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2 Corinthians 4:18; What Are You Looking At?

10/21_2 Corinthians 4:18; What Are You Looking At?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181021_2cor4_18.mp3

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, …

What Are You Looking At?

What are you looking at? What are you looking at? It matters what you are looking at. Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that what we fix our eyes on has great significance and great consequences. What we look at determines to a great extent where we are going. I love scenery. As we were on a road trip cross-country last week and I was driving, my wife had to gently encourage me once or twice to keep my eyes on the road. Why? Because where we are looking quickly becomes where we are heading. I learned this early on in my lawn mowing career; if you want to mow straight lines, you don’t look down at the lawn mower wheels. Pick a point in the direction you want to go, keep moving toward that point, and you will go straight. It matters what you are looking at. Paul uses the word ‘seeing’ four times in this one verse, as well as a different word for focusing or looking.

—Not fixing your eyes

———————on that which is seen

—————but that which is not seen

—————————-for what is seen is for this time

———————-but what is not seen is eternal

The Context of Suffering

It matters greatly what you are looking at. It especially matters what you are focusing on when you face suffering. Remember, Paul’s context here is suffering. He is being destroyed, being taken apart, being brought to the brink of despair and being done to death. His circumstances are those which would cause him to utterly lose heart, give up, quit,

Just so we understand a bit better the context, I’d like to pull together a few texts from the Pastoral Epistles that communicate the kind of things Paul faces in his ministry.

In 1 Timothy 1 he mentions that some have swerved away from sound doctrine and made shipwreck of their faith (1:3, 19). In 1 Timothy 6 he warns:

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

He says (6:9) that because of a love of money some have wandered away from the faith.

In 2 Timothy he exhorts Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel, or of Paul, who is now a prisoner in chains, and he tells Timothy to “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (1:8). Paul says that he is suffering because he is a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel (1:10-12). He says:

2 Timothy 1:15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.

He tells Timothy

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

He says that it is his preaching the gospel “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!’ (2:9). He names “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” He says “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2:17-18). He warns that some have been ensnared by the devil, “being captured by him to do his will.” (2:26).

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

He says of himself:

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me…

By the end of Paul’s life, many professing believers had swerved from the faith. Some pursued their love of money. Many were teaching false doctrines. Many were stirring up controversies, dissensions, slandering him, creating constant friction between people. Some had been captured by the devil to do his will. Their talk was spreading like gangrene. Personally he had endured persecutions and sufferings at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. He expected that all who followed Jesus would be persecuted. He is now imprisoned and bound with chains. He felt that his life was being poured out as a drink offering, and that he would die soon. He said “all who are in Asia turned away from me.” All in Asia? All the churches he had planted in Asia turned away from him? This would include Ephesus, Colossae, Pergamum, Thyatira, Smyrna, Sardis, Laodicea, Miletus! He says that when he stood on trial before Caesar, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” No one? Not one of his friends, not one of his co-workers stood by him? Completely alone, deserted? It seems that all his ministry was crumbling, all his efforts were for nothing.

How did he not feel utter defeat? From all outward appearances, the apostle’s ministry was a failure; it appeared he had wasted his life. He was a clay pot crumbling under the weight and pressure of ministry. And at the end of his life it seemed like everything he had labored for was coming apart. How did he not lose heart? What is he fixing his eyes on that keeps him from losing heart?

Paul’s Perspective on Suffering

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Last time we looked at the contrasts in verse 17 in duration between momentary and eternal; and in mass between light and the weight of glory. And we saw that the suffering he endured was actually purposeful; it was doing something; it was working something in him. It was preparing for him the exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory.

Now he tells us where he gets this perspective. Perspective comes from what you are focusing on. The word translated ‘as we look to’ is skopeo [σκοπέω]. This is where we get our English word scope, as the scope on a gun. It is what you look through to take aim and zero in on your target. It is the goal on which our eyes are fixed, the end toward which the attention, desires and efforts are directed. When you are looking through a scope on a rifle, your field of vision is limited. The target is magnified, and the periphery is excluded from view. What are you aiming at, zeroing in on, focusing your attention on? What are you excluding from your field of view?

Paul continues the contrast between what to set in your sights and what not to look at. Ironically he uses the common verb ‘to look at or to see’ to define what is to be held in the scope. And he flips it. He starts negatively; not fixing our eyes on that which is seen. Whatever he sees, he doesn’t look at. He doesn’t take aim or fix his attention on what he can see. The next phrase he gives us what he does fix his gaze on; that which is not seen. He excludes from his range of vision everything he can see, and he takes aim and zooms in on that which is not seen.

Focusing on the Unseen

Focus on what you don’t see, not on what you see. How do you focus on something you can’t see? How do you fix your eyes on what is invisible? This is what the Christian life is, and this is what enables us to not lose heart in spite of the outward circumstances. In the next chapter he says ‘so we are always of good courage’ (5:6), which is the positive way of saying ‘we do not lose heart’. He says ‘for we walk by faith, not by sight’ (5:7). Faith, not sight. Fixing our eyes on the unseen realities.

Romans 8 is in many ways parallels 2 Corinthians 4. In verse 18 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Then in verse 24 he says:

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We hope for what we do not see. We have our eyes fixed on what is not yet seen. Hebrews 11 tells us:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith takes hold of the promises of God. Later in Hebrews 11, the author points us to the faith of Moses. He says:

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It is interesting that he links faith and fixing his sights on him who is invisible with being mistreated and enduring persecution. Moses was able to endure without fear the anger of the king by fixing his view on the invisible one. He was looking to the reward. Notice the object of his gaze was personal; He endured as seeing him.

What? Or Who?

What unseen realities are we to fix our eyes on in the context of 2 Corinthians 4? In 3:18, with unveiled faces, we are beholding the glory of the Lord. In 4:4, Satan is blinding the minds of unbelievers “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” “God has shone in our hearts” in 4:6 “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is Jesus! The light of the knowledge of Jesus!

The author of Hebrews (12:1-2) tells us that we must “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Not Circumstances

Notice he gives us both what not to fix our gaze on, and what to pay attention to, and why. We are not to look at the things that are seen, our outward circumstances. How can we possibly not look at our circumstances? Especially when our circumstances loom so large that they fill the horizon? Put them in the scale and weight them against something weightier, something larger. Light and momentary compared to the exceedingly exceeding weighty glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Why? Because that which is seen is temporary; literally for the time or for the season. Circumstances don’t last. Think back to the last major crisis you faced. Not the one you are facing now, but one you faced in the past. Can you? I have to think hard to even come up with what the last crisis I faced was. Because it was so small? No, because it’s over. It has been resolved. It seems big when it is staring you in the face, but it seems much smaller when you have moved past it and it is history. Don’t allow circumstances to overwhelm you because they are temporary, they will soon be in the past, and you will have moved beyond them. The things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal. Should we fear the things that will soon be past, or should we pay more attention to what is eternal. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Do not fear the one who can only do temporary harm. Rather fear, fix your eyes and give your attention to the one who is eternal.

What are you looking at? It matters what we fix our eyes on.

The Lord Stood By Me

Remember we looked at 2 Timothy where Paul says that ‘all who are in Asia turned away from me’ and ‘at my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.’ That seems utterly disheartening. But look what Paul says:

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see what he is looking at? His circumstances? His deserters? No, he did not focus on that which is seen, but that which is not seen. The one who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb.13:5); “the Lord stood by me”. “The Lord stood by me” He was looking to the things that are unseen.

Gospel to Feast our Eyes On:

Here are some unseen realities Paul may have been be looking at. These are unseen realities that I love to feast my eyes on:

1 Corinthians 15:3 …Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

Galatians 2:20 … I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

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

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

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

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October 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

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

Exodus 20:4-6; Word #2 – How to Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110717_exodus20_4-6.mp3

07/17 Exodus 20:4-6 Word #2 How to Worship

Who We Worship / How We Worship

The first of God’s ten words specifies that we must worship the correct God. The true God and God alone must be worshiped. YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the I AM, the one who is, the self-existent one; the God who has saved, redeemed and delivered us; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must alone be the object of our affection and adoration. This one God demands our exclusive devotion. Our hearts are not to be divided. We must worship the correct God. His second word to us is that we must worship the correct God correctly. As the proverb says:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25; 21:2)

We were created to worship and we were redeemed to worship. There is a right way to worship the right God, and there is a wrong way. Nadab and Abihu (Lev.10) are eloquent witnesses to that fact, as are Uzzah (2Sam.6; 1Chr.13) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). God takes himself and his worship seriously.

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.

Image Worship not Artwork

God’s people are prohibited from making images or likenesses of anything for worship. This is not a prohibition against artwork. Later in Exodus, as we will see, God himself proscribed the details of the tabernacle, including golden winged cherubim, embroidered pomegranates, and golden almond blossoms. God filled the artists with his Spirit. So how is making a likeness of something in heaven – cherubim; or making likenesses of things on earth – pomegranates and almond blossoms; as proscribed for the tabernacle acceptable, and what exactly is forbidden in this command? The pomegranates and almond blossoms and cherubim in the tabernacle were not intended to represent God. They were not to be worshiped. God’s presence was not physically represented in any way in that structure. God said:

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. (cf. Numbers 7:89)

God met with his people in the space between the two cherubim, above the mercy seat. The tabernacle was to be a symbolic space, a space appropriate for God’s presence. But nothing in the tabernacle represented God himself. God spoke out of the space above and between the objects that were there. The stuff in the room was furniture and decoration. Solomon made this clear when he built the permanent version of the tabernacle. He said:

2 Chronicles 2:5 The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

In his prayer of dedication of the temple he said:

2 Chronicles 6:18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!

Solomon understood the omnipresence of God. God is everywhere, and cannot be limited or contained, as the psalmist writes:

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Invisible God

When Moses met with God, it says:

Numbers 7:89 … he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.

It doesn’t say Moses saw anything. It says he heard the voice coming out of the space above and between. God is not physical or material. God is invisible.

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

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.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God…

Jesus taught, in regard to true worship of God:

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.”

Jesus taught that God is not physical. God is spirit. In the retelling of the Law in Deuteronomy 4, we are given elaboration and some of the reasons behind God’s command to make no images. Turn to Deuteronomy 4:

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children–– 10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 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. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. 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. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the LORD was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. 22 For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. 25 “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. 32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 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. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

The explicit reasons given for the second command in Deuteronomy 4 are

Deuteronomy 4:12 …You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice… 15 …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.

Don’t make physical representations of God because God has no form. Every image or likeness falls short of communicating what he is really like. When Aaron made the golden calf, he was not intending to lead Israel astray to worship other gods. He was giving them a representation of the true God to assist in their worship. The calf symbolized God’s strength and power and might, but it also wrongly symbolized God as localized and inanimate and sexual, and this improper worship led to a breakdown in society and morality. This is what Romans lays out for us:

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind …

God is Creator. Everything else is created. Any representation we make of God insults him and brings him down to the level of his creation. Someone has said that ‘in the beginning God made man in his image, and ever since, man has been trying to return the favor.’ Whenever we conceive of God as if he were like us, we are exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images, and we are not honoring him as God.

Worship and the Word

So, how do we honor God as God, worship him as Creator, and preserve the truth about God, the glory of the immortal God? How do we keep from making images of him either physically or mentally? Over and over in the Deuteronomy passage, we see the contrast drawn between seeing no form and hearing his voice. God spoke. God revealed himself, not visually, but audibly. God reveals himself in words. If we will honor God as God, then we will listen to his self-revelation. We will let him define himself. We must listen to all that he says about himself, all that he says in his word. We are inclined to cling to one attribute of what God is like to the exclusion of other attributes. When we do this, we are exchanging the truth about God for a lie and creating an image of him that resembles ourselves. For instance, ‘I like to think of God as Love. How could a loving God ever send anyone to hell?’ This is a false image of God that distorts what love really is and excludes the reality that God is also just. It takes one thing that God has told us about himself and throws out the rest. Or ‘I don’t get the concept of the trinity, but I just love Jesus so much!’ Friends, God doesn’t expect you to ‘get’ him, to understand him. He expects you to worship him! We so desperately want to bring God down to our level so that he is more comfortable to comprehend. When we do, we have traded the truth about God for a lie. We exchange his immortal glory for images. What we are left with is no longer worthy of worship. We must fight to continually tear down our mental image of God and listen to God as he defines himself for us!

The Image of God

1Timothy 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.

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.

We were created to bear God’s image. Humans were to be the visible representation of the invisible God. We have failed miserably at this. God is love and we hate. God is righteous and we lie and cheat and steal and deal falsely. God rules justly and we are selfish and greedy for gain. We have grossly misrepresented what God is like. But God reveals himself accurately in his Word.

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. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] 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, being fully God and fully man, perfectly bears the image of the invisible God for us, accurately represents God to us. Jesus…

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God

As much as we have written about Jesus by the eyewitnesses, we have no physical description of what he looked like. There is an unhealthy obsession by many today to try to identify the facial features, build, stature, hair and eye color of Jesus. The eyewitnesses could have told us, but they did not, because the image of God is not in physical features.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

If we want to worship the correct God correctly, we will listen to all that he has to say about himself in his word.

This Matters

It matters that we worship the correct God correctly, because God claims to be a jealous God.

Exodus 20:4 “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.

This is not jealous in the petty sense of suspicious fears and envious resentment, but the holy jealousy of a husband who will not share his beloved wife with another man. God says ‘you shall have no other Gods before me.’ God has rescued his people and he is giving himself in a covenant relationship (like the marriage relationship) to be exclusively their God. The consequences for betraying the exclusivity of this relationship are far-reaching. This does not mean that God punishes innocent children for their father’s sins. Deuteronomy 24:16 clearly states that is not the case. Rather, children often learn and repeat the sinful behavior of their parents. God will not say ‘I won’t punish this generation for their sins because they just learned it from their parents.’ If children repeat the sins of their parents, they will be punished for those sins, just like their parents were punished. God is just. But the great mercy of God is highlighted in the greatest numerical contrast in the bible. Third and fourth to thousands! God shows up to judge for three or four generations, but his steadfast love is for thousands! God will show his covenant faithfulness to thousands of those who love him by keeping his commandments.

1John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

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

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, occasional | , , , , , | Leave a comment