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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land

03/26 Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170326_leviticus-25_1-22.mp3

Sabbath Structure; Outline

Leviticus 25 connects back to Leviticus 23 on the subject of holy time, and it connects the concepts of holy land and holy people. The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.” The first section of this chapter deals with the holy times of a sabbath rest for the land, and the year of jubilee. This first section concludes at verse 17 with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God,’ which is followed by a sort of appendix, answering an objection and encouraging faith in God. The second section, verses 23-38, deals with the possession, sale and redemption or release of land, and concludes with ‘I am the LORD your God.’ Verses 39-55 address the possession, sale, and redemption or release of people, and conclude with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God.’

Leviticus 23 began:

Leviticus 23:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places. 4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.

The chapter began with weekly sabbaths, and continued to describe the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits and Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Booths. Chapter 25 picks up on the concept of a Sabbath rest and moves from a weekly Sabbath of rest for living creatures, to a seventh year Sabbath of rest for the land, to a great release year after a cycle of seven Sabbath years.

Jubilee: Sabbath for the Land

Leviticus 25:1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

This chapter begins with the phrase we have heard repeatedly in Leviticus ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’. This book is a collection of words from the LORD. This is God’s very word to his people; divine revelation. Living and active and powerful. This particular word of the LORD was spoken on Mount Sinai. This is the first mention of Sinai since the conclusion of the instructions for sacrifices at the end of chapter 7. The book begins with the LORD speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting. Here we have a reminder that Israel is still camped at Sinai, and God is authoritatively instructing his people.

In Chapter 23, he commanded that“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest.” Here in chapter 25, he declares “the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD, …in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD.” In 23, people and animals rested every seventh day. Here in 25, the land is to rest every seventh year. Like the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath year was ‘a Sabbath of solemn rest.’ In the weekly Sabbath, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work.” In the Sabbath year, the land was not to be worked.

Leviticus 25:3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

There was to be no sowing, no pruning, no mass harvesting. The land was to be allowed to rest. This is restorative to the soil. Allowing the earth to rest reduces the sodium content of the soil. Modern farming rotates crops in different years for the same reason.

God’s Detailed Care

God cares for every part of his creation. We saw in the Sabbath day that every person, slave and free was to rest. We also saw that this weekly rest even extended to work animals. They were to be cared for and given a weekly day off. Here we see God’s care for the land itself. Every seventh year the land was not to be worked.

We see creation personified in Romans 8

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

We actually see a lot of personification of creation in the Psalms and the prophets, anticipating the coming of the King.

Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

We tend to skim over these kind of passages because of their familiarity, but pause to think about what this looks like. The earth is spoken of as rejoicing, fields exulting, language of emotion; language of worship. I don’t know if this is merely figurative language or something more, but what is clear is that everything the LORD made he made for himself, for his glory, to worship him. Creation was meant to bring him glory and praise. When the land is managed wisely, in obedience to him, it receives his blessing, it becomes more fruitful, it brings glory to the great Creator who cares for all of his creation.

Sabbath Provision

Leviticus 25:6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

The people were not permitted to sow their fields and they were not allowed to engage in normal harvesting operations, but they were allowed to go into the fields an take what they needed for their families. They were allowed to glean as if they were all sojourners in the land. Leviticus 19 and 23 require the landowner to leave gleanings in the field to care for the poor and the sojourner. Every seventh year, every land owner was to act as if he had no land of his own, but was allowed to glean in the field of another. This would serve several purposes. This would help the landowners to identify and empathize with the poor and the foreigners living among them. Every seventh year they were required to live like them. It would also force them to relax. Farming and agriculture is hard, stressful work, as our farmers would attest. Rise early, plan wisely, watch the seasons, is it too early?, will it freeze?, will we get enough rain? or too much?, will the weather cooperate? and pray a lot. God says ‘relax! Take a year off. Rest. Stop worrying. Enjoy. Set aside the normal tasks of agriculture. Let the land do its thing. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you. God promises that it will be enough for yourself, for your servants, for your hired workers, for the sojourners who live among you, for your livestock, and even enough for the wild animals. God holds himself up as the abundant provider, the one who cares for all his creatures

Jubilee (Yobel)

Verse 8 begins a section on what is known as the year of Jubilee.

Leviticus 25:8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. 13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.

The pattern of sevens is extended here. Every seventh day is a holy Sabbath day Every seventh year is a Sabbath year. The seventh Sabbath year, or the 49th year, introduces the year of jubilee. God built a cycle of work and rest into his creation. Even in Eden, his perfect creation, there was a cycle of fruitful labor for six days and a day to enjoy God and his good gifts. He built into creation a sense of expectation, longing, anticipation, hope. The Jubilee was the fiftieth year. For most Israelites, this would be a once in a lifetime event.

The Jubilee was announced on the Day of Atonement, the day of national mourning over sin and its consequences.

Leviticus 16:29 “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.

Think of this; on the day when the nation was grieving over their sin, on the one day when the great high priest brought the sacrificial blood in to the holiest place,the one day blood was splattered in front of the mercy seat, the day the nation saw what it took to be clean before the LORD from all their sins, a trumpet would sound throughout the land announcing liberty, release, restoration. Do you see this connection? This one day that the nation was acutely aware of its sin, and a trumpet would sound throughout all the land announcing liberty!

This may provide the background of the trumpet blast we see in a few passages in the New Testament.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus responded:

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Paul taught on the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The Jubilee was a time of liberty to slaves, a restoration of the inheritance. It was a time of return and of rest. The jubilee was another year like the Sabbath year with no sowing or reaping.

Jubilee and Sin Nature

Because the Jubilee was a year of release, it would create a unique opportunity to abuse the system. God understands our inclination to greed and self advancement, and so he gave rules for the protection of his people.

Leviticus 25:14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God. 18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

It is sad that something so glorious as the Jubilee, liberty and restoration, has to be guarded against misuse to wrong another. But such is the sobering reality of our fallen condition. Left to ourselves, we will take a great blessing, given by God for our good, and twist it around and use it to injure another person. The promised release must be taken into account for fair business dealings. What is being bought or sold is not the land itself, because the land belongs to the LORD, but the produce of the land for a given number of years.

The reasons given here for not wronging one another is fear and promise. Do not take advantage of others, because God is to be feared. Remember what the LORD did to Egypt when they took advantage of you. Do not think that God will not stand up against you if you take advantage of his people. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the LORD is a motive for obedience.

Promise is also a motive for obedience. God promised that if they would do his statutes and keep his rules and perform them, “then you will dwell in the land securely.” Safety, security, peace is promised as a reward for obedience. It is amazing that God gives us rules that are for our good and for our happiness, and then he promises to heap up reward on us when we obey!

Jubilee and Unbelief

Leviticus 25:19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

This appendix to the Jubilee instruction alerts us to another tendency of our nature. We are inclined toward unbelief. We have a tendency toward worry and doubt and fear. God proclaims liberty and we say ‘but how is this going to work?’ The Jubilee would be a second year of no sowing and no reaping, following the seventh Sabbath year. If we don’t sow or reap for two years, how will we survive? What will we eat? One year of no sowing or reaping is enough to cause doubt and anxiety and fear. God meets us where we are, in our unbelief at his promises. If we say ‘What shall we eat?’ God answers ‘I will send my blessing.’ And God meets us where we are in our doubt and fear and tells us how he will provide. He will bless the produce of the sixth year such that it will sustain you for three years. God promises to provide not just the bare minimum necessary, but he provides abundantly. He says “you will eat your fill.” Our abundant God promises to satisfy us abundantly. Our happiness does not come from what we can store up for ourselves in bigger barns.

Jesus warned:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He continues:

Luke 12:21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Jesus addressed those with little faith.

Luke 12:28 …O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus invites us to treasure God above all this world has to offer. He invites us to rest, to trust, to obey, to depend.

As we will see more clearly in the coming weeks, Jesus is our Jubilee. Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Jesus is our sufficiency. Jesus is liberty to the slave. Jesus is freedom from anxiety.

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

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March 27, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Sovereign and Free

11/22 God Sovereign and Free [omnipotent] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151122_god-sovereign-free.mp3

Allow me to read a letter

By the president of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.”

[http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=3584]

Washington mentions the providence of Almighty God – God’s preserving and governing of all things – as a primary reason for our thanksgiving.

We are studying who God is, what he is like, what God says about himself, how we can honor and worship him as he really is.

God is God. What does it mean for God to be God? The most common Hebrew word for God is El, Eloah, Elohim, which at its root means to be strong. He is God Almighty. God is the supreme ruler over all, he is the sovereign authority of the universe.

Let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about God.

Power in Creation

Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. That is unfathomable power!

Have you ever made something? I worked for a time in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. When we were developing a new product, there were countless hours of meetings discussing the concept and planning the product. There was much thought and effort put in to the best design. There were sketches and conceptual drawings, calculations, reviews, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, more discussions, schematics, blueprints, fabrication drawings, solid modeling, prototyping, testing, reviews, more meetings, adjustments, revisions to the drawings, more testing, more meetings, lots of head scratching… And then there was the parts sourcing. What kind of materials should we use? How long will they last? Where can we get them? How much do they cost? Will they arrive on time? Can we get enough? How will we make sure the parts are correct? Once we have all the parts, how long will it take to build? Who has the skill and training to assemble it correctly? How do we make sure it works? Will it actually do what we designed it to do?

Imagine this kind of power! He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm! Some of our higher executives thought they had this power. They would march into the engineering department and demand: “I spoke, why isn’t it done yet? I commanded, why isn’t it in my hands?” The answer was often “You haven’t given us the proper resources to complete what you requested. We need more time, more money, better technology, more manpower.”

But think of this. God didn’t have anything outside of himself to work with! God didn’t start with any raw materials. Into nothing he spoke and something was immediately there at his command!

Power in Fulfilling His Purposes

We are told in verse 11 ‘the counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’. This is in contrast to the counsel and plans of nations and people. Have you ever made plans that came to nothing? You spend time and energy and resources and you are excited and it just doesn’t happen the way you had hoped. Maybe it doesn’t happen at all. Your plans come to nothing. How often are your plans frustrated? How often are you frustrated? How fun is it to be around you when you are frustrated? Something comes up, things get interrupted, you run out of time, something doesn’t work out, someone you were counting on forgets or lets you down. Imagine, God is never, ever frustrated! There is never a plan God makes that doesn’t work out exactly the way he had planned. We get frustrated because we didn’t plan well enough, or we made plans based on inadequate information, or we were unable to carry out our plans, or our plans were contingent on someone else who didn’t do what we were depending on them to do. God runs into none of these problems; he has all knowledge and all wisdom, he has unlimited resources within himself, his plans are dependent on no one outside himself. God is not limited by any of the things that we are limited by. God has never ever had his plans frustrated. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. ​The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” Our response ought to be fear of the LORD and awe filled worship.

Psalm 148 says:

Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 ​fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 ​Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

He commanded, he established, he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Romans 4 describes God as the one who:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls into existence the things that do not exist. He creates something out of nothing.

Psalm 115:2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 ​Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

God does all that he pleases. Whatever he wants to do, whatever he wills to do, whatever he desires, that he does. There is nothing that God wants to do, wishes he could do, but is thwarted or frustrated in his plans or desires. We worship a happy God, not a frustrated God. He does all that he pleases and he is pleased with all that he does. This is what it means to be God. He has the right to do all that he pleases, and what pleases him is always what is best.

God says in Isaiah 45

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. 9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?

God does all that he pleases, and all that pleases him is right and good. God is the Creator of all things, and as Creator, he has the right over all his creation to do with it what pleases him. He can punish, and he can make alive, he is free to show his mercy or his justice. He is sovereign. He has authority to rule and govern his creation in the way that is right and best.

God Cannot…

We need to pause and clarify here. Is there anything that God cannot do? The Bible actually lists several things that God cannot do. Because God is truth, God cannot lie (Heb.6:18). Because God is good, he cannot be tempted by evil (Jas.1:13). Because God is all-wise, he cannot change his mind (Num.23:19; 1Sam.15:29). Because God is perfect, he cannot change (Mal.3:6). Because God is just, he cannot condone sin or let sin go unpunished (Ex.34:7; Prov.11:21). Because God is sovereign, he cannot fail to accomplish all his good purposes (Is.46:9-11). Because God is all glorious, he cannot share his glory with another (Is.48:11). Because God is God, he cannot deny himself (2Tim.2:13). God cannot act contrary to his own nature. God cannot be other than he is. None of these ‘cannots’ limit the power of God. To say God can act contrary to his own nature would be a weakness, not a strength.

Free

God can do more than he does. Creation has not exhausted his abilities. We could conceive of other things which God has the power to do, but that he has not done. Picture a bodybuilder with his wife who has given birth to their tiny baby. As he holds this fragile life in his muscular arms, he has enough power to crush this baby. The fact that he does not is not a limitation to his power. Although he can do it, he is not compelled to do all he is able to do. When we say that he can do it, we mean that he possesses sufficient strength and ability. Although he has the strength, he does not want to do it. We would even be right to say that he cannot do it, not because he lacks the strength, but rather because it is against his will and his desire. He wills to use his strength to protect the infant rather than to destroy it, and he cannot use his strength do do something that violates his own will and purposes.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 ​Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 ​He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. 8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; 9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; 10 ​who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, 11 ​Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, 12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

God is omnipotent, or all-powerful, but God is also free, free to use his power in the way he chooses. “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does.” He is not obligated or bound in the way he uses his power by anything outside of himself. The only way we can say God is not free is when he has freely bound himself by his own word and promises.

Power to Sustain

God’s power and authority is seen in his creation, but it does not end with creation.

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.

Jesus is sustaining all things. Every sub-atomic particle is directly governed by God. Not one molecule in the universe is out of its proper place. God’s power not only created all things that are, but also sustains and maintains those things.

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. …

Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of his power. He is ensuring that every orbit of every planet around every sun or star and every orbit of every electron around its nucleus is precisely in the course he intends for it. God actively and sovereignly sustains his creation. Speaking of his creatures, Psalm 104 says:

Psalm 104:27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

God gives life, sustains life, and takes life away. Psalm 3 says:

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

Do you consider that when you wake up? Every morning that you wake up, thank the Most High God that he sustained you through the night. He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25). He is active, intimately involved in sustaining his creation. This should bring us freedom from anxiety. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God vigilantly watches over the most insignificant of his creatures. This should not only give us freedom from fear and worry, but also clothe us with boldness for daring and dangerous advances of the gospel.

Psalm 118:6 ​The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom.8:31).

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Power to Redeem

God is able to bring something out of nothing, he is intimately active in sustaining, providentially preserving and protecting what he has created, and he is even able to conquer the hard hearts of his enemies and make them his own.

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.

God is demonstrating his power in the gospel.

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. …24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The same God who spoke light into existence can create life in hearts that are blind toward him.

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

In Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus pointed out to him that he loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a person whose heart is set on the things of this world to embrace God as his greatest treasure. “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him” (1Cor.2:14). The disciples recognized the impossibility for a person who is clinging tightly to this life to release his grip and reach out for God. Impossible, not so much because he cannot, but, like this rich young ruler, because he will not. Yet Jesus speaks hope for salvation, hope even for this rich man.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. God can open blind eyes to the beauty of the gospel. This is what the new birth is all about. God says I will “remove the heart of stone from from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek.36:26-27). This is great hope for evangelism even in the most unlikely places, even among the hardest people, for ‘what is impossible with man is possible with God’.

We should stand in awestruck wonder at a God like this. Our hearts should resonate with thanksgiving to our Almighty Sovereign. We should stand in worshipful fear at a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. We should enjoy the happy presence of a God who is never frustrated, who does all that he pleases. We should fearlessly obey this God in whose hands we are, and boldly go to the unreached peoples, confident that our God is mighty to save!

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

November 22, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 21:12-32; Capital Punishment – The Wages of Sin

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111016_exodus21_12-32.mp3

10/16 Exodus 21:12-32 Capital Punishment; The Wages of Sin

How to Right the Wrong When You Fall Short

We are in Exodus 21, the Book of the Covenant, and today we come to a section of God’s laws where he addresses capital offenses. God has laid out his perfect standard in chapter 20, in his ten words spoken to his people. He said:

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

15 “You shall not steal.

These are absolute statements. They are commands. The assumption is ‘this is how people in relationship with the living God live. There is no ‘what if’ or ‘what about….’ God has spoken authoritatively to what life should look like in his kingdom.

And remember the response of his people. They were terrified at the presence of God and asked that he speak no more to them directly or they would die. They felt their guilt and inadequacy before God. They knew they didn’t live up to his perfect standards. They requested a mediator, a go-between to keep them safe. God is now speaking to Moses, who will write God’s words and communicate them to the people.

In this section, God tells his people what to do when they violate his perfect standard. He addresses the distinction in consequences between manslaughter and premeditated homicide, consequences for kidnapping, consequences for disrespect of parents, consequences for injuries and disabilities short of death, consequences for harming an innocent bystander, and consequences for negligent homicide.

We Have Wronged God

So God lays down his perfect standard. Then he tells them how to right the wrong when they fall short of his perfect standard. He starts, at the end of chapter 20, by addressing how to right the wrong done to him for violating his rules, because all sin is first of all sin against God the perfect lawgiver. And there is no restitution that can be made. There is nothing we can do to make it right with God. The wages of sin is death. We have dishonored God by not living according to his instructions. But God, in his mercy has allows for substitution. A sacrificial animal can take our place an die. Its blood in place of ours to satisfy justice. God gives us the sacrifice of a substitute to demonstrate the depth of our guilt and the greatness of his honor, and to bring reconciliation when we have wronged him. Through the death of a substitute, we can be brought back into a proper worship relationship with our Creator. This all points forward to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God Values Human Life

Now God is addressing the secondary issue that when we violate God’s perfect standards, we not only wrong God, but we also wrong those around us. This section addresses how to right the wrongs we have done to our fellow man. God had told us all the way back in Genesis how much he values life. He told Noah:

Genesis 9:5 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.

God values human life because human life uniquely carries his image. It’s as if you see someone’s reflection in a mirror, and you hate that person so much and want to do them harm that you throw a stone at the reflection of their face and shatter the mirror. God takes that personally, because it really is an attack on him. God made man to reflect his own character. To assault a human being is to assault the character of God. The dignity and worth of man as an image-bearer of God is so great that it requires the ultimate protection. To take the life of another is to forfeit your own. That is what he says in Exodus 12:12.

Exodus 21:12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.

Manslaughter

Death is the consequence for violating the sixth command, ‘you shall not murder’. But he goes on to qualify that there are exceptions to the general rule.

13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

God cares about the intent of your heart. If you intended to kill, if it was a willful or cunning premeditated attack, you are to be granted no sanctuary. Even the most sacred place is no place of refuge for the murderer. This is not to say that all murderers go to hell. A murderer could trust in God’s provision of a substitute to deal with his guilt before God. He would not escape the immediate consequences of his sin against his fellow man, but in God’s mercy he would escape the eternal consequences of his sin against God. An example of this would be the thief – likely a murderer – on the cross, who acknowledged his own guilt and looked to the Lamb of God for mercy. He did not escape the immediate consequences of his sin, but Jesus promised him a place with him after death. King David, a murderer, said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…

The exception listed here is when a death occurs that was not premeditated, not willful, not by cunning. There was no intent to kill. We have a word for this that the bible does not use. We would call it an accident. Our word comes from the Latin meaning to fall – it simply fell out this way, it happened, a chance occurrence, the idea of fortune, fate, destiny, or luck. There are no accidents in God’s universe. Nothing just happens. The phrase the bible uses here is a bit startling: “God let him fall into his hand.” The example given in Deuteronomy 19:5 is neighbors cutting wood and an axe head slips from the handle and kills a man. This is not murder. And this is not senseless fate. God let him fall into his hand.

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

God says:

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

This is a recognition of the sovereign providence of God, who orders all things. There is protection for the one who killed without malicious intent. We see in Numbers 35 the establishment of cities of refuge where the manslayer can flee and find protection for his life.

Kidnapping

In verse 16 we see that kidnapping is a capital offense.

16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

Anyone taking away the freedom of another person is in effect taking away their life, and for that offense, they forfeit their own life.

Dishonoring Parents

In verses 15 and 17 we see that breaking the 5th command was also a capital crime

15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. … 17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

In the 5th command, God told us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…” And here we see just how short your days would be if you didn’t take this command seriously! The role of parent is to be held with such high honor and respect that hitting father or mother would be unthinkable. This drills down to the heart attitude when even cursing is included – to say something like ‘I hate you and I wish you were dead’; this kind of disrespect warrants the death penalty, because it disregards the most basic representation of God’s authority on this earth.

Disability Benefits

Next, God addresses how to make it right on issues that fall short of the death penalty, but where there is injury.

18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. 20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

The weapons listed would be those available spontaneously in the heat of the moment. A stone or fist demonstrate a different level of premeditation from a knife or a sword. If the fist does cause death, this would fall under the previous category of a willful attack. Here he addresses the issue of a disabling injury caused by another person. The person who inflicted the injury is responsible to pay for the loss of time and any medical needs. This would be the equivalent of disability and health care coverage. ‘He shall be clear’ means that the death penalty is not to be applied when death does not result. The death penalty is to be inflicted if a master beats his slave to death. As we saw last time, biblical slavery is a very different thing from the slavery we are familiar with. Here, the human rights of the slave are protected just as the free man. This does affirm that a master has the right to inflict discipline to correct an unruly slave. But if he causes his servant to temporarily miss work, the loss of work is a loss to him, so he doesn’t have to compensate himself.

Innocent Bystander and the Life of the Unborn

The next section addresses the wrong done to the ultimate innocent bystander, a woman and her unborn child.

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Again we see God’s concern and care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Even when there is no harm, a fine is to be imposed on the careless individual. There is some debate among bible scholars if the harm includes only the woman or also the child, but common sense would make it clear that the miscarriage of a baby to an expecting couple would certainly be considered harm. If there is no harm would indicate that both premature baby and mother are uninjured. If there is harm to mother or child, the one who caused the injury will pay, even the death penalty if he caused death.

Injury to Slaves

The next verses protect slaves from abusive masters.

26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

A master had the right to discipline his servant, but not to abuse. Any abuse – evidenced by a permanent injury – allowed the slave to go free and cost the master his investment.

Dangerous Animals

The final section addresses justice in the situation of dangerous animals

28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

This in today’s world would be considered negligent homicide. If your brakes unexpectedly go out and you run someone over, you are not considered a murderer, but your car gets impounded. But if you knew your brakes didn’t work and you drove anyway, you have knowingly endangered human life and are held responsible. And here we see the concept of redemption. In differing circumstances, the judges could impose penalties that seemed fair, up to the death penalty. A ransom could be imposed, not a fine, but a ransom to redeem your life. In this case, you acknowledged that you are guilty and deserve to die, but you redeem or purchase your life back.

Conclusion

What can we learn from all of this? First, we learn that sin is serious. All sin is first against God and also wrongs other people. The wages of sin is death. God takes sin seriously. Jesus taught:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

God never lets sin slide, but he has provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the death of a substitute. The author of Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin; this all pointed forward to the God-man Jesus Christ, who became sin for us.

We also learn that God values human life. The life of every human being, whether slave or free, rich or poor, male or female, young, old, or unborn, all are precious to him.

Lex Talionis

God values justice and equity. The lex talionis (or law retaliation) found in this passage is restrictive; it prevents the human inclination to escalate the consequences due to others that have wronged us. If you knock out my tooth, I’d feel justified in knocking you into kingdom come. Here’s what Jesus has to say about this:

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven….

Jesus is not negating the strict justice of ‘lex talionis’. God loves justice. The punishment is to fit the crime. You are not allowed to demand greater punishment than what has been done to you. But if you have been wronged you are not required to extract punishment. You can forgive. Jesus calls us to a higher standard – a standard of love. Love your enemies. Be image-bearers; be imitators of God, who is just and righteous, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person––though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Christ Jesus demonstrated the ultimate love for his enemies; he laid down his life for us to redeem us and make us his friends

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

October 16, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

And he did just that. God said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord answers out of the whirlwind:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Text

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

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

The Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Leads

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

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

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

Even Enemies

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

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

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

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

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

The Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul describes God this way in 1 Timothy:

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

Something Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 4:27-31; Providence, Belief, Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100905_exodus04_27-31.mp3
9/5 Exodus 4:27-31 Providence, Belief and Worship

Introduction:

Exodus is about God. God is at work among his people. He is blessing his people and preserving them in the midst of hardship. God is stirring his people to disregard the evil commands of a wicked ruler and do what is right. God is thwarting the plans of the most powerful dictator on the planet by means of things we would consider weak and helpless. He is hearing the cries for help from his people, and he is taking note of their desperate circumstances. He knows their pain and has come down to take action. He is making good on promises he had made many centuries earlier. He invades the solitude of his chosen instrument, introduces himself in his holiness, and defeats his excuses one by one. He is preparing his deliverer and unveils his plan to win the hearts of his people and execute judgment on his enemies. Now we are at the point of action. It’s go time!

4:19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” 24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

The Providence of God

What are the odds that Moses and his brother Aaron converge on the same spot on Mount Sinai at this particular time? Remember, Moses only spent his youngest years with his Hebrew family. He was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter in the courts of Egypt. Moses has now been exiled from Egypt for 40 years because he stood up to defend his people. He is now an 80 year old man. He was tending sheep on the back side of the desert when God intruded into his quiet retirement. At Sinai God gave him his assignment – that he would be the instrument God would use to deliver his people from Egypt. So he took Jethro’s flocks back to Midian, sought his father-in-law’s permission to leave, packed up his family and set out. Then God confronted them at the lodging place as he demanded obedience and holiness from his servant.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the LORD says to Aaron “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” If you think about it for a moment, that sounds absolutely crazy. When Moses left Egypt, he sat down by a well. That was where people met. Everybody has to have water, so a well is a good spot to meet other people. If you’re going to connect with someone, you choose a commonly understood landmark. You don’t choose the wilderness. ‘Can you meet me in the wilderness tomorrow? I’ll be just past the twelfth bend in the road, over the hill, a little to the south; I’ll be standing by the sage brush.’ That would be almost as bad as trying to find your wife in Wal-Mart! Could you imagine a conversation between Moses and Aaron? – ‘service is kind of sketchy out here, but I’ll text you my GPS coordinates in a minute.’ The fact that they connected at all is amazing evidence of God’s providential hand at work in every detail of their lives.

I wonder when it was that God told Aaron to go to the wilderness to meet Moses. Do you think it was before or after Moses complained that he couldn’t speak well and didn’t want to go? Back in verse 14:

4:14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

What an encouragement this would be to our reluctant leader. This is a brother he had probably not seen in 40 years, now coming out to meet him in the wilderness. What confirmation that this really is God working. God, who controls all things, is able to orchestrate the reunion of these two brothers on the mountain where God had met with Moses. They have a joyful reunion and Moses downloads to his brother all the words God has spoken and shows him the signs God has given him. We don’t know how much Aaron knew about what was happening. God simply told him ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses’. Moses was the one to tell his brother that God was sending him to set the Israelites free to worship God on this mountain. Moses was the one to relay to Aaron that he had whined and complained so much to God about his own inadequacies that God granted him Aaron to be his mouthpiece. I wonder how Aaron took that news?

Faithful messengers

So Moses and Aaron went. They went to Egypt to gather the elders of Israel just as God had instructed them. It says ‘Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses’. They didn’t leave anything out. They didn’t add anything to the message. They were faithful messengers. That’s what a faithful messenger does. He speaks all the words the LORD puts in his mouth, and doesn’t go beyond the words the LORD gives him. Even Balaam, a corrupt prophet, understood what the role of a prophet was.

Numbers 24:13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’

Moses and Aaron were faithful to proclaim the message God had given them. God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush and said:

3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

Moses’ response to this was:

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.”’

Now he is finally in the situation faithfully proclaiming the word of the Lord to the people and look what happens.

31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Pay close attention to this! It says the people believed when they heard. God sent Moses to proclaim a message. His message. Moses and Aaron declared all the words of the Lord to the people and the people believed when they heard.

Romans 10: 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Moses’ concern was ‘the people will not believe me or listen to my voice’. Moses was all worried that they would not accept the messenger. But it’s not about the messenger! It’s not about how eloquent or how animated or how plain or how polished or how trendy or how not-traditional and out-of-the-box the messenger is. It’s not about the messenger! Moses, they don’t have to believe you. They don’t have to listen to your voice. Moses, I want them to hear my voice. You faithfully proclaim what I tell you to say and the people will hear my voice. What the people heard was that the LORD had visited the people and the LORD had seen their affliction. The message was about the LORD and the messenger was simply the middle man bringing the word of the LORD to the people of God so that his people could be in the presence of their LORD.

The Goal – Worship

And that is the end goal. That is the end goal of the exodus. To reveal to the people the nearness of God and to lead them into worship, glad service of the Lord.

Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

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

The first two of the ten commandments are commandments about worship.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The majority of the book of Exodus details what worship will look like for the Israelites. Worship is what Exodus is about. Moses faithfully brings God’s word to God’s people, and they hear and believe and they respond with worship. They bowed their heads and worshiped.

Worship is the end goal of the gospel. That we, the blood-bought multitude, can feel and say and sing and live the surpassing worth and excellency of the King of kings. This is truly what it is all about! This is what our salvation is all about. Our salvation is not primarily a salvation from something. Yes, God rescues us from an eternity separated from him, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But salvation is not a ‘get out of hell free card’ that we can stick in our back pocket and sit on as we go about the rest of our lives. We are saved to something and for someone. ‘We were ransomed’ Peter says (1Pet.1:18-19) ‘from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot’ so we should ‘conduct ourselves with fear (v.17)’ – awe over the depth of the price that was paid. We are ransomed – purchased – bought – out of futility and into a life with purpose – one purpose – to fear God. To live in awe of who he is and what he’s done. We are ransomed, redeemed, and under new ownership so that we can worship.

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

Your body is now a worship center for the living God. Our central purpose is worship – to glorify God with our bodies. To bring him honor. Jesus said:

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

We must honor Jesus just as we honor the Father. Eternal life comes only to those who worship Jesus. This is what heaven is. Heaven is all about God. It is all about worship. Jesus said:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Here are some snapshots straight out of heaven, and they are snapshots of worship.

Revelation 5:9 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.” 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.

Then, at the end of Revelation, in the new Jerusalem, in the new heavens and the new earth:

Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Hear God’s word faithfully proclaimed. Believe. Embrace him as king. Do what you were made to do – with your lips, with your thoughts, with your emotions, with you life – worship!

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

September 5, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:16-22; God Knows

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

7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God says to Moses, tell the elders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 2:11-15; A Deliverer Rejected

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100516_exodus02_11-15.mp3

5/16 Exodus 2:11-15 A Deliverer Rejected

We’re in the second book of the bible, Exodus. In Exodus, we’ve seen God at work keeping his promises to his people. God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would bless them and make their name great and multiply them abundantly. Exodus begins by seeing the blessing of God in the multiplication of the people of Israel in Egypt. But the blessing of God often comes at a cost. God’s blessing on the people of Israel was perceived as an internal threat to the national security of Egypt. The Pharaoh took action to get this threat under control. He appointed taskmasters to oppress the people severely to break their spirits and reduce their population. But instead, “1:12 …the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they were spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” So the Pharaoh took the head midwives into his confidence and commanded them to kill all the boys that were born to the Hebrews. But these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and disobeyed the Pharaoh.

1:20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

So, rather than reducing the population as planned, the population continued to increase, with even these barren women now having children of their own.

1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.

God moves in mysterious ways. The response we see to this decree is that an unnamed Hebrew family from the tribe of Levi have a baby boy. The mother recognizes the creative goodness of God in this new life, and hides him for three months, then, in faith, she throws him into the Nile herself – in his own personal ark waterproofed with pitch, and sets her daughter to watch over him. The daughter of the wicked Pharaoh happened to come down to the Nile to bathe just at that place, and happened to see the ark, and she just happened to have pity on him and chose to disobey her father rather than drown this Hebrew boy in the river. She adopted him to be her own son, and hired his own mother to nurse him for her. So this evil Pharaoh is foiled in his plan by two God-fearing Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother and her young daughter, and his very own disobedient daughter. So this mother who walked by faith in God ends up being payed out of the evil Pharaoh’s treasury to nurse and train and care for her own condemned baby boy during the formative first years of his life. After three or four years of pouring herself and her faith and her history and her God into this boy, she brought him to the Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. Maybe we should all have that mindset when we train our children. We have but a short time before we must turn them over to the pagan world empire, so it is urgent that we do everything within our power to train them up in the way that they should go.

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

I’m sure that when she entrusted him to the Pharaoh’s house, she entrusted him to God, and never ceased to pray for him. Now the narrative jumps ahead forty years.

2:11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

In this passage, we see Moses transition from favored position of prince in the royal courts of the greatest nation in his world to condemned criminal exile hiding in the wilderness. Twice in verse 11 Moses identifies himself with ‘his people’, the Hebrews. He went out to his people… he saw and Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. There is no question where Moses’ allegiance lies. Stephen fills in some background details for us in his sermon in Acts 7:

Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

He was highly educated in the most advanced center of education in his day. He was mighty in words and deeds. He had a promising career ahead of him. Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived AD37-100. If what Josephus records is accurate, the princess who adopted him was Thermuthis, who had no children of her own and hoped that Moses might one day ascend to the throne. Josephus also records an story of Moses as an Egyptian military leader, leading a victorious attack on the Ethiopians. Whatever the true details of these unknown forty years, Moses could easily have embraced his life as Egyptian royalty and ignored his connection with the slave people. He could have turned a blind eye to the sufferings of his people and held on to his position of power and his life of ease. But a mother’s training leaves a lasting impression. Forty years later he takes action to identify himself with his people and alienate himself from the Egyptians who raised him. Understand, Moses personally had nothing to gain and everything to lose by this move. The writer of Hebrews attributes his actions to faith:

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It was by faith he chose to identify himself with the people of God. He abandoned the wealth of Egypt as ‘fleeting pleasures of sin’. We can imagine what kind of sinful pleasure might have been available to him, but it could be as simple as what James tells us:

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Moses knew what was right. He knew what the Egyptians did was wrong. For him to turn a blind eye to unjust suffering and continue to enjoy the benefits of Egypt would have been sin. So in faith, he acts. Faith is trust in the promises of God. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Maybe Moses studied the prophecies of his people and did the math and knew that the time of their slavery was coming to a close. So in dependence on God who is always faithful to keep his promises, he acts.

He went out, he looked, and he saw. The verb ‘he went out’ ( auy yatsa’) is the verb that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe how God brought out the Israelites from Egypt. Here Moses in his own exodus goes out from the Egyptians to his people. “He went out to his own people”.

The verb for ‘he looked’ and ‘he saw’ ( har ra’ah) is the same one that is used in 2:25 and 3:7, 9 of God looking on or seeing the affliction of his people. Just as God would look on his people with compassion and act, so now Moses was looking on the burdens of his people and acting out of compassion. He was not disinterestedly observing from a safe distance. He was investing himself in the situation of his people and doing so at great personal risk to himself.

In Acts 7, Stephen gives us a helpful summary of the Exodus history and even some insight into the thoughts of Moses in this event:

Acts 7:17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, …

Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Acts 7:17 …the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

Moses understands that God has raised him up to bring salvation to his people. He is defending the oppressed and standing up for slaves who are being wronged that have no voice. Later in Exodus when God gives Moses his laws he says this:

Exodus 21:20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. …23 …you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Moses is acting as avenger and bringing justice to a cruel and hopeless situation. I’m not saying that what Moses does here is without fault, or that it was the wisest action, but it was right for him to take action and defend the oppressed. (cf. Isaiah 59:14-16)

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

There is something in these verses that doesn’t come through very well in our English translations. The word describing what the Egyptian was doing to the Hebrew slave is the exact word that describes what Moses did to the brutal Egyptian taskmaster. Moses saw an Egyptian beating to death a slave, so he beat to death the Egyptian. He saw an Egyptian striking down a Hebrew, so he struck down the Egyptian. What was being done to the helpless slave, he, coming to his rescue, did to the taskmaster. God was giving salvation to the Israelites by his hand. This was indeed a huge act of faith, a David against Goliath move, as he was one man against a powerful nation. I’m not sure what Moses was expecting to be the next step. Maybe the Israelites would rally behind him as their leader and they would fight against the Egyptians. Maybe he expected that God would do a miracle as he stepped out in faith. I don’t think he was planning on what happened.

13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

Again Moses uses the same word that was used in verses 11 and 12. Why are you striking down or beating to death your brother? To Moses it was not an ethnic thing. It was not the Israelites against the Egyptians. It was right against wrong. When an Israelite mistreated another Israelite, that was just as wrong as when an Egyptian mistreated an Israelite. Moses here acts as judge – one of the roles in which he will serve Israel in the wilderness – and he makes a determination of who was in the wrong and confronts him about it. Moses was seeking to make peace between his people. Moses knew that killing an Egyptian would not win him any points with the Egyptians. But he was not expecting the response that he got from his own people.

14 …“Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”…

Moses expected that his people would see what God was doing and embrace him as their deliverer. Stephen tells us:

Acts 7:25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.

Instead of welcoming their deliverer, the Hebrews reject his rule over them. Their question is rhetorical – who made you a prince and a judge over us? But the answer is God. God was giving them salvation by his hand. But they did not understand. Moses came to do good to his people. Instead, they accuse him of intending them harm. Moses is afraid, probably very confused. As he expected, Pharaoh heard and was after his head. This is the second time Moses was under sentence of death from this Pharaoh. The first time he was protected by his parents, then adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Now he runs, a condemned criminal exiled in a strange land. Born of the Hebrews, raised by the Egyptians, now rejected by both. He had nowhere to lay his head. He flees to the wilderness.

I’ve often heard it said that Moses missed his cue and jumped the gun. He was not supposed to do what he did and that’s why it turned out so bad. But throughout this passage, God is persistently keeping his promises, and from our perspective, things seem to be going from bad to worse. But God has his good purposes and is moving things according to his plan. Moses spent four years under the training of his mother, then 36 years under the training of Egypt, and God wanted him to spend the next 40 years of his life under his schooling in the desert. Moses needed to understand that to lead God’s people does not mean glory and praise, but often rejection and criticism and a wilderness experience. Moses needed to feel what it felt like to be an alien and stranger looking for a home. He needed to learn what it meant to lean not on his own strength and wisdom, but entirely on God who guides and gives strength. Moses needed to learn humility and dependence and patience and God taught him those things and more in the next forty years seemingly on the shelf. We can take heart when we end up in the wilderness, because God does have a purpose and he makes no mistakes.

But we can’t miss the connection with Jesus. Moses was another sign to point us to Jesus. Moses himself pointed to this:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers––it is to him you shall listen–– …18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Moses, like Jesus, was preserved from a maniacal tyrant who was afraid of any threat to his power and had all the baby boys executed. Moses tried to make peace among his brothers. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring peace. Moses came to his own people and was rejected as their leader. John’s gospel says of Jesus:

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

This is exactly the point Stephen is making to the Jews in his farewell sermon. There is a historical pattern that Israel rejects the deliverers that God sends. Stephen continues:

Acts 7: … 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’––this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

Stephen began with Joseph, who was rejected by the patriarchs and sold, moves through Moses rejected by his people, and on to the prophets, where he makes application to those who are about to stone him:

Acts 7:51 “You stiff–necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The whole story of Moses is meant to point us to Jesus. Just like Moses’ rejection by his people was not a surprise to God, So the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people and his reception by a people who were outside the covenant community was all part of God’s plan. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah that Jesus would be:

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

But we do not have to reject him. John goes on:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

We can receive him. We can believe. We can become children of God. We can be born of God.

 

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

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments