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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 2:16-17; Who Is Sufficient?

04/22_2 Corinthians 2:16-17; Who is Sufficient? ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180422_2cor2_16-17.mp3

In 2 Corinthians Paul describes what authentic Christian ministry is and corrects mistaken views.

Paul paints a picture of authentic Christian ministry as a triumphal procession, being led as a conquered captive and slave to God, spreading a fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. And this aroma of Jesus, while always pleasing to the Father, divides humanity into two categories; those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To those who are being saved, he is the smell of life leading to eternal life. But to those who are perishing, he is perceived as the smell of death and leads to eternal death. Authentic ministry divides.

Jesus said he came to cause division between people. He said:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus describes this division of all mankind into two categories in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

…34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

…41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

…46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus describes those who are being saved as blessed by my Father, who inherit the kingdom. And he describes those who are perishing as suffering eternal punishment, eternal fire.

Paul says that God

2 Corinthians 2:14 …through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life…

When Jesus sent out the twelve to proclaim the kingdom, he told them:

Matthew 10:14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

The proclamation of the gospel, the word of the cross, is a weighty responsibility. On the one hand, it is a message that rescues and delivers and breathes life into dead souls. On the other hand, it increases the accountability of the one who hears. Better never to hear of Jesus at all, than to hear of him and reject him.

Who Is Sufficient?

This is heavy. Some will benefit eternally from the message, but those who reject will be forever made held to a higher level of accountability; ‘to whom much is given, much will be required’ (Lk.12:48). To be the one who brings this dividing message, to be a fragrance of life to some, and the stench of death to others, is an incredibly sobering responsibility. Paul recognizes that the gospel he declares divides humanity, and he asks the question ‘who is sufficient for these things?’

Who is fit, able, worthy, competent; who is sufficient? Who is up to this weighty responsibility?

This reminds us of Moses, when God called him out of exile to lead his people out of Egypt. God sent Moses to two distinct groups of people. He was to go to Israel to declare that God was coming down to rescue them and set them free. He was also to go to the Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that he let his slaves go free. God said:

Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

This was good news to a people who were enslaved to a cruel tyrant. But this meant God’s judgment against the Egyptians who refused to bow to God’s authority. Moses felt the weight of this call.

Exodus 4:10 But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

The Greek translation of this verse uses this same word ‘sufficient’ or competent. ‘Oh, my LORD, I am not sufficient. I am not competent.’ Moses is acutely aware of his own inadequacy in the face of such a weight responsibility.

For We Are Not…

Who is sufficient? This sounds like a rhetorical question, and we are quick to answer ‘no one!’ Paul begins as we would expect ‘for we are not…’ Who possibly is up to this task? With Moses, we certainly do not feel competent. But this is not Paul’s answer. He says:

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Paul gives a five part answer to the question in this verse, one negative and four positive characteristics of his own ministry to demonstrate that he is indeed competent. But this is not all he has to say; his answer continues on into the next chapter. Paul is guarding himself against misunderstanding. This is not a question to which a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice. He gives a nuanced answer; he qualifies his answer. What characterizes his ministry?

Not Peddlers of the Word of God

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word,

Notice that the word of God is central to what it means to be a minister. He starts with the word of God, and he ends this verse with the verb ‘we speak.’ As an authentic minister, he speaks the word of God.

But others are speaking God’s word, and he draws a contrast here. It matters how the word of God is handled. Later in this book, chapters 11-13 he confronts the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel. It matters the content of the message. But it also matters the motive of the messenger. Paul says he is not like so many others who are not competent, who peddle God’s word. This is a common word for retail shop vendors, who take a product made by someone else and sell it for a profit. This term has very negative connotations, implying underhanded shady business practices, false advertising, dishonest dealing, diluting the product. These were often con artists, expert at ripping off the unsuspecting public.

We have to balance this with what he said in 1 Corinthians 9. In that whole chapter he strongly defends the right of a minister of the gospel to be paid for that ministry. He says:

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

It is the right, it is the command of the Lord Jesus that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

So what is Paul saying that he is not like so many peddlers of God’s word? Although Paul adamantly defends his own and others’ right to make a living by the gospel, he chooses not to make use of that right. But he has nothing bad to say about the other apostles who do make use of that right. What is he saying here?

Listen to Paul’s requirements for Christian leadership of any kind:

1 Timothy 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, … 3 … not a lover of money.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be …not greedy for dishonest gain.

Titus 1:7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be … greedy for gain,

Peter exhorts:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

This is a heart issue. What is the motive? What is the focus? ‘We are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word.’ Some, Paul says in Philippians 1 ‘preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely.’

So many are peddlers of God’s word, seeking to make a profit, seeking gain out of selfish ambition. Those are not fit, not competent, not sufficient for gospel ministry.

The gospel is not a commodity to be sold; the gospel is the power of God to transform lives. Like strong medicine in incompetent hands, that which is meant to bring life can bring about death. Who is competent for these things? Not those who are pursuing personal gain.

Of Sincerity

That is the negative. Now he lists 4 positive criteria of competency for ministry. ‘But as of sincerity, but as of God, directly before God, in Christ we speak.’

Paul operates out of sincerity. This is not the first time we have encountered this word. This verse is a bookend connecting back to 1:12, where Paul said

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Paul’s conscience bears him witness. He conducts himself always with sincerity. This word is a compound word that literally means judged by the sun. Paul’s conduct is out in the wide open, in the full light of the sun; he has nothing to hide. No secrets. No bait and switch. He is not duplicitous. There is no question of motives. He shoots straight. He says what he means and means what he says. You don’t have to read between the lines. What you see is what you get. He has integrity, not only in relation to ministry, but to all of life. He is transparent. Transparency is not something he strives for; it is simply who he is. And it is out of that open transparency that he speaks the word of God. Competent ministry must be sincere ministry.

Of God

‘But as of sincerity, but as of God.’ Paul is speaking of the source of his speaking and his authority. It all comes out of God. His authority comes from God, and he speaks God’s words. The ESV fills in the sense of this brief phrase; ‘as commissioned by God.’ The NIV has ‘as those sent from God.’ The only source of authentic ministry is God. Paul’s authority and Paul’s message is not self-originated; he is not at liberty to make stuff up. Remember, he is a conquered captive, led in triumphal procession, and he spreads the scent of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. He is a glad slave of God, and it is his joy to make much of Jesus. The content and the power of his message come from God. Competent ministry must originate in God.

Directly Before God

‘But as of sincerity, but as of God, directly before God.’ Paul is over against God, directly in the presence of God. He is always before God or ‘in the sight of God.’ Now if we know the Bible teaches that God is everywhere present and knows everything about everyone everywhere all the time, how is this a qualification for competent ministry? It is one thing for God to know everything about you, and it is quite another thing for you to be constantly aware that God is constantly aware of you.

Listen to what Hebrews 4:12-13 says.

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

We all must give account to the Lord, who knows all and sees all. James cautions:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

A key component of competency for ministry is an awareness the weighty responsibility of living in the light of God’s presence.

In Christ

‘But as of sincerity, but as of God, directly before God, in Christ we speak.’

In Christ. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. This is a favorite description of the believer. It speaks of our position, our identity, our relationship. Salvation, forgiveness, justification, redemption, sanctification, reconciliation, adoption, eternal life, is all in Christ. Grace, love, peace, freedom, hope, unity, encouragement, approval, blessing, all come to us in Christ. We are alive in Christ; there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s identity in Christ. For Paul everything is rubbish compared to knowing him and being found in him (Phil.3:9-10). There would be nothing worse than to be outside of Christ, apart from Christ.

There is no competency for ministry outside of Christ. Our only sufficiency comes from our union with Christ.

It is out of his union with Christ that Paul is able to speak.

Summary

Who is sufficient for these things? Who is sufficient to be the aroma of the knowledge of Jesus, who is competent to speak the word of God that to some becomes the smell of life to life, and to others is the scent of death to death? Not those who are in it for personal gain. Only those who operate out of a transparent sincerity, only whose only source is God, only those who live constantly in the light of God’s presence, only those whose only sufficiency is in union with Christ.

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

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April 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday; Isaiah 24, John 2; The Wedding, The Wine, and The Joy

03/25_John 2, Isaiah 24; Palm Sunday; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180325_palm-sunday.mp3

All Joy Has Grown Dark

This is the beginning of holy week. Today, Palm Sunday, marks the day Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as the Messiah, Son of David. 5 days later Jesus is betrayed by one of his own, and the crowds shout crucify, crucify! Then a week from today, resurrection Sunday, the women visit the tomb to honor the body of Jesus, and find it empty. This is Holy Week, an opportunity to remember, to reflect on Jesus, who he is, why he came. Today, I want to look at John 2, where it says ‘This, the first of signs, Jesus did …and manifested his glory.” But before we go to John 2, I want to set the stage by looking at a the prophecy of Isaiah 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Isaiah 24 is a picture of God’s judgment on the rebellious earth.

Isaiah 24:4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. 5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. 7 The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. 9 No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. 12 Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. 13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

God formed the earth and filled it with every good thing, but man sinned, transgressed God”s laws, broke his covenant, brought guilt, and the curse devours the earth. God scatters rebellious mankind who have united against him. All the vain things we seek pleasure in leave us empty and hollow. Holy week is a mirror held up to show us our condition, our rebellion, our emptiness, our need.

Isaiah 24:11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.

The First of His Signs

John 2:11 tells us

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This first of his signs; this word ‘first’ means ‘beginning, corner, or principle’; it was likely first in time, but it can also mean that this was the principle or ruling sign. It was a sign that manifested his glory. It was a sign that caused his disciples to believe in him.

[Before we get into this, I must acknowledge that Tim Keller helped me see much of what I see in this passage.]

John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

This is at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus is about 30 years old, single, and he is invited to a wedding. Now put yourself into that context; what does a single guy think about at someone else’s wedding? Jesus is there, his mom is there, the master of the feast has made a serious blunder and they have run out of wine. This is going to be that wedding that everybody in the community talks about for years to come. ‘Remember BarJudah’s wedding, when they ran out of wine?’ We put it in our context and think it’s not really a big deal, but in that culture it was a very big deal. This is a social catastrophe. Word is spreading. A mother leans over to her adult son and whispers ‘they have no wine.’ Jesus’ response seems strange. ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ This is not my wedding. This is not my party. This is not my responsibility. Today, you are not the mother of the groom. My hour has not yet come.

It almost seems that Jesus is lost in thought, pondering his own future wedding. He is thinking about his hour, his time, when Mary interrupts. What is this to me and to you woman? My hour is not yet here.’

My Hour Has Not Yet Come

This is a phrase used several times in the gospel of John. Here Jesus says ‘My hour has not yet come.’ John 7:30 and 8:20 give the reason that Jesus was not arrested ‘because his hour had not yet come.’ In John 12:23 Jesus declares ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ and then he talks about a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying. And in verse 27 he says:

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

In John 13:1, we are told that ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.’ John 17:1 Jesus prays ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’

In Mark 14:35, in the garden Jesus ‘prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.’ Then he says ‘the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.’ In his prayer Jesus equates the hour with the cup that he asks the Father to remove from him, yet if he must he is willing to drink it.

Through the gospels we see ‘his hour’ is the time of his betrayal, arrest, condemnation and crucifixion. If we trace this image of the cup through Isaiah and Jeremiah and Revelation, we see consistently that it is the ‘cup of the wine of the fury of [God’s] wrath’ (Rev.16:19; cf. 14:10; Is.51:17, 22; Jer.25:15) that Jesus must drink.

Jesus is at a wedding feast. The wine ran out. The celebration is about to come to a screeching halt. Jesus is looking toward another hour, another cup, a cup of wine that will not run dry until he drinks it. He is thinking about his betrayal by one of his friends, his execution. He is thinking about the righteous fury of almighty God against the sins of mankind. He is at a wedding and he is thinking about his own funeral. And he says ‘My hour has not yet come.’

The Best Wine

In this context Jesus does a startling thing. Look back at John 2.

John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus turns 120 – 180 gallons of water into the finest aged wine. The master of the feast, who failed in his responsibility to prepare appropriately for the wedding celebration, and the groom, who knew he didn’t have a 180 gallon reserve of the finest wine in a cellar somewhere, are both confused. Jesus, quietly, unpretentiously, behind the scenes, shows himself to be the true Master of the feast. It was in this premier of his signs that Jesus manifested his glory.

When the wine runs dry, when ‘all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished’ (Is.24:11); and every earthly pleasure will leave us longing for something better, something lasting, something satisfying, Jesus shows himself to be the true Master of the feast, the only one who provides enduring joy. Jesus, in whose presence there is fullness of joy; at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps.16:11). Jesus who has put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound (Ps.4:7).

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

This chief of signs by which he displayed his glory; this is Jesus’ calling card. This is the sign by which he made himself known. Jesus opened blind eyes, made the lame walk, healed the sick, liberated those in demonic bondage, even raised the dead, but this was the first of his signs; making over 100 gallons of the finest wine to increase joy at a wedding celebration. If anyone tells you that Jesus is out to spoil their fun, squelch their joy and make life boring, they have not met the Jesus of the Bible! No wonder he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Mt.11:29; Lk.7:34). Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn.10:10); that his joy would be in us, and our joy would be full (Jn.15:11). Jesus knows what joy is, and where lasting joy comes from.

His Wedding

Jesus is at a wedding, thinking about his coming hour and the cup he must drink, and when they run out of wine, he displays his glory and makes over 100 gallons of the finest wine for the celebration. I said he was probably thinking about his own wedding. In the next chapter, when John the baptist was informed that everybody was leaving him to follow Jesus, he compared his role to the friend, and Jesus as the bridegroom.

John 3:29 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.

The best man does not run off with the bride. Jesus is the bridegroom. His joy is complete when he sees the bride going out the the groom.

Jesus also used this metaphor early in his ministry. When he was asked why his disciples were not fasting,

Matthew 9:15 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. (cf. Mk. 2:19-20; Lk.5:34-35)

Paul gets caught up in this picture, this ‘profound mystery’ in Ephesians 5, where he compares the husband and his wife with Christ and the church, how he loved her and gave himself up for her.

There is a wedding feast coming. John tells us in:

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The relation of a bride to her husband is a picture of our relationship with Jesus.

He Wept over Jerusalem

This helps us understand to some extent the triumphal entry of Jesus that Palm Sunday; as he rode in on a donkey, his path strewn with garments and palm branches, ‘the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”’ (Lk.19:37-38), and Jesus, in the midst of this celebration, acknowledging that it is right for them to praise him,

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. …44 … because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus in the midst of the celebration, weeps over Jerusalem. Why? She is not ready. She is not yet as she ought to be. The bridegroom is coming, and she is not ready to receive him.

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The Joy Set Before Him

This helps us understand Hebrews 12:2.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

What does it mean that he endured the cross and despised its shame for the joy that was set before him? What joy? The cross and its shame was the necessary means, the cup he had to drink, in order to secure his bride. He looked through the cross to his bride. He could not go around the cross to his bride, as Ephesians says:

Ephesians 5: 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The cross was the path to joy, the only way possible to cleanse and purify his bride, to make her holy. He had to give himself up for her.

As we move into holy week, let us daily look together to Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..

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

March 25, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

06/04 The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170604_joy-like-jesus.mp3

The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is interesting that joy is mentioned second. In a list of nine aspects of the Christian life, love tops the list and joy comes right after it. I don’t want to make too big a deal about the order, because as we’ve seen, every aspect is essential. This is one indivisible fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. All these characteristics together make up the genuine fruit. I think people would agree that the most important character trait of a Christian is love. But what would you choose next? After love, what is the next attribute or characteristic you think of when you think of a Jesus follower? Do you think of someone who is patient or kind? Someone who is faithful? Self-controlled? What do you see most evident in the followers of Jesus you know? What do you see being produced in your own heart? Do you see joy? Would others look at you and say ‘I see love there, and I see joy’?

Remember, this is not a list of moral virtues like those other lists we find in ancient Greek literature, where it is agreed that a good citizen will be upright and honest and generous and chaste, because that is what is best for society. It is true, a Christian who has the fruit of the Spirit growing in his life will be the best citizen, and will do what is best for society, but that is not the point here. The point is not to produce outward conformity to a standard that is agreed upon as best for everyone. No, this is fruit, changed heart, changed desires, transformed affections. This is not ‘look at the areas where you fall short and with self-discipline and force of will improve yourself so that you can stay out of jail and make a positive contribution to society.’ No. this is fruit. Paul says it comes by faith; by believing; It is organically produced by God the Holy Spirit living in you. It comes by looking with faith to Jesus, falling in love with Jesus. It is a change at the very core of your being. It is a change of your identity. It is a change in who you are. You were a selfish person; now you are a loving person. You were a grumpy irritable angry sour dour down person; now you are joyful. This is something that can’t be explained naturally; this is supernatural change – Holy Spirit change. This is something you can’t change by trying. This happens by faith; trusting God to work this in you by his power. This is what we mean when we talk about being ‘born again.’ The Holy Spirit of God comes in and begins to change and re-arrange things, he creates new things and puts to death old things. The new birth is inward transformation that results in a changed way of viewing life, changed attitudes, changed patterns of thinking, changed responses to circumstances.

Now remember, this is fruit; it grows. Organically. Slowly. Often imperceptibly. But inevitably.

Joy Defined

So what is this joy we are after? What does it look like? What does it act like? To define biblical joy, which is Spirit produced supernatural fruit, I want to look at something Jesus said in the beatitudes in Luke 6. Typically when we talk about the beatitudes of Jesus you might turn to Matthew 5, where Jesus says ‘blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek…’ But did you know Luke also records Jesus’ beatitudes?

What Joy is Not

In Luke 6, Jesus is declaring blessings on his followers. Actually blessings and curses. There are two ways to live. There is the way of blessing, the way of happiness, the way of joy; and there is the way of woe, the way of cursing, the way of pain, the wide road that leads to destruction. Jesus is warning us that there is a counterfeit happiness that is temporary and leads to destruction. We need to hear this, because there are so many false teachers selling a false gospel that if you follow Jesus he will bless you and prosper you and meet all your needs. You are a child of the king; so you should live like a king. Circumstances will go well for you. You will be healthy and wealthy and wise, and people will like you.

I want to start down in verse 24 with the curses, and then we will go back to the blessings to see what real joy looks like. We need to hear these warnings and guard ourselves against the counterfeit.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Notice the temporary nature of the counterfeit. There is the ‘now’ and the ‘you shall’. Woe to you who are rich now, who are full now, who laugh now, who are well spoken of by all now. As followers of Jesus, there is no promise of those things now. Those who have it all now have all the comfort they will ever have now. They shall not be comforted then. They shall be hungry, they shall mourn and weep. They will be condemned like the false prophets.

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

So true joy is not connected with popularity or prosperity or plenty. Let’s look back at verse 20 to see what Jesus says about real joy.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Happy are the poor. Happy are the hungry. Happy are the sorrowful. Happy are the hated. This sounds contradictory. Remember this is not natural joy; this is fruit – supernatural joy. Notice there is an enduring character to the blessedness. There is a present circumstance; poverty, hunger, sorrow, persecution. There is a future hope; the kingdom, satisfaction, laughter, reward in heaven. But there is a permanent blessedness. They are blessed. There is a future hope, but there is a present and enduring blessedness. There is definitely a future aspect of joy, but this joy overlaps with the present persecution and suffering. In the day that you are excluded and slandered and hated, in that very day leap for joy! The future hope bleeds over into a present experience of joy.

So does this passage mean that we should we bankrupt ourselves and starve ourselves and become obnoxious so people hate us? Is that the path to blessing? Jesus did not tell everyone with possessions to give away all that they have, but he did tell the rich young man “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk.10:21) because Jesus loved him and perceived he was treasuring temporal things more than God himself. In Matthew 5 Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Happy are the ones who are aware of their poverty, their own spiritual need, and look to Jesus to rescue them. This rich man came to Jesus asking ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life’ (Mk.10:17). Jesus was showing him that it wasn’t what he could do; he had a heart problem. He loved the wrong things. He needed someone to transform his desires.

How is hunger a blessing? The Matthew passage says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The ones who are happy are those who understand their desperate lack of the righteousness that God requires and turn to him alone to meet their need.

What about persecution? We are not excluded and slandered and hated because we are obnoxious and rude and socially inappropriate; Matthew 5 says ‘blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” We are hated only because of our relationship with Jesus.

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

Notice this joy is a joy that is untouched by circumstances. How often is our joy a product of circumstances. Things are going well at work or in my relationships or with my finances and I have joy. But when money is tight and things are out of control and I’m facing frustrations, I experience fear and anxiety and become irritable. That is natural. But this joy is unaffected by circumstances. It actually thrives in adversity. It can coexist with grief and pain and loss.

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples to stay connected to him, to abide in him. He says in verse 11:

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Then he commands them to love, and goes on to warn them that the world will hate you like it hated me. In chapter 16 he informs them that he is leaving, but promises the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 16:20 he says:

John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

Notice what he does not say. He does not say ‘you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will be removed and replaced by joy.’ He does not say that when you are done being sorrowful and circumstances change, then you will have joy.’ What he says is ‘your sorrow will turn into joy.’ Then he gives an illustration of what he is talking about.

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Childbirth, I have been told, is painful. There is sorrow. You might even say anguish. Unless she has been medicated enough so that she cannot feel. The word there is affliction, persecution, tribulation; literally it means pressure. When the hour comes, there is pressure. So much pressure it is extremely painful. Then the birth happens. If all goes well, the room that was just moments ago a place of great agony is suddenly filled with joy. But the pain is not gone. She still hurts, and she will continue to experience pain for a long time after. But that pain is now overwhelmed by something else, something greater than the pain. The pain had purpose. The pain was worth it. The pain is overcome by the joy. It is not that the sorrow is removed and replaced with joy; the sorrow remains, but it is overwhelmed by joy. Jesus says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

This is a joy that is unconquerable. This is a joy that is greater than all the sorrows we could face. This is not joy because you get to escape from sorrow. Remember, Jesus is saying this to his apostles. Have you ever read some of the stories of how the apostles were martyred? Jesus knew exactly what his followers would experience, the suffering they would endure, and yet he promises that no one could take their joy from them. He tells them ‘Your joy will be full, because it is my joy in you. No one will take your joy from you.’ This is Jesus’ joy in us.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…

Joy in Trials

This joy is a joy that can even rejoice in trials and suffering. James 1 says:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

We see this also in 1 Peter and many other places. Romans 5 says

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.” [C.H.Spurgeon, M&E, Morning Feb 12, 2 Cor.1:5]

In 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul speaks of his affliction and persecution, he says:

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. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul says that the affliction we endure is actually working in us, preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. He says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul also uses the metaphor of labor pains. He calls them light and momentary. Not worth comparing. Really Paul? Countless beatings? Scourgings? Being stoned and left for dead? Shipwreck? Abandoned? Betrayal? Lack of basic needs? Light momentary affliction that is working in us an eternal weight of glory; not affliction that will be replaced by glory; but affliction that is accomplishing for us – that is digging deep my capacity for joy. In proper perspective the affliction is seen as light, momentary, transient. The glory, the joy is weighty beyond all comparison. The joy will overwhelm any sorrow and make it as if it were nothing at all.

But you don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what has been done to me. No, I don’t. And I don’t want to undermine or invalidate anything you have experienced. What I do want you to see, is that this is true for you. The joy promised us is greater, more immense, more weighty, more substantial than any suffering you have experienced. The wrongs done to you can be swallowed up in unquenchable joy.

I have tried to show you from the scripture that this joy is an enjoyment, a deep satisfying happiness, a weighty delight that is not grounded in outward circumstances. A joy that is not only not affected by circumstances, but can even thrive in the midst of and even because of adverse circumstances. A joy that is so weighty it can swallow up all sorrow. What is this joy and how do we get it?

Joy Linked to Love

Back in Luke 6, our passage on rejoicing and leaping for joy, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus links this kind of joy to love.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Every aspect of the fruit is linked to all the others. Rejoicing and leaping for joy while being persecuted is linked to love for enemies. Love is willingly, even joyfully self-giving for the good of the other. Joy accompanies this kind of love.

Jesus loved the rich man. He wanted him to experience real lasting joy. He wanted him to have the joy that moth and rust could not destroy, that thieves could not break in and steal. He wanted him to have joy in following Jesus. This man went away sorrowful, because of unbelief. He did not believe that the treasure in heaven was greater than his treasure on earth.

Fight for Joy with Joy

In love, Jesus calls us to make war against our fleshly desires. Do not settle for all those things that do not satisfy; insist on having the true joy that Jesus offers. We must fight for joy and we must fight with joy. We can overcome temptation only because we have something better. Are you enticed by the dollar store trinket when you are already in possession of the real thing? Yes! Yes we are, because our desires are deceitful (Eph.4:22). They lie to us and tell us that the plastic imitation is better than the genuine article. The rich fool went away sorrowful because he felt the change in his pocket was more weighty than an eternity following Jesus.

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

Contrast him to the man in Jesus’ story who found treasure hidden in a field and for joy sold all that he had and went and bought that field (Mt.13:44). He was not sorrowful over all he was losing. He was filled with joy because he knew that what he was giving up was nothing compared to what he was gaining. This is the joy of the Christian.

What is the treasure? What is the substance of our joy? What is it that overwhelms all our sorrows and outweighs all our treasures? Paul says

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 that I may know him…

The thing that is better than all the gifts we could possibly enjoy is the giver himself. That I may know him. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Being found in him. Abiding in him. Fullness of joy in relationship with him.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; …8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. … 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

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

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

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

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

First Stage

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

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

Second Stage

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

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

Discipline

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

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

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

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

Psalm 94 tells us:

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

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

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

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

Greater Accountability

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

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

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

Pride

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

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

Third Stage

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

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

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

Fourth Stage

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

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

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

Fifth Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabbath Rest and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law and Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 24:1-9; Light and Bread in His Presence

03/12 Leviticus 24:1-9; Light and Bread in His Presence Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170312_leviticus-24_1-9.mp3

We are in Leviticus 24. Leviticus 23 reminded us of holy time, time set apart to rest, to reflect and remember all that God has done, to celebrate, and to look forward in anticipation to all that God has promised to us. Our ultimate longing is to one day be in the presence of God, to no longer see through a glass dimly, but then face to face (1Cor13:12). Chapter 23 deals with the annual feasts of Israel. Chapter 24 reminds us that the priests are to enter daily into God’s presence. Worship is not reserved only for special occasions, but God is to be enjoyed day in and day out, all day every day. The focus of the first 9 verses of chapter 24 are light and bread.

Leviticus 24:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. 3 Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 4 He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.

5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

An Offering of the People

Notice this section begins and ends with the offering of the people. In verse 2 God instructs Moses ‘Command he people of Israel to bring you pure oil.’ Verse 8 concludes ‘it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever’. This is to be a contribution from the people. The pure oil from beaten olives and the fine flour and the frankincense for the bread of the presence is to be faithfully provided to the tabernacle by the people of Israel. The light is to be fueled by pure oil from beaten olives. This is the highest quality, produced with the greatest care. The loaves are to be baked with fine flour, most carefully prepared. The portions are generous. Each loaf was to be made with two tenths of an ephah. That is almost four and a half liters of flour for each of the twelve loaves. All Israel was to gather on specific feast days at the tabernacle three times annually. But daily, their best oil fueled the lamps in the tabernacle, and their finest bread was continually in the presence of God. The people had a continual connection with the holy presence of God.

Continual Light Before the LORD

The lights must be kept burning regularly. The priest is to trim the lights from evening until morning before the LORD regularly, forever, throughout your generations. The lamps were to be arranged on the lampstand before the LORD regularly. There was to be continual light in the presence of God. Morning and evening the lights were to be carefully maintained. Oil was to be continually supplied to the lamps to keep them burning.

What is the significance of light? All the way back at the beginning,

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

Light is God’s good creation. God spoke light into being. Light is separated from darkness.

1 John 1:5 …God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Light is necessary for life.

Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Psalm 56:13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Light is connected with life. The proverbs warn

Proverbs 13:9 The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

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

Proverbs 24:20 for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

The lamp is a symbol for life and a future. When David was weary in battle and narrowly escaped death at the hand of a Philistine giant,

2 Samuel 21:17 …Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”

David’s men feared that if David was killed, it would extinguish the hope and future of Israel. In 2 Chronicles 21 we read of king Jehoram, who ‘did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.’

2 Chronicles 21:7 Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

The lamp carries the idea of life and continuance and a future hope.

Light also carries the idea of truth and clarity and guidance.

Psalm 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

Light speaks of life and hope an a future, of truth and clarity and guidance in the right path.

These seven lamps were to be kept burning ‘before the LORD continually’. In God’s presence there is truth and vision and clear guidance, there is life and hope and a permanent future.

Continual Bread Before the LORD

The light of the lamps were positioned in the holy place to illumine the table for bread. Bread was to be piled up before the LORD each week. Twelve loaves, representing the twelve tribes, bread in abundance. Likely large round flat unleavened loaves of bread. Each loaf was made with about 18.5 cups of flour or a full five pound bag of flour. These were huge loaves of bread. Something like 60 pounds of bread piled up on the small gold table before the LORD. Pure frankincense was to be put with each pile of bread. This was likely burned as a memorial before the LORD.

Bread was the basic necessity of life, and the common denominator of every meal. Jesus taught his disciples to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Mat.6:11). During his temptation in Matthew 4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3

Deuteronomy 8:3 …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Bread is equated with God’s words. We see this also in Amos 8:11

Amos 8:11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

The most basic necessity to sustain life, God’s word, on which we are utterly dependent.

Pure frankincense is to be put on each pile. We see clearly in Revelation 5 that

Revelation 5:8 …and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (cf. Rev.8:3-4; Luke 1:10)

The incense, the prayers of the saints, ascends to God as a sweet fragrance. The Word of God and prayer before God.

Jesus The Light

We see this all come together in 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. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the Word, in the presence of God. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness.

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (cf. Mt.4:16)

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

Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus brings life and hope and a future. Jesus illumines our path, bringing truth and clear direction.

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

Jesus is our only access into the presence of a holy God.

Jesus is the Bread

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

Jesus is the bread of life. He is the Word made flesh. He is the only place our souls can find nourishment and satisfaction.

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

Jesus is the Pure Incense

If the bowls of incense in Revelation are the prayers of the saints, then how much more pure are the prayers of Jesus. The pure incense is the intercession of Jesus for us

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Romans 8:34 tells us

Romans 8:34 …Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The Missing Wine

To complete this picture, we need to look back on the construction of the table for bread in the tabernacle. We are told in Exodus 25:

Exodus 25:29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

Along with this table for bread, there are plates and dishes for incense. We see the incense in this passage. But also associated with this table are its flagons and bowls for drink offerings. What are the drink offerings? Where are these poured out? Drink offerings are only mentioned a few times in Leviticus 23 in association with some of the feasts. They are mentioned much more frequently in the book of Numbers, especially chapter 28. It seems these drink offerings are associated with the sacrifices to be burnt on the altar, but it is not clear exactly what is done with these drink offerings. Numbers 28:7 says:

Numbers 28:7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.

This verse indicates that the wine or strong drink is poured out in the Holy Place. Somehow the drink offerings of wine are closely connected to this table of the bread of the presence.

We see Jesus bringing these two symbols together when he gave his followers bread, “saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:19-20)

Light of the World

When we look back on the lampstand, it gave light to the holy place. It illuminated the bread on the table. Only the priests were allowed to enter there. Only the priests were allowed to eat of that bread. But when Jesus came, he said that he came down from heaven to give his flesh for the life of the world. He claimed to be the light of the world, even specifically a light to the Gentiles (Lk.2:32; Is.42;6; 49:6). He went so far as to say to his followers

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

In the vision of Revelation we are told:

Revelation 1:20 … the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

In Acts 26, God sent Paul to the Gentiles,

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

We, broken vessels, clay pots, proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord;

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

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

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence

07/17 Leviticus 9; Enjoying The Presence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160717_leviticus-9.mp3

Climax of the Torah

In chapter 9 of Leviticus we come to the climax of the narrative of the Torah, the five books of Moses. God has gotten glory over Pharaoh and rescued his people from out of slavery in Egypt. He has brought his people to Mount Sinai and revealed to them his glory. He invited Moses up into the glory cloud and delivered the terms of his covenant to his people. While Moses was in the glory cloud, Aaron made a bull calf out of gold and sacrificed to it, indulging the people in idolatrous covenant treason. Moses prayed, and God forgave, and God promised that his presence would go with them in spite of their rebellion and sinfulness. God gave instructions for a tabernacle, a portable worship center, a tent where he would dwell in the midst of his people. The tent was constructed according to his plans, and at the end of Exodus, his glory inhabited the tabernacle. Then, in Leviticus 1-7, he gave instructions on what sacrifices are to be offered in his tent. In Leviticus 8, the priests are set apart with a seven day ceremony, and dedicated to his service by sacrifice. Now the tabernacle is ready to begin its function in bringing forgiveness and allowing sinners be cleansed and enjoy the presence of God with them.

The Presence of the LORD

The presence of the Lord is the focus of this passage. In verse 4, the people are told to bring sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:4 … for today the LORD will appear to you.’”

In verse 6,

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”

Then in verse 23, after offering the appropriate sacrifices,

Leviticus 9:23 … the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.

In Genesis, God made Adam and Eve to reflect his glory and enjoy his fellowship. But they rebelled against his good commands. “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen.3:8).

The presence of God with his people that was forfeited in Genesis is the goal of the Exodus, of the tabernacle, of the priests, of the sacrifices. Exodus 29 God describes:

Exodus 29:42 …the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. 43 There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. 44 I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Today we see the fulfillment of these promises. We see God making his presence known in the midst of his people.

The Bull Calf

Leviticus 9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, 2 and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. 3 And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, 4 and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” 5 And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD.

After 7 days of sacrifice setting apart Aaron and his sons, where they could not leave the Lord’s courtyard, now, on day 8 there is instruction for more sacrifice. Aaron is to take a bull calf for a sin offering. This particular word ‘calf’ appears in Leviticus only here in chapter 9. It appears 3 times in this chapter, referring to the victim of the sin offering Aaron and the people are to offer. This word appeared 6 times in Exodus 32, when Aaron fashioned a golden calf for the people to worship. It appears twice in Deuteronomy 9, referring back to the golden calf incident. This wording would be a vivid reminder of the kind of sin that Aaron and the people were guilty of. This would be an amazing reminder that God was not unaware of their sin, but that he had provided a sacrifice for their sin. A bull calf was not to be worshiped as an image of God; rather a bull calf was to be offered in worship to the invisible God.

Offering for the Priest

Aaron was to offer a bull calf for a sin offering for himself, and a ram for a burnt offering for himself. The people were to bring a male goat for a sin offering, a calf and a lamb for burnt offerings, an ox and a ram for peace offerings, and a grain offering mixed with oil.

Leviticus 9:6 And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” 7 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.” 8 So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. 9 And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp. 12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

This is the first offering that Aaron, the newly ordained High Priest offers. Up to this point, Moses was officiating the offerings. Now Moses continues to convey God’s instructions to the priest, but Aaron is now officiating. And the first offerings Aaron offers are for himself. Keep in mind, Aaron and his sons have just undergone 7 days of offerings in the courtyard of the LORD, where sacrifices have been continually offered to set he and his sons apart and to purify them. They have been anointed with oil. A bull for a sin offering, a ram for a burnt offering, and another ram for an ordination offering have been sacrificed. Blood had been applied to his ear, thumb, and toe to set him apart to hear God’s words, to do God’s will, to follow God’s way. And yet on the eighth day, the first thing Aaron must do is make an offering for his own sin. Even living seven days in God’s presence does not make one immune from sin. The eighth day is a new day, and another sin offering must be offered, because ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Another whole burnt offering must be offered, offering self completely to God.

Offering for the People

Now that Aaron has offered sacrifices for himself to cover his own sin, he is fit to offer the sacrifices of the people.

Leviticus 9:15 Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. 18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— 20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

This is the first offering made by Aaron on behalf of the people. He is following the procedure laid out in chapters 1-7. But here we see the sequence of these offerings. First the sin offering, because our sin must be covered. Then the whole burnt offering, because the whole self must be offered to God on the altar. Then the grain offering, the work of our hands becomes acceptable to God. Finally, the peace offering, where our innermost affections are offered to God, and the worshiper can now enjoy intimate fellowship with God. Notice, the blood of the sin offering must be poured out before fellowship with God can be enjoyed.

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus reconciled us to God, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (Col.1:20)

Blessing the People

Leviticus 9:22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.

After the appropriate sacrifice has been made, God’s blessing can be enjoyed. Numbers 6 tells us the content of this blessing.

Numbers 6:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The Lord make you happy. The Lord preserve you. The Lord look toward you with undeserved grace. The Lord turn his face toward you in peace. The high priest would pronounce this blessing, but God is the one who blesses his people. “I will bless them.” Aaron declared the blessing, but God extended his grace and peace to his people.

Leviticus 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, …

Having made atonement for sins through the blood sacrifices, Moses and Aaron entered the holy place to enjoy the presence of God. When they came out… don’t miss that fact. They came out. They were not consumed by the presence of the Holy One. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he cried out ‘Woe is me! For I am undone’ (Is.6:5 KJV). Moses and Aaron, both great sinners, came out from the presence of the LORD and blessed the people. They blessed because they had been blessed.

Psalm 16:11 …in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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

They had been in the presence of the Most High God. Their hearts overflowed with joy in God, and so they poured out spontaneous blessing on the people. This was a momentous day!

The All-Consuming Glory Fire

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

As God had promised, the glory of the LORD appeared to the people. When God is obeyed and approached in the way that he requires, his presence can be enjoyed according to his promises. The tabernacle was constructed according to God’s instructions. The priests were ordained according to his instructions. The sacrifices were made according to his instructions. And his presence was enjoyed in fulfillment of his promise. God’s fiery glory cloud which engulfed the top of Mount Sinai, which came down to inhabit the tabernacle, now burst out of the inner sanctuary and incinerated all that was left on the altar. This was a visible demonstration that the sacrifices were acceptable. God affirmed that he had accepted their offering by consuming with holy fire that which remained on the altar.

The people responded with awe filled joyful worship. Remember, when God’s glory cloud first appeared on the top of Mount Sinai?

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

The presence of a holy God among sinful people brought terror and distance. But now the people, having approached God as he commanded through sacrifice, and seeing that the sacrifice offered was accepted, they respond with joy. They shouted. This word is almost always an expression of worshipful joy.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 71:23 My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

Psalm 132:9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy. …16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

Zechariah 2:10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.

The people responded to the glory of God by shouting for joy and falling on their faces. This is an expression of humble worshipful awe and fear. To fall on your face is to get very low in the presence of a great King. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; cf. Prov.3:34). Notice the change in sequence. With sins un-atoned, there was fear and then distance. Now with sins covered, there is joy and then an expression of fearful awe. God is awesome and terrible, he is greatly to be feared. But we can shout for joy in his presence because our sins are taken away.

Jesus our Great High Priest

As we close, we need to look away from the shadow and toward the reality. Hebrews tells us that

Hebrews 10:1 …the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities… (cf. Heb. 8:5; Col.2:17)

Jesus is the substance that the shadows of the law point us toward. Jesus is the good things to come! Hebrews 7 says

Hebrews 7:18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. …22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Jesus is our Great High Priest, our better Priest. Aaron was a sinner. He had to offer sacrifices first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. Jesus had no sins of his own. The law made provision for the weakness of men. The law provided a way for sinful priests to be cleansed. Jesus was himself sinless, holy, innocent, unstained, but he offered himself up as a sacrifice for all sins once for all. We draw near to God through Jesus. Jesus saves us completely. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn.1:7). In this we have confidence because God raised him from the dead (Rom.1:4; Acts17:31).

John 16:22 …I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and unshakable joy!

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

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pleasure and Privilege of Prayer

01/17 Pleasure and Privilege of Prayer ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160117_pray.mp3

As we look at a new year together, I like to ask the question ‘What do we need to focus on? What do we need to be reminded of? What is most important?’ Two weeks ago we looked at Psalm 1 and what it has to say about the word of God and the blessings, the delights of meditating on the word. Today I would like to look at prayer. I want to look at the pleasure and privilege of prayer. My goal is that we would be encouraged to pray, empowered to pray, equipped to pray, motivated to pray, that we would treasure the privilege of prayer.

Commanded to Pray

The way we view prayer affects how we approach prayer, and how we pray (or don’t pray). We often feel that prayer is an obligation, something that Christians are supposed to do, and we often feel that we ought to do it more or longer or better than we do. We often feel guilt over our shortcomings in prayer. And in part, we are right to think this, because prayer is something we ought to do. We are commanded to pray.

1 Thessalonians 5 says

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you pray. Pray continually. But not grudgingly. With rejoicing. Overflowing with thankfulness in all circumstances. Ephesians 5:20 tells us that we ought to be filled with the Spirit, “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Ephesians 6 concludes teaching on spiritual warfare with “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Colossians 4 says:

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Romans 12 says:

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

We are to continue steadfastly in prayer, to be watchful in prayer, to be constant in prayer. Anybody living up to this? Philippians commands:

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Paul says:

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Paul claims to pray constantly. Night and day. Anyone discouraged yet? Is this just Paul? In Colossians 4:12, Paul mentions Ephaphras, “one of you” who is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers” In Acts 1:14, 2:42, and 6:4, we see the early church – the whole church – “devoted to prayer.” In Acts 16:25 we find Paul and Silas in prison at midnight, “praying and singing hymns to God.” In Acts 9:11, when Ananias was hesitant to go see Saul, the persecutor of the church, the comfort and confidence God gave that he was now converted was “for behold, he is praying.”

Jesus in Luke 18

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

We are to always pray, be devoted to prayer, constant in prayer, characterized by prayer, continue steadfastly in prayer, pray without ceasing, and rejoice always. This feels overwhelming. Discouraging. Unattainable. And I’m supposed to rejoice?

The Privilege of Prayer

I believe the pleasure of prayer is rooted in the privilege of prayer, so we will start by looking at the privilege of prayer. An Old Testament illustration from the book of Esther will help us understand the privilege of prayer. Esther, a young Jewish girl, was taken to be the replacement queen for Ahasuerus, king of Babylon, because Queen Vashti had been banished for refusing to appear before the king when summoned. Haman, one of the king’s top advisers, had plotted the genocide of all the Jews. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, called on Esther to intercede with the king and plead for the lives of her people. She responded in Esther 4

Esther 4:11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

Esther rightly feared for her life if she approached the throne unbidden. She did not have access to the king unless the king called for her. The king had already been counseled to do away with one queen. Even if she risked her life to approach the king without being summoned, she had no guarantee that her request would be granted. Esther was rightly terrified, but it seemed like the only hope for the Jewish people, so Esther responded to Mordecai:

Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

We are told

Esther 5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Put yourself in Esther’s shoes. She was desperate, she was risking everything, but she seemed to have no choice. I can only imaging the knot in the pit of her gut as she entered the inner court unbidden.

Our situation was far worse. Esther was the queen. The king took great pleasure in her. Imagine how much worse the situation would have been if it was the former queen Vashti, who had been banished from the kingdom, who was now seeking audience with the king. Vashti’s hopes for a hearing would be far less than zero. But that was our condition.

We read in Genesis 3

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

…23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Mankind had been banished from the presence of the Lord. You see, God had given us everything good we could imagine, provided for all our needs, fulfilled all our desires, and we enjoyed sweet fellowship with him. There was but one rule, a test really, to demonstrate whether we would be faithful to him. But we sided with his enemy, doubted his goodness, and committed high treason. So we were cut off from his presence, banished. Isaiah 59 says

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.

Even this separation was mercifully less than we deserved. God had promised that the wages of sin is death, and yet he accepted the death of a substitute, promising one day to crush the skull of the enemy and bring us back to himself. This is what Romans teaches. Although God’s righteous wrath had been revealed against all mankind because of our failure to honor him as God, he sent his only Son Jesus to be our substitute, to bear the punishment we deserved, so that we could be declared righteous, as if we had kept God’s law perfectly. Although we had made ourselves his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Romans 5 says

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

Think of this. Savor this. Treasure this. Access. We have access, not to an earthly king or president, not access to a human political ruler, but to the King of kings, to the throne room of the all sovereign Creator of all things, to the one who spoke all that is into existence, access to the God who rules all things! ‘We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.’ We stand in grace, God’s free and unmerited favor poured out on his enemies, giving access to himself, to his throne. This, friends, is cause for rejoicing! This is a high honor indeed! Listen to Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

We are reconciled to God through the cross. Jesus himself is our peace. We have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Through Jesus we have access in the Spirit to the Father. Access to the Father! Brought near! Look over at Ephesians 3. In Christ Jesus our Lord,

Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Through our Lord Jesus, we have access. Not a timid, hesitant, halting, fearful access, but confident boldness, a frank openness, blunt, fearless, unreserved freedom, total unhindered freedom to speak in his presence. This is the blood bought free access we have through Christ with the Father!

Look over with me to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews points us to Jesus, our great High Priest.

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We can with free and open confidence draw near to the throne of grace. What a title! The throne of grace! The place where we find, not justice and judgment for all the wrongs we have done, but gracious pardon and acceptance extended to the undeserving. The throne of grace, where we find all the blood-bought blessings we do not deserve, where we find mercy that releases us from the burden of guilt. We go confidently, because nothing is there for us but grace to help in time of need. There is no condemnation there, no judgment, no rejection. There is help. We are needy. We come with confidence, we come to receive, because he is the gracious giver of all good things, and because in him we find the help we desperately need.

In Hebrews 7:19, a better hope is introduced, a better hope than the law, which made nothing perfect, Jesus, our better hope, through which we draw near to God. Jesus is the better priest of a better covenant, he lives forever,

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

We have access to God, we draw near to God through Jesus, who always lives to make intercession for us. Brothers and sisters, Jesus is continually, before the presence of his Father, praying for us, interceding for us. Did you know, loved one, that even when you or I are prayerless, Jesus is praying for us? Jesus does not just save us part way. Jesus is the great High Priest who saves fully, completely, to the uttermost! In Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10:17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

In Jesus our great High Priest, we have received forgiveness. We have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus. Let us then draw near, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. Let us draw near to God. Boldly, confidently, enjoying free access.

The Pleasure of Prayer

I started by saying that I believe the pleasure of prayer is rooted in the privilege of prayer. Now that we have looked at the privilege of prayer, I probably don’t need to even finish this sermon, because the pleasure of prayer should become self-evident. We have access to God. Our God is incalculably good. Gracious, merciful, eager to help. To know him is to know life.

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

Psalm 21:6 says ‘you make him glad with the joy of your presence.’

Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

Psalm 36 says:

Psalm 36:7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 73:

Psalm 73:25 ​Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 ​My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. … 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Nothing in heaven or on earth compares to God. You are my portion. It is good…it is good to be near God. And through Jesus we have access to God!

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

If you have not experienced the pleasure of prayer, I would invite you to taste. Come. Take refuge. Taste. Develop a hunger and thirst for him.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

So my advice to us is to go. Remind yourself of the inestimable privilege we have through the blood of Jesus, and go. Recognize your need and go boldly. Go confidently. Go with reverence and worshipful awe, but go. Go with the blood bought confidence that belongs to you in Christ Jesus. Push open the doors, throw back the curtains, and approach the God who has made himself approachable. He invites you in. He has paid the way. Enter and enjoy!

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

January 17, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 39:32-40:38; The Finished Work, The Restored Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121021_exodus39_32-40_38.mp3

10/21 Exodus 39:32 – 40:38 The Finished Work; The Restored Presence

We are at the close of the book of Exodus. Here’s a broad outline of the entire book:

(chapters 1-14) God’s Redemption of His People

(chapters 15-18) God’s Care for His People

(chapters 19-24) God’s Covenant with His People

(chapters 25-40) God’s Presence with His People

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. This last section, chapters 25-40, culminating God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people with the golden bull idol and Moses’ intercession for the people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The second half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This structure demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his broken, repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. In our study through Exodus, we covered the corresponding fulfillment sections as we went through the command sections. Now we jump to the end of chapter 39.

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did. 33 Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its utensils, its hooks, its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 34 the covering of tanned rams’ skins and goatskins, and the veil of the screen; 35 the ark of the testimony with its poles and the mercy seat; 36 the table with all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 37 the lampstand of pure gold and its lamps with the lamps set and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; 38 the golden altar, the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance of the tent; 39 the bronze altar, and its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the basin and its stand; 40 the hangings of the court, its pillars, and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords, and its pegs; and all the utensils for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; 41 the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons for their service as priests. 42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

Exodus 40:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court. 9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

16 This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, 23 and arranged the bread on it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, 25 and set up the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 26 He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 28 He put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses. 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.

Moses was the only one that saw the heavenly original of which the earthly tabernacle was to be a copy. So he was the only one able to inspect all the craftsmanship to make sure it matched what he had seen on the mountain. Remember, the tabernacle was designed to be a portable worship center for a people on the move, so the people could easily bring all the pieces to Moses for inspection. Amazingly, there is no record of anything failing to meet his approval. There was no instance where he said ‘I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough. You’ll have to try again.’ It says:

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

Re-Creation

Much of this language echoes the language of the creation narrative in the beginning of Genesis. The tabernacle, like the garden, was to be the place where God would dwell with his people. In the creation narrative, God said… and it was so. Here, as LORD commanded, so they had done it.

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

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

Exodus 40:33 … So Moses finished the work.

At the beginning of the creation narrative, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen.1:2); for the building of this sanctuary,

Exodus 35:31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, …34 And he has inspired him to teach… 35 He has filled them with skill… (cf. Exodus 31:3)

The amazing thing about these echoes of creation in this narrative is that in the original creation, there is no ‘God said, and they did just the opposite and screwed everything up and brought the anger of the LORD, but then they repented and God forgave them, and it was so.’ It was simply ‘God spoke and it happened’. Perfect obedience. Here, after violating their covenant commitment with a false god, the final verdict is:

Exodus 39:43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

This, too, is an echo of the creation narrative.

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill …and subdue …and have dominion …

Good News

This is the great news of the gospel.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Jeremiah 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

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.

The good news is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. Because he paid our price in full, we can be treated as if we had never sinned. Our relationship with a holy God can be restored to the intimacy it was designed for. We can be accepted as if we had kept the whole law perfectly, not because of our own efforts, but because of the perfect obedience of Jesus credited to our account.

Jesus

Remember, the whole tabernacle points to Jesus. Jesus, the covering of mercy that appeases God’s wrath over the broken law; Jesus the bread of life, Jesus the light of the world, Jesus who offers himself as the once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus our great high priest, Jesus whose prayers continually ascend to the Father for us, Jesus, in whose blood we are washed clean, Jesus, who clothes us with his righteousness and anoints us with his Holy Spirit, Jesus, who is our sabbath rest, Jesus who is the meeting place between God and men, Jesus, who is God pitching his tent in our midst, Jesus the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb.1:3).

The Glory

The work was finished exactly according to plan. The dwelling place of God was complete. We finally reach the climax of the Exodus:

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

Will God go with us? God gave evidence that he had taken up residence with his people. They had built a tent for him to dwell with them, and immediately upon completion, God takes up residence with them. The intensity of the glory of God is emphasized here. Moses, who spent two periods of 40 days each with God in the glory cloud, Moses, whom God placed in a cleft of the rock and caused all his goodness to pass by, Moses whom God talked with face to face, as a man talks with his friend, Moses, whose face radiated the glory of God with such intensity that he covered it with a veil, this Moses ‘was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.’ Moses, who had experienced so much of God’s glory, was not able to enter. At this point Moses, who served as mediator between God and the people, is now shown to be one of the people. If you hire a general contractor to build your house, he oversees the construction and has access to the house while it is being built. He oversees the craftsmen and ensures that it is built according to the plans, and he has authority to inspect the work and can even require that things be re-done. He has access to the house until it is completed, and then he hands the keys over to the owner. He does not keep a set of keys for himself so he can come and go as he pleases. Once the owner moves in, he looses all rights to access the house. This is the situation with Moses, and the author of Hebrews highlights this contrast between Moses and Jesus in Hebrews 3.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God is the builder, Moses is a servant, Jesus is the Son. We believers are the house that God lives in. Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses. The glory of God had now come to dwell in the tent, and Moses was unable to enter.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled, pitched his tent] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Moses was unable to enter because of the glory; Jesus is the one who is glorious, the only Son from the Father.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Moses had limited access into the tabernacle. He served as priest when the tabernacle was first set up, arranging the bread and burning the incense, offering the burnt offering and the grain offering; he anointed Aaron and his sons as priests to serve in the newly constructed tabernacle. And then he was unable to enter. But Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and when he entered the holiest place after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of his Father. He has a right to live in the house, because he is the Son.

Presence of God

This is what Exodus is about; the presence of God dwelling with his people.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

Exodus 29:45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Exodus is about Jesus.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

Jesus said:

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We, believers in Jesus, have become the dwelling place of God, the temple of God. This is the focal point of all of history, as the final book of Revelation sums it up.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

We, believers in Jesus, can now enjoy the presence of God, we can walk with God, we can experience his guidance, we can reflect his glory, we can know his indwelling presence.

The message of Exodus is the message of Immanuel – God with us.

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

October 21, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 33:7-17; The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120902_exodus33_7-17.mp3

09/02 Exodus 33:7-17 The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

God had rescued out of slavery a people for himself. He had demonstrated his mighty power over their enemies. He demonstrated his provision and care for them in the wilderness. He entered into a covenant relationship with them, to be their God and take them to be his people. He promised to give them the greatest blessing imaginable; he promised he would be with them. But they had been unfaithful even before they had received the written terms of the agreement. They abandoned their promise to ‘have no other gods before’ him and to ‘not make for yourself a carved image …[to] not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:3-5) Now, he said “I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (33:3). He said “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you.” (33:5). He would fulfill all of his promises, but he would not be with them. The people perceived this, not as a blessing, but as a disastrous word. There can be nothing more fulfilling, nothing more satisfying, nothing that nourishes the soul, there is no greater blessing than the presence of God. God promises that he will fulfill all his promises but he will remove his presence from his people. This is rightly seen as disastrous, for there can be no greater emptiness than the absence of God, so the people

strip themselves of their ornaments and go into mourning. But there is a glimmer of hope. God says ‘So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you’. This is the parent telling the rebellious child to sit in the corner and wait while I cool down and decide what the punishment will be. Will it be justice, swift and severe, or will he again show mercy? God had already proposed that he consume the people and start over with Moses (32:10). Moses pleaded with God that he not totally destroy them, and ‘the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people’ (32:14). Now, the Lord says he will send his angel with them, but he will not personally accompany them, in order to protect them from the absolute holiness of his presence.

Verses 7-11 describe the interim situation, building suspense and leaving us hanging as to what the answer will be to what God will do with his disobedient people.

Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 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. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Contrast in Tents

Remember, back in chapter 25, God had said “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8). And he proceeded to give seven chapters worth of elaborate detailed instruction about this tabernacle, or tent of meeting, that would provide a central worship location for the whole camp of Israel. This was to be an ornate and highly decorated tent, made of the finest richly colored materials, embroidered with gold, fitted with furniture of gold and silver and bronze, with a whole order of priests, also adorned in elaborate outfits, set apart to make offerings for the people and bring them into the courtyards of God’s palace to enjoy meals in his presence. But now nothing of this has been made. The people by their sinful actions have forfeited the presence of God. Now, instead of an elaborate tent fit for a king, we are simply told that Moses pitched the tent outside the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tent of meeting. No details, no decoration, no furniture. Just a simple tent. Not in the middle of the camp of Israel, but outside the camp, far off from the camp. No Levites and priests to guard and serve in God’s palace; just Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim (Num.13:8,16), to stand guard over this simple tent. No sacrifices where they could find forgiveness, but only a fearful expectation of judgment. No entering into his courts with singing, instead each would stand at his own tent door and watch and worship from afar.

Consequence of Sin

This was a dramatic illustration of the consequences of sin. God would not dwell with this people. He could not stand to be among them. He would distance himself from this people. His tent would be far off from the camp. The people of Israel would not have God as their center. Instead any one of them who would seek the LORD must leave Israel behind and go out to the wilderness to find him. Israel was intended to be a light to the nations, God’s own people, so that any outsiders who would seek God must come in to Israel to approach this God. Now God is outside, and Israel must go out if they will have any dealings with him.

Respect for Leadership

We see here the attitudes of the people toward their leader changing. Remember when the people assembled against Aaron with their demand that he make them a calf? They said ‘as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’ (32:1). There was no respect, no recognition that this was God’s chosen leader, no acknowledgment that God had called him and was using him as their mediator; they were ready to set him aside and choose their own leader. Now they were beginning to recognize and respect his position of authority. Whenever Moses would go out to the tent they would rise out of reverence. When they saw that God was meeting with Moses, they would rise up to worship God.

The Word of God

Moses’ authority was not because he was in some way better than them. He himself felt inadequate for the task, and when God called him said ‘who am I that I should …bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (3:11); he even said ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else’ (4:13). Moses’ authority did not come from his natural abilities or from who he was at all; God said ‘I will be with you’ (3:12). Moses’ authority was recognized because God would speak to him. In fact, we are told ‘the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.’ We cannot take this to mean that Moses saw the face of God, for later in this very chapter Moses records God as saying ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’ (33:20). Being face to face with the invisible God (Col.1:15; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27) is a way to express that this conversation was up close and personal, that Moses had lost nothing of the privileged intimacy he had experienced in the glory cloud on Mount Sinai. Notice the text does not say that Moses looked at God or that the LORD looked at Moses face to face, but that he spoke to Moses face to face. God’s word is always of utmost importance. It is what God says that takes priority. And this is what gave Moses authority with the people. They recognized that God spoke to him, that God gave him his word. What an awesome treasure we hold in our hands today! The very word of God written; his communication with us.

Friendship with God

What an awesome privilege! To be in the presence of the invisible God. To hear his voice. For the God of the universe to call me ‘friend’!

Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

This friendship was denied to the Israelites, who had no reverence for God and broke his covenant. They were kept at a distance. Jesus invites us back into friendship with him. He says:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 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. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

‘You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ Friendship with God means obeying his commands. Our problem is we are disobedient. We are rebellious. We do not have a proper fear of God. We, like the Israelites, are quick to run after other gods, to worship other things, our hearts are inclined to love other things more than God. That is why Jesus laid down his life for us. We needed someone to pay the debt we owe for dishonoring God. He died for us even when we didn’t deserve it. He died for us while we were still hostile toward him. He loved those who hated him. This is the kind of love Jesus demands from his followers. To understand this is transformational. None of us deserve to be loved. So when Jesus tells us to love one another as I have loved you, he is saying that we must love those who have done nothing to earn our love. We must love in a way that costs us something. We must love even those who are hostile toward us. We must actively pursue the good of the other. We show ourselves to be his friends when we understand how he loves and seek to love others like we have been loved by him. This comes not from extra human effort, but as a result of experiencing what it is to be loved by God when we deserve just the opposite. What a privilege to be invited into friendship with Jesus!

Moses’ Dependence on Grace

God is speaking to Moses as a friend, but has distanced himself from the rest of the people. He invites the people to demonstrate their repentance ‘that I may know what to do with you.’ Here we get in on one of these conversations in the tent.

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

God had told Moses that he would send an angel but would not go personally with the people. Moses argues that God must go with the people or nothing else matters. Moses is acknowledging his utter dependence on God and his own inability to lead without God. Moses is calling on God to make good on his word. You have said ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ God has shown Moses favor or grace. Moses didn’t deserve this. Moses makes his plea based on the fact that God had given him grace. The request? ‘Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.’ Because you know me and have extended undeserved grace to me, I want to know you, I want to know your character, your ways, so that I can continue to receive undeserved grace. Moses is saying ‘I didn’t deserve it, I don’t now deserve it, and I won’t ever deserve your favor. I want to grow in relationship with you so that I continue to experience your undeserved grace, because that’s what you’re like.’ And he adds ‘consider too that this nation is your people.’ They have been recipients of your undeserved grace. They don’t deserve it now, but will you still grant them your favor?

God responds ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest’, but it seems the ‘you’ here is singular. My face will go with you Moses, and I will give you individually rest. This is not good enough for Moses. He is not content to have God’s promise for himself individually, he wants God’s presence with the whole people. This is almost an ultimatum. You have told us to go, but we are not going anywhere without the promise of your presence with us. See how Moses inextricably connects himself with the people: me, us; I, I and your people; us, we, I and your people.

Evidence of Grace

Moses asks the question: what is the evidence of your grace in my life? You say you have shown us undeserved favor. What is it that shows that we are different from every other people on the face of the earth? The evidence of grace, this favor that is not deserved, is God’s presence. Moses is beginning to understand the heart of God and he is learning what it means to pray according to the will of God. The exodus event was intended as a way for God to get glory (14:4, 17) for his great name. It was a way to preach the greatness of God so that many would acknowledge him as the only true God and come to him. God’s promise to Abraham was ‘I will bless you …so that you will be a blessing. …and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.12:2-3) and ‘in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Gen.22:18). Moses had already leveraged this in his prayer in chapter 32; he asked ‘why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’ (32:12)? God’s reputation among the nations is at stake. His question here is ‘how shall it be known,’ because the point of God’s taking a nation to be his own treasured possession is to put the riches of his grace on display for the nations to see. God’s people enjoying God’s presence with them as a result of his undeserved grace proclaims the glory of God like nothing else. What awesome encouragement to the worst of sinners that they too can find forgiveness when they turn to God if this hard-hearted rebellious people, so quick to turn away, were extended his grace when they repented. See God’s response to this prayer:

17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 

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

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 33:1-6; The Disastrous Word

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120826_exodus33_1-6.mp3

08/26 Exodus 33:1-6 The Disastrous Word

We are at a pivotal place in the book of Exodus. God has threatened to wipe out his people whom he rescued from slavery because of their unfaithfulness to him. They eagerly entered into a covenant with him, and before they even received the written terms of the agreement, they had violated their core commitments. Moses interceded for the people, and God relented from the disaster he had threatened. Moses had cleaned up the mess, as much as humanly possible, desecrating the idol and executing those persistent in their rebellion, and then he attempted to make atonement for the people by offering himself as a substitute. God rejected this offer:

Exodus 32:33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

We are not told what this plague was. It may have been disease or famine or death or pestilence. The chapter ends and leaves us hanging. But remember, chapter divisions were added in the early 13th century, and verse divisions were added in the mid 16th century (wikipedia). The chapter and verse divisions were not original to the text. They help us find our way around the bible, but sometimes they disrupt the flow of a passage and cause us to miss the connection. That may be the case here. It could be that the Lord sending a plague is referring back to the 3,000 that were executed in 32:27-28. It is also possible that the plague that the Lord sent on the people is what he describes in the next section.

35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Exodus 33:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Could it be that the plague is that God is sending the people away without his presence among them?

Covenant Ceremony Aborted

Let’s try to understand what is happening here in the context of the exodus narrative. God heard the cries of his people and came to their rescue. He said to Pharaoh “Let my people go that they may serve me” (5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). God promised:

Exodus 6:6 …‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”

God has brought the people out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. He has delivered them from slavery. He redeemed them with an outstretched hand and great acts of judgment. Now, at Mount Sinai, he is entering into a covenant relationship with the people, he is taking them to be his own people, and he will be their God. They are in the middle of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been said, and before the ceremony is over, she is caught in the act, publicly committing adultery. God had said:

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

But they have not listened to his voice. They have violated the covenant. They have made false gods and worshiped the works of their hands. They have forfeited their privileged position as his treasured possession. God is justly furious. He wants to destroy them. But even at this point, he shows mercy. He will not crush them; he will send them away. Look at our text again:

Exodus 33:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

God says ‘depart’. He is sending them away. He distances himself from this people; no longer are they ‘my people’ (he has referred to them 18 times this way in Exodus); they are ‘the people’; ‘the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt’. God is disowning his people and sending them away. He tells them to go to the place he has prepared for them to live together, but now they must go alone. God has made promises, and those promises he will keep. He had promised to give to this people – who are the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – he had promised to give them the land. He will make good on that promise. This is not a question of their worthiness; it is a question of his character. God is a God who keeps his promises. He will send an angel. He will drive out the inhabitants of the land. He will fulfill his promise, because God always keeps his promises. But he tells them to go. He will not go with them, but he indicates that this is for their protection, because he is a holy God who must punish sin, and if he were to go with them, his character would demand that he punish them, because of their persistent sinfulness.

Honeymoon Without the Groom?

This is an interesting offer. God is saying that he will make good on his promises. He will give them the blessing of the land, a good land, flowing with milk and honey. He will give them peace, driving out their enemies before them. He will give them protection from his own holy wrath in the form of distance. They cannot keep his covenant, so he will keep his distance.

For many today, this is just what they are looking for. The blessings of the promised land, all the good things that God has to offer, without the moral demands and accountability of his presence. God will give me what I want, but he will keep his distance and not meddle with my life. He will stay out of my personal affairs. The law has been shattered. There is no longer any standard to which I will be held. I get to enjoy the promised land without the rules hanging over my head. This sounds like good news!

And for many who claim to preach the good news today, this is their message. Jesus is a fire-escape from hell. If you say the prayer, if you believe in Jesus, then you have your get-out-of-hell-free card in your pocket, and you can live any way you like. Anything you have ever done or will ever do is forgiven, so you are free to do anything you like. This sounds like the gospel, this seems like good news, it even uses some of the same language we might use in presenting the gospel, but this is not the gospel. Let’s look at the response of the people and see if they thought this was good news.

The Disastrous Word

Exodus 33:4 When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” 6 Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

This was not good news; this was a disastrous word! This was an occasion, not for rejoicing and celebration, but for mourning. Their jewelry, which they had used in their sin, they never again wore. A disastrous word. Why did they perceive it this way? These are the people who, shortly before, worshiped a gold calf, sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. We would think that these people would be eager for this kind of moral freedom. ‘We still get the promised land, but without the burden of the law! We still get what we want, but without the moral accountability. We can have it our way!’ No, when Moses publicly broke the tablets of the law, the people did not cheer, they mourned. What did they understand that we don’t?

The good news of Exodus is the presence of God with his people. The good news of Exodus was “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God” (Ex.6:7). The good news of Exodus was “you shall be my treasured possession” (Ex.19:5). The good news of Exodus was “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God” (Ex.29:45-46). The good news of Exodus was “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8). The good news is reconciled relationship, fellowship, intimacy with God, closeness to God, access to God. The good news was not the promised land. That was merely the backdrop for the relationship. The bride is not content to go to the honeymoon destination without the groom. The whole point is relationship.

Now all this is forfeit. God will not take them as his people. They will not be his treasured possession. He will not dwell among them. He will not be their God and they will not be in relationship with him. He is sending them away. This is indeed a disastrous word.

Love the Gift More Than The Giver?

Do we perceive it that way? What if God offered this to us? What if God said ‘because you are sinful and hard-hearted, I will withdraw from you so that I don’t destroy you. You can still go to heaven when you die, you will be with your family and friends and loved ones, there will be no sickness or sorrow or pain, you will walk on streets of gold, there will be pleasures forevermore, good things beyond your wildest imagination, but I will not be there.’ Would that be a disastrous word, or is that exactly what we want? Do we love the gift more than the giver? We don’t bow down to golden images, so we don’t think we have a problem with idolatry, but this exposes the idolatry of our hearts. Are we in persistent violation of the first and greatest commandment? Do we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Deut.6:5; Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30; Lk.10:27)? Or are we like the adulterous wife, who takes the good gifts her husband gives and uses them to pay for her love affairs? Are we more in love with God’s gifts than with God himself?

God has made us for relationship. We will never find true satisfaction until our relationship with God is in its proper place. Heaven becomes hell without the presence of God. Jesus defined eternal life this way:

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

Eternal life is life in intimate relationship with God. Other relationships and pleasures lose their fulfillment without God at the center.

Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. …28 But for me it is good to be near God…

This is helpful for diagnosing our true problem; in your life, in your relationships, in your marriage, in your family, in your work, do you feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied, frustrated, empty? The problem is not with your possessions or your friends or your spouse or your children or your boss. The problem may be that you are looking to those people or things to give you the satisfaction that God alone can give. Allow God to be the center. Enjoy your relationship with him first, find your satisfaction in him, be filled to overflowing with him, and then take that overflow into all the other areas of your life and be a blessing to those around you.

Moral Demands of Relationship

But what does it mean to be in relationship with God? As sinners, the first thing it means is that we need to have our sins covered. In the last several chapters of Exodus, God had given detailed instructions for building the tabernacle, the place of atonement, the sacrificial altar, and outfits for the priests. Now he is sending them away without any of these things. There is no place to make sacrifices, no priests to offer sacrifices and so there can be no forgiveness. The wages of sin is death, and without any way to find forgiveness, ‘each one shall be put to death for his own sins’ (Deut.24:16). But thank God, we are not left in that situation. The one to whom the whole sacrificial system pointed has come. His name is Jesus. He has satisfied the just wrath of God against sin. He is our great High Priest who offered himself in our place and purchased our forgiveness. He has reconciled us to God, so now we can enjoy the relationship with our Creator that we were designed for. We who are trusting in Jesus will never hear this disastrous word.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

We have been invited in to this all-satisfying relationship with the God of the universe. What does this relationship look like? A relationship is a connection, association or involvement with another person. Our relation to God is that of created thing to Creator, of subject to King, of redeemed to Redeemer. Ours is not a relationship between equals; yes, it is a relationship of friends, but it is a relation of servant to Master, of child to Father. We do not have liberty to choose the parameters of the relationship; God does. To be in relationship with the one true God by definition has moral implications. Friendship with a person means there is a level of admiration, even imitation. To be in relationship with God means we will be shaped by God’s character. We will begin to love the things he loves and hate the things he hates. But our relationship with God is deeper than admiration and imitation.

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.

As we get to know God, as we admire him for who he is, we will begin to be like him. This is not mere imitation; it is inward transformation. We do not simply start to act like him; our thoughts and desires and affections begin to be shaped by who God is. This is supernatural transformation. God, who intended to dwell in the tabernacle with the children of Israel, now lives inside of us by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Our relationship with God has extensive implications. As we get to know him, we will begin to desire him more; even more than the good things that he offers. We will begin to recognize that there is no greater gift than the gift of his presence. There is nothing more disastrous than the thought of separation from this awesome all-glorious all-satisfying God.

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

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

August 26, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment