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Daniel 9:3; The Pursuit of Prayer

06/26_Daniel 09:3; Pursuit of Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220626_dan09_3.mp3

Daniel a Man of Prayer

Daniel was a man of prayer. He was a man who knew his God. His prayers shaped his character. He feared his God more than he feared kings or lions. In fact, when he knew he would be thrown to the lions, he still was able to find things to be thankful for. He prayed three times a day, not because he had to, but because he had to.

Daniel can teach us much about prayer. In chapter 2 we see Daniel encouraging his friends to join him in prayer, seeking mercy from the God of heaven (2:18), and in chapter 6, we see him devoted to prayer, praying three times a day so faithfully and consistently that his enemies could set their clocks by it. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually hear him pray? It is one thing to have someone tell you how important it is to pray; it is another thing altogether to listen to them pray. In Daniel chapter 9, we get in on Daniel’ private prayer life. We get to hear him pray. We get a taste of his emotion, his intensity, his passion, his very heart. We get a glimpse of his theology in action; not just what he said he believed, but his worldview, the truths that shaped how he thought and walked and talked and responded. We sense his tenderness, his sensitivity, his vulnerability. His dependency, his neediness, his desperation, his longings.

I want to learn how to pray from Daniel. So I’d like to camp out here in Daniel 9 for a bit, to soak in whatever we can, and as we listen in, to be shaped in our thinking and feeling, to grow in our intimacy with the Father.

I would encourage you as we work through this prayer together over the coming weeks, to take it home and use it as a template for your prayers. There are of course some things that are specific to Daniel’s time and circumstances, but our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Why Pray?

Today I want to look at the purpose of prayer, or the pursuit of prayer. What are we after in prayer? What do we desire? Why do we pray? Or, to turn the question around, why don’t we pray? Why am I so often prayerless? I think that often I don’t pray because I misunderstand or forget what prayer is pursuing.

Needs

I pray when I have a need. I pray when the problem is bigger than me and I can’t fix the situation. I pray because God is able, and God is good, and he invites us to ask him for help in time of need. Those things are all true, and that is a motive for prayer, but if that is my main pursuit in prayer, then when I’m not aware of any need bigger than me, I won’t pray.

Circumstances do drive us to pray. Daniel’s circumstances drove him to pray. He was an Israelite in captivity in a foreign land. His people were displaced from their homeland. His city and the temple of his God lay in ruins. He was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah, that God had decreed 70 years of desolations for Jerusalem, and Daniel became aware of the fact that those 70 years would soon draw to a close.

But we also know from chapter 6 that Daniel was in a habit of prayer. ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ (6:10). No doubt Daniel had bad days, when all seemed to be against him, when he was acutely aware of his need, when he felt he might be thrown to the lions, so to speak. But Daniel also had good days, when he sensed the smile of God, he was being who he was created to be, when all seemed right with the world, and even on those good days, ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’. What was Daniel pursuing in prayer, that caused such consistency in prayer?

Lists

Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am, and you keep a list of people and things to pray for. Family, friends, finances, missionaries, the lost, our country, our leaders, our church. Again, these are all good things to pray for, and lists can be helpful. Lists can also be things just to check off, making us feel like we have done our duty; we have passed on our list and reminded God of what he needs to do today. Is this the primary pursuit of prayer?

Meals and Mountains

What about meals? Do you all pray before you eat? I was raised to think that if you ate unblessed unsanctified food, you’d end up with a stomach ache or worse. Meals are a good three times a day reminder to be thankful for all the good things God gives us. And there are spontaneous times of thankfulness too, when I’m hiking in the mountains and see a spectacular view, my heart just overflows with thankfulness to the one who spoke it all into existence. When we receive good things from God we ought to thank him. But again, is that the primary pursuit of prayer?

Solomon’s Prayer

When King Solomon built the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem, he acknowledged in his prayer of dedication in 2 Chronicles 6

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! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He understood that God can’t be contained by a building. He also understood our wayward hearts, and he anticipated that God’s people would not remain faithful to their God. So in verse 36 he prayed:

2 Chronicles 6:36 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to a land far or near, 37 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 38 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 39 then hear from heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their pleas, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you

In 2 Chronicles 7 YHWH answered his prayer:

2 Chronicles 7:12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

But the Lord goes on to warn:

2 Chronicles 7:19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

God warns against unfaithfulness to him. He warns us not to abandon YHWH our God. He warns us not to lay hold on other gods and worship and serve them. Our God is a jealous God. Do not turn aside from his commandments, the first of which is ‘I am YHWH your God …you shall have no other Gods before me’ (Ex.20:2-3). God’s invitation is ‘if my people …humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land’. In humility turn from other gods to seek my face.

Give Him Your Face

Look with me at Daniel’s pursuit in his prayer.

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying…

Daniel turned his face to the Lord God. Other translations read ‘I set my face unto’ [(KJV) or ‘I gave my attention to’ (NASB). Daniel gave God his face, his undivided attention. He wasn’t looking at his phone, messaging Azariah, scrolling his social media feed. He didn’t have one earbud in. He set all his notifications to ‘do not disturb’ He gave God his face.

We live distracted lives. How often do we ever give anyone our undistracted undivided attention for any period of time? I was taught that it was rude to interrupt another person who was talking, or to barge into a conversation uninvited. But we allow the buzzing in our pocket to interrupt the person in the room. What we are saying is that the notification I received is more important and more urgent and I will allow it to interrupt my conversation with you. There may be times when that is true. But is there anyone more important than the Lord God? Our God is a jealous God. He wants our undivided undistracted attention. Myriad other gods are competing for our attention. He wants our face.

Seeking Him

Daniel says ‘I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him. Daniel wasn’t seeking his gifts, what God could do for him. He wasn’t seeking answers, seeking wisdom, seeking guidance. He was seeking God. He does have requests, but his primary pursuit is not the gift but the Giver. He wants God. Period. He is pursuing the face of God.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. …8 You have said, “Seek my face. ”My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Put down your lists, set aside your needs, and seek him for him. That is the primary pursuit of prayer.

Moses desired to see the face of God.

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.”

Moses desired to see the face of God, and he was denied.

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

In Jesus, because of the gospel, we now have the awesome privilege of being in the presence of almighty God, of seeing the face of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … 16 and [he] reconcile[d] us …to God in one body through the cross… 18 For through him we …have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Here’s my challenge to you; set aside time this week, maybe just 10 or 15 minutes, eliminate as many distractions as possible, and give God your face. Seek him for him.

***

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

July 2, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:24-28; Poetic Justice and Pursuit of the Nations

03/06_Daniel 06:24-28; Poetic Justice and Pursuit of the Nations ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220306_dan06_24-28.mp3

Daniel’s confidence in his God was unshaken regardless of his circumstances. What he thought, what he felt, what he did was not contingent on what other people thought of him, or expected of him, or even what they plotted against him.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Those who conspired against him had planned well. They understood enough of the character of Daniel to know that he would remain committed to his God no matter what. They knew enough of the king to know that he could be taken by flattery, and their plan to get him to sign his name and then use his own words against him worked. They now had gained the upper hand, their jealousy found vent, and the king must carry out their desire to have their rival executed.

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Daniel’s fate, and his tomb, was sealed. The king was greatly distressed, but despite his best efforts, could do nothing to change the outcome. He was driven to his knees.

Unharmed

Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

The king’s great distress turned into great gladness. The Lord was indeed able to deliver Daniel. ‘My God sent his messenger.’ Jesus was present with Daniel in the den of lions. And he came out unscathed. No kind of harm was found on him. I don’t know how deep the pit was into which he was cast, but you would think that a man in his 80’s, maybe so full of grit and gristle to be unappetizing to lions, would at least come away from that with a broken hip or ankle. But ‘no kind of harm was found on him.’

He was cast into the pit, but he had already cast himself fully on the Lord his God. He was quietly leaning into the Lord alone, and it was his Lord who delivered him.

Blind Jealousy

Daniel 6:24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

This is a grizzly scene. If there was any question if the lions were too tame or old or overfed to be interested in eating someone, what happened next removed all doubt. The other officials had thought they had gained the upper hand. Even if their open manipulation of the king and the law to carry out their own desires worked in disposing of Daniel, their jealousy had blinded them to the reality that their actions would cause the king never trust them again.

Their plan was carefully crafted, but they didn’t think through the full implications of their actions, and they certainly didn’t believe Daniel’s God would actually deliver him from the lions.

Poetic Justice

There is a principle we find in Proverbs:

Proverbs 26:27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. 28 A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

This is poetic justice at its best. The one who digs a pit will fall into it. The one who sets a trap for others will himself fall into the trap he has made. This principle is rooted in God’s law against bearing false witness:

Deuteronomy 19:16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, …18 … and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

You shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. Jesus gives the positive side of this teaching:

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (cf. Lk. 6:31)

Whatever you wish others would not do to you, you must not do to them. God will bring about justice. You will reap what you sow. We see this principle throughout the Psalms. Psalm 7 begins with a declaration of trust in God.

Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

The Psalm concludes with a description of his adversaries, and the outcome of their evil plans:

Psalm 7:14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 57 begins the same way, with a declaration of dependence on the Lord for protection:

Psalm 57:1 ….in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. … 3 ​He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Then he states the danger he is in:

Psalm 57:4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

He goes on;

Psalm 57:6 They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. — Selah

And he concludes with worship.

Psalm 57:11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

There is a poetic justice that God will bring about, ultimately to his own glory. Those who dig a pit will fall into the hole they dug. Those who manipulated the king to destroy the blameless are consumed by the very lions they expected would eat Daniel. God is just, and ultimately God will bring about justice.

Parallels between 3 and 6

If we look at the structure of the book of Daniel, we see that chapter 6 is the mirror of chapter 3, and there are so many instructive parallels between this and the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar.

The background of both chapters is the elevation of captives from Judah to positions of authority, and the jealousy of their peers.

In chapter 3, it is the king in his pride who sets up his own image and demands that all bow to pay allegiance. In chapter 6 it is the other officials who by subterfuge manipulate the king to pass a law that feeds his own ego, that all would pay allegiance to him.

In chapter 3 the danger is a sin of commission; the command requires that they do something; to commit idolatry by bowing to the king’s statue. In chapter 6 the danger is a sin of omission; something regularly to be done is now forbidden. The three refused to bow; Daniel continued to give thanks to his God in prayer, as he had always done. In 3, the disobedience is public; in 6 it is private.

In both chapters, the rebellion is observed by the jealous opponents and they ‘draw near’ to accuse them before the king; and the rebellion is framed as personal; they ‘pay no attention to you O king’. In chapter 3, the king offers them another chance to bow, but they decline; in chapter 6, the three times a day disobedience precludes the need for another test.

In chapter 3, the king is furious at the insolence of the rebels and demands that the punishment be exaggerated. In chapter 6, the king is greatly distressed, and seeks to find a way to rescue from the consequences of his own law, but fails.

In chapter 3, the king issues a challenge ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ In chapter 6, the king expresses his hope ‘may your God …deliver you’.

In chapter 3, the three believers confess their unshakable faith that their God is able to ‘deliver’, but even if he does not, they will not be unfaithful to him. In chapter 6, Daniel is silent, and it is the king who offers the hope of deliverance by God.

In both, the offenders are ‘cast’ into a pit. In both, the Son of God is with them in the pit. In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar observes the fourth man in the fire, and invites them to come out. In chapter 6, Daniel gives testimony of the one who was with him in the pit, and the king orders him to be lifted out. In both, those who serve their God come out of the pit without the least harm, and those around them are able to inspect them and testify to the miraculous deliverance by God.

In 3 the soldiers inadvertently die in the superheated furnace while obeying the king’s orders, where in 6 those who conspired against Daniel are commanded by the king to be thrown to the lions.

These two episodes are paired in the record of the faithful in Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith …stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, …

What can we learn from this?

-God cares just as much about our private as our public devotion to him.

-Sins of omission (failing to give him thanks) are just as real as sins of commission (worshiping false gods).

-God may not exempt us from suffering, but he is with his people when they go through trials for the sake of his name.

-We learn from their examples that this life is not all there is; they knew that obedience to God, even if it cost them their lives, would be worth it. As Hebrews puts it,

Hebrews 11:13 …having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. …16 …they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. …

Learning Theology from Sufferers

Both chapters end with an edict; Nebuchadnezzar blessed God and made a decree that no people, nation or language should speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego under penalty of death, and he promoted them in the province of Babylon.

Here in chapter 6,

Daniel 6:25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Through this ordeal, Darius began to understand what the true God is like. He learned that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All people ought to tremble and fear before him. He is the life-giver, the source and sustainer of all that is. In him is life. He is alive and active, at work in this world today. He is eternal, with no beginning or end, he is the unchangeable uncaused cause. He is the ultimate king, and no one can conquer his kingdom. The kingdoms of this earth rise and fall, come and go, but his rule will go on forever.

Not only is he the sovereign eternal living God, but he is the Savior. He is the only one who can deliver and rescue. He can save his people from the power of the lions. He is a miracle worker. He does signs and wonders in heaven and on earth to draw attention not to the signs and wonders, but to himself. He is eternal king and mighty to save. And he wants us to know him.

Darius, like his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar, learned some good theology from believers in this God who simply lived out their faith even in the face of suffering and death.

On Mission to Bless the Nations

Remember, it was not by random chance that God’s people ended up exiled in Babylon; God sent them into exile. And he had multiple purposes for doing so. He was punishing their disobedience, but he was also sending them out on mission with good news to the nations. He chose them and blessed them so that they would be a blessing, and that ‘in you shall all the nations be blessed’ (Gal.3:8). God had a purpose in their circumstances.

What is your circumstance today, and how might God be intending to use that for his glory and to bring good news to the nations?

***

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

March 7, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:1-9; Integrity and Conspiracy

11/14_Daniel 06:1-9; Integrity and Conspiracy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211114_dan06_1-9.mp3

Isaiah’s Prediction [c.740-681 BC]

October 12, 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian forces under Cyrus. Cyrus was named by God in Isaiah more than 150 years earlier.

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 …that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 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.

Daniel no doubt was aware of this prophecy of Isaiah. We are told in Daniel 9:2 that he had a copy of Jeremiah’s prophecies to study. It is likely that he also had Isaiah, which was written 100 years before Jeremiah.

Cyrus, whether directly or indirectly, was ruling Babylon. Was Daniel looking at the prophecies, wondering if this Cyrus was the one the Lord had named as his shepherd, to fulfill all his purpose, to rebuild Jerusalem and the holy temple? The wicked king Belshazzar is dead, and now Cyrus is in control. After 66 years of captivity (605-539BC), finally there was hope. Things were looking up!

6:1-3; Daniel promoted from third to first

Remember, Belshazzar, on the night he was killed, promised to make Daniel the third ruler in the kingdom, an empty promise from a lame-duck king whose empire as they spoke was coming to an end; an offer that Daniel declined, although Belshazzar made the empty proclamation anyway.

Now Darius is establishing his rule.

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Where the wicked Belshazzar offered to make him third in his fallen kingdom, ironically Darius appointed Daniel as one of three high officials, and purposed to elevate him to first place, over the whole kingdom. The appointment of the three high officials was to hold the 120 satraps accountable, ‘so that the king might suffer no loss.’ Darius was ruling over newly conquered peoples, and those peoples would be expected to offer him tribute. A failure to pay the tax would be a treasonous act of rebellion. He needed trusted people to look out for his interests.

Cyrus was known for seeking peace and the goodwill of the people he conquered, so like Daniel, many of the officials may have been those who had served the previous administration. But there needed to be some accountability to ensure the stability of his rule. We are not told the period of time Daniel served as one of the three high officials, but during that time he ‘became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because and excellent spirit was in him.’

This was the same excellent spirit with which he served under Nebuchadnezzar, the excellent spirit that the queen mother informed Belshazzar was in Daniel (5:12, 14). God had given Daniel ‘learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams’ (1:17).

Jeremiah had instructed the captives in Babylon to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel indeed was not seeking his own interests, but selflessly seeking the welfare of the city. He spoke truth even when it was costly; he did what he knew was right, even when no one else was. Because of this, ‘Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps …And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

The events of this chapter may have even taken place after Cyrus’ proclamation to release the Jews to rebuild the temple, which was given in his first year (Ezr.1:1-2; 2Chr.36:22-23). Things are looking up for Daniel. But sometimes the way up is down (Valley of Vision).

6:4-5; Jealousy and Integrity

Daniel 6:4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Why seek fault with Daniel? Here’s the problem with people of integrity. If their standards are higher than yours, they may make you feel guilty or look bad. Their integrity may prevent you from taking advantage of situations you feel entitled to take advantage of. These officials may or may not have been after his promised position over the whole kingdom. But they understood the accountability this would create for them, and they resented him.

This is an amazing testimony to the integrity of Daniel. When your own PR department writes up your credentials, that is one thing. But if your enemies are digging and digging, trying to find any dirt they can on you, trying to take you down, and they come up with nothing, that says something. Daniel was above reproach.

Remember, Daniel is a captive who had been uprooted from his land as a youth; everything he had had been taken away. Home, family, hopes and dreams, a future. Everything had been stripped from him by the enemies of God’s people. He could have easily justified just about anything, thinking ‘they took everything from me; it would be right for me to demand compensation.’ He even could have thought ‘they dishonored God and plundered his temple; I’m going to reclaim for God what is rightfully his.’ Daniel could have simply let things slide, not willing directly to steal, but reasoning ‘these are the enemies of God’s people; if I work hard for them, I am cooperating with the enemies of God, and ultimately I would be advancing their cause against God. But if I am lazy and neglect to do my job well, that will hurt the enemies of God, and God would want me to do that, wouldn’t he?’

The other high officials and satraps knew Daniel was an exile from Judah. They may have seen these kinds of justifications in other Israelites, so they fully expected to find something with which to accuse Daniel. But ‘but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.’ What high praise from the lips of his own co-workers!

Obey God and Man

So they concluded that if they were to find any fault, it would have to be a point at which the law of God required Daniel to disobey the king. They knew enough about Daniel to conclude that his devotion to his God was even greater than his submission to the king. But even that they could not find. We love to cite the verse ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Ac.5:29) to give us a pass on anything we find inconvenient or distasteful, or permission to do something we just want to do. But Daniel somehow managed to live in pagan Babylon serving a pagan king with integrity and without ever compromising his faith in God. As Peter says,

1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. …13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Paul says that governing authorities have been established by God.

Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. …

This is the general rule. Obeying God and seeking the good of the community ought to be rewarded, not punished. Galatians 5:23 says there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit.

Now there are times where we will legitimately have to make that choice and stand in obedience to God regardless of the cost. Peter goes on to say:

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For Daniel, this conflict between the law of his God and the law of the land had to be manufactured by his jealous and malicious adversaries.

6:6-9; Conspiracy and Flattery

Daniel 6:6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

This was a true conspiracy. The other high officials and satraps conspired together, and came together as a group to the king. The word translated ‘came by agreement’ is interesting; literally it means to gather tumultuously; to gather as a mob. It is unlikely that this describes the outward manner with which they approached the king, but rather the inner motive; they did not abandon proper court etiquette, demonstrated by their introduction ‘O king Darius, live forever!’ This shows what was in their hearts. This is a verbal link to the equivalent Hebrew word in Psalm 2

Psalm 2:1 Why do the nations rage [gather tumultuously] and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed…

Although they put on a good face, their appearance before the king was a result of a vicious and tumultuous conspiracy. They were plotting to murder an innocent man out of sheer jealousy, because they felt threatened by him. And they were willing to manipulate the king to serve their own ends and carry out their execution.

They flat out lied to the king’s face. They claimed that all the high officials were agreed, but clearly Daniel, one of three, the one the king intended to appoint over them all, had not agreed. Likely not even all the 120 satraps had agreed, as they were scattered ‘throughout the whole kingdom’, carrying out their duties for the king.

But they flattered the king, and flattery blinded him to what they were scheming. They wanted the king to be esteemed, and they had come up with a plan to test everyone’s loyalties. This did not necessarily imply that the king was divine, otherwise why limit this edict to only 30 days? The point was to consolidate power, that everything had to go through him. Darius would serve as the one mediator between his subjects and the gods of all the nations. All the gods had their priests, but for a month, Darius was to be acknowledged as the source and the provider of their every need.

This was the equivalent of the test in chapter 3 where ‘the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered’ and were required ‘to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Dan.3;3,5-6)

Darius probably didn’t realize it, but this was a greater blasphemy that Belshazzar’s defiling of God’s holy vessels at his drinking party. He was claiming, if only for a time, to be the one mediator between God and man. Jesus said

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is our only access to the Father.

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

We gain access to the Father as a free gift, when we put our trust in Christ alone. He stands in the gap, he paid our price, he died in our place to reconcile us to God.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Darius was claiming to be something he could never be, and he had no idea what it would cost to be that Mediator. ‘There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for you!

***

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

November 15, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves

07/18_Daniel 03:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210718_dan03_1-12.mp3

Daniel 2 showed us the bankruptcy of human wisdom and even the dark arts. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon, and they were powerless to unravel the king’s mystery. They are more inclined to tell him what is expedient, to use flattery, to preserve their positions, than to tell him the truth.

Now we see in chapter 3 the bankruptcy of human government. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. God has given him authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all’ (2:38). The head of gold gathers all those he has set up to rule under him; “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces”; this list becomes comical in its sheer length and its repetition. These are representatives from all “peoples, nations, and languages” and they all buckle under the great pressure and threat of consequences; they all compromise to preserve their own skin. They act out of jealousy and self-interest; not the good of the people they are responsible to serve. They all, including Nebuchadnezzar, allow pride and preservation of position to eclipse simply doing what is right.

The Image of Gold; Opposition to God’s Revelation

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 2, God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the future of Gentile dominion, and what would happen after these things with ‘a great image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, frightening’ (2:31). After the head of gold would come three other empires represented by metals of descending value but increasing strength, followed by a divided kingdom. A divine stone would impact and obliterate all human kingdoms, crushing them to powder that the wind blew away, and God will establish his kingdom that will have no end.

In response to this, maybe even in proud opposition to this vision from God, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a massive image 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall that is gold from head to foot. He is saying as it were, my kingdom will last forever. My dominion will not decline or be given to another. My kingdom will never be crushed, never fall. He calls for allegiance to this statue as a symbolic act to unify his empire and rally all his people around an experience of worship.

Daniel had acknowledged God as the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (2:21), and he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that ‘the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ into his hand (2:37). Here Nebuchadnezzar is saying that he is the one who sets up gods for his people to worship, and that he can give life or take life away from those who refuse to bow.

The Plain in Shinar; Place of Opposition to God

The location of this statue is telling. It is on the plain, in the province of Babylon. In chapter 1, the author calls Babylon ‘the land of Shinar’ (1:2). This links all the way back to Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

We were created in the image of the invisible God, to enjoy relationship with him and bring glory to his name. Instead we desire to make a name for ourselves, to get glory for ourselves, to establish a monument and create a legacy that will last forever.

On the plain in the land of Shinar, the people united in rebellion against God and his glory, God and his word. God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen.1:26-28). Instead they came together so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the whole earth as God intended.

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The tower of Babel was intended to bring together all mankind united in rebellion against God. In that unity, nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them, but it would not be for the glory of God and the good of others; they do it all to get glory for themselves, to make a name for themselves in opposition to God and his word.

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the same geographic location had the same purpose. In fact, he intended to reverse the confusion of Babel by bringing back together ‘people, nations and languages’ that the Lord had dispersed, to unite them all in worship before his image of gold.

Inclusive Worship of the Image

Daniel 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Note what Nebuchadnezzar is not asking. He is not demanding that all peoples, nations and languages renounce their own gods and exclusively worship his. But he is requiring that they acknowledge his god alongside theirs. In chapter 2, he was willing to acknowledge Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings without renouncing his own gods. He is requiring the same of all his subjects. It is fine if you worship your own gods, as long as you will also acknowledge mine. Nebuchadnezzar commands under penalty of death that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship the golden image that he has set up.

The Manipulative Power of Music

Notice what he utilizes to initiate the worship of this image? ‘When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music.’ Some have commented that this bizarre combination of instruments would produce a cacophony of sound, but I don’t think so. Nebuchadnezzar understood the emotive and persuasive power of music skillfully played to manipulate a response from an audience. The image he had made was visually awe inspiring and impressive, and the strategically diverse ensemble was meant to elicit an emotional response from the people. The combination of sight and sound, of threat and hope, of uniting with such an unbelievably great and diverse crowd around something great would be almost irresistible.

And it worked!

Daniel 3:7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

We need to be careful with this. Music is a gift of God. Music is powerful. But music skillfully played at just the right time and in just the right way can manipulate the emotions of people. It persuaded a multitude from diverse backgrounds to fall down and worship an image. Music combined with fog machines and colored lights can create an atmosphere of sight and sound that is powerful and persuasive, and draw people in, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Paul said, not in the context of music, but in the context of human oratory and eloquence that could please the ear in a similar way;

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

I think it is right and biblical to use instruments in worship of God (Ps.150:3-6). Even loud music and clashing cymbals can be appropriate in worship to God. But we need to be careful that we are not coming to be entertained, to be moved, to be awed by the band and the special effects. We must be careful that we are not using music and visual stimulation to manipulate an emotional response. We ought to be singing because God has genuinely changed our hearts, and we ought to be standing and singing in awe of him, who he is, and his grace, what he has done.

Music is powerful, and it can be used to move ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages’ to fall down and worship ‘the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ All but three young men that is.

Jealousy of Position

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

At the end of chapter 2 we saw that because Daniel upstaged all the ‘wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers’ of Babylon, he was appointed ‘ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (2:48-49).

Now the hearts of the Chaldeans are exposed. They ‘maliciously accused the Jews’. They were full of resentment and jealousy toward these foreigners who had been appointed to positions of authority over them. They were watching, looking for opportunity to accuse the Jews. They were even bold enough to be critical of the king’s decisions; ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon…’

If we look ahead to chapter 6, where Daniel is thrown to the lions, we are told that the jealous leaders conspired to arrange circumstances to entrap Daniel and have him removed. Although we are not told, we could imagine that a similar thing could have happened here; the king’s counselors inflating his ego, encouraging the king to make the image and to institute the death penalty for conscientious objectors, knowing that the Jews were expressly forbidden to bow to any image.

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,…

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew God’s commands. They feared God more even than the threats of the king.

Deuteronomy 6:13 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.

Made to Worship

Although we were made to worship, made to supremely enjoy the one true God, our hearts are sinfully inclined to worship lesser things. We tend to suppress the truth. We exchange the glory of the immortal and invisible God for images resembling visible mortal man. We fail to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Like the Chaldeans, we value our own position, our own promotion, our own exaltation more than God. And we are willing to push others down if that will give us opportunity to advance. We want to be in places of power, we want to be honored. Like the people on the plain of Shinar, we want to make a name for ourselves.

But at the cross, the power of sin was broken. We can be free from our selfish desires. We are set free to look up, not to aspire but to adore. When we see God for who he is, we are set free from the pursuit of self-promotion, from seeking the approval of others. We can be free to forget ourselves and humbly worship the only one who is worthy. We were made to worship, and we find our greatest fulfillment when we pursue the glory of God in all we do.

***

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

July 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Betrothed to One Husband

10/11_2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Betrothed to One Husband; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201011_2cor11_1-3.mp3

Anticipating The Bride

A thirty something year old bachelor and his disciples were invited to a wedding.

John 2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus, I imagine, with a somewhat distant look in his eye, replies ‘My hour has not yet come.’ What is on his mind? In his parables, Jesus used the picture of those invited to a wedding feast to encourage us to be ready for his coming (Mt.22, 25). He even pointed us to himself as the bridegroom in Matthew 9. When asked:

Matthew 9:14 …“Why …your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (cf. Mk.2:19-20; Lk.5:34-35)

‘What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’

Here are some Old Testament promises pointing to a future consummation.

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Isaiah 62:5 …as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Hosea 2:16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ …19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

‘My hour has not yet come.’

Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

The marriage celebration of the Lamb. The Lamb of God, at a friend’s wedding, looking off into the distant future, is contemplating his own. The bride will have made herself ready!

But my hour has not yet come. My bride is not yet ready. I too will enjoy a much greater celebration, a much greater feast, but not now, not yet. First I must pay the dowry price, my own blood. ‘I will give myself up for her, I will sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that she might be mine in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish’ (Eph.5:25-27).

Friend of the Bridegroom/Father of the Bride

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 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.

Paul sees himself following the footsteps of John the Baptist, who said:

John 3:29 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.”

Paul’s joy, like that of John, is to be there at that great wedding celebration, to see the church presented pure, as a virgin to Christ.

Paul serves in the role of father to this church, as he said back in 1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4:15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

As their father in the faith, he felt the weight of responsibility to present them in purity to their promised husband. He felt the threat of false lovers competing for their affection, trying to seduce them.

There is a great wedding feast to look forward to, but there is a threat. Just as Mary, betrothed (we would say engaged) to be married to Joseph, when she was found to be with child, Joseph intended to put her away or divorce her, because it seemed she had been unfaithful to him. Paul is jealous not for himself, but with a godly jealousy, because he felt an obligation to protect her purity. The blood bought church is being seduced to turn away from Jesus to entertain other loves.

God’s Jealousy

God demands our exclusive love, like the exclusivity of the marriage covenant.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

‘You shall have no other gods before me… For I the LORD your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:3,5).

It is right for a husband to have a holy jealousy, to be passionate in the defense of the purity of his bride. A husband who is apathetic is a husband who has no real love. We too must be passionate for the purity of the bride. Our culture likes to tell us to mind our own business and to keep our nose out of the private affairs of others. But love demands that if we see the bride listening to other voices, being seduced by other suitors, we must be passionate for her purity. If we claim to be a friend of the bridegroom, if we claim to love Jesus, we must be passionate about the purity of his bride, the church. We must tolerate no rival affections. Paul is jealous with a godly jealousy for the purity of the church.

The Satanic Threat

Paul’s thoughts go back to the garden, where all creation was corrupted by satanic deception. The serpent deceived Eve by his cunning. He enticed her to add to God’s word, and then to question his word. That first woman ought to have been satisfied in God alone, trusted his provision alone, and listened to his word alone, but instead she listened to a competing voice and was seduced in her thinking to doubt the very goodness of the God who made her for relationship and had given her everything good to enjoy.

2 Corinthians 11:3 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.

Just as the original creation was wrecked by that cunning satanic deception, God’s new creation (2Cor.5:17) is now in danger of being corrupted by that same kind of deception. And it must be revealed for what it is; cunning deception by the serpent. You are being tempted to listen to other voices, even voices that claim to be speaking on his behalf, but they lie. You are being seduced by a rival to question the goodness of God, to doubt his sufficiency. In the same way your thoughts might be seduced away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

The Battleground of the Mind

Notice, it is your mind that is the battleground. It is your thoughts that are led astray. It matters what you think. It matters what you believe. This is why Paul said back in chapter 10 that he is equipped with weapons to wage war with divine power;

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

We are in a battle, and it is a battle for our minds, our thoughts. What is at stake is knowing God, obeying Christ in simplicity, the simple truth of the gospel. The deception is cunning – a subtle and ever so slight shift of affections away from Christ is in truth a proud thought lifted up in direct opposition to the knowledge of God. We might describe ourselves as drifting; but we will be found to be opposing.

Simple Devotion

2 Corinthians 11:3 …your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

This word ‘sincere’ has shown up already in 2 Corinthians. Back in 1:12 Paul used it to describe his own character in ministry as simple, single-minded, not with divided motives, not duplicitous or double-minded. This word also shows up three times in chapters 8 and 9, usually translated there as ‘generous’ or ‘generosity’, but again pointing to the single minded simplicity of undivided devotion to Christ and Christ alone. Here again it points to undivided affections; ‘You shall have no other gods before me… For I the LORD your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:3,5).

Bearing with Foolishness

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 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.

Paul voices his wish that they bear with his foolishness. He has already said that those who commend themselves and measure and compare themselves with one another are not wise. But later in this chapter he will play the fool and indulge in his fools speech, going toe to toe with the false apostles commending his ministry and comparing and contrasting his credentials with theirs. He is forced into foolish boasting by his godly jealousy for them. They won’t listen to reason, so he will answer a fool according to his folly, if that’s what it takes to reach them. His passion for Christ and for the purity of the church drives him to take extreme measures. He’s willing to play the fool if a fool is all they will listen to.

But there may be more to what he says here. He is asking them to bear with him in a little foolishness. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The Corinthians have grown out of the simplicity of their devotion to Christ and have developed a taste for something more sophisticated. They have advanced beyond the basics of the gospel. Paul wishes they would once again return to the foolish message of the cross.

Paul has one message.

1 Corinthians 2:1 …I …did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 1:21 …it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …23 but we preach Christ crucified…

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Come back to the simple gospel of Christ crucified. You are in danger of abandoning your first love (Rev.2:4). Return, O return to a simple devotion to Christ.

***

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

October 16, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, church, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

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