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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 5:1-19; Whose Word Will Stand?

9/12 Exodus 5:1-19 Whose Word Will Stand?


God has declared over and over that he cares about his people.

-Exodus 2:23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

-Exodus 3:7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

-Exodus 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

God has sent Moses and his brother Aaron to declare the good news that God cares and has begun to take decisive action to deliver them from their oppression in Egypt so they can serve him. Moses is afraid that the people won’t listen to him or believe him, but they do listen and they do believe, just as God had promised, and they respond in worship. With the encouragement of this initial success, Moses and Aaron are now emboldened to bring God’s word to the Pharaoh.

Thus Says the LORD

God had given them the words he wanted them to say to the Pharaoh.

-Exodus 4:21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

-Exodus 3:18 … you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

This is the first of over 400 times the phrase ‘Thus says the Lord’ is used in the bible. When God gave his prophet a message to deliver – usually a message of confrontation rebuking someone who is hostile to God – he was to introduce the message this way: ‘thus says the Lord’. But there are severe warnings about claiming to speak God’s words when God had not spoken

-Jeremiah 14:14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 15 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.

-Ezekiel 22:28 And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken. …31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

God takes his word very seriously. When he speaks, he demands that we listen, and if we will not listen, he says he will require it of us. Those who lie about speaking in his name when he had not spoken, he required the death penalty.

Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’– 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

This is a prophecy of the promised Messiah, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers”. This is the one who would fulfill perfectly the roles of prophet, priest and king. The crowning pinnacle of God’s self-revelation was his own Son, the word become flesh.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

So Moses is foreshadowing Jesus when he comes to set the captives free. Jesus read God’s words about himself:

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.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)

God’s Demands

Moses declares the word of God boldly to the Pharaoh:

5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’

YHWH, the God of Israel claims ownership on this people that you are oppressing. You are forcing them to serve you. YHWH says ‘they are mine. They are mine, and you must let them go. They are to hold a feast to me’. God is claiming the right of possession on his people.

This is worded differently than what God had said to Moses. God had said in 4:23 ‘let my son go that he may serve me’ or in 3:18 ‘that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God’. Here Moses says ‘let my people go that they may hold a feast to me’. The word here translated ‘hold a feast’ is a word that describes a feast, festival or pilgrimage. Worshiping or serving God, even sacrificing, is indeed a feast or festival – a celebration. If we picture the Old Testament sacrificial system as a heavy financial burden where animal after animal simply went up in smoke, I think we are mistaken. Certainly there were sin offerings and whole burnt offerings, and what was offered to the Lord was to be the best of the best – they were not to offer to the Lord that which cost them nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). But this was not all. Listen to how God describes the sacrifices he demands of his people:

Deuteronomy 12:6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

… 11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.

… 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake.

… 26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the LORD will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, but the flesh you may eat.

This would be more of a worship celebration, a family bar-b-cue in the presence of the Lord. Moses was accurate in describing what God demanded of them as a ‘feast’. This contrasts starkly to the service required by the Pharaoh. In this chapter the Pharaoh acknowledges that it is ‘hard service’ and in this chapter he makes it even harder, even to the point of being impossible. But listen to what Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

God is planning rest for his people.

5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’

Pharaoh would understand this language. Other people groups would claim to speak on behalf of their deity, and there is evidence that other groups would go on pilgrimage from Egypt to serve their gods.

All is well up to this point. Moses and Aaron have obeyed the Lord and gone to the elders of Israel, and they received the words of the Lord and responded with belief and worship. And now they have gone to Pharaoh and declared God’s words. But here comes the crushing blow.

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh is not saying that he’s never heard of YHWH or that he doesn’t know anything about Israel’s God. What he is saying is that he has no reason to respect this God or listen to what he says. He says ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?’ Remember Moses’ question to God ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Ex.3:11) Moses is not unsure of his own identity. He is unconvinced of his qualifications and his ability to accomplish the task. The Pharaoh was certainly aware of Israel’s God YHWH, as he was aware of the many gods of the Egyptians and the gods of the surrounding nations. Simply as a matter of diplomacy he should at least acknowledge the God of his slave people. But instead he demonstrates a total disregard and lack of respect for the God of the Hebrews. He snubs their God and spits in his face. Pharaoh is saying ‘I am in charge here. I am the final authority. This so called God of Israel has no right to tell me what to do with my slaves. I do not believe in your God and I will not let Israel go.’

As shocking as these words are, they should not come as a surprise. God had laid out clearly what would happen ahead of time. God had already told Moses:

-Exodus 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

-Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

Pharaoh’s proud harsh response should be an indication to Moses that God is already at work, doing exactly what he promised, hardening the Pharaoh’s unbelieving heart in order to set the stage for his mighty acts of deliverance. But it seems that Moses and Aaron are a bit taken aback by his defiant response. Their response is less authoritative, more reasoned, more tactful.

3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”

Their reasoning seems to be that if we are not allowed to go, the Lord may punish us for our disobedience and that would be a greater loss to Egypt’s labor force than the requested pilgrimage. The irony here is that the Lord is about to fall on Egypt with pestilence and sword because of their refusal to release his son Israel.

But their persuasive speech leaves the Pharaoh unmoved.

4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” 5 And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!”

The Pharaoh now accuses Moses and Aaron of distracting his slaves from their hard labor. Pharaoh is still on his throne and he is still calling the shots in Egypt. He refers back to the problem addressed by his predecessor – the disproportionate growth of the Hebrew people – God has made them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the land, to the point where they are a threat to the national security. They are many and they must be kept in subjection. This Pharaoh is shrewd. He institutes a plan to demoralize Israel and discredit Moses.

Pharaoh’s Demands

6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”

Cut straw was an essential ingredient for sun-dried bricks to dry properly and hold together. This was apparently provided ready to use at the job site. The new demand was that the straw would be withheld and the slaves would have to scrounge for whatever substitute they could find and still meet the same quota of finished product. Pharaoh’s accusation is that they are idle. That is why they are asking to be released to offer sacrifice to their God. Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh saying ‘thus says YHWH’. Pharaoh calls the words of YHWH spoken by Moses and Aaron ‘lying words’. Remember the serpent in the garden? He questioned Eve ‘Did God actually say…’ (Gen.3:1) and then flatly contradicted God’s words saying ‘you will not surely die’ (Gen.3:4). His tactics are the same today. He seeks to undermine the word of God and God’s messengers. This hope of rest and worship that Moses and Aaron are enticing the people with are false hopes. God has not really spoken to them. I will exercise my authority to demonstrate who is really in charge by exponentially increasing the workload and demanding the impossible.

10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.”’ 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”

Pharaoh here directly asserts himself against the God of the Hebrews. Moses and Aaron had come to him saying ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘Let my people go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ Pharaoh responds ‘Thus says Pharaoh’. Whose word will stand? Moses comes in the authority of YHWH saying ‘thus says the Lord’ and Pharaoh responds by a proclamation ‘Thus says Pharaoh’. God says that Israel is my people and they are to be released to serve me. Pharaoh says they are my slaves and I will intensify their service to me.

The Israelite foremen did their best to produce the same amount of bricks, but the demand imposed upon them was impossible. They were beaten publicly by the Egyptian taskmasters for not meeting the quota.

The Response of Israel

15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.”

At the end of chapter 2, it says that the people ‘groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard… and God remembered… God saw… and God knew. Here the people of Israel cry out again, but this time to the Pharaoh. Three times in these verses the Israelite foremen refer to themselves as ‘your servants’. The question in this passage is whom will the people serve? Will they serve the Lord? Or is their allegiance to Pharaoh? But the Pharaoh will not hear. He does not care. He has no sympathy, no compassion. In contrast to God’s heart toward the people, his heart is hard. The foremen think there must be some miscommunication. The quota has remained the same but he necessary materials to meet that quota have been withheld. ‘The fault is in your own people’ the foremen say to the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh affirms their worst fears. You heard correctly. You must produce the same quantity without the necessary materials. And the reason – your request to go sacrifice to the Lord indicates that you are lazy and have too much time on your hands.

Whose Word Will Stand?

Here we begin to see the irrationality of a man who has determined to fight against God. Withholding the necessary materials will inevitably lead to reduced quality in bricks – the building materials he is using to build his kingdom. Anything built with this sub-standard product will not last as long. So he is ultimately hurting himself by his irrational and impossible demands.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (cf. Psalm 53:1)

The Pharaoh has set himself against God.

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, …2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 2:5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 2:6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

It is God’s word that will stand in the end.

1 Peter 1:24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

God’s word is good news. Good news of freedom – freedom from oppressive bondage – freedom to joyfully serve the one true God. Feasting. Celebration. Worship. Relationship. Knowing God. Life and life abundantly. The good news of reconciliation for sinners to a holy God through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of his own Son Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


September 12, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:6-9

9/21 1 Peter 1:6-9 trials; necessity, purpose and outcome

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1: 6 en w agalliasye oligon arti ei deon luphyentev en poikiloiv peirasmoiv 7 ina to dokimion umwn thv pistewv polutimoteron crusiou tou apollumenou dia purov de dokimazomenou eureyh eiv epainon kai doxan kai timhn en apokaluqei ihsou cristou 8 on ouk idontev agapate eiv on arti mh orwntev pisteuontev de agalliate cara aneklalhtw kai dedoxasmenh 9 komizomenoi to telov thv pistewv swthrian qucwn

Peter is addressing the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He recognizes their situation as aliens – exiles in their own hometowns because of their decision to follow Jesus. But he points them to their position before God – they are elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

And then he leads them in worship. He points them to the work of God in their new birth. Their new life in Jesus is rooted in the great mercy of God the Father. He caused them to be born again, and they were born into a living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead secures their hope in the inheritance that they have been born into. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept safe in heaven for us and God’s power is at work to keep us believing so that we indeed will receive the promised inheritance. God’s power is guarding us right now through our faith for the final salvation that we look forward to. This is foundation for worship, and it is a cause to rejoice. Peter points his struggling readers to their source of joy so that they can stand firm even in the middle of trials.

In this you rejoice; this, that God fathered you into a new life of hope in an incredible inheritance, and that God is keeping the inheritance safe for you and is keeping you for the inheritance. Peter goes out on a limb here and assumes that his readers are indeed rejoicing in their salvation. These are people who are suffering for their faith. They are aliens in their own communities. They certainly have a lot on their minds, but he confidently says ‘in this you rejoice’. He is certain that any true believer will resonate with joy over what he has said. I am filled with joy when I think of how rich in mercy God is toward a hell deserving sinner like me. My joy overflows when I reflect on the new life that God has created in me. I am engulfed in delight when I think of the inheritance that awaits me, secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am flooded with a sense of awe and thanksgiving when I think that God by his awesome power is at work to keep me believing so that I will receive the inheritance. Joy is a ‘given’ in the Christian life. Rejoicing over God at work in our salvation is something we Christians do. As Peter begins to address the issue of suffering as a Christian, he first points them to this overarching joy that spans the chasm of suffering and keeps us looking toward the goal of our salvation in spite of the trials. Peter says a few things here about the trials we face, that are essential to preserve the proper outlook.

  1. The Necessity of Trials

  2. The Character, Variety and Duration of Trials

  3. The Purpose of Trials

  4. The Certain Outcome of Trials

First, the necessity of trials. Trials are necessary. But he’s not talking about circumstantial necessity or inevitability – fate. Bad things are bound to happen and there’s nothing anybody (even God) can do about it. No, he is saying they are necessary, in that they are designed to serve an essential purpose in your salvation. This is not the necessity of chance, this is the necessity of the plan of God being worked out. What God plans he will do (Is. 46:11). This is the kind of necessity Jesus spoke of when he said:

Luke 24:7 …that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Peter makes it explicit that this is what he means in:

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So we can take comfort that whatever trials we face today, they are not meaningless or senseless or random. They are designed by our merciful Father to play an essential part in our salvation. We can trust him that they are for our good.

The second thing we learn about trials is their character, variety and duration. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. Peter does not make light of their trials. He acknowledges that they are weighty – heavy. Grief is real and it is painful. He uses the same word that is used of Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Peter is not asking us to just put on a happy face. Christians do grieve, but we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thes.4:13)

And Peter is not quick to say ‘oh, I’ve been through that. I know exactly how you feel’, because he knows that the experience of trials is different for everyone. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. The word literally means ‘many colored or variegated ‘.

Their trials are unique and they are grievous, but they are also short. He says ‘though now for a little while‘. Peter is not saying that he knows their trials will soon come to an end. Some of his readers may suffer their whole life. Some may die suffering. He is not saying that their suffering is short in comparison to other people’s suffering. He is saying that their grief will be short in comparison with eternal joy. We see that this eternal perspective is his frame of reference from verse 7, where he points to ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Paul puts it this way:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,… 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

So trials are temporal, they are necessary, they are grievous, and they come in many colors, but what is their purpose? In verse 7 he says ‘so that’; that indicates purpose.

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God has a purpose in your trials. Satan has a purpose in your trials too. Satan would like to destroy your faith and cause you to walk away from Jesus. He seeks to devour you and steal your joy. God’s purpose for trials is different. Jesus said:

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

While Satan’s purpose is to destroy, God’s purpose is to test your faith in order to prove it genuine. Muscles, if they are not used, will atrophy. Muscles need to be exercised to stay healthy and grow. God has given you the muscle of faith. Now God is bringing into your life circumstances and experiences that will cause you to get up out of the easy chair of complacency and apathy and fight the good fight to believe (1Tim.6:12).

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …

Remember, we learned in verse 5 that God, by his power, is guarding or keeping you for salvation through faith. I think this verse explains the phrase ‘through faith‘ in that verse. How is God in his power using my faith as a means to preserve me for salvation? One answer is that God is bringing the exercise of adversity against the muscle of my faith so that my faith will be vital and thrive rather than atrophy and die. Trials prove faith. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. But when adversity comes, it reveals the true nature of that faith. If it was mere lip service to please a person, testing will reveal it for what it is. Genuine faith, when it meets adversity will cling all the more closely to Jesus. But the trials serve a good purpose even if your faith is proved fake. When trials come and you let go of Jesus and cling to other things, that should awaken you to what you are truly trusting in and cause you to turn from that to Jesus.

Peter compares the tested genuine faith that trials produce to the most precious and enduring thing that we know – gold. Gold for thousands of years has not lost its value. Gold when it is refined does not perish but becomes more pure and more valuable. But Peter tells us that compared to gold, genuine faith is more valuable and less perishable. Tested faith is worth more and will last longer than gold! That’s amazing, because I think of my faith as fickle and unreliable.

Think of Peter. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in the storm, and Peter believed that if Jesus commanded, he could come. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink (Mat.14:28-31). If my faith were solely up to me, I would be sunk and give up hope. But when I realize that my faith is a gift of God, and God is using his power to sustain my faith, then I begin to see how my faith could be more precious and less perishable than gold.

And the next phrase boggles the imagination!

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the revelation of Jesus Christ, when my faith has proved genuine because God gave it to me and sustained me in it, God is going to praise and honor and glory in me! God will sustain your faith through the trial, and then when you arrive safely in heaven, God will crown you because your faith stood through the trial!

But we might ask ‘how can I know if my faith is the genuine kind that will last or if it is fake and will be destroyed by the fire? What will be the outcome of the trial?’ I think the next verse answers this question. Peter observes the new affections and the new delights of the believing community, and points to this as evidence of tested genuine faith.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Jesus is not yet revealed. We can’t see him. We can’t sit down with him and talk over a glass of wine and a loaf of bread. We don’t see him walking our streets, healing the sick and raising the dead. We can’t hear him speaking with infinite wisdom and authority, confounding his enemies and comforting the downcast. How do you love someone that you have never met? Peter points his readers to their love for Jesus as evidence of the genuineness of their faith. In spite of not having seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t now see him, you believe in him.

Notice how belief and love are parallel ideas? The kind of belief or genuine faith we are talking about is not an intellectual agreement with certain facts. Genuine faith does include an appreciation for certain foundational truths, but it also necessitates an emotional response. Jesus is not the distasteful firefighter with awful body odor and annoying mannerisms that you tolerate as he carries you down the ladder simply because the fire is worse than his smell and once you are safe, other than a polite thank you card, you will never have to see him again. No, Jesus is the one, fire or no fire, I just want to be near him, to know him and be known by him, to admire him, to enjoy his presence.

Notice, too, that joy is characteristic of the Christian life. Peter is not telling the believers what they should be doing, he is simply stating what they are already naturally doing. They love Jesus, they believe into Jesus, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is a joy that simply cannot be put into words. This is a doxological joy – a joy that is full of glory; full of praise. It cannot be communicated except by the common experience of it. This is a joy that is known by anyone that has a healthy understanding of their own hopeless undeserving condition, who has experienced the limitless mercy of our good God, who so loved us that he gave his only Son, who has given us new birth and adopted us into his own family, made us participants in an unfathomable inheritance. I am loved by God the Father, I am being set apart by the Holy Spirit, I am washed clean by the blood of Jesus, one day I will receive praise and honor and glory in his presence when he says ‘well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master (Mat.25:21)’ not because I have been able to pull it off, but because he has been at work in me sovereignly empowering me to persevere to the end.

Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life like the way you order your salad – I’d like lots of peace sprinkled all over it. Can I have the joy on the side? Hold the longsuffering. No. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in you, he is producing joy. Jesus said:

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;

It is interesting that the context of Jesus command to rejoice and leap for joy is the similar circumstance of being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Jesus is saying that you are blessed or joy-filled, in fact you can leap for joy when you face trials because, look, your reward is great in heaven! You are the elected rejected and your inheritance is certain. Your loving and believing and joying in Jesus is evidence that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of trials because we can see that trials are necessary; they are not senseless and random, but they are ordained by God for a good purpose. And the purpose of trials is to prove our faith genuine, to force us to flex the muscle of faith so that it does not atrophy. And we can have confidence that the outcome of the trials is certain. When we see love for Jesus and believing into Jesus and joy in Jesus welling up in our hearts even in the midst of adversity, we are seeing evidence of the Spirit of God at work in us creating new affections and new desires. We are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment