PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Introduction to Daniel

04/25_Daniel_intro; Introduction: Background and Context; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210425_daniel-intro.mp3

Sojourners and Exiles

We are going to dive into the book of Daniel in the coming weeks. Daniel’s central message is that God is sovereign over the nations. Daniel was written under persecution, in exile, when God’s people lived as strangers in a foreign land, and it teaches us how to live with integrity, how to honor God even when the world is against us.

Peter urges us,

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil.3:20). We are to live as sojourners, strangers, exiles. And Daniel teaches us how to be in the world but not of the world (Jn.17:14-16), not conformed to this world (Rom.12:2), to live as citizens of the heavenly kingdom in our time here on this earth.

God the Hero

But Daniel is not really about Daniel. It is not about the three Hebrews Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael. They are not the heroes of the story. It’s not about Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar or Darius or Babylon. The name Daniel means God is my Judge. The hero of the story is God, who is sovereignly moving history in the direction he intends, establishing kings and removing kings. It is God who crushes the proud. It is God who preserves and protects the humble, who delivers his people, who can even grant repentance to

sending his sinful people into exile and watching over them even in exile. God is getting glory among the nations.

Saints On Mission

Daniel and his three friends were probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, when their city came under foreign control, they were torn from their homes, uprooted, transplanted to a distant land with a different language, different customs, different culture, different beliefs, different gods. Their lives were in danger. They were under extreme pressure from all sides. They likely never saw their parents again.

And yet God was using them to write history, to change history. God was sending them on a mission to infiltrate the enemy of Israel, not to conquer the enemy but to win them, to bring them good news about the supreme and sovereign God over all. He was sending them out, out of their comfort to be a light to the Gentiles (Is.42:6).

Dependence on God in Prayer

And Daniel teaches us to depend on God. Daniel teaches us how to pray. Daniel models the discipline of prayer, consistency in prayer even in the face of opposition, persistence and perseverance in prayer, emergency prayer in terrifying situations, prayer for wisdom and understanding, prayer of worship, prayer of confession and claiming the promises of God, prayer of intercession for others. We have much to learn from Daniel about dependence on God in everything.

Background of Israel

To understand Daniel, we need to understand some of the background and context of the events we will read about.

God delivered his people from Egypt to be his people, so that he could live among them, be their God with them. He commanded them to build him a tent so he could dwell in their midst. He promised to give them the land. Under Joshua (1406 BC), God brought the people in to possess the land of Canaan. Under David (1010-971BC) he gave them victory over their enemies. David desired to build God a house, but instead God promised to build David a house; to establish his dynasty forever. David’s son Solomon (971-931BC) was the one who would build the permanent version of the tabernacle; the temple in Jerusalem. God said to Solomon:

1 Kings 9:4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’”

But because of Solomon’s idolatry,

1 Kings 11:11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

In 931 the kingdom was divide between North and South; Israel and Judah under Jeroboam and Rehoboam. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted 209 years under 19 evil kings ruling from the capital of Samaria, until God brought the nation of Assyria to destroy them.

The southern kingdom of Judah endured 345 years under 19 kings, 8 of whom at least attempted to follow God.

Pharaoh Necho defeated Judah’s army led by godly king Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BC. Josiah was killed in this battle, and his son Jehoahaz became king of Judah (2Kings 23:29-34). Three months later Pharaoh Necho deposed Jehoahaz and appointed his older brother Jehoiakim as king of Judah (2Kings 23:34-24:6).

King Nabopolassar of Babylon had been struggling with Egypt over control of the Middle East for several years; in 605 BC Nabopolassar was ill and forced to remain behind in Babylon; his son Nebuchadnezzar won a decisive victory over Egypt in May/June of 605 BC at the battle of Carchemish and then at Hamath. After defeating the Egyptians, he quickly traveled south to assert his authority over Jerusalem, demanding plunder; he was given some of the sacred objects from the temple and some young men of the royal line as captives. Daniel and his friends were taken in assertion of Babylonian authority over Jerusalem. Nabopolassar died August 15/16 of 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to be crowned king on September 6/7, 605 BC.

Jeremiah

Daniel and his friends would have been familiar with Jeremiah, who had been prophesying from around 627 BC through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. Part of Jeremiah’s message was that the prophets who said that God would deliver Jerusalem were false prophets prophesying lies (14, 23). Jeremiah even sent a letter to the captives in Babylon, saying:

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

We will see later in this book that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years became precious to Daniel, and a matter of prayer. Daniel and his friends became shining examples of seeking the good of the pagan city, praying diligently for its blessing, seeking to be a blessing to the nations (Gen.22:18), seeking the Lord with all their hearts, and holding on to the hope that God is in control and he will be their deliverer.

Ezekiel and the Second Deportation

Daniel and his friends were deported in 605 BC. Some years later, because Jehoiakim had rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops marched against Jerusalem and besieged it. Jehoiakim died, and in March of 597 BC, his son Jehoiachin who was 18 years old, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, who took him and his mother, his court officials, all the warriors, the metalworkers, 10,000 captives, along with all the treasures from the king’s house and all the treasures of the temple (2Ki.24:10-17). Ezekiel was captured in this second phase of deportation to Babylon; the Lord called him in Babylon to prophesy to the exiles there. Although Ezekiel may have been a few years older than Daniel, Daniel had already been promoted to a place of honor by the time Ezekiel came to Babylon. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name 3 times in his work; in chapter 14 predicting Jerusalem’s destruction:

Ezekiel 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD. …16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate. …18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered. ..20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

It speaks strongly of Daniel’s character to hear Ezekiel associate his own contemporary with godly men who lived thousands of years earlier.

Again in Ezekiel 28; in an oracle against the prince of Tyre:

Ezekiel 28:3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;

Daniel is held up as the standard of wisdom.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Ezekiel and some 10,000 other captives to Babylon, and set up Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Zedekiah reigned 11 years in Jerusalem, but he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In his 9th year, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 586 BC, Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in front of him, then his eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. The walls were broken down, the city and the temple were burned, and all but the poorest inhabitants were carried off captive (2Ki.24:18-25:17). They took the remaining gold, silver, and bronze from the temple as plunder.

6th Century Date, Prophecy and Jesus

The book of Daniel spans the timeframe from the first deportation of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC in to the reign of Darius who came to power in 522 BC. Daniel, who was deported about age 14; advised multiple foreign kings and survived a transition of empires. He likely played a role in paving the way for the decree of Cyrus to release the exiles to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC. He was thrown to the lions because of his faithfulness to God at age 83 and was preserved.

Both Jews and Christians have held that Daniel was a real historical person, who wrote this book in the 6th century BC. But Porphyry, an extreme critic of Christianity in the 2nd century AD wrote 15 books ‘Against the Christians’. In his 12th book he sought to discredit the book of Daniel. Looking at the precise details of his prophecy, specifically in chapter 11, which chronicle with surprising precision major events of history from 539 BC to 165 BC; assuming there is no such thing as predictive prophecy, he concluded that the accuracy of the account meant that Daniel was written after the events took place, sometime around 167-165 BC.

Anti-supernatural critical scholarship of the 19th century has taken up the cause of Porphyry while attempting to retain their Christianity. But their argument hangs on the unbiblical and anti-Christian presumption that there cannot be accurate and detailed predictive prophecy of future events. But if this is the case, what do we do with the accurate and detailed prophecies of Jesus Christ?

And Jesus was not silent on this issue. He said in Matthew 24:15

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Dan.9:27;11:31;12:11; cf. Mk.13:14)

Jesus confirmed that Daniel was a real historical person, that he wrote, and that he wrote accurate predictive prophecy long before its fulfillment. In fact, Jesus informed his hearers that they were to look for the yet future literal fulfillment of this specific prophecy of Daniel.

Jesus’ favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’ comes from Daniel 7:13, as does his answer to the Jewish high priest under oath;

Matthew 26:63 ..And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The testimony of Jesus ought to settle the issue for any follower of Jesus.

Outline

The book splits neatly in half, with the first 6 chapters containing stories about Daniel, and the last 6 chapters recording the visions of Daniel.

But there is more to the structure of the book. Chapter 1:1 to 2:4 is written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. 2:4 to the end of 7 is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, and chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew. If we take the languages as indicative of the intended audience, we recognize that while the book is addressed to Jewish exiles and deal with issues that primarily address the Jewish people, the middle Aramaic section has a broader scope, and brings a message of warning and hope to the nations.

We also see a mirror structure in these middle chapters; chapters 2 and 7 both record dreams, the kings of a 4 kingdom statue and Daniel’s of the same 4 kingdoms pictured as beasts. Chapters 3 and 6 show that while persecution comes from refusing to worship false gods, the true God rescues and restores his faithful people. Chapters 4 and 5 record the beastly pride of the kings, one is granted repentance which leads to worship of the one true God, and one which leads to a fall.

The final section looks at the future of Israel to the end of time. Throughout the book, we are pointed to the coming of the one Righteous Ruler who will reign forever and ever, who will receive the worship of all peoples, nations, and languages (7:14).

***

Timeline (approximate):

931 BC division of northern and southern kingdoms

722 BC Samaria (North – Israel) falls to Assyria

612 BC Nineveh (capital of Assyria) falls to Babylon

609 BC Josiah defeated at Meggido by Egypt (Pharaoh Necho)

605 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt/Assyria at Carchemish

—1st deportation of Judah (Jerusalem – South)

597 BC Jehoiachin surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar

—2nd deportation; (2Kings 24:12-16)

586 BC July 18, Jerusalem captured; destroyed

—3rd deportation; (2Kings 25:2-3; Jer.39:2; 52:5-7)

Daniel Outline / Structure:

1-6: stories about Daniel

7-12: visions of Daniel.

Hebrew/Aramaic/Hebrew:

1 Prologue; exiled, undefiled, exalted

————–

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

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

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

—-5 Belshazzar’s Pride & fall

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

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

——————-

8 Daniel’s 2nd Vision; the end prefigured

9 Daniel’s Prayer & God’s Answer; in mercy end the desolations

10-12 Daniel’s 3rd Vision & the End; how long?

***

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

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in His Own Words; The Unexpected King

01/10 Jesus in His Own Words; The Unexpected King; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210110_jesus-unexpected-king.mp3

We’ve been looking at Jesus in his own words; what Jesus said about himself; why he came, where he came from, that he’s coming back, and in the mean time how we should live while we wait for him.

Today I want to look at something else he said about who he is, who he claimed to be.

The Promised King

Jesus is the King. The Magi came to Jerusalem

Matthew 2:2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Jesus is the King, and he deserves to be worshiped.

The angel came to Mary and said:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Jesus is the great King, promised to sit on the throne of David. Jesus is the King who will reign forever, whose kingdom will never end.

The prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Jesus will shoulder the responsibility of governing. He will sit on the throne of David and establish it in peace, justice and righteousness.

The Prophet Daniel:

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came 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.

A Son of Man given everlasting dominion, a kingdom that will never be destroyed.

When Jesus was put under oath by the Jewish high priest, who asked:

Mark 14:61 …“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus affirmed that he was Messiah, Son of God, seated at the right hand of his Father, the I AM. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

History of Kings

To really understand Jesus, we need to understand something of the background of kingship, and the experience of Israel with kings.

After 400 years in Egypt enslaved, God delivered his people and took them to be his own, to serve and worship him alone. He gave them his law and they bound themselves by covenant to be his subjects and obey his statutes. He led them to the promised land, but they refused to enter in, and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 years later, after that disobedient generation died in the wilderness, God brought his people in to the land under Joshua’s command and the Lord delivered their enemies into their hands. After Joshua died, the people did what was right in their own eyes and worshiped the false gods of the people of the land, so God gave them into the hands of their enemies. When they cried out to the Lord for rescue, he would raise up a judge to deliver them. Once they had peace, they would again turn away from following the Lord. This time of the judges continued over 300 years as they spiraled worse and worse. Because of their corruption, God raised up Samuel to lead them, but when he was old and his sons were not godly, the people demanded a king to rule over them like the peoples around them.

1 Samuel 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

In their demand for a king, Israel was rejecting God as their king. God told Samuel to warn them what a king would be like.

1 Samuel 8:11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

A king would tax them heavily and force them into his service. After Saul’s disobedience, things went relatively well under David and Solomon, but after Solomon’s extensive building projects (and his many wives), the people were crying out for relief;

1 Kings 12:4 “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam refused, so after only around 100-120 years, the kingdom was divided between Israel and Judah. The history of the kings was disastrous, with only a few shining exceptions, and after 200 years, Israel fell to Assyria. Another 150 years and Jerusalem fell and Judah went into captivity in Babylon. After about 50 years of captivity, exiles were allowed to return and begin to rebuild the temple and then Jerusalem, but the Jews never fully regained their freedom, being ruled by the Persians for about 200 years, then successively by the Greeks, Egyptians and Syrians for the next 160 years. The Jews regained some measure of control for about 100 years under the Hasmonean dynasty, until conquered by the Romans in 63 BC, who appointed local puppet kings over the Jews. It is into this context and under the Roman Emperor Augustus and under king Herod the Great that Jesus was born.

Expectations of a Conquering King

The Magi announce the one born King of the Jews, which sends Herod on a jealous rampage, slaughtering all male children 2 and under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Joseph, warned in a dream, fled to Egypt and returned after Herod died.

Jesus is born King of the Jews. Jesus is the I AM, God come in the flesh, God with us. He is the sovereign, the omnipotent, the ultimate authority. He is the lawgiver and the judge.

Mary was told that God would give him the throne of David, and that his kingdom would never end. Expectations were high. John prepared the way for Yahweh. Jesus began to gather followers.

John 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

But among his closest followers, there was argument over who would have the highest positions of honor in his kingdom (Mk.9:34; 10:37).

He fulfilled prophecy by healing the sick, casting out demons, and feeding the multitudes. But in John 6,

John 6:15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus is the King, but not the kind of king they expected. Jesus will establish his rule, but not in the way they think. In John 7, Jesus’ own brothers seek to force his hand at the time of the Feast of Booths. They suggest he go openly to Judea, to show himself to the world. Again, Jesus declines the public spotlight.

But his disciples are convinced, and many in the multitudes are suspecting that he is the Christ.

By John 12, as he entered Jerusalem, the crowds

John 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

The crowds hail him as the King of Israel, and Jesus accepts the title in fulfillment of Zechariah 9.

The Unexpected King

But by John 13, things are turning. Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas, and even questions Peter’s confidence and warns him that he will deny him three times. He tells his disciples that he is leaving them, but they ought not to be troubled.

In John 18, Judas has procured a band of soldiers

John 18:3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

The King is confronted by an armed mob. I love this passage! Jesus the King confronts the mob in the dark and unveils his glory.

John 18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

What just happened? Jesus clarifies who they are after and volunteers himself. They are after Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus says ‘that’s me’. Literally, he says ‘I AM’, an echo of the divine name from Exodus, YHWH, the self-existent one. And when he says ‘I AM’, Judas, the band of soldiers, the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, with their lanterns and torches and weapons all draw back and fall to the ground. I wonder what they were all thinking at that moment! ‘What just happened? Why am I on my face? Did I just black out? Why is everybody on the ground and Jesus alone is standing, unarmed but in absolute control?’ Jesus unveils just a glimpse of his deity with the words I AM, and his oppressors are compelled to bow the knee to the King.

John 18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

Jesus, in absolute control, willingly gives himself up in order to protect his followers.

My Servants Would Fight

This time it’s Peter who forces his hand. Peter no doubt just saw everyone fall down at Jesus’ word. He has Jesus’ words that he would deny him ringing in his ears, and he is determined not to let that happen, so he pulls his sword and starts swinging.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus is the King, and Peter is going to do all he can to protect him from arrest. He is willing to go down swinging for his King. Peter understands the game of chess; sometimes you have to sacrifice a pawn in order to protect the king and gain the advantage. Peter is willing to be that pawn. But this is where Peter is wrong.

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Normally, a king would be honored to see his loyal subjects risking their lives to defend him. But that is not why Jesus came. Peter is not the one who will die today protecting his King. Jesus is a King come not to be served but to serve, not to have his faithful subjects give their lives to protect him, but to give his own life a ransom for rebellious subjects. Jesus is willing to lay down his life for Peter.

Upside-Down Kingdom

Jesus is King, but his kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. When his disciples were discussing who was the greatest, he said

Mark 9:35 …“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

When James and John were seeking to secure the places of honor in the kingdom;

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is omnipotent King, and he came with all power to seek and to save the lost. He came not to lord it over others, but to be the slave of others.

Later in John 18, now being questioned by Pilate;

John 18:33…“Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Jesus is King, but his kingdom doesn’t follow the pattern of this world. If it was a worldly kingdom, the servants would fight to protect their master. But Jesus the King is fighting for the lives of his subjects. And as their King, he resolutely determined to die to save them.

Peter’s Transformation

Peter didn’t understand. He didn’t get it. This sent him into a tailspin. This was so upside-down it was disorienting. He didn’t know which way was up. He ran away with the others. He followed at a distance. He denied he even knew Jesus. He ran to the empty tomb. He went into hiding. He went back to fishing. He was wrecked by the risen Lord when he met him on the beach, when he asked him if he loved him, when he invited him once again to follow him. Peter was beginning to understand what love was, and what it meant to follow Jesus.

***

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

January 11, 2021 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel Hope in a Broken World

03/15 Gospel Hope in a Broken World; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200315_hope.mp3

Our president announced this week a state of national emergency. The World Health Organization has officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic; as of yesterday there were 142,539 confirmed cases and 5,393 deaths worldwide [who.int]. There are currently around 2,000 confirmed cases in the US and 41 deaths, and those numbers are expected to rise. In response to identifying the first case of community spread in Utah, our governor announced the ‘dismissal’ of all students K-12, and colleges and universities are closing campuses and moving classes online. There is not a roll of toilet paper to be found in stores. Many people are afraid.

Suffering is Not New

How are we to think about all this? What do we as followers of Jesus do? Today I want to bring a message of hope to a hurting and broken world. But first we need to step back and look at where we are at and how we got here. Before we get to the good news, we should look at some bad news. Let’s give this some historical context. I found this list of 10 of the worst pandemics in history, and their death toll:

165 AD – Antonine Plague – Smallpox or measles? – 5 million

541-542 – Plague of Justinian – Bubonic plague – 25 million

1346-1353 – the black death – Bubonic plague – 75-200 million

1852-1860 – third Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 1 million

1889-1890 – ‘asian/russian’ flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

1910-1911 – sixth Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 800,000+

1918 – flu pandemic – influenza – 20-50 million

1956-1958 – Asian flu – influenza – 2 million

1968 – flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

2005-2012 (peak) – HIV/AIDS pandemic – 36 million

[https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/ ]

These are some staggering numbers. Why point this out? I am not at all trying to downplay this current pandemic. What I want us to see is the prevalence of death throughout human history. Remember this is just a top ten list; it obviously leaves a lot out. Suffering and disease and death is not new. We are not the first to face things like these. And we can learn a lot from history.

The Root of All Suffering

But to put this in an even broader context, I want to look at the global pandemic, the root cause that underlies all of these.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

The Bible has the answers to our deepest questions. Why? Why do terrible things like these happen throughout human history? Sin entered God’s good creation through one man. Death entered this world through Adam’s rebellion. Death spread to all people because all sinned. The wages of sin is death. The spread of contagious diseases that wipe out entire populations are not new. Fear and suffering and death are not new. God warned our first parents that enjoying relationship with him is life, but turning from him to follow other voices results in death. The death rate of COVID-19 is estimated at somewhere around 3.5%. The death rate of sinners throughout human history is 100%. Death is a fact we must face as humans living in a broken, fallen, hurting world. Let me give you a sobering word of encouragement; if the Corona virus doesn’t get you, something else will.

The Good News

We rebelled against a good and loving God. We brought the promised consequences down on our own head. But here’s the stunning thing. God himself came down. God entered into our disease ridden sick and dying world, not in a hazmat suit with a respirator, but in a susceptible, vulnerable human body. He actually took on flesh, he became one of us. In fact, he came so near to us that he contracted our disease. Galatians 3:13 says:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—…

1 Peter 2:24 tells us:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, …

2 Corinthians 5:21 says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he [the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus himself told us:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This is staggeringly good news. The God who we rebelled against and offended has come down,

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God came down on a rescue mission, to lay himself down, to actually contract our disease, to die our death so we could live.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Just stop and breathe that in. Whoever – believes – has – eternal – life. Eternal life. It will last forever. It cannot be lost or taken away. All who trust only in Jesus will enjoy his presence forever. Let that truth sink in deep and shape your souls and overcome your fears.

Here’s how the apostle Paul responded to this truth.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Genuine Belief

Do you believe this? Do you really believe this? Has this truth sank down deep to the gut level where it influences every decision you make? Is this what you know is the right answer if your pastor were to ask you, or is this a truth that fleshes itself out in the way you live your life day to day? You see, a crisis, a tragedy, a global pandemic shows us what we really believe.

Cyprian (d.258); Dionysius (d.264)

In the plague of Cyprian, 249-262, at the height of the outbreak 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in Rome. Cyprian’s (Bishop of Carthage) biographer wrote of the plague at Carthage:

Afterwards there broke out a dreadful plague, and excessive destruction of a hateful disease invaded every house in succession of the trembling populace, carrying off day by day with abrupt attack numberless people, every one from his own house. All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also. There lay about the meanwhile, over the whole city, no longer bodies, but the carcasses of many, and, by the contemplation of a lot which in their turn would be theirs, demanded the pity of the passers-by for themselves. No one regarded anything besides his cruel gains. No one trembled at the remembrance of a similar event. No one did to another what he himself wished to experience. [/wiki/Plague_of_Cyprian; Pontius of Carthage, Life of Cyprian. Transl. Ernest Wallis, c. 1885. Online atChristian Classics Ethereal Library. ]

One eyewitness of the plague in Alexandria, Bishop Dionysius records:

At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/ ]

While the response of many to the plague was characterized by self-protection, self-preservation, avoiding the sick at all costs, the response of Christians was different. Dionysius recounts:

Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/; https://erenow.net/common/the-history-of-the-church/8.php]

The conduct of believers so impacted the culture, that a century later, the emperor Julian wrote (AD362) to exhort the pagan priests to imitate the Christians in their charity:

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort… [https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_of_Julian/Letter_22 ]

1527 – Luther

In August of 1527 the Bubonic plague struck Wittenberg and numerous people fled in fear of their lives. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, remained in their beloved city in order to treat the infected. Luther responded to a fellow pastor and friend in another city: [https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/martin-luther-and-the-black-plague/ ]

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together …so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”

Luther saw one purpose of an epidemic as

also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. “

He says we ought to:

serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1 John 3:16].

He goes on to address our fears:

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He …takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles.”

[https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf ]

It is out of this period that Luther penned his famous hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

1854 – Spurgeon

In 1854 Cholera broke out in London in the Broad Street neighborhood, just across the river from the New Park Street Chapel where Charles Spurgeon was newly called to minister. He was busy preaching, serving his people, visiting the sick and dying. In 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, he gave this charge to Christians:

You cannot stop their dying; but, oh, that God might help you to stop their being damned! You cannot stop the breath from going out of their bodies; but, oh, that the gospel might stop their souls from going down to destruction! It can do it, and nothing else can take its place.

Just now, the cholera has come again. There can be little doubt, I suppose, about it being here already in some considerable force, and probably it may be worse. The Christian need not dread it, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death. Still, for the sake of others, he may well pray that God would avert his hand, and not let His anger burn. But, since it is here, I think it ought to be a motive for active exertion. If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad.

I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then. All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that —

There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

[https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-autobiography-of-c-h-spurgeon-volume-i#flipbook/380; Autobiography 1:371 ‘in sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, July 29, 1866’]

2019-2020 Wuhan China

On January 24, 2020 Pastor Paul Peng shared the gospel over the phone with a Zhang, a woman from Wuhan who while visiting her son in Chengdu, China, had become ill and was quarantined. Five days after putting her trust in Christ, she became the first coronavirus fatality in Sichuan province. Peng held a memorial service over a videoconferencing platform, preaching to about 100 of her friends and family that ‘calamity should lead people to pray not only for God to rescue them, but also for people to repent and turn to God’ [https://world.wng.org/2020/02/seeking_peace_in_sickness ]

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

I want to close today with the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism, a teaching tool for Christians in the form of questions and answers.

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own (1Cor.6:19-20), but belong—body and soul, in life and in death (Rom.14:7-9)—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (1Cor.3:23; Titus2:14).

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood (1Pet.1:18-19; 1Jn.1:7-9; 2:2), and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil (Jn.8:34-36; Heb.2:14-15; 1Jn.3:1-11). He also watches over me in such a way (Jn.6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2Thess.3:3; 1Pet.1:5) that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven (Matt.10:29-31; Lk.21:16-18); in fact, all things must work together for my salvation (Rom.8:28).

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life (Rom.8:15-16; 2Cor.1:21-22; 5:5; Eph.1:13-14) and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him (Rom.8:1-17).

***

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

March 16, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Necessity of Thanksgiving

11/18 Necessity of Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181118_thanksgiving-necessity.mp3

The History of Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a great holiday, and not just because I like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly and pumpkin pie.

Our thanksgiving holiday has a rich history. After the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in October of 1777, the Continental Congress recommended that a national day of thanksgiving be observed. This is the text of that proclamation.

For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

It was Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 during the civil war that was the beginning of our annual thanksgiving holiday.

His proclamation points us to “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.

He invites us to observe it “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. …offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings…”

Thanksgiving and praise is “justly due to Him.” The earlier proclamation began by stating that “it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received.”

The authors of these proclamations recognized something very important. Thanksgiving is justly due to God. It is our indispensable duty to give thanks for benefits received. It is wrong to fail to give thanks to him.

Thanksgiving is Serious Business

You see, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. We commit sins like lying and stealing and cheating, slander and hatred and lust. But we also sin by omitting what we ought to do.

Romans 1 shows us just how serious this is.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

…21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Do you hear in these verses why the wrath of God is revealed from heaven? A failure to acknowledge God and give him thanks unleashes the wrath of God against humanity! Thanksgiving is our duty. And we are so prone to forget the source from which our blessings come. We are “habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.”

Official Thanksgiving

Because giving thanks to God is such an important duty, and because we are so prone to negligence in it, at pivotal moments in the history of the nation of Israel, its leaders appointed people to give thanks as their full time job.

When David brought the ark of the covenant in to Jerusalem, we are told:

1 Chronicles 16:4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. 8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

…36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. 37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required,

…41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose ‘heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord,’ (2Chr.17:6) when a great multitude came against him in battle, he sought the Lord for help, and

2 Chronicles 20:21 …he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD’ (2Chr.29:2) restored the worship of God to the temple in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 31:2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise.

After the Babylonian captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah were sent to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

When the walls of the city were rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed:

Nehemiah 12:24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.

…27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

…31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. …

Thanksgiving was serious business, and it was taken seriously. But why the official appointment of people to thanksgiving? Shouldn’t all the people give thanks from the heart? Are they hiring paid professionals to do the thanksgiving for them so they don’t have to worry about it?

Clearly that was not the intent. They served as worship leaders, to lead all the people in giving thanks. This was a strategic way to ensure that the giving of thanks to God was never neglected. This was set in place as a reminder for all the people, because we are prone to forget.

Are there any reminders you have established in your life and routine to encourage you to give thanks? The weekly rhythm of gathering for worship is one simple way. Gather with God’s people week by week to acknowledge him, to give him thanks. Establish daily rhythms of thanksgiving together at meals, in the mornings, at bedtime. Write a note on the bathroom mirror. Set a reminder on your phone, or get a prayer app. Recognize the importance of giving thanks to God for all his good gifts, and find something that works for you to remind you regularly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a command.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you give thanks. ‘But you don’t know what’s going on in my life right now. You don’t understand my struggles. I really don’t know if I have anything to be thankful for.’ Give thanks in all circumstances. In all circumstances. Regardless of your circumstances or mine, God is still God, and he deserves to be praised.

Psalm 9 says:

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

This is a choice, a decision. I choose to give thanks. God has given me the ability to determine to give thanks or to neglect giving thanks. I will give thanks.

I will give thanks with my whole heart. Not merely out of a sense of duty or obligation; it is that, but it must be more. My heart must be in it. Thanksgiving must flow out of a heart captured by the great beauty and worth of God. Thanksgiving is not to be half hearted, but whole hearted. Half hearted praise is not praise. I am to love the Lord with heart and soul and mind and strength. Understand, this is not something we can muster. ‘I’m not really feeling it, but it is my duty, so I will try really hard to give thanks with my whole heart.’ That doesn’t work. Stop looking at yourself. Remember, we are ‘habitually insensible; we are prone to forget’. Thanksgiving is the natural and normal response to perceiving the goodness of God to us. If you don’t see it, you won’t feel thankful. When you see it, when you perceive it, thanksgiving naturally and authentically flows out. More on how to to this in just a minute.

I will give thanks to the LORD. It matters who we direct our thanks to. It is not fate or fortune, it is not my lucky stars. There is a personal being, YHWH, who is sovereign over all circumstances. He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, good. He is love. He is pursuing relationship with me. If I give you a gift, and you go thank Suzie, than just isn’t right. God is the giver of all good gifts, and he is the one we ought to thank.

Recounting God’s Wonderful Deeds

Here comes some really practical help: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. It helps to count and recount. This is a simple discipline to increase our thanksgiving. If you want to grow in gratitude, try this.

I woke up. I am breathing. My heart is beating. Thank you Lord! I can get out of bed. I have food to eat. I had a safe place to sleep. I have friends, family, a community.

I have a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for me. My sins are all forgiven. He has given me his Spirit. He has given me new life, a new heart, new desires. I can walk with him today. I can talk to him. He listens. I can please him. I can enjoy his presence. All this is a gracious gift. Thank you Lord!

I have five senses through which I experience this world God created. Everything I see, hear, smell, taste, feel is a gift. Every sunrise, every symphony, every fragrance, every flavor, every sensation is a gift. Thank you Lord!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

You could easily spend an hour just pausing to pay attention to the details that you have to be thankful for. And it will change your life. It will change your attitude! I will recount all your wonderful deeds.

And I don’t know about you, but I tend to be so self-focused. What do I personally have to be thankful for right now? But for the Israelite, they would start with creation. God made everything good for our enjoyment. He blessed us. But we rebelled against him, and in his great mercy he did not destroy us. He promised to rescue us. He promised to crush our enemy. When he destroyed the world with a flood he preserved Noah and his family. He chose Abraham. He was faithful to all his promises. Even after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, he did not forget his promises. He rescued his people with mighty acts of judgment. Even after 40 years of disobedience in the wilderness, he brought Joshua and his people into the promised land. He established his servant David and conquered their enemies. After their persistent disobedience, he sent them into captivity in Babylon, but even there he cared for them and preserved them, and brought them back to the land.

When you recount all the wonderful deeds of the Lord, you don’t have to limit it to only your experience or your lifetime. Thank you Lord that you have been faithful to your people and to your promises throughout history. Thank you that you have demonstrated yourself trustworthy and true, generous and good, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.

Of course the gospel is our greatest source of gratitude.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That God himself would come in the flesh to take my sin and guilt and die in my place is unfathomable, unthinkable, incredible, overwhelmingly good. Thank you Father, for sending Jesus. Thank you that you pursued me even in my rebellion. Thank you that your Holy Spirit conquered my hard heart.

And think of what has been promised to us that is yet to come! God has given to us his precious and very great promises (2Pet.1:4). He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and he has made us co-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord. You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1Pet.1:4).

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

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

November 19, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment