into a foreign land and culture. We aren’t told what happened to Daniel’s parents, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that they were killed by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers. Whatever happened to them, it seems Daniel never saw them again. In fact, Daniel never saw his homeland again. We are not told if Daniel and his friends were actually castrated, but they were put in the care of the chief of the eunuchs, and there is no record of Daniel marrying or having children, even though the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon:

Jeremiah 29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Daniel’s people were the conquered enemies of king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had every reason to harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, both personal and national toward the king.

The king was evil. You don’t become absolute ruler over the known world by being nice. In 2 Kings we read that because King Zedekiah of Jerusalem rebelled against him, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city for a year and a half, literally starving them out. Zedekiah was captured, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He had Zedekiah’s sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then they gouged out his eyes and brought him in chains to Babylon.

This is the king who was ready to rip every wise man in his kingdom limb from limb and turn their homes into outhouses. And remember, this edict applied to Daniel and his friends. This is the king whose mightiest soldiers were burned to death because in a rage he had his furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, and remember, the soldiers died because they actually carried out the king’s order of throwing Daniel’s three friends into the burning fiery furnace.

How do you respond when you hear news that this evil and exceedingly proud king is about to be cut down and utterly humiliated? Your response will show what is truly in your heart. Daniel was genuinely free of any bitterness or resentment. He genuinely loved this pagan king. He was dismayed at the thought of the humiliation of the king.

How? Nebuchadnezzar certainly never apologized for the atrocities he committed against Daniel, his family, his friends, his people. How could Daniel release him from that infinite debt? How could he genuinely love and care for this evil man?

God is Sovereign and No One is Beyond Hope

Daniel knew two things. God is sovereign, and no one is beyond hope. God is sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar had done great evil. ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.’ But ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand’ (Dan.1:1-2). God was in control, bringing about events for his glory, and for the ultimate good of his people, and for the nations. This, by the way, is the context of the oft misquoted verse:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Daniel probably couldn’t see as clearly as we, over 2,500 years later can see, how God was at work in his circumstances, but he trusted in a God who was in absolute control over every atom in his universe, and even over the will of this evil king. This was the lesson Nebuchadnezzar was about to learn, that ‘he Most High rules the kingdom of men’. Daniel trusted in the absolute sovereignty of God.

And Daniel believed that no one is beyond the reach of God. Jeremiah had instructed Daniel and his friends to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf…’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel did not merely go through the motions of seeking the welfare of Babylon. It came from his heart. He truly cared. He cared about this hard and ruthless king. He could look the king in the eye and say ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!’

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, prophesied that God was able to remove a heart of stone and give in its place a heart of flesh (Ezek.11:19; 36:26). Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, and was shown that God is able to make dead things live again. Daniel recognized that if there is hope for hard and dead faithless Israel, maybe there is hope for this heard hearted pagan king.

Here’s something to think about. Daniel knew that the humiliation of the king was temporary and would serve a good purpose. It was revealed to him that it would only last for 7 years, and only ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Through this humiliation the king would come to know God; it was for his ultimate good, and as a testimony to the nations. But the prospect of the humbling of the king still grieved and dismayed Daniel. He truly loved the king and didn’t want to see him hurt.

Daniel here provides a great picture of what the teaching of Jesus looks like in real life.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

***

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

September 14, 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 1:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God

05/02_Daniel 01:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210502_dan01_1-4.mp3

Faithful God

Daniel is a book about God. The Lord is the one true God. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, sovereign over the nations. He alone is God over all

And God is faithful to his promises. We can have hope, we can take confidence because God will always make good on his word. He will do what he says he will do, every time. You can bank on it. That is faith. Paul defines faith by the example of Abraham in Romans 4.

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.

Promised Blessings and Curses

Back in Deuteronomy 28, before God brought his people into the promised land, God gave his people his word, promises.

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

God promised to bless his people if they would walk with him in fellowship, in obedience. But he also promised consequences for disobedience and betrayal.

Deuteronomy 28:14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

God was very specific with his promises;

Deuteronomy 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,

Their consequences would even affect the next generation.

Deuteronomy 28:36 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.

God promised to bless his people if they walked in obedient relationship with him. But he warned that he would give them into the hands of idolaters if they chose to go after false gods.

Hezekiah and Assyria

Around 701 BC, we see a specific instance of this playing out, recorded by Isaiah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria had taken all the fortified cities of Judah. On defeating Lachish, he sent word to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem that they were next. He warned him not to trust in an alliance with Egypt, and not to trust in the Lord their God, because the Lord had sent him to destroy the land (Is.36:6,10).

Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

In dependence on the Lord alone, he asked God to defend the honor if his great name so that he would get glory among the nations.

God’s answer came.

Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord alone, and God alone wrought a great defeat of the Assyrian army.

Hezekiah and Babylon

But only two chapters and about 4 years later (705 BC), in Isaiah 39,

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Assyria was the world power, but Babylon was seeking independence. No doubt word had come to them about the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem. Babylon sent a present, seeking an alliance. Hezekiah, who responded to the threatening Assyrian letter with prayer and dependence on God, responded to the flattering Babylonian letters differently.

Isaiah 39:2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

Hezekiah missed an opportunity to give glory to God for the defeat of the Assyrians. Instead he flexed his own muscles, showing off his wealth and military might, showing them what they had to gain by a political alliance with Israel.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

The prophet Isaiah was sent to confront the king over his failure to trust in the Lord, instead seeking the strength of a political alliance with pagan Babylon.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

God Keeps His Promises

100 years later, in 605 BC,

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

God is faithful to all his promises. He is faithful to discipline his people when they are disobedient to him. The carrying off treasures and captives in 605 BC is a direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

This may seem strange comfort, that the Babylonian captivity was a fulfillment of the promises of God. But when all is chaos and seems out of control, it is anchoring to remember that God is sovereign, he is still in control, he has not forgotten, he is active, he is keeping his promises.

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Daniel and his friends could lose hope and give up faith, responding with bitterness and resentment; asking ‘why me?’ But instead they chose to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances, ultimately for their good and his glory. This is not random chance and accident conspiring against us; this is ‘the Lord giving Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whose God is Stronger?

Notice what is happening here; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon takes the vessels of the house of God and puts them in the house of his god, in the treasury of his god. This was more than merely taking objects of inherent value, gold and silver. Kings would war in the name of their gods, and they would credit victory to their gods. A triumph in battle meant the gods of the victor proved stronger. They would honor their gods by taking the gods (idols) of their enemies and putting them in the temple of their gods.

This happened back in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in the house of Dagon their god. If you remember, that didn’t end well for Dagon or for the Philistines.

That is what is happening here; Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, so he plundered the holy temple. It must have been strange for him to enter a temple and find no images, no statues, but rather a throne with no one seated on it. In the eyes of the world, Marduk had triumphed over YHWH. But Daniel interprets this differently. He understands that this was exactly what was promised. This was the all-mighty YHWH fulfilling his own decree.

The Philistines learned (and Israel should have understood) that Dagon was no match for YHWH. Sennacherib was shown (and Hezekiah should have paid attention) that the angel of YHWH is mightier than 185 thousand Assyrians and Nisroch his god. Daniel understood that YHWH is more than capable to defend himself. His temple could not be plundered unless YHWH had given it over to be plundered. And this produced great hope and confidence. God still sits enthroned unrivaled, not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in heaven above. He is God over all. God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

The Tale of Two Cities

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel uses the ancient name ‘Shinar’. This connects us back to Genesis 10; Noah’s son Ham fathered Cush, and

Genesis 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod was a murderous warrior who established cities opposed to God. We read in Genesis 11,

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Babel in the land of Shinar was established in direct opposition to God and his commands. It was the proud attempt of arrogant man united against God to steal glory from God and make a name for himself. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; Mt.23:12).

Victory Through Defeat

Like Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:21-40), Daniel sets up his story as a competition between the Lord and the gods of Nebuchadnezzar, between the proud city Babylon in the land of Shinar, and the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, where God chose to make a name for himself.

But surprisingly, Daniel is the story of God’s victory through defeat; he wins by losing, he gains by giving away his treasures and his people into the hands of his enemies. He infiltrates the highest ranks of government by sending captives, boys of 14 or 15, to be trained in the language and literature of this pagan nation. His foolishness proved wiser than their wisest of men. The simple faith of these helpless young men in their omnipotent God changed the direction of empires and the hearts of kings and nations.

Hebrews recounts their faith;

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of …the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

God demonstrates his supremacy over the nations by the unlikely means of defeat and exile. But this is God’s way, who shows himself victorious by sending his best, his only Son into exile here on earth, not to be served but to serve, to learn our language, to confound the wisdom of the wise by his simple faith in his Father, to suffer for sins not his own, to go through the fire and come out alive as a testimony that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom.9:33).

God is faithful to all his promises, promises to bless those who walk with him in obedience, promises to curse those who turn from him. And we all have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:6). He became a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus all the blessings he deserves might come to us through faith in him (Gal.3:13-14).

***

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

May 3, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:3-4, 9; Power in Weakness

03/28 2 Corinthians 13:3-4, 9; Power in Weakness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210328_2cor13_3-4.mp3

Palm Sunday; Triumphal Entry

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate the triumphal entry, when Jesus rode in to the city of Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ (Jn.12:13; Mt.21:9). But Luke tells us that Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem, predicting its destruction ‘because you did not know the time of your visitation’ (Lk.19:41-44). Celebration mingled with sorrow.

It was not even a week later that the crowds, possibly some from this same crowd, cried out before Pilate ‘Away with this man, …crucify him!’ (Lk.23:18,21). The people wanted a king, but Jesus was not the kind of king they had expected.

In Matthew 16, Peter acknowledged Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ and Jesus promised ‘on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:16,18).

Jesus is God with us, the anticipated King, and his church will triumph. It was:

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

This is when Peter rebuked Jesus, saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Mt.16:22), and Jesus responded “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mt.16:23).

Peter began to understand who Jesus is, that he is the one who is God, sent out from God, the promised Messiah-King. But he couldn’t connect the conquering King with the suffering servant. He wanted a King without a cross. And Jesus said this was satanic deception.

Crown Without the Cross

Corinth suffered from a triumphalism that wanted the crown without the cross; they wanted to reign as kings but avoid suffering. They wanted powerful charismatic leaders. They were ashamed of Paul and his suffering. He seemed weak, his speech was unimpressive. And their desire for an outwardly powerful ministry was leading them astray from a simple devotion to Christ.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul is not defending his ministry; he is ministering. He is re-centering them on the gospel, on authentic ministry that looks like and sounds like and feels like Jesus and the cross. Authentic ministry must resemble the gospel it proclaims.

Strength in Weakness

In chapter 10 he said (with a bit of sarcasm):

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

The Corinthians accused Paul of being weak. Paul admits that he is meek, gentle, and humble – like Jesus, but that he also wages war with divine power. In chapters 11 and 12 he boasts in his weaknesses, and he concludes with a word from the Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:9 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. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Corinthians assumed that strength and weakness are mutually exclusive; if you are weak, you are not strong; if you are powerful, you are not weak. You are either one or the other; you can’t be both. Paul contradicts this thinking. Christ’s power accomplishes its purpose in weakness. Paul’s strength was not his own; it was in his weakness that the power of Christ dwelt on him. It was precisely when he was weak that he was strong.

The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Here in chapter 13, he gets to the source of this power in weakness.

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Christ, who speaks to you by means of me, is not weak toward you but is powerful in you. Did the good news I preached to you change you? Did Christ do a mighty work of transforming you by the gospel I preached to you? Were you changed? As he told them back in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The gospel, the word of the cross, is the power of God to us who are being saved. Jesus powerfully transforms sinners into saints through the gospel. ‘If anyone is in Christ, new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2Cor.5:17). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed (2Cor.3:18).

If the Corinthians were transformed through Paul’s ministry of the gospel, they have to admit that something extremely powerful happened among them.

The Source of Power in Weakness

Paul gives them the foundation of this life-transforming power.

2 Corinthians 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. …

Jesus was crucified in weakness; literally out of weakness. Jesus, in his humanity, in his humiliation, was weak. He was not weak in the sense of inability;

Matthew 26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

He has omnipotent power at his fingertips. Yet he did not count his equality with his Father a thing to be held on to, but he humbled himself. He became one of us. He chose obedience to his Father to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil.2:6-8). He was not inherently weak; he chose weakness in the path of obedience. He chose to surrender his rights. He took our weakness upon himself. He became weak, and it was out of that weakness that he was crucified.

Irony of Good Friday

And this is the great irony. The irony of Good Friday was that the crowds were eager to embrace Jesus as a conquering King. But when he failed to meet their expectations, when he was publicly displayed in weakness, flogged, beaten, mocked, clothed in a purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns (Jn.19:1-6), they rejected him, crying out ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’

When he was crucified, hanging helpless between heaven and earth,

Mark 15:29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness. The crowds and the religious leaders, the soldiers, and even those crucified near him mocked him in his weakness. He claimed to be king, messiah, savior. He can’t even save himself. He cant’ come down from the cross.

The irony of Good Friday was that as God in the flesh, he still possessed all power and could have come down, could have made a spectacular display of power, could have wiped out those who mocked him with a word, but he ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk.10:45). He was not sent ‘into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn.3:17). The irony of the cross was that he possessed the power to come down from the cross, but that would have condemned the world. In order to save us, he could not save himself.

The mighty power to save was unleashed in his embracing the weakness of crucifixion.

The Resurrection Power of God

Crucifixion in weakness was not the end of the story.

2 Corinthians 13:4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. …

Jesus now lives out of the power of God. Paul prays for us in Ephesians that we might know

Ephesians 1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

It was God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead. God’s resurrection power was displayed in Jesus precisely because Jesus was crucified in weakness. Had Jesus not willingly laid down his life as a substitute for sinners, there would be no resurrection. God’s power is displayed in Christ’s weakness. And it was precisely when Christ was weak that he was mighty to save. The cross is a picture of simultaneous weakness and strength. This is what Paul patterns his ministry after in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Just as Christ was crucified out of weakness but lives out of the power of God, so also Paul is weak in him but will live with him out of the power of God. Paul is in Christ. He was crucified with Christ. He no longer lives, but Christ lives in him (Gal.2:20).

Paul gladly boasts in his weaknesses because it is in his weaknesses that the power of Christ encamps upon him. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (lit. ‘out of us’)

Outward Show of Power

The Corinthians are not content with God’s power hidden in weakness. They want an outward show of power. That outward show of power is coming. 2 Thessalonians speaks of the time:

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,

That outward show is coming, but it will mean condemnation and not salvation. Jesus was crucified out of weakness, but lives out of the power of God. Now is the day of salvation. He will return ‘on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Mt.24:30), but then the day of salvation will be past, and he will be coming in judgment, and the people of the earth will mourn.

Paul says he is weak in him, but he will live with him out of the power of God toward the Corinthians. This future living with Christ out of the power of God is not pointing to the resurrection on the last day, but to Paul’s upcoming visit to Corinth. The crucified and resurrected Christ is mighty to save, but he has also been given all authority to execute judgment (Jn.5:22, 27). If they refuse to repent, he will come in judgment out of the power of God toward you.

But this is not what he desires. Paul does everything he does to build them up, not to tear them down. He doesn’t want to come in a show of outward power. He says down in verse 9:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

Paul is praying for their wholeness, their full mending and restoration. It would bring him joy if this letter brought about repentance and restoration so that he could continue to be seen among them as weak, and they be seen as strong. Paul desires that his ministry always be shaped by the cross. He desires to come in weakness, with the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He wants his ministry to look like Jesus, who paradoxically was crucified out of his weakness, but in that very weakness he is not weak toward you but is powerful in you. The seemingly weak and foolish message of the cross brings about powerful life transformation in all who hear and believe.

What is the message we bear? With our words? With our lives? Do we rejoice when we are seen to be weak and Jesus is seen to be strong? Do we never seek our own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved (1Cor.10:33)?

***

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

April 1, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, passion, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding

03/14_2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210314_2cor12_19-21.mp3

Paul’s Defense?

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, Paul confronts the danger of false apostles spreading a false gospel about a different jesus, receiving a different spirit. He is forced to defend his character, his ministry, his own integrity. At least that is what he appears to be doing. But is it?

2 Corinthians 12:14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

As he said back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. …

Not much has changed over the 2 years since the writing of 1 Corinthians. They are still behaving like children, and Paul, as their father in the faith, is willing to spend and be spent for their sake.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Paul is forced to defend his own integrity by appealing to his accountability and the integrity and character of his co-laborers in the gospel. Paul has been attacked, his character has been maligned, his credentials and authority have been doubted. He has been forced into foolish boasting to defend his character and his apostolic authority. But is that what he has been doing? Defending himself?

Not a Defense to Them

Paul says no, I am not defending myself to you. I don’t need to defend myself to you. You are not my judge and jury.

Children often know so much more than their parents, that their parents are uninformed and clueless; kids think they know better than their parents what is best for them. My wise parents often said to me ‘When you have your own kids, then maybe you’ll understand.’ Have you ever heard that? Have you who are now parents ever said that?

He has already told them in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul says ‘No, I am not defending myself to you. That would give you far too much credit. That would assume that you are competent to critique apostolic ministry.’ They have demonstrated their own incompetence by receiving the false apostles bringing another jesus, a different spirit, a false gospel.

It is not before you that I stand trial. It is before the Lord alone that I am ultimately accountable.

In The Sight Of God

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul says ‘we have been speaking in the sight of God.’ We are not responding to your demands and expectations. All the way back in chapter 1, he started this letter by saying:

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

His conscience was clear, by God’s grace and before God.

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

He speaks in Christ. It is ‘not I, but Christ who lives in me.’ And he speaks as commissioned by God and in the sight of God. God sent him on mission to them. And it is to God he is accountable for what he says. He had asked back in chapter 3:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

He said in chapter 4:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul lives openly, transparently, in the presence of God. He said in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

He is not commending himself to them. He doesn’t have to. His integrity is seen by God; he lives in the presence of God, in the fear of the Lord, who sees what is in the heart.

In chapter 7, he invites them in, to also live in awareness of the presence of God in their lives. He writes what he writes:

2 Corinthians 7:12 …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

In chapter 8, in matters of financial integrity, he says:

2 Corinthians 8:21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

And in chapter 10, he says:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

We live in the presence of God, to please God. He is our judge. Before him we stand or fall. Paul is not defending himself to the Corinthians. He was commissioned by God and carries out ministry in the sight of God.

All For Your Upbuilding, Beloved

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul is not defending himself. He is doing ministry in the sight of God. He is seeking to build them up. With his use of biting irony and sharp sarcasm in these chapters, it may not feel or sound like he is seeking to build them up, but that is exactly what he intends to do. And he reminds them, they are dearly beloved. He is not against them, he is for them. But sometimes the He wants to build them up, but the ground must be cleared of debris before building can occur. Sometimes existing structures must be demolished and cleared away before the proposed building can go up. As he said in chapter 10,

2 Corinthians 10:3 …we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Every stronghold, every argument, every proud opinion raised against the knowledge of the real Jesus must be torn down. The ground must be cleared. He wields God’s authority to build up, not to tear you down (10:8), but their false thinking must be demolished.

Apostolic Fear of Continued Division

Paul is ready to clear some ground.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Paul is afraid. He said he was afraid back in 11:3

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

He was afraid that they were being led away by satanic deception after another jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. Here he is afraid that when he arrives, he will find in them a proud divisiveness. He addressed the division, quarreling and strife back in 1 Corinthians (1Cor.1:11; 3:3). He is afraid not much has changed.

Apostolic Fear of Failure to Repent

He is afraid because the gospel changes people. He is afraid that he may not find them as he hopes, as genuine believers, transformed by the gospel. Throughout this letter he has been re-framing for them what authentic ministry is all about. He has reminded them of the gospel he proclaimed, and has implored them ‘be reconciled to God’ (2Cor.5:20). He appealed to them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’ (2Cor.6:1). He is afraid that they will have been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to follow a false jesus and a false gospel. He is afraid that when judged by their fruit, their conversion may prove to be false.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul fears that the fruit of repentance will not be demonstrated in their lives. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5-7, Paul confronted them over their immorality. He called them to ‘flee from sexual immorality’ (1Cor.6:18). He called the church, if someone claimed to be a believer yet persisted in immorality unrepentant, to remove them from fellowship with the church (1Cor.5). Repentance is essential in the life of the believer. Repentance is a change of heart and mind, a recognition that sin is sin against a holy God. We have all sinned and gone astray, we have all followed our own way. And every sin can be forgiven when we confess it as sin, when we agree with God that what he thinks about it is true. Paul told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We all have sinned. And every sin can be washed away in the blood of Jesus. Repentance is essential in the life of the believer; turning away from sin and back to Jesus; turning away from pride, from performance, from good works, from an ethic of earning.

These are not two distinct issues, divisive pride and sexual immorality, as if he is addressing the gossiping quarreling divisive group who entertained false teachers in verse 20 and the lustful sexually immoral group in verse 21. Bad theology leads to bad ethics. False teaching and immorality go hand in hand. Turning away from a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus leads to wrong thinking, wrong feeling, wrong acting. When our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, our hearts go after every kind of counterfeit.

Grief Over the Sins of Others

Listen to Paul’s heart. He is not self-righteous, gloating, rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked. He is not Jonah, sitting in the shade of his gourd, eager to see God pour out his almighty wrath on sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented…

Paul is broken-hearted at the prospect of sinners who have not found true forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Paul takes the persistent unrepentance of this church personally, as his own responsibility. He will be humbled as having failed to see the gospel take effect in them.

2 Corinthians 5:15 [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. … 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul’s pursuit and his heart is to see them built up into the image of Jesus, beholding the glory of Jesus and being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). He is willing to do the difficult work of confronting their sin to clear the ground for this building up that he is constantly striving for. He does everything he does and says everything he says for their upbuilding. Because he loves them.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision

03/07_2 Corinthians 12:13-18; Parental Provision; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210307_2cor12_13-18.mp3

Paul is pouring out his heart to this troubled church. They have put him on the defensive by giving a willing ear to false apostles preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (11:4). He has indulged in foolish boasting, to make a mock parody of the things that were celebrated by them, power, prestige, popularity, supernatural signs and wonders. Paul points to his perseverance under suffering for the sake of Jesus and in the advance of the gospel as the genuine marks of a true apostle.

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

I am not inferior, but I am nothing. I ought to have been commended by you. You experienced firsthand my authenticity. You saw my sufferings. Your hearts were transformed by the gospel I brought to you. I’ve endured with great patience. You ought to have known better, but I’ve put up with you.

Not a Burden

Then he says:

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

In what way did I denigrate you, treat you worse than all the rest of the churches? This one way; I did not overburden you.

He is picking up the issue that he dealt with back in chapter 11, his refusal of support from the Corinthian church. They were offended because he refused their money. There he said he robbed other financially poorer churches in order to serve them. He asked if he committed a sin by humbling himself by preaching God’s gospel freely as a gift. Here he asks them to extend grace to this injustice!

This was evidently a sore issue for them, as he brings it up now a second time. The Corinthians believed that nothing worth anything is free, and the more they paid, the more status and prestige they earned. If they could hire the best teacher at top dollar, they had bragging rights over others, and that teacher became obliged exclusively to the family who hired him. Paul refused to fall in line with this culture, withholding the gospel from the poor, selling out to the wealthy, becoming obligated to cater to their every whim. Rather, remaining ‘free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them’ (1Cor.9:19). He refused to cater to their culture, because their culture was an affront to the gospel itself, which is the greatest gift that comes at infinite cost to the giver, but is freely given to those who don’t deserve it. Any attempt to earn it or pay for it is an affront to God’s grace.

Ironically, even this commitment to decline pay for the free advance of the gospel was used against him. The false teachers’ spin was that he refused pay because he knew his teaching was sub-standard and worthless. They obviously were much better teachers; look how much they charge! Paul himself taught (1Tim5:18) that the worker is worthy of his hire, so Paul must know he is not genuine because he declines payment. They overlooked the fact that although it was a legitimate right of an apostle to be supported by those he served (1Cor.9), it was not required of an apostle to make use of that right; Paul was willing to ‘not make use of that right, so as not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:12).

Paul sarcastically asks them to forgive him the injustice of not charging them for his services.

Seeking Relationship

2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! 14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. …

Paul is writing from Macedonia, having just reconnected with Titus who gave him an update on the situation in Corinth. Paul is sending Titus back to them with this letter just ahead of his own visit to them, to give them a chance to prepare themselves for his visit. He re-affirms his commitment to his policy of refusing their support. He said back in chapter 11

2 Corinthians 11:9 …I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

He will not be a burden to them. Here he gives this reason; ‘I seek not what is yours but you.’ He is determined by his actions to demonstrate to them that he is not after their money. He is after much more than that, he is after all of them. He is seeking a restored relationship with them. He is not interested in taking anything from them. This ought to highlight the contrast with the false apostles who were all too eager to take what is theirs. They don’t really care about you; they are taking advantage of you for their own gain. Paul is seeking them, what is best for them, even if that is difficult and painful, even if it means he has to confront them and risk offending them. I seek not what is yours but you.

Saving, Spending, and Being Spent

2 Corinthians 12:14 …For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

Paul continues to talk in monetary terms, but he is talking about much more than money. He is seeking a restored relationship, and so he reminds them of their relationship. Back in 1 Corinthians 4 he said:

1 Corinthians 4:15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Here he reminds them of his relationship to them as a parent to a child through the gospel. The reason I haven’t been sponging off of you for my daily sustenance is that as your parent in the gospel, I ought to be treasuring up for your future. He’s clearly moved beyond talking about money here. There will be a time when he’s not around any more, and he ought to be preparing them to be spiritually self-sufficient without him. By saving up, he is talking about pouring into them, investing in them for a stable future when he’s gone.

He will most gladly spend and be spent for them. He will pay his own way if that is what it takes to make sure they really get the gospel of grace. But again, his language moves beyond literal spending of money. He is also willing to be spent, to pour out his energy and even his life for their good. He is interested in their eternal souls. He is looking beyond earthly provision and an earthly inheritance to a heavenly one.

He said something similar to the church in Philippi:

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

He is willing to be broken and poured out for their faith; to be entirely spent for their souls. Notice in both of these verses he is aware that ministry may cost him literally everything. He is willing to lay down his life for the believers (1Jn.3:16).

Hedonistic Spending

And in both of these passages notice the attitude that accompanies his sacrifice. He is glad; he rejoices. He is willing to spend and be spent, and he is most glad to do it. In verse 9 he said he will boast most gladly in his weaknesses. It is sweet to him. The word he uses is ἥδιστα; this is the root from which we get our word hedonism; to spend and be spent for their souls is not grudging toil; it is his greatest pleasure.

You parents understand this. Sacrificing for your children is no sacrifice; whatever the cost it brings you pleasure to provide for their needs and do them good. Paul is glad to pour out his very life for their faith, for their souls.

Love Lacking

He asks them this probing question: if I love you more, am I to be loved less? The translation loses some of the emphasis of the original. If I love you super-abundantly, am I to be loved less?

This word ‘superabundant’ occurs only 13 times in the New Testament, and over half of those in this letter. In 2:4 he speaks of his desire to communicate the super-abundant love that he has for them. In 7:13 he rejoiced super-abundantly at the joy of Titus toward them, because (7:15) Titus’ affections super-abounded toward them. And here again he uses this word to emphasize the extent of his love toward them. He loves them super-abundantly.

If as a parent he loves them beyond measure, and that expresses itself in not taking from them but rather spending and being spent for them, ought he be loved the less in response? In their culture it was a child’s duty to show gratitude, honor and love to his parents. He had fulfilled his duty; they had shamefully failed to show him the appropriate love in response. They wanted to obligate Paul to themselves by supporting him, but he is the parent, and they are indebted to him.

He had already addressed their lack of love for him back in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

And again in chapter 7:

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

And here he confronts their lack of reciprocal love head on. In the midst of correction and confrontation, he has affirmed his love for them repeatedly. If he loves them super-abundantly, ought they love him less?

Parental Betrothal

Remember, Paul has made it clear that he is not a jilted lover, wishing to win back their affection for himself. He is a parent, and he has betrothed the church as a virgin bride to her husband Christ (11:2-3). He is jealously guarding her affections to keep her from being turned away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul plays the role of the father of the bride; “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn.3:29-30). Like John, Paul is content to be spent, poured out, to be nothing, if only he can have the joy of presenting her a pure bride to her husband.

Paul the Crafty Deceiver

Verses 16-18 address another accusation that was being leveled at Paul in Corinth.

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

Not only are they offended that he won’t take their money, but they are also suspicious that he actually is taking their money. The spin here is that Paul is using the guise of a collection for the saints in Jerusalem to actually steal their money. It seems that, like Judas, who cared not for the poor, but was a thief and helped himself to what was put into the moneybag (Jn.12:6), the false apostles were eyeing the money that the Corinthians were setting aside for the poor, and wanted to get their hands on it. If they could convince the Corinthians that Paul’s collection was a scam, they could get access to more of that cash. So using cunning and deceit, they accused Paul of what they themselves were guilty of; cunning and deceit.

Paul expressed his fear in chapter 11, that the Corinthians were being led astray from Christ by satanic cunning. In chapter 4, he stated plainly ‘we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning’. Now he answers the charge dripping with sarcasm; ‘I was cunning and took you by deceit’.

His defense? He had been careful to be above reproach in all financial dealings. He outlined his policy of accountability in chapter 8, where he let them know that the other churches had appointed a brother to accompany Paul and oversee that their funds were handled properly. At the end of 1 Corinthians, he had invited the Corinthians to send someone themselves to do the same, and Paul was willing to step away and let them do it without him.

Here he asks:

2 Corinthians 12:17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

These accusations are absurd, and they know it. Paul and all those he sent to them have been above reproach.

Walk in the Spirit

He asks ‘did we not walk in the same spirit?’ The false apostles were encouraging them to receive a different spirit. Paul writes the Galatians and the Romans to walk in the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Paul and Titus walked in the same footsteps, controlled by the same Holy Spirit. This is in direct contrast with the false apostles, who walk in and promote a different spirit. Paul and his co-workers walked in gospel unity.

Paul responds to their accusations with dripping sarcasm, but even this it is saturated with his own tender affections for them and his self-sacrificial pursuit of their good. He is willing to spend and be spent, it brings him joy to lay down his rights to serve them.

How is your heart toward those who question your integrity, who doubt your intentions, who undervalue your relationship? Can you find joy in spending and being spent for others? Are you willing to walk in the Spirit, to display the gospel with your life, that although there is infinite cost to the giver, it is freely extended to those who don’t deserve it?

***

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

March 12, 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; While We Wait

01/03 Jesus in His Own Words; While We Wait; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210103_jesus-while-we-wait.mp3

We have been looking this Advent season at what Jesus said about his coming, and about his coming again. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to seek and to save us, those who were lost, gone astray, sick, sinners. He came to fix and restore and heal what is broken. Being fully and eternally God, equal with his Father, he came. He stooped down. He humbled himself. He became human. He became one of us to die for our sins, to bear our shame, and to give us new life. He came to rescue us, to set us free.

And he is coming back. He will return for us, as the groom for his bride, to take us to be with him forever. He went to prepare a place for us. His prayer to his Father for us was that we would be with him.

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.

How To Wait

Jesus is coming back for us! We await his return. But how should we wait? What ought we do as we wait?

Last time we saw from Matthew 24 and 25 that we are to be on guard so as not to be led astray (Mt.24:4). We are not to be alarmed, even though the world seems to be falling apart (Mt.24:6). Even if we are persecuted, hated, put to death, we are to persevere, to remain faithful to Jesus, to endure to the end (Mt.24:13). We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone everywhere (Mt.24:14). We are to to stay awake, to be ready, to be faithful with what Jesus has entrusted us with and to discharge our task (Mt.24:42, 44-46; 25:10, 21). We are to show our love for the Lord by loving our brothers and sisters, caring practically for their needs (Mt.25:31-40).

This is a tall order. Be on guard, be watchful, stay awake, be ready. Proclaim the good news to everyone everywhere. Be faithful to use the gifts he has given you and do what he has called you to do. Through love serve one another. Be faithful, endure even to death. How? How can I do all that? I don’t think I’m alert enough, smart enough, strong enough, determined enough. I don’t know, if it comes to it, if I would be willing to lay down my life for him. Is this even possible, what he expects of us?

John 14; Jesus is the Way

We started in John 14, where Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for us to be with him, and promised that he would come again to take us to be with him forever. Let’s go back to John 14 for help.

At the end of John 13 is where Peter brashly says that he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that he’s going to fail, he’s going to deny him three times before morning.

And then Jesus says:

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

Don’t let your heart be troubled. You’re going to fail, but don’t let that agitate your heart. Instead believe, trust, depend, rely on God, rely also on me. You can’t do this. You don’t have the strength. You must depend on God, lean in to God, allow God to work these things in you.

Jesus desires us to be with him. He goes to prepare a place for us. And he is coming back to take us to himself. And we know the way.

Thomas was confused at this point. Not knowing where Jesus is going, how could he possibly know the way? Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the goal, and Jesus is the way. Our end goal is to be with Jesus, and we get there only through Jesus. We must believe in Jesus, trust him, rely on him, depend on him, let him carry us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Jesus is our life. We live this life by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We live and walk in utter dependence on him. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in me.

Knowing God

Jesus goes on to say:

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

This time it is Philip who doesn’t understand. He wants to see the Father.

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Jesus is to be trusted in as well as the Father, because Jesus is inextricably related to his Father. He is one with his Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. He shares the same nature, the same essence or being as his Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. At the beginning of his gospel, John said:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus made his Father known. Jesus made his Father knowable. Jesus is the only way to his Father. Through Jesus, we can enter into relationship with God. As Jesus prayed in John 17,

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God. Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and the Son. We were made for intimacy with God, but ‘our sins made a separation between us and God’ (Is.59:2). Jesus came to take away our sins and reconcile us to God (Rom.5:10).

One day when we see him, ‘we will know him fully, we will see face to face. Now we see dimly. Now we know in part’ (1Cor.13:12). But we do now see, albeit dimly. We do now know, albeit in part. We get a glimpse, a taste now of the eternal reality we are meant to enjoy.

Abide and Bear Fruit

In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of branches on a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. Jesus is the vine, we branches. We are meant to bear fruit.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Abide. Jesus says ‘Abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing.’ Nothing. No fruit apart from abiding in Jesus. We must abide; remain in Jesus, stay connected to Jesus, draw life and strength and sustenance from Jesus. If we disconnect from Jesus, we wither. Abide in Jesus and Jesus promises to abide in you, and you will bear much fruit. Abide.

Abide in his love. He loves you. If you ever doubt that, just look to the cross, where he demonstrated decisively his love for you. What does it mean to abide in his love? The waterfall of his love is ever overflowing, pouring down, never ceasing. Many people work hard to put up an umbrella, to build themselves a shelter to block the flow of his love. Many step out of the flow and walk away from his love. Abide. Remain under the waterfall of his love, immerse yourself in his love for you.

The Word

How do we abide in his love? He tells us in verse 10.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

We abide by obedience. We do what he says. We keep his commandments. We listen to him. We listen. And our listening is rooted in relationship. We want to hear him. We want to know what he wants because we want to do what pleases him.

This is not earning by obedience. Notice his love comes first. ‘I have loved you.’ Now abide in my love. The love is already there. The love is not produced by the obedience; rather obedience is produced by his love.

Jesus draws the comparison with the Father’s love for his only Son. Jesus didn’t earn the Father’s love; he was already eternally loved. He obeyed his Father because he was loved. Obedience is a by-product of being loved. Because we are loved, we want to do what pleases him, so we listen to his words. This is abiding in loving relationship.

Jesus said back in verse 3:

John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We have been washed clean by his word. So we abide in him, and he in us. He says in verse 7:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We abide in him and his words abide in us. We want to know what he says, so we listen. We cling to his words. We rehearse, we re-read, we memorize. We let his words abide in us.

We tend to be unjustly jealous. The grass is always greener. We say that we only have his word written. We wish we had been there to hear him speak audibly, to hear his voice. Rather we should be amazed and grateful that we have his completed word written. So many believers throughout history have only had bits, pieces, sayings. Many lived while it was being given, before it was written. Many had limited access to only parts of it. We have his word quite literally from beginning to end. Those who heard it audibly would have to trust their memory; we can go back to the very words over and over again to check and listen and read and study. We are truly blessed!

Full Joy

Look at verse 11. Do you see the connection between his word and our joy?

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He spoke, he gave us his words to fill up our joy. His commands are not burdensome. Quite the reverse, through them he gives us rest for our souls (Mt.11:28-30). He came to give us life abundantly (Jn.10:10). Jesus is eager for us to find true joy, lasting joy in him.

Love One Another

His command?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Pass his love along. Love others with his love. Abide in his love for you, and then love one another.

Friends

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Friends. Jesus calls us his friends. Intimacy. Relationship.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus invites us in to his confidence. He invites us in as friends. Because he has given us his word, the word of his Father.

Ask and Receive

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

You are meant to bear fruit, so ask. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus he would cause you to bear much fruit for his glory. Back in verse 7 he said:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And in chapter 14:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And again in John 16, he says:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus is eager that we talk to him, that we pray, that we ask. He wants to fill up our joy as we bear fruit for him in answer to our prayers.

The Spirit in You

There is one other thread that runs through this passage that we must pay attention to. Back in 14:16, he said:

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

Jesus will ask his Father to give us his Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit will be in us. Not only are we to abide in Jesus and he will abide in us, and his word will abide in us, but also his Spirit will abide in us. In 14:26 he says:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. He will point us back to the word.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Again in John 16, Jesus says:

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit delivers the word of God. The Spirit seeks the glory of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit living in us to open his word to us and enable us to obey. We need the Spirit to empower us to bear much fruit to the glory of God.

Conclusion

Jesus is coming back for us. We are to be ready, anticipating his return. How are we to wait? Let not your hearts be troubled, but rather trust in him. He is coming back to take us to himself, to be with him. Relationship is the goal. If we abide in him, draw strength and sustenance from him, from his love, we will bear much fruit for his glory. We abide in him by his word abiding in us. We ask him to glorify himself through us. We depend on the presence and power of his Holy Spirit living inside. Abide and pray. Trust, depend on his Spirit. Press in to know him better!

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

January 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment