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Daniel 5:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence

10/10_Daniel 05:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211010_dan05_1-6.mp3

History of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Babylon for 43 years. He died in 562, and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach; 2Ki.25:27-30). After an arbitrary and licentious reign of only 2 years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, (Nergal-Sharezer; Jer.39:3,13), who reigned for three years eight months. When he died in 556 BC, his son Labashi-Marduk took the throne. He was young and inexperienced, and was assassinated after only a few months, and Nabonidus, part of the coup to overthrow him, was appointed to rule. History tells us that Nabonidus was the final ruler of the Babylonian empire, until it fell in 539 BC to Cyrus the Persian.

Belshazzar and the Nabonidus Cylinder

Daniel chapter 5 records Belshazzar as the final ruler of Babylon at its fall to Cyrus, and critics of the Bible were quick to point out this historical ‘inaccuracy,’ and the fact that a king named Belshazzar was unknown to history outside of the biblical record.

That is, until 1853. The Nabonidus cylinder was discoved in a ziggurat in Ur in, which contains a prayer of Nabonidus to the moon god Sin:

ii 3–16) O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, god of the gods, the one who resides in the great heavens…

ii 18–22) (As for) me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great divinity and grant me a long life (lit. “a life of long days”)

“ii 23–26) Moreover, with regard to Belshazzar, (my) first-born son, my own offspring, have the fear of your great divinity placed in his heart so that he does not commit a(ny) sin. May he be sated with happiness in life.” [RINBE 2, p.163]

Since that time, several other inscriptions on cuneiform cylinders and tablets have been found in the ruins of Ur, Sippar, and Borsippa attesting to the historicity of Belshazzar (or Bēl-šarru-uṣur – Bel protect the king).

Even Babylonian administrative documents recording business transactions naming Belshazzar as the crown prince have been discovered. This clay tablets is dated to the ‘24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon’. It mentions a ‘slave of Bel-sharra-utsur (Belshazzar), son of the king.’ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1898-0514-558]

Things like this are still being found. In July of this year, a 26 line inscription depicting Nabonidus was discovered in northern Saudi Arabia. This inscription has not been published, so we don’t yet know what it says.

No one today can question the existence of Belshazzar son of Nabonidus.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We learn from the Verse Account of Nabonidus that:

… -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command.

He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Tema deep in the west.

He started out the expedition on a path leading to a distant region. When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema, slaughtered the flocks of those who dwell in the city as well as in the countryside. And he, himself, took residence in Tema, the forces of Akkad were also stationed there.

He made the town beautiful, built there a palace like the palace in Babylon. He also built walls for the fortification of the town and he surrounded the town with sentinels.

Nabonidus spent most of his 17 year reign in Tema in Arabia, 500 miles south of Babylon, entrusting his son Belshazzar with the responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of Babylon. Although Belshazzar does not refer to himself as king of Babylon in any of the known inscriptions, he was indeed entrusted with the kingship by his father, and it would be natural for Daniel to refer to him as king.

Cyrus’ Siege of Babylon

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon around 543 BC, so he was in the province when Cyrus attacked in 539 BC.

Josephus records for us what the ancient historian Berosus said about the attack of Cyrus on Babylon:

…but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. [Josephus c. Ap. 1:151-153 (1:20)]

This is the historical backdrop of Daniel 5.

Why Feast?

The night was the 16th of Tishri (October 12) 539BC, and the army of Cyrus was camped outside the walls of Babylon. Two days earlier, Belshazzar’s father Nabonidus, had led his troops to battle at Sippar, less than 40 miles north of Babylon on the Euphrates river. Nabonidus was defeated and fled.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

When we put the historical details together, we must ask why? Why was Belshazzar making a feast in Babylon after the defeat of his father two days earlier, and with Cyrus encamped on his doorstep, preparing to lay siege?

It could be that news of his father’s defeat and of the Persian army had not reached him. It could be that he was oblivious to the threat. Or it could be that he was well aware of the imminent demise of Babylon, and he chose to ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ But it seems from his actions that he was proud and defiant, thinking he was safe within the city’s walls. The feast could be a way to rally the leaders and demonstrate to them that they had nothing to fear.

Herodotus in his Histories gives us a possible explanation;

…Cyrus …when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards. [Herodotus Histories 1:190]

The walls of Babylon were massive, impenetrable. The city was built around the river Euphrates, so they had a constant supply of water. If they had stored up many years worth of supplies, they may have been confident that they could outlast any siege.

Belshazzar’s Profanity

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

This is a bold act. Belshazzar is saying that he is greater than the God of Israel. He is greater than his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem temple and placed them in the temple of his god (1:2). There was an understanding that if I conquer you, that means that the gods I serve are greater than the gods you serve, so I take the treasures that belong to your god and put them in the temple of my god, because my god is greater. Nebuchadnezzar was great, and Nebuchadnezzar was proud, but he dared not touch the sacred vessels or use them for any common use. They were dedicated to his god, and they remained in the temples of his god.

In Numbers 18, after the rebellion of Korah, God set aside the Levites to serve alongside Aaron and his sons the priests, but he made a distinction.

Numbers 18:3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. …7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

Not even the Levites were allowed to come near or touch the holy vessels, or they would die. Belshazzar, under the influence of wine, orders that the holy vessels be brought to his immoral feast so they can use them to get drunk. ‘The king, and his lords, his wives, and his concubines’ is repeated to emphasize the audacity of this act.

Saying that they ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’ is a long list declining in value that may be intended to mock the inanimate and worthless gods that the Babylonians worshiped.

But Belshazzar may be saying ‘I don’t believe in any god I can’t see. I put my trust in tangible things like gold and silver; I can buy my way out of any situation. I trust in bronze and iron, tools of war. I trust in wood and stone, physical defenses, walls. I trust in what I can see, in what is real, tangible, solid, strong. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural.’

Divine Graffiti and the Incontinence of the King

This is when God shows up to crash his little party.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

In the excavations of the palace of Babylon, there is ruins of a room 165 feet long by 55 feet wide, and the walls were plastered. There is a recess in the middle of one of the longer walls, opposite the entrance to the room, where the king would have sat on a raised platform, illuminated by the lampstand. In the plastered wall of his party room, the king was confronted by the supernatural. His confidence crumbled in an instant. He went from proud to pale, from cocky to coward, from arrogant to incontinent, from defiant to debilitated. The ruddy color of fine wine drained from his face. The phrase translated ‘his limbs gave way’ can be literally translated ‘the knots of his loins were loosed’; very likely this means that he lost all control of his bodily functions. This one who was so self assured to defy the living God publicly soiled himself in front of his thousand party guests. God has a way of humbling the proud. And God has a sense of humor!

Back in Genesis, when all the people gathered against the Lord on the plains of Shinar to make a name for themselves, and to make a tower whose top reached to heaven, the Lord stooped down to see what it was they were building. This one who asserted his power over YHWH’s bowls lost control of his own bowels (Schwab). As Nebuchadnezzar said at the close of the last chapter, “…all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (4:37).

God will not be mocked (Gal.6:7). Biblical ‘scholars’ who accused Daniel of historical inaccuracy in fabricating a Belshazzar character are now shown to be the fools who disbelieved God’s word. Belshazzar who defied the living God and trusted in the things that were solid and reliable now has the knots of his own loins untied.

Application

What are your idols? What do you praise? What do you treasure? Delight in? What is it you value most?

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

What are your idols? What do you praise? What are you trusting in? Gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone? In what does your confidence lie? Who or what do you rely on, depend on?

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Take a moment to evaluate your affections. What do you love? What do you rejoice in? That which you can see, or the unseen realities? If Jesus is not supreme in your affections, your faith is misplaced.

***

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

October 11, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise

09/26_Daniel 04:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210926_dan04_28-37.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made him afraid and alarmed. All his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers were unable (or unwilling) to give him the interpretation to his dream. Finally Daniel appeared before him. The king knew there was something different about Daniel. In fact, 3 times he repeats (in verses 8, 9 and 18) that ‘the spirit of the holy gods is in you’. He expressed confidence that Daniel, unlike his other wise men, would be able to tell him his dream.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Daniel understood that the dream was God’s warning, indicating bad news was coming, and Daniel was concerned for the well being of the king. He genuinely cared about this wicked king, and didn’t want to see him humiliated.

God’s Gift of Authority

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness had grown to heaven and his dominion to the ends of the earth, but all this was a gift of God to him. In chapter 2, Daniel made clear that

Daniel 2:37 …the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…

Glory and Thanks Owed to the Giver

God had given power, might, and glory to Nebuchadnezzar. God had given to him authority over all living. This was a great gift, great responsibility, and a great gift deserves a great response. Romans 1 (18,21) tells us that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness and ungodliness of unthankfulness. Daniel encouraged the king to practice righteousness; the right thing when given a great gift, is to acknowledge the giver. But we tend toward stealing glory for ourselves as if there were no God and we deserve it all. Romans 1:21 could have been written directly for Nebuchadnezzar.

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man…

Nebuchadnezzar had been given authority and power by God. He knew this, but he refused to honor God as God or give him thanks. Instead, in his folly, he built a 90 foot image of gold and demanded worship of the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He was a glory stealer. Daniel here calls the king to repent and practice righteousness, giving glory to God. But he would not. His response to Daniel’s rebuke is not given. If he did listen, it was short lived and didn’t last. In verse 28 the story jumps ahead one year.

Pride and Fulfillment of the Vision

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

Do you hear the first person singular ‘I, me, my’? ‘I have built by my mighty power …for the glory of my majesty’. Understand, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was expansive and his rule was glorious. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the massive walls of Babylon and the famous hanging gardens.

Josephus [Against Apion; 1:19:(141)], quotes Berosus’ History of Ancient Times. [Berosus was a Chaldean priest of Bel Marduk in Babylon at the beginning of the 3rd century BC]. He writes of Nebuchadnezzar:

“but for himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently [slide: Ishtar gate], he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile [or hanging] Paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

S. R. Driver writes: “Nebuchadnezzar was emphatically a builder; and ‘nearly every cuneiform document now extant dating form his reign treats, not of conquest and warfare, like those of his Assyrian predecessors, but of the building and restoration of the walls, temples, and palaces of his beloved city of Babylon’ (Prince, p.31).”

Here are some extracts from the East India House Inscription [slide]: Nebuchadnezzar writes of his palace in Babylon:

‘That house, for admiration I made it, for the beholding of the hosts of men I filled it with magnificence. Awe-inspiring glory, and dread of the splendour of my sovereignty, encompass it round about; the evil, unrighteous man cometh not within it. I kept far from the wall of Babylon the hostile approach of the foe; the city of Babylon I made strong as the wooded hills’ (ix. 29-44).’ [Driver, xxiv – xxvi]

He records his prayer to Marduk, offered at the dedication of a temple:

‘I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the exalted prince, the favourite of the god Marduk, the beloved of the god Nabu, the arbiter, the possessor of wisdom, who reverences their lordship, the untiring governor who is constantly anxious for the maintenance of the shrines of Babylonia and Borsippa, the wise, the pious, the son of Nabopolasser, king of Babylon’,’To Marduk, my lord I make supplication; Oh eternal prince, lord of all being, guide in a straight path the king whom thou lovest and whose name thou hast proclaimed as was pleasing to thee. I am the prince, the favourite, the creature of thy hand. Thou hast created me and entrusted me with dominion over all people. According to thy favour lord, which thou dost bestow on all people, cause me to love thy exalted lordship. Create in my heart, the worship of your divinity, and grant whatever is pleasing to thee because thou hast my life’, ‘By thy command, merciful Marduk, may the temple I have built endure for all time and may I be satisfied with its splendour; in its midst may I attain old age, may I be sated with offspring; therein may I receive the heavy tribute of all mankind; from the horizon of heaven to the zenith, may I have no enemies; may my descendents live therein forever and rule over the people’.

This is just some of what history and archaeology tell us about the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar. In this prayer, he gives his god Marduk credit for his authority rather than God Most High. He believes that the gods exist to make him great.

Ungratefulness Leads to Bestiality (Rom.1)

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man… 28 And since [he] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [him] up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Ungratefulness leads to a debased mind, to bestiality.

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar became a graphic picture of the decline of humanity from dignity as the image bearer of God, meant to reflect God’s glory and to point to him, to the insanity of seeking that glory for oneself. He became a fool, his foolish heart was darkened; God gave him up to a debased mind.

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

But even for Nebuchadnezzar, the epitome of arrogance and pride, there was hope. There is hope in the promise of God. Until. ‘Until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God set a time limit for his humiliation. God was in control, and God was bringing about his purposes. God was extending grace to Nebuchadnezzar. Repentance is a gift, and Nebuchadnezzar would not repent until God humbled him. God was giving him the gift of repentance.

Reasonable Worship

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.

My reason returned to me. His first sane act was to bless, praise and honor the most High. Worship is what we were made for, and it is reasonable that we give worship to whom alone worship is due. It is unreasonable to refuse to worship God; it is insane to think we are worthy of worship.

Nebuchadnezzar learned some things about God. God is the Most High, worthy of praise and honor; he is eternal, and he is the sovereign king.

Nebuchadnezzar learned something about himself. ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.’ He learned his own insignificance. He thought he was somebody. He learned he was nothing, so that he could enjoy relationship with the one who is everything.

He learned that God is free and God is sovereign. God does whatever he wants, in heaven and on earth. He gets to do whatever he wants because he is God and everything he wants is right and good. He is unstoppable; ‘none can stay his hand’. He is always able to accomplish his will. No one can thwart his purposes.

And no one can question his character; as if he did something wrong, because all he does is right. Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated, and he came out of the experience recognizing the righteousness, the rightness of all that God did to him. He did whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was right and good, because he is God.

Nebuchadnezzar finally understood his purpose. He was made to worship. He was meant to live for the glory of another. He was a builder, and he was meant to build, but not for his own glory, but for the glory of God. As Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 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.

Nebuchadnezzar finally learned his purpose, what he was meant for. Remember, this is a letter that Nebuchadnezzar wrote ‘to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth’ showing ‘the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me;’ telling the world the story of his humiliation and exaltation.

He closes his letter this way:

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

***

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

September 28, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:6-19; Love Your Enemies

09/12_Daniel 04:6-19; Love Your Enemies; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210912_dan04_6-19.mp3

We saw last time a dramatic change had happened in the heart of this monarch. God did great signs and mighty wonders for him, God extended grace to him, to humble him, to bring him to acknowledge his need, to show to him and to all the living ‘that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’ (v.17).

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

Nebuchadnezzar wrote to all peoples, nations, and languages to give all glory to God Most High. He sent out his testimony, his personal story of what God had done for him.

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.

This sounds like a repeat of chapter 2. Except that in chapter 2 the king tested them by demanding that his magicians, the enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans reveal both the dream and its interpretation. And he threatened to tear them limb from limb if they failed to meet his demand. Here he tells them the dream, but they did not interpret it. With the dream and all their dream manuals, they ought to have been able to look up the symbols and give him an interpretation to his dream. It is unclear if this means they could not or they would not. It may be that they understood enough of the dream to realize that this was not good news for the king, and to be the bearer of bad news to a king like this was dangerous business – remember the tearing limb from limb and the superheated fiery furnace? They were out for self-promotion, or at least self-preservation, and they knew what communicating the contents of a dream like this might get them, so they could not bring themselves to tell him the truth. Whatever the reason, they again demonstrated the bankruptcy of their occult practices.

Why Not Daniel?

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.

Here the king confesses that the god he worshiped (among others) was Bel, after whom Daniel was renamed. He had been confronted with the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but as yet he had refused to repent, refused to turn from his own gods, refused to face the Most High God on his terms.

‘At last Daniel came in before me.’ The question we are compelled to ask is why?

Why did Nebuchadnezzar bring in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers? Had he forgotten what he learned back in chapter 2 that their wisdom was powerless and bankrupt? Remember, he had tested them by demanding they give him not only the interpretation, but also the dream. Now he returns to them and even concedes to tell them the dream if perhaps they can provide him with an interpretation. Given his experience in chapter 2, why did the king not summon Daniel alone? He alone had proved able to interpret dreams, and at the end of chapter 2, the king acknowledged that Daniel’s ‘God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery’ (2:47).

We saw in chapter 3, that although Nebuchadnezzar saw four in the fiery furnace, and the fourth was like a son of the gods, Nebuchadnezzar was careful to summon only the three to ‘come out and come here’. He was not yet ready to meet God. He was not yet willing to repent.

Young writes: “With this God, Nebuchadnezzar as yet, wanted no dealings. If others can interpret the dream, he will go to them rather than to Daniel. As Calvin says, it is ‘extreme necessity’ which compels the ruler to turn to Daniel ‘and hence we gather that no one comes to the true God, unless impelled by necessity.’”

Nebuchadnezzar understood that to acknowledge Daniel’s God as the Most High God meant that he was under this God, that this God has the right to make moral demands on his life. He was willing to acknowledge him from a distance, to recognize him as a god, but he was not yet willing to deal with him directly, he was not willing to surrender to him, turn to him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar obviously remembered Daniel. He held the title ‘chief of the magicians’. He confesses ‘I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.’ So either Daniel didn’t come immediately when summoned, or Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the other magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers, all except Daniel.

Daniel was a man of integrity, a man of character, a man of prayer. This kind of man made the pagan king uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised if you are a person of character and other people find it uncomfortable to be around you. You may not get invited to the thing that others are invited to. It might not mean that you are doing something wrong or have a holier-than-thou attitude. Someone who lives in the presence of God is a reminder of what we were made for, and our mere presence can bring conviction to unbelievers. Daniel may have been summoned out of desperation, as a last resort, after all the other wise men again proved incompetent. ‘He would never have given glory to God, unless when compelled by extreme necessity’ [Calvin].

The Dream

Daniel 4:9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

We could easily see the connection with the dream in chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was told

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

But here is where the dream gets troubling.

Daniel 4:13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

Notice in verse 15 the shift between the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, referring to the tree, to the personal pronoun ‘him’. The tree is a metaphor for a man, and he will be cut down, reduced to a stump, shackled, driven insane.

No wonder the wise men of Babylon hesitated to interpret the dream!

Daniel 4:18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.

Daniel also hesitated, but for a very different reason. He was not concerned for himself, but for the king. The wise men were seeking self-promotion, self-preservation. Daniel’s eyes were not on himself. He was dismayed and alarmed by what this dream meant for the king.

Compassion for a Proud Enemy

Daniel 4:19 …The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Nebuchadnezzar could see the grief this dream brought to Daniel. He had complete confidence that Daniel could tell him what the dream meant, and he encouraged him to do so without fear. Daniel’s answer? “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!” Daniel evidently cared deeply for the king, and he wished the dream applied to the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar.

Let’s put this in context; Nebuchadnezzar was the king who crushed Jerusalem, who was responsible for uprooting Daniel and his friends and transplanting them into a foreign land and culture. We aren’t told what happened to Daniel’s parents, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that they were killed by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers. Whatever happened to them, it seems Daniel never saw them again. In fact, Daniel never saw his homeland again. We are not told if Daniel and his friends were actually castrated, but they were put in the care of the chief of the eunuchs, and there is no record of Daniel marrying or having children, even though the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon:

Jeremiah 29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Daniel’s people were the conquered enemies of king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had every reason to harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, both personal and national toward the king.

The king was evil. You don’t become absolute ruler over the known world by being nice. In 2 Kings we read that because King Zedekiah of Jerusalem rebelled against him, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city for a year and a half, literally starving them out. Zedekiah was captured, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He had Zedekiah’s sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then they gouged out his eyes and brought him in chains to Babylon.

This is the king who was ready to rip every wise man in his kingdom limb from limb and turn their homes into outhouses. And remember, this edict applied to Daniel and his friends. This is the king whose mightiest soldiers were burned to death because in a rage he had his furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, and remember, the soldiers died because they actually carried out the king’s order of throwing Daniel’s three friends into the burning fiery furnace.

How do you respond when you hear news that this evil and exceedingly proud king is about to be cut down and utterly humiliated? Your response will show what is truly in your heart. Daniel was genuinely free of any bitterness or resentment. He genuinely loved this pagan king. He was dismayed at the thought of the humiliation of the king.

How? Nebuchadnezzar certainly never apologized for the atrocities he committed against Daniel, his family, his friends, his people. How could Daniel release him from that infinite debt? How could he genuinely love and care for this evil man?

God is Sovereign and No One is Beyond Hope

Daniel knew two things. God is sovereign, and no one is beyond hope. God is sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar had done great evil. ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.’ But ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand’ (Dan.1:1-2). God was in control, bringing about events for his glory, and for the ultimate good of his people, and for the nations. This, by the way, is the context of the oft misquoted verse:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Daniel probably couldn’t see as clearly as we, over 2,500 years later can see, how God was at work in his circumstances, but he trusted in a God who was in absolute control over every atom in his universe, and even over the will of this evil king. This was the lesson Nebuchadnezzar was about to learn, that ‘he Most High rules the kingdom of men’. Daniel trusted in the absolute sovereignty of God.

And Daniel believed that no one is beyond the reach of God. Jeremiah had instructed Daniel and his friends to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf…’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel did not merely go through the motions of seeking the welfare of Babylon. It came from his heart. He truly cared. He cared about this hard and ruthless king. He could look the king in the eye and say ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!’

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, prophesied that God was able to remove a heart of stone and give in its place a heart of flesh (Ezek.11:19; 36:26). Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, and was shown that God is able to make dead things live again. Daniel recognized that if there is hope for hard and dead faithless Israel, maybe there is hope for this heard hearted pagan king.

Here’s something to think about. Daniel knew that the humiliation of the king was temporary and would serve a good purpose. It was revealed to him that it would only last for 7 years, and only ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Through this humiliation the king would come to know God; it was for his ultimate good, and as a testimony to the nations. But the prospect of the humbling of the king still grieved and dismayed Daniel. He truly loved the king and didn’t want to see him hurt.

Daniel here provides a great picture of what the teaching of Jesus looks like in real life.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

***

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

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

07/25_Daniel 03:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210725_dan03_13-18.mp3

In response to his dream that he was the head of gold, to be succeeded by lesser empires, and ultimately replaced entirely by the kingdom crushing stone, Nebuchadnezzar made an image all of gold, 90 feet high, and demanded that all ‘peoples, nations, and languages’ fall down and worship the golden image. God had given into his hand authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens,’ but he did not give glory to God; rather he attempted to make a name for himself.

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Judging from the parallel event in chapter 6, it is possible that this event was politically motivated, orchestrated or encouraged by the Chaldeans out of jealousy of the king’s appointment of Jews to positions of authority over them.

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

The Chaldeans remind the king of his decree, and of the consequences he established for disobedience. Now they bring to the king’s attention that there are three Jews whom he had appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon who stand in defiance of the king’s decree.

Where Was Daniel?

After Daniel’s revealing of the king’s dream and its interpretation, at the end of chapter 2 we read:

Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is likely meant to answer the question ‘where was Daniel in chapter 3?’ Daniel remained at the king’s court. With the king and all his governing officials assembled several miles south of Babylon in the plain of Dura, someone would have needed to remain in Babylon to maintain order in the city in the absence of the king.

There was obvious resentment on the part of the Chaldeans toward these foreigners who had been promoted above them. They maliciously accused the Jews; literally they ‘ate the pieces of’. Their animosity was thinly veiled. They wanted to consume them, to see them destroyed. They even implicate the king in unwise decisions; appointing foreigners to positions of power who are secretly rebels against the king and his authority. They said:

Daniel 3:12 …These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

This is only partly true. Indeed they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. This was not a gray area; the Scripture is clear that:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

Their conscience was captive to the word of God, so they could not bow to the image or serve the gods of Babylon.

Christian Work Ethic

But the allegation that they ‘pay no attention to’ the king was false. They were summoned to the plain of Dura, and they obediently came. There is no evidence that they acted with anything short of the greatest integrity in their positions of authority over the province of Babylon. In fact if they had performed poorly, shirked their responsibility or undermined the authority of the king in any way, the Chaldeans surely would have brought it to the attention of the king. They were following the instruction of Jeremiah;

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …7 …seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Those who know and follow Jesus should have the greatest integrity, be the best employees, have the highest work ethic, because we know that we are not just working for an earthly boss for a paycheck, but we are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We are not told how the three Hebrews refused to bow. There is no evidence that they petitioned the king for an exemption to his decree. We are not told that they drew attention to themselves in their refusal to worship. There is nothing that says they attempted to persuade others to join them in refusal to bow, carrying signs, waving banners, shouting the danger of bowing to false gods. It seems that when the music played and all the peoples, nations and languages fell down and worshiped the image, they quietly stood their ground.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

But Nebuchadnezzar was foolishly persuaded by the flattery of the Chaldeans, he allowed his raging pride to overshadow clear headed judgment, and he took offense against these three Jews.

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?”

The king, in raging pride, asks if it is true that they do not serve his gods or worship the image he has set up, but he doesn’t give them time to respond. He starts to say that he is going to give them another chance to worship the image, but doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead he reiterates his threat of punishment for refusal to worship.

It is likely that this furnace had been used to refine and melt the gold for the construction of this colossal image there on the plain of Dura. Mesopotamian smelting furnaces had a large opening at the top to add the ore, and a smaller opening at ground level for feeding the fire with wood and charcoal. It was kept burning as a visual reminder of the consequence for failure to worship the king’s image.

King Nebuchadnezzar makes this arrogant and blasphemous statement ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ He had learned in chapter 2 that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who is all-knowing and wise, but he had yet to learn that this God is also all-powerful and sovereign over all mankind.

Nebuchadnezzar was the god-maker, who set up this image for all peoples, nations and languages to worship. If he could set up the image, it meant that he was in control, more powerful even than the god the image was meant to represent. It was into his hand that God had given dominion, and it was out of his hand that those who opposed him would need to be rescued. The Chaldeans accused, the Jews were apprehended and brought before the king, the furnace was blazing, and there was no way on earth for these three to escape from the alternatives; either bow in worship or be burned in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was in absolute control, and he knew it.

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

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.”

No negotiation, no begging for mercy. No discussion, no need to give a reason or argue in their own defense. No need for the orchestra to play the symphony again. They were resolute, and they were willing to suffer the consequences of their stand. They were glad to serve the king and seek the good of the city but they will not serve the gods of the king, and they will not worship the image he has set up.

Compromise would not be seeking the good of the city. God had sent them on mission in exile in Babylon so that the nations would know that there is a God in heaven. They were willing to submit to the king’s God given authority, but they would not compromise their testimony by acknowledging false gods.

Yahweh is Gracious, Who is What God Is, and Yahweh will Help (those are the meanings of their Hebrew names; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) testify to the God they serve. God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. God who created all that exists with his word, God who destroyed all life on the earth with a flood, God who rescued his people from bondage in Egypt with displays of his mighty sovereignty over the false gods of Egypt, God who took his people safely through the Red Sea and closed that sea over their enemies, God who brought down the walls of Jericho, God who sent an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians who had besieged Jerusalem in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God who had given them favor with the chief of the eunuchs and prospered them, God who answered their prayers and revealed the king’s dream, this ‘God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

Our God is able. There is no limit to his power. His hand is not shortened that he cannot save (Is.50:2). Nothing is to difficult for the Lord (Jer.32:17). There is no king too powerful, no furnace too hot, no cancer too advanced, no prodigal too far gone. Jesus spoke into the tomb of his friend who had been dead four days, and Lazarus came out! Our God is mighty to save. Nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37). God can deliver people from the burning fiery furnace, God can deliver his people out of the hand of the most powerful king. These three had no doubt about the ability of God to do whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

But If Not

The next three words are stunning. But if not. There was no question about God’s power, God’s ability. But there was a realistic realization that although God can save, sometimes he does not save, and this is not a lack of either his power or his goodness. God saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ki.19:32-35). God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan.1:2). God could have saved Joseph from his brothers who conspired against him and sold him into slavery. But instead God sent Joseph ahead, into slavery, to preserve life for many people (Gen.45:5,7; 50:20).

So many of us love salvation by grace. God freely gives good to those who do not deserve it. But we don’t want to live by grace. We want to live by works. When bad things happen to us, we begin to ask ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this?’ If we want to live by works, the answer is that I am a sinner, and what I deserve is hell, the eternal wrath of God. I am a sinner, and that’s what I deserve. But to those who live by grace, we enjoy a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, a gift God is free (not obligated) to give. But somehow the works mentality is so ingrained in us that we easily switch over to our default thinking that if we do the right thing, then God is obligated (not free) to reward us with good things right now. We so easily forget that any good we do is ‘not I but the grace of God that is in me’ (1Cor.15:10).

We want to come to Jesus on our terms, not his. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, to all who believe in him? Great! I’ll take that! Reconciliation with God, an all-satisfying relationship with him? Sounds good to me! Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at his right hand? Sign me up! Take up your cross and follow me; in the world you will have tribulation? Wait, I think I’ll pass. God hears and answers prayers? That’s great! Sometimes he says ‘No’? I think I’d rather have a genie in a bottle.

These three give us a beautiful example of bold confidence in the omnipotence of God and humble submission to the sovereign wisdom of God. God is able to save. But if he doesn’t save right here right now, will I walk away? Will I doubt his goodness, his love? “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.” When Jesus said some things that were hard to swallow, many stopped following him. When he asked his disciples if they too would go away, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68). Job in the midst of his anguish and suffering, said ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him;’ (Job.13:15).

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. …

Stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire; these are exciting stories of miraculous deliverance; but Hebrews saves the best ‘till last.

Hebrews 11:35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy

Paul said:

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.

These are heroes of the faith. Some are rescued miraculously. God is able. But if not… may he find us faithful even unto death.

***

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

***

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

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn

02/14_2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210214_2cor12_7.mp3

It’s valentines day, and providentially we’re in 2 Corinthians 12, the passage about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. So to make the connection I thought I’d use a corny cliché to title this message; every rose has its thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul’s Parody of Boasting

Paul is engaged in foolish boasting to combat the dangerous servants of Satan that were promoting a kind of celebrity leadership based on alleged private (and hence unverifiable) spiritual experiences. God appeared to me, God told me, I had a dream, I experienced a vision, I’ve been entrusted with a word from the Lord; therefore you need to listen to what I have to say, you need to follow me, do what I say.

Private visions, private revelations may benefit the one who experienced them, but they do not establish spiritual authority. Paul does everything he does to be beneficial, useful, to build up the church. He says there is nothing to be gained from boasting in visions and revelations. No benefit to the church. It might sell a book or pack out a room, but it won’t build anyone up.

In this mock parody of the false apostles false boasting, he starts in 11:16-22 by boasting in his own heritage, but then he quickly moves to say that he is a greater servant of Christ, because he suffered more than others in his service to his Lord.

They expect divine supernatural authentication, so he brings up his Damascus experience, but instead of recounting his Damascus road vision of the risen Christ, he recounts his disgraceful and laughable escape from the city, being let down under cover of night through the wall in a basket.

In chapter 12 he lifts our expectations by saying that he will go on to visions and revelations. He gives us his experience, but in the third person; it’s not Paul the great apostle, but simply a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, who heard inexpressible words that he is not allowed to speak. He doesn’t give any description of what he saw, he can’t tell us what he heard. He doesn’t claim that in any way it authenticates his ministry; rather it is an experience that belongs ultimately to anyone who is in Christ.

Paul’s Fear

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul’s fear is that if he were to boast of his supernatural experience, someone might think more highly of him that is warranted. They might think of him as larger than life, more than an ordinary Christian, more than a man in Christ. Paul is afraid that someone might attribute to him some unattainable celebrity status, lift him up because of his exceptional experience as more spiritual than others who are in Christ. Paul insists the criteria of faithful ministry must not be unverifiable visions and revelations; ministry must be judged by the objective criteria of life and teaching. What do you hear taught? What do you see in my life?

Paul’s concern is that they evaluate ministry by the wrong standards and listen to the wrong kind of leaders, who, based on their life and teaching, he calls servants of Satan. He’s concerned, because of his own surpassing revelations, that they will listen to him for the wrong reasons.

Paul’s Danger

Paul is concerned for the church. But he is also aware of another threat. He himself is in grave danger.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was in great danger. The surpassingly great revelations given to Paul created a great threat to Paul. What he saw, what he heard, was so far beyond, so great, so intimate, that he can’t help but conclude that he is special. No one else had this privileged vision. He was lifted up by the Lord to such incomparable heights that he was in danger of being lifted up with pride in his own heart. It would be all too easy for him to think too much of himself. You hear his concern, repeated both at the beginning and at the end of verse 7; ‘to keep me from being conceited.’ This was a real danger for the apostle, and he recognized it.

This word ‘conceited’ is a compound word ‘surpassingly lifted up’ that connects it with the ‘surpassing greatness’ of the revelations he was given.

The only other place this word ‘conceited’ or ‘surpassingly exalted’ appears in the New Testament is 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 …the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

This is a real danger. Charles Spurgeon says of Paul,

“He had entered into the nearest communion with God, possible to a man while yet in this life. Should he not feel somewhat exalted? Surely exultation must fill that man’s bosom who has been brought within the veil to see his God, and to hear the unutterable harmonies! It was natural that he should be exalted, and it was not unnatural that he should stand in danger of being exalted above measure. Devout exaltation very rapidly degenerates into self-exaltation. When God lifts us up, there is only one step further— namely, our lifting up ourselves; and then we fall into serious mischief indeed. I wonder how many among us could bear to receive such revelations as Paul had? O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours! We have neither head nor heart to sustain so vast a load of blessing. Our little plant needs not a river to water its root: the gentle dew suffices— the flood might wash it away.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

Pride is the sin that damned the devil. It is dangerous. ‘O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours!’

God’s Good Gift

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

To prevent Paul from falling into this deadly devilish danger, he was given a gift. He doesn’t say who gave this gift, but it is clear from the context. This word ‘given’ speaks specifically of God’s favor bestowed; in Eph.3:8 and 4:7 it speaks of God’s grace given; in 1Tim.4:14 of God’s grace-gifts. God is the giver of every good gift, and if this gift prevents Paul from pride, it is a good gift.

Thorns

What might startle us is what God’s good gift is. Paul says he was given a thorn in the flesh. That doesn’t sound good, and it is certainly not pleasant. Have you had a thorn in your flesh? Inevitably, when pulling weeds, I’ll get a little tiny thorn in my hand. Some of these thorns are so small, so insignificant, I can’t even see them. I can’t see them, but I certainly can feel them! I might not notice it for a while, until I go to pick something up and it irritates the thorn and reminds me that it’s still there. I’ve used a needle or a blade to literally dig a hole in my finger where I think the invisible source of my torment is, trying to root it out.

Thorns aren’t very impressive either. If you ask for my help and I say I can’t help because I was on the battlefield and suffered a gunshot wound to my arm that hasn’t fully healed yet, you might be impressed. But if I say I have this little thorn in my hand, so it hurts me when I pick anything up, you might roll your eyes and come at me with tweezers. And if I tell you it’s no use, it is too small even to see, I’m sure you will be very impressed with my undaunted bravery.

Everyone wants to know what Paul’s thorn was. About every malady, physical or spiritual, every form of persecution or opposition has been suggested. The fact is he doesn’t tell us. We aren’t meant to know. Whatever it was, it was given in response to the heavenly rapture experience 14 years earlier, and it was meant to keep Paul humbly trusting. Spurgeon again has a helpful word:

“we have unveiled before us a portion of the secret life of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. We may not only see his bed-chamber, but learn the apostle’s visions; we may not only see his private infirmities, but learn the cause of them. Let us not, however, be actuated by so low a motive as mere curiosity, while we gaze upon the open secret; let us remember that the apostle never intended to amuse the curious, when he penned these words, but he wrote them for a practical purpose. Let us read them with a desire to be instructed by them, and may the Holy Spirit teach us to profit. This record was not sent to us merely that we should know that this eminent servant of Christ had abundant revelations, or that he suffered a thorn in the flesh, but it was written for our profit.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

We learn from this that pride is more dangerous than thorns, and God may give us the good gift of a thorn to keep us trusting in him alone and not in ourselves or our past experiences.

Satan’s Angel

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul parallels his description of the thorn in the flesh with ‘an angel of Satan to harass him’. The word here is the same one used of our Lord in his treatment at the hands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,

A demonic messenger was sent to strike him, to buffet him. This too is startling; that God’s good gift to him is Satan’s emissary. So who sent this Satanic thorn to pummel Paul? Was it Satan or God? Paul’s answer is ‘yes’. The thorn was sent by Satan, and it was a gift from God. We must remember that Satan is a created being, part of God’s creation, over whom God is omnipotent and sovereign.

We could think of the evil action of Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery,

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The brothers intended evil, but God intended good. We could think of the first chapters of Job, when God instigated Satan to test him. We could even think of Judas; when Satan himself entered Judas, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas, under control of Satan, sold Jesus out to be executed. And we know from Colossians that Jesus death [canceled…]

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Satan incited Judas to betray Jesus to the cross, the very thing that secured our forgiveness and disarmed and conquered the powers of darkness. This is clearly a case, as Jesus predicted:

Matthew 12:26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Satan, in seeking to destroy Jesus, brought about the even that set us free from his power and sealed his own fate.

The early church understood:

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This proved to be the case for Paul. Satan’s angel no doubt intending to discourage and destroy Paul, actually was a gift of God that crushed Paul’s pride and secured his utter weak dependence on the Lord alone. God wields circumstances, sufferings, even Satan himself to bring about his good ends. As Paul said in the beginning of this book, about his affliction in Asia,

2 Corinthians 1:8 …we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

The devil is a tool in the hand of the sovereign Lord to wean us away from our self sufficiency and trust him completely.

Our self-exaltation is more deadly even than demonic oppression.

Persistent Prayer for Deliverance

Don’t misunderstand; Paul didn’t look for this thorn; Paul wasn’t asking to be abused by a satanic emissary. Quite the contrary.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Here again the apostle demonstrates that authentic ministry is ministry shaped by the cross. Genuine ministry follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, in dread of the cross, three times

Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Paul pleaded with the Lord Jesus three times about this that it should leave him. This is one of the few places we see prayer directed to Jesus rather than the Father, because Paul found in him a high priest who is able to sympathize with his weakness (Heb.4:15-16). He desired that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken away. Like his Lord, he did not receive the answer he hoped for. Rather, like his Lord, he was strengthened to endure what was necessary for him to endure. Like his Lord Jesus, he would bring glory to God not by escaping the unwanted trial, but by persevering through it. He was promised sufficient grace to meet the trial.

Do we underestimate the danger of our own hearts, of our self-important thoughts? Do we rightly estimate the deadly disease of pride? Likely none of us have had the rapturous experience that Paul had, and yet we allow ourselves to be puffed up beyond measure. It is God’s grace that uses a thorn to deflate our self-obsession so that we embrace weakness as the way to glorify God.

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

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

Obey Jesus: Hospitality

07/19 Hospitality (Lk.10, 19, 14, 7; Eph.2; Mt.25); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200719_hospitality.mp3

Last time we looked at the sabbath; God’s day of rest that commemorates both creation and redemption. Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest in him, and he will give us rest for our souls. He taught that we are to use his day to do good not evil, to save life, not to kill, to heal, to restore, to bless others. New Testament believers began to gather for worship on the first day of the week, resurrection day, the Lord’s day. We explored what it might look like and how we might benefit from setting aside time to worship and find rest for our souls.

Today I want to focus in on one way we could use our time to glorify God and love and serve others. I’d like to look at what Jesus taught about hospitality.

Love and Lodging for the Stranger [ξενία, ξενίζω, ξενοδοχέω, φιλονεξία, φιλόξενος]

The word group in the New Testament for hospitality is built around the word for ‘stranger, foreigner, or alien’; someone you don’t know. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality to strangers; Romans 12:13 tells us ‘Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.’ 1 Peter 4:8-9 tells us to keep loving one another even when we are sinned against, and to show hospitality without grumbling. 1 Timothy (3:2) and Titus (1:8) include ‘hospitable’ in the list of character qualities required of an overseer in the church. 1 Timothy (5:10) also lists ‘hospitable’ as a necessary quality of a widow eligible to be supported by the church. The words literally mean ‘to lodge or provide housing to a stranger’; ‘to receive a stranger’; or ‘to love the stranger’.

These words do not show up even once in the gospels. So did Jesus have nothing to say about hospitality? One way to answer that question would be to recognize the New Testament authors as fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt.28:20). Jesus said and did much that is not recorded for us in the four gospels (as John tells us; Jn.20:30-31; 21:25), so what we have in the non red letters of the New Testament is just as much Jesus’ teaching as the red letters.

Another way to answer this question is to look not just for the specific word but also for the concept or idea in Jesus’ teaching. And if we do that, we have plenty to work with.

Hospitality Away From Home

Jesus summarized the commandments of God by the vertical and the horizontal; love for God and love for neighbor. When pressed to define ‘neighbor’ by a religious person who was wanting to justify himself, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk.10:33-37). The despised Samaritan was the one who proved to be a neighbor to the man in need. This traveling Samaritan was not able to bring the man into his own home, but he still extended hospitality; “when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” We tend to limit hospitality to having someone over to our home; Jesus shows us that hospitality can be practiced even when you are away from home, even if you don’t have a home.

Depending On Hospitality

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he instructed them to depend on the hospitality of others.

Luke 9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

Then in chapter 10, when he sent 72 ahead of him,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus instructs his followers that those to whom they bring the good news are to provide for their needs through their generous hospitality. To extend hospitality was to receive a stranger into their home, to provide food and lodging, to care for his needs. For their hospitality, Jesus says, they will be blessed.

Luke 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There was blessing for those who showed hospitality, and there were dire consequences for those who failed to show hospitality. Jesus took hospitality seriously!

Pride and Hospitality

Something we ought to note from this passage is that hospitality is a two-way street. Jesus was not talking to the people who would show hospitality; he was addressing his disciples who would be the recipients of hospitality. There is something important we need to learn here. Jesus is commanding his followers to graciously receive the hospitality that others extend to them.

In our pride, we want to be always on the giving end. It is humbling to receive hospitality from others. But Jesus instructs his followers how to be on the receiving end of hospitality.

In fact, Jesus led them in this by his own example. He told one would-be follower “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk.9:58). Luke 8 lists several women ‘who provided for them out of their means (8:2-3). Jesus graciously received hospitality from others.

Did you know that Jesus even invited himself over?

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Did you notice that Jesus invited himself over for a meal and to stay? Zacchaeus extended hospitality to him at Jesus’ request. Jesus was not only willing to associate with sinners, he was willing to receive hospitality from them. Jesus became the guest of a sinner, and was criticized for it. Notice also that his purpose was evangelistic.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus brought good news, and his access to this house was humbling himself to receive hospitality from this house. Receiving hospitality was a way to seek and to save the lost.

Invite the Outcasts

On another occasion, when Jesus was invited to dinner by a ruler of the Pharisees,

Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Our hospitality often can be an expression of pride. We attempt to impress others by the party we can throw, and the guests we invite. It is a way to show off status. Jesus tells us not to use hospitality that way. Invite the outcasts, the needy. We might say ‘I don’t want to invite them; my house is nice and they might mess it up.’ That’s pride.

On the flip side, it is often pride that keeps us from extending hospitality. Here are some common excuses we use for not showing hospitality; ‘I’m not sure I have enough’, or ‘I don’t want to invite anyone in; they will see that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have a very nice house.’ or ‘My house is a mess.’ The common root is pride; we think much of ourselves, and we want others to think much of us. But this kind of pride has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus.

The point is people. Jesus doesn’t even comment on the dinner or the environment. It was an appointment with a person he came to seek and to save. Have you ever noticed how much in the gospels happens over a meal, around a table? The Last Supper is a meal.

Pharisaic Hospitality vs. Prostitute Hospitality

Look at Luke 7. Here is another occasion where Jesus is invited over for a meal, this time to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The custom of the day was a low table in the center of the room, surrounded by mats or cushions, where guests could recline on one elbow with feet extending out away from the table. This often took place in a semi-public courtyard. What happens next is scandalous.

Luke 7:37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

This is an embarrassment to the host and his guests. This is a woman of the city, a woman with a bad reputation, a prostitute. She shouldn’t be there, and it is improper for her to approach the guests. This is a respectable dinner party. But she loses her composure, weeping at Jesus’ feet, lets down her hair and begins to massage his feet with her tears and her hair and kiss them earnestly and anoint them with her perfumed oil. This is sensual and unexpected and couldn’t be more awkward.

Luke 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Simon knows what kind of a woman this is who is attaching herself to his guest. And he begins to question his character. Simon is silently questioning to himself Jesus’ identity as a prophet. Jesus responds, ironically, by reading his thoughts and answering his unasked question with a story.

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

This pharisee had shown Jesus hospitality. He had invited him for a meal. But it wasn’t because he loved Jesus. And he wasn’t looking to Jesus to meet his need. He didn’t acknowledge his own need. He didn’t think he had a debt, if anything he thought he was putting Jesus in his debt by having him over. Likely he was looking to test Jesus, to trap him, or at least to engage him in a lively theological debate. He didn’t care about Jesus. Jesus contrasts this pharisaic hospitality with prostitute hospitality.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

She came as a sinner, needy, broken, seeking forgiveness from the only one she believed could give it, and she found it. She was extending Jesus hospitality in the only way she knew how. She was honoring, she was worshiping. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “When Jesus receives the repentance of a sinner, he alone untwists that love from the bidding it has done in sin. Jesus receives her touch in purity, because he transforms what she gives.” Her love is a response to his forgiveness. The one whose greater debt was canceled loves more.

God’s Gospel Hospitality

So too with us. Our love, expressed horizontally in loving hospitality toward others, is an outflow of the welcome and hospitality which has been extended to us by God.

Ephesians 2 uses this term ‘strangers’ [ξένος] to describe us.

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

God exercised hospitality. God loved the stranger and took us in. At infinite cost to himself, he paid the price to bring us near.

Hospitality Horizontal and Vertical

Although the words for hospitality do not show up in Jesus’ teaching, the root of the ‘hospitality’ word group, the word ‘stranger’, [ξένος] does occur four times in one passage, Matthew 25, clearly in context dealing with this issue of hospitality. It is a context of final judgment, separating the righteous from the wicked.

Matthew 25:34 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. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Hospitality is receiving or taking in or welcoming the stranger.

Matthew 25:41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus makes our horizontal hospitality, welcoming the stranger, one of the prime evidences that separates someone who knows him from someone who does not. In fact, all the things Jesus mentions here, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned could all fall under the category of showing hospitality.

Both groups are bewildered. When did we ever do or not do these things to you? This is stunning! Our horizontal expressions of hospitality toward others our King receives as hospitality to himself. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

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

July 21, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:2-6; The Spiritual Battle for the Mind

03/08_2 Corinthians 10:2-6; The Spiritual Battle for the Mind; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200308_2cor10_2-6.mp3

For two years, John Calvin preached regularly throughout the week in the church in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1538 the city council, resisting his ideas of reformation, kicked him out of the city. Three years later, they begged him to return, about which he wrote to a friend “There is no place under heaven of which I can have a greater dread.” After several busy years of ministry in Geneva, in 1546 he wrote this in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:

The life of the Christian, it is true, is a perpetual warfare, for whoever gives himself to the service of God will have no truce from Satan at any time, but will be harassed with incessant disquietude.”

The life of the Christian is a perpetual warfare. He goes on:

It becomes, however, ministers of the word and pastors to be standard-bearers, going before the others; and, certainly, there are none that Satan harasses more, that are more severely assaulted, or that sustain more numerous or more dreadful onsets. That man, therefore, is mistaken, who girds himself for the discharge of this office, and is not at the same time furnished with courage and bravery for contending; for he is not exercised otherwise than in fighting. For we must take this into account, that the gospel is like a fire, by which the fury of Satan is enkindled. Hence it cannot but be that he will arm himself for a contest, whenever he sees that it is advanced.” [Calvin, p.321-322]

The life of the Christian, especially the Christian involved in ministry (and we are all called to minister) is war. Paul describes this warfare in 2 Corinthians 10.

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, 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.

Walking In the Flesh not According to the Flesh

Paul is being accused ‘walking according to the flesh.’ Back in chapter 1, when he was faulted for changing his travel plans he asks:

2 Corinthians 1:17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.

Paul concedes, he does walk ‘in the flesh.’ Paul is human. He is not superhuman; he has a normal human existence. Galatians 2:20 he says:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

He lives life in the flesh. He walks in the flesh. But he does not walk or make plans according to the flesh. He is using ‘flesh’ in two different ways here. He does lead a normal fleshly human existence with all the frailties and hardships of life in a fallen physical body, but he does not live according to the flesh; he does not follow his sinful fallen human thinking to make decisions. We do not walk according to the flesh; we do we walk in the flesh, but ‘we are not waging war according to the flesh.’

Waging War

Here he switches metaphors from walking to waging war. Paul is not walking, he is not running, he is on the warpath, he is on the offensive. He is in a battle. He is waging war. But he is clear; he does not wage war according to the flesh.

Supernatural Weapons in Both Hands

The weapons he uses in his warfare are not of the flesh. They have divine power to destroy strongholds. He doesn’t here tell us what those weapons are. We could look to the gospel armor in Ephesians 6; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of gospel peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God; together with all-prayer. We need to have on the full gospel armor to stand against our supernatural enemy. But we don’t have to leave 2 Corinthians. We could look back to 6:7 where he mentions the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. Paul uses both right-handed and left-handed spiritual weapons. On the one hand:

2 Corinthians 6:4 …by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

On the other hand:

2 Corinthians 6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

There are two sides to his weaponry:

2 Corinthians 6:8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This kind of warfare doesn’t make human sense. That’s what he means when he says that he does not wage war according to the flesh.

Have you ever seen a physical battle that is won by meekness and gentleness? But that is exactly how Paul wages war. By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, he tears down strongholds. He battles by dying, and behold we live.

In chapter 4 he says

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He battles (4:2) ‘by the open statement of truth’ . God opens blind minds through the proclamation of (4:5) ‘Jesus Christ as Lord.’

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

You see the kind of weapons he uses? They are not what we would expect, according to the flesh. He wins the war like Jesus did, by laying down his life, to show us life that is life indeed.

Tearing Down Strongholds

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, 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.

The weapons we use have the divine power to destroy strongholds.

A stronghold is a defensible place stocked with supplies where people could retreat from an attacking army. A stronghold at best would serve to delay the inevitable conquest. An attacking army with siege weapons, given enough time would be able to conquer the stronghold and take captives. In Judges 9, Abimelech ambushed many of the people of Shechem, captured the gate of the city, and when he was told that the leaders of the tower of Shechem had fled to the stronghold, he and his men set fire to it and killed them. But when he captured Thebez and attempted to do the same thing to their strong tower, a woman threw down an upper millstone and crushed Abimelech’s skull.

Battling Proud Arguments

What are the strongholds Paul refers to? He tells us in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Paul is in a war against arguments, ideas, opinions. He is in a battle for the minds of people. His objective is to take the minds of people captive to obey Christ. What he tears down is anything that is raised up against the knowledge of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing.. 5 For what we proclaim is …Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

He wants the Corinthians to know God, to know and experience the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He wants them to see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the very image of God. He wants them not to regard anyone according to the flesh (5:16), no longer to boast in outward appearances (5:12). This is a spiritual battle that requires spiritual weapons.

Forsaking Pride to Know Him

He tears down every exalted thing. We tend to lift up so many things. We lift up wisdom and power and position and status and appearance. We lift up ourselves. We don’t think we’re really that bad. We think we are enough, that we are OK, that we can do it, maybe with God’s help, but we can do it. Our opinion of ourselves is often lifted up against the knowledge of God. We can’t even believe in God without the gift of his grace! Paul says that he is not sufficient in himself to claim anything as coming from himself (3:5).

You see, to believe in God, to really trust him alone, we have to come to the end of ourselves. As long as we think we can contribute something, we won’t trust. Not completely. And God requires us to turn. Turn away from whatever you were holding on to, to throw down as worthless whatever you were clinging to and cling only to him. This is biblical repentance.

Paul describes his own experience in Philippians 3. He said ‘if anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more (3:4) and then he lists his credentials. And when he gets to the end he 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Paul took everything that lifted him up, all his own accomplishments that were lifted up against the knowledge of Christ, and counted them all as loss, filth, refuse. He turned to Jesus empty handed, open handed, ready to receive a gift he didn’t deserve. He emptied his hands so that he could know Christ.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

I Must Die

Paul wants to build up the Corinthians, but first he must tear down everything that is lifted up against the knowledge of God. Paul wants them to truly know Christ, but first the demonic wisdom that lifts itself up against knowing God must be destroyed.

Mark Seifrid writes “this violent conquest is achieved by means of weakness. It …is contained within the paradox of the cross, where God’s weakness is manifest as more powerful than human beings (1Cor.1:25).” [PNTC, 381]

His authority as an apostle is for the edification of the Corinthians, not for their destruction. He must, however, first destroy the Corinthians in their false imaginations (every exalted thing) in order to take captive every mind (including the Corinthians) in obedience to Christ. The Spirit gives life only to that which has been put to death (3:6). Paul’s calling as apostle is not to effect merely a change of minds, but a change of persons. The cross of Christ does not merely do away with the world’s wisdom, strength, and boasting. It does away with the wise, the things that are strong, and the exalted (1Cor.1:26-31).” [PNTC, 382]

Paul wars against this, and we must war against it in our own hearts and minds. I must reckon myself dead, dead in trespasses and sins, if I am ever to experience the resurrection life that Jesus gives (Rom.6:8; Eph.2:5). I need to embrace – to really believe – the gospel. I must be crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal.2:20). I must abandon my pride and own my need so that I can truly know Christ. The gospel is good news for sinners.

***

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

March 9, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians Introduction

10/01 2 Corinthians Introduction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171001_2cor-intro.mp3

Lost Books

Turn with me to 4th Corinthians… You will find it in your Bibles as 2 Corinthians, but it was likely the fourth letter Paul wrote to this church. 1 Corinthians 5:9 refers back to a previous letter that the Corinthians had misunderstood, so that would make our 1 Corinthians Paul’s second letter. Then 2 Corinthians 2 and 7 refers back to a painful letter that grieved the Corinthians, making 2 Corinthians his fourth letter to this tumultuous church.

So if you’ve ever heard of the lost books of the Bible, those are them. In the sovereign wisdom of God they were not preserved for us. God preserved his word exactly as he intended for us to benefit by it. If you hear people claiming that they have discovered some of the lost books of the bible, examine the evidence carefully. The ‘lost’ books that people often claim are not lost at all; rather they have been known throughout the history of Christianity and have been rejected by believers as false writings.

What we know as 2 Corinthians is a passionate letter, sometimes sarcastic, intimately personal and transparent, even raw. In it we see the heart of the apostle, and the depth of his love for a broken church. We get a glimpse into the emotional struggles of ministry, and how Paul handles conflict and tension in relationships. Most of all, we see ministry shaped by the cross; that the gospel message of Christ crucified shapes all authentic ministry.

History of the Church in Corinth

It will be helpful as we launch into a study of 2 Corinthians to sketch out a rough sequence of the history of this church and where this letter fits. On what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey, when Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), he had a vision in which God called him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). They preached and were imprisoned in the Macedonian city of Philippi, and then after being released, they preached and were persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul was brought alone to Athens to escape the riots and preached there while he waited for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Listen to the birth of this church as Luke tells it in Acts 18:

Acts 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. 18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. …

After over a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sailed for a brief stop in Ephesus, where he left Priscilla and Aquila, then on to the port of Caesarea. From there he visited the Jerusalem church, and then traveled back to his home church in Syrian Antioch. This ended his second missionary journey. Sometime after he left Ephesus, the eloquent Apollos came to Ephesus and was discipled briefly by Priscilla and Aquila before being sent with a letter of recommendation to the church in Corinth.

In the spring of the next year, Paul traveled by land north from Antioch through the regions of Galatia and into Asia, arriving at Ephesus and spending over 2 years there.

It was early during his first year in Ephesus that Paul received news of trouble in the church in Corinth, and wrote them the ‘previous letter,’ “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1Cor.5:9).

Later, he received correspondence from the church in Corinth asking a number of questions, along with a report of more trouble in the church there, brought by Chloe’s people, possibly Sosthenes (1:1), Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus (16:17); he was also joined by Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22). At some point Apollos also returned to Ephesus with Paul (1Cor.16:12).

It was in response to their letter and the reports he was receiving that he wrote what we know as 1 Corinthians, and sent it with believers sailing to Corinth, possibly with Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, or maybe with Timothy or Titus. In 1 Corinthians, he addressed the issues of divisiveness and party spirit, immorality, idolatry, disorderly worship, and confusion over the resurrection.

Paul’s plan as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. 5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

But after Timothy arrived in Corinth and saw that the Corinthians did not respond well to Paul’s instructions, he sent word to Paul and Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1). After Paul returned to Ephesus, he was personally attacked and his authority rejected and undermined by the individual.

He apparently planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection (2Cor.1:15-16). Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul sent this third painful letter with Titus, and he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia to prepare for the collection (Acts 19:21-22). After a riot in Ephesus, Paul traveled north through Asia to the port at Troas. He says

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul expected that Titus would sail from Corinth to Troas with news. Finding no sign of Titus, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where he says:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. …

The painful letter had accomplished its desired response from the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

It was in response to Titus’ report on Corinth that Paul together with Timothy wrote what we know as 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. He sent Titus ahead of him to deliver the letter, as he continued to minister in Macedonia and make his way down to Corinth.

Although Titus and the painful letter had accomplished much to mend the relationship between the Apostle and this church, there was still much work to be done, and 2 Corinthians attempts to move this work forward and prepare them for his visit. About a year later, Paul arrives in Corinth and stays with them for 3 months. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during his stay at Gaius’ house in Corinth (1Cor.1:14; Rom.16:23). From there, he had to return through Macedonia because of a plot (Acts 20:3), and eventually returned to Jerusalem with the gift, where he was taken into Roman custody and eventually to Rome. Paul’s outlook in Romans is that

Romans 15:18 …Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; …23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Apparently 2 Corinthians also accomplished its purpose.

Counter-Cultural

Corinth was a city where social status was a big deal; eloquent wisdom was prized, and pursuit of prosperity and power was the main goal. We already saw in 1 Corinthians that Paul took a totally counter-cultural approach. He refused to come with lofty speech or wisdom, but determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He came in weakness and fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:1-5). God had turned the ideas of status and honor upside down by choosing the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings, to shame the wise, powerful, noble, and strong, to eradicate boasting and pride (1Cor.1:26-31). Paul had offended them by working for his living with menial hands-on labor, refusing to take money from them (1Cor.9). He refused to put himself on a pedestal to be honored, rather identifying himself as a servant.

The Corinthians continued to struggle with these concepts that are really at the heart of the gospel. The gospel is a message of grace – being given something you don’t deserve.

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

Jesus gave us what we didn’t earn. Jesus shows us that true greatness is not being served, but serving; humbly serving others for their good. The gospel is a message about a King who laid aside his royal robes and stooped down to serve in the filth and grime, in the lowest, most menial way.

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

Paul takes this very seriously; to seek honor is to abandon the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Corinthians wanted an apostle that was powerful, eloquent, triumphant; but Paul’s ministry was characterized by suffering, affliction, shame, dishonor. He was weak, plain, poor, unimpressive. Instead of being served, he chose to serve others. Instead of accepting honor, he directed all honor to Jesus.

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

Outline

Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

***

Timeline (approximate):

AD 50-51 Paul’s first visit to Corinth (1.5+ years) (Acts 18)

AD 52-55 Paul in Ephesus (2+ years) (Acts 19)

52 Writes ‘previous letter’ (1Cor.5:9)

53 Writes 1 Corinthians (1Cor.16)

54 Second ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1)

54 Writes ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

AD 55-56 Paul ministers in Troas and Macedonia (Acts 20:1; 2 Cor.7:5-7)

55 Writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (2Cor.7-9)

AD 57 Paul’s 3rd visit to Corinth (3 months) (2Cor.13:1; Acts 20:2-3)

57 Writes Romans from Corinth (Rom.16)

2 Corinthians Outline:

1-7 Gospel ministry is ministry shaped by the gospel

8-9 God’s grace overflows in practical generosity

10-13 False apostles proclaim a false jesus, false spirit, false gospel

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

October 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified

07/24 Leviticus 10; God Sanctified and Glorified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160724_leviticus-10.mp3

As The LORD Commanded

In Leviticus 8 we have seen the consecration of Aaron and his sons ‘as the Lord has commanded Moses’. In chapter 9 we have seen the first offerings made ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. Back at the end of Exodus we saw every detail of the tabernacle constructed ‘as the Lord commanded Moses’. We heard this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Exodus 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31, 43; 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32. At the end of Exodus we read

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

Exodus 39:42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

And then we hear again this refrain ‘as the LORD commanded Moses’ in Leviticus 8:9, 13, 17, 21, 29; 9:7, 10. This all climaxes at the end of chapter 9, when

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.

Which He Had Not Commanded

This is what makes chapter 10 so shocking.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

This should sound like fingernails on chalkboard. The newly ordained priests in the newly consecrated tabernacle in response to the manifestation of the glory of God, suddenly do something that God had not commanded them, offering something that was unauthorized. We tend to be shocked by what happened to them. We need to be shocked at what they did. In the context of grace, in the context of covenant treason, forgiveness, and then delighted obedience by all the people, we have priests who have been set apart to the LORD by a seven day process, now step out and do something unauthorized, something the LORD had not commanded. The exact details of their violation are not clear. Some speculate they were drunk based on verse 9. Some suggest they attempted to enter the most holy place, because of what is said in chapter 16. In light of that chapter, they may have been attempting to usurp the responsibility of the high priest. Some think they used the wrong censers, or the wrong fire, or the wrong kind of incense, or that they offered it at the wrong time. What the text tells us is that they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded. It could be any combination of these possibilities, but the bottom line is that their act was an act of defiant disobedience to the clearly revealed instructions of the LORD. They did that which was unauthorized in the presence of the LORD. They did that which he had not commanded them.

Fire From the LORD

2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

God is just, God is holy. God will not be trifled with. God will not be taken lightly. This is a warning to us all. We tend to take God for granted. To think of him lightly. To presume on his grace. God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate rivals. He will not be approached any way we choose. God is worthy of all honor and affection, all glory and praise. God will defend his own honor.

In Ezekiel 20, recounting the rebellion of the people in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt, God restrained his anger and did not fully destroy his people.

Ezekiel 20:22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (cf. 20:9, 14)

In Ezekiel 36, God promises to regather his people from the nations into which he had scattered them in judgment for their rebellion.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (cf. 36:21; Isaiah 48:11)

Ezekiel 39, looking to a future time,

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God acts for the honor of his holy name. He defends his honor. God cares about his reputation. If he is treated as common, ordinary by the people who claim to know him, to be close to him, then those that do not know him will more readily blow him off as no big deal, not worth attending to, to their eternal harm. So ‘fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.’ This was radical, startling, shocking. But it was right. For the sake of the advance of the gospel, God must defend his honor.

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

The appropriate response of anyone who has access to God’s presence is ‘holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ (Is.6:3). God will be set apart, recognized to be in a class by himself, by those who are near to him. He will be glorified before all the people. This is evangelistic. God has made a way for himself to be approached by sinful people. He has instituted sacrifices by which he can be approached while at the same time preserving the seriousness of sin and the absolute holiness of his nature. To come in a different way than he has established is to scorn his provision and to set oneself up as a higher authority than God. God’s sanctity, God’s glory is primary.

Aaron held his peace. Aaron was silent. Notice the contrast with the last chapter. In chapter 9, God’s instructions were heeded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in blessing, demonstrating that their sacrifice was acceptable, and the response was shouts of joy. Here in chapter 10, God’s instructions were disregarded, and fire came out from the presence of the LORD in judgment, consuming those who violated his commands, and the response was stunned silence. Aaron had lost in an instant his two oldest boys. But his silence affirmed the righteousness of God. God was right to punish them.

Priests and Mourning

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

Because of their position as ordained priests, they were not permitted to touch dead bodies, or mourn or leave the tabernacle courtyard. They were set apart to God for service. Their service was to be characterized by joy, because ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy’ (Ps.16:11).

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? …

These were set apart to draw near to God. It would be inconsistent to mourn in the presence of God. Even in the face of great tragedy, the presence of God is greater, and joy in his presence outshines sorrow. Here we find a refreshing return to obedience. “And they did according to the word of Moses.”

Duties of the Priests

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

This is a significant word from the LORD. In Leviticus we see 29 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’; 4 times ‘the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron’; only here do we find ‘the LORD spoke to Aaron’. God gave ‘wine to gladden the heart of man’ (Ps.104:15); but the priests are to be clear-headed in carrying out their duties. The first duty of the priests is to distinguish between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. They need to know the difference. Anything that would blur their judgment in these issues was prohibited while on duty. Nadab and Abihu failed to treat God as holy. They treated him as common. The first seven chapters on sacrifices deal with issues of what is common and what is holy. The next section, chapters 11-15 deal with making distinctions between the unclean and the clean.

The second duty of the priests is to teach the people the rules of the LORD. We rightly identify priests with sacrifice in the tabernacle, and with entering God’s presence on behalf of the people, but probably a more common role of priests in Israel was to apply the law to distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean, and to teach the people. Priests were to be teachers, communicators of God’s truth.

Priests Rights to the Offerings

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.”

At first glance, this section seems out of place. The rights of the priests to eat specific portions of specific offerings has already been explained in the earlier chapters. Why repeat that here? This is addressed to Aaron and his surviving sons in the immediate aftermath of serious sin in the family where two of Aaron’s sons were executed by the LORD himself. It would be natural to wonder if this kind of sin in the family disqualified the remaining family from service or from the benefits of service. Moses affirms to the survivors that they are still fully entitled to eat the priests’ portions of the offerings.

Violation of the Command Approved

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” 19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.

Nadab and Abihu were judged by the LORD and killed. Now Moses is angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the other two sons of Aaron. Moses rarely is angry, except when God’s glory is dishonored. He is angry because Aaron and his remaining sons failed to do what they were commanded to do. Nadab and Abihu did what they were not commanded to do and they were judged by God. Now Eleazar and Ithamar have failed to do what they were commanded to do and Moses is angry. They failed to eat the priests portion of the sin offering that was clearly given to them in chapter 6. Were they any less guilty than their brothers? Would they suffer the same judgment? To understand what is going on here, we need to step back and see the structure of this passage.

1-3 Incident of Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience

4-7 Holiness prohibits grieving for the dead

8-11 Description of Priests Role

12-15 Holiness requires eating of the sacrifices

16-20 Incident of Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience

The central part of this chapter is the description of the Priests role in verses 8-11. The rest of the chapter is mirrored around that instruction. The chapter begins with Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience, and the chapter ends with Eleazar and Ithamar’s disobedience. But where Nadab and Abihu were immediately judged by God, Moses receives Aaron’s reasoning for the disobedience of he and his younger sons. What is going on here? Aaron is stepping into his role as priest, distinguishing between the holy and the common. He is evaluating the situation and seeking in all things to honor the LORD. His heart and his desire in all things is the LORD’s approval, not man’s.

Andrew Bonar, Minister of the Free Church of Scotland commented in 1846 on this passage: “He saw that Aaron entered into the spirit and meaning of the rites he ministered among; and was satisfied. And it is to be noticed that this attention to the spirit, and not to the mere letter, of the ceremonial law, at the very outset, indicated to Israel that the things signified by these types were their chief concern, not the bare types themselves. …Aaron’s service was not formality; it was a worship done in the spirit; and where the spirit could not accompany the rite, he left the rite undone. Herein he glorified God – he gave Him the honour due unto His name! He felt that it was not worship at all if his soul was not engaged; for “God is Spirit.” [Bonar, Leviticus p.207-208]

Where Nadab & Abihu’s disobedience was proud, arrogant and flagrant; Aaron was carefully distinguishing in his own heart what was common and what was holy, and what would be acceptable to God.

Application

What can we take away from a passage like this? First of all, God is holy. God is zealous to defend his own honor. Especially among those who draw near to him. Lest we thing this is a distant Old Testament event with little relevance today, we need to be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, who in the early church were struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. God still cares deeply that he be treated as holy. This is a gospel issue. Our interaction with God must reflect accurately who he is or no one will listen to our message, and God cares deeply that sinners come to him through the one way that he is to be approached, through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus.

Second, We must listen to God’s word.

Hebrews 12:25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Finally, God cares about your heart. Mere outward obedience without genuine affection for God is hypocrisy. True worship is not about my preference; true worship is that which is pleasing to God. Acceptable worship, worship in spirit and truth is worship characterized by reverence and awe. God is pleased when we approach him on the basis of Christ’s finished work.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:4c; Not Promoting or Puffing Up Self

11/16 1 Corinthians 13:4c Not Promoting or Puffing Up Self ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141116_1cor13_4c.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Brace yourselves. This will be painful. Paul’s masterful prose in 1 Corinthians 13 is a scathing rebuke to everything that is wrong in us. It is a sharp scalpel that lays open the superficial appearance that we have it all together to show us the disease that lurks just under the surface.

So far, Paul has told us that love, God’s kind of love, the love without which we are worthless and will not enter God’s kingdom, love that we have because we have been loved this way by God, love that is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, this love is patient. It is long-tempered; it puts up with repeated wrongs done to it without becoming angry or hardened. Love is kind; it is genuinely and generously good hearted to others, even to the ungrateful and evil. Love does not envy; it is not unhappy at the success of others, it is not displeased when good comes to others. It is not jealous, even when others are favored above self.

Next, Paul comes to the root of the matter. Paul says love does not boast, and it is not arrogant. C. S. Lewis writes “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.94)

Pride is insidious. Pride is sneaky. I spent most of this week reading about humility, studying humility, what it means to be humble, how we can love others with humility. Last night as I sat in my office putting together this message, I thought to myself, ‘this might well be the best message ever preached on humility’ …

To be clear, anything good in this message was probably stolen. I owe Andrew Murray, C.S Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, and many others a great debt in thinking through and clarifying the issues, especially Tim Keller in his insightful little book ‘The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’.

These two words, boasting and arrogance, along with the previous word envy all go together. Envy is what we do when we feel less than someone else and desire what they have. Boasting is what we do to attempt to make others think we are more than we are. Arrogance is when we think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

περπερεύομαι

This word translated ‘boast’ is a very rare word. It is used only here in the entire New Testament, and it is rarely found in any other contemporary literature. It means to play the part of a braggart or windbag. Do you know anyone who is the hero of all his own stories, or who always has a bigger or better story than the next guy to tell? This is often a person who is either insecure or overly sure of himself. They are looking to others to satisfy a need for affirmation and admiration. Or they are so delighted with themselves that they assume you will be delighted with them too.

It seems that eloquent words and boasting were big problems among the Corinthian believers. Paul thanks God in chapter 1:

1 Corinthians 1:5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

Then down in verse 17, he has to confront their enthusiasm for eloquence.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

…20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

The Corinthians were into high sounding speech, and they were into bragging rights. We could hear the conversation around a Corinthian dinner table: ‘Did you know, I was discipled by the eloquent Apollos. Oh yeah, well the apostle Paul led me to Christ. Oh yeah, well Peter, you know, the one Jesus called the rock? He baptized me. Oh, that’s nice. Too bad they are out of town at the moment. You see, I commune daily with the living risen Christ.’

This is one way to boast, to speak large about oneself. But this is not the only way to boast. A more insidious form of boasting takes its shape in a false humility. This is a self-abasing self-deprecating boasting. It can take the form of a pity party, where I am seeking affirmation by portraying how wretched and miserable and unfortunate and left out I am. Whether the boasting is self promoting or self defacing, the focus is on the self and attention is drawn to the self.

Love vaunteth not itself; it is not a braggart; it is not vainglorious, it does not sound its own praises, it is not a windbag, it does not seek to gain the applause or admiration or approval of others.

φυσιόω

The word translated ‘arrogant’ or ‘proud’ is also a unique word. It shows up six times in 1 Corinthians, and only one other time in the entire New Testament. It is a word that literally means to inflate or puff up.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

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

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

The Corinthians clearly had over-inflated opinions of themselves. They had ballooned themselves out to be larger than life. They made themselves out to be bigger than they really were.

When is the last time you were walking down the street and you became aware of how well your left ankle was working? My, that ankle is working so smoothly and effortlessly, it bends and flexes in just the right way at just the right time. Left ankle, I am so pleased with how well you are functioning today! It amazes me how you can bear the entire weight of my body with every other step. You help me keep my balance so I don’t fall. You can adjust so readily to so many different angles and types of terrain. I have just become aware of how well you are doing your job and wanted to praise you for it.

The ankle asks for no attention. It simply does what it was created to do without applause, without fanfare. But have you ever had a body part that became infected or inflamed? You are only acutely aware of a body part when there is something wrong with it. Then it demands the attention of the entire body. Look, that ankle is swollen to twice the size of the other one. Paul used the metaphor of the different parts of the body working together in the last chapter. A part that is puffed up is unhealthy, it is much more sensitive and tender, and it cannot carry out its intended purpose well. It needs special treatment, special attention special care. The whole rest of the body has to compensate for that swollen inflamed ankle. It demands attention because it has a problem, something is wrong with it.

Lucifer’s Pride

Pride was the original sin. Isaiah tells us of Lucifer:

Isaiah 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

He set his heart on ascending, being above the other angels, on being recognized as great, to be like the Most High. He, a mere created being, puffed himself up and desired the recognition and applause that was due only to the Most High God. In Ezekiel 28 we are told that his “heart was proud” (28:17). He wanted to be the center of attention.

When he tempted Eve, his temptation was centered around the inflated desire to be like God.

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Andrew Murray writes “When the Old Serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride, whose whole nature as devil was pride, spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. And when she listened, and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying forever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness. And instead of this, her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its very root with that most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan’s own pride. …And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend upon our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being.” (Andrew Murray, Humility, p.19-20)

God is Not Proud

When we turn to look at the God who is love, we might wonder how these attributes of love fit. Is God proud? Can we really say that God does not boast, that he is not arrogant? We could argue that God is the most self-promoting being in the universe, and that he actively and unashamedly seeks his own glory.

Psalm 106:8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Isaiah 48:9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. … 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. 12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

Ezekiel 20:9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. …14 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. …22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. …44 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.

We could look at Ephesians 1 in the New Testament and see that our salvation, from beginning to end, is “to the praise of his glory” (1:6, 12, 14).

How can God act for the sake of his own reputation and pursue his own praise and not be considered an arrogant boaster? The difference between God’s self-seeking and ours is that our self-seeking is puffed up or inflated, which means it is empty, and his is not one bit overstated. His claims are not inflated and empty, they are solid and substantial. He is exactly what he claims to be.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

Paul says in Romans 12:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, …

We are not to think of self more highly than we ought. We often do. God does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think. He ought to recognize himself as the supreme being that is. For him to do anything less, for him to speak or act in a way that does not communicate that he is the supreme all satisfying end-all and be-all would be idolatry.

God is not insecure or in need of our affirmation. He loves us and wants us to affirm that which is most valuable, namely himself.

Christ is Not Proud

When we look to Jesus, we see the perfectly honest humility of God on display.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus knew who he was. Yet that did not prevent him from acting in a humiliating way out of love and service toward others.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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 was in very nature God from all eternity. And while he was here, he clearly communicated that he was equal to and one with his Father. But while man could never puff himself up to become like God, God emptied himself by becoming like man and taking on our nature. He humbled himself by taking on our sin and dying in our place on the cross. Being undiminished deity, he aimed not at his own interest but the interest of others; he used his ability for the good of others. Jesus showed us what truly humble greatness looked like.

A God-Focused Gospel Humility

What might this not puffed up not boasting love look like in us? I’ve heard it said that true humility is not thinking less of self, but thinking of self less. Love is so focused on others that it simply free from that painful self-focus. Our culture is obsessed with self-esteem; we think all our problems stem from an unhealthy self-esteem. But in the bible, we are never commanded to love ourselves; that is taken for granted. We are commanded to love God and others; that is our problem. If our focus shifts from ourselves to others and to God, we will be more satisfied than we could ever be in seeking to improve our self-esteem. Jesus said:

Mark 8:34 … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Deny self, follow Jesus, lose your life for his sake, and you will find you are truly living. The Psalmist tells us:

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Stop boasting in self, stop focusing on self, instead delight yourself in the Lord. Desire above all that God be rightly esteemed for who he is. Take absolute joy in God being God. Delight that he is who he is. Take pleasure in admiring his attributes. Free yourself from the bondage of comparing and simply admire. Enjoy God for who he is. Humility is not measuring yourself in comparison with God and seeing the vast difference. Humility is being so lost in admiration that you forget to look at yourself at all.

Then take that self-forgetful love for God and turn it toward your neighbor. Stop measuring yourself and comparing yourself. When you

see a person who is beautiful or handsome or strong or gifted or well liked or has accomplished great things, simply delight in them as a person. Praise God for them. Find joy in their ability to be who God created them to be. And when you see someone who is ugly or irritating or struggling or hurting, don’t measure yourself and compare yourself to them. Humbly love them. Seek their good.

And when you do become aware of yourself, don’t worry too much about what others think of you; don’t worry too much about how you esteem yourself; the only opinion of you that holds any weight is what God thinks of you. In spite of who you were, God chose you. He pursued you. He loved you. He bought you. He washed you and cleansed you and made you beautiful. He clothed you in his own perfect righteousness. He calls you a son. He is well pleased with you. He delights in you.

1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Love does not promote itself. Love does not inflate itself. Boast in the Lord. Delight in the Lord. Let your joy be rooted in the rock solid reality of who God is and how he loves you. Let that joy in God spill over in humble love to others.

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

November 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment