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2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-Like Leadership for Your Joy

02/11_2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-like Leadership for your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180211_2cor1_23-24.mp3

We are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 to see what godly leadership ought to look like, to see the purpose and posture of godly leadership, the overarching goal of Christlike leadership to serve others for their joy.

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

There is a backstory to this book we know as 2 Corinthians. Paul came to the city of Corinth, proclaimed the gospel, and spent over a year and a half establishing a church there. He continued on across the Agean Sea to the city of Ephesus, and then on to Jerusalem. He returned by land through Asia to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years.

Piecing the details together, we find that during his time in Ephesus, he received word that all was not well in in the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to Corinth that was misunderstood, and then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians, addressing problems in the church, answering questions, and clarifying issues. His plan, as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel up through Asia and then down through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some significant time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem. We could call this ‘plan A’.

But Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians did not respond well to his letter, so Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth to address the problems face to face. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’. Paul returned to Ephesus, having been personally attacked, his authority rejected. This was an unplanned emergency visit.

He then planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth for a brief visit, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. He may have communicated these plans to them during his painful visit. We’ll call this ‘plan B’.

Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter.’ Paul then traveled north to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with word of how they responded to his letter, but not finding Titus, he continued on by land over into Macedonia, where he connected with Titus. It is from Macedonia that he writes the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. We could call this ‘plan C,’ which was in substance a return to ‘plan A’.

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

In this letter, there is an undercurrent of 4-5 years worth of relational turmoil and tension with this church. They are questioning his authority, his credibility, his character. They are not following his instructions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is communicating his heart, and why his plans changed:

In verses 8-11 he wants them to know that he experienced a deadly peril in Asia that disrupted some of his plans. In 12-14 he boasts in the testimony of his clear conscience; he always only operated with simplicity and godly sincerity; he based his decisions on the grace of God and not fleshly wisdom. In verses 15-17 he communicates that his desire to visit them twice was to give them a double opportunity to participate in the grace of giving. In 18-22 he takes an oath on the faithfulness of God; God’s promises are always Yes & Amen in Jesus, and Paul’s own heart is always Yes toward them.

But the Yes in God’s actions is not always transparent. Often God’s Yes is hidden in a No. God said No to his Son Jesus so that he could say Yes to us. God’s promise of rescue came to us in the form of the crucifixion of God the Son. So too, Paul’s Yes is sometimes concealed in what seems to be a No. His painful visit and painful letter may have seemed to them to be a No, that he is against them, but in fact, it was a Yes, that he loves them, he is all in, and he is for them.

Here in verse 23, Paul begins to hit head on the issue of his travel plans, and why they changed. In 1:23-2:2 he calls God as his witness; he did not come as he had planned in order to spare the Corinthians another painful visit. Instead he sent a painful letter by the hand of Titus. In chapter 2:3-4 he lets them know that this painful letter was to demonstrate his abundant love for them. In 2:5-11 he says that the painful letter was to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their obedience. In 2:12-13 he lets them know that he even walked away from an open door for the gospel out of a troubled spirit and deep concern for them.

Then from 2:14-7:4 he takes over 4 chapters to lay out the characteristics of cross-shaped gospel ministry, before he picks back up this thread of his travel plans and communicates in 7:5-16 that he indeed met Titus in Macedonia and received word that they had responded favorably to his painful letter.

God Is My Witness

With this background in mind, let’s look at some profound truths in his answer in 1:23-24.

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul is under attack. It is as if he were standing trial, with the Corinthians as the prosecuting attorney. He has communicated his tumultuous circumstances, he has produced the testimony of his own conscience, he has communicated that his motive was to do them good and not harm, and that as surely as God is faithful to his promises, so Paul is consistently for them. It was through Paul’s preaching that Christ came to live among them through the gospel. He is with them being established by God in Christ through the Spirit. Here in verse 23, he calls God himself to take the witness stand. I call God to witness against my soul. He can appeal to no higher authority to establish his integrity.

It Was To Spare You

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

What does Paul mean ‘it was to spare you’? If we look back to 1 Corinthians, he warned

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

As an Apostle of the Lord Christ, Paul carries God’s power and authority. Paul bears the burden of parenting the churches that he planted, and part of the responsibility of a parent is to discipline his children. This church was out of line, and he has the authority to come with a rod. But as a good parent, he doesn’t want to come at them with discipline. He wants to win their hearts. He says at the end of this letter,

2 Corinthians 13:2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

He refrained from coming again to Corinth to spare them. But he will come again, and then if they are still unrepentant, he will not spare them. He goes on:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul was accused of being weak. Paul here says that it makes him happy to be able to be weak among them. His heart is not to be heavy-handed, but he prays for their restoration. His heart and his authority is to build up and not to tear down.

When It Is Better Not To Confront

We can learn something from Paul’s approach. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to stay away, to change plans, to postpone a visit.

Now Jesus is clear,

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

We are to keep sins private. We are never to gossip or slander. “You know, I’m really concerned about Bill. I think he might be slipping back into sin. Would you pray for him with me?” No, Jesus says go, between you and him alone. And the goal is always restoration. To win your brother back.

But Paul shows some fatherly wisdom here. Kids are different. They respond differently to different approaches. A wise father is sensitive to that, and if his goal is to win the hearts of his children, he will approach his children differently. Paul had written two letters. They didn’t respond well. So he showed up. An emergency visit to deal with the problems head on, face to face. It was a painful confrontation. It didn’t go well. They didn’t respond well. So he backs off. He gives them space. He writes them another letter through his tears. He is brokenhearted, and he is on his knees. He sends someone else.

Kids are different, and relationships are messy. We would like for it to be clean cut. I followed the steps. Step one, step two, step three, you’re out! But relationships are not like that. Embrace the messiness. Enter in with your whole heart. Allow God’s pattern of grace to determine how best to move forward. Remember, in verse 12, Paul says ‘I make my plans, I behave in the world …by the grace of God.’ How does God’s grace come to you? What does God’s grace look like in this situation? How can I extend God’s undeserved grace toward you? How can I demonstrate love to you, to communicate that I am for you? How can I win your heart?

You think I didn’t come because I don’t care about you. But it was to spare you that I didn’t come, to give you space. God is my witness, I didn’t come because I love you.

Not Lording Over You

Now this is open to some misunderstanding. This might come across as heavy-handed; ‘it was to spare you that I didn’t come.’ My sole purpose is to keep you in line. And if you don’t listen up, watch out! So Paul clarifies:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul gives us huge insight into godly leadership. This is built on Jesus’ teaching on leadership.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

This is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 1:24; exercise lordship over. The disciples wanted to know who was top dog. Who is in authority. Who gets to have it his way. Who gets to call the shots. Who gets to dominate everyone else. Who gets titles of honor and respect. Jesus says this is how Gentile leadership looks,

Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus turns leadership upside down. Jesus says that true greatness is serving others, not being served. Jesus says:

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

True leadership is sacrificial service for the good of others. Peter exhorts elders as a fellow elder,

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Shepherd willingly, eagerly, as an example, not as an overlord. Peter says:

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…

Shepherd. Not to be served, but to serve the needs of the sheep. Willingly, eagerly, clothed with humility.

By Faith you Stand Firm

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, … for you stand firm in your faith.

Those in authority are not to domineer over anyone’s faith, because, well, they can’t. It is by faith you stand firm. Calvin (p.145) observes that this is a curious phrase; that “he argues from contraries. …the nature and effect of faith [is] such that we lean, in order that we may stand”. Faith is by definition dependence upon another; we stand firm by our leaning on or trusting in another. And that another is not any church leader. If our faith is to stand, it must be on the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul is eager to say that he is not the Lord in whom anyone ought to trust. He together with the Corinthians is trusting in Jesus. God is establishing them both in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter stated it clearly during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, discussing how the Gentiles would be saved:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter the Apostle stands alongside every Gentile believer as one saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and not by works of the Law.

No man can stand over another man’s faith. There is one Lord in whom we must believe and that is Jesus Christ (1Cor.8:6).

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul had an exclusive list of co-workers that included Priscilla, Aquila (Rom.16:3); Urbanus (Rom.16:9); Timothy (Rom.16:21, 1Thes.3:2); Apollos (1Cor.3:9); Titus (2Cor.8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25); Clement (Phil.4:3); Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus (Col.4:11); Philemon (1:1); Demas, Luke (Phlm.1:24). This would have been something (if you were looking for status) to be able to say ‘I made the list; I am a fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul.’ Here he says ‘I am your fellow-worker.’ Paul and the other apostles come alongside me, labor together with me? He puts himself under and alongside us.

What is the aim? What are we working toward? What is it that Paul and the other Apostles come up under and alongside each one of us to accomplish? I could think of some great fill in the blanks; we are working together with you to bring the gospel to the whole world; We are working together with you for your holiness and sanctification. To establish churches in every city. To accomplish the great commission, to make disciples of all nations. To advance the glory of God and his kingdom in all the earth. Those would all be great biblical ways to finish the sentence, but that’s not how Paul finishes the sentence. He says ‘we are co-workers with you for your joy.’ For your joy! Joy! Paul is working together with us for our joy! Even in the painful hard things, even in discipline, he is working with us for our joy. For your joy. Godly leadership is not domineering; godly leadership serves. Godly leadership works under and alongside you for your joy. For your joy! Oh I want to get into this, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

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

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February 14, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

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

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

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

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

First Stage

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

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

Second Stage

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

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

Discipline

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

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

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

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

Psalm 94 tells us:

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

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

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

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

Greater Accountability

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

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

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

Pride

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

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

Third Stage

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

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

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

Fourth Stage

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

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

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

Fifth Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

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

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

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

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

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

Law and Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 24:10-23; Blaspheming The Name

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

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

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

Blasphemy of a Half-Israelite

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

Parenting and Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Native and the Sojourner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 take a man’s life

18 take an animal’s life

19 whatever injury he did must be done to him

20 whatever injury given must be given to him

21a kill and animal

21b kill a man

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

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

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

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

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

The Seriousness of Blasphemy

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

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

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

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

The Law and the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

And in this need, we find good news!

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

Paul reflects in 1 Timothy

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness

10/30 Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161030_leviticus-19_1-10.mp3

Today we come to one of Jesus’ favorite chapters of the Bible; Leviticus 19. Jesus used the teachings of this chapter as the cornerstone of his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5; especially verses 43-48. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 19, talking to the rich young ruler about the commandments he needed to keep.

In Luke 17, Jesus told a story to explain one particular word in Leviticus 19, a story we know as the parable of the good Samaritan.

When asked about the greatest command in Matthew 22, he cited one from Deuteronomy 6 and a second like it from Leviticus 19. Jesus said

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul took his cue from Jesus. In Romans 13 he said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And in Galatians 5 he said:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The whole law is fulfilled in one word; all the commandments are summed up in one word. James called this the royal law, the perfect law, the law of liberty.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

In fact, we could argue that the letter of James is an extended New Testament commentary and application of Leviticus 19. At least half a dozen of his statements are lifted directly out of Leviticus 19.

Peter also drew heavily on Leviticus 19 in his first letter, stating:

1 Peter 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19 deals with everything. It deals with family, with farming, with worship, with employment, with business, with personal relationships, with sex, with time. It deals with the occult, with prostitution, with cutting, with justice and legal issues, with the poor, with foreigners. It even addresses how you should look and what you should wear. It touches each of the ten commandments from Exodus 20; we could even look at it as an application and explanation of how the 10 commandments are to be applied. We will look at the first 10 verses today, an illustration of practical holiness.

Be Holy For I Am Holy

Leviticus 19:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Remember, as we saw last time, Leviticus 19 is in the last half of Leviticus. It answers the question, ‘now that I have been forgiven of all my sins through the sacrifice, how should I live my life?’ This is addressed to people already in a relationship with the LORD God.

This entire chapter is rooted in who God is, and our relationship with him. God demands that we as his people reflect his character in every area of our lives. At first read, this chapter seems like a jumbled up mess of random unrelated issues all thrown together for lack of a better place to put them. But even in this God is telling us something. God is communicating that in all the various aspects of our daily lives, in every area, we are to consciously, intentionally reflect him.

He calls us to be holy because he is holy. But what does it mean to say that God is holy? He is different. He is unique. He is set apart. We are to be a reflection of who he is. But what does that look like? What does it mean to be holy? We need some practical instruction. And this chapter gives us exactly that. This chapter is more than anything else about God. We are to be holy because God is holy, and this chapter lays out what holiness looks like in various everyday situations.

Authority

Leviticus 19:3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, (V)

This chapter on practical holiness begins in the home, because holiness must begin at home. It matters how you treat your parents. Whether you are living under their authority, or caring for them when they are elderly, holiness begins by a proper respect for authority. This is a restatement of the 5th commandment, but here rather than saying that you are to ‘Honor your father and mother,’ we are told literally to ‘fear’ them. This is a word that is usually reserved for the fear of the LORD in the Bible, but here it is applied to the authority of parents. Parenting is a weighty responsibility. Parents carry the delegated authority of God in a child’s life. So even if they are not godly, even if they abuse their authority, even if by their character they are not worthy of respect, their position is to be respected. Notice that mother is listed first here in a place of honor. Parenting is a team sport, and it functions best when mother and father work together as a team.

Time

Leviticus 19:3 …and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. (IV)

Honoring sacred time comes next. You shall keep my Sabbaths. This is a restatement of the 4th command.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work,…

Time is something we never seem to have enough of, something we often run out of. Time is a precious commodity that we spend. God is to be honored with our time. We need to be wise with what we spend it on. God demands that we set aside some of our time as holy, set apart for God. We are to rest, we are to remember, we are to worship. We are to be different in the way we use our time.

Idolatry

Leviticus 19:4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. (I, II)

This recalls the first two commandments. We are to have no other Gods, and we are to make no images. The word here for idols emphasizes the weak and worthless nature of false gods. We are not to turn to worthless things to put our hope in them. It is futile to look for help from the things our own hands have made. God says “I am the LORD your God.” We have the real thing. Why would we turn away to cheap imitations?

Obedient Worship

Leviticus 19:5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, 8 and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

This looks back to chapter 7, which gave detailed instructions about peace offerings. This was the one type of sacrifice from which the worshiper was invited to eat. But holiness meant that the God’s instructions were to be followed carefully and exactly. That which is holy, set apart, is not to be treated as common or ordinary. We cannot come to God any way that we like. “When you offer a sacrifice… you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.” God must be obeyed in the way that we approach him.

Care For the Poor

Leviticus 19:9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Holiness means not taking everything for yourself. Holiness in business means not wringing out every last cent of profit. Holiness must be generous. God’s holiness must be reflected in our care for the poor and for the displaced, those from whom we can expect nothing in return. We are to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, and everything that we have is a gift from him, and that he gives us more than we need so that we can give to those who are in need.

This method of giving retains the dignity of the needy and requires little more from the landowner than a heart of generosity. He was not asked to gather extra grain, process it and package it, then identify the most needy in his community and deliver it to them. He was actually invited to do less work. Don’t go back over your field a second time to pick up what you missed. Just leave it. Take enough and leave the rest and then rest. Enjoy what you have. Resist the urge to relentlessly pursue maximum profit.

The needy person was then required to do the extra work, to go out to the field, to pick up what he needed, to bring it home to feed his family. This provided an opportunity for the dignity of honest work to provide for the needs of one’s own. And the one who benefited would recognize this ultimately not as a gift from the landowner, but as a gift from God, who generously provides for our needs.

Ruth

We see this holiness in action in the story of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite woman, and a widow. She had married into a Jewish family, and even after the death of her husband, she showed honor to her mother-in-law. Naomi was a bitter woman, and she had lost her hope in God. She even asked to be called ‘Mara’ – Bitter. Naomi was returning to Israel empty handed. Yet Ruth renounced the idolatry of her people, and declared

Ruth 1:16 … where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Ruth was honoring her mother-in-law, even if she was not altogether worthy of that honor. And Ruth honored her mother-in-law in very practical ways. She worked hard to provide for her needs.

In chapter 2, we are introduced to Boaz, a worthy man, who is a landowner.

Ruth 2:4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”

This is a unique relationship between an employer and his employees. This sounds like a pleasant positive encouraging work atmosphere. The boss genuinely cares, and everyone knows it. How often do you hear employees blessing their boss? If you have anyone under you, strive to create this kind of an atmosphere. This is a man who put God first. This is a man who took time to worship God and to serve others.

Ruth 2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

This is generosity above and beyond. Boaz had provided generously for the needs of his workers, He ate and had fellowship with them, and he gave to this stranger more than she needed. Then he instructed his employees to be intentionally wasteful and careless in order to provide abundantly for this woman. Boaz is sacrificing his own profitability in order to bless a stranger, from whom he could expect nothing in return.

This is an illustration of what holiness practically looks like. Boaz is obeying Leviticus 19, caring for the needs of his employees, extending love to the stranger, providing generously for the poor. But Boaz is only able to be like this because he is enjoying relationship with a God who is like this.

Jesus

Remember we are commanded to be holy because God is holy. God is the one who demonstrates what it is to love the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner. God is the one who demonstrates lavish generosity to those who can never pay him back.

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because he first loved us. We can love like this because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is all a gracious gift. While we were weak. While we were ungodly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! What lavish generosity to strangers, even enemies!

Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Remember. You were separated. You were alienated. You were strangers. You had no hope. But, the boundless riches of his mercy, you who once were far off have been brought near. At what cost? By the blood of Christ! Infinite cost. Unparalleled generosity to those who can never pay back. Now strangers no longer. Aliens no longer. Fellow citizens, saints, members of the house! We have been brought near! He has welcomed the foreigner!

Colossians 1 says:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

You were once alienated. Not alienated through unfortunate circumstances, but alienated by your own hostility. Your own open rebellion. You chose to be hostile. You made yourself his enemy. And yet he pursued you! Jesus pursued his rebellious creation by entering into the creation he had made, taking on our flesh and becoming one of us, so that he could pay the ultimate price for us, he died for you so that he could present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. He took away your shame! He took away your indignity. He brings reconciliation to hostile enemies. He brings us in to relationship. Because we have been so loved, we are set free to so love.

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

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Train Up A Child; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15

05/10/15 Train Up A Child: 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150510_train-up-a-child.mp3

Proverbs 22:6 tells us:

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

Historical Sketch of Timothy

I want to look this morning, this mother’s day at Timothy as an example of this. Paul met Timothy in Lystra on his first missionary journey around AD 47-49, where Timothy and his mother became followers of Jesus. When Paul returned to the area on his second journey around AD 49-51, he took Timothy with him as a co-worker in the gospel, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Timothy was a young man from a divided home. His mother was a believer. His father was not. Timothy became Paul’s companion as he traveled through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then to Troas in Mysia, then to Phillipi in Macedonia, where Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. Upon release, they went to Thessalonica, then to Berea. Paul was sent from Berea to Athens alone to escape the hostility that followed him there. Silas and Timothy joined Paul briefly in Athens, and then, because Paul was prevented from going back himself, he sent them back to Thessalonica to encourage the believers there.

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. …

Paul traveled alone from Athens to Corinth, and Timothy and Silas rejoined him there (Acts 18:5). They spent a year and a half in Corinth, and in AD 51 Paul together with Silas and Timothy wrote two letters to the church in Thessalonica. They traveled from Corinth to Ephesus, then to Caesarea in Syria and then to Antioch. In AD 52, Paul took Timothy with on his third journey, and they visited the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, and then came to Ephesus. Paul spent 2 years in Ephesus, and around AD 56, he wrote 1 Corinthians. Around that time he also sent Timothy as his delegate to Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Toward the end of his stay in Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), then joined them there. From Macedonia, Paul wrote his second letter to Corinth, and sends greetings from ‘Timothy our brother’ (2Cor.1:1, 19). They traveled from there to Greece, where they spent 3 months, during which, around AD 57, Paul wrote his letter to Rome, and sent greetings from ‘Timothy, my fellow worker’ (Rom.16:21). Paul traveled from there up to Phillipi in Macedonia, but sent Timothy along with others to Troas to wait for him. Timothy accompanied him on several other stops in route to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested, and spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea, before being sent to Rome. In Rome, again Paul was joined by Timothy, and from prison in Rome he wrote Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon, in which he mentions Timothy as co-author. He says to the church in Philippi,

Philippians 2:19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Paul was released and traveled to Philippi in Macedonia, and at some point he sent Timothy to Ephesus to keep the church there on track. He wrote to Timothy from Macedonia around AD 62/63

1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: … 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

By AD 67, Paul, now an old man awaiting execution, was again in Rome, and wrote a final letter to Timothy. He contrasted Timothy with unfaithful and ungodly people.

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.

At the end of this final letter, Paul asks Timothy to come to him in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. …11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. …13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. …21 Do your best to come before winter.

Character of Timothy

Timothy was a brother, a co-worker, a true child in the faith, a man of proven worth. He was trustworthy, competent, sacrificial, well trained in the scriptures, capable of leadership, a true man of of character. Timothy would be a great role model. We should want to be like Timothy, and we should want our children to grow up to be like Timothy. So often our desires as parents are for our children to grow up protected from the evils of this world, to go to a good school, to find a good spouse, to get a good job, to live in a good house, to have good children, and to visit a lot. That is such a small dream for our children. Such a nearsighted dream. We should want more than a good middle-class life for our children. We should long for them to live lives that matter, that count for eternity, lives of integrity and character over the long haul, lives that bring pleasure to the heart of God. That is the kind of life Timothy’s mother launched him on. What do we know about Timothy?

The Training of Timothy

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Timothy didn’t grow up in ideal circumstances. Not much is said of his father other than that he was a Greek. It is implied that his father was either not a believer, or just not around. But his mother and his grandmother had a sincere faith. They invested in this young man and passed on their faith to him.

I’ve heard some nonsense of parents not wanting to force kids to believe what they believe, but laying out the options and letting the kids decide for themselves. I believe that is foolish and irresponsible. Think of it this way: when your two year old has a fever, you don’t empty the medicine cabinet onto the kitchen table and say ‘here are the options, you decide’. And it’s a lazy attitude, because what it means is ‘I know raising children to fear and love the one true God is hard work, and I’d rather not put in the effort’. And it’s an arrogant statement, because it presumes that you can persuade them to follow what you believe. You can’t. Only God can create new life in your child, but he has given you the responsibility and the privilege of teaching your kids the truth and leading them in the way they should go and praying earnestly for that work of God in their heart.

Unhypocritical

One thing is clear, you can’t pass on a faith you do not own yourself. It was a sincere faith, an unhypocritical faith. You can’t point your kids in the direction you think is right but you are unwilling to go, and expect them to go there. Their faith dwelt in them. It was at home in them. Theirs was not a Sunday faith. It was a Sunday through Saturday faith. It was a faith that was at home in them 24/7. It was a faith that shaped their actions and attitudes and words when they were in public and private, when others were around and when no one was looking. Paul had seen evidence that Timothy didn’t just inherit this faith, he owned it. It was not just what his family had taught to him; it was what he clung to and what he built his life on and what had proved strong enough to carry him through the storms and trials of life. Timothy’s was a faith without hypocrisy. It was genuine. It was the real deal. It had been modeled faithfully by his mother and by his grandmother. They lived it, and that had a lasting impression on this young man.

The Sacred Writings

Paul says to Timothy in chapter 3

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Timothy had been trained up in the scriptures. He had been taught the truth. From infancy, literally from before birth he had been exposed to God’s written word. That is life shaping! What powerful training for a life of usefulness. To know the scriptures, to know the grand story of which all the stories play a part, the story of a God who always was, a God all powerful, a God who creates, a God who cares for his rebellious creation, a God who is just and holy, but a God who is merciful and compassionate, a God who comes down to provide a way for his wayward creation to be restored to him, a God who sacrifices of himself to heal our hurts and make us whole.

The sacred writings are able. They are powerful. Hebrews tells us ‘the word of God is living and active’ (Heb.4:12). God told Isaiah

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Timothy had been placed under the powerful influence of the word of God. He had learned, and he had come to firmly believe the truth of God’s word. He was persuaded, he was convinced. He had weighed the evidence and had been won over. It mattered from whom he learned it. His mother, and his grandmother had not just taught it to him or shoved it down his throat. They had lived it before him. They had immersed themselves in the sacred writings. The truth was in them and it had shaped them. They were genuine, without hypocrisy.

The sacred writings, in Timothy’s case, the Old Testament, is powerful to make one wise for salvation. The entire Old Testament is a story of a sovereign God with a good creation gone tragically wrong, and in desperate need of rescue. It is a story of the darkness of human hearts living out from under God’s good rule. It is a story of the devastating consequences of doing that which is right in our own eyes. Even the most well meaning well intentioned people, even the heroes were tragically flawed and broken characters, unable to get it right, in urgent need of forgiveness and healing and help. The scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation by teaching us that

Psalm 14:3 …there is none who does good, not even one.

And

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…

The scriptures make us wise to our need for a Savior. And the scriptures point us to that Savior. The one who is fully man, but so much more than a mere man, the God-man who as man was able to stand in our place and pay our debt, but who being fully divine was able to bear the full fury of God’s infinite wrath against the sins of mankind, Christ Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29)

The scriptures point us to faith, utter and complete dependence and trust on the finished work of another, a champion, one who would fight our battles, conquer our enemies, in whom we have the victory. Trust in the character and nature of God, the one who keeps his word and fulfills all his promises. The one who brings something out of nothing and makes all things new.

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in, to remain in, to abide in the truth of the scriptures. This would enable him to discern truth from error, to set the example, to stand firmly in grace, and to boldly proclaim the truth.

Do we want any less for our kids? Are we willing to expend the energy to train our children, to discipline them, to invest in them, to live unhypocritically before them, to saturate our own souls in the scriptures, to be real with them, and to point them to something so much bigger than ourselves, to encourage them to live for something bigger than themselves, to live to the glory of God, to be useful in the service of Christ?

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

May 10, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131117_1cor7_10-16.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

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

November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:12; Word #5 – Honor

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110814_exodus20_12.mp3

08/14 Exodus 20:12 Word #5 Honor

We are studying God’s ten words to the people he redeemed from slavery in Egypt and bought to be his own. He is now giving them his house rules, what it looks like to be in relationship with him. He starts with himself, because everything is all about God. He introduces himself as the self-existent one, YHWH, who brought them out of slavery. His first four words of instruction are about our vertical relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. You shall have no other gods, I am to be worshiped exclusively. You shall not misrepresent me by using images in worship. You shall honor my name, my character, my reputation. You shall honor me with your time and set aside time to enjoy our relationship.

Now, in commandment five, there is a shift in focus from the vertical relationship with our God to our horizontal relationships with our fellow men. And it’s instructive to see where he starts. We might think he would start with the sanctity of life – you shall not murder. Or with the most basic unit of society, the marriage relationship – you shall not commit adultery. Or, he could start with being satisfied with God alone – you shall not covet. But instead he starts here:

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Honor God Alone or Honor Parents?

Honor father and mother. This is a surprising command, because he has just finished telling us that we are to honor, reverence, and worship God alone. And now he tells us to honor or reverence someone else, namely our parents. The Hebrew word translated ‘honor’ here is interesting. The same root word is used in Exodus 14 three times for God ‘getting glory’ over Pharaoh (v.4,17,18). The Hebrew word “Kabad”, translated honor or reverence or glory literally means ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty’. God is not to be taken lightly. He is substantial. He is to be treated, not with an ounce, but with tons of respect. We are to weigh what he says with great gravity. This word for honor or glory shows up in Psalm 22.

Psalm 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Fear him, praise him, honor or glorify him, stand in awe of him. That is how we are to respond to God. Now this is extended to human parents.

In fact, in Leviticus 19, this word for fear is extended toward mother and father:

Leviticus 19:3 Every one of you shall revere (AV fear) his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

How is it that we are to reverence, fear, and honor God alone, and yet he extends this same reverence, fear, or respect to our parents? Isaiah (48:11) tells us that God will not give his glory to another, and yet he commands that we give glory or honor to our parents.

In Hebrews chapter 12, there is a parallel drawn between our earthly fathers, who discipline us, and to whom we owe respect, and God, who treats us as sons and disciplines us for our good. We are to honor our parents as an extension of God’s authority. The authority of parents is derived from God’s authority. Parents serve as a visible extension of God to us. Paul expands this general principle to all governing authorities in Romans 13. He says

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. …4 for he is God’s servant for your good. …he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. … 6 … for the authorities are ministers of God…

Parents receive their authority from God. They have been appointed by God, and they serve God in administering his authority. Paul concludes

Romans 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

We owe a debt of honor to God and to our parents. We demonstrate that we honor God by honoring those he has placed in authority over us. To dishonor parents is to dishonor the one who gave them to us.

John asserts that we cannot disconnect how we treat people on the horizontal level from what we think of God on the vertical level.

1John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

So showing honor to parents whom God invested with authority is a tangible way of demonstrating that we truly honor God who is the ultimate authority.

Death Penalty for Dishonor

This is a serious issue. God takes honor of father and mother so seriously, that he established the death penalty for children who do not show honor to their parents.

Exodus 21:15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

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

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

The concrete expressions of dishonor worthy of death were striking parents or cursing parents; we might say talking back to parents. In Deuteronomy, there is a procedure given for how to handle a persistently stubborn, rebellious, disobedient son, who will not respond to discipline.

Deuteronomy 21:18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

In the New Testament we find disobedience to parents showing up in some shocking catalogs of the worst of the worst.

Romans 1:28 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.

2 Timothy 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self–control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

It might be a shock to our modern ears to hear something as commonplace and tolerated as disobedience to parents listed alongside murder, ruthless, treacherous, abusive, inventors of evil, haters of God.

Why is this so serious? Why death under the old covenant for those who dishonor parents? This disregard for proper human authority demonstrates a disregard for the one who established that authority. We no longer execute disobedient children. But in Romans we are told that the wages of sin is death (6:23), and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (3:23). We have all failed to give God the glory and honor that we owe to him. The consequences for this God-dishonoring attitude is spiritual death, or eternal separation from God.

What Does It Mean to Honor Parents?

One way we honor God is by honoring parents. Practically, what does this look like? Let’s take a look to the wisdom book of Proverbs to get some snapshots of what it looks like to honor mother and father.

Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your father‘s instruction, and forsake not your mother‘s teaching,

Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep your father‘s commandment, and forsake not your mother‘s teaching.

Proverbs 10:1 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Proverbs 15:20 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

Proverbs 19:26 He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.

Proverbs 20:20 If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

Proverbs 23:22 Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 23:25 Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

Proverbs 28:24 Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, “That is no transgression,” is a companion to a man who destroys.

Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.

This is what honor looks like: listening to their instruction, not forsaking their teaching, not despising them, not stealing from them, not violent toward them, not cursing, mocking or scorning them, bringing joy and not sorrow to their hearts. We can add this to what Deuteronomy told us about not being stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, or unresponsive to discipline.

Jesus confronted the Pharisees of his day over their encouraging people to violate the fifth command.

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mark 7:10-13)

Jesus connects honor of parents directly to how an adult son cares for his elderly parents. The Pharisees allowed a son who wanted to get out of his responsibility to care for his parents to dedicate his assets to God. The primary social responsibility for the care of the elderly falls on their own family. This may have far reaching implications on our own personal finances. Paul even says:

1Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

(This, by the way, is a good argument for having a lot of kids – I want to be well cared for when I’m old!)

The Example of Jesus

We can learn more about what honoring our parents should look like by looking at how Jesus honored his Father.

John 8:49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.

Jesus, in his dispute with the Pharisees, described what it means to honor your father. Jesus said “if you knew me, you would know my Father also” (Jn.8:19). His character was such a perfect reflection of the character of the Father, that to know one was to know the other. Jesus said “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (Jn.8:28). Jesus was in perfect submission to his Father’s authority. He was perfectly obedient to his Father, he listened to and learned from his Father. Even in his speech, he perfectly reflected the Father. He sums up his honor of the Father in this way: “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:29). On two different occasions, the Father attested to this verbally from heaven, saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Jesus gave us the perfect picture of what it means to honor parents.

Jesus Lord of the Family

But Jesus also said some radical things to his followers about family relationships

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter–in–law against her mother–in–law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 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.

Is Jesus teaching us to violate the fifth commandment? At first glance, it might seem so. But he was simply honoring the priority of God in all things. Where there is a conflict between obedience to God and obedience to parents, we must obey God rather than men. In commandment five, we are told that the child to parent relationship is second in honor only to the relationship of people to God. And Jesus, in saying that you cannot love father or mother more than me, in other words, you must honor me above father and mother, Jesus is blatantly claiming to be God! Jesus demands our allegiance above even family.

Practical Implications

Let’s try to tie this all together. What do we do with all this? First of all, we should keep first things first. We must honor God, we must honor Jesus above all human relationships, even family. He demands first place in everything.

We should follow Jesus’ example, to always do the things that are pleasing to the Father.

We as children must honor, reverence, respect our parents.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

By extension, we must honor all those God has placed in positions of authority.

Parents, demand honor from your children. Discipline them lovingly, for their good. Do not tolerate disobedience or disrespect. Train them to respect authority. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Teach them to honor the Lord and those he has placed in authority.

There might be a parent who says ‘but I’m not worthy of honor.’ That may be true, but this is bigger than you. God has given you authority, and he has entrusted your children into your care. In training them how to relate to you as a parent, you are teaching them about God. Do your job.

Parents, act in a manner worthy of honor and respect. If you want to be honored, have character that is honorable. Add to your faith; virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love (2Pet.1:5-7).

This honor or respect is foundational to life and society. Honoring our parents as God commanded is a way of glorifying God. 

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

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12; Passover, a Forward-Looking Focus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101205_exodus12.mp3

12/05 Exodus 12-13 A Forward Looking Focus

Forward-Looking Focus

I want to look at just one aspect of the passover celebration today. There is so much to learn here and we will come back and look at some of the other great things God has for us but today I want to focus on the forward looking focus of the passover. A main purpose of the passover and the feast of unleavened bread was to be a memorial to future generations. If Moses wrote the Torah to the generation of Israelites who were about to enter the land after their parents died off in the wilderness because of disobedience, then a major part of his intention would be to leave them with the instructions they would need to remain faithful to God, to remember the mighty acts of God on their behalf, and to enter in to the reality of their own relationship to God as his redeemed people.

We’ve already seen the forward looking purpose inherent in the mighty acts that God performed. He said at the outset in Exodus 3:15 when he revealed his character to Moses:

Exodus 3:15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

In the eighth mighty act, God explicitly said:

Exodus10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Now let’s look read the passage with this in mind and take note of how prominent this forward looking focus is.

12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty–first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”

21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25 And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!” 33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” 3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

Do you see how central and how intentional this purpose to pass on to the coming generations the knowledge of the LORD is? God’s intention in the exodus is:

…that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 10:2)

Intended for Future Generations

God intends to put his greatness on display once for all, to demonstrate his superiority over every other so-called god, and to be known personally by all his people throughout all generations.

From the fast pace of the narrative, it appears that much of these instructions were not intended for the original exodus event. The seven day feast of unleavened bread that continued after the passover event was simply by necessity as the people were on the run and had no time for the luxury of letting their bread rise. But the prohibition of having leaven in your houses for seven days was clearly intended for the Israelites after they had settled in the land and had houses. In fact three times we hear that the instructions are to be followed ‘when the LORD brings you into the land’. The holy assembly on the first day and on the seventh day seems to be instruction on how to memorialize and celebrate the history, not instructions for the exodus event itself. Five times we are told that this is to be ‘observed throughout your generations as a statute forever’ (or similar wording). Three times we are told what to say to our children to explain why we celebrate the way we do. We are not told whether the exodus generation had a four day advance notice to select and observe the lamb before the night of passover. Maybe they did, but the urgency of the narrative implies that this too is primarily intended for future generations. Twice we are told that these celebrations are intended to serve as a note written on the back of your hand or a post-it not stuck to your forehead to serve as a constant in-your-face reminder.

Gracious Object Lessons

God is gracious in his instruction to us. He doesn’t tell us ‘memorize this list of propositions and recite these syllogisms’. He gives us an engaging story and tangible object lessons that we can touch and taste and smell. God is not interested merely that we get our facts and our theology straight. God wants us to know him, to experience him, to be in relation with him. God is real, and each generation must experience his reality for themselves. A special day, a special meal, a special lamb, a unique time and an unique way. It is a feast day, a memorial day, a permanent ordinance. It is costly – a sacrifice, service or labor. It is a vigil or a night of watching. It is a time to remember. And it is a time for telling.

12:26 And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’

13:8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

13:14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

It’s Personal!

Notice how personal this is. Tell them that he spared our houses. It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt. Remember, the people who will be telling this to their children were themselves children during the days of wilderness wanderings after the exodus. Many were probably born in the desert. It was their parents who experienced the bondage of slavery in Egypt and experienced first hand the strong hand of the LORD in bringing them out of Egypt. But this next generation is to own the experiences of their fathers. It must be personal experience for each successive generation. They are not to say ‘my parents or my grandparents or my great-grandparents were slaves in Egypt and God brought them out’. Instead we are to say ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’. Each individual must experience the strong hand of the LORD in deliverance personally. I was in bondage in the house of slavery. The LORD brought me out by his awesome deeds.

Only Seven?

Unfortunately there are only seven instances recorded in the hundreds of years of history of the Jewish nation that the passover was kept. Most likely the celebration was kept many times that were not recorded, but is appears that Israel missed out more often than not on this wonderful teaching opportunity. The first recorded keeping of the passover is obviously here in this chapter at its inception

12:27 …And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

One year later, at Mount Sinai, we are told in Numbers 9:1-14 that the people kept the passover.

The next recorded instance is 40 years later, in Joshua 5:10, after this next generation entered the land.

We don’t hear of it again until the time of Hezekiah (715-686 BC) 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:1. It says:

2 Chronicles 30:5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed.

Again under Josiah (640-609 BC) in 2 Kings 23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19. We are told

2 Kings 23:22 For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.

2 Chronicles 35:18 No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The final record in the Old Testament of the Passover celebration is found in Ezra 6:19-22 -after the return from Babylonian exile and rebuilding of temple (516 BC). What was intended to be a constant reminder and an opportunity for instruction was for the most part carelessly neglected.

The final time we see this meal celebrated is in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22), where Jesus takes the Passover meal and changes it from lamb and bitter herbs to broken bread and poured out wine – to be done not in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt, but in remembrance of him.

Luke 22:15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Transformation of Time

Notice that this section in Exodus begins with God changing the calendar.

2:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.

God changed the way the people calculated time. Instead of life being scheduled around the agricultural calendar, God intended that his people transform the way they measure time around his redemptive acts. God is proclaiming a New Year celebration. God, who makes all things new (Revelation 21:5), declares the month of the exodus to be the month of the new year. I want you to measure time in relation to my mighty saving acts. This was not the last time the calendar changed because of what God had done. Our entire system of calculating years revolves around our Lord Jesus Christ! This is A.D. – Anno Domini – the year of our Lord. We gather together to worship on the first day of the week because we worship a resurrected Jesus who appeared alive on the first day of the week. Jesus transforms everything!

Does my life revolve around God’s mighty acts that he has done for me? Does my schedule revolve around my Lord Jesus Christ? Am I seizing every opportunity to teach my kids and anyone that will listen about what Jesus has done for me?

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

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 2:1-10; A Mother’s Faith

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100509_exodus02_1-10.mp3

5/9 Exodus 2:1-10 A Mother’s Faith

1: 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” 2: 1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

In Exodus, we see God fulfilling his covenant promises to his people and bringing his creation blessings on them. He did good to them and made them fruitful and multiplied them, he made their descendants numerous and filled the land with them. He made them exceedingly strong. But in response to God’s blessings, the Egyptians feared. They saw them as a threat. God’s blessing does not mean that our lives will be problem free. But in the problems and in the trials, God will show himself strong. The Pharaoh feared the people of Israel, so he conspired to deal shrewdly with them in order to weaken them and reduce their population. He enslaved them and afflicted them with heavy burdens to break their spirit and make them so exhausted and weak that they wouldn’t procreate. But the more they were ruthlessly oppressed, the more God blessed and the more they multiplied. So this king of the most powerful nation in the world, because he feared the Israelites, called on two Hebrew women, midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill the male Israelite children. But these two women did not fear the Pharaoh. They feared God and so they disobeyed the king and helped the male children to thrive. God confounded the plans of this Egyptian monarch through the God-fearing actions of two Hebrew women. When these women were called on to give an account of why they disobeyed, they gave an answer that managed to confound the Pharaoh and insult all Egyptians, and the Pharaoh let them go. For their God-fearing actions, God blessed still more and gave even these barren midwives families of their own. So Pharaoh’s plans were again thwarted and even the barren women in Israel were having children. But as God’s blessing increased, so did the Pharaoh’s oppression. The last verse in chapter one gives the Pharaoh’s response:

22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

And it’s on that dark note that we pick up the story today. The Nile river was the source of life in Egypt. The Nile was worshiped as a god that had the power to give and take life. It brought water to the desert, and it also served as the country’s sewer, washing away all the unwanted refuse. It was into this river that the Pharaoh commanded all the Egyptian people to cast every son born to the Hebrews.

How would God intervene this time? It seems he delights to do the unexpected and act in ways we would not even think of. Often God chooses surprisingly inconspicuous means of accomplishing his sovereign purposes. When Pharaoh tried to crush the Israelites with oppressive labor, God simply caused them to have more babies in the normal natural way. When Pharaoh tried to employ midwives to carry out the murder of the male children, God put the fear of him into two women so that they chose to obey God rather than the king. Instead of reducing the Israelite population, God blessed them so that they contributed to it, further foiling the Pharaoh’s plan. Now, when the order comes for all of Egypt to throw the Hebrew male children into the river, God responds by causing a boy baby to be born to an insignificant Hebrew family in Egypt.

2:1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

So we have an unnamed man and and unnamed woman from the tribe of Levi. Later, in Exodus 6:4 (also Num.26:59) we find the mother’s name was Jochebed and the father’s name was Amram, but for now it is simply a man from the house of Levi and a Levite woman. Later in the book of Exodus, we find that the tribe of Levi is chosen to be the priestly tribe, the tribe that would give spiritual and judicial leadership to the people of Israel, the tribe that proved itself loyal to YHWH. But that’s reading ahead of our story. At this point in the history, what we know of the Levites is that they were a cursed tribe because of the bloodthirsty act of Levi and his brother Simeon against Shechem:

Genesis 49:5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 6 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

So the Levites were a cursed and disenfranchised tribe, destined to be scattered among the other tribes. We are yet to learn how God turned this curse into a blessing.

So we have this couple, Levites, who have a son under the command of Pharaoh, destined to be destroyed. They see that he is a fine child, literally ‘good’. This is the same word that God used seven times in the creation narrative to declare that what he had made was good. I don’t think this means that there was something uniquely special about this child in contrast to other Hebrew boys that caused his parents to try to save him. I think it is meant to remind us of God’s creative acts. As God created the world and declared that it was good, so now, God is at work bringing about good in the midst of evil and darkness and hopelessness. She saw that he was good, – a good creation of God, so she hid him. We are told that this was an act of faith on the part of his parents. Faith in God rather than fear of the tyrant. Just like the midwives who feared God more than the king, now these parent’s trust in God supersedes their fear of punishment and even death.

Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer at home, she obeyed Pharaoh’s command and threw him in the river. Well, here’s what it says:

3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

She technically obeyed the Pharaoh’s command by casting him into the Nile, again, not because of fear but in faith. This was her next move in trusting God and protecting her child. She prepared an ark and covered it with tar and pitch. The word here translated ‘basket’ is [ hbt tebah tay-baw’] ark; This is the same word used in Genesis:

Genesis 6:14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.

In fact, 26 of the 28 times this word appears in the bible it refers to Noah’s boat that God instructed him to build for the preservation of life. The other two occurrences are in this passage referring to the boat this Levite mother made to preserve the life of her treasured son. In both cases the boat was covered with tar and pitch to make it waterproof. Moses is using this word ‘ark’ to describe this basket to cause us to make the connection between this story of preservation of life from water with the account of the flood. The passengers of both boats were spared a tragic watery fate that claimed the lives of many of their contemporaries. The passengers of both are the instruments used by God to create a new people for his own purposes.

This loving Levite mother did not send her ark out into the current of the river, but placed it among the reeds by the river bank, where it would remain in place and could be observed carefully by the older sister who was probably still young enough to play inconspicuously by the river bank, but old enough to watch out for potential danger – probably somewhere between 6 and 12 years old. The intention was most likely to keep the boy there where he had less chance of being discovered, and to come when it was safe to feed and care for him. We find out in chapter 15 that the sister’s name is Miriam. The baby boy has been kept safe by his mother for three months, and now she has made preparation to continue to care for him secretly. Things are looking promising for this Hebrew family, but an unexpected turn of events could spell disaster.

5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river.

This is the worst possible thing that could be expected. The tyrant’s own daughter coming to bathe in the sacred Nile much too near the secret hiding place. Maybe she would not notice the basket and leave. Maybe the baby would remain quiet and not draw her attention.

5 …She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. …

The boy is discovered! And by an Egyptian! By one of the Pharaoh’s own daughters. It would not be much different if the Pharaoh himself had discovered him. But this young girl who was to watch over her baby brother walked by faith and not by sight. God was in control even over what seemed like utter disaster and total failure of their careful plan. What are the odds of the enemy’s own daughter coming to bathe here? How could God let this happen?

6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

This is a turning point in the story. She had pity on him. She did not carry out her father’s command. She recognized him as a Hebrew male, one who was under the condemnation of her own father, and she could have silenced his crying immediately in the water, but instead she took pity on him. The next move is courageous and daring. The baby’s sister approaches the king’s daughter and dares to speak. A child addresses the princess with a suggestion.

7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”

She is careful and diplomatic in the way she addresses the princess. She is offering assistance to benefit the king’s daughter. It is for you, o princess, that I will call a wet nurse. She can nurse and calm the boy for you. The Pharaoh’s daughter responds with one word.

8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.

Imagine for a moment this scene. Young Miriam comes running to fetch her mother. Her mother sees her coming without the baby – she has left her post. Something must have happened! “Come quickly Mama – the Pharaoh’s daughter had found your baby!” Oy Vey! Panic, grief, fear… is he dead? What has happened? Why are you smiling? “Come, Mama, come. I will explain on the way.” Are you sure? Is it safe? Could it be?

9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

The irony of this is deep. The mother of the child who had to entrust him to God on the Nile is now given back her baby boy – to nurse and care for and teach – with pay. Pay from the treasury of the Pharaoh whose decree it was to execute him. The Pharaoh who attempted to break the backs of the Israelite slaves, the Pharaoh who commanded the midwives to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, the Pharaoh who ordered all his citizens to execute all Israelite male children, is now paying this Jewish mother to nurse and train up her own baby boy! Imagine the joy and relief in this household! Imagine Amram coming home to find his boy back at home, no longer being cautiously hidden but now openly enjoyed. Imagine the wonder and amazement and worship. They certainly had asked God to protect their child. But do you think in their wildest prayers they ever would have asked that they would be paid wages by the Egyptians to care for their boy, whom these same Egyptians wanted dead?

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Of course, the good news is bitter-sweet. The boy would be adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Jochebed had probably three to four years to nurse and train and pour love and truth and stories of their history into this young boy. She had a short time to impress him with the fear of the Lord. And as she had entrusted him to the Nile, now she had to entrust him to the Pharaoh’s daughter and to the omnipotent hands of her God. It would be more than seventy-five years before they would see how God used their boy to be the instrument God used to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. They would have to pray and trust and wait.

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

The name ‘Moses’ was a somewhat common Egyptian name meaning ‘son’ or ‘to give birth to’. It was part of the well known names Ptahmose, Tuthmosis, Ahmose, and Harmose. [Durham, p.17]. But it sounds like the Hebrew verb ‘masah’, to draw out. It is this connection that the princess emphasizes because she drew him out of the water. This name will become prophetic as Moses will be the one God uses to draw the nation of Israel out of Egypt and literally out of the waters.

The Pharaoh acted shrewdly in dealing with the Israelites. His plans were crafty and they seemed wise. But in his scheming, he found himself fighting against God.

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

The Pharaoh was wise. But he did not know God. He thought he was god.

1Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Although God is not named in this story, we see God’s sovereign hand moving all the circumstances to display his infinite wisdom and poetic justice and even his timeless sense of humor. The great Pharaoh of Egypt set himself against God’s people, and therefore against God himself. And God confounded him with two Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother, and his own daughter. God used four humble women to frustrate the plans of the most powerful man in the world

We can take heart from this history. Whether we can see God’s hand or not, God is most certainly working behind and in and through each and every circumstance that is in our lives, good and bad, ultimately to display his glory and bring good to us. We must remain humble, we must not be fearful but faithful. We must learn to trust God like Jochebed and Miriam and Shiphrah and Puah trusted God. They did not sit back and say ‘God is sovereign so we will just sit back and see what he does in this situation’. Rather they said ‘God is sovereign, so we will be faithful to do what we are responsible to do to the best of our ability – to care for, protect and preserve life, to train and nurture – and we will trust that our sovereign God will do what we cannot hope to do – to bring hope and life and joy and meaning out of a hopeless, senseless, desperate, deadly situation. We must simply be faithful to do what we are called to do and to trust God to bring good results.

And God saves his people. Just as God preserved Noah safe inside the ark during the judgment, and just as God kept Moses safe inside his little ark, so if we run to Jesus, we will be kept safe from the judgment to come

Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

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

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psalm 78; The Next Generation

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090830_psalm78_the_next_generation.mp3

8/30/2009 The Next Generation

Psalm 78:1 A MASKIL OF ASAPH. Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Over the summer we have had most of the kids in the service with their parents, and I think that has been good. Stretching at times, but good. It is good to worship as a body and learn and grow together as families. There is a sense of unity that is beneficial, and it gives most of our teachers a much needed break. Next Sunday we launch our Sunday School classes and Children’s Worship, and that too will be good. It is good to give our kids more individualized attention and hands on learning opportunities, and it opens up opportunities for our adults to grow as they step into leadership and teaching roles and learn along side our kids. We just finished up Vacation Bible School, where our kids had opportunities to learn about God and grow, and in a few weeks we will be launching our AWANA program for our elementary kids, with a huge emphasis on Bible memorization. I’m very excited about what we are able to offer for our kids, and I want to exhort you and encourage you in your involvement in these opportunities to serve our Lord Jesus. Jesus said

Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

But I want to remind us that these programs are optional and they are secondary. They are not primary and they are not essential to the life of the church. I could envision a growing, healthy, biblical church that does not have any of these programs. Nowhere in the bible does it say ‘thou shalt teach Sunday school’, or ‘thou shalt have a youth group’. Here’s what Jesus does say:

Matthew 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I think that VBS and AWANA and Sunday school and youth group are good ways of letting the children come to Jesus, but they are not the only ways, and I would even dare to say that they should not be the main ways our kids grow in their relationship with Jesus. Look back at Psalm 78 and see where the responsibility lies: in verse 3 it says ‘things… that our fathers have told us’ and in verse 5 it says ‘he commanded our fathers to teach to their children’. This year I didn’t give a special Father’s day or Mother’s day message. So here it is – a Father’s day and Mother’s day and Grandparent’s day message all rolled into one.

Look back at Deuteronomy, where Moses urged the people of Israel to keep their focus on the centrality and majesty of God. In chapter 4, Moses reminds us of the danger of following other gods, and he warns:

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children––

Keep your own soul diligently, so that you can make God known to your children and grandchildren. In chapter 5, Moses reminds the people of the 10 commandments that God gave, and the central command to fear and love God with all your being:

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, …2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long….4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You must fear the LORD, you and your son, and your son’s son. It is the responsibility of parents to model and diligently teach the fear and love of the LORD to their children, using any means possible. He tells us again in chapter 11:

Deuteronomy 11:19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The primary responsibility of passing on a vision of God and his glory to the next generation does not rest on the church or the Sunday school teachers or youth group leaders. The responsibility of raising the next generations to fear and worship the one true God rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents, particularly the fathers. Look back to Psalm 78 at the multi-generational goal of this exhortation:

5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,

We are not simply responsible for training our kids to know and love and serve Jesus. We are held accountable for equipping our kids to lead and teach the generations to come. It is one thing to train someone to have a personal relationship with God; it is another thing to equip someone to train others for leadership. And that is what we are called to do as parents, and secondarily as a church. Kids, that is our prayer for you – not just that you become followers of Jesus, but that you become leaders and point the generations after you to follow your example as you follow Christ.

I’ve heard some nonsense of parents not wanting to force kids to believe what they believe, but laying out the options and letting the kids decide for themselves. That’s an arrogant statement, because it presumes that you can persuade them to follow what you believe. You can’t. Only God can create new life in your child, but he has given you the responsibility and privilege of teaching your kids the truth and leading them in the way they should go and praying earnestly for that work of God in their heart. It’s a foolish and irresponsible statement, because when your two year old has a fever, you don’t empty the medicine cabinet onto the kitchen table and say – here’s the options, you decide. And it’s a lazy attitude, because what it means is ‘I know raising children to fear and love the one true God is hard work, and I’d rather not put in the effort. There is a roaring lion that is seeking someone to devour. Don’t send your kids out into the world with their hands tied behind their back!

Some of you are single mothers, or have an unbelieving spouse. What about your situation? How can you possibly do this alone or in a divided house? Is there any hope when the primary responsibility lies with the father? Let me hold out one example as an encouragement to you: young pastor Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to continue in the faith he had embraced from childhood.

2Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

But from whom did he learn it? A godly father?

2Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Timothy’s father is not mentioned. It is quite possible that he grew up in a single parent home, or if his father was around, he was no help in the spiritual formation of this young man. And Timothy was called to pastor the church that Paul had planted in Ephesus. Paul called Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, and to set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. He charged him to preach the word, whether that was what people wanted to hear or not. And Paul is convinced that Timothy’s sincere faith was passed to him through his mother and grandmother. By God’s grace a single mom can raise a leader for future generations!

Look back at Psalm 78. I want to focus on the content and goal of the training. What is it we must convey to our children, and what is the response we want to see in them?

Psalm 78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

So he’s encouraging varied methods of communication; teaching, conversation – words of mouth, parables, and dark sayings or difficult truths. Matthew (13:35) cites this verse as being fulfilled by Jesus teaching in parables.

3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.

These are not only things that we have heard. He says ‘heard and known‘. We are not simply to mimic or parrot a truth, but to ingest and internalize it first. The truth must be known and practiced by the teacher before it can be effectively passed on to the student.

But what is the content that we are to pass on to the coming generation?

4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

The glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. The ‘what’ that we are to pass on is the ‘who’ of who God is. Why should we fear this God and love him with all our heart and soul and might? Because of who he is as seen in what he has done. The rest of the Psalm goes on to recount some of the historical deeds of awesome power and might, like the parting of the red sea, the pillar of cloud and of fire in the wilderness, water from the rock and food from heaven, the ten plagues that he brought on Egypt, and the supernatural conquest of the promised land; but more than that, the thread of his relentless mercy and grace runs through the whole chapter. All these mighty acts of God in caring for his people and yet his people were stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, refusing him and forgetting what he had done, sinning and testing God, even speaking against him, unbelief and distrust, sin and unbelief, lying, provoking, turning away and acting treacherously, moving him to jealousy with their idols. God’s anger flashed and his just wrath and discipline was poured out, but over and over and over he was gracious and he exercised his awesome power on their behalf; he made a way for them and led them and was a light to their path, he gave them water to drink from a rock and rained down food from heaven, he was compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger; he was grieved; but he turned his anger toward their enemies, he led his people like sheep, guided them in the wilderness, he led them to safety, brought them to his holy land and drove out nations before them and settled them; he chose them and shepherded them.

We are to communicate to the coming generation the great and glorious renown of God – the fame of his name, the sheer terror of his power, the stunningly amazing gift of his grace toward the undeserving. We must communicate who God is in all his majestic awesomeness and soul-satisfying beauty in a way that is compelling.

But what is our goal? What do we want our kids to come away with? Are we shooting for a one year bible certificate that says they know the right answers to all the important questions? Do we want them to be biblically literate so they can teach their own kids who Adam and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Matthew and Paul and Jesus were? Do we want you to be able to list the attributes of God and explain the Trinity?

5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Verse 7 gives the goal of parental instruction – ‘so that they should set their hope in God‘. This is what Peter has been teaching us in 1 Peter. In the first 12 verses he painted a picture of our awesome God and described his great mercy toward sinners, and laid out the riches of the promises that God has made to us, and then he tells us ‘therefore, set your hope fully on grace’ (1:13). ‘So that they should set their hope in God’. How is it that our children will come to set their hope in God? If we don’t set before them the incomprehensibly limitless power of creator God, our kids will hope in superman or the x-men. If we don’t hold out to them the infinite skill and persevering faithfulness of our covenant keeping God, they will set their hope in the next great athlete that comes on the scene. If they don’t see God’s infinite wisdom and care, our kids will hope in human wisdom and the pursuit of knowledge and the advances of technology. If they don’t grasp the absolute holiness of his character and nature, their admiration will fall on another object. If we don’t show them his overwhelming grace toward desperately sick and undeserving sinners, they might even hope in their own intrinsic goodness and worth. We must give them a God who is big enough to be hoped in!

He goes on: ‘and not forget the works of God’. The character of God is most clearly seen in his awesome acts. That’s why much of the bible is narrative – stories. In every piece of history, we should be asking ‘what can I learn about who God is from this story?’ We need to know the stories, because the stories teach us that God is worthy to be hoped in.

The next one is puzzling – framed as opposites: ‘not this but that’. What would you expect? Do not forget, but instead I want you to ??? (remember). Instead he sets obedience as the opposite of forgetfulness and says ‘Do not forget, but keep his commandments‘. Here’s how this works. God commands that we trust in him and hope in him and love him more than anything else and follow him and depend on him. When we’ve seen how he’s been always faithful in the past, it makes sense to hope in him for our future. But if we forget what he’s like, then we might be tempted to disobey him by hoping and trusting in something else. Obedience is the fruit of rock-solid confidence in the character of God. Obedience is embracing the ‘right’ of God. It is God’s right as God to make the rules, and all the rules he makes are right -the best possible rules that bring maximum joy to those who follow them.

We want you children to see God for who he is so that you will set your hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments, and we don’t want you to be like us in the ways we have blown it. This is a humbling way to instruct our children. Kids, don’t be like your dad, because your dad is stubborn and rebellious. (I could hear mom saying that to the kids, but remember, this is coming from the fathers). I am stubborn and rebellious. My heart was not steadfast, and I was not faithful to God. I want you to see God for who he truly is, but I don’t want you to be limited in your pursuit of God by my ineptness and failure in my pursuit of God. Please, children, pass me up in your wholehearted pursuit of holy joy in God. Don’t be stubborn, but be pliable in God’s hand. Don’t rebel against God, but submit gladly to his gracious and good plan. My heart was prone to wander, you fix your affections firmly on God and do not be moved. My spirit was plagued by unbelief – I was not faithful to God. You, see God for who he is, never forget what he’s done, hope in him and keep your faith fully fixed on him.

This is what we want for our kids. We want you to be so captivated by a true vision of who God is that you are gladly surrendered to his authority in your life, that you are rock solid in your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, following where he leads and doing what he calls you to do, trusting that he is good and what he does is right.

Parents, how do we effectively pass this on to our children. I’ve attempted to say it in a way that is compelling, and maybe I’ve gotten some of you fired up about communicating the greatness of God to the future generations. That might last the afternoon. What are some take-home things that we can put into practice that will gain momentum toward faithfully communicating this most important truth to the next generation?

We must experience it.

Our lives must revolve around God as the center of our universe. Our lives will revolve around whatever has the most attraction or pull or gravity. Our actions will reveal our true affections. We must stop and take a fresh look at who God is and re-center our lives around him. We must taste him for ourselves before we can commend him to others.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

We must remember.

We need to be constantly reminded of God’s overwhelming grace that is constantly poured our in our own wretched lives. Look back over God’s undeserved grace to you and be freshly amazed that he extended mercy to a sinner like you.

Finally, we must be humble.

A proud person has something to offer. A humble person is acutely aware of their own insufficiency and willing to receive the free handout of another. We don’t want our kids to hope in us or in the church; we want you to hope in GOD!

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

August 30, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment