PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Luke 19:29-42; Palm Sunday

04/13/14 Palm Sunday Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140413_palm-sunday.mp3

Today is the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowds welcomed him as their king, spreading their cloaks and branches on the road before him.

As we remember this, and what this event led up to, I want to look at what was in the minds and hearts of the people who were shouting out Hosanna, what was in the mind and heart of our Lord Jesus, and what he was looking forward to.

We will read Luke’s account of the event.

Luke 19:29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Prophetic Backdrop

In order to understand what was in the minds and hearts of the people, we need to look back at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and to look at the political climate of the day. Jesus was intentionally fulfilling a very specific prophecy that day, and both Matthew and John point it out.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus set this up. This is a prophecy of the coming king who brings salvation to his people. Jesus, by his actions, is declaring himself to be the coming King.

The people were expecting a king to come. When David desired to build a house for the Lord, God made this promise to David:

2 Samuel 7:12 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. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

There was a near fulfillment of this in David’s son Solomon, who did build the temple and Israel did enjoy peace under his reign. But Solomon’s rule (970BC) did not last forever. This prophecy was much bigger than Solomon, looking forward to David’s greater Son, the true Son of God.

A prophecy from Isaiah, written about 200 years later during the rule of wicked king Ahaz (735-727BC) expands on this promised seed of David who would reign forever. Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

It seems that this coming King would be more than a mere man. When Gabriel foretold the birth of Jesus to Mary, he said:

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Jesus, Son of the Most High, is the one who would fulfill these prophesies. He is the one who will reign on David’s throne forever.

Psalm 118 says:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!

These are some of the promises that the people of Israel were clinging to the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Hosanna is the Hebrew word from verse 25, translated ‘save us we pray’ or ‘save now’, that the people were shouting as Jesus rode in on the donkey. They quoted verse 26 when they cried out ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the LORD’ They were looking to Jesus to save them from the Romans. The were looking to him to bring peace and glory to the nation of Israel.

Political Climate

The Roman emperor Pompei conquered Jerusalem and entered the Holy of holies in 63 BC. From that time, Jerusalem was under Roman control. There was a group called the zealots, a faction of Jews lead by Judas of Galilee who bitterly opposed Roman rule and were eager to hasten the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies with the sword. Simon, one of Jesus’ disciples had been a zealot (Mt.10:4). The Jews were looking for a political king who would lead a revolt to overthrow the Roman oppression and usher in the golden messianic age.

At one point, after Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread, which was another Messianic expectation, the people were about to take Jesus by force and make him their king (Jn.6:15). At that point Jesus withdrew to the mountain alone. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he avoided the public spotlight (Jn.7:3-10), saying that his ‘time had not yet come’. But on this one occasion, as he entered Jerusalem, he intentionally enters the public eye, accepting the worship and praises of the people, refusing to silence the multitudes, saying:

Luke 19:40 …“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Earlier, when his apostles acknowledged him as the promised Messiah, he warned them to tell no one. Bur now, for the first time in his life, Jesus allowed himself to be publicly recognized as the fulfillment of all the prophesies of the coming Davidic King, and this only days before his arrest and execution.

Jesus’ Purpose

What was going through the mind and heart of our Lord as the multitudes honored him as King? We may get a clue from what Jesus said as he approached the city:

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Jesus wept over the city. He who could see the future and see the hearts of men, recognized that even some of these who now welcomed him as king would in a few days be eager to hand him over to the Romans and would cry out for his crucifixion. He foresaw that this great city would be destroyed. Jesus understood the expectation of the people, but he knew that he had come for a different purpose, a much greater purpose.

The people looked to Jesus as their hope for peace. Jesus, the Prince of peace, did come to bring peace, but not the social-political peace they expected. Many of Jesus’ followers would be executed. Jerusalem would not be saved but destroyed. Jesus said this

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus did not come to bring peace in the sense that they were looking for. But he did bring peace. He brought a peace much richer and deeper and more lasting and satisfying than a mere end to war. The war Jesus came to end was the uprising of our rebellion against our Creator. The war he came to end is the just wrath and hostility we deserve from a righteous Judge whom we have disgraced. Jesus came to make peace with God.

The people looked to Jesus to set them free from the oppression of Rome. Jesus, the greater Moses, did come to set his people free, but not from slavery to any person or regime. Jesus came to set people free from lifelong slavery to sin. Jesus came to set his people truly free. Jesus came to take us out from under the crushing weight of our own guilt before the all-holy God.

The people looked to Jesus to take vengeance on their enemies. Jesus did come to crush the enemy, but that enemy was not a people group. Our true enemy is Satan, and Jesus came to crush his head.

The crowds looked to Jesus to provide for their needs, heal their sickness, and give them life. Jesus came to give life, but not just a long, happy ordinary life. He came to give them eternal life. Jesus came to heal sickness, but the sickness was a sick and twisted heart that ran after all the wrong things. Jesus came to feed the hungry, but not with a welfare program that would offer handouts to the poor, but to satisfy our deepest longings. Jesus came to nourish our souls – with himself.

Jesus came to accomplish much more than anyone who cried out ‘Hosanna’ ever would have imagined. They cried out ‘save now’, and he did come to do exactly that, but not at all in the ways they were looking for. Jesus, omnipotent God, had the power to overthrow Rome with a word. But Jesus knew what that would bring.

Back in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, he had read from the scroll of 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.”

Jesus came to do all those things. Good news to the poor, freedom for captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, favor with God. But he stopped his reading in mid-sentence. If we look back to Isaiah 61, we find that the next phrase in that passage is “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus stopped mid-sentence, because he had not come to bring that. Not yet. If he had come to be crowned as a victorious military leader and benevolent king, he would also usher in the wrath of God against sinners. Every sinner. And that would be everyone. No one is righteous before God, no, not one. Jesus, if he had come to bring the day of vengeance of God against humans, that would extend to all humans. To every individual. Because all have sinned and failed to give God the glory and thanks that he deserves.

Jesus came to save, but not in the way anyone expected. He came to be crowned, not with a crown of gold or rare jewels, but with a crown of thorns. He came, not to be bowed down to, but to bow himself down to receive the blows of the scourge. He came to be lifted up, not on a royal throne, but nailed to a cruel cross. Jesus ‘came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk.14:10). He came to conquer sin by becoming sin for us. He came to conquer death by dying. Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, to be the sacrifice. For Jesus, the path to victory, real victory was the cross. Jesus, riding in to Jerusalem, knew exactly what he had come to do. He had come to reconcile man to God, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (Col.1:20).

Future Fulfillment

Jesus rode in to the city on a donkey. The multitudes were laying their cloaks down as a carpet, waving palm branches in the air, rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice,

Luke 19:38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Jesus was looking at what he had come to do, and why he had come to do it. He was looking beyond that day, and that crowd, off into the future, to a future day and a future crowd. We read about this in the vision of Revelation.

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Jesus was looking past the shallow, superficial worship of the crowd, to a deeper, richer, genuine worship resonating from the blood bought souls of the redeemed. He was looking past the Jewish crowd to a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. He was looking around at the self-centered sinners that day, and he was determined to transform them into saints characterized by his own self-sacrificial love. 

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

April 13, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

Exodus 6:7 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.

God, you said in chapter 19:

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;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

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.

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

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

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 23:20-33; Promises, Warnings, and The Angel of His Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120205_exodus23_20-33.mp3

02/05 Exodus 23:20-33 The Angel of His Presence

We come now to the conclusion of God’s instructions given to his people at Sinai. He has communicated to them his expectations for what life lived in community with God should look like. He is a God who loves justice and righteousness, kindness and compassion. He alone is to be feared and worshiped and obeyed, and his presence is to be enjoyed. Here, at the conclusion of his commandments, he pours out good promises to his people, and he gives them clear warnings. This is a passage of promises and warnings. I want to look first today at his great and precious promises and heed carefully his dire warnings, and then I want to turn our attention to the primary promise, the ‘who’ of the promise, the angel of his presence.

God has rescued a people out of slavery to be in relationship with him, to be his very own. He has led them and fed them and rescued them from all danger. He has put up with their grumbling and complaining. He has revealed himself to them, and has communicated with them his character and nature. He has given them clear instructions for life within the community of God’s people. Now he is making them promises. He is going to lead them through the wilderness and bring them into a land he has promised to give them. He is promising victory to them. He is promising to fight their battles. He is even revealing to them some of how he is going to give them victory, and why he is going to do it that way. He promises to care for their needs. He promises to bless them abundantly.

But these promises are conditional. He will do these things “if”. And so there is warning. Let’s look at the promises, and then let’s look at the warnings.

Exodus 23:20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

God’s Good Promises

God promises to send his angel before us. The promise of his presence with us is the greatest promise, so we will save it ’till the end. He says he will

guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared

God’s protection is promised on the paths of life. Where ever you go, I will be guarding you. And I have a goal in mind. I will bring you to that place. I will make sure you get there. Your way will not be unopposed. You will have enemies. But I will be an adversary to your adversaries and and enemy to your enemies. I will bring you to face your enemies, but I will blot them out. I will bless your food supply; I will keep you healthy and make you fruitful. I will make your days full and satisfying. I will send my terror and confusion on your enemies, and cause them to run away from you. And here’s how I will do it. I will do it little by little, because if I drove them out all at once, you would not be able to maintain the land. So I will keep them in the land to maintain it for you, and I will drive them out slowly over time, so that you can enjoy the land, so the land does not become overgrown with weeds and overrun with wild beasts. I will gradually give you the whole extent of the land that I promised as your possession. These are big and rich and generous and far-reaching promises. God keeps his promises. At the end of the book of Joshua, we are told:

Joshua 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.

Then in chapter 23 Joshua says

Joshua 23:14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

God has kept all his promises. Joshua continues with a challenge and a warning

Warnings for our Good

Joshua 23:15 But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

This would have struck home to the people of Joshua’s day. Their parents forfeited God’s promises and died in the wilderness because of their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. God makes good and gracious promises to his people, but he also warns us so that we don’t miss out on enjoying the blessings he provides. Let’s look at the warnings God gives his people here in Exodus 23. He tells them to pay careful attention; to obey his voice, he warns not to rebel against him, for he will not pardon their transgression. He warns not to bow down to or serve the false gods of the people who dwell in the land, or to imitate their cultures. He instructs his people to completely eradicate any trace of their false religions. He warns against making any agreement with the people or their gods. He clearly warns that the danger of allowing idolaters to remain in the land is that they will influence God’s people to sin against God. They will be a snare, a trap, luring them away from enjoying the reality of a relationship with the true God and enticing them to buy a counterfeit. God warns us because we need to be warned. We have an incessant tendency to become enamored with anything and everything besides God. The desires of the flesh, the deceitfulness of riches, the pride of life, the desire for other things constantly competes for our affection. This warning and command is not the restrictive command of a lover afraid of being left for someone else; this is the kind of warning that says ‘if you touch the stove, you will experience pain and injury’. God demands that we have no other gods, not because he is emotionally needy and craves our attention, but because he doesn’t want us to get burned. If genuine fulfillment and blessing comes only in relationship with him, then turning to other gods is turning away from the only source of real life. Our souls will only be satisfied in him, and he wants to spare us the pain of endlessly running after dead-end damning lies.

The author of Hebrews holds up the Exodus generation as a warning to us New Testament believers; a warning against turning our hearts away from the Lord.

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

We need these warnings today because there is a danger for us today. We have a tendency to ‘go astray in our hearts’, and our hearts can easily become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’. The exodus generation, who were the recipients of so much of God’s revealed truth, and experienced so many of his physical blessings, were disobedient and did not enter in because of unbelief. The author goes on to exhort us:

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

Physical vs. Spiritual

For them the battle was physical. Their enemies were external and physical; Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites. The dangers they faced were tangible and physical; starvation, sickness, barrenness, miscarriage. Their borders were physical; from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, from the wilderness to the Euphrates. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). The passions of the flesh wage war against our souls (1Pet.2:11). The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2Cor.10:4, cf.6:7). We are called to:

1 Timothy 1:18 … wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

And we have greater promises of victory.

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

The Angel of His Presence

This brings us back to the beginning of the passage and the greatest promise of blessing that God gives. We need to ask the ‘who’ question. Who is the ‘angel’ that God sends to see that his promises are fulfilled? In verse 20 it is ‘an angel’ and in verse 23 it is ‘my angel’ and he is simply referred to in the other verses as ‘he’ or ‘him’. It will be helpful to know that the word ‘angel’ in the bible does not necessarily mean a guardian spirit or a superhuman winged creature. ‘Angel’ can simply be translated ‘messenger’. Let’s look at what this passage says about this messenger of God.

It says he was sent by God, that he goes before God’s people, that he serves as guardian on their journey, and delivers them to the place prepared by God for them. It tells us that he must be obeyed, that he has the authority to forgive or not forgive, that God’s own name is in him. We are told that to obey him is to do what God says, that he brings us to our enemies and God blots them out, that he blesses us and God fulfills our days.

This is not the first time that this messenger shows up in the bible. We have seen him before, when God called Moses.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. …4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

The messenger of the LORD appeared; and God called to him out of the bush. The Angel of the LORD is equated with God. He shows up again at the Red Sea crossing.

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,

So the angel of God is identified with the LORD himself, and is associated with the cloud, but is distinguished from the cloud. I think it is this same figure that shows up to Joshua in fulfillment of God’s promises.

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Let’s look back at what Exodus 23 says about this messenger and see if we can make the connection with Jesus.

We are told that he is God’s angel or God’s messenger.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …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.

We are told that he was sent by God

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

He goes before God’s people

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

He is with us as guardian on the journey

John 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

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

He leads us to the place prepared by God

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

He must be obeyed

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

He has authority to forgive

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” …7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

God’s name is in him – he possesses the character and nature of God

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

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

To obey him is to obey God.

John 13:20 Truly, truly, I say to you,…whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

He overcomes our enemies.

Colossians 2:13 …having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

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.”

He satisfies our hungers and makes us fruitful

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

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

We have such great and precious promises in Jesus. Let us heed God’s warnings and obey his only Son, Jesus

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

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | 1 Comment