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1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Resurrecting Grace

04/12 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 Resurrecting Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150412_1cor15_8-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. 9 ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων, ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· 10 χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί. 11 εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul has made known the gospel, the good news message of Christ crucified for sinners and risen triumphant. This is the powerful resurrection message that transforms sinners into saints, brings life out of death, and makes people new creations in Christ. Paul holds himself out as a caricature, an exaggerated example of the gospel at work in an extreme case. His emphasis is on grace (he uses the word 3 times in verse 10) – God’s startling, unexpected, irrational grace extended toward unworthy recipients at inopportune times. Grace is that which is freely given, lavishly poured out, extravagantly supplied, and it is completely unearned, totally undeserved, absolutely unmerited. The polar opposite of grace is wages, that which I earn, that which I deserve, that which is owed to me. The gospel is all about grace.

Paul could have held up any of the apostles as exhibits of God’s grace. Peter, James, and John, common fishermen, called into the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew, a despised tax collector, chosen to follow Jesus. Simon, a violent Zealot eager to overthrow Rome with force, called now to lay down his own life in love as part of a different kind of rebellion. He could have pointed to James, one of the Lord’s earthly brothers, who did not believe in Jesus until after the crucifixion, yet the risen Lord appeared to him, and by grace, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Each one is a trophy of grace, evidence of God pouring out favor on those who didn’t earn it, transforming broken people and using unlikely instruments to accomplish his good purposes.

Saul

But Paul holds himself up as the extreme example of God’s resurrecting grace at work. He says:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was called by God to be an apostle. But Paul considers himself least of all the apostles. He considers himself unworthy to be numbered among the apostles. And that is the definition of grace; a good gift extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Grace and unworthy go together. They must be kept together. God doesn’t give grace to those who think they deserve it. But if we could rank unworthiness on a scale, Paul was at the extreme end of unworthy. Paul was formerly called Saul, and he was present when Stephen preached the good news about Jesus, and, we are told:

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Saul took pleasure in the execution of this godly man. Saul was ravaging the church. The persecution became so severe that the believers fled Jerusalem and scattered into the surrounding areas. But Saul was not content to drive them out of Jerusalem. He intended single-handed to extinguish this faith in Jesus from the earth.

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul was seething with rage and malice toward the followers of Jesus. His was not just a passive feeling of hostility; he was actively creating opportunities to carry out evil against Jesus’ disciples. He obtained authority to pursue the scattered believers into the surrounding regions, even past the borders of Israel, far north, about 135 miles, to Damascus in Syria.

When he was interrupted on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy as formerly a ‘blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”

1 Timothy 1:14 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.

He refers to himself as the chief or foremost or most prominent of all sinners, the worst of the worst, completely unworthy of any kindness from God. Given the opportunity, it seems, Saul would have gladly taken the crown of thorns from the soldier’s hands and beat it into Jesus’ skull himself, spitting in his face.

An Abortion [εκτρωματι]

Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus road this way:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The word translated ‘to one untimely born’ could more literally be translated a miscarriage or an aborted fetus. This word is used in Numbers 12:12, Job 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 6:3 of a stillborn child.

We see this imagery in Ezekiel 16, addressed to Jerusalem, vividly describing the unworthiness of God’s chosen people.

Ezekiel 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I don’t think there is a more startling or graphic picture of helplessness and hopelessness than this. This is Paul’s view of himself. When Jesus appeared to him, he compares himself to a discarded abortion, wallowing in his own blood. God called him when he was helpless and hopeless, hostile toward God, dead in his trespasses and sins.

Our Condition

I think Paul means for us to recoil at the thought, to be amazed by God’s grace, and then to identify with him. What a grotesque image, an aborted fetus, rejected, discarded, wallowing in its blood. Helpless, far beyond all hope. A blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent, breathing threats and murder against the disciples, ravaging the church. Why? Why extend grace to this one? What amazing grace that saved a wretch like …Saul. This is the way Paul describes his own condition, but this is also the way he describes our condition. We need to see ourselves in this light. He says in Colossians:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

He says in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This is free, sovereign, undeserved, resurrecting grace. This is immeasurable riches of grace. We, we who were dead were made alive with him. I was utterly helpless, beyond all hope, hostile toward God, entirely self-focused. When he saw me wallowing in my blood he said ‘live!’ I was dead in my trespasses, and he said ‘Live!’ He spoke life into me, he made me alive, he raised me up, he seated me with his beloved Son. He demonstrated immeasurable riches of grace to an utterly unworthy sinner.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He caused us to be born again. He poured out unmerited resurrecting grace on a wretch like me.

Grace, Grace, Grace

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am,

God’s unmerited grace came to Saul and said ‘Live!’ and Saul, although last of all the apostles, least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, by God’s irrational grace, he is made eyewitness to the resurrected Lord, apostle to the Gentiles. Anything good he is, he is by God’s grace. He is alive because of grace. He was confronted with his own sinfulness by grace. He turned to Jesus by grace. He became a follower by grace. He was appointed to serve by grace.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This was all of grace. Paul acknowledges his entire and absolute dependence on God’s grace. Nothing was earned. Nothing deserved. All was freely given to him by grace.

Grace Works

Paul goes on to say that, although he did nothing to work for that grace, that grace was hard at work in him.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

God’s grace was not in vain. It was not empty, fruitless, or without effect. God’s grace produced results. It produced fruit. Unlike Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16, where God’s grace brought life, and cared for an nurtured, and made her his own, provided for her needs, but she became unfaithful to him. In Paul, God’s grace was effective. He worked harder than any of them. Paul is comparing himself to the other apostles. I think he is saying, ‘I worked harder than all twelve of them put together.’ And what we see in the record of Acts bears this out. Paul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Caesarea, Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Trogyllium, Miletus, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Fair Havens, Malta, Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Appian Way, Nicopolis, and Rome. 2 years after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, stating:

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, … 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul brought the gospel to the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, and by 57 AD he considered the evangelization of the Agean lands complete. His ambition was to visit Rome briefly and then to travel on to Spain!

In 2 Corinthians Paul catalogs the hardships he faced in service to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul could rightly boast ‘I worked harder than them all,’ but he is quick to clarify:

1 Corinthians 15:10…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Everything I accomplished for the cause of Christ was not me. It was God’s grace. God’s grace accomplished it all through me. Paul gives all credit to God for every accomplishment.

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

This is the way he talked in the book of Acts.

Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Notice, it is all the things God has done. Christ has accomplished. He had already told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

God, by his grace, accomplishes his good purposes through us. Paul teaches the Philippians:

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in you. You are his workmanship. He works in you to will. If you want to do great things for God, God worked that desire in you. If you have an unstoppable passion to preach the gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and then in Rome and on to Spain, that is grace. God worked that desire in you. If you carry it out, that is God’s grace, God working in you to work for his good pleasure.

This is how Paul describes his ministry in Colossians:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul labors, he agonizes, he is wearied from the work, but it is God’s energy that is energizing him in power. God’s grace is at work in him.

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do you let your light shine? Where did you get the light? It was a gift! How do you do good works? God’s grace is working in you! Then God gets the glory for your good works, because God’s grace has become effective in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

All of Grace

It is by unmerited grace that I am forgiven, purchased, redeemed, made clean and set apart for his use. It is by undeserved grace that I am given grace gifts with which to serve others. It is God’s powerful resurrecting grace that is at work in me that supplies both the desire and the energy to use those gifts in service to others for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we preached so you believed. This gracious message, that Christ died for our sins, and that he was really and truly dead; that he was raised from the dead and he is really and truly alive, this undeserved gift to unworthy recipients, this transforming message that is at work in me healing my deepest hurts and mending what is broken in me, making me useful for the glory of God in the earth, this is the unanimous voice of apostolic witness on content of gospel. It really doesn’t matter who preached it, Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Thomas, we all preach one message, that Christ died for our sins according to scriptures and that he was raised. This is what we preached, and this is what you believed. This is what you are trusting in, clinging to, being transformed by. This is a message of resurrecting grace.

Have you believed? Do you see yourself as utterly helpless and hopeless, dead in your trespasses and sins? Do you believe that God took action when you were unworthy and could contribute nothing? That God provided everything necessary in Christ for you? That he gives it freely to you as a gift? That he takes you to be his by grace, and that he enables you by his grace to be pleasing to him? Is his resurrecting grace at work in you?

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

April 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5d; Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

01/18 1 Corinthians 13:5d Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150118_1cor13_5d.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

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

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

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

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

We are looking at what love is, what Christian love should look like, what God’s love is like. We look today at the seventh in a list of eight negatives, what love is not. Love is “not …resentful” (ESV)

“thinketh no evil” (KJV)

“keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV)

“does not remember wrongs done against it”(ERV)

“does not keep account of evil” (Phillips)

“does not take into account a wrong suffered” (NASB)

“does not count up wrongs that have been done” (NCV)

“doesn’t keep score of the sins of others” (Message)

“it does not brood over injury” (NABRE)

These translations are all attempting to convey the flavor of the phrase in the original Greek. The main verb in this phrase is [λογίζομαι]; it is an accounting term; it means to take an inventory, to reckon, count, compute, calculate. It is used this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

Payment is computed, calculated, counted according to debt, according to obligation. How many hours you worked times the agreed upon wage per hour minus any withholding or taxes equals the paycheck.

It means to to count, consider, number. It is used this way in Luke 22

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

It means to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on. It is used this way in Mark 11.

Mark 11:31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

Love does not compute, calculate, count, consider, weigh, meditate on the bad, the evil, the harm.

What does it mean for love to keep no record of wrongs? What does this mean for God, who is love? How do we see this in the face of Jesus, the image of the invisible God? How can we begin to imitate God’s love with the people around us?

God Keeps Records of Wrongs

First, if love keeps no record of wrongs, and if God is love, then we can learn something when we look at what God says about himself in his word. Do we ever see God keeping record of wrongs? Daniel’s vision gives us a glimpse of the end of time.

Daniel 7:9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

The books were opened. The court sat in judgment. God has a record book. Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

All are exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Nothing is hidden from him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

People will give account for every careless word on the day of judgment. There is a day of judgment coming, which means God is keeping record of wrongs. Romans tells us:

Romans 2:5 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’s righteous judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath. We are storing up wrath because of our hard and unrepentant hearts. Every careless word, every thought, every attitude, every deed is recorded and will be accounted for. God keeps books, and the books will be opened. God is just and he will punish all sin. If we know anything about ourselves at all, this is a terrifying prospect.

God has communicated clearly to us his reckoning system. He told Adam in the garden ‘in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen.2:17). Romans tells us “The wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23).

James communicates to us just how comprehensive God’s perfect standard is.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

God doesn’t grade on a curve. God is the lawgiver, and any violation of his law is an offense against him. We find in Romans

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.

There will be no excuses. No legitimate defense. John tells us:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

God keeps perfect records. God is perfectly righteous. God is absolutely just. Nothing is hidden from him. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23)

God Blots Out Transgressions

But thank God this is not the end of the story! How is it that God is love, if God keeps perfect records of wrongs? There are some amazing promises in the Old Testament. God says in Isaiah 43:25

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

Transgressions blotted out! God keeps perfect record, but if God were willing to blot out that record, to erase it, to eradicate it and strike our sin from his records, to not remember our wrongs – that would be a blessing worth singing about! Listen to David’s prayer in Psalm 51:

Psalm 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Mercy according to love. God is absolutely just, and he is also abundant in mercy. Wash me, cleanse me, blot out my transgressions.

Listen to Psalm 32. Hear it as if you are hearing it for the first time.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Think of this! Transgressions forgiven! Sins covered! Iniquities not computed, not calculated, not counted against me! This Psalm is quoted in Romans 4:7-8, and the word used is [λογίζομαι]. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity. That is a blessed man indeed! How does that happen? Against whom does the Lord not keep record? Let’s look at Romans 4.

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Paul tells us that the person against whom the Lord will not count his sins is the person who believes God. “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly his faith is counted to him as righteousness.” He goes on to clarify what this belief looks like

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

God will do what he promised to do. God is glorified in us when we believe that he will do what he said he would do, when we trust him. God blots out our sins in Jesus, who was delivered up to death for our trespasses. 2 Corinthians 5 says

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God was not counting, not calculating, canceling the record of our trespasses, bringing us into a restored relationship with himself. How could he do this? It says he does it in Christ. Verse 21 tells us how.

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

God the Father transferred our sin to Jesus. Jesus, the sinless one, bore our sin in his own body on the cross. This is an accounting term, so let’s use an accounting metaphor to help us understand it. Better yet, let’s use a story Jesus told to help illustrate it.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

The King was settling accounts. This servant owed ten thousand talents. A talent, we are told, is a monetary unit equivalent to about 20 years wages for a laborer. So that would be about 200,000 years wages. This servant had been up to something to get himself into that kind of debt with his master. There would be no possible way for him to pay this debt. His master was settling accounts. There were no bankruptcy options. All his possessions were to be sold. He, his wife, and his children were to be sold as a slaves. And that would still fall far short of paying the debt. How can this debt be settled? The king could wait for the servant to work as a slave for 200,000 years to pay him back the debt. That is not what happens in Jesus’ story.

Matthew 18:26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The master forgave him the debt. He released him from his obligation. But that did not change his books. He would end the year with 200,000 year’s worth of wages missing. That had to come from somewhere. He would have to suffer loss. He would have to absorb that amount himself.

This is a picture of our salvation. We owed a debt we could never pay.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” “in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them.” Instead, he counted their trespasses against Christ. He transferred our debt to Jesus. Jesus became guilty for my sin, and he paid the price in full. If I lean into him, trust him, believe in him, God counts righteousness to me. The perfect obedience of Christ is paid into my account. I now stand with my debt of sin paid in full and a positive balance of Christ’s righteousness in my account.

His Forgiveness and Ours

What does this mean for us? Jesus told this story in response to a question from Peter. Jesus had taught his followers to pray “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt.6:12). Jesus said

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Now Peter asked him “How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Mt.18:21).

Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

And then he tells the story of the master who wished to settle accounts with his servants. The story ends this way:

Matthew 18:26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

The servant whose master had completely forgiven the 200,000 year debt now wanted to settle accounts with his fellow servant who owed him 100 days wages in debt. He who had been shown extravagant mercy refused to show mercy to his fellow servant.

Matthew 18:31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

This sounds like God’s forgiveness is conditional. Maybe a better way to say it is that God’s forgiveness is transformational. God’s forgiveness, when received, when truly experienced, will not leave a person unchanged. It will melt a heart of stone. The failure to forgive is simply evidence of a heart that has never truly received God’s forgiveness. If we look back at the servant in the story, we can see indicators of this. When he was pleading with the master, he asked ‘have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ There was a promise to repay. He was not seeking forgiveness, he was seeking an extension on the loan. He wanted more time. He thought he could repay it. When he left the master’s presence, he was still under the weight of the burden of the debt. It seems he still intended to repay it. That would explain his urgency in choking his fellow servant and demanding to be paid. He needed that money to get started paying off his insurmountable debt. To attempt to contribute, even in the smallest way, demonstrates a refusal to receive the gift. It seems he did not understand grace. He remained under law, keeping score, he was still counting. Being truly forgiven, feeling the weight lifted, the debt gone, will stir in us a desire to see that weight lifted for others, to set them free.

David prayed “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps.51:4). All sin is ultimately against God. When Saul was ravaging the church, the voice from heaven said: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When Saul asked ‘who are you Lord?’ “And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5). Has someone sinned against you? That sin too is really a sin against God. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom.12:19). When I am wronged by a fellow servant, the offense is against the Master. The debt is against him. If Jesus paid for that debt in full, I have no right to demand payment also. If Jesus paid for my debt and his, it is outrageous of me to expect to be compensated. The records are not mine to keep.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Love does not brood over injury. Love has been set free, and love delights to see others set free. Have you been hurt? Have you been injured? Have you been wronged? Have you been offended? Has evil been done against you? Who do you need to release from their obligation? Who do you need to forgive, to set free?

When God forgives, we are told, he ‘will remember their sin no more’ (Jer.31:34). Can you let it go? Truly, let it go? Release it? Never come back to it? Never rehearse it? Never remind yourself of it? Never remind anyone else of it? Never bring it up again? If your heart has been transformed by Christ, you can. When it begins to rear its ugly head, bring it back to the cross and nail it there. Reckon that sin to have been paid in full. Look afresh at how God in Christ has freely forgiven you, and allow the forgiveness you have experienced to spill out on those who have wronged you. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

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

January 18, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1; Stand Firm or Surrender?

06/29 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1 Stand Firm or Surrender?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140629_1cor10_30-11_1.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10-11 [SBLGNT]

10:30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10-11 [ESV2011]

10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

We are a the end of 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul is concluding three chapters worth of teaching on idolatry. Chapters 8-10 lay out guidelines for the follower of Jesus in deciding what to eat or drink, especially relating to food sacrificed to idols.

Let me summarize his teaching. First his conclusion, the same as in chapter 6 dealing with sexual immorality: flee from idolatry (10:14). Just as the follower of Jesus is to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, so we are to have nothing at all to do with idolatry. Idolatry of any kind is dangerous and destructive, absolutely incompatible with the Christian life. Then his three guidelines: 1. Do not ever eat in a pagan temple (8:7-13, 10:7, 14-22). 2. Eat everything for sale in the market without asking any questions (10:25). 3. Eat everything served to you at an unbeliever’s house without asking any questions (10:27). But woven under and around and through these guidelines, is this basic principle for every follower of Jesus: do not seek your own, but that of the other (9:15-23, 10:24, 33). He gives some exceptions to the general rules, for instance, when someone informs you that the food being served by an unbelieving friend had been part of a pagan ceremony, then, for the sake of their conscience do not eat (10:28).

It can be very difficult to know how to apply biblical principles. When, for the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, do we stand firm in and insist on our freedoms? When, for the sake of the advance of the gospel and the good of others do we joyfully relinquish our rights? How do we decide when to stand firm and when to surrender? If we were able to watch someone live this out in real life, that would be priceless. Understanding the underlying principles is essential, but seeing those principles lived out and practically applied is extremely helpful. Paul is that for us. He offers himself to us as an example of what the Christian life should look like. He tells us in 11:1 (which should be the last verse of this section), “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Negative Example: Unbelieving Israel

He gave us the negative example of Israel in the wilderness in 10:1-11.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Israelites desired evil. Their desires led them into sin, sins like idolatry, adultery, testing Christ, and even grumbling. Because that generation went astray in their heart, we are told they provoked God, he loathed them, and he destroyed them. Their corpses were strewn in the wilderness. That is a warning to us.

Our actions have consequences. Our actions flow out of our desires. Do not desire evil as they did. Do not follow the example of unbelieving Israel and their self-focused desires. Instead, allow God’s Spirit to so transform your desires that you become an imitator of Christ.

Positive Example: Paul

In contrast to the negative example of unbelieving Israel, Paul invites us to imitate him. Mimic me. Become an imitator of me as I am of Christ. Looking at the example of Paul will help us navigate through the complexities of life as a follower of Jesus.

Stand Fast in Liberty

So, what did Paul’s example look like? There is a time for the follower of Jesus to stand firm in his liberty and fight for his rights. In chapter 9, Paul adamantly defends the right of the one who preaches the gospel to make his living by the gospel. He makes his case from common sense, from logic, and from the Scriptures. But he defends this right in order to say that although it is a legitimate God given right, he is free not to make use of that right for the sake of the advance of the gospel, with the goal of removing obstacles to the gospel.

In chapter 10 he defends the right to eat whatever is sold in the market, to eat whatever is set before you at an unbelievers home, without asking any question on the ground of conscience, because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (10:26). Everything belongs to God, every good thing comes from God, everything is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. He defends his liberty, asking “why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (10:29-30). In eating, in drinking, in everything we are to participate with thankfulness, we are to enjoy God’s good gifts and glorify the giver. There is a time to stand on our liberty and eat and drink to the glory of God. Galatians gives a clear example of Paul insisting on his rights for the glory of God.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. …21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

In Antioch, the issue was an issue of eating and drinking. Should Peter eat with non-Jews or not? Eating with Gentiles would be offensive to those of a Jewish background. For the sake of the Jews who did not understand the freedom that the gospel brings, for the sake of their consciences, should he voluntarily limit his liberties and withdraw? It seems Peter could take Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10 and apply it to this situation.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Peter could argue, ‘I am seeking to give no offense to the Jews. I am not seeking my own advantage. I am trying to please everyone in everything I do.’ But these were not new believers with weak consciences. These were Pharisaic false teachers who secretly slipped in to spy out the liberty we have in Christ Jesus so that they could bring us back into slavery (Gal.2:4). The very good news of salvation by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus alone was at stake. Paul was willing to fight so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for everyone (Gal.2:5). Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles, his choice to limit his liberty and not eat and drink was not in step with the gospel. His actions sent a message that contradicted the message of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. Peter’s actions served to nullify the grace of God and undermine the work of the cross, pointing instead to the necessity of attaining righteousness through the works of the law. Paul says ‘bring out the bacon!’ We will eat and drink to the glory of Christ, who was crucified to set us free from the law! “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal.5:1). There is a time to stand on our liberty and partake with thankfulness and eat and drink to the glory of God.

Paul said ‘become imitators of me, as I am of Christ. We can look beyond Paul to the example of Jesus our King to see when to eat and drink to the glory of God. Jesus said:

Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus our King ate and drank with thanksgiving in his heart to the Father. He was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners.

Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to bring salvation to those who knew they needed it.

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” …9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Sometimes seeking the advantage of the many that they might be saved means insisting on my rights, eating and drinking with, being a friend to those who have none, so that they might understand that the grace of God is extended to them.

As Paul affirms our freedom in Christ in Galatians, he cautions:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh. Through love serve one another. Use your liberty for the good of your neighbor, that they might be saved.

Surrender Your Rights

There is a time, for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the lost, to stand firm in our freedom. There is a time, for the glory of God and the good of the many to surrender our rights. When is it that we joyfully choose not to eat for the good of our neighbor and the glory of Christ? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Back in 1 Corinthians 8 he warned:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

It is never right to insist on my so-called rights and destroy a brother for whom Christ died. Some things we attempt to claim as rights are not rights at all. Participating in idolatry is never a legitimate right for a follower of Jesus.

In chapter 9, Paul addresses legitimate, God given rights. He uses his right to be supported by the churches he serves as an example.

1 Corinthians 9:12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

…15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

In Corinth, where there was an abundance of scholars for hire, where the one who received pay was obligated to the one paying, where status was tied up in how much you were able to pay for the best teacher, Paul refused to make use of his right to be supported because it would put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. He preached the gospel free of charge. He says in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

The advance of the gospel for the glory of God was all important. To see more and more people, poor and rich alike, depend on Jesus alone for rescue and become worshipers of the one true God was the goal.

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

To win souls for Christ is the aim. Serve people to win people. Identify with Jews to win Jews. Identify with Gentiles to win Gentiles. Become weak to win weak. Become all things to all people to save some. Never compromise the gospel. Do everything you do for the sake of the gospel.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Confront Pharisees. Confront religious hypocrites. Confront false teachers who lead others astray, for the glory of God and for the good of many, that they might not be led astray, that they might believe the true gospel and be saved. Give no offense to the lost, Jew or Greek. Give no offense to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not, by insisting on your rights, trip others up. Seek to please everyone in everything. Seek the good, not the temporary fleeting pleasure, but the real lasting eternal pleasure of everyone. Seek their eternal advantage, that they might be saved.

We can follow the example of our Lord Jesus in this.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Jesus was the ultimate example of not pleasing self, but instead passionately pursuing the eternal good of the other. He willingly became “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).

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

We are told in Philippians 2:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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, God from all eternity, stooped down and took on the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. He looked to the interests of others so much that he went to the cross for us.

Eat and drink and do whatever you do for the sake of the gospel, for the good of your neighbor that they might be saved. Eat and drink and do whatever you with thanksgiving in your heart, bringing glory to God. For the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, stand firm in and insist on your freedom. For the sake of the advance of the gospel and the eternal good of others, joyfully relinquish your rights.

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

June 29, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Friday; The Cross as a Mirror

04/18/14 Good FridayAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140418_good-friday.mp3

Good Friday

This is Good Friday. It is the day we celebrate the most horrific atrocity ever carried out on an innocent human being by wicked human beings. Why do we call it good? It is good, because in the infinitely wise purpose of God, it is the only possible way for God to save sinners, and we all are sinners. This is the day we celebrate the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. At the center of the good news stands the cross, without which there would be no truly good news at all. It is so core to the gospel, that Paul summarized his message in 1 Corinthians 1:23 with these words: “we preach Christ crucified.” In verse 18, he refers to the gospel as “the word of the cross.” ‘The cross’ is a kind of shorthand to refer to the gospel, the crucifixion, everything Jesus accomplished there on that bloody piece of wood. Remove the cross from Christianity, and it is a hollow, empty worthless thing, a mere outward form with no real substance, no power.

There are many different angles we can take to view the cross of our Lord Jesus, each of them rich and deep with insight that can nourish our souls. Tonight, I’d like to look at the cross as a mirror. We read in Ephesians 5:2 that:

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If Christ gave himself up for us, if he laid his own life down as an offering, as a sacrifice to God, then he took our place. He took my place. That is how a sacrifice works. Something dies in place of someone else. What he suffered, I deserved. I should have been the one hanging there. Peter says:

1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

Peter goes to great lengths to make it clear to us that it was for no sin of his own that Jesus was crucified. No sin, no deceit, no threats, no slander. He bore our sins.

Who I am

So when I look at the cross, I see myself. I see what I am really like. I look at the horror of the cross, and see what I deserve. When I look around the room, I can see other people that I think are worse than me, who have sinned more grievously than I have, and I can feel good about myself. But when I look at the cross, I see myself as God sees me, in light of his absolute perfection, and I see that I am a proud, arrogant, self-righteous rebel, who thinks much too highly of myself and dishonors and disregards an infinitely good God. I am a thief, who has robbed God of his glory. An adulterer, whose affections have run after things and people when God deserves my undivided affections. A liar, who by my actions and attitudes have misled so many about where true joy and peace and happiness is found. A murderer, who at times has shook his fist toward God, in effect wishing him dead so that I could run the universe the way it ought to be run.

When I look to Jesus, when I see the mockery of justice in repeated trials with false witnesses brought in, I see my own self-righteousness when I make light of my own sin but demand that others be held accountable when they sin against me.

When I see the thirty pieces of silver thrown by Judas into the temple, I see that what I value most is so cheap, temporary and trivial, and I see the infinite wrong of my failure to treat Jesus as infinitely valuable.

When I see his beard ripped out and his face bruised and disfigured with blows, it is my anger, my hatred, my disgust with my fellow man, my gossip, my thoughtless hurtful words, my slander toward another creature made in the image of God.

I see him blindfolded, slapped in the face, and told to prophesy who it was who struck him. That is my doubt, my skepticism, my hard heart of unbelief.

When I see the scourge that plowed furrows in his back and left mangled ribbons of flesh hanging there, that is my greed, my self-centered pride that uses people to get what I want.

When I see the crown of thorns pounded into his skull, those are my evil thoughts, feelings and desires that pierced his brow.

When I see the purple robe placed on his bloody back in mock worship and then ripped from him just as the scabs begin to form, it is the arrogance of my self-love, when I feel I deserve the love and admiration of everyone around me, when I usurp the worship that rightly belongs to him alone.

When I hear the sickening thud of the hammer pounding steel through flesh and into wood, every blow is the pounding of my anger, my lust, my greed, every self-centered action.

When he cries out from the cross ‘I thirst,’ it is because I am too busy to stop and give even a cup of water to the least of these my brothers.

When he cries out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ it is my sin that caused the full fury of the wrath of his Father to be unloaded on him.

As I see the spear plunged up under his rib cage and into his heart, it is my heart of pride and self-righteousness that must be pierced and deflated to make room for the love of God.

When I look to Jesus hanging there on the cross as my substitute, I look in a mirror and see my own heart and what I deserve.

Who God is

But as I look to Jesus on the cross, if I look from a different angle, I begin to see a reflection of who God is. As I see him bearing the punishment for my every sin, I see the absolute righteousness and justice of God, who is too holy to look the other way or let even the slightest offense slide. As I see the horrific nature of the punishment, I begin to understand the awesome power of God and I begin to feel the weight of how serious my offense was against him. When I hear Jesus say ‘no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (Jn.10:17-18), I see that Jesus was my voluntary substitute. No one forced him to do it. As Hebrews tells us, it was ‘for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross’ (Heb.12:2). In the cross I begin to see the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses my comprehension. I see the love of the Father for me, who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all’ (Rom.8:32). I begin to see the overwhelming riches of the mercy of God toward his enemies, as he conquers my hard heart with his love, to turn my heart toward him. I begin to understand the amazing liberality of his grace, lavishing eternal life on everyone who would look to Jesus on the cross and believe.

I would invite each of you tonight to look to the cross, to see yourself for who you really are, to see God for who he really is, to run into his arms and find forgiveness and life and joy and peace. I invite you allow God to love you, to rescue you, to transform you by the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for you.

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

April 18, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Should We Respond To This Jesus? Follow Jesus

12/29/13 Theology of the Incarnation; How Should We Respond to This Jesus?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131229_follow-jesus.mp3

We have spent the last few weeks looking at the theology of the incarnation. Jesus, the eternally existent creative omnipotent sovereign Word of God. The one who always was with his Father and who is himself God, the only God who is at the Father’s side, the one who has come to make God known. This eternal Son, at a point in history became what he was not, he humbled himself by becoming human, being born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect human life, being tempted in every way that we all are, yet without ever sinning. He died a real human death on a Roman cross, and he he rose from the dead and ascended back to the right hand of his Father in his real human body, where he lives forever to make intercession for us. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.

How do we respond to this Jesus? What do we do with him? If we really believe that he is who he claimed to be, we cannot ignore him. We cannot simply go back to life as usual. If Jesus really is God from all eternity come down to be with us, it changes everything! We must think differently, feel differently, believe differently, act differently. Everything must change.

Let’s take some time to evaluate where we are in light of who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish, and move forward eager to have our minds and hearts and lives reshaped by Jesus.

Our Need

One of the first things that Jesus did when he came was to hold up a mirror so that we can see ourselves clearly. Jesus said

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (cf. Matt.9:13; Mk.2:17)

There is none righteous, no not one (Rom.3:10). By Jesus’ perfect sinless life, he intended to show us what perfection looks like, and how far we fall short. As long as we continue under the delusion that we are not really that bad, we will never come to him for rescue. We will never repent, never turn. We desperately need to see what true holiness is, and that our self-righteousness is offensive to the all-holy God. We must confess, which means to agree with him about our sinfulness and need. J.C. Ryle wrote:

The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. God “shines into our hearts” by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor. 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the contemporary church has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.” [J.C.Ryle, Holiness, 1879. p.1]

John introduces Jesus as the light who shines in the darkness (Jn.1:4-5), reminding us that we are those Isaiah spoke of,

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Jesus said:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Not only do we walk in darkness, but we hate the light and choose to remain in the dark, because we love the darkness. Light exposes our wickedness, and we don’t want to be exposed.

John tells us that:

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

And this is speaking of those who were believing in him! Jesus did not entrust himself to people, because we are not to be trusted, we are untrustworthy. Jesus teaches us that we should be suspicious of our own hearts.

Jesus warned against our tendency toward greed.

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He warned of our defection toward short-term pleasure over lasting joy.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Jesus warned against our tendency to seek the praise of men.

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (cf. Jn.12:43)

He questioned our sense of justice.

Matthew 12:7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Jesus confronted our blind hypocrisy.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

And our blatant disobedience.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Jesus told us that we are sick.

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

And lost.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said that we are warped and unbelieving.

Matthew 17:17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

He told his followers after his resurrection.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

So, according to Jesus, we are untrustworthy, greedy, hypocritical, disobedient, lovers of pleasure, lovers of praise, lovers of darkness, with a warped sense of justice, sick, lost, unbelieving, foolish, and slow of heart. To the church Jesus said:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Friends, hear what Jesus has to say about you! Do not be afraid to look in the mirror, feel the gravity of your situation, and then in true desperation cry out to Jesus for rescue!

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1Tim.1:15). Until we recognize the depth of our own sinfulness, we will miss the whole reason for his coming. God came down to show us our need for him. Once we see clearly our own lost condition, we are ready to see and enjoy the overwhelming grace and truth that comes through Jesus Christ.

His Supply

Jesus came down to reveal to us our true needs and to satisfy them fully in himself. Joseph was told by the angel:

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus came to save us from our sins. John the Baptist:

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

Jesus is the one who meets our deepest need; he demonstrated with the woman caught in the act of adultery, with the paralyzed man let down through the roof, with the woman of the city who washed his feet with her tears, that he has authority to forgive sins. By his once for all death on the cross, Jesus satisfied his Father’s wrath against our sins. This is the reason he became human. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

For some of you what we are saying today might be new information. I would invite you to believe, receive, trust this Jesus who is everything we need. But for most of you, I expect this is old news. You’ve heard it all before. I would especially challenge you to listen with fresh ears, to really drink in who Jesus is and let him satisfy and nourish your souls. He is here! Experience his presence. Enjoy him. Let him touch you. Let him serve you today.

Jesus is the one who satisfies our deepest thirst. He said to the woman at the well:

John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus fills our emptiness.

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

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus overcomes our darkness.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is our protection and abundant provision

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus is our absolute security.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

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?”

Jesus grants us access to the Father.

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

Jesus is the true rest for weary souls

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.”

Jesus is the source of our fruitfulness and joy.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. …4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. …11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. …16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Jesus revolutionizes our thinking and worldview.

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Jesus re-shapes what true happiness consists of among his followers. Spirit-poverty, mourning, meekness, longing for righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking, persecution. Joy comes through our connection with Jesus, not from our circumstances. In Jesus, our sins are forgiven, our soul’s hunger and thirst is satisfied, our darkness is overcome, we find in him protection, provision, security, access to the Father, rest for our souls, fruitfulness and real joy. Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundantly.

Our Response

Jesus came to transform everything. He came to rescue and restore how we think, how we feel, how we live. He came so that we can experience real human life as it was meant to be. He came to restore our purpose.

Jesus called some fishermen.

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

We are to follow Jesus. We were created to follow. We were created to live under God’s good rule, to obey. Instead, we rebelled, rejected God’s good rule, and chose to live according to our own twisted desires. We became slaves to sin. A fisherman takes a fish out of its natural element where it will eventually suffocate and become dinner. But as fishers of men, we lure men and women out of the sewage of sin and set them free to live and thrive in their true element, restored to a right relationship with God. Fishermen employ fake lures and deceptive bait. But we are to attract people with the real thing; real life, real light, real joy, real peace, real fruitfulness, real love.

Jesus said that we are to be the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Salt preserves things from spoiling, gives flavor, and makes people thirsty. We are to live in such a way that people become thirsty for God.

Jesus said that we are the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Light is meant to shine out and overcome darkness. The light of our good works is meant to bring glory to God, to attract people to God, to put on display the transformation that only God can produce.

Jesus intends that as we abide in him we will bear good fruit.

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

As we follow Jesus our lives will have a firm foundation.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus came so that we would follow him. Jesus came so that our lives would reflect his life. This is a life of wisdom. This is a life founded on the Rock of Jesus. Listen to how he describes it:

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. ….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. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

While we were his enemies, Jesus loved us. Jesus extended mercy to sinners who rightly deserved the fury of his wrath. Jesus accepted undeserved abuse. Jesus freely gave us the greatest gift at great cost to himself, expecting nothing in return. Instead of condemning us, Jesus came to rescue us, to forgive our sins, and to transform us.

As we look to Jesus, as we see Jesus for who he is, allow him to reveal the sin in your heart, let him apply the cure and satisfy your soul, and allow him to totally transform how you think, how you feel, how you live.

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

December 29, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20130630; The Awesome Power of God

06/30/2013 The Awesome Power of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130630_power-of-god.mp3

We are going to talk about power today. I want to look at the most awesome display of God’s power that exists anywhere in the universe. Where we find the power of God in its greatest concentration might surprise you. We might immediately be drawn to ponder the unfathomable reaches of the galaxies and the delicate complexities of this creation. And that is truly awesome power. The Psalms tell us:

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

The heavens and all their hosts, the universe, every planet, every star, every galaxy, every supernova created out of nothing by his word, whispered into existence. Every sea creature, every mammal, every bird, every insect, every reptile, every amphibian, every plant, land and sea, earth and sky, light and darkness, every color, every sound, every molecule ‘he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm’ (Psalm 33:9)

Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Every solar system, every orbit of every celestial body, every digestive system, every circulatory and respiratory system of every living thing, every proton, every neutron, every electron of every atom, Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. That is awesome power.

Colossians 1:16 says about Jesus:

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

All the cherubim, all the flaming seraphim, every archangel, every ministering spirit was created by Jesus and for Jesus. That is awesome power.

As mind blowing as this kind of star-breathing, universe-creating, solar system-spinning, life giving power is, this is not where we find the greatest demonstration of the power of God. According to the united testimony of God’s inspired word, the power of God is most magnificently put on display in one specific way. Many things are said to demonstrate the power of God or to be accomplished by the power of God, but only one thing is said to be the power of God.

The Gospel Is the Power of God

Paul begins his letter to the Romans with this declaration:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The gospel is the power of God. In 1 Corinthians, he says that:

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of the cross is the power of God. The word of the cross is the gospel, or good news Paul preached, as he makes clear in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The good news, or gospel is Jesus Christ and him crucified. The gospel is centered on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, so much so that he is declared to be the good news. Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. The word of the cross is the power of God. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Easier to Punish than to Cover

Nothing is to hard for the Lord. The stars and galaxies and life and breath and everything were breathed out by God, simply spoken into existence by the word of his power. But when God made man, it describes him as it were getting his hands dirty, stooping down to form humankind out of dirt, and breathing into him life. We rebelled against God, directly violating the one command he gave us, distrusting his goodness and truthfulness, disowning his authority. God would have been just to instantly put an end to the rebellion and crush his disobedient creation. It would have been easy for God to exact punishment from sinners. Indeed, one day we are told that the Lord Jesus will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2Thess.1:7-8). He will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming (2Thess.2:8). But although the wages of sin is death, God did not immediately strike them dead. God extended mercy and covered their sin, even promising that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord, but I imagine it would have been much easier to simply punish sin than to cover it. To cover sin meant that one day there would have to be an ultimate sacrifice that would demonstrate the justice of God. This was the much more difficult, the much more costly solution. The Lord himself, the second person of the triune God, the infinite Son of God would have to take on flesh, to become human, in order to bear in his body our sin, so that God might be just and the justifier of sinners who have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.3:26). The gospel, the good news, Jesus Christ crucified is the power of God. There is no greater demonstration, no greater concentration of the power of God than that which is unleashed in the gospel.

If you think of a number line, it is not as great an advance on the line to make something from nothing, nor is it as great an advance to take something negative and make it nothing, but it is twice the distance to take something negative and make it positive. God created everything out of nothing, and said that it was very good. We took what God made good and made it worse than nothing; we rebelled against him and brought evil and death into his perfect world. God easily could have zeroed out the equation and started over. God’s power in judgment will be terrifyingly awesome, and it is an awesome thing to create life out of nothing, but it is unfathomably greater to take rotting, stinking, decaying, putrefying dead flesh and bring life and healing and wholeness to it. Ephesians 2 says this:

Ephesians 2:3 we … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:13 puts it this way:

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

An Unstoppable Power

Look earlier in Colossians chapter 1 to see how great this power of the gospel is.

Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

Notice that the gospel seems to have a power of its own. The gospel has come to you. He goes on to say that you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant and faithful minister, but the gospel came. It seems that it would have come with or without Epaphras. The word of truth, the gospel has come to you, and the gospel is coming to the whole world. The gospel, the power of God is advancing. And the gospel is bearing fruit and increasing. The gospel is bearing fruit, the fruit of faith and love and hope. The power of God is producing your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, and the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Good News for Believers

Take note, this is not just the fruit of new conversions. It is that, but it is more than that. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced by the power of the gospel at work in the believer. We often act as though the gospel is good news for lost people to get them found, for sinners to get them forgiven, for unbelievers to make them believers. That is true! It is the best news a sinner could ever hear. But it doesn’t stop there. The good news is good news for believers too.

When is the last time you preached the gospel to a believer? When is the last time you preached the gospel to yourself? Did you realize that every letter in the New Testament is addressed to a church, a group of churches, or an individual believer? The entire book of Romans is Paul preaching the gospel to the saints in Rome. We could say that this was to equip them to be better prepared to preach the gospel to unbelievers, but I think it runs deeper than that. The gospel is the power of God for the transformation of believers.

Not Either / Or

In no way do I want to undermine or downplay the necessity of preaching the gospel to unbelievers. Quite the opposite; I think that if we got in the habit of preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, moment by moment, if we made a practice of preaching the gospel to one another in order to truly minister to each others needs, the gospel would become so much a part of us that it would naturally overflow out of us to others.

I think one of the great fears that prevents Christians from engaging in evangelism is that we don’t feel that we know the gospel ourselves well enough, or we are not convinced in our own souls that it is really good news. If we enjoy the gospel ourselves and see the gospel transforming our own hearts and the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only will we be more confident to proclaim this good message to others, that message will be undeniably backed by our own experience and will be more irrefutably compelling to unbelievers.

Evangelizing the Saints

In our time remaining, I’d like to evangelize you, my brothers and sisters, and any unbelievers who are with us today. I invite you to take a deep breath and let your souls marinate in gospel truth this morning, and allow the gospel to penetrate into the deepest recesses of your heart with its healing transforming power.

The Diagnosis

At the very beginning of the gospel we need to accurately diagnose our own condition, in order to be able to rightly administer the cure. As we saw in Ephesians, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, by nature children of wrath, enemies of God, fully deserving the flaming fury and vengeance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2 goes on to describe us as separated from Christ, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God. Romans 5 describes us as weak or helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies, and under God’s wrath (v.6-10). Until I feel the weight of my sins, until I own this as my condition, I am not ready or willing to submit to the cure.

The Cure

The cure for my rebellion and my sin is execution. How do you like it when the doctor says that? ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23) and ‘the soul who sins shall die’ (Ezek.18:4,20).

Substitution

The staggering good news is that ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Is.53:6).

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

God the Father made his only Son, his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased to be sin for us.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Friend, do you realize that every sin you will ever commit was on Jesus when he was crucified for you?

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(Horatio G. Spafford, 1873)

Propitiation, Redemption, Justification

We should have been the just recipients of God’s righteous wrath, but ‘it pleased the Lord to crush him’ (Is.53:10); ‘he was crushed for our iniquities’ (Is.53:5).

Romans 3:24 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. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Propitiation is the appeasing of God’s wrath against our sin by the blood of Jesus. Redemption is the purchase price that God paid to make us his own. Justification is the legal declaration of righteousness, given as a gift to sinners.

This is the overwhelming power of the gospel. A holy, righteous and just God no longer views you as a sinner. ‘The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1Jn.1:7). No matter what you have ever done, if you are trusting in Jesus, God sees you as perfectly clean. He promises to ‘blot out your transgressions’ and ‘remember your sins no more’ (Is.43:25; Jer.31:34; Heb.8:12; 10:17)

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So many Christians live under the burden of the weight of guilt for our sins. We feel shame and failure so we shrink from God in fear. This is unbelief in the gospel. There is now no condemnation! God has blotted out that transgression with the blood of Jesus. He promises to remember it no more! The guilt for every sin is gone! Of course you don’t deserve it – it is grace, an unmerited, undeserved gift. Lift up your head and enjoy the gospel reality that there is now no condemnation. If you are justified, then you will never be held accountable for any sin you ever commit. If God is propitiated, his wrath against you is completely gone and only his love and affection remains for you.

The heart of the Father toward you is that he sees you a long way off, runs to you, embraces you with his love, interrupts your confession, covers you with his best robe, trusts you with his authority, and prepares a celebration in your honor (Lk.15:11-24)

Grace Unmerited Unearned

If the gospel comes to us by God’s grace, and we did nothing ever to earn any part of it, if it is truly ‘not your own doing …not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph.2:8-9), then God’s love for us is in no way connected or related to our performance. We cannot forfeit his love for us because we feel like we have failed him, and we cannot earn more of his love when we feel we are doing well. He loved us so much that he gave us his Son when we were still his enemies.

The Keeping Power of the Gospel

Since the gospel is God’s work and not mine, I cannot ever de-rail God’s purpose to save me. Jesus said ‘whoever comes to me I will never cast out …and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day’ (Jn.6:37, 39). Jesus said ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (Jn.10:28). God, through the power of his gospel is ‘able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy’ (Jude 24). I can rest confident that although I am often faithless, he will remain faithful (2Tim.2:13).

Transforming Power

We are only scratching the surface of the power of God revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. Do you begin to see how this good news is the power of God in your life to transform you, to produce in you fruit like love and joy and peace? Do you see how this can create in you patience and faithfulness and gentleness, goodness, kindness and self-control? Enjoy God’s power in the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself daily, saturate your soul in the gospel, renew your mind with the gospel. Minister the gospel to your brothers and sisters in Christ who desperately need to be reminded of the riches we have in Christ Jesus, to be reminded ‘what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph.3:18-19). Preach the gospel to those who have not yet believed the gospel so that the power of this good news can open their eyes to the reality of Jesus.

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

June 30, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:5-7; God Preaching God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120923_exodus34_5-7.mp3

09/23 Exodus 34:5-7 God Preaching God

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

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

This is one of the most amazing passages in the whole bible. It’s awesome to hear good solid biblical Spirit filled preachers preach on the nature of God. It will feed your soul to read the writings of the saints of the past who have had pursued the face of God and mined the depths of the truth of scripture about who God is and written it down for our learning. But in this passage God himself preaches on God. God self-discloses his own character and nature. God tells us in first person what he himself is like.

This morning, I want to zoom into the details of this passage to see what the words mean, to see what God wants to communicate to us about himself, and then we will step back and take in the panorama of riches of God’s character in the context of where this falls here in chapter 34 of the book of Exodus.

Hunger for God

First, I want to note that Moses was seeking this revelation of God. Moses was asking God for confirmation that his presence would be with them. Moses asked God ‘please show me your glory’. Moses longed to know God better. Moses, who had already spent 40 days in the glory cloud in the presence of the Lord, Moses, to whom God spoke as it were ‘face to face, as a man speaks with his friend,’ was hungry for more of God. He had tasted of the goodness of the Lord, and he wanted more. Listen to how the Psalmist speaks of this hunger for God.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 34:10 … those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 84:10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Psalm 105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 143:6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

This is the promise and hope of every believer

2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

We look forward to being in his presence with joy. Jesus said

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

And missing out on the presence of God is the definition of hell.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Do you have this hunger for the presence of God, for a deeper intimacy with God, for a greater understanding and love of his character and nature? Many people want to go to heaven, the place with the perks and privileges, but few are in love with the person. So many would be content to go to the place without the presence. What if we find ourselves in that situation? What if we we know we ought to have a greater hunger for God, but we just don’t see it in our lives? What if we want to want God more, but it’s just not there? What can we do? I think this passage has the solution. If a person is worthy of affection, our affections will naturally grow as we get to know them better. So as we look to God’s word and take time to admire his character and nature, we will naturally grow in our affections for him, because he is the most worthy of all our affections; even our worship. This proved true for Moses, the more time he spent in the presence of God, the more his appetite for God increased. May God increase our appetite for him today as we spend time getting to know him.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

The LORD descended. For God to reveal himself to a human being by definition requires him to stoop down. God is beyond what we finite beings could ever comprehend. Even to use human language to attempt to describe him is him coming down to communicate on our level.

Here we see the content of the revelation, and it is not visual but verbal. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God descended in the glory cloud, obscuring any sight. He spoke. He proclaimed the name of YHWH. To share your name is to share a personal part of you. Your name conveys your reputation, your character, what you are like. When we were contemplating names for our children, there were certain names that we eliminated right away, because we had known someone by that name. A name would trigger a whole recollection of what that person was like. That is why God can show Moses his glory by telling him his name or his character. God is proclaiming or preaching, calling out, declaring who he is.

YHWH YHWH (יְהוֹוָה)

He starts by proclaiming his name YHWH or the LORD. Twice. In the Hebrew culture, repetition can communicate emphasis or endearment. To call someone’s name twice ‘Martha, Martha’ (Lk.10:41) was a way of saying ‘oh, sweet Martha’. If that is the meaning here, then this is the only place where a person describes himself with an endearing term. But it would be fully appropriate for God to say that he loves himself. He must think more highly of himself than anyone else, because it would be idolatry for him to think of anyone else more highly than himself. This could also be a duplication for emphasis. When Jesus taught and said ‘truly, truly, I say to you’, he was saying ‘this is not just truth, this is the truest truth you’ve ever heard’. In that culture and language it was a way of adding emphasis. If we like something a lot we might say it is ‘awesome’. But if we really really like it, we might say it is ‘so totally awesome!’ God revealed his name YHWH to Moses back in chapter 3, where he said ‘I AM WHO I AM …tell them I AM has sent you’ (Ex.3:14). God is the self-existent one, the one who is independent of anything outside of himself. He simply IS. He is saying ‘I am the self-existent one; I am so totally self-existent. I am free, I am sovereign. I do not depend on anyone or anything outside of myself. I exist. I AM!

God (אֵל‘el )

The word translated ‘God’ here is the Hebrew word ‘El’. This is the generic word for God. It serves as the prefix of many of the names of God. It speaks of strength or might. He is the Mighty One. The rest of the words in these verses describe what kind of God we are talking about, characteristics that set the one true God apart from every false god.

Merciful (רַחוּםrachuwm)

The first characteristic God uses to describe himself is ‘merciful’. This word describes one who shows compassion or pity. In a wartime setting, mercy is something that is shown to those who are helpless, like infants, orphans, or widows (Is.9:17; 13:18). From God’s perspective, mercy is what sinners need. Justice demands that sins be punished, but in mercy, God’s heart goes out to our desperate helpless condition and extends his help. This means that for us to experience God’s mercy, we need to acknowledge that we are desperate, helpless, and pitiful. Nowhere in the bible do we find it taught that ‘God helps those who help themselves’. Instead, the bible says that ‘while we were still weak, …while we were still sinners, …while we were enemies, …Christ died for the ungodly (Rom.5:6-10). Jesus, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt.9:36). Mercy is extended to those who are pitiful and helpless.

God said just a few verses ago (33:19) that he is free to show mercy to whomever he will show mercy to. He is not obligated to show mercy. We are not entitled to his mercy. But we can ask for his mercy. We can cry out for his mercy. We can wait for his mercy, and we can have confidence, because he is a merciful God. According to Jesus, God responds to those who cry out ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Lk.18:13)

Gracious (חַנּוּןchannuwn )

The second characteristic God uses to describe himself is ‘gracious’. This word has much overlap in meaning with the previous word ‘merciful’. ‘Gracious’ describes one who grants a favor, and it is a favor that is not earned or deserved. God is free to extend his favor to whomever he chooses, as he made clear in the previous verses. God has a heart of generosity to those in need. He gives beyond what could be expected. This is the good news, the gospel of the grace of God (Ac.20:24)

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

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God freely gives his favor to the needy.

Slow To Anger (אָרֵך ‘arek; אַף‘aph; lit. long of nose)

The next phrase is a very interesting one. The words translated ‘slow to anger’ are two words that translated literally mean ‘long of nose’. This is an idiom that pictures the nostrils flaring or snorting in anger. To be long of nose means that it takes a long time before he shows any signs of anger. We may speak of someone who has a long fuse – when the fuse is ignited, it takes a long time before they blow up on you. God here claims to be slow to anger. This assumes that there is a legitimate reason for him to be angry. He has been provoked. But he is not quick to wrath. This also assumes that when he is justly angered with sin, in time he will let loose his wrath. But his tendency is to postpone judgment for as long as possible, giving room for us to repent and experience his grace and mercy.

Abounding in Steadfast Love (רַב rab) (חֵסֵד checed)

The next phrase God uses to describe himself is ‘abounding in steadfast love’. Steadfast love carries the idea of covenant love and loyalty. God has entered into a covenant relationship with his people. God is true to his word. He has promised to show love toward his people, or to act for their good. He will be relentlessly loyal to that covenant. This is in contrast to our fickleness and unfaithfulness. God does not merely claim to be loving; he says that he abounds in steadfast love. This quantifies his love; it is limitless. He will never run out. There is abundant supply. He is overflowing in his committed love toward his people.

(Abounding in) Faithfulness (אֶמֶת’emeth)

God is abounding in steadfast love and he is abounding in faithfulness. This word means firmness, certainty, stability, trustworthiness, dependability, or truth. What God says is always true but this runs even deeper. Who God is is truth, his character is truth. He is trustworthy. He can be depended on. He is stable and sure. He overflows with truth.

Keeping (נָצַרnatsar) Steadfast Love for Thousands

God declares that he keeps steadfast love to thousands. God guards, protects and maintains his covenant loyalty, and this steadfast love will extend to thousands of generations. This is the greatest numerical contrast in the bible, contrasting the thousands of generations to whom he maintains steadfast love with the third and fourth generation on whom he will visit iniquity. God is faithful to love, and he is faithful to maintain his love.

Forgiving Iniquity and Transgression and Sin

God is a God who forgives. To forgive means to bear, to carry off or take away. This is a comprehensive categorical list to make it clear that nothing is left out or overlooked. Iniquity is perversity or moral wickedness. Transgression is revolt or rebellion against God’s standards. Sin, broadly is any offense against God. Because God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, and because we are wicked rebellious sinners, he is a God who carries away our sin. Remember, this is not a list of things God does; this is a description of who he is. It is in his very nature to forgive.

but who will by no means clear the guilty…

Yet, in the same breath, this forgiving God declares that he is just. He will my no means clear the guilty. He will punish evildoers. And when children follow in their father’s sinful footsteps, he will punish them too. This forgiving gracious merciful patient God takes sin seriously, and takes justice seriously. No one can say ‘well, because God is gracious and merciful and forgiving, then I will continue in sin so that his grace may abound (Rom.6). May it never be! God is slow to anger to give opportunity to repent and cry out to find his mercy and grace. How God can be both forgiving and just, not clearing the guilty, is a dilemma that is only resolved at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where he became sin for us, and imputes to us his righteousness (2Cor.5:21).

The Big Picture

Now let’s step back as we conclude and look at God’s declaration of who he is in the context of the book of Exodus. God’s people had been slaves for 400 years. They cried out for help and he listened. He saved them. He demonstrated his superiority over every false god. He conquered their enemies and set them free. He supernaturally sustained them in the wilderness. He patiently put up with their rotten attitudes. He fulfilled his promises and brought them to a place where he would enter into covenant relationship with them, to take them as his people and to be their God. He outlined the terms of this relationship, and they agreed. He etched the terms of this agreement in stone so they would be remembered. But while he was writing, they forsook their covenant commitment to be faithful only to him and prostituted themselves with other gods. They made and worshiped an idol and provoked him to jealousy. God threatened to divorce and abandon his people because of their sin. But Moses interceded for them. He begged God to take them back as his people and be with them. This is God’s answer to Moses’ prayer. ‘You have found grace in my sight. I will go with you. I know you by name. I am in no way obligated to you; I am free to extend my grace and mercy to whomever I please. This is my nature; I am YHWH, the Self-Existent One, a God who shows pity to helpless sinners, a God who generously pours out favor on those who don’t deserve it, a God who does not unleash his wrath against sin quickly, but leaves room for repentance, a God overflowing in faithful covenant keeping love, even when you have violated the covenant, a God overflowing in trustworthiness, even when you are fickle and faithless, a God who maintains his covenant keeping love for thousands of generations, a God who carries away all kinds of sin, a God who is just and holds unrepentant sinners accountable. This is who I AM. 

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

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:15-29; Wages of Sin and the Mercy of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120722_exodus32_15-29.mp3

07/22 Exodus 32:15-29 The Wages of Sin

We pick up the narrative of the covenant treason of God’s people in Exodus 32:15. God had spoken to the people, and they had vowed ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (19:8; 24:3, 7). The leadership of Israel ate a covenant meal in the presence of God, and then Moses was called up to receive God’s instruction.

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

Moses has been up on mount Sinai for 40 days, receiving God’s instructions for life in his community, and instructions for building a tent where God would dwell with his people, chapters 25-31 of Exodus.

The Greatest Treasure

Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

These were two duplicate copies, permanent reminders of the terms of this covenant agreement. When a covenant was made between a conquering king and his subjects, two duplicate copies of the covenant would be made. The king would be given a copy of the agreement, and a copy would be given to his subjects. Because God is going to pitch his tent with his people, both copies would be kept in his tent. These were the most precious artifacts in existence; that the God of the universe would bind himself in covenant agreement with a people, and that he would personally etch the terms of the agreement into stone is an unspeakable treasure. These tablets of stone were the embodiment of the relationship between God and his people. This sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Joshua’s Misunderstanding

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.”

Remember, Joshua had accompanied Moses partway up the mountain after the covenant meal in chapter 24; Joshua was the military commander in the battle with Amalek and his people from chapter 17. Joshua, familiar with battle, hears the sound of war – adrenalin filled shouts of warriors in triumph; horrified screams of women and children; desperate cries of panic and pain; clash of sword and shield. Joshua fears that the Israelites are under attack, and they are, but the enemy is not a physical foe.

Moses had been told by God what is going on in the camp.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

Moses, having been told by God what is happening, responds to Joshua; this is not the joyous singing of victory; nor is it the lamentable singing of defeat, but the sound of singing. This reminds us of the song Moses in chapter 15 after the display of God’s power at the Red Sea. There they sang the triumph of YHWH who had conquered his enemies. There is nothing inherently wrong with singing – it was an expression of worship to God, but now their singing is directed toward the wrong object; a false god, an idol that did not save them. They turned from worshiping God to worshiping the works of their own hands.

His Anger Burned Hot

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

We are told that ‘Moses’ anger burned hot’. We think of anger as sin, and it often is that. We might read this episode as a temper tantrum where Moses lost control and acted irrationally. But anger is not always sin.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

This verse tells us that it can be right to be angry. But we must be on guard that our anger not lead to sinful attitudes or actions. Jesus was angry. Passionate zeal for the house of the Lord consumed Jesus (Jn.2:14-17) and he drove people out of the temple courts with a whip. That was not a sinful act that Jesus did. This exact phrase ‘anger burned hot’ is found over 50 times in the Old Testament, and in the majority of them, God is the one who is angry. This is not a lost temper but the righteous response to sin. Moses is reflecting God’s own character here. His action was not a spontaneous outburst of misdirected emotion, but a passionate acting out of what had already happened. God had entered into a covenant relationship with his people, given the gift of himself to his people. This – a relationship with the living God – is the greatest treasure a person could possess. This greatest treasure had been trampled and treated as worthless. It had been shattered, and now the formal documentation of the relationship was destroyed as a demonstration that the relationship had been destroyed. We are at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been taken, the groom has turned with the minister to sign the wedding certificate, and behind them they hear the sounds of the bride giving herself to one of the guests. No wonder the minister turns and rips the wedding certificate to shreds.

Now that the covenant document is destroyed, a graphic illustration of what the people have done by their actions, Moses as God’s representative begins to clean up the mess. He deals with the idol, he deals with the leader he left in charge, and he deals with the people who have brought dishonor on God’s reputation.

Desecrating the Idol

What Moses does with their idol is to permanently and completely desecrate it so that it can never again become an object of worship. He is demonstrating in an unforgettable way that this so-called god is no god at all. The people directed their worship toward this image saying ‘these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt’ (32:8). Moses is showing that this so-called god cannot even save itself. He burns it with fire, he pulverizes it to powder, and he scatters it in the water supply of the camp of Israel, so that anything that is left of this false god is ingested, digested and passed out in a pile of excrement. There will be no recovery of this idol. The people had worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and in this way Moses demonstrates just how unworthy this inanimate idol was of their worship.

A Leader Rebuked

Moses now addresses his older brother Aaron. Back in chapter 24, before Moses and Joshua ascended the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, Moses charged the leaders of Israel to wait for his return and he appointed Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he was away. Now he is calling Aaron to give an account of himself.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

The language Moses employs here is strong. The words translated ‘great sin’ can be used to describe the sin of adultery or marital unfaithfulness (Gen.20:9). The people have broken their covenant relationship with God. They have been unfaithful. They have turned from their vows and committed spiritual adultery with an idol. And Moses is holding the leader he left in charge responsible for bringing this great sin upon them.

Excuses

22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The excuses of Aaron remind us of the garden of Eden. This is a great example of how not to confess your sin. Fingers are pointing in every direction. There is no honest taking of responsibility or open confession of wrong done. Aaron first asks Moses not to be angry. Ultimately, he is asking Moses not to be righteous. He is asking that Moses let this sin slide and not be zealous for the reputation of the LORD. This is something a true leader cannot do. Then he shifts blame to the people and appeals to Moses’ prior experience with the people. ‘You know the people, that they are set on evil.’ For a leader to know this should stir him to be all the more vigilant and stand for truth and intercede for them, not cave in and give them what they want and then shift the blame on them. Aaron then repeats to Moses what the people said to him at the beginning of chapter 32, implying that it was Moses’ own fault for not coming back sooner. But his description of how the calf came to be; ‘I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf’ is a less than truthful account of his ‘receiving the gold from their hand, fashioning it with a graving tool, and making a golden calf’ (32:4). Moses doesn’t even honor these excuses with a response.

Consequences of Sin

Moses takes decisive action to put a stop to the situation.

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

This is a grisly, bloody scene. When we read this, we tend to be more shocked at the cure than the disease. If so, we fail to see the seriousness of sin. The people had broken loose. They were out of control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God is a God of order and design. This chaos in the camp of God’s people opened them up to the whispers of their enemies. ‘So this is how God’s chosen people act?!’ Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations by pointing them to the truth about God. They were to be an example to everyone of what life lived in relationship with God should look like, and they were to invite others in to that relationship. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was designed to put the glory of God on display for the world to see (14:17-18). Here, they are failing miserably at their calling, and opening God’s name to reproach and dishonor among the nations. They sinned by falling short of giving to God the glory that is his due, and the wages of sin is death.

Evidence of Mercy

This passage, seen in its proper perspective, is a loud testimony to the far reaching mercy of God. Remember, God told Moses to stand aside so that he could wipe out every last one of the Israelites and start fresh with Moses. That would have been righteous. They deserved it. But Moses interceded, and now only 3,000 died. That sounds like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. In Numbers 1:46 we are told the able bodied males 20 years old and up were numbered at 603,550 men, and that does not include the tribe of Levi. The 3,000 who died was less than half of one percent of the able bodied males from the other 11 tribes; only one out of every 200 men, and they all deserved to die. This is astounding mercy of God. To put this in perspective for us today, in the overall U.S. population, one out of every 2 males risk developing some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 males risk dying from cancer. Here in Exodus, one out of 200 die. We are not told how the Levites knew who deserved to die, but in a similar event in Numbers 25, it was those that were blatantly unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry and immorality. They were to show no favoritism, not to brother, son, friend or neighbor. They were to show a passion for the glory of God that ran deeper than the closest human bonds. Jesus requires this kind of allegiance from his followers too. He said

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus demands that our love for him take priority over every other relationship. We must be zealous for the glory of Jesus, not by taking up the sword to kill, but by a willingness to even lay down our own lives for the glory of God.

More Evidence of Mercy

One thing to note that the text does not say; the text does not say that the Levites were more righteous than the rest. It does not say that they had not been involved in the idolatry. We are told that all the people, including the Levites were involved to one degree or another in the sin and were guilty. But there was an opportunity to repent. Moses asked ‘who is on the LORD’s side?’ The Levites turned from their wicked ways and responded to the invitation. And they were blessed by the Lord. This is the good news, that sinners who deserve to die are spared by the mercy of God and invited to turn back to God and actually be used in his service. Aaron himself, who was left in charge, the one whose idea it was to collect earrings and make an idol, the one who actually formed the idol, the one who shifted blame and made excuses, this Aaron, in chapter 39 is clothed in the garments of the high priest, and wears on his head the inscription ‘holy to the LORD’. That is amazing grace and undeserved kindness!

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God, you said in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

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

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:1-10; Covenant Treason

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120708_exodus32_1-10.mp3

07/08 Exodus 32:1-10 Covenant Treason

We come now to a terrifying, terrible and tragic portion of Exodus. If it were possible, we could delete chapters 32, 33, and 34 from the book of Exodus, the book would still make perfect sense and flow quite nicely. As we have been studying chapters 25-31, God’s instructions for building a tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people, a central place for worship, we have also looked at chapters 35-39, which mirror the earlier chapters and record quite repetitiously the careful exact obedience of God’s people in following his instructions down to every detail. The structure of God’s commands and the people’s fulfillment of God’s commands are roughly parallel, with the command section concluding and then the fulfillment section beginning with God’s requirement to rest. But if these chapters were missing it would change the whole tone of the book. We could look at God’s instructions and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, they performed God’s instructions so carefully and precisely, displaying flawless obedience.’ But with these chapters in place, our response is much different. We look God’s command and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, God is truly merciful and gracious, generous to forgive, patient and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, faithful to his promises, able to conquer hard rebellious hearts and use flawed fallen people for his glory.’

You see, chapters 32-34 record the covenant treason of God’s chosen people. God had rescued them from slavery so that they would be a people who would worship him exclusively. He saved them when they had no hope. He conquered their enemies. He provided for their needs. He spoke to them audibly from the mountain and entered into a covenant agreement with them, and they promised ‘everything that the LORD has said we will do’ (19:8). They requested that Moses act as a buffer between them and God, because they were terrified at God’s presence. And for the next 40 days, from 19:21 to the end of chapter 31, Moses is up the mountain, in the presence of God, receiving God’s instructions on what life lived in relationship with a holy God should look like, and instructions for the tent where God would dwell with his covenant people.

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

Then chapter 32 switches settings, kind of a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch…’

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

A few comments about the text here. When it says that ‘the people gathered together to Aaron’ the language used is not that of a friendly gathering. Maybe we could translate it ‘the people ganged up on Aaron’. This was a hostile gathering. They were threatening, making demands, and not in polite terms. They said ‘up, make us gods who shall go before us’ – not exactly a polite way to address the one who was left in charge. This was not a request; it was a demand. And the way they refer to ‘this Moses’ is less that courteous as well. ‘As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt’ whoa! Moses the man brought you up out of Egypt? If I remember correctly, God takes credit for the exodus. In 3:8 he says ‘I have come down to deliver them’; in 3:17 he said ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt’; in 13:8 they are to teach their children ‘it is because of what the LORD did for me’; in 14:30 it says ‘thus the LORD saved Israel that day’; in 15:1 the people ‘sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously’; at the beginning of God’s ten words, he reiterates ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’ (20:2). So quickly they forget that not long ago they were groaning and crying out because of their cruel slavery. Now they seem to want to go back. This rings back to Exodus 14, where they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?

Or chapters 16 and 17, where they were hungry and thirsty.

Exodus 16:3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Here again their tone is discontent. They are not satisfied with where God has them. We don’t know what has happened to ‘that guy’. Stephen, recounting this event in Acts 7

Acts 7:39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

In their hearts they turned to Egypt. They thrust Moses aside. Now let’s think this through. The people cried out because of their slavery and God saved them. He brought them safely to the foot of Mount Sinai and spoke to them audibly there. They had heard God’s ten words to them, words that began this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

They responded by saying ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Ex.19:8; 24:3, 7). But they were terrified and pleaded that Moses go between and tell them what God said because they couldn’t endure hearing God’s voice directly again. Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed, they said ‘as for this Moses …we do not know what has become of him. From the people’s perspective, Moses was delaying. But we hear God’s perspective in verse 8; ‘they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them’. From Exodus 24:18, we learn that Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. That’s just shy of six weeks. Let’s put that time period in perspective. It was about seven weeks or 50 days from their exodus out of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. A lot can happen in six or seven weeks. But think of this; they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. It had been some 700 years since God had first promised to Abraham that he would bless the world through his descendants. Now God had shown up in power and glory and they had entered into a covenant with God. We are told at the beginning of this narrative:

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

So there is a visible manifestation of God’s glory on the mountain during these 40 days of waiting, and still the people turn their backs on God and worship the work of their hands. Consider another time comparison.

Genesis 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” …20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Imagine this. Your prince charming comes, sweeps you off your feet, gets down on one knee and asks ‘will you marry me?’ to which you reply ‘yes, I will’. He says ‘wait for me’ and rides off on his white horse to make preparations for the wedding day. Forty days later he returns, only to find you shacked up with the loathsome lug from the other side of town. You broke your promise, you violated your covenant, you couldn’t endure a forty day engagement! God is making preparations to dwell with his people and they eagerly turn and break his first two commands and prostitute themselves with other gods.

This reads like a replay of another event much earlier. God had fashioned and formed the first beautiful place where he intended to enjoy fellowship with his creation. He had communicated clearly his requirements for their obedience. And it seems before you could turn around, they were questioning the goodness of God, doubting the truth of God, impatient and dissatisfied with all the good God had lavishly poured out on them, bowing to the serpent, eating the fruit.

Romans chapter 1 reads like a play by play on the golden calf event.

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 reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They knew the only invisible God, but they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the image of a bull. The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. We need to take God’s diagnosis seriously. He disowns them.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. They had taken an offering, used their skill in working gold, they had made an altar, they proclaimed a feast day, they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are all things that God had given them to do in relationship with him. But now they are using all these things to worship an image, the works of their hands. God says ‘they have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside. They have worshiped and sacrificed to a false God. God says they are a stiff-necked people. And he says they deserve death. ‘Let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you’. God sees their response to his kindness and grace, and he is ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is not an account of God throwing a divine temper tantrum. They deserve it! They had experienced more direct supernatural revelation of God than any other generation. They watched the ten plagues bring the mighty nation of Egypt to its knees. They walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They ate bread from heaven. They were overshadowed by the pillar of cloud and fire. They drank the living water that poured out of a rock. They heard the voice of God thunder his truth from the mountain. They felt the earth shake at his words. They had promised that everything he had said they would do. And now, a mere 40 days later, they are out of control in worship of an idol that they have made. God would be more than just to wipe them out and start over. In the days of Noah, God regretted making man because of their wickedness and rebellion against him (Gen.6:5-7), and he chose to blot them off the face of the land that he made and start over with Noah. He was right to do so, and he would be justified to do it again here with the exodus generation. The amazing thing, the stunning thing in this story, the astounding shocking staggering unexpected surprise ending to this event is that it is followed by five chapters that describe in detail the careful obedience of the people to build what God had commanded and then God himself comes in his glory to live in the midst of this people! These people shouldn’t exist! They don’t deserve to live! What great mercy is this, what long-suffering, what patience and overwhelming undeserved love extended to the most ungrateful unworthy wretches that have ever tainted this planet. And we can see so much of ourselves in these people. We are impatient, dissatisfied, ungrateful, unfaithful, quick to turn aside from following our great God. We have received great grace. We have been shown much light. And we deserve his wrath.

This is the good news – that this is the kind of God we worship; a God who is just to punish us because we deserve it, yet a God who so loves wretches like us, that he gave his only Son Jesus to bear in his body the wrath that I deserve, so that I can now walk in Spirit empowered obedience, transformed to live a life pleasing to him, and enjoy his presence forever!

Ephesians 2:3 …and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 … made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–

Amazing love, how can it be! 

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

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment