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Daniel 4:1-5; God’s Good Purpose

09/05_Daniel 04:1-5; God’s Good Purpose; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210905_dan04_1-5.mp3

We are in Daniel chapter 4. Daniel and his friends, exiled to Babylon in 605 BC, refused to compromise their convictions by eating the king’s food. God gave them favor with their captors, and God gave them learning and skill in all wisdom. They proved ten times better than all the others in the kingdom.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year, he had a dream which none of his wise men could reveal, but God revealed to Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, but his empire would be followed by other empires of increasing strength but decreasing value, ultimately all destroyed by the divine kingdom crushing stone. Nebuchadnezzar recognized Daniel’s God as God of gods, Lord of kings, and reveler of secrets, and Daniel and his friends were promoted to positions of leadership.

In chapter 3, rebelling against the vision he was given in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar asserted his authority with a 90 foot image of gold, and demanded the worship of all peoples, nations and languages. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow, so they were thrown into his superheated furnace. But the flame had no affect on them; indeed, they enjoyed fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. When they came out of the fire unharmed, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged their willingness to ‘set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.’ So he issued another death decree, this time against ‘any people, nation or language that speaks anything against’ their God, ‘for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’

Now in chapter 4 we fast forward ahead maybe close to 30 years. Daniel is probably approaching 50 years old. This chapter contains the last words we have recorded from Nebuchadnezzar, and it is his own account of his experience. It takes the form of an official edict, a letter to all his subjects, to all peoples, nations and languages. It communicates his experience with another dream that made him afraid, of the failure of his religious experts to make known the interpretation, of Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, of the fulfillment of the dream a year later, and after a seven year humiliation of the king, he now writes this letter as an expression of worship to God.

A Different King

This letter from Nebuchadnezzar stands in stark contrast to the last chapter, where he ‘sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of … every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.’

Look at what he writes here in chapter 4.

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Imagine yourself years earlier as having been one of the officials from the many peoples, languages and nations in attendance at the dedication of the image, having been required to demonstrate your allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar the king of kings, having bowed to worship his image of gold. Imagine now receiving this official letter from the king. ‘Here we go again!’ But you notice the dramatic change both in tone and in focus. He begins by wishing peace on all peoples, nations and languages. He does not make one single demand on the peoples, nations, and languages that he addresses this edict to. And his focus is no longer on himself; it is all on God. It seems as if this is a different king altogether! What happened?

Signs and Wonders

‘It seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Signs and wonders is a phrase that throughout the rest of the Old Testament refers to what God did in Egypt, specifically what God did against Egypt and against Pharaoh. Here’s one example:

Deuteronomy 6:22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes.

Signs and wonders were done to Pharaoh or against Pharaoh and against Egypt, they were great and grievous acts of God, they were trials and great deeds of terror to demonstrate the mighty hand and outstretched arm of the Lord (Deut.4:34). And they were acts of judgment, meant to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex.7:3-5).

This is basically what God is doing to Nebuchadnezzar. If you’ve read ahead, you know that Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a great tree, and the tree is cut down and stripped of its branches, leaves and fruit; the kingdom would be taken from him, and Nebuchadnezzar himself would be driven away from people and go insane, behaving like an animal for seven periods of time, likely seven years.

But notice Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective. He writes to ‘show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Not against me or to me, but for me. This is not the response of resentment or hostility; Nebuchadnezzar considered it a gift.

What is your perspective? Think of the worst thing, the most humiliating thing that has happened to you. How do you think about it? Do you feel that God is against you, do you question what kind of a God would let that happen to you or do that to you?

We are not told what he thought or even if he could think at the time, but looking back Nebuchadnezzar viewed it as God’s grace toward him, as the greatest gift, the greatest kindness God could have shown him.

Daniel 4:2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!

God’s signs are great and his wonders are mighty. Remember, he is talking about being cut down, destroyed, turned into an animal. Do you like to talk about your most humiliating experience? Is that the first thing you share with strangers? Remember, Nebuchadnezzar is writing to ‘all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth.’ God humiliated me; he is great and mighty.

God’s Good Purpose

Nebuchadnezzar understood that what happened to him had a purpose. A good purpose. This purpose is given in verse 17.

Daniel 4:17 …to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

That the living may know. This letter is his attempt to fulfill that purpose, to communicate to all the living that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God Most High is in control. He is in control of kings and leaders. God gives authority to whom he will. He establishes rulers and he removes rulers. He sets over the kingdom of men the lowliest of men, the basest of men. It doesn’t mean, if you have been entrusted with authority, that you are somebody great. It might actually mean that you’re the bottom of the barrel.

The purpose is restated in verse 25:

Daniel 4:25 …till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.

And again in verse 32:

Daniel 4:32 …until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

God is in control. The Most High rules the kingdom of men. He possesses all authority. And he chooses to give authority to whomever he wishes.

If you recall, Nebuchadnezzar was told this by Daniel back in chapter 2.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

God gave you the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. God gave the authority over all his creation into your hand. It is a gift. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, it’s not a reward for your abilities or performance; it’s a gift. God owns all authority, and he chooses to freely entrust it to you. Daniel said it, Nebuchadnezzar heard it, but he didn’t know it.

He asked Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?’ Nebuchadnezzar found out that ‘there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way,’ but he still didn’t really know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ He had been given it, and he thought he somehow earned it or deserved it.

He needed to be shown, and that meant God had to take it all away. He had to be cut down. He thought himself a god, and he had to live for a time like a beast so that he could learn what it meant to be truly human.

Kind Cutting

Remember Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the tax collector:

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The most kind and gracious thing God could do for us would be to humble us, to cut us down, to show us our need for him.

Nebuchadnezzar was told that his kingdom would not last forever. He was shown the kingdom crushing stone that would fill the whole earth and stand forever. So he made a 90 foot image of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he had made.

Here he acknowledges that there is a Most High God, and that God is at work in his life. He acknowledges that it is God’s kingdom that is an everlasting kingdom. It is God’s rule that will outlast every generation.

Daniel 4:2 …His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Prosperous Ease

Nebuchadnezzar gives us the setting for the dream.

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.

I was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. He was doing well. He had what he needed. He was experiencing a measure of peace and security. He had worked hard, he had built much, and now he was finally was able to relax and enjoy it all. Isn’t that what we’re all after? Prosperous ease? We don’t necessarily want to become billionaires, but if we could just make enough to be comfortable and enjoy a measure of security… The American dream is dangerous! This is what Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed, and it was into this context that he was confronted by a dream to warn him of what was coming.

You remember what the sin of Sodom was? In Ezekiel 16, God is rebuking Jerusalem for her unfaithfulness, and he compares her with Sodom and says this:

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. Prosperous ease sounds so appealing, but it is dangerous! It is dangerous, because we so easily slip into complacency and forget that it was all a gift and who it came from. We forget to honor God as God or give thanks to him. We want to relax and enjoy what we worked so hard to get, forgetting who gave us the ability to work so hard. We so naturally inflate our expenses to absorb any extra, rather than recognizing it as a gift entrusted to us with which to bless others.

It was when king David was enjoying some well earned rest, taking a break from the war, walking on the roof of his house, when he got himself into so much trouble.

We pursue prosperous ease, but Nebuchadnezzar had it, and he considered it a great sign and mighty wonder when God stripped it all away. He worshiped the Most High God for his sovereign ability to humble the proud.

Let’s close today with the words of Agur:

Proverbs 30:7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

***

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

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?

03/21_2 Corinthians 13:1-10; Test Yourselves! Is Jesus In You?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210321_2cor13_1-10.mp3

Sin is Serious

Paul is speaking very directly to the Corinthians as he closes this letter and prepares to visit them, addressing the issues he sees in the church, pleading with them to change. He says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Paul is coming soon to visit them, and he is afraid that neither he nor they are going to like it. He said to them all the way back in 1 Corinthians as he addressed their sins:

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Paul doesn’t want to come with a rod of discipline. He is urging them to repent of their sins and return to the simplicity of their relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

Paul is now coming to visit for the third time. Paul first came to Corinth around AD 50-51, and proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ and him crucified, and a church was birthed. He spent a year and a half with them preaching and teaching and building them up. After leaving he wrote them a letter that was misunderstood (1Cor.5:9), then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians. Around AD 54 he paid them a second visit, which proved to be painful, and then wrote them a letter through his tears (2Cor.2:1-4). It is about a year later as he writes this letter from Macedonia, in preparation for his upcoming visit.

This will be his third visit, and he uses the language of Deuteronomy (19:15) to show them how serious this really is. It is as if he were calling the third witness necessary to convict them. He forewarned them before and he is forewarning again now those who sinned before. Paul believes there are some there who, in spite of his repeated confrontation of their sin, persist unrepentant. He warns not only them, but all the rest. If they persist in sin, he will not spare all of them. There were not-so-innocent bystanders who were putting up with sin in the church without putting out those who refused to turn from their sin after being lovingly confronted. The sin was not OK, and the church body tolerating and accepting the sin was not OK. In 1 Corinthians 5 he had reminded them of the principles laid down by Jesus on church discipline (Matt.18). If they fail to deal with their own issues, Paul will deal with all of them when he comes.

Seeking A Sign

2 Corinthians 13:3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

This church was not listening to Paul; they were looking for Paul to prove himself to them. They had been entertaining super-apostles preaching a false gospel of power and prosperity. They wanted a sign. Jesus said “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt.12:39;16:4); the sign of the crucifixion. Paul betrothed them to one husband, Christ; but they were being led astray from their single-hearted devotion by satanic deception. They are now putting Paul to the test.

These verses are rich, and I want to come back to them next week and savor them more slowly, but for now lets step back and get the sweep of Paul’s argument. They want proof from Paul. It is clear from his parody of foolish boasting in chapters 11 and 12 that they wanted victory stories, supernatural signs and wonders and visions to authenticate his ministry. He has told them that they need to evaluate him on the objective standards of his life and his teaching; he wants ‘no one’ to ‘think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me’ (2Cor.12:6). They want proof that Christ is speaking in him. They want to put him to the test.

Test Yourselves

He responds:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

You seek proof of my ministry; it is you that you should be proving. Yourselves is emphatic; yourselves examine; yourselves prove. And what they must prove is much more serious. They demand proof of Paul’s ministry; Paul demands proof of their salvation.

In chapter 5, he reminded them of the good news, that for our sake God the Father made the sinless Jesus to become sin for our sake, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And he implored the Corinthians ‘be reconciled to God’ (5:20-21). In chapter 6, he appeals to them not to receive God’s grace in a vain, worthless, empty manner. He says ‘Look! Now is the day of salvation!’ (6:1-2).

He wants them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, if they are really believing, depending on the real gospel. They have been listening to false apostles preaching another jesus and a different gospel. They need to turn their ever-critical eye back toward themselves.

Jesus In You

Do you not know this? Do you not understand this gospel truth about yourselves? That Jesus Christ is in you? Paul had told them back in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

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

2 Corinthians 6:16 …we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, …

We are the temple of the living God; God dwells in you. You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you. Here he says ‘do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?’ Believer, do you not know that you are the temple of the living God; you are indwelt by the triune God; Father, Spirit and Son have taken up residence in you?

Jesus said:

John 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. …23 …“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you? This is the Jesus who humbled himself, God who took on flesh and became one of us, so that he could become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. This is the Jesus, who embodies himself today with you; ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal.2:20). ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.2:5). Do you not know that the crucified and risen Lord is in you?

Unless indeed you fail the test. Paul is not being examined; they are. Is there evidence that the one who laid down his life for others is now alive and at work among them? Is his sacrificial service for others being embodied in them?

Have We Failed?

2 Corinthians 13:6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

It seems surprising that Paul turns from an admonition to put themselves to the test to them discovering that he has not failed the test. They were seeking proof in him, in something supernatural in him. He held up a mirror and said ‘examine yourselves’. If God the Son is living in you, transforming you to be more like him, isn’t that enough supernatural evidence for you? And if you pass that test, ‘You yourselves are our letter of recommendation’ (2Cor.3:2). ‘You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord’ (1Cor.9:2). You want proof of my ministry? Look at yourselves. Have you been transformed by the gospel I proclaimed to you? Is Jesus Christ living in you? If you pass the test, I hope you can see that means that we have passed the test.

Paul’s Prayer

But Paul’s primary desire is not to be vindicated or to prove that he has passed the test. They want to make this about him, but he won’t let them. He prays for them.

2 Corinthians 13:7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

What is Paul praying for here? It may help us understand if we turn it around to see what Paul does not pray for. ‘I’ve loved you, I’ve served you, I’ve put my life on the line for you. But you won’t listen to me; you just keep on persisting in sin. And not only that, but you question my integrity! You have the audacity to demand that I prove myself to you. Well, guess what? You’ll get what you want and more. I’m praying that God strike you down hard, and I hope you keep on persisting in your sins, so that he shows you no mercy, and when I get to town I can see you crushed under his almighty arm.’

That might be the way we would feel if we were in his situation, but that’s not Paul’s heart. Paul prays that they not do wrong, that they do what is right. And not for appearance sake; not because when they do what is right, he looks good. If you are walking in the truth, I am not against you, I am for you. What we pray for is your restoration. I want you to do what is right even if that makes us look weak and you strong, even if we seem to have failed.

Paul has threatened that he will not spare them if they don’t repent. If they do repent of their sins, then he can do nothing against them. He will not come in power ready to punish them. Instead he will come again in the meekness and gentleness of Christ. To their requirement of an outward display of power he will again seem to fail. But he is glad if he is seen to be weak so that they can be strong. He is willing to be disapproved if that means that they pass the test, that they are in the faith, that they are in the truth, that Jesus Christ is in them. He has betrothed them to one husband, and he is willing to decrease if only they are restored to their single-hearted devotion to their Lord Jesus.

Weighty Letters

Paul began this section in chapter 10 by begging:

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul was accused of being bold from a distance and humble in person. He begged that he would not have to show bold confidence against his detractors when he came again in person.

Remember, some were saying “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2Cor.10:10). Paul says ‘you’re right!’

He concludes this section by giving his purpose for writing what he wrote:

2 Corinthians 13:10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

He writes boldly in his letters so that he does not have to be bold and severe in person. It is actually his desire to be seen as weak, gentle and meek, among them. His letter kills, so that when he is present, he can minister life to them (2Cor.3:6). He urges them to do the painful work of tearing down; testing and examining themselves to see if they are in the faith, so he can use his authority when he is present with them to edify them. He has been speaking in the presence of God, in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved (12:19).

***

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

March 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Signs of a True Apostle

02/28_2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Signs of a True Apostle; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210228_2cor12_11-13.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 12. In 2 Corinthians, Paul re-frames our thinking about ministry. He spends the first 7 chapters pointing us to the fact that authentic gospel ministry takes its shape from the gospel it proclaims; the good news of an awesome God who humbles himself, who stoops down to our level, who out of his great love for us takes our sin upon himself and suffers in our place for our eternal good. Authentic ministers carry this gospel treasure in fragile earthen containers, to put on display that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2Cor.4:7).

In chapters 8 and 9 he points to the practical outworking of this transformative good news, which so changes the hearts of believers that they joyfully overflow in practical generosity to others. He invites and exhorts the Corinthians to join him in an opportunity to serve the suffering saints.

In chapters 10-13 we discover that there is a sinister danger set to derail the church in Corinth; triumphalist leaders have infiltrated the church and have been building themselves up by tearing Paul down.

Foolish Boasting

Although no one ought to boast except in the Lord, and it is only the Lord’s approval that carries any weight (2Cor.10:17-18), Paul is forced to defend himself against false accusations. He is forced to boast in his own ministry over against that of the false apostles, whom he calls servants of Satan (2Cor.11:13-15).

He acknowledges that boasting in oneself is foolish. He asks them to bear with his foolishness, seeing that they all too readily bear with fools (11:1, 4, 19). He doesn’t want to be thought a fool, but since they already think so poorly of him, he asks them to indulge his foolish boasting and give him their ear (11:16-18). But he warns them that boasting in self is not according to the Lord but rather according to the flesh. As he beings his boast in 11:21, he interjects ‘I am speaking as a fool’. In verse 23 he says he is not only speaking foolishly; literally ‘without his mind’, but he is ‘out of his mind’ to boast like this.

He begins by boasting in his Jewish heritage (11:22), which he tells us in Philippians 3:3-8 that confidence in the flesh, in ethnicity and religious upbringing, is worthless, a liability not an asset, nothing but offensive filth and rubbish.

But he quickly switches gears (11:23-29) and begins to boast in his superior service to Christ, which looks like sufferings, trials, hardships, persecutions, constant and varied dangers, toils and snares.

When they would expect him to boast in his successes, in his accomplishments, he boasts that he is quite literally a basket case – having to flee for his life let down through the city wall in a grocery basket under cover of night.

When they anticipate accounts of visions and revelations (12:1-6), he switches to the third person, boasting not in himself as the great apostle, but in an ordinary ‘man in Christ’ who doesn’t know exactly what happened to him, other than that he was caught up into heaven and heard things he is not permitted to tell them about. But this surpassingly great revelation came with a thorn, a satanic emissary given by God to crush his pride and keep him humble. He prayed for deliverance, but God didn’t even answer his prayer, at least not in the way he had hoped. The answer he did receive from Jesus was that his grace is sufficient; because power finds its fulfillment in weakness.

In response to this, he is delighted to boast in his own weaknesses so that the power of Christ encamps on him.

What the Church Ought To Do

He concludes this foolish boasting by pointing to the fault of the church in pushing him to that extreme.

2 Corinthians 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

The church did not do what it ought to have done, and this impelled Paul to make a fool of himself to rescue them from the diabolical danger they were embracing. When false teachers came promoting a false gospel, preaching another jesus, encouraging them to receive a different spirit, they ought to have smelled the wolf by their life and teaching and given them no quarter. When the servants of Satan began to undermine the one who preached the gospel to them, who served them at great personal cost, who showed them what it looks like to follow Jesus, they ought to have stood up and testified in Paul’s defense. Paul looks back over this list of his own sufferings in service to Christ, and says ‘this is the script you should have read in my defense.’

I ought to have been commended by you. As he said earlier in response to their desire for letters of recommendation ‘you yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts’ (2Cor.3:2-3). You are the authenticating evidence of our ministry, you who once were immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers; you have been transformed by the gospel we preached. You were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Cor.9:9-11). You who were sinners have been made saints though the gospel we brought to you.

It was not only the fault of the false apostles. It was the negligence of the church to stand firm in the message that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). They should have known better. They ought not to have stood silently by while the truth of the gospel and the character of the one who brought it to them was maligned and distorted. The church is called to be the pillar and buttress of the truth (1Tim.2:15). The foolish boasting of the apostle was made necessary by the church neglecting to do what it ought to have done.

Nothing and Still Not Inferior

Because, Paul says, ‘For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.’ Think this statement through for a minute. I am not deficient, I have no lack, I am not less than the super-apostles. Think of this in simple math terms. If he is not less than them, then he is saying that he is at least equal to, if not greater than them. And he considers himself exactly equal to zero. He is nothing. If he is not less than the super-apostles, then the super-apostles are equal to or less than zero.

But Paul, you don’t really consider yourself a zero, do you? This must be false humility at its best. I say ‘I’m a zero’ as a way to get you to affirm me and tell me how really great I am and how much I do contribute. I put myself down to get you to puff me up. Is that what Paul is doing here?

No, it’s not. Paul really and truly considered himself a zero, a nothing. He tells the Romans:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…

He told the Galatians:

Galatians 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Our problem is not low self esteem. The temptation we all face every day is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We think we are something, and really we are nothing.

In 1 Corinthians 3, the church was lining up each behind his favorite leader. Paul asks:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I am nothing. Apollos is nothing. Nothing but servants, doing what the Master assigned. We each did what we were told. God is the one who gave the growth. God is everything. I am nothing.

He goes on to warn them:

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

Again, our problem is not that we think too little of ourselves, but too much. Nobody struggles with the sin of humility. Paul writes in:

1 Corinthians 4:6 …that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

My flesh cries out ‘No!’ I’m not nothing! Look at my talents, my abilities, my accomplishments, my good looks, my charming, winsome personality. What do you have that you did not receive? The question is not whether or not you got it. The question is where’d you get it? Did you deserve it? Or is it a gift, freely given?

Here’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

I’m unworthy. I am what I am by God’s grace. Grace, remember is God’s undeserved favor extended freely to sinners. It’s the opposite of being worthy, it’s the opposite of getting something in return for being something or contributing something. Grace is given to zeroes.

Paul says ‘I worked harder than any of the other apostles, but that was not me. That was God’s grace at work in me.’ I am nothing.

Signs of A True Apostle

He says ‘you ought to have defended me, because the signs of a true apostle were performed among you.’ What does he mean by that? What are the signs of a true apostle? We could look at Jesus’ ministry. When he was asked if he was the long anticipated one, he answered:

Matthew 11:4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Authenticating signs and wonders. Blind, lame, lepers, deaf, even dead people are raised. But listen carefully to what Jesus lists as the climactic sign authenticating his ministry; the poor have the good news preached to them. That’s the climactic conclusion of Jesus’ list of his own signs.

In Mark 1, after Jesus had healed many and cast out many demons so that everyone was looking for him,

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus performed authenticating signs, but that was not primary. Proclaiming the good news was primary. In fact, Jesus warned:

Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Jesus even predicted (Matt.7:22-23) that many would prophesy, cast out demons, and do might works in his name, who did not even have a relationship with him. So what are the signs of a true apostle, if false prophets will perform signs and wonders to lead people astray? How can we know what is true if both the true and the false perform signs and wonders and mighty works?

It would serve us well to pay careful attention to what Paul says here, and what he does not say.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with both signs and wonders. With mighty works. He does not say that the signs of a true apostle are the signs and wonders and mighty works. He says the signs of a true apostle are accompanied by both signs and wonders and mighty works. Remember, Paul has just been talking about power, this same word for ‘mighty works’ here.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It is Christ’s power, and it is power that finds its aim and end in our weaknesses. Paul has been boasting, but he is boasting in the things which show his weakness (11:30; 12:4). Throughout this passage, he has been pointing away from supernatural signs as confirmation of authentic ministry. He carefully avoids saying anything that would cause someone to ‘think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me’ (12:6). The book of Acts records some of the supernatural signs and wonders that happened at the hands of Paul. But Paul insists that the minister be evaluated on the basis of his life and his teaching, objective findings that are seen and heard, not subjective supernatural experiences that can lie or be counterfeited.

Jesus told those who were requesting a sign from him:

Matthew 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (cf. Matt.16:4)

Jesus pointed them to the greatest sign of his own death, burial and resurrection. The cross was the ultimate sign that demonstrated Jesus’ perfect obedience to his Father. In John 2,

John 2:18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Jesus did many signs and wonders, and many believed because of them. But the sign without which no other sign mattered was the cross.

With Patient Endurance

The signs of a true apostle, Paul points out here, were performed in you or among you. This is in the passive voice. Paul doesn’t say ‘I performed (active voice) the signs.’ Rather, they ‘were performed’ – passive. God performed the authenticating signs in and through Paul.

And he says that these signs were performed ‘in all patient endurance’; with utmost patience. He uses this same word ‘patient endurance’ in 2 Corinthians 6, where he lists his apostolic credentials that commend him as a legitimate servant of God. There he said:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

There he spells out for us what he believes authenticates ministry. It is the paradox of patiently enduring great sufferings in the cause of Christ. It looks like… Jesus.

He affirms the same thing in Romans 15. He says:

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;

Any signs and wonders were not his, pointing to him; they were done through him by Christ, and pointed people to Christ Jesus. It was the power of the Spirit of God at work bringing people to Jesus. Paul’s purpose was always evangelistic; preaching the gospel of Christ; to bring the Gentiles to obedience. His holy ambition was to make Christ known, and he was willing to patiently endure suffering if that was necessary. In fact it was often through his suffering that Christ was made known.

***

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

March 4, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Walk By Faith

07/26 Walk By Faith (Matthew 17; Luke 17; Mark 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200726_faith.mp3

Today I want to look at what Jesus taught about faith. Up front I want to distinguish between what we will call ‘saving faith’ and faith for other supernatural things short of salvation. We dealt specifically with the saving kind of faith or believing in Jesus at the beginning of our series on Obeying Jesus; because it is the most important thing Jesus commanded of us. Saving faith is the kind of faith we see in John 3:16

John 3:14 …the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. …18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God gave his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins at the cross, so that whoever has faith, whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, depends on him only and completely, will not perish but will have eternal life. That is what I mean by saving faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is primary. That is essential. If you’re not trusting only and completely in Jesus’ finished work for you on the cross, nothing else I will say matters at all. I must understand that I am a sinner and as such I deserve God’s wrath. But God’s wrath toward me was poured out on his only Son Jesus on the cross, so that by faith, by trusting in him, I am brought in to a relationship with God, forgiven, accepted, loved. We will come back around to this at the end and see how this all connects, but that is not the focus of what I want to look at today.

Jesus disciples said ‘increase our faith!’ Jesus reprimanded his followers on several occasions ‘O you of little faith.’ He made their success in doing what he called them to do contingent on faith in contrast to doubting. We will call this ‘walking by faith’ as we follow Jesus, in contrast to ‘living by faith’ or having new life given to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

One of the reasons I want to look at this today is there is a good deal of misunderstanding around some of the passages we will look at, even some dangerous teaching. By looking at those in their context we will be able to gain a clearer understanding of what they mean, and ultimately of what it means to walk with Jesus by faith.

O Faithless Generation; (Mt.17:14-20; Mk.9:18-29)

In Matthew 17, Jesus is coming down from the mount of transfiguration with three of his closest disciples.

Matthew 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Jesus rebukes the whole generation for being faithless and warped. This would include everyone; the religious leaders, the crowds, the father, even his own disciples. They are rebuked for their lack of faith. Mark’s account includes a conversation between Jesus and the father of the boy.

Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

This father had already asserted that Jesus’ disciples ‘could not heal him’. Now he asks Jesus if he is able to do anything for them. He frames his request to Jesus with doubt. ‘If you can.’ If you are able to do anything to help us, have compassion on us.

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus confronts this father’s lack of faith head on. He quotes back to him his own words ‘if you can’. Do you know who you are talking to? I can’t think of any time where it would be appropriate to use these words in prayer. God, if you are able… God is able. Omnipotent. That is what it means to be God. Nothing is impossible with God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:3)

What does the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe’ actually mean? The root of this word group [πείθω] means ‘to be persuaded or convinced’. To believe is to be so persuaded of something that you trust in it, you depend on it, you put your weight on it.

Faith in a Tree

Faith can be misplaced or well placed. I once put my trust in a tree. I was hiking up the steep slope of a mountain, and I reached out to steady myself on a tree, and I ended up maybe a hundred yards below the tree, unconscious, bleeding, with a fractured skull. The tree was strong enough, but I didn’t realize it was wet and slippery. It was my grip that failed. Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. It doesn’t matter how strongly you believe something. If you believe the wrong thing, it will let you down, and it may let you down hard.

This father of the demon possessed boy began to see that he was looking more at his own hopeless circumstances than he was at who it was who was standing in front of him, ready and willing to help. He begins to recognize his own need. and prays a good prayer to Jesus. His first request was prefaced by ‘if you can do anything to come to our aid’. Now he prays ‘Come to the aid of my unbelief’. Never underestimate the power of God. Jesus is able to take unbelief and change it into faith.

Little-Faith [ὀλιγόπιστος]

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 21 —

The disciples want to know where they went wrong. And as with the boy’s father, Jesus points to their little faith. They failed to cast out the demon because of their little faith. Jesus uses a compound word ‘little-faith’; and the ‘little’ can be lacking in extent, in degree, in duration or in value. It could mean that they didn’t have strong enough or big enough faith; they didn’t believe hard enough, or that they didn’t believe long enough, or it could mean that their faith lacked value; it was lacking because it was misplaced. Jesus makes it clear that it is not the quantity or size of the faith that matters; he says if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which is a very tiny seed, you can move mountains; nothing will be impossible for you. So he must mean little faith in the sense of lacking in value; or misplaced faith.

Failed Faith or Prayer?

It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s. In Mark’s account, when the disciples ask Jesus privately why they were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus answers “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is surprising, because in none of the three accounts, Matthew, Mark or Luke, does Jesus pray. But he had just come down from being with his Father on the mountain. In Matthew, Jesus gives the reason as their little faith, or faith of little value; misplaced faith; In Mark Jesus gives the reason as a lack of prayer. The one with faith in God, who really trusts in God, who is depending on God, expresses that dependence through prayer, asking God to do what only he can do.

Moving Mountains, Uprooting Trees

The disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:5

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus’ answer to his disciples is the same. It is not the quantity of your faith that is the problem. Mustard seed faith is enough. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains and uproot trees.

Have you ever tried that? Tried to move mountains with your faith? I have. I grew up in Minnesota, so I’d never really seen mountains. I think it was around second grade when we took a family road trip out through Glacier National Park in Montana. That’s where we found out I needed glasses because I couldn’t even see the mountains until we got pretty close. I had heard these verses growing up. And with the faith of a seven year old looking out of the back seat window of our station wagon at the majestic mountains of Montana, I wanted to see if the Bible was really true. I believed as hard as I could. And all Montana thanks God that nothing happened. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God were obligated to uproot mountains at the whim of every seven year old around the planet! Remember, faith is not some superpower like the force. Faith, like prayer, is only as good as the object in which it is placed.

Promises of Prayer with Faith

In Matthew 21, Jesus connects faith with prayer.

Matthew 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Jesus made some audacious promises to his followers about prayer.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

‘Whatever you ask I will do’ is qualified by ‘whoever believes in me’ and ‘whatever you ask in my name,’that the Father may be glorified.’ We as believers, are to ask in the name of Jesus, which means that we ask for what Jesus would ask for, pursuing the glory of the Father. As John puts it,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Prayer is unstoppable when it is aligned with the will of God. Faith accomplishes the impossible when it is placed in what God has revealed in his written word to be his will.

Faith: Fully Convinced God is Able to Do What He Promised

I think the clearest definition of faith in the Bible is Romans 4:20-21. Talking about Abraham’s faith.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Faith ultimately brings glory to God as it realizes God’s impossible promises. We ask in prayer with faith when we take God at his word, believing he will do what he has said, and asking him to do it.

Unbelief and Jesus’ Inability

There is a passage in Mark 6 that is often misunderstood and misapplied. It is when Jesus came to his hometown in Nazareth, and all were astonished because of his wisdom and mighty works, but they began to question where he got these things because they were familiar with him and his family.

Mark 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

I have heard people say that the unbelief of the people tied Jesus’ hands, so that he was unable to do the works he wanted to do, and then they draw the conclusion that our unbelief holds back the power of God to do supernatural things in our lives now, and conversely it is our faith that unlocks or activates the power of God in our lives.

This is dangerous for multiple reasons. It is dangerous because it undermines the sovereignty of God and make his power contingent on us and our faith. God is absolutely sovereign; he does whatever he pleases. After Nebuchadnezzar was warned, then humbled by God because of his pride, when ‘his reason returned’ to him, he acknowledged that

Daniel 4:35 … he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Saying that our unbelief limits the power of God, and that Jesus cannot overcome our unbelief is dangerous because it undermines the New Covenant promises of God. God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek.36:26). In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells us that God can and does overcome Satanic blindness.

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.

Implying that our unbelief limits Jesus’ power misreads the passage. It does say that Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except…” and then it goes on to list the few miracles of healing that he did do there. And it says in verse 6 that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.” But it stops short of making unbelief the cause of the ‘could not’. If we look at Matthew’s account, he tells us not that he could not, but that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” So the reason Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth was because of unbelief. Putting Matthew and Mark together, we can say that Jesus could not do many mighty works there for an undefined reason, that he marveled at their unbelief, and that he did not do many might works there because of their unbelief. But we also have Luke’s account in Luke 4. Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood to read. He read from the prophet 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.”

This is where they began to question “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Luke actually tells us what their unbelief consisted of, and how their unbelief prevented Jesus from doing many might works in their town. They were disbelieving Jesus’ claim to be himself the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament. They disbelieved his identity as Messiah because they were familiar with him and his family. Jesus confronts their unbelief and desire to see signs, and then he points to the Old Testament examples where Israel was in unbelief, and God turned instead to bless Gentiles.

Luke 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee…

He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief in him as Messiah. He could not do many mighty works there because they drove him out of their town and attempted to execute him. Their rejection of Jesus as their promised rescuer, their rejection of him as the one bringing good news of salvation, their driving him out of their town cut them off from the other blessings he brought.

Could Jesus have overcome their unbelief in him as Messiah? Yes, but he came to die.

Could Jesus overcome their unbelief? He did, at least with some. James and Judas (or Jude), two of his half-brothers who had rejected him during his lifetime, after his resurrection came to believe in him, and went on to write letters now included in the New Testament.

Live by faith/ walk by faith

Let’s pull this together. Faith is being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. Saving faith is depending on Jesus alone as the fulfillment of God’s promises, trusting Jesus alone for our reconciliation with God. God ‘gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ You have his word on that. God can overcome your unbelief. Cry out to him ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’ and he will give you a new heart to believe in him. And having been made alive by faith, we also walk day by day with Jesus through faith, believing he is able do do what he has promised. Paul tells the Galatians:

Galatians 3:1 …It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

He tells the Colossians:

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,

We begin the Christian life by faith, and we walk day by day by hearing the word with faith.

***

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

July 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday; Isaiah 24, John 2; The Wedding, The Wine, and The Joy

03/25_John 2, Isaiah 24; Palm Sunday; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180325_palm-sunday.mp3

All Joy Has Grown Dark

This is the beginning of holy week. Today, Palm Sunday, marks the day Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as the Messiah, Son of David. 5 days later Jesus is betrayed by one of his own, and the crowds shout crucify, crucify! Then a week from today, resurrection Sunday, the women visit the tomb to honor the body of Jesus, and find it empty. This is Holy Week, an opportunity to remember, to reflect on Jesus, who he is, why he came. Today, I want to look at John 2, where it says ‘This, the first of signs, Jesus did …and manifested his glory.” But before we go to John 2, I want to set the stage by looking at a the prophecy of Isaiah 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Isaiah 24 is a picture of God’s judgment on the rebellious earth.

Isaiah 24:4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. 5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. 7 The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. 9 No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. 12 Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. 13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

God formed the earth and filled it with every good thing, but man sinned, transgressed God”s laws, broke his covenant, brought guilt, and the curse devours the earth. God scatters rebellious mankind who have united against him. All the vain things we seek pleasure in leave us empty and hollow. Holy week is a mirror held up to show us our condition, our rebellion, our emptiness, our need.

Isaiah 24:11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.

The First of His Signs

John 2:11 tells us

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This first of his signs; this word ‘first’ means ‘beginning, corner, or principle’; it was likely first in time, but it can also mean that this was the principle or ruling sign. It was a sign that manifested his glory. It was a sign that caused his disciples to believe in him.

[Before we get into this, I must acknowledge that Tim Keller helped me see much of what I see in this passage.]

John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

This is at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus is about 30 years old, single, and he is invited to a wedding. Now put yourself into that context; what does a single guy think about at someone else’s wedding? Jesus is there, his mom is there, the master of the feast has made a serious blunder and they have run out of wine. This is going to be that wedding that everybody in the community talks about for years to come. ‘Remember BarJudah’s wedding, when they ran out of wine?’ We put it in our context and think it’s not really a big deal, but in that culture it was a very big deal. This is a social catastrophe. Word is spreading. A mother leans over to her adult son and whispers ‘they have no wine.’ Jesus’ response seems strange. ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ This is not my wedding. This is not my party. This is not my responsibility. Today, you are not the mother of the groom. My hour has not yet come.

It almost seems that Jesus is lost in thought, pondering his own future wedding. He is thinking about his hour, his time, when Mary interrupts. What is this to me and to you woman? My hour is not yet here.’

My Hour Has Not Yet Come

This is a phrase used several times in the gospel of John. Here Jesus says ‘My hour has not yet come.’ John 7:30 and 8:20 give the reason that Jesus was not arrested ‘because his hour had not yet come.’ In John 12:23 Jesus declares ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ and then he talks about a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying. And in verse 27 he says:

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

In John 13:1, we are told that ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.’ John 17:1 Jesus prays ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’

In Mark 14:35, in the garden Jesus ‘prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.’ Then he says ‘the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.’ In his prayer Jesus equates the hour with the cup that he asks the Father to remove from him, yet if he must he is willing to drink it.

Through the gospels we see ‘his hour’ is the time of his betrayal, arrest, condemnation and crucifixion. If we trace this image of the cup through Isaiah and Jeremiah and Revelation, we see consistently that it is the ‘cup of the wine of the fury of [God’s] wrath’ (Rev.16:19; cf. 14:10; Is.51:17, 22; Jer.25:15) that Jesus must drink.

Jesus is at a wedding feast. The wine ran out. The celebration is about to come to a screeching halt. Jesus is looking toward another hour, another cup, a cup of wine that will not run dry until he drinks it. He is thinking about his betrayal by one of his friends, his execution. He is thinking about the righteous fury of almighty God against the sins of mankind. He is at a wedding and he is thinking about his own funeral. And he says ‘My hour has not yet come.’

The Best Wine

In this context Jesus does a startling thing. Look back at John 2.

John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus turns 120 – 180 gallons of water into the finest aged wine. The master of the feast, who failed in his responsibility to prepare appropriately for the wedding celebration, and the groom, who knew he didn’t have a 180 gallon reserve of the finest wine in a cellar somewhere, are both confused. Jesus, quietly, unpretentiously, behind the scenes, shows himself to be the true Master of the feast. It was in this premier of his signs that Jesus manifested his glory.

When the wine runs dry, when ‘all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished’ (Is.24:11); and every earthly pleasure will leave us longing for something better, something lasting, something satisfying, Jesus shows himself to be the true Master of the feast, the only one who provides enduring joy. Jesus, in whose presence there is fullness of joy; at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps.16:11). Jesus who has put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound (Ps.4:7).

John 7:37 …Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

This chief of signs by which he displayed his glory; this is Jesus’ calling card. This is the sign by which he made himself known. Jesus opened blind eyes, made the lame walk, healed the sick, liberated those in demonic bondage, even raised the dead, but this was the first of his signs; making over 100 gallons of the finest wine to increase joy at a wedding celebration. If anyone tells you that Jesus is out to spoil their fun, squelch their joy and make life boring, they have not met the Jesus of the Bible! No wonder he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Mt.11:29; Lk.7:34). Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn.10:10); that his joy would be in us, and our joy would be full (Jn.15:11). Jesus knows what joy is, and where lasting joy comes from.

His Wedding

Jesus is at a wedding, thinking about his coming hour and the cup he must drink, and when they run out of wine, he displays his glory and makes over 100 gallons of the finest wine for the celebration. I said he was probably thinking about his own wedding. In the next chapter, when John the baptist was informed that everybody was leaving him to follow Jesus, he compared his role to the friend, and Jesus as the bridegroom.

John 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

The best man does not run off with the bride. Jesus is the bridegroom. His joy is complete when he sees the bride going out the the groom.

Jesus also used this metaphor early in his ministry. When he was asked why his disciples were not fasting,

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (cf. Mk. 2:19-20; Lk.5:34-35)

Paul gets caught up in this picture, this ‘profound mystery’ in Ephesians 5, where he compares the husband and his wife with Christ and the church, how he loved her and gave himself up for her.

There is a wedding feast coming. John tells us in:

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The relation of a bride to her husband is a picture of our relationship with Jesus.

He Wept over Jerusalem

This helps us understand to some extent the triumphal entry of Jesus that Palm Sunday; as he rode in on a donkey, his path strewn with garments and palm branches, ‘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, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”’ (Lk.19:37-38), and Jesus, in the midst of this celebration, acknowledging that it is right for them to praise him,

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. …44 … because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus in the midst of the celebration, weeps over Jerusalem. Why? She is not ready. She is not yet as she ought to be. The bridegroom is coming, and she is not ready to receive him.

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The Joy Set Before Him

This helps us understand Hebrews 12:2.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

What does it mean that he endured the cross and despised its shame for the joy that was set before him? What joy? The cross and its shame was the necessary means, the cup he had to drink, in order to secure his bride. He looked through the cross to his bride. He could not go around the cross to his bride, as Ephesians says:

Ephesians 5: 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

The cross was the path to joy, the only way possible to cleanse and purify his bride, to make her holy. He had to give himself up for her.

As we move into holy week, let us daily look together to Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..

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

March 25, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 7:1-13; An Evil and Adulterous Generation

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101017_exodus07_1-13.mp3

10/17 Exodus 7:1-13 an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign

7:1 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Introduction/Review: God declares what he will do

Moses is God’s ambassador to Pharaoh. Moses complains that since even God’s chosen people have rejected God’s message to them, how will Pharaoh, arch-enemy of God and his people, possibly respond favorably? God declares to Moses ‘look, I have made you God to Pharaoh’. Being God to Pharaoh meant simply being a faithful messenger, obedient to God’s command and faithfully saying and doing what God told him to do and say. In this case, God clearly laid out exactly what he wanted Moses and Aaron to say and do, and he even told them what the result would be.

But most importantly, God declared what he would do. Moses, as God’s chosen messenger, felt the burden of the responsibility weighing on his shoulders. These are sweet words of comfort from the Almighty. Moses, the Exodus is my doing. Egypt is the stage on which I will display my glory in a way that all may see. God says ‘you speak all that I command you, and this is what I will do:’

7:3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

These are the things God declares that he himself will do:

+I will harden Pharaoh’s heart

+I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt

+I will lay my hand on Egypt

+I will bring my armies, my people out by great acts of judgment

+I will cause the Egyptians to know that I am YHWH

God will escalate the engagement in Egypt to demonstrate to all involved that he alone is God. And he tells Moses and Aaron exactly what to expect. You will speak to the Pharaoh. I will harden his heart. I will multiply my signs and wonders. The Pharaoh will not listen to you. But I will be successful in bringing my people out by great acts of judgment. All this will result in the Egyptians acknowledging that I am YHWH.

The request for a sign: wicked and adulterous

God is preparing his servants for what they will encounter. God knows how every detail of this story will unfold. Throughout this story, we see God fully in control, initiating the action, and the Pharaoh responding. Even in the prayers of the people, as they cried out for deliverance from their cruel oppression, God responded by bringing out of exile his servant, whom he had been preparing for the last forty years – teaching him humility and preparing him to shepherd his people in the desert. His servant, whom eighty years earlier he had protected from the death sentence of the Pharaoh by the hand of some disobedient midwives who feared God more than the Pharaoh, and by the hand of a creatively obedient mother, who cast her son into the Nile in a little ark, and then by the hand of the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised Moses as her own son.

So God prepares Moses and Aaron for what awaits them in the courts of the king of Egypt. The Pharaoh will not take God by surprise. God is the one who knows exactly how events will unfold. Pharaoh will be seen to be the one scrambling to respond to God’s action.

7:8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’”

God gives his servants instructions for how to respond to the future demands of the Pharaoh. He will require you to prove yourselves. What authority do you have to march into my presence and demand the release of my slaves? This is a request for a show of power to authenticate the claims they were making. They claim to represent YHWH, the God of Israel. If their claim is true, they should be able to perform some miraculous act to authenticate their claim. This is the same kind of request that the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees made of Jesus. He was making claims that he was God in the flesh. In Matthew 12:38-39 (also Luke 11:16,29), Jesus was answering the controversy with the religious leaders over where his power came from. He had cast demons out of a blind and mute man and healed him. The Pharisees were accusing him of working miracles by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus confronted their hypocrisy and called them a brood of vipers. On another occasion, shortly after the feeding of the multitudes, the religious leaders again demanded a sign (Matt.16:1-4; Mark 8:11-12). Jesus said it was ‘an evil and adulterous generation’ that ‘seeks for a sign’. Not that it is wrong to examine the evidence, but both of these statements came on the heels of irrefutable evidence that Jesus is who he claimed to be. In the one case, the religious leaders refused to believe that Jesus could be who he claimed to be, so they sought a different explanation as the source of his supernatural powers. What Jesus had done was undeniably supernatural, and the only two possible explanations were God or the Devil. Since they had rejected the possibility that he was indeed God in the flesh, they concluded that he must be empowered by Satan. In the other instance, their demand came on the heels of the feeding of the multitudes in the desert. The text there tells us that they asked for a sign to test him – this is the same word that is used to describe the temptation of Christ by the devil in the wilderness. They were not seekers looking for what was true. Their minds were already made up and they were attempting by any means possible to trip him up and distract him from his real mission.

The Sign of the Serpent

But for Moses and Aaron, God preempted the request of the king of Egypt for a sign by instructing Moses and Aaron to perform the sign of the staff turned into a serpent. This was not a random choice of animals. God could have turned Aaron’s staff into a kangaroo or a platypus. The serpent was the power symbol of ancient Egypt, as can be seen on the headdress of the Pharaoh. The exiled shepherd with his staff, the representative of the oppressed slave people, comes into the presence of the most powerful monarch of the world and when asked for his credentials, his staff turns into the prime power symbol of Egypt, a serpent. This is the third time this particular miracle is performed. First, in the burning bush encounter (4:3), God commanded Moses to throw down his staff and he ran from it. Then Moses and Aaron performed this for the elders of Israel and they believed and worshiped. Now, in the courts of Pharaoh, Aaron is told to throw down his staff and it becomes a serpent. But the word here translated ‘serpent’ is different than the word translated ‘serpent’ in chapter 4. The word in chapter 4 is the word commonly used for a snake. This word we have here is often translated ‘dragon’ or ‘great sea creature’ (Gen.1:21). This word is used to describe leviathan in Isaiah 27:1. It is possible that the author is using different words just to vary the style and avoid repetition, but it appears that this may be an entirely different creature. Remember how afraid Moses was when he threw down his staff and it became a snake? He was probably just getting over these fears. Imagine this time in the presence of Pharaoh he throws down his staff expecting a snake and instead it turns in to a great sea creature or dragon. Some scholars conjecture that this could be a monstrous snake or even a crocodile. Whatever it was, it was surely an impressive demonstration of supernatural power, and an affront to the power of Pharaoh.

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

The working of the wise men and the superiority of God; lying signs that lead astray I

This is amazing! Pharaoh has requested a supernatural sign of the credentials of Moses and Aaron, and they have produced in magnificent style. We have a monstrous reptile writhing about in the courts of Pharaoh and he calls for his magicians. They all by their secret arts turn their staffs into monstrous creatures. Now we have the whole room writhing with giant sea-serpents. Don’t miss the humor of this situation! I would think that this would have unnerved the Pharaoh. I wonder what the room looked like after this show! I could imagine the Pharaoh, seeing all this take place and his room filled with great creatures, tries to regain his composure and say to his magicians ‘Uh, thanks, that’s great. Now can you please make them all go away?’ But about that time, Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

What are we to think of this? Is this some kind of parlor trick, where the magicians use slight of hand and illusions to deceive? Did they compress a nerve in the neck of the snake, making it become rigid, and then release it and it became active again? There is no indication in the text that what they did was any less real or supernatural than what Moses and Aaron did. God prepared Moses and Aaron for Pharaoh’s demand for a sign, but were they prepared to see the sorcerers of Egypt duplicate their miraculous sign? In Deuteronomy 13:1-2, God warns his people of false prophets that will bring lying signs or wonders (same word) and lead the people to follow other Gods.

Deuteronomy 13:1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The warning is that even if the sign happens we are to evaluate on other criteria. We are not to blindly follow someone just because a supernatural sign took place. We are called to evaluate the message in light of scripture; specifically in light of the character and nature of God. Jesus warned:

Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (cf. Mark 13:22)

The apostle John says:

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

We are not to insist on or put our trust in any supernatural event or experience. God is God and he can do whatever he pleases. But there are also the spiritual forces of evil at work in the heavenly places. We are not to be dependent on the supernatural authentication, but on the very words of God himself.

The blindness of Pharaoh

The magicians of Pharaoh had a tangible reminder of the power of God – they left empty-handed. They didn’t get their staffs back. Aaron left with staff in hand. It is interesting that it doesn’t say ‘Aaron’s dragon swallowed up their dragons.’ Instead it says that Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. The simple shepherd’s staff swallowed up the magicians’ staffs. This word ‘swallow’ is only used two places in Exodus; here and in 15:12

15:12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

…celebrating how the armies of Egypt were swallowed by the sea. This sign to Pharaoh is a foretaste of what is to come. Although the power of the Pharaoh and his sorcerers is real, it is no match for the power of YHWH. The power of God’s enemies will be swallowed up by a much greater power.

What I think is the most startling thing in this story is not the great serpents fighting in the courts of Pharaoh, but the response of Pharaoh himself.

13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

What is staggering in this narrative is the foolishness of Pharaoh. How could he not get the message? All his magicians were stripped of their magician’s staffs by the staff of the simple shepherd from the wilderness. But rather than recognize the implications of the event, he selectively chooses the one thing that helps his case and ignores the rest. His magicians were able to duplicate the sign, so he need not heed the warning. This reminds me of the foolishness described in Romans 1:

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

How foolish! And yet how often do we ignore the clear commands of God and only see what we want to see?

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

October 17, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment