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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

Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering

07/03 Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160703_leviticus-7_11-38.mp3

Leviticus chapter 7 deals again with the peace or fellowship offering that was introduced in chapter 3. In chapter 3, it was the third of the 5 offerings, listed as the last of the three voluntary offerings which were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Here in chapter 7, the peace offering is moved to the final place, and other general instructions are included. Leviticus 3 gave detailed instructions to the worshiper on the peace offering. It gave instructions on which animals were acceptable, how they were to be prepared, what was to be done with the blood, and what parts were to be offered on the altar. The peace offering was an offering ‘to the LORD’ (3:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 14), and Chapter 3 said that it was a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD’ (3:5, 16). This language of ‘pleasing aroma’ is missing from chapter 7. Chapter 3 was entirely Godward, it focused on this offering as an offering to please the LORD. Chapter 7 comes at it from the perspective of the offerer and the priests. What is to be done with the rest of the offering? What accompanies the offering? What occasions might prompt a peace or fellowship offering?

Lord, surprise us once again with the relevance of your Word. May our hearts be penetrated by the power of your truth. Let us learn and grow from this ancient book that was breathed out by you, which you promised that not the smallest part of a letter would pass away until all of it is fulfilled. Open our eyes to see the fulfillment of your law in Jesus!

Eating the Offering

Leviticus 7:11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. 19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

One of the main things we notice about this offering is how much of this sacrifice was to be eaten. In chapter 3 there was no mention of any bread products. Remember, the peace offering was an animal sacrifice. But here we see that it is to be accompanied by three different kinds of bread; unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and leavened loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. This also is surprising, because in 2:11 we were told that “no grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven”. In chapter 2 leaven is allowed in the offering of firstfruits, but it is never to be burnt on the altar (2:12). But this is the peace or fellowship offering. Why is leaven specifically commanded to be included here? I’m going to leave this question hanging for now, and we will come back to it later.

One loaf from each offering was to be brought as a gift to the LORD, but it went to the priest who was officiating to supply his need. We are not told what was to be done with the rest of the loaves, but we could speculate, based on the rest of the passage, that they were given back to the worshiper as food.

The Third Day

It is carefully specified what happens to the rest of the animal. Its flesh is to be eaten by the worshiper. If the peace offering is an offering of thanksgiving, the animal is to be eaten the same day; none of it is to be left until morning. If the peace offering is a vow or freewill offering, it is to be eaten on the same day or the next day, but any meat left until the third day must be burned. This of course had a simple health reason; without refrigeration, meat would begin to spoil and not be safe to eat on the third day. But there may also be a picture here. We are told in Paul’s presentation of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:4 …that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

But you will not find a clear prophecy in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised on the third day. But it is said that his third day resurrection is ‘in accordance with the Scriptures. Psalm 16 is quoted twice by the Apostles in Acts (2:27; 13:35) and applied to the resurrection of Jesus .

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If we link this statement by the Psalmist that the Father would not let his holy one see corruption with this statement that flesh left till the third day is tainted or becomes an abomination, we could draw the conclusion that Jesus must be raised on the third day. We learn from John 11 that Lazarus was expected to stink because he had been dead four days.

Offerings Taken Home

It is also worth noting what is missing from the instructions here. It was stated about the priests portion of the grain, the sin and the guilt offerings that it must be eaten in a holy place. This is not said of the peace offering. Apparently the peace offering may be taken outside the Lord’s courtyard. Meat from a vow or freewill offering that is eaten the second day would likely be eaten on the journey or at home. This explains the further regulations about sacrificial meat not coming in contact with anything unclean. Nothing unclean was allowed in the tabernacle. But if meat that had been offered as a sacrifice was brought outside, it must be carefully handled so that which is holy would not come into contact with that which is unclean. An unclean person can be cleansed by the appropriate sacrifice, and then have access to the holy, but for someone who is unclean to come uncleansed in to contact with the holy would mean death. But anyone who is clean, even those who did not participate in the offering, may eat of it.

The Severity of Holiness

There is serious consequences for not treating the holy things as holy. The language is severe. ‘He shall not be accepted,’ ‘it shall not be credited to him,’ ‘he shall bear his iniquity,’ ‘that person shall be cut off from his people.’ God is merciful. He desires to dwell with his people. But he must be treated as holy. His instructions must be heeded. For anyone to say ‘I know God says this, but…’ is a very dangerous thing.

Eat No Fat or Blood

Leviticus 7:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

It makes sense in the context of what portion of the sacrifice may be eaten by the worshiper to include this general prohibition against eating any fat or blood. “All the fat is the LORD’s” (Lev.3:16). The fat of animals that were not offered in sacrifice may be used for other purposes, but it may not be eaten. No blood is to be eaten, because “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Lev.17:11). The consequences for disobedience is severe.

The Priests Portion

Leviticus 7:28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD’s food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

Notice in this section the necessity for hands-on personal worship. A wealthy person cannot send his servant to bring an offering on his behalf to the tabernacle. He must go himself. His own hands shall bring it. And this is a messy labor intensive operation, slaughtering, cleaning, and butchering an animal. The fat is burned on the altar. The breast is shared among the priests for food. The right thigh goes to the officiating priest. God is emphatic “that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings” (1 Cor. 9:13). God uses the first person “I,”

34 …I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

This is strong emphatic repetitive language. God is serious about ‘the laborer deserving his wages’ (Luke 10:7). The worker is worthy of his hire, but do not give your minister your heart, your deepest affections. Chapter 3 was very specific. The fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, the long lobe of the liver, the choicest and best parts, the seat of one’s very self, the mind, emotions and will, belong to God alone. Your innermost being must be devoted to God alone. Too often the middle-man becomes the focal point. People talk too much about their favorite preacher and too little about Jesus!

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Yes support your local church! By all means pray for your pastor. He needs it! But keep your focus on Jesus! Give all your affections to Jesus!

Summary Statement

Leviticus 7:37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

This is a concluding statement of the first seven chapters of Leviticus. This connects the regulations here to the historical context. God delivered this directly to Moses on Mount Sinai after the Exodus out of Egypt. These are the very words of God. One thing interesting to note is that we have looked at the burnt, grain, sin,guilt and peace offerings, but the ordination offering is mentioned here for the first time in Leviticus. It will appear 5 times in the next chapter, and it appeared five times in Exodus 29, another chapter dealing with the consecration of the priests. The ordination was hinted at in the special grain offering of the priests in 6:19-23. So these verses bring to a close the section dealing with the offerings and they introduce the next section of Leviticus, dealing with the ordination of the priests.

Fellowship

As we wrap up today, I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the peace or fellowship offering. Each offering points to Jesus in a specific way. The peace offering does not take away our guilt over specific sins; the sin and guilt offerings do that. The peace offering does not deal with our sin nature and present ourselves completely to God; the whole burnt offering does that. Now that we have received forgiveness, the peace offering does not make acceptable to God the work of our hands; that is the picture of the grain offering. What does the peace or fellowship offering teach us?

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

The peace offering is a voluntary response to grace. We have experienced something we did not earn, something we do not deserve. We have been forgiven! Our debt has been paid! We are released from guilt and shame. We have been declared righteous by the Judge of all the earth. Our most inward affections are now directed toward God the source of all grace. This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper partakes of the sacrifice. This offering is a shared meal in God’s presence. It is a feast in the courtyard of the LORD who has done great things for me!

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Why is leaven included in this offering? Leaven puffs up, and it is usually a symbol of sin and pride that puffs up. But in the sin and guilt offerings our sin has been decisively dealt with. In the whole burnt offering all of self has been placed on the altar. Our works are now motivated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And in response, we are filled to overflowing, puffed up, not with pride, but filled with a fullness of joy that is uncontainable! In Deuteronomy 16, unleavened bread is called ‘bread of affliction’. Leaven is that which ferments and bubbles up and overflows.

Jesus came eating and drinking, and when he was questioned,

Luke 5:34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

… 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Are you today enjoying your blood-bought fellowship with God? Are your deepest affections fixed on God? Does your heart uncontainably overflow as you enter his courts with praise and thanksgiving?

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

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:4-7:10; The Priests Portion and The Blood

06/26 Leviticus 6:24-7:10; The Priests Portion and The Blood Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160626_leviticus-6_24-7_10.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6-7, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People      B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)                  The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)                 The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                         The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)               The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)            The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                            The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                   Summary (7:37-38)

Chapter 1 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ Chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’ Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 give instructions to the priest who must handle the offerings properly.

The Sin Offering

Leviticus 6:24 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 25 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD; it is most holy. 26 The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting. 27 Whatever touches its flesh shall be holy, and when any of its blood is splashed on a garment, you shall wash that on which it was splashed in a holy place. 28 And the earthenware vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. But if it is boiled in a bronze vessel, that shall be scoured and rinsed in water. 29 Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy. 30 But no sin offering shall be eaten from which any blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place; it shall be burned up with fire.

As we studied in chapters 4 and 5, the sin offering was the offering that was made by an individual or group when they realized they had sinned. Chapter 4 deals with unintentional sins of commission; something was done that ought not to be done, and he incurred guilt, even if the sinner didn’t realize that what he had done was wrong. The first part of chapter 5 deals with unintentional sins of omission; neglecting to do what ought to be done. Even though the these are not willful sins, they incur guilt, and must be atoned for by sacrifice.

Chapter 4 gave instructions for who needed to offer what, and whose sin was more serious.

Eating the Offering

If it was a common person or even a leader, blood from their sacrifice was to be smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. The choice inward parts, the fat and the organs associated with deep emotion, were to be burned on the altar. Here in chapter 6, we learn what is to be done with the rest of the animal. It is most holy. It is given to the priest who offered it for him to eat, and to share with other priests. Only those who were holy, set apart to God and ritually clean were permitted to touch it. It was not to leave the tabernacle courtyard; it must be eaten only there.

Too Holy To Eat

If it was the high priest, or the whole assembly who sinned, blood from their sacrifice was brought inside the tent to the holy place and sprinkled 7 times in front of the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place, and some of the blood was smeared on the altar of incense in that holy place. In that case, because the blood of that animal was presented before the Lord in the holy place, it was too holy even for the priests to eat. It was to be burned outside the camp. This is the offering that the author of Hebrews tells us points to Jesus, who suffered outside of Jerusalem.

Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

The priests of the Old Testament had no right to eat of the sacrifices whose blood was brought into the holy place. Jesus fulfilled this picture as our great High Priest by sacrificing himself as an offering for sin outside the camp. In Jesus we have rights beyond what the Old Testament priests had. We have access to Jesus, the most holy sacrifice of all. He invites us to come, come and feast; ‘this is my body given for you; this is my blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Lk.22:19-20; Mt.26:26-28)

The Blood

This passage reminds us how messy the sacrificial system was. There are instructions on what to do with things that come in contact with sacrificial blood. Blood is holy; it is set apart for a very specific use. God says in Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Blood symbolizes a life taken, and it was given for the exclusive purpose of making atonement on the altar. Blood was never to be consumed. It was always to be carefully disposed of properly. But remember, the tabernacle, and later the temple was a slaughterhouse. Literally hundreds of animals entered the courtyard alive, and were butchered and processed there. This was a bloody operation. Why? Why all the blood? Because my sin is that bad. The wages of sin is death, and the Levitical system is a sobering reminder of what even unintentional sins cost. This passage deals with what to do if blood is splashed on a priests garment. I imagine that this would be an almost unavoidable occurrence. But that blood is holy. It is given to make atonement. So it is not to be handled lightly. The garment is not to leave the temple courtyard. It is to be washed in a holy place. Now we begin to understand the purpose of the large bronze laver or wash basin near the altar in the courtyard. The priests garments, which were white, must be washed in this holy place.

Remember what Pilate did when he was about to hand Jesus over to be crucified?

Matthew 27:24 …he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

He knew he had blood on his hands, blood of an innocent man. He was trying in vain to wash away the guilty stain.

Here we have priests who become splattered with sacrificial blood, who must remove the blood in a holy place. This is the background for some striking imagery in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7, a great multitude from every nation and tribe and people and language are standing before the throne and before the Lamb clothed in white robes, worshiping God and the Lamb. The question is posed ‘who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’

Revelation 7:14 … And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Robes washed white in blood! The blood of Jesus the Lamb washes all our stains away!

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

[Words & Music: Elisha A. Hoffman, Spiritual Songs for Gospel Meetings and the Sunday School (Cleveland, Ohio: Barker & Smellie, 1878)]

Blood is given to make atonement. It is powerful, and to be handled with care. If the sacrifice comes in contact with a bronze container, it must be scoured and rinsed. But if it comes in contact with a clay pot, the pot must be broken. Earthenware containers, which are porous, could not satisfactorily be cleansed to remove all traces of blood. They must be destroyed. It is interesting that we are likened to earthenware pots in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, …has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Earthenware pots must be destroyed if they come in contact with sacrificial blood.; Have you been broken? Have you been wrecked and undone because you have come in contact with the blood?

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Have you been cleansed by the blood? As earthenware vessels, we must be broken. We must realize what we deserve. We must realize that we are unworthy, and that is what it means to experience grace, because grace is undeserved. We must come to the end of ourselves, be broken before him, to demonstrate that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. And the amazing thing is that when we are broken, he will use us!

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

We now hold the treasure of the gospel shining out from our broken hearts!

The Guilt Offering

Leviticus 7:1 “This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. 2 In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. 3 And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, 4 the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the LORD; it is a guilt offering. 6 Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy. 7 The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. The priest who makes atonement with it shall have it.

The guilt offering was for sins of robbing God our our neighbor. There are specific details of the instruction here that were not listed in the section on the guilt offering in chapters 5-6. Like the sin offering, the inward parts are offered to God. The guilt offering makes atonement, bringing reconciliation with God and man. This offering, like the sin offering, is to be holy food for the priests.

Miscellaneous Possessions of the Priests

Verses 8-10 address miscellaneous possessions which belong to the priests.

Leviticus 7:8 And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered. 9 And every grain offering baked in the oven and all that is prepared on a pan or a griddle shall belong to the priest who offers it. 10 And every grain offering, mixed with oil or dry, shall be shared equally among all the sons of Aaron.

The language here is language of possession. These are the things that by God’s design are offered to him and they become the possession of those who serve him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He also tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

This indicates that the priests who served in the temple didn’t pack a lunch. They showed up in faith, depending on the goodness of God to provide for their needs. Those who served were those who first benefited from the offering. The priests portion was not stored up. It needed to be eaten right away. Day by day they were relying on God to provide for their needs.

Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,

He went on to say:

Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

May we be satisfied as we serve him to lean on him every day in total helpless dependence.

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

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

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:14-23; The Priests Grain Offering

06/19 Leviticus 6:14-23; The Priests Grain Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160619_leviticus-6_14-23.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6-7, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People     B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)               The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)              The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                    The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)            The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)         The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                        The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                              Summary (7:37-38)

Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings primarily from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 deal with these same offerings (with one additional offering which we will look at today) primarily from the perspective of the priest who is making the offering. Chapter 1 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ Chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’

A Bloodless Offering

The grain offering is unique among the offerings as it is the only offering that is not a blood sacrifice. Leviticus repeatedly reminds us of our sins, our sinful nature, even our unintentional sins, sins of omission, sins of neglect; and that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus teaches us the horrific gruesome outcome of our failure to follow God, our failure to worship, failure to honor God as God. The wages of sin is death and blood must be shed, but Leviticus also teaches us that God has provided a way for our sins to be dealt with, a way for sinners to live in the presence of a holy, just and righteous God. He has provided a way for an innocent victim to die in the place of a guilty sinner. This of course points us to the message of the cross, the good news of Christ crucified, that while we were his enemies Christ died for us, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

The Work of Our Hands

But what about this grain offering? As we saw in chapter 2, the grain offering is an offering of fine flour. This would require seeds to be sown, fields irrigated, weeds removed, crops protected from wildlife, the mature grain to be harvested, wheat separated from the chaff, and the kernels of grain ground fine into flour, sifted to ensure consistency. The grain offering could be presented as raw grain, or it could be presented as baked or grilled or fried cakes. It was always to be accompanied by oil pressed from olives, and the aromatic resin frankincense, and salt, The grain offering is the work of our hands.

A Tribute

Also as we saw in chapter 2, the grain offering, or ‘minha’, was a tribute offering. We see this same word used in Judges and Samuel and Kings to express a tribute offered to a conquering king. In Judges 3, the Lord strengthened Eglon, king of Moab, who together with the Ammonites and Amalekites defeated Israel. The people of Israel were subservient to Moab for 18 years, and they were required to bring a ‘minha’, a tribute offering to the Moabite king. In 2 Samuel 8, when David conquered Moab and Syria, the surviving Moabites and Syrians became servants to David and brought him tribute ‘minha’. In 2 Kings 17, Israel was defeated by Assyria and Hoshea king of Israel was allowed to continue to rule as a vassal king, but was required to pay tribute ‘minha’ to Assyria. Hoshea was later imprisoned for treachery because he stopped paying the ‘minha’ tribute.

It was common for a defeated king to enter into a treaty with the conquering king where he would bring a regular quantity of grain or produce to express loyalty, allegiance, and fidelity to the king, and to acknowledge his debt to the king for their very life and existence.

This is the cultural context of the grain or tribute offering. God was the conquering King. He had defeated the Pharaoh of Egypt and purchased for himself a people. He demonstrated his supremacy over the gods of the Egyptians. He freed his people to serve and worship him.

When David brough the ark of God’s covenant with Israel into Jerusalem, they sang:

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering [minha] and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; 30 tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

A Voluntary Offering

The interesting thing about this grain or tribute offering in Leviticus 2 is that it is voluntary. It is ‘when anyone brings a grain offering…’ God is a great King, he owns all, and we owe to him all that we are and all that we have. It is our due to him, but he invites us to come, to come gladly, to come freely, to come as often as we wish, with as much as we desire. We joyfully confess our allegiance to our great King. We eagerly affirm our faithfulness to him.

The Priests Portion of the Grain Offering

Leviticus 2 gives instructions to the worshiper. Leviticus 6 gives instructions for the priests in how to handle the grain offering. Chapter 2 gives details on the different ways the grain can be prepared, the frankincense and oil and salt that is required in its preparation, and the leaven that is not permitted on the altar. Chapter 6 reads:

Leviticus 6:14 “And this is the law of the grain offering. The sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD in front of the altar. 15 And one shall take from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering and its oil and all the frankincense that is on the grain offering and burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 16 And the rest of it Aaron and his sons shall eat. It shall be eaten unleavened in a holy place. In the court of the tent of meeting they shall eat it. 17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of my food offerings. It is a thing most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. 18 Every male among the children of Aaron may eat of it, as decreed forever throughout your generations, from the LORD’s food offerings. Whatever touches them shall become holy.”

Leviticus 6 focus on the responsibilities of the priests in the offerings. It picks up where chapter 2 left off. The priest is to take whatever has been brought by the worshiper, and present it to the Lord in front of the altar. Then he is to take a handful of the grain offering, together with all the frankincense, and thow it into the fire on the altar of burnt offering. This portion would go up as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Everything but that handful would then become food for the priests. Paul picks up on this in 1 Corinthians 9, where he argues for the right of those who preach the gospel to be supported by those they serve.

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

This instruction in chapters 6 and 7, although dealing specifically with the priests responsibilities, would have been read to and known by all the people. Anyone bringing an offering would not be surprised when only a portion of the grain he brought was burned and the rest went to the priests to be eaten. God made this explicitly clear; “I have given it as their portion of my food offerings.” This is God delcaring in the first person what he intends to happen with this offering. This is “decreed forever throughout your generations, from the LORD’s food offerings”. God makes clear and communicates plainly and openly what he intends to be done with the offering. The bulk of it is to go to feed those who are serving in the temple.

But this does not mean that they are free to do what they please with it. They are not permitted to take the flour home, bake leavened bread, and share it with their family and friends. Because it is presented at the altar, and a portion of it is burned on the altar, it is most holy, literally ‘holy holy’ or ‘a holy of holies’. This grain offering is set apart, and consequently is to be treated with great care. Only Aaron and his sons, blood descendants of Aaron, only males, only those who are ceremonially clean and permitted to enter the Lord’s courtyard are allowed to eat. It must be eaten in the courtyard of the tabernacle or temple; none of it is to leave the area. It is holy food to be eaten in a holy place. And it is to be eaten unleavened. It may not be baked with leaven. Twice it is empasized that leaven is not to be used. We saw when we looked at chapter 2 that leaven throughout scripture is consistenly a symbol of the sin of pride, which puffs up. There is to be humility in the Lord’s presence.

The Priests Grain Offering

Verses 19-23 introduce an offering that was not mentioned in the first 5 chapters.

Leviticus 6:19 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 20 “This is the offering that Aaron and his sons shall offer to the LORD on the day when he is anointed: a tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half in the evening. 21 It shall be made with oil on a griddle. You shall bring it well mixed, in baked pieces like a grain offering, and offer it for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 22 The priest from among Aaron’s sons, who is anointed to succeed him, shall offer it to the LORD as decreed forever. The whole of it shall be burned. 23 Every grain offering of a priest shall be wholly burned. It shall not be eaten.”

This is a grain offering, but it is specifically a grain offering offered by the high priest. It is different in almost every way from the voluntary grain offering of the worshiper in chapter 2. The anointed priest is to offer a regular grain offering twice daily. This is a mandatory offering. And there is one specific way in which it is to be prepared. The amount is specified, and the times which it must be offered are specified. God is very specific in the way he is to be worshiped by those who serve him. As we learn from Exodus 29 and Numbers 28, this grain offering of the high priest was to accompany the twice daily whole burnt offering of a lamb. Every morning, a lamb was to be slaughtered, and the whole lamb would go up in smoke to the Lord. With that lamb, this baked grain offering would go up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Then, every evening, another whole lamb would be offered, and with it this baked grain offering. As we learned in verses 12 and 13 the fire on the altar was never to go out. Continually, day after day, morning and evening, a sacrifice was buring on the altar. And on top of that sacrifice was placed the unleavened bread. Unlike the grain offering that came from the people, this grain offering from the high priest was not to be eaten by anyone. Its entirety was to go up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

The high priest was required morning and evening to express his complete allegiance and devotion to the Lord. He was to acknowledge God as King. The work of his hands, morning and evening, was to be placed on the altar and given over completely to God.

Jesus is our Great High Priest

Remember, as the author of Hebrews reminds us over and over, Jesus is our great High Priest. Jesus is the one who expressed his complete and perfect allegiance to his Father. He said in John 8:29 “I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” Even when Jesus stood trial before an earthly high priest who was flagrantly violating the law, Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father. Jesus,

Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus is our great High Priest, who was entirely devoted to his Father, who offered up the work of his hands completely to God.

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

Jesus was a fragrant offering, a pleasing aroma to his Father. Jesus was the perfect grain offering. This gives a new depth of meaning to the familiar line in the Lord’s prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. I need Jesus daily. I need communion with Jesus daily.

We are a Royal Priesthood

Remember too, that we are a royal priesthood.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Having been purchased with a price, we are created for good works, works we are intended to live in.

Peter says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Be amazed at this! Revel in this! You and I are a royal priesthood! We have been made eligible to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ! We belong to him! We are his treasured possession! It is our privilege to proclaim the excellencies of him!

Lord, teach us how to do that this week. Teach us how to offer up spiritual sacrifices to you, the work of our hands. Give us boldness and opportunity to proclaim your excellencies because you are worthy!

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

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:8-13; The Daily Burnt Offering

05/29 Leviticus 6:8-13; The Daily Burnt Offerings; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160529_leviticus-6_8-13.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People          B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)                    The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)                   The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                             The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)                 The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)              The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                             The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                Summary (7:37-38)

Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings primarily from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 deal with these same offerings (with the addition of one) primarily from the perspective of the priest who is making the offering. Chapter 1 begins ‘with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to then, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ This section in chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’

The Burnt Offering

Leviticus 6:8 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. 10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment and put his linen undergarment on his body, and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and put them beside the altar. 11 Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

Ministry is Messy

There are several things to take note of here. First, notice the care taken in the disposal of the ashes. If you’ve ever barbecued, you know you have to deal with the ashes. If you don’t, your grill will get clogged and no longer function. This is in regard to the whole burnt offering, reminding us that this particular offering went entirely up in smoke. Nothing was left but ashes. And even those ashes had to be cared for properly. It would be easiest and most efficient if the janitor just came in and cleaned the ashes out of the altar and disposed of them. But I haven’t read anything about janitors in Leviticus. It is the anointed priest who is doing the cleaning out of the altar. Maybe there is a lesson for us here. We might be tempted to think that with a title and honor comes exemption from menial tasks. Someone called to serve in the ministry shouldn’t have to do the menial things. Some things are simply beneath the dignity of my office. God is faithful to keep us humble. I will spare you the gory details, but guess who people come to when the toilet in the restroom is clogged and overflowing? Ministry is messy. In ministry we deal with people, and people are messy and hurting and broken. Life is messy. If you are called to ministry, be aware that you will have to wear different hats and fill different roles. And remember, we are all called to ministry!

God is Holy

Notice the change of clothing. The priest starts out wearing his linen garments. This priestly uniform is described in detail in Exodus 28, and it is designed for modesty. It is to cover well. Even the altar is designed without steps, according to Exodus 20:26, ‘that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ This is designed to draw a clear distinction between the worship of the one true God and the pagan worship of false gods, which often included sexual immorality as part of the worship. The priest in uniform has to clean out the ashes from the altar and put them beside the altar. Then he has to go change out of his uniform and put on other clothes. The priestly uniform is not to leave God’s court. It is holy. The priest is to put on other clothes in order to take the ashes outside the camp. We might think of this in terms of someone who works with hazardous radioactive material. There is a specific uniform designed to protect him, and there is a specific procedure for changing clothes to avoid contamination, to keep from transferring radioactive material out where it will harm other people. God is holy. God is dangerous. To come in contact with a holy God is dangerous. God is to be treated as holy, and even the uniform in which the priest approaches God is to be kept holy, separate, set apart. When he left the courtyard, he was to lay aside his holy clothes.

This reminds me of another who laid aside his clothes.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus, who was God from all eternity, stooped down to do for us what we were too proud to do.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus laid aside his glory to come and serve us. He did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. This is a reminder to us that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

The Fire is Not Quenched

Notice also that the fire on the altar is to be kept burning continually. This is restated multiple times in multiple ways in this passage.

9 …The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning,

and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.

…12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out.

The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings.

13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

Where the burnt offering of chapter 1 dealt with a voluntary offering brought at will by a worshiper, here chapter 6 is dealing more specifically with the regular daily burnt offering proscribed in Exodus 29 and Numbers 28 which was the regular duty of the priests.

Exodus 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. (cf. Num.28:3-8)

The Fire of God’s Wrath

There was to be a burnt offering every morning and every night, and in between it was the responsibility of the priests to keep the fire burning continually.

This is a graphic and gruesome reminder of our sin. There was around the clock an animal going up in smoke. This is a reminder that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb.12:29). Jesus talked about ‘hell, the unquenchable fire, where there worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (Mk.9:43-48). God is just. He will punish all sin. My sin deserves death. If you are in Jesus, the full fury of God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus in your place. But if you are found apart from Jesus, you will be sent ‘into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt.25:41). Fire most frequently in Scripture is a picture of judgment. The perpetual fire burning on the altar would be a constant reminder of my sinfulness, of God’s absolute justice, and of my desperate need for a substitute.

A Reminder of Grace

But it would also be a reminder that I do have a substitute! This constant flame on the altar would be a reminder that God has provided a way for this sinner to be forgiven. God has made a way for my guilt to be transferred to another, and for a substitute to die in my place. This would be a constant reminder not only of God’s absolute justice, but also of his unfailing love! God is merciful and gracious. He does not give me what my sins deserve. He poured that out on Jesus! He freely gives me what I did not earn; he credits me with the perfect righteousness of my Lord Jesus! What a treasure, to look at the flame, a means of judgment, and be reminded that God’s just judgment does not fall on me! What a treasure to look to the cross, a cruel instrument of torture, and be reminded that Jesus bore my sins in his body on that cursed tree.

Peace With God

Notice also, verse 12 tells us that the fat from the peace offering is to be placed on top of the burnt offering. The burnt offering is first. Remember from chapter 1 that the offerer laid his hand on the head of the animal, leaning on the animal, confessing his sins.

Leviticus 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The whole animal was burnt on the altar. On top of this offering, the fat from the peace or fellowship offering would be placed. Peace with God, fellowship with him must be founded on sacrifice. There is no other way. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me” Jn.14:6).

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…

Peace with God, access to God, fellowship with God only comes through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The fire of God’s judgment for my sin must fall on Christ so that I can now experience peace.

Maintain the Flame

I think we can find another picture here. The priests were not responsible to initiate the fire, but only to maintain the fire. We will see at the end of chapter 9, after the consecration of the priests, that:

Leviticus 9:24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

The fire was divine fire. It came out from before the Lord. It was the responsibility of the priests to tend this fire, to maintain this fire, to feed this fire, but they did not initiate the fire. Outside fire was not allowed. We have a picture here we can learn from.

John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is not our responsibility to light the fire. This is a divine fire only God can ignite. It is our responsibility to tend the fire, remove the things that would eventually quench the fire, to feed the fire. We are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,

Think for a minute. What are some practical ways you can maintain the fire, avoid quenching the fire, fuel God’s holy fire in your own life? What are some ways you can fuel the fire in other and seek to build them up?

A Royal Priesthood

You may be thinking ‘this all sounds good, but I am not in ministry, so this does not apply to me. I am not a priest, I am just a worshiper. I identify with the first chapters, where the average worshiper brings his offering, but this section with instructions for the priests is not for me.’ If that is what you are thinking, you could not be more wrong. The Apostle Peter addresses believers, those who are born again, and says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We are all priests to God! Men, women, children, all who are believers in Jesus, are called ‘a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood.’

In Revelation, John addresses the saints. He says:

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Notice who the ‘us’ is. Are you loved by Jesus? Have you been freed from your sins by his blood? Then you are part of the ‘us’, and he has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (cf.20:6)

Notice, the priests in Revelation are no longer from a particular tribe and a particular lineage. They are those who are ransomed by the blood of Jesus, people from every tribe and language and people and nation, priests to God.

So this priestly instruction is for you, for me. As a holy priesthood, we can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You can proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light!

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

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus Introduction

04/10 Leviticus Intro Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160410_leviticus-intro.mp3

All Scripture is Profitable

Romans 15:4 tells us

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Scriptures give us encouragement and hope to endure. All Scripture is for our instruction. Amen? Do you believe this?

2 Timothy 3 points us to the sacred writings

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Do you believe this?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. Do you believe this?

What Is Leviticus?

Then turn with me to the book of Leviticus. It’s the third book in the Bible, the middle of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, 27 chapters between Exodus and Numbers. Leviticus gets its English title from the Latin Vulgate translation, which comes from the Greek Septuagint, and it means ‘that which concerns the Levite’, even though the Levites are seldom mentioned in Leviticus. The tribe of Levi was the tribe responsible to set up, to take down, to carry, to care for and to guard the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num.1:47-54). A subset of Levites, those descended from Aaron and his sons, served as priests in the tabernacle.

The book of Leviticus begins with 7 chapters of instructions on the different kinds of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle, then chapters 8-10 give instructions for the consecration of the priests who would carry out those sacrifices, chapters 11-15 give laws on cleanliness for the people, including dietary laws, purification after childbirth, how to handle skin diseases, mold in a house, and bodily discharges. These are all issues of uncleanness that need to be addressed by the appropriate sacrifice. Chapter 16 gives instructions on the great day of atonement and the cleansing of the Tabernacle. Chapters 17-25 give laws for holy living, chapter 26 gives blessings and punishments for obedience or disobedience, and rewards for repentance, and chapter 27 deals with vows.

Remember, all Scripture is God breathed and profitable.

Why Study Leviticus?

Why should we study Leviticus as a Christian? When we finished Exodus a few years ago, I was asked what we were going to study next, so I suggested Leviticus. People threatened to leave the church, or at least find another church for a year or so. Leviticus seems so… irrelevant. We don’t have a tabernacle, we don’t need a temple, we don’t have priests wearing funny clothes and we don’t offer animal sacrifices. Most of us don’t eat Kosher. The stuff about skin diseases and mold and bodily emissions seem a bit gross. So what’s the point? Why take time to study this ancient book?

There is an element of disciplined obedience. If we truly believe that all Scripture is profitable to make us wise for salvation and equipped for every good work, then it is arrogant and unwise for us to stand over Scripture and select the bits that we feel are more relevant or interesting and skip over the rest. A common metaphor used in the Bible for Christian growth and maturity is edification. Build one another up in the faith. This is a construction metaphor, and in building an edifice, the foundation is critical and every stone is important. Imagine if you were having a house built. You come to inspect the progress after the building starts to rise, and you notice a gaping hole in the foundation. When you find the guy who was doing the work, he says ‘well that particular stone just didn’t capture my attention. It wasn’t very interesting or exciting, so I left it out’. It may not be exciting – its a stone! But it’s necessary. It helps to hold the building up. We have been given 66 God breathed books that make up the collection we call the Bible, and they are all important. If we believe God spoke and communicated his truth to his people, if he saw to it that it was recorded in written form, if he ensured that it was passed down to us intact and unaltered, do you think it would be wise to disregard any of it?

Jesus in Leviticus

Now that is true of every book in the collection we call the Bible. But why Leviticus in particular? Why would a Christian want to study Leviticus? Christianity is all about following Christ. I believe we don’t understand Jesus if we don’t understand Leviticus. We are Christians because we follow Jesus, and Jesus said in Matthew 5:

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 to fulfill the Law. The Law was pointing to Jesus. We don’t fully understand Jesus if we don’t understand how he fulfilled the Law. When Jesus met his disciples on the Emmaus road, we are told:

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

Jesus after his resurrection opened the Torah, the five books of Moses and interpreted in them the things concerning himself. Leviticus is the centerpiece of the five books of Moses. Leviticus is about Jesus! Leviticus is all about Jesus. Jesus came to die – to die on a cross. He came to die as a perfect substitute for our sins. The cross is central to Christianity. We fail to understand the cross if we fail to understand the sacrificial system. The crucifixion of Jesus was a Levitical sacrifice.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Jesus is the one who mediates between us and the Father. Hebrews repeatedly (2:17, 3:1; 4:14-15, 5:5; 6:20; 7:26-28; 8:1; 9:11) calls Jesus our great High Priest. We fail to appreciate Jesus as our great High Priest if we don’t understand the role of a priest in the Old Testament. We don’t appreciate the sweetness of the New Covenant if we aren’t familiar with the Old Covenant that it supersedes. The New Testament book of Hebrews is a rich commentary on Leviticus that points us to Jesus, the better Priest who offers a better Sacrifice in the better Tabernacle.

My prayer as we study Leviticus together is that we will fall more deeply in love with Jesus, because Leviticus is all about Jesus.

Holiness

Not only will we grow to appreciate Jesus, Leviticus will teach us some practical things about how to approach God. God is holy. The main theme of Leviticus is holiness. God is holy, we are sinful, and that makes him dangerous. But true joy is found in relationship with him. Leviticus gives instructions on how a sinful people can approach a holy God and experience the joy of his presence safely.

A dangerous tendency among many Christians is to treat God casually. We are saved by grace, and we begin to take grace for granted, we get careless, we presume on grace, thinking it is no big deal. It’s okay to sin; God will forgive me. Leviticus communicates to us the seriousness of sin. God hates sin. All sin. Every sin is serious. And all of life matters. We cannot compartmentalize and think that when we are with church people we live to a different standard than when we are with our family or our friends or our co-workers. God is present in all of life, and all of life matters. A holy God must punish sin. Jesus calls us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). Lest we think this is limited to the Old Testament, Ephesians tells believers that we were chosen in him “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). Peter cites Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2, 20:7, 26 and applies it to believers.

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.”

The goal for believers in Jesus is to become holy. Leviticus helps us to see what that even means, and it helps us understand how that happens.

Imperative Follows Indicative

Our holiness is always only a response that flows out of our sins being covered by sacrifice. We don’t strive to be holy in hopes that God will recognize our effort and accept us. We approach God through sacrifice that covers sin, because we aren’t neutral, we start out sinful. Then, because our sins have been covered, this creates in us a desire to please him in all things. It is fascinating to note that the outline of Leviticus looks a lot like the outline of many of the New Testament letters. They begin by proclaiming the good news of Christ, who met our need, washed us clean, set us free, made us whole, and then as a result of the gospel transformation that God works in us, this births an outflow of practical holiness that permeates all of life. The imperatives, the commands to live a certain way always follow and flow out of the indicatives, the statements of what God has done for us. Romans begins with 11 chapters of the good news of what God has done for us, and then concludes with 5 chapters that give us instruction on how to live in response to the truth of the gospel. Ephesians chapters 1-3 give us a rich overflow gospel indicatives, proclaiming what God has done, and then concludes with 3 chapters of practical instruction, imperatives that naturally flow as fruit out of the deep root of gospel transformation. If we look back at the broad outline of Leviticus, we see it begins with sacrifices that allow us to approach God, with who is qualified to offer those sacrifices, with what sacrifices address which specific issue of sin or uncleanness, and then the book concludes with practical instructions on how to live holy lives as those who have been forgiven by a gracious God.

It is my prayer that as we study Leviticus, we would deepen in our appreciation for the gospel, that we would increase in our hatred of sin, and it would birth in us a desire to please and glorify God in all of life.

Exodus Review

Let’s look at the first verses of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

The title in of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible comes from the first word of the Hebrew text: ‘wayyiqra‘; it means ‘and he called’. Leviticus begins with waw-consecutive; which means that the first syllable of the first word is a conjunction. How often have you picked up a book to read, and the first word on the first page is ‘And’? What would you do? I would turn back a few pages to see if I missed something, turn the book over to see if this is the second book in a series, because a conjunction like ‘and’ usually connects with something that went before. This is true of Leviticus. The ‘and’ is an indicator that Leviticus continues the story from the last paragraph of Exodus. So it will serve us well, as it has been several years since we studied Exodus, to use our remaining time to review Exodus to locate ourselves in the story. Exodus, of course, follows Genesis, so maybe we should begin at the beginning.

Genesis begins with God, who has always been there, creating everything that is. Everything he creates is good. He creates man to reflect his character to all creation, to rule under him, to be in relationship with him, but man rebels. Man brings sin and its ugly consequences into God’s perfect creation. But rather than immediately destroy rebellious mankind, God promises a rescue. Mankind gets worse and worse, to the point where God washes the earth clean with a flood, but shows grace to Noah and his family, and preserves them through the global catastrophe. Again mankind gets worse, but God extends grace to Abram, makes outrageous promises of land and descendants to this childless migrant, and promises to make him a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God gives him a son in his old age, his son Isaac has a son Jacob, and Jacob has 12 boys who become the 12 tribes of Israel. This family is a mess, with rival wives and favoritism to the point where the brothers gang up on the youngest and plot to kill him but instead sell him as a slave and lie about it. Famine strikes the land, so they move to Egypt, where God has providentially placed their younger brother to provide for them.

Fast forward 400 years, and we get to Exodus. They are now slaves in Egypt, cruelly oppressed by a tyrant king, and God hears their groaning and comes to their rescue.

Chapters 1-14 explain God’s redemption of his people, setting them free from slavery and destroying their enemies. Chapters 15-18 show God’s care for his people, providing for their every need in the wilderness, in spite of their constant grumbling. Chapters 19-24 outline God’s covenant with his people, explaining what it means for him to be their God and for them to be his people. Chapters 25-40 show God’s presence with his people, how he comes to live among them.

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. The last section, chapters 25-40, culminating with God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people who worship a golden bull idol and break all of God’s laws, and Moses’ prayer of intercession for the people. God with mercy upon mercy renews his covenant with his people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The last half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his undeserving but broken and repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. The book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle set up according to God’s instruction at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the glory cloud of God’s presence filling the tabernacle in the middle of his people.

This is where Leviticus begins. A stiff necked disobedient, complaining people, prone to wander, and God’s holy presence in the middle of their camp. God’s presence with his people is dangerous. And

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, …

Leviticus is the account of God speaking to Moses from the Tabernacle, giving him specific instructions on how he is to be approached by his people. This phrase ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’ permeates the book, occurring some 37 times. Leviticus, in the most literal sense of the term, is God’s word to his people.

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

It is my prayer that this increases your affections for Jesus, the one who loves sinners so much that he goes to the cross as a sacrifice for us, the one who forgives even the worst offenses. I pray that if you see yourself today as a sinner, you would approach God through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and find forgiveness and acceptance and freedom.

I pray that this would empower you to loathe sin, to recognize your relationship with God as a weighty matter, to rightly value your relationship with him and as an overflow of his transforming grace in your life, to pursue holiness.

I pray that this would whet your appetite and made you hungry – hungry for more of God’s word.

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

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 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,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “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.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 ​For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

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

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Friday; The Cross as a Mirror

04/18/14 Good FridayAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140418_good-friday.mp3

Good Friday

This is Good Friday. It is the day we celebrate the most horrific atrocity ever carried out on an innocent human being by wicked human beings. Why do we call it good? It is good, because in the infinitely wise purpose of God, it is the only possible way for God to save sinners, and we all are sinners. This is the day we celebrate the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. At the center of the good news stands the cross, without which there would be no truly good news at all. It is so core to the gospel, that Paul summarized his message in 1 Corinthians 1:23 with these words: “we preach Christ crucified.” In verse 18, he refers to the gospel as “the word of the cross.” ‘The cross’ is a kind of shorthand to refer to the gospel, the crucifixion, everything Jesus accomplished there on that bloody piece of wood. Remove the cross from Christianity, and it is a hollow, empty worthless thing, a mere outward form with no real substance, no power.

There are many different angles we can take to view the cross of our Lord Jesus, each of them rich and deep with insight that can nourish our souls. Tonight, I’d like to look at the cross as a mirror. We read in Ephesians 5:2 that:

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If Christ gave himself up for us, if he laid his own life down as an offering, as a sacrifice to God, then he took our place. He took my place. That is how a sacrifice works. Something dies in place of someone else. What he suffered, I deserved. I should have been the one hanging there. Peter says:

1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

Peter goes to great lengths to make it clear to us that it was for no sin of his own that Jesus was crucified. No sin, no deceit, no threats, no slander. He bore our sins.

Who I am

So when I look at the cross, I see myself. I see what I am really like. I look at the horror of the cross, and see what I deserve. When I look around the room, I can see other people that I think are worse than me, who have sinned more grievously than I have, and I can feel good about myself. But when I look at the cross, I see myself as God sees me, in light of his absolute perfection, and I see that I am a proud, arrogant, self-righteous rebel, who thinks much too highly of myself and dishonors and disregards an infinitely good God. I am a thief, who has robbed God of his glory. An adulterer, whose affections have run after things and people when God deserves my undivided affections. A liar, who by my actions and attitudes have misled so many about where true joy and peace and happiness is found. A murderer, who at times has shook his fist toward God, in effect wishing him dead so that I could run the universe the way it ought to be run.

When I look to Jesus, when I see the mockery of justice in repeated trials with false witnesses brought in, I see my own self-righteousness when I make light of my own sin but demand that others be held accountable when they sin against me.

When I see the thirty pieces of silver thrown by Judas into the temple, I see that what I value most is so cheap, temporary and trivial, and I see the infinite wrong of my failure to treat Jesus as infinitely valuable.

When I see his beard ripped out and his face bruised and disfigured with blows, it is my anger, my hatred, my disgust with my fellow man, my gossip, my thoughtless hurtful words, my slander toward another creature made in the image of God.

I see him blindfolded, slapped in the face, and told to prophesy who it was who struck him. That is my doubt, my skepticism, my hard heart of unbelief.

When I see the scourge that plowed furrows in his back and left mangled ribbons of flesh hanging there, that is my greed, my self-centered pride that uses people to get what I want.

When I see the crown of thorns pounded into his skull, those are my evil thoughts, feelings and desires that pierced his brow.

When I see the purple robe placed on his bloody back in mock worship and then ripped from him just as the scabs begin to form, it is the arrogance of my self-love, when I feel I deserve the love and admiration of everyone around me, when I usurp the worship that rightly belongs to him alone.

When I hear the sickening thud of the hammer pounding steel through flesh and into wood, every blow is the pounding of my anger, my lust, my greed, every self-centered action.

When he cries out from the cross ‘I thirst,’ it is because I am too busy to stop and give even a cup of water to the least of these my brothers.

When he cries out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ it is my sin that caused the full fury of the wrath of his Father to be unloaded on him.

As I see the spear plunged up under his rib cage and into his heart, it is my heart of pride and self-righteousness that must be pierced and deflated to make room for the love of God.

When I look to Jesus hanging there on the cross as my substitute, I look in a mirror and see my own heart and what I deserve.

Who God is

But as I look to Jesus on the cross, if I look from a different angle, I begin to see a reflection of who God is. As I see him bearing the punishment for my every sin, I see the absolute righteousness and justice of God, who is too holy to look the other way or let even the slightest offense slide. As I see the horrific nature of the punishment, I begin to understand the awesome power of God and I begin to feel the weight of how serious my offense was against him. When I hear Jesus say ‘no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (Jn.10:17-18), I see that Jesus was my voluntary substitute. No one forced him to do it. As Hebrews tells us, it was ‘for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross’ (Heb.12:2). In the cross I begin to see the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses my comprehension. I see the love of the Father for me, who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all’ (Rom.8:32). I begin to see the overwhelming riches of the mercy of God toward his enemies, as he conquers my hard heart with his love, to turn my heart toward him. I begin to understand the amazing liberality of his grace, lavishing eternal life on everyone who would look to Jesus on the cross and believe.

I would invite each of you tonight to look to the cross, to see yourself for who you really are, to see God for who he really is, to run into his arms and find forgiveness and life and joy and peace. I invite you allow God to love you, to rescue you, to transform you by the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for you.

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

April 18, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131117_1cor7_10-16.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? 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.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

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

November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 5:1-11; Making Disciples

06/16/2013 Making Disciples; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130616_making-disciples.mp3

Luke 5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Matthew and Mark record an abbreviated form of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus is proclaiming good news from God and commanding that people turn and believe that good news. He said ‘follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’. ‘Follow me’ – that is the call of discipleship. Disciples are followers of Jesus. That is what followers of Jesus do; they follow Jesus. I don’t think that’s too hard to understand. It is hard to live out, but it is not hard to understand. Many people claim to be followers of Jesus, but if Jesus says ‘follow me’ and I am going off in a different direction, I can’t really say I am following Jesus. Followers of Jesus follow Jesus. The good news Jesus proclaimed was ‘the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel’ (Mk.1:15). The kingdom of God is at hand because the King has come down! The King is here! The King must be obeyed. When the King says ‘follow me’, immediately, you drop everything and follow the King. This is what a disciples is. Absolute submission to the King. Immediate obedience to King Jesus.

Let Down Your Nets

In Luke’s account, Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat as a platform to teach from. When he was done teaching, he instructed Peter to do some fishing. Peter was obviously a bit put out by this. He was happy to let the Rabbi teach from his boat, because that’s what teachers do. He probably would have been fine if Jesus gave him some pointers on building something, because Peter knew that Jesus had been trained as a carpenter. But now the Carpenter is telling the fisherman how to fish. Peter lets him know that they spent all night working hard doing what fishermen best knew how to do and caught nothing. But with that protest, he obeys. What happens next is nothing short of supernatural. Contrary to all his years of fishing wisdom and experience, they do everything wrong as far as fishing is concerned, and their nets were incapable of holding the multitude of fish that came into their nets. This is grounds for celebration. I would expect shouting and hoots and hollering, a party atmosphere, ‘Jesus, you’re my new best friend and permanent fishing buddy’. But Peter’s reaction is telling. This is no party. He is on his face before Jesus acknowledging his own sinfulness. Peter has realized who got into his boat. This is no ordinary rabbi, no mere carpenter, this is the Lord of land and sea, the God of the universe, the one who spoke all creation into existence, to whom every fish in the sea obeys his command. In the presence of Jesus, Peter is painfully aware of how far he falls short.

I Am A Sinful Man

Why does Peter ask Jesus to depart from him? I think he realizes that as a sinner in the presence of the all-holy God, he is in trouble. Because God is holy, it is his character to judge sin. Peter as a sinner, acutely aware of his own sinfulness, is rightly afraid. That is the right response to God’s presence. God is good, God is righteous, God is holy, and God is just to judge sin. We all have rebelled against him, we have rejected his authority in our lives, we have failed to give thanks to him, we refuse to honor him as God. All that sinners should ever expect from a holy God is judgment. What I have earned by my God dishonoring sin is death. When God shows up in my boat, it means he is coming to pay me what I deserve. Peter is pleading for mercy. ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’. ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’.

Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus’ response to Peter breathes life and hope. ‘Do not be afraid’. Peter understands his own situation and has every good reason to be terrified to the core of his being, and Jesus says ‘do not be afraid’. Jesus says ‘I did not come to judge the world but to save the world’ (Jn.12:47); I am not here to punish your sins, I am here to pay for your sins. Turn and believe the good news. This is good news indeed! For the sovereign Judge to say to a sinner ‘do not be afraid’ is the best news.

Catching Men

But it does not stop there. Jesus calls us into a relationship with himself. ‘From now on you will be catching men’. ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. Jesus calls us to a higher purpose. No longer fish but people. We are called to follow King Jesus, and we are commissioned to invite others to follow Jesus. We are to be disciples and we are to make disciples. Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple. This becomes explicitly clear when we come to the end of the gospels and hear Jesus’ final instructions.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus instructs his disciples to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey everything he has commanded them, which would at least include this command to make disciples. Jesus’ promise confirms this, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’. As long as this present age lasts, Jesus promises to be with us, his followers as we obey him in the disciple making task. Not only has King Jesus, Lord of the universe, come not in judgment but with mercy, but he has commissioned us to be the bearers of this good news to the nations.

Make Disciples of All Nations

Why are we commissioned to make disciples of all nations? Why does Jesus place an emphasis on making disciples of different people groups? This helps us get at the end goal of the gospel.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Psalms 117:1 Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!

The goal of the gospel is worship. God deserves to be worshiped. He deserves to be worshiped from all his creation. We see this unfolding in Revelation:

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

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

Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. We are not done yet. According to the global research department of the international mission board May 2013 data, they categorize 11,301 people groups in the world. They define a people group as ‘the largest group through which the gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance’. Of these 11,301 people groups, 6,941 are considered unreached, that is, less than 2% of the total population are Evangelical Christians. Of these 6,941 unreached people groups, 3,041 are considered unengaged, where there is no known Evangelical church planting underway. We have some work left to do. For the glory of Christ, we must engage every tribe with the good news.

What Does It Take?

What does it take to engage people with the gospel? Romans gives us the missionary outline of gospel advancement to the unreached nations.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Anyone from any ethnic background who calls out to Jesus will be saved. In order to call out to him for salvation, they must believe in him. In order to believe in Jesus, they must have heard of him. There are people in the world today who have never heard of Jesus. For anyone to hear about Jesus, someone needs to go and preach to them. So some of us need to go. Some of us need to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Some of us need to learn new languages so that we can communicate the truth about Jesus to people who have never heard. Some of us need to let go of the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy, say goodbye to friends and relatives and go. Some of us need to let go of the illusion of safety and security and take some risks, even lay down our lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus. ‘How are they to hear without someone preaching?’

But there is another step behind gospel advancement. ‘How are they to preach unless they are sent?’ Some of us need to give. Without sending, gospel advancement doesn’t happen and unreached peoples stay unreached. A very practical part of sending is financial. If we are serious about the glory of God, some of us need to change our lifestyles and sacrifice deeply and give generously so that others can go. Paul points to the grace of God demonstrated among the Macedonian believers:

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

What an interesting recipe for abundant generosity. Most of us think that if we could only win the lottery or make a lot more money, then we could really be generous. But the Macedonians were experiencing a severe test of affliction. Their extreme poverty combined with their abundant joy to overflow in a wealth of generosity.

But sending is more than financial. Paul on several occasions asked for prayer and thanked the churches for their prayers and their encouragement. Even the apostle Paul needed prayer and encouragement. Paul described the relationship between the senders and the goers as a partnership in the gospel (Phil.1:5).

This is a historic moment for this local church. We are a church plant in a difficult mission field. Today, we have the great privilege of sending out workers into the nations to make disciples for the glory of Christ.

I want to end with some gospel encouragement. 6,941 unreached people groups, over 3,000 unengaged people groups may sound overwhelming. And remember, Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). I want to encourage us with a few of the ‘I will’ statements in the bible. Peter told Jesus ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing’. But the one who is sovereign over the fish of the sea and over the hearts of men said ‘I will make you fishers of men’. We might be saying ‘I can’t do this; depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord’ But it is not our job to become expert evangelists. Jesus says ‘I will make you fishers of men’. The one who can cause fish to swim into a net can also give faith to those who are vehemently opposed to him. The Carpenter from Nazareth said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18). Our job is not to build the church; our job is to follow Jesus, and to invite others to follow Jesus. God says:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

This mission cannot fail. We as individuals can fail, we can fail to follow Jesus, but Jesus’ promises will not fail. The followers of Jesus will succeed in making disciples of all nations because Jesus is with us to the end of the age, He purchased with his blood people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, he will build his church and he will be worshiped by the nations.

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

June 16, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment