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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 9:4; The Person to Whom We Pray

07/10_Daniel 09:4; The Person to Whom We Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220710_dan09_4.mp3

We are learning to pray from Daniel. He sets the example for us, habitually praying whether it cost him nothing, or whether it cost him everything. He sought the face of God in prayer. His purpose was not primarily to get answers, but to spend time with his God. He prayed not out of a sense of duty or obligation, but he enjoyed the privilege of relationship with his Creator. He shows us the appropriate posture for prayer; humility. He comes into the presence of God not because he has a right to, but knowing that he doesn’t, leaning completely on the merciful character of God. He humbly reminds himself that God is more necessary than food, more essential than personal comfort, more to be desired even than life itself. He comes knowing what he deserves, and pleading for mercy

Which god is God?

Today I want to look at who it is Daniel is addressing in prayer. It matters to whom we pray. Do you remember 1 Kings 18 where Elijah challenged God’s people to choose which god they would follow?

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

The question is which god is the most high God? Which god is stronger? Which god is able to answer? Which god is worthy to be served? It is not enough merely to say that you pray to god. Which god? Notice the people aren’t willing to commit. They don’t know which god is the true God. They did not answer him a word. Elijah proposes a test; two bulls will be prepared for sacrifice, one for Baal and one for YHWH.

1 Kings 18:24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

After repairing the altar of YHWH and preparing the bull for offering, after drenching the whole altar with water,

1 Kings 18:36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”

It matters not only that you pray; it matters greatly to whom you pray.

Adonai; Sovereign God

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel was reading the word of YHWH to Jeremiah. So he turned his face to the Lord God; to Adonai Elohim. He is not just a god; he is the sovereign God. Daniel gave his face, his full attention to the sovereign God, to the God who is Owner, Master, Lord. Daniel acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all things. He is supreme in authority. He is the one in control.

YHWH God

Daniel 9:3 …Then I turned my face to the Lord God, …4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, …

He turned his face to the Sovereign God, and he prayed to YHWH his God. Nowhere else in the book of Daniel is the name YHWH found, but in this chapter he uses the sacred name 8 times. When you see LORD spelled with all capitals in your English translation, it is telling you that that is the Name of God, YHWH.

This is the name God gave to Moses at the time of the exodus; Exodus 3.

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Moses, preserved by God, raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter, called to deliver God’s people, killed an Egyptian and fled for his life, now 40 years tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness, and God appears to him in a burning bush. God declares his holiness, his utter unapproachable uniqueness, his other-ness. He connects himself with history; he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.

Exodus 3:7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

YHWH is a God who is aware, who sees, who hears, who knows, who cares, who comes down to help. I have seen, I have heard, I know, I have come down to deliver.

Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

This is an issue of identity. Moses asks ‘who am I?’ God answers ‘But I will be with you’. Moses is concerned about his own identity, or lack thereof. God re-directs his thinking; you need to know who I am; what matters is who I am; the weight is with my identity, not your identity. Moses begins to understand.

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Who are you? What is your name? God says “I AM WHO I AM”. My name is the I AM. This is the verb ‘to be’. I exist. I exist because I exist. But don’t we all exist? Why do we exist? I was brought into existence by another. There was a time before I existed. There was a time when I was not. I had a beginning. John 1 says of the Word who was with God and who was God;

John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Colossians 1:16 says:

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

It was Jesus who created all things, who brought all things that are into existence. There exist in the world only two kinds of things, two kinds of beings; that which had a beginning and that which had no beginning; that whose existence is dependent on something outside of itself, and that which exists independent of anything, that which was created, and the uncreated Creator of all that is. There is the one who was and who is and who is to come, the I AM, and there is all that is dependent on him for its existence. YHWH is the noun form of the verb ‘to be’. YHWH exists. He is the only absolute independent self existent being.

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. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

YHWH connects himself with their history. He is the God who made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. He is the God who cut a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and unilaterally promised him that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars and that he would give them the land as a possession. God confirmed his promises to Isaac (Gen.26:3-4) and to Jacob (Gen.28:13-15). YHWH is the God who made binding covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and as YHWH he confirms those promises to the Israelites of the Exodus; ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land…’ YHWH is the promise making God of Israel, who gave his chosen people his personal name.

Now Daniel, an Israelite in exile, away from the land, calls on YHWH the self-existent God who made promises to his people to give them the land forever (Gen.17:7-8).

Great and Awesome God

Daniel 9:3 …Then I turned my face to the Lord God, …4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, …

Daniel begins his prayer by addressing God as ‘O Lord’ or ‘O Sovereign …God’; similar to the title he gives God in verse 3, but here he uses the shortened form ‘El’ rather than the plural ‘Elohim’. And he inserts two descriptors, great and awesome.

God is great. He is mighty. He is exceeding. He is stronger, higher, brighter, older, he is more.

God is awesome. He fills us with awe, fear, dread. He is terrible and creates terror. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps.111:10). When David brought the ark of the covenant to his city, he wrote this song:

1 Chronicles 16:25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

YHWH is self existent, he is sovereign, he is great and he is to be feared.

Keeping Covenant and Steadfast Love

Daniel 9:3 …Then I turned my face to the Lord God, …4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,

Daniel adds that God is a covenant keeping God, and he shows steadfast love to those who love him. When God makes promises, he keeps them. He guards and protects his covenant promises.

And he shows ‘chesed’, kindness or mercy or steadfast love. In the ten commandments, YHWH said that he is a jealous God,’visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments’ (Ex.20:5-6). After the people make and worship the golden calf, God forgives them, and reveals his glory to Moses.

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

YHWH is abounding in chesed; he keeps steadfast love for thousands, in contrast to his punishment to only three or four generations. God is absolutely just and righteous, but he abounds in kindness. He overflows with forgiveness. He is merciful, gracious and slow to anger. He demonstrates how he can be both absolutely just, never letting one sin go unpunished, and abundantly merciful, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin by putting forward Jesus his only Son,

Romans 3:24 …Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Do you know him? Who do you address in prayer? God the Sovereign, YHWH the self-existent, the great and terrible, the covenant keeping one who abounds in steadfast love? Do you know him? Daniel addresses him as YHWH my God. Is he your God?

***

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

July 23, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 7:11-14; The Son of Man

04/03_Daniel 07:11-14; The Son of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220403_dan07_11-14.mp3

How long O Lord?

Psalm 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

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

Daniel answers the cry of our hearts ‘How long, O LORD?’ This passage in Daniel 7 is at the very heart and center of the book. We saw nations like ravenous beasts rise up from the earth, but in verses 9-10 our attention is turned to the throne room of the universe, where the Ancient of Days takes his seat on his flaming chariot throne. The one who is eternal, perfectly pure and holy, infinitely wise, absolutely good and just is seated on his throne to right every wrong and bring about absolute justice.

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

The Boastful Beast

Daniel 7:11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

In verses 11-12 Daniel looked on in amazement because the arrogant little horn of the final beast was still speaking inflated words in the very presence of the Ancient of Days. The terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong kingdom beast that devoured and broke and crushed everything, and its arrogant horn speaking proud words are decisively disposed of in a moment, shown to be nothing by the Ancient of Days. This final beast was killed, destroyed, given over to be burned in an instant, in contrast to the preceding kingdoms, who were conquered, but absorbed into the succeeding kingdoms and continued on in them for a time.

Psalm 2:1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 ​Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 ​Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Take refuge in him, because he will destroy his enemies with a word.

The Divine Cloud Rider

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 ​And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This second figure Daniel sees is one who comes with the clouds of heaven. Anyone familiar with the Bible’s story line would recognize clouds as the most frequent visible manifestation of the invisible God, and one coming with the clouds as a description of the Lord God himself. All the way back in the Exodus,

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

Exodus 16:10 …behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Exodus 19:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you…

Exodus 33:9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. …

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

The cloud was a manifestation of the glory of the Lord, a visible representation of the personal presence of YHWH God with them.

Psalm 18 describes the Lord come to rescue the one who cries out to him:

Psalm 18:9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

Psalm 104 sings praise to YHWH.

Psalm 104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. 3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind;

Isaiah also sees YHWH the cloud rider:

Isaiah 19:1 …Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt;

When Moses blessed the people in Deuteronomy 33, he said:

Deuteronomy 33:26 “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. 27 The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy.’

Only YHWH God rides on the clouds of heaven, so when Daniel sees this one coming with the clouds of heaven, it is evident that this one is YHWH God himself.

The Sovereign Son of Man

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

This passage is so important for our understanding of who Jesus is.

A son of man is simply a way to describe a human, a descendant of Adam. Daniel is addressed in 8:17 as ‘O, son of man’; 93 times Ezekiel is addressed as ‘son of man’. Outside of Ezekiel, this phrase only shows up another 14 times in the rest of the Old Testament. This is simply another way to say ‘human’.

But it is interesting that here in Daniel 7, this one who comes on the clouds is not said to be a son of man, but that he is like a son of man. YHWH riding on the clouds is coming in human form; like a son of man. This is not to say that he could not actually be fully human, as we know Jesus was. The point is that this one is YHWH God come in the form of a human. As Romans 8:3 says God sent ‘his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh’.

The son of man was by far Jesus’ most frequent way to refer to himself throughout his ministry. Where he referred to himself as ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ 9 times; as ‘Son of God’ 4 times, as ‘Son of David 2 times, as ‘Lord’ 8 times, as the ‘I AM’ 8 times; Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man about 80 times in the gospels. He said things like ‘the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ (Mt.9:6); The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Mt.12:8). He said that the Son of Man will come in his kingdom (Mt.16:28); that the Son of Man will be enthroned in glory (Mt.19:28); that the Son of Man will execute judgment (Mt.16:27).

It is unmistakable that when Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, he was pointing us specifically to this passage in Daniel 7.

Matthew 24:27 ​For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

When Jesus stood trial before the high priest, and the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against him to have him put to death, Caiaphas became frustrated;

Matthew 26:62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus was making direct reference to Daniel 7, claiming to be YHWH the cloud rider, the one like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. They got the message. They understood what he was claiming.

Matthew 26:65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

The religious leaders who knew their Scriptures recognized Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven as blasphemy, a claim to be YHWH God himself.

He was With God and He Was God

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

This passage is fascinating. The cloud rider is unmistakably YHWH himself, but he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. The Ancient of Days is clearly YHWH God Almighty. So we have YHWH God seated on his throne, and YHWH God coming on the clouds like a Son of Man and presented before YHWH God. Is this confusing? YWHW God riding the clouds appears before YHWH God seated on his throne. The Lord God gives to the Lord God the kingdom, and encourages worship of the Lord God. Clearly two persons, two individuals, interacting with one another, relating with one another, distinct from one another, and yet sharing a common identity, the identity of YHWH God.

Remember, this is Daniel, recording a vision given to him in 550 BC, over 500 years before the coming of Jesus. But this fits perfectly with what is said of Jesus;

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

The Word existed eternally with his Father. The Word was – the self-existent Word was with God, distinct from the Father and in relationship with his Father. And the Word was himself God, equal to the Father, one with his Father, possessing all the attributes of the one God. One in essence or nature with his Father, yet a distinct personality in relationship with his Father.

Jesus said in John 10:

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

I and my Father, distinct, in relationship, giving and receiving; yet also one. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was never ‘confusing the persons nor dividing the substance’ (Athanasian creed).

Jesus helps us make sense of Daniel. The Ancient of Days, God the Father seated on his throne, and Jesus, God the Son coming on the clouds, presented before his Father, receives the kingdom from his Father.

Exalted at the Father’s Right Hand

Daniel 7:14 ​And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In Acts, after the resurrected Jesus commissioned his disciples to testify about him to the nations,

Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In Acts 2 Peter preached:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. …32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Paul says in Ephesians 1:

Ephesians 1:19 …the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

Stephen, the first martyr of the church:

Acts 7:56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

In Revelation, John extends

Revelation 1:4 …Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 ​And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Behold the Man! (Jn.19:5). Fall down and worship him, for he is worthy!

***

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

April 5, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:11-15; Paying Attention

02/13_Daniel 06:11-15; Paying Attention; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220213_dan06_11-15.mp3

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” 6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

No legal battle, no protest, no petitions, no arguing his case or even asking permission.

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

Daniel, conspired against, facing death, is not controlled by outside influence or circumstance. He continues to do what he loves, what he is committed to. Daniel acts as a truly free man, in contrast to the other high officials, consumed by jealousy and lust for power; in contrast to the king, blinded by flattery and manipulated.

Making Petition and Plea

Daniel 6:11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

They came as a group, as a mob. Remember, Daniel is in his own house, in his upper chamber, down on his knees. Not the most public or conspicuous place to be caught, except by those so consumed by envy that the assembled together to catch him in the act.

We are told they found Daniel ‘making petition and plea before his God.’ What radical rebellion! What a menace to society! What a dangerous man. Daniel is in his 80’s, probably around 83 years old, a threat to public order, praying alone in the privacy of his home.

He was ‘making petition’; this is the very language of their edict, found in verses 7, 12 and 13. Daniel was making petition; he was seeking, he was asking, he was requesting. What his enemies had manipulated the king to outlaw was the very thing they found him doing.

He was making petition and plea; this word ‘plea’ can mean either to seek or to show mercy; to ask or to give favor or grace. This same word was used in 4:27 to encourage the king to show mercy to the poor. Daniel was seeking grace and mercy, maybe even for those who had conspired against him.

Before His God

Daniel was making petition and plea before his God. Not the king. That’s the issue. It doesn’t matter the content of your prayers so much as to whom they are directed. You can make a request and seek mercy and grace from the tree in your back yard, or a special rock you carry around in your pocket, but that’s not going to help you. You can pray to your own conception of God as you imagine him to be, but that is not the same as praying to the God who really is.

Here’s another excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s fictional correspondence from the demon Screwtape:

“But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located—up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.” [C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, IV]

It didn’t matter so much that he was praying, as to whom he was praying. That is the real threat. If he truly has access in prayer to the God who is, if that God actually answers his requests and grants him favor, what does that mean for his enemies?

They recognized the danger of prayer, and attempted to outlaw it, to redirect it. Daniel’s enemies were manipulating the king, and if they could reroute all prayers to go through the king, that would put them in ultimate control.

The God-King Entrapped

Daniel 6:12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.”

The trap is fully set, not only for Daniel, but for the king. Unbeknownst to him, they have the king backed into the corner they contrived. They address him as ‘O king, O king, but they had no regard for him or his position. They merely intend to use him to secure their own desires.

They boldly came near the king with their cornering questions. This is the same word used back in 3:8;

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

They came forward or came near to the king. To come near the king uninvited is presumptuous and dangerous as we learn a bit over 50 year later from Queen Esther when she risked her own life entering the court of Ahasuerus (or Xerxes I), king of Persia.

Esther 5:2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

These men presumptuously draw near to the king and ask him to confirm that he did indeed sign the injunction forbidding the petitioning of anyone but the king, and that the consequence for disobedience was death. The king affirms that it is now law and that it cannot be revoked.

Daniel Defamed

Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Notice how they introduce Daniel. Not Daniel, one of your top three officials, not the Daniel who became distinguished above all the other officials because an excellent spirit was in him, not Daniel whom you intend to set over the whole kingdom, not Daniel the man of integrity that has served under the administrations of multiple kings. No, they introduce him as Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah. That was almost 70 years ago! He has lived through the rise and fall of the Babylonian empire, served multiple kings with integrity, and now is highly favored by the king of the Medo-Persian empire. And his resume? ‘He is one of the exiles from Judah.’ He is basically a slave, a captive, a nobody. He is one of the leftovers of one of the many conquered peoples deported by Babylon from their homes. An exile has the audacity to disregard both the king and his laws. This cannot be tolerated.

No Respecter of Persons

He ‘pays no attention to you, O king’. This assumes that there is a person who ought to be respected. They argue from the king’s priority of position, that he ought to be the one to whom everyone owes attention. This is how they got the injunction signed in the first place. If he pays no attention to you, who is he paying with his attention? To whom do we owe our attention? (Rom.13:7)

There is some truth to the accusation. Daniel is truly no respecter of persons. His allegiance is to no human. God alone deserves our undivided attention, our utmost respect, and this is exactly what Daniel understands. ‘He went to his house… He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ because he knew to whom he was in debt to pay attention. (Mt.22:20-21)

This is exactly what made him the right man for the top job. Allegiances change, empires change, kings and kingdoms fade away. If his allegiance as an exiled Jew was to the Jewish nation, he would do what he could to undermine those currently in power. If his allegiance was to Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonian empire, could he be trusted by subsequent kings or by the conquering empire? If his primary allegiance was to himself and to seeking his own advancement, like these other high officials, could he be trusted to do what was in the best interest of the king and the country, or would he use other people, including the king, to advance his own interests?

His allegiance was to God alone, who transcends all kings and kingdoms, and who is unchanging and unchangeable. This higher allegiance required him to make sacrifices and decisions that were not in his own personal interest, but in the interest of others.

Or To The Law

He pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed. It’s personal. He pays no attention to you. But it’s also official. He disregards the law. If it was only a personal offense, you could choose to let that offense slide; you might be considered gracious. But you can’t let an offense against the law slide, or you would be unjust, and risk the total breakdown of society. That’s why these officials made sure to get it in writing and have the king sign it so it could not be revoked.

But Daniel did pay attention to the king, and he did keep the laws. He would not be trusted by the king if he did not. But he also knew when a law was out of its jurisdiction. Laws are meant to be for the good of society, the protection of people, to maintain proper order. Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit and concludes ‘against such there is no law’. What is more loving than to pray for someone, to bring them before the throne of grace and plead for their good and the blessings of God to be on them? A law that forbade prayer was in effect attempting to outlaw love, and that is no law! Daniel understood, as the apostles understood, that authority is appointed by God and rulers are God’s servants for your good (Rom.13:1,4). They also understood that when government reaches beyond its proper jurisdiction and attempts to regulate or prohibit our obedience to God, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Act.5:29).

Mighty To Save

Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

Notice the contrast between the calculatingly vengeful officials set on destruction, and the distressed laboring king with his mind set on deliverance. These officials should have been the ones laboring to protect the interests of the king; after all, he had appointed them ‘so that the king might suffer no loss’. And losing Daniel would be a great loss to the king. Under ordinary circumstances, the king would give the order for someone serving him to come up with a solution to his problems. But he is realizing he really has no friends in his own administration. Daniel is the accused, and everyone else is a co-conspirator against him. The king himself had fallen into their trap. If there is to be any help, he must see to it himself.

The response of the king demonstrates the depth of his respect for this exile from Judah who ‘pays no attention to you’. He ‘was much distressed’. He ‘set his mind to deliver Daniel.’ ‘He labored …to rescue him.’ His eyes were opened to the conspiracy, their jealousy, and his own folly. So he sought to do whatever was in his power to save Daniel.

But it is God alone who saves (Is.63:1; Zeph,3:17). And we may try, but we can’t help him. The king labored till sundown, but all his labor was in vain. This was out of his hands. It is God who rescues, who delivers.

The Folly of the Wicked

Daniel 6:15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

The audacity of these men! They show up as a group and lecture the king about his own laws. They have the king trapped; they know it and he knows it, and they gloat.

But I don’t think their plan was very well thought through. They were after Daniel’s position. He was in the way and they wanted him gone. But did they actually think, after openly manipulating the king and cornering him to act against his will in executing his most trusted official, that he would then turn around and entrust them with anything? We have to expect in the folly of the wicked, that even if they succeed in destroying Daniel, they inevitably will fall into the trap that they have set. Psalm 7 says:

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

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

***

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

February 18, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church; Matthew 16

01/09 – Who are we? What in the world are we doing? the church); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220109_the-church.mp3

What in the world are we doing here? Just who do we think we are?

It’s good on occasion to pause and ask ourselves questions like this to gain clarity on our identity and to refocus on our purpose.

pray –

Church – a Gathering or Assembly of Dissimilar People

Who do we think we are? We are a church; the word ‘church’ simply means an assembly or gathering, people called out, called together. There are lots of different kinds of gatherings. Our city council meets together regularly. There’s the Parent Teacher Association, 4-H, Lion’s club, the archery club, Friends of the Library, the humanitarian council. There’s a lot of different organizations that meet together with their own unique goals and purposes and missions.

We are an assembly of different people from different ethnic and geographic backgrounds, different upbringings, different ages, different family dynamics, different occupations, different incomes, different walks of life, different personalities and preferences, different styles, different struggles, different opinions, different hobbies. We are a diverse people; what brings us together? Just who do we think we are?

What We Do; Sing, Pray, Listen to the Word, Ordinances

And what in the world are we doing? When we gather, we sing together. What other gathering do you participate in where you sing together, except maybe a choir or a sporting event where our national anthem is sung?

We sing and we pray; we talk to someone we can’t see, and we assume that he hears and cares and can actually do something about what we talk to him about.

We sing, we pray, and we read and study an ancient book together. But it’s not a discussion group; instead we typically have one guy claiming to speak with authority and telling you how to live your life based on what we find in this ancient book, written at a very different time in history to very different groups of people in different geographic and cultural settings, and yet somehow we believe that it is relevant to us today; in fact we expect it to shape the way we live our lives.

We also observe ancient rites or ordinances. We take a small bit of bread and a cup of juice, and we all eat it together, as commanded in this ancient book. Those who want to become part of our gathering, we ask them to be immersed in water, fully clothed, in front of everyone.

Does any of this seem just a bit strange? Imagine inviting a friend who has no familiarity with what we call ‘church’. ‘I’d like you to come with me. You’ll have to get up early on a weekend morning when you’d normally be sleeping in, and we will gather together with a bunch of people we have very little in common with, some of whom we probably disagree with over important life issues. We sing songs to a crucified man who claimed to be God, who we believe is now alive, we talk to him, we take bread and juice that symbolize eating his flesh and drinking his blood. We listen to someone talk at us out of this ancient book and tell us how to live our lives. Oh, and if you decide you want to become part of our gathering, you’ll need to get dunked in water in front of everybody.

A Subversive Kingdom

By the way, this gathering has been viewed throughout most of history by governments in power as subversive and dangerous. Many churches today have to gather secretly, but they continue to gather. Politically we may be on different pages, with different goals and priorities. But we agree on this; whatever human governments are over us, our primary allegiance is to a different kingdom and a different King; our citizenship is in a different country. And although human governments will rise and fall, the kingdom we belong to will one day rule over all others and will last forever. Do you see why many human governments feel threatened by this kind of assembly?

Exclusive and Universal Claims

Here’s another thing that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable about what we call church. If you spend any time in a gospel preaching church, you will hear talk of being lost and being saved. Our society is all about self help and self improvement and positive affirmation. But the central message we as the church have is that everyone is hopelessly lost and broken with no possibility of self improvement; no way to fix ourselves (Is.53:6; Rom.3:23). We are completely helpless and utterly dependent on outside help that we don’t deserve. We talk about sin – that going our own way and doing whatever we think might make us happy – is not a good thing to be celebrated, but a bad thing worthy of eternal punishment by the God whose world this is (Is.59:2).

This is a shockingly negative message about us, and a surprisingly narrow claim in today’s world. Everyone is lost and condemned, and the one and only way of rescue is believing the message churches proclaim about a Jewish Messiah who was crucified for sinners and raised from the dead.

This message is incredibly narrow (Jn.14:6), but the claim of the church is that it is universal in scope. This is not just our truth that is true for us because we find it compelling; we claim that it is absolute truth that will prove true for you whether you believe it or not. We have been entrusted with this message, and we have been commissioned to bring it to every person and every people group around the globe, because it is the one and only way to be rescued from what we deserve.

Let’s review; what have we said so far about the church? We are an assembly of dissimilar people with very little in common, who gather to sing and pray to someone who isn’t visibly present, we hear teaching from an ancient book that we seek to live by. We tell people that they aren’t free to do whatever they want or whatever they think will make them happy; rather they are accountable to the God who created all things and whom they have offended by their assumed independence. We rehearse rites that remind us of a crucified man who claimed to be God and who rose from the dead. We immerse in water those who turn away from their own path and entrust themselves to this crucified One. Although we seek to submit as far as possible to our local governments, our ultimate allegiance lies with a greater King of a greater kingdom to which we belong.

How do you think this will go over with your neighbor, your co-worker, your boss? How can we possibly expect anyone to listen to this kind of a message? Could this message gain any traction in today’s world?

Why get up early on a Sunday morning and gather with dissimilar people where you might catch a cold or worse, and when you can get better content online in the privacy of your home on whatever subject interests you whenever it’s most convenient? In a world of viruses and virtual meetings and telecommuting, why actually come to meet together in person?

Meeting With a Person

Here’s the most important reason to come to meet together in person; because we come together to meet with a Person. Although Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord is not visibly with us, he is indeed with us. Jesus said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb.13:5);

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the context of seeking lost sheep, and church discipline, and extending lavish forgiveness to those who sin against us repeatedly Jesus said:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Doing church with dissimilar people is messy, but it is Jesus who brings us together. It is Jesus that we have in common.

The Identity of Jesus

In Matthew 16, Jesus took his disciples away from busily serving the crowds, and he asked them ‘who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ After listing several of the popular opinions, ‘John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets’ Jesus asked them ‘But who do you say that I am?’

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

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church. Jesus is the promised Christ, the Messiah, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King, one who will reign forever on David’s throne. Jesus is the eternal Son of the living God, the only begotten, God of God, eternally existing in relationship with God and as God; God with us, who came down.

The identity of Jesus is essential, it is central, and it is something that is supernaturally known. Jesus affirms that Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It isn’t merely one more opinion about Jesus. This is the revelation of the Father about his only Son. And it is on this revelation of the identity of Jesus that Jesus will build his church.

But what Peter said was not complete. He was missing part of the story.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Jesus wanted to make sure his followers understood that he was the promised reigning King, but he was also the suffering Servant, the one who would bear the sins of many, he would be like a lamb led to the slaughter, he would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, he would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; the Lord would lay on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53).

It is on the identity of Jesus as coming King, Divine Son of God, suffering Servant that his church will be established.

I Will Build My Church

Notice, the church does not belong to us, and it is not our job to build the church. It is not our job to persuade people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah King, Son of the living God, who died for their sins. It is our commission to proclaim the truth about him, to bear witness that we have experienced him as such. But Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. Using the unlikely message of the gospel, that we all are sinners and have all fallen short, but that Jesus bore in his body the consequences of my sin, died the death I deserve, so that I could be forgiven and live to enjoy relationship with him; using the unlikely announcement of a crucified Messiah, Jesus will build his church and his church will advance against the very gates of hell.

Do not be ashamed of Jesus. Do not be ashamed of the good news of the Messiah crucified for sinners. It is the very power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not be strong enough to stand up against the advance of Jesus’ church.

Who Do We Think We Are?

Just who do we think we are? We are the blood bought and dearly beloved bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the flock of God. We are the temple of God, the church of the living God, the household of God, the pillar and buttress of the truth.

What in the world are we doing here? We are bearing witness to the identity and transforming power of Jesus to make people new inside, to forgive and give life, to conquer sin and set captives free. We are advancing against the very gates of hell, taking ground from the enemy of our souls.

***

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

January 13, 2022 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Born Under Law to Be Salvation (Luke 2:21-35)

12/26_Born Under Law to Be Salvation (Luke 2:21-35); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211226_advent-born-under-law.mp3

Luke records the birth of Jesus in a shepherd’s cave in Bethlehem

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Throughout this passage Jesus is shown as greater that John. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, a priest, a righteous man, who was in the temple offering incense. A child would be born to this barren couple in their old age. Zechariah doubted, so he was unable to speak until the child was born. After he returned home, his wife Elizabeth conceived in the natural way.

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, just Mary, in nowhere Nazareth, doing nothing worthy of mention. God was extending his grace; unearned favor and kindness. Mary too questioned the angel’s message, but not out of unbelief. She would conceive in an entirely supernatural way; so that the child would be called holy, the Son of God.

It was revealed by the angel to Mary that her barren relative Elizabeth had conceived in her old age. Mary visited and Elizabeth blessed Mary the mother of her Lord. Mary rejoiced in God’s grace.

It was revealed by an angel to shepherds out in the fields the good news that a Savior, Christ the Lord was born to them that day, and a multitude of the heavenly armies appeared worshiping God. They visited the cave and found the baby lying in a food trough, and they spread the word that the angel had told them.

When John was born, Elizabeth was surrounded by rejoicing relatives and neighbors.

When Mary gave birth, they were far from home, forced by a Roman census, seeking refuge in a cave, likely alone.

When the boy born to Zechariah and Elizabeth was circumcised on the eighth day, they named him John, the name given them by the angel.

Real Flesh and Blood

We will pick up the story in Luke 2:21.

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Again, this points to the fact that Jesus was greater than John, alluding to the uniqueness of Jesus’ conception. But Jesus’ supernatural conception in the womb of a virgin should not lead us to believe that he was less than fully human. An early false teaching or heresy named ‘Docetism’ taught that Jesus only appeared to be human; because they believed that matter is evil and only the spiritual is of value, they taught that Jesus only appeared to be flesh and blood, but was really immaterial, an apparition. Here’s where this verse is helpful to keep us from wandering into error. You can’t circumcise a spirit or an apparition. The fact that Jesus was circumcised gave historical tangible evidence that he was really and truly human. He was not less than fully human, but he was more. The eternal God who has no beginning or end became human at a point in history, took on flesh so that as a human he could take our place, die the death we deserve, pay the price our sins demand.

When he was circumcised on the eighth day, he was named Jesus, ‘YHWH saves’; the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb of the virgin.

Purification

Luke 2:22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

There’s a lot going on in these verses. Leviticus 12 outlines the procedure for a male child to be circumcised on the eighth day, and the mother is to remain separate from holy things for another 33 days, until the days of her purifying are completed. So this presentation before the priest at the temple with a burnt offering and a sin offering would occur 40 days after the birth.

It is interesting that Luke mentions the time for ‘their’ purification. We would expect ‘her’ purification, because according to the law only the mother needed to make the purification offering. This may indicate that Joseph was much more hands-on involved in the birth than was customary, so he also needed purification according to the law, because of contact with blood. We can’t be sure, but this may point to Mary and Joseph being alone for the birth, without the help of other women who would in normal circumstances help with the birthing process.

Poverty

One thing we do know from Luke’s statement is that this couple was poor, too poor to offer the customary year old lamb for the burnt offering. Leviticus 12 made allowance for someone who could not afford a lamb to offer two turtledoves or two pigeons, one in place of the lamb for the burnt offering and the customary one for the sin offering.

Mary had emphasized her ‘humble estate’ already in 1:48 and 1:52; in that verse she mentions the Lord filling the hungry with good things; quite possibly she was poor enough to know hunger.

Mary was too poor to offer a lamb for a burnt offering, but this points us to something bigger. Abraham in faith said ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering’ (Gen.22:8). Mary could not afford the required lamb, but with her was ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn.1:29).

Presentation of the Firstborn and Redemption

There’s something else going on in these verses besides the purification of the couple with the proscribed offering according to the Law of Moses.

Luke 2:22 …they brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)

Jesus was Mary’s firstborn. Back in the Exodus, God said:

Numbers 3:13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD.”

Exodus 13:12 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.

According to Numbers 3:47-48, the price for redemption of a man was five shekels. Luke says nothing about the five shekels, but he does say that ‘they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord’. This reminds us of Hannah, who prayed earnestly for a child, and promised if the Lord would give her a son, she would give him to the Lord all the days of his life (1Sam.1:11). Jesus in a unique way belongs to the Lord as the firstborn.

It is likely that they did pay the redemption price for the firstborn, but Luke records the event in such a way as to pique our curiosity and leave room for the theological understanding that Jesus did not need himself to be redeemed, but he came to redeem us.

Born Under Law

Repeated in this section is mention of the law.

Luke 2:22 …according to the Law of Moses, …23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, … 24 … according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, …27 … according to the custom of the Law, …39 …when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, …

They were living by the book. Everything was done according to the law. Nothing was omitted. Jesus was born under the law, and he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill them (Mt.5:17).

Galatians 4 says:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Jesus, God’s Son, was born under the law to redeem those under the law. Because he was born under the law, it was essential that he keep the law fully and perfectly, and this applied even to what was done for him by his parents after his birth. Jesus was born under the law and kept the law perfectly in order to fulfill the law for us, so that his perfect record could be credited to our account, so that he could redeem us from the demands of the law, demands that we could never meet.

Simeon and Anna

After John’s birth, his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about the coming of the Lord, and that John would go before the Lord to prepare his ways.

After Jesus’ birth, the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and he blessed God and blessed the family in the temple courts. The prophetess Anna thanked God and spoke of Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 ​that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 ​a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.

We don’t know much about Simeon. We are not given his lineage, but he was righteous and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.

Waiting for the Consolation of Israel

He was waiting. Isaiah 25 says:

Isaiah 25:8 ​He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

He was waiting for the consolation or comfort of Israel.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 ​Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

Simeon knew that God himself would come and would himself wipe away our tears. Simeon was waiting, because Holy Spirit had revealed that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed.

Note the triune God at work in this scene. The Holy Spirit was upon him. The Spirit led him to the temple at that specific time. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see YHWH’s Anointed. Three distinct persons; one God. By the Spirit he took Jesus in his arms and blessed God.

Luke 2:28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 ​that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 ​a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.

Salvation in a Person

My eyes have seen your salvation. Simeon was looking for rescue. God had promised to rescue his people, and Simeon said ‘I have seen your rescue.’ But nothing had changed in his circumstances. Jerusalem was under Roman occupation. The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was due (at least from a human perspective) to a Roman census requiring registration in one’s hometown. The Jews would look to the Roman governor Pilate to carry out Jesus’ execution (Jn.18:31). They would cry out ‘we have no king but Caesar’ (Jn.19:15).

How can Simeon say ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’? He was holding the infant Jesus, and he recognized that the salvation that God was sending was not a thing but a person. Jesus is God’s salvation. Jesus is Israel’s comfort.

But Simeon saw by the Spirit that God’s salvation in the person of Jesus was bigger even than Israel.

Luke 2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 ​that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 ​a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

This salvation in Jesus God has prepared in the presence of all the peoples. This is not just a national salvation. This is a global salvation. Jesus means salvation to the Jews, yes; but he also means salvation to the Romans, to the non-Jews. Jesus is light to the nations!

Isaiah 49:3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” …6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Costly Salvation

Luke 2:33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Simeon turns from blessing God to blessing Mary and Joseph. This is a blessing, but it is a hard word. Jesus will be the watershed, the dividing line. Jesus is a sign from God, but he will be opposed. Many will rise because of him; he will lift up the humble and lowly, but many will stumble over him and fall because of him. There may be a superficial facade of religiosity, but Jesus will reveal what is truly in the heart. Many will oppose him, and ultimately crucify him. This is a sobering word to Mary. A sword will pierce her soul. Salvation is glorious good news, but salvation is not cheap. The Lord’s salvation comes at a great cost. Jesus was born to Mary, but as the angel declared to the shepherds, the Savior, Christ the Lord was born to them, for the benefit of sinners. Sinners who need saving, sinners who need rescue. And this rescue is infinitely costly.

Grace is God’s favor freely given to those who don’t deserve it, but grace is not free. To the recipient a gifts is given freely, but a gift comes at a costs to the giver. A great way to remember what grace means is by the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. God’s riches are freely given to all who will receive, but they come at great expense to Christ.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 ​But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 ​All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

***

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

January 13, 2022 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing

04/18_2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210418_2cor13_12-14.mp3

Paul has shown the Corinthians what authentic ministry is. By his life and teaching he has marked out for them and for us the way of the cross. He leaves them with this final exhortation.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Paul addresses the wayward Corinthians affectionately as brothers. He gives five commands: rejoice, be restored, be comforted, think the same, make peace; and he follows these commands with a promise, the promise of the presence of God, that the God of love and of peace will be with us. God with us – the motive and power to live in unity, to reconcile, to be courageous, to find true joy.

The Holy Kiss

Then he gives us another command.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

We firmly believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, and we want to heed James’ instruction:

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

So greet one another with a holy kiss. What do we do with a command like this? Here’s what we don’t do. This is the word of God. We don’t just squirm for a moment because it sounds uncomfortable and then move on and forget about it. We want the word of Christ to dwell in us, to change us, to change our behavior, to change how we relate to one another.

Here’s what else we don’t do. We don’t lift this out of its context and take it as biblical license to pursue our passions and make moves on someone we might be interested in. Note it says ‘one another’; that means everyone, no exclusions. Note, it also says it is to be ‘holy’; not impure, not selfish.

Here’s what we do. We need to look at a command like this in its context; its historical context, its cultural context, and the context of the letter in which it appears. This is a letter that is almost 2,000 years old, it was written by a Jew who became a follower of Jesus and it was written to a church planted in a Roman colony on the Achaian peninsula.

This is not the Song of Solomon (1:2) kind of kissing (there is a place for that, and God takes pleasure in our enjoyment of his good gifts to us). The holy kiss is commanded in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 Thessalonians, and also in 1 Peter.

Jesus, in Luke 7 rebuked the Pharisee Simon who invited him over, for failing to give him a kiss.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus points to a number of cultural customs that are foreign to us in the West today. It was appropriate hospitality to offer water for washing the feet, and to welcome with a kiss. Simon was rebuked for being inhospitable and rude to his guest. The kiss, on alternating cheeks, even today in the middle east, is used as a greeting, an expression of welcome and respect.

In Corinth, the culture was stratified. There were wealthy patrons and those who were indebted to them. There were slaves and those who had gained their freedom. There were rich and poor. And in 1 Corinthians Paul rebuked the divisions among them, especially at the Lord’s Supper:

1 Corinthians 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Those kind of divisions are eradicated at the cross. They do not belong in the church. We are to welcome one another. No one is to be excluded because of social or economic status. Because of Jesus we can ‘in humility count others as more significant than ourselves’ (Phil.2:3). We are commanded to extend welcome, extend hospitality to those we might naturally be uncomfortable with, because we are really no different; we are sinners saved by the undeserved kindness of an extravagantly merciful God.

All The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints greet you.

Often Paul sent greetings from specific individuals or groups. But here he makes the greeting universal, reminding this church that they are not on their own or in a class by themselves; rather he connects this church to the wider body of Christ. You are part of something bigger than you.

The word ‘saints’ is the same adjective translated in the previous phrase as ‘holy’; they are to greet one another with a holy kiss, and all the holy ones greet you. We enjoy a holy unity with every other believer made holy by the blood of Christ, ‘Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom.15:7).

And we are to express that unity in a tangible way.

Trinitarian Blessing

Paul concludes the letter with this blessing:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

As Paul opens every one of his letters with some variation of ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, he closes every one of his letters with some form of the benediction ‘grace be with you’, or ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you’. But here in 2 Corinthians he expands this to include a blessing from God the Father and from the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich trinitarian blessing. He places the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in parallel phrases, on an equal level, and he attributes each respectively as the source of grace, of love and of fellowship. God is the source of every blessing, and he asks specifically that God’s undeserved grace would flow to them through Jesus, that God’s love would be poured out from the Father, and that fellowship would be experienced as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is Only One God

It was in light of plain statements like these, and in response to false teachers who began to teach things about God that contradicted the plain teaching of God’s word that the early church formulated the doctrine of the trinity.

The Scriptures clearly teach that there is only one God, that he has always existed, that there were no Gods before him and there will be no Gods after him. God will not share his glory with another (Is.42:8; 48:11). When Jesus was asked about the great commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There is not two Gods or three or many; there is one. You shall have no other gods before him (Ex.20:3).

Three Persons are God

And yet it is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus claimed to be God; in John 10, when Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘the Jews picked up stones again to stone him.’

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and they considered it blasphemy. Jesus in many ways on many occasions claimed to be God, did things only God can do, and received worship as God.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians we are told:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God’s temple is inhabited by God the Spirit. In Acts 5, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, and in the next breath he said that he lied to God (5:3-4, 9).

The Father is God, Jesus claims to be God, and the Spirit is God.

The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit

But it is also clear from the Scriptures that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Jesus.

Jesus regularly prayed to his Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven.

These are the Scriptural data which must be held together; there is only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; but the Spirit is not Jesus or the Father, and Jesus is not the Spirit or the Father. There is one God who eternally exists in the three distinct and unconfused persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No confusion of persons, no division of substance. Three in person, one in essence or being, they three share the God-ness of God.

John begins his gospel:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word, who at a point in time became flesh, had eternally existed both with God and as God. He is and always was himself fully deity, and he is and always was in fellowship with his Father, in a relationship of one person with another. Jesus said:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as ‘the helper, whom’ – note the Holy Spirit is a whom not a what; a he not an it. The Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. Three divine persons; one eternal God.

Enjoy the Truth

The truth of the one who is three is not esoteric and theoretical, not something for academics alone to ponder and defend. This is a truth to be enjoyed. By the church. By everyone. Paul calls down a blessing on the church from these three who are one.

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grace, God’s undeserved unearned favor and kindness, when we justly deserve his wrath and hell, finds its source in the once-for-all wrath propitiating substitution of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord in my place, paying the debt I own and crediting me with his own perfect righteousness.

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

Grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus extended to me, undeserving sinner. We are given ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (4:6). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image’ (3:18).

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

Jesus said ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (12:9).

Love, the infinite love of the Father, ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction’ (1:3-4). It is God in whom we hope, the God who raises the dead (1:9-10); God who is faithful to all his promises (1:18, 20). God commanded light to shine in the darkness of our hearts (4:6). God through Christ reconciled us to himself (5:18). It is God who said

2 Corinthians 6:16 …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.

God desires to dwell among us, to be with us.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

God is the God of love (13:11) and the love of God is extended to you!

Fellowship, intimacy, communion, union with God and one another brought about by the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who gives life (3:6). The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom and transformation (3:17-18).

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We are given the gift of the Spirit who lives in our hearts; we are established, anointed, sealed. The Spirit is given as the guarantee (5:5) of one day being at home with the Lord.

It is ours to enjoy the present fellowship we have with the Spirit, and the fellowship created among us because the same Spirit lives in each of us.

In the Old Testament, God commanded that his threefold name be placed on the people of Israel in blessing:

Numbers 6:24 YHWH bless you and keep you;

25 YHWH make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 YHWH lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Let us make this our prayer: may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

***

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

April 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 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.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

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

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

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

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

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

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

February 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:16; Being Renewed Day By Day

09/30_2 Corinthians 4:16; Being Renewed Day By Day; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180930_2cor4_16.mp3

What if I told you that I could give you the secret to endure any hardship, and not only survive but thrive under any adversity? No matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart. Would you be interested? That is exactly what Paul is telling us in 2 Corinthians 4. The chapter begins with these words:

We Do Not Lose Heart

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

We do not lose heart, grow weary, faint, give up, fail, quit. How? Therefore, looking back to chapter 3, because this is the kind of ministry we have, an exceedingly glorious ministry, the ministry of the new covenant, a life giving ministry, a ministry that brings righteousness, an enduring ministry, a ministry of the Spirit of the living God. We do not lose heart because we have this kind of glorious ministry.

Therefore, because we have this ministry by the mercy of God, as a gift, not something we deserve but freely given to us, entrusted to us by God himself, we do not lose heart.

He picks this theme of not losing heart back up in verse 16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart.

Our confidence comes not from our methods but from the message itself. God speaks in our speaking to give light and life. Since we have this divine and supernatural light placed inside these fragile earthen containers for a purpose, to magnify, to display that the power is God’s and not our own, we do not lose heart, give up, fail. Even in the face of affliction, confusion, persecution, even death, we do not give up, because God’s resurrecting power is at work in us. Through our frailty, through our fragility, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and grace abounds to many, which increases thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

The Outer and Inner Man

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Paul contrasts our outer self, literally ‘the outer man’ in contrast to the inner person. What does he mean? So far in this chapter, he has described himself as a cheap, fragile, disposable jar of clay. He is afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. He is carrying around the dying of Jesus. He is always being given over to death. Death is at work in his fragile earthen container. That is what people see. That is what the Corinthians see, and it has caused them to question if he is the real deal. How could a representative of the Lord Christ be that vulnerable, that fragile? How could the powerful gospel reside in such a weak person? If he were genuinely commissioned by Christ, you would think at least something would go right for him. It appears that every circumstance is against him. In 1:8 he faced such a deadly peril in Asia, and was so utterly burdened beyond strength that he despaired of life itself. In 1:15-16 he desired to visit them, but then he changed his plans. In 2:12-13, his spirit was in turmoil in Troas, so he abandoned an open door for ministry and traveled on to Macedonia. In 7:5 he says that when he got to Macedonia, he could get no rest, he was afflicted at every turn; fighting outside and fear This is what people could see, and it didn’t look very impressive.

Jesus taught that outward appearance can be very different from inward reality. He said in Matthew 23

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

They were something different on the inside than what they appeared to be from the outside. Outer appearance did not match inner reality. This was true of Paul, but in the reverse. He said ‘our outer man is wasting away’ literally ‘thoroughly corrupted, ruined, or decayed’.

But his fragile earthen vessel contained a treasure inside; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. He looked like death, but he was carrying around life, the life of Jesus, good news that extended grace to many people and increased thanksgiving to the glory of God. He said ‘who we are on the inside is being renewed day by day’.

Daily Inner Renewal

This is so powerful! He is daily being made new. Whatever happens, whatever comes against him, he is being made new. I don’t know if you’ve watched any of the Marvel movies, but we are fascinated by the idea of some genetic modification or mutation that makes the superhero’s injuries heal rapidly. Bullets tear through their bodies, but as we watch, their wounds instantaneously heal and they keep going, they keep fighting the bad guys, they keep on standing against the onslaught of evil.

Paul tells us he experienced something like this. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inside he is being made new day by day. This was reality for him, and it can be our experience as well. How does this work? How is it that we are made new, even in the face of outer destruction?

The only other place in the New Testament this ‘being made new’ word appears is Colossians 3:10. In Colossians 3, Paul tells us to put to death what is earthly in you, and he lists things like sexual immorality, impure desires, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying. He says we have put off the old self,

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Our new self is being made new. Why? If we put off the old self and put on the new, why does it have to be made new? Why does the new have to be renewed?

It seems that our hearts are prone to wander. We drift. Although we have put on the new, the old creeps back in. We need to be renewed.

Our new self is being made new after the image of our creator. We are being made new to reflect Jesus. Colossians 3 gives us a key to how this being made new happens. It is in knowledge. Jesus said

John 8:31 … “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Abiding in Jesus’ word, knowing the truth sets you free. We are renewed in knowledge after the image of our creator. So knowing God and his word releases us from the destructive influences of persecution. We are pressed down but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed, because we know, we abide in God’s word. Knowing theology, not just head knowledge, but truly knowing God, abiding in him, in relationship, we are being renewed.

We see this if we look around at the context of Colossians 3:10.

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

We are told to seek the things above, to set our minds on things above. This renewing knowledge involves both seeking and fixing our thoughts on the things of God. Both thinking and desire are involved. We want him, we pursue him, we think about him, we seek to know him, and this brings renewal.

We saw how this works back at the end of 2 Corinthians 3

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Beholding the glory of God brings transformation into his image. When we gaze at him, when we know him, we experience being made new, Holy Spirit transformation.

Day by Day

Notice, this is not a one-time thing. This is a day by day by day by day thing. This being renewed happens day by day. Look with me at how this works. Verse 10 he says we are ‘always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus’. Verse 11 ‘we are always being given over to death’. Verse 12 ‘death is (presently) working in us’. The ‘being destroyed’ is present, ongoing, so the being renewed must also be an ongoing reality in our lives, as he spells out when he says ‘day by day’.

And if we are made new in knowledge, if we are transformed by beholding, that means that our beholding, our knowing must also be day by day by day.

Jesus said:

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Trouble comes day by day. Has anyone experienced this? Do I hear an Amen? We don’t have to borrow troubles from tomorrow by worrying; today has enough. We can expect daily troubles. But look at this treasure back in the book of Lamentations:

Lamentations 3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Today’s troubles are met by new morning mercies in the steadfast love of the Lord.

Notice there is an active availing yourself of these mercies. The experience of them is not automatic. He says ‘I have hope today because I am calling to mind today the steadfast love and fresh mercies of the Lord.’ My soul says ‘the LORD is my portion,’ so I have hope. We are renewed in knowledge. We are transformed by beholding. Wake up tomorrow saying in your soul ‘the LORD is my portion.’ Spend time beholding the glory of the Lord, treasuring him. Open his word and find a new mercy that will carry you through the trouble of that day. Call it to mind. Hope in his steadfast love and faithfulness, in his fresh daily mercies.

Like the manna in the wilderness, you can’t gather up a weeks worth of mercies all at once. Whether you gather little or much, you will find it to be just enough for that day. And it won’t keep overnight. It has to be new every morning. (Exodus 16)

How To Be Renewed

Practically, how do we do this? What does it look like to be made new day by day?

First, you need to know you need it. Because if you don’t think you need to be daily renewed you just won’t. You won’t seek it. You will just coast. Maybe you think you can survive another day on yesterday’s rations. Some people think that Sunday’s meal will carry them all through the week. You have to be desperate. Admit how prone to wander your own heart is. The bullets of affliction are tearing me apart. The flaming arrows of the evil one are bent on destroying me. I desperately need this powerful renewing today.

Then look to God’s word expectantly. We live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. It is our food, our daily sustenance. Develop a habit. Develop the discipline of going to God’s word regularly. Sometimes the experience will be amazing. Sometimes it won’t. Don’t let that discourage you. A bowl of bland oatmeal will sustain you just as well as a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and fresh berries. This is a daily discipline. You will get better at it over time.

And don’t be afraid to get help. There are some great resources available that are incredibly helpful. A few I have been personally helped by are C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, and Faith’s Checkbook. You can get those free online or in an app for your phone. Desiring God puts out a daily devotional app called Solid Joys. The Bible Project has a great reading plan with videos to help see the big picture of Jesus in all of Scripture. Milton Vincent wrote a small book called ‘A Gospel Primer for Christians’ that trains you how to preach the gospel to yourself daily. There are so many resources available. Pick one that works for you and use it.

You can read a whole book of the Bible if you have time, or you can read a chapter, or a verse, or even a phrase, and turn it over in you mind, contemplate what it means, write it on a scrap of paper and carry it in your pocket. Make it part of your day.

Whatever you do, take time to behold the glory of the Lord. Seek to see Jesus. Seek to know him. Treasure the gospel. Talk to him as you open his book, ask him to meet you there, to reveal himself to you. Ask him to meet you with his manifold mercies. Ask him to give you just what you need for today. Listen for what God is saying to you through his word.

Enjoy his presence. And thank him for what he shows you there.

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

October 1, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:5; The Essence of Authentic Ministry

08/12_2 Corinthians 4:5; The Essence of Authentic Christian Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180812_2cor4_5.mp3

Paul is defending his ministry, teaching us what authentic Christian ministry is. There are so many counterfeits. In Paul’s day, and in ours, many claim to be serving Christ, doing ministry, even sincerely believe they are serving Jesus, but sadly they fall short. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

This is a terrifying prospect; to spend your life believing you are serving Jesus, to discover that in his estimation you have been a worker of lawlessness. But we don’t have to wonder, and we don’t have to worry. Both Jesus and Paul tell us clearly what authentic Christian ministry is.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So far he has told us (in chapter 3) that authentic ministry is new covenant ministry; ministry that gives life, ministry that writes by the Spirit of God on the tablets of transformed hearts of flesh, ministry that brings righteousness, that brings transformation, that brings freedom, ministry that lasts.

These are some of the effects of authentic ministry; but what is authentic ministry? What does authentic ministry consist of?

A Proclaiming Ministry

The first thing we need to notice about authentic ministry is that it is a proclaiming ministry. Authentic ministry communicates a message with definite content.

Many today like to say that we just need to show love. After all, ‘they will know we are Christians by our love.’ First of all, this is not a fully accurate quotation. The passage referred to is

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It is not just generic love that this passage talks about, but specific love toward specific people. It is not just any love, it is Jesus’ love. And it is not love toward everyone; it is love toward one another; toward other disciples of Jesus. We are to love fellow followers of Jesus with the same kind of love with which Jesus loved us.

Authentic ministry must be characterized by love, both toward fellow believers and toward unbelievers. But that love must have content. It must have shape and contour and boundaries. It must not be fuzzy; it must be defined. Love must be defined by truth. We are to show love, and we are to show it by speaking truth. Authentic ministry is a proclaiming ministry. It communicates clearly and plainly the truth.

What is the content of authentic ministry?

Not Preaching Ourselves

He starts by clarifying emphatically what authentic ministry is not; ‘we preach not ourselves.’ There are two words for preaching or proclamation in the New Testament, and they overlap in their meaning. Both words indicate a herald announcing a message from the king, bringing a proclamation or a declaration. One word, sometimes translated evangelize or preach the gospel, leans more in its emphasis toward the content of the message as good news and the joy in the delivery. The other word, found here, leans more in its emphasis toward the weight of authority of the messenger, as one sent or commissioned with a message that carries the weight of authority of the one who sent him.

The herald does not promote himself. It’s not about the messenger. A herald doesn’t speak of his own authority, the message is not about him, he doesn’t draw attention to himself. It is not from him or about him or for him. He speaks with authority, but it is the authority of the one who sent him. He does draw attention, but he is to draw attention to the message, to the proclamation of the king. He delivers a message, but he does not determine the content of that message. He must be faithful to transmit the message accurately.

Be very wary of ministries that are self-promoting, where much attention and focus is on the minister or the ministry; look at us, look at what we are doing for the Lord.

Christian ministry should smell more like the ministry of John the Baptist.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Do you smell the genuine humility here? It’s not about me. It was never about me. I have this ministry not because I am so great, not because I am better at this than others; I have this ministry by the mercy of God. It is all a gift. It is all about him; he must increase. My joy is complete when people turn away from me, forget about me, and follow Jesus.

What we proclaim is not ourselves.

Proclaiming a Person

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake

What we proclaim is Jesus Christ. Authentic ministry proclaims a person. Listen to what he said back in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, …

The content of our proclamation is not primarily what; it is whom. We herald a person. Authentic ministry announces a person. We proclaim Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28 says ‘him we proclaim.’ We want people to know a person. We get to introduce people to Jesus. When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, he didn’t waste a lot of time on the governmental structure of the kingdom or the external manifestation of the kingdom. He said ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ because, he, the King, had arrived. The king was present, walking, living among his subjects. Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3 in terms of relationship; knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ. Paul considered everything rubbish because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil.3:8-10). Knowing him is different from knowing of or knowing about him. Knowing him indicates personal relationship. This is why Jesus says to those who do many things in his name ‘depart from me, I never knew you’ (Mt.7:23).

John the Baptist rejoiced when his followers began to follow Jesus, because that is what real ministry is about. We want to see people following Jesus. We don’t want people following us. We don’t preach ourselves. We want everyone to follow Jesus. We proclaim a person; him we proclaim.

Christ Jesus as Lord

Of course, if we are proclaiming a person, then it is essential that we tell the truth about that person. We must accurately represent the one we herald. To misrepresent the one we claim to be heralding would be to fail both our Master and the ones we claim to be serving. We proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord. Jesus, YHWH is salvation; the name communicated by the angel to Mary and Joseph. Jesus, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, the historical person raised in Nazareth. Jesus proclaimed as the Christ, the promised Messiah King of the Jews. Christ Jesus the Lord; to Roman ears, the divine emperor-king; to Jewish ears, YHWH of the Scriptures, the great I AM. John understood his role as preparing the way for YHWH, the Lord. As heralds of Jesus, it is essential that we get Jesus right. Immanuel, God with us, come in the flesh to save us from our sins; Jesus crucified for our sins, buried, resurrected, who is alive today!

Proclaiming Ourselves as Your Slaves for Jesus’ Sake

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake

Authentic ministry is ministry that points away from self to Jesus, that draws attention to Jesus, turns the focus to Jesus. Paul here lays out the appropriate role of the minister in authentic Christian ministry; we don’t proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord; but ourselves your slaves because of Jesus. We are not the master; Jesus is the master. We are his slaves, and as his slaves, he has called us to serve you. Already in chapter 1 he made it clear that he did not consider himself a lord over them, but rather a fellow worker with them.

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.

Back in 1 Corinthians, when the church there made too much of its favorite leaders, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

…21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Christian leaders are servants assigned by the Lord. All the leaders of the church in a sense belong to the church. God has given them to the church for her good.

And Jesus made clear his expectations for Christian leaders

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 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.”

Christians are to serve one another, to slave for one another. The path to greatness is down not up.

The Prosperity Gospel

There is a strange teaching that is very popular in some areas today. It goes something like this: as Christians, we are children of the King. Our Father owns everything. If we are the king’s kids; we should live like it, we should act like it, we should be treated like royalty. This is dangerous, and it is false. It blurs the line between the already and the not yet. Already we are adopted into the family of God, but not yet has it appeared what we will be. And it ignores the clear teaching of Jesus.

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

…20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

Yes we are adopted into his family, and yes, we will be treated like him, however presently that looks primarily like persecution. Yes we will rule and reign with him one day, provided we are willing to suffer with him now. Romans 8 makes this connection.

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

It is a dangerous and deceptive lie to tell people that if they follow Jesus, everything will go well for them in this life. We are not to expect to be treated as kings. We are to expect to be treated as slaves. We are to follow Jesus, and he came not to be served, but to serve, to give his life for others.

For Jesus

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake

We are to serve others but not to please them. We must make it our aim in our service to others to please him. Our tendency is to look for approval from the ones we serve. We will be disappointed. We must keep our eyes on our one Master and Lord. Often when we serve others for their good, we have to give them what they don’t want. We have to give them what they need. They might need potent but distasteful medicine. They won’t like it. But we don’t serve to win the approval of the ones we serve. We must in everything make it our aim to please him. We do it all for his sake. In our proclamation of him, we refuse to practice cunning. We refuse to tamper with God’s word. We plainly proclaim the truth. We proclaim Jesus for Jesus’ sake. We serve others for Jesus’ sake.

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

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

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