PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by The Blood

10/16 Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by Blood; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161016_leviticus-17_10-16.mp3

Leviticus chapter 17 is a chapter dealing with blood. Leviticus is a bloody book. All this focus on blood is a reminder that I am a sinner, and that the wages of my sin is death. Central to chapter 17 is verse 11, which gives one of the clearest statements of the reason behind the whole sacrificial system. Looking at an outline of this chapter we see that verse 11 is the central statement about God’s gift of blood to make atonement for life. The beginning of the chapter prohibits sacrificial bloodshed to other gods or away from God’s one sanctuary. The end of the chapter prohibits eating meat not properly drained of blood. The center section gives the purpose of blood to make atonement

17:1-7 no blood sacrifices to false gods

-17:8-9 no blood sacrifices away from the sanctuary

—17:10 no blood consumption

—->17:11 blood given for atonement

—17:12 no blood consumption

-17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

Last week we looked at the first section of this chapter; the dangerous draw of idolatry, and the exclusive nature of God; that he alone is to be worshiped and only in the way he has proscribed. Today we will look at the rest of the chapter.

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. 13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

Blood is a Big Deal

This prohibition against eating blood is not new. This came all the way back in Genesis 9, where God first gave man permission to eat meat from animals. After Noah and his family left the ark and offered burnt offerings to the Lord,

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

All the way back in Genesis, life is equated with blood. The shedding of blood is the taking of a life. Verse 10 gives the penalty for eating blood, and it is severe. That person shall be cut off from his people. This applies to both the native Israelite and the sojourner dwelling among them. This is the same penalty attached in verse 4 to offering peace offerings outside the tabernacle. Verse 4 credits the person with bloodguilt who has shed sacrificial animal blood to another deity away from the tabernacle. God considers idolatry as serious as murder. Verse 9 attaches the same penalty to offering burnt offerings or any other sacrifice outside the tabernacle. Here in verse 10, God makes it personal.

Leviticus 17:10 …I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.

God says he personally will set his face against that person, he will do the cutting off. There’s a lot of things I would like to avoid in life, lots of things that don’t sound very pleasant, but I can think of nothing worse than having the sovereign, omnipotent, everywhere present, all wise, all good, loving God set his face against me. God takes the handling of blood very seriously. He personally will see to it that disregard of the value of blood will be punished.

Verses 13-14 extend this penalty to the blood of non-sacrificial wild game. The Israelite may hunt and eat game, but he may not eat the blood. It must be poured out on the ground and covered with earth. Verses 15-16 warn of the danger of eating animals that have not been killed in the proper way so as to drain the blood. Meat that has not been properly butchered is likely to retain more of the blood in it, and thus makes the person who eats it unclean until evening. This is not as blatant or willful an act of disobedience as that of eating blood, so it carries a lesser penalty.

Why such a big deal about blood? Why such severe penalties attached to blood consumption and misappropriation of blood? Genesis 9 makes the connection between life and blood, and issues the death penalty for anyone who sheds the lifeblood of another. The penalty is life for life, because man is made in the image of God, and God cares about his creation. God is the living God, the eternal God, and the death of his image bearer misrepresents him. God takes our lives seriously, because he takes himself seriously. He takes the life he gave seriously. In Genesis 2 he ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature’ (v.7).

Life in Hebrew thought is tied to breath, spirit, wind – that invisible, immaterial essence that animates; and blood – the physical, tangible, visible thing that sustains life. Medically we understand something about how these two are related, and if you’ve ever taken CPR or first aid, you know that the most basic signs of life are pulse and breathing.

Atonement and Substitution; Life for Life

Here in Leviticus life is connected with blood as the visible tangible gift that makes atonement.

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

There is a symmetry in these verses that is clouded by our English translation. The same Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ can be translated ‘life, soul, or person’ depending on the context. This word shows up three times in verse 11, and also once each in verses 10 and 12.

10 …I will set my face against that person [nephesh]who eats blood…

-11 For the life [nephesh]of the flesh is in the blood,

–and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls [nephesh]

-for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life [nephesh]

12 …No person [nephesh] among you shall eat blood…

The pivotal statement in verse 11 is God’s gift of blood on the altar to make atonement for your person, your soul, your life. That statement is bracketed on either side by a statement about the ‘nephesh’ being connected to the blood, and bracketed again in verses 10 and 12 by statements about the ‘nephesh’ who eats blood. In the very structure of the passage, we see that the person who sins is atoned for by the ‘nephesh’ of another. A life for a life; a life poured out is substituted for a life that has sinned. This transaction is a transaction in blood.

It would serve us well to meditate on each phrase of this central statement.

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

Blood sacrifice is first of all a gift. It is a gift of God. God says in the first person “I have given it.” God takes the initiative. God is the giver. This is grace; a gift freely given by a gracious God. A gift by definition is undeserved, unmerited. We are sinners, and what we deserve, what we can justly demand, what we have right to is death. The wages of sin is death. Anything else is purely a gift of God, far beyond, in fact contrary to, what we deserve or can justly lay claim to. This is a gracious gift from God.

I have given it for you.” This gift has an intended recipient. This is not a gift, neatly wrapped, left on a park bench for no one in particular. It is a gift from someone, and it is a gift to someone. To you! God has you, by name, in mind. This is a personal gift to you.

It is given “on the altar.” There is a specific place where this gift is given. There is one way. This gift does not come any way we like. Not just anything anywhere. This is narrow and specific. It is not up to us to determine. We are not at liberty to say ‘I don’t like blood – it makes me squeamish. How about whipped cream?’ God has divinely decreed how atonement will be made. We can accept or reject his gift, but we cannot make up different terms for the agreement. God is the offended party, and it is his to determine what he will accept and in what way he will accept it.

It is given “to make atonement.” It is not given to make us feel better. A relationship has been severed that must be restored. Our sins have offended a holy God and they must be covered. God is a just judge, and his justice must be satisfied. The wages of sin is death and a death must occur.

It is given “for your souls.” Blood is given to make atonement for your life, for your person. What a gift! You have sinned and you deserve to die. But the blood of a substitute is given to take your place! A life is laid down to save your life!

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

The Blood Of Jesus

Of course this points beyond the animal sacrifice of the Levitical system to the fulfillment in Jesus, the ultimate, final, infinitely valuable, once for all sacrifice.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus is God the Father’s ultimate gift to us. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus “gave himself for our sins.” Galatians 2:20 says that “the Son of God …loved me and gave himself for me.” The context makes it clear that this giving himself refers to the crucifixion. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” What a gift! What grace!

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Sinners justified, redeemed, propitiated; declared not guilty but righteous, purchased out of the slave market, God’s righteous hatred of sin appeased. How? By his blood.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Justified, saved from God’s wrath by his blood.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Redemption, forgiveness, through Jesus’ blood; rich, extravagant grace! Ephesians 2:13 says that we were “brought near by the blood of Christ.” Colossians 1:20 says that he reconciled us to himself “making peace by the blood of his cross.” Hebrews 10:19 says “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” Hebrews 13:12 says that Jesus sanctifies us “through his own blood.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us we “were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 John 1:7 declares that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Revelation 7:14 says that the saints “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

So what’s the big deal about blood? Why so much talk about blood? Why such a focus on the cross? “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls.” Blood is sacred. It is a gift. It is to be treated with care. It is not to be put to common use.

Leviticus 17 and Acts 15

It is interesting, at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, where circumcision of Gentile converts was the big issue, this issue of blood comes up. The conclusion of the debate was:

Acts 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Is this a requirement for us to eat Kosher today? It certainly does underline the value of blood. But the reason given is:

Acts 15:21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

This seems to be a Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 10 reason; not to put us under specific parts of the law as an obligation, but rather to avoid giving unnecessary offense to those of Jewish background. There’s a lot of sin forbidden elsewhere in the New Testament that’s not on this list. But all the things listed would specifically be connected to idolatrous worship practices that were common in that day.

Drink My Blood

Leviticus 17 for the Jew would make consumption of any blood utterly repulsive and offensive. This would make Jesus’ teaching after feeding the five thousand so startling.

John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Jesus came to be the life giving bread from heaven. He invites us to feed on him. To drink his blood. Jesus is taking Leviticus 17 and transforming it and making it new. On the one hand, do not treat my blood as common or ordinary; on the other hand, connect with me, take me in, draw life from my sacrifice. In Leviticus, blood was applied to the altar in the tabernacle. In the New Covenant, the blood is applied inside us, the new temple, making holy the dwelling place of God.

At his final meal with his disciples,

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus’ blood, the blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls. Freely given. For you. Grace that was greater than all our sin. Drink of it, all of you! Take it in! Live! Jesus died so you might live!

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

Advertisements

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement

09/25 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160925_leviticus-16.mp3

Overview & Purpose

We are in Leviticus 16, the centerpiece of Leviticus, which is the centerpiece of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. This was a most solemn day for Israel. It was to be kept annually on the 10th day of the 7th month, the month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in our September / October. In Acts 27:9 this great day is simply referred to as ‘the Fast’. We know it as the great Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The conclusion of this chapter gives us the summary purpose of this day.

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. … 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is a day to make atonement for the holy sanctuary, for the tent of meeting, for the altar, for the priests, for the people. Atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. What a promise! What a day!

This is a refreshing word after the burdens of the book of Leviticus.

Chapters 1-7 outline the major types of sacrifices to be offered for the different kinds of offenses against God and one another. There are sins of commission, sins of omission, and unintentional sins. It is mostly blood, death, sacrifice, blood, innards, more blood, fire, smoke, blood sprinkled, blood splattered, blood poured out, blood smeared. Animals butchered, animals gutted, animals washed, animals burned up.

Then chapters 8-10 institute the priests who are to offer these sacrifices. In chapter 8 they are dressed up and set apart with a bunch of blood sacrifices and blood smearing and blood sprinkling. In chapter 9 they begin to offer the bloody sacrifices, and in chapter 10 two of the sons of Aaron are torched because they disobeyed the procedures.

Then we get to chapters 11-15, which deal with different kinds of uncleanness and the consequences of uncleanness. Uncleanness from foods, uncleanness from dead things, uncleanness from childbirth, uncleanness from diseases, uncleanness in your clothes, uncleanness in your house, uncleanness in household items, uncleanness from normal and abnormal bodily discharges. Uncleanness that separates you from God and from the community for a day, a week, a month, months at a time, possibly the rest of your life. Toward the end of chapter 15 we find these words:

Leviticus 15:31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

The presence of a Holy God living in the middle of sinful people is dangerous and he is to be approached with great care and humility.

If you have missed any of the messages on Leviticus so far, you are now caught up. And you can see what good news this chapter brings when it says:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

The word ‘atone’ or ‘atonement’ means to cover, cover over, hide, wipe away, and carries the ideas of cleansing and forgiveness. Atonement is necessary because of sin and uncleanness. Sin separates from a holy God. Sin needs to be removed so that the relationship between the sinner and God can be reconciled. This chapter is full of good news!

The remainder of Leviticus, chapters 17-27 deal primarily with holy living. Now that I am clean and my sins have been atoned for, what does it look like to live in relationship with a holy God? The motive and power for holy living grows out of this decisive act of atonement in chapter 16.

Humble and with His Own Offering

Leviticus 16:1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, 2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu died because they approached God in a way he had not commanded. Aaron is now warned that even he, as the high priest of Israel, does not have unrestricted access to the most holy place. God is to be honored as holy.

3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.

The high priest is not to approach the Holy Place empty handed. He is to bring his own offerings, a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, because he himself is a sinner.

And he is to dress appropriately for his task. There is a specific outfit designated for this once-a-year task. It is much more simple and plain than the extravagant and colorful garments usually worn by the high priest. This is a simple linen outfit that does not include the colorful ephod of gold, blue, purple an scarlet yarns nor the breastplate set with twelve gems, nor the pure gold nameplate on his head, all described in Exodus 28. He changes into this simple outfit in verse 4, and he changes back into his more ornate high priestly outfit in verses 23-24. Future high priests mentioned in verse 32 are also to wear these holy linen garments which are kept in the holy place. This simple linen outfit would look less like a royal outfit and more like the clothing of a servant.

The Congregation’s Offering

5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

It is restated a second time in verse 6 that Aaron is to offer a bull for himself to make atonement for himself and his house.

The congregation is to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats is determined by lot. One goat will be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden guilt never to be seen again. We are going to look primarily at the first part today, and we will take up this second part next week.

Entering the Holy of Holies

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

This is the third mention of the bull for a sin offering that Aaron must offer for himself. He takes the blood of this bull into the most holy place. But he must also bring live coals from the altar and incense to create a cloud that obscures his view of the presence of God in the holiest place. Again the reason is given ‘so that he does not die’. The mercy seat or atonement cover is the solid gold cover of the ark of the covenant, which resembles a throne overshadowed by angelic figures. This is where God said in Exodus 25

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

This atonement cover is to be sprinkled with blood from Aaron’s sin offering.

Cleansing the Congregation

Now that sacrifice has been made to atone for Aaron’s sin, the sacrifice of the congregation can be made.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

Aaron comes out from presenting the blood of his sin offering and now kills the goat selected as the sin offering for the people. This blood is also splattered on and in front of the atonement cover, making atonement for the holy place. The mercy seat or atonement cover served as a lid for the box called the ark. The ark contained the second set of stone tablets, God’s covenant contract with his people, his ten words. The second set of tablets, remember, because the first set of tablets were destroyed because the people had violated them while they were being given. Later this box would contain Aaron’s staff that budded because his authority was challenged by the rebellious people; and a jar of manna, a reminder of God’s provision for the needs of his people in spite of their grumbling and discontent. If God is understood as dwelling above the mercy seat between the cherubim, he would be looking down on his broken law, and reminders of the rebellion and discontent of his people. These contents were covered by the golden mercy seat, which was now splattered with sacrificial blood, reminding God to respond to his people with mercy and forgiveness rather than the judgment they deserved.

The blood splattered in the holiest place made “atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” Chapters 11-15 specify the things that make the people of Israel ceremonially unclean. ‘Transgressions’ is a word that means revolt or rebellion, intentional, willful covenant violations. ‘Sins’ is a more general word including any type of offense against God. The sins of the people (and of the priests) are pervasive and penetrating, even contaminating the most holy place. This place is cleansed from contamination by blood, as is the holy place, the tent of meeting, with its golden altar of incense, lampstand, and table of the bread of the presence.

The high priest is to do his work alone. Priests regularly entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread, and offer incense, but on this day no one was to enter except the high priest.

When he has made atonement for himself and for the people, then he must use blood from the two animals to cleanse the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard.

[we will take up verses 20-22 next week]

Conclusion of Ceremonies

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

This gives the details of concluding the ceremony. Aaron is to bathe and change back into his high priestly garments and offer the burnt offerings that confirm his and his peoples entire commitment to God. The fat of the sin offerings is to be burnt on top of the burnt offerings. The remains of the sin offerings are to be burned outside the camp. The man who led the goat away and the man who burned the remains of the sin offering are to wash their clothes and bathe before returning.

Summary Statement

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is to be an annual event, with priests anointed in his father’s place to carry on the tradition from generation to generation. All this, of course points us to Jesus.

Humbled Himself

Jesus our great High Priest, laid aside his royal robes and humbled himself.

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Propitiation

The great heart of the gospel presentation in Romans 3 says

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This word ‘propitiation’ comes from the Old Testament word for ‘mercy seat’. Jesus is the atonement cover, the mercy seat, the place where God and man meet. Jesus is the one who covers our rebellion, our discontent, all our sin, and hides it from God’s view. It is Jesus’ blood that satisfies the holy wrath of God against our sins so that we die not.

The Greater High Priest

Almost all of this points to Jesus. Seven times in this chapter Aaron is said to make an offering ‘for himself’ – 16:6 (2x), 11 (3x), 17, 24.

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

There is a stark contrast here between Aaron and Jesus. Unlike Aaron and the other high priests, Jesus had no sin of his own to atone for. His offering was completely for others.

Hebrews 9 specifically has this annual Day of Atonement in view.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Jesus our great High Priest offered a better sacrifice once for all in the greater tabernacle and secured eternal redemption

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus offered himself once for all to permanently put away sin. It is finished! But as Aaron entered the tabernacle with blood, the people anxiously awaited his emergence from the holy place. We too wait for our great High Priest to re-appear from the holy place to take us to be with himself.

Access to God

In the mean time, we have a way opened to us. When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45)

Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

We have a hope that enters behind the curtain.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We now at all times have access to enter the holy places. We can enter boldly, with confidence, not shrinking back with fear, because we enter by the blood of Jesus. We can draw near with full assurance of faith. We can draw near at any time. Let us then draw near!

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

September 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate

02/07 Merciful, Gracious, Compassionate; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160207_merciful-gracious-compassionate.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to increase in our affection for him as we listen to what he says about himself. This greatest of all beings, is profoundly worthy of our adoration and worship. We have looked at some of his essential attributes, those describing his very being, his essence, how he relates to his creation, to time, to space. We have looked at some of the characteristics which set him apart from us, in a class by himself, utterly unique and different – holy, and we are looking at some of the characteristics of which we find a faint reflection in us his creation, we who are made to reflect his image.

Last time we looked at God’s goodness. We used Stephen Charnock’s definition: “the goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures.” We saw that God is good in and of himself, in his very nature. He is the source of all good. And although he is not obligated to extend his goodness to any, he is good to all. In varying degrees, as he sees fit, he gives to each one better than we deserve. He is inclined to do us good. And he is our ultimate good. Although many settle for enjoying his good gifts, our supreme good is to enjoy forever the good giver of all those gifts.

In Exodus 33,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

God’s goodness is defined here by God’s right to freely extend grace and mercy to whom he will. His goodness is then declared to Moses in chapter 34

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God’s goodness is proclaimed as mercy, grace, longsuffering, covenant love, faithfulness, and justice. Today we will look at God’s mercy, his grace, and his patience.

Although there is much overlap in these concepts, the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921; p.206 ff.) helpfully distinguishes them according to whom they are directed. He writes that ‘mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace is God’s goodness toward the guilty; longsuffering is God’s goodness manifested in patience toward those who are deserving of punishment.’

Moses (d. 1406 or 1220 BC)

Throughout the Scriptures we see that God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger. God revealed this to Moses. In Moses’ instructions to the generation who would enter the promised land under Joshua, in Deuteronomy 4, he warns the people in coming generations not to fall into idolatry. He says that you will ‘provoke the Lord to anger… you will soon utterly perish from the land … you will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples… you will be left few in number …where the Lord your God will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands.’ but he gives them hope and confidence, based on the character of God.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

He grounds this hope, hope for repentance, hope of forgiveness, on the fact that the Lord is a merciful, compassionate God. God is inclined to be good toward those in misery and distress, even when that misery is self-induced.

Jonah (c.782-753 BC)

Some 500 – 700 years after Moses, Jonah, the reluctant prophet, is sent by God with a message of judgment to Nineveh, the great city of Assyria. When he finally delivers his message, the pagan king proclaims a fast, for everyone to turn from evil and cry out to God. He says:

Jonah 3:9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 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.

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. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah’s refusal to proclaim God’s judgment on this wicked enemy of Israel was due to his understanding of the goodness of God, his inclination to extend help toward those in distress, to be patient toward those who deserve punishment, to be forgiving toward those who are guilty.

Hezekiah (715-686 BC)

Some 30 – 50 years after Jonah, Hezekiah had already seen the northern 10 tribes of Israel conquered by Assyria because of Israel’s idolatry. After the wicked King Ahaz led Jerusalem in the abominations of rampant idolatry, King Hezekiah sought to cleanse Jerusalem from idolatry. He sent out an invitation to the remnant of Israel and Judah to return to the Lord and keep his Passover in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 30:6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

Hezekiah finds hope for wayward people punished for their idolatry in the character of God. God is compassionate, merciful, gracious. He will turn away his fierce anger if his people will return to him.

Nehemiah (445 BC)

300 years later, after Judah had spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, and with Ezra sought to restore proper worship to God. In Nehemiah 9, a public prayer of worship and confession of sin, they recount the history of God’s grace and mercy from Abraham through Egypt to Moses into freedom,

Nehemiah 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.

Then they recount the supernatural conquest of the promised land under Joshua, and their subsequent slide into complacent idolatry.

Nehemiah 9:27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies.

After the time of the judges, throughout the time of the kings,

Nehemiah 9:30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. 32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.

The people under Ezra and Nehemiah turn to the Lord in hope in spite of their repeated history of sin because of God’s character. He is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, great in mercies. He does not forsake them.

Undeserved, Unmerited, Free

Mercy is God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress. Grace is God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. In order to truly appreciate, to truly enjoy God’s mercy and grace, we need to grasp what mercy and grace really mean, and how we relate to them. Mercy means I am miserable and needy. I am in a position with no way out and no way to help myself. To cry out for mercy is to recognize the desperate nature of my situation and ask for help from outside. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story that helps us to feel the weight of our desperate situation.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

This is where the footnotes in your Bible can be very helpful. This servant owed ten thousand talents. What is that? What is a talent? The footnote in my Bible says that a talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer. I’m not sure what you take home in a year, but this man had embezzled 200,000 years worth of wages. He could not pay. He could never pay. So he was being sold. His wife, his children, everything that was dear to him was being sold. There was nothing this man could ever hope to do that would dig his way out of a hole that deep. It seems he didn’t even understand the depth of his situation. He doesn’t ask for mercy. He asks for patience. He asks for more time, an extension on the debt. As if given enough time he could somehow pay of the debt. But God doesn’t work that way. Look at the response of the king.

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity [σπλαγχνίζομαι] for him…

Out of pity. Literally, his innards were moved for him. In the depth of his gut, he was moved with compassion. Pity. His situation was hopeless. The king knew that no amount of time would make it possible for him to repay even a fraction of what he owed.

But the king had been wronged. Robbed blind. This man was a liar. A cheat. An enemy. He had abused the king’s trust, misused the king’s resources. He deserved to be sold. He probably deserved much worse. He deserved to be hated. But instead the king was inclined toward pity. In verse 33, the king says ‘I had mercy on you.’

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The master released him fully. Complete pardon. The debt forgiven.

If you go on to read the rest of this parable, you will see that the point of the parable is how utterly out of place our unforgiving attitude toward the petty offenses of our brothers is in light of the staggering debt we have been released from. Clearly the servant didn’t grasp the magnitude of the undeserved mercy that had been freely extended to him when he deserved so much worse. He just didn’t get it. Although offered free pardon, he continued to operate as if he were under a system of debt. His heart wasn’t moved. He wasn’t changed.

Grace vs. Debt

Romans helps us understand grace by contrasting it with its opposite. In Romans 3:19, Paul has established the universal guilt of all mankind before God.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

And then in verse 23 and following, he holds up the hope of grace.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Justification, legal pardon, forgiveness, being declared not guilty, our debt expunged, is a gift rooted in God’s grace. It was not free. It is the most costly of all gifts. God paid the purchase price. Redemption in Christ Jesus, propitiation by blood sacrifice. God is not righteous if he merely lets sin slide, looks the other way, brushes it off as if it were no big deal. God in his patience had passed over former sins. This left a question mark on the righteous character of God. Does he really care about justice? How can he justify ungodly people? The price was paid in full. He paid it himself. He gives it to us by grace as a gift. Romans 4 clarifies what this means.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

If you work, you earn wages. They are owed to you. They are due. Literally, this phrase could be translated ‘to the one who works, the wages are not counted according to grace but according to debt.’ Grace is the polar opposite of debt. Grace is unearned, undeserved, freely given, with no obligation. If you work you are entitled to a paycheck. And we have worked. We are entitled. The wages of sin is death. God owes us. He owes us death. He is only obligated to give us what we have earned. Grace is in a completely different category. We cannot demand it. We cannot presume upon it. God is in no way obligated to extend to us the least bit of grace. He is free to give us what we deserve, but it costs him dearly to extend to us grace. Faith is in a different category. It is not work. It is a total departure from the system of debt and obligation. It is a helpless dependence on the promised generosity of another, taking him at his word, gladly receiving a gift.

In Romans chapter 11, Paul speaks of the future of ethnic Israel, and the current unbelief of the majority of Jews, and he says:

Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Grace is freely extended to a remnant of Israelites, like Paul. It is not based on performance. If it were in any way attached to merit or obligation or earning, it would not be grace. Grace ceases to be grace if you are entitled to it.

2 Timothy 1 speaks of

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

God saved us, God called us not because of works but because of his own eternal purpose in Christ, because of grace – God’s inclination to extend goodness toward those who deserve nothing but evil.

Ephesians 1 is an extended hymn of praise of God’s glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 2 describes us as

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

And then he says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember…

Remember that you were separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God. But now you have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Remember the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Remember God’s undeserved, unmerited, unrestrained, free gift.

Until we feel the weight of the debt we owed, until we realize the extent which it cost God to forgive us, until we recognize he wasn’t obligated to, he is just and free to exact from us every bit of what we owe, we, like the ungrateful servant, will not get grace. We will not understand mercy. Our hearts will not be moved. We will still operate under a system of debt. And we will miss out. If we feel entitled, if we feel God owed it to us to extend grace and mercy, we just don’t get it. God would be just to give us all what we deserve, but God is inclined to deal well and bountifully with us. God is inclined to pity us, to extend goodness toward those in misery and distress. God is inclined to withhold his punishment toward those who continue to sin, eager to bring us to repentance. God is inclined to extend his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting us justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which we deserve. Let us praise the immeasurable riches of his mercy and grace!

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

February 7, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20130630; The Awesome Power of God

06/30/2013 The Awesome Power of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130630_power-of-god.mp3

We are going to talk about power today. I want to look at the most awesome display of God’s power that exists anywhere in the universe. Where we find the power of God in its greatest concentration might surprise you. We might immediately be drawn to ponder the unfathomable reaches of the galaxies and the delicate complexities of this creation. And that is truly awesome power. The Psalms tell us:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

The heavens and all their hosts, the universe, every planet, every star, every galaxy, every supernova created out of nothing by his word, whispered into existence. Every sea creature, every mammal, every bird, every insect, every reptile, every amphibian, every plant, land and sea, earth and sky, light and darkness, every color, every sound, every molecule ‘he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm’ (Psalm 33:9)

Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as:

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.

Every solar system, every orbit of every celestial body, every digestive system, every circulatory and respiratory system of every living thing, every proton, every neutron, every electron of every atom, Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. That is awesome power.

Colossians 1:16 says about Jesus:

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

All the cherubim, all the flaming seraphim, every archangel, every ministering spirit was created by Jesus and for Jesus. That is awesome power.

As mind blowing as this kind of star-breathing, universe-creating, solar system-spinning, life giving power is, this is not where we find the greatest demonstration of the power of God. According to the united testimony of God’s inspired word, the power of God is most magnificently put on display in one specific way. Many things are said to demonstrate the power of God or to be accomplished by the power of God, but only one thing is said to be the power of God.

The Gospel Is the Power of God

Paul begins his letter to the Romans with this declaration:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The gospel is the power of God. In 1 Corinthians, he says that:

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of the cross is the power of God. The word of the cross is the gospel, or good news Paul preached, as he makes clear in the following verses.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The good news, or gospel is Jesus Christ and him crucified. The gospel is centered on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, so much so that he is declared to be the good news. Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. The word of the cross is the power of God. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Easier to Punish than to Cover

Nothing is to hard for the Lord. The stars and galaxies and life and breath and everything were breathed out by God, simply spoken into existence by the word of his power. But when God made man, it describes him as it were getting his hands dirty, stooping down to form humankind out of dirt, and breathing into him life. We rebelled against God, directly violating the one command he gave us, distrusting his goodness and truthfulness, disowning his authority. God would have been just to instantly put an end to the rebellion and crush his disobedient creation. It would have been easy for God to exact punishment from sinners. Indeed, one day we are told that the Lord Jesus will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2Thess.1:7-8). He will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming (2Thess.2:8). But although the wages of sin is death, God did not immediately strike them dead. God extended mercy and covered their sin, even promising that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord, but I imagine it would have been much easier to simply punish sin than to cover it. To cover sin meant that one day there would have to be an ultimate sacrifice that would demonstrate the justice of God. This was the much more difficult, the much more costly solution. The Lord himself, the second person of the triune God, the infinite Son of God would have to take on flesh, to become human, in order to bear in his body our sin, so that God might be just and the justifier of sinners who have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.3:26). The gospel, the good news, Jesus Christ crucified is the power of God. There is no greater demonstration, no greater concentration of the power of God than that which is unleashed in the gospel.

If you think of a number line, it is not as great an advance on the line to make something from nothing, nor is it as great an advance to take something negative and make it nothing, but it is twice the distance to take something negative and make it positive. God created everything out of nothing, and said that it was very good. We took what God made good and made it worse than nothing; we rebelled against him and brought evil and death into his perfect world. God easily could have zeroed out the equation and started over. God’s power in judgment will be terrifyingly awesome, and it is an awesome thing to create life out of nothing, but it is unfathomably greater to take rotting, stinking, decaying, putrefying dead flesh and bring life and healing and wholeness to it. Ephesians 2 says this:

Ephesians 2:3 we … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:13 puts it this way:

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

An Unstoppable Power

Look earlier in Colossians chapter 1 to see how great this power of the gospel is.

Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

Notice that the gospel seems to have a power of its own. The gospel has come to you. He goes on to say that you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant and faithful minister, but the gospel came. It seems that it would have come with or without Epaphras. The word of truth, the gospel has come to you, and the gospel is coming to the whole world. The gospel, the power of God is advancing. And the gospel is bearing fruit and increasing. The gospel is bearing fruit, the fruit of faith and love and hope. The power of God is producing your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, and the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Good News for Believers

Take note, this is not just the fruit of new conversions. It is that, but it is more than that. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced by the power of the gospel at work in the believer. We often act as though the gospel is good news for lost people to get them found, for sinners to get them forgiven, for unbelievers to make them believers. That is true! It is the best news a sinner could ever hear. But it doesn’t stop there. The good news is good news for believers too.

When is the last time you preached the gospel to a believer? When is the last time you preached the gospel to yourself? Did you realize that every letter in the New Testament is addressed to a church, a group of churches, or an individual believer? The entire book of Romans is Paul preaching the gospel to the saints in Rome. We could say that this was to equip them to be better prepared to preach the gospel to unbelievers, but I think it runs deeper than that. The gospel is the power of God for the transformation of believers.

Not Either / Or

In no way do I want to undermine or downplay the necessity of preaching the gospel to unbelievers. Quite the opposite; I think that if we got in the habit of preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, moment by moment, if we made a practice of preaching the gospel to one another in order to truly minister to each others needs, the gospel would become so much a part of us that it would naturally overflow out of us to others.

I think one of the great fears that prevents Christians from engaging in evangelism is that we don’t feel that we know the gospel ourselves well enough, or we are not convinced in our own souls that it is really good news. If we enjoy the gospel ourselves and see the gospel transforming our own hearts and the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only will we be more confident to proclaim this good message to others, that message will be undeniably backed by our own experience and will be more irrefutably compelling to unbelievers.

Evangelizing the Saints

In our time remaining, I’d like to evangelize you, my brothers and sisters, and any unbelievers who are with us today. I invite you to take a deep breath and let your souls marinate in gospel truth this morning, and allow the gospel to penetrate into the deepest recesses of your heart with its healing transforming power.

The Diagnosis

At the very beginning of the gospel we need to accurately diagnose our own condition, in order to be able to rightly administer the cure. As we saw in Ephesians, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, by nature children of wrath, enemies of God, fully deserving the flaming fury and vengeance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2 goes on to describe us as separated from Christ, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God. Romans 5 describes us as weak or helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies, and under God’s wrath (v.6-10). Until I feel the weight of my sins, until I own this as my condition, I am not ready or willing to submit to the cure.

The Cure

The cure for my rebellion and my sin is execution. How do you like it when the doctor says that? ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23) and ‘the soul who sins shall die’ (Ezek.18:4,20).

Substitution

The staggering good news is that ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Is.53:6).

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

God the Father made his only Son, his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased to be sin for us.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Friend, do you realize that every sin you will ever commit was on Jesus when he was crucified for you?

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(Horatio G. Spafford, 1873)

Propitiation, Redemption, Justification

We should have been the just recipients of God’s righteous wrath, but ‘it pleased the Lord to crush him’ (Is.53:10); ‘he was crushed for our iniquities’ (Is.53:5).

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Propitiation is the appeasing of God’s wrath against our sin by the blood of Jesus. Redemption is the purchase price that God paid to make us his own. Justification is the legal declaration of righteousness, given as a gift to sinners.

This is the overwhelming power of the gospel. A holy, righteous and just God no longer views you as a sinner. ‘The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1Jn.1:7). No matter what you have ever done, if you are trusting in Jesus, God sees you as perfectly clean. He promises to ‘blot out your transgressions’ and ‘remember your sins no more’ (Is.43:25; Jer.31:34; Heb.8:12; 10:17)

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So many Christians live under the burden of the weight of guilt for our sins. We feel shame and failure so we shrink from God in fear. This is unbelief in the gospel. There is now no condemnation! God has blotted out that transgression with the blood of Jesus. He promises to remember it no more! The guilt for every sin is gone! Of course you don’t deserve it – it is grace, an unmerited, undeserved gift. Lift up your head and enjoy the gospel reality that there is now no condemnation. If you are justified, then you will never be held accountable for any sin you ever commit. If God is propitiated, his wrath against you is completely gone and only his love and affection remains for you.

The heart of the Father toward you is that he sees you a long way off, runs to you, embraces you with his love, interrupts your confession, covers you with his best robe, trusts you with his authority, and prepares a celebration in your honor (Lk.15:11-24)

Grace Unmerited Unearned

If the gospel comes to us by God’s grace, and we did nothing ever to earn any part of it, if it is truly ‘not your own doing …not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph.2:8-9), then God’s love for us is in no way connected or related to our performance. We cannot forfeit his love for us because we feel like we have failed him, and we cannot earn more of his love when we feel we are doing well. He loved us so much that he gave us his Son when we were still his enemies.

The Keeping Power of the Gospel

Since the gospel is God’s work and not mine, I cannot ever de-rail God’s purpose to save me. Jesus said ‘whoever comes to me I will never cast out …and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day’ (Jn.6:37, 39). Jesus said ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand’ (Jn.10:28). God, through the power of his gospel is ‘able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy’ (Jude 24). I can rest confident that although I am often faithless, he will remain faithful (2Tim.2:13).

Transforming Power

We are only scratching the surface of the power of God revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified. Do you begin to see how this good news is the power of God in your life to transform you, to produce in you fruit like love and joy and peace? Do you see how this can create in you patience and faithfulness and gentleness, goodness, kindness and self-control? Enjoy God’s power in the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself daily, saturate your soul in the gospel, renew your mind with the gospel. Minister the gospel to your brothers and sisters in Christ who desperately need to be reminded of the riches we have in Christ Jesus, to be reminded ‘what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph.3:18-19). Preach the gospel to those who have not yet believed the gospel so that the power of this good news can open their eyes to the reality of Jesus.

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

June 30, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:10-22; Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120304_exodus25_10-22.mp3

3/4 Exodus 25:10-22 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Throne Room

We are in Exodus 25. We are entering now the holiest place. God has rescued and redeemed his people, brought them to himself, entered into a covenant relationship with them, and now he is giving them the gift of his presence. As King and Commander, he will pitch his tent in the middle of their camp. In God’s instructions for the building of his dwelling place, this replica of what is in heaven, he starts with the things that are closest to him, things that most immediately represent his presence. Today we enter the very throne room of God and look at the first two pieces of furniture; the container and its cover.

Exodus 25:10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. 17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

And then in Exodus 37 we see these things built to specification.

Exodus 37:1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 2 And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. 3 And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. 4 And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold 5 and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. 6 And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 7 And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, 8 one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. 9 The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.

The Chest

The most important piece of furniture in God’s tent was this box and its lid. The word translated ‘ark’ means simply a chest, a box or a container. In Genesis 50 this same Hebrew word is used to refer to the box or coffin that Joseph’s body was placed in.

This word is also used in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24 of a chest with a hole in its lid used as a collection box for money. The ‘ark’ in the tabernacle also serves as a container; God tells Moses in verse 16 to put into this box ‘the testimony that I shall give you.’ The box was to contain the two tablets of stone inscribed with the requirements of the covenant. It was a testimony or witness of the covenant relationship between God and his people. This chest is referred to as ‘the ark of the testimony’ or ‘the ark of the covenant’. We could think of it as the container or ‘safe’ holding the official documentation of the contract between God and his people laid up in the most holy place.

A ‘cubit’ is the distance from the tip of your fingers to your elbow; about 18” long, so this chest was to be about 3′ 9” long; 2′ 3” wide and 2′ 3” tall. The box was to be overlaid with gold inside and out. It was to have a gold molding around it, and it was to have gold feet with gold rings to receive the two gold covered poles. These would serve as handles by which to carry the box, so that no one would touch the box directly. This was King David’s mistake, when he first attempted to bring the ark into the city of Jerusalem, he put it on a cart pulled by oxen. This cost Uzzah his life; when the oxen stumbled and he touched the ark, God was angry and struck him down for his error (2Sam.6; 1Ch.13). This box was holy, set apart, not to be touched by human hands. Later, (Num.4:5-6) we find that the ark was rarely ever to be seen by human eyes; whenever the tabernacle was packed up and moved, the ark was to be wrapped with the veil, then goatskin, and then a blue cloth.

Numbers 4:5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles.

This box, containing God’s commandments for his people was only part of this piece of furniture. The other part was its lid. Here it is called ‘the mercy seat’. This cover for the box was an elaborate thing, dimensioned to fit on top of the chest, but made of pure gold, with a winged angelic being formed at both ends.

The Cherubim

The angelic beings are called ‘cherubim’. We first meet the cherubs or cherubim in Genesis chapter 3. God had planted a garden, full of every good thing. There he placed the man and the woman he had created. He blessed them and entrusted the garden into their care. This was to be a place where God would manifest his presence, where God would fellowship with his very good creatures. This garden, if you will, was designed by God to be a temple where the man and woman could enjoy his presence, walking with them in the cool of the day. God gave them every good thing for their pleasure. He placed on them only one restriction; one tree was not to be eaten of under consequence of death. The man and the woman rejected God’s authority and chose to follow Satan’s lie rather than God’s truth. They severed their relationship with God. They could no longer enjoy his presence, but hid in fear. Their sin separated them from the holy God (Is.59:2). It says:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cherubim were awesome angelic guardians protecting the presence of God. We find the most detailed description of cherubim in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 1:4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Many scholars think these creatures resemble a sphinx-like composite creature. Depictions have been found from Egypt to Babylon to Israel dating back to the 12th century B.C., giving ideas of how they might have been portrayed.

In several places in scripture God is seen as enthroned on or above the cherubim (2Ki.19:15; Ps.18:10; 80:1; 99:1; Is.37:16; Ezek.9:3; cf. 2Sam.22:11).

Psalm 99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

This is what we see reflected in the design of the cover for the ark.

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

God is not represented by the cherubim; that would be prohibited by his second commandment. God makes his presence known above and between. The outstretched wings of the cherubim serve as God’s throne.

The Cover

These angelic figures are part of what is translated as the ‘mercy seat’ in the KJV and ESV. The NIV translates ‘atonement cover’; it was translated by Wycliffe as ‘propitiatory’. The Hebrew word כפרת[kapporeth] is derived from כפר[kaphar] which means to cover over, propitiate, or atone. The name comes from the function this cover will play on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 16.

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. …11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. …29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

God made a covenant with his people. He knew they could not perfectly keep the terms of this covenant. So with the covenant, he provided a way for sins to be forgiven. God, enthroned above the cherubim, looks down on the covenant documents that his people promised to obey. They have transgressed his law. The wages of sin is death. Then sacrificial blood is applied to the lid that covers the law. A death has occurred to meet the just conditions of the covenant. God sees that the violated covenant has been covered by the blood and he is satisfied. Their sins are paid for and they are clean. The Hebrew word means to cover. Our English word ‘atonement’ points to the result of sins being covered. It comes from the phrase at – one – ment; harmony, unity, a reconciled relationship. Because our sins are covered, we can enjoy a favorable relationship with our covenant God.

The LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, used the word ιλαστηριον [hilasterion] to translate the Hebrew word for mercy seat or atonement. This is the Greek word the author of Hebrews uses for the mercy seat.

Hebrews 9:5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.

This same word is translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

A closely related word [ιλασμος] appears in 1 John

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus is our atonement cover. His death satisfies God’s just wrath that our sins deserve. His sacrifice opens the way for God to be propitious or favorable toward us. He restores harmony and brings true reconciliation between God and man. This is what the author of Hebrews points us to when he contrasts the high priest of the Old Testament with Jesus, our greater High Priest.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. … 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus death on the cross was the final fulfillment that the sacrificial system was pointing toward. Jesus’ sacrifice of himself once for all covered the law that we violated from God’s sight. No longer do we need a human priest to go in to God’s presence for us. No longer are we excluded from God’s presence because of our sin. Our sin was finally and forever nailed to his cross. Jesus is our great and final High Priest. At his crucifixion, the curtain barring us from the holiest place was ripped from top to bottom.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

No longer is the law written on tablets of stone and laid up in a box in the heart of the sanctuary.

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

We are God’s temple, God’s people, his law is written on our hearts.

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

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Centrality of the Cross

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090906_centrality_of_the_cross.mp3

9/6/2009 The Centrality of the Cross

In light of communion and doing communion more often, I want to spend some time together meditating on the significance of the cross of Jesus. The cross is not part of Christianity; the cross IS Christianity; there is no Christianity without the cross. The cross is not something we gain an understanding of and move on. The cross is where we live our lives. The cross of Christ will be the focal point of our worship– for eternity!

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The Cross must be Central in the Christian Life & Ministry

The Cross is the Center of Church Life

The Cross will be Central for all Eternity

The Cross was the Center of Jesus’ Purpose

Jesus did not come primarily to live a perfect life and set a great moral example for mankind. Jesus came to die.

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Mt.16:21; Mk.8:31; cf. Lk.24:7)

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

After his resurrection, he said to them:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Cross was the Center of God’s Purpose for all Eternity

The cross was the goal and focal point of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. But this was not Jesus’ creative plan to appease the wrath of his angry Father. The death of the Son on the cross of Calvary was the plan of God before the foundation of the world.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Hebrews 10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’

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

Luke 22:22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Ephesians 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

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

God made Jesus to be sin on our behalf.

Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

God’s righteous wrath must be poured out and his justice must be satisfied. And God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by his blood. Jesus was appointed by his Father as the sin-bearing substitute.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Father sent the Son. Jesus came in perfect obedience to his Father, in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. There was perfect unity among the persons of God.

The Cross is the Center of the Gospel

The good news message is a message of blood-bought freedom and forgiveness. The ultimate price paid. Peace with God purchased at the highest cost. The just wrath of God absorbed by the willing sacrifice of a sinless substitute. As Phillip Bliss described it so well in the old hymn:

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Paul describes the gospel this way:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

The good news message is the most important message in the universe – of first importance. And the good news message is the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The gospel message is called the message of the cross, and the message of the cross is the power of God for saving sinners. This was the content of the apostolic preaching; Christ crucified. In fact, Paul resolved to know nothing except Christ crucified:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Here’s some more verses that describe the gospel accomplishments of the cross:

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”––

1Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption, propitiation. The message of the cross – Christ crucified – is the gospel. Without the cross, there is no good news. Here’s some verses from another favorite hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded; James Waddel Alexander

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

The cross must be central in the Christian life & Ministry

But the joy of the cross does not stop with the message of justification, propitiation, reconciliation and redemption. The cross is essential to our sanctification; our progress in holiness. We don’t hear the good news of Christ crucified for sinners, and then move on to something else as we grow in the Christian life. The good news message of Christ crucified is good news for Christians too!

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.

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

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

The good news of Christ crucified begins the Christian life by the great truths of justification – being declared ‘not guilty’ by the judge of all the earth; redemption – being bought from the slave market; propitiation – the wrath of God fully appeased by the blood of Christ; and reconciliation- enemies of God conquered by his terms of peace. But the good news of the cross continues throughout the Christian life in the great truths of sanctification – being made holy; and mortification – putting to death the sin that remains.

Listen to what Jesus taught:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Mt.10:38;16:24; Mk.8:34)

Jesus taught this before he was crucified. He does not tells us to take up the cross of Jesus, but to take up our own cross daily. A condemned criminal was forced to carry their own cross to their place of execution as a public demonstration that they were guilty. Taking up your own cross is a daily public acknowledgement that I am guilty and I deserve to die. Jesus calls us to daily embrace our own cross – our own guilt before him. Again today I am a sinner deserving of condemnation and in desperate need of God’s undeserved grace. I stand here deserving of death row and yet I have been selected to receive God’s pardoning mercy. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. Peter loved his own skin so much that he disowned any relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls us to disown ourselves, to utterly reject and renounce self. I disown me. I utterly abhor and reject my own traitorous heart. I want to be identified only and completely with the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily I must deny self and own my guilt and identified with Jesus through his cross.

The cross is essential to my own sanctification or growth in holiness. The cross is vital to my salvation. The cross was central to Jesus’ purpose and the plan of God from eternity. The cross is also to be crucial in the life of the church.

The cross is the center of church life

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, …

The church was devoted to the breaking of bread. Day by day they broke bread together. They gathered together on Sundays – the first day of the week to break bread. Breaking bread was an essential part of the life of the early church. They took this ordinance from Jesus:

1Corinthains 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (cf. Lk.22:19)

Jesus commanded his followers to break bread and drink the cup to regularly remind us of him. Daily we are to embrace our own guilt and renounce our sinful self. Regularly we are to be reminded together of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. Jesus calls us to be keenly aware of our own guilt, and Jesus invites us to stay close to his cross and revel in the undeserved mercy that he pours out there. Elizabeth Clephane writes: [Beneath the Cross of Jesus; Elizabeth C. Clephane]

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

1Corinthains 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Jesus invites us to feed on him, to draw our life and sustenance from his limitless resources. We should never tire of drawing near the cross and being freshly amazed by the riches of grace toward us who believe.

The cross will be central for all eternity

We are not done with the cross after salvation. The cross is vital to our sanctification. We need to be regularly reminded of God’s grace toward us at the cross. But our reflection on the cross will last much longer than our momentary lives here. We will spend eternity reveling in the grace of God that was secured for us at the cross. We will never outgrow the cross of Christ. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John, we get a glimpse of heavenly worship around the throne of God. Jesus is announced as:

Revelation 5:5 … behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Notice the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, the victorious Root of David is seen in heaven as a lamb standing as though it had been slain. The glorious king is a butchered lamb.

7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

The cross is never left behind and forgotten. The cross is the eternal ground and source of worship and wonder. Jesus, you are worthy because you were slain and you ransomed people for God with your own blood. The bloody memory of the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God is the centerpiece of angelic worship.

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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

September 6, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment