PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 5:29-31; Sovereign God of History

11/07_Daniel 05:29-31; Sovereign God of History; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211107_dan05_29-31.mp3

In the face of imminent danger (the Persian army was camped outside the walls of Babylon), Belshazzar had arrogantly attempted to display his dominance over the conquered people of Israel and their God by drinking wine from God’s holy vessels with his lords, his wives and his concubines. But instead of a show of power, he was humiliated in front of his thousand. God disrupted his party by writing in the plaster of his party room ‘Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.’ The king lost control of himself. He shouted for his wise men to interpret the writing, but all they could do was admit their incompetence.

Then the queen mother entered and reminded the king:

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

So Daniel was summoned, and after declining the king’s offer of gifts, he rebuked the king with a history lesson. Daniel reminded the king of Nebuchadnezzar, who because of his pride was driven insane for 7 years:

Daniel 5:21 …until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

This king who had arrogantly put Daniel in his place now had to listen to a lecture from this exile from Judah. The king was displayed as lacking in both power and wisdom, dependent on this exile to read to him and give him the interpretation of the writing. He was put in his place by this prophet of the living God. Daniel then read the writing.

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Your days are numbered. You have been weighed, evaluated by God and you have fallen short. Your reign is over; God is giving your kingdom to someone else.

Exile Honored

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Many have asked why Daniel received these honors after earlier refusing them. But Daniel may not have had a choice. The king had made a promise in front of his thousand, and he would have been obliged to keep his word. This verse describes what was done to Daniel, not how Daniel responded to this treatment. His earlier up front rejection of the offer of gifts demonstrated that he would not be bought; he was not interested in the king’s gifts, they would not compromise his telling of the truth to the king, as became obvious by his straightforward interpretation of the writing.

But there may be something bigger going on here. The book of Daniel opens with this statement:

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

The first thing we see is the king of Babylon conquering Jerusalem, taking the holy vessels, and also taking

Daniel 1:3 …some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

These youths were to be thoroughly reprogrammed, indoctrinated, Babyon-ized. But a few of these youth refused to compromise and stood firm in their faith in YHWH, regardless of the cost. Now, 66 years later (605-539BC), Daniel was still found faithful. The Lord’s holy vessels had been defiled, and Daniel had been disrespected by Belshazzar, but the final official act on the final night of the kingdom of Babylon, Daniel the exile was honored by the final king of the Babylonian dynasty.

When all seems hopeless and out of control, is God still in control? Nebuchadnezzar learned that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will’ (4:32); that he ‘lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation’ (4:34). God can raise up whom he will, and humble whom he will (5:19); and at the close of the Babylonian empire, he humbled proud Belshazzar and lifted up dishonored Daniel.

Stubborn and Unrepentant

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Belshazzar honored Daniel. What is missing here is any acknowledgment of God. In chapter 2, when Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream,

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

In chapter 3, when the three came through the fire unharmed,

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 …there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

In chapter 4, after he had lived like a beast for 7 years,

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

Nebuchadnezzar was humbled. He honored Daniel and his friends, and he blessed and praised and honored the one true God. Belshazzar kept his word and honored Daniel, but even to the end he refused to bow the knee to God.

Darius the Mede

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We don’t know with certainty who this Darius was. But many were skeptical of the existence of Belshazzar until 1854 when the first of several cylinders inscribed with his name was unearthed in the ruins of Ur and then Sippar and other cities. We do know that this is not the same Darius mentioned in Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. That is Darius 1 Hystaspes, who ruled 17 years later (522-486).

We do know that Babylon was taken by Gubaru or Gobryas, who governed Babylon from 539 to at least 525/524BC. Many important people in history were known by different names, and it is possible that this Gubaru was also known as Darius, although we have no evidence of this. Verse 31 says that he ‘received the kingdom’. This could mean that he was entrusted with the kingdom by Cyrus his superior, or it could be a theological statement that he received the kingdom from God, as the beginning of the book Daniel tells us that ‘the Lord gave the king of Judah into his hand’.

Another more likely possibility is that Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede are two titles for the same person. Cyrus’ father was Persian, but his mother was the daughter of Astyages, king of Media. Cyrus led the combined armies of Media and Persia. Daniel may have intended to communicate that at the end of chapter 6:

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This could be read as two distinct and successive reigns of different individuals, or the conjunction ‘and’ could be translated ‘even’ (as in 1 Chr.5:26), where two titles referring to the same individual are paralleled.

Cyrus Cylinder [6th cent. BC; discovered 1879 Babylon]

We know from history that Babylon fell to the armies of Cyrus. Cyrus’ own account as inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder says this:

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshippers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e. Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (and) ordered him to march against his city Babylon. He made him set out on the road to Babylon going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops – their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established – strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. … All the inhabitants of Babylon as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors, bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship, and with shining faces. Happily they greeted him as a master through whose help they had come (again) to life from death (and) had all been spared damage and disaster, and they worshipped his (very) name. [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1880-0617-1941]

Herodotus Histories [430 BC] 1:190-191

Herodotus records that the Babylonians:

…had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards.

191. Therefore, whether it was some other man who suggested it to him when he was in a strait what to do, or whether he of himself perceived what he ought to do, he did as follows:–The main body of his army he posted at the place where the river runs into the city, and then again behind the city he set others, where the river issues forth from the city; and he proclaimed to his army that so soon as they should see that the stream had become passable, they should enter by this way into the city. Having thus set them in their places and in this manner exhorted them he marched away himself with that part of his army which was not fit for fighting: and when he came to the lake, Cyrus also did the same things which the queen of the Babylonians had done as regards the river and the lake; that is to say, he conducted the river by a channel into the lake, which was at that time a swamp, and so made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done in such a manner, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man’s thigh. …as it was, the Persians came upon them unexpectedly; and owing to the size of the city (so it is said by those who dwell there) after those about the extremities of the city had suffered capture, those Babylonians who dwelt in the middle did not know that they had been captured; but as they chanced to be holding a festival, they went on dancing and rejoicing during this time until they learnt the truth only too well. [https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hh/hh1190.htm]

Xenophon Cyropaedia [c.370 BC]

Xenophon records in his Cyropaedia:

[Book VII; c.5] (7) When they were encamped, Cyrus called a council of his officers and said, “My friends and allies, we have surveyed the city on every side, and for my part I fail to see any possibility of taking by assault walls so lofty and so strong: on the other hand, the greater the population the more quickly must they yield to hunger, unless they come out to fight. If none of you have any other scheme to suggest, I propose that we reduce them by blockade.”

(8) Then Chrysantas spoke: “Does not the river flow through the middle of the city, and it is not at least a quarter of a mile in width?”

“To be sure it is,” answered Gobryas, “and so deep that the water would cover two men, one standing on the other’s shoulders; in fact the city is even better protected by its river than by its walls.”

(9) At which Cyrus said, “Well, Chrysantas, we must forego what is beyond our power: but let us measure off at once the work for each of us, set to, and dig a trench as wide and as deep as we can, that we may need as few guards as possible.”

(10) Thereupon Cyrus took his measurements all round the city, and, leaving a space on either bank of the river large enough for a lofty tower, he had a gigantic trench dug from end to end of the wall, his men heaping up the earth on their own side. …(13) Thus his army was employed, but the men within the walls laughed at his preparations, knowing they had supplies to last them more than twenty years. …

(15) However by this time the trenches were dug. And Cyrus heard that it was a time of high festival in Babylon when the citizens drink and make merry the whole night long. As soon as the darkness fell, he set his men to work. (16) The mouths of the trenches were opened, and during the night the water poured in, so that the river-bed formed a highway into the heart of the town.

…(21) To-night we go against them when some are asleep and some are drunk, and all are unprepared: and when they learn that we are within the walls, sheer astonishment will make them still more helpless than before.

…(24) …he said, turning to Gadatas and Gobryas, “show us the streets, you know them; and once we are inside, lead us straight to the palace.”

(25) “So we will,” said Gobryas and his men, “and it would not surprise us to find the palace-gates unbarred, for this night the whole city is given over to revelry. Still, we are sure to find a guard, for one is always stationed there.”

“Then,” said Cyrus, “there is no time for lingering; we must be off at once and take them unprepared.”

Xenophon [Book IV, (C.6), 2-7] records Gobryas as defecting from Babylon and joining Cyrus to seek vengeance on ‘this vile king …the prince, who is now king’ because out of jealousy the prince had murdered his only son.

[Book VII; c.5] (26) Thereupon they entered: and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revellers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king’s palace. …(28) As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. (29) Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword’s point into the presence of the king.

(30) They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could. [https://gutenberg.org/files/2085/2085-h/2085-h.htm#2H_4_0007]

Daniel records:

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Jeremiah [c. 628-586 BC]

Some 50 years earlier the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah 51:5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. …

…11 “Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for his temple. 12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon; make the watch strong; set up watchmen; prepare the ambushes; for the LORD has both planned and done what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. 13 O you who dwell by many waters, rich in treasures, your end has come; the thread of your life is cut. 14 The LORD of hosts has sworn by himself: Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts, and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.

…24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the LORD.

…28 Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion.

…39 While they are inflamed I will prepare them a feast and make them drunk, that they may become merry, then sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the LORD. 40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and male goats. 41 “How Babylon is taken, the praise of the whole earth seized! How Babylon has become a horror among the nations!

…57 I will make drunk her officials and her wise men, her governors, her commanders, and her warriors; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”

The Lord had not forsaken his people.

Isaiah [c.740-681 BC]

At least 140 years earlier, God spoke to his chosen people through Isaiah the prophet, reminding them that he alone is God, warning of the folly of idolatry

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 …that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isn’t this exactly what we see here in Daniel? God makes fools of diviners, dries up their river, and names Cyrus, who will loose the belts of kings? God is still on his throne, sovereign over history. ‘The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ ‘He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’ (4:32, 35). ‘Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases’ (Ps.115:3).

***

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

November 14, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:19-25; With Us In The Fire

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

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

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

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

Actions Louder Than Words

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

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

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

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

Knowing God

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

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

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

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

The Folly of Fury

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

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

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

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

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

Freed From Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

With Us In The Fire

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

Psalm 34 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Our Place In The Fire

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

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

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

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

Jesus said:

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

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

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

***

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

is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!

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

to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

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

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

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

upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

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

the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,

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

and sanctify to you the deepest distress.

4 “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,

my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply.

The flames shall not hurt you. I only design

your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

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

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

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

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

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

***

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

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

Daniel 1:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God

05/02_Daniel 01:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210502_dan01_1-4.mp3

Faithful God

Daniel is a book about God. The Lord is the one true God. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, sovereign over the nations. He alone is God over all

And God is faithful to his promises. We can have hope, we can take confidence because God will always make good on his word. He will do what he says he will do, every time. You can bank on it. That is faith. Paul defines faith by the example of Abraham in Romans 4.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Promised Blessings and Curses

Back in Deuteronomy 28, before God brought his people into the promised land, God gave his people his word, promises.

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

God promised to bless his people if they would walk with him in fellowship, in obedience. But he also promised consequences for disobedience and betrayal.

Deuteronomy 28:14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

God was very specific with his promises;

Deuteronomy 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,

Their consequences would even affect the next generation.

Deuteronomy 28:36 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.

God promised to bless his people if they walked in obedient relationship with him. But he warned that he would give them into the hands of idolaters if they chose to go after false gods.

Hezekiah and Assyria

Around 701 BC, we see a specific instance of this playing out, recorded by Isaiah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria had taken all the fortified cities of Judah. On defeating Lachish, he sent word to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem that they were next. He warned him not to trust in an alliance with Egypt, and not to trust in the Lord their God, because the Lord had sent him to destroy the land (Is.36:6,10).

Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

In dependence on the Lord alone, he asked God to defend the honor if his great name so that he would get glory among the nations.

God’s answer came.

Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord alone, and God alone wrought a great defeat of the Assyrian army.

Hezekiah and Babylon

But only two chapters and about 4 years later (705 BC), in Isaiah 39,

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Assyria was the world power, but Babylon was seeking independence. No doubt word had come to them about the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem. Babylon sent a present, seeking an alliance. Hezekiah, who responded to the threatening Assyrian letter with prayer and dependence on God, responded to the flattering Babylonian letters differently.

Isaiah 39:2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

Hezekiah missed an opportunity to give glory to God for the defeat of the Assyrians. Instead he flexed his own muscles, showing off his wealth and military might, showing them what they had to gain by a political alliance with Israel.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

The prophet Isaiah was sent to confront the king over his failure to trust in the Lord, instead seeking the strength of a political alliance with pagan Babylon.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

God Keeps His Promises

100 years later, in 605 BC,

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

God is faithful to all his promises. He is faithful to discipline his people when they are disobedient to him. The carrying off treasures and captives in 605 BC is a direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

This may seem strange comfort, that the Babylonian captivity was a fulfillment of the promises of God. But when all is chaos and seems out of control, it is anchoring to remember that God is sovereign, he is still in control, he has not forgotten, he is active, he is keeping his promises.

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Daniel and his friends could lose hope and give up faith, responding with bitterness and resentment; asking ‘why me?’ But instead they chose to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances, ultimately for their good and his glory. This is not random chance and accident conspiring against us; this is ‘the Lord giving Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whose God is Stronger?

Notice what is happening here; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon takes the vessels of the house of God and puts them in the house of his god, in the treasury of his god. This was more than merely taking objects of inherent value, gold and silver. Kings would war in the name of their gods, and they would credit victory to their gods. A triumph in battle meant the gods of the victor proved stronger. They would honor their gods by taking the gods (idols) of their enemies and putting them in the temple of their gods.

This happened back in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in the house of Dagon their god. If you remember, that didn’t end well for Dagon or for the Philistines.

That is what is happening here; Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, so he plundered the holy temple. It must have been strange for him to enter a temple and find no images, no statues, but rather a throne with no one seated on it. In the eyes of the world, Marduk had triumphed over YHWH. But Daniel interprets this differently. He understands that this was exactly what was promised. This was the all-mighty YHWH fulfilling his own decree.

The Philistines learned (and Israel should have understood) that Dagon was no match for YHWH. Sennacherib was shown (and Hezekiah should have paid attention) that the angel of YHWH is mightier than 185 thousand Assyrians and Nisroch his god. Daniel understood that YHWH is more than capable to defend himself. His temple could not be plundered unless YHWH had given it over to be plundered. And this produced great hope and confidence. God still sits enthroned unrivaled, not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in heaven above. He is God over all. God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

The Tale of Two Cities

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel uses the ancient name ‘Shinar’. This connects us back to Genesis 10; Noah’s son Ham fathered Cush, and

Genesis 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod was a murderous warrior who established cities opposed to God. We read in Genesis 11,

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 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.”

Babel in the land of Shinar was established in direct opposition to God and his commands. It was the proud attempt of arrogant man united against God to steal glory from God and make a name for himself. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; Mt.23:12).

Victory Through Defeat

Like Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:21-40), Daniel sets up his story as a competition between the Lord and the gods of Nebuchadnezzar, between the proud city Babylon in the land of Shinar, and the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, where God chose to make a name for himself.

But surprisingly, Daniel is the story of God’s victory through defeat; he wins by losing, he gains by giving away his treasures and his people into the hands of his enemies. He infiltrates the highest ranks of government by sending captives, boys of 14 or 15, to be trained in the language and literature of this pagan nation. His foolishness proved wiser than their wisest of men. The simple faith of these helpless young men in their omnipotent God changed the direction of empires and the hearts of kings and nations.

Hebrews recounts their faith;

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of …the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

God demonstrates his supremacy over the nations by the unlikely means of defeat and exile. But this is God’s way, who shows himself victorious by sending his best, his only Son into exile here on earth, not to be served but to serve, to learn our language, to confound the wisdom of the wise by his simple faith in his Father, to suffer for sins not his own, to go through the fire and come out alive as a testimony that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom.9:33).

God is faithful to all his promises, promises to bless those who walk with him in obedience, promises to curse those who turn from him. And we all have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:6). He became a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus all the blessings he deserves might come to us through faith in him (Gal.3:13-14).

***

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

May 3, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus; Endure to the End

08/02 Endure To The End (Matt.10, 13, 24; Jude); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200802_endure.mp3

Jesus calls us to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus taught, and who pass on everything Jesus taught. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to be a disciple?

Did you know Jesus gave us some precious and very great promises? Let’s look at one in John 16

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.”

Jesus promises us peace in him through his word. We love that. He declares that he has overcome the world. Amen! He also promises us that in the world we will have tribulation. Ooof! We don’t like that promise. But following Jesus is a package deal, not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to pick and choose among the teachings of our Lord. We have to take everything, obey everything he said, cling to his every word. And this is a hard word. ‘In the world you will have tribulation.’

Matthew 10:22; Endure to the End

Here’s another promise Jesus gave his followers:

Matthew 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

How’s that for a promise? You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. And here’s the command. Endure! The one who endures to the end will be saved.

This is serious. Your salvation is at stake. You are going to experience persecution. But endure. Remain steadfast. It is the one who endures the world’s hatred, tribulation, to the end, who will be saved. He said this to his 12 apostles when he sent them out. So we can say that this was specific to them, and we don’t need to worry about it, right? The problem with that is that what he says is much bigger than just the twelve on that specific mission he sent them on.

He said in verse 16 that he was sending them out ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves’. He said they would stand before courts, synagogues, governors, kings, even the Gentiles. None of that happened on this original mission. He says in verse 23 that these instructions apply until his return. So that is much bigger than the 12. He says in verse 24 ‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.’ This applies to every disciple, every follower of Jesus. He continues in verse 28:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Don’t be afraid of the one who can only kill your body. Fear God who can send you to hell for eternity. Don’t be afraid of people, because God knows you intimately, and you are more valuable to God than many sparrows. They may kill you, but you will not fall to the ground apart from your Father and his good purposes for you.

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Stand firm. Endure to the end. Don’t deny Jesus. Acknowledge him before people. It is those who endure to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

If self-preservation in this life is your god, you are not really a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 24:13; Endure to the End

In Matthew 24, Jesus reiterates some of these words he gave to his 12, this time in the context of his disciple’s question ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ If there is any doubt in Matthew 10, Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew 24 that he is speaking to us. He warns us to be on guard; ‘see to it that no one leads you astray.’

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

You will undergo tribulation, you will be hated, you will be put to death. Many will fall away or be led astray, but the one who endures to the end will be saved. ‘Saved’ in this context clearly means saved in the eternal salvation sense, because we are not promised rescue or deliverance from persecution or death.

So what does it mean to endure to the end?

2 Responses to the Gospel; no understanding, no root

Jesus helps us think through what it means to endure in Matthew 13, where he described four different responses to the gospel. The word of God is scattered widely. Some hear without understanding.

Matthew 13:18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.

Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

They hear the word and do not understand it; the devil takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The gospel as it were falls on deaf ears.

The second hearers immediately receive the word with joy. We often get too excited about those in this category.

Matthew 13:20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

There is an immediate response with joy. They endure for a while. But when faced with trouble or persecution, they fall away. They do not endure to the end, and they are not saved. There was an initial response to the gospel, a flash in the pan; but there was no root, and when it gets hard they walk away from Jesus. Luke records it this way:

Luke 8:13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

They believe for a while, but under testing they fall away.

Tested Genuineness of Faith

Peter learned first hand about this. Peter learned the hard way. When Jesus predicted that “You will all fall away because of me this night.” (Mt.26:31)

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” …35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

That sounds great. He received the word with joy. And he was vocal about his determination to follow Jesus to the end, whatever the cost. But Peter learned the value of pressure. Pressure taught Peter that his faith was not what he thought it was (or more precisely his faith was not in who it ought to be in). And he came to thank God for trials. Listen to what he writes after Jesus’ resurrection, after Jesus restored him to faith and usefulness. And listen for the contrast from his earlier self-confident proclamation ‘I will never fall away! …I will never deny you!’ In 1 Peter 1:3 he writes:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter came to see tribulation as a blessing. Faith that has not been tested may or may not be genuine. It is better to find out now that your faith is false than to find out after it is too late; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. Persecution turned Peter’s eyes away from himself and his self-confidence to a humble dependence on God and his work.

Paul and James concur that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance’ (Rom.5:3-5). ‘Count it all joy …when you meet trials …for …the testing of your faith produces steadfastness’ (Jam.1:2-4).

2 More Responses to the Gospel; choked out or endures to the end

Back in Matthew 13 Jesus lists two more responses to the gospel in addition to hearing without understanding and an immediate receiving with joy that is proved to be false through testing.

Matthew 13:22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.

This is similar to the rocky ground, but the source of the testing is different. Genuineness of faith can be tested in different ways. It can be revealed through trials or through ease, through pressure or through pleasure. In the rocky ground faith was proved false by persecution. Here in the thorny ground faith is proved false by competing affections. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the desires for other things choke out the word. We see this in the history of Israel. Moses warned:

Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,

When Israel had times of pride, excess, and prosperous ease, she forgot the Lord. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life compete with and kill any short lived affections for Jesus.

Here is what Jesus says about the good soil.

Matthew 13:23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

This last person hears the word and understands. And the fruit varies, but he bears fruit. Luke records:

Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience [ὑπομονή].

Not only do they hear the word, they hold it fast. They endure to the end and are saved. They bear fruit with steadfastness or patience endurance.

The Steadfastness of Christ

Jesus calls us to persevere in faith, to endure affliction and persecution as well as pleasure and prosperous ease, to not fall away or to be led astray. Jesus commands us to hold fast the word in an honest and good heart, to bear fruit with steadfastness, to endure to the end.

And Jesus gives us himself as an example of endurance.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

The Lord is Faithful

We have the command of Christ to endure to the end, and we have the example of the steadfastness of Christ who endured the cross. But how? You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can. After all, I’m not Jesus.’ How can we endure to the end? That verse in 2 Thessalonians gives us a clue; it instructs us to direct our hearts not only to the steadfastness of Christ, but first to the love of God. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks for prayer, and then he says:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

He doesn’t say ‘we have confidence in you’; that would be misplaced confidence. He says ‘the Lord is faithful. He will establish you. We have confidence in the Lord about you.’ Paul’s confidence for their endurance and faithfulness is in the Lord’s faithfulness.

Kept to Keep Yourselves

As we wrap up today, I want to look at the little letter by Jude, just one chapter, the second to last book in the Bible. Jude tells us in verse 21 to ‘keep yourselves in the love of God.’ How do we do that? Jude tells us, and he also frames this command with some truth we need to see. At the opening of his letter, he addresses:

Jude 1:1 …To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

He addresses us as the called, and he says that we are beloved in God the Father, and we are kept for Jesus Christ. Called, loved by God, and kept. Beloved and kept are both passive; describing something being done to us by another. God is the one loving and keeping us.

He starts by addressing us as the called, loved and kept. And then in verse 20-21 he commands us to keep ourselves.

Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is imperative. It is a command, something we are to do. Aren’t we beloved in God and kept by him? Isn’t that enough? He even starts verse 20 by reminding us that we are beloved. How do we keep ourselves in God’s love? Can we? Jude surrounds this command with three participles that tell us how; building, praying, and waiting. As the beloved of God, we keep ourselves in the love of God by building, praying and waiting. We are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith. Take positive action to dig deep, with a firm foundation of God’s word, Jesus Christ himself the cornerstone, and anchor your faith on him. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Discipline yourself to pray the Spirit inspired words of Scripture back to him. And eagerly anticipate the full realization of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Keep yourself in the love of the triune God; building up, praying, waiting in the Son, Spirit, and Father. This is how we keep ourselves in the love of God.

So which is it? Are we kept, or do we keep ourselves? Yes! God keeps us and he uses means. God keeps us by our building up, praying and waiting.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Jude closes his letter with this benediction:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Endure to the end. Don’t be choked out by pleasure or burned up by pressure. Keep yourselves by building yourselves up in the faith, praying and anticipating. Beloved, keep yourselves in the love of the God who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy!

***

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

August 3, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

07/26 Walk By Faith (Matthew 17; Luke 17; Mark 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200726_faith.mp3

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about faith. Up front I want to distinguish between what we will call ‘saving faith’ and faith for other supernatural things short of salvation. We dealt specifically with the saving kind of faith or believing in Jesus at the beginning of our series on Obeying Jesus; because it is the most important thing Jesus commanded of us. Saving faith is the kind of faith we see in John 3:16

John 3:14 …the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God gave his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins at the cross, so that whoever has faith, whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, depends on him only and completely, will not perish but will have eternal life. That is what I mean by saving faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is primary. That is essential. If you’re not trusting only and completely in Jesus’ finished work for you on the cross, nothing else I will say matters at all. I must understand that I am a sinner and as such I deserve God’s wrath. But God’s wrath toward me was poured out on his only Son Jesus on the cross, so that by faith, by trusting in him, I am brought in to a relationship with God, forgiven, accepted, loved. We will come back around to this at the end and see how this all connects, but that is not the focus of what I want to look at today.

Jesus disciples said ‘increase our faith!’ Jesus reprimanded his followers on several occasions ‘O you of little faith.’ He made their success in doing what he called them to do contingent on faith in contrast to doubting. We will call this ‘walking by faith’ as we follow Jesus, in contrast to ‘living by faith’ or having new life given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

One of the reasons I want to look at this today is there is a good deal of misunderstanding around some of the passages we will look at, even some dangerous teaching. By looking at those in their context we will be able to gain a clearer understanding of what they mean, and ultimately of what it means to walk with Jesus by faith.

O Faithless Generation; (Mt.17:14-20; Mk.9:18-29)

In Matthew 17, Jesus is coming down from the mount of transfiguration with three of his closest disciples.

Matthew 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the whole generation for being faithless and warped. This would include everyone; the religious leaders, the crowds, the father, even his own disciples. They are rebuked for their lack of faith. Mark’s account includes a conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy.

Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

This father had already asserted that Jesus’ disciples ‘could not heal him’. Now he asks Jesus if he is able to do anything for them. He frames his request to Jesus with doubt. ‘If you can.’ If you are able to do anything to help us, have compassion on us.

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus confronts this father’s lack of faith head on. He quotes back to him his own words ‘if you can’. Do you know who you are talking to? I can’t think of any time where it would be appropriate to use these words in prayer. God, if you are able… God is able. Omnipotent. That is what it means to be God. Nothing is impossible with God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:3)

What does the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ actually mean? The root of this word group [πείθω] means ‘to be persuaded or convinced’. To believe is to be so persuaded of something that you trust in it, you depend on it, you put your weight on it.

Faith in a Tree

Faith can be misplaced or well placed. I once put my trust in a tree. I was hiking up the steep slope of a mountain, and I reached out to steady myself on a tree, and I ended up maybe a hundred yards below the tree, unconscious, bleeding, with a fractured skull. The tree was strong enough, but I didn’t realize it was wet and slippery. It was my grip that failed. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. It doesn’t matter how strongly you believe something. If you believe the wrong thing, it will let you down, and it may let you down hard.

This father of the demon possessed boy began to see that he was looking more at his own hopeless circumstances than he was at who it was who was standing in front of him, ready and willing to help. He begins to recognize his own need. and prays a good prayer to Jesus. His first request was prefaced by ‘if you can do anything to come to our aid’. Now he prays ‘Come to the aid of my unbelief’. Never underestimate the power of God. Jesus is able to take unbelief and change it into faith.

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 —

The disciples want to know where they went wrong. And as with the boy’s father, Jesus points to their little faith. They failed to cast out the demon because of their little faith. Jesus uses a compound word ‘little-faith’; and the ‘little’ can be lacking in extent, in degree, in duration or in value. It could mean that they didn’t have strong enough or big enough faith; they didn’t believe hard enough, or that they didn’t believe long enough, or it could mean that their faith lacked value; it was lacking because it was misplaced. Jesus makes it clear that it is not the quantity or size of the faith that matters; he says if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which is a very tiny seed, you can move mountains; nothing will be impossible for you. So he must mean little faith in the sense of lacking in value; or misplaced faith.

Failed Faith or Prayer?

It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s. In Mark’s account, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus answers “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is surprising, because in none of the three accounts, Matthew, Mark or Luke, does Jesus pray. But he had just come down from being with his Father on the mountain. In Matthew, Jesus gives the reason as their little faith, or faith of little value; misplaced faith; In Mark Jesus gives the reason as a lack of prayer. The one with faith in God, who really trusts in God, who is depending on God, expresses that dependence through prayer, asking God to do what only he can do.

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the same. It is not the quantity of your faith that is the problem. Mustard seed faith is enough. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains and uproot trees.

Have you ever tried that? Tried to move mountains with your faith? I have. I grew up in Minnesota, so I’d never really seen mountains. I think it was around second grade when we took a family road trip out through Glacier National Park in Montana. That’s where we found out I needed glasses because I couldn’t even see the mountains until we got pretty close. I had heard these verses growing up. And with the faith of a seven year old looking out of the back seat window of our station wagon at the majestic mountains of Montana, I wanted to see if the Bible was really true. I believed as hard as I could. And all Montana thanks God that nothing happened. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God were obligated to uproot mountains at the whim of every seven year old around the planet! Remember, faith is not some superpower like the force. Faith, like prayer, is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

‘Whatever you ask I will do’ is qualified by ‘whoever believes in me’ and ‘whatever you ask in my name,’that the Father may be glorified.’ We as believers, are to ask in the name of Jesus, which means that we ask for what Jesus would ask for, pursuing the glory of the Father. As John puts it,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Prayer is unstoppable when it is aligned with the will of God. Faith accomplishes the impossible when it is placed in what God has revealed in his written word to be his will.

Faith: Fully Convinced God is Able to Do What He Promised

I think the clearest definition of faith in the Bible is Romans 4:20-21. Talking about Abraham’s faith.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Faith ultimately brings glory to God as it realizes God’s impossible promises. We ask in prayer with faith when we take God at his word, believing he will do what he has said, and asking him to do it.

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

There is a passage in Mark 6 that is often misunderstood and misapplied. It is when Jesus came to his hometown in Nazareth, and all were astonished because of his wisdom and mighty works, but they began to question where he got these things because they were familiar with him and his family.

Mark 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

I have heard people say that the unbelief of the people tied Jesus’ hands, so that he was unable to do the works he wanted to do, and then they draw the conclusion that our unbelief holds back the power of God to do supernatural things in our lives now, and conversely it is our faith that unlocks or activates the power of God in our lives.

This is dangerous for multiple reasons. It is dangerous because it undermines the sovereignty of God and make his power contingent on us and our faith. God is absolutely sovereign; he does whatever he pleases. After Nebuchadnezzar was warned, then humbled by God because of his pride, when ‘his reason returned’ to him, he acknowledged that

Daniel 4:35 … he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Saying that our unbelief limits the power of God, and that Jesus cannot overcome our unbelief is dangerous because it undermines the New Covenant promises of God. God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek.36:26). In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells us that God can and does overcome Satanic blindness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Implying that our unbelief limits Jesus’ power misreads the passage. It does say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except…” and then it goes on to list the few miracles of healing that he did do there. And it says in verse 6 that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” But it stops short of making unbelief the cause of the ‘could not’. If we look at Matthew’s account, he tells us not that he could not, but that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” So the reason Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth was because of unbelief. Putting Matthew and Mark together, we can say that Jesus could not do many mighty works there for an undefined reason, that he marveled at their unbelief, and that he did not do many might works there because of their unbelief. But we also have Luke’s account in Luke 4. Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood to read. He read from the prophet Isaiah:

Luke 4:18 “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.”

This is where they began to question “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke actually tells us what their unbelief consisted of, and how their unbelief prevented Jesus from doing many might works in their town. They were disbelieving Jesus’ claim to be himself the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament. They disbelieved his identity as Messiah because they were familiar with him and his family. Jesus confronts their unbelief and desire to see signs, and then he points to the Old Testament examples where Israel was in unbelief, and God turned instead to bless Gentiles.

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…

He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief in him as Messiah. He could not do many mighty works there because they drove him out of their town and attempted to execute him. Their rejection of Jesus as their promised rescuer, their rejection of him as the one bringing good news of salvation, their driving him out of their town cut them off from the other blessings he brought.

Could Jesus have overcome their unbelief in him as Messiah? Yes, but he came to die.

Could Jesus overcome their unbelief? He did, at least with some. James and Judas (or Jude), two of his half-brothers who had rejected him during his lifetime, after his resurrection came to believe in him, and went on to write letters now included in the New Testament.

Live by faith/ walk by faith

Let’s pull this together. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. Saving faith is depending on Jesus alone as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting Jesus alone for our reconciliation with God. God ‘gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have his word on that. God can overcome your unbelief. Cry out to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’ and he will give you a new heart to believe in him. And having been made alive by faith, we also walk day by day with Jesus through faith, believing he is able do do what he has promised. Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 3:1 …It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

He tells the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,

We begin the Christian life by faith, and we walk day by day by hearing the word with faith.

***

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

July 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indicative Before Imperative

06/16_Indicative Before Imperative; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190616_indicative-imperative.mp3

We’ve been looking at 2 Corinthians, savoring some of the beauty and details of this passage. We’ve been in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and we’ve seen that identity comes before instructions, that promises under-gird and precede the commands. Another way to say this is that the indicative come before the imperative. Imperatives are commands; do this, this is how you ought to live. In grammar, the indicative mood is used to make ordinary statements of fact. Because this is true (indicative) then this is how you must act (imperative). We’ve been looking carefully at 2 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a great example of this pattern;

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

In 6:16-18 Paul assembles about 6 different Old Testament promises to highlight our identity in Christ. God will indwell in us, he will walk among us, be our God and take us to be his people. He will welcome us; he will be a father to us and we will be to him sons and daughters. These promises enclose the command in verse 17 to go out, to be separate, to touch no unclean thing.

7:1 spells out this relationship between promises and commands; between what is true and what we ought to do. ‘Therefore, having these promises, beloved.’ Not ‘in order to make these promises come true, this is what you must do,’ but rather ‘because you already possess these promises, because the belong to you in Christ Jesus, because you already occupy the position of ‘beloved,’ this is how you must respond. ‘Because this is true of you’ (indicative); ‘therefore, this is how you must respond’ (imperative).

What I’d like to do today is to step back from looking closely at this text and to see the bigger picture, to see this pattern in other places. Think of it as examining a tapestry or a quilt. We have been looking closely at each stitch, the care, precision and intricate detail in one particular section of the quilt. Now we take a step back and take in the whole, and see the symmetry, the design, to see the repeating patterns woven into the very fabric of Scripture.

Romans and Ephesians

In the magnificent letter to the Romans, Paul takes 11 chapters to systematically lay out the gospel, the good news, that although all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23), that all together are lost and wrecked by sin, that God’s righteous requirements are not met by our effort, not by earning his favor, but rather through trusting in a God who declares sinners righteous (4:5). He does this out of sheer grace as a freely given gift by putting his one and only Son Jesus forward as a propitiation – the wrath appeasing sacrifice for our sins – by his blood, to be received as a gift by faith (3:24-25). He died for us not after we had cleaned ourselves up, but ‘while we were still sinners’ (5:8). He tells us (in the indicative) that we have been justified or declared righteous by faith, that we have peace with God, that we have access into this grace by faith (5:1-2), that God’s love is poured into our hearts through his Holy Spirit who has been freely given to us (5:5). We have been reconciled. We died with Christ and are raised to newness of life. We are no longer under sin’s control, although we continue to struggle with sin. We are no longer under condemnation, we are no longer under the law. We are indwelt by the Spirit of the living God who now empowers us to live holy lives. It is not until chapter 12 that he really gets to the imperative.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Therefore, in light of the overwhelming mercies of God, therefore, rooted and grounded in what is true of you in Christ, as a result of 11 chapters saturated with indicatives, therefore I appeal to you to live holy lives to the glory of God.

In Ephesians we see the same pattern. He tells us that we are blessed, chosen, loved, predestined for adoption, redeemed, forgiven, made co-heirs with Christ, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (1:3-14). Even when we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ, he raised us up with him, he seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, he intends to display in us for all eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (2:5-7). We have been brought near by the blood of Christ, we are reconciled to God and to one another, we have access in one Spirit to the Father (2:13-18), we are called saints, a dwelling place for God. We have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Christ. He prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (3:17-19).

Only after all this, in chapter 4(:1), does he urge us therefore, because of this truth, because of what has been given to us in Christ, because of who we are, because of all these indicatives, therefore, ‘walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.’ Therefore, walk in unity, Jews and Gentiles, walk in submission to proper authority. Therefore put off the old self and walk in love, therefore try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Built on this firm foundation of indicative truth, he gives instructions to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. He gives instruction for spiritual warfare, rooted in and flowing out of who we are in Christ. The imperative commands flow out of the indicative truths of who we are in Christ.

Peter, James and John

This is not only a pattern we see in Paul. Peter begins his letter addressing the elect exiles, whom God caused to be born again by his great mercy, into the hope of an incorruptible inheritance which is being kept for us, and we are being preserved by him for it (1:1-5). Only then does he say ‘therefore, gird your minds for action, set your hope fully on future grace, and as obedient children be holy as he who called you is holy’ (1:13-16) Peter goes on to point us back; be holy because you know that you were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ (1:18-19).

James reminds us that every good gift comes down from above, and that it was by God’s will that we were birthed by the word of truth. We are told to ‘receive with humility the word that was planted in you which is able to save your souls’ (1:17-22). Only after that, he reminds us to ‘be doers of the word and not hearers only’ (1:22)

John says in his letters that

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

The knowing him comes first. The keeping his commands is response, evidence of the relationship. The response, what we do, is built on and flows out of the objective reality of the relationship we have with him by grace.

Jesus and the Gospels

We see the same thing in the gospels. We see the Son of Man coming to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). Jesus comes for people like tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners. He doesn’t come with a message that ‘if you will clean yourself up, then you can be my followers.’ No, he says ‘come, follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men’ (Mk.1:17) Jesus calls Peter to follow him, and he continues to mess up. In response to a revelation given to him by God about the identity of Jesus, he names him ‘Peter’ – Rock, and then he begins to shape him into who he intends for him to become (Mt.16:17-18)

Jesus calls a wee chief tax collector down out of a tree and invites himself over to his house. It is only in response to his grace toward a sinner that Zacchaeus freely offers to repay all those he has wronged and give generously to the poor (Lk.19:1-9).

Jesus says ‘you are the light of the world’ (Mt.5:14); that is who you are – therefore ‘let your light shine’ in order to glorify God (Mt.5:16); live consistent with your identity, allow you identity to shape your behavior.

The Old Testament

This is not only a pattern in the New Testament. In the Exodus, God saves his people by his own mighty acts.

Exodus 6:6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

When the people are afraid, he tells them through Moses:

Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

God saved them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. God got glory for himself over the Egyptians. God provided for their needs in the wilderness. God gave them victory over their enemies. It is not until Exodus 19 that God moves into the imperative and begins to give them commands. He says:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Therefore, because of what I have done for you, because I brought you into a relationship with myself, therefore, it ought to transform your behavior.

We see this even in the structure of the ten commandments.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Because of what I have done for you, because I have rescued you, because I have proved myself to you, because I am your God and have taken you be be in relationship with me, you shall have no other gods before me. The indicative drives and motivates the imperative.

We see this throughout the Old Testament, as prophet after prophet calls the people of God to live consistent with their identity as the chosen people of God.

Our Response

I hope you take this into your bible reading and see if you see this pattern over and over again. I have picked out some of the more obvious examples, but I believe you will begin to see this everywhere.

We need to ask why. Why do we see this pattern everywhere in God’s word? We see this everywhere because this is how God works. God is the initiator. We reciprocate. God is the originator. We respond. God is the creator, God is the redeemer. God alone saves. We are rescued by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, as God authoritatively declares in his word alone, for his own glory alone. When we were dead, God made us alive by his grace, through faith. This is not our own doing; it is all gift, all grace. We are his workmanship. But we are created new in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph.2:10). He initiates; we respond.

So how do we respond? Seeing this pattern should motivate us to pursue holiness. Because of all that is true of us in Christ, because of what God has done to rescue us, because of our new identity in Christ, seeing this awakens in us new desires to make it our aim to please him in all things. So look! Look at all that God has done for you in Christ. Look at your identity in Christ. Look at the great news of God’s unearned grace. Look, ponder, meditate, worship. And as you look, allow him to awaken in you new desires, new longings to please him in all things. If you feel stagnant in your walk, in your pursuit of holiness, look! Look at the wonders of the gospel; behold and be transformed.

And step out in childlike dependence in pursuit of his pleasure. Seeing this pattern gives us confidence to trust. We work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because we know that ‘it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil.2:12-13). All the imperatives he gives us are built on the indicatives of who we are in Christ. The indicatives, what is true of us in Christ, supplies us with the ability to walk boldly in the imperatives.

***

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

June 17, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification – Promises & Commands

05/19_2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification; Commands and Promises; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190519_2cor7_1.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

What to Do With the Promises

We just finished up the end of 2 Corinthians 6. Paul has just affirmed that we are the temple of the living God, and has listed for us scriptural promises, promises from Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and 2 Samuel, promises that God will indwell in us, that he will walk among us, that he will be our God and take us to be his people. He gave us the promises that he will welcome us, that he will be a Father to us, that we will be his sons and daughters. Big promises. Staggering promises.

What do we do with these promises? We have the promises. God gave us the promises. Now what do we do with them? Do we just read them and sit back and say ‘wow, that’s really cool!’ Do we read the promises and file that information away and move on to the next thing? What do we do with the promises? What are we supposed to do with them?

Future Blessing or Present Help?

We tend to think of promises as a guarantee of something that will come to us later, that we just have to wait for. For example, if I tell my kids on Friday that I will buy them ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then they eagerly wait until Sunday afternoon rolls around. In fact, they would probably be thinking ‘I hope church gets over quickly, so we can go get ice cream.’ Is this how we are to think of the promises of God? Are the promises of God pointing to something that is coming to us in the future, that we just wait around for? Are they promises of something he will do for us in the future, regardless of what we do?

Or are they different than that? Are they more like this: ‘I have purchased swimming lessons for you. Go get your suit on and we will go to the pool together; don’t be afraid, I will be with you and help you as you learn to swim. I will always be right there to be sure you don’t drown. And when we are done, we will go get ice cream together.’ Are God’s promises promises of future blessing or of present help?

I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Yes, God’s promises are promises of future blessing. Listen to these promises from Jesus;

(Jn.6:37) “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn.6:47) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Promises of future blessing, and promises of present help, because Jesus also says:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We need present help for that! We are told:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived….

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Whoever believes has eternal life, whoever comes will not be cast out; and there is a holiness, a righteousness without which no one will enter, no one will see the Lord. We can’t take one without the other. God promises us his future blessing, and he promises us his present help to certainly get us there.

This is what he is saying in Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

He began the good work in you. It is work. It is his work. He will bring it to completion.

Promises and Commands

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …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. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul gives us a command, and the reason he gives for the command is our identity, who we are because of the promises of God. “For we are the temple of the living God.”

He listed these promises; promises of his indwelling, his presence, his covenant relationship, his welcome, his adoption of us as a father to his sons and daughters; all these promises are the basis for his command, ‘do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (6:14). And in the middle of these promises he also quoted a verse of command for God’s people from Isaiah 52; ‘therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing’.

Fighting With Promises

Paul tells us here exactly what he intends for us to do with the promises of God, how to put them into action. How to utilize them to great effect in our lives. We are to use the promises to battle against sin. To battle for holiness. God gave us the promises as weapons for the right hand and left, to kill sin and pursue holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Therefore, having these, the promises, we can cleanse ourselves. What this implies is that without the promises, without the prior and continuing work of God we are utterly unable to cleanse ourselves. God provides the water for washing, he gives us the ability, he implants within us the will, the desire to be holy. He is at work before and in and under and through our work. What this means is that if you don’t know the promises, if you don’t have the promises, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, you won’t be successful in your battle with sin.

Beloved

Therefore, having these promises, beloved. ἀγαπητοί. Beloved. Just stop for a moment and hear that. You are loved. This is a term of affection. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and calls them beloved. He loves these people. He loves this church. But more than that, he addresses them as beloved because they are loved by God. You, today, are God’s beloved. That is your identity, who you are. You need to know who you are, whose you are. In order to fight right, you need to know who you are.

Let Us Cleanse Ourselves

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves. Paul puts himself in it together with his readers; Paul the apostle is on journey toward holiness together with us his readers. As he writes, he has not yet arrived, he must pursue holiness, he must cleanse himself. And he invites us his readers to join him in cleansing ourselves. When we hear this, we might think, wait, there’s a song I know that asks the question “what can wash away my sins” and it answers? “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We might be wary of this language ‘let us cleanse ourselves.’ But that is exactly what it says, and it doesn’t contradict what the song says.

As David Powlison in his book on sanctification puts it, “We turn – from darkness to light, from false gods to the only true God, from death to life, from unbelief to faith. You ask for help because you need help. You repent. You believe, trust, seek, take refuge. You are honest. You remember, listen, obey, fear, hope, love, give thanks, weep, confess, praise, delight, walk. Notice all these active verbs; they speak of wholehearted, whole-person action… No one does any of this for you. You are not passive. You are not a puppet or a robot. You are 100 percent responsible, and yet you are 100 percent dependent on outside help. Any other way of putting it makes you either far too independent or far too passive.” [Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? p.67]

We have God’s blood-bought promises, and so we cleanse ourselves. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God dwells in us, because he walks with us and takes us to be his own, because he has adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters, because of who we are, because of who he made us to be, we live different. We cleanse ourselves. We cleanse the temple. We fight. God’s presence ejects evil, and we have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside, so we have the power to cleanse ourselves.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We work because God is working in us. He is working out our will, our wants, and he is working in our work. We work because he has ignited a passion in us to be holy, and he ignites that passion through his stunning promises.

Defilement of Flesh and Spirit

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. There are things that defile us physically, and there are things that defile us spiritually. And we are to cleanse ourselves from both. We are to apply the blood of Jesus to our sin-soiled self.

‘Cleanse’ implies that we are defiled, already dirty. We need to be cleansed. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he said:

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…”

We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. And from our daily walk in this world, we daily get our feet dirty, and we daily need to wash our feet. We are clean, completely clean, and we need our feet washed. Daily temptation, daily struggle, daily interaction, daily defilement; daily cleansing. Let us point fingers and condemn each other when we see someone tripping up. No, that’s not what it says. Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves.

Bringing Holiness to Its Intended End

Bringing holiness to completion. Does this mean that we can attain perfection, become completely holy? Philippians 1:6 tells us that he will bring the work he began “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So no, I don’t believe we can achieve perfection this side of glory. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn.3:2).

What does it mean then to say that we are to bring holiness to completion? The word ‘completion’ has at its root the word ‘goal’; the point aimed at, to fulfill, finish or complete. We bring holiness to its intended goal when we become holy as he is holy. We are set apart or made holy; that is our position. We have been sanctified; we are saints. But we are saints who sin. We are in need of daily cleansing. We are being made holy day by day, we are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 brings both of these ideas together.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, … 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He has perfected us for all time. That’s a promise. That cannot change. And we are being sanctified; we are in the ongoing process of being made holy. That process is sure, because he is in control. He began it and he will bring it to its intended end. And we actively participate in the process. We bring about the intended goal of our holiness when we cling to God’s promises and cleanse ourselves. When we take his blood and apply it to ourselves. Daily.

In the Fear of Him

Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Christians still to fear God. This is and has always been the path of true wisdom;

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

We must deepen in our awesome respect and reverence for who God is. Jesus told us not to fear people. He said:

Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Application

Take up God’s promises and do battle. I am a temple of the living God. I will not make room for that in my life. God is always with me; he lives in me. I will not drag him into that. I will not look at that. I will not think that. I will not feel that. I am his son, his daughter; he is my father. I will seek to bring joy to his heart. I will bring him my problems, crawl up into his lap. He is big enough to handle anything. I can trust him. Depend on him. He has made me a saint, he has called me holy. I will pursue holiness in the fear of him.

***

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

May 20, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption

05/12_2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190512_2cor6_16-18.mp3

Paul in chapter 6 is addressing the Corinthians head on in their lack of affections for him, and ultimately for the Lord. In chapter 5 he implored them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (5:20). In chapter 6 he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1).

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

He continues by directly addressing the problem; they were constricted in their affections because of their partnership with false teachers, who at root are unbelievers. They are to sever their connection with these unbelievers.

Then he asks five rhetorical questions, the obvious answer to each being an emphatic ‘nothing!’

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

And then he makes this bold assertion at the end of verse 16:

…For we are the temple of the living God;

We are counted righteous in Christ. We are the children of light. We are new creation in Christ. We are believers, trusting in Jesus; dependent on Jesus. We are the temple of the living God.

This is not the first time the Corinthians have heard this stunning affirmation. Back in 1 Corinthians 3 he said:

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. …16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This is stunning language. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you! It is even more staggering when you understand that there are two different Greek words for ‘temple’ in the New Testament. The more common word [ἱερόν] is the word that is used when we read that Jesus overturned tables, healed, and taught in the temple. ἱερόν refers to the whole temple grounds, including the courtyard. But this word [ναὸς] is more specific; it is the word for the sanctuary itself. This is the word where Zechariah was confronted by the angel while offering incense in the temple, where the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, when Jesus, referring to his own body, said:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

You are the temple sanctuary! Where none but set apart and properly purified priests could enter; you are now the temple sanctuary.

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul said

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …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.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses the temple imagery to argue against divisions in the church; in 1 Corinthians 6, he urges personal moral purity, because God dwells in each believer individually. Here in 2 Corinthians 6 Paul points to the church as the end-times fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, an identity which demands holiness.

For: Identity Transforms Association

Paul says ‘for,’ because. Separation is demanded because of what we are. This is the foundation for not being unequally yoked. Notice, the foundation for what we do is who we are in Christ. It is not the other way around; we do not become the temple because we live holy lives. We live separated lives because we are the temple.

We are the temple of the living God. This is no false God of the pagans; this is the living God of the Bible! He is the one who has never not existed. He is the author and origin of all life, the life giver, the living one.

Notice also, Paul says ‘we.’ He places himself alongside us, his readers, and says ‘we’. This is not ‘I’ have it all figured out and ‘you’ need to get your act together. Paul and the believers in Corinth are together, they are on the same side of the equation. They are fundamentally the same. They are righteousness, they are light, they are in Christ. They are believers – those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Paul is pursuing reconciliation, both reconciliation of the Corinthians to God, and to himself as apostle. They need to live out the truth of the gospel; they are one in Christ. They together are the temple of God. They need to act like it!

As God Said: Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37

Paul stitches together a patchwork of Old Testament promises to paint a composite of who we are, intermixed with the appropriate response of separation.

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. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is a mashup of verses from as diverse places as Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, 2 Samuel together with some other Scriptural echoes. Some are exact quotations from the Greek Old Testament, some are paraphrases, reworded to fit the context here.

Indwelling and Covenant Identity

2 Corinthians 6:16 …“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is an overlay of Leviticus 26:11-12 with Ezekiel 37:27. Rather than following the Greek translation, it seems Paul made his own translation of the Hebrew. Literally, we could translate Paul’s Greek as ‘I will indwell in them’. He is emphatic, duplicating the prefix ‘in’ with the preposition ‘in’.

God says ‘I will indwell in them, and walk among them.’ This echoes Eden where God walked with man in the garden, but so much better! The Lord told his disciples that the Holy Spirit is with you and will be in you. He walks with us, among us, but he lives in us! He will never leave us! Stop for a moment and just let this soak in. We, you and I, the church, we are the temple of the living God.

‘I will be their God and they shall be my people.’ This is the language of the covenant. God redeemed his people out of Egypt to be in relationship with him. He literally would pitch his tent in the middle of their camp and live with them. He entered into covenant relationship with them. He would be to them their God, and he would take them to be his people.

Leviticus 26 begins by reiterating the prohibition against idolatry and promises blessings on those who walk in his ways. God says

Leviticus 26:11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In a passage where he commands that they be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, he quotes a passage which reminds them that God has shattered their yoke of slavery.

Ezekiel 37 comes in the context of the new covenant promises of Ezekiel 36 where God says:

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 37 is the vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s Spirit is able to give life to the dead and make their dry bones live. The second half of Ezekiel 37 points to the re-uniting of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah under one King. God will cleanse them of their idolatry (v.23), and

Ezekiel 37:26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Paul takes this text from Leviticus 26, immediately after leaving Egypt, promising blessing to those who walk in his ways, and stitches it together with Ezekiel 37, written from the despair of Babylonian captivity after centuries of disobedience, but pointing to a future hope of God again dwelling with his people. Paul addresses the Gentile church in Corinth and uses these texts to support his assertion ‘we are the temple of the living God.’

Therefore: Response of Separation; Isaiah 52

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,

Paul adds an introductory ‘therefore’ to Isaiah 52:11. This added ‘therefore’ is critical to understanding what Paul is doing here.

Notice, everything in the quotations in verse 16 consists of promises of what God will do.

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.

This is extremely one-sided. God indwells in us. God walks among us. God will be our God and take us to be his people. This is all God. That’s where Paul starts. Then he connects it to an exhortation to us with ‘therefore.’ Because this is true. Because you are already the temple of the living God. Because God has made his dwelling in you, because God walks among you, because God is your God and has taken you as his own people, because all this is already true, therefore. There is an appropriate response on our side. We must respond to what God has done. God is the initiator. We are always only the responders. Because of what God has done, therefore, we must reciprocate.

Isaiah 52 looks forward to the exiles at the end of the Babylonian captivity. God demonstrates that he is present, he reigns, he returns, he has comforted, he has redeemed, he alone saves. He says in verse 2 ‘loose the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion’; This is God who sets his people free from an oppressive yoke of bondage.

Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

In this context it is clear that this is not a pride thing, as if we are above others, better than others. God’s people were in captivity to a foreign nation because of their sin, their idolatry, their disobedience. It is in spite of their rebellion, in order to display the glory of his own glorious name, that he saves, at great personal cost to himself (see Isaiah 52-53).

We also see that this is not a burdensome command, as if we reluctantly have to deny ourselves and part with our treasured pleasures. Think of a slave finally freed from oppressive bondage. They are eager to take a bath, to wash away any residue of their slavery and be finally rid of it all. This is the absurdity of Lot and his wife; they are being rescued from a wicked place and from the Lord’s judgment, and they don’t really want to leave.

Adopted by the Almighty; Ezekiel 20; 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 43

Paul goes on,

2 Corinthians 6:17 …then I will welcome you,

This phrase seems to be lifted from Ezekiel 20:34

Ezekiel 20:34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.

Gather in the Greek is this word welcome; literally ‘receive into’. This too comes from a context of God’s people rescued from their enemies, brought in, brought home.

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is simply stunning! Paul takes the Eden and temple metaphor, that God walks with us and dwells in us, and turns it to a family metaphor; adoption. We are welcomed, not only as created beings, not only as servants, but as loved children.

This comes from 2 Samuel 7, where David desires to build God a permanent house in Jerusalem, and God reverses this and promises that he will build David a house.

2 Samuel 7:11 …Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

This points beyond Solomon to David’s greater Son, whose throne will be established forever, who is indeed the Son of God. Because we are in Christ, we are sons of God through faith (Gal.3:26). Paul changes this to plural and even adds daughters, likely an echo of Isaiah 43:6 where both sons and daughters appear together.

His closing phrase, the third different way he states that this is what God said, likely comes from the context of 2 Samuel 7:8

2 Corinthians 6:18 …says the Lord Almighty.”

This is the typical LXX translation of ‘the Lord of hosts’ or ‘Lord of armies’; YHWH Tsabaoth’ (Rom.9:28, Jam.5:4)

Conclusion

This is a staggering passage. Paul calls us, Gentiles, the church ‘the temple of the living God.’ And he backs this up with God’s word; God’s promises to ‘indwell in us’ to walk among us, to be our God and take us in covenant relationship to be his people.

Because of these staggering promises he exhorts us to throw off the yoke and walk in freedom; go out from their midst, be separate from them, touch no unclean thing.

And he sandwiches this exhortation with more astounding promises; And I will welcome you, I will be a Father to you, You shall be sons and daughters to me.

Stand in awe of God’s promises. Look at who you are, who he has called you to be. And be who you are. Live free. Don’t be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

***

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

May 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory

10/14_2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181014_2cor4_17.mp3

The Secret of Not Losing Heart

Last time we looked at the secret of not losing heart. I asked, ‘What if I told you that I could show you the secret to endure any hardship, no matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart? Not only to survive but to thrive under any adversity?’ Paul gives us his secret at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. He says in 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We began by looking at how this being made new on the inside happens. It happens day by day, as he said in 3:18; as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

To not lose heart requires an inner day by day renewal. We had to stop there, but there’s so much more to see here. He gives us the foundation, the reason, the ground of our day by day renewal. And he gives us the process, the means of being renewed.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Disparity Between Outer and Inner

In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the outward appearance with his inward reality. Outwardly, he is plain, ordinary, a fragile clay pot. But inside he carries the inestimable treasure of the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Outwardly he is carrying in his body the dying of Jesus, but this is so that the resurrection life of Jesus can be displayed in his body. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inwardly he is being renewed day by day.

From all outward appearances, Paul is being unmade, taken apart; he is wasting away. His life appears to be one characterized by defeat, discouragement, even despair. We are ‘afflicted …perplexed …persecuted …struck down’. It seems a waste, meaningless.

In verse 12 he gives one positive outcome of his sufferings that he can look at so that he does not lose heart. He said ‘so, death is at work in us, but life in you.’ So the suffering he experiences is the means God is using to bring good, blessing, eternal life, to his hearers. That’s good. That makes the suffering worth it.

But here in verses 16-18 he says more. Not only is his suffering a benefit to his hearers, it is also a blessing to himself. Did you hear that? My suffering is painful to me, but a blessing to you, so I can push through. But now he says my suffering, my persecution, my affliction is a blessing to me. It is not only bringing good to you; it is also bringing good to me. He says, on the inside, where it really counts, the suffering he endures is actually causing him to be made new day by day. How can this be?

I was reading one of the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazines, and came across this story about a couple who had left a closed country and found Jesus. They returned to to their homeland with their two young boys to share the gospel, even though they were fully aware of the dangers. The wife said “It’s an interesting thing trusting God with your family. For us it was just so clear. The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” They shared Christ with their extended family, and then they began to plant churches. One of the questions he would ask before baptizing a new believer was always “Are you willing to give up your life for Jesus?”

After 7 years, the secret police burst in and ransacked their apartment, arrested them and drove them bound and blindfolded to the city’s interrogation unit. They were separately imprisoned, and repeatedly interrogated. The wife speaks of her two weeks in prison, thinking constantly about her children; “I knew it was a privilege to be there with the Lord, so that was sweet, but I also wanted to go be with them.” Her husband was released about a month later. She reflected on the experience and said “He was allowing us, His children, to suffer because He wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much – the judges, the interrogators, the guards – that He allowed us to go through a really, really hard time to carry His presence into their presence so they could come in touch with him.” [VOM Oct.2018]

How was she able to have this kind of reaction to that kind of suffering? Part of her answer points back to Paul’s earlier answer: “He was allowing us …to suffer because he wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much.” But there is something more, something deeper. “The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” and then, when it did happen, “it was a privilege to be there with the Lord.” It was joy! It was a privilege!

Perspective Matters!

Look at the foundation of this day by day renewal in the face of daily troubles. Look at verse 17. It starts with ‘for’; because. This gives the reason, the foundation of this inner day by day renewal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Perspective matters! Look at how Paul views his affliction where he was so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. Look at the perspective he has on his affliction, his perplexity, his persecution, his being struck down and thoroughly ruined. He contrasts it with the purposes and the promises of God.

Do you do that? Do you take what you are facing today, and hold it up to the promises of God and the purposes of God for you, and compare it? Put it in the scales? See what it really weighs? Paul says that when he weighs it out, his afflictions are light, and they are momentary. Now before you blow Paul off as if he just doesn’t understand what you are going through, you could look over to 2 Corinthians 11 where he lists his imprisonments, his countless beatings, often near death, his 5 times receiving 39 lashes (that’s 195 lashes, but who’s counting?), his 3 times beaten with rods, his being stoned and left for dead, his shipwrecks, his betrayal by false brothers, his hunger, thirst, exposure, sleeplessness, his daily pressure and anxiety for all the churches. All this he piles in the balance and it weighs out ‘light’ and ‘momentary’.

Back in chapter 1, he said he was ‘so utterly burdened beyond strength’ because of the affliction they experienced in Asia. He felt the weight then, and it was more than he could carry. What gave him his perspective on suffering? What could possibly make this magnitude of suffering seem light and momentary? What is on the other side of the scales?

Momentary vs. Eternal

The thing that outlasts and outweighs our suffering is ‘an eternal weight of glory’. ‘Eternal’ answers ‘momentary.’ The length of our afflictions are momentary in comparison to eternity. If we endure 80 years of constant pain and suffering, persecution and affliction, and we hold that up next to the timeline of eternity; is so infinitesimally small it becomes insignificant.

As the song goes: ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’ Compared to our eternal joy, the present afflictions are less than momentary. Can you take your present sufferings and measure them by eternity in the presence of God and say they are momentary? Perspective makes all the difference.

Light vs. Weight of Glory

Eternal answers momentary, and ‘weight of glory’ answers ‘light.’ The heaviness of our afflictions are light in comparison to the weight of glory. This is the same word he used in 1:8 when he says we were ‘so utterly burdened [or weighed down] beyond our strength.’ Now he compares this weight beyond our strength to the weight of glory. The weight of affliction is far beyond what we can bear, but there is something in the scales that far outweighs the heaviness of our present sorrows. It is glory.

The word ‘glory’ itself if we look back to the Hebrew of the Old Testament literally means weighty, massive, substantial. The eternal weight of God’s weightiness, the massiveness of his glory so far surpasses that the weight of our afflictions seem as inconsequential dust in the scales.

Exceedingly Exceeding

As Paul says in Romans 8,

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

It’s not just that the glory outweighs the burden and outlasts the sufferings; it is beyond all comparison; literally ‘according to hyperbole into hyperbole’. Words fail to capture the glory. It is surpassingly surpassing; exceedingly exceeding. So far beyond being beyond all ability to explain. The glory is so far beyond any ability to adequately explain that Paul piles hyperbole upon hyperbole to attempt to communicate that there is just no comparison between our present afflictions and the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Whose Glory?

Glory is the radiance, the outward display of God’s inner character and nature. The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. God in Isaiah 42 and 48 says that he gives his glory to no other, and yet Jesus in his humanity prayed:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus’ own glory was veiled, hidden behind his plain, ordinary humanity. And yet here in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6 we apprehend ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’; the light of the gospel is ‘the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ We most clearly see God’s character and nature revealed in Jesus. Although this glory belongs to God alone, we were created to reflect, to image forth his glory. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18).

Afflictions Work Glory

But look carefully at what he says.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The present affliction is not just contrasted with the glory to come, it is causing it. It is preparing it for us; it is working it, accomplishing it for us. He looks both at the promises and the purposes of God. God intends our sufferings for our good, to increase the glory we will experience. God’s promise is that the eternal will far outspan the temporal, that the glory will far outweigh the trials. But the purpose of God is that the pressure produces in us the surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. It is important to know not only God’s promises to us that give us strength to persevere through the suffering, but that God has a purpose in the sufferings. The afflictions are not meaningless, they are purposeful, they are accomplishing something, bringing something to completion.

We see this same truth (and the same word) displayed in Romans 5:3

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

And we see it in James 1:3

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Affliction produces steadfastness; the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Affliction produces in us an exceedingly exceeding weight of glory. So we rejoice, we count it all joy; we do not fail, give up, lose heart.

I think Spurgeon explains this as well as anyone (and with this we’ll have to end for now). He says:

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.”

There is …no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, February 12]

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

October 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet

12/03 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171203_advent-greater-prophet.mp3

I’ve been meditating on this passage in 2 Corinthians that we have been studying,

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

But God is faithful, that the word [Logos] of us to you is not yes and no for the of God Son Jesus Christ who in you through us was proclaimed …has not come to be Yes and No, but Yes in him has come to be, for as many as God’s promises, in him is the Yes; now therefore through him the Amen to God for glory through us

The YES to all the promises of God is Jesus! The YES in him has come to be! God’s YES has come into existence in Jesus, and as we see and experience God’s yes, we are invited to speak the Amen with one voice to the glory of God.

For this Advent season, I want to look at some of the promises of God that have their substance or being in Jesus. I want to take a step back and look at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament that point us to the coming of Jesus, and how Jesus is the end and goal of all these promises. Jesus is the greater Prophet; Jesus is the greater Priest and the greater Tabernacle and the greater Sacrifice; Jesus is the greater King; Jesus is the greater Man; Jesus is the greater Israel who mediates a greater covenant. Jesus is greater! The YES in him has come to be! As many as are the promises of God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the YES! And as we fix our eyes on Jesus, may we respond with the AMEN of worship to our great God to his glory!

What is a Prophet?

Jesus is the greater Prophet. What is a prophet? A prophet is one who faithfully brings God’s word to his people. In Exodus 7 we get a picture of what a prophet is. This is after Moses complains to God that he is not a very good speaker, and God allows his brother Aaron to speak for him.

Exodus 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

A prophet is the mouthpiece of God, the voice of God, one who speaks to people on behalf of God.

Anybody can claim to be speaking for God. Many people have. There are many places in God’s word where God’s people are warned to guard against false prophets. Deuteronomy 13 warns of prophets who perform supernatural signs or wonders that seem to authenticate their words, but they teach people to follow other gods, we are not to listen. God is testing us to see if we truly love God with all our heart and all our soul.

Deuteronomy 18 encourages the people to test the truthfulness of a prophet by checking to see if what he says comes to pass, because God’s word always happens.

Jesus Greater than Moses

This test of the truthfulness of a prophet comes at the end of a section where Moses is pointing the people to a coming greater prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

He is referring back to Mount Sinai in Exodus 20;

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (cf. Deuteronomy 5)

The people said:

Deuteronomy 5:25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

God affirms;

Deuteronomy 18:17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The people were right. To enter the presence of a holy God is to die. They needed a mediator, someone who would intercede, who could keep them safe, someone who could bring them safely in. Because of this prophecy, the people were expecting a greater prophet to arise like Moses. When John arrived on the scene calling the nation to repent and baptizing, the religious leaders asked ‘Are you The Prophet?’ (Jn.1:21, 25). They wanted to know if John was this greater than Moses prophet promised by God.

John 1:15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John pointed away from himself to Jesus. Peter in Acts 3 and Stephen in Acts 7 both connect this prophecy to Jesus.

Even greater than the testimony of John and the Apostles, is the testimony of the Father himself. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, and was transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah, greatest of the Old Testament prophets appeared talking with him, Peter wanted to honor these three by making them booths to stay in; but while he was speaking the Father himself interrupted and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt.17:5; cf. Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35).

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—

‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’ When the disciples lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. According to the Father, Jesus supersedes Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the prophet we are to listen to.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was glowing because he had met with God, but that glory faded. When Jesus was on the mountain, a slight glimmer of who he really is shone through, a glimpse of the glory that Moses met with when he was on the mountain.

Jesus says in John 5:

John 5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

Jesus Authoritatively Declares God’s Word

Jesus is the promised greater prophet who speaks authoritatively on behalf of God. We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 15:15 …but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus spoke the very words his Father gave him to speak. He spoke with his Father’s authority.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Jesus spoke with authority, and he did many signs and wonders to authenticate his words. But remember from Deuteronomy, signs and wonders alone are not enough to validate a ministry.

Jesus passes both tests of a prophet from Deuteronomy. Both in his life and in his teaching, he affirms the great commandment, that

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And everything Jesus said came to pass.

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

But Jesus’ predictions were not the fortune cookie generalities; ‘there’s something big just over the horizon.’ Jesus,

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

What an astounding thing to say! What specific detail! Jesus saw clearly and proclaimed exactly what would happen. And it happened exactly as he said. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (cf. Mk.13:31; Lk.21:33)

Jesus is the greater Prophet who faithfully brings God’s word to his people.

Jesus Is God’s Word

Jesus came to be the greater Prophet. We see this not only in what Jesus spoke, but in who he is. Jesus not only spoke God’s word, but he is the Word. John’s gospel begins with a very different kind of genealogy than the other gospels.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus claims to be the pre-existent Word, who was with God and who is in his very essence God. He is the creative Word that spoke everything into existence in Genesis 1. He is the Word that said ‘let light be!’ He is the one who breathed into man the breath of life. He is life. He is light. He is God. He shares the glory of his Father. And he came. He became flesh. He became human. The Creator became part of his creation! Oh the wonder of Christmas!

Our family likes to watch some of the holiday classics about flying sleighs and magic trains and why we shouldn’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge and the power of generosity and believing. Friends, truth is stranger than fiction! This is so much more wondrous, so much more awe inspiring; that God himself, the eternal Word became flesh, and was born! Born to set his people free. Born to die that we might live. Jesus, the prophetic Word become flesh to dwell among us.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of all the Prophets

Jesus is that Prophet, greater than Moses. The book of Hebrews begins this way:

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

God spoke through the Prophets. But now he has spoken once for all in his Son, the Creator, the radiance of his glory. God’s prophetic communication all culminates in Jesus. Later in Hebrews 3, Jesus is contrasted as greater than Moses, as the builder of a house is greater than the house; as a son in the house is greater than a servant. Jesus is the final Word of God, the Prophet greater than Moses.

Jesus faithfully brings God’s word to his people. Jesus is the divine Word made flesh, come to be God’s Word to us. And as we look back over all the Scriptures, they become God’s ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus.

Peter writes of the value of the believer’s faith in Jesus that brings glory to God.

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

He goes on to connect this salvation through faith in Jesus to all the Scriptures.

1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Notice the word of the prophets was initiated by the Spirit of Christ in them, and the content of their word was ‘the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.’ It’s all about Jesus! The prophets wrote by the Spirit, beyond their own understanding, and searched and inquired carefully into their own writings. They had an idea that their writings would find fulfillment in a single person or time. They were pointing to Jesus; God come in the flesh to suffer and be crucified for us, to be buried and to rise from the dead for us. They were pointing to the grace that is ours in the gospel that has been proclaimed to us! The promised one, the Christ, God come in the flesh, came to suffer. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and he appeared to many. All the Scriptures point together to this message of good news that eternal life in relationship with God is a free gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by the sufferings of the Messiah.

Yes and Amen!

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Do you have this inexpressible joy in Jesus today? Does the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ stir your heart to worship, to bow, to adore? Are you experiencing the gospel today? Are you enjoying the gospel today? Are you enjoying Jesus?

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Savor the treasure you have in Jesus. May God’s Yes to all his promises to us in Jesus overflow in a hearty Amen to God for his glory through us! enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

December 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment