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2 Corinthians 7:4; Super-Abounding On All Affliction

06/02_2 Corinthians 7:4; Superabounding Joy In All Affliction Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190602_2cor7_4.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 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. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

I just want to take this verse and listen to it, to turn it over and look at it, to savor its truth, to cherish it and ask if we might be able to apply its truth in helpful ways to today, to every day.

What I’m doing today is really not that profound. This is something we all can do. To take a verse and meditate, contemplate, ruminate and reflect on it, to chew on it, to think it over and allow it to change our thinking, to consider and take it to heart. This is what we should all be doing with God’s word, daily.

Background / Context

Paul is exhorting his readers to holiness. Holiness means cutting off inappropriate ties with false teachers and their practices, unfruitful partnerships with unbelievers. He applies various passages in the Old Testament to point them to the promises, to the truth of who they are in Christ, to say that because of who you now are, you need to act like who you are. Identity shapes behavior. Behavior doesn’t shape identity.

You have a king’s kid, the heir to the throne. And you have the son of a pauper, a peasant. The peasant can try to dress like the king’s kid, he can try to behave like the king’s kid (and he may often be better behaved than the king’s kid) but his behavior doesn’t change his identity. On the other hand, the king’s kid doesn’t often act like the king’s kid, he doesn’t like to dress like the king’s kid, but he is. It is his identity. He is heir to the throne. We hope and pray that over time he rises to the office, and grows into the position that is his, that he would learn to love and serve and rule well, we want his identity to shape his behavior, but his identity is not changed by his behavior.

Paul is saying, because of who you are, because of who you have become in Christ, this should motivate you to rise to the office, to step up and pursue holiness, to be who you are in Christ. God lives in you and walks among you, he is our God and has taken us to be his own people; he welcomes us and is a Father to us; he adopts us as his own sons and daughters. Because of who we are in Christ, “since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Allow your identity to shape your behavior.

Having given them a strong exhortation to holiness, he re-affirms his love for them, and invites them to open their affections to him in return. Because we are united with Christ in death, so we are united in his resurrection life. Because of our union with Christ, we have love for one another; we die together and we live together.

Boldness

And then he launches yet another staccato series of statements: much my boldness toward you, much my boasting on behalf of you, filled with comfort, super-abounding in joy on all our affliction.

Much my boldness toward you. Paul has been open, outspoken, blunt, frank with them. And he makes it clear, this is because his heart is open wide to them; he loves them. He has them in his heart. He is united with them. So he can be direct with them; when there is a problem, a concern, when their conduct is not in step with the gospel, he can address the issue. He uses tact, he applies wisdom, he is not rude. But he is clear. He speaks plainly to them. He used this word ‘boldness’ back in chapter 3:12 where he was contrasting his apostolic ministry with the veiled ministry of Moses. He said:

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,

And that applies here. Since we have this hope, these promises, because of our shared identity, who we are in Christ, we can be very bold. There is great confidence;

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

The Corinthians are God’s work. And he will bring it to completion. And one of the instruments in his hands to bring that work in them to completion is Paul. So Paul can be bold with them because he knows ultimately it is God’s work and he will without fail complete what he started in them. This is blood-bought gospel boldness, gospel confidence.

Boasting

Much boldness toward you; much boasting on behalf of you. Paul wants them to know that they are not his problem child. We read the Corinthian correspondence and we might get the impression from all his boldness addressing all the problems there that they are a constant source of grief to him. They might get the impression that he talks negatively about them wherever he goes. After all, he likely left Ephesus to make an emergency visit to them, and that didn’t go well. Then on this trip, he decided not to make another painful visit to them first, but instead send Titus to hopefully patch things up. But in Troas he left an open door for gospel ministry because of his inner turmoil over them. We could easily hear him saying ‘yeah, I’d really like to stay and serve you, but I’ve got this problem church down in Achaia, and I’ve got to go deal with them… again. But that is not his heart, and that is not how he talks about them. Here he affirms that when he talks to others about them, it is ‘much boasting’. And we see him display this in the Corinthian letters. He said in 1 Corinthians 1 that

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

In 1 Corinthians 15:31 he swears and oath by his pride in them. Later in this chapter (7:14) he relays that he had been boasting about them to Titus, and his boasting had proved true. In 8:24 he says that he has been boasting about them to the other churches. He is bold toward them, but he is like a proud parent boasting about them to others. There are issues, and he doesn’t brush over them; he is bold toward them. But he is proud of them. He takes pride in them; ultimately in the work of God he sees in them. God is at work. And he is confident in the ability of God to complete what he has begun.

Comfort

Much boldness, much boasting, I am filled with comfort. Different forms of this word ‘comfort’ show up 10 times in 1:3-7

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He comforts us so that we can comfort others. If you remember all the way back to chapter 1, we learned there that this word comfort is not a soft word; it is a strong word. Com-fort has ‘fort’ as its root, as in fortress or fortitude. This is a strengthening word. The Greek is παρακλήσει which literally means to call alongside. Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit in John 14 as the παράκλητος ‘the Comforter’ (Jn.14:16,26;15:26;16:7;cf.1Jn.2:1) or the Helper; the one who calls us to his side. In our afflictions, God calls us to his side; he is with us in our sufferings, he implores, he exhorts, he gives us strength. In the coming verses he talks about the comfort he received at the coming of Titus. Here he says he is cram full of comfort. He is filled up. He was downcast, but God comforted him. He has no lack, his cup is not empty. Filled up with comfort.

Notice where this strengthening comfort comes from. It is the God of all comfort who comforts us; we are comforted by God. It is God who comforts the downcast, who comforted us. And notice where this strengthening comfort comes to us, it comes in all our affliction. It comes to those in any affliction. We experience abundant comfort as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. You experience comfort when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Comfort isn’t escape from the pain; comfort comes to us in the middle of our pain.

Super-Abounding in Joy on All Our Affliction

This last phrase in this series is so interesting; super-abounding in joy on all our affliction. It seems Paul coined this word here. He takes a more common word superabound, to have more abundance, to be in excess, to have more than enough, which shows up a dozen times in the gospels; once in Acts, and 26 times in Paul’s letters, and he adds a prefix to compound and amplify it; super-super-abound. His cup is not just filled up full, it is not just overflowing, it is super-overflowing.

He uses this word here as he writes to Corinth from Macedonia, and again a few months later when he writes to the Romans from Corinth.

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Grace super-super abounded; Grace hyper-over-flowed.

Here, he is hyper-over-flowing with joy. This is unexpected. I think of the Corinthian letters as filled with concern and correction, not overflowing with joy. But here it is. Joy confronts us in unexpected places. Joy. In 1:24 he refused to lord it over them, but he works with them for their joy. In 2:3 he refers to his previous painful letter and expressed his confidence that his joy would be the joy of all. In 6:10 he describe the paradox of ministry as ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’. Four times in this chapter (7:7,9,13,16) he speaks of his rejoicing. In 7:13 he rejoices over the joy of Titus. In 8:2 he talks about the abundance of joy of the Macedonians. In 13:9 he finds joy in his own weakness in pursuit of their restoration, and then in 13:11 he says ‘ Finally, brothers, rejoice.’

We tend to think, ‘how can he talk so much about joy and rejoicing all through a letter that is addressing such serious issues?’ And how can he talk about joy when he is experiencing such overwhelming suffering. But this is the thing, he is showing them what it looks like to have joy above your circumstance, joy not conditioned on your circumstances. Literally he says joy on top of all our affliction.

He won’t leave alone the theme of affliction. In chapter 1 it was comfort in all our affliction. He writes of ‘the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (1:8). In 2:4 he “wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” In 4:17 “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In 6:4 he commends himself as a legitimate servant of God “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities.” In 8:2 he speaks of the Macedonian’s “abundance of joy” “in a severe test of affliction” which “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

Joy not only can survive, but can thrive in the middle of adverse circumstances. This joy is piled right on the top of all our affliction.

Application

Are you looking for a change in your circumstances? Are you looking for a break? Is your happiness contingent on your circumstances? That’s not the kind of joy Paul holds out to us. Is your joy hyper-over-flowing even in the midst of adverse circumstances? Are you filled up with comfort? Where does this come from? He doesn’t leave us wondering. It comes from God; it comes to us in the gospel. It comes to us in the middle of the mess. God doesn’t often change our circumstances, but he does want to transform us in the midst of the circumstances. He wants to heap inexplicable joy right on top of our painful reality.

Paul is not ignoring his circumstances; he is not in denial. But neither is he self-focused. He is looking to others. He is looking to how God is using him in the lives of others. He has much boldness toward them. And he is looking at God’s hand evidenced in the lives of others. He has much boasting on behalf of them. He sees God at work, even though that work is not finished yet. And that helps. It helps to see that God is at work in others. Sometimes we are too close to see him at work in us. But we can see him at work in others. And that can give us confidence that he is indeed at work in me.

He is not going to people to fill his cup. He is filled up with comfort; the comfort of the Holy Ghost. The comfort that the God of all comfort pours out into those whose hearts have been emptied through suffering. Are you seeking to avoid any suffering? That is where God meets us with his comfort and his overflowing joy.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification – Promises & Commands

05/19_2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification; Commands and Promises; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190519_2cor7_1.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

What to Do With the Promises

We just finished up the end of 2 Corinthians 6. Paul has just affirmed that we are the temple of the living God, and has listed for us scriptural promises, promises from Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and 2 Samuel, promises that God will indwell in us, that he will walk among us, that he will be our God and take us to be his people. He gave us the promises that he will welcome us, that he will be a Father to us, that we will be his sons and daughters. Big promises. Staggering promises.

What do we do with these promises? We have the promises. God gave us the promises. Now what do we do with them? Do we just read them and sit back and say ‘wow, that’s really cool!’ Do we read the promises and file that information away and move on to the next thing? What do we do with the promises? What are we supposed to do with them?

Future Blessing or Present Help?

We tend to think of promises as a guarantee of something that will come to us later, that we just have to wait for. For example, if I tell my kids on Friday that I will buy them ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then they eagerly wait until Sunday afternoon rolls around. In fact, they would probably be thinking ‘I hope church gets over quickly, so we can go get ice cream.’ Is this how we are to think of the promises of God? Are the promises of God pointing to something that is coming to us in the future, that we just wait around for? Are they promises of something he will do for us in the future, regardless of what we do?

Or are they different than that? Are they more like this: ‘I have purchased swimming lessons for you. Go get your suit on and we will go to the pool together; don’t be afraid, I will be with you and help you as you learn to swim. I will always be right there to be sure you don’t drown. And when we are done, we will go get ice cream together.’ Are God’s promises promises of future blessing or of present help?

I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Yes, God’s promises are promises of future blessing. Listen to these promises from Jesus;

(Jn.6:37) “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn.6:47) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Promises of future blessing, and promises of present help, because Jesus also says:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We need present help for that! We are told:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived….

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Whoever believes has eternal life, whoever comes will not be cast out; and there is a holiness, a righteousness without which no one will enter, no one will see the Lord. We can’t take one without the other. God promises us his future blessing, and he promises us his present help to certainly get us there.

This is what he is saying in Philippians 1:6

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

He began the good work in you. It is work. It is his work. He will bring it to completion.

Promises and Commands

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul gives us a command, and the reason he gives for the command is our identity, who we are because of the promises of God. “For we are the temple of the living God.”

He listed these promises; promises of his indwelling, his presence, his covenant relationship, his welcome, his adoption of us as a father to his sons and daughters; all these promises are the basis for his command, ‘do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (6:14). And in the middle of these promises he also quoted a verse of command for God’s people from Isaiah 52; ‘therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing’.

Fighting With Promises

Paul tells us here exactly what he intends for us to do with the promises of God, how to put them into action. How to utilize them to great effect in our lives. We are to use the promises to battle against sin. To battle for holiness. God gave us the promises as weapons for the right hand and left, to kill sin and pursue holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Therefore, having these, the promises, we can cleanse ourselves. What this implies is that without the promises, without the prior and continuing work of God we are utterly unable to cleanse ourselves. God provides the water for washing, he gives us the ability, he implants within us the will, the desire to be holy. He is at work before and in and under and through our work. What this means is that if you don’t know the promises, if you don’t have the promises, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, you won’t be successful in your battle with sin.

Beloved

Therefore, having these promises, beloved. ἀγαπητοί. Beloved. Just stop for a moment and hear that. You are loved. This is a term of affection. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and calls them beloved. He loves these people. He loves this church. But more than that, he addresses them as beloved because they are loved by God. You, today, are God’s beloved. That is your identity, who you are. You need to know who you are, whose you are. In order to fight right, you need to know who you are.

Let Us Cleanse Ourselves

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves. Paul puts himself in it together with his readers; Paul the apostle is on journey toward holiness together with us his readers. As he writes, he has not yet arrived, he must pursue holiness, he must cleanse himself. And he invites us his readers to join him in cleansing ourselves. When we hear this, we might think, wait, there’s a song I know that asks the question “what can wash away my sins” and it answers? “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We might be wary of this language ‘let us cleanse ourselves.’ But that is exactly what it says, and it doesn’t contradict what the song says.

As David Powlison in his book on sanctification puts it, “We turn – from darkness to light, from false gods to the only true God, from death to life, from unbelief to faith. You ask for help because you need help. You repent. You believe, trust, seek, take refuge. You are honest. You remember, listen, obey, fear, hope, love, give thanks, weep, confess, praise, delight, walk. Notice all these active verbs; they speak of wholehearted, whole-person action… No one does any of this for you. You are not passive. You are not a puppet or a robot. You are 100 percent responsible, and yet you are 100 percent dependent on outside help. Any other way of putting it makes you either far too independent or far too passive.” [Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? p.67]

We have God’s blood-bought promises, and so we cleanse ourselves. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God dwells in us, because he walks with us and takes us to be his own, because he has adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters, because of who we are, because of who he made us to be, we live different. We cleanse ourselves. We cleanse the temple. We fight. God’s presence ejects evil, and we have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside, so we have the power to cleanse ourselves.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We work because God is working in us. He is working out our will, our wants, and he is working in our work. We work because he has ignited a passion in us to be holy, and he ignites that passion through his stunning promises.

Defilement of Flesh and Spirit

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. There are things that defile us physically, and there are things that defile us spiritually. And we are to cleanse ourselves from both. We are to apply the blood of Jesus to our sin-soiled self.

‘Cleanse’ implies that we are defiled, already dirty. We need to be cleansed. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he said:

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…”

We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. And from our daily walk in this world, we daily get our feet dirty, and we daily need to wash our feet. We are clean, completely clean, and we need our feet washed. Daily temptation, daily struggle, daily interaction, daily defilement; daily cleansing. Let us point fingers and condemn each other when we see someone tripping up. No, that’s not what it says. Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves.

Bringing Holiness to Its Intended End

Bringing holiness to completion. Does this mean that we can attain perfection, become completely holy? Philippians 1:6 tells us that he will bring the work he began “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So no, I don’t believe we can achieve perfection this side of glory. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn.3:2).

What does it mean then to say that we are to bring holiness to completion? The word ‘completion’ has at its root the word ‘goal’; the point aimed at, to fulfill, finish or complete. We bring holiness to its intended goal when we become holy as he is holy. We are set apart or made holy; that is our position. We have been sanctified; we are saints. But we are saints who sin. We are in need of daily cleansing. We are being made holy day by day, we are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 brings both of these ideas together.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, … 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He has perfected us for all time. That’s a promise. That cannot change. And we are being sanctified; we are in the ongoing process of being made holy. That process is sure, because he is in control. He began it and he will bring it to its intended end. And we actively participate in the process. We bring about the intended goal of our holiness when we cling to God’s promises and cleanse ourselves. When we take his blood and apply it to ourselves. Daily.

In the Fear of Him

Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Christians still to fear God. This is and has always been the path of true wisdom;

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

We must deepen in our awesome respect and reverence for who God is. Jesus told us not to fear people. He said:

Luke 12:5 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!

Application

Take up God’s promises and do battle. I am a temple of the living God. I will not make room for that in my life. God is always with me; he lives in me. I will not drag him into that. I will not look at that. I will not think that. I will not feel that. I am his son, his daughter; he is my father. I will seek to bring joy to his heart. I will bring him my problems, crawl up into his lap. He is big enough to handle anything. I can trust him. Depend on him. He has made me a saint, he has called me holy. I will pursue holiness in the fear of him.

***

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

May 20, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Love Like Jesus

05/28 The Spirit’s Fruit: Love Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170528_love-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Spirit. Or, we could say, this is a study on holiness, on Christian character, on godliness. The fruit of the Spirit is the character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer. This is not something I can work hard to produce in my life; this is something that I am completely dependent on God the Spirit to produce in me. I can do things to cooperate with the Spirit in his work in me, and I can do things to frustrate and delay his work in me, but the fruit of the Spirit is in contrast to the works of the flesh. I cannot produce the Spirit’s fruit with my own effort. I must depend on him, trust him, rely on him to make this happen in my life. It is fruit that the Holy Spirit of God alone can produce.

Fruit Different than Gifts

The fruit of the Spirit is contrasted against the works of the flesh. It is also contrasted with the gifts of the Spirit. Gifts are optional, fruit is mandatory. Every believer is given gifts by the Spirit, but no gift is mandatory. You don’t have to have the gift of tongues or teaching or prophecy to be a genuine believer. No believer has all the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that ‘the Spirit apportions [the gifts] to each one individually as he wills.’ But you do have to have the fruit. In the middle of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, at the end of chapter 12 he says ‘And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ And then in chapter 13 he says that gifts without character are worthless, empty and count for nothing. Chapter 13 is the famous ‘love chapter’ where he encourages us to pursue love as the ‘more excellent way’ than gifts. Then in chapter 14 he continues with specific instructions on the gifts of the Spirit, that they must be used out of the Christian character of love. We will come back around to 1 Corinthians 13 in a few minutes.

Gifts are outward; manifestations of the Spirit, actions. Fruit is inward; character. The actions can be manufactured or counterfeited. Fruit grows out of a relationship with Jesus. In talking about fruit and works, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So according to Jesus, someone can be manifesting the gifts of the Spirit and not have a genuine relationship with Jesus. But fruit will grow out of that relationship.

Fruit Different than Personality

And notice carefully, gifts are plural, fruit is singular. You may have two or three or five gifts of the Spirit, and your gifts will probably be a different combination than mine. But we don’t look at the fruit that way. We don’t say, out of the nine things listed here in Galatians 5, I only have these three fruits. I have some of the fruits, and you have some of the other fruits, and so as a body of believers we’ve got them all covered. No. That is how the gifts work, but that is not how the fruit works. It is fruit. Singular. It is one symmetrical fruit. Listed in this passage are nine characteristics of this one fruit, but it is one fruit. Either all nine characteristics are true of you (at least in some beginning degree), or the Spirit is not producing his fruit in you. The whole fruit of the Spirit is evidence that you are a genuine believer. This sets the fruit of the Spirit apart from human personality.

You know some people that are just bubbly and happy-go-lucky and are a boost to be around. They might not know Jesus, but that’s just who they are. But they may not have much self-control, or they’re a bit short on faithfulness. Then there are others, who are very patient and gentle, but they just seem a bit down, often depressed. Or others who are very self-disciplined, self-controlled, faithful to the Lord, they know what needs to be done and they get it done, but they may not be very gentle or kind in the process. Don’t get in their way. That’s not the fruit of the Spirit.

You may read the nine traits of Spirit produced character and you may feel that you’re just naturally one or two or five of them, but that’s not what we are talking about. This fruit is not natural. This is supernatural fruit; Holy Spirit produced fruit. And the Spirit produces character, balanced whole character in believers.

Fruit Grows

We could think of this many faceted character as a diamond. It is one diamond, but it has many sides, many facets. Or as light through a prism; it is one thing, light, but if we put it through a prism, we see the spectrum of individual colors that make up the light. But Paul chooses to illustrate this as fruit, because fruit is organic. It grows. And it takes time. Fruit isn’t produced overnight. A fruit tree has a dormant season. It appears dead. But it is growing. Even in the winter, it is getting strong, going deep. Fruit is produced slowly, gradually, imperceptibly. But it is growing. And it produces after its kind. An apple tree will inevitably produce apples. That’s what it is and that’s what it does. The Spirit produces this kind of Christian character. Inevitably. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, he will bring about this fruit in your life. Slowly, often imperceptibly. With long quiet seasons of dormancy. But unfailingly.

Love Commanded

Today we are looking at the first facet of the Spirit’s fruit; love. Love is not randomly chosen to head the list. Love is central. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment,

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

Paul said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James says:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

When Paul exalts fruit as more essential than gifts, he points us to love. He says:

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. …

Love Defined

What is love? Paul’s description is helpful; it tells us some things love is (some of them we find in this description of the fruit of the Spirit); it is patient and kind, it rejoices with the truth; it bears all, believes, all, hopes all, endures all. And he tells us some things it’s not. Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing. It never stops.

Not Hunger Love

Tim Keller was very helpful in my thinking on this. He lays out two things love is not that help protect us from our culturally conditioned ideas of love. He says that love is not need love or hunger love; and love is not tolerance [Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, April 26, 1998; The Fruit of the Spirit- the Character of Christ; John 13:1-21; Logos]

He says “In the world, there is something people call love that is really hunger. Hunger says, ‘I love you,’ which means, ‘You make me feel good about myself. You fill me up. You make me feel like I’m significant. I want to own you. I want to have you. I want you to make me feel like a real individual. I want you to help me become myself.’ That’s hunger. Think about this. If you go up to a beautiful fruit tree and you’re absolutely full, how do you enjoy it? You say, ‘Look at it. It’s beautiful.’ You might take some cobwebs off, or an old, dead leaf, anything that detracts from its beauty. How are you appreciating it? For what it is in itself. But if you come in front of a beautiful fruit tree and you are ravenously hungry, … you are very attracted to the fruit tree in a completely different way. You don’t care. ‘Oh, I love that fruit tree. I’ll strip it. I’ll rip it. I’ll break it. I don’t care.’ You see, I don’t love it for itself; I love it as a commodity. I love it for what it’s going to do for me.” This is not the kind of love that is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit comes from fullness, not from hunger and need.

Not Tolerance

He also says that true biblical love is not tolerance. “’If I see somebody hurting themselves and I don’t love them that much, I don’t know them that much, I’m tolerant.’ Think about this. The less I love somebody, the more tolerant I am if I see them doing things that seem to be hurting themselves. But the more I love somebody, the less tolerant I am. …’I want to shake them. I want to say, ‘can’t you see? Don’t you know what you’re doing to yourself? You’re becoming less and less yourself every time I see you.’ I’m not angry because I hate them; I’m angry because I love them. If I didn’t love them, I’d walk away. Real love stands against deception. Real love stands against lies that destroy.”

Biblical Love

So what is this love that is fruit produce by the Holy Spirit in us? How do we define it? We need to look to God’s love to see what love truly is. God’s love is self-giving.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world [God loved the world in this way], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love is love that gives sacrificially for the good of the other. Jesus says to his followers in John 13:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And then again in John 15:

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

So Jesus holds himself up as the standard of the love that he commands in his followers. Jesus himself is to define love. And then he says:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Self-sacrificial self-giving love, costly love. Jesus love is not need love or hunger love. He does not love us for what he can get from us. He does not love us because there is something appealing or attractive about us. His love sees our ugliness, our sin, our filth, and loves us. Neither is Jesus’ love a tolerant love. Jesus does not look at us in our sin and say ‘I love you and I am content to leave you just the way you are.’ No. Jesus intends to change us. To wash us, to cleanse us, to forgive us, to set us free, to transform us, to make us new, to create something beautiful in us. Jesus’ love is a purging purifying sanctifying cleansing transforming love. Listen to Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Love is a willing self-sacrificial love.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Even joyfully self sacrificial (as we’ll see next week).

How the Fruit of Love Grows In Us

If that is what this kind of love is, and I look at myself and see that there’s not much of that there, then what do I do? Maybe I thought of myself as a loving person, but mine is really a selfish self-serving needy love. Maybe it’s a tolerant anything goes love. How can I see God’s self-giving love grow in my life? Remember, it is fruit. Fruit produced by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The fruit is produced when it’s not me but Christ living in me. But how does that happen? This kind of life is lived by faith. By dependence. By believing. I begin to love like this when I look with faith to Jesus and see how he loved me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Is it really that simple? Look to Jesus? Yes! When you look to Jesus in faith, and make it personal, it changes everything!

Love Displayed

Jesus, the Son of God, God the Son, loved me? Why? What is there in me to love? What in me is praiseworthy? What do I have to offer? What need does he have that I can satisfy? He loved me not because I could meet some need of his, but because he wants to meet all my needs? He knew me, he knows everything about me, and yet he loves me? He sees my heart, he sees my failures, he knows my flaws, and yet he loves me?

This love that he has for me, what did it cost him to love me? He loved me and gave himself for me. He loved me and laid down his life for me. He took all my sin on himself and paid the ultimate price. He took all my guilt and shame. He was betrayed by a friend because he loved me. He was silent before his accusers because of his love for me. He patiently endured the mocking the spitting, the beating, the ridicule because he loved me. He stretched out his arms and opened his hands to the nails because of his great love for me. He forgave his executioners because he loved me. He endured the wrath of his Father against my sin because he loved me. He loved me at infinite cost, all for my good.

His love is determined. He is determined to deal with my sin. He is determined to make me a new creation. And he pursued me when I was uninterested. While I was his sworn enemy, hostile toward him, he loved me. He loves me and refuses to give up on me. Even though I continue to stray, continue to blunder and fail, he refuses to give up on me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Look to him. Receive his love for you. Believe it. Treasure his love. Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19). Allow his love for you to fill all the empty neediness in your heart to overflowing. Then step out in the bold confidence of one who is unfailingly unquenchingly securely loved and love others. Love those who are unlovable. Love those who are unresponsive. Love those who will not reciprocate. Love those who have offended you. Love those from whom you have nothing to gain. Love sacrificially. Open yourself to being hurt. Give of yourself in love for the good of others.

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

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 23:1-22; Holy Time; The Spring Feasts

02/26 Leviticus 23:1-22; Holy Time – the Spring Feasts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170226_leviticus-23_1-22.mp3

We are in the second section of Leviticus, the section that deals with the holiness of God’s forgiven people. We see in chapters 17-27 that for those who have been forgiven by God by means of sacrifice, for those who are now in a relationship with God, all of life becomes holy. Chapters 21 and 22 addressed holy people, instructions for those God set apart to be his priests. Here in chapter 23, God addresses holy time; there are days and seasons that God has set apart to communicate truth, to remind us to look back on his past faithfulness, to point us forward to the promise of his future grace, to make space in our schedules to reflect, to focus our attention on him.

All the way back in Genesis 1, at creation, God said:

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons [mow`ed], and for days and years,

The word for ‘seasons’ [mow`ed], shows up 6 times in Leviticus 23, translated here as ‘appointed feasts’. This word is used many times in Leviticus to refer to the tent of meeting. It refers to an appointment, an assembly, a place of meeting. In Leviticus 23 it is pointing to an appointed meeting time. We also find the phrase ‘holy convocations’ [miqra’ qodesh] 11 times in this chapter; a convocation is a summons or a calling out, a public meeting, reading or rehearsal. 5 times we see the word translated ‘a day of solemn rest’. 10 times the phrase ‘you shall do no work’.

This chapter deals with holy time, time set apart to the LORD, time to cease from the routine, time to rest and reflect, time to gather, to assemble together to remember together.

Outline

1-8 Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread

1-2 intro

3 weekly Sabbath – solemn rest; holy convocation; no work

4-8 Passover and Unleavened Bread

1st day – holy convocation; no ordinary work

7th day – holy convocation; no ordinary work

9-22 Firstfruits and Weeks

9-14 Feast of Firstfruits

15-22 Feast of Weeks [Harvest, Pentecost] – holy convocation; no ordinary work

23-25 Trumpets – solemn rest; memorial; holy convocation; no ordinary work

26-32 Day of Atonement – holy convocation; no work; sabbath of solemn rest

33-44 Booths [Ingathering, Tabernacles]

1st day – holy convocation; no ordinary work; solemn rest

8th day – holy convocation, solemn assembly; no ordinary work; solemn rest

This chapter breaks into two main sections; 1-22, and 23-44; each major section concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.” It further breaks down into five sections, beginning in verses 1, 9, 23, 26, and 33; each beginning with the declaration “the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…” The first section is a reminder of the weekly Sabbath, and gives instructions on the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. The second section addresses the presentation of the Firstfruits during the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the presentation of firstfruits seven weeks or 50 days later. The second half of the chapter deals with the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. The first major section, verses 1-22, deal with the Spring Festivals; the second major section deals with the Fall Festivals.

There are seven holy convocations in addition to the weekly Sabbath; four of these are specified as days of solemn rest.

Three of these, The Feast of Unleavened bread, The Feast of Weeks or Harvest, and the Feast of Booths or Ingathering were to be pilgrim festivals.

Deuteronomy 16:16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. (cf. Exodus 23:14-17; 34:18-23)

At these three, every male was to come up to the temple.

Weekly Sabbaths

Leviticus 23:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.

This is a reminder of the fourth commandment, that as God created all things in six days and then rested to enjoy what he had made, so we are to labor for six days and rest for one. At the beginning of a chapter addressing annual holy days of rest and worship, there is a reminder of the weekly cycle of work and rest. The other feasts are founded on this basic cycle of work and rest. Many of the feasts take on the characteristics of a weekly Sabbath, even if they do not fall on a Saturday. The Sabbath is a solemn day of rest, a holy convocation, a Sabbath to the LORD. Every moment of time is a gift. Some time is to be set aside to enjoy sweet fellowship with our Creator. These sacred times of rest are to be Godward rest, Sabbaths to the LORD. They are to be pervasive. In all your dwelling places, wherever you are, there is to be time set aside for devotion to the LORD.

Passover and Unleavened Bread

Leviticus 23:4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

This is a very brief summary of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The origin of these celebrations comes from Exodus 12-13, where God took his people out of slavery in Egypt. A Passover lamb was sacrificed in place of the firstborn son in each home, and the blood was applied to the door to protect those inside from the destroyer. Exodus 12:2 states that at the Exodus, the Lord changed this month, the month of Abib (or Nisan) to be the first month of the year for them. This was the birth of the nation of Israel. “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos.11:1; Mt.2:15).

Notice, at twilight on the 14th day the Passover was celebrated. On the following day, the 15th, began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The leaven was removed on the first day of the Feast, on the day after the Passover was sacrificed. No leaven was to be used for the duration of the feast. The first day and the seventh day of the feast were to be holy convocations.

Firstfruits

Leviticus 23:9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. 14 And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

There is some debate as to exactly when the firstfruits was presented. Most likely, it was on the day after the Sabbath during the feast of Unleavened Bread. So if Passover fell on Friday, then the Sabbath, Saturday, would be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. On Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, the Firstfruits would be presented. This would be the first barley harvest, in March or April. Nothing of the new harvest was to be eaten until this presentation of the Firstfruits was made to the LORD. This was a very tangible reminder that everything belonged to the LORD, and every good thing came from him. The Firstfruits was the first portion of the new spring harvest, a promise of more of the harvest to come.

Weeks [Harvest, Pentecost]

Leviticus 23:15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

The Feast of Weeks was calculated 7 weeks or 50 days after the Sunday of Firstfruits. This would fall on a Sunday in late May or early June, and coincide with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. This is the only feast where leavened bread was permitted. Jewish tradition connects this feast to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt.

Pointing Back and Forward

These feasts would be annual reminders that God is the source of every good thing. This year, we are again dependent on God’s provision for our needs. It is he that causes crops to grow. These feasts would also be memorials of God’s past faithfulness. God decisively delivered his people out of bondage and into relationship with him. He faithfully provided bread from heaven throughout the wilderness wanderings, even in the midst of the disobedience and grumbling of the people. When Israel entered the promised land, they enjoyed the produce from a land they had not worked. Feasts are memorials of God’s past and present faithfulness. But there is a future aspect to these feasts. They were pointers to something to come. Just as we have seen that the Levitical sacrificial system was a shadow of good things to come, pointing to Jesus, so the calendar of feasts was a shadow, drawing our attention to the fulfillment in Jesus.

When John saw Jesus approaching, he cried out

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5

1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Jesus was crucified on Passover. It is important to remember that the sacrifice was killed before the leaven was cleansed. Leaven is a symbol of sin.

1 Corinthians 5:8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

We do not attempt to clean ourselves up in order to be rescued by Jesus. We begin to cleanse out the old leaven becaus Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Sin has been put away by his crucifixion (Heb.9:26). “…the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is.53:6). Jesus’ body rested in the grave on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. But on the day after the Sabbath, on Sunday Morning, he was presented alive!

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

On the day the first of the barley harvest was presented to the Priests in the temple, Jesus presented himself alive. Over the next 40 days, he presented himself alive to many witnesses. After 40 days, he ascended to the right hand of his Father in heaven. And ten days later, 50 days after his resurrection,

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

On the feast of Weeks, when the Firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented in the temple, the Lord poured out his Spirit on his followers, and the church was born. On the day commemorating the giving of the Law on Sinai, the Spirit was given to the believers gathered in Jerusalem, the fulfillment of the New Covenant promises.

We may wonder why the section from chapter 19 on regulations for harvesting is appended again here in Leviticus 23.

Leviticus 23:22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

But it seems appropriate that in the context of the church, where Jew and Gentile are united in one body through the gospel, there would be some mention of blessings extended to the foreigners, the outsiders.

Leaven

It is interesting to remember that Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, was the one feast where leavened bread was permitted. Leaven puffs up, picturing pride, and as such it was not permitted on the altar. In Matthew 13, Jesus told a series of parables describing what the kingdom would be like. He compared it to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his servants were sleeping an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. Both were allowed to grow together until the harvest. He likened it to a mustard seed which grew abnormally large and provided a refuge for the evil birds of the air. Then he compared it to leaven that a woman hid in three measures of flour. He compared it to a field which was purchased in order to obtain the treasure hidden there. He compared it to a net which gathered fish of every kind, later to be sorted out, good from bad. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is a mixed bag. There would be the good, genuine wheat, good fish, a treasure; but there would be also bad, weeds, bad fish, room even for the agents of the evil one to be at home within its expanding branches. Jesus taught that these would be allowed to grow together, but they would be sorted out at the end of the age. Jesus is telling us tha the church is leavened. It is mixed. There is good together with the bad. There will be true believers, and there will be false professors. Among Jesus’ own twelve, there was a Judas. It is not our job to sort them all out. Jesus is fully capable of doing that. It is our job to ‘examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith’ (2Cor.13:5); and to ‘keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching‘ (1Tim.4:16). It is our job to ‘strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Heb.12:14). It is our job to live in such a way ‘that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt.5:16). It is even our job to ‘purge the evil person from among you’ (1Cor.5:12). It is our job to ‘pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Mt.9:38). And to trust the Lord that even some who smell a lot like bad fish would experience the transformational work of the Spirit and become new creations before the end. Among Jesus’ disciples there was also a Peter, who was told ‘get behind me Satan’ (Mt.16:23); who denied Jesus 3 times, who went on tobe restored, and to ‘feed my sheep’ (Jn.21:17).

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

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifice

02/19 Leviticus22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifices ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170219_leviticus-22.mp3

God’s Work and Our Response; YHWH Sanctifies

Leviticus 21 and 22 are a section of the holiness code in Leviticus that specifically addresses the priests. This section is a reminder, as we hear 6 times in these two chapters, I am YHWH who sanctifies you. It is God who makes holy, who sets apart, who cleanses. We are to refrain from profaning or treating as common his name, his reputation, because he has set us apart. Our motive for living set apart lives, lives that are different from the world around us, is that we have been set apart by a holy God. We have been called to a greater purpose! We do not attempt to live holy lives in order to gain God’s favor; rather we respond to God’s gracious acceptance of us by making it our aim in all things to please the one who has so freely loved us. These chapters are addressed to priests who have been set apart for service to God. They are now exhorted not to smear God’s name by their conduct, because it is YHWH who sanctifies them.

Romans 5 makes this clear that

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak… Christ died for the ungodly. … 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … 10…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

We were still weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies when Jesus died for us. Now that we have been made holy by his sheer unmerited grace, we respond with love to him, living lives which honor him.

Unclean Priests

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Leviticus 22:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD. 3 Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. 4 None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen, 5 and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be— 6 the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water. 7 When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food. 8 He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’ 9 They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

God is serious about uncleanness. Remember our diagram that illustrated the necessary separation of the unclean from the holy.

———————————————————————————

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify ← Cleanse

[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]

Profane → Pollute →

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]

———————————————————————————

Anything that had become unclean though any of the various means of uncleanness must be first cleansed through sacrifice before it can come into contact with that which is holy. Remember, a primary role of the priest in Israel was to be the inspector who declared a person or an object clean or unclean.

If you look back to our outline of these two chapters, you will notice that the first section of chapter 21 forbade any priest from making himself unclean by burying the dead except for close relatives of his immediate family. The second section narrowed this for the high priest, who could not even become unclean by burying his mother or father.

Lev.21:1-9 priests not to make themselves unclean

Lev.21:10-15 high priest not to make himself unclean

Lev.21:16-24 blemished priests not to draw near

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Now, the first section of chapter 22 deals with priests who have become unclean, either by contact with the dead, or a disease, or any of the other ordinary ways someone could become unclean through daily life. So chapter 21 commanded the priests to avoid uncleanness except on very rare occasions, but chapter 22 deals with the all-too common circumstance when a priest would become unclean. Priests were to guard the holiness of God. They were not to allow an unclean person to come into contact with the holy things. If a priest himself was unclean, this is a warning that he too was excluded from the holy things, because God’s holiness was to be guarded. A portion of some of the offerings of the people, we saw especially in chapters 6 and 7, belonged to the priests as their income. Meat and grain from these offerings was holy, dedicated to the LORD, and was to be treated as holy. So the priests who were clean were allowed to eat of the holy things, but priests who were unclean were not allowed to eat. Notice the severity of the consequences; verse 3 says that any priest who treats lightly his uncleanness and approaches the holy things while in an unclean state, ‘that person shall be cut off from my presence.’ To be banned, literally ‘cut off’ from God’s presence is the most serious consequence. God takes his own holiness seriously. After the high priest’s sons Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire in the presence of the LORD in chapter 10, The LORD said:

Leviticus 10:3 … “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”…

Here in verse 9 the priests are warned to keep God’s command, ‘lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it.’

You may have heard Christians use this phrase: ‘I’d rather err on the side of grace.’ Usually I have heard that said in reference to Christians coming down hard on others, demanding that they be held accountable for their questionable actions. That is legitimate; we who have been shown incalculable grace by our overwhelmingly gracious God to not be quick to judge but rather quick to extend grace to others. But this is dangerous if we use it as an excuse to not examine our own hearts and behavior in the light of God’s revealed truth. If we treat lightly our own sins, if we presume on God’s grace toward us, if we claim God’s grace as a license to sin, that is dangerous. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Jesus teaches us extend God’s grace toward sinners to others, but he also teaches us to address our own sins with severity. Jesus died to free us from sin. It is unthinkable for one purchased with the precious blood of Jesus to treat sin as no big deal.

Commoners to Abstain from Holy Things

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Leviticus 22:10 “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired worker shall eat of a holy thing, 11 but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things. 13 But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it. 14 And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest. 15 They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD, 16 and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

This section is necessary to define who is included in a priest’s household, and who can legitimately benefit from that which is set apart for the priests. Graciously, God allows restitution to be made for someone who unwittingly eats of that which he is not eligible to eat. Only holy people can eat holy things.

It is interesting to note, that in 1 Samuel 21, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul, and he and those with him were hungry and in need, he came to the priest and was given the holy bread to eat. When Jesus’ disciples were hungry and eating grain on the Sabbath in Mark 2

Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (cf. Matthew 12:2-8; Luke 6:2-5)

Jesus affirmed this law in Leviticus, that it was not lawful for any but the priests to eat the holy bread, but he also affirmed that the ceremonial law was made for man to bless him, and that mercy toward those in need supersedes the strict adherence to the letter of the law. Jesus affirms that one greater than even King David is here, and that he himself is lord of the Sabbath.

Blemished Sacrifices

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Leviticus 22:17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD, 19 if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. 21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. 23 You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. 24 Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land, 25 neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.” 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD. 28 But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day. 29 And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD. 31 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. 32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

This section deals with what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice. Starting from verse 3 of chapter 1 of Leviticus, is was made clear that offerings were to be animals without blemish. Here in chapter 22, addressed to the priests who would oversee the offerings of the people, it is spelled out in more detail what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice, and what kinds of blemishes would disqualify an animal from being offered to the Lord.

In the second temple period the prophet Malachi rebukes the priests for despising his name and his table. He says in Malachi 1

Malachi 1:6 “…If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

…8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

…12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

God is dishonored when his people offer to him less than the best. Is he not worthy of the best, the first? If a great king came to visit, would you pull out the week-old leftovers from the back of the fridge to set before him, or do you kill the fatted calf and prepare a great feast? It is not that God needs something from you. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you” God says in Psalm 50. The goal of the offering is ‘that you may be accepted’ (verses 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29); for God to be pleased with, to delight in, to approve of, to satisfy. God does not need your offering; but the quality of your offering is evidence of your heart attitude toward God. Where does he rank in your priorities, in your desires? Does he have first place in your heart? In your finances? Jesus said:

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Perfect Priest, Perfect Sacrifice

It is interesting if we look back at the outline of these two chapters, we see that the last section of chapter 21 prevented any priest who had a blemish from approaching God or drawing near (21:17, 18, 21 twice, 23), and the last section of chapter 22 prevents any animals with a blemish from being accepted as an offering. Chapter 21:18-20 lists twelve blemishes that prevent a priest from drawing near. Chapter 22:22-24 lists twelve blemishes that prevent an animal from being accepted as a sacrifice. Almost half of the list of blemishes are identical between chapters 21 and 22. There is a symmetry between these chapters that highlights the fact that as a priest must be without blemish to draw near, so must the sacrifice be without blemish to be acceptable. And even a priest without blemish would often be temporarily unclean and excluded so as not to profane God’s name or his sanctuary. We all know that there is no perfect animal, and there is no perfect person. We are all flawed in various ways. All this would leave the worshiper longing for a more perfect priest and a more perfect sacrifice, by which to draw near and be accepted.

Hebrews 5 tells us

Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.

This leaves us aching for a priest who is not ignorant, wayward, beset with weakness. This leaves us thirsty for “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). We understand that there is no perfect animal, and that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). This leaves us desperate for a better sacrifice. Leviticus leaves us hungry and thirsty for Jesus! Hebrews 7:26 says:

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

In Jesus the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice become one! Jesus is the perfect priest, holy, innocent, unstained, without weakness, without sin. Jesus is the perfect “lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:19), who “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pet.2:22); who “offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb.9:14). Jesus is the hope that Leviticus leaves us longing for.

Jesus,

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

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

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation

11/20 Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161120_leviticus-19_19-37.mp3

Leviticus 19 is about holiness. This chapter commands “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but holiness is one of those words that is a bit elusive. Holiness a difficult concept to define. We need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a very practical description of what holiness looks like. And holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses covers subjects like authority, time, idolatry, worship, and giving. The next 8 verses deal with respect for others, respect for personal property, respect for God’s name, respect for neighbor, for employee, for the disabled, respect for the legal system, respect for those who have personally wronged you.

The final sections deal with topics ranging from agricultural practices, to sexual harassment, the occult, prostitution, holy days, holy places, respect for the elderly, care for immigrants and foreigners, and fair commerce. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 is bracketed by the phrase at the beginning of verse 19 “You shall keep my statutes” which is repeated and expanded in verse 37 “And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them“. This sections uses the prases “I am the LORD your God” and “I am the LORD” 4 times each in an alternating ‘abba’ then ‘baab’ pattern.

We are to be holy because the LORD our God is holy. But what holiness looks like for us will differ in many ways from what holiness looks like for God. We are to be holy because God is holy. But our holiness will be the holiness of a creature, where God’s holiness is the holiness of the Creator. We cannot be holy in the ulitmate sense of the word, totally unique, distinct, separate, other; absolutely unique and unparalleled. God’s holiness means that there is no one like God. But we are to be separate, distinct, set apart from sin, from the world.

Leviticus 19 is addressed to the nation of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt and before they entered the promised land. This chapter gives instructions for what holiness was to look like for them then. What holiness looks like for us will be different in some ways from what holiness looked like for ancient Israel, and in some ways it will be very much the same.

Holiness then as now was never a way to gain favor with God, but rather it is a response to God’s unilateral forgiveness toward sinners, who has made a way for us to enjoy relationship with him. ‘If you love me you will keep my commands’ Jesus said. And we only love because he first loved us. Holiness is a response to God’s grace and love.

Holy Mixture

Leviticus 19:19 “You shall keep my statutes.

You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind.

You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed,

nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

There is no reason given in the text for these commands. This echoes back to the creation where God made plants and animals to bear fruit and reproduce each after its kind [different Hebrew word “miyn”; here “kil’ayim”]. We may get a hint of why in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 22:9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited [lit. become holy] , the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

The word translated ‘forfeited’ [qadash] is literally ‘become holy,’ or set apart, dedicated to the LORD. Mixtures of different kinds were set apart to the LORD. We know from Exodus 30 that the specific blend of aromatic spices that made up the holy incense was not to be made for common use. We know from Exodus 28 that the holy garments to set apart the priesthood were to be made of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and and fine twined linen. We also learn from Ezekiel’s description in chapters 1 and 10 of the cherubim around God’s throne that they were composite beings, each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. So it is possible that these laws were meant to guard the holiness of God’s sanctuary.

Sexual Assault

Leviticus 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

This is an interesting case. In the very next chapter (Lev.20:10) the consequence for adultery is that both the man and woman are to e put to death. Deuteronomy 22 addresses adultery the same way, then goes on to the case of a man who has relations with a betrothed woman. If it is in the city, where she could have cried for help but didn’t, they are both killed. But if it was in the country only the male is killed because it is assumed that she cried for help but there was no one to rescue her. In the case of a man who has relations with a woman who is not betrothed, he is required to marry her, and to give her father the full bride price. In this chapter, at issue is a slave woman. She has no consequences, because she is not free, and may not have felt she could resist. He is held accountable to the LORD for his actions. He has sinned against the LORD, and must bring a guilt offering Sexual assault against someone who is vulnerable is a sin against the LORD, and the wages of sin is death. In this case, God mercifully accepts the sacrifice of a substitute.

Horticulture and Firstfruits

Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.

Notice this is a law specific to entrance into the land of promise. Literally this says ‘you shall regard its fruit as uncircumcised. A common practice in orchards is to pinch off the buds of young trees for the first years to strengthen them so that they produce more later. The fruit of the fourth year is a specific type of firstfruits offering, a setting apart all the fruit for the Lord, a recognition that every good thing belongs to the Lord and comes from the Lord. It is given back as an offering of praise to the LORD

The Occult

Leviticus 19:26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it.

You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

These laws specifically forbid occult practices. Eating blood, interpreting omens, telling fortunes, cutting the edges of the hair or self mutilation were connected to worship of false gods. We have a graphic illustration of this in 1 Kings 18 with the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

God’s people are not to engage in occult practices of any kind, self harm or self mutilation.

Prostitution, Holy Times, Holy Places

Leviticus 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Prostitution was often connected with false worship. Greed is a manifestation of false worship. It is demonic for a parent to offer a daughter as a prostitute for the sake of money. Even in desperate poverty, we are to look to the LORD to provide for our needs, and to walk in obedience. God reminds his people of proper worship; keep my Sabbaths. Reverence my sanctuary.

The Occult

Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

We have an example of this in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul was afraid and ‘enquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him’ (v.6), so he turned to a medium to conjure up Samuel from the grave. Attempts to seek information about the future are inappropriate outside of biblical revelation. God is the one who holds the future, and it is his to reveal or conceal what will take place. It is ours to trust him. When we don’t know what will happen, we are to walk in faith filled obedience to what he has told us to do.

Honor the Aged

Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Verse 3 told us we are to fear mother and father. Here we are taught to honor and respect the elderly and fear God. In a culture that questions the value of the elderly and dismisses them as irrelevant we would do well to listen to this instruction. In a culture that considers disrespect as funny and cool, we need to regain a proper fear of the LORD, who tells us to rise before the gray head, and honor the face of the old man.

Love the Stranger

Leviticus 19:33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This is the counterpart to verses 17 and 18; to the brother or neighbor who wrongs you, love him as yourself. Now we are told; do not wrong a foreigner, but treat him as a native, and love him as yourself. The motive? You know what it is like to be a foreigner and to be mistreated. Love, actively seeking the good of the other, even when it costs us, is to characterize our relationships, especially with those we would tend not to love. We are to love those who have wronged us. We are to love those that are different from us and potentially vulnerable in society. We are not to take advantage of them. Rather we are to treat them as we would want to be treated.

Fair Commerce

Leviticus 19:35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.

36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

If you’re selling something, describe it accurately. Deal honestly. Do not seek to increase profits by deceit. Why? Because the LORD is God. He is our deliverer, our rescuer, we bear his name, so he can define how we are to conduct ourselves as his representatives.

Live Different

Leviticus 19:37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.”

God cares how we act. Holiness matters. We are his ambassadors. His representatives. In everything we do. In every area of life. All the time. We are to be men and women of character, of integrity, of love. We are to live in a way that is different than the world.

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.”

You know how the world works. But it shall not be so among you. Serve others, because Jesus came to serve you. Love others, because Jesus first loved you. Give your life for others, because Jesus gave his life for you.

Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Rather work so you can give. Honor your parents. Honor the elderly. Treat the poor the disabled and the vulnerable with digninty and resepect. Don’t take advantage of anyone. Love your enemies. Love them as you love yourself. Show hospitality to strangers. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Be holy in all your conduct.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You belong to God, so glorify God in your body. In everything you do.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Holiness touches all of life. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

November 22, 2016 Posted by | podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness

10/30 Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161030_leviticus-19_1-10.mp3

Today we come to one of Jesus’ favorite chapters of the Bible; Leviticus 19. Jesus used the teachings of this chapter as the cornerstone of his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5; especially verses 43-48. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 19, talking to the rich young ruler about the commandments he needed to keep.

In Luke 17, Jesus told a story to explain one particular word in Leviticus 19, a story we know as the parable of the good Samaritan.

When asked about the greatest command in Matthew 22, he cited one from Deuteronomy 6 and a second like it from Leviticus 19. Jesus said

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul took his cue from Jesus. In Romans 13 he said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And in Galatians 5 he said:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The whole law is fulfilled in one word; all the commandments are summed up in one word. James called this the royal law, the perfect law, the law of liberty.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

In fact, we could argue that the letter of James is an extended New Testament commentary and application of Leviticus 19. At least half a dozen of his statements are lifted directly out of Leviticus 19.

Peter also drew heavily on Leviticus 19 in his first letter, stating:

1 Peter 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19 deals with everything. It deals with family, with farming, with worship, with employment, with business, with personal relationships, with sex, with time. It deals with the occult, with prostitution, with cutting, with justice and legal issues, with the poor, with foreigners. It even addresses how you should look and what you should wear. It touches each of the ten commandments from Exodus 20; we could even look at it as an application and explanation of how the 10 commandments are to be applied. We will look at the first 10 verses today, an illustration of practical holiness.

Be Holy For I Am Holy

Leviticus 19:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Remember, as we saw last time, Leviticus 19 is in the last half of Leviticus. It answers the question, ‘now that I have been forgiven of all my sins through the sacrifice, how should I live my life?’ This is addressed to people already in a relationship with the LORD God.

This entire chapter is rooted in who God is, and our relationship with him. God demands that we as his people reflect his character in every area of our lives. At first read, this chapter seems like a jumbled up mess of random unrelated issues all thrown together for lack of a better place to put them. But even in this God is telling us something. God is communicating that in all the various aspects of our daily lives, in every area, we are to consciously, intentionally reflect him.

He calls us to be holy because he is holy. But what does it mean to say that God is holy? He is different. He is unique. He is set apart. We are to be a reflection of who he is. But what does that look like? What does it mean to be holy? We need some practical instruction. And this chapter gives us exactly that. This chapter is more than anything else about God. We are to be holy because God is holy, and this chapter lays out what holiness looks like in various everyday situations.

Authority

Leviticus 19:3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, (V)

This chapter on practical holiness begins in the home, because holiness must begin at home. It matters how you treat your parents. Whether you are living under their authority, or caring for them when they are elderly, holiness begins by a proper respect for authority. This is a restatement of the 5th commandment, but here rather than saying that you are to ‘Honor your father and mother,’ we are told literally to ‘fear’ them. This is a word that is usually reserved for the fear of the LORD in the Bible, but here it is applied to the authority of parents. Parenting is a weighty responsibility. Parents carry the delegated authority of God in a child’s life. So even if they are not godly, even if they abuse their authority, even if by their character they are not worthy of respect, their position is to be respected. Notice that mother is listed first here in a place of honor. Parenting is a team sport, and it functions best when mother and father work together as a team.

Time

Leviticus 19:3 …and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. (IV)

Honoring sacred time comes next. You shall keep my Sabbaths. This is a restatement of the 4th command.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work,…

Time is something we never seem to have enough of, something we often run out of. Time is a precious commodity that we spend. God is to be honored with our time. We need to be wise with what we spend it on. God demands that we set aside some of our time as holy, set apart for God. We are to rest, we are to remember, we are to worship. We are to be different in the way we use our time.

Idolatry

Leviticus 19:4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. (I, II)

This recalls the first two commandments. We are to have no other Gods, and we are to make no images. The word here for idols emphasizes the weak and worthless nature of false gods. We are not to turn to worthless things to put our hope in them. It is futile to look for help from the things our own hands have made. God says “I am the LORD your God.” We have the real thing. Why would we turn away to cheap imitations?

Obedient Worship

Leviticus 19:5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, 8 and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

This looks back to chapter 7, which gave detailed instructions about peace offerings. This was the one type of sacrifice from which the worshiper was invited to eat. But holiness meant that the God’s instructions were to be followed carefully and exactly. That which is holy, set apart, is not to be treated as common or ordinary. We cannot come to God any way that we like. “When you offer a sacrifice… you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.” God must be obeyed in the way that we approach him.

Care For the Poor

Leviticus 19:9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Holiness means not taking everything for yourself. Holiness in business means not wringing out every last cent of profit. Holiness must be generous. God’s holiness must be reflected in our care for the poor and for the displaced, those from whom we can expect nothing in return. We are to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, and everything that we have is a gift from him, and that he gives us more than we need so that we can give to those who are in need.

This method of giving retains the dignity of the needy and requires little more from the landowner than a heart of generosity. He was not asked to gather extra grain, process it and package it, then identify the most needy in his community and deliver it to them. He was actually invited to do less work. Don’t go back over your field a second time to pick up what you missed. Just leave it. Take enough and leave the rest and then rest. Enjoy what you have. Resist the urge to relentlessly pursue maximum profit.

The needy person was then required to do the extra work, to go out to the field, to pick up what he needed, to bring it home to feed his family. This provided an opportunity for the dignity of honest work to provide for the needs of one’s own. And the one who benefited would recognize this ultimately not as a gift from the landowner, but as a gift from God, who generously provides for our needs.

Ruth

We see this holiness in action in the story of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite woman, and a widow. She had married into a Jewish family, and even after the death of her husband, she showed honor to her mother-in-law. Naomi was a bitter woman, and she had lost her hope in God. She even asked to be called ‘Mara’ – Bitter. Naomi was returning to Israel empty handed. Yet Ruth renounced the idolatry of her people, and declared

Ruth 1:16 … where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Ruth was honoring her mother-in-law, even if she was not altogether worthy of that honor. And Ruth honored her mother-in-law in very practical ways. She worked hard to provide for her needs.

In chapter 2, we are introduced to Boaz, a worthy man, who is a landowner.

Ruth 2:4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”

This is a unique relationship between an employer and his employees. This sounds like a pleasant positive encouraging work atmosphere. The boss genuinely cares, and everyone knows it. How often do you hear employees blessing their boss? If you have anyone under you, strive to create this kind of an atmosphere. This is a man who put God first. This is a man who took time to worship God and to serve others.

Ruth 2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

This is generosity above and beyond. Boaz had provided generously for the needs of his workers, He ate and had fellowship with them, and he gave to this stranger more than she needed. Then he instructed his employees to be intentionally wasteful and careless in order to provide abundantly for this woman. Boaz is sacrificing his own profitability in order to bless a stranger, from whom he could expect nothing in return.

This is an illustration of what holiness practically looks like. Boaz is obeying Leviticus 19, caring for the needs of his employees, extending love to the stranger, providing generously for the poor. But Boaz is only able to be like this because he is enjoying relationship with a God who is like this.

Jesus

Remember we are commanded to be holy because God is holy. God is the one who demonstrates what it is to love the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner. God is the one who demonstrates lavish generosity to those who can never pay him back.

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because he first loved us. We can love like this because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is all a gracious gift. While we were weak. While we were ungodly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! What lavish generosity to strangers, even enemies!

Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Remember. You were separated. You were alienated. You were strangers. You had no hope. But, the boundless riches of his mercy, you who once were far off have been brought near. At what cost? By the blood of Christ! Infinite cost. Unparalleled generosity to those who can never pay back. Now strangers no longer. Aliens no longer. Fellow citizens, saints, members of the house! We have been brought near! He has welcomed the foreigner!

Colossians 1 says:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

You were once alienated. Not alienated through unfortunate circumstances, but alienated by your own hostility. Your own open rebellion. You chose to be hostile. You made yourself his enemy. And yet he pursued you! Jesus pursued his rebellious creation by entering into the creation he had made, taking on our flesh and becoming one of us, so that he could pay the ultimate price for us, he died for you so that he could present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. He took away your shame! He took away your indignity. He brings reconciliation to hostile enemies. He brings us in to relationship. Because we have been so loved, we are set free to so love.

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

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 11:24-47; Be Holy!

08/07 Leviticus 11:24-47; Be Holy!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160807_leviticus-11_24-47.mp3

Last week we looked at the food laws of Leviticus 11:1-23 and saw that God gave these laws to the people that he had chosen to be his distinct people, to teach his priests to make a distinction between clean and unclean.

We also looked at the New Testament or New Covenant, where Jesus declared all foods clean and by his cross broke down the wall of division that separated Jew from Gentile. God told Peter to make no distinction, and that what God had cleansed he was no longer to call common or unclean.

Analogy of the Gentiles

There is an analogy between the food laws and the nations. In the beginning God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. His blessing extended to all nations. But with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God began to narrow his focus, blessing his chosen people, but promising, that ‘in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.22:18). Jesus, the fulfillment of the promises, brought blessing to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile; ultimately to all the nations. In Revelation we will see people from every tribe and language and people and nation worshiping around God’s throne (Rev.5:9; 7:9). The food laws were a mirror of this. These laws were not in effect at creation; only plants were to be eaten in the garden. Although Noah understood the distinction between clean and unclean, God gave him every living thing for food (Gen.9:2-4). But then, to make a distinction, his chosen people Israel were to eat only clean things, setting themselves apart from the nations. Now that the promised Messiah has come, the food laws are irrelevant and serve only to divide.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Romans 14 and the Law of Love

Understandably, there were many who had been raised under the law who struggled to accept that God had declared all foods clean. When I see a platter of shrimp and baby back pork ribs, I begin to salivate. But a Jew raised kosher would instinctively and unconsciously recoil, as Peter did with the sheet. Paul makes clear in Galatians, that when the gospel is at stake, when false brothers are slipping in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus to bring us under slavery, we are not to yield even for a moment. When anyone denies the truth that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law, we are to contend earnestly for the faith. In 1 Timothy 4 Paul is scathing against those who require abstinence from foods, calling them liars with seared consciences, who have departed from the faith and devoted themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. But when the issue is a weak conscience, emotional hangups that do not allow a person to participate in things that God has cleansed without feeling a sense of guilt, Paul teaches in Romans 14 that we must submit to the law of love. I think it will be worth our time to detour over to Romans 14 before we get back in to Leviticus 11.

Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Paul clearly sides with the one who eats anything, saying it is the weak person who eats only vegetables, and that God has welcomed the one who eats. His statements in verse 14 that ‘nothing is unclean in itself’ and in 20 that ‘everything is indeed clean’ give away his position. But Paul gives very specific practical instruction here on these issues of conscience. The weak person is forbidden from passing judgment on the one who eats (v.3, 4, 10, 13) because everything is indeed clean. But the one who eats is forbidden to despise the weak (v.3, 10), or to stumble the weak (v.13, 15, 20, 21). We are to walk in love, to welcome one another, to pursue peace and mutual upbuilding, but we are not to quarrel over opinions. Those who doubt, who are unsure if a thing is approved, those who feel it would be a sin for them to participate are not to participate, because their participation is not rooted in faith.

When the gospel of grace through Jesus is in jeopardy, we are to defend the truth of the gospel against false teachers. But in matters of conscience, the one who abstains from food is not to judge the one who eats, and the one who eats is not to look down on or selfishly destroy the faith of one who does not eat.

Uncleanness by Contact

Now let’s jump back into Leviticus 11 and see what else it has to teach us. Verses 1-23 dealt with distinctions between clean and unclean land creatures, water creatures, those that live in the air, and insects, in regard to what may or may not be eaten. The remainder of the chapter deals with what kind of contact makes one unclean.

Leviticus 11:24 “And by these you shall become unclean. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 25 and whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. 26 Every animal that parts the hoof but is not cloven-footed or does not chew the cud is unclean to you. Everyone who touches them shall be unclean. 27 And all that walk on their paws, among the animals that go on all fours, are unclean to you. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 28 and he who carries their carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening; they are unclean to you. 29 “And these are unclean to you among the swarming things that swarm on the ground: the mole rat, the mouse, the great lizard of any kind, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. 31 These are unclean to you among all that swarm. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening.

The uncleanness was not limited to eating. Merely touching a carcass of an unclean animal brought uncleanness for the rest of the day. Touching a live animal that was unclean did not bring uncleanness. So camels, mules, horses could be ridden and used for work, but they were not to be eaten, and disposing of one that died, as would certainly be a necessity from time to time, brought uncleanness until evening.

Unclean Objects

Not only did contact with a dead creature bring uncleanness to humans, it also brought uncleanness to inanimate objects.

Leviticus 11:32 And anything on which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is an article of wood or a garment or a skin or a sack, any article that is used for any purpose. It must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening; then it shall be clean. 33 And if any of them falls into any earthenware vessel, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it. 34 Any food in it that could be eaten, on which water comes, shall be unclean. And all drink that could be drunk from every such vessel shall be unclean. 35 And everything on which any part of their carcass falls shall be unclean. Whether oven or stove, it shall be broken in pieces. They are unclean and shall remain unclean for you. 36 Nevertheless, a spring or a cistern holding water shall be clean, but whoever touches a carcass in them shall be unclean. 37 And if any part of their carcass falls upon any seed grain that is to be sown, it is clean, 38 but if water is put on the seed and any part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.

This is interesting. Containers that come in contact with an unclean carcass become contaminated along with their contents. But the main water source; a spring or cistern does not become unclean. If you look at the gospels, you see Jesus coming into contact with and even consciously touching unclean people, lepers, blind, deaf, even the dead. He ate with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. But Jesus does not become contaminated through contact. Rather those who come in contact with Jesus are cleansed and made new, because Jesus is the source of living water.

Clean Animals that Die

Leviticus 11:39 “And if any animal which you may eat dies, whoever touches its carcass shall be unclean until the evening, 40 and whoever eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. And whoever carries the carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening.

Even clean animals that are not butchered or sacrificed, but die on their own bring uncleanness. Death entered God’s good creation through sin, and death spread to everyone because all sinned. God’s people are not to come into contact with death and decay. It is contagious and it brings separation from God.

The Serpent and the Garden

Leviticus 11:41 “Every swarming thing that swarms on the ground is detestable; it shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, any swarming thing that swarms on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are detestable.

In this statement on swarming things we see a verbal connection with the fall and the curse. The only other place the word ‘on its belly’ is found is in Genesis 3:14, where the serpent is cursed to go on its belly. The curse brings uncleanness and death. God’s people are not to pursue interaction with the enemy.

Be Holy

Leviticus 11:43 You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. 44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” 46 This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

This concluding statement gives the reason for separation from that which is unclean. Because God is your God, you must be holy as God is holy. This statement is quoted verbatim by Peter and the principle is taught throughout the New Testament. Peter says:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

God requires holiness from believers today, but it is not abstaining from certain foods; God’s will is our sanctification, that we abstain from sexual immorality.

In Ephesians, where we saw that Jesus by his blood

Ephesians 2:14 …has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

Ephesians goes on to say about this one new man, the church,

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

…10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

There is to be a clear distinction between God’s people and the world. Some things are not even to be touched, not talked about, not even named among you. We are to pursue that which pleases God.

Paul writes the church in Corinth to clarify what he meant about not associating with sinners.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

There is to be a standard of holiness within the church.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

In Mark 7, when Jesus taught on what defiles a person, he said

Mark 7:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

This is Jesus’ teaching on what defiles. And what defiles is not what you eat, but the heart issues that are already in you. Your thought life can defile you. You don’t have to do it, you don’t even have to say it; if you think it it demonstrates where your heart is and what you love. Pornography defiles. Taking what doesn’t belong to you defiles. Taking another’s life, or wishing another dead defiles. Unfaithfulness to your marriage vows defiles. Wanting what doesn’t belong to you defiles. Wickedness defiles. Tricking or deceiving others defiles. Sensuality defiles. Envy defiles. Speaking bad about others defiles. Thinking of self more highly than you ought defiles. Foolishness defiles. These are heart issues. These are not just what we do; these are manifestations of who we are. These are inward and outward attitudes and actions that betray a corrupt heart. Actions and desires are evidence of a deeper problem.

The good news is that this is not a list of things we must do or not do to be clean; rather we worship a God who cleanses the unclean and transforms sinners into saints. In the New Covenant Jesus gives a new heart to those who turn to him. He doesn’t plaster a superficial coat of paint over a rotting core, making it look nice on the outside; he comes inside, he gives us his Spirit, he gives us new desires, he changes us from the inside out.

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

August 8, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions

07/31 Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160731_leviticus-11_1-23.mp3

Be Holy for I Am Holy

Peter, in 1 Peter 1:14-16 says:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Do you know where that is written? That actually shows up twice here in Leviticus 11.

Jesus, in the context of teaching us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, alluded to this passage. He said:

Mathew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Leviticus 11 is a chapter on various food laws, what can and cannot be eaten, what is clean and what makes one unclean, and how to handle various kinds of contamination. Leviticus 11-15 is a section that deals with all manner of things that make one unclean, in an order of increasing duration of uncleanness; from eating the wrong kinds of animals and contact with dead animals, to childbirth, to various skin diseases, to mold in a garment or a house, to bodily discharges. The reason God gives for these various laws is here in Leviticus 11:44-45

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

This is a big deal, because we just saw in chapter 10 two guys, newly ordained priests, set apart for the ministry, were torched by the LORD because they failed to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, and to treat God as holy.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified [or treated as holy], and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron [their father] held his peace.

Making Distinctions

In Leviticus 10, Aaron was instructed:

Leviticus 10:10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

A primary role of the priest was to teach the people, and to help them distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean. Chapters 11-15 deal with the distinctions between clean and unclean, and chapters 17-22 deal with the distinctions between holy and common. These chapters climax with the great day of atonement in chapter 16, which takes away the defilement of the people.

Holiness and Election

The main point of this section is that God’s character is to be reflected in his people. He his holy, he is separate, he is totally other, unique, in a class by himself, no one is like him; so his people are to be holy, separate, distinct, set apart, in a class by themselves.

Leviticus 11:45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Deuteronomy 14 also deals with food laws. It starts this way:

Deuteronomy 14:1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. …

2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 3 “You shall not eat any abomination.

The reason for making distinctions between unclean and clean food is ‘the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.’ The election of Israel as a distinct people who belong to God is the reason for distinguishing between clean and unclean.

Noah and Clean Animals

This distinction between clean and unclean animals is not new. We see this distinction all the way back in the account of the flood in Genesis 7-9. God commanded:

Genesis 7:2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate,

After the flood subsided,

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Only the clean animals were offered to God as sacrifices. But notice that Noah and his descendants were not restricted to eating only the clean animals.

Genesis 9:2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Noah was allowed to eat bacon, shrimp, lobster, catfish, rabbit, albatross, spotted owl, whatever he wanted. Remember, Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything,

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Clean, Unclean, Detestable

Everything God created was good. But now in Leviticus 11, as a reflection of his own holiness, God is restricting the diet of his chosen people. The first 23 verses of Leviticus 11 deal with distinguishing between clean and unclean land animals, aquatic creatures, birds and insects.

Land

Leviticus 11:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. 3 Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 4 Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 5 And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 7 And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

Waters

Leviticus 11:9 “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10 But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. 11 You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. 12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Air

Leviticus 11:13 “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14 the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15 every raven of any kind, 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18 the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Insects

Leviticus 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

There is a lot of speculation on why God makes the distinctions he does. Some suggest health reasons and avoiding diseases, but that doesn’t fit with the fact that Noah was permitted to eat any animals after the flood, and that Jesus declares all foods clean in the New Testament. Some suggest creatures that don’t fit well into their environment or class are considered unclean, like water creatures without fins or scales; but this seems to miss the fact that God created all things good, according to their kind. Some think the unclean animals are those used in pagan worship, but if that were the case, the bull should certainly be unclean. Many have tried to find symbolic meaning in the kinds; for instance a divided hoof pictures the ability to distinguish between good and evil; and chewing the cud pictures those who meditate on God’s word. But this can be as creative as the interpreter’s imagination. Some feel the distinctions are purely arbitrary; as God established one tree in the garden as a test; a tree that was pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable to make one wise; this tree was off limits because God said so. In the same way, there was nothing inherently bad about the unclean animals; it was merely a test of obedience.

It seems in general, that the creatures which are considered unclean are those that have to do most with death, decay and destruction; results of the fall. God breathed life into his creation; man through his rebellion brought death, decay, and destruction and it tainted all of God’s good creation. Most of the unclean animals are either carnivores, preying on blood and the carcasses of other animals, or they are wilderness animals, associated with wild uninhabited places. The birds listed as unclean are birds of prey. Rodents, lizards, snakes, worms, flies are all associated with death, disease and the grave.

Jesus and the Law

Be holy because I am holy. This is quoted in the New Testament. Does this mean that we should avoid pork and seafood and start eating locust? Jesus was rebuked by the Pharisees for not following the washing traditions of the Jews. Jesus said:

Mark 7:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

That is a radically comprehensive statement, and it sets aside the Leviticus distinctions. When his disciples asked him in private about what he said,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

In Luke 11,

Luke 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Does this mean that Jesus changed God’s law?

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

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. These food laws, like the entire Bible, points us to Jesus

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

Jesus is the substance of which the whole levitical system was a foreshadowing. Jesus is what the law was teaching about.

Paul warns Timothy of the danger of those who try to put us back under obligation to follow the

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

So how did Jesus bring fulfillment to the food laws? In Acts 10, Peter

Acts 10:10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

The context of this event is Cornelius. Cornelius was a Gentile. God sent an angel to tell Cornelius to send for Peter. In Acts 11, responding to criticism, Peter relayed what happened next.

Acts 11:11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. …

Peter went to a Gentile’s house

Acts 10:28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

Peter shared the good news about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles. In Acts 15, there was debate over the need for Gentile converts to submit to the law. Peter referred back to this incident

Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Jesus declared all foods clean. He invited Peter to eat all manner of Levitically unclean creatures, and when Peter refused, the Lord said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times to make the point clear. Although the surface meaning of this statement is that God has cleansed all creatures for even a Jewish believer like Peter to eat, the point God was making was that the distinction between Jew and Gentile, which was evident in the dietary restrictions, had been erased. The Levitical law made distinctions between clean and unclean. Peter was told to make no distinction, because God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile in salvation. Even Jews can be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus just like Cornelius and other Gentiles had. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Gentile church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Galatians 3 says

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The distinction of Israel as the chosen people of God out of all the peoples of the face of the earth ended at the cross. Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility and abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.

Do we tend to build back up the walls that Jesus came to tear down? Do we tend to draw distinctions between people? Not Jew/Gentile distinctions, but distinctions between people we like to be around, and those we just don’t connect with? Do we draw distinctions between social status, appearance, those who are different from us, those we consider unclean? Jesus came to kill the hostility and make peace. He came to bring us near. ‘Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.’

We no longer need to be ritually clean by keeping dietary laws in order to draw near to God. Jesus cleansed us once and for all by his shed blood on the cross. Now he is calling to himself people from every nation and tribe and language and people (Rev.5:9; 7:9).

The holiness he demands is not outward conformity to a list of prohibitions, but an inward Holy Spirit transformation of desires. What does your heart love? What does it go after? Jesus wants to change your heart!

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment