PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 9:25-27; Messiah Cut Off

09/04_Daniel 09:25-27; Messiah Cut Off; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220904_dan09_25-27.mp3

Daniel is praying. He perceived in the scrolls the number of years according to the word of YHWH to Jeremiah that must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem would be seventy years. Daniel himself is nearing 70 years in Babylon, and Babylon has fallent to the Medes and the Persians. So Daniel is praying and confessing his sins and the sins of his people that brought upon them God’s discipline. He is asking that God act according to his character, to both manintain his perfect righteousness, and to extend mercy and forgiveness to sinners who don’t deserve it. He is imploring God to defend the honor of his great name which is being slandered among the nations.

70 Years in Jeremiah

The passages in Jeremiah that deal with this 70 year captivity are Jeremiah 25 and 29. In the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (605 BC),

Jeremiah 25:2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the LORD, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm. 8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. …11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.

Judgment is prophesied on rebellious Judah, but even with the promise of punishment comes a promise that it is for a set period of time.

Promises of Jeremiah 29-31

Jeremiah 29 is actually a transcript of a letter Jeremiah sent to the captives in Babylon after the main deportation 8 years later in 597 BC. Jeremiah encouraged the captives to

Jeremiah 29:7 But 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. …10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

The Lord is so gracious! Even in captivity, he will bless his people. And the Lord will be faithful to his promises. God will ensure that his people will call upon him and pray to him and seek him, and he will gather them back to the land. This is what Daniel is doing.

Coming Davidic King

If we keep reading in Jeremiah, we see more of the context that Daniel had in mind in his prayer. Jeremiah 30 says:

Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. 8 “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. 9 But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. … 18 “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. 19 ​Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. 20 Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them. 21 Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD. 22 ​And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

God will punish his people. But not only will the Lord save them from their trouble, not only will the city and the palace be rebuilt, but God will raise up their king David, a prince, a ruler from their midst who will have the face of the Lord. This coming Davidic king would certainly be part of Daniel’s eager anticipation.

New Covenant

Jeremiah 31 goes on to speak of a new covenant that God will make with Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 … for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Daniel was boldly confessing the sins of his people and seeking mercy from the Lord, because the Lord had already promised not only to forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more, but also to bring change at a heart level, to give his people new hearts so they would no longer go astray.

Circumcised Heart to Love God

All the way back in Deuteronomy when God promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, he said

Deuteronomy 30:1 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 7 And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today.

God will change the hearts of his people so that they love him and find life.

Seventy Sevens

This is some of the biblical background that helps us understand the message Gabriel gave to Daniel when he interrupted his prayer.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city,

Daniel is asking if the 70 years of Jeremiah are about to come to a close, and he is told that seventy weeks, or seventy times seven years are decreed by God about the Jews and Jerusalem. In these coming 490 years God promises to do some amazing things. Six things, three negative and three positive;

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

God will finally and forever put an end to sin. He will make his people irrevocably righteous. He will bring perfect fulfillment to all the visions and prophecies. He will anoint a most holy place. All these things he will do for his people and his holy city.

The message continues with a more specific breakdown of the seventy sevens. The seventy sevens are broken down into the first seven sevens, then sixty-two sevens (which together make 69 sevens, or 483 years) and then one final climactic seven.

Daniel 9:25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Better Than What He Asked

We are going to put off the nitty gritty details of the breakdown of the dates and disagreements over what the numbers mean until later. Today I just want to look at the broad sweep of what God promises to accomplish in these 490 years. God has promised to end sin, bring in righteousness, seal vision and prophet, and anoint a most holy place. This sounds like an answer to Daniel’s prayer bigger than he imagined. Not only is God going to once for all finally and forever finish, put away, atone for iniquity, transgression and sin, he is going to bring in everlasting righteousness, he is going to put his stamp of approval on all vision and prophecy by fulfilling them, and he is going to make his face shine on his sanctuary. How? How is God intending to accomplish all this?

Messiah The Prince

This prophecy points to the coming of an anointed one, a prince. Both kings and priests were anointed for their service. The word for ‘anointed one’ is the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’. The coming of one who is both ruler and priest was anticipated. The Messiah was to be one who would rule his people with justice and righteousness, but he was also the one who would make atonement for their sins. This prophecy given to Daniel predicts the coming of this anointed one. This is the focal point of all of history!

Cut Off?

Daniel is in captivity, longing for the return of God’s people to a place of honor. Their coming Messiah king was expected to finally crush all enemies of God’s people, so that all nations would come and pay homage to him in Jerusalem. Psalm 2 speaks of YHWH and his anointed, his begotten Son who will inherit the nations to the ends of the earth and rule them with a rod of iron. But Daniel’s prophecy says that even the first 49 years during which the city will be rebuilt will be filled with trouble, and after the 483 years, this Anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. How can this be? In the final week, the most holy place then anointed will be desecrated, one is coming who will destroy both city and sanctuary, put an end to sacrifice and offering, and make desolate with abominations. God will triumph in the end; the decreed end will be poured out on the one who makes desolate.

This could not be the picture Daniel was hoping for. This is both better than he could have asked, and more terrible than he could have imagined. Sin will be done away, but in an unexpectedly messy painful way. The long awaited Messiah will come, but then he will be cut off and have nothing. The sanctuary will be anointed, but then it will be desecrated. This sounds more bad than good.

If it were not decreed by God himself, it would seem that his plan had gone terribly wrong as it began to unfold. He set out to do these good things, but his plans were thwarted and derailed. But this is precisely how he intended to deal with our sins. His only Son, his Anointed one would come, and would be cut off.

This sounds much like Jesus’ parable in Mark 12

Mark 12:1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

This all sounds tragic and terrible like the whole plan is falling apart. But Jesus goes on to say:

Mark 12:10 Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

It seems like everything had gone wrong, but ‘this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’

Isaiah 53:6 ​All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Messiah Jesus was cut off from the land of the living. He was stripped naked, soldiers gambled for his last stitch of clothing. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. His followers scattered and fled. He had nothing. And this was all the Lord’s doing. This is how Messiah Jesus atoned for sin. He took it on himself and it was nailed to his cross. Philippians 2 tells us

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

2 Corinthians 8 says:

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

He became poor, he became nothing for my sake. To put an end to my sin, to give me his righteousness. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!

***

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

September 19, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 9:1-2; The Prophecy of Jeremiah

06/12_Daniel 09:1-2; The Prophecy of Jeremiah; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220612_dan09_1-2.mp3

Daniel 9 comes in the first year of Darius the Mede, likely another name for Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539 BC, on the night of Belshazzar’s feast recorded in Daniel chapter 5. This is the Darius who intended to put Daniel in charge of his entire kingdom, but who was manipulated by his other top officials to pass a law that ended up getting Daniel thrown to the lions in Daniel 6. Daniel 7 and 8 jump back in time and give visions revealed to Daniel respectively in the first and third years of Belshazzar. These were bizarre apocalyptic visions featuring composite animals and beasts with multiple horns symbolizing coming kings and empires.

Daniel 9 is different. Daniel 9 records the prayer of Daniel in response to his reading of the Scriptures, a model prayer of repentance and faith. Daniel’s prayer is interrupted by an angelic messenger sent to reveal future events. After a brief introduction, the bulk of the chapter, verses 3-19 record Daniel’s prayer, verses 20-23 introduce Gabriel interrupting his prayer, and the final verses, 24-27, contain the content of the message.

The introduction in verses 1-2 is key to understanding both Daniel’s prayer and the revelation given to Daniel.

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 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, …

Sovereign LORD

Daniel was taken from his homeland in 605 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, and had spent the last 67 years serving a succession of kings with faithfulness and integrity. Babylon had fallen to the Medo-Persian army, and Daniel continued to serve faithfully the next God-ordained leadership. Darius the Mede was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in fulfillment of the divine handwriting on the wall in chapter 5. ”your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:28). God is in control of human history.

Studying Prophecy

We don’t know whether this vision came before or after the lion’s den incident of chapter 6, where we learn of Daniels persevering habit of regular prayer, but in this chapter we get a glimpse into the content of his prayers.

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

In Daniel 2 and 4 the king has a dream and Daniel is given the interpretation. In Daniel 7 and 8 Daniel himself has a dream or a vision and is given the interpretation by an angelic being. But here in Daniel 9, Daniel is reading his Bible, studying the Scriptures, and what he reads drives him to his knees. Daniel perceived in the books, literally the writings.

Daniel is reading the sacred writings that he had access to. This would include the five books of Moses, probably some of the writings like Psalms and Proverbs, and specifically Jeremiah.

History of Jeremiah (c.627-587 BC)

Jeremiah lived during the turbulent days of the decline and fall of Judah. He was called to prophesy during the reign of Josiah, the last faithful king of Judah. Jerusalem was caught in the middle of tension between Assyria, Egypt and Babylon. The Assyrian capital of Nineveh fell to Babylon in 612 BC. Josiah died in battle with Egypt in 609 BC, and Egypt appointed Jehoiakim to rule, but in 605 BC when Babylon invaded, Jehoiakim held on to power by allying himself with Babylon. It was 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar carried off some of the nobility, including Daniel and his friends, and the temple vessels to Babylon. Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylon, and in 597 Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiachin surrendered, and Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah to the throne in his place and took 10,000 captives to Babylon, including Ezekiel (2Ki.24). Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon, and in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the temple (2 Ki.25), and appointed Gedaliah to govern Jerusalem (Jer.39). But there was a revolt and Gedaliah was murdered (Jer.41), and many of those involved in the uprising for fear of Babylonian retaliation sought counsel from Jeremiah. God promised to protect them if they remained in the land, but warned that if they fled to Egypt they would not survive (Jer.42). But they accused Jeremiah of lying and they took him by force and brought him to Egypt.

Prophecy of Jeremiah

In 605 BC, before Nebuchadnezzar first came to Jerusalem and took captive Daniel and his friends, Jeremiah had addressed the people.

Jeremiah 25:1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), 2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the LORD, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm. 8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

It is possible that Daniel as a youth heard this address to the people of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar had come to Jerusalem, but now, 67 years later, a copy of this prophecy had come to Daniel, and Daniel was studying it. This prophecy was now history; it spoke of God’s persistent warnings through the prophets Jeremiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, to turn from their evil ways and their idolatries and listen to the LORD. But they refused to listen, so the LORD brought Nebuchadnezzar to ruin the land and to make them serve Babylon seventy years. Daniel was part of the first group carried captive to Babylon some 67 years ago, so he picked up on this promise of seventy years as being just about to end. The prophecy spoke of punishing the king of Babylon; Daniel had seen Nebuchadnezzar humbled years earlier (ch.4) and he had seen Belshazzar the proud final king of Babylon lose control of himself as he saw the handwriting on the wall. Daniel was there to witness the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians without a fight. The Babylonian empire had fallen, but still the people of God were in exile. When would the desolations of Jerusalem come to an end?

Sometime after Nebuchadnezzar took the second group of captives in 597 BC, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the captives in Babylon, which we now have as chapter 29 of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But 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. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Scriptures; The Word of the LORD

Daniel calls Jeremiah a prophet, and he says what he is studying in the writings is ‘the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet.’ Daniel recognizes what we would call the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, that what he is reading is breathed out by God. This is the very word of YHWH.

Whether Daniel took this prophecy of seventy years to mean exactly seventy years, or as a round number meaning about seventy years, a typical lifespan, he took the prophecy at face value. 70 is a concrete number, not an indeterminate period of time. He took it seriously, and expectantly, but not presumptuously. He understood that the appointed time of captivity was close to being over, but he may have wondered if anyone had yet learned the lessons it was meant to teach. He knew he had been in Babylon close to 70 years, but was it to be counted from that first wave of captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC, or was it the major deportation of 597 or was it 586 when the temple was destroyed? He was reading the prophecy, recognizing it was speaking to his circumstances, he believed that it was the very word of God and that God would be true to his word, but some of the details of exactly when and how this would unfold were unclear. So he prayed.

Sabbath Rest for the Land

Daniel would have been familiar with the required Sabbath years from Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25:1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

The people were given rest from their labors every seventh day. The land also was to be given rest every seventh year. But there was a warning attached to disobedience;

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, …21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. … 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. … 34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.

2 Chronicles 36:21 connects the 70 year exile prophesied by Jeremiah with the failure of the people to give the land its Sabbath rest.

Response to Prophecy: Why Pray?

Think about this; Daniel believed that God is sovereign over history, and that he always keeps his word and does what he says he will do without fail. When Daniel discovered this prophecy that promised an end to the captivity in 70 years, what did he do? What would you do? I think we would rejoice, tell all our friends what we discovered and invite them to celebrate with us, maybe write a book and hold seminars on the amazing discovery, maybe even rub it in the face of those we had been serving for so long.

But when Daniel perceived the promised end of the desolations of Jerusalem was near, he got on his face and confessed his sins and cried out to God for mercy. Why? Daniel understood that the whole captivity was a result of the heart attitudes of the people. So Daniel wanted to be sure his own heart was in the right place, a place of humility, coming clean before God, confessing sins, acknowledging God for who he is, his right and justice to judge, and his character as merciful and compassionate, giving us the good we don’t deserve.

Daniel knew Leviticus, and Leviticus 26, after warning of the consequence of captivity for refusing to give the land its rest, goes on to say:

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

Daniel understood that God is merciful and gracious to those who acknowledge their sin, who humble themselves and confess their treachery and rebellion. There is an ‘if’. If they confess their iniquity …then I will remember my covenant. Daniel got on his face to fulfill that ‘if’.

Think about this; how can God unilaterally make a promise that is contingent on the response of his people? If they humble themselves then I will remember my covenant;

Jeremiah 29:10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

How can God’s promises be both contingent on our response and sovereignly decreed by him? God’s word is living and powerful and it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Daniel read the Scriptures, and perceived God’s promise, and God’s word did a work in his heart and he got on his face and confessed his sins.

Are you hearing God’s word? Is God working in you through his word? Is he working in you humility and confession and a cry for mercy from a God who loves to give mercy to sinners who don’t deserve it? Confess your sins and cry out for mercy today!

***

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

June 14, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction to Daniel

04/25_Daniel_intro; Introduction: Background and Context; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210425_daniel-intro.mp3

Sojourners and Exiles

We are going to dive into the book of Daniel in the coming weeks. Daniel’s central message is that God is sovereign over the nations. Daniel was written under persecution, in exile, when God’s people lived as strangers in a foreign land, and it teaches us how to live with integrity, how to honor God even when the world is against us.

Peter urges us,

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil.3:20). We are to live as sojourners, strangers, exiles. And Daniel teaches us how to be in the world but not of the world (Jn.17:14-16), not conformed to this world (Rom.12:2), to live as citizens of the heavenly kingdom in our time here on this earth.

God the Hero

But Daniel is not really about Daniel. It is not about the three Hebrews Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael. They are not the heroes of the story. It’s not about Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar or Darius or Babylon. The name Daniel means God is my Judge. The hero of the story is God, who is sovereignly moving history in the direction he intends, establishing kings and removing kings. It is God who crushes the proud. It is God who preserves and protects the humble, who delivers his people, who can even grant repentance to

sending his sinful people into exile and watching over them even in exile. God is getting glory among the nations.

Saints On Mission

Daniel and his three friends were probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, when their city came under foreign control, they were torn from their homes, uprooted, transplanted to a distant land with a different language, different customs, different culture, different beliefs, different gods. Their lives were in danger. They were under extreme pressure from all sides. They likely never saw their parents again.

And yet God was using them to write history, to change history. God was sending them on a mission to infiltrate the enemy of Israel, not to conquer the enemy but to win them, to bring them good news about the supreme and sovereign God over all. He was sending them out, out of their comfort to be a light to the Gentiles (Is.42:6).

Dependence on God in Prayer

And Daniel teaches us to depend on God. Daniel teaches us how to pray. Daniel models the discipline of prayer, consistency in prayer even in the face of opposition, persistence and perseverance in prayer, emergency prayer in terrifying situations, prayer for wisdom and understanding, prayer of worship, prayer of confession and claiming the promises of God, prayer of intercession for others. We have much to learn from Daniel about dependence on God in everything.

Background of Israel

To understand Daniel, we need to understand some of the background and context of the events we will read about.

God delivered his people from Egypt to be his people, so that he could live among them, be their God with them. He commanded them to build him a tent so he could dwell in their midst. He promised to give them the land. Under Joshua (1406 BC), God brought the people in to possess the land of Canaan. Under David (1010-971BC) he gave them victory over their enemies. David desired to build God a house, but instead God promised to build David a house; to establish his dynasty forever. David’s son Solomon (971-931BC) was the one who would build the permanent version of the tabernacle; the temple in Jerusalem. God said to Solomon:

1 Kings 9:4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’”

But because of Solomon’s idolatry,

1 Kings 11:11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

In 931 the kingdom was divide between North and South; Israel and Judah under Jeroboam and Rehoboam. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted 209 years under 19 evil kings ruling from the capital of Samaria, until God brought the nation of Assyria to destroy them.

The southern kingdom of Judah endured 345 years under 19 kings, 8 of whom at least attempted to follow God.

Pharaoh Necho defeated Judah’s army led by godly king Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BC. Josiah was killed in this battle, and his son Jehoahaz became king of Judah (2Kings 23:29-34). Three months later Pharaoh Necho deposed Jehoahaz and appointed his older brother Jehoiakim as king of Judah (2Kings 23:34-24:6).

King Nabopolassar of Babylon had been struggling with Egypt over control of the Middle East for several years; in 605 BC Nabopolassar was ill and forced to remain behind in Babylon; his son Nebuchadnezzar won a decisive victory over Egypt in May/June of 605 BC at the battle of Carchemish and then at Hamath. After defeating the Egyptians, he quickly traveled south to assert his authority over Jerusalem, demanding plunder; he was given some of the sacred objects from the temple and some young men of the royal line as captives. Daniel and his friends were taken in assertion of Babylonian authority over Jerusalem. Nabopolassar died August 15/16 of 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to be crowned king on September 6/7, 605 BC.

Jeremiah

Daniel and his friends would have been familiar with Jeremiah, who had been prophesying from around 627 BC through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. Part of Jeremiah’s message was that the prophets who said that God would deliver Jerusalem were false prophets prophesying lies (14, 23). Jeremiah even sent a letter to the captives in Babylon, saying:

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But 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. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

We will see later in this book that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years became precious to Daniel, and a matter of prayer. Daniel and his friends became shining examples of seeking the good of the pagan city, praying diligently for its blessing, seeking to be a blessing to the nations (Gen.22:18), seeking the Lord with all their hearts, and holding on to the hope that God is in control and he will be their deliverer.

Ezekiel and the Second Deportation

Daniel and his friends were deported in 605 BC. Some years later, because Jehoiakim had rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops marched against Jerusalem and besieged it. Jehoiakim died, and in March of 597 BC, his son Jehoiachin who was 18 years old, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, who took him and his mother, his court officials, all the warriors, the metalworkers, 10,000 captives, along with all the treasures from the king’s house and all the treasures of the temple (2Ki.24:10-17). Ezekiel was captured in this second phase of deportation to Babylon; the Lord called him in Babylon to prophesy to the exiles there. Although Ezekiel may have been a few years older than Daniel, Daniel had already been promoted to a place of honor by the time Ezekiel came to Babylon. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name 3 times in his work; in chapter 14 predicting Jerusalem’s destruction:

Ezekiel 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD. …16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate. …18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered. ..20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

It speaks strongly of Daniel’s character to hear Ezekiel associate his own contemporary with godly men who lived thousands of years earlier.

Again in Ezekiel 28; in an oracle against the prince of Tyre:

Ezekiel 28:3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;

Daniel is held up as the standard of wisdom.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Ezekiel and some 10,000 other captives to Babylon, and set up Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Zedekiah reigned 11 years in Jerusalem, but he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In his 9th year, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 586 BC, Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in front of him, then his eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. The walls were broken down, the city and the temple were burned, and all but the poorest inhabitants were carried off captive (2Ki.24:18-25:17). They took the remaining gold, silver, and bronze from the temple as plunder.

6th Century Date, Prophecy and Jesus

The book of Daniel spans the timeframe from the first deportation of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC in to the reign of Darius who came to power in 522 BC. Daniel, who was deported about age 14; advised multiple foreign kings and survived a transition of empires. He likely played a role in paving the way for the decree of Cyrus to release the exiles to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC. He was thrown to the lions because of his faithfulness to God at age 83 and was preserved.

Both Jews and Christians have held that Daniel was a real historical person, who wrote this book in the 6th century BC. But Porphyry, an extreme critic of Christianity in the 2nd century AD wrote 15 books ‘Against the Christians’. In his 12th book he sought to discredit the book of Daniel. Looking at the precise details of his prophecy, specifically in chapter 11, which chronicle with surprising precision major events of history from 539 BC to 165 BC; assuming there is no such thing as predictive prophecy, he concluded that the accuracy of the account meant that Daniel was written after the events took place, sometime around 167-165 BC.

Anti-supernatural critical scholarship of the 19th century has taken up the cause of Porphyry while attempting to retain their Christianity. But their argument hangs on the unbiblical and anti-Christian presumption that there cannot be accurate and detailed predictive prophecy of future events. But if this is the case, what do we do with the accurate and detailed prophecies of Jesus Christ?

And Jesus was not silent on this issue. He said in Matthew 24:15

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Dan.9:27;11:31;12:11; cf. Mk.13:14)

Jesus confirmed that Daniel was a real historical person, that he wrote, and that he wrote accurate predictive prophecy long before its fulfillment. In fact, Jesus informed his hearers that they were to look for the yet future literal fulfillment of this specific prophecy of Daniel.

Jesus’ favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’ comes from Daniel 7:13, as does his answer to the Jewish high priest under oath;

Matthew 26:63 ..And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The testimony of Jesus ought to settle the issue for any follower of Jesus.

Outline

The book splits neatly in half, with the first 6 chapters containing stories about Daniel, and the last 6 chapters recording the visions of Daniel.

But there is more to the structure of the book. Chapter 1:1 to 2:4 is written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. 2:4 to the end of 7 is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, and chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew. If we take the languages as indicative of the intended audience, we recognize that while the book is addressed to Jewish exiles and deal with issues that primarily address the Jewish people, the middle Aramaic section has a broader scope, and brings a message of warning and hope to the nations.

We also see a mirror structure in these middle chapters; chapters 2 and 7 both record dreams, the kings of a 4 kingdom statue and Daniel’s of the same 4 kingdoms pictured as beasts. Chapters 3 and 6 show that while persecution comes from refusing to worship false gods, the true God rescues and restores his faithful people. Chapters 4 and 5 record the beastly pride of the kings, one is granted repentance which leads to worship of the one true God, and one which leads to a fall.

The final section looks at the future of Israel to the end of time. Throughout the book, we are pointed to the coming of the one Righteous Ruler who will reign forever and ever, who will receive the worship of all peoples, nations, and languages (7:14).

***

Timeline (approximate):

931 BC division of northern and southern kingdoms

722 BC Samaria (North – Israel) falls to Assyria

612 BC Nineveh (capital of Assyria) falls to Babylon

609 BC Josiah defeated at Meggido by Egypt (Pharaoh Necho)

605 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt/Assyria at Carchemish

—1st deportation of Judah (Jerusalem – South)

597 BC Jehoiachin surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar

—2nd deportation; (2Kings 24:12-16)

586 BC July 18, Jerusalem captured; destroyed

—3rd deportation; (2Kings 25:2-3; Jer.39:2; 52:5-7)

Daniel Outline / Structure:

1-6: stories about Daniel

7-12: visions of Daniel.

Hebrew/Aramaic/Hebrew:

1 Prologue; exiled, undefiled, exalted

————–

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance -> worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Pride & fall

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

——————-

8 Daniel’s 2nd Vision; the end prefigured

9 Daniel’s Prayer & God’s Answer; in mercy end the desolations

10-12 Daniel’s 3rd Vision & the End; how long?

***

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

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s One Foundation; Matthew 16:18

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090104_the_church_1.mp3

1/04 The Church; Community founded on the Identity of Jesus and United by the New Birth

I want to take the next few weeks and look at the church. As we’ve come into the new year I’ve spent some time thinking about what my life looks like, what I want it to look like, and what adjustments I need to make so that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I’d like to encourage us as the church to do the same thing. So I want to look at the church in the bible; who are we supposed to be and what are we called to do. I want you to investigate with me what Jesus says about his church and invite you to imagine with me how we might be the church. Let’s dream together what it would look like for us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.

I want to start today by looking at the identity of the church. The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth. We will spend the rest of our time today filling out and understanding this definition.

Next week I’d like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will overcome.

In the following week, I’d like to look at more of the nuts and bolts of what the church is and does – who we are called to be and what we are called to do in our community and in the world.

Let’s start by looking at the word ‘church’ and define what it is that we are talking about. The Greek word translated ‘church’ in our New Testament is the word [ekklhsia ekklesia] which refers to an assembly or gathering of people. The word comes from the root [ek ek] out of; and [kalew kaleo] to call; literally it means the called out ones; and can be translated congregation or assembly. In classical Greek it was used for the summons to the army to assemble. The church is a group of people who have something in common. As I said earlier, the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.

I want to center our attention on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18

Matthew 16:18 …on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let’s look at the whole passage:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The identity of Jesus is what’s at stake here. Jesus raises the question- ‘what’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am?’ And he receives three answers; John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah or one of the prophets. I think it’s worth asking why people identified Jesus with these three figures.

John the Baptist would have been fresh in their memories. John was the cousin of Jesus, and he was a radical who lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, ate bugs, and got in the face of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called the religious authorities names in front of the people they were supposed to be ministering to, and he sparked a revival in the masses. He meddled in the private sex life of the political leader of his day, telling him that God was displeased with his sexual sin, and this got him thrown in prison and eventually beheaded. Herod, who feared John, was paranoid and thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14ff) Apparently Herod’s paranoia sparked a rumor that Jesus was this greatest of all prophets raised from the dead.

Elijah; [1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2] Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament around 873-843 BC; about 50 years after King Solomon, at the time of Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and his wicked wife Jezebel. At his word there was a drought in Israel for three years. God supernaturally provided food for him during the drought. Elijah raised a young man from the dead. He challenged the idolatrous worship that was taking place in Israel to a showdown between Baal and Asherah, and YHWH, the true God of Israel. He had all the false priests executed. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses of fire. There was an expectation that he would reappear at the end times:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

But why Jeremiah?

Jeremiah was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to speak to rebellious Israel who were unfaithful to the Lord. He preached during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah (627-587 BC) until Judah was carried off into captivity in Babylon . He was called to speak against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people (1:18). Jesus quotes this prophet when he says

Luke 19:46 …“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord… 20 therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched… 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah was called to prophesy to the nation of Israel with the advance knowledge that his preaching would not bring repentance and restoration but rather greater accountability and condemnation. Because of this he was know as the weeping prophet. Yet he faithfully preached to the people up to the day they were carried off into captivity, even suffering arrest and abuse at the hands of the leaders of Israel.

I think this gives us some insight into the temperament of Jesus. Jesus was known as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

And we are told that he wept over Jerusalem;

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

John tells us:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

So the people identified Jesus with John, who confronted the evil of his day and sparked a major revival; and Elijah, a fiery prophet who performed miracles, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead; and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who foretold the fall of Jerusalem and was rejected. There is an element of truth in all these identifications of Jesus, but they all fall short.

Jesus said John was the greatest of men (Matt.11:11). But John was discouraged in prison and sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if they should look for another. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and ran into the desert to hide and wanted to die. Jeremiah complained to the Lord. These were all prophets of God, used by God to do mighty works, yet they were all mere men, and they all had their own flaws and shortcomings. No one in Jesus day thought that he was just a good man or a great moral teacher or a really nice guy. They recognized him as a person invested with supernatural power and eloquence. He was a radical prophetic voice in the world. But their analysis fell short of who he really is. Jesus is the great Prophet; he is our great High Priest; he is a mighty worker of supernatural signs. But he is more than a man with faults and flaws. He is messiah, the anointed King of kings, the divine Son of God.

When Peter responded with the right answer, Jesus commended him and called him blessed, but he also clarified the source of this information. Peter did not come up with this on his own. The fact that Peter recognized Jesus for who he is was evidence of divine intervention; supernatural revelation from the Father.

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church, and the true identity of Jesus comes as a revelation from the Father. Men may conclude that Jesus was a good man or a great moral teacher or even a prophet of God, but God bears witness about his Son that he is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and had his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son of the Father sent to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and it is a work of the Spirit of God. Paul describes this as being immersed or baptized by the Spirit into one body – the body of Christ, his church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 …so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body––Jews or Greeks, slaves or free––and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church…

The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and united by the new birth. The identity of Jesus is pivotal and foundational.

17 …“Blessed are you, …For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We must have our lives built on the rock of Jesus. We must have his identity revealed supernaturally by the Father. We must be born again by the Spirit of God to truly know him for who he is. The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus, we want to see you; to see you for who you really are. To get a vision of you in all the radiance of your glory; universe Maker, Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, infinite Word, exalted Son, Love incarnate, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, God with us – Jesus. Father, remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see Jesus for who he really is. Lord, if there are any here who have not been transformed by Jesus, I pray that you would cause them to be born again; cause them to come to you, to trust you, to be set free by you, to experience the abundant life in you. Holy Spirit, fall on us and overpower us.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment