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Daniel 5:17-23; Revelation Ignored

10/24_Daniel 05:17-23; Revelation Ignored; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211024_dan05_17-23.mp3

The king held a feast the night Babylon fell. His father Nabonidus had been defeated and fled days earlier. Cyrus and his Medo-Persian army were camped outside the city.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

Belshazzar, brazen and bold, with total disregard for what is right and good, desecrates the holy vessels from the temple of the God of Israel and praises the inanimate gods of his own wealth and defenses; gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, stone. The living God sobers the drunk king by writing with living fingers in the plaster of his party room where all could see, and reduces this brash king to a pale and paranoid collapsing puddle of incompetence.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The queen, likely the queen mother, part of the old administration, rebukes her son and points him to the wisdom of the old administration, particularly the aged Hebrew Daniel.

The young Belshazzar, regaining some of his impudence, insults Daniel by questioning his capabilities and putting him in his place, reminding him that he is a mere exile brought captive by the mighty Babylonian empire of which he, Belshazzar, is currently in charge.

Theology Lesson

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel skips the formalities of the court and the ‘O king, live forever’ nonsense, which was clearly not going to happen; the king will be dead before the night is over. He declines the king’s offer of gifts and rewards as useless and unattractive. He is interested in truth, and won’t be compromised by a bribe.

Daniel will read the writing on the wall and give the king the interpretation, but he doesn’t start with that. He starts with God, he is thoroughly God centered, because it really is all about God.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.

Belshazzar is acting as if he were God. He needs a theology lesson. He needs to know that it is the one true God who gave the kingship to his father Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. All this was a gift. It was from the Most High God, the very one whose vessels Belshazzar profaned at his illicit feast. God is the giver of every good gift.

Contrast Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar

There is an implicit contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in what Daniel says to him. Nebuchadnezzar was given the kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. Belshazzar is the acting king, and he can put on a great feast, but that’s about all. He lacks the greatness, the glory, the majesty of his predecessor. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered kingdoms, and was the king of kings. Belshazzar through a series of deaths, coups and assassinations inherited that kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was a builder, fortifying Babylon and making her beautiful, a wonder of the world. Belshazzar was hiding behind Nebuchadnezzar’s walls, throwing a party in one of his palaces. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Belshazzar drank wine from the vessels his father had seized. All peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before Nebuchadnezzar, but now Belshazzar was trembling in fear before all his dinner guests. Nebuchadnezzar killed whom he willed, but Belshazzar is about to be killed. Nebuchadnezzar had much to be proud of, and God Almighty humbled him. Belshazzar stood small in his shadow, and acted even more presumptuously and arrogantly than his father.

His father was great, entrusted by God with godlike power to rule and govern, ‘to kill and to keep alive, to raise up and to humble’ but when ‘his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down.’ In his own words from chapter 4 (:37) “all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

History Lesson

Daniel gives Belshazzar a history lesson. He reminds him of the lesson learned by Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Structure and Symmetry

Daniel chapter 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s own record of that event. There is symmetry to the book of Daniel, and the end of Daniel 4 is the hinge connecting the two halves of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Starting in 2:4 and going through the end of chapter 7 the book is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. This section has a mirror structure:

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 Blasphemous Pride – unrepentant → destroyed

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

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

Chapter 2 parallels chapter 7, which are both dreams of four kingdoms, one given to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great statue, one given to Daniel in the form of beasts. Chapter 3 parallels chapter 6, where the faithful are persecuted for their faithfulness to God and thrown into a pit, the three into the pit of the furnace in chapter 3 and Daniel into the pit of lions in chapter 6. Both are supernaturally preserved and delivered. At the center of this structure is the pride of pagan kings; Nebuchadnezzar warned, humbled and repentant, acknowledging the Most High God as God; Belshazzar blasphemous, warned and humiliated but unhumbled, whose end is death.

Daniel draws our attention to this comparison and contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened; he was proud but God humbled him. And he came to know ‘that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.’ Nebuchadnezzar repented. He looked to God. His reason returned and he acknowledged the Most High God as sovereign. He praised and extolled and honored the King of heaven. He worshiped.

Without Excuse

Daniel 5:22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

You knew all this. You are responsible for what you know. A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. A smart person makes mistakes and learns from them, but a wise person is able to see the mistakes of others and learn from them. Belshazzar is a fool. He knew that proud Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God, lost his reason, went wild and ate grass like an ox for seven years. He knew all this, and yet he did not humble himself.

We often hear concern over remote unreached people groups; would a loving God really send them to hell when they had no opportunity to hear the gospel? Paul writes in Romans 1

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

God has revealed himself in creation, his eternal power, his divine nature is made plain, is clearly seen, so all are without excuse. Our problem is not that we don’t know there is a God; we do. Our problem is that we refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him. We become futile in our thinking and we would rather give our worship to creation than the Creator. We would like to think that he does not exist, so that we are not accountable to him; so we pretend like he doesn’t exist. We know he’s there, but ‘no one seeks for God …not even one’ (Rom.3:11-12). We all are without excuse.

Belshazzar was without excuse. ‘you …have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.’ His was not a mere passive ignoring the existence of God; his was intentional active rebellion. By taking the vessels of God’s house and drinking wine from them with his lords, his wives and his concubines, he is acting as if he were God, claiming to be more powerful than God. He was exalting himself against the Lord of heaven. He was doing exactly what Romans 1 warns against; he refused to honor God as God; instead he ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (25). He praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know. But God sees. God hears. God knows.

Breath of God

Belshazzar refused to honor the God ‘in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways’. Did you know your every breath is from God? Job challenges the idolater:

Job 12:7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Beasts, birds, plants, fish; all creation knows that our very life and breath are under God’s control.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Do you acknowledge that every breath that you have drawn from birth up to this present moment was ordained for you by God? Do you acknowledge your next breath is in the hand of God? You knew all this. You are without excuse. Will you honor God as God and give him thanks, will you use this breath to worship and serve the Creator, who is blessed forever? (Rom.1:21, 25)

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

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:7-16; Wisdom Scorned

10/17_Daniel 05:7-16; Wisdom Scorned; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211017_dan05_7-16.mp3

The fifth chapter of Daniel jumps ahead from the death of Nebuchadnezzar 23 years and 4 kings. Nabonidus was king of Babylon, but had entrusted his son Belshazzar with the rule of the kingdom, while he followed his archaeological and building pursuits 500 miles south in the city of Tema in Arabia. He had returned to Babylon toward the end of his reign, and on hearing Cyrus was approaching, had led his troops 40 miles north to meet Cyrus in battle. He was defeated and fled. Daniel 5 picks up the story 2 days later.

Belshazzar’s Confidence

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Belshazzar apparently felt secure behind the massive walls of Babylon, with supplies stored up to outlast any siege (or at least he wanted others to perceive him as confident), so he threw a massive party to display his opulent wealth, military might and strong defenses.

Spitting in the Face of God

But to call for the sacred temple vessels and to drink wine from them at his party his was arrogant and offensive. This was a symbolic act in direct defiance of the gods, saying in effect, I am greater, more powerful than the gods of other nations. My people have conquered the God of Israel, and now I can drink from his cup. We will also defeat the gods of the Persians encamped outside our walls.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

His confidence evaporated as God supernaturally crashed his party by writing something no one could understand in the plaster of his party room.

Incompetence of the Wise Men

Daniel 5:7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Notice that the offer of Belshazzar is to make the interpreter the third, not the second ruler of Babylon. Although he is not mentioned in Daniel, this would account for Nabonidus as first, with Belshazzar as second or co-regent, the successful interpreter being offered the third position, ruling alongside father and son.

By now we chuckle at the mention of the enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because the incompetence of Babylon’s wise men has already been repeatedly demonstrated. Back in chapter 2 ‘the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans’ were summoned to tell the king his dreams, but they proved incapable and their very lives were spared only by the action of Daniel and his friends, with Daniel himself appointed as chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

In chapter 3 when the Chaldeans ‘maliciously accused the Jews’, they became witnesses of God’s ability to preserve his people even through the fire. The result was an edict defending the Jews, with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego promoted in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 4, ‘all the wise men of Babylon …the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers’ were brought before the king to interpret his dream, ‘but they could not make known to me its interpretation.’ ‘At last Daniel came in …in whom is the spirit of the holy gods’ and he was able to make known the interpretation to the king.

Here again in chapter 5,

Daniel 5:8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

It seems the thing that had the king scared at least as much as seeing a supernatural hand writing on his wall was not knowing what the writing meant. The king has lost all control, he is shouting for someone to come help him out. The enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers can’t even read the inscription let alone make known the interpretation. The king’s color had already changed back in verse 6; now it changes again in verse 9. The people who should be able to help him have failed him. Words are written on the wall, and no one understands.

The Wise Queen

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

We don’t know who this woman was, except that she is called the queen. She is not the wife of Belshazzar, because from verse 2 we know his wives and concubines are already drinking with him at his feast. She enters unbidden and with authority and dignity politely rebukes Belshazzar.

She refers repeatedly to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father, which is a general word that is broader than our word ‘father’ and could apply to a grandfather or simply a predecessor. For that matter, we don’t really know what Belshazzar’s lineage was, other than that Nabonidus claims him as his only son. It is likely that this is the queen mother, possibly a daughter of the late Nebuchadnezzar or even his wife Nitocris, possibly married by Nabonidus to secure his position. It is possible that Belshazzar is the literal son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was adopted by Nabonidus. We aren’t told the details.

The Incontinent King

But this wise woman enters the banqueting hall and rebukes the incontinent Belshazzar and points him to Daniel who can untie his knots for him. Back in verse 6, we are told that the knots of the king’s loins were loosed; probably meaning that he lost control of his bodily functions. The queen, wittingly or unwittingly uses a double entendre, telling her son that the wise man Daniel is able to untie his knots for him. The king himself obliviously uses this phrase again in verse 16, where he says to Daniel ‘I hear you are able to untie knots.’ As one commentator notes: ‘from the point of view of an Aramaic speaking Israelite who had suffered much at the hands of the Babylonians …this ignominious spectacle is enough to elicit hoots of derisive laughter on the part of the audience …The unwitting double entendre [of the queen mother] evokes more derisive laughter. Finally, the king himself comes face to face with Daniel …and says, in effect, “I understand that you can untie my knots for me” Again we imagine the audience’s uproarious laughter as the hapless pagan king unwittingly makes a fool of himself before the prophet of the Lord. We see how the story uses burlesque humor to underscore the sovereignty of the Israelite God, before whom the great kings of the earth can at a moment’s notice be reduced to figures of fun, preparatory to being brought to justice.’ [Schwab, p.76 (citing Al Wolters, JBL 110, 1991: 117-122)]

Rebuke of the Queen

The queen mother reminds Belshazzar

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

There seems to be a motherly scolding in her tone; king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king. The man you demoted and won’t even listen to, your father promoted him and put him in charge because of his surpassing wisdom. You should listen to him. This woman enters the chaos boldly and answers the fear with wisdom and confidence.

The queen mother may have observed first hand the abilities of Daniel and his interaction with Nebuchadnezzar. She may have even come to believe in the God of Daniel herself.

Belshazzar has no other options than to comply with the queen’s recommendation.

Lady Wisdom

We are reminded of the lady wisdom in Proverbs 1;

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

…20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

She says again in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.

And Proverbs 9

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

Belshazzar obviously had no fear of the Lord, and terror is striking him like a storm and calamity like a whirlwind; he is about to eat the fruit of his own way and have his fill of his own devices.

Daniel Dishonored

Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The king puts on a face of being in control. Daniel is brought in, and the king addresses Daniel as ‘that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.’ Belshazzar wants to lift himself up and put Daniel in his place, making sure that he knows that it was his father (or predecessor) who conquered Judah and took Daniel captive, and that Daniel is a mere exile from conquered Judah.

Keep in mind, Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel captive at the beginning of his reign, and he reigned for 43 years, so Daniel has now been in Babylon for 66 years. If he was about 15 when he was taken, he would be over 80 years old. And he is being talked down to by this arrogant young king. He seems to have no respect for age or wisdom.

All the positive things he says are prefaced by ‘I have heard of you’. He extends the same offer he made to the other failed wise men, but prefaces it by ‘if’, expressing skepticism about the capabilities Daniel.

The Fool and the Gospel

Belshazzar is the classic fool.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

We can look at Belshazzar and recognize a fool. We might even be tempted to laugh and scorn. But Psalm 14 tells us that we are looking in the mirror. There is none who does good. Not even one. None seek God. Not even me. Romans 3 quotes this Psalm and concludes:

Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Is my mouth stopped, or am I looking down my nose at Belshazzar, amazed at his folly, thinking I am so much wiser than he? Am I able to recognize by God’s grace that I am looking in a mirror, and this is what my pride looks like? Am I willing to acknowledge that

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned [I have sinned] and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

I fall short. I am inadequate. I am not enough. I need a gift I don’t deserve. I need grace. I need redemption. My only hope is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. I am the God-belittling fool, and without God’s supernatural intervention, I will eat the fruit of my way, and have my fill of my own devices.

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

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

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

Philippians 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

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

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

***

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

06/25 The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170625_patience-like-jesus.mp3

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, fruit is singular. These nine characteristics describe one whole fruit. This is not a buffet line – a little bit of this, a lot of that, I’ll pass on that. No, for the fruit to be present, all of these characteristics must be there and growing. And remember, this is the Spirit’s fruit, and it is in contrast to the works of the flesh. You cannot produce this fruit on your own. God the Holy Spirit must come inside and make this happen in you. It is evidence that he is there. There are counterfeits. Things that we might call love and joy and peace and patience, in our lives or the life of an unbeliever, but they are not Spirit produced. What we are talking about is what the Old Testament pointed forward to in the promise of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

So take heart! Notice who is doing the work. God says ‘I will.’ I will cleanse you. Because of the blood of Jesus, because of his crucifixion in your place, I will cleanse you. I will set you free from all your idols. Idols like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal.5:20-21). I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove your hard stony heart. I will put my Holy Spirit within you. I will cause you to walk in my statutes. I will cause you to be careful to obey my rules. This is fruit. This is New Covenant fruit. This is God the Father, founded on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit working transformation in us for his glory. I will sprinkle, I will cleanse, I will give, I will put, I will remove, I will put I will cause.

We need this confidence. We need this encouragement, because today we are looking at patience. Love, joy, peace, patience. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace is God’s own quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is under his control, and all is well. What is patience?

Patience and Anger

There are some things that go under the name of patience which are not the real fruit of patience. I tend to have a patient temperament. In high school I had friends try to make me angry just to see if it was possible. Where my friends failed, somehow my children have succeeded! That is not what we are talking about. You can act patience and put up with a lot because you just don’t care that much. Patience is not being passive, indifferent, or tolerant of wrongs (Powilson, p.78). It is not merely a stoic resolution to not be ruffled by circumstances.

The Greek New Testament word for patience here is: μακροθυμία macro as opposed to micro. Micro when you are near, step in close, zoom in like a microscope. Macro is when you step back, far far back, and take in the big picture. It can mean distant or long. Μακροθυμία; θυμός is where we get thermal; heat. It means fury, wrath, indignation.

Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath [ὀργὴ] and fury [θυμός].

In Galatians 5:20 the works of the flesh include (θυμοί) fits of anger.

The idea of this word μακροθυμία is that it takes a long time to get angry; anger is distant, far off. It takes a long time to get hot. We say someone is hot tempered and has a short fuse. This is the opposite; a long fuse. Slow to anger. The Old English word is longsuffering. Love suffers long.

Notice this passage does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘never angered’ but ‘slow to anger’. There is a place for anger. Anger is a good God given emotion. Anger is the passionate response to what is evil that does something to bring about good. Anger often goes bad in us, but that does not mean that anger itself is bad.

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

There is another Greek New Testament word that is also on occasion translated ‘patience’. It is ὑπομονή. We see both in Colossians 1:11.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance [ὑπομονήν] and patience [μακροθυμίαν] with joy,

Notice God’s power is supplied to bring about both endurance and patience with joy. The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with μακροθυμία and ends with ὑπομονή

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [μακροθυμεῖ] and kind; … 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures [ὑπομένει] all things.

ὑπομονή patience leans in the direction of patience under adverse circumstances, patience with outward pressures. Μακροθυμία patience is more patience with adverse people. What do you do when someone wrongs you? How do you respond to irritating people? People who impose on you, inconvenience you, offend you?

Ephesians 4; Unity, Humility, and Putting Up with Crap

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Notice how patience is here, but it is not alone? It is connected with humility, gentleness, love. It is rooted in an eagerness. There is an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There is a diligent labor toward unity. Not superficial unity, but real, genuine unity, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Patience is a tool toward this kind of unity. Not being easily angered by my brother or sister but bearing with one another is a powerful tool toward unity. This striving toward unity with patience grows out of humility. This verse uses two words that can both be translated humility; modesty and meekness. Patience comes when I don’t think that I’m better, more important, more worthy than someone else. Patience comes with a proper view of who I am. I become impatient, even hot tempered when I feel that my schedule is more important than yours. My need for that parking spot is greater than yours. ‘I was here first!’ My comfort, my agenda ranks higher than yours. ‘Why are you getting in my way? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you understand what I have to accomplish? You are hindering me. Me!’

Jesus initiates an upside down kingdom. He says it is the one who puts others first, who cares for the least of these who is truly great (Mt.25).

Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This humility of considering the needs of others as more important than our own is what allows us to patiently bear with one another in love. There is stuff we will have to put up with. There are misunderstandings. There are unintentional insensitivities. There are also legitimate wrongs. But because we are actively pursuing spiritual unity, because we are walking in genuine humility, we can genuinely love the other person by patiently putting up with the crap they throw our way.

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Again, we see patience does not stand alone. Patience is coupled with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness. Patience puts up with the junk people knowingly or unknowingly throw at us. It is intentionally moving toward love and harmony and peace and unity in the body. Patience moves in this direction by bearing with and forgiving. Not everything has to be confronted. Some things we can choose to let go. Was it really that big of a deal? Can I just let it go? Can I assume the best, assume it was unintentional, assume you meant well, give you the benefit of the doubt and just let it go? Have I ever wronged or offended someone unintentionally? Can I in humility bear with them?

But maybe my complaint is genuine (or at least I have convinced myself that it is genuine). Then for the sake of unity, for the sake of harmony, for the sake of the peace of my own heart, in thanksgiving, because Christ Jesus has forgiven all my legitimate wrongs, I must forgive. Here we see patience and putting up with one another linked to forgiveness. The word in this verse for forgiving is χαρίζομαι from the root χάρις -grace. It means to grant as an undeserved favor, to gratuitously pardon or rescue. What you did was wrong. I have a legitimate complaint against you. I have a valid reason to be angry. You don’t deserve to receive my patience. But because Jesus has freely and undeservedly extended his gracious forgiveness to me, I must freely, graciously forgive you.

God’s Immense Patience

Do you see where we get this kind of patience? It comes from the same place all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit come from. It comes from God. It is produced by the Spirit in us. It comes through looking. Looking in faith to God. Looking to who God is, to God’s character, as we long for God’s character to be reproduced in us. It comes through looking to Jesus. Our patience, our slowness to anger grows out of a relationship with God who is slow to anger.

Back in Exodus, shortly after God had rescued his people out of their slavery in Egypt, and he had called Moses up to the mountain to receive his laws, and the people grew impatient and made for themselves idols to worship. God was rightly angry, but Moses prayed, and God relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the people (Ex.32). Because of this, Moses is emboldened to ask to see the glory of God.

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

Our God is a God who is immensely slow to anger. He has a long fuse. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet he is also just. He will right every wrong, and punish every sin. This understanding of the nature of God should cause us to be cautious in condemning God for seemingly excessive acts of violence. We read things like ‘The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ (Gen.19:24).

Numbers 16:31 …the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Or in the conquest, at the command of the LORD, ‘we … devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors’ (Deut 2:34, 7:2). Our inclination is to say ‘that’s too harsh’. But we must remember the patience of God. As Peter says,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God is longsuffering toward all, eager for all to turn and find repentance. We are to

2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

Paul says in Romans 2:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is slow to anger, immensely slow to anger, but his anger will come at the proper time. He is absolutely just. God’s anger is not quick and reactionary, it is not intended for his own convenience. God’s anger is cautious and constructive, slowly bringing about his own good purposes. God’s judgment is inescapable. But he is rich in kindness and forbearance. He is rich in longsuffering.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So where does this kind of patience come from? The kind that is legitimately wronged and does not demand payment? The kind that does not say ‘you have wronged me, and I will make sure you wish you hadn’t. I’m going to hold you in my debt (which is bitterness) and make sure you feel the weight of what you did to me. The kind that freely, graciously, undeservedly reaches out and rescues my offender from what they deserve, at great personal cost? This kind of slow to anger patience only comes from looking to Jesus.

The Anger of Jesus

Let’s look at an instance of the anger of Jesus. In Mark 3,

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, …

This is a set-up. The religious leaders are against him. Jesus is doing good, and exposing the religious people in their predatory and self-serving ways. He describes them in another passage

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others….

Jesus knows this is a setup. He knows they are out to kill him. So he asks them a diagnostic question; is it lawful to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill? They are seeking his harm, they are seeking occasion against him. He holds up a mirror to reveal their own hearts. But they were silent. They were resolute in their determined opposition to him. They refused to look at their own hearts, their own need. Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus was angry, but his anger was mixed with sorrow. He understood what they would do. He understood their need. He loved his enemies. He was grieved that they didn’t care about this person with a withered hand; they were willing to use him as bait. He was grieved that they couldn’t see their own shriveled hearts, and that one who with the power to make them new on the inside was standing among them.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was angry and grieved, but he acted in love. And he sealed his own fate. His enemies went out and held counsel against him, how to destroy him. Jesus’ anger was not moved by what would benefit himself. It moved out to do real good for those in need. It saw the real problem and moved decisively to fix it.

Jesus’ lovingly patient anger led him to the cross. Jesus was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart. And he took my hard heart on himself, he took my selfish pride, my callous indifference to the needs of others, my blindness to who he was, ‘He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24).

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The cross of Jesus the display of the patient anger of God against all that is wrong and hurtful and broken in his world. The cross fully displayed his perfect love of justice and righteousness; his incomprehensible love toward those who wronged him, by acting in anger for their eternal joy.

I can be slow to anger with those who have wronged me, because Jesus endured the full heat of the fury of Almighty God against all my sin. ‘It was the will of the LORD to crush him’ (Is.53:10). I can bear with the wrongs of others against me, I can act in love, because he bore all my wrongs, because when I was his enemy, he laid down his life in love for me.

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

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

04/30 Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170430_leviticus-26_14-39.mp3

Leviticus is a covenant document between God and his people. Leviticus 26 gives the terms of the covenant agreement. Verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. They are to trust him by honoring his time and his place. God’s instructions are to be kept and his presence is to be feared. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany obedience; blessings of produce and peace and progeny and most importantly the gift of God’s presence with his people.

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you …

Verses 14-39 are the consequences of a refusal to follow the terms of the agreement.

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

Notice in both cases, it is God himself who is active in fulfilling the terms of the covenant. If you do what I command, I will give you… If you will not listen to me and do… then I will do this to you. God takes his covenant seriously, and will personally bring about either blessings or the curses.

Notice the blatant disobedience that is warned against in these verses; “if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant” A refusal to listen to God’s instructions, a refusal to do what he commands, is followed by an emotional reaction against God’s truth; ‘if your spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules’. This revulsion at God’s commands results in a refusal to obey, and a violation of the covenant contract.

This chapter is essential for understanding the rest of the Bible. This passage provides essential context for the rest of the Bible. It gives the covenant context for the history of God’s judgment on Israel. What happened under Joshua, and then in Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ and ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of’ their enemies, and ‘they cried out to the LORD and he sent’ a deliverer; what happened under the kings who disobeyed and under those who tried to turn the people back to the LORD, what was spoken by the prophets who were sent to confront idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD, what happened in the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests and captivities, what was said in the prayers of the captives like Daniel and Nehemiah, even what we today enjoy as New Covenant believers, all find their root in the terms of this covenant agreement between God and his people.

This section of consequences for covenant treason is structured in 5 cycles of escalating discipline. Each section begins with ‘if you will not listen; then I will…’

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

27-39 War, leading to cannibalism, devastation and deportation

First Stage

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

God promises to visit the covenant breaker with panic, disease and fever, with stolen productivity, with defeat and oppression, with paranoid fear. God says ‘I will visit you …I will set my face against you.’ God is not absent in the sense that he has merely withdrawn his hand of protection and is allowing bad things to happen; no, he promises to be actively engaged in bringing about these consequences. Hell is not the absence of God; God is everywhere present. Hell will be the presence of God in righteous anger and punishment against those who have rejected him.

Second Stage

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, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

God here promises to escalate the punishment for continued disobedience. Notice, ‘If in spite of this you will not listen to me.’ There is a hope held out here. At any stage in this discipline, if his people will turn to him and listen to him, the discipline does not have to go any further.

Discipline

This is discipline; discipline is meant to teach, to train, to correct. Discipline is meant to confront, to protect, to restore, to bless. God is saying ‘I want to bless you, but I cannot bless your disobedience, so I promise to do whatever is necessary to bring you around and create in you a heart attitude that I can bless.’ Remember, God loved Israel. God chose Israel. Not because of anything in her, but rather because he loved her (Deut.7:6-8; 9:6). Proverbs reminds us:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Discipline is rooted in love. Moses tells the generation about to enter the land that God:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. …5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Psalm 94 tells us:

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,

Blessed, happy, is the one you discipline; because discipline is for our greatest good. Hebrews 12 lays this all out.

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is not pleasant, but it is for our good. The things in this chapter are horrific, but that is intended to teach us that there is something worse. A slap on the child’s wrist is painful, but it is nothing compared to the pain of the emergency room visit that it is intended to prevent. The things in this chapter; disease and death and cannibalism and captivity are nothing compared to what they are meant to keep you from; an eternity separated from a good God who loves you.

Greater Accountability

Notice, the discipline of this chapter is promised to God’s covenant people, not to the nations. God has a special relationship with his own people, and these are the consequences for treating carelessly that relationship. Those who have experienced grace; those who have seen the truth and rejected it are judged much more severely than those who have not; Peter warns:

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Because those who have been offered grace will be held more accountable, God relentlessly pursues us with his discipline in order to bring us back.

Pride

In this second section, to those who have refused to respond to the first stage of discipline, God promises to ‘discipline you again sevenfold for your sins’. This is an escalation of discipline toward those who refuse to listen. God says ‘I will break the pride of your power’. He will prevent the land from producing. So often our hardness toward God is a result of pride. The prayerless person is a proud person. I will not cry out to God for help, because I can handle this without him! God did not create us to be independent, but dependent. We are not to stand on our own; we are to rely on him, to depend on him, to lean into him, to trust him. We are not self-sufficient; he alone is self-sufficient. We are to lean on his all-sufficiency. Repeatedly we hear the warning, when things go well for you, do not thing it is because of your own greatness, but because God has blessed you. Do not become proud, but recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.

O Lord, whatever it takes, break our foolish pride!

Third Stage

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

The third stage is an escalating progression in disipline. If you will listen, I will use the least severe means of discipline available. If you choose to harden your heart, I will be required to use more severe forms of discipline. ‘Then,’ after the first two stages, ‘if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me.’ I will let loose the wild beasts against you’ bereave you of your children. This is opposite of the blessing in verse 6 ‘I will remove harmful beasts from your land’.

‘Wild beasts which shall bereave you of your children’ seems severe, but remember, this is the third stage of rebellion, having refused to listen to the first two rounds of discipline.

Fourth Stage

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Here the goal of all this is clearly stated; ‘if by this discipline you are not turned to me.’ Hear God’s heart in all of this. His heart is toward you, not against you. He knows that there is no good apart from himself. So he intends to turn your heart back to him, whatever it takes.

This is a response to active disobedience. ‘If you walk contrary to me, the I also will walk contrary to you. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.’ ‘I will …execute vengeance for the covenant’. This is a breach of a covenant that they agreed to. Going after false gods is both foolish and treasonous. God must defend the honor of his glorious name. He will execute vengeance for the covenant. Sword, pestilence, famine. Ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. It seems polygamy is a curse, not a blessing. You shall eat and not be satisfied. True satisfaction comes only through walking with God, enjoying the good of his presence. Seeking satisfaction anywhere else will leave us eating without ever experiencing satisfaction.

Fifth Stage

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

‘If in spite of this,’ having hardened your hearts through the first four stages of discipline ‘you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.’ This is escalating discipline due to the callousness of the people’s hearts. It takes severe consequences to rip the callouses off and expose their hard hearts to the gravity of their situation. Cannibalism. When Syrian king Ben-Hadad beseiged Samaria and caused a great famine,

2 Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” … 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

This is a heart-wrenching story, and the king tore his clothes. Tearing clothes is a sign of repentance and mourning. But even this horrific event did not turn the kings heart back to the LORD. Instead he sent messengers to kill the LORD’s prophet Elisha, who had been calling Israel to repentance.

God says ‘I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.’ The way to desecrate a place of worship was to scatter it with bones. This is an ironic promise that God will desecrate the false worship of his people with the corpses of those who trusted in these false gods. And he says ‘my soul will abhor you’. We often hear it said that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’ But here God himself says to the one who persistently violates the terms of the covenant and refuses to repent after extended discipline ‘my soul will abhor you’.

All this sounds horrific, but remember, the punishment fits the crime. The level of horror we have at these punishments, should alert us to the gravity of disregarding the word of the LORD, and turning away from God, spurning his patience and discipline that is meant to bring us to repentance.

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “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. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

God promised that the land would enjoy its Sabbaths while his people are in captivity. God’s people ought to have enjoyed the Sabbath rest God provided for them. Instead the land would enjoy that rest without them. We read in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

…20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But even in this there is hope. There is an end in sight. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Law and Gospel

God’s heart is to turn the hearts of his people back to himself. In the Old Testament this was rare. Except for a small remnant, the people persisted in their disobedience, hardened their hearts, and refused to respond to his loving discipline. Although there were amazing blessings promised, the law brought a curse. We read in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

The law is based on performance, perfect performance, and because no one can ever keep the law perfectly, we are all under the curse. Everything written in this chapter addressed to covenant breakers belongs to us, because we are covenant breakers. None of the promises belong to us, because we have failed to walk in obedience. But once we feel the weight of this, there is amazingly good news here for us!

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

On the cross, Jesus experienced the curses of Leviticus 26 for us. God executed vengeance for the broken covenant on Jesus; The Father turned in abhorrence from the one who had been made sin for us. Why? So that all the promised blessings might come to us who believe in Jesus!

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

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 24:10-23; Blaspheming The Name

03/19 Leviticus 24:10-23; Blaspheming the Name; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170319_leviticus-24_10-23.mp3

Leviticus 24, like Leviticus 10, reminds us that the five books of Moses are words from God given in a historical context. We think of Leviticus as a book of laws, and it is that, but these are laws given by God to his people in a particular context. God set his people free after 400 years of slavery and oppression in Egypt. He had demonstrated unmistakably his awesome power and unrivaled superiority over the false gods of the Egyptians. He brought his people out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. He displayed that he alone is worthy of worship, and he is not to be treated lightly. He brought them out to worship him, to belong to him. He gave them the rules in Leviticus so that his people would understand what it meant to be in relationship with God, how a holy God could live in the middle of a sinful people, how their sins could be dealt with, how this holy God was to be approached.

Leviticus 24 switches from instruction to a narrative. Like Exodus 32, where Moses was on the mountain, receiving God’s words, and in the camp the people grew impatient, made a golden calf to worship, and broke all of God’s commands. Here, God has revealed to Moses that holy time is to be set apart to celebrate him, that light and bread are always abundant in his presence, and in the camp a fight breaks out.

Blasphemy of a Half-Israelite

Leviticus 24:10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.

Notice it is not the fact that a fight broke out that is the problem here. Wherever there are people, there will problems. There will be differing opinions, conflicts, tension, strife. In a camp of well over 600,000 men, this was surely not the only fight in Israel. We know there were disputes. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law encouraged him to appoint elders to help arbitrate disputes because people were standing around waiting from morning until evening for Moses to judge between one and another. The fight was not the issue. If the fight were the issue, both parties would have been apprehended. The issue was blasphemy of the Name.

Neither was the question what should be done with a blasphemer. That was laid out in no uncertain terms already. The third command said:

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

and

Exodus 21:17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

If one who cursed father or mother was to be put to death, clearly one who committed the greater crime of cursing the Lord God himself was to be put to death.

Exodus 22:28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

The question here in Leviticus 24 is not what should be done with a blasphemer. The question is how this law should be applied to someone who was not a full Israelite. This was an Israelite woman’s son, but his father was an Egyptian.

Parenting and Discipline

Notice, we are not given the name of the blasphemer. We don’t know the name of the father. But we are given the name of the mother, and the genealogy of the mother. We aren’t given any of the dynamics of this family. We don’t know if the Egyptian dad had escaped Egypt with the family and was still involved, or if he was a slave owner who fathered this child and took no responsibility, or if he may have been part of Pharaoh’s army who was drowned in the Red Sea. Whatever the background and family dynamic, the mother carried the responsibility for how she raised her child. And her name and family line has been preserved for us for thousands of years as the mother whose son was a blasphemer.

Let me use this opportunity to share with you a few verses of parenting wisdom from the Proverbs.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Hear me carefully. This is not a license for child abuse. Do not become so angry or frustrated with your child that you are tempted to injure your child. If that is where you feel you are at, you need to get some help and allow others in the church family to come along side you and speak wisdom and hope into your situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for counsel. But do not allow your children to do whatever they want to do. As a parent you have a responsibility to lovingly nurture and train your children. The Proverbs encourage parents to physically discipline their children. Think of it this way. The goal of loving discipline is to use a small amount of pain or discomfort administered carefully to prevent a much greater amount of pain later on. A slap on the hand or the back side stings a bit, but if it is applied consistently to prevent a small child from touching the hot stove, it may spare them from a trip to the emergency room. Loving discipline is hard work, and it is not meant for the convenience of the parent, but for the good of the child.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

In this case, apparently Shelomith failed to discipline her son, and he ultimately suffered the consequences. By his actions he brought shame on his mother, but notice, his mother was not held responsible for his behavior. Even if you had parents who failed to train you, that is not an excuse for your current behavior. You are accountable and will be held responsible for your own sins.

The Native and the Sojourner

The congregation understood the gravity of taking lightly the Name of the LORD. God, our Creator, our Rescuer, our Provider, is not to be dishonored. But what about this half-Israelite? Was he to be held to the same standard that a full Israelite was held to? He was held in custody until the LORD’s will was made known.

Leviticus 24:13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. 17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. 21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.” 23 So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

God makes it clear that the sojourner was to be held accountable in the same way as a native Israelite. Throughout Leviticus, we have seen provision made for the sojourner, the stranger, the alien. In Exodus 12:38 told that a mixed multitude left Egypt with Israel. God revealed himself to be the only true God. Any Egyptian who decided to leave the false gods of Egypt and align with Israel and her God was welcome. In Exodus 12 the sojourner that desired to celebrate the Passover was invited to be circumcised and keep the Passover. In Exodus 20:10 the sojourner was to benefit from the weekly day of rest. Leviticus 17 and 22 allow the sojourner to bring sacrifices to the tent of the LORD, and he was also held accountable for appropriate handling of blood. Leviticus 18 and 20 hold the sojourner living among Israel to the same standards of morality as the native Israelite. Leviticus 19 and 23 command the Israelites to care for the sojourners by leaving food in the fields for them to glean.

Leviticus 19:33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The sojourners were invited to enjoy the benefits of the covenant relationship with God. But as such they were also held accountable for appropriate covenant conduct. This passage makes it explicitly clear that the foreigners who partook of the covenant blessings were also held accountable to the covenant.

We see this emphasis in the symmetry of the passage. [outline – G. Wenham]

16 blasphemy; the sojourner as well as the native shall be punished

17 take a man’s life

18 take an animal’s life

19 whatever injury he did must be done to him

20 whatever injury given must be given to him

21a kill and animal

21b kill a man

22 blasphemy; the same rule for the sojourner and the native

Verses 16-19 are mirrored in verses 20-22 Verses 16 and 22 require the same standard for the sojourner as for the native Israelite regarding blasphemy. Verses 17 and 21b deal with murder. Verses 18 and 21a deal with killing someone’s animal. Verses 19 and 20 deal with injuring another person. From the lesser offense to the greatest offense the punishment is to fit the crime, and the punishment is to be the same for the sojourner as for the native. There is to be no favoritism.

We also see in the structure of the passage an increasing degree of seriousness for different crimes. Working out from the center, verses 19 and 20 deal with the least serious, injury to another person. The eye for an eye and tooth for tooth provides a reasonable limit to compensation. This does not mean that if you knock out my tooth, I get to send you to the dentist to get your tooth extracted. What it means is that if you knock out my tooth, I am not allowed to go after you with a club and knock out all your teeth, as in the flesh most of us would be inclined to do. You are to compensate me appropriately for the loss of my tooth.

Moving out from the center, if you take the life of my animal, which would be a significant part of my livelihood, you are to compensate me appropriately. The life of an animal is valuable, but it is not as valuable as human life. If you pay me appropriately, I can buy another ox, or another tractor.

But the life of a person is more valuable than the life of an animal. When we move out to verses 17 and 21b, we see that no compensation can substitute for the life of a person. Humanity was created in the image of God, and in murder the life of the murderer is required in return for the life of the one murdered.

The Seriousness of Blasphemy

As we understand the structure of this passage, we begin to appreciate the extreme gravity of the offense. An even greater offense than murder is blasphemy. It is a great offense to deface the image of God in man, but it is an even greater offense to directly attack the character of God. This word ‘blaspheme’ literally means ‘to puncture, to pierce, to hollow out, to strike through’ The word ‘curse’ literally means ‘to make light of.’ If you remember, back in chapter 10, when God’s fire consumed Aaron’s sons who disobeyed God, he said “

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

This word ‘glorified’ means literally ‘heavy or weighty.’ God is to be taken as weighty, substantial, with gravity. He is not to be taken lightly. We might be tempted to read this passage and think ‘Wow, that seems excessive. Murder, sure, that’s serious, but saying some words against God, what’s the big deal? How is that hurting anyone? And they stoned him to death?’

This is where we need to allow Scripture to correct our thinking. We tend to assume that suffering and death are the worst things that can happen to a person, and that a long life is better than a short one. This passage teaches that to make light of God is so serious a crime it is worthy of death. Why? If we understand that we are created to glorify God, and that true human fulfillment and joy can only be found in his presence, then if we make light of him we deceive others to their eternal harm. If God is our eternal good, and those near to him act as if the things of this life are more substantial, more weighty than God himself, we invite others to disregard God and exchange his glory for created pleasures that will not ultimately satisfy. This is what Romans 1 calls ‘suppressing the truth’ about God, or Romans 3 calls ‘falling short of the glory of God,’ and it is worthy of ‘the wrath of God being revealed from heaven’. We must understand and guard ourselves against blaspheming God, lying about his character, and leading others astray by our attitudes.

The Law and the Gospel

Something very interesting to see as we step back from this passage is that this is one of only two narratives in Leviticus. The first, in Chapter 10, God’s glory is revealed and two priests who disobey are consumed by the flame of God. Here in chapter 24, a half-Israelite makes light of God’s name, and he is stoned to death by the people. In both narratives we see death and judgment in connection with God’s holy law. This is exactly what Romans teaches.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

Romans 7:10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law brings wrath. The commandment proves to be death to me. The law stops every mouth and makes every person accountable to God. The law makes no one righteous; rather the law shows us our utter sinfulness, and our desperate need.

And in this need, we find good news!

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Paul reflects in 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 1:13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

We have all sinned and failed to live in a way that displays the weighty awesomeness of God. The wages of our sin is death. But even blasphemers can receive mercy. The grace of our Lord overflows to us. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

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

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:11-18; Practical Holiness and Neighbor

11/13 Leviticus 19:11-18; Practical Holiness 2; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161113_leviticus-19_11-18.mp3

Leviticus 19 is all about holiness. The chapter opens commanding “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” So Leviticus 19 is a theologically rich chapter. God is holy. So in this chapter we learn something about what God is like. We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but we need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a practical description of what holiness looks like. And one of the things we see about holiness is that holiness is not compartmentalized. Holiness is all over the map. Holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses touched issues of respect for authority, proper use of time, warnings against idolatry, observance of God’s instructions for worship, and care for the poor in a way that maintains human dignity. The next 8 verses that we will look at today deal with how we relate to other people; integrity, personal property rights, honesty, truthfulness, respect for God’s reputation, not taking advantage of those who are weak or vulnerable, justice and impartiality in the legal system, slander, perjury, hate, confrontation, vengeance, grudges, love. The issues range from the family unit to business dealings and employer employee relationships to our responsibility to the poor and underprivileged, foreigners and displaced, to our relationship with God in worship, to our relationship with every person we come in contact with, particularly those we don’t get along well with. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 uses these two phrases 4 times each intermittently.

It is important to say again that Leviticus 19 comes after Leviticus 16. Leviticus 16 is the great day of Atonement where the people of God were freed from all their sin. Now, having been forgiven and cleansed, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?

Stealing, Lying, False Witness, and the NAME

Verses 11 and 12 begin by quoting the 8th command, summarizing the 9th and then referring back to the 3rd.

Leviticus 19:11 “You shall not steal; (VIII)

you shall not deal falsely; (IX)

you shall not lie to one another.

12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (III)

You shall not steal. This is quoted almost exactly from Exodus 20:15. Except in Exodus, the commands are all in the 2nd person singular. You (individually) shall not steal. Here this command is changed to the plural. You (plural – all of you) shall not steal. If we lived in Texas, we could translate it ‘Y’all shall not steal!’ Why the change to the plural here? Why in this passage are some of the commands in the singular, addressing individuals, and some of the commands in the plural, addressing the community? Holiness is not only an individual thing. There is a corporate aspect to holiness. You and I must strive for holiness personally, but we as a group must strive to keep one another accountable to be a holy people. We together must be holy.

Personal property rights are protected here. You have the right to own something. And no one has the right to take what is yours away from you by force, by deceit or by manipulation. Do not take what does not belong to you.

You shall not deal falsely. You shall not lie to one another.” There is an echo here of the 9th command.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

And the 10th command gets behind the 9th to explain why someone might lie or deal falsely.

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Stealing, dealing falsely, lying; all this is rooted in our desires. As James says,

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. …

We have passions, we have desires, we covet, we want. We are at war within. So we quarrel, we fight, we even murder to get what we want.

Leviticus 6 already alerted us to the possibility of this kind of sin and the proscribed sacrifice and restitution.

Leviticus 6:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor 3 or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— 4 if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found 5 or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt. 6 And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering. 7 And the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.”

Stealing, lying, bearing false witness can take many forms. Our unruly desires that wage war in our hearts could even cause us to violate the 3rd command.

Leviticus 19:12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (III)

The 3rd command in Exodus reads:

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

Our desires could lead us to take an oath in court by the name of YHWH, and lie in order to get what we want, and this would be to treat his holy name as common or to use it in a meaningless worthless way.

Oppression, Wages, the Disabled, and Fear of God

Leviticus 19:13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him.

The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.

14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Stealing can take many forms; using, pressing oneself upon a neighbor, taking advantage of by deceit, or outright robbery.

Even delaying to pay wages is a form of stealing. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 3:28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt.6:11), and often the laborer is dependent on that days wages for food for that day.

Holiness is broad enough to include how to treat those who are disabled or vulnerable. Cursing the deaf who cannot hear you cursing them, even if no harm comes to them is wrong. Putting a stumbling block in front of the blind who has no way of seeing what you are doing may bring harm to the blind person, or may just humiliate him, but either way this is wrong. The blind may never know who wronged them, the deaf may never even know they have been mistreated, but God knows. The motive for treating the vulnerable with respect and dignity is the fear of God. God is the one who will defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Injustice, Partiality, Slander, Perjury

Leviticus 19:15 “You shall do no injustice in court.

You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, (VI)

and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

Justice is to be upheld. Righteousness is to prevail. So far this chapter has encouraged care for the poor, for the foreigner, for the disabled. But matters of justice must be blind to social status. Partiality to the poor is just as evil as deference to the great. It is wrong to acquit the guilty because he is in a difficult situation. It is wrong to overlook the guilt of the great because they are powerful. What is right and just must decide each case.

You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people.” One way to harm a person is to attack them in court. Another way is to attack them with your words. James warns of the dangers of the tongue, and the New Testament has much to say against gossip and backbiting and slander. “You shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor” This is another way of stating the 9th command.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Justice depends on the truthfulness of testimony. In 1 Kings 21, Jezebel arranged for false witnesses to falsely accuse Naboth of a capital crime so that he would be executed and she could take his vineyard for her husband Ahab. Who is to stop someone from testifying falsely? “I am the LORD”

Hate, Rebuke, Vengeance, Grudges, Love

Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (X)

This gets down to the motive and response of the heart, and it gives practical instruction in what to do in difficult situations. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” It is not enough to keep your hatred hidden where no one sees and no one knows. Holiness extends to the inner thoughts and intents of the heart. Holiness penetrates even to the innermost feelings, attitudes and emotions. God cares as much with how you think and feel as with what you say and do.

But you don’t understand what he did to me! He tricked me out of my birthright and he stole my blessing! Don’t hate your brother in your heart. But how? I can’t help it! “You shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” This is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge.” Instead you shall reason frankly with your neighbor. Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If your brother sins against you, confront him. In all humility, with all gentleness and patience, reason frankly with him. Confront him “lest you incur sin because of him.” Often being sinned against leads to sin that you will be held accountable for. This could be your sin of hatred, bitterness, holding a grudge, even taking vengeance. This could be your sin of failing to confront him and so prevent him from continuing in his sin.

James 5:19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

We have a responsibility to those who wrong us, to care for them, to love them. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” It is as difficult to give a rebuke with love in a spirit of humility and gentleness as it is to receive a rebuke with humility and learn from it.

Proverbs 27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The Spirit and the New Covenant

But how do we do this? How do we not bear a grudge? How do we not slander? How do we not hate our brother in our heart? How can we love our neighbor as ourselves, especially a neighbor who has wronged us? You can’t just muster up from within yourself the will to obey these commands. It’s not natural to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself, much less a neighbor who has wronged you. That is not natural; it is supernatural. That is nothing less than a work of the Holy Spirit of God. The power to obey these commands comes from the Spirit in the New Covenant.

We see this even in the structure of Leviticus. In chapter 16 we are freely forgiven of all our sins based on the sacrifice of a substitute. Now that we have experienced forgiveness, we are told to replace hatred with love. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Where does love like this come from?

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The ability to love our enemies comes from the experience that we, who were God’s enemies were so loved.

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

God loved those who had sinned against him.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak …ungodly… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

God loved us, his enemies. We can love only because he first loved us. He showed us how to love our enemies. He shows us how it feels as enemies to be loved. Now that we have experienced grace, total undeserved unmerited love, we can begin to find joy in extending this same kind of love to those around us who deserve it least, to those who have personally wronged us.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Do not hate, do not hold on to bitterness or slander another person. You can let go of a grudge and forgive even the most grevious offenses because the cross shows you just how much you have been forgiven in Christ.

You might say ‘If it were just once I could forgiven them, but they have done the same thing to me over and over and over again.’ Jesus says to you ‘You whipped my back until the flesh hung like ribbons.’ But this attack was so personal. You spat in my face. But they have offended me so deeply I just can’t get it out of my mind. You pounded a crown of thorns deep into my skull. But they have wronged me and there’s nothing I can do about it. They’ve damaged my reputation. My hands are tied. You nailed my hands and my feet to a cross so I could barely breathe. But they humiliated me publicly. You stripped me of my clothes and suspended me publicly for all to mock. But this offence goes so deep it pierces my very heart. You ran a spear up through my side and into my heart. But I feel like I have been discarded. Thrown away. Locked up. Forgotten. You put me in a cave and sealed the entrance with a heavy stone. But I feel like there is no hope for me. I just can’t forgive. I am the resurrection and the life!

To bear a grudge is a heavy burden to bear. Would you be free from your burden today? Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

November 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified

07/24 Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160724_leviticus-10.mp3

As The LORD Commanded

In Leviticus 8 we have seen the consecration of Aaron and his sons ‘as the Lord has commanded Moses’. In chapter 9 we have seen the first offerings made ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. Back at the end of Exodus we saw every detail of the tabernacle constructed ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. We heard this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Exodus 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, 43; 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32. At the end of Exodus we read

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did.

Exodus 39:42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

And then we hear again this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:7, 10. This all climaxes at the end of chapter 9, when

Leviticus 9:23 …and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Which He Had Not Commanded

This is what makes chapter 10 so shocking.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

This should sound like fingernails on chalkboard. The newly ordained priests in the newly consecrated tabernacle in response to the manifestation of the glory of God, suddenly do something that God had not commanded them, offering something that was unauthorized. We tend to be shocked by what happened to them. We need to be shocked at what they did. In the context of grace, in the context of covenant treason, forgiveness, and then delighted obedience by all the people, we have priests who have been set apart to the LORD by a seven day process, now step out and do something unauthorized, something the LORD had not commanded. The exact details of their violation are not clear. Some speculate they were drunk based on verse 9. Some suggest they attempted to enter the most holy place, because of what is said in chapter 16. In light of that chapter, they may have been attempting to usurp the responsibility of the high priest. Some think they used the wrong censers, or the wrong fire, or the wrong kind of incense, or that they offered it at the wrong time. What the text tells us is that they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded. It could be any combination of these possibilities, but the bottom line is that their act was an act of defiant disobedience to the clearly revealed instructions of the LORD. They did that which was unauthorized in the presence of the LORD. They did that which he had not commanded them.

Fire From the LORD

2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is just, God is holy. God will not be trifled with. God will not be taken lightly. This is a warning to us all. We tend to take God for granted. To think of him lightly. To presume on his grace. God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate rivals. He will not be approached any way we choose. God is worthy of all honor and affection, all glory and praise. God will defend his own honor.

In Ezekiel 20, recounting the rebellion of the people in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt, God restrained his anger and did not fully destroy his people.

Ezekiel 20:22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (cf. 20:9, 14)

In Ezekiel 36, God promises to regather his people from the nations into which he had scattered them in judgment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (cf. 36:21; Isaiah 48:11)

Ezekiel 39, looking to a future time,

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

God acts for the honor of his holy name. He defends his honor. God cares about his reputation. If he is treated as common, ordinary by the people who claim to know him, to be close to him, then those that do not know him will more readily blow him off as no big deal, not worth attending to, to their eternal harm. So ‘fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.’ This was radical, startling, shocking. But it was right. For the sake of the advance of the gospel, God must defend his honor.

3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

The appropriate response of anyone who has access to God’s presence is ‘holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ (Is.6:3). God will be set apart, recognized to be in a class by himself, by those who are near to him. He will be glorified before all the people. This is evangelistic. God has made a way for himself to be approached by sinful people. He has instituted sacrifices by which he can be approached while at the same time preserving the seriousness of sin and the absolute holiness of his nature. To come in a different way than he has established is to scorn his provision and to set oneself up as a higher authority than God. God’s sanctity, God’s glory is primary.

Aaron held his peace. Aaron was silent. Notice the contrast with the last chapter. In chapter 9, God’s instructions were heeded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in blessing, demonstrating that their sacrifice was acceptable, and the response was shouts of joy. Here in chapter 10, God’s instructions were disregarded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in judgment, consuming those who violated his commands, and the response was stunned silence. Aaron had lost in an instant his two oldest boys. But his silence affirmed the righteousness of God. God was right to punish them.

Priests and Mourning

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

Because of their position as ordained priests, they were not permitted to touch dead bodies, or mourn or leave the tabernacle courtyard. They were set apart to God for service. Their service was to be characterized by joy, because ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy’ (Ps.16:11).

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? …

These were set apart to draw near to God. It would be inconsistent to mourn in the presence of God. Even in the face of great tragedy, the presence of God is greater, and joy in his presence outshines sorrow. Here we find a refreshing return to obedience. “And they did according to the word of Moses.”

Duties of the Priests

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

This is a significant word from the LORD. In Leviticus we see 29 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’; 4 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron’; only here do we find ‘the LORD spoke to Aaron’. God gave ‘wine to gladden the heart of man’ (Ps.104:15); but the priests are to be clear-headed in carrying out their duties. The first duty of the priests is to distinguish between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. They need to know the difference. Anything that would blur their judgment in these issues was prohibited while on duty. Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy. They treated him as common. The first seven chapters on sacrifices deal with issues of what is common and what is holy. The next section, chapters 11-15 deal with making distinctions between the unclean and the clean.

The second duty of the priests is to teach the people the rules of the LORD. We rightly identify priests with sacrifice in the tabernacle, and with entering God’s presence on behalf of the people, but probably a more common role of priests in Israel was to apply the law to distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean, and to teach the people. Priests were to be teachers, communicators of God’s truth.

Priests Rights to the Offerings

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.”

At first glance, this section seems out of place. The rights of the priests to eat specific portions of specific offerings has already been explained in the earlier chapters. Why repeat that here? This is addressed to Aaron and his surviving sons in the immediate aftermath of serious sin in the family where two of Aaron’s sons were executed by the LORD himself. It would be natural to wonder if this kind of sin in the family disqualified the remaining family from service or from the benefits of service. Moses affirms to the survivors that they are still fully entitled to eat the priests’ portions of the offerings.

Violation of the Command Approved

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” 19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.

Nadab and Abihu were judged by the LORD and killed. Now Moses is angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the other two sons of Aaron. Moses rarely is angry, except when God’s glory is dishonored. He is angry because Aaron and his remaining sons failed to do what they were commanded to do. Nadab and Abihu did what they were not commanded to do and they were judged by God. Now Eleazar and Ithamar have failed to do what they were commanded to do and Moses is angry. They failed to eat the priests portion of the sin offering that was clearly given to them in chapter 6. Were they any less guilty than their brothers? Would they suffer the same judgment? To understand what is going on here, we need to step back and see the structure of this passage.

1-3 Incident of Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience

4-7 Holiness prohibits grieving for the dead

8-11 Description of Priests Role

12-15 Holiness requires eating of the sacrifices

16-20 Incident of Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience

The central part of this chapter is the description of the Priests role in verses 8-11. The rest of the chapter is mirrored around that instruction. The chapter begins with Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience, and the chapter ends with Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience. But where Nadab and Abihu were immediately judged by God, Moses receives Aaron’s reasoning for the disobedience of he and his younger sons. What is going on here? Aaron is stepping into his role as priest, distinguishing between the holy and the common. He is evaluating the situation and seeking in all things to honor the LORD. His heart and his desire in all things is the LORD’s approval, not man’s.

Andrew Bonar, Minister of the Free Church of Scotland commented in 1846 on this passage: “He saw that Aaron entered into the spirit and meaning of the rites he ministered among; and was satisfied. And it is to be noticed that this attention to the spirit, and not to the mere letter, of the ceremonial law, at the very outset, indicated to Israel that the things signified by these types were their chief concern, not the bare types themselves. …Aaron’s service was not formality; it was a worship done in the spirit; and where the spirit could not accompany the rite, he left the rite undone. Herein he glorified God – he gave Him the honour due unto His name! He felt that it was not worship at all if his soul was not engaged; for “God is Spirit.” [Bonar, Leviticus p.207-208]

Where Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience was proud, arrogant and flagrant; Aaron was carefully distinguishing in his own heart what was common and what was holy, and what would be acceptable to God.

Application

What can we take away from a passage like this? First of all, God is holy. God is zealous to defend his own honor. Especially among those who draw near to him. Lest we thing this is a distant Old Testament event with little relevance today, we need to be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who in the early church were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. God still cares deeply that he be treated as holy. This is a gospel issue. Our interaction with God must reflect accurately who he is or no one will listen to our message, and God cares deeply that sinners come to him through the one way that he is to be approached, through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus.

Second, We must listen to God’s word.

Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Finally, God cares about your heart. Mere outward obedience without genuine affection for God is hypocrisy. True worship is not about my preference; true worship is that which is pleasing to God. Acceptable worship, worship in spirit and truth is worship characterized by reverence and awe. God is pleased when we approach him on the basis of Christ’s finished work.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:8-13; The Daily Burnt Offering

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

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

Leviticus 1-7

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

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

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

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

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

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

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

                                                             The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                Summary (7:37-38)

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

The Burnt Offering

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

Ministry is Messy

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

God is Holy

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

This reminds me of another who laid aside his clothes.

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

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

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

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

The Fire is Not Quenched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fire of God’s Wrath

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

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

A Reminder of Grace

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

Peace With God

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

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

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

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

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

Maintain the Flame

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

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

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

John the baptist said:

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

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

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells Timothy:

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

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

A Royal Priesthood

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

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

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

In Revelation, John addresses the saints. He says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just and Righteous

02/21 Just and Righteous; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160221_just-righteous.mp3

We have been looking at the character of God, specifically at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people. Today we will look at God’s justice and righteousness, which is his goodness expressed by rewarding each one according to his work, and treating the righteous and the wicked distinctly (Bavinck, p.206, 215).

In Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God replies:

Exodus 33:19 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.

In the next chapter God proclaims his character.

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

There seems to be dissonance in this verse. We might be inclined to replace the comma with a full stop in the middle of verse 7. We like to hear about a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But it might make us squirm a bit, and it is clearly contrary to our cultural climate to finish the sentence. We might not be so bold as to take out our black highlighter and strike the words from the page, but our voice might trail off, a bit embarrassed, and mumble the last lines under our breath. But we must finish the sentence! We want to know God, not as we wish for him to be, which would be to form a god after our own image, and worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator, but we want to know God as he truly is, as he reveals himself to be. And he revealed himself to Moses as a God “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God is just. God is righteous. God will not let sin go unpunished. God will by no means clear the guilty. We might naturally recoil at this idea, or be embarrassed by it. We might feel a bit like the child of a father who easily loses his temper and flies into a fit of rage. The child is embarrassed by the actions of his father, especially if an outburst happens in front of his friends, but he loves his father and tries to downplay his imperfections, drawing attention rather to his better qualities. But to feel this way is to reveal that we misunderstand God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath. To view God this way is to impose the limitations and imperfections we see in sinful creatures on the perfect and sinless Creator. We should not be embarrassed by God’s righteousness, or try to explain away his wrath. Rather we should delight in the justice of God, as an aspect of God’s goodness, because God delights in his own justice.

The Lord Delights in Justice and Righteousness

Listen to how the Bible speaks about God’s justice and righteousness.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Hear this: the Lord loves righteousness and justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice. The Lord delights in practicing justice and righteousness. God’s justice is a grounds for our boasting. God delights to reward each one according to his work. God is exalted in his treating of the righteous and wicked differently, as they each deserve.

Notice also, how justice and righteousness are coupled with his steadfast love. God’s justice and righteousness are not the opposite of his grace, mercy and steadfast love, they are not contrary to or in tension with his other attributes. Rather, God’s justice and wrath, and his love, mercy, and grace, rightly understood, are in perfect harmony.

Justice and righteousness are a positive expression of God’s goodness. To clarify this, it may be helpful to imagine a god who had no concern for justice, who was soft on sin and tolerated evil, who allowed the wicked to prosper and the upright to be persecuted. When we see images of persecution and slavery, of racial inequality and child prostitution, drug lords and terrorists, when we see wicked men prey on the innocent and helpless without consequence, our hearts cry out with the Psalmist “how long O Lord?”

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 ​Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 ​and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

The Psalmist sees injustice and cries out for the Judge of the earth to repay to the arrogant proud wicked evildoers what they deserve; he cries out for the God of vengeance to shine forth.

Many times in Scripture, we see God pouring out on his enemies what they deserve as a ground for worship

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Revelation 11:15-18; 16:4-7; Psalm 96, Psalm 98, etc.)

That God is just, that he punishes evil is grounds for worship. That God does what is right, that he rewards the righteous and punishes evildoers is something to rejoice in.

The Judge of All The Earth

In Genesis 18, God came down to give promises to Abraham and to punish Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The Lord is revealing his own just and right dealings with these wicked cities as an example for Abraham to learn justice and righteousness. He is teaching him to keep the way of the Lord by modeling his own righteousness and justice.

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The Lord does not fly off into a fit of uncontrolled rage. The outcry was great and their sin was grave, so he investigates. He goes down to see.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Abraham understood that the Lord is the Judge of all the earth. And as judge, he must do what is just. Abraham understood that it is unjust to sweep away the righteous with the wicked, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, to treat the righteous and wicked in the same way. For the sake of 10 righteous people God would spare the entire city. In the next chapter, we see the angels seizing Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand and bringing him out and setting him outside the city. The angel said “escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.”

Peter holds this episode up alongside Noah and the destruction of the ungodly world with a flood to demonstrate that

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

The Judge of all the earth will do right. He differentiates between the righteous and the wicked, giving to each what he deserves.

God Repays Each According to his Deeds

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Lord does not judge based on appearances. He searches the heart and tests the mind, he judges every man justly. Jesus says

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Peter says to the church,

1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed … 19 …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Our Father judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Paul spells this out in Romans. In chapter 1, he says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In chapter 2 he says:

Romans 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God shows no partiality. God is a righteous judge, and his righteous judgments will be revealed on the day of wrath, when he renders to each one according to his works.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

In Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31, God clarifies a misunderstanding of his people when he said that he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut.5:9). There came to be a proverb ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Jer.31:29; Ezekiel 18:2), implying that God punishes innocent children for the sins of their fathers. This, indeed would not be just. But fathers need to realize that they set patterns for generations to come. There is a tendency for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and the children will not be able to excuse their sins because of the bad example of their parents. God says:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As we have seen, God is good, he is inclined to extend undeserved mercy and overwhelming grace. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations].’ He prefers to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. He invites us to turn and live!

The Good News of God’s Righteousness

But if God is just and righteous and will by no means clear the guilty, if he must treat us as our works deserve, if he must punish sin, then that leaves us all in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the point of Romans 1 and 2, that ‘every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We return to the tension we felt in the beginning. How can God be merciful and gracious, abundant in steadfast love, inclined to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he is just and will by no means clear the guilty? How can God forgive, and yet repay each person according to what he has done? This is the power of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel that addresses the problem for us of the wrath of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God’s righteousness. Righteousness given to believing sinners by grace as a gift. We are all guilty. To get what we deserve is to experience hell. But if we will cry out to God for mercy, if we depend on the work of another, we can be given a gift we do not deserve. We can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption and propitiation of Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. He took my place, and I take his place. All my sin was laid on him, he became sin for me, and God’s righteous wrath was propitiated, satisfied, in him. My sin got what it deserved; death. I now get what Jesus’ perfect obedience earned; the declaration of righteousness, and the reward; eternal life. Notice the concern to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Romans 3:25 …This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…

God’s own justice does not allow him to merely pass over sins. God’s righteousness is upheld both in punishing the evildoer in the person of the Lamb of God who became sin for us, and in rewarding the righteous, as I now come to be in Jesus through faith and enjoy his inheritance.

We see this same emphasis on God’s justice in 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we turn and agree with God about our sin, his justice is satisfied, because we see sin as it really is, as an offense that must be punished, and he is just to forgive and cleanse us, because the punishment has been poured out on Jesus. This is no mere outward declaration. It changes us. If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, then we are righteous. We are born anew, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and we begin to hate what God hates and to love him above all else. The Spirit begins to bear fruit in us, and God, who searches the heart will give to us according to the fruit of our deeds.

May we praise God for his justice! We don’t want a God who doesn’t take sin seriously. A God who is soft, compromising, inconsistent is not worthy of our worship. The cross of our Lord Christ is a public demonstration of both the justice and mercy of our overwhelmingly loving God.

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

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment