PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Hope of Christmas

12/13 Hope of Christmas; Audio available at:

Out in the fields around Bethlehem, to unsuspecting shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night,

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good news of great joy! Christmas brings a message of good news! Christmas brings great joy! Great joy for all people! Good news of great joy that casts out fear!

So how are you doing this Christmas season? Is your heart overflowing with great joy? Are you free from anxiety and fear? Has the good news totally replaced all the bad?

Great Joy and Great Suffering

If it has, may I suggest to you that you are living in a bubble? Do you watch the news? I don’t, and I am still aware of things like the presidential campaign, the national debt, devastating earthquakes, suicide bombings, school shootings, ISIS beheadings, the war on terror. We live in a world that is messed up and broken. Do you know anyone that is sick? Injured? Fighting a disease? I spoke at two funerals this year. One was a very dear friend who degenerated from a debilitating disease. Good news! Great joy! Fear not! How do we bring together the joy of Christmas and the sick and broken world we live in?

Do we compartmentalize? We have a tree with lights and presents, and we live in relative safety. All is well with me, my family, my friends, my church, and that’s all I really care about? Turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters around the world who are being killed for their faith in Jesus? Turn a blind eye to the pain and despair in our own community?

Or do we despair? The Prince of Peace has failed to bring peace on earth. The Great Physician didn’t heal my friend, my loved one, me. This good news of great joy hasn’t brought me joy. God has failed.

Let me suggest to you that there is a better way. The good news of Christmas is big enough to bring light and joy into the darkest sickest corners of this broken world. The good news is big enough to embrace all the pain and despair in our hearts and infuse life giving hope.

Notice, for a moment, that the Christmas story didn’t exempt its participants from hardship. The angel announced to the shepherds:

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

What?! Shepherds knew what a manger was. A manger is a stone watering trough for animals. Saturated with stable animal slobber. You don’t put fragile newborn babies in unsanitary mangers! Why was the promised Messiah, the Lord, in an animal watering trough?! Because there was no room for them in the inn. Why an inn? Why Bethlehem? Why not back home in Nazareth? Because the Emperor had imposed a tax. Tax? The Emperor? What Emperor? The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Israel was under Roman occupation. This doesn’t sound like good news of great joy for Joseph and Mary! No longer free. Forced by the Roman Emperor to register. Forced to travel right at the time of delivery. Unable to find lodging. Seeking shelter like refugees in a cave.

God didn’t exempt Mary, Joseph, and his only Son from trouble. He could have. But he intentionally sent him into a troubled situation to bring peace in the midst of anguish. A year or two later, after Magi from the East arrive bearing gifts, the young couple have to flee for their lives with the baby to Egypt, and the tyrannical Herod slaughters every male child two years old or under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Good news of great joy? Try to tell that to all the mothers in Judea, weeping, refusing to be comforted (Mt.2:18).

Simeon and Consolation

Let’s learn a lesson from an old man. 40 days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to offer the sacrifice for purification according to Leviticus 12. There was a man in Jerusalem, Simeon, to whom the Lord had revealed through the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Lk.2:25-26). It is said of him that he was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’. He was waiting. He was filled with anticipation, longing, eager expectation, hope. He was waiting for consolation, encouragement, solace, comfort. He knew the prophecies. He was waiting. He had hope.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 ​Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 ​Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 ​And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God will come down and bring comfort to his people.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 ​to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Jesus would bind up the brokenhearted. He would bring comfort to those who mourn. He would bring beauty from ashes.

Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; 11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

God will console and comfort and satisfy his people as a mother comforts her child. Have you seen a hungry infant, frantic, frenzied, demanding, inconsolable? And then satisfied, slumped in peaceful rest against his mother, with a trickle of milk running down his chin? This is the picture of comfort and satisfaction he paints for his people. This is what Simeon was longing for, eagerly expecting, anticipating.

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.

Anna and Redemption

Learn a lesson from an old lady, Anna, a prophetess, a widow who continually worshiped God with fasting and prayer. We are told:

Luke 2:38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Just as Simeon finished thanking God and pronouncing a blessing, Anna began to give thanks to God. Fasting and praying continually are indications that you are earnestly seeking something from God. She must have heard Simeon declare ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’. She began to speak of Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Again we see waiting, eager expectation, longing, anticipation. And she was not alone in this waiting. She began pointing all those who were longing for redemption to Jesus. They were waiting for redemption, for ransom. To ransom is to buy back something that once belonged to you, or someone that was sold into slavery to pay a debt (Lev.25:29, 48), or to pay for the release of something that was set apart to be offered to the Lord. (Num.18:16). We have sold ourselves as slaves to sin, and we are powerless to escape.

Psalm 49:6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? 7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, 8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, 9 that he should live on forever and never see the pit.

We are powerless to do anything about our own situation, and we cannot pay the infinite price for another. Even the riches of the richest man are insufficient to change the eternal consequences of his actions. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

But God says:

Isaiah 44:21 Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 ​I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. 24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Our Creator is also our redeemer. He can pay the infinite price to blot out the debt of our transgressions and sins.

Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

This world is sick and dark and twisted and broken and it is our sin that made it so. We rebelled against a good God and chose to go our own way, and sold ourselves into slavery to sin.

There were still some in Israel who understood the depths of their desperate situation, who cried out to the Lord as their only hope, who expectantly waited and hoped in and watched for the Lord, for his ransom, his redemption.

Good News For All

Christmas is about good news of great joy for all people. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. When we look around at all those who are desperately sick and evil, murderers, predators, perpetrators, we need to see an opportunity for God’s magnificent grace. No one is too sick, too twisted, too broken, too far gone, that our good Lord cannot reach him or her. The good news of Christmas is that God sent a Savior, a Rescuer, a Redeemer, his only Son, God in the flesh, come down to pay our price in full.

My Need

Christmas is about recognizing our own desperate need and his infinite sufficiency. We must stop pointing fingers at God or at others and own our own guilt before God, recognize that what is wrong with the world is me, and God has set out to rescue me and purchase me and transform me and make me his own.

Receiving The Gift

Christmas is about accepting a free gift. God gave us the infinite gift of his own Son. Gifts cannot be earned. Gifts are to be received. We can do nothing to merit the gift, or to pay the gift back. A genuine gift is in a completely different category than a paycheck. Paychecks are earned; gifts are given freely, generously. Have you received God’s great gift to you? Have you believed?

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Already and Not Yet

Christmas is about anticipation, longing, hope. This world is not as it should be, not as it was meant to be, not as it will one day be. Christ has come, he has paid for our sins, he has begun a good work in us, but it is not yet complete. The expectation of Anna and Simeon has begun to be fulfilled, but it is not yet complete. God will one day make all things new. The grace of God has appeared, but we are still ‘waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. In the mean time we will sin against others, and be sinned against. Romans 8 tells us:

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? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

In this life we may experience tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, we may be killed, we may be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. We should not be surprised at suffering, we should expect suffering. But even in the midst of this, we can be free from fear. Even in the midst of this we can experience great joy. Can any of these things separate us from the love of Christ?

Romans 8:37 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.

This is good news indeed. This is the hope of Christmas.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

December 15, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:11-16; Ransom Money

05/13 Exodus 30:11-16 Ransom Money (38:25-28; Numbers 1)

Today we are in Exodus 30:11-16. This is a curious instruction for a ransom price to be collected whenever God’s people are numbered, placed in the middle of God’s instructions for building his tabernacle. At first glance this seems out of place, inserted here between the altar of incense and the bronze wash basin.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

We see God commanding this census to be taken in Numbers chapter 1; this is what gives the book of Numbers its name.

Numbers 1:1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

Reuben: 46,500

Simeon: 59,300

Gad: 45,650

Judah: 74,600

Issachar: 54,400

Zebulun: 57,400

Ephraim: 40,500

Manasseh: 32,200

Benjamin: 35,400

Dan: 62,700

Asher: 41,500

Naphtali: 53,400

44 These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house. 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel–– 46 all those listed were 603,550.

There were 603,550 men 20 years old and up able to fight in battle. This did not include the men in the tribe of Levi.

47 But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. 48 For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. 50 But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. 51 When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. 52 The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. 53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” 54 Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.

How Much Silver?

Scholars believe the half-shekel was a unit of weight that measured about 5.7 grams. If we do the math, 603,550 men giving a half shekel each would equal about 7,584 lbs or over 3 ¾ tons of silver. We find out what this silver was used for in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:25 The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. 27 The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. 28 And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them.

So, this ransom price was used for the foundation of the tabernacle. One hundred blocks of cast silver weighing about 75 pounds each were used as the bases for the frames of the tabernacle. The remaining 11 pounds of silver was made into hooks and overlay for the tops of the pillars.

Why The Census Tax?

This helps us to understand what the silver was used for, where it came from, and how much there was. But what did this offering mean? Why was each man numbered to give a half-shekel each? Look back at the text in Exodus 30.

Exodus 30:11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.

This payment was a ransom for the life of each fighting man given to the LORD to prevent a plague. In verses 15 and 16, we are told that it is

15 …the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 … the atonement money from the people of Israel … that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This half-shekel was ransom money or atonement money. These Hebrew words are related. Atonement is to cover over sins, or to pacify or propitiate. We saw this term when we looked at the atonement cover, or the mercy seat – the lid that covered the violated covenant from God’s sight; the place where blood was applied once a year on the Day of Atonement. A ransom is the price of a life. It is the price paid to cover a person from the consequences of their actions. If someone had acted foolishly and gotten into debt that they could not pay, they would be sold into slavery in order to pay back the debt. If they had a relative that was willing to rescue them, he would pay the ransom price and redeem them from slavery. We were introduced to this concept of redemption in Exodus 13, where God claimed all firstborn as his property, all firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to him, and all firstborn sons had to be bought back or redeemed by paying the ransom price. In the final plague, God killed all the firstborn in Egypt, but in any house that was covered by the blood of the lamb, the firstborn was spared.

This ransom or atonement price is to cover sin so that you will not die, ‘that there be no plague among them when you number them.’ God is saying that he will treat you like he treated the Egyptians, his enemies, if you do not do this. What was the sin, and why did a price have to be paid? We see a graphic illustration of this in 1 Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). King David, in his later years, was incited to number the people of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”

When David was young, he recognized that it is not numbers or weapons that win the battle. He said to the Philistine champion:

1 Samuel 17:45 …“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

Throughout his military career, David had seen the LORD give victory to his people even when they were severely outnumbered and disadvantaged. Now, later in life, David had conquered much land and wanted to know how many troops he had. David’s military commander Joab knew that this was a dangerous move.

1 Chronicles 21:3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?”

In spite of Joab’s warning, David persisted. David wanted to know how many men he had. God sent a plague and it cost him 70,000 men.

Sin Against God

Why was this so serious? We are told:

1 Chronicles 21:7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”

First, to number the people without collecting the ransom money was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions recorded in Exodus 30. We sometimes feel that it’s no big deal. We want to know why God said what he said before we are willing to obey. But God is God. He doesn’t have to tell us why. It is ours to obey.

But I think we can see why this was so serious. It was demonstrating distrust in God. Counting men was a way to see how much military might you had. It showed a leaning on human strength rather than on God who himself gives the victory. At root, David’s foolishness and great sin was unbelief.

David’s sin was also a violation of ownership. You only take inventory of your own belongings. I don’t have any right to go into my neighbor’s house and count his belongings without his permission. I have no right to access my neighbor’s bank account and check his balance. David, by counting the people without having them pay the ransom price, was saying ‘these are my men. This is how many I have to work with’. He is not acknowledging God’s ownership of his people. He is counting God’s property as if it were his own.

What Are You Worth?

The ransom price was a way to say that these people are God’s people, and to acknowledge that God is the one who holds their lives in his hand. The atonement money was a covering for sin, owning the fact that we are all sinners before God and deserve to die. The ransom price was the price of your life. What are you worth? A half-shekel was the set price; no more for the rich and no less for the poor. We are all on equal footing before God. What are you worth? A half-shekel was about 5.7 grams of silver. I don’t know how much buying power that had then, but today you can cash in 5.7 grams of silver for about $2 – $5, depending on its purity. That’s humbling. You are kidnapped and held for ransom – for two dollars. That’s humiliating. I like to think I’m more valuable than that. And although I can think of lots of people who are worth more than me, I also think I’m more valuable than a lot of other people I know. God says no. If you are a human, you are of equal value. None more, none less. And think about this for a minute. Where did the Israelites get the silver? They were slaves in Egypt. God said “I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and when you go you shall not go empty …you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Ex.3:21-22; cf.Ex.12:36). So even this half-shekel was given to them by God. Everything they had was a gift. The only proper attitude to have before God is humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5). God said to Pharaoh “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Ex.10:3), and that was also a question of ownership; God said “let my people go that they may serve me.” Pharaoh was proud. God humbled him. God owns us. God is the one who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

It is right that we humble ourselves before God. It is also right to understand who we are as God’s people. This silver was to be given:

16 … for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

This atonement money became the foundation of the tabernacle. This silver was in the presence of God. It was designed to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. In chapter 28, we saw that the high priest would bear the names of Israel on his shoulders on stones of remembrance (v.12). And he would also “bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece …on his heart when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD” (v.29). Now, this silver, constantly in God’s presence, is to bring the people to remembrance before the LORD. Do you ever feel forgotten? Do you ever doubt your worth before God? Do you feel valueless?

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Ultimate Price

You are called by name, precious, remembered, ransomed. Peter reminds us:

1 Peter 1:18 …that you were ransomed …not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We have been ransomed, not with a half-shekel of silver, but with the precious blood of the Messiah. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf.Mt 20:28)

We get a glimpse of our High Priest in the tabernacle in heaven:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty–four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

In heaven Jesus is worshiped because he paid the ultimate price for us. The ransom price was infinite, the blood of God the Son. Jesus ransomed us by substituting himself in our place, dying the death we deserved, so that we can be his priests and reign with him. Paul reminds us:

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

You are not your own. You are owned by God. He paid the ultimate ransom price. You are his. You are his temple. So, live your life to the glory of God. Glorify God in your body.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

May 13, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

1 Peter 1:17-21

10/26 1 Peter 1:17-21 Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Peter has spent the first 12 verses celebrating what God has done to make us his forever. He chose us and caused us to be born again. He is guarding us by his power for our salvation through our faith. He is testing our faith by the fire of trials so that it is proved genuine. He points to our joy in Jesus as evidence of our genuine belief. He encourages us that prophets and angels and evangelists, through the Holy Spirit were all working together to bring us salvation. Then in verse 13 he inserts a critical ‘therefore’ to give us commands; because of what God has done to make you his forever, this is how you should respond. And he gives three commands. Set your hope on future grace, be holy (wholly devoted to God), and live in fear.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

We will take up this third command today. Because of what God has done for you to secure your eternal inheritance, set your hope completely on God’s grace that will be brought to you in the future. Don’t act like you’re still stupid but be holy like God is holy – have your value system transformed by what is most valuable: God. Be wholly devoted to God. Be hopeful, be holy, and be afraid. Be very afraid. So today’s message is on how to be afraid in a way that honors God. There is a way to be afraid that disbelieves God’s promises and dishonors God and there is a way to fear that promotes your holiness and your hope and brings honor to God. I hope today we can see the difference and fear in a way that brings glory to God and brings progress in our sanctification.

Jesus commanded us to fear and not to fear. There is appropriate and inappropriate fear for the believer. Jesus was telling us to have our fear in the right place. And what Jesus tells us runs contrary to everything we naturally think and feel. Do not fear those who can kill you. That would put your fear in the wrong place. Do not fear evil men with machine guns and machetes. Do not fear the earthquake and the tsunami. Do not fear the firing squad and the electric chair. Do not fear the terrorist threats. That would be fearing the wrong thing and demonstrate your lack of faith in God. Listen to the words of Jesus:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to stop being afraid. He tells us to get our fear gland trained to respond to the right stimulus. Do not fear the bullet; fear the one you will stand before a millisecond after the bullet goes through your brain.

But doesn’t the bible says that we should not be afraid because perfect love casts out fear? Yes – in 1 John 4 it says

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

So if you have been perfected in love you can go home right now – the rest of this message does not apply to you. This same John that wrote these words was the one at the Revelation of Jesus Christ was terrified.

Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, …

Jesus commanded us to fear God; John was terrified when he saw Jesus. In Acts 9:31 it says:

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Fear of God is a characteristic of a healthy church. 2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us:

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

We are told in the proverbs:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

And in the Psalms:

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

The fear of the Lord is something we can practice. In Psalm 147, fear of the Lord and hope in his steadfast love are not incompatible but parallel ideas:

Psalms 147:11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

God’s holy presence elicits a response of terror. Last week we saw the holiness of God on display as we saw Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God. Remember his response? ‘woe to me for I am undone’.

Isaiah 6: 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah was terrified in the presence of holy God. He pronounced a curse on himself. Peter had this same experience when he was in the boat with Jesus after the catch of fish:

Luke 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Fear of God is commended to us and modeled for us in throughout scripture. So let’s look at what Peter has to tell us about fearing God.

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

The main command is ‘conduct yourselves with fear’. He starts by pointing them to their relationship with God. You call on him who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. The one you call on is the Judge of the living and the dead, the one before whom everyone will stand and give an account. And this judge is impartial – he plays no favorites. Absolute justice will be done. Peter began to understand this when he was called by God to go to a Gentile’s house and proclaim the good news:

Acts 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,

In this letter, Peter tells us that God’s judgment will start with believers:

I Peter 4:17-18 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

And this is the one you call on as ‘Father’. You call on him as Father because he caused you to be born again. God stands as just judge over every man. But you have a unique relationship with him because you have been born into his family. God is judge of every man; he is judge and father to believers. But he is still your judge and he is just.

Ezekiel 33:18-20 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by them. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”

If we say ‘yes, I committed the crime, but I’m not worried – I know the judge’, that would indicate either we are naive or the judge is unjust. A just judge doesn’t let crime go unpunished because he has a relationship with the defendant. That would not be impartial. No, if your dad is the judge and if he cares about justice and righteousness, you’re going to get it in the courtroom and you’re going to get it at home. If you call the judge ‘Father’ then live in fear. Fear messing up and being called into his courtroom. Fear displeasing and disappointing him. Don’t think you can live like hell and get away with it because your father is the judge and he will let it slide. If you call on the judge of the universe as your father, conduct yourselves in fear.

And he reminds them of their sojourner status. This is the time of exile. This is not your permanent position. You don’t belong. Expect to be treated badly by those around you who don’t know Jesus – but don’t fear them. Fear your father who is your judge.

In verses 18-21, Peter gives the reasons why we should fear God. Fear, knowing; because you know, conduct yourselves in fear. Something you know about God fuels your fearful attitude toward him. What is it?

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

If we compress this sentence down, it reads ‘fear God knowing you were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ’. How is knowing you were ransomed by Christ a grounds for fear? Isn’t that a reason to rest and rejoice? I would expect the opposite: ‘you no longer have reason to fear God because you have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ’. Instead Peter gives it as a reason for fearing. How can this be? I think he means ‘because you have been redeemed with something so precious, fear living in a way that indicates Jesus’ blood is not precious to you’. Because of the infinite value of the gift, beware of treating it with contempt and offending the giver. The sentence builds, giving first what we were ransomed from, then what was inadequate to ransom us, then a picture of the ransom, and finally climaxes with who ransomed us.

‘You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers’.

We are naturally proud of our heritage. I am a criminal and I come from a long line of criminals. We’ve spent generations perfecting crime. We are good at what we do, and I am proud to carry on the family tradition. Heritage is a powerful thing. Peter calls it worthless. In fact it is so bad, it was holding you hostage – you needed to be ransomed from the worthless heritage that your ancestors passed on to you. You were enslaved by your forefathers and you needed to be set free. This picture begins in Egypt. Joseph brought the nation of Israel down to Egypt. 400 years later, they were in bondage and needed to be rescued. God paid the ransom price. Sometimes you pay a large sum and satisfy the demands of the kidnapper. Other times you track down the kidnapper and take his firstborn son and take back what is yours. That’s what God did. He flexed his strong right arm and displayed his power and destroyed Egypt while he set his captives free. The ransom price paid for you was not something of fading value like silver or gold. Peter again points out that in his frame of reference, silver and gold are perishable. It was not perishable gold but precious blood. The price paid for us was innocent life. The blood came from an innocent victim – like a lamb. In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, they would choose a perfect lamb – one with no defects, and they would observe it to be sure that it was in perfect health. The lamb had done nothing wrong. You would place your hands on the head of the lamb and confess your sins and transfer your guilt to that innocent animal. Then they would slit the throat of the unsuspecting animal and its blood would pour out. The lamb had done nothing to deserve punishment – it was innocent. So the blood that is the cost of our ransom is that of an innocent victim – he has neither blemish nor spot. There is no defect in your ransom price. It was the precious blood, as a lamb without blemish or spot – Christ. Christ comes climactically as the very last word of the verse.

Peter picks up the name of Christ, and gives us a list of things that make Christ abundantly precious.

20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

First, he was foreknow before the foundation of the word. This is the same word Peter used in verse 2 of our elect status which is according to the foreknowledge of God. This is staggering if we pause for a moment to consider what it means. Jesus, the lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world was foreknown before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. He was foreknown before there was even a garden or lambs or a world. God had purposed to give Jesus’ blood as a ransom for sinners before God even made people with a capacity for sinning. Before sin entered into the world, God had a plan in place to ransom sinful people. The fall was not an unexpected event in the history of earth. Your ransom with the precious blood of Jesus was God’s original plan – before there was a ‘you’. Christ was made manifest in the last times for your sake. Jesus was made known in the last times for us. The plan was always in place, but the plan has now been unfurled before our very eyes! How precious is this? Christ was manifest for our sake. And we are believers in God through Christ.

This is what Jesus told us:

John 14:1,6 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Peter said in:

Acts 3:16 And his name––by faith in his name––has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

God raised Christ from the dead. We fear death, but there’s more to death than being dead. God raised Jesus from the dead! Death is not the final end. What God did for Jesus, he can do for us. And God gave Christ glory. This is what Jesus prayed

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

And the last phrase brings it full circle back to the beginning again; so that your faith and hope are in God. God knew and chose his Son; he sent his Son; he put his Son to death; he raised his Son from the dead; he gave his Son glory; all for your sake – so that you would hope in God. So that you would believe in God. So that you would believe what God says about sin and that you will be more satisfied in pursuit of a life of holiness; that you will live with a healthy fear of treating God’s gift as if it were not precious. Fear putting your hope in other things. Hope in God for God alone is precious and God alone can satisfy. Hope in God’s future grace! Be holy! Be afraid! Hope in God!

October 26, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment