PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God

01/29 Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170129_leviticus-20.mp3

After a bit of a break, we are going to jump back in to the book of Leviticus. We are in chapter 20. Before we jump right in, we need to locate ourselves in the book to understand what we are looking at in its context.

We are in the second major half of Leviticus. Leviticus 16 is the centerpiece of Leviticus; and the book of Leviticus is the centerpiece of the Torah or Pentateuch; the five books of Moses.

Leviticus 1-7 outline the sacrificial system; Leviticus 8-10 describe the priests, those responsible for officiating the sacrifices; chapters 11-15 describe various sources of uncleanness that require sacrifice; and chapter 16 explains the great Day of Atonement; how uncleanness is cleansed so God can dwell with man. To use a New Testament theological term, Leviticus 16 deals with justification. We are told:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.

Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a person live after being made right with God through the work of the high priest? In New Testament terms, we would use the word sanctification. Now that I have been justified, now that I have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of a substitute, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?

The basis of these demands for holiness are rooted in our relationship with the LORD. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and I have taken you to be my people, this is how you must live.

Leviticus 19 is one of Jesus’ favorite chapters in the Bible. In 19:2 we find the oft repeated phrase “you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy”; which forms the basis of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:48 that “you …must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Leviticus 19 spells out in very diverse real life ways what holiness looks like in daily life and relationships. 19:18 is what Jesus quotes when he says “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Mt.5:43; 19:19; 22:39); then in 19:34 this is expanded to include the stranger who sojourns with you; “you shall love him as yourself”; this is the basis for Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 on loving you enemy, and the foundation of his teaching in Luke 10 on the good Samaritan and who was a neighbor to the man in need.

Chapter 19 is sandwiched between chapters 18 and 20. These two chapters cover much of the same ground, and if you remember back, chapter 18 was one of the most uncomfortable messages I have ever had to give. It deals with holiness and human sexuality, because holiness extends to every area of life.

We could ask, ‘Why so much repetition? Why cover the same ground twice?’ One reason is that this is important and we are often slow to hear. This information matters to God enough for him to say it twice. If God recorded it for us twice in the space of three chapters, we ought to take notice and heed his instruction. Another reason is that chapters 18 and 20 are coming at the same subject from two different angles. Chapter 18 is addressed to the individual Israelite, telling him ‘do not do these things; they are highly displeasing to the LORD who bought you.’ The goal is found in 18:4-5

Leviticus 18:4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Do these things and you will enjoy life in relationship with me. Life and obedience are linked together.

Chapter 20 is not addressed to the individual but to the holy community. If someone who is living as part of the community does any of these forbidden things and sins against the LORD, this is how the community is to respond. Nine times we find the phrase ‘shall surely be put to death’; 6 times ‘their blood is upon them’; 5 times ‘cut off from among their people’; 3 times ‘I will set my face against that man’; 3 times ‘shall bear their iniquity’ or ‘sin’; 2 times ‘shall be childless’; 2 times shall stone him with stones’; once ‘shall be burned with fire’. Chapter 18 holds out life in following God’s rules; chapter 20 commands death and separation as the consequence of refusing to follow God’s ways. The wages of sin is death.

Structure

This passage has three main sections of judgment pronounced on disobedience, separated by two sections of exhortation to holy living.

20:1-6 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

–20:7-8 exhortation to holiness

—-20:9-21 sins against family [protecting human relationships]

–20:22-26 exhortation to holiness [promise of holiness]

20:27 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

We see in this passage a connection between spiritual unfaithfulness and sexual degeneracy; the same connection we see in Romans 1.

Consequences for Spiritual Unfaithfulness

Leviticus 20:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech. 6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

This issue was briefly mentioned in Leviticus 18:21

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Offering children to Molech was one of the reasons God told his people to exterminate entire civilizations. All the way back in Genesis, God told Abram that his descendants

Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Now that time has come; the Lord detests their practices and the land will vomit out its inhabitants. One of these detestable practices was child sacrifice.

David’s son, king Solomon, married many foreign women who turned away his heart after other gods. We are told in 1 Kings 11

1 Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah prophesies against Judah, because

Jeremiah 7:31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Jeremiah says

Jeremiah 19:4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—

Jeremiah says they have filled Topheth, the Valley of Hinnom with the blood of the innocents, and he calls these offerings ‘whole bunrt offerings’. He says in chapter 32

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

In Ezekiel 16, God accuses Jerusalem of being an unfaithful bride.

Ezekiel 16:20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

When we visited Gezer, a once important Canaanite city on a major trade intersection west of Jerusalem, we looked at an excavation report that listed the skeleton of a child, and a number of jar buried infants, probably less than a week old, some of which had been burned.

God insisted that anyone in the land found guilty of offering a child to a false god must be stoned to death by the community. Even if the people chose to look the other way, or ‘closed their eyes to that man,’ God himself would enact the punishment. God took this personally. He says three times ‘I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people’ (v.3, 5, 6). He calls this ‘whoring after’, likening idolatry to marital unfaithfulness.

In the United States, the number of legal abortions performed since the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade is approaching 60 million children.

There were an estimated 906,000 legal abortions in 2015 in the U.S. The State of Florida records reason for each abortion; of the over 71 thousand abortions in florida in 2015, less than 1% of abortions were reported to terminate a pregnancy related to incestuous relationships, rape, endagering the life of the mother, or a threat to physical or psychological health of mother; a little over half a percent was due to a serious fetal abnormality; about 6 and a quarter percent was for social or economic reasons; over 92% the procedures were elective; there was no reason. We have filled our land with the blood of the innocents.

The wages of sin is death. This passage begins and ends with spiritual unfaithfulness. We are not to turn to those who deal with spirits or deal with the deceased. God alone is the source of all truth.

Leviticus 20:27 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

Exhortation to Holiness and the Source of Holiness

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

The ground for the commands is our relationship with God. Set yourselves apart and be set apart, for I am the LORD your God. Keep and do my commands; I am the LORD who sets you apart. We are to be holy, be set apart because the LORD is our God. We are to be holy because the LORD makes us holy. We cannot be holy on our own, of our own initiative. We do take initiative. We set ourselves apart, we choose to live lives of holiness; but we can only do so because God sets us apart; God sanctifies us. Be holy because I am the LORD who makes you holy.

Consequences for Sins against the Family

The next section is intended to protect the family. It begins by requiring children to respect the God-given authority of father and mother, and continues by forbidding sexual deviancy.

Leviticus 20:9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him. 10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to make naked one’s relative; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

The family unit is to be preserved. Adultery, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, bestiality are forbidden. They are called perversion, an abomination, depravity, a disgrace, impurity. These are strong words. God created us for a good purpose, to leave father and mother and cleave to one wife, and become one flesh. Romans 1 traces a similar spiritual decline that moves from idolatry to sexual distortions. Suppressing truth about God and failure to honor him as God leads to foolish idolatry and then to the pursuit of dishonorable passions. Paul concludes “…they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die…” (Rom.1:32).

Exhortation to Holiness and Promise of Holiness

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 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.

This passage is a warning. The nations I am driving out did all these things, and therefore I detested them. Do not do as they did, or the land will vomit you out as well. God is just. The wages of sin is death. Israel failed to heed God’s warning, and although he is patient, he is just, and the land vomited them out; they went into captivity.

God says you shall therefore keep all my statues and all my rules and do them. …You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess. …I am the LORD your God who has separated you from the peoples. …You shall be holy to me …for I have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine. These are precious promises, and they are freely given. They are not earned. We do not become holy by our own efforts. God is the one who calls us out us from among the peoples, who freely gives us an inheritance, who sets us apart as holy to him, that we should belong to him. God is the one, according to Ezekiel 36 who says:

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

There is a spiritual decline in Romans 1 that moves from failure to worship God as he is, to idolatry, to dishonorable passions. But this is why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…

To who?

…to everyone who believes…

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation. To you, if you will believe.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we earned is death. We all have sinned and fallen short. But in Jesus God offers us a free gift. He offers the powerful gift of life to all who will believe. It is a free gift to be received by faith. By believing. This is a powerful transforming gift. This is a gift that changes you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Have you believed? Have you experienced the desire-transforming power of God’s Spirit in you, as he calls you ‘mine’ and begins to make you holy?

***

We have a message of good news. For those who have had an abortion, we have good news of healing and forgiveness in Jesus. For those considering aborting, we have a message of hope in Jesus. There is another way, the way of life. For the sexually immoral, for the sexually deviant, for idolaters who worship their own desires above the Lord God, there is hope. Let’s bring the good news that a holy God freely gives his Spirit to the broken, to the hurting, to transform them by his magnificent grace!

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

Advertisements

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in Galatians 5 he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Holy For I Am Holy

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

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

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

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

Authority

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

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

Time

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

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

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

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

Idolatry

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

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

Obedient Worship

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

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

Care For the Poor

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

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

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

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

Ruth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus

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

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

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

Ephesians 2 says:

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

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

Colossians 1 says:

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 17:-19; Location of Worship

10/09 Leviticus 17; Location for Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161009_leviticus-17_1-9.mp3

We are in Leviticus 17, a chapter that deals with the handling of blood. To step back and look at where we are in the big picture of Leviticus, we see:

Leviticus 1-10 Sacrifices and Priests that make Atonement

–Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness that Needs Atonement

—-Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

–Leviticus 17 Blood that makes Atonement

Leviticus 18-27 Holy Living in Response to Atonement

The remainder of the book tells us how forgiven people ought to live in response to the forgiveness they have been given.

In chapter 17, we see the location of sacrifice and the careful handling of the blood. If we outline this chapter we see something like this:

17:1-7 no peace offerings sacrificed outside the sanctuary

–17:8-9 no other sacrifices outside sanctuary

—-17:10 no blood consumption

——17:11 atonement by blood

—-17:12 no blood consumption

–17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

The first half of the chapter deals with the legitimate location of sacrifices. The second half of the chapter deals with consumption of non-sacrificial animals. The center section deals with the proper handling of blood, with verse 11 as the centerpiece of this chapter, giving us a pivotal statement about the role of blood in atonement.

We will take the first section today, then next week we will work through the central section of this chapter.

The Location of Sacrifice

Leviticus 17:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. 8 “And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from his people.

One question many have had about this passage is: Does this prohibit slaughter of any animals for food outside of the tabernacle? The first 4 verses use the general word for kill, which could include simple butchering for meat. If this is the case, then this passage would require all meat to be offered as a sacrifice first at the tabernacle. But Deuteronomy 12 specifically says that the Israelites may kill and eat animals in their own towns away from the sanctuary. Those that believe this includes all meat see this as a temporary requirement for Israel camped around the central tabernacle, and they see Deuteronomy preparing for a different setting, when Israel will be scattered across the land that they are going in to possess. But this overlooks the fact that verse 7 says “This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” And if this were a requirement that all animals that are killed for food must first be offered as a sacrifice, there is no instruction on what to do with blemished animals, for only unblemished animals may be offered in sacrifice to the LORD. Deuteronomy 12 states what is left unsaid in this chapter, that domestic animals may be killed for food away from the sanctuary. This chapter is focused on animals killed as sacrifices.

This first section deals with the location of sacrifices, but more importantly it confronts to whom the sacrifices are offered, and confronts our tendency toward idolatry. The goal of this section, stated in verse 5, is

Leviticus 17:5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

All sacrifices are to be sacrifices to the LORD, brought to the LORD’s one specified place of sacrifice. This is primarily an issue of who is to be worshiped. The altar is here called ‘the altar of YHWH.’ This is a unique designation of the bronze altar of burnt offering. It emphasizes that every sacrifice is to be brought to the one true God. The tabernacle is called the tent of meeting, because the focus is on meeting with God.

Verses 5 and 6 specifically deal with the peace offering of chapter 3, the offering where the fat was burned on the altar to the LORD, and the worshiper ate some of the sacrificed animal in communion with God. Verses 8-9 extend the issue to include burnt offerings or any of the other kinds of sacrifices. They are all to be offered exclusively to God at the one place he has established in the specific way that he has proscribed.

This is an issue of the first commandment.

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In the context of Israel camped around the tabernacle, this mean that sacrifice was to be offered nowhere else but the tabernacle, officiated by the priests in the way proscribed by the LORD. Deuteronomy chapter 12 is the counterpart to Leviticus 17, giving instructions more specifically in the context of the occupation of the promised land, that sacrifice is then to be offered nowhere else but the one place that the LORD chooses to make his name dwell, the temple in Jerusalem. The Israelites were instructed to tear down all high places and altars that the pagans used and not follow their idolatrous practices. God demands exclusive worship. He is the God who triumphed over the gods of the Egyptians and set his people free to worship him. This is the God who would be victorious over the gods of the Canaanite people who occupied the promised land.

Idolatrous Inclinations

We might think that it would go without saying that the LORD is the only one to be worshiped. But our tendency to idolatry runs deep. Verse 7 says:

Leviticus 17:7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Notice, this was not written to warn against an obscure possibility; this is written to confront a practice that was already going on, a practice that was incompatible with the worship of the one true God, a practice that was considered covenant breaking adultery. The people were sacrificing in the wilderness to goat demons. We find this almost unbelievable. How could the people of Israel, who had witnessed the ten plagues, who had walked through the Red Sea on dry land, who had seen the LORD destroy their enemies, who had seen the lightning and felt the thunder at Mount Sinai, who had seen the glory cloud come down and inhabit the sanctuary, how could these people sacrifice to goat demons in the wilderness? How could they!

But how can we, we who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we who have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus, we who have knelt at the foot of the cross and seen the divine Word made flesh, Love incarnate, die for our sins, how can we go after money and pleasure and power and position and praise and security and family and food and possessions and comfort and ease? How is it that we so frequently fail to acknowledge God as God or give him thanks? ‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it to thy courts above.’ We have wicked idolatrous, adulterous hearts.

This is why this issue is so serious, and carries such a severe penalty.

Leviticus 17:4 …bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.

God considers idolatry as serious as murder. He will have a people with hearts single toward him, with affections alone for him. He is a jealous God.

God knew the hearts of his people. In Deuteronomy 31,

Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.

…18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. 19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.”

God knew the idolatrous inclination of the hearts of his people, so he warned them.

Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Our tendency is to forget God. To fail to give him thanks and praise. To follow other things. To fix our affections on other things.

Idolatry in the New Testament

We tend to think that this issue of idolatry is remote and removed from us. We are not polytheistic. We do not bow down to idols. That this is still an issue for the New Testament believer is clear from Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth. In chapter 10 he warns us:

1 Corinthians 10:6 …that we might not desire evil… 7 Do not be idolaters… 8 we must not indulge in sexual immorality… 9 we must not put Christ to the test… 10 nor grumble…

We would certainly agree that most of the things he mentions here are relevant temptations today. Anyone here struggle with grumbling? He goes on.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

The main issue Paul deals with in this chapter is idolatry. An idol is what we value, what we treasure, what we trust, what we hope in, what we work for, what we focus on, what we put time and energy into. Colossians 3 gives us insight into our idolatrous nature.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Covetousness, putting our hope in something we don’t have to fulfill a longing in us, is idolatry. Paul tells us that this is earthly and we are to put it to death. That is one side of his instruction – kill idolatry, kill evil desire, kill covetousness. The other side of his instruction comes first, and it is positive. He says

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek what is above. Set your minds on things above. Fix your eyes, fix your hopes, fix your heart on what is above. Notice, this comes first, and makes the second command so much easier. If our hearts and our hopes are attached to God and his glory, it is easier to crucify our covetousness. It is still painful, it is still a fight, but it is easier. It is much easier to let go of something when you have something more solid, more substantial, more satisfying to hold on to. Put to death that which is earthly, because you have been resurrected to a heavenly reality.

Jesus and the Location for Worship

Leviticus 17 restricts all sacrifice to one central worship location to prevent the people from continuing to follow after false gods.

In John 4 Jesus was asked a question about the location of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

The woman from Samaria asked Jesus about the proper place of worship. Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem? Which place is the right place to worship? Place matters. Leviticus tells us to bring our sacrifices to the altar of YWHW. Which is the true altar? Who is right? The Samaritans or the Jews? This is a Leviticus 17 question.

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

This is a staggering answer! Which altar is the true altar? Which place is the right place? No. Neither. “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk.11:17). The house was condemned. “There will not be left here one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk.13:2). The glory presence had left. Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Where then? Where is the place to worship?

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God is Spirit, true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Jesus is decentralizing the worship of YHWH. It is no longer about a location, no longer about an altar, because God is not confined to a location. The shadow is being replaced by the reality. God is spirit. He will be worshiped in spirit and truth. Where?

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6:16 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.

We are the temple of the living God. God’s temple is wherever you are. So glorify God in your body. Worship him in spirit and in truth. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you. Wherever you are, at all times, truly worship him. Honor him. Give him thanks. Fix your attention on Jesus.

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

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

Leviticus 16; The Scapegoat

10/02 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement (2); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161002_leviticus-16.mp3

Last week we began to look at Yom Kippur, the great Day of Atonement. We saw the danger of approaching God, illustrated graphically in chapter 10 by the death of the two sons of Aaron who approached God in a way that he did not command. Aaron the high priest is warned not to come into the Holy place any time, but only at the proscribed time in the proscribed way. Aaron was to bring his own sacrifices, a bull for a sin offering for himself and a ram for a burnt offering for himself. Aaron was to take off his usual elaborate high priestly garments, bathe, and put on simple linen garments, taking the posture of a humble servant. The congregation was to present their offerings, two male goats for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron was to cast lots to determine between the two goats, one for YHWH, and the other for Azazel. Then Aaron was to sacrifice first his bull as a sin offering for himself, and bring its blood with a cloud of smoke from incense inside the veil and sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat 7 times. Then he was to go out, kill the goat for the people’s sin offering for YHWH, take its blood inside the veil, sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat, then sprinkle blood in the holy place outside the veil, where the altar of incense, the lamp stand, and the table of bread were. Then he went out to the bronze altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle and smeared the blood of both sin offerings on the horns of the altar and sprinkled the blood 7 times on the altar.

After this is completed, the other goat from the congregation is presented before the LORD.

Leviticus 16:20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

What is this other goat? We passed over this other goat last week so that we could come back to it today.

The congregation was to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats was determined by lot. One goat was to be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation out into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, the one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden of guilt never to be seen again.

Let’s go back to verses 5-10 to see what we can learn about this second goat.

Leviticus 16:5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. …7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

There were two male goats brought by the people for a sin offering. These two goats were distinguished by lot, and we know that ‘the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD’ (Prov.16:33). So we could say that the LORD chose between these two goats, one for himself and one for Azazel.

The one for the LORD was offered as a normal sin offering, following the procedures from chapters 4-5. But in chapters 4-5, different animals were offered for people with differing roles in society. A bull was to be offered for the sin of the priest, a ram for a sin of the whole congregation, a male goat for the sin of a leader of the people, a female goat or lamb for the sin of an individual, and allowance was made for two turtledoves or pigeons for the poor, or even a grain offering for the very poor. And the blood was handled differently. For the sin of the priest or the whole congregation, the blood was to be sprinkled on the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place, and applied to the horns of the altar of incense. For the sin of a leader or a common person, the blood was put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard. The sin offering of the priest on the day of atonement was a bull as specified, but its blood was brought behind the veil and sprinkled directly on the mercy seat. The sacrifice for the whole congregation was to be a male goat rather than a ram, and its blood was also brought behind the veil and sprinkled directly on the mercy seat, as well as in the holy place and on the altar of burnt offerings. This was the goat of the people chosen by lot to be their sin offering to the LORD.

The Live Goat for Azazel

Leviticus 16:10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

We don’t know exactly what the Hebrew word ‘Azazel’ means, so the ESV and other versions leave it untranslated. Leviticus 16 is the only place in all of Scripture where this word appears, so it is difficult to determine exactly what it means. Older versions attempt to translate the word, something like ‘the goat that is driven out’ or ‘scapegoat’, pointing to its function, that it is sent away. It is possible that Azazel is a proper name, either a personal name, or a place name. In the tradition of second temple Judaism the goat was led to a specific rocky precipice in the Judean wilderness and pushed backward off the cliff. But there would have been no one place in the wilderness wanderings where this goat was taken. It could be a personal name, the name of a demon, where the sins of the people are figuratively returned to their source. The very next chapter (17:7) warns against the people making sacrifices to goat demons in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses recounts:

Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.

When the kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, in 2 Chronicles 11:15 we read Jeroboam “appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat idols and for the calves that he had made.” Isaiah refers to judgment on Babylon and the nations that will become wild places where wilderness animals will dwell and the satyrs or wild goats will dance and cry out (Is.13:21; 34:14). Revelation picks up on this imagery:

Revelation 18:2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

So it is possible that Azazel is the personal name of a demonic entity, but if so, the goat for Azazel would not be understood as a sacrifice to the Azazel, but rather a means of returning the sins of the people back to his doorstep.

However we understand this word, what is to be done with this goat is clear. It is presented alive before the Lord. Atonement is made over it, to send it away into the wilderness. This process is described in verses 20-22

Leviticus 16:20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

Aaron is to place both his hands on the head of the live goat. For other sacrifices one hand was placed on the head of the animal, making identification between the worshiper and the animal, but this is the only animal where he is told to place both hands on its head. All the iniquities of all the people of Israel, all their transgressions, all their sins are placed on the head of this goat. Iniquity is a term for perversity or moral evil; transgression is a word for willful acts of rebellion; sin is an inclusive word for all sins in their totality. All these words are plural, indicating all sins of every kind, committed by all the people, even the priests, in all places, all are placed symbolically on the head of this animal, and it bears them away to a deserted place.

It is interesting to note that Aaron has made two trips into the holiest place with blood to make atonement, and has worked his way out through the holy place and back out into the courtyard. The language used in verses 16-19 is making atonement not only for the priests and the people, but also for the place to cleanse it.

Leviticus 16:16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

Notice, also the direction of the cleansing. It begins with blood applied to the inner sanctuary, then out into the holy place, then into the courtyard. We could view this goat as a garbage truck. The house is swept clean, starting with the innermost sanctuary, out into the front room, then out into the yard, and all the filth is poured into the garbage truck that hauls it away to the garbage dump, never to be seen again.

This goat is not a sacrifice in the normal sense of the term. It is a living goat, and it is not killed. No blood is taken from this goat. The goat is presented before the LORD, but then it is banished from the presence of the LORD. Aaron goes into the holiest place, out through the holy place, out into the holy courtyard, where he transfers all the accumulated guilt to the head of this animal, and then this animal is led out of the courtyard, out through the camp of the holy priests immediately around the tabernacle, then out through the clean tribes who surround the tabernacle, then finally, out into an unclean place, outside where sickness and disease and death must go, far away from the presence of the LORD. This is where all the sin is carried by the live goat. The one who led the goat away and released it in the wilderness must wash his clothes and bathe before he is permitted to return to the camp.

Jesus the Sin Bearer

A strange ceremony about a goat for Azazel. How does this point us to Jesus? In John 1, John

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

Jesus is the one who takes sin away.

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

Jesus carried our sins away. Look to the suffering servant of Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

…6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

…8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

…11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus is the one on whom all our transgressions were laid, He was taken away, cut off, he bore the sins of many.

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

Jesus became sin for us. Jesus is the one who can make all these Old Testament statements a reality.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Isaiah 38:17 … but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Jeremiah 31:34 …they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Micah 7:19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Jesus is the one who carries our sins out of sight, hidden behind his back, buried in the depths of the sea, removed from us as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered. What a treasure! He has carried all my sins away!

Our Part

Let me ask, what is our part in all of this? What is our position? Where are we? This text is very clear. We are outside! Our High Priest is inside, cleansing the sanctuary of all our sins, making confession for all our sins over the head of the substitute. He is to be alone in the tent. We, for whom he is making atonement, are outside! He transfers our guilt on to the substitute, all our iniquities, all our transgressions, all our sins. He sends the sin bearer away into the wilderness. The ones for whom he does this are outside. This is all done for them. They don’t do anything! They are not even present! What is our part? Look at verse 29.

Leviticus 16:29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This concluding section gives the role of the congregation on the day. Notice, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you. The role of the people is to grieve over their sin and to do no work. To do nothing. To rest. Solemn rest. Serious rest. Rest in the work of another. On this day shall atonement be made for you. The high priest does all the work. The people are to do no work. Five animals, two sin offerings, confession of all the sins of all the people, two burnt offerings, two trips into the most holy place, burning incense, sprinkling blood, smearing blood, he does all the work. The people are to rest.

Jesus, our great High Priest, finished once for all the work of atonement. He carried all our sins away. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Pet.2:24). He gives the gift of eternal life to all who will find their rest in him. Our part is to depend on the work of another. He does all the work. It is ours to rest in him.

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

October 4, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 8; Ordaining The Priests

07/10 Leviticus 8; Ordaining the Priests; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160710_leviticus-8.mp3

Historical Narrative

We’ve come to Leviticus 8, which resumes a historical narrative after seven chapters of instructions for the different types of offerings. Leviticus 7 concludes this section:

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 the historical setting. This is God’s word to his people. God is speaking to Moses from the newly constructed tabernacle at Mount Sinai. God is giving instructions on what is to be done in his holy tabernacle. He has given instructions on the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, and the peace offering. And now he will give instructions in this next section on the ordination offering. In Exodus we have detailed instructions on how to build the tabernacle. In Leviticus 1-7 we have detailed instructions on what kind of offerings are acceptable in the tabernacle. Chapter 8 now answers the question ‘who is authorized to serve in the tabernacle and to officiate these sacrifices?’ What good is a place to meet with God, a sacrificial system that offers forgiveness of sins and communion with God, if no one is qualified to offer these sacrifices?

Leviticus 8:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3 And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 5 And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”

Leviticus 8 is the public installation of Aaron and his sons in the role of priests for the nation. A priest is one who is responsible to guard the honor and glory of God, to instruct people on how God is to be approached, and to intercede in the presence of God for the people.

Exodus Context

God tells Moses ‘take Aaron and his sons’. To fully appreciate this chapter, we need to step back and see it in the broader context of the book of Exodus. Leviticus really continues the story where Exodus left off. We could even consider Leviticus 8 as the chapter that is missing from the book of Exodus. Exodus 1-18 covers the divine rescue of God’s people from their oppression in Egypt. Chapters 19-40 are God’s covenant instructions to his people so that he can be their God and live in their midst. After the covenant is made, chapters 25-31 deal primarily with the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. Chapter 28 gives detailed instructions for making the priestly garments, and chapter 29 gives instructions on how the priests are to be consecrated or set apart. But then we hit Exodus chapter 32 and everything comes unraveled.

Aaron’s Record

Let me remind you of the events of that chapter. In chapter 24, the people agree to the ten terms of God’s covenant. “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (24:3). God calls Moses up to the mountain.

Exodus 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

So Moses leaves Aaron and Hur in charge, and the LORD is speaking to him 40 days and 40 nights. Then in chapter 32,

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

Aaron is in charge. The people go to Aaron. Aaron takes a collection and makes an idol. Aaron was there affirming ‘all the words that the LORD has spoken we will do’, and this was in response to “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything…” (Ex.20:2-4). And now Aaron fashions a golden calf, builds an altar before it and proclaims a feast in its honor. The LORD is ready to destroy this people.

Exodus 32:21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies),

…35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Aaron was left in charge. Aaron is held responsible for bringing ‘such a great sin upon them’. Aaron makes excuses. Aaron let the people break loose. Chapters 28 and 29 gave instructions on making garments for Aaron and his sons to serve as priests, and instructions on consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests, but in chapter 32, Aaron made a golden bull idol and promoted its worship. In chapter 33, Moses intercedes for the people, and in 34, God renews his covenant with his people. Chapters 35 -38 the tabernacle is constructed exactly according to the command of the LORD. Chapter 39 the priests garments are made exactly according to the LORD’s commands. Chapter 40 the book closes with the tabernacle being assembled, and the glory cloud filling the tabernacle. But chapter 29 has no fulfillment in Exodus. The tabernacle is built and the priests garments are made, but there are no priests consecrated to serve in that tabernacle. Leviticus 1-7 outline the duties of the people and the priests in the sacrifices, but still there are no priests to officiate. Will there be? Will another family be chosen? Has Aaron utterly disqualified himself and his children from serving? Leviticus 8 answers this question.

Aaron Washed and Clothed

And it is clear this is not Moses taking the initiative. “Moses did as the LORD commanded him”. “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”

Leviticus 8:6 And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. 7 And he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him and tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod around him, binding it to him with the band. 8 And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. 9 And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Aaron is washed with water and then clothed with the high priests garments that were detailed in Exodus 28 and 39. This is amazing! What did Aaron do? He broke the LORD’s commands, led the people into great sin, and then made excuses. He was responsible for the death of 3000 people. But here in Leviticus 8, it is as if nothing had happened. In Exodus 33 the people mourned. And Moses prayed. No sacrifice was made. In Exodus 34, God revealed his character “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Ex.34:6-7). Here in Leviticus 8, Aaron stands washed and clothed in holy garments. No record of wrongs is remembered! No sacrifices have yet been offered. How can this be?

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, …the Lord has anointed me… 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

…10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

Anointing Oil

Leviticus 8:10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11 And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. 12 And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. 13 And Moses brought Aaron’s sons and clothed them with coats and tied sashes around their waists and bound caps on them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The tabernacle and all that was in it is anointed with oil, setting it apart to be exclusively for God. Aaron was anointed with oil, setting him apart exclusively for God. Aaron’s sons were also clothed in holy garments.

Sin Offering

Leviticus 8:14 Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. 15 And he killed it, and Moses took the blood, and with his finger put it on the horns of the altar around it and purified the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it to make atonement for it. 16 And he took all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and Moses burned them on the altar. 17 But the bull and its skin and its flesh and its dung he burned up with fire outside the camp, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Put yourself for a moment in Aaron’s bare feet (shoes were not part of the priests garments; they were on holy ground). What would be going through your heart and your head, if Aaron’s history were your history, as you led that bull near the altar, and laid your hands on its head? What would you be saying in silent prayer to the LORD? What would you feel as you took the knife and reached down and slit the throat of that animal? This was the first blood to be shed in the tabernacle. This was the first animal to be sacrificed. Shame, guilt, fear, a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, ‘I don’t deserve to be here,’ ‘I don’t deserve to be dressed like this,’ ‘I deserve what this animal is getting,’ confession, humble awe, wonder, amazement, relief, release, freedom. There is forgiveness for sins.

Whole Burnt Offering

Leviticus 8:18 Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 19 And he killed it, and Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 20 He cut the ram into pieces, and Moses burned the head and the pieces and the fat. 21 He washed the entrails and the legs with water, and Moses burned the whole ram on the altar. It was a burnt offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering for the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

First a bull for the sin offering of the anointed priest, then a ram for a whole burnt offering

Ordination Peace Offering

Leviticus 8:22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Then he presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 25 Then he took the fat and the fat tail and all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat and the right thigh, 26 and out of the basket of unleavened bread that was before the LORD he took one unleavened loaf and one loaf of bread with oil and one wafer and placed them on the pieces of fat and on the right thigh. 27 And he put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons and waved them as a wave offering before the LORD. 28 Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 29 And Moses took the breast and waved it for a wave offering before the LORD. It was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The ram of the ordination peace offering was killed and blood was applied to Aaron’s right ear, right thumb, and right toe. His ears were set apart to hear the word of the LORD. His hands were set apart to do acts of grace and mercy. His feet were set apart to walk in the ways of the Lord and follow his path. His hands were then filled with an offering to the LORD that was a pleasing aroma.

Consecrated with Oil and Blood

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and also on his sons and his sons’ garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him. 31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32 And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33 And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35 At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Aaron was consecrated with oil and blood. Anointed with oil which represents joy in the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin. Made fit to enter God’s presence. Allowed to enjoy fellowship with God. Does this amaze you? That someone with a record like Aaron’s could have his sins forgiven, forgotten, washed away? Do you think that what you have done is worse, and can never be forgiven? You are wrong! Do you know someone who you think has gone too far and is beyond the reach of God’s grace? You are wrong!

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

Such were some of you! Have you been washed, set apart, clothed in his righteousness by the blood of Jesus and by the Spirit of God?

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

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anthropomorphisms

03/13 Anthropomorphisms; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160313_anthropomorphisms.mp3

We have been studying who God is, what God says about himself, what he is like. Our purpose is to enjoy our relationship with God, to deepen our affection for him. To savor him, to treasure him. We have studied much of what God says about himself.

Human Descriptions of the Invisible God

We have seen that God is infinite, eternal, immortal, invisible, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. He is spirit, not physical. But some of the things God says about himself seem to contradict what the Bible clearly teaches. What do we do with these things? God often describes himself in very human terms. The passage we have been looking at, Exodus 33, where God reveals his character to Moses, reads this way:

Exodus 33:20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

According to this passage, God has a face, a back, and a hand.

Jeremiah 32:21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror.

God has a strong hand and an outstretched arm.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;

The Lord’s hand is not too short. He has ears that hear.

Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

God’s finger wrote on the tablets of stone.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

God’s hands have palms.

Exodus 24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

They saw the God of Israel and he has feet. In Jeremiah God says:

Jeremiah 18:17 Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.”

The word translated ‘back’ literally means ‘neck’. God has a neck.

Psalm 88:2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

God’s ear is inclined to hear the prayers of his people. This would imply that not only does he have ears, but a head and a neck so that he can incline his ear toward his people.

Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

Not only does God have ears, he has eyes, even eyelids. Deuteronomy 32 gets even more specific. He has pupils in his eyes.

Deuteronomy 32:10 “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

Psalm 18 tells of God’s mouth and nose.

Psalm 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

Psalm 18:15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

Psalm 33 speaks of the mouth of the Lord.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Isaiah 30 gets even more specific. He has lips and a tongue.

Isaiah 30:27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire;

What do we make of this? God has a hand, a strong hand, palms, an outstretched arm, a finger, a back, feet, a neck, a face, ears, eyes, eyelids, pupils, nostrils, a mouth, lips, and tongue. Many people look at this and conclude that God must have a body just like ours. That must be what it means to say that we were made in the image of God. Our physical characteristics must have been patterned after God’s physical characteristics. But if we continue with this line of understanding, we quickly run into trouble.

Other Visible Descriptions of God

When God made a covenant with Abraham, he appeared this way:

Genesis 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

God is a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch. When God appeared to Moses,

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

God is a flame of fire out of a bush. To the Israelites in the wilderness,

Numbers 14:14 …They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

God is a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In Psalm 84, we are told:

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

God is a sun. God is a shield. But we find in Psalm 121

Psalm 121:5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

Not only is God a flaming torch, a consuming fire, and a sun, but he is also a shield, and he is shade.

Deuteronomy 32 calls God the Rock.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Psalm 9 calls God a stronghold.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

And Psalm 61 calls God a strong tower.

Psalm 61:3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Revelation 22 says,

Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

So God is a fire, a sun, a shield, a strong tower, a stronghold, a rock, a temple. But look at Jeremiah 2.

Jeremiah 2:13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

God is a fountain. Jesus said in John 6.

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

God is a fountain. God is bread.

But look at Psalm 91.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

God has pinions, or feathers. He has wings.

Lamentations 3:10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate;

Amos 3:8 The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?” cf. Hosea 5:14; 11:10; 13:7

God is a lion, a bear, a bird. Revelation 5 says

Revelation 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Jesus is a lion. He is also a root. But then in verse 6,

Revelation 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Jesus is a lamb slain, with seven horns and seven eyes.

Images of God

So what is God like? He has a hand, an arm, a finger, a back, feet, a neck, a face, ears, eyes, eyelids, pupils, nostrils, a mouth, lips, and tongue. He also has feathers, wings, claws and teeth and horns. He is a rock, a stronghold, a tower, a temple; he is fire, he is the sun, he is the shade, he is a fountain, he is smoke and cloud. He is a root. He is a man, a lion, a bear, a bird, a lamb. He is bread.

Are these descriptions of God meant to give us a visual physical image of what God looks like? The Scripture is clear.

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

…15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

You heard a voice but saw no form. Beware that you make no form, make no image, make no likeness. To fashion an image, physically or mentally, is idolatry. God is spirit (Jn.4:24). He is invisible (Rom.1:20; Col.1:14; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27). No one has ever seen God (Jn.1:18; 1Jn.4:12). No one can see God (1Tim.6:16).

Anthropomorphisms

So what do we make of these seemingly physical descriptions of God? To look at the physical descriptions and conclude that God is a man or a bird or a rock or bread is to look at it backwards; God is not like man; man is like God. We were created in the image of God, to reflect God’s character. The characteristics that we have been given are meant to teach us something about God.

Proverbs 20:12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.

Psalm 94:8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?

God made eyes and ears to teach us something about himself. Seeing and hearing happened before physical eyes and ears existed. God made us with ears that hear to illustrate for us that he is a God who is attentive and aware. He made us with eyes to illustrate for us that he is watchful and vigilant, and nothing escapes his notice. Have you ever been in a hospital bed and couldn’t quite reach something on the rolling table? Or you couldn’t even reach your call button? We imagine superheroes that have these kinds of limitations taken away. When we are told his hand is not shortened, we are not to picture an elastic hand, but to understand that nothing, no-one is beyond his reach. We call this kind of language anthropomorphic language, speaking in the form or morphe of anthropos, man, describing God in human language in ways we can relate to and understand.

Herman Bavinck, the Dutch theologian, writing 120 years ago, said

whereas God’s revelation in nature and Scripture is definitely directed to man, God uses human language to reveal himself and manifests himself in human forms. It follows that Scripture does not merely contain a few anthropomorphisms; on the contrary, all Scripture is anthropomorphic. From beginning to end Scripture testifies a condescending approach of God to man.” (p.86).

When we try to communicate with an infant, we use gestures and touch and one syllable sounds ‘ma-ma, da-da, ba-ba, no, ouch’. We come down to their level. Imagine attempting to communicate the majesty of the glorious colors of a sunset to a person born blind. Somehow you have to try to capture the essence of the experience and connect it to experiences they can relate to. Exponentially more difficult is it for the infinite, uncreated, invisible God to communicate himself to his finite physical creation.

As Bavinck asserts, ‘ Scripture does not merely contain a few anthropomorphisms; on the contrary, all Scripture is anthropomorphic’. All of Scripture is God stooping down to our level and communicating his infinite reality in terms of human experience that we can relate to.

Human Emotions Ascribed to God

God is said to have a heart that is grieved by sin (Gen.6:6). He is said to have inward parts (literally bowels) that are moved with compassion (Is.63:15). God is said to have joy (Is.62:5); he is said to rejoice (Is.65:19); to grieve (Ps.78:40); to be provoked to anger (Jer.7:18-19); to fear (Deut.32:21); to love (Jer.31:3); to be jealous (Deut.32:21); to hate (Deut.16:22); to experience wrath and fury (Psalm 2:5); vengeance (Deut.32:35). All these are human experiences and human emotions attributed to God to help us grasp on some limited level how God feels.

Human Actions Ascribed to God

Many human actions and experiences are attributed to God, such as:

Knowing (Gen.18:21); Forgetting (Hos.4:6); Remembering (Ex.2:24); Answering (Ps.3:4); Speaking (Gen.2:16); Calling (Rom.4:17); Commanding (Is.5:6); Rebuking (Ps.18:15); Witnessing (Mal.2:14); Resting (Gen.2:2); Working (Jn.5:17); Seeing (Gen.1:10); Hearing (Ex.2:24); Smelling (Gen.8:21); Tasting (Ps,11:4-5); Sitting (Ps.9:7); Rising (Ps.68:1); Going (Ex.34:9); Coming (Ex.25:22); Walking (Lev.26:12); Descending (Gen.11:5); Meeting (Ex.3:18); Visiting (Gen.21:1); Passing by (Ex.12:13); Casting off (Jud.6:13); Writing (Ex.34:1); Sealing (Jn.6:27); Engraving (Is.49:16); Striking (Is.11:4); Disciplining (Deut.8:5); Punishing (Lev.18:25); Judging (P.s.58:11); Condemning (Job10:2); Binding up Wounds and Healing (Ps.147:3); Killing and Making Alive (Deut.32:39); Wiping Away Tears (Is.25:8); Wiping Out (2Ki.21:13); Washing, Cleansing (Ps.51:2); Anointing (Ps.2:6); Adorning (Ezek.16:11); Clothing (Ps.132:16); Crowning (Ps.8:5); Strengthening (Ps.18:32).

Human Relationships Ascribed to God

God is said to fulfill the role of human relationships and responsibilities; such as: Bridegroom and Bride, (Is.61:10); Husband (Is.54:5); Father (Deut.1:31; 32:6); Judge, King, Lawgiver (Is.33:22); Man of War (Ex.15:3); Hero, Lover (Zeph.3:17); Builder, Architect, and Maker (Heb.11:10); Farmer (Jn.15:1); Shepherd (Ps.23:1); Physician (Ex.15:26).

Worthless Idols

These are all ways of communicating to us what God is like with concepts that we can relate to. Idolatry is the opposite of this, taking creation as the starting point and formulating a god that is modeled after created things.

Romans 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Psalm 115 says

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

Idols are a worthless imitation of reality. They are made to resemble all the physical body parts, but none of them function. God is not a physical being, yet he is living and active and powerful. God has no physical eyes, yet he sees all. God has no fleshly ears, but he hears even the secret thoughts and imaginations of our hearts.

The tragedy is when we have eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear. We were made for relationship with this invisible God, a God who reveals himself to us in ways we can understand, yet we turn a blind eye to him and follow our own path.

Jesus Anthropomorphism

God intends for us to know him. All of Scripture is a stooping down to communicate who God is to his creation. Jesus is the ultimate anthropomorphism.

John 1:1 … the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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

Jesus actually became human. He took on our flesh. Eternal God humbled himself and was born into this physical world as a human baby.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

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

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

God Alone; Deuteronomy 4-6, 32

10/11 God Alone; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151011_god-alone.mp3

We have been studying what God says about himself in his word. God wants to make himself known to us. He wants us to enjoy him, to enjoy relationship with him. He knows the one thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart and that is himself. Because he loves us he wants what is best for us, and he is pursuing our happiness in him.

~ Prayer ~

Other Attributes Indicate Uniqueness

Today we will look at the uniqueness of God, at the fact that there is exactly one God. The things we have looked at this far all point us in that direction. That God is self-existent, that he is dependent on nothing outside of himself, that he is independent of everything outside of himself points us to his uniqueness. There is no other being that exists that was not created by this God. There is no other being that is truly independent, that has being in himself. God alone can say ‘I AM.’

The absolute perfection of God, the fact that he cannot improve and that he will never decline in his perfections, that he is unchanging and unchangeable is utterly unique. There is no other being that is not either growing or declining. God is the only one who can say ‘I am the same yesterday and today and forever.’

This being who created time, who is himself outside of and independent of time, is absolutely unlike any other being. Of everything else, we can think back to a time before it existed and think forward to a time when it will pass away and be no more. Of none other can it be said ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’

God, the infinite Creator of all space, who spoke the universe into existence, who is outside of space, who contains all space within himself, who is fully present at every point of the space he created, excludes the possibility of any other being who is present everywhere.

The one who spoke matter into existence, who created all things visible and invisible, who is himself invisible; there is no material being or spirit being that exist that he did not bring into existence. He is unique in that he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These and many of his other attributes indicate that there is no one like him. He is utterly unique, separate, distinct, alone in his absolute perfections.

I Am God Alone

The Bible is explicitly clear on this issue. God is passionate about this issue, we could say even jealous. In the passage in Deuteronomy 4, where Moses speaks of the invisible, immaterial nature of God,

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

And where Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, …

He goes on to say:

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

YHWH is God, there is no other besides him. Absolutely, comprehensively, there is no other God. In heaven above, on the earth beneath, anywhere you can imagine, there is no other.

In Deuteronomy 5 the commandments are rehearsed, the first of which is:

Deuteronomy 5:6 “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

No other gods are to be tolerated in the presence of the one true God, whose presence is everywhere. Then in chapter 6 we are told:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

YHWH is God alone. Therefore your love and affections must go to YHWH alone. No other god is worthy of your affections.

No Other God But One

The whole of scripture concurs that there is only one God.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

From the very beginning, there is only one God. As we have seen, this is clear throughout the Torah. We see the same when we get to the time of the kings.

1 Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

2 Samuel 22:32 “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Solomon concludes his prayer dedicating the temple

1 Kings 8:60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.

When we get to the Psalms we see

Psalm 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. …10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

The point is hammered home most persistently by the prophet Isaiah, who is warning God’s people, because their hearts are going astray after false gods.

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 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

God is the I AM, the self-existent one. He has no competitors. There is no god before him, and there will be no god after him.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.

There is no God besides the LORD. God asks ‘who is like me?’ There is no other being who shares his characteristics, who comes close to his perfections, who compares with his attributes. Who is like the LORD our God?

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

…21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9 (remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

Even the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar recognized the uniqueness of Israel’s God.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

The prophet Zechariah looks forward to the final days when:

Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

Our God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and no one compares to him.

One God in the New Testament

This is also the clear teaching of the New Testament. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest command, he responded:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

God is God alone, and the one God must be adored. Jesus said:

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

There is only one true God. There is exactly one God.

Paul teaches in Romans 3 that both Jews and non-Jews will be saved in exactly the same way. He argues from the universality of God.

Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

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.

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

In Galatians 3 he says;

Galatians 3:20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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

1 Timothy 6:15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Jude :25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

There is exactly one God. No more, no less.

Other Gods?

Look back at Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

God says it often, that he alone is God. This is eminently practical, because it affects the way we live. We are warned in verse 12:

Deuteronomy 6:12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

No other gods are to be feared. No other gods are to be served. No other gods are to be followed. No other gods are worthy of any respect. YHWH is a jealous God. He will not tolerate divided allegiance. He alone must have our undivided devotion.

But what of these other gods? Isn’t there only one God? Why does it mention other gods if no other gods exist but one? What is there to be jealous of if there are no competitors?

Toward the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 32, we are told

Deuteronomy 32:12 the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.

…15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

…21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

…39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Here God contrasts himself with foreign gods, strange gods, which he calls ‘abominations’, ‘idols’ and ‘demons that were no gods’. Here we gain some insight that clears up the confusion of saying that there is no other God and yet referring to other gods. Those other gods are false gods, empowered by demons. With this Paul agrees. In 1 Corinthians 8-10, where he wrestles through the complex issue of whether it is permissible for a believer to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols.

1 Corinthians 8:4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Idols are so-called gods. There is no God but one. Other gods have no real existence. But in chapter 10, at the conclusion of his argument, he says:

1 Corinthians 10:19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

When people worship anyone or anything other than the one true God, they are participating with demons.

God is not jealous in the sense that he feels threatened. He is not afraid that another god will prove to be better that he and so he will lose his followers. God is jealous in that he loves us and knows what is best for us. If we are led astray to give our affections to another god who proves in the end to be a false god, our hopes are misplaced, and we will lose out in the end. God is jealous for us. He wants to protect us. This passage in Deuteronomy closes with this:

Deuteronomy 32:47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

This issue is not merely academic. This is not an irrelevant piece of theology. This is intensely practical. This has implications for all of life, for what we do, for how we spend our time, for how we spend our money. We are worshiping beings. We were made to worship, and we worship all the time. Not merely Sunday mornings, but every day. The question is not if we will worship, but what we will worship, who we will worship. Is our worship directed toward the one true God, the eternal, immortal, invisible, self-existent one, or is it toward an image that we have created in our imagination, is it toward a created thing rather than the Creator of all things, who is blessed forever? That we understand God properly, that we recognize him for who he says he is, that we worship him alone, is no empty word, but our very life.

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

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

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible God; John 4:19-24

10/04 Invisible God Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151004_invisible-god.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, digging in to his word to see what he says about himself. We want to worship him as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We want to offer him true worship.

We have learned that God is incomprehensible – a being beyond our ability to fully understand, yet we can know true things about him, the things he has revealed to us. Indeed, he intends to be known and worshiped as he really is. We have learned that God is, that he exists, independent of anything outside of himself. He is the uncaused cause of everything that is. He is unchanging and unchangeable. He is a God who is beyond all time and space but fills all time and space with his immediate presence. He is eternal, inescapable, uncontainable.

Sadducees and Materialism

We live in a materialistic society. Most people live as if what we see is all there is. We store up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. But the Bible opens our eyes to a greater reality, an unseen reality. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Christians have hope beyond the grave. In Philippians 1, Paul, in prison, is wondering what will happen to him. Will he remain in the flesh, or will he depart and be with Christ? Paul is confident that when his body dies, he will be in the presence of God. In 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about the earthly body as a tent that will be destroyed, and that we will put on a heavenly dwelling. There is part of us that lives on even when our material bodies wear out and decay. In Acts 23, when Paul was on trial before the Jewish council, he nearly started a riot between the Pharisees and Sadducees when he cried out that he was on trial because of the hope and the resurrection of the dead, because, we are told,

Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

It appears the Sadducees were materialists. Don’t tell me all this nonsense about things I can’t see or touch or smell. No resurrection. No angel. No spirit. Paul would say ‘no hope!’

Spirit and Matter

Jesus clearly believed in spirits and the resurrection. Jesus said:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In Mark 5, Jesus commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a man. When Jesus asked his name, the response was ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’. A Roman legion was 3,000 – 6,000 men. When Jesus gave his permission, the unclean spirits came out of the man and entered into about 2,000 pigs who rushed into the sea and were drowned. A spirit is not made up of matter, and therefore takes up no space. We aren’t told exactly how many demons tormented this man, but somehow there were many who were able to inhabit the same space.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, they were terrified.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

The disciples thought they saw a spirit. Jesus invites them to touch him to prove that he is not an apparition, but is indeed a material being. He even eats something in front of them, and he says ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’. Jesus tells us that spirits are not material. Jesus demonstrates that his resurrected body is a real physical material body and not a ghostly apparition.

In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6, when the Syrian king’s military plans were repeatedly foiled, he assumed he had a spy who was leaking information to the king of Israel

2 Kings 6:11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Elisha and Gehazi are surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots and a great army. Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because the Syrian army is greatly outnumbered. The unseen angelic legions were on their side. They were unseen, unheard, unfelt, but they were real. God opened his eyes so that he could see his invisible armies.

Note, by the way, that while we learned last time that God is unlimited by space or time, angels, although they are spirit, are spatially limited. In Daniel 9 and 10, we see Gabriel being sent and coming in swift flight, even being delayed by demonic forces. God is a spirit who is everywhere present, angels are spirits who can only be in one place at a time.

God is Spirit

In Isaiah 31, God is rebuking those who run to Egypt and rely on horses and chariots but do not look to the Holy One of Israel. He draws this contrast:

Isaiah 31:3 The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

God is not a man. Both man and horses are flesh. God is spirit. God is immaterial. God is invisible. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God’s divine nature is invisible, yet is clearly evident in the things he has made.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

God is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All created things, all created beings, whether physical or spiritual were created by Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God is King of eternity, immortal, invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

God dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen God. No one can see God.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

God is invisible.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

God has not been seen. No one has ever seen God.

No One Has Ever Seen God?

But wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible talk about people who saw God? The LORD God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The LORD appeared to Abram by the oaks of Mamre. Three strangers came to visit Abraham’s tent. The men departed, but Abraham still stood before the presence of the LORD (Gen.18). The LORD appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. He made his presence known to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He appeared to 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, who ate and drank in his presence. They describe what they saw as

Exodus 24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

They saw the God of Israel. But all that they describe is the pavement under his feet.

When Moses requested to see the glory of God, God replied:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God says ‘you cannot see my face. Man shall not see me and live.’ In the next chapter God makes his presence known to Moses.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

It seems what Moses saw was cloud. The way God revealed himself was verbal. He described his character.

When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, what he describes is that the train of his robe filled the temple. And he describes the seraphim above him, and he says that the house was filled with smoke.

The closest we get to an actual physical description of God is in Daniel 7, where he describes Ancient of Days taking his seat with clothing white as snow and hair like pure wool.

How do we fit these statements that Old Testament people saw God with the clear New Testament teaching that God is invisible and ‘no one has ever seen God’?

God cannot be seen in his essence, because he is spirit, he is immaterial; being immaterial there is nothing physical to see. However God, being Creator of all things visible and invisible, is fully able to manifest himself and make his presence known in different ways to different people.

Spirit and Idolatry

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses reminds the generation who would enter the promised land

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Since you saw no form but heard only a voice, make no form, no image. Because God is spirit, immaterial, no created thing can adequately represent him. Every form will grossly misrepresent him. There is only one image God approves of.

Jesus the Image of God

John’s gospel opens:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word exists before the beginning. The Word IS. The Word was with God, a distinct personality, but the Word was God, fully divine. He is personal, and he is the Creator of all that is. Verse 14 tells us

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word became flesh. The Word, who always existed as God, the only Son from the Father, became something that he was not. He became flesh. He dwelt among us. He became man. Verse 18 says:

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

God’s essential essence has never been seen. God has made his presence known in different visible manifestations, but no one has ever seen God. God the Son has made him known. The only image of God that God approves of is Jesus.

Jesus taught:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 12:45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Colossians calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God’. Hebrews calls him “the exact imprint of his nature”. Not that we should make pictures of Jesus. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. It is not about what he looked like. The apostles who knew what he looked like left us no physical descriptions. What they handed down to us are his teachings, his interactions with people, his character, his identity.

Spiritual Worship

Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. He revealed that he knew some uncomfortable details about her personal life, so she asked him a question about the proper place of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In answer to her question about the proper place of worship, Jesus’ answer is no, it is not about place, not about here or there. It is about worship in spirit and truth, because God is spirit. The nature of God has implications on how we are to worship him. He is not material, so the externals of worship are of little importance. Because God is spirit worship of him must be spiritual. God is most interested in our heart, in what nobody can see. Spiritual worship is worship that is brought about by the Spirit. We must come to the Father through the finished work of the Son, having been transformed and made new by the Spirit. He is pleased when we stand in awe of him as he really is, not as we imagine him to be. He must be worshiped in truth. We must embrace the truth of what he says about himself. Our spirits must engage him. The Spirit gives us a new taste for the goodness of God. He must be enjoyed, delighted in, savored. He is our greatest pleasure, our greatest treasure.

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

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:4b; A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love

11/09 1 Corinthians 13:4b A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141109_1cor13_4b.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul swings the wrecking ball of God’s love toward the Corinthians. Their attitudes and conduct toward one another were incongruent with love, inconsistent with the God who is love, out of step with the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of love in the heart of the believer. He intends to hold up a mirror so that we can see how far short we fall of the divine standard, and in broken-hearted humility cry out to God for his transforming work in us.

The love that Paul is talking about is a distinctly Christian sort of love, a response in the heart of the believer to having been perfectly and completely loved by God. We love (says 1 John 4:19) because he first loved us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved by God. Many people do many good things, many charitable deeds, but Paul says in the opening verses, without this distinctly Christian love, those who do these things become nothing, are nothing, and attain nothing. Even someone who in self-sacrificial generosity to the poor gives away literally every possession, even health, even life itself without this love that is rooted in God’s love for us, gains zero.

Paul gives us 15 verbs to describe this love; 2 positive, 8 negative, one contrast; and 4 always, actions that love either does or does not do. Love is patient, or long-tempered like our God who is slow to anger. Thank God he is slow to anger! Love is kind, generously good to the ungrateful and evil. God’s patience delays justice to make room for his kindness to lead us to repentance.

The first negative in the string of 8 is ‘love envieth not, or is not jealous. This is curious, because at the very last verse of chapter 12 was a command that we be jealous, and in the first verse of chapter 14 we are again commanded to be jealous. We have noted that these characteristics of love can be most clearly seen in God, but when we look at jealousy, God repeatedly in the Old Testament claims to be a jealous God, even claiming that his very name is ‘Jealous’, and in the New Testament we see Jesus acting jealously. What do we make of this assertion that love is not jealous, framed by two commands to be jealous on the backdrop of a God whose name is Jealous?

ζηλόω

Let’s begin with a definition. The word is [ζηλόω] zelo-o. It is where we get our English word ‘zeal’. Literally it means to be heated or to boil. It means to desire earnestly, to strive after or pursue something or someone. This word is used in both positive and negative ways. The context determines whether zeal is a good thing or a bad thing.

Evil Jealousy

For instance, 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not being spiritual but of the flesh, mere infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

In this context the burning zeal is a typically human zeal for this or that favorite leader, pitting one against another and causing contention between the differing groups.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says:

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

Galatians 5 lists zeal or jealousy among the works of the flesh, contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

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

In Stephen’s sermon in Acts, the patriarchs are accused of jealousy toward Joseph.

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Back in Genesis 37, we are told that Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons (v.3). Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and that his mother and father and all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers were jealous of him (v.11). They hated him because his father treated him with special favor. They attempted to do away with him in a vain attempt to thwart his God given prophetic dreams. They didn’t want to bow down to their little brother; they wanted to be the one in charge to whom others would bow down. His dreams were a threat to their own self-importance.

In Acts 5, we are told that many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles (v.12), that the people held them in high esteem (v.13), that more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (v.14), and that people were gathering from the towns around Jerusalem (v.16), and we are told that the high priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and arrested the apostles. They were threatened by their power, their respect, and their popularity. They wanted the power the respect, the popularity for themselves.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are invited by the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preaching the gospel. They said things like “God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (v.23). They accused the rulers of the Jews in Jerusalem of “not understanding the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” and “not recognizing him” (v.27). They accused the leaders of fulfilling the prophecies by condemning him (v.26-29). They proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead (v.30). They proclaimed Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (v.33). They proclaimed the impotency of the law of Moses to free anyone from their sins, and they proclaimed forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus (v.38-39). They warned against the danger of unbelief (v.41). They preached all this in the Jewish synagogue, and there was no opposition! They were not kicked out. No one complained. No on argued. Instead people begged them to teach again the next Sabbath. There was no opposition for the whole week.

Acts 13:44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Notice, the leaders of the synagogue did not dispute the doctrine of the apostles. Not until they saw the crowds did they begin to contradict what was spoken by Paul. They were filled with jealousy because they saw the crowds. Imagine, religious leaders upset at a whole city gathering to listen to the word of the Lord! They should be rejoicing! Instead, they are jealous. They want the attention, they want the popularity, they want the crowds for themselves.

The same thing happened in Acts 17, where Paul and Silas came to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica,

Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

For three weeks Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah, and proclaimed the cross and the resurrection in a Jewish synagogue, and he was unchallenged! It wasn’t until some of the Jews were persuaded, a great many of the devout Greeks, and many prominent women, that the Jews became jealous. They perceived they were losing something that belonged to them, and so they incited a mob to riot. In their jealousy, they even followed Paul to the next town and stirred up the crowds there.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20 about a master who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. He agreed with them for a fair day’s wage. He hired more workers at 9am, more at noon, more at 3pm, and more at 5pm, and when evening came he paid all of them a full day’s wages. Those who were hired first grumbled,

Matthew 20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

They were jealous of those who worked only one hour and received a full day’s wage. That’s not fair! The master responded:

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, is your eye evil because I am good? They grumbled because they were treated differently than others. They looked with an evil eye on the generosity of the master, rather than celebrating his generosity toward others. We see the same in the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother hears the music and dancing from the celebration and “he was angry and refused to go in” (Lk.15:28). He compared himself and his performance with his brother and was envious of the extravagant love and generosity shown by his father toward his repentant brother. These are examples of a passionate response to something good being given to someone else, wanting it for self. This is the evil kind of zeal, and love is not jealous.

God’s Jealousy

There is a jealousy or zeal that is attributed to God. In Exodus 20, God warns:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…

God demands first place. God demands that we bow down to and serve him alone. In Exodus 34 he says:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

God identifies himself with jealousy as a name, demanding that our worship go exclusively to him.

In Ezekiel 16, God describes in graphic terms how he took Israel to be his own when there was nothing desirable in her. He took her in, cared for her, entered into a marriage covenant with her, cleansed her, made her beautiful, and blessed her with everything good. But she was unfaithful to him. He calls her:

Ezekiel 16:32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

…35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:

He accuses her of slaughtering his own children as offering to false gods. And then he says:

Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. …41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.

God’s jealousy is the jealousy that a husband ought to have for his own wife, demanding the exclusive faithfulness from her that she promised in her covenant vows. Song of Solomon brings together love and jealousy.

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy of Jesus

Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, showed his jealousy.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The religious leaders had prostituted the purpose of the temple. It was meant to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Instead they used it as an opportunity to oppress the poor and make a profit. Jesus passionately defended the honor of his Father’s house.

Clarifying the Difference

God is jealous, and God is love, but love is not jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a loving jealousy, where our jealousy would be contrary to love? What is the difference between the good kind of jealousy and the evil kind of jealousy? In the examples we looked at, human jealousy was a heated response to something good that we desire being given to someone else. We could look at God’s jealousy and say that it too is a heated response to something good that he desired being given to someone else. God demands the undivided affection, devotion, worship and love of his people. When we give that to someone else it is considered adultery. But if we jealously desire equal respect, honor, attention, popularity, and praise to be given to us, it is sin. What makes the difference? We could add one phrase that makes the difference. God demands the affection, love and worship that rightfully belongs to him. When we are jealous, we make demands for things that do not rightfully belong to us. We demand of God’s generosity, that he not extend more generosity to others than he has to us. God is not obligated to extend any generosity to anyone. When we are jealous, we are looking sideways at others and asking ‘how come he got treated better than I did?’

This points us to an element in our jealous that distinguishes it from God’s jealousy. Our jealousy comes from our lack and our need. We desperately want to feel loved. We are jealous of others we perceive are being loved more than us, because we feel that takes away love from us. God’s jealousy has no connection to any need he feels. He makes it explicitly clear that he has no need that we could meet. He is complete in himself, lacking nothing.

Psalm 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 ​I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

There is another difference. God’s jealousy is loving because it passionately pursues the good of the beloved. When a loving husband goes after his wayward wife to bring her home, and demands that she give her affection exclusively to him, he is doing a very loving thing. He is seeking her happiness, even at great cost to himself. Genuine happiness comes within the covenant relationship, not by violating the covenant relationship. God demands that we ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ because that is what will bring us true joy. He seeks our best, and he is our best.

My jealousy is not loving because it passionately pursues my own good, often to the harm of the other. And in my jealousy I am turning my affections away from God and toward other people or things, hoping to find satisfaction in them and outside of God, so my jealousy is adulterous and self destructive.

Commendable Jealousy

When we jealously defend the honor of God and point others toward him as the only source of true satisfaction, we act lovingly. Paul has the good kind of jealousy for the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

He is jealous with the jealousy of God. He is passionately fired up that they not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is no hint of self-seeking in this. He passionately pursues their purity to present them as a pure virgin to Christ.

John the baptizer spoke in the same kind of way.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

This is an opportunity for human jealousy. John, you are losing popularity. You are losing followers. You are losing attention. The crowds are going to someone else.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

None of the attention, none of the praise, none of the respect, none of the followers belong to me. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The joy of the friend is to step out of the way and see the bride united with her bridegroom.

This helps us understand how Paul can say that love is not jealous, but then command the Corinthians to be jealous of the higher gifts. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians had been jealous of the more spectacular gifts, because those gifts brought status and attention and praise and applause. Paul rebukes their selfish status seeking and points them to the higher way of love. Out of the more excellent way of love, without an evil jealousy of wanting something for myself that you have been given, in the pursuit of love, we are to be zealous for the higher gifts, gifts that build others up. I am to passionately eagerly pursue being of service to you. I am to zealously desire to be poured out as a blessing to you. I am to find my joy in becoming more useful to you, not because I want the attention, but because my joy is complete as I fade into the background and your sincere and pure devotion to Christ increases.

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

November 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment