PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 9:20-23; Prayer Interrupted

08/21_Daniel 09:20-23; Prayer Interrupted; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220821_dan09_20-23.mp3

A Pattern of Prayer

We’ve been listening in to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel chapter 9, learning how he prays.

Daniel 9 is a Jewish prayer from an exile in Babylon asking for the restoration of Jerusalem and God’s holy temple. We are not under the same circumstances, so we can’t pray this prayer directly, but there is much we can pattern our prayers after. Prayer ought to be born out of meditation on God’s word. Our prayers ought to be pursuing God himself, intimacy with him, not just gifts from him. Prayer ought to be directed toward the God who is, as he has revealed himself to be, not God as we imagine him to be. Our posture in prayer ought to be one of humility, acknowledging that we don’t deserve anything from God, but that he is a gracious God and delights to give good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. Daniel spends the bulk of his time confessing his sins and the sins of his nation, and affirming the righteous character of God. Yet he comes boldly, imploring God to act. We can learn to enlarge our prayers by rooting them in a pursuit of the fame of God’s name throughout the nations. When we ask that God do something for the sake of his own name, his reputation, his glory, we can be confident that we are praying according to the will of God.

Prayer Interrupted

In verses 1-3, Daniel gives the background setting of his prayer, and he starts praying in the middle of verse 4 through the end of verse 19. In verses 20-23, his prayer gets interrupted by an angelic messenger sent to give him insight and understanding.

Daniel 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Speaking in Prayer

Daniel says that it was while he was speaking and praying, while he was speaking in prayer. Do you ever struggle with losing your train of thought in prayer? Your mind wanders, you even forget altogether that you had set out to pray, and you find yourself thinking about something completely different? A simple tool that will help to maintain focus is simply to pray out loud. Or even silently mouth the words if the situation is not one where you can pray out loud. It seems that Daniel prayed aloud. How else could his adversaries prove he was praying, and to whom he was praying, if he was silently praying in his heart to the Lord? Of course the Lord knows our thoughts and can hear the cry of our hearts, but it can be helpful to us to actually verbalize our prayers. It can help immensely to keep our minds from wandering.

We also learn that Daniel wrote out his prayers. At least someone recorded this prayer because we now have it written down in our Bibles. Writing out your prayers can be another way to keep your focus and sort out your thoughts. It can also be a check on what you are asking for in prayer. Some things that I might think in my head I would think twice about if I said them out loud or wrote them down on paper.

The Angelic Interruption:

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

He Answers Before We Ask

Daniel’s prayer gets interrupted. It was while Daniel was speaking in prayer that Gabriel, the angel from the vision in chapter 8 came and interrupted his prayer. The word translated ‘came to me’ in verse 21 could also be translated ‘touched me’ as it is in similar contexts in 8:18 and in chapter 10:10 and 18. Gabriel may have actually had to touch Daniel to get his attention, like the angel struck Peter in the prison cell in Acts 12.

We saw in our study of Daniel 6 that at least two of Daniel’s praying three times a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem probably corresponded with the times of the morning and evening sacrifices that would have been offered to God if the temple would have been functioning. Here we are told that Gabriel came in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.

Daniel’s request was that God would turn away his wrath and anger from his city Jerusalem, and that God would make his face shine on his sanctuary. Gabriel was sent to give Daniel insight and understanding, and he was sent out ‘at the beginning of your pleas for mercy’.

We normally think of God responding to our prayers as in ordinary communication, where we ask something of someone, and we give them time to hear the request, think it through, and then respond. But here we see God responding to the request at the beginning of the prayer. Daniel doesn’t even get to his request until verse 16.

Daniel prepared himself for this prayer with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. This could mean that at the beginning of the day or whenever it was that Daniel began his preparation to pray, the angelic messenger was sent. Daniel doesn’t even get to finish his prayer before he gets interrupted.

This should be a great encouragement to us to pray. God’s answer was not contingent on the length or eloquence or passion or power of his prayer. The outcome was not affected by his following through with his intention to fast and pray. God sovereignly answered at the beginning of his prayer, not at the end of it. Isaiah 65:24 says:

Isaiah 65:24 ​Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.

God is sovereign. He does not need us to pray. He isn’t waiting, wondering what we are thinking, waiting for us to communicate what we need. Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

The Lord knows what we are going to say even before we do! He is not waiting in ignorance, wondering what we need. He is expectantly waiting, having everything we need ready to bless us even better than we know how to ask, just waiting for us to come to him to receive. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Invited to Ask

God already knows what we need before we ask, but he invites us to ask. He delights to answer when we seek him, when we ask him.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Jesus said in John 16

John 16:23 …Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

God often works in response to our prayers. James says ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (4:2). But God is not dependent on our prayers, as if his hands were tied until we pray. God is entirely free to do what he wants when he wants. It is for our benefit that he waits to do some things until we ask. We need to know our dependence on him, we need to see his working in answer to our prayers. We need to know that it is him and not just chance or coincidence.

Greatly Loved

Gabriel addresses Daniel as one who is greatly loved. In the whole Bible, only Daniel is called this, and he is addressed this way three times (9:23; 10:11, 19). We might think ‘well, of course; he refused to defile himself with the king’s food, no fault could be found in him even by his enemies, he would rather end up fed to the lions than to give up his time in prayer. Of course he was greatly loved; he was worthy.’ But that is not how love works. Real love is not a response to performance; the one who loves takes the initiative. The one who loves chooses an object of his affection to set his love upon. To be beloved is not a title earned, but a foundational identity. Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father. That was his intrinsic identity, not a title he earned by performance. In his parable in Luke 20, the Son is beloved before he is sent. In John 17 Jesus affirms that the Father loved him before the foundation of the world. Jesus’ obedience was rooted in his being beloved by the Father and in his love for the Father; his obedience was not the reason the Father loved him. Jesus was not loved because he obeyed; he obeyed because he was already loved.

Here’s the amazing thing; Jesus is the beloved Son. But he includes us in that love. It says in John 13:

John 13:1 …when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem, where he would lay down his life for his sheep. He is resolutely marching toward the cross, where he will give his life to rescue hiss own.

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.

He doesn’t say ‘here is how to earn my love; if you love one another, then I will love you’. No, he says ‘I have loved you. Therefore, love one another.’ Your love for others flows out of my love for you. Love for others flows out of yor identity as beloved.

First John says this:

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins….19 We love because he first loved us.

How much? Daniel was told he was greatly loved. Just how much are we loved? Jesus said:

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

I don’t think it’s even possible to imagine a greater love than the love the Father has for his only Son. Just soak that in for a moment. You are loved as much as the Father loves Jesus.

In Romans we are addressed as those who are ‘loved by God and called to be saints’ (1:7). In Romans 5:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And in Romans 8, speaking of the unquenchable love of God toward us:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

You are loved that much. You are greatly loved by God.

***

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

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

Daniel 9:5-6; Penitence in Prayer

07/17_Daniel 09:5-6; Penitence in Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220717_dan09_5-6.mp3

Daniel is teaching us to pray. Daniel was a man of prayer, he was in a disciplined habit of prayer, and we get to listen in on his prayer in chapter 9. Daniel was studying God’s words, and it spurred him to pray. Daniel sought the face of God in prayer; he gave God his full attention. He took up an appropriate posture of outward humility before God, reminding himself that he needs the Lord more than food, his only comfort comes from God, he is nothing and deserves nothing but incineration. He acknowledges God as God, the sovereign God, the great and awesome God, the God who protects his covenant and practices ‘chesed’, steadfast love and covenant faithfulness toward all who love him and keep his commandments. Daniel’s outward posture of humility is an expression of what is in his heart.

Confessing His Sins

Daniel says in verse 20 that he is confessing his sins and the sins of his people Israel. This word ‘confess’ is an intensive word meaning to bemoan by wring the hands. Daniel is confessing his sin. Remember, not one sin of Daniel is recorded for us in the Bible, and yet Daniel is aware of his own sinfulness.

Daniel addresses YHWH as a God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. But Daniel recognizes that he and his people have not loved the Lord their God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. They have not kept his commandments. They do not deserve his steadfast love. They have earned the covenant curses, not the covenant blessings.

In verses 5-6 Daniel uses 6 different words to describe his sin, and he repeats those words multiple times throughout his prayer, adding several other unique words describing sin. We get a pretty comprehensive understanding of sin from this passage.

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Sinned [חָטָא chata’ (chaw-taw’)] cf. v.8, 11, 15; noun in v.16, 2x v.20

We have sinned, and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside …we have not listened. The first word he uses is ‘we have sinned’. This is the common word for missing the mark. We see this word in Judges 20, talking about the warriors of Benjamin:

Judges 20:16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

To sin is to fall short of the goal, to hit wide of the target. God created us for a purpose, and when we don’t live up to his good designs, that is called sin. But it’s not that we were aiming for the target and our sights are just slightly off; rather we weren’t even shooting at the target at all. We turn our bows and aim our arrows at the face of the Master of ceremonies and Judge of the competition. To miss the mark is no innocent miscalculation; rather it is a willful act of rebellion in aiming for a different target altogether. Daniel repeats this verb ‘sin’ in verses 8, 11, and 15; and the noun form ‘sin’ in verse 16 and twice in verse 20. We have sinned.

Done Wrong [עָוָה `avah (aw-vaw’)] noun in v.13, 16, 24

We have done wrong. This word means to twist, make crooked, or pervert. Jeremiah laments that the hand of the Lord is in judgment against him:

Lamentations 3:9 ​he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked.

This is in contrast to the blessing of having the way cleared to go straight ahead.

Proverbs 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

We have done wrong. The noun form of this verb is translated ‘iniquities’ in verses 13 and 16. Not only have we missed the mark, we have perverted, twisted the straight way. We have gone astray.

Acted Wickedly [רָשַׁע rasha` (raw-shah’) ] cf. v.15

We have acted wickedly. To be wicked is to do that which is morally wrong, that which is worthy of condemnation, that which justly deserves punishment. When Abraham prays for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, among whom his nephew Lot was living, he asks:

Genesis 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? …25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

There are those who are guilty of violating the moral standard and are worthy of punishment, and those who are not. It is not just to punish the innocent, and it is not just to let the guilty go unpunished.

Daniel acknowledges that there is an absolute objective standard of morality, that some things are immoral, and that God is the ultimate judge of morality. Daniel confesses that he and his people have not lived up to God’s standards. He repeats this again in verse 15. We have lived in a way that is worthy of your condemnation.

Rebelled [מָרַד marad (maw-rad’)] v.9

We have rebelled. This would be a vivid word for the captives in Babylon. In 609BC Pharaoh Neco killed king Josiah put Jehoiakim on the throne in Jerusalem, requiring him to pay taxes to Egypt. But

2 Kings 24:1 In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him.

Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died and his son Jehoiachin surrendered to the Babylonians in 597BC. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon and appointed his uncle Zedekiah as king in Jerusalem. But

2 Kings 24:20 …Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for two years, and in 586BC Zedekiah attempted to flee by night.

2 Kings 25:6 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.

A conquered nation was required to pay tribute to the conquering king. A failure to give what was due was considered a treasonous act of rebellion.

God is our king. But we are continually shifting our allegiances in other directions. When we fail to give God what is rightly due to him, we rebel against him. Daniel repeats this word again in verse 9. We have rebelled against him.

Turning Aside [סוּר cuwr (soor)] cf. v.11

We have rebelled against the Lord by ‘turning aside from your commandments and rules’. God gave his people instructions to live by, not suggestions or recommendations, but commandments. When Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s ten commandments,

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

God warned Israel not to intermarry with those who worship false gods,

Deuteronomy 7:4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

Daniel uses this word again in verse 11. God’s people had missed the mark, they had made God’s straight paths crooked, they had lived in a way worthy of condemnation, they refused to give God his due, and they ignored God, turning their back on him and giving their attention to other gods.

Not Listened [שָׁמַע shama` (shaw-mah’)] cf. v.10, 11, 14

Daniel 9:6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

We have not listened. This is not something a hearing aid can fix. The issue is not not hearing. The issue is hearing and not doing, not responding. God sent his servants the prophets. They spoke God’s warnings to everyone, small and great. It was not a lack of information, not a lack of auditory stimulation; this was a lack of response. They heard and did nothing. This word shows up in verses 10, 11 and 14, where it is translated ‘we have not obeyed the voice of YHWH our God; refusing to obey your voice; we have not obeyed his voice.’ They heard, and they made a choice not to heed. We turned our back on God and plugged our ears to his voice.

v.7 Treachery [מַעַל ma`al (mah’-al)] committed against you

In verse 7 Daniel refers to ‘the treachery that they have committed against you’ This word ‘treachery’ is used in Numbers 5 of a wife who ‘goes astray and breaks faith with’ her husband. In 1 Chronicles 5 this word is applied to those from Manasseh who ‘broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them’ 1Chr.5:25). We have broken faith and committed treachery by being unfaithful to God, allowing our hearts and affections to wander to other gods, to worship other things.

v.11 Transgressed [עָבַר `abar (aw-ɓar’)] your Law

In verse 11 Daniel says Israel has transgressed your law. They crossed over the line God had given. They violated his covenant, his commandment. What God expressly forbade is what they did.

v. 13 not Entreated [חָלָה chalah (chaw-law’)] the Favor [פָּנִים paniym (paw-neem’)] of YHWH our God

In verse 13, Daniel confesses that although they had done all these things, they have not entreated the favor of YHWH our God. They have sinned, but they have not sought the face of God.

Confession Positions us to receive God’s Grace

Notice what Daniel does not do. He does not make excuses, he does not attempt to point out that others (like the Babylonians) are worse sinners; He doesn’t justify that they behaved the way they did because they were in captivity and were forced and felt abandoned and had no choice. Rather, he admits it, he owns it, he makes no excuses for it. He agrees with God; sides with God’s just judgment in declaring a verdict against himself.

We have missed the mark, we have perverted your straight paths, we have done that which is morally condemnable, we have rebelled and refused to give God his due. We have turned away from the Lord and toward lesser things, we have stopped our ears and ignored your warnings and instructions. We have wandered in our affections, we have crossed your boundaries, we have failed to seek your face.

Just how bad are we? We are about as bad as we can be. What do we deserve? The wages of sin is death. We have earned your displeasure, your wrath. Daniel is the defendant, but he argues as the prosecution that he is deserving of nothing but God’s just wrath. Why this depressing focus on how bad we are? Why the laundry list of our faults, failures and flaws? Why focus on all this negativity?

This is bad news. We don’t deserve anything good. But Daniel knows who his God is. He is turning his face to seek the Sovereign God, YHWH the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Daniel is not coming seeking justice, defending himself and his people. He is not seeking justice, he is seeking mercy from a God who is rich in mercy. By agreeing with God about just how bad he is, highlighting his brokenness and need, he is positioning himself to receive God’s abundant mercy that is only ever given to sinners.

The religious leaders questioned Jesus’ association with sinners.

Matthew 9:12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Daniel in effect is crying out ‘Doctor! Over here! Look at this laundry list of symptoms. This is a really bad case. This is so desperate, so urgent, it needs your immediate intervention. We are terminal and don’t have much time left and need to go to the top of your list. By confessing his sin, Daniel is agreeing with God’s diagnosis of his condition and positioning himself to be a recipient of God’s amazing grace. 1 John 1 says

1 John 1:5 …God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. …7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession is simply agreeing with God about our desperate condition. We really are as bad as he says we are. Our condition is terminal. We have no hope outside of him. We really do need his life saving rescue. If we confess our sins, if we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin; he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

***

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

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

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 9:3; Posture in Prayer

07/03_Daniel 09:3; Posture in Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220703_dan09_3.mp3

We are learning how to pray from a man who was devoted to prayer. We know from chapter 6 that Daniel:

Daniel 6:10 …He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

But in chapter 9 we get to listen in on Daniel praying, his passion in prayer, hear what he prayed, watch how he prayed.

Last time we looked at the main pursuit of prayer; we do not pray primarily to get answers, we are after God himself. Our primary pursuit is not the gift but the Giver.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. …8 You have said, “Seek my face. ”My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”

Our primary, our ultimate pursuit in prayer must simply be time spent with the Lord, in the presence of the Lord. We seek the face of the Lord in prayer. Daniel says:

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying…

It matters most what you are after in prayer. Daniel is turning his face to the Lord in prayer, seeking him.

Prayer and Pleas for Mercy

But look at how Daniel approaches God in prayer:

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying…

Daniel sought the Lord God by prayer and pleas for mercy. Prayer is a general term for approaching God, and ‘pleas for mercy’ describes the attitude of his prayer. He is seeking something he does not deserve. Daniel is not asking for justice. He does not want what he deserves. He seeks mercy; a release from what he deserves, a gracious gift of favor he does not deserve.

This word translated ‘pleas for mercy’ carries the implication of unequal parties; Daniel approaches God as his superior to whom he is subordinate. God is God. Daniel is at his mercy. You don’t plead for mercy from your peers, from your equals. Daniel humbly acknowledges his place as an inferior pleading for something he has no right to. Daniel shows a humble respect for God’s authority.

Prayer is by definition asking, and within asking is implicit submission to the greater wisdom and authority of the Lord God. Daniel is not demanding God do something for him because he has rights or because God owes him. He is seeking God by prayer and pleas for mercy. He makes this explicit toward the end of his prayer in verse 18

Daniel 9:18 …For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.

Daniel is not approaching God on his own merits, but on the grounds that God is merciful.

Rightousness of Daniel and David

This is interesting, because there is not one sin, not one fault attributed to Daniel. If anyone could come on his own merits, it seems it should be Daniel. Even Ezekiel (14:14,20) affirms the righteousness of Daniel.

David, on the other hand, who we know was an adulterer, a liar, and a murderer, says things like…

Psalm 7:3 O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, … 8 The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. 9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 10 My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.

Psalm 18:20 The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. 23 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. 24 So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

We could argue that these Psalms were likely written before David’s great sin, but David understood that no one is without sin.

Psalm 130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

Psalm 143:2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

So when he speaks of his own righteousness, he cannot mean that he is sinless and not in need of forgiveness. We also know that David understood the great mercy and forgiveness of the Lord, that God justifies sinners by sheer grace.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Romans 4:6-8)

David argued from his own righteousness, but he also understood something of the ability of God to count sinners as righteous by grace.

Works Righteousness and the Justified Publican

In Daniel’s prayer, he does not approach God on his own merits, but on the grounds that God is merciful. He must have understood Isaiah’s teaching (64:6) that all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment, if we seek to establish our righteousness before God by our own performance.

Remember what Jesus taught in Luke 18?

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus drew a contrast between the one who was trusting in his own righteousness, and the one who acknowledges his sinfulness, and casts himself on the mercy of God. Pride and self-righteousness have no place in the presence of God. The only appropriate posture before God is humility. The one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Heart Posture Affects Outward Posture

The appropriate posture for prayer is humility. We are talking about a posture of the heart, but let me ask you this. If your heart is overflowing with joy and you are having a really good day, can the people around you tell? Or if you are just down in the dumps, frustrated, irritable, nothing seems to be working out for you, does anyone notice? The posture of your heart inevitably affects the way you carry yourself. Some people are better at faking it than others, but your heart posture affects all of you.

Daniel’s outward actions corresponded to his humility of heart.

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Fasting

His prayer and his pleas for mercy were accompanied by fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Fasting is going without something, usually food.

When it comest to things like fasting, we tend to ask ‘do I have to? Am I supposed to fast? When? How often? For how long? We are inclined to think ‘if I do this (or deny myself of this) then God will be obligated to respond to my request’. But that is wrong thinking. Nothing we could ever do would put God in our debt.

In Matthew 9,

Matthew 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Fasting was an outward expression of grief or mourning. Jesus said that there is an appropriate time for fasting, and that it should correspond with the circumstances. A wedding is a time for celebration and joy, but if the groom is abducted, then it would be appropriate to grieve.

Have you ever felt such despair, been in such turmoil of soul that food lost its appeal? You couldn’t bring yourself to eat? You just had no appetite? That’s an outward expression of the posture of your heart.

But this can also work in reverse. Are there things that in your head you know you ought to feel sick about, that you ought to lose your appetite over, these things should affect you that way, but they just don’t? Maybe you’ve become callous or numb. Fasting can be a way to remind yourself that what is happening in the world or in your circumstances ought to make you sick to your stomach, make you lose your appetite. Choosing to go without food can be a way to remind your soul of how your heart ought to be responding.

By fasting, we are saying ‘Lord, you are more important to me than food. You are my daily sustenance. It’s you I really need. The rebellion of this world against you makes me lose my appetite. It is you that I humger and thirst after.’

Sackcloth

Sackcloth was an itchy uncomfortable fabric, something like burlap, like the kind of sacks they sell potatoes or onions or rice or animal feed in. Only the poorest and most destitute would consider wearing sackcloth.

By wearing sackcloth, we are saying ‘I am destitute, poor, and needy. These circumstances are intolerable. I am helpless and need you to intervene.’

Dust and Ashes

God formed man from the dust of the ground. When the Lord cursed Adam because of his rebellion, he said

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Ashes are all that is left after the destruction of fire. In 2 Peter it says God:

2 Peter 2:6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Abraham, when he prays to the Lord on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 refers to himself as dust and ashes, as nothing.

By putting ashes on our heads, we are saying ‘I deserve your wrath, I am as good as dead. I have been reduced to nothing in your presence.’

Repent, Return to Me, Rend Your Heart

When Jonah declared God’s judgment on Nineveh

Jonah 3: 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

The wicked city Nineveh determined to turn everyone from his evil way, to turn and seek mercy from God.

In Joel 2, the Lord warns of the coming great and terrible day of the Lord’s judgment. But he offers an invitation.

Joel 2:11 …For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it? 12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14 ​Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, …

The Lord is most interested in the attitude of our heart, that we genuinely turn to him in humility and seek his mercy. We are sinners daily in need of mercy, and God is gracious and merciful.

In what ways does what we say we believe misalign with our posture of heart? What practical tangible things can we do to reinforce appropriate heart humility in the presence of God?

Our heart posture of humility will find appropriate outward expression. ‘God I need you more than food. I am poor, helpless and destitute. I deserve you wrath; I am as good as dead, but you, you are merciful!’

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, …

***

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

July 6, 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

Obey Jesus – Abide and Pray (John 14-15)

05/03 Obey Jesus: Abide and Pray; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200503_abide-and-pray.mp3

Obey Jesus’ Commands

Jesus said to his disciples:

Matthew 28:18 …“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Make disciples, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. We are to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commands. What did Jesus command? That’s what we are looking at. We’ve looked at Jesus command to come to him and believe in him, to find him and meet with him in the Scriptures. Today I want to look at Jesus’ command to abide and pray.

The Upper Room Discourse; John 14-16

John records some amazing teaching that Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room before he was betrayed.

Our Only Access to the Father is Through Jesus

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was leaving them and going to his Father to prepare a place for them.

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When his disciples expressed confusion about where he was going and how to get there,

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

No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Anyone who wants access to the Father must come through Jesus. Jesus wants us to be with him and with his Father throughout eternity, to enjoy his glory with his Father. But we must come through the way Jesus opened to us by his blood.

Greater Works Than These

I remember reading this section of John’s gospel for the very first time. I was downtown Minneapolis on a weekend retreat with my High School campus ministry. And what I read blew me away.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus prefaces his statement with ‘truly, truly.’ He wants us to take note, to pay attention to what he is about to say, and he wants us to be doubly confident that what he says is true. ‘Whoever believes in me;’ whoever believes in Jesus, that included me! Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he does. What did Jesus do? He fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead! Is Jesus saying that I will do all that?

But he doesn’t stop there, as if that is not enough. He said ‘greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Greater works than these? What could possibly be greater than all that Jesus did? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to show someone. Jason, have you ever read this? Look at this! Look at what Jesus promises us!

Ask Jesus Anything

Look at the next verses:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Ask me anything. Jesus invites us to ask him anything in his name, and he will do it, to the glory of his Father. This tells us that we can pray to Jesus, we can ask Jesus directly for anything, and he will do it, if we ask in his name.

What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? The typical Christian prayer ends ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’ Is this a special formula that guarantees to get our prayers answered? Why do Christians pray like that?

In My Name

If we look in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 18 God says:

Deuteronomy 18:19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

God takes what is said in his name seriously. If anyone presumes to speak in his name something God did not speak, the penalty was death. I am not to use God’s name to give weight to what I want to say, when it is merely my words; when God hasn’t said it.

A person’s name is tied to their reputation. The Lord’s name is holy, set apart, but his people have dragged his reputation through the mud by bearing his name while acting inconsistently with who he is. In Ezekiel 36, God acts to defend the honor of his own name.

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

God’s name, God’s own reputation is at stake, and he acts to vindicate the holiness of his own great name.

Think of it this way. A steward in biblical times was a trusted servant to whom his master would delegate certain responsibilities in his absence. He had access to his master’s resources, he could make decisions, buy and sell in the name of his master. We might say he was given the ability to sign checks in his master’s name. But he was a servant, doing his master’s business, and he was expected to have his master’s best interest in mind. He was free to make decisions and sign his master’s name, but he would be held accountable for those decisions upon his master’s return. Jesus told a story about a steward in Luke 16 who had wasted his master’s resources and was being called to account.

We could say that Jesus has entrusted to us the ability to sign checks in his name. To ask in Jesus’ name is to sign his name to the request, to represent him. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask consistent with who Jesus is, is to ask for something that he would ask his Father to do.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Abide in Me and bear Fruit

Jesus says in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Abide in me. Abide. Remain connected, like a branch of the grapevine is connected to the vine. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit to the glory of God. But he knows that to be fruitful, a branch must be connected to the vine. It must continually draw sustenance from the vine, to get nourishment from the vine. A disconnected branch will quickly wither and dry up. A dead disconnected branch doesn’t produce fruit. Rather, it’s only good as fuel for the fire. The only way we remain fruitful is to remain in Jesus, to stay connected to Jesus, to constantly be listening to him, communing with him. We are to draw strength and sustenance from him, to be with him, and enjoy him being in us. Disconnected from Jesus, we can do nothing, nothing good, nothing of eternal value. We are fruitless apart from Jesus. But if we remain plugged in to Jesus, if his words, his truth, his teaching is nourishing us, we can ask whatever we wish and we will bear much fruit that glorifies the Father and shows that we are Jesus’ followers indeed.

Abiding is the prerequisite for asking. If we are abiding in Jesus as a branch in the vine, we can ask whatever we wish, because our wishes begin to flow out of Jesus’ own heart. Our wishes will align with Jesus’ own words. Our wishes will be to bear fruit for God, to glorify the Father. Our wishes will truly begin to express the name and nature of Jesus.

Jesus commands that we abide in him, that we stay connected and talk with him.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

He commands that we ask the Father that we may be fruitful in his name.

Jesus Modeled Prayer

Jesus modeled prayer for us. He made prayer a priority in his own ministry. He found solitary places to pray alone (Lk.5:16); He prayed early in the morning (Mk.1:35); he prayed late into the evening (Mt.14:23; Mk.6:46); on one occasion he prayed all night long (Lk.6:12); he invited his close friends to pray with him (Lk.9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:40-41). Jesus took time to pray for the seemingly insignificant (Mt.19:13). John 17 records Jesus’ own lengthy prayer to his Father. Jesus was honest and even emotional in his praying (Lk.22:44), but he always submitted his own will to the will of his Father in prayer (Mt.26:39,42,44). Jesus not only commands us to pray, but shows us by his own example how essential prayer is.

One of the things that infuriated Jesus most, that stirred him to zeal for this Father’s house, was the clutter and commotion that deterred people from prayer. (Mt.21:12-13; Mk.11:17; Lk.19:46)

Jesus Taught How and What to Pray

Jesus taught his followers “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk.18:1). He taught that humility and not self-righteous pride was the appropriate way to approach his Father (Lk.18:10-13).

He taught us to pray for deliverance (Mk.9:29), for strength and faithfulness (Lk.21:36), for protection from temptation (Lk.22:40). He taught us to pray for God to send more laborers into the evangelistic harvest (Mt.9:38; Lk.10:2). He even taught us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28).

He taught us not to pray in order to impress others, but rather to pray privately and sincerely (Mt.6:5-6). He taught us not to make long prayers or pile up empty words to impress God or man (Mt.6:7, Mk.12:40).

He taught us to pray with persistence, with bold confidence, assured that our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to all who ask him. Jesus encourages us, actually he commands us to ask, to ask in prayer.

Jesus’ Model Prayer

When Jesus’ followers asked him ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Lk.11:1)

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus invites his disciples to address God as Father, because through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family as his children.

Notice that this prayer is in the plural voice. It begins with ‘our Father’ and it continues with ‘give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us’. We are to pray in secret, privately to our Father, but there is an essential communal aspect to prayer. Even when we pray individually, we acknowledge that we are part of a blood-bough community of believers. We are not independent, we are interdependent. We are connected to each other.

Jesus teaches us that our praying must be God centered. We ought to start by acknowledging that God is above us, over us, sovereign and superior. He is enthroned in heaven. We ought to be pursuing his glory in prayer. Remember, in John 15, Jesus commands us to abide in him so that we will be fruitful, ultimately so that God will be glorified. We are to pray that God’s name be treated with honor and awe.

We are to pray that his kingdom and will might be fully realized. He is sovereign over all creation, but much of his creation has rebelled against him. We are to pray that all creation is brought back under his supreme authority. As God is obeyed by his heavenly armies, so we are to ask that we too would obey him immediately, enthusiastically, completely. We are really asking here for him to change our hearts, our desires, what we value most.

We are to ask him for daily bread. Father, give us what we need for today. We don’t always know accurately what it is that we need or what is best for us. So in this is implicit trust in his superior wisdom. Lord, give us what we need for today.

And if you remember what Jesus taught in John 6, after he had fed thousands with a few loaves,

John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you… 32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” …35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Father, give us Jesus. Give us Jesus for today. Sustain us in Jesus today.

John 6:48 I am the bread of life. …51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

We are to abide in Jesus. We are to feed daily on him, to draw daily nourishment from our connection with him.

As we daily ask for nourishment, we are to daily ask forgiveness, daily acknowledging that we continue to fall short. We need the gospel applied daily. We need his mercies that are new every morning. In our daily connection with him, we need daily grace, daily cleansing.

And we are to remind ourselves that as we have been freely forgiven, we ought to freely forgive. We have sinned and been freely forgiven. We have been sinned against, and as followers of Jesus, we must freely forgive.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We acknowledge that God leads us wherever he deems best for us, and as his followers, we must follow. But we ask that he spare us from temptation, and when we are tempted, we ask that he rescue us from evil. We need his strength to stand firm. Without his daily deliverance, we will turn each of us to our own way. We will go astray and fall into evil. Apart from him we can do nothing.

Bear Much Fruit

Jesus commands that we come to him in prayer, that we abide moment by moment in him, so that we will bear much fruit to the glory of his Father. He commands us to ask the Father because he loves to give good gifts to his children. We only have access to the Father through the finished work of Jesus, who died in our place to bring us to God (1Pet.3:18).

And Jesus said:

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus fed thousands. He opened blind eyes, he made the lame walk, he cleansed lepers, he set captives free from Satanic bondage, he even raised the dead!

When Jesus fed thousands, he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples to give to others. Jesus has given us himself, the true bread from heaven, and he intends that we pass him on to others.

Greater works than these will we do, because Jesus finished his work and sat down at the right hand of his Father, and he is now at work through us as he abides in us.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We have this ministry by the mercy of God. By the open statement of the truth …we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and God shines in blind hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2Cor.4:1-6). ‘God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; …we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2Cor.5:18,20).

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Greater works than these will he do.’

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing….7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

***

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

May 4, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment