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Leviticus 25:39-55; Jubilee – Redemption of Slaves

04/09 Leviticus 25:39-55; Jubilee; Redemption of Slaves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170409_leviticus-25_39-55.mp3

The chapter, as we have seen, divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.”

1-22 rest for land; Sabbath year and Jubilee

23-38 redemption or release of land

39-55 redemption or release of people

The first section of Leviticus 25 deals with the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. Every seventh year, the land was to keep a Sabbath rest to the LORD. After seven weeks of years the fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee. Liberty was proclaimed and a return to property and to families. Rest was required. God’s provision was promised.

The second section, verses 23-38, begins with God’s claim that the land belongs to him, and concludes with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” The focus of that section is land, its sale and redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

Verses 39-55 address the situation where a person would sell himself to pay off a debt. In verse 42, God asserts his ownership over the people whom he brought out of the land of Egypt be his servants. This section concludes with “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The focus of this final section is God’s people, their sale, and their redemption or release in the year of Jubilee. This last section is our focus today; redemption and release of slaves.

Jubilee: Redemption of Slaves

Leviticus 25:39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.

The slavery introduced here was never meant to be. God promises in Deuteronomy 15 that:

Deuteronomy 15:4 But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you. 7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.

The situation of poverty and slavery here is a result of disobedience and sin. God’s people did not keep God’s rules as they lived in God’s land. They hardened their hearts and closed their hands to their brothers in need. And so they missed out on God’s ideal for them. The verses immediately preceding these in Leviticus 25 require:

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

God promised to provide for the needs of his people. He intended that his people would be generous toward one another and toward the foreigners dwelling with them. But God understands our selfish, sinful inclination, and made provision to protect and care for those in desperate circumstances, and through this he also gave us a picture that points ultimately to the liberty proclaimed in Christ Jesus.

Limited Type of Service

In this worst case scenario, where one of God’s people becomes so poor that he must sell himself to simply survive, God limits the type of service he could be required to perform. They are to be treated as if they were hired workers, not as slaves. They are not to be treated ruthlessly.

God had rescued his people out of hard slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 1:13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Exodus 2:23 …the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.

Exodus 6:9 …they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

They were to remember their slavery in Egypt, and they were not to treat others the way they had been mistreated. They would also be reminded of the plagues on Egypt, that God comes to the rescue of those who cry out to him for help. If they now became the oppressors, they could expect a similar judgment from God. Verse 43 says “You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.”

Limited Time of Service

God limits the type of their service; God also limits the time of their service. Their hope was not to be removed. In Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 15, we see that the time of service of a Hebrew slave was limited to 6 years. On the seventh year he was to go free.

Deuteronomy 15:12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

This service was to end with generosity. This was a way to care for those who became poor without simply being a handout. They retained their dignity, were to work in exchange for room and board, and were to be treated with respect. This was a temporary arrangement with a time limit. When they were released, they were to be sent off with all that they needed to keep them from immediately spiraling back into poverty.

We see this arrangement could be so desirable, that a servant on the seventh year could choose to stay. Both Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 15 make provision for this.

Deuteronomy 15:16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same.

Here in Leviticus, the time of service is limited to 49 years. It seems Hebrew slaves were to be offered their freedom each Sabbath year. But if they chose to stay, even this was not a completely permanent arrangement. On the Jubilee, even these slaves were to go free. They were to be released with their whole families.

Ultimate Ownership

Leviticus 25:40 …He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.

God asserts his ownership over his people. Like the land, God is their owner, and what can be sold is not the person, but his productivity. Like the land, their sale is the sale of years of service until the Jubilee. God is the ultimate owner and he is to be feared. The Israelites belong to him. They are his servants. As we see in Jesus’ parable, it is not wise to mistreat a fellow-servant.

Allowance for Non-Israelite Slaves

God makes a distinction between his people and the nations around them.

Leviticus 25:44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

At first read, we tend to recoil at the implication that God condones slavery. But we need to understand what this does and does not mean, and we need to understand it in its context.

God had given clear instructions to his people to drive out and completely destroy the inhabitants of the land he was giving them, because of their sin, their abominable practices, and to prevent Israel from being led astray by them to worship other gods. In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites understood this and deceived Israel into making a covenant with them, claiming to be from far away. When asked why they did this,

Joshua 9:24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose.

The Gibeonites chose service rather than death They did this to ally themselves with Israel. Notice, they chose this. All the slavery in this chapter is voluntary slavery. The poor Israelite sells himself. The foreigner sells himself. In Exodus 21 and in Deuteronomy 24 the penalty for capturing a person to sell as a slave is death.

Exodus 21:16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

Exodus 21:16 is sandwiched between two verses requiring the death penalty for dishonoring parents. Jesus teaches us that some the commands were given to regulate sinful practices ‘because of your hardness of heart’ (Mt.19:8). God is clear that he is against the slave trade as we understand it. 1 Timothy 1:10 lists enslavers together with other sins that are contrary to sound doctrine and to the gospel.

God makes it clear that he values all life he created, but he also makes a distinction between those who choose to remain his enemies and those who turn and seek to align with him and his people.

Rights of Redemption

Verse 47 introduces the upside down possibility that a native Israelite would sell himself to a foreigner living among Israel. This should not be. God promised to bless his people. But he also promised that if his people turned from him and were disobedient to him, turned to other gods and rejected him, he would send them into captivity. He even says:

Deuteronomy 28:68 And the LORD will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.”

This is not what God intended for his people. But this is the consequences for refusing God’s good authority.

Leviticus 25:47 “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, 48 then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.

This section demands that in the regrettable circumstance that this should happen, the right of redemption is retained. The sale is not final. Redemption is possible. In the section we covered last week, we looked at the role of a kinsman redeemer, a close relative who had the responsibility and right to come to the rescue of one who was in trouble. Here it is clarified who can act as a kinsman-redeemer; a brother, an uncle, a cousin, or another close relative may redeem.

Price of Redemption

Verses 50-54 stipulate the terms of the sale and the fair price of redemption. Again, the sale is technically the number of years of service until the Jubilee release.

Leviticus 25:50 He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. 51 If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. 52 If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. 53 He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee.

The price of sale and the price of redemption is to be fair. God’s people are to be just in their business dealings. They are not to take advantage of others.

God’s Possession

In the closing verse of this chapter, God again reminds us of his rights over his people.

Leviticus 25:55 For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

God’s people belong to him. He redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. He purchased them to belong to him. He is the I AM. As their Creator, all people belong to him. As their Kinsman-Redeemer, the people he purchased out of slavery doubly belong to him.

Application

What does all this mean for us? We are not Israel entering the promised land to dispossess the Canaanites. We do not have these social structures of debt and slavery and redemption or release at the Sabbath Year or the Year of Jubilee. Is this nothing more than a bit of interesting ancient trivia? Far from it! This is the language and the context of our treasured redemption. This is our hope and our joy. This is Jesus!

Jesus in his parable in Matthew 18 describes us as having a debt we could never hope to pay.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

One talent was about 20 years wages for a laborer. Jesus describes us as owing our King 200,000 years worth of wages. Our offense is against an infinite God. Our debt is incalculable, yet justice demands that the debt be paid back equitably.

Jesus describes us as slaves to sin,

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

Galatians 4 tells us that we were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world; enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. Titus 3 tells us that we were slaves to various passions and pleasures. Romans 6 tells us that we were slaves of sin, which leads to death, because the wages of sin is death. Our slavery was not 6 years or 49 years; it was eternal. We were created to enjoy God and glorify God. But we sold ourselves as slaves to sin.

Our taskmaster Satan is cruel. He has no concern for our dignity or our well-being. He comes to steal and kill and destroy (Jn.10:10).

But in Luke 4, Jesus stood up to read in the synagogue in Nazareth, and he was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he read:

Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [cf. Isaiah 61:1-2]

Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. He claimed to bring the long awaited Jubilee. He proclaimed good news, liberty to the captives. By announcing the Jubilee, he was declaring that his day was the Day of Atonement.

In Colossians 1 we read that God,

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

In Colossians 2,

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

From the cross, before he gave up his spirit Jesus declared ‘It is finished’; [τετελεσται] ‘the debt has been paid in full’ (Jn.19:30).

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation. Now we wait…

Titus 2:13 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.

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

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April 10, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee – Redemption of the Land

04/02 Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee; Redemption of Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170402_leviticus-25_23-38.mp3

The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.”

The first section of Leviticus 25 extends the calendar begun in chapter 23 and deals with the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. Every seventh day, people and animals were to rest from their labors. There were certain holy times each year that were set apart for specific purposes, days in which no work was to be done, days of rest and worship. Every seventh year, the land was to keep a Sabbath rest. This was the Sabbath year. After seven weeks of years, after 49 years, the fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee. Liberty was proclaimed and a return to property and to families. Rest was required. God’s provision was promised. There was a warning not to wrong a neighbor. The focus of the first section is the cycle of work and rest, even rest for the land, and the promise of God’s provision.

The second section, verses 23-38, begins with God’s claim that the land belongs to him, and concludes with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” The focus of this section is land, its sale and redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

Verses 39-55 address the situation where a person would sell himself to pay off a debt. In verse 42, God asserts his ownership over the people whom he brought out of the land of Egypt be his servants. This section concludes with “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The focus of the final section is God’s people, their sale, and their redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

1-22 rest for land; Sabbath year and Jubilee

23-38 redemption or release of land

39-55 redemption or release of people

Our focus today will be the second section of this chapter.

God Owns the Land

God begins in verse 23 with his assertion of ownership over the land.

Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

This sets the parameters for the discussion of land ownership and sale and release. This speaks to the rest for the land every seventh year and every fiftieth year. God’s people would be tempted to argue ‘but I can’t stop working the land for a whole year! How could we survive?’ When we are entrusted with something, especially if it is for a long time, we begin to feel like we own it. We have had access to it for so long that we begin to think of it as belonging to us. God reminds his people ‘the land is mine.’ The land does not belong to you. I can tell you what you can and can’t do with the land, because the land belongs to me.

Tenant farming was a typical arrangement in the ancient world. We see this under Joseph in Egypt. The severity of the famine forced the Egyptians to sell their land to the Pharaoh in order to survive.

Genesis 47:18 …“We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. …23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

So all the land in Egypt was owned by the Pharaoh, but he allowed the people to live on it and work his land in exchange for 20 percent of the produce.

Several of Jesus’ parables used the illustration of stewardship; money or a vineyard was entrusted to someone’s care, and at some point the owner returned and expected his portion of the harvest or a return on his investment.

God reminds his people “the land is mine.” I’m allowing you to squat on my land, to live on it, to farm it, to use it. But don’t forget, it belongs to me. “You are strangers and sojourners with me.” In Leviticus we have heard a lot about the strangers and sojourners in the land. This typically refers to non-Israelites, foreigners. Here God reminds his people, Israel ‘you are aliens, strangers in a land not belonging to you. It is my land. I am the King, the great landlord. I set the terms of your occupation and your tenancy. As the landowner, he reserves the right to evict any tenants who refuse to follow his rules. He has done this before. In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, where God lays out the code of conduct he requires of his people, he reminds them

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

God is the landowner, and he is evicting the former tenants after excessively generous notification. But this is a warning to his own people. If they refuse to follow his rules, they too will be evicted. God’s people are always to keep in mind that they are sojourners and strangers living on God’s land.

As such, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity.” God’s people living in God’s land are allowed to sub-lease the land to others. But no sales are final, because the land belongs to God. In the first section, introducing the year of Jubilee, God clarified that what is being sold is not the land itself, but the number of harvests until the year of Jubilee, when the land would return to the ones God allotted it to.

Redemption and the Kinsman Redeemer

Leviticus 25:24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Here we are introduced to the idea of redemption. This noun shows up 9 times in this chapter, twice in Ruth 4, twice in Jeremiah 32, and once in Ezekiel. Leviticus 25 is key to understanding what redemption means. The verb form shows up 10 times in this chapter, and 12 times in Leviticus 27, a handful of times scattered through the rest of the Pentateuch and the other historical books; 21 times in Ruth, twice in Job, 10 times in Psalms, once in Proverbs, 24 times in Isaiah (x24); and several other occurrences in the prophets. The noun is gullah (gheh-ool-law’), from the verb ga’al (gaw-al’), kinsman redeemer. The same verb is translated ‘avenger’ in the phrase ‘avenger of blood’ about 12 times in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 2 Samuel. As we learn from Leviticus and from Ruth, the kinsman redeemer was a near relative who had the ability to right what was wrong in the family. If a brother was in financial trouble, his nearest redeemer had the responsibility to keep the land in the family. In the next section we will see a brother who sells himself into slavery can be redeemed by his kinsman redeemer. In Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, the kinsman redeemer had the responsibility to defend the rights of his kin and avenge his murder. In the poetic and prophetic books, God is the kinsman redeemer of his people. This is the foundation for the concept of the redemption we have in Jesus in the New Testament.

Leviticus 25:26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

The one who sells his own land may redeem it himself if he becomes financially able. This would be highly unlikely, apart from receiving an inheritance. The redemption price is to be a fair price, the price for which the land was sold, less the amount of harvests that have benefited the buyer after the sale. So if there was 30 years until the Jubilee, and the land could generate 1,000 a year, it would be sold for 30,000. If ten years into the contract, a kinsman redeemer came forward to redeem the land, he would pay 20,000, in effect refunding the value of the 20 remaining years. The buyer should have gotten his 10,000 out of the land in the first ten years of his lease.

If there is no one able to redeem the land, it must remain in the possession of the buyer until the Jubilee. In the year of Jubilee, the land reverts to the one God had entrusted it to.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to these general rules of redemption and release covered in the rest of this section.

Leviticus 25:29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.

Houses in walled cities were an exception to the rule. The seller retained the right to redeem it for one year, after which it became the permanent possession of the buyer. Houses in unwalled villages were counted as land, and were subject to the same redemption and release in the Jubilee.

Then there is an exception to the exception.

Leviticus 25:32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The Levites, remember, were not given any land inheritance, only cities scattered within the other tribes of Israel; cities of refuge. Dwellings given to the Levites in these cities could always be redeemed, and they would be released back to them in the Jubilee.

Hospitality to a Brother

Verses 35-38 conclude this section with an exhortation to take care of your brother, and a warning to fear God.

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

Leviticus 19 told us to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the stranger as yourself. But we may not feel that this extends to a near relative. We know them. They knew better. ‘I’m willing to help my neighbor, and the guy I don’t know, but my brother, well, he got himself into this mess. I warned him and he didn’t listen. He needs to learn his lesson. I’m not going to bail him out; he’ll just do it again.’ God says, don’t harden your heart to your relative. Treat him at least as well as you would treat a stranger. Take him in. Help him out. Help him get back on his feet. Show hospitality. Don’t enable him, but don’t take advantage of his vulnerable situation either. We see a similar warning to what we saw in the first section of this chapter.

Redemption is to be a blessing to those in need. Don’t turn the blessing into a curse. Don’t hold it over his head. Don’t take interest from him. Don’t capitalize on his misfortune. Genuinely seek to help him get back on his feet. Do for him what you would want him to do for you if it was you who fell on hard times. Do not take advantage of him, but fear God. You were slaves in Egypt. God brought you out and gave you the land. The land you possess is a gift from God. Give a gift to your brother in need.

Application

How do we apply a passage like this? We must remember, this was written to Israel after God rescued them from Egypt and was preparing them to enter Canaan. The land promises were a big deal. But we are not Israel, this is not Canaan, we don’t have Levites or walled cities, our property was not apportioned by God, and we don’t release property back to its original owner in the year of Jubilee.

Care for your Brothers

But we can draw some principles that do apply to us today. We are not under the kinsman redeemer laws, but it is right to look out for our relatives.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 John asks:

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty

We may not be in the promised land, but we should recognize God’s absolute ownership and right over all that he has made. Psalm 24, quoted in 1 Corinthians 10, says:

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

God is the Creator of all that is. He made it and he can do with it what he pleases. He retains the authority to make the rules and enforce them. Everything belongs to him and it exists to please him.

We need to be reminded that we have been entrusted with a stewardship, and that we will be called to account for what we have done with what we have been given. We are sojourners and strangers in a land that belongs to another.

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Look to the Redeemer

Most importantly, we understand from this passage a little more clearly what redemption is all about. It was the responsibility of a near relative to redeem the one in trouble. Jesus,

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

Jesus became related to us, became one of us, became human, so that he could be our Kinsman Redeemer. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to be made like his brothers, so that he could redeem us as brothers. Isaiah even goes so far as to say:

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Our Creator became our husband to redeem us. Jesus is our Redeemer, our near kinsman, the one who comes to our rescue when we are poor and desperate and beyond all hope. Jesus is our rescue when all other hope is lost.

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

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by The Blood

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

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

17:1-7 no blood sacrifices to false gods

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

—17:10 no blood consumption

—->17:11 blood given for atonement

—17:12 no blood consumption

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

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

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

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

Blood is a Big Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atonement and Substitution; Life for Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blood Of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 17 and Acts 15

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

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

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

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

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

Drink My Blood

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

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

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

At his final meal with his disciples,

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement

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

Overview & Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humble and with His Own Offering

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

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

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

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

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

The Congregation’s Offering

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

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

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

Entering the Holy of Holies

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

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

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

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

Cleansing the Congregation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion of Ceremonies

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

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

Summary Statement

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

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

Humbled Himself

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

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

Propitiation

The great heart of the gospel presentation in Romans 3 says

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

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

The Greater High Priest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Access to God

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

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

We have a hope that enters behind the curtain.

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

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

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

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

The Hope of Christmas

12/13 Hope of Christmas; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151213_hope-of-christmas.mp3

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 ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 15, 2015 Posted by | occasional, 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

Luke 19:29-42; Palm Sunday

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

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

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

We will read Luke’s account of the event.

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

Prophetic Backdrop

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

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

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

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

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 118 says:

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

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

Political Climate

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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

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

Future Fulfillment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Slavery and Contentment

12/01 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 Remain As You Were Called; Slavery and Contentment; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131201_1cor7_20-24.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

We find in this passage strong encouragement from the apostle to enjoy the status God has given to each one of us in Christ Jesus. These verses give the core principle that Paul applies to the different circumstances he addresses in this chapter: married, widowed, divorced, and single. In verse 17 he states the principle:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Then in verses 18 – 19 he illustrates this principle with the racial issue of circumcision. Jews prided themselves in being God’s chosen people. Gentiles were excluded from a relationship with God unless they became Jews. But in Graeco-Roman society being a Jew could be detrimental to social advancement. Paul says that it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. God’s call cuts across all ethnic barriers. Jesus sent his disciples not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but into Samaria and to the ends of the earth to make disciples. God will bring people from every tribe and language and people and nation to worship around his throne. Racial background has no effect on one’s relationship with Jesus. In verse 20, Paul restates his guiding principle.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

And in verses 21-23 he applies this principle to the difficult social issue of slavery. Then in verse 24, he repeats the principle again.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Bondservants and Freedmen

In order to better understand this passage, we need to gain a proper understanding about the background of slavery in the Graeco-Roman world that Paul was writing to. Set aside for a moment the American and European ideas of ethnic based slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was an issue of social status. One became a slave by being on the losing side of a battle, by being born to slave parents, or by entering into a contract of slavery, often to pay off a debt. The kidnapping and sale of adults and children as slaves was illegal, but did happen. Slavery was typically not lifelong; slaves were often manumitted (or granted freedom) when they were in their early 30’s or after around seven years of service (NIGTC, p.564-5). A former slave who had been released gained the status of ‘freedman’. The status of a slave or a freedman depended greatly on whom he served as slave. Slaves were sometimes cruelly abused and mistreated, and sometimes released when they had passed their prime as a way for the owner to escape the obligations of providing for them. But it was a matter of public honor to provide well for the needs of the slave, and to reward loyal service with manumission. Some slaves were menial laborers, but a wealthy patron would often delegate great responsibility to a trusted slave to carry out business and manage affairs in his name, and that slave would be given the respect that was due their patron. When a slave was released, they continued to be indebted to their patron, owing them honor, respect, gifts, and often a set number of days’ work per week or month or year (BECNT, p.314-5). Some estimate that about one third of the population of ancient Corinth were slaves, and another third were freedmen. Freedmen took great pride in their patrons. Common tombstone inscriptions have been discovered that read (so-and-so) the freedman of (patron’s name).

Circumstances and Attitudes

Paul restates his governing principle of living the life the Lord has assigned and to which God has called in verse 20, and he now applies this principle to slavery and freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Literally verse 20 reads ‘remain in the calling in which you were called’. It is not social standing that counts for anything, it is God’s call.

This is intentionally an extreme application of the principle, and it helps to clarify what he does and doesn’t mean by it. It is one thing to apply ‘each one should remain in the calling in which he was called’ to circumcision; don’t reverse the irreversible. But to say ‘if God called you as a slave, remain as a slave’ is more difficult to swallow. But he doesn’t exactly say that. He doesn’t say ‘you must remain a slave’ Instead he says ‘don’t worry about it.’ He turns our focus from the circumstance to our attitude toward the circumstance. If you are a slave, don’t let it concern you. You can be so focused on your circumstance, so controlled by an all-consuming desire to escape your situation, that you become a slave to your desire. You don’t have to become a Jew to follow Jesus, and you don’t have to become free to follow Jesus. A slave can be just as faithful a follower of Jesus as a free man can. This is radical contentment irrespective of circumstances.

This is not just talk. Paul modeled this radical contentment for us in his own life. He wrote in Philippians:

Philippians 4:11 …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

He wrote these words from a Roman prison, probably chained to Roman guards. He did not pout and whine and complain. He was not consumed with self-pity. Instead he viewed his circumstances as ordained by God and took advantage of his situation for the glory of God and for the advance of the gospel. He writes in the beginning of the letter:

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout the Philippian letter Paul is overflowing with joy. Joy is not contingent on circumstances; joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer. Paul views his imprisonment not as a hindrance to the gospel, but as brought about by God to advance the gospel throughout the whole Roman guard. His imprisonment has given confidence to many brothers to speak the word more boldly. Paul is content in his God-given circumstances and finds multiple reasons for joy and thanksgiving to his all-wise God. Paul gives us his recipe for contentment in Philippians 4:6.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or as Peter says it:

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Remain as you are. Bring your concerns to God. Be content in whatever circumstance God called you.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

We can easily apply this principle to our situation today. Often when someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they feel a strong inclination to really make their lives count for the Lord. They mistakenly think that the best way to do this is to quit their day job and go into ‘full time Christian ministry’. This is right and wrong. They definitely should seek to make their lives count for God and they should go into full time Christian ministry. But that does not require a change of occupation. Paul’s advice here is ‘remain as you are called’. Don’t quit your day job. You are called to be an ambassador for Jesus where ever you are. Are you presently serving someone? Employed by someone? Be faithful to use those relationships for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God. Are you in a position of authority over someone? A business owner or employer? Recognize that you are a slave of Jesus, you belong to Jesus, and he determines how you conduct yourself and how you relate to other people.

Make Use Of…

We could take Paul’s principle that ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’ as an absolute rule in every circumstance. But Paul is not so simplistic. He adds a ‘but if’ clause; ‘but if you can gain your freedom, rather make use…’ But he leaves the sentence hanging. Make use of what? This has led to a debate among biblical scholars. Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should rather make use of your slavery to the glory of God and remain a slave? Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should use your new status as a freedman to bring glory to God? More likely he is allowing for the exception and turning our focus from our circumstances to our calling. If you were called by God as a slave, don’t let it concern you, serve your earthly master to the glory of God. If God opens the door to freedom, make use of that freedom for the glory of God.

Upside Down Kingdom

He finds the reason in the gospel, where the calling of God shames the wise and chooses the nothings of this world, where the first will be last and the last first.

1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

The cross of our Lord Jesus turns all social status on its head. If God called you when you were a slave, you become a freedman of the Lord. Still a slave of a human master, the Lord Jesus has become your patron and you enjoy true freedom from the power and consequences of sin, a freedom greater than any earthly liberty. You now owe your primary allegiance to Jesus. You can claim the identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If on the other hand God called you when you were free, you have become a slave of Christ. You have come under the control of a Master who has the absolute right to make use of you, your time and talents and resources, as he alone sees fit (Thrall, p.56). So the slave moves up in social status, and the free man moves to the bottom.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Matthew 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The greatest one in God’s kingdom is the one who serves others. Jesus, our example, did not come to be served but to sacrifice himself for others.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus

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

The God who created the universe became part of his creation in order to serve us by dying in our place. Because of the cross, we who were slaves are set free from sin to live lives that bring glory to God. We who were free are now owned by Jesus.

Bought

Paul’s instruction to slaves is not to worry about it. If you can become free, use that for the glory of God. More important than your circumstances is your attitude. Your station in life does not define you. Your relation to Christ is what defines you.

He now instructs those who are free.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

In that culture, becoming a slave of an affluent and important patron could be a way to climb the ladder of social status. Paul warns them against the foolish wisdom of this world’s status seeking hunger. He takes them back to the cross. You were bought with a price. Jesus paid the price for your freedom at the infinite cost of his own precious blood. You are owned by the King of kings. It would be incongruent for a possession of Christ to sell himself into slavery to another master. At the end of chapter 6 in a warning against sexual immorality, he said

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Here, in the context of social relationships, he repeats this theological truth. You were bought with a price. You are owned. You belong to Jesus. You must live consistent with your new identity in Christ.

Content in Any Relationship

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Paul is saying all this to illustrate his principle governing marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. His principle is ‘remain as you were called’. If you are married, you must not seek to change your status. Enjoy your marriage and use it to bring glory to God. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, take advantage of the freedoms of singleness to bring glory to God. But his illustration of slavery introduces possible exceptions to the principle. You are not required to remain in that state. Interestingly, he parallels marriage with slavery and singleness with freedom. But whatever your situation, don’t be concerned about it. More important than your circumstances is your attitude toward those circumstances. Are you bitter, frustrated, depressed, suffering from the greener grass syndrome, wishing to be on the other side of the fence? Or have you learned the secret for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain, but you are not to remain there alone, in your own strength. You belong to Jesus, you are with God, and in that relationship there is ample strength. The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in you to produce the fruit of joy regardless of outward status or standing, to produce peace and confidence in your identity in Christ as belonging to him. You were bought with a price. You are a bondservant of Christ, a freedman of Christ. You are with God, and that relationship must define you.

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

December 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20130630; The Awesome Power of God

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

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

Colossians 1:16 says about Jesus:

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

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

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

The Gospel Is the Power of God

Paul begins his letter to the Romans with this declaration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easier to Punish than to Cover

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

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

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

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

Colossians 1:13 puts it this way:

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

An Unstoppable Power

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

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

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

Good News for Believers

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

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

Not Either / Or

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

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

Evangelizing the Saints

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

The Diagnosis

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

The Cure

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

Substitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propitiation, Redemption, Justification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Unmerited Unearned

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

The Keeping Power of the Gospel

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

Transforming Power

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Jesus Our …Everything!

03/17 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 Jesus our…Everything; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130317_1cor1_30-31.mp3

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to address problems that had arisen in the church in Corinth. Although there were some serious moral and doctrinal issues that required urgent attention, and that he will address in the course of this letter, the apostle started by giving thanks to God for how God had worked in the believers there. He addresses them as ‘the church of God in Corinth’; he says they are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, and that they are a part of the larger church, the body of Christ. He gives thanks that God’s grace was given to them in Christ Jesus, that they were enriched in knowledge, that the gospel proved to be effective among them, that they lacked no grace-gift, that they were waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he reminds them of God’s faithfulness, that it is God who will sustain them guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he tackles what he sees to be the root of much of the problems in Corinth. He tackles their ‘I’ problem. Some said “I follow Paul.” Some said “I follow Apollos.” Others said “I follow Cephas.” And those who thought they were above the rest and really spiritual said “I follow Christ.” Division, disunity, quarreling, this kind of party spirit was evidence of pride. Paul brings them back to the nature of the gospel to cure them of their pride. He says that his primary responsibility as apostle was to preach the gospel, a simple message, an offensive message, the message of the cross. The message, not the messenger, carries the power of God. He undermines their pride by pointing to the fact that the gospel, the word of the cross, is perceived as foolishness to pagans and as a scandal to religious people. In fact, God set out to destroy the wisdom of the wise by saving those who believe in, trust in, depend on the foolish message of the cross.

He says that the message seems foolish, and then he causes a greater affront to their pride by reminding them of their own social status. Not many wise according to the world, not many powerful, not many of the nobility in Corinth were chosen by God. Instead, God chose the low and despised in the world, even the nobodies to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. God’s whole method of salvation was designed to strip us of anything to boast in so that all our worship goes to God. Humble adoration is what is appropriate in response to God’s saving work, not human arrogance.

He ties this all together with a dense summary of the gospel message in verse 30, which we will attempt to unpack today, followed by an exhortation from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul has said in verse 17 that the gospel is the power of the cross of Christ. In verse 18 he calls it the word of the cross. In verse 23 he says “we preach Christ crucified. And in verse 24 he says that to those who believe, this foolish message becomes ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ He says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Verse 30 helps us to see how Christ is the wisdom and power of God, and how this simple message of the cross, that seems weak and foolish is really power and wisdom.

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Because of Him

First of all, he reminds us of the fact that our salvation is not due to us, it is not because of us. Our relationship to Jesus, described as being ‘in Christ Jesus’ is not our own doing. It is ‘because of him you are in Christ Jesus’. Because God called you, because God chose you, you responded with faith and believed in Jesus, trusted in the foolish message of the cross. God, who creates beauty out of nothing, and calls into existence things that do not exist, ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.

Became to Us Wisdom from God

Jesus became to us wisdom from God. He wasn’t before. Before God called us, we were like the rest of the world. We looked at the cross and thought it foolish. We heard the message of Christ crucified and were offended. Our eyes were blind to the beauty of the cross. Our hearts were hard to the transforming power of his grace. We could turn this around, as one Puritan brother wrote in 1836, [Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae] “in ourselves we are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.” But because of him, because God opened our hearts, we are in Christ Jesus, and in Christ, what once seemed foolish is now seen to be the profound wisdom of God. The foolishness of God is wiser than men.

Being Saved

Here we find encapsulated in three words the power of God to save. Paul described us back in verse 18 as ‘us who are being saved’. What does it mean to be ‘being saved’? Remember our illustration. The fireman has crashed into your bedroom, shook you out of your sleep, alerted you to the fact that your house is burning down around you and you are in danger of perishing. You realize the danger and entrust yourself to his care. He has taken you in his capable arms, wrapped you in his fireproof coat, placed his oxygen mask over your face, and he is carrying you through the burning building. You are being saved. Paul describes this ‘being saved’ as Christ our righteousness and Christ our sanctification and Christ our redemption.

Christ our Righteousness

If we are in Christ Jesus, Christ has become for us our righteousness. Paul, in Romans establishes the fact that ‘none is righteous, no not one’ (Rom.3:10), and that the law was brought in to stop every mouth and demonstrate that the whole world is accountable to God, because no one can keep God’s law perfectly. And then he presents a different righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own. He says:

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

This righteousness is not our righteousness, because we cannot keep the law. This is God’s righteousness, and it is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ. He goes on:

Romans 3:22 …For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift,

This word ‘justified’ is from the same root as the word ‘righteous’. It means to be made righteous or declared righteous. We, sinners who fall short of God’s glory and are unrighteous in ourselves are declared righteous by God’s generosity as a gift. We, who have no righteousness of our own, are given God’s righteousness. If you are in Christ Jesus, he has become your righteousness. This is what Isaiah points to when he says:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

This is what was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, that from David’s lineage, a righteous branch would come and he would be called ‘the LORD is our righteousness’ (Jer.23:5-6; 33:16).

Christ our Sanctification

To us who are being saved, Jesus Christ has become to us righteousness and sanctification. Sanctification, or holiness in some translations, is being set apart. A time, a place, a person or an item may have been ordinary and commonplace, but if it was sanctified, consecrated or made holy, it now became set apart for God’s exclusive use. Back in verse 2, Paul called the believers in Corinth ‘those sanctified in Christ Jesus’. Whatever they had been before, they were now set apart exclusively for God. Holiness or sanctification carries with it the idea of being cleansed, purified, made fit for God’s use. Under the law, there was a process by which something or someone could be cleansed or purified or made holy, set apart for God’s use. This process usually involved sacrifices and cleansing. Often when we think about sanctification or holiness, we think of the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, and it has that meaning in Romans 6 and Ephesians 5 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But here in verse 2 Paul tells us that we have been decisively and forever sanctified in Christ Jesus, and in verse 30 that Christ Jesus has become our sanctification. We have been set apart exclusively for God. We have been made holy. We are not yet practically what we have been made positionally, but God is at work in us to bring to completion that which he started. Both of these aspects of sanctification are brought together in Hebrews 10:14.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected, brought to completion by a single offering- the offering of Christ on the cross. But we are in process, becoming what we are. We have some baby chicks and ducklings at our house. When they hatched out of their eggs, even before they hatched, they were what they will be. The baby ducklings are ducks. They are different than chicks. They have webbed feet. They have bills, not beaks. Ducks fly, but these ducklings can’t fly. They can’t even take care of themselves. They haven’t produced anything but a mess yet. They haven’t laid any eggs. But they are decisively ducks. They will grow up to be nothing but ducks. In Christ Jesus, we have become something that we were not before. The bible calls this regeneration or the new birth. We are not yet what we will be, but our nature has been decisively changed. We may still produce nothing but a mess, but by God’s grace we will mature, and one day we will bear fruit that brings pleasure to God. In one sense we have been changed. We are set apart for God. We are holy. In another sense, we have not yet fully grown into what we are destined to become. Jesus is our sanctification.

Christ our Redemption

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Jesus Christ is our redemption. Righteousness is a legal term. Before God’s law we stand either righteous or condemned. In Christ, we are given the gift of God’s own righteousness. Sanctification is a ceremonial term. In relation to God’s presence, we are either set apart for God’s use, or excluded from his presence. Christ is our sanctification, setting us apart to enjoy the presence of God forever. Redemption is a slave-market term. Under Old Testament law, if you couldn’t pay your debts, there were no bankruptcy laws. You were sold into slavery. You were no longer your own. You belonged to someone else. But there was provision for redemption. Someone could pay your debt and buy you out of slavery and set you free. This was our situation. I had made foolish choices and got myself in over my head. Not financially, but spiritually. I wanted to be my own master, so I rebelled against God, and I was sold as a slave to sin. I was not in control of my own life, I was in bondage, with no hope of escape. But Jesus, the one against whom I had rebelled, came and paid my price, the ultimate price, to redeem me.

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

Jesus bought us with his own blood.

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

Jesus became to us redemption. We have been purchased, we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But there is a sense in which this redemption is not yet fully realized. The price has been paid in full. But our emancipation is not yet fully complete. We have been exempted from the consequences of sin. We are no longer under the power of sin. But we still wrestle with the presence of sin. We still battle with our old nature. The bible looks back to the cross as the victory where the head of the serpent was crushed, but it also looks forward to a day when all things will be set right. Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

There is a day coming, certainly coming, where we will be delivered from the indwelling presence of sin. It is signed, signed in blood. We are sealed, sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. But we are not yet delivered. The day of redemption is coming, the day when all is set right. This is what in Romans 8 all creation longs for.

Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In the gospel, the message of the cross, Jesus became for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This is the wisdom of God and the power of God. This is the wisdom of God to satisfy justice and show mercy to sinners. This is the power of God. What seemed to be a grand demonstration of weakness, that God incarnate would be killed on a cross turned out to be the power of God for salvation. This is the power of God to set us free from sin and death and hell. This is the power of God to set us free from our own self-centeredness and pride, to do what we were created to do and humbly worship our great and gracious and glorious God.

So that We Boast Only in the Lord

Both before and after this verse, the ultimate reason and purpose of the method of God is given. Look at verses 29 and 31.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

‘So that no human being might boast in the presence of God. …so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”’ God in his infinite wisdom designed salvation in such a way that it is exclusively his to give and ours to receive so that boasting in what we earn or deserve is excluded. The only boasting that is allowed is boasting in the Lord. This Old Testament quote comes from Jeremiah 9. It is a word of judgment on the people for turning away from him (8:4-5). They are full of deceit, greed, falsehood, lies, iniquity, oppression. They have ‘stubbornly followed their own hearts’ (9:14). Twice he says ‘they do not know me declares the Lord’ (9:3); ‘they refuse to know me declares the Lord’ (9:6)

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boasting in human wisdom, might or riches is foolish, and God will bring it to nothing. The only legitimate ground for boasting is in a relationship with God; ‘that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD’. We find that God’s steadfast covenant keeping love finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, the only Son of God, come to demonstrate the great love God has for us by giving himself in our place, dying for our sins. Justice is satisfied, the wrath of God against our sin is appeased, and righteousness is given to those who trust in Jesus. Let him who boasts, boast in knowing God, in a relationship with God that comes from God as a gift, a relationship that is in Christ Jesus.

True wisdom is knowing God, a relationship with God. Jesus is our wisdom and our righteousness and our sanctification and our redemption. Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God for salvation to all who believe. So trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, enjoy a relationship with Jesus, boast in Jesus. 

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

March 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment