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Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee – Redemption of the Land

04/02 Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee; Redemption of Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170402_leviticus-25_23-38.mp3

The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.”

The first section of Leviticus 25 extends the calendar begun in chapter 23 and deals with the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. Every seventh day, people and animals were to rest from their labors. There were certain holy times each year that were set apart for specific purposes, days in which no work was to be done, days of rest and worship. Every seventh year, the land was to keep a Sabbath rest. This was the Sabbath year. After seven weeks of years, after 49 years, the fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee. Liberty was proclaimed and a return to property and to families. Rest was required. God’s provision was promised. There was a warning not to wrong a neighbor. The focus of the first section is the cycle of work and rest, even rest for the land, and the promise of God’s provision.

The second section, verses 23-38, begins with God’s claim that the land belongs to him, and concludes with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” The focus of this section is land, its sale and redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

Verses 39-55 address the situation where a person would sell himself to pay off a debt. In verse 42, God asserts his ownership over the people whom he brought out of the land of Egypt be his servants. This section concludes with “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The focus of the final section is God’s people, their sale, and their redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

1-22 rest for land; Sabbath year and Jubilee

23-38 redemption or release of land

39-55 redemption or release of people

Our focus today will be the second section of this chapter.

God Owns the Land

God begins in verse 23 with his assertion of ownership over the land.

Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

This sets the parameters for the discussion of land ownership and sale and release. This speaks to the rest for the land every seventh year and every fiftieth year. God’s people would be tempted to argue ‘but I can’t stop working the land for a whole year! How could we survive?’ When we are entrusted with something, especially if it is for a long time, we begin to feel like we own it. We have had access to it for so long that we begin to think of it as belonging to us. God reminds his people ‘the land is mine.’ The land does not belong to you. I can tell you what you can and can’t do with the land, because the land belongs to me.

Tenant farming was a typical arrangement in the ancient world. We see this under Joseph in Egypt. The severity of the famine forced the Egyptians to sell their land to the Pharaoh in order to survive.

Genesis 47:18 …“We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. …23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

So all the land in Egypt was owned by the Pharaoh, but he allowed the people to live on it and work his land in exchange for 20 percent of the produce.

Several of Jesus’ parables used the illustration of stewardship; money or a vineyard was entrusted to someone’s care, and at some point the owner returned and expected his portion of the harvest or a return on his investment.

God reminds his people “the land is mine.” I’m allowing you to squat on my land, to live on it, to farm it, to use it. But don’t forget, it belongs to me. “You are strangers and sojourners with me.” In Leviticus we have heard a lot about the strangers and sojourners in the land. This typically refers to non-Israelites, foreigners. Here God reminds his people, Israel ‘you are aliens, strangers in a land not belonging to you. It is my land. I am the King, the great landlord. I set the terms of your occupation and your tenancy. As the landowner, he reserves the right to evict any tenants who refuse to follow his rules. He has done this before. In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, where God lays out the code of conduct he requires of his people, he reminds them

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

God is the landowner, and he is evicting the former tenants after excessively generous notification. But this is a warning to his own people. If they refuse to follow his rules, they too will be evicted. God’s people are always to keep in mind that they are sojourners and strangers living on God’s land.

As such, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity.” God’s people living in God’s land are allowed to sub-lease the land to others. But no sales are final, because the land belongs to God. In the first section, introducing the year of Jubilee, God clarified that what is being sold is not the land itself, but the number of harvests until the year of Jubilee, when the land would return to the ones God allotted it to.

Redemption and the Kinsman Redeemer

Leviticus 25:24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Here we are introduced to the idea of redemption. This noun shows up 9 times in this chapter, twice in Ruth 4, twice in Jeremiah 32, and once in Ezekiel. Leviticus 25 is key to understanding what redemption means. The verb form shows up 10 times in this chapter, and 12 times in Leviticus 27, a handful of times scattered through the rest of the Pentateuch and the other historical books; 21 times in Ruth, twice in Job, 10 times in Psalms, once in Proverbs, 24 times in Isaiah (x24); and several other occurrences in the prophets. The noun is gullah (gheh-ool-law’), from the verb ga’al (gaw-al’), kinsman redeemer. The same verb is translated ‘avenger’ in the phrase ‘avenger of blood’ about 12 times in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 2 Samuel. As we learn from Leviticus and from Ruth, the kinsman redeemer was a near relative who had the ability to right what was wrong in the family. If a brother was in financial trouble, his nearest redeemer had the responsibility to keep the land in the family. In the next section we will see a brother who sells himself into slavery can be redeemed by his kinsman redeemer. In Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, the kinsman redeemer had the responsibility to defend the rights of his kin and avenge his murder. In the poetic and prophetic books, God is the kinsman redeemer of his people. This is the foundation for the concept of the redemption we have in Jesus in the New Testament.

Leviticus 25:26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

The one who sells his own land may redeem it himself if he becomes financially able. This would be highly unlikely, apart from receiving an inheritance. The redemption price is to be a fair price, the price for which the land was sold, less the amount of harvests that have benefited the buyer after the sale. So if there was 30 years until the Jubilee, and the land could generate 1,000 a year, it would be sold for 30,000. If ten years into the contract, a kinsman redeemer came forward to redeem the land, he would pay 20,000, in effect refunding the value of the 20 remaining years. The buyer should have gotten his 10,000 out of the land in the first ten years of his lease.

If there is no one able to redeem the land, it must remain in the possession of the buyer until the Jubilee. In the year of Jubilee, the land reverts to the one God had entrusted it to.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to these general rules of redemption and release covered in the rest of this section.

Leviticus 25:29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.

Houses in walled cities were an exception to the rule. The seller retained the right to redeem it for one year, after which it became the permanent possession of the buyer. Houses in unwalled villages were counted as land, and were subject to the same redemption and release in the Jubilee.

Then there is an exception to the exception.

Leviticus 25:32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The Levites, remember, were not given any land inheritance, only cities scattered within the other tribes of Israel; cities of refuge. Dwellings given to the Levites in these cities could always be redeemed, and they would be released back to them in the Jubilee.

Hospitality to a Brother

Verses 35-38 conclude this section with an exhortation to take care of your brother, and a warning to fear God.

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

Leviticus 19 told us to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the stranger as yourself. But we may not feel that this extends to a near relative. We know them. They knew better. ‘I’m willing to help my neighbor, and the guy I don’t know, but my brother, well, he got himself into this mess. I warned him and he didn’t listen. He needs to learn his lesson. I’m not going to bail him out; he’ll just do it again.’ God says, don’t harden your heart to your relative. Treat him at least as well as you would treat a stranger. Take him in. Help him out. Help him get back on his feet. Show hospitality. Don’t enable him, but don’t take advantage of his vulnerable situation either. We see a similar warning to what we saw in the first section of this chapter.

Redemption is to be a blessing to those in need. Don’t turn the blessing into a curse. Don’t hold it over his head. Don’t take interest from him. Don’t capitalize on his misfortune. Genuinely seek to help him get back on his feet. Do for him what you would want him to do for you if it was you who fell on hard times. Do not take advantage of him, but fear God. You were slaves in Egypt. God brought you out and gave you the land. The land you possess is a gift from God. Give a gift to your brother in need.

Application

How do we apply a passage like this? We must remember, this was written to Israel after God rescued them from Egypt and was preparing them to enter Canaan. The land promises were a big deal. But we are not Israel, this is not Canaan, we don’t have Levites or walled cities, our property was not apportioned by God, and we don’t release property back to its original owner in the year of Jubilee.

Care for your Brothers

But we can draw some principles that do apply to us today. We are not under the kinsman redeemer laws, but it is right to look out for our relatives.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 John asks:

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty

We may not be in the promised land, but we should recognize God’s absolute ownership and right over all that he has made. Psalm 24, quoted in 1 Corinthians 10, says:

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

God is the Creator of all that is. He made it and he can do with it what he pleases. He retains the authority to make the rules and enforce them. Everything belongs to him and it exists to please him.

We need to be reminded that we have been entrusted with a stewardship, and that we will be called to account for what we have done with what we have been given. We are sojourners and strangers in a land that belongs to another.

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Look to the Redeemer

Most importantly, we understand from this passage a little more clearly what redemption is all about. It was the responsibility of a near relative to redeem the one in trouble. Jesus,

Philippians 2:6 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.

Jesus became related to us, became one of us, became human, so that he could be our Kinsman Redeemer. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to be made like his brothers, so that he could redeem us as brothers. Isaiah even goes so far as to say:

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Our Creator became our husband to redeem us. Jesus is our Redeemer, our near kinsman, the one who comes to our rescue when we are poor and desperate and beyond all hope. Jesus is our rescue when all other hope is lost.

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

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April 4, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:22-33; The Holy Anointing Oil

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120527_exodus30_22-33.mp3

05/27 Exodus 30:22-33 The Holy Anointing Oil (40:9-15)

We are coming to the end of the instructions for the elaborate tent in which God will symbolically dwell with his people. After all the things are made, they are to be made holy or set apart for God. The people also, who will serve him as priests, are to be set apart as holy to the LORD. This is what the anointing oil is for.

Exodus 30:22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’”

Then in chapter 40, we see God’s instructions for applying this oil.

Exodus 40:9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

Everything in the tabernacle was to be anointed with this special oil.

Practical Uses of Oil

In our culture we don’t think of using olive oil for much outside of cooking. So it might be helpful to look first at some of the practical uses of oil in biblical times. Oil was considered a treasure (2Ki.20:13), highly valued for its many uses. Of course, oil was used for cooking (Lev.6:21), and was included with most of the sacrifices. We already saw that pure beaten olive oil served to fuel the lamps that illuminated the holy place (Ex.27:20). Oil was also applied to people and to things. Oil was applied to metal and leather objects to prevent them from rusting and keep them in good working condition (2Sam.1:21; Is.21:5). There were medicinal uses for oil. Oil was applied to people’s heads to kill lice. Oil was used to treat wounds and soften scabs (Is.6:1; Lk.10:34). Oil was applied to newborn babies (Eze.16:9). Oils were used to treat the sick (Mk.6:13; Jam.5:14). Oil was used to keep the skin soft and beautiful (Esther 2:12; Ps.104:15) Perfumed oil covered odors and made things smell good (Sol.1:3). Oil, wine and grain were evidence of God’s blessing.

Oil for Consecration

Oil was also used for consecrating, or setting something or someone apart for a specific use or duty. In this passage in Exodus, we see both the furniture and the people of the tabernacle set apart to God by the application of the sacred anointing oil. This particular formula of oil and fragrances was to be used exclusively for the tabernacle. It was not to be duplicated or used for any common thing. It was not to be put on anyone but the priests. We are told in verse 32 that it is holy, and it is to be treated as holy. This distinctive smell was to be associated exclusively with God’s presence.

Kings were also to be set apart for service by anointing with oil. We see David anointed to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward…

Jesus the Anointed One

The Hebrew word for anointing is where we get the word Messiah, which means ‘the anointed one’, or ‘the one set apart to God’; it is translated in the Greek as ‘Christ’.

We see Jesus, who fulfills the role of the promised Messiah, who holds the title of the Christ, speak of his anointing in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

Luke 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus here claims to have been set apart or anointed by God for service. But we are not told anywhere that Jesus was ever anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit. One chapter earlier, in Luke 3, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, and in chapter 4 verse 1, he is described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and as ‘led by the Spirit’. In verse 14 he returns victorious from temptation ‘in the power of the Spirit’. And then he reads from Isaiah 61 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.’ and he says ‘today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit. When Peter preaches in Acts 10, he points out:

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

God anointed Jesus, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Notice that the triune God is at work here; the Father anoints the Son with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, perfectly fulfills the roles of anointed prophet, priest and king. As prophet, he speaks God’s words to his people. As priest, he brings God’s people into God’s presence through sacrifice. As king, he rules over God’s people with justice, righteousness and compassion. Jesus is the Anointed One, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. He is anointed, not with fragrant oil, but anointed by his Father with the permeating presence of the Holy Spirit.

This anointing oil had several spices blended together to make a pleasing aroma. Listen to how Isaiah describes the various aspects of the Spirit’s role in the life of Jesus.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

What a fragrant aroma is this! Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, the fear of the LORD. Isaiah goes on to describe the outflow of the Spirit-empowered life of Jesus in righteousness, equity, justice, faithfulness. Jesus is our great example of what the Spirit-controlled life looks like.

Spirit Poured Out on Believers

God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. But did you know that this anointing with the Spirit is the New Covenant blessing that comes to us who believe in Jesus? Jesus, our great High Priest, was anointed by his Father with the Holy Spirit, and we, chosen to be ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’ (1Pet.2:9), are also anointed as priests with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that his Father would send the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

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

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Imagine! ‘It is to your advantage that I go away’. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is leaving and where he is going they cannot yet come. They don’t fully understand what he is saying, but sorrow has filled their hearts. And then he says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away.’ What could be better than having Jesus, in person, physically here with us? Better than having Jesus physically here in our presence is having the blessing of the Spirit living inside of you. ‘It is to your advantage that I go.’ Do we, followers of Jesus, believe him?

In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus is commanding his disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus says his followers will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Not merely anointed, poured on the head, flowing down on the beard and on the robes, but immersed in, totally submerged in, drenched with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament prophesies we see promise of the New Covenant blessing of the Spirit poured out.

Isaiah 32:15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 39:29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

These various Hebrew words for ‘pour out’ carry the idea of ‘pour out until nothing is left’ or ’empty out’; ‘pour out or flow like molten metal’; ‘pour or gush out’; the idea of abundance and generosity is captured well by the New Testament word ‘immersed’ or ‘baptized in’. God promised that he would pour out his Spirit on his people, that he would put his Spirit within them.

All Believers Have the Holy Spirit

The Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Jesus fulfilled his promise to his disciples at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. But who does this promise apply to? Is it for the original disciples only, or is it also for us? What are the requirements for receiving the blessings of the Holy Spirit? Peter extended the invitation to everyone.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

To repent is to have a change of mind and heart, to turn; to turn away from what you were hoping in and holding on to and placing your trust in something different. Turn away from your own good works and self-righteousness and turn to Jesus for forgiveness of sins, and Peter says ‘you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. But what about water baptism? Does this verse say that water baptism is a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit? No. Water baptism was the outward act that represented the inward change of heart. We see this later in Acts. Peter was called to bring the good news of forgiveness by trusting in the finished work of Jesus to the Gentiles.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.

Peter proclaimed the good news, and the hearts of his hearers responded by turning to Jesus with faith. Immediately, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. They had not been water baptized. They had not done anything.

Acts 10:46 …Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Remember, Jesus said that his followers would be baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a physical picture of this spiritual reality. These Gentiles who believed in Jesus were evidently immersed in the Holy Spirit. Everyone there could see evidence of his presence in their lives. Peter is arguing that the symbol (water baptism) be allowed because the reality that it pictures (Spirit baptism) had already happened. This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

It is not the washing with water that matters, but the washing of regeneration – the new life created by the Holy Spirit. And notice, this is not done sparingly or reluctantly. God pours out the Holy Spirit on us richly, lavishly.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing; and then he goes on to list: election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, inheritance; and he goes on to say:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

When you heard and believed the good news of salvation in Jesus, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every believer in Jesus has every spiritual blessing in Christ; every believer has been immersed in the Holy Spirit. No exceptions. Paul tells us in Romans 5:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And he tells us in Romans 8

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him

If God’s Spirit does not dwell in you, that is evidence that you do not belong to Christ, because everyone who belongs to him has God’s Holy Spirit poured out on them. The anointing oil marked off and set apart things and people as God’s, and gave them a distinct fragrance. God sets us apart as his by pouring out his Holy Spirit on us.

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

The Spirit as a Guarantee

The Holy Spirit is never withdrawn from the believer. The verses in Ephesians tell us that when we heard and believed the gospel, we:

Ephesians 1:13 …were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

A seal and guarantee is of no value if it can be withdrawn. The Holy Spirit is God’s down-payment on our final salvation. As we saw last time, salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified. God’s Holy Spirit is the guarantee that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). We have, not a thing, but the person of God the Holy Spirit living in us as his own seal and guarantee.

We see this also in:

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

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

1 John 2:20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One… 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you…

The Spirit in us makes us part of Christ’s body, the church.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

The Spirit Transforms

If we have the great advantage of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, living in us, setting us apart for his service and sanctifying us, then as there was in the early Gentile believers, there should be observable evidence of God the Spirit living in us.

God promised:

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The Spirit of the living God cannot fail to accomplish his purposes in us. He will produce.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. …25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

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

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 13:17-14:12; The Mysterious Purposes and Presence of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110227_exodus13_17-14_12.mp3

02/27 Exodus 13:17-14:12 The Mysterious Purposes of God and his Presence with Us

Introduction

Throughout the narrative of the mighty acts of God against the Egyptians and for the deliverance of his people, God declares well in advance what he will do, and then at the proper time he does it. God said to Moses

Exodus 3:10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Even after all Moses’ excuse-making, God sent Moses. God said:

Exodus 12:12 …on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

And he did just that. God said:

Exodus 4:22 … Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

And that is exactly what God did. God has his good and wise purposes for every single thing he does. God declares in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We might say, from our perspective, ‘there is a method to his madness’. We can stand back with Paul in amazement and say:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

But we often don’t see it that way at the outset. God is in control. We believe that. But often we look at our circumstances and feel in our hearts (although we would never articulate in our out-loud voice) God, that’s not inscrutable; that’s just stupid. That so doesn’t make any sense. I know your promise that you work all things together for good to those who love you (Rom.8:28), but how can this possibly work out for anyone’s good? I really think you messed up this time.

The Lord answers out of the whirlwind:

Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Job 40:2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

Job 40:8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Psalm 2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury,…

Isaiah 46:9 … for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

In spite of what it looks like from our perspective, God is wise, his ways are perfect, he is always in complete control and he does all that he pleases (Ps.115:3) If we get a grasp on this, it will give us a rock solid unshakeable confidence to follow him everywhere he leads, even if that is right into the lion’s den and right into the fiery furnace. Or in Israel’s case right in between a rock and a hard place or out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The Text

13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

14:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi–hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal–zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi–hahiroth, in front of Baal–zephon.

The Promise

It is interesting that one of the things the Israelites took with them when the left Egypt was the remains of Joseph. It says:

13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

The book of Genesis closes with this oath, Joseph being embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. Now, four centuries later, the descendants of Joseph’s siblings were keeping their word. What a witness to the faithfulness of God! God will surely visit you. God will keep his promises. Joseph surely knew of the promise God made to his great grandfather Abraham

Genesis 15:12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. Jacob was counting on this and he made his sons swear to bury him with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and his wife Leah. Jacob and Joseph were proclaiming their faith in the promises of God

Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

The people made good on their word to Joseph in Joshua 24. Imagine the testimony to this generation of God’s faithfulness. God will surely visit you. God has visited us. Now we carry the 400 year old mummified remains of our ancestor who hoped in God and believed that God would give him his inheritance. They carried a testimony to the faithfulness of a God who visits his people.

God Leads

God is leading his people. We see that in verse 17 and 18.

13:17 … God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.

God was leading his people. He even reveals why he led them in the way that he led them. There was a direct route from Egypt to the promised land following the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was called by the Egyptians ‘the Horus Way’. There were 23 Egyptian military outposts along this road (biblearchaeology.org 8/19/08 Gary Byers). Had the Israelites traveled this way, they would have met armed resistance that they were entirely unprepared for. What is interesting is that the way the Lord did lead them was not a way that would avoid war altogether. As we will see, God led them right into full-on confrontation with the special forces of Egypt. The reason God gives for the route he chose was ‘lest the people change their minds… and return to Egypt. The difference between the direct and indirect routes was not an effort to avoid confrontation, but with the purpose of removing the avenue of escape from God’s deliverance back into slavery. God knew the weakness of his people and their inclination when things get tense to run back to their old slave-master. So God leads them in a way that cuts off their back door of escape from his will. God literally corners his people in a place where there is no way out but to surrender to him and trust him as he carries out their supernatural deliverance. God is demonstrating his intimate knowledge of the weakness of his people, and he is demonstrating his tender care for them even in his choice of their route out of Egypt.

Even Enemies

Not only is God leading his people to exactly where they need to be for their own good, he is even working in the hearts of their enemies so that they play their part in the plan perfectly. The erratic path in which God was leading his people was designed to cause the Egyptians to think ‘they are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in’. In chapter 14 verse 4, God says ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them’; and in verse 5 it says that ‘the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people’; and verse 8 says ‘the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel. Again in verse 17 we will see God say ‘I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them’. God is working even in the hearts of the enemies of his people, not to do harm to his people, but ultimately to do them good. This is awesome! God is wielding the weapons of Hell according to his own purposes to bring good to his people and glory to his name. He says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; 17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that a messenger of Satan was given him to harass him to keep him humble. (2Cor.12:7; cf. 1Sam.16:14; 1Ki.22:23, et.al.). If God is sovereignly wielding even the weapons of Hell for our own good, then what could possibly harm us? As Paul says:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great confidence we have! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31)

The Presence

God in his providence was leading his people in the perfect way for their good. He was even at work in their enemies to incite them to fight against them, but this too was for the ultimate good of his people. Let’s look at how he led them in chapter 13, verses 21-22.

13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

YHWH went before them! Physically, visibly, God’s presence with his people, going ahead of his people, leading his people.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

God’s own presence, shepherding his people, guiding his people, sheltering his people, protecting his people, lighting their path. God is spirit, invisible, but he manifests himself or makes himself known with visible symbols. ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ (Deut.4:24; Is.33:14; Heb.12:29). God is holy and pure and will consume sin and purify us. Listen to these descriptions from the Psalms:

Psalm 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. 9 He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. 10 He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 4 His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

Paul describes God this way in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:15 …––he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Something Better

God manifested his presence with his people in a column of fire and cloud. That must have been amazing! Do you ever wish God would manifest himself in some visible form for you to follow? Wouldn’t that make the Christian life so much easier? Friends, we have something better! After listing the faithful men and women from the Old Testament, the author of Hebrews concludes:

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Better than a visible manifestation of God to follow? Yes! Jesus spoke of:

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, … You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

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

We enjoy the new covenant promises of God’s Spirit not only with us but in us! In fact, Jesus said that he and the Father would come and make their home with us! God the Father, Son and Spirit have taken up residence in us!

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

Better than an outward symbol, we have the inward reality! The living God, the triune One has come to live in us!

2 Corinthians 13:5 … Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?––…

2 Corinthians 6:16 … For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

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

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:16-22; God Knows

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100704_exodus03_16-22.mp3

7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows

3: 7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God made himself known to Moses. He told him that he has compassion on his people. He has seen, he has heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver them. He is sending Moses to deliver them. Moses asks the question ‘Who am I?’ God clarifies that it is not who you are, Moses, that makes a difference, but who I am. So Moses asks God ‘Then who are you? Tell me your name. What are your credentials?’ God gives him the verb ‘to be’, He says I AM THAT I AM; I am the uncaused cause; I am the only independent being in existence, the self existent source and ground of all that is. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I am the same God now that I was then. I am the same God who made the magnificent promises to the patriarchs, and I will keep those promises because I AM. I am that I am, and I am to be remembered in this way throughout all generations.

Now that God has revealed something of who he is to Moses, he clarifies his instructions. He had told Moses

10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Now he tells Moses to go and gather the elders of Israel. this is the first time in the bible that we hear of the elders of Israel. Genesis 50:7 talks about the elders of Egypt, but Israel had no need for structured leadership. Up to this point in their history, Israel was merely a family with promises that God would make them into a great nation. Now, during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had taken them from an extended family of 70 people, to a nation that is a national threat to Egypt, organized with elders. Moses is to go to these elders, gather them as a group, and declare these words to them:

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

Moses is to reiterate what is said of God in 2:23-24 and what he said to him in 3:7-9 that he has seen and heard, he knows, he cares, he remembers his covenant, and he is doing something about it. Moses is to introduce God as ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ God wants the people to be reminded that he is the same God who made promises to the patriarchs and is now fulfilling those promises.

God tells Moses to tell them this: “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” This would be a mixed message to anyone. Imagine you are having a hard time with someone at work and God says to you “I have observed you and what has been done to you.” God knows what has been done to me – that’s good! But he’s also observed me. He knows how I’ve responded to the pressure. He’s seen me at my absolute worst. He knows every thought I’ve thunk and every motive of my heart. That is a sobering thought, is it not? It’s a sobering thought, but it is also a freeing thought. I have nothing to hide because I can hide nothing. God knows everything I’ve done, he knows all my sin. He sees my heart even more clearly than I do myself. He knows me more intimately than anyone else, and he loves me! Do you realize how freeing that is? I don’t have to put on pretensions or wear a mask and pretend to be someone I’m not. We have one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he still pursues us in relationship. This does not mean that God doesn’t care how we think or feel or act, or that we can continue to sin that grace may increase. No. God is a holy God. But he knows that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) and we cannot improve ourselves. He knows he is buying ‘damaged merchandise – used – as is’ and he has counted the cost that he will expend in time and labor and most importantly the blood of his own dear Son to wash us and heal us and restore us to mint condition and present us to himself as a people for his own possession, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

God says to Moses, tell the elders:

16… “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God is making a promise to his people. The word translated ‘promise’ is simply the word ‘said’, the same word that is found throughout the creation narrative; ‘and God said let there be… and there was’. For God to speak is to promise. If God said, then what he said is as good as done. Tell them “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt”. In verse 7, God said that he had seen their affliction. Now he says he is going to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt. Affliction has its purpose in the plan of God. Joseph named his son Ephraim, because, he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen.41:52). Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God does not promise his people a trouble free existence from this point on. He does not promise them exemption from all affliction. They will continue to have their share of affliction. But the affliction of Egypt has served its purpose, and God will now bring the people up out of the affliction of Egypt. He will bring them to the land. God had promised to give his people the land:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 13:14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 15:18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

[to Isaac] Genesis 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

[to Jacob] Genesis 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 35: 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ …21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.

Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God is promising to bring his people out of the land of affliction and to the land of six enemy nations. This would not be easy. God was preparing his people from the very beginning for what they would face. There would be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but God promised to accomplish what he had promised if they relied on him. This was a good land, described as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’, a land abundantly overflowing with blessing.

What comes next is an amazing promise that God gives to encourage Moses. Moses has questioned his qualifications for the responsibility of representing God to the people. Then he questioned who it was that he was representing. If I go to the people and they ask who it was that sent me, what should I tell them that your name is? Moses has gone out to the people once before, thinking they would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand (Acts 7:25). Now, 40 years later, Moses is apprehensive about going back. Moses doubts the reception he will receive with the people who rejected him before. God gives Moses a staggering promise. Verse 18 says “And they will listen to your voice.” How can God say that? How can God know how the people will respond? This God, this one who says I AM, I am the ground and source of existence, I cause to be all that is, this God guarantees to Moses the future actions of free moral agents. God says to Moses, I am sending you, and I can tell you exactly how the elders of Israel will respond. How can he say that? This same God who is acting in Moses life to send him is also moving in the lives of the elders of Israel to prepare them to hear Moses and his message.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Not only will they listen, but they will go with you to Pharaoh. God gives Moses the script. When you and the elders of Israel go to the king of Egypt, this is what you are to say:

The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’

Moses and the elders of Israel are to ask politely for a week off. We’ve been slaving for you for 400 years. Can we please have time off for religious reasons? YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Adam and Abel and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob sacrificed to YHWH. We have neglected to sacrifice to our God for the last 400 years. We will go out into the wilderness where we won’t offend your people or your gods to sacrifice to YHWH our God. This is a very reasonable request. According to ancient Near Eastern customs, the Pharaoh should have respected their request and allowed them to perform their required religious duties (Enns, p.107, fn.34). But God is seeking an occasion against this king of Egypt, as he makes clear by his prediction of what will happen, again another stunning statement of his sovereignty, and a gracious preparation for his people to brace themselves for what is coming.

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

I am asking him to do something so reasonable and so modest that his rejection will demonstrate the depth of the hardness of his heart. God knows the future response of this pagan king to a question that hasn’t been asked yet. God knows exactly what it will take to break him and cause him to surrender. It will take more than military might or political power to move this king. It will take the divine intervention of a sovereign God. Moses, remember when you went out and saw the Egyptian striking down the Hebrew and you had compassion and were moved to intervene and strike down the Egyptian? I have compassion on my people, and I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt. It will take a mighty hand, and I am that hand. I will strike Egypt with all the wonders I will do in it. After that, he will let you go. I will work marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary things, things that are beyond anyone’s power to do. This word was used only once before, in Genesis 18:14 when God is answering the doubts of Abraham and Sarah over the promise of a son in their old age. “Is anything too hard (wonderful) for the LORD?” God is setting the stage for an epic display of his awesome power through the ten plagues. The Exodus is all about God and his glory. Listen to the first person pronouns: I know… so I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.

And there’s the promise. Then he will let you go. You go to Pharaoh. He will not listen. I will strike Egypt with all (not some but all) of the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. What precision of prediction! What clarity of purpose! What encouragement of ultimate victory in spite of repeated setbacks! After that he will let you go. Rescue! Salvation! Deliverance at last! The Pharaoh will let you go. But that’s not all. God does exceeding, abundant, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

God is not merely going to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. He says “you shall not go empty”. God has a perfect plan. For shortsighted me, it would be good enough just to escape. Then I’d have to figure out how to make it out there. But God is going to provide for the needs of his people. He is going to bless them beyond what they could possibly conceive. And he promises this up front, so that when it happens, they can marvel at how awesome this God is. God says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. That’s a remarkable statement. This is a people who is so fearful and resentful that their government could tell them to throw the Hebrew babies in the river and they would obey. Now God says ‘I will give you favor in their sight’. They’ll give you anything you ask for. God’s sense of humor is beautiful. The mighty Pharaoh’s plan was frustrated by a handful women. Two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who feared God. Moses’ mother, who creatively obeyed the king’s command by placing her baby in the Nile in an ark, and the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised his arch-enemy under his own roof. Now, God says you are going to plunder the Egyptians. But not because you were victorious in battle. I will get the victory and your Hebrew women will plunder the spoil. The most powerful nation of the world willingly, voluntarily plundered by women and children!

Paul prays for us that we would understand how lavish God is:

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

God is awesome beyond our capacity to comprehend, he knows the end from the beginning, he holds the future in his hand, and he blesses his people far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! God has given us everything in Jesus.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

21 And I will give this people favor …you shall not go empty,

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

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 1:1-14; God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100418_exodus01_1-14.mp3

4/18 Exodus 1:1-14 God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Exodus is a book that moves from bondage to redemption, into relationship characterized by worship. Throughout God shows himself to be the sovereign promise-keeper. That will serve as an outline of the book:

Outline (Longman, p.34):

Redemption: Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Relationship: Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law

Worship: Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle

The first word in the book of Exodus is not translated in most English versions. The first word is ‘and’. Right from the beginning, we are told that this is not a stand-alone book, but really chapter two in God’s history of redemption. Exodus continues the story that started in Genesis. The first eleven chapters of Genesis give God’s sovereign working in the ancient world, and the last 39 chapters focus on God’s sovereign working through one man and his family. God chose Abram and made huge promises to him, and he confirmed those promises to his son Isaac and to his son Jacob. God promised that he would make them into a great nation and bless all the nations of the world through them.

The last 13 chapters of Genesis chronicle God’s action in the history of Joseph, favorite son of Israel, who was hated by his brothers, stripped of his clothes and sold as a slave into Egypt. He was falsely accused and imprisoned, but in time God raised him up through his integrity, gifts and wisdom to be the second in command of all of Egypt. God used him to rescue the land from a severe famine, which also brought his brothers down to Egypt from Canaan looking for food. Joseph recognized the sovereign hand of God acting even in his suffering to keep his promises to his fathers.

Genesis 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

God used Joseph to preserve the lives of the family of the promises, and bring them under the provision and protection of Egypt. In Genesis 46, we have a genealogy of the sons of Jacob or Israel, listing seventy descendants at the time they moved to Egypt. In the original, the first six words of Exodus are identical to the first six words of Genesis 46:8, another reminder that this is the continuation of God’s redemption story which began with creation:

Genesis 46:8 Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons…

What we have in Exodus is an abbreviation and summary of this chapter in Genesis.

(chart: family tree)

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Seventy would be quite a family reunion, but it was not even close to the innumerable multitudes that God had promised. Most of us in this room can count to seventy. God had promised:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God made his covenant with Abram and said:

Genesis 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

After God provided a substitute for Isaac on the mountain, God said:

Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…

To Isaac he said:

Genesis 26:4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

To Jacob he said:

Genesis 35:10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.

So Exodus begins with the descendants of Israel numbering seventy, and Joseph and his brothers died and all that generation to whom God had made promises died. But the promise of God still stands. God had reassured Jacob:

Genesis 46:3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

God promised himself to go down with Jacob to Egypt, to make of him a great nation, and himself to bring him up again. Even in the midst of pain and adversity, God is making good on his promises. It says:

7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

This language clearly points to the fulfillment of God’s promises to multiply the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to become a great multitude. But it points to more than that. The language points back to the creation mandate that God gave to man at the very beginning:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God restated this to Noah after the destruction of the flood:

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. …7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

This is the language used to describe the exponential growth of the people of Israel in Egypt. Jacob clearly articulated that this growth was the work of God himself.

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

God commands that we be fruitful, but God is the one that makes his people fruitful. Exodus 1:7 could be more literally translated:

As for the Israelites, they grew, they were fruitful, they swarmed, they increased, they got powerful more and more, and the land was filled with them.” (Stewart, p.61)

God was fulfilling his promises to his people. He was making them fruitful and strong and filling the land with them.

Enter the new Egyptian dynasty:

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”

Joseph had rescued Egypt from natural disaster by preparing wisely for the promised famine. The Pharaoh honored him and extended generous hospitality to his family. Now, with a new dynasty in place, old ties were broken and he felt no obligation to honor old agreements. That the new king did not know Joseph does not mean ignorance of his national history so much as lack of a special relationship. He chose to act as though the Israelites were a threat rather than an asset. So he launches a public campaign against the foreigners. He spins things a different way and paints Israel as an internal threat to national security. He says they are too many and too mighty. God had made them fruitful and powerful, but God’s blessing is often perceived as a threat to an unbelieving society. Up to this point in the narrative, Israel was the name of a family. This Pharaoh uses the term here in a new way. He refers to them as a distinct people or nation within a nation. The new king is afraid of the potential threat this people group could pose to his power and position. So he decides to take action to keep them from multiplying and to reduce the potential threat to his dynasty.

God had commanded his people to be fruitful and multiply. Pharaoh, in seeking to keep them from multiplying, will find himself fighting against Israel’s God. He says ‘Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply.’ His language again brings us back to Genesis, where the people gathered on the plains of Shinar in rebellion against God

Genesis 11:3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower in opposition to the name of God. They did not want to be dispersed and fill the earth as God had commanded, rather they gathered themselves together against God. Another detail that ties these two stories together is that they both involved making bricks and building cities. And in both accounts, God directly intervenes.

But God does not instantly make things better. Here’s what the Pharaoh does:

11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.

At the time of Joseph, the Israelites maintained their identity as shepherds, and were even employed by the Pharaoh as contract herders for his royal flocks in the grazing lands of northeast Egypt. The logic seems to be that if we reduce them to meaningless cogs in the machinery of the empire, they would lose heart and cease to be a threat. If they were afflicted with heavy burdens they would have neither the time nor the strength to procreate. They would likely require long periods away from home for the laborers, which would take them away from wife and family, weakening the moral fabric of their culture. Virtually working two jobs, their agriculture would suffer, and they would become more dependent on Egyptian society for the basic necessities to sustain their existence. The Pharaoh’s plan was a brilliant one.

12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.

The plan was logical and should have been effective, except that Pharaoh had picked a fight with God. When you find yourself fighting against God, you are on the losing side. Notice that it does not say that they multiplied in spite of the oppression; rather it indicates that increased oppression led to increased fruitfulness. This has been true of the church throughout her history. In times of peace, God’s people get lazy and take for granted his gifts. As Tertullian (ca. 160-220 AD) observed so long ago, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’ semen est sanguis Christianorum [Tertullian Apologeticum ch. 50, 13]. Oppression directly resulted in increased fruitfulness. The Egyptian people bought into the propaganda of the Pharaoh, and they became terrified of this internal threat to their great country. But things often get worse before they get better. God’s blessing resulted in greater intensity of persecution.

13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

God’s blessing is not always sweet to the taste. The Israelites were being blessed by God. He was making them fruitful in spite of the oppression. God’s blessing didn’t mean freedom from oppression; rather it meant fruitfulness in the midst of affliction with the hope of future redemption. God’s blessing can sometimes be painful in the short term. God’s blessing is not always what we would choose for ourselves. Notice the words that are used:

11 … taskmasters ..afflict … heavy burdens. … 12 … oppressed, …. 13 .. ruthlessly … work as slaves 14 … bitter … hard service, … work… work … ruthlessly … work as slaves.

All this should make us long for deliverance. For rescue. For release. Not that work or service is bad. The repeated demand of God to this Pharaoh was ‘let my people go that they may serve me’ (3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 24, 26; 12:31). We long to be transferred from a harsh and cruel slave-master to the service of a kind and generous king.

Paul puts it this way:

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We have been purchased:

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We are transferred to a new Master:

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

And that new Master is Jesus:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

April 18, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2Peter1:4; Precious and Very Great Promises

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091011_2peter1_4.mp3

10/11 2Peter 1:4 Precious and Very Great Promises

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Intro

Peter is writing to strengthen believers in churches who are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. He writes to ground us in the truth of the gospel, to ‘stir us up by way of reminder’ [1:13]. ‘Knowing this beforehand, we are to take care that we are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose our own stability’ [3:17]. Peter knows if we are to stand our ground, we must ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ [3:18]. So he begins his letter pointing us to the riches of God’s grace toward us and the truth of who Jesus is. He draws our attention to the great value of our faith – our faith was not our great accomplishment, it was allotted to us by God. And he points us to the source of our faith – it comes to us through the righteousness of God. God’s love for what is right is expressed not only in the just condemnation of unrepentant sinners, but overflows in the gracious justifying of sinners on the basis of our trust in the finished work of Jesus for us. Peter describes Jesus as both our God and our Savior. Peter prays that God’s grace and the resulting peace would be multiplied to us by means of our relationship with the Father and with Jesus. Jesus, in a supreme act of heavenly generosity, freely gave us everything – everything – everything that connects us to eternal life; a life of holiness, because we cannot enjoy the presence of a holy God without ourselves becoming godly. Peter tells that every necessary resource and ability has been freely given to us by the one who called us to this eternal life of holiness. Nothing short of his divine power is at work for us securing our eternal salvation. This gracious divine power comes through the knowledge of him who called us. John speaks of the transforming power of knowing Jesus when he says, ‘when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ [1Jn.3:2]. It is the excellence and glory of Jesus that is inviting and breathtaking and compelling.

Peter goes on in verse 4 to tell us that it is through the excellence of Jesus that we are freely given promises – great and precious promises – promises that bring us participation in the divine nature and escape from the corruption of this world.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The first words of this verse express the means by which we receive the promises. The promises come to us through ‘his own glory and excellence’. It is the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature and his inner moral beauty that secure for us the promises.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The promises are not presented as a reward for good behavior. The promises are bestowed as a royal gift. This word only appears three times in the New Testament. This is a royal act of lavish generosity that staggers the imagination. In verse 3, his divine power has freely given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Now on top of that, he has freely given the promises to us.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter again uses a word unique in the New Testament for ‘promises’, a word that occurs only here and at the end of this letter in 3:13, where it refers to the end times promise of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

These are no ordinary promises. They are ‘precious’ and ‘very great’ promises. The word ‘precious’ carries the idea of value, worth, or honor. In 1 Peter 1:7, he called our genuine faith ‘more precious than gold’ and in 2 Peter 1:1 he calls our faith equally precious or honorable to that of the apostles. In 1 Peter 1:19, he refers to the blood of Christ that ransoms us as ‘precious’, and here he refers to the promises as ‘precious’ or valuable. Not only are the promises valuable, but they are ‘very great’. Peter is stacking adjectives to communicate to us the magnificence of his subject. He uses grand language to relay to us the grand nature of the promises that have been regally furnished for us.

What promises would Peter have in mind? Possibly the promises of the new covenant that Jesus referenced when he said ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ [Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25]; promises like:

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,… 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He could have had in mind promises of Jesus like:

John 3:15 …whoever believes in him may have eternal life

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

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

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

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 8:12 …I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

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

John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. 10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 11:25 …I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

John 14:2 …I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth…

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… 19 Because I live, you also will live.

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

Precious promises! Very great promises! Promises worth memorizing and meditating on. But Peter’s focus is not on the promises themselves. He expects that the mere mention of promises will bring to mind some of these valuable and immeasurably great promises. Peter’s focus is on what the promises accomplish for us:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter’s focus is on the goal of the promises, the benefits gained through the promises. And he states that through the promises we may become partakers in the divine nature. In Greek thought, there was much discussion about the divine nature. The philosophers would say that there is a divine spark within us all that simply needs to be recognized. Or it is locked inside each of us and just needs to be let out. Or we can attain to the divine nature and immortality by great effort. Peter says no, we are not innately divine, but we become partakers of the divine nature through the promises freely given to us in Christ. The word is to partner, participate or share, to fellowship or have in common. Peter is not blurring the distinction between the uncreated creator and his creatures; he is not embracing pantheism suggesting that we are absorbed into the divine or polytheism saying that we become little gods. He is using the vocabulary of the philosophers to describe what he described in his first letter as being ‘born again… of imperishable seed’ [1:23]. John in his gospel says that Jesus gave the right to become children of God, to those who were born…of God [Jn1:12-13]. Paul tells us to ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [Eph.4:24]. Through the new birth, we are returned to a condition where we can more accurately bear the image of God that we were created to display, an image that was badly marred at the fall by rebellion and sin. By his divine power we are enabled to be godly, to exhibit holiness and purity and goodness and love.

That’s the positive result of the promises – we become participants in the divine nature. The negative is expressed by the next phrase:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The world is morally bankrupt. Greek philosophers concluded that it is because the world is material and the material is evil. To escape from corruption is to transcend the material. Peter’s view is different. He says the world is messed up because we’re a bunch of selfish sinners. God created the material universe and said it was good – very good. We, by our rebellious self will did a very good job of messing things up. Paul says it this way:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

It is this moral and spiritual decay that is at the root of the external physical and societal decay. “It is a degenerative power that pervades all of unredeemed life and exercises a tyranny from which human effort knows no effective escape” [Hiebert, p.49]. And it is this that we have escaped through the precious and very great promises of the gospel. Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord we receive unmerited grace. We have obtained a faith of equal standing, we have been freely given all things that pertain to life and godliness, and we have been granted very great and valuable promises. We were called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that we would proclaim the excellencies of him who called us [1Pet.2:9].

Three things are at work in us who believe; the promises, the power and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse three it is ‘his divine power’ that gives us everything we need. That comes ‘through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence’. And it is by his own personal excellence that he gives us the very great and precious promises. The person of Christ attracts us, his divine power enables us to respond, and his promises secure for us participation in his divine nature.

How do we respond to all of this?

1. We must seek to know Jesus better. Peter says that the promises come to us through his own glory and excellence. I want to indulge myself in an exploration of the excellence of his character and the glory of his nature.

2. We must get to know his promises. Life transforming power comes through the promises, so I want to know what these promises are and bank on them day by day, cash them in and use them in my battle with my own corruption and sinful desire.

3. We must never turn it around. Peter lays for us the theological foundation for godly living in the gracious gift of our God. He goes on in the subsequent verses to describe what that life looks like. I never want to be guilty of turning the bible on its head and using it as a list of moral commands to keep in order to gain favor with God and merit eternal life. Rather, the power for a godly life comes as a gift through knowledge of Jesus – his finished work on the cross – and from the divine promises that are freely given to me.

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

October 11, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment