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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 3:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head

08/29_Daniel 03:26-30; Not a Hair Of Your Head; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210829_dan03_26-30.mp3

We left Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace last time. You would think that’s not a great place to leave them, but we did see that although their executioners died, they survived. In fact, it seems they were thriving; the fire freed them from their bonds, and they were walking, enjoying fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. So all in all it was not a bad place to leave them.

Let’s pick back up in verse 15 for context with the king’s threatening:

Daniel 3:15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made… But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Challenging God

Remember, Nebuchadnezzar was in a furious rage that they refused to serve his gods or worship his image. In pride, he challenged the gods; ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’

Nebuchadnezzar is king of kings; he had made a 90 foot god of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He forgot the lesson learned in chapter 2, that although he was king of kings, it was the God of heaven who gave him the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory. It was God who placed in his hands authority over all the children of man, the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens (2:37-38). The power was not inherent in him; it was a gift, given to him by the God of heaven.

It seems he was challenging this God, shaking his fist in defiance; ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Now, in the seven times superheated fiery furnace that killed his strongest soldiers, he saw the three he had thrown in the furnace, now freed of their bonds, and walking in the midst of the fire apparently unharmed, and a fourth man with them, a divine being, like a son of the gods.

Safe In The Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

Nebuchadnezzar came near (but not too near; he could feel the heat of his superheated fiery furnace; he had seen what it did to his strongest warriors), and he commanded the three to come out. In the fire, they were safe. Neither Nebuchadnezzar the king nor his next strongest soldiers (he had already lost his strongest) could reach them. They were safe in the fire, with their Lord. They did not come out until they were summoned. It seems they were in no hurry to come out; they were content to stay in the midst of the fire, enjoying fellowship with their God. But when the king summoned them, they obediently came out.

Ready to Meet God?

It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar calls the three by name. He saw four men walking in the midst of the fire. But he only asks Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out. He did not dare to command the fourth man, the divine being to come out. He knew he had no authority over him, nor was he ready to meet face to face the God he had so arrogantly defied; a God who obviously was more powerful than his hottest fire. Nebuchadnezzar had seen God’s wisdom in chapter 2 in interpreting his dream, and he had acknowledged him as God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries’ (Dan.2:47). Now he perceived this God’s power greater than the hottest flames. But he is not yet ready to encounter this Most High God. He is comfortable speaking with the servants of this God, but he is not yet ready to face God directly.

The Pervasive Power of Fire

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

I’ve been in the middle of fire. It was an elementary age science experiment gone wrong that involved a small enclosed space, a highly flammable aerosol can and matches. Don’t try this at home! My friend and I were momentarily engulfed in flames, and after the split second flash, the hardest thing to conceal from mom was our singed hair; head hair, arm hair, eyebrows, all singed, curled up on the ends from an instantaneous flash of the flames. And the smell. There is nothing like the smell of burnt hair. Hair burns fast. We had some friends over for dinner; this was the early 90’s with way too much hairspray, and a candle in the window sill of the dining room. Our friend leaned back a little too far, and vooom! Her hair was literally on fire.

I like fire. I enjoy a good roaring campfire. I like to cook over fire. But it is amazing how much the smell of smoke permeates clothing and lingers. You can’t hide that you’ve been around a fire.

When these three came out of Nebuchadnezzar’s superheated furnace, all those who had conspired to get these three thrown into the fire, who had witnessed them being thrown into the fire, came around them to examine the lack of effect the fire had on them. The smell of charred flesh still hung in the air from the soldiers who had thrown them in. But on these three, they all observed that the fire had not had any power over their bodies. Not a hair singed, no damage to their clothing, not even the smell of fire on them.

This fire was real fire; it was lethal, demonstrated graphically by those that threw them in. But these that had been thrown down into the burning fiery furnace were unharmed. The fire was powerful; it incinerated the ropes that tied them. But supernaturally the fire had no power over their bodies.

Not A Hair Of Your Head

Jesus told his followers that they would be persecuted, some even to death. But then he said something very strange.

Luke 21:16 You will be delivered up …and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

I’ve scratched my head over this. ‘Some of you they will put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish.’ What does this mean? How does it make sense that they will be killed, but not even one hair will perish? What does it matter if my hair remains intact if I am dead?

Jesus said earlier in Luke:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Fear God alone. God alone has power to destroy both body and soul in hell (Mt.10:28). God has every hair of your head numbered. And although many Jesus followers have been burned to death, yet not a hair of their heads have perished eternally. You see, we believe in a physical bodily resurrection. Not an immaterial ghost-like existence; Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that our hope is bodily resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

He says in 2 Corinthians

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.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Fear not! Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. They may put you to death, but not a hair of your head will perish! Our God promises to be with you in the flame, he is able to preserve you through the flame, and he promises that although they may kill the body, not a hair of your head will perish for eternity!

Repent or Legislate?

The satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors all witnessed something. They were eye witnesses of the impotence of the king before the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He had been respectfully resisted by them, and his most furious efforts were powerless to bring about their execution.

What do you do when you are the most powerful man on the earth, and you have been disregarded, disobeyed, with a flat out refusal to bow to your authority? When in a rage you order the execution of the rebels, but the execution backfires and you loose some of your best soldiers, the fire serves only to free the exiles you are angry with, and God himself walks in the fire with those you sought to destroy? What do you do?

Here’s what you ought to do. Repent. Acknowledge you were wrong to demand absolute allegiance; only God has that right. Acknowledge that you were wrong to set up an image and demand worship; only God deserves the worship of all peoples, languages and nations. Cry out for mercy from that God whom you have offended by your arrogance and pride. Repent. You ought to repent.

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

In response to Daniel revealing both the king’s dream and its interpretation, the king fell on his face and commanded an offering and incense be offered. He acknowledged God as God of gods and Lord of kings, revealer of mysteries.

Here, in response to God’s thwarting of his execution, of God’s own presence, visible, protecting in the fire, of the three brought safely through the fire, the king didn’t bow, didn’t offer offerings. He didn’t repent. He didn’t confess his sins or acknowledge that what he had done was wrong. He blessed God and he made a decree. He legislated protection for the religious freedom of these three. He rewarded their civil disobedience. He acknowledged that their God is unique in his ability to rescue in this way. He didn’t repent, he issued a decree!

This would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic! Nebuchadnezzar who defied God and was publicly defeated by God still is deluded to believe he has power. How difficult it is for a rich man, or a man with power or authority, to enter the kingdom of God (Mk.10:23). Nebuchadnezzar, who had publicly failed in his attempt to execute those who defied him, now issues another death threat, this time to defend the God who proved himself more powerful! But the burning fiery furnace thing didn’t work out so well, so we’ll revert back to the tearing limb from limb. God defeated him publicly, in front of his satraps, prefects, governors, and counselors, and he tries to save face by passing legislation, promoting to power, and making more death threats.

Application

I said this would be laughable if it were not so tragically ironic. We want to laugh at the foolishness of Nebuchadnezzar, but we need to look in the mirror. How often are we deluded by our own grandeur, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think? How often are we confronted by God? He is pursuing us, he is pursuing a relationship with us; but we refuse to deal with him, to fall on our faces in repentance and faith. Instead we do the thing we’ve always done, we pretend to have power, we pass resolutions, we make decrees. We try to save face in front of those we so desperately want to impress. We’ll talk to other people, but we won’t face him, we won’t deal with him.

Here’s the good news. He knows what you’ve done. He knows who you are. He already knows. And he is pursuing you. Surrender. Lay down your pride, turn, face him. Run to him. Find forgiveness. Find freedom. Jesus paid your price at the cross. Let go whatever you are clinging to, and turn to him.

***

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

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:19-25; With Us In The Fire

08/15_Daniel 03:19-25; With Us In The Fire; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210815_dan03_19-25.mp3

We left Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego last time counting the cost and standing firm in their faith in God. Facing the fiery furnace, they ‘considered the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us’ (Rom.8:18). They looked into the flames, and counted it ‘light, momentary affliction that is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison’ (2Cor.4:17). They ‘did not account their lives precious’, but only to remain faithful to the Lord and discharge the ministry he entrusted to them (Act.20:24).

Conspiracy or not, they were accused of paying no attention to the king, refusing to serve his gods or worship the golden image that he had set up. We’ll pick up in verse 13 of Daniel 3.

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made… . But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Actions Louder Than Words

Who is the god who will deliver out of my hands? They could have stalled for hours answering his question with history and a theology lesson, lecturing Nebuchadnezzar on who God is and how he had been faithful in the past. But sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They had unshaken confidence even in the face of the flames and the fury of the king that their God was able. He is able to deliver from even the most powerful king (like he rescued his people from the hand of the Pharaoh), and he is able to deliver from the burning fiery furnace (like he rescued his people out of the iron furnace of Egypt; Deut.4:20). They knew that God is sovereign over all things.

But they also knew and understood that God is not obligated and does not always rescue his people from present circumstances. Our hope is not ultimately in this life. They had counted the cost, they had thought through the ‘but if not’; they were willing to seal their testimonies with their own blood (Rev.6:9).

Knowing God

Who is the god who will deliver out of my hands? These three could answer that question. They knew God. They enjoyed relationship with their God. These three knew the God who is. They knew a God worthy of living lives to serve him, to please only him, and they valued their relationship with this God more than they valued their own skin. These three knew a God who made the 90 foot image of gold seem small and valueless; they knew a God who made the blazing fire and the wrath of the king seem powerless and weak.

It is only if you know God, if you really know him, that you will be able to stand in the face of adversity. Do you know him? Do you know this God? Are you walking with him today, so that when you are faced with the fire, you know him and your confidence is in him?

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.

It’s important for us to pause and recognize that God did not rescue them. He did not rescue them from the king or from the burning fiery furnace. They took a stand for truth, and they were bound and thrown into the fire. In fact their resolve to refuse to worship all but the one true God so infuriated the king, that he had the furnace superheated, just in case their God might be able to rescue them from a regularly heated furnace.

The Folly of Fury

This demonstrates the foolishness of fury. If the king really wanted to see them suffer, he should have cooled the furnace to prolong their agony, not have it superheated it to accelerate their deaths. But he was not thinking clearly. In his proud rage he wanted to make a spectacle of any who would defy him, and he did succeed in creating a greater spectacle which put on display the glory of God.

Daniel 3:22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

The king lost some of his strongest, his best soldiers that day. No skeptic could argue that the physics of the furnace weren’t working that day; this was not smoke and mirrors; it proved lethal for Nebuchadnezzars’ mighty men.

Daniel 3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

The king was incensed by the audacity of those who would dare defy his command. In ironic reversal, those who obeyed the king’s command die in the flames; those who refused to bow in obedience to the king survive. The executioners executed; the captives freed, unharmed.

Freed From Sin

Notice that the three were thrown bound into the flames, but the flames only succeeded in freeing them from their bonds. There is a picture for us in this. God may not spare us from adversity, instead he may use adversity to set us free us from our bondage to sin. Later in Daniel we read of those who ‘stumble so that they may be refined, purified, and made white’ (Dan.11:35). In Zechariah 13, the Lord says:

Zechariah 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,

and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

The path to holiness is often not escape from the flames, but passing through the flames. Peter says:

1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

Suffering has a way of refining us, of setting us free.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

We want to escape suffering, and it is right for us to pray for rescue. But God’s rescue may not be escape from the fire, but escape from the ‘sin which clings so closely’ (Heb.12:1). He may bring us through the fire for our good, for our sanctification. True freedom comes through the cross, through our death, through dying to self, not apart from it.

Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

“Into the central heat of the fire doth the Lord cast his saints, and mark you this, he casts them there because they are his own beloved and dearly loved people. I do not see the goldsmith putting dross into the furnace — what would be the good of it? It would be a waste of fuel and labour. But he thrusts the crucible full of gold into the hottest part of the fire and heaps on coals till the heat is terrible. … the pure gold is put into the furnace to make it purer still.

…The fire did not hurt them, but it snapped their bonds. Blessed loss this! A true Christian’s losses are gains in another shape.

…Have not you, dear friends, frequently experienced that trouble cuts the cords which bind us to earth? …Happy trouble that looses our care of earth!”

[https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/consolation-in-the-furnace/]

Nebuchadnezzar observed that the fire, rather than destroying his captives, had only served to set them free.

With Us In The Fire

The thing that astonished Nebuchadnezzar more than the death of his soldiers, more than the freedom of his captives, was that the count was off. He remembered throwing three men in, and now he sees four. “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Psalm 34 says:

Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!

Taste and see that the Lord is good. There is a sweetness, an intimacy of fellowship with the Lord that is only found in the midst of the fire. These three learned first hand, they experienced something that up until this point had been only something they had heard, something they had read, something they believed but had yet to experience. In Isaiah they read:

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. …4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, …. 5 Fear not, for I am with you;

Isaiah had prophesied about those who four times over belong to God; those who were created, formed, redeemed, called; those owned by the Lord. Those to whom God says ‘you are mine’. The Lord God, the Creator and Redeemer promises his presence through deep waters, through the fire. “I will be with you.” “Fear not, for I am with you.” These three experienced his presence with them in the fire.

It is significant that Nebuchadnezzar observed them walking in the midst of the fire. Not writhing in agony, not running in fear, simply walking. Adam and Eve ‘heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ (Gen.3:8). Now, in the middle of a blazing superheated furnace, they were walking with the Lord God as if in a garden in the cool of the day. Not hurried, not anxious; at peace. They were enjoying fellowship with their Creator, God the Son, the Word who was with God and who was God, the only Son from the Father (Jn.1:1,14).

Notice, this promise of his presence is directly connected to affliction. When you pass through the waters, when you walk through the fire, it is there I will be with you. The Psalm says:

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. But we often are given a special perception of his presence with us when we are in the fire. Do you know him?

In Our Place In The Fire

Jesus is not only with us in our suffering; he enters in to our suffering. We are not alone; he feels what we feel.

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

As Christ is the head of the body, does he not feel the hurt when one of his members suffers? We have a compassionate High Priest (Heb.4:15)

But Jesus enters in to our suffering in an even more profound way. On the cross, Jesus experienced the suffering I deserve so that I will never for eternity experience that suffering. Jesus endured the furnace of the wrath of God Almighty so that I can enjoy my relationship with him even in; dare I say especially in the furnace of trials. Do you know him? Do you know this Jesus?

Jesus said:

John 16:33 …in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

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

Resolve it today your answer to ‘but if not’. Our God is able. He is able to deliver you from your present circumstances. But if not? What if he allows the furnace to be heated seven times hotter? What if his plan is not to rescue you from the flames, but to bring you safely through the flames, to refine you, to purify you, to loose you from your bonds and burn away your impurities? What if he desires that you experience intimacy with him that is only found in the furnace of affliction?

***

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,

is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!

What more can he say than to you he has said,

to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 “Fear not, I am with you; O be not dismayed,

for I am your God, and will still give you aid.

I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,

upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 “When through the deep waters I call you to go,

the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,

for I will be with you, your troubles to bless,

and sanctify to you the deepest distress.

4 “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,

my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply.

The flames shall not hurt you. I only design

your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

5 “The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,

I will not, I will not desert to its foes.

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

[How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord; Author: K. (1787]

***

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

August 17, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding

03/14_2 Corinthians 12:19-21; Persistent Upbuilding; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210314_2cor12_19-21.mp3

Paul’s Defense?

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10-12, Paul confronts the danger of false apostles spreading a false gospel about a different jesus, receiving a different spirit. He is forced to defend his character, his ministry, his own integrity. At least that is what he appears to be doing. But is it?

2 Corinthians 12:14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

As he said back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. …

Not much has changed over the 2 years since the writing of 1 Corinthians. They are still behaving like children, and Paul, as their father in the faith, is willing to spend and be spent for their sake.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Paul is forced to defend his own integrity by appealing to his accountability and the integrity and character of his co-laborers in the gospel. Paul has been attacked, his character has been maligned, his credentials and authority have been doubted. He has been forced into foolish boasting to defend his character and his apostolic authority. But is that what he has been doing? Defending himself?

Not a Defense to Them

Paul says no, I am not defending myself to you. I don’t need to defend myself to you. You are not my judge and jury.

Children often know so much more than their parents, that their parents are uninformed and clueless; kids think they know better than their parents what is best for them. My wise parents often said to me ‘When you have your own kids, then maybe you’ll understand.’ Have you ever heard that? Have you who are now parents ever said that?

He has already told them in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul says ‘No, I am not defending myself to you. That would give you far too much credit. That would assume that you are competent to critique apostolic ministry.’ They have demonstrated their own incompetence by receiving the false apostles bringing another jesus, a different spirit, a false gospel.

It is not before you that I stand trial. It is before the Lord alone that I am ultimately accountable.

In The Sight Of God

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul says ‘we have been speaking in the sight of God.’ We are not responding to your demands and expectations. All the way back in chapter 1, he started this letter by saying:

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.

His conscience was clear, by God’s grace and before God.

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.

He speaks in Christ. It is ‘not I, but Christ who lives in me.’ And he speaks as commissioned by God and in the sight of God. God sent him on mission to them. And it is to God he is accountable for what he says. He had asked back in chapter 3:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

He said in chapter 4:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul lives openly, transparently, in the presence of God. He said in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

He is not commending himself to them. He doesn’t have to. His integrity is seen by God; he lives in the presence of God, in the fear of the Lord, who sees what is in the heart.

In chapter 7, he invites them in, to also live in awareness of the presence of God in their lives. He writes what he writes:

2 Corinthians 7:12 …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

In chapter 8, in matters of financial integrity, he says:

2 Corinthians 8:21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

And in chapter 10, he says:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

We live in the presence of God, to please God. He is our judge. Before him we stand or fall. Paul is not defending himself to the Corinthians. He was commissioned by God and carries out ministry in the sight of God.

All For Your Upbuilding, Beloved

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.

Paul is not defending himself. He is doing ministry in the sight of God. He is seeking to build them up. With his use of biting irony and sharp sarcasm in these chapters, it may not feel or sound like he is seeking to build them up, but that is exactly what he intends to do. And he reminds them, they are dearly beloved. He is not against them, he is for them. But sometimes the He wants to build them up, but the ground must be cleared of debris before building can occur. Sometimes existing structures must be demolished and cleared away before the proposed building can go up. As he said in chapter 10,

2 Corinthians 10:3 …we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Every stronghold, every argument, every proud opinion raised against the knowledge of the real Jesus must be torn down. The ground must be cleared. He wields God’s authority to build up, not to tear you down (10:8), but their false thinking must be demolished.

Apostolic Fear of Continued Division

Paul is ready to clear some ground.

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Paul is afraid. He said he was afraid back in 11:3

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

He was afraid that they were being led away by satanic deception after another jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. Here he is afraid that when he arrives, he will find in them a proud divisiveness. He addressed the division, quarreling and strife back in 1 Corinthians (1Cor.1:11; 3:3). He is afraid not much has changed.

Apostolic Fear of Failure to Repent

He is afraid because the gospel changes people. He is afraid that he may not find them as he hopes, as genuine believers, transformed by the gospel. Throughout this letter he has been re-framing for them what authentic ministry is all about. He has reminded them of the gospel he proclaimed, and has implored them ‘be reconciled to God’ (2Cor.5:20). He appealed to them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’ (2Cor.6:1). He is afraid that they will have been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ, to follow a false jesus and a false gospel. He is afraid that when judged by their fruit, their conversion may prove to be false.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul fears that the fruit of repentance will not be demonstrated in their lives. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5-7, Paul confronted them over their immorality. He called them to ‘flee from sexual immorality’ (1Cor.6:18). He called the church, if someone claimed to be a believer yet persisted in immorality unrepentant, to remove them from fellowship with the church (1Cor.5). Repentance is essential in the life of the believer. Repentance is a change of heart and mind, a recognition that sin is sin against a holy God. We have all sinned and gone astray, we have all followed our own way. And every sin can be forgiven when we confess it as sin, when we agree with God that what he thinks about it is true. Paul told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We all have sinned. And every sin can be washed away in the blood of Jesus. Repentance is essential in the life of the believer; turning away from sin and back to Jesus; turning away from pride, from performance, from good works, from an ethic of earning.

These are not two distinct issues, divisive pride and sexual immorality, as if he is addressing the gossiping quarreling divisive group who entertained false teachers in verse 20 and the lustful sexually immoral group in verse 21. Bad theology leads to bad ethics. False teaching and immorality go hand in hand. Turning away from a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus leads to wrong thinking, wrong feeling, wrong acting. When our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, our hearts go after every kind of counterfeit.

Grief Over the Sins of Others

Listen to Paul’s heart. He is not self-righteous, gloating, rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked. He is not Jonah, sitting in the shade of his gourd, eager to see God pour out his almighty wrath on sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented…

Paul is broken-hearted at the prospect of sinners who have not found true forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Paul takes the persistent unrepentance of this church personally, as his own responsibility. He will be humbled as having failed to see the gospel take effect in them.

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

Paul’s pursuit and his heart is to see them built up into the image of Jesus, beholding the glory of Jesus and being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). He is willing to do the difficult work of confronting their sin to clear the ground for this building up that he is constantly striving for. He does everything he does and says everything he says for their upbuilding. Because he loves them.

***

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

March 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Community with the Gospel – Matthew 28

01/26 Vision– individuals engaging the community with the gospel (Matthew 28); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200126_church-outreach.mp3

We’re looking at the church, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, to re-focus our vision for what we are meant to be as a local church.

We’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church belongs to Jesus. It is a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth.

A local church is made up of individual believers, so a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. From Colossians 3 we saw that followers of Jesus live by faith, keep their minds fixed on God and his glory, live in love and forgive as they have been forgiven. We are to live lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

From Romans 12 we saw that the church is the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, and God has given each of us different gifts that we are to use to build up one another in love. We are meant to experience the gospel in community.

As Hebrews 10 tells us

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, … 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to draw near to God through Jesus, to hold fast our confession of the gospel, we are to meet together, to encourage one another in the gospel, to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to experience the gospel in community. And we are to engage our community with the gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus

We looked at the great confession in Matthew 16 that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God as the foundation on which Jesus builds his church. Now we will look at the great commission in Matthew 28, how Jesus goes about building his church.

Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells his eleven disciples to make disciples who will make disciples. Luke gives more detail on the great commission in Luke 24.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead to fulfill the Scriptures. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations. A gospel foundation.

Paul summarizes the gospel this way in 1 Corinthians 15; the gospel he proclaimed, that was to be received and held fast, the gospel that was saving those who were believing. ‘That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared…’ (1Cor.15:1-5). Making disciples must be built on a gospel foundation.

Witnesses, Wait

You are witnesses of these things. A witness testifies to the truth of what he has experienced. Jesus went on to say in Luke 24

Luke 24:48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

But stay until. In Matthew 16 Jesus told his followers that he would built his church on the confession of his identity as the Christ, Son of the living God, but that they were not to reveal his identity, not yet. Luke continues the story of what Jesus began to do and teach in his book of Acts.

Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

He ordered them to wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit. Jesus continues:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

You will be my witnesses. You will be immersed in the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on high to be my witnesses.

The Power of the Holy Spirit

The very first thing we need to note is that we are to be his witnesses, to make disciples, not in our own power, not with our own natural wisdom or ability. We are to fulfill the great commission in the strength that God supplies. Natural means produce natural results. Supernatural means produce supernatural results. Jesus told his disciples to wait. The Holy Spirit was sent, Peter preached, and

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2 closes with these words:

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The Lord added to their number. In Acts 11 the church was scattered because of persecution, and some disciples preached the Lord Jesus to the Greek speaking Jews in Antioch

Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

When news of this reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas.

Acts 11:23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

God’s grace made visible! In Acts 16, Paul and Silas traveled through Asia minor visiting the Gentile churches and bringing news of the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Jesus is building his church through the witness of his followers empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to say here, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. Paul writes to the Romans

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Believers, you have the Spirit of God, and you are called to be his witnesses!

The Authority of Jesus

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples…

Before Jesus commissions his disciples to go and make disciples, he claims to have all authority. It is ‘therefore’, because of this, that he authorizes them to make disciples. Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Philippians tells us that because Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus holds all authority, and he authorizes us to make disciples.

The Presence of Jesus

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

Matthew’s gospel began with the introduction of Jesus as the one who will save his people from their sins, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Immanuel, God with us (Mt.1:21-23). Now, at the close of this gospel, Jesus promises to be with his people, his followers throughout history, to the very end. Jesus’ own authority remains with us today, because Jesus himself is with us today!

Disciples of All Nations

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, …

Make disciples of all nations. Where Judaism was ‘come and see’; there was only to be one temple, only in Jerusalem; Christianity is ‘go and tell.’ Jesus explicitly includes as an essential part of his great commission that the good news is meant for all the nations. We are not to be comfortable or isolated or exclusive. The ultimate goal is people ‘from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Rev.7:9) worshiping. Jesus is more than just King of the Jews. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, King of the nations! The book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth. As followers of Jesus, we are to engage our community and beyond with the gospel.

Disciples are Baptized in the Triune Name

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner, a follower. We make disciples by proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming in Jesus the forgiveness of sins. Repent or turn from whatever else you are hoping in, trusting in, holding on to. Turn to Jesus alone as your only hope. Disciples make a clean break. Baptism is a picture of that. You go down into the water. What you were is dead. You come up a new creation in Christ.

Throughout the New Testament, believers are baptized. This is a public statement that you have made a break with your past and now you are following Jesus. Jesus commands that we baptize his disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Notice, ‘name’ is singular; we are baptized into the one name of the triune God, who eternally exists in the distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit. We are immersed into God himself.

Baptism is identifying with a new group. It is saying ‘I belong with these people.’ Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. …27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We are baptized into one body by the Spirit. Water baptism is an outward declaration of what happened in us when we believed the gospel and turned to Jesus.

Disciples Obey Jesus Always in Everything

Those who believe the good news and turn to Jesus are to be baptized, identifying publicly as followers of Jesus, identifying with the body of Christ. But it doesn’t stop there.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A disciple is a learner. A follower of Jesus follows Jesus. That seems like it should go without saying, but Jesus thought it was important enough to include it in his great commission. Disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time. To follow Jesus is to give up following yourself. ‘Here’s what I want to do, but Jesus, if you are King, if I now belong to you, then I have to give up being king of me.’ I get to obey, to do what he says.

This doesn’t happen overnight. When you hear ‘disciples obey Jesus in everything all the time’ you might get discouraged or doubt, thinking ‘I certainly don’t obey Jesus in everything all the time, maybe I’m not really a follower.’ Maybe. But remember, Jesus’ command is that we make disciples, teaching them to obey Jesus. Teaching is an ongoing process. A disciple is a learner, a lifelong learner. None of us has graduated. We are all by God’s grace still learning. We are learning to love God more than anything else, and love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are learning to surrender every area of life to his loving control. We are learning to be his witnesses and make disciples. We are getting to know Jesus and what he demands of his followers, and we want to please him. We are learning what it means to be a part of his body, to love and serve one another. We are learning to forgive like we have been forgiven. We are walking. We are following.

What a disciple does not say is ‘I understand Jesus is calling me to do this, but I will not do it.’ That is what it means to not be a follower of Jesus, to not be a disciple. A disciple does not refuse to follow Jesus. At least not for very long. Remember, Jesus has all authority. Hallowed be your name (not mine). Your kingdom come (not mine), your will be done (not mine). To follow Jesus is to have a new Master, a good Master.

And remember, we are not alone, trying to do this on our own. Jesus is with us, always, to the end of the age. We are empowered by the gift of his Holy Spirit who lives inside.

Summary

Jesus is building his church. We as his disciples, followers of Jesus, are to engage our community with the gospel. Empowered by the Spirit, under the authority of Jesus, we are to make disciples, other followers, of all nations, identifying them as followers by baptizing them into the name of the one triune God, teaching them to obey Jesus always in everything. And we are to continue following, continue learning. Continue spending time with Jesus.

***

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

January 27, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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