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Daniel 5:17-23; Revelation Ignored

10/24_Daniel 05:17-23; Revelation Ignored; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211024_dan05_17-23.mp3

The king held a feast the night Babylon fell. His father Nabonidus had been defeated and fled days earlier. Cyrus and his Medo-Persian army were camped outside the city.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

Belshazzar, brazen and bold, with total disregard for what is right and good, desecrates the holy vessels from the temple of the God of Israel and praises the inanimate gods of his own wealth and defenses; gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, stone. The living God sobers the drunk king by writing with living fingers in the plaster of his party room where all could see, and reduces this brash king to a pale and paranoid collapsing puddle of incompetence.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The queen, likely the queen mother, part of the old administration, rebukes her son and points him to the wisdom of the old administration, particularly the aged Hebrew Daniel.

The young Belshazzar, regaining some of his impudence, insults Daniel by questioning his capabilities and putting him in his place, reminding him that he is a mere exile brought captive by the mighty Babylonian empire of which he, Belshazzar, is currently in charge.

Theology Lesson

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel skips the formalities of the court and the ‘O king, live forever’ nonsense, which was clearly not going to happen; the king will be dead before the night is over. He declines the king’s offer of gifts and rewards as useless and unattractive. He is interested in truth, and won’t be compromised by a bribe.

Daniel will read the writing on the wall and give the king the interpretation, but he doesn’t start with that. He starts with God, he is thoroughly God centered, because it really is all about God.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.

Belshazzar is acting as if he were God. He needs a theology lesson. He needs to know that it is the one true God who gave the kingship to his father Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. All this was a gift. It was from the Most High God, the very one whose vessels Belshazzar profaned at his illicit feast. God is the giver of every good gift.

Contrast Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar

There is an implicit contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in what Daniel says to him. Nebuchadnezzar was given the kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. Belshazzar is the acting king, and he can put on a great feast, but that’s about all. He lacks the greatness, the glory, the majesty of his predecessor. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered kingdoms, and was the king of kings. Belshazzar through a series of deaths, coups and assassinations inherited that kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was a builder, fortifying Babylon and making her beautiful, a wonder of the world. Belshazzar was hiding behind Nebuchadnezzar’s walls, throwing a party in one of his palaces. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Belshazzar drank wine from the vessels his father had seized. All peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before Nebuchadnezzar, but now Belshazzar was trembling in fear before all his dinner guests. Nebuchadnezzar killed whom he willed, but Belshazzar is about to be killed. Nebuchadnezzar had much to be proud of, and God Almighty humbled him. Belshazzar stood small in his shadow, and acted even more presumptuously and arrogantly than his father.

His father was great, entrusted by God with godlike power to rule and govern, ‘to kill and to keep alive, to raise up and to humble’ but when ‘his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down.’ In his own words from chapter 4 (:37) “all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

History Lesson

Daniel gives Belshazzar a history lesson. He reminds him of the lesson learned by Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Structure and Symmetry

Daniel chapter 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s own record of that event. There is symmetry to the book of Daniel, and the end of Daniel 4 is the hinge connecting the two halves of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Starting in 2:4 and going through the end of chapter 7 the book is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. This section has a mirror structure:

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance → worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Blasphemous Pride – unrepentant → destroyed

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

Chapter 2 parallels chapter 7, which are both dreams of four kingdoms, one given to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great statue, one given to Daniel in the form of beasts. Chapter 3 parallels chapter 6, where the faithful are persecuted for their faithfulness to God and thrown into a pit, the three into the pit of the furnace in chapter 3 and Daniel into the pit of lions in chapter 6. Both are supernaturally preserved and delivered. At the center of this structure is the pride of pagan kings; Nebuchadnezzar warned, humbled and repentant, acknowledging the Most High God as God; Belshazzar blasphemous, warned and humiliated but unhumbled, whose end is death.

Daniel draws our attention to this comparison and contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened; he was proud but God humbled him. And he came to know ‘that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.’ Nebuchadnezzar repented. He looked to God. His reason returned and he acknowledged the Most High God as sovereign. He praised and extolled and honored the King of heaven. He worshiped.

Without Excuse

Daniel 5:22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

You knew all this. You are responsible for what you know. A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. A smart person makes mistakes and learns from them, but a wise person is able to see the mistakes of others and learn from them. Belshazzar is a fool. He knew that proud Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God, lost his reason, went wild and ate grass like an ox for seven years. He knew all this, and yet he did not humble himself.

We often hear concern over remote unreached people groups; would a loving God really send them to hell when they had no opportunity to hear the gospel? Paul writes 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 creeping things.

God has revealed himself in creation, his eternal power, his divine nature is made plain, is clearly seen, so all are without excuse. Our problem is not that we don’t know there is a God; we do. Our problem is that we refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him. We become futile in our thinking and we would rather give our worship to creation than the Creator. We would like to think that he does not exist, so that we are not accountable to him; so we pretend like he doesn’t exist. We know he’s there, but ‘no one seeks for God …not even one’ (Rom.3:11-12). We all are without excuse.

Belshazzar was without excuse. ‘you …have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.’ His was not a mere passive ignoring the existence of God; his was intentional active rebellion. By taking the vessels of God’s house and drinking wine from them with his lords, his wives and his concubines, he is acting as if he were God, claiming to be more powerful than God. He was exalting himself against the Lord of heaven. He was doing exactly what Romans 1 warns against; he refused to honor God as God; instead he ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (25). He praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know. But God sees. God hears. God knows.

Breath of God

Belshazzar refused to honor the God ‘in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways’. Did you know your every breath is from God? Job challenges the idolater:

Job 12:7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Beasts, birds, plants, fish; all creation knows that our very life and breath are under God’s control.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Do you acknowledge that every breath that you have drawn from birth up to this present moment was ordained for you by God? Do you acknowledge your next breath is in the hand of God? You knew all this. You are without excuse. Will you honor God as God and give him thanks, will you use this breath to worship and serve the Creator, who is blessed forever? (Rom.1:21, 25)

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

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:6-19; Love Your Enemies

09/12_Daniel 04:6-19; Love Your Enemies; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210912_dan04_6-19.mp3

We saw last time a dramatic change had happened in the heart of this monarch. God did great signs and mighty wonders for him, God extended grace to him, to humble him, to bring him to acknowledge his need, to show to him and to all the living ‘that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’ (v.17).

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.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

Nebuchadnezzar wrote to all peoples, nations, and languages to give all glory to God Most High. He sent out his testimony, his personal story of what God had done for him.

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. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.

This sounds like a repeat of chapter 2. Except that in chapter 2 the king tested them by demanding that his magicians, the enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans reveal both the dream and its interpretation. And he threatened to tear them limb from limb if they failed to meet his demand. Here he tells them the dream, but they did not interpret it. With the dream and all their dream manuals, they ought to have been able to look up the symbols and give him an interpretation to his dream. It is unclear if this means they could not or they would not. It may be that they understood enough of the dream to realize that this was not good news for the king, and to be the bearer of bad news to a king like this was dangerous business – remember the tearing limb from limb and the superheated fiery furnace? They were out for self-promotion, or at least self-preservation, and they knew what communicating the contents of a dream like this might get them, so they could not bring themselves to tell him the truth. Whatever the reason, they again demonstrated the bankruptcy of their occult practices.

Why Not Daniel?

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.

Here the king confesses that the god he worshiped (among others) was Bel, after whom Daniel was renamed. He had been confronted with the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but as yet he had refused to repent, refused to turn from his own gods, refused to face the Most High God on his terms.

‘At last Daniel came in before me.’ The question we are compelled to ask is why?

Why did Nebuchadnezzar bring in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers? Had he forgotten what he learned back in chapter 2 that their wisdom was powerless and bankrupt? Remember, he had tested them by demanding they give him not only the interpretation, but also the dream. Now he returns to them and even concedes to tell them the dream if perhaps they can provide him with an interpretation. Given his experience in chapter 2, why did the king not summon Daniel alone? He alone had proved able to interpret dreams, and at the end of chapter 2, the king acknowledged that Daniel’s ‘God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery’ (2:47).

We saw in chapter 3, that although Nebuchadnezzar saw four in the fiery furnace, and the fourth was like a son of the gods, Nebuchadnezzar was careful to summon only the three to ‘come out and come here’. He was not yet ready to meet God. He was not yet willing to repent.

Young writes: “With this God, Nebuchadnezzar as yet, wanted no dealings. If others can interpret the dream, he will go to them rather than to Daniel. As Calvin says, it is ‘extreme necessity’ which compels the ruler to turn to Daniel ‘and hence we gather that no one comes to the true God, unless impelled by necessity.’”

Nebuchadnezzar understood that to acknowledge Daniel’s God as the Most High God meant that he was under this God, that this God has the right to make moral demands on his life. He was willing to acknowledge him from a distance, to recognize him as a god, but he was not yet willing to deal with him directly, he was not willing to surrender to him, turn to him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar obviously remembered Daniel. He held the title ‘chief of the magicians’. He confesses ‘I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.’ So either Daniel didn’t come immediately when summoned, or Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the other magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers, all except Daniel.

Daniel was a man of integrity, a man of character, a man of prayer. This kind of man made the pagan king uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised if you are a person of character and other people find it uncomfortable to be around you. You may not get invited to the thing that others are invited to. It might not mean that you are doing something wrong or have a holier-than-thou attitude. Someone who lives in the presence of God is a reminder of what we were made for, and our mere presence can bring conviction to unbelievers. Daniel may have been summoned out of desperation, as a last resort, after all the other wise men again proved incompetent. ‘He would never have given glory to God, unless when compelled by extreme necessity’ [Calvin].

The Dream

Daniel 4:9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

We could easily see the connection with the dream in chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was told

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.

But here is where the dream gets troubling.

Daniel 4:13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, 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.’

Notice in verse 15 the shift between the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, referring to the tree, to the personal pronoun ‘him’. The tree is a metaphor for a man, and he will be cut down, reduced to a stump, shackled, driven insane.

No wonder the wise men of Babylon hesitated to interpret the dream!

Daniel 4:18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.

Daniel also hesitated, but for a very different reason. He was not concerned for himself, but for the king. The wise men were seeking self-promotion, self-preservation. Daniel’s eyes were not on himself. He was dismayed and alarmed by what this dream meant for the king.

Compassion for a Proud Enemy

Daniel 4:19 …The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Nebuchadnezzar could see the grief this dream brought to Daniel. He had complete confidence that Daniel could tell him what the dream meant, and he encouraged him to do so without fear. Daniel’s answer? “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!” Daniel evidently cared deeply for the king, and he wished the dream applied to the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar.

Let’s put this in context; Nebuchadnezzar was the king who crushed Jerusalem, who was responsible for uprooting Daniel and his friends and transplanting them into a foreign land and culture. We aren’t told what happened to Daniel’s parents, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that they were killed by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers. Whatever happened to them, it seems Daniel never saw them again. In fact, Daniel never saw his homeland again. We are not told if Daniel and his friends were actually castrated, but they were put in the care of the chief of the eunuchs, and there is no record of Daniel marrying or having children, even though the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon:

Jeremiah 29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Daniel’s people were the conquered enemies of king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had every reason to harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, both personal and national toward the king.

The king was evil. You don’t become absolute ruler over the known world by being nice. In 2 Kings we read that because King Zedekiah of Jerusalem rebelled against him, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city for a year and a half, literally starving them out. Zedekiah was captured, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He had Zedekiah’s sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then they gouged out his eyes and brought him in chains to Babylon.

This is the king who was ready to rip every wise man in his kingdom limb from limb and turn their homes into outhouses. And remember, this edict applied to Daniel and his friends. This is the king whose mightiest soldiers were burned to death because in a rage he had his furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, and remember, the soldiers died because they actually carried out the king’s order of throwing Daniel’s three friends into the burning fiery furnace.

How do you respond when you hear news that this evil and exceedingly proud king is about to be cut down and utterly humiliated? Your response will show what is truly in your heart. Daniel was genuinely free of any bitterness or resentment. He genuinely loved this pagan king. He was dismayed at the thought of the humiliation of the king.

How? Nebuchadnezzar certainly never apologized for the atrocities he committed against Daniel, his family, his friends, his people. How could Daniel release him from that infinite debt? How could he genuinely love and care for this evil man?

God is Sovereign and No One is Beyond Hope

Daniel knew two things. God is sovereign, and no one is beyond hope. God is sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar had done great evil. ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.’ But ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand’ (Dan.1:1-2). God was in control, bringing about events for his glory, and for the ultimate good of his people, and for the nations. This, by the way, is the context of the oft misquoted verse:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Daniel probably couldn’t see as clearly as we, over 2,500 years later can see, how God was at work in his circumstances, but he trusted in a God who was in absolute control over every atom in his universe, and even over the will of this evil king. This was the lesson Nebuchadnezzar was about to learn, that ‘he Most High rules the kingdom of men’. Daniel trusted in the absolute sovereignty of God.

And Daniel believed that no one is beyond the reach of God. Jeremiah had instructed Daniel and his friends to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf…’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel did not merely go through the motions of seeking the welfare of Babylon. It came from his heart. He truly cared. He cared about this hard and ruthless king. He could look the king in the eye and say ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!’

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, prophesied that God was able to remove a heart of stone and give in its place a heart of flesh (Ezek.11:19; 36:26). Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, and was shown that God is able to make dead things live again. Daniel recognized that if there is hope for hard and dead faithless Israel, maybe there is hope for this heard hearted pagan king.

Here’s something to think about. Daniel knew that the humiliation of the king was temporary and would serve a good purpose. It was revealed to him that it would only last for 7 years, and only ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Through this humiliation the king would come to know God; it was for his ultimate good, and as a testimony to the nations. But the prospect of the humbling of the king still grieved and dismayed Daniel. He truly loved the king and didn’t want to see him hurt.

Daniel here provides a great picture of what the teaching of Jesus looks like in real life.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

***

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

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

07/25_Daniel 03:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210725_dan03_13-18.mp3

In response to his dream that he was the head of gold, to be succeeded by lesser empires, and ultimately replaced entirely by the kingdom crushing stone, Nebuchadnezzar made an image all of gold, 90 feet high, and demanded that all ‘peoples, nations, and languages’ fall down and worship the golden image. God had given into his hand authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens,’ but he did not give glory to God; rather he attempted to make a name for himself.

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar 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. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Judging from the parallel event in chapter 6, it is possible that this event was politically motivated, orchestrated or encouraged by the Chaldeans out of jealousy of the king’s appointment of Jews to positions of authority over them.

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The Chaldeans remind the king of his decree, and of the consequences he established for disobedience. Now they bring to the king’s attention that there are three Jews whom he had appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon who stand in defiance of the king’s decree.

Where Was Daniel?

After Daniel’s revealing of the king’s dream and its interpretation, at the end of chapter 2 we read:

Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is likely meant to answer the question ‘where was Daniel in chapter 3?’ Daniel remained at the king’s court. With the king and all his governing officials assembled several miles south of Babylon in the plain of Dura, someone would have needed to remain in Babylon to maintain order in the city in the absence of the king.

There was obvious resentment on the part of the Chaldeans toward these foreigners who had been promoted above them. They maliciously accused the Jews; literally they ‘ate the pieces of’. Their animosity was thinly veiled. They wanted to consume them, to see them destroyed. They even implicate the king in unwise decisions; appointing foreigners to positions of power who are secretly rebels against the king and his authority. They said:

Daniel 3:12 …These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

This is only partly true. Indeed they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. This was not a gray area; the Scripture is clear that:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

Their conscience was captive to the word of God, so they could not bow to the image or serve the gods of Babylon.

Christian Work Ethic

But the allegation that they ‘pay no attention to’ the king was false. They were summoned to the plain of Dura, and they obediently came. There is no evidence that they acted with anything short of the greatest integrity in their positions of authority over the province of Babylon. In fact if they had performed poorly, shirked their responsibility or undermined the authority of the king in any way, the Chaldeans surely would have brought it to the attention of the king. They were following the instruction of Jeremiah;

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …7 …seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Those who know and follow Jesus should have the greatest integrity, be the best employees, have the highest work ethic, because we know that we are not just working for an earthly boss for a paycheck, but we are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We are not told how the three Hebrews refused to bow. There is no evidence that they petitioned the king for an exemption to his decree. We are not told that they drew attention to themselves in their refusal to worship. There is nothing that says they attempted to persuade others to join them in refusal to bow, carrying signs, waving banners, shouting the danger of bowing to false gods. It seems that when the music played and all the peoples, nations and languages fell down and worshiped the image, they quietly stood their ground.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

But Nebuchadnezzar was foolishly persuaded by the flattery of the Chaldeans, he allowed his raging pride to overshadow clear headed judgment, and he took offense against these three Jews.

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, … But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

The king, in raging pride, asks if it is true that they do not serve his gods or worship the image he has set up, but he doesn’t give them time to respond. He starts to say that he is going to give them another chance to worship the image, but doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead he reiterates his threat of punishment for refusal to worship.

It is likely that this furnace had been used to refine and melt the gold for the construction of this colossal image there on the plain of Dura. Mesopotamian smelting furnaces had a large opening at the top to add the ore, and a smaller opening at ground level for feeding the fire with wood and charcoal. It was kept burning as a visual reminder of the consequence for failure to worship the king’s image.

King Nebuchadnezzar makes this arrogant and blasphemous statement ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ He had learned in chapter 2 that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who is all-knowing and wise, but he had yet to learn that this God is also all-powerful and sovereign over all mankind.

Nebuchadnezzar was the god-maker, who set up this image for all peoples, nations and languages to worship. If he could set up the image, it meant that he was in control, more powerful even than the god the image was meant to represent. It was into his hand that God had given dominion, and it was out of his hand that those who opposed him would need to be rescued. The Chaldeans accused, the Jews were apprehended and brought before the king, the furnace was blazing, and there was no way on earth for these three to escape from the alternatives; either bow in worship or be burned in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was in absolute control, and he knew it.

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

No negotiation, no begging for mercy. No discussion, no need to give a reason or argue in their own defense. No need for the orchestra to play the symphony again. They were resolute, and they were willing to suffer the consequences of their stand. They were glad to serve the king and seek the good of the city but they will not serve the gods of the king, and they will not worship the image he has set up.

Compromise would not be seeking the good of the city. God had sent them on mission in exile in Babylon so that the nations would know that there is a God in heaven. They were willing to submit to the king’s God given authority, but they would not compromise their testimony by acknowledging false gods.

Yahweh is Gracious, Who is What God Is, and Yahweh will Help (those are the meanings of their Hebrew names; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) testify to the God they serve. God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. God who created all that exists with his word, God who destroyed all life on the earth with a flood, God who rescued his people from bondage in Egypt with displays of his mighty sovereignty over the false gods of Egypt, God who took his people safely through the Red Sea and closed that sea over their enemies, God who brought down the walls of Jericho, God who sent an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians who had besieged Jerusalem in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God who had given them favor with the chief of the eunuchs and prospered them, God who answered their prayers and revealed the king’s dream, this ‘God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

Our God is able. There is no limit to his power. His hand is not shortened that he cannot save (Is.50:2). Nothing is to difficult for the Lord (Jer.32:17). There is no king too powerful, no furnace too hot, no cancer too advanced, no prodigal too far gone. Jesus spoke into the tomb of his friend who had been dead four days, and Lazarus came out! Our God is mighty to save. Nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37). God can deliver people from the burning fiery furnace, God can deliver his people out of the hand of the most powerful king. These three had no doubt about the ability of God to do whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

But If Not

The next three words are stunning. But if not. There was no question about God’s power, God’s ability. But there was a realistic realization that although God can save, sometimes he does not save, and this is not a lack of either his power or his goodness. God saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ki.19:32-35). God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan.1:2). God could have saved Joseph from his brothers who conspired against him and sold him into slavery. But instead God sent Joseph ahead, into slavery, to preserve life for many people (Gen.45:5,7; 50:20).

So many of us love salvation by grace. God freely gives good to those who do not deserve it. But we don’t want to live by grace. We want to live by works. When bad things happen to us, we begin to ask ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this?’ If we want to live by works, the answer is that I am a sinner, and what I deserve is hell, the eternal wrath of God. I am a sinner, and that’s what I deserve. But to those who live by grace, we enjoy a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, a gift God is free (not obligated) to give. But somehow the works mentality is so ingrained in us that we easily switch over to our default thinking that if we do the right thing, then God is obligated (not free) to reward us with good things right now. We so easily forget that any good we do is ‘not I but the grace of God that is in me’ (1Cor.15:10).

We want to come to Jesus on our terms, not his. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, to all who believe in him? Great! I’ll take that! Reconciliation with God, an all-satisfying relationship with him? Sounds good to me! Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at his right hand? Sign me up! Take up your cross and follow me; in the world you will have tribulation? Wait, I think I’ll pass. God hears and answers prayers? That’s great! Sometimes he says ‘No’? I think I’d rather have a genie in a bottle.

These three give us a beautiful example of bold confidence in the omnipotence of God and humble submission to the sovereign wisdom of God. God is able to save. But if he doesn’t save right here right now, will I walk away? Will I doubt his goodness, his love? “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” When Jesus said some things that were hard to swallow, many stopped following him. When he asked his disciples if they too would go away, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68). Job in the midst of his anguish and suffering, said ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him;’ (Job.13:15).

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. …

Stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire; these are exciting stories of miraculous deliverance; but Hebrews saves the best ‘till last.

Hebrews 11:35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy

Paul said:

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.

These are heroes of the faith. Some are rescued miraculously. God is able. But if not… may he find us faithful even unto death.

***

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

***

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

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God

05/02_Daniel 01:1-4; Confidence in a Faithful God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210502_dan01_1-4.mp3

Faithful God

Daniel is a book about God. The Lord is the one true God. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, sovereign over the nations. He alone is God over all

And God is faithful to his promises. We can have hope, we can take confidence because God will always make good on his word. He will do what he says he will do, every time. You can bank on it. That is faith. Paul defines faith by the example of Abraham in Romans 4.

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.

Promised Blessings and Curses

Back in Deuteronomy 28, before God brought his people into the promised land, God gave his people his word, promises.

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.

God promised to bless his people if they would walk with him in fellowship, in obedience. But he also promised consequences for disobedience and betrayal.

Deuteronomy 28:14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

God was very specific with his promises;

Deuteronomy 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and fail with longing for them all day long, but you shall be helpless. 33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually,

Their consequences would even affect the next generation.

Deuteronomy 28:36 “The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone. 37 And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the LORD will lead you away.

God promised to bless his people if they walked in obedient relationship with him. But he warned that he would give them into the hands of idolaters if they chose to go after false gods.

Hezekiah and Assyria

Around 701 BC, we see a specific instance of this playing out, recorded by Isaiah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria had taken all the fortified cities of Judah. On defeating Lachish, he sent word to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem that they were next. He warned him not to trust in an alliance with Egypt, and not to trust in the Lord their God, because the Lord had sent him to destroy the land (Is.36:6,10).

Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16 “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.”

In dependence on the Lord alone, he asked God to defend the honor if his great name so that he would get glory among the nations.

God’s answer came.

Isaiah 37:33 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 36 And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord alone, and God alone wrought a great defeat of the Assyrian army.

Hezekiah and Babylon

But only two chapters and about 4 years later (705 BC), in Isaiah 39,

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Assyria was the world power, but Babylon was seeking independence. No doubt word had come to them about the Assyrian defeat at Jerusalem. Babylon sent a present, seeking an alliance. Hezekiah, who responded to the threatening Assyrian letter with prayer and dependence on God, responded to the flattering Babylonian letters differently.

Isaiah 39:2 And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

Hezekiah missed an opportunity to give glory to God for the defeat of the Assyrians. Instead he flexed his own muscles, showing off his wealth and military might, showing them what they had to gain by a political alliance with Israel.

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”

The prophet Isaiah was sent to confront the king over his failure to trust in the Lord, instead seeking the strength of a political alliance with pagan Babylon.

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

God Keeps His Promises

100 years later, in 605 BC,

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

God is faithful to all his promises. He is faithful to discipline his people when they are disobedient to him. The carrying off treasures and captives in 605 BC is a direct fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

This may seem strange comfort, that the Babylonian captivity was a fulfillment of the promises of God. But when all is chaos and seems out of control, it is anchoring to remember that God is sovereign, he is still in control, he has not forgotten, he is active, he is keeping his promises.

Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Daniel and his friends could lose hope and give up faith, responding with bitterness and resentment; asking ‘why me?’ But instead they chose to see God’s hand in difficult circumstances, ultimately for their good and his glory. This is not random chance and accident conspiring against us; this is ‘the Lord giving Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whose God is Stronger?

Notice what is happening here; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon takes the vessels of the house of God and puts them in the house of his god, in the treasury of his god. This was more than merely taking objects of inherent value, gold and silver. Kings would war in the name of their gods, and they would credit victory to their gods. A triumph in battle meant the gods of the victor proved stronger. They would honor their gods by taking the gods (idols) of their enemies and putting them in the temple of their gods.

This happened back in 1 Samuel 5, when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in the house of Dagon their god. If you remember, that didn’t end well for Dagon or for the Philistines.

That is what is happening here; Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, so he plundered the holy temple. It must have been strange for him to enter a temple and find no images, no statues, but rather a throne with no one seated on it. In the eyes of the world, Marduk had triumphed over YHWH. But Daniel interprets this differently. He understands that this was exactly what was promised. This was the all-mighty YHWH fulfilling his own decree.

The Philistines learned (and Israel should have understood) that Dagon was no match for YHWH. Sennacherib was shown (and Hezekiah should have paid attention) that the angel of YHWH is mightier than 185 thousand Assyrians and Nisroch his god. Daniel understood that YHWH is more than capable to defend himself. His temple could not be plundered unless YHWH had given it over to be plundered. And this produced great hope and confidence. God still sits enthroned unrivaled, not in the temple of Jerusalem, but in heaven above. He is God over all. God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

The Tale of Two Cities

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Daniel uses the ancient name ‘Shinar’. This connects us back to Genesis 10; Noah’s son Ham fathered Cush, and

Genesis 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod was a murderous warrior who established cities opposed to God. We read in Genesis 11,

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Babel in the land of Shinar was established in direct opposition to God and his commands. It was the proud attempt of arrogant man united against God to steal glory from God and make a name for himself. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (Jas.4:6; 1Pet.5:5; Mt.23:12).

Victory Through Defeat

Like Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:21-40), Daniel sets up his story as a competition between the Lord and the gods of Nebuchadnezzar, between the proud city Babylon in the land of Shinar, and the city of Jerusalem in the land of Judah, where God chose to make a name for himself.

But surprisingly, Daniel is the story of God’s victory through defeat; he wins by losing, he gains by giving away his treasures and his people into the hands of his enemies. He infiltrates the highest ranks of government by sending captives, boys of 14 or 15, to be trained in the language and literature of this pagan nation. His foolishness proved wiser than their wisest of men. The simple faith of these helpless young men in their omnipotent God changed the direction of empires and the hearts of kings and nations.

Hebrews recounts their faith;

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of …the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

God demonstrates his supremacy over the nations by the unlikely means of defeat and exile. But this is God’s way, who shows himself victorious by sending his best, his only Son into exile here on earth, not to be served but to serve, to learn our language, to confound the wisdom of the wise by his simple faith in his Father, to suffer for sins not his own, to go through the fire and come out alive as a testimony that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom.9:33).

God is faithful to all his promises, promises to bless those who walk with him in obedience, promises to curse those who turn from him. And we all have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:6). He became a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus all the blessings he deserves might come to us through faith in him (Gal.3:13-14).

***

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

May 3, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction to Daniel

04/25_Daniel_intro; Introduction: Background and Context; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210425_daniel-intro.mp3

Sojourners and Exiles

We are going to dive into the book of Daniel in the coming weeks. Daniel’s central message is that God is sovereign over the nations. Daniel was written under persecution, in exile, when God’s people lived as strangers in a foreign land, and it teaches us how to live with integrity, how to honor God even when the world is against us.

Peter urges us,

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Phil.3:20). We are to live as sojourners, strangers, exiles. And Daniel teaches us how to be in the world but not of the world (Jn.17:14-16), not conformed to this world (Rom.12:2), to live as citizens of the heavenly kingdom in our time here on this earth.

God the Hero

But Daniel is not really about Daniel. It is not about the three Hebrews Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael. They are not the heroes of the story. It’s not about Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar or Darius or Babylon. The name Daniel means God is my Judge. The hero of the story is God, who is sovereignly moving history in the direction he intends, establishing kings and removing kings. It is God who crushes the proud. It is God who preserves and protects the humble, who delivers his people, who can even grant repentance to

sending his sinful people into exile and watching over them even in exile. God is getting glory among the nations.

Saints On Mission

Daniel and his three friends were probably no more than 14 or 15 years old, when their city came under foreign control, they were torn from their homes, uprooted, transplanted to a distant land with a different language, different customs, different culture, different beliefs, different gods. Their lives were in danger. They were under extreme pressure from all sides. They likely never saw their parents again.

And yet God was using them to write history, to change history. God was sending them on a mission to infiltrate the enemy of Israel, not to conquer the enemy but to win them, to bring them good news about the supreme and sovereign God over all. He was sending them out, out of their comfort to be a light to the Gentiles (Is.42:6).

Dependence on God in Prayer

And Daniel teaches us to depend on God. Daniel teaches us how to pray. Daniel models the discipline of prayer, consistency in prayer even in the face of opposition, persistence and perseverance in prayer, emergency prayer in terrifying situations, prayer for wisdom and understanding, prayer of worship, prayer of confession and claiming the promises of God, prayer of intercession for others. We have much to learn from Daniel about dependence on God in everything.

Background of Israel

To understand Daniel, we need to understand some of the background and context of the events we will read about.

God delivered his people from Egypt to be his people, so that he could live among them, be their God with them. He commanded them to build him a tent so he could dwell in their midst. He promised to give them the land. Under Joshua (1406 BC), God brought the people in to possess the land of Canaan. Under David (1010-971BC) he gave them victory over their enemies. David desired to build God a house, but instead God promised to build David a house; to establish his dynasty forever. David’s son Solomon (971-931BC) was the one who would build the permanent version of the tabernacle; the temple in Jerusalem. God said to Solomon:

1 Kings 9:4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’”

But because of Solomon’s idolatry,

1 Kings 11:11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

In 931 the kingdom was divide between North and South; Israel and Judah under Jeroboam and Rehoboam. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted 209 years under 19 evil kings ruling from the capital of Samaria, until God brought the nation of Assyria to destroy them.

The southern kingdom of Judah endured 345 years under 19 kings, 8 of whom at least attempted to follow God.

Pharaoh Necho defeated Judah’s army led by godly king Josiah at Megiddo in 609 BC. Josiah was killed in this battle, and his son Jehoahaz became king of Judah (2Kings 23:29-34). Three months later Pharaoh Necho deposed Jehoahaz and appointed his older brother Jehoiakim as king of Judah (2Kings 23:34-24:6).

King Nabopolassar of Babylon had been struggling with Egypt over control of the Middle East for several years; in 605 BC Nabopolassar was ill and forced to remain behind in Babylon; his son Nebuchadnezzar won a decisive victory over Egypt in May/June of 605 BC at the battle of Carchemish and then at Hamath. After defeating the Egyptians, he quickly traveled south to assert his authority over Jerusalem, demanding plunder; he was given some of the sacred objects from the temple and some young men of the royal line as captives. Daniel and his friends were taken in assertion of Babylonian authority over Jerusalem. Nabopolassar died August 15/16 of 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to be crowned king on September 6/7, 605 BC.

Jeremiah

Daniel and his friends would have been familiar with Jeremiah, who had been prophesying from around 627 BC through the time of the fall of Jerusalem. Part of Jeremiah’s message was that the prophets who said that God would deliver Jerusalem were false prophets prophesying lies (14, 23). Jeremiah even sent a letter to the captives in Babylon, saying:

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

We will see later in this book that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years became precious to Daniel, and a matter of prayer. Daniel and his friends became shining examples of seeking the good of the pagan city, praying diligently for its blessing, seeking to be a blessing to the nations (Gen.22:18), seeking the Lord with all their hearts, and holding on to the hope that God is in control and he will be their deliverer.

Ezekiel and the Second Deportation

Daniel and his friends were deported in 605 BC. Some years later, because Jehoiakim had rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops marched against Jerusalem and besieged it. Jehoiakim died, and in March of 597 BC, his son Jehoiachin who was 18 years old, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, who took him and his mother, his court officials, all the warriors, the metalworkers, 10,000 captives, along with all the treasures from the king’s house and all the treasures of the temple (2Ki.24:10-17). Ezekiel was captured in this second phase of deportation to Babylon; the Lord called him in Babylon to prophesy to the exiles there. Although Ezekiel may have been a few years older than Daniel, Daniel had already been promoted to a place of honor by the time Ezekiel came to Babylon. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name 3 times in his work; in chapter 14 predicting Jerusalem’s destruction:

Ezekiel 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD. …16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate. …18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered. ..20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

It speaks strongly of Daniel’s character to hear Ezekiel associate his own contemporary with godly men who lived thousands of years earlier.

Again in Ezekiel 28; in an oracle against the prince of Tyre:

Ezekiel 28:3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;

Daniel is held up as the standard of wisdom.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar took Ezekiel and some 10,000 other captives to Babylon, and set up Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah as a puppet king in Jerusalem. Zedekiah reigned 11 years in Jerusalem, but he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In his 9th year, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and in 586 BC, Jerusalem fell. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in front of him, then his eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon in chains. The walls were broken down, the city and the temple were burned, and all but the poorest inhabitants were carried off captive (2Ki.24:18-25:17). They took the remaining gold, silver, and bronze from the temple as plunder.

6th Century Date, Prophecy and Jesus

The book of Daniel spans the timeframe from the first deportation of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC in to the reign of Darius who came to power in 522 BC. Daniel, who was deported about age 14; advised multiple foreign kings and survived a transition of empires. He likely played a role in paving the way for the decree of Cyrus to release the exiles to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC. He was thrown to the lions because of his faithfulness to God at age 83 and was preserved.

Both Jews and Christians have held that Daniel was a real historical person, who wrote this book in the 6th century BC. But Porphyry, an extreme critic of Christianity in the 2nd century AD wrote 15 books ‘Against the Christians’. In his 12th book he sought to discredit the book of Daniel. Looking at the precise details of his prophecy, specifically in chapter 11, which chronicle with surprising precision major events of history from 539 BC to 165 BC; assuming there is no such thing as predictive prophecy, he concluded that the accuracy of the account meant that Daniel was written after the events took place, sometime around 167-165 BC.

Anti-supernatural critical scholarship of the 19th century has taken up the cause of Porphyry while attempting to retain their Christianity. But their argument hangs on the unbiblical and anti-Christian presumption that there cannot be accurate and detailed predictive prophecy of future events. But if this is the case, what do we do with the accurate and detailed prophecies of Jesus Christ?

And Jesus was not silent on this issue. He said in Matthew 24:15

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Dan.9:27;11:31;12:11; cf. Mk.13:14)

Jesus confirmed that Daniel was a real historical person, that he wrote, and that he wrote accurate predictive prophecy long before its fulfillment. In fact, Jesus informed his hearers that they were to look for the yet future literal fulfillment of this specific prophecy of Daniel.

Jesus’ favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’ comes from Daniel 7:13, as does his answer to the Jewish high priest under oath;

Matthew 26:63 ..And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The testimony of Jesus ought to settle the issue for any follower of Jesus.

Outline

The book splits neatly in half, with the first 6 chapters containing stories about Daniel, and the last 6 chapters recording the visions of Daniel.

But there is more to the structure of the book. Chapter 1:1 to 2:4 is written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. 2:4 to the end of 7 is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, and chapters 8-12 are written in Hebrew. If we take the languages as indicative of the intended audience, we recognize that while the book is addressed to Jewish exiles and deal with issues that primarily address the Jewish people, the middle Aramaic section has a broader scope, and brings a message of warning and hope to the nations.

We also see a mirror structure in these middle chapters; chapters 2 and 7 both record dreams, the kings of a 4 kingdom statue and Daniel’s of the same 4 kingdoms pictured as beasts. Chapters 3 and 6 show that while persecution comes from refusing to worship false gods, the true God rescues and restores his faithful people. Chapters 4 and 5 record the beastly pride of the kings, one is granted repentance which leads to worship of the one true God, and one which leads to a fall.

The final section looks at the future of Israel to the end of time. Throughout the book, we are pointed to the coming of the one Righteous Ruler who will reign forever and ever, who will receive the worship of all peoples, nations, and languages (7:14).

***

Timeline (approximate):

931 BC division of northern and southern kingdoms

722 BC Samaria (North – Israel) falls to Assyria

612 BC Nineveh (capital of Assyria) falls to Babylon

609 BC Josiah defeated at Meggido by Egypt (Pharaoh Necho)

605 BC Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt/Assyria at Carchemish

—1st deportation of Judah (Jerusalem – South)

597 BC Jehoiachin surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar

—2nd deportation; (2Kings 24:12-16)

586 BC July 18, Jerusalem captured; destroyed

—3rd deportation; (2Kings 25:2-3; Jer.39:2; 52:5-7)

Daniel Outline / Structure:

1-6: stories about Daniel

7-12: visions of Daniel.

Hebrew/Aramaic/Hebrew:

1 Prologue; exiled, undefiled, exalted

————–

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance -> worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Pride & fall

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

——————-

8 Daniel’s 2nd Vision; the end prefigured

9 Daniel’s Prayer & God’s Answer; in mercy end the desolations

10-12 Daniel’s 3rd Vision & the End; how long?

***

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

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn

02/14_2 Corinthians 12:7; Every Rose Has Its Thorn; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210214_2cor12_7.mp3

It’s valentines day, and providentially we’re in 2 Corinthians 12, the passage about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. So to make the connection I thought I’d use a corny cliché to title this message; every rose has its thorn.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul’s Parody of Boasting

Paul is engaged in foolish boasting to combat the dangerous servants of Satan that were promoting a kind of celebrity leadership based on alleged private (and hence unverifiable) spiritual experiences. God appeared to me, God told me, I had a dream, I experienced a vision, I’ve been entrusted with a word from the Lord; therefore you need to listen to what I have to say, you need to follow me, do what I say.

Private visions, private revelations may benefit the one who experienced them, but they do not establish spiritual authority. Paul does everything he does to be beneficial, useful, to build up the church. He says there is nothing to be gained from boasting in visions and revelations. No benefit to the church. It might sell a book or pack out a room, but it won’t build anyone up.

In this mock parody of the false apostles false boasting, he starts in 11:16-22 by boasting in his own heritage, but then he quickly moves to say that he is a greater servant of Christ, because he suffered more than others in his service to his Lord.

They expect divine supernatural authentication, so he brings up his Damascus experience, but instead of recounting his Damascus road vision of the risen Christ, he recounts his disgraceful and laughable escape from the city, being let down under cover of night through the wall in a basket.

In chapter 12 he lifts our expectations by saying that he will go on to visions and revelations. He gives us his experience, but in the third person; it’s not Paul the great apostle, but simply a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, who heard inexpressible words that he is not allowed to speak. He doesn’t give any description of what he saw, he can’t tell us what he heard. He doesn’t claim that in any way it authenticates his ministry; rather it is an experience that belongs ultimately to anyone who is in Christ.

Paul’s Fear

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul’s fear is that if he were to boast of his supernatural experience, someone might think more highly of him that is warranted. They might think of him as larger than life, more than an ordinary Christian, more than a man in Christ. Paul is afraid that someone might attribute to him some unattainable celebrity status, lift him up because of his exceptional experience as more spiritual than others who are in Christ. Paul insists the criteria of faithful ministry must not be unverifiable visions and revelations; ministry must be judged by the objective criteria of life and teaching. What do you hear taught? What do you see in my life?

Paul’s concern is that they evaluate ministry by the wrong standards and listen to the wrong kind of leaders, who, based on their life and teaching, he calls servants of Satan. He’s concerned, because of his own surpassing revelations, that they will listen to him for the wrong reasons.

Paul’s Danger

Paul is concerned for the church. But he is also aware of another threat. He himself is in grave danger.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was in great danger. The surpassingly great revelations given to Paul created a great threat to Paul. What he saw, what he heard, was so far beyond, so great, so intimate, that he can’t help but conclude that he is special. No one else had this privileged vision. He was lifted up by the Lord to such incomparable heights that he was in danger of being lifted up with pride in his own heart. It would be all too easy for him to think too much of himself. You hear his concern, repeated both at the beginning and at the end of verse 7; ‘to keep me from being conceited.’ This was a real danger for the apostle, and he recognized it.

This word ‘conceited’ is a compound word ‘surpassingly lifted up’ that connects it with the ‘surpassing greatness’ of the revelations he was given.

The only other place this word ‘conceited’ or ‘surpassingly exalted’ appears in the New Testament is 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where:

2 Thessalonians 2:3 …the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

This is a real danger. Charles Spurgeon says of Paul,

“He had entered into the nearest communion with God, possible to a man while yet in this life. Should he not feel somewhat exalted? Surely exultation must fill that man’s bosom who has been brought within the veil to see his God, and to hear the unutterable harmonies! It was natural that he should be exalted, and it was not unnatural that he should stand in danger of being exalted above measure. Devout exaltation very rapidly degenerates into self-exaltation. When God lifts us up, there is only one step further— namely, our lifting up ourselves; and then we fall into serious mischief indeed. I wonder how many among us could bear to receive such revelations as Paul had? O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours! We have neither head nor heart to sustain so vast a load of blessing. Our little plant needs not a river to water its root: the gentle dew suffices— the flood might wash it away.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

Pride is the sin that damned the devil. It is dangerous. ‘O God, thou mayest well in thy kindness spare us such perilous favours!’

God’s Good Gift

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

To prevent Paul from falling into this deadly devilish danger, he was given a gift. He doesn’t say who gave this gift, but it is clear from the context. This word ‘given’ speaks specifically of God’s favor bestowed; in Eph.3:8 and 4:7 it speaks of God’s grace given; in 1Tim.4:14 of God’s grace-gifts. God is the giver of every good gift, and if this gift prevents Paul from pride, it is a good gift.

Thorns

What might startle us is what God’s good gift is. Paul says he was given a thorn in the flesh. That doesn’t sound good, and it is certainly not pleasant. Have you had a thorn in your flesh? Inevitably, when pulling weeds, I’ll get a little tiny thorn in my hand. Some of these thorns are so small, so insignificant, I can’t even see them. I can’t see them, but I certainly can feel them! I might not notice it for a while, until I go to pick something up and it irritates the thorn and reminds me that it’s still there. I’ve used a needle or a blade to literally dig a hole in my finger where I think the invisible source of my torment is, trying to root it out.

Thorns aren’t very impressive either. If you ask for my help and I say I can’t help because I was on the battlefield and suffered a gunshot wound to my arm that hasn’t fully healed yet, you might be impressed. But if I say I have this little thorn in my hand, so it hurts me when I pick anything up, you might roll your eyes and come at me with tweezers. And if I tell you it’s no use, it is too small even to see, I’m sure you will be very impressed with my undaunted bravery.

Everyone wants to know what Paul’s thorn was. About every malady, physical or spiritual, every form of persecution or opposition has been suggested. The fact is he doesn’t tell us. We aren’t meant to know. Whatever it was, it was given in response to the heavenly rapture experience 14 years earlier, and it was meant to keep Paul humbly trusting. Spurgeon again has a helpful word:

“we have unveiled before us a portion of the secret life of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. We may not only see his bed-chamber, but learn the apostle’s visions; we may not only see his private infirmities, but learn the cause of them. Let us not, however, be actuated by so low a motive as mere curiosity, while we gaze upon the open secret; let us remember that the apostle never intended to amuse the curious, when he penned these words, but he wrote them for a practical purpose. Let us read them with a desire to be instructed by them, and may the Holy Spirit teach us to profit. This record was not sent to us merely that we should know that this eminent servant of Christ had abundant revelations, or that he suffered a thorn in the flesh, but it was written for our profit.” [C.H.Spurgeon, delivered Dec. 8, 1872; Volume 18]

We learn from this that pride is more dangerous than thorns, and God may give us the good gift of a thorn to keep us trusting in him alone and not in ourselves or our past experiences.

Satan’s Angel

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul parallels his description of the thorn in the flesh with ‘an angel of Satan to harass him’. The word here is the same one used of our Lord in his treatment at the hands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew 26:67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him,

A demonic messenger was sent to strike him, to buffet him. This too is startling; that God’s good gift to him is Satan’s emissary. So who sent this Satanic thorn to pummel Paul? Was it Satan or God? Paul’s answer is ‘yes’. The thorn was sent by Satan, and it was a gift from God. We must remember that Satan is a created being, part of God’s creation, over whom God is omnipotent and sovereign.

We could think of the evil action of Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery,

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The brothers intended evil, but God intended good. We could think of the first chapters of Job, when God instigated Satan to test him. We could even think of Judas; when Satan himself entered Judas, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas, under control of Satan, sold Jesus out to be executed. And we know from Colossians that Jesus death [canceled…]

Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Satan incited Judas to betray Jesus to the cross, the very thing that secured our forgiveness and disarmed and conquered the powers of darkness. This is clearly a case, as Jesus predicted:

Matthew 12:26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Satan, in seeking to destroy Jesus, brought about the even that set us free from his power and sealed his own fate.

The early church understood:

Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This proved to be the case for Paul. Satan’s angel no doubt intending to discourage and destroy Paul, actually was a gift of God that crushed Paul’s pride and secured his utter weak dependence on the Lord alone. God wields circumstances, sufferings, even Satan himself to bring about his good ends. As Paul said in the beginning of this book, about his affliction in Asia,

2 Corinthians 1:8 …we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

The devil is a tool in the hand of the sovereign Lord to wean us away from our self sufficiency and trust him completely.

Our self-exaltation is more deadly even than demonic oppression.

Persistent Prayer for Deliverance

Don’t misunderstand; Paul didn’t look for this thorn; Paul wasn’t asking to be abused by a satanic emissary. Quite the contrary.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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.

Here again the apostle demonstrates that authentic ministry is ministry shaped by the cross. Genuine ministry follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, in dread of the cross, three times

Matthew 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Paul pleaded with the Lord Jesus three times about this that it should leave him. This is one of the few places we see prayer directed to Jesus rather than the Father, because Paul found in him a high priest who is able to sympathize with his weakness (Heb.4:15-16). He desired that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken away. Like his Lord, he did not receive the answer he hoped for. Rather, like his Lord, he was strengthened to endure what was necessary for him to endure. Like his Lord Jesus, he would bring glory to God not by escaping the unwanted trial, but by persevering through it. He was promised sufficient grace to meet the trial.

Do we underestimate the danger of our own hearts, of our self-important thoughts? Do we rightly estimate the deadly disease of pride? Likely none of us have had the rapturous experience that Paul had, and yet we allow ourselves to be puffed up beyond measure. It is God’s grace that uses a thorn to deflate our self-obsession so that we embrace weakness as the way to glorify God.

***

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

February 16, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Peace Among Men of Good Pleasure

12/15 Advent: Luke 2:14 Peace among Men; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191215_peace-among-men.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift, the gift beyond fully telling, the gift that must be told over and over and over again, the gift we must remind ourselves and our families and one another to take time to treasure, to ponder and take pleasure in. The inexpressible, the indescribable, beyond words greatest gift of all time.

God’s Glory Primary

We are looking at the chorus of the angelic multitude as they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Luke 2:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We saw last time that what is primary is the glory of God. It matters that the first thing the angels said was ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ The highest goal of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Another way to say this is that the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus in his coming, in his life and in his death and resurrection was pursuing above all else the glory of God. Jesus came to rescue us from our insistence on glorifying created things rather than the Creator, who is worthy of all glory, to free us from being glory thieves who pursue our own glory, to restore us to our purpose of living all of life to the glory of God. This is primary. It’s important that we keep first things first.

Second Place

The thing the angel choir put in second place was peace on earth among men of good will. Peace is important. But only when God’s glory gets first place will we be able to enjoy genuine peace that endures.

What is this peace? And who does this peace come to? The King James version has this verse as

Luke 2:14 (KJV) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Songs like ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ and ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ have memorialized the words of the angels as ‘peace on earth, good-will to men’ That sounds global, like a declaration of peace to all mankind. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned his poem on Christmas day 1863, during the American Civil War, the year his son had joined the Union army without his permission, and had been severely wounded in battle. You can hear him wrestling with these words in this verse:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Where is this peace the angels sang of? Is that what it actually means? Does the angelic declaration announce peace and goodwill to all mankind? What kind of peace is this?

The second part of the angels praise corresponds to the first. Glory in the first corresponds to peace in the second. In the highest corresponds to on earth. God corresponds to men of good pleasure. It answers the questions ‘what, where, and to whom?’ Glory or peace, in the heavens or on earth, to God or to men of good pleasure. God is glorified in the highest. To us is announced peace on this earth.

Peace

Let’s back up and take in this staggering scene:

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

A multitude of the heavenly host. These are military terms. The multiplied hosts of heaven; the armies of heaven appearing in battle array. We are told what they say, but not how they said it. It could have been in song, it could have been shouted, it could have been chanted in military cadence. The infantries of heaven appear in battle array bearing a declaration of peace.

Peace. What is this peace they declare? We need to understand what this peace is. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? We can quickly identify what it is not. Jesus said:

Mark 13:7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. (cf. Mt.24:6; Lk.21:9)

So the peace that Jesus brings is not a military peace, not the absence of wars, at least not at his first coming.

Nor is it peace in relationships among people. Just ten chapters after the angelic declaration, Luke records Jesus saying:

Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (cf. Mt.10:34)

And he goes on to describe the conflicts he will create within families.

In John 16, Jesus talked of a time when all his followers would be scattered, a time ‘when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (v.2). Then he promised his followers:

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

So Jesus does bring peace to his people, but the peace that Jesus brings is peace in the midst of tribulation. Not international peace (not yet) and not interpersonal peace (not yet), not even personal peace and safety, but peace in him. The peace Jesus brings is other-worldly peace, peace that passes understanding.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This is otherworldly peace, not peace that changes our circumstances, but peace that conquers our fears. The apostles heralded this peace through Jesus Christ. Peter said to the Gentile household of Cornelius:

Acts 10:36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened…

And then he went on to recount the life, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, and he concludes

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is peace with God, the forgiveness of sins through his name. This peace comes as a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus.

In the book of Romans, after explaining the concept of sinners counted by God as righteous not because of their own works but because they trust in Jesus, it says

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace that Jesus brings is peace in our relationship to God. We were weak, helpless, ungodly sinners, enemies of God and fully deserving of his just wrath. But because Christ died for us, that severed relationship is made whole; we can have peace with God. And this reconciled relationship with God produces great joy.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Good news of great joy!

Men of Good Pleasure [ευδοκια]

To whom does this peace come? If we are right in defining the peace as peace with God, a reconciled relationship, then not everyone experiences this peace. The testimony of Jesus and the Apostles is unified that this peace comes to everyone who believes in Jesus, and only to those who believe in Jesus. This is not universal peace, because not everyone will believe. This phrase of angelic praise actually qualifies the peace. This is translated in the King James as.

KJV: …and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The comma makes it seem like there are two distinct things here, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And this should cause us to ask ‘What does that even mean? Whose good will?’ Is this the good will of man toward man; nothing more than the warm sentiment ‘I wish you well’ toward our fellow man?

The ESV and NASB both translate this phrase ‘peace among men (or among those) with whom he is pleased.’ Rather than two things, the good will defines to whom this peace comes. The NIV renders this ‘peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ Wycliffe gave us a very literal translation ‘in earth peace be to men of good will’

This word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ modifies and defines the ‘men’ in the sentence. Literally, it says ‘to men of good pleasure’ What does it mean to be a person ‘of good will’ or ‘good pleasure’? Does this mean that God is pleased with the performance of some people, so he gives them his peace? This option is excluded on the grounds of the teaching of the rest of the New Testament:

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

There was only one man who ever totally pleased God with his life:

Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (cf. Mt.12:18; 17:5; Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22; 2Pet.1:17)

The clear teaching of the New Testament is that peace with God comes to those who don’t deserve it, who didn’t earn it, to those who simply believe the promises of God. The well pleasing life of Jesus is credited to the account of those who embrace Jesus as their King.

Looking at other places this word ‘good will’ or ‘good pleasure’ shows up might help get a clearer picture of what is meant here. Luke uses this same word in chapter 10

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (cf. Mt.11:26)

Jesus rejoices in the gracious will, the good pleasure of his Father in hiding things from the self-righteous and revealing them to the humble. The verb form shows up again in Luke 12:32

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The same word shows up twice in Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

This word points to the mystery of the good pleasure of God’s will. It is God’s gracious purpose, what God is pleased to do, what God wants to do and chooses to do. On earth peace to men who are objects of God’s good pleasure. This is not the well-wishing of man toward man. This is not that God is impressed with the performance of some or responds to the initiative of some. This is good news of great joy to undeserving sinners! This is good news to unexpecting ordinary shepherds. To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord! This message came to some shepherds. It did not come to Herod the Great, not to Caesar Augustus, not to the scribes and pharisees, not to the religious leaders, not to the Jewish High Priest, but to some shepherds who were out watching over their flocks at night.

Luke 10:21 …“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

God’s grace, his undeserved favor is extended to sinners. It was his good pleasure, his gracious will to reveal this to shepherds.

This message of peace with God is the gospel of great joy that will extend to all the people.

Response

Notice the response of these simple shepherds to this gospel presentation.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

These shepherds heard the good news. They talked to one another about it. They resolved to go see. They went with urgency. They went and found things exactly as the angel had promised; the message of good news was confirmed. So they made the message known. They told everybody! Good news of great joy for all the people! Good news of a birth, good news of a person. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. All who heard wondered, marveled. Some treasured. Some pondered. The shepherds returned glorifying God.

Good news has been proclaimed to you. Jesus came for you. The shepherds provide us with a great example of how to respond to the good news. Be like the simple shepherds. Hear the gospel. Believe the gospel. Make the gospel known. Give glory and praise to God for the gospel. Give him thanks for his greatest gift. This is the sure path to lasting peace, to genuine joy.

***

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

December 17, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire

09/22_2 Corinthians 8:16-17; Sovereign Grace and Freedom to Desire; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190922_2cor8_16-17.mp3

Grace

This passage is about giving, and it is about grace; ultimately it is about the grace of God freely given. The word ‘grace’ appears 10 times in these two chapters, and it centers around the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:9 [lit trans] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on account of you became poor, being rich; in order that you by that poverty might become rich

Grace is God’s freely given kindness. Verse 9 reminds us of the fountain of all grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became sin for us, who gave himself up for us.

8:1 talks about grace as the enabling grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that overflowed in their simplicity of heart toward God and joyful eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. There in verse 4, grace is the extending of grace received from God out horizontally to others. It is a freely given gift of God to be able to give to others. Verses 6 and 7 exhort the Corinthians also to participate in this grace; the gift of freely extending what they had received out to others in need. Verse 19 also points to this grace, the gift of giving. Then in 9:8 and 9:14, he uses ‘grace’ again to point to the enabling grace of God which gives freely to us so that we can overflow in freely giving to others.

Here in 8:16, as in 9:15, he uses the word ‘grace’ in the sense of thanksgiving, grace received from God now reflected back toward God in the form of thanksgiving, recognition of his grace freely given. Grace to God; gratitude to God.

Grace comes down from God to us in the person of our Lord Jesus to make us rich in him. Grace comes down from God to enable and ignite us to freely extend the grace we have received to others, and we become a conduit through which his grace flows through us out horizontally to others. And finally, grace is reflected back up to God in the form of gratitude for all that he has given.

God’s Gift

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Here we see Paul giving thanks for God’s gift given to Titus. This is the fourth time the word ‘give’ shows up in this chapter on giving. In verse 1 the grace of God was given; in verse 5 in response the Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord. In verse 10 Paul gives his advice on what would benefit them, and here in 16 God ‘puts’ or literally gives the same earnestness for you in the heart of Titus.

Earnestness is another word we have seen several times in this letter. In 7:11-12, Paul is encouraged that the Corinthians responded to his tearful letter with a renewed earnestness for him. In 8:7-8 he praises their excelling in earnestness and uses the earnestness of others to prove their own genuineness.

This word means an eagerness, willingness, diligence, or earnest commitment in discharge of an obligation [BDAG, 939]. Titus had a willing eagerness in his heart for the good of the Corinthians, and we are told that God put it there. God gave him his earnestness for them. Just as the source of the Macedonians’ abundance of joy in the midst of their deep poverty was God’s grace given, which then overflowed in a richness of single-heartedness, and an insistence on the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. Now God is the Author of the eager willingness in the heart of Titus on behalf of the Corinthians.

For Their Good

It was on behalf of the Corinthians. It was for their good. They needed him. They needed his help. This was not a vacation. ‘Titus do you want to travel? Oh yeah, I love to travel, see new sites, explore new places, meet new people, all the sights and sounds and tastes and smells.’ No, travel meant hardship and danger. As Paul describes later in this letter:

2 Corinthians 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

That’s what Titus was signing up for. And he was going to a church that was difficult. To people who were difficult. He had just returned from carrying a severe letter to this volatile church, and now Paul was asking him to retrace his steps with another letter asking them to give generously. This was no easy task. This was no pleasure cruise. This was self-sacrificial service for their good, for their benefit. But part of the difficulty was to convince them that it really was for their benefit, because they didn’t know what was good for them.

Desires

God gave Titus an earnestness for them. We have seen in this section the importance of right desires. Paul seeks to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He commends their desiring even above the doing of this act of grace. He wants the doing to match their desires. He is glad that they wanted the right things, and now wants them to do what they wanted to do. He highlights not only the depth of sacrifice on the part of the Macedonians, but especially their joy and single-hearted simplicity, their giving of themselves to the Lord. Paul said back in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

We work with you for your joy. What brings you joy matters. Desires matter. What we are eager for matters. What we want matters. And here we learn that God gives earnestness. He is to be thanked, because he is the giver. He gave it in the heart of Titus.

Encouragement

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put earnestness in the heart of Titus. But we also see that Paul encouraged Titus toward this, and Titus received his encouragement. Just in verse 6 he said:

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.

Paul urged or encouraged Titus. It was not a command, but it was an encouragement. Paul urged him to go, to bring to completion what he had started. ‘He accepted our appeal.’ Paul and Titus were close. And Paul urged Titus. This would be significant pressure. He was not obligated. He was not coerced. But he was encouraged. There was human encouragement.

Paul said back at the end of 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

With Apollos there was strong urging from the apostle, but it was not his will to come. He felt the urging, and he was free to choose not to go. Titus was similarly urged and encouraged, and he also had the freedom to choose to go or not to go. Paul encouraged him, but he left it up to him. Titus accepted the encouragement to go. He responded to the external human encouragement.

Freedom

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus, and Paul encouraged Titus, and yet Titus had his own earnestness and is going of his own accord. He was free to do what he wanted to do. He was eager of his own accord. He chose. He was willing. He was free.

God’s Grace Creates Freedom

God put it in the heart of Titus. Paul encouraged Titus, and Titus accepted our encouragement. Titus was himself very earnest; he is going of his own free will. These verses put all these different factors together. Paul encouraged it. Titus freely chose to do it. But God put it in his heart to desire it.

These different factors do not appear as cross-purposes in tension in these verses, fighting to see which one will win out. Rather they are seen in unison, in tandem, working together to bring about the desired end. Very naturally and practically, God used Titus’ prior experience in Corinth to help shape his desires.

Back in chapter 7, when Paul was finally reunited with Titus, he spoke of the comfort he received from Titus, and the comfort Titus received from the Corinthians, and the exceeding joy he had over the right desires of the Corinthians. Titus’ spirit was refreshed and he rejoiced.

2 Corinthians 7:15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.

God used the experience he had in Corinth to shape his affections and his desire to return. God also used the encouragement of the apostle in the heart of Titus to solidify his resolve to go. But God put the earnestness in his heart.

We saw the same thing with the Macedonians. It was willingly, freely, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. But that was evidence of the grace of God given. God gave his grace; he put it in their hearts. God’s grace was the underlying motive for their joyful eagerness. God’s grace was the underlying motive for Titus’ willing earnestness.

We could say that God’s grace created the freedom. God’s grace created the freedom to give joyfully beyond their means out of deep poverty. God’s grace created the freedom to want to go back to a difficult circumstance to serve difficult people and encourage them to give generously.

I was a guy who grew up in Minnesota and chased the love of my life out to Washington State, and I loved it there. I had no desire to live anywhere else. I didn’t even want to visit Utah. Some friends of ours moved from Washington to Utah, and we thought they were crazy. Later, I had a co-worker who invited me to come with him to mountain bike in Utah, and I had no desire. I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t want to go. It just wasn’t in me. Almost like my wife can’t want to hold a snake. It’s not in her. She has no freedom to want to hold a snake. We had no freedom to want to move to Utah, until God by his grace put it in our hearts. God created in us that freedom. Then we were free to stay and continue to live and serve in Washington, and we were free to move to Utah to live and serve here. And we wanted to come. There were external factors; there were people and circumstances that God used to encourage us toward Utah, but God put it in our hearts. And we were eager to come.

The Grace of God [Philippians 2]

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

This is God’s grace that he puts in our hearts. This is rooted in God’s grace as expressed in verse 9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus freely stooped to serve others sacrificially for their good, and he invites us into fellowship with him in extending his grace to others. We see almost the exact same sequence in Philippians 2 that we see here.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. …

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything— …see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this …to prove …that your love also is genuine.

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do, because God is working in you. He is creating both the willing, the desire, and the working, the energy to do it.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

God put it in the heart of Titus. God gave grace to the Macedonians. God created the desire.

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.

God entered into our poverty in Jesus, he took our nature, he died our death and gives us his life. He invites us to join him in extending his grace to others. To enter in, to share in the sufferings of others, to show people Jesus.

Response

This eagerness; this freedom to want to sacrificially serve is a gift, it is grace. Ask God freely to put this desire in your heart. Receive his gift so that you can be freed to give.

Thank God who gives this desire. Give God the credit and thank him when you see this earnestness in others. Thank God when he begins to create this desire in you.

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

September 22, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance – Wounded to Heal

07/14_2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance; Wounded to Heal ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190714_2cor7_9-11.mp3

Review: Grief According To God

We are in 2 Corinthians 7. Paul has met Titus in Macedonia and been encouraged by him, especially by the report he received about their response to his severe letter. Their grief caused Paul to rejoice.

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

We looked last week at some examples of grief according to God that led to repentance, Rahab and David, in contrast to examples of worldly grief that ended in death, Achan and Saul.

Today I want to look more carefully at repentance, what biblical repentance is, what the outcome of repentance is, and how grief according to God can lead to repentance.

Preaching Repentance

First, what repentance is. Jesus came

Mark 1:14 …proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The good news of God, the time is fulfilled, the kingdom has appeared, repent and believe the good news. Jesus said in Luke 15:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

After he rose from the dead, Jesus commissioned his followers

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Repentance is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all people. Repentance is what sinners do that brings joy to God. Repentance is connected with the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is connected with believing the good news.

Defining Repentance [μετάνοια]

Repentance comes from the Greek word μετάνοια, a compound word made up of μετά (after, a prefix that indicates movement or change) and νοιέω (to think, to consider, the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes); it means to think differently in retrospect, to have a change of heart and mind. This is a deep inward change.

This word ‘repent’ is sometimes found with a different word [ἐπιστρέφω], a synonym that literally means to turn around. When Peter preached in Acts 3, he said:

Acts 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, [μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε] that your sins may be blotted out,

Forgiveness of sins is contingent on this change of mind and change of direction. In Acts 26, Paul described his life and mission:

Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. [ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας]

Conversion is another English word that has been used to try to capture this idea of turning, this new thinking, new direction. Conversion or repentance is a change of mind, a deep inward change, a turning away from what you were trusting in, hoping in, holding on to, a turning toward God, to treasure him, to trust him, to cling to him.

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

This inward transformation produces fruit. People who truly turn, truly change, begin to live consistent with their new direction. John the Baptist called people to be genuine, to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt.3:8).

The Duty of Repentance

Jesus commanded that we have this deep inward change of heart and mind, and believe or depend on the gospel. He instructed his followers to proclaim to the nations that they experience this inward change and their sins would be forgiven in Jesus’ name, because he suffered in their place. He said there would be consequences, condemnation for those who refuse to repent.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

This turning, this genuine inward change of heart and mind is required for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.

God’s Kindness and Patience Lead to Repentance

And we see that God is kind, he is eager for us to repent, to experience that inward change, to receive forgiveness for our sins.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

God does not immediately pour out the consequences of our sins on us. He is patient, he forbears, all in order to lead us to repentance.

Our Turning and God’s Creative Act

Paul used this other word ‘turning’ in 2 Corinthians 3:16 to describe the turning of Jewish people to Jesus as the overcoming of their hardness of mind and the removing of the veil on their hearts that prevents them from seeing the light of the good news of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord [ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον], the veil is removed.

How does repentance come about? He says their minds are hard and their hearts are veiled, but if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Only through Christ is it taken away. How does this turning happen? He says in chapter 4 of those whose minds are hardened, whose hearts are veiled, those who are perishing,

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He says it is Satan who blinds minds, but through the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord,

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.

Satan blinds minds and hardens hearts, but God creates light and removes veils. God works through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people to create life and speak light into hard hearts, and blind minds see! We see the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeing, we are being transformed! When a blind mind is given light, it begins to see things differently; there is an inward change of mind and heart. What was once distasteful or unimpressive now becomes beautiful. Blind minds are enabled to perceive the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Repentance

The apostles in their preaching celebrated God’s gift of repentance. Peter, answering the Pharisees in Acts 5 said of the crucified and resurrected Jesus,

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel [τοῦ δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ] and forgiveness of sins.

God the Father exalted Jesus to give repentance to Israel. A few chapters later, in Acts 11, Peter is reporting to the Jerusalem church the conversion, the turning of the Gentiles in Caesarea. He recounts to them that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he began to speak. He says:

Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life [ὁ θεὸς τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν].”

God gives the repentance that leads to life. Repentance is a gift from God. (cf.2Tim.2:25).

Wounding to Heal

How does God give this gift? We have already seen in these passages that God gives repentance through preaching, through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people. He leads us to repentance through his kindness and forbearance. If we return to 2 Corinthians 7, we see that God uses grief to bring about repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Godly grief, or grief according to God; not ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ or ‘I’m sorry that there will be consequences’ but ‘I am grieved that I displeased God, that I dishonored his name.’ This grief, this true sorrow over sin brings about repentance that leads to salvation.

We can see this pattern in other places in Scripture. Last time we looked at David’s repentance after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin. We looked at his prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He says in verse 8

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

David says that God broke his bones. God crushed him. God caused him to sorrow over his sin, and that genuine grief led him to repentance, and the outcome is a restoration of his joy.

God said in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God claims to be the one both to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal. The context here is the disobedience and idolatry of his people, and his use of other nations to discipline them and to make them jealous. The sequence is intentional. Before God makes alive, he kills. Before God heals, he wounds. He causes grief – grief according to God – to bring about repentance, a deep inward turning, a changing of heart and desire. He breaks our bones in order to restore to us the joy of our salvation.

The prophet Hosea says

Hosea 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

God here likens himself to a lion that tears and carries off. They go to Assyria for healing, but in vain. God says, I tear them like a lion, and then I wait for them to acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. God causes distress and grief to bring his people ultimately to himself, for their ultimate good. Hosea continues:

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 ​Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

God has torn us that he may heal us. He has struck us down so that he can bind us up. Do you feel torn, struck down, broken by the Lord? Is he trying to get your attention? He is pursuing you, eager for you to turn, to return to him, to seek his face, to earnestly seek him; not his gifts, not a change in circumstances, but him. He has torn, yes, but he has torn in order to heal; he has struck down in order to bind us up. He intends to raise us up to life, eternal life in his presence. He cares enough that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get your attention, to cause you grief to bring you to repentance, to a change of mind, a change of allegiance, to bring you to depend completely on him, to seek not his gifts, but him, to earnestly seek his face. He says:

Hosea 6:5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.

God uses his people to speak his words to grieve us into repenting, he slays us with the words of his mouth to lead us to salvation.

God used Paul’s severe letter, the gospel forcefully applied to their situation, to grieve them, to crush them, to bring them to a change of heart and mind. Paul rebuked them, he caused them grief, but for a good purpose.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul said the hard things, even for a time regretting what he said, so that he could say ‘you suffered no loss through us.’

Does God want to use you to speak some hard things into someone’s life, not to unload and make yourself feel better, but to love and serve him, to preach the gospel to him; that your sin displeases God and drags his good name through the mud, the good news that God loves you and sent his only Son to die for that sin, so that you can turn to him and experience forgiveness and transformation and life the way it was meant to be. Allow him to change you deep inside, your mind, your heart, your desires, so that you are eager to live consistent with those new desires.

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

July 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment